The Garden of Eden

Whoever has ears,

Let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

To the one who is victorious,

I will give the right to eat from the tree of life,

Which is in the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:7

On the sixth day God created several different types of animals, one of which was human. The humans were different from the other animals in that they were made in God’s image and were given dominion over the earth and all its creatures. The writer of this text could have had no idea of how true that statement would become. Humanity at the time Genesis was written only marginally controlled the fish and the birds and the animals, we had hardly begun to subdue the Earth, but today the fate of the Earth and all her creatures rests in our hands.

God created humans, both male and female, in the image of the trinity. The book of Genesis is amazing in that it casually uses the plural when God speaks of themselves. You can do with that information what you will but I see the trinity in that scripture. And so, when humanity was created in the image of God, God is in the plural and we are created in the image of the trinity.

The notion that two kinds of people were created in the image of three distinct people accounts for the variation and uniqueness of each individual. It does not matter which gender came from what person of the trinity for things in Heaven are infinitely more fluid than we are. Our bodies, made of clay, exist in duality but our spirits – which came with the breath of God – are in another dimension entirely. Our two-dimensional bodies are temples for a three dimensional reality and this is where the human story begins.

At first only one human was created. Adam means earth and is related to the word for red clay. Originally humanity was one in itself and one with the very earth it was formed out of. Eve being formed from Adam’s rib is a symbol of how our bodies are really one and long to be reconnected. In the first chapter of Genesis we are told that God created humanity – both male and female- in God’s image. Both halves are described as being in the image of God and both halves were present in Adam. Woman was less created for man than both woman and man were created in the act of separation. Before that moment there was simply a human, not a man specifically. Just as darkness did not exist until light was separated out of it

God separated woman from man like he separated light from darkness.

The separation of our bodies creates the beauty of procreation and also the corruption of sexist tendencies. It is our duality and it is essential to the human condition. It is only with God in our relationships that duality can become a balanced trinity and so without God all our marriages and families are inherently broken. We are prone to trust in our own knowledge, despite how limited it is by our mortality, and we assume we do not need God. With this self worship our relationships can never live in the perichoresis of Trinitarian relationship.

Our knowledge has made us proud, we assume that because we are almost like angels that we no longer need God. At the core of our dualistic original sin is idol worship. We come to worship our own control over the world around us and forget to worship the author of history. To worship an idol is to worship something you control – or something you create. To worship an idol carved of wood or stone is to worship something we can create and thus control. To worship our own doctrines and theology is no different. To worship our religious institutions is no different. To worship the authority of books we publish is no different. The broken sense of our own importance that results from our having tasted knowledge compels us toward idol worship which is really only worship of the self and the self’s ability to subdue the earth. We can subdue the earth and so we assume we can subdue heaven. But idol worship will destroy the human heart and is the beginning of all sin.

Sin is a part of the human condition. Sin may very well be the poor way you treat your neighbour. Sin may very well be the perverse thoughts you have in the privacy of your own mind. Sin may very well be the greed and corruption by which wealth comes into existence and the poverty which necessarily follows it. But sin is more than simply these things. Sin is the brokenness of the human condition. It is the disease which causes the symptoms mentioned above. Sin is original to the human condition, it is something which is woven into the very fabric of our beings. There is no perfect escape from it for the living, though one can rise above it.

The story of the Garden of Eden tells of the origin of sin, it speaks of the curse which humanity bears. However, it was not simple disobedience to God’s command which created the curse of Adam. It is not so simple a story that God punished humanity for eating the wrong fruit. The story has much more to say for those who have ears that hear, so listen! Original sin comes from our fractured nature – the discontinuity between our dualistic minds and our Trinitarian hearts. It is the imbalance within our beings which comes from having tasted knowledge without having tasted eternal life. Both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge are found in the Garden, the Garden which we have been excluded from by the knowledge we gained.

The Garden of Eden is the perfect harmony of nature. It is the balance of the web of life. It existed in happiness for a very long time before God placed humans there and without humans it followed God’s plan with grace and ease. But like a lonely elder’s home, perfectly cared for and without disruption, it longed for children to come and run a muck through it. God is no fool, if we were not meant to eat the fruit of knowledge it would not have been put in the garden. It was put there for us, and we were put there for it. On the sixth day of creation God said to Adam and Eve “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.” All the trees in the garden were created for us, for our nourishment, including the fruit growing on the tree of knowledge.

The full name of the fruit is the knowledge of good and evil, or put another way, the knowledge of all that exists. The gift we were given, or more accurately which we were encouraged to steal, was nothing less than divine. It was the knowledge of God, the ability to understand the deep truths. This knowledge made us different from the rest of creation, it gave us dominion over the earth and all of God’s creatures. It gave us the power to see atoms and galaxies. It gave us the power to understand the genome and the laws of physics. It gave us the power to create and to destroy. These are qualities of God.

As we are told by the psalmist: we have been made rulers over the works of God’s hands, almost as powerful as angels, with all of God’s earthly creatures under our feet. What a beautiful gift and blessing! But this came at quite a cost. As with power of all kinds it was both a gift and a burden. God warned Adam that the fruit would bring death, the snake claimed it would not bring death but make us like gods. Both were right, we became like God in knowledge but were cut off from immortality in the tree of life, for if we had partaken in both we would have been completely like God, and that was too much for these breathing lumps of clay to bear.

And so, humanity is like God in knowledge but not in years. Knowledge is accumulated over time, and we never have the opportunity for it to grow to the level of the Lord in our own lives. Instead we must pass it to the next generation and they must relearn it for themselves. We are children of God, never adult gods. And this is the crux of our curse. We are limited creatures learning how to live with the small spark of divine knowledge we have stolen for ourselves.

This is the discontinuity within the human condition, we are mortal yet we are divine. We have knowledge but not time. This is a wound in our souls. Sin is woundedness, it is the source of spiritual pain. This is original sin, from it stems all of human failure. The task of humanity, now that we have left the garden, now that we are separated from the harmonious providence of the natural world the rest of creation abides in, is to learn how to use our knowledge for good and heal the wound. This is the purpose of history, this is what the Bible is about.

The consequences of our eating the fruit were all things which separate humans from the animals. They were all markers of that transition from beast to angel. As soon as Adam and Eve ate the fruit they realised they were naked. This was the moment when they left behind the way they were, with the animals of the garden, and became as we are, uncomfortable in our own skin and needing clothing. Shame is a unique feeling to humanity. Other animals are not ashamed to be what they are, for they are fully what they are. But we are not entirely what we are. We are created yet we are not like the animals. We are divine yet we are not like God. We are not comfortable in our own skin because our skin does not really fit. And this discontinuity is the source of both shame and pride, the essences of original sin.

After the snake was told the consequences of its actions Eve was told hers – she was to toil in childbirth. While all of God’s creatures reproduce, one of the main qualities of human uniqueness is how difficult it is for us to make children. A mother wolf may hunt a rabbit in the morning, give birth to five babies in the afternoon, and hunt another rabbit that evening. Not only is the birth more painful but the rearing is much more involved. Where a reindeer is almost born running, human infants cannot hold their own heads up and require many years of careful protection and intentional guidance. A human woman must give a great deal to bring life into this world. She must sacrifice a great deal of time to raise her children. A dog has lived its entire life by the time a human child has reached maturity!

Eve also had another consequence from leaving behind her animal nature in exchange for divine knowledge. After leaving Eden, she was made to be subservient under her husband and ruled over. The systemic abuse of women in human society is far stretching, thoroughly entrenched, and horrific. This, however, is not one of the ten commandments, it is not something God made us to be, it is a consequence of our sinful nature. It is a consequence of our untempered knowledge. It is a consequence of our natural brokenness – one half of our being abuses the other and our duality fails us entirely.

Adam was also affected by the change. He suffered by having to till the land. The gift of knowledge came at quite a cost, bread is lovely but tilling is hard work. Tilling fields was high technology in those days and easily understood as an example of how fundamentally different we are from the other creatures in the Garden. We worship our own endeavours and toil in labour so that we can control our food supply. Our curse is idol worship, it is an obsession with control. Jesus came to remind us to live like children, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The economies men created after leaving the Garden are oppressive to humanity – despite having obvious comforts and benefits we all enjoy. The first and obviously most important consequence was being forbidden from the tree of life. The last consequence given is a promise of mortality, “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” The tree of life represents eternal life – the timelessness of God.

We lack time, for we are mortal and can never be eternal. The flaming sword and the cherubim keep us from ever reaching eternal life while we exist in our dualistic nature. Instead, time is given to us in moments, we experience one before another and never two at once. If we had eaten of the tree of life we would be eternal and we would be beyond time, as God is. We are given small tastes of time by God lest we greedily eat them all up and become sick. Like patient spoonfuls of dinner given to a baby we receive time in a way which is best for us. And so, we are blessed when we can step for a moment outside of time through the deeper aspects of contemplation. To know God is to find the spark of eternity which is placed within our hearts.

Our task as a species is to learn love so that love may temper our cleverness. We are a work in progress, we have been given the fruit of knowledge and we have been given free will, so we must learn what to do with that knowledge. We must learn to become like Jesus. This is the purpose behind every moment in your life. This is the entire purpose of your life. Learn how to balance your animal nature and your divine knowledge so that you may be lifted up out of your original sin and into the Holy life for which you are created.

For this reason, science needs religion, but not the religion of canon law and institution, for those things are like science. Science, philosophy, theology, all are forms of knowledge and must be balanced by the eternity glimpsed in contemplation. Knowledge is good and should be pursued but it needs the compassion and new eyes of contemplation in order to be holy. We need only look at our weapons of war and our horrific pollution to see that knowledge on its own is dangerous and evil.

But we must continue forward, there is no going back. Placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden is a flaming sword. We have been forever banished and may not return. There is no way to unlearn what we know, there is no way for humanity to become once again like the deer or the fox. The harmony of the Garden is beyond our sinful grasp. But, as we are told by Paul, Jesus is the new Adam. He is the beginning of a new creation within the human experience, a fresh and vibrant incarnation of the Christ to revitalize our efforts. The promise given by Jesus was a new kingdom, perhaps a new garden. The kingdom of Heaven is the New Eden. We cannot return to the original Eden but there is hope for a new one. There is more than hope, there is a promise!

So, the story of Eden found in Genesis leaves open the question of how we can come to live properly after having tasted knowledge. Human destiny lies in the forward momentum which integrates the knowledge of the tree with human frailty in a stable way and makes possible the new harmony of the Kingdom of Heaven, the new Eden. If we wish to return to the state of Eden we must lift the very curse which has separated us from it. We must overcome our original sin and heal the wound cause by our duality. In Eden we were as one – it was when we began to exist in duality that corruption came. If we wish to find the new Eden we must once again come to live as one people.

Original sin is largely corporate, meaning it is held by society, a church, a family, any group. One of the very difficult things about corporate sin is that a group can be culpable without any individual being directly responsible. The kingdom of Heaven will not be realized until original sin has been finally done away with. This means that we must, as an entire species, learn to love. While individuals may overcome their sinful nature with either great effort or divine grace, none of us are truly free of the curse until all of us are free of it – until we are once again one. One can see the importance of addressing corporate sin in the words of the prophets who condemn Israel as a whole as if she were a single entity. Do not get lost in the modern notion of personal responsibility and disassociation from your community. Sin is shared. The heart of humanity is like that of stone and once we do away with our idols God will give us a new collective spirit – one which lives and beats within us all.

The illusion that we exist separately from the rest of creation is a corporate sin that picks away at our collective spirit. All of the natural world speaks to God and to each other , Jesus himself was heard speaking to a fig tree by his disciples. From the stones of the earth to the trees of the forest to the depths of the sea – all of creation has life and praises God. The birds, fish, and stars all have many things to teach us. God is so magnificent that every aspect of creation and every moment are uniquely tailored to every creature. The interconnectedness of creation is what allows this to be true. The world was made for humans, certainly. But it was also made for ants, for whales, for bacteria, for stones, for trees, and for everything. The whole of creation is a beautiful choir singing hymns of praise in perfect harmony – we must learn to join that song. Our animal brothers and sisters never left Eden, they still live in perfect harmony with the trees and lakes. We must learn to live with our knowledge while still being part of the garden which God tends.

Idol worship is the original sin which keeps us from singing in this choir. It is the brokenness at the heart of our being. When we gained the capacity of knowledge we began to worship ourselves and trust in ourselves above all else. And so we worship those things which give power to our false selves – money, power, reassurance of our own value and worth. We worship sports teams who give us a false sense of victory. We worship our nation which must be the best in world simply because we were born in it. We worship anything which supports the illusion that we are gods, anything which helps us feel freed from our mortality. We long to worship things we can control, because truly we are worshipping ourselves. Whether we make our God a wooden statue made by our own hands, or a healthy stock portfolio we won from the world, or a sports team we have chosen and belong to because of geography or familial habit, we always worship something which makes us bigger and better in our own eyes.

The worship of stone figures is no different than the worship of church tradition, doctrine, or liturgy – for these are all things we can control. Idol worship is the worship of that which we create, not that which created us. Our knowledge on it’s own is a curse without the blessing of Christ’s love. Paul alludes to this phenomenon when he says If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. To glimpse eternity, to step out of our limited selves, is to know the love which binds God’s garden.

And so we must use the power of creation we have been given to create a new Eden. We must use the knowledge of God we have to decipher what is good and what is evil and make paradise here on earth again. Our knowledge has disrupted the harmony of the garden and now we have a responsibility to use that very same knowledge to do what God did and make paradise out of chaos. We must embrace the Sabbath time God has given us and use it to create a beautiful physical space here in earth, then we will have eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven will be real and the glory of Christ will have returned. The old world will have faded away and a new world will have been made – a new Eden, heaven on earth, paradise itself.

So the question remains, how do we fully understand Good and Evil so that instead of knowing evil and loving it we know evil and cast it into the fire. For once we not only know good and evil but practice good and shun evil we will be ready to create Eden and live in paradise. We already have the technological prowess, the material resources, and all the practical knowledge necessary. It is only through spiritual discernment that we will be able to put these skills to use for real good. If only we could love we would instantly live in paradise.

Masonic roundtable episode Kabbalah
Original sin is the source of temptation, the potential for error, not a natural state of depravity.
God was easy to talk to in the garden but Cain and Abel had a more distant relationship with him.
We have evolved culturally and technologically but still operate with the instincts of our animal cousins. It will take time to adjust this inconsistency, but not only time, also effort.

The gift of knowledge is the gift to create. Art is the divine in us expressed. To eternally and perpetually create is to be God.