The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden continues to weigh on my mind. I find it a little funny to be hung up so early in The Story, but here I am, questioning from the get-go. I'm pretty sure that having a proper understanding of this myth or parable will greatly influence how I read and understand the rest of the Bible. I have no doubt there are very profound truths about the human condition contained within this deceptively simple narrative. Although I am willing to admit that we are imperfect beings, I don't subscribe wholeheartedly to the doctrine of original sin as commonly understood.
In fact, from a certain perspective I don't consider The Fall of Man to be a rebellion or corruption at all, seeing it instead as a necessary step on the journey toward spiritual maturity. The garden story is the perfect example of ignorance being bliss. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the dawn of consciousness. At that point, man grew beyond his oneness with nature (was expelled from the garden) by becoming aware of right and wrong. He developed a conscience. Do animals feel shame? I don't think so. But from that point on, Adam and Eve felt vulnerability (nakedness) and shame.
Once man evolved beyond his animalistic instincts he developed the ability to consciously bring harm to himself and others. He was also able to use his mental powers to judge despite his errors in perception. Consciousness, or self-awareness, created the fundamental spiritual challenge: overcoming the temptation to serve and preserve oneself at the expense of others. In short, learning to love.
There's a similar perspective I learned through the writings of Emmet Fox and I can't tell you how true they ring. To me, it makes more sense than anything else I've heard up to this point. (These points are paraphrased for the most part.):
- Adam and Eve represent two aspects of the same person. Adam represents the physical body and Eve represents the mind.
- The serpent represents our lower nature -our carnal mind or ego (an aspect of Eve), thus it was Eve who the serpent tempted.
- Eve eats the fruit first because mind is the builder and body is the effect. The mind can bring harmony or trouble into the body/world but the body cannot act independent of the mind.
- When Eve ate the fruit (gave in to the temptations of the ego) she started to view herself as separate from God, this mistaken belief is the Fall of Man.
- When it says Eve shared the fruit with Adam, it represents those mistaken beliefs becoming manifested in the material world (acted out). (I guess you could call this sin!)
- The result of these mistaken beliefs is much suffering and effort. (Eve experiences pain in childbirth; Adam must till the ground.)
- A belief in separation from God also causes us to feel vulnerable and fearful, hence the feeling of nakedness Adam and Eve experienced and the desire to cover up that feeling with material things.
I don't know about you, but I find all this stuff absolutely fascinating. The Bible is an amazing, amazing book filled with truths beyond what we can even currently imagine. I really must spend more time reading and meditating on these inspired writings.