Think for a moment what it would be like to have a place where everything is provided to you in absolute abundance. A lush landscape full of every good thing and available for you to partake at will. Not just physical needs but spiritual and psychological needs as well; where you can walk “emotionally naked” without regard for perceived imperfections. What a beautiful land of fantasy for us to imagine and hope to restore some day.
For most mainstream orthodox Christians, the Garden of Eden was a very real place with two literal inhabitents, Adam and Eve. Not only was this a place where Adam and Eve both strolled and lived naked and in innocence, it’s also a place where God would visit with them. To those who believe this, there also was a very real talking snake and an actual tree from which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat. When Eve was tempted by the talking serpent, along with Adam, to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the “fall of man” took place and we’ve been in a horrible spiritual situation since then, ultimately destined for an afterlife of eternal torment. All for the ingestion of some fruit.
Today, I have a beautiful new understanding of this story and the impact it has on each of our lives. I understand the metaphorical nature of this story and the desire of it’s teller (believed to be Moses) to convey a great spiritual principle to a somewhat spiritually primitive people 6,000 plus years ago. Let me explain the way I have come to understand the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge, and the “Fall of Man.” But please note, you’re very free to see this as you desire, I’m simply offering this up as an option for your consideration.
FIRST: Forget About the Apple
For most people, when you mention the Garden of Eden and fall of humankind, they think of Adam and Eve munching away on some forbidden apple, plucked from a mysterious tree in the middle of the garden. But, let’s look at how that tree is described and we’ll quickly see this is a metaphor and not something literal:
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die. – Genesis 2:17 (NIV)
Maybe you’ve never read that description and, like most, just thought it was a fruit tree which God put in the garden simply because God likes rules. Haha. But, isn’t it fascinating that it’s called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil?” Clearly a metaphor, I believe this represents our ability as humans to place judgement on every thing we experience, labeling some things and events as good and others as evil or bad. But what happens when we engage in this practice?
The Loss of Abundant Life
In the story Moses told to his people, he explained that when we place judgement on life, ie. eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we “will certainly die.” Obviously this isn’t a reference to physical death, as we can see, Adam and Eve ate of the tree and continued to exist (at least in the parable). What did happen is they lost their innocence as they passed judgement upon themselves and each other, becoming aware of their nakedness.
In my understanding, this isn’t a single event which happened 6,000 years ago in a little garden in the Middle East, instead, it’s something that happens to each of us on a regular basis as we “eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” We begin to say “this is good” and “this is bad or evil” and I have something good while you have something bad. Keep in mind, this was a tree of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil, indicating that there was the existence of good and evil prior to this, but they weren’t knowledgeable or aware of it.
Want to Take a Stroll Through The Garden
If you long for that magical place of abundant provision, you’re welcome to walk through the garden anytime. In fact, for those who work at and practice this, you can spend great lengths of time enjoying the bliss of garden residency. This is what I believe is taught by great spiritually enlightened people such as Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu and others.
Christ is referred to in the New Testament as “the last Adam.” While the story of the “first Adam” showed us how we were banished from the garden, Jesus is the one who showed us the way back there and even gave us an example of what we must do to take up long-term residency within the garden. To allow Christ within you to take over is to set aside judgement, to release your mind of the knowledge of good and evil.
Yes, There is Still Evil in the World
The immediate response to this notion is to proclaim “but evil does exist!” Yes, this is true, but to stay in the abundant peace of the garden, we are to learn to not pass judgement upon it for ourselves. This is what Jesus showed us as he was persecuted and murdered. He maintained his place in the garden (even telling the man on the cross next to him “today you will be with me in paradise), internally, by not acknowledging his experience as either good or evil. He even cried out “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Trust me, I have had incredibly horrible things happen to loved ones and it’s very difficult to find the garden at times when I consider those acts. Yes, rape does happen, murder is a reality and child abuse has to be the most reprehensible thing on this planet. But, to find abundant peace we must practice non-judgement over each of these things within our soul.
WAIT… I’m not saying these evils go unpunished or that they should be ignored. What I am saying is, within your mind, within your spirit, to find peace and to stroll through the garden, you are to release the knowledge of good or evil. There is neither good or evil, there simply IS.
Is Breathing Good or Evil?
To help illustrate this. follow along with a simple exercise. We all understand the vital importance of breathing and we generally think of it as a good thing. Right now, take a long deep breath in. That FEELS good, doesn’t it? Now, without exhaling, breathe in a little deeper. Does it still feel good? Go a little deeper and hold it. Still good? Hold it… Good or bad? Now, let it out and experience how great it feels to do so.
So, is breathing in good or bad? This is the point, breathing in is neither good nor bad, it simply IS.
Allow and be a part of society’s establishment of moral rights and wrongs, but within your soul, find peace through non-judgement. Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and you will enjoy the bountiful provision of the Garden where God not only provides but exists.