Genesis chapters 2-3 resonate with me more than most passages of Scripture. Every verse that proceeds the account of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden hinges on consequences of disobedience of our race’s primordial parents, that being sin, which demanded the incarnation of Christ and his death and resurrection. I grew up believing this story; sometimes I believed it was a literal account of man’s origins, other times a metaphor for something strange and evil that abruptly altered the course of our history told in such a way that ancient nomadic Hebrews would grasp, a mythical interpretation for a sudden shift that happened that changed the course of our species evolution. I stay agnostic in this matter—the truth has been forgotten and will remain forgotten forever.
Following is a swift summary of the traditional Christian account of creation, for which I will be referring to the Mechanical Translation of the Book of Genesis.
“Elohiym [Powers],” YHWH [He exists], God, believed to be all-powerful, all-perfect, all-loving, speaks into existence the cosmos, the heavens, the earth, water, land, and all its organisms. Then God forms man Adam from the dust, breathes life into his nostrils, and places him in the Garden of Eden to tend over it. In the heart of the garden, God plants the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God grants Adam access to all the fruit from every tree in Eden, except for fruit from this tree. In the ancient Hebrew the phrase “good and evil” is a merism—a literary device which pairs opposite terms together in order to generate meaning—that also translates as “everything.” Adam and Eve ate were forbidden to eat from “The Tree of the Knowledge of Everything.” For some scholars the phrase does not necessarily denote a moral concept. According to the Mechanical Translation of the Torah, this Tree of Knowledge is “a tree of the discernment of function and dysfunction.” For others, it still bears moral connotations. In the Mechanical Translation, God says to the first man regarding the command to not eat of the forbidden tree, “in the day you eat from him a dying you will die.” Such is the same language used in Hebrew for issuing a death sentence, evidence that God is judging man for sin.
God forms a woman from Adam’s rib and unites them (who, by the way, is still only referred to as “the woman,” a point many a feminist will victoriously raise). It is notoriously known what occurs next—there dwells a serpent in the garden, the most subtle of all animals God creates, may or may not be an archangel who rebelled against God in a previous eon in disguise. The serpent says to the woman: “Did God really say you will not eat from all of the trees of the garden?” Eve replies by partially refuting the serpent, saying that God has allowed them to eat of any fruit except the tree in the midst of the garden, or even touch it, or else they will die. The serpent promises that there is no death to the fruit, but in fact when one eats of it their eyes will be open and they will exist like God, knowing function and dysfunction. Eve already sees the tree with different eyes: see that it is “for nourishment,” it is “yearning to the eyes,” and it is “a craving to make calculations,” in the Mechanical Translation. She eats it, then gives it to “her man,” who also eats it. Their eyes are open, they see they are naked, so they sew fig leaves to cover themselves.
This moment is known as The Fall of Man, the moment in which sin taints the human blood and spirit like a drop of ink clouding a pool of water, and takes down the entire planet which had been under his authority with it.
The humans hear “the voice” of God walking in the garden, so they hide from him. God calls out to them and asks, “Where are you?” The humans come out from the thickets, and Adam says they heard God’s voice and were afraid, for they were naked. God then asks them, “Who told you that you were naked?” and asks them if they were eating from the forbidden tree. The man blames his wife, who blames the serpent, and God sets to punishing all three of them: he takes away the serpent’s limbs and forces all its descendents to crawl on the ground, to the woman he sets the man more powerful over her and causes her pain in childbirth, and to the man he curses the ground so that he must toil for survival all the days of his life, “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” God makes tunics of hide for the humans, then exiles them from Eden—for if the humans, now being like God with the ability “to discern function and dysfunction and make calculations for themselves,” eat of the Tree of Life, they will “live to a distant time.” For Christians, this means that humanity’s fallen state becomes permanent, and we are thus doomed to damnation. The result is the tragic world in which we dwell, where no joy cannot be experienced except hedged with pain, where lights casts shadows, nor can any human know what “good” means unless there lies “evil” to contrast it, and the human mind can no longer logically imagine the utopia we had lost.
The serpent spoke the truth, but at a slant, because indeed Adam and Eve did not die—immediately. Only after about a thousand years of life, according to the Genesis account, did their bodies die—yet if God dwells outside time, what is a thousand years to Him? Nothing. To an infinite Being who sees all moments at once, reality dictates that the mortal beings were already dead.
The human race loses its innocence with no way to ever return, much like the way a child grows up into an adult. Many argue that because of this, the Fall is inevitable and even beneficial for man. But while it is a healthy phase of human life to leave ones parents and set off on his own, without man’s initial exile from God, it would never have made what we understand to be “adulthood” necessary.
As I’ve matured, it’s inevitable that I encounter a number of troubling details in the account of Adam and Eve, implications in the narrative that have caused many a rational human being to revile the doctrine of Original Sin and walk away from the faith utterly. Here is a list of popular grievances:
- If God is omnipresent, why did he not stop Eve from eating the fruit? The passage all but suggests that God had been absent during Eve’s trial: his presence is not mentioned from the moment the serpent speaks until after they sew the fig leaves, when they hear God walking nearby. God appears to have a mortal limitation of mobility, traveling on two feet, listening to the wind, amusing himself while far away the cosmic drama takes place above the roots of that fated tree.
- 2. If God is omnipotent, then he already knew that his creation would disobey him. It seems at this part of the scripture that God has mortal limitations of awareness after the moment Adam and Eve disobey, when God calls out to them and asks “Where are you?” The fruit of knowledge appears to have changed the humans’ perception of the Creator—do they see God in his true form, as a being with a mortal form like them? No, I would say they have forgotten that God is omnipresent, and God’s change in appearance manifests this fact in the myth.
- Humans are punished for sins committed before they were born. Sin may not be so much a punishment, but inherited like a genetic disease of the consciousness. While in the cosmic scheme, this appears unfair, is that not the world we acquired for gaining the knowledge of good and evil?
- Humans would not have committed this sin if they were created with a sinless nature. Therefore, skeptics deduce, God already created humans with a flawed nature, and so blame him for Original Sin. Apparently, humanity may not have betrayed God were it not for the intervention of “the serpent.” It was not just by man’s own nature that he was introduced to sin, but another was required first before mankind ever after continues to sin on his own.
If the fated Tree of Knowledge truly did course with the force of sentience in its sap and in the juice of its fruit, then it would seem that the moral of the story is that “knowledge is bad, never question what you’re told to do by God.” It would seem that, in order to remain in Paradise, ignorance must prevail.
According to an essay by Ayn Rand: “Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge—he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil—he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor—he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire—he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativity, joy—all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn… but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was—that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without love—he was not man.”
I, too, reject that man has a tendency toward evil—in fact, every man is righteous, but only in his own eyes. In order for men to commit acts of evil, he must first be convinced what he is doing is either good or, in the very least, harmless and inconsequential. Didn’t Germans have to be convinced the Jews were enslaving them before they could wreak genocide upon them?
I wonder if there a small voice that speaks behind all those crowded, deluded thoughts. Somewhere, there is. It’s God’s voice, it’s conscience. Does this conscience speak with the same voice for every man? Were it not filtered by cultures, religion, and yes, knowledge itself, indeed it would. Yet we commit evil, thinking we’re good—we wage wars to protect our nations, we feast on the trough of sluttery, we indulge in drink—until eventually, after enough evil acts, we have tuned it out until the sinner cries angrily: “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”
It causes one to doubt that sin is so terrible, that sin even exists—or a far more terrible heresy… that sin is good, and is essential to be human.
The Gnostic Genesis, the Wisdom of the World
Gnostics do not believe that the resurrection of Christ is relevant to salvation, but that he was a wisdom-teacher who imparted secret knowledge to man. According to Elaine Pagel: “the Gnostics come across as forerunners of modern spiritual seekers wary of institutional religion, literalism, and hidebound traditions… Unburdened by an emphasis on guilt and sin, the Gnostics’ highly esoteric and intellectual approach to the sacred was one that even enlightened skeptics could embrace.”
Gnosticism interprets the myth of Adam and Eve radically differently. Gnostics believe that the god YHWH, creator of Earth, ruler of the angels, maker of man, is either evil or indifferent, and an imposter to an even higher Supreme Being who is more benevolent. They call this imposter-creator god the “Demiurge.” Gnostics see how apparently the Jewish God torments, enslaves, bullies, and ultimately destroys mankind throughout the Old Testament—scrambling humanity’s languages, sending the flood, demanding loyalty, issuing impossible Commandments, destroying Sodom, ordering the Jews to perform genocide—and determine this God must be evil. Thus the created, material world is evil, hopeless, lost, and the only way to escape it is to unleash oneself from the burdens of religion, sexuality, and social systems which force one to conform and remain bound to the physical plane.
In Gnosticism and a myriad of other varying spiritualities, humans are not “flawed” because we inherited sin, but because the creator himself is flawed. The serpent, who may be the angel Lucifer in disguise, “Light-Bearer,” is now a helper of mankind, come to gift humans with the wisdom of Sophia, a goddess more primordial than YHWH. They might say Satan wishes to save mankind from God’s wrath. They believe the real reason God banished the humans from Eden wasn’t because of sin, but because that if they ate of the Tree of Life, instead of permanent damnation, the humans would be like God, knowing function and dysfunction AND living forever. Gnostics, humanists, Satanists alike interpret a God who does not like to share power and fears mankind’s potential.
I guess that very few readers have heard of Gnosticism, or know its tenets, let alone actually follow this strange, forbidden religion in its various forms. Yet the human race is steadily growing more disillusioned to religion, which, while repugnance against religion is wise and could lead to a world led by the pure character and spirit of Christ, mostly ends up resulting in a bitter hatred of the creator deity instead, which any arising Anti-Christ could easily fuel with propaganda.
What is sad is that because humans know good and evil, we can tell stories, and that is the only reason humans can create narrative. Paradise is essentially not narratable, since there is no suffering, no goal for characters to attain, no conflict the stir up action. Except if the writer happens to be Mark Twain.
Promethus and Lucifer
This idea of a “righteous rebellion” against a wrathful God can be found in other religions. Consider the Greek myth of the Titan Prometheus, whose name means “forethought” (evidence toward an undercurrent theme of knowledge being superior to blind faith in a deity). In some versions of myth, Prometheus is depicted as wisest of the Titans, while in others he is a trickster, which reminds me of Loki of Nordic myth. Prometheus steals fire from Zeus (being the King of the Gods, is a similar character to Jehovah/Yaweh of the Torah) and gifted it to man, who he molded out of clay (as the first man in the Bible was formed from dust). Prometheus, to the Gnostic, is a character parallel to the Serpent/Adversary/Satan in Eden. Fire represents the “spark of genius,” the power of knowledge, because with fire humanity cooks food, warms their shelters, builds their machines to either protect life on Earth or, as is more overwhelmingly often the case, destroy and enslave this planet and their kin. And with humanity’s intelligence to invent, as we see in the story of the Tower of Babel, mortals can manipulate their environment into buildings and luxuries until they achieve the illusion of utter independence from God. When Zeus realizes he has been tricked, he punishes both man and Prometheus cruelly: he orders Prometheus to be chained to a rock and a vulture to gorge upon his liver day in and day out; and for mortal man, Zeus orders the creation of Pandora, the first woman, whose jar unleashes both misfortune and hope in the world (note again the binary opposition/dependence, one cannot know happiness without despair nor good without evil).
Retort Against Maltheistic Grievances
Humanists, atheists, Gnostics, and Satanists alike perceive the condition of Adam and Eve in the Garden that they were God’s slaves and robots, since they knew not good nor evil, until they ate the forbidden fruit. However, myself and most studied Christians would argue for God’s choice to plant the Tree of the Knowledge of Function and Dysfunction as a matter of free will. It is an old argument, but certainly not trite. If God did not test the loyalty of mankind by providing an alternative to paradise in His obedience, how could humanity’s existence in Paradise be then called anything except slavery?
Everyone must agree that it is impossible for a single mortal mind to perceive and understand all things, much less contain the infinite vaults of knowledge existing in the universe. If knowledge is infinite, and a bite of the fruit purveyed all knowledge to its eater, yet if that eater cannot contain all knowledge within its mind, then what you have is a being which knows everything without knowing anything. Because even the slightest measure less than infinity is infinitely away from infinity, and so is nothing. Humans thus undergo a knowledge overload. This is how the Fruit of Knowledge wrecked the mind of the human race, and still does so to this day. This is exactly the trick the serpent, the represented figure who I am resolved never was and can never be mankind’s “Light Bringer,” uses to enslave the human race.
Could it be that, after they ate the fruit, God’s appearance changes from an omnipresent/omnipotent being to a mortal one, not because the fruit of knowledge “opened their eyes,” as the serpent claimed, but because humanity fell into the illusion of the ego (a self/identity apart from God) they forgot the true character of their creator God? Decide for yourself.
Perhaps it is the case that God has not punished humanity—but that God is simply declaring the ways in which their “enlightenment” is going to utterly destroy everything good humanity once possessed, not by God’s own hand, but sin itself, simply of its own accord. Like a doctor diagnosing a patient. All you can blame God for now are His terrible bedside manners.
“Wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” Luke 8:35. In Christ’s parable of Matthew 7, one can discern the difference between a good tree and a bad tree not by its immediate appearance (in this case, the preternaturally elaborate rhetoric of evil) but by the fruit the tree bears (their actions, the life which follows their wisdom). Over time, if a person has mastered the rhetoric of their personal wisdom in his mind, it is just a symptom of what happened long before in his heart. Debate empty of experiences is certainly futile, and yet here I am, publishing my own rhetoric to be exposed to global opposition.
Even C.S. Lewis fell back to other means besides logic. In his science fiction novel, Perelandra, a man named Ransom travels in space from Earth to Venus, a planet which appears to have just begun to produce life on its surface. Venus is inhabited by a native humanoid woman who appears to be the only member of her species besides her not-present husband—just like Adam and Eve, this Venetian woman was commanded to never sleep upon the “Fixed Land” (Venus is composed mostly of water and drifting islands) for no apparent reason by the “King” (a figure resembling G-D or Adam of Earth). But when Dr. Weston, a villain from Earth, follows Ransom to Venus, Weston assumes a similar role as “Tempter” and shows her the ways of humans on Earth—knowledge, tragedy, poetry, heroism, ambition, sexual power, on and on. The protagonist’s must prevent “The Fall” from overtaking the Venus-dwelling race as it overtook Earth’s people, yet it disappointed me that the protagonist could never actually win his great argument with this tempter—instead he chases the tempter down and kills him with a rock. Does this indicate an inquisitional attitude, that the rhetoric of evil is undeniable to the human flesh, and can only be silenced through force?
It is fortunate to learn that since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi scrolls, though Gnostic ideas have likely influenced older religions there has been no Gnostic scriptures found which pre-date Christianity. This lends one the idea that many tenets of Gnosticism are fabrications created in reaction to the orthodox persecution upon them.
But enough rambling—the reason why false philosophies such as spiritual humanism, Gnosticism, and Satanism exist has really nothing to do with the flawed theology of Christians or the “gaps” in stories like the Garden of Eden—because I, too, agree the Bible itself is a tampered translation of God’s truth, yet close enough indeed to be a reliable spiritual compass. It is because of the hypocrisy of the Christian Church that those who feel cast out from it will be hurt, and then interpret from our same scriptures meanings to bolster their hatred of who they think is God—this is why, I believe, many minds see the serpent in Eden as a savior simply because all they have known of God, from his human followers, is a tyrant and oppressor. Were Christians as loving as they are supposed to be, no one would find reason to see YHWH as oppressive anywhere in this account of man’s first disobedience. Ironically I admit, as I write all this down, that the sword of logic won’t fight against Gnosticism or misotheism, because it is pure and cold “knowledge” which the Enemy has wielded against the faithful from the very beginning.