by Ross Bishop
After the six days of creation, Adam and Eve is the first parable in the Bible. It is the opening story that sets the context for the next 1,600 pages. The remainder of the story is to be told through the evolution, conflict, growth, trials and development of humankind.
We enter the story after Eve has been created and she and Adam are living in a garden God had planted for them with every tree that was “pleasing to the sight and good for food” in the East end of Eden. “Edin” by the way, was the Sumerian name for the plain of Babylonia. The Bible tells us that there were no other trees or bushes on earth at this time, so we know that Eden was a special place, created for a particular purpose.
Although they live in paradise, Adam and Eve are unaware of their circumstances. They are described as “innocent,” “naked and not ashamed.” Their nakedness and lack of shame is the representation of spiritual innocence, a naïveté, or as the text puts it, a lack of the “knowledge of good and evil.” This is the undifferentiated and unaware state we were all in prior to our “expulsion” from Heaven.
Adam and Eve live from the fruit of the trees in the Garden. Throughout the Bible, fruit from trees is used as a metaphor for both good and evil. Of all the trees in Eden, two trees were special: The Tree of Life and another in the center of the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Interestingly, little is said about the Tree of Life, and this in itself, should be considered significant.
God warns Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Eve had not been created yet.) God says to Adam, “. . .for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”
First we have to ask, “If God didn’t want Adam to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, why did He put it there, especially around these somewhat naïve and unaware humans?” And if it was a dangerous tree, doesn’t it seem strange to give it special treatment and give it the most honored place in the center of the garden? This presents us with several significant anomalies. And in parables, anomalies tell us not to take the situation literally but to look for deeper, more symbolic meaning.
The parable presents us with several significant anomalies. If God didn’t want the whole business taking place, why did he not prevent it? It was clearly within His power to do so in any number of ways. We must infer that God intended these events because they would serve a greater purpose. God knew that Adam and Eve (humanity) would disobey His wishes, and He is setting them up to fail. Not because He was uncaring or unkind, but because God knows that ultimately this will provide humanity with its most valuable learning experience. We learn when we fail. It is our most powerful teacher.
God is also being careful to honor Adam’s (humankind’s) free will. If humankind is to learn this lesson, it must do so openly and freely of it’s own accord. Notice though, that God pays very careful attention to what takes place. Humanity may be operating from free will, but it will never far from God’s love care.
Eve has received a good deal of condemnation for humanity’s “downfall,” but obviously, there is a lot more going on here. If God knew that Eve would believe the serpent, which He had to, why did He not intervene? Or, why did He not simply stop her? Why did He not swoop in at the last moment and stop Adam? With all these options, we know that God not only knew what was going on, but that he intended it to happen.
When God warned Adam that, “. . . the day that you eat from it you shall surely die,” we know that God was not speaking of physical death, since he and Eve ate of the fruit and survived. Notice that God did not say something like, “If you eat from the tree, I will smite you.” So, since the fruit wasn’t deadly and God did not destroy them, what was going to die? We are faced with another, most significant, anomaly.
In the parable, the serpent does not suggest that Eve eat the fruit. The entire conversation revolves around learning to distinguish good and evil, a “power” that God possessed. What the serpent says to Eve is very telling. He says, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it (the fruit of the tree) your eyes will be opened, an you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The serpent knew God’s plan! He was in on it!
There is an often-overlooked sentence in the original text. When Eve saw the tree she also saw that it “was desirable to make one wise.” Adam and Eve were being lured by the promise of absolute freedom and wisdom, i.e., the ability to become gods, or at least, god-like. They would have no boundaries except those of their own making.
The serpent has suffered great abuse by fundamentalist interpretations of Genesis. In these interpretations, the serpent was the agent of Satan. But Satan does not appear in the original story. Remember too, that this was paradise, and there can be no evil in paradise, unless God wills it.
If you consider the name of the Tree, what does it mean to “know good and evil?” “To know” in the context of the parable is to have knowledge of, but this is not book learning, it isn’t theory. It is the gritty knowledge that comes from life experience, such as to “know” suffering or to “know” through an intimate connection.
We’re not talking about general knowledge either, but specifically the knowledge of good and evil. Good and evil are products of the ego. Notice also, that these are opposites. The ego works through the creation of difference. To make one thing “good” and another “evil,” is to engage in the creation of difference. Distinctions like this do not exist in the God Space. In the God Space, things just “are.” God does not make good trees and bad trees, He just makes trees. So to “know good and evil” in the parable, is to live from the ego in a world of conflicting and competing opposites.
Blind obedience is fine for sheep, but you don’t learn very much other than it is a pleasant state. Each time Adam and Eve chose not to eat of the fruit of the Tree, they didn’t learn much. The lesson is clear that God does not want a bunch of obedient (blind) robots that merely do His bidding. God wants humans to follow His guidance not because He decrees it, but rather because they have decided for themselves that they want to live as He has taught us. In the parable, God is setting humanity up to be expelled from Eden so that people will eventually decide, on their own, to return. How would this happen? Humanity was about to break God’s law and suffer the consequences.
This scene brings into focus the essential dilemma presented in the parable. The only way for humans to reach enlightenment is to first leave the association with God by disobeying His teachings. Bereft of God’s guidance (God’s banishment from Eden), humans are then forced to live from their egos. Although living from the ego does make humans self-aware, the limitations of living from it (fear and pain) are undesirable and ultimately untenable. Enduring the limits of pain, humans will eventually be confronted with a difficult conundrum: to continue to live in the ego and experience in pain or surrender the ego with the attendant loss of self, in order to rejoin The Creator in the state that Nisargadatta Maharaj referred to as “undifferentiated consciousness.”
As the serpent predicted, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, the scales fell from their eyes and they lost their natural innocence, illustrated earlier by their shameless nakedness. Now they felt naked. They felt ashamed. This is the creation of the self, of the ego, and it marks the “fall” of humankind as we desert the God Space to live from the ego.
The ego space and the God Space are incompatible. You cannot hold both at the same time. In the presence of one, the other must “die.” The “death” that God spoke of to Adam from eating the fruit is the death of the God Space within us when we move into our egos. It is a spiritual death. [It also refers to the "death" of the naïve innocence that shrouds the minds of the unaware.]
The next scene tells us more about God’s intention by the way it unravels. God says to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” Our first reaction is, “Wait a minute! He’s God!” He doesn’t have to ask where anyone is, He knows! But Adam and Eve are hiding out in the shadows from their shame and guilt. “Aware of their nakedness, Adam and Eve made coverings of fig leaves, and hid from the sight of God” in the shadows. The shadow is the realm of the ego.
How do you hide from the “sight of God” who sees and knows everything? You can’t, but you play the adult version of a child’s “peek-a-boo” game. If you hide from God by living in the ego, you can pretend that you are unseen, so that you do not have to take responsibility for violating God’s teachings. Hiding out in the shadow is the ego refuge you take because of the mistaken beliefs (created by the ego) that you are “less than,” “unlovable” or “unworthy.” They make you hide from life, from other people and most importantly from yourself, i.e., “from God.”
Your beliefs of unworthiness and unlovability began at the time of “separation.” Today you believe you are unworthy and unlovable because you felt “cast out” of heaven (i.e., Eden). Being unworthy, you hide from God and His teachings and attempt to survive by living through your ego. It is not a very satisfying existence.
So, in the parable, God is about to banish Adam and Eve from Eden. In a common mistranslation God says, “Cursed is the ground because of you;” which scholars have taken to mean an overall curse on humankind. But a more accurate translation tells us that God was only referring to the land of Eden and that Adam and Eve were not welcome there. We must note that God does not curse Adam or Eve. He moves them out of Eden into the world where they will have to struggle to have their needs met.
Adam was going to have to work the fields (i.e., grow crops), “And you shall eat the plants of the field;. .” and could no longer just go up to a tree and grab some “fast food.” God said, “By the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread, . . “ Eve was given the pain of childbirth. But, God does not refer to what they have done as a sin. Nor, interestingly, does He deprive them of their newfound awareness.
In fact, God responds to their disobedience, not with wrath, but with mercy and grace! So again, we are confronted with an important anomaly. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” These are hardly the actions of an angry and offended God. The plan is unfolding exactly as God had intended.
The Lord then says a very interesting thing, “Then the Lord God said ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now he might stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever –.” In eating the fruit, humankind had become like God, knowing good and evil; but humankind had not yet learned to move beyond the ego and as such, represented a risk to the rest of creation. Every day we see the damage created by people who live through their egos. We see children abused, families torn apart and nations thrown at one another because of the blind ambition of some delusional leader. We could surmise that Adam was not being punished by being expelled, but rather that in his ego state, he represented too great a risk, should he become immortal.
Omissions in parables are important. And we should note that although Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had not eaten from the Tree of Life. Why not? They had already broken the rules and had not died, what’s one more piece of fruit? Eternal life? That is a pretty big incentive, kingdoms have been lost over it, and yet Adam and Eve did not partake. This is conjecture, but given His later actions, it is clear that God would have intervened. Humankind was not yet ready.
Notice, that God does not remove the tree nor does He destroy Eden, which he could easily have done. For example, He would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah a few pages later and moves the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem after that. So, destruction is not inconceivable here, and yet, He does not destroy Eden. “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Humankind’s eventual return is part of the plan! So, instead of eliminating Eden, God guards it, we can presume, until such time as Adam and Eve/humanity are prepared to renter it – sans their egos. The return represents the eternal grace granted to all those who surrender their egos and chose to live in the God Space.
Later in the New Testament, the Tree of Life returns to us. In Revelations, John saw in his vision, a throne, a river and a tree. The throne was “the throne of God and of the Lamb,” the river was “a pure river of water of life,” and the tree was “the tree of life.” But the Greekword John used for “tree” was xulon, which is the word used for dead wood or timber. It is the word used in the Bible to describe the cross. The normal Greek word for living wood in the New Testament is “dendron” (from which we derive our word “rhododendron” i.e., “rose tree”).
Consider that what we are being told is that the road home – the tree of life, is through the cross. Not the Christian cross, but Christ’s cross. The profound message of Christ’s life is that it is possible to live on earth from the God Space and that although others may be threatened by those truths, and even if they persecute you for it, it will not ultimately matter, because living the way Christ demonstrated is the road home.
The task before each of us is to return to Eden with the conscious awareness of who you truly are. Your “learning,” the understanding you will gain, is the crux of the transformational process called enlightenment. When you comprehend who you really are, your beliefs, fear and anxiety will naturally abate. When you stand in the God Space, you realize that there is nothing real that can ever be harmed; therefore there is nothing for you to fear. Making the trip with grace is determined by one thing – your ability to open to life in every moment, in every situation.
Copyright©2009 Blue Lotus Press