- Mar 18, 2017
ShankaraThe generally accepted interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Knowledge, is that the Serpent was evil, Eve (and Adam to a lesser extent) sinners. Many believe that for their act of disobedience to Yahweh, they brought a curse on the whole of humanity, causing many people to go to hell for having supposedly inherited their sin. For those people, the story is one of failure to obey true authority, human weakness, falling into temptation and becoming wicked. This interpretation is in fact the cornerstone of the whole Christian religion. But is this the true significance of the tale?
We must first ask, who is the God of the Garden of Eden? The true and ultimate deity? Or a tyrant god, a demiurge? The Garden of Eden is generally considered to be a desirable state. Abrahamic mysticism contains many ideas about Adam’s gradual return to the Garden. It is certainly a state of innocence – but what kind of innocence? There is an innocence in knowing nothing, in not existing, in being unborn and never experiencing life. This is the partial and inauthentic happiness of “ignorance is bliss”, and this is what the Garden of Eden represents.
The Tree which they ate from, it was called “The Tree of Knowledge”. Well, knowledge is a double edged sword. Knowledge is power, and power can be abused. Nonetheless, we really must say that Knowledge is a good thing. It is certainly better than ignorance. So the deity of the Garden of Eden doesn’t want them to eat from the tree, what does that mean? He does not want them to have Knowledge. Could we say that the ultimate and true God would not want people to have knowledge? No, the only deity who would desire ignorance for humanity would be a demiurge, a deity with some interest in keeping people ignorant, a deity with some egoistic purposes.
Did the Serpent then lie, in saying “you will become as gods, knowing good and evil”? Was his intention in leading Eve to eat from the tree a bad one? What does it mean, knowing Good and Evil? To know Good and Evil is to know embodiment, existence in the human form. This is a necessary step, a thing which must be experienced if we are ever to become “gods”. Without experiencing the human situation, there would be no possibility of evolution. We might be happy, but happy like plants or animals are happy. The Serpent understood this.
Of course, embodiment means suffering. The labour pains with which the deity of the Garden cursed Eve, the serpent cursed to “crawl on its belly”. Actually, the curse of pain in labour makes it quite clear that the deity’s “curse” is embodiment, human form rather than a non-corporeal situation - can we really imagine childbirth without pain?. Embodiment is to know the body, illness, old age, death. The development of knowledge is to leave behind the dumb bliss of ignorance, to know separation, responsibility. Sufferings, but essential sufferings.
The Garden of Eden had to be left behind, in order that souls could experience the human situation, and thus have the possibility to develop into something more than a disembodied soul. To triumph over the cage of flesh, making it the city of paradise rather than a dungeon. The Serpent therefore represents the Liberator, the one who destroys a peaceful yet empty status quo for the possibility of something truly meaningful. Who leads us to “fall” – a necessary fall which begins the journey through embodiment towards self-realization. Eve was the courageous one who dared to ignore the tyrannical interdictions of a selfish deity, and to take on the burden of embodiment, the necessary basis for eventually becoming “gods”.
There was no “original sin”, really. There was a state of dumb elemental bliss, ignorant peace, workless rest, absorbed in the supersoul. Then we desired something more, to take on the trial of existing in this world, for the ultimate purpose of someday embodying divinity, and also in order to experience desires. There is no “guilt” transmitted to us by our ancestors, no “separation from God” caused by the Tree of Knowledge. The Demiurge may have wanted to keep us in dumb bliss, but the True Deity is a deity of knowledge, not ignorance.
The Garden of Eden story is about people breaking free from a paradise prison, fearlessly accepting the curse of a cruel false god. The Serpent and Eve are the hero and heroine, the original rebels against unjustified authority, willing to accept curses, suffering, and the hate of those who love ignorance, in order to eventually arrive at true freedom. If they are the cause of suffering, this suffering is necessary that it can be overcome and true joy found, so we can say that they are also the cause of true joy.
What you’ve fleshed out in the OP isn’t that much different from what certain groups/sects/cults etc believe today nor is it unique to our present time, meaning there were groups/sects/cults in antiquity that believed the same.
My only question to you and anyone else who genuinely believes this, is; if Man benefitted so much from the Fall/rebellion, what tangible evidence do you have for it? I, as a Christian and firm believer in the Genesis narrative, have more reason to believe the narrative to be true because I can see and feel the evidence with my own eyes. Examples would be: I can stand outside and see a flower bloom, fade and fall, OR Man’s propensities or inclination for the debasing. We get a thrill from the risky, dangerous or rebellion.
In the Genesis narrative, Man’s rebellion/Fall subsequently affects his own habitation because the “ground” was cursed because of him and his “subjects” (the animals) also rebelled against him. Therefore, if that narrative is false and Man supposedly entered upon a higher existence through his rebellion, wouldn’t his “ascension” also affect his habitation? Sin sundered/altered his relationship with God, himself and the creatures that he was given dominion over. If what you claim is what actually transpired, then those relationships wouldn’t be what they are today. Man wouldn’t be afraid of animals nor would they be afraid of him.
Entering an “exalted”/higher state of being naturally implies that you are beyond the profane or debasing. So, how do you account for Man’s perpetual inclination for what debases him? I mean, if what you claim is exactly what happened, there would be no such thing as crime! We wouldn’t delight in harming other people, we wouldn’t even embark on it because we would, simply put, be beyond it. In describing His mission, Christ repeatedly notes what the Fall did to Man and that He came to redeem him from the depths to which he had fallen.
“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”-John 10:10
None of this, or the Cross itself, would be necessary if rebellion had already granted us the full life anyway. And if the hardship that is this life is better than the blissful ignorance that our forebears enjoyed, then it stands to reason that more people would enjoy it and that suicide would be an extremely rare occurrence.
You also said that a tyrannical God wanted to keep Man in ignorance. If God was hell bent on doing that, why didn’t He outright reduce Man’s faculties to that of a brute beast? We would all be like Tarzan. He has all the time and means to deprive us of the advantages that Man has over animals and yet He doesn’t. Curiously though, the very people that celebrate Lucifer’s rebellion don’t take too well to dissension coming from their fellow man and want to make rebellion something of an impossibility. We are living through that right now…
The angels who have never fallen/rebelled have no experience with sin as we do. They see the results of rebellion "from a distance". Do you regard them as being in a state of "dumb innocence"?When you look at it from the way I recounted (not invented) it, there is the clarity that the whole "Tree of Knowledge" business was actually an essential step for us, from dumb innocence to intelligently fallen, which will eventually lead to intelligent innocence.