Genesis 2:16 – And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
The Genesis story surrounding the way in which Adam and Eve, the first people, were deceived into eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and were subsequently cast out of the garden is one of the most fascinating accounts of our origins in the history of sacred sharing. In this blog post, I offer a subtly novel interpretation of what happened in this Adam and Eve account.
The age old question concerning the literal validity of the Adam and Eve account is ostensibly, “If Adam and Eve were the only two people in existence at the dawn of creation, who did their children marry as they sought to create offspring?” Personally, while I believe that it is possible that God created other human beings after Adam and Eve in some other context to be the partners for their children, I give a lot of credence to suspicions which this question creates regarding Adam’s and Eve’s literal identities, especially when one considers the first part of the Genesis account in which it states that “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” I tend to believe that Adam and Eve were more likely metaphoric archetypes for perhaps entire cycles of human experience, wherein highly advanced civilizations rose and fell, than they were two actual human beings, but I believe that the “lesson” of the fall is the same whether Adam and Eve were allegorical or literal.
Now there are several components to the story of Adam and Eve which are widely accepted across theological and religious substratum. For instance, both Eve and Adam thought that Knowledge (human observation, technological advancement, human prowess without the assistance of God) was a way through which they could bypass the “trust” necessary to inherit eternal life as exemplified by “the tree of life.” So in a sense, Adam and Eve like many of us did not actually want the easy path to life of simply trusting in and obeying God and thus asking their Savior if they could eat of the tree of life, but rather Adam and Eve thought that in and of themselves through this “fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil” they could conceive of a scaffolding of their own creation through which they could make their own narcissistic climb toward divinity. Adam and Eve were assisted in this self-aggrandizing delusion by “the serpent” who could have been indicative of a very intelligent race of dinosaur or reptile at the time, or “the devil” of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish mythology. Most Muslims, Jews, and Christians would concur that it was Adam and Eve’s pride to be like God without God that brought about their disobedience and subsequent fall into shame and banishment.
I agree with all of the more common interpretations that Adam and Eve as “metaphoric archetypes” did in fact fall prey to pride and that pride came before the fall. But I am not sure that God banished them from the Garden simply as a function of God’s instinct to punish as a consequence for disobedience. Rather, I believe that Adam and Eve or to put it more literally the society that Adam and Eve allegorically describe experienced the punishments of the fall, namely death, toil in childbirth, and angst in tilling the soil as an ontological consequence not of their disobedience but rather as a consequence of the content of the fruit which they ingested. In a phrase, God was not lying when he told Adam and Eve that they would perish if they ate of the fruit, whereas the serpent was lying when she told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the fruit they would become like God.
So what was in this fruit? What was in this fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil that was so toxic to the soul? We all know that having a healthy understanding of what is healthy and unhealthy, beautiful and ugly, kind and mean spirited is good for constitutive mental health. So what could be so toxic about “the knowledge of Good and Evil?” It is my belief, that the society which Adam and Eve reflected was a very nascent and infantile society in the schema of creative evolution and that while the tree of life which came from trust in God was healthy milk for the infant, the knowledge of Good and Evil was much too complicated a source of nourishment for such an infantile society. For the continuum of Good and Evil is not some two dimensional set of contrasts like black or white, or tall or short, but it is an infinitely complicated undertaking of discernment which involves infinite dimensions of being. For instant, if one individual sees a person who is caring for their children with deep kindness and compassion at 4pm, that individual would say that said person is obviously good. But if another individual sees that same person at 1am the next morning trying to date rape an under age minor at a “gentlemen’s social club” in Arkansas, the second individual would in no uncertain terms declare that the same person was inoperably evil. Which person would be right? How many of us personify great good and great evil in the same work day where one minute we are working diligently, the next minute we are defending people the company is exploiting, and yet then in the next minute we are gossiping about the divorcee in the cubicle down from us about the black eye which she got from her ex-husband the night before. The knowledge of Good and Evil is a real substance, but it is a substance that it takes eons to truly grasp and the society of Adam and Eve could not handle such that knowledge even more than we can, when we assume that we can grasp it absolutely.
So we know that there were at least three consequences of this “forbidden fruit” for the society of Adam and Eve and these were: 1) Death 2) Toil in Childbirth 3) Angst in caring for the earth and farming it for food. In this blog post, I suppose , that there was at least a fourth consequence which undergirds and coheres the three other consequence, and this consequence is the “delusion of extreme thinking.”
I will examine the notion of extreme thinking first in reference to the three initial consequences. First I will approach Death. Death truly is a disease of the mind, as Jesus said that “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy but I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” The extreme mind sees life as either in existence or out of existence as part of some horrific dichotomy of being. The moderate mind realizes that death is merely a transition from one dimension of being to another, and once the moderate mind masters this idea then the moderate mind is able to move from dimension to dimension without the pain and horror of earthly decay. Second, I will examine toil in childbirth. In order for childbirth to be painful one must believe in the extreme supposition that all we are is our bodies and that there is nothing else to us. So that having one body come out of an already existent body must be painful, because there is no mediating agent. The moderate mind realizes that there is much more to us than what the eyes can easily see and so the other dimensions of who we are can mitigate the pain that what we see in the dilation of the cervix must cause to an extreme consciousness. Third, let me explore the notion of “pain and toil” in tilling the earth. The extreme mind sees us as separate from the earth so there is an us them dichotomy of us over and against the earth. Whereas the moderate mind, realizes that we are only separate from the earth in certain senses and that we are much more one with the earth than we are separate from it. Once the moderate mind begins to master our harmony and oneness with the earth, then tilling the soil is no longer as difficult or painstaking.
To further elaborate on the pernicious effects of extreme thinking, I will explore 5 age old questions:
This is the first question:
“Is our world objective as in a function of something outside of all of us or is our world subjective as in a function of our thoughts, faith, trust in love, etc?”
Many individuals believe that the world is purely objective and is a function of visible matter which we can understand and negotiate through the five senses, whereas others like Deepak Chopra or Helen Schucman the author of “A Course in Miracles” might say that our world is purely subjective and that belief 100% dictates the reality of what we experience. In my opinion, this question is an example of extreme thinking at work. There are obvious times when our life feels very objective, for instance if someone hits us with a car and we become paralyzed from the waste down. But then perhaps, the subjectivity of this experience enters in when after we have been told that we are paralyzed, we realize that our spirit can reorganize our matter to a point of healing and we “heal” ourselves of the paralysis.
This is the second question:
“Is any religion evil while any other religion is good?
The idea that Jesus is Lord and the comments that the Christian scriptures make about all who don’t confess him as Lord and Savior going to eternal hell, creates a natural tendency among those of us who believe in him to use him as a litmus test for good and evil religion, as in all religions who claim that he is Lord are good and all of those who do not are evil. On the other hand, given all of the atrocities which have been committed in the name of Jesus by Christians in recent centuries, many people of non- Christian religions reverse that dichotomy and claim that all Christian religions are evil religions of dominion and all non-Christian religions are equally good reflections of the Divine. All of these false dichotomies are examples of extremist thinking, whereas the moderate mind realizes that in every religion there is truth and falsehood, perhaps in varying degrees, but still at least some percentage of truth and falsehood and never an absolute attribution of evil or good.
Will humanity ever be easily categorized into “good” and “evil” enough that there will be a “grand” apocalyptic war of good against evil at the end of all things?
This question is a great example of extremist thinking. At face value it seems to merit our allegiance, as it has seemed that humanity has studied war more than peace. But in order for there to be a “FINAL” war of the good versus the evil and for this to somehow usher in some final age, the war cannot be some combination of evil and good people fighting against some other combination of evil and good people, the just side having perhaps a little more good than evil, instead this war must have a scenario where all of the evil people all get onto one side and all of the good people all get onto another. This is impossible for two reasons. First of all, no person is fully good or fully evil every person is a combination of evil and good. So at best this final war would be a war of people who are mostly good against people who are mostly evil. But what are the chances that all of the mostly good people on this planet would gather together against all of the mostly evil people? Mostly evil people usually hate other mostly evil people and so it is highly unlikely that they would be able to cooperate long enough to fight against the mostly good. Similarly, mostly good people are often non-violent, so what would motivate them to fight at all? Lastly the delusions of difference like race, or greed, or the destruction of the environment that Maya has used to deceive human beings into war, usually entails the mostly evil deceiving a mixture of people who are just easily deceived and never entail the evil combining forces against the good. Similarly, the mostly good are usually divided against each other by some delusion of political adherence or religious orientation, so they are unlikely to unite either. The idea of a grand apocalypse is obviously a result of extremist thinking. The moderate mind realizes that God is much more likely to redeem all human beings into a state of heaven on earth than he is to create some grand final conflict which would force him to make evil people even more evil and good people more good and yet still willing to fight violently.
The story of Adam and Eve when viewed as allegorical metaphor suggests that it is possible that we as a humanity have existed in advanced states before on this planet and that what destroyed us was two things, number one our pride to think that we could become like God without God and number two our willingness to operate in the reptilian mindset of “extremist dichotomy.” Peter tells Christians to let their moderation be known unto all men. Let us all embrace moderation, balance, and subtlety not just in our actions but in our thoughts, our perceptions, and the way in which we embrace the world.
Namaste and God Bless You!!