The story of Adam & Eve can be considered as a mythological allegory describing humanity’s “fall” of consciousness into the complex dualities of self-awareness, subject/object relationships, and all the opposites of existence (male/female, light/dark, hot/cold, day/night, happy/sad, health/sickness, etc.). This is symbolized in the partaking of the “tree” of knowledge of good and evil, i.e. dualities.
The felt separation from God is perhaps the conscious emergence of our own separate “self” in our mind and in the world, and this “self” feels cut off, isolated, independent, apart, divided, incomplete, disconnected from the rest of nature, the world, and the cosmos. We feel like we live in the cosmos, rather than being the cosmos. But which is more accurate? Did we get placed here in the cosmos from somewhere else?
As long as we are partaking of the knowledge of dualities, in dualistic consciousness and the thoughts of the mind, of this subject/object duality, attaching ourselves to the polarities of existence, of this versus that, then we cannot return to perceive the fundamental essence of our life, the wholeness that we are, the ground of our being as one with the cosmos, in nonduality or at-one-ment in God.
To return to the “tree” of life we need to go beyond all dualistic thought, perhaps through meditation and other spiritual practices, and contemplate the deepest reality of our being, of our awareness, of consciousness. To pass the “flaming sword” guarding “Eden” we must let go of all our thoughts of how we think things are, all the “knowledge” we’ve partaken, realizing the limits of intellectual knowledge. We transcend all dualities.
We go directly through that “sword,” allowing our separate ego-self to be slain on it as we pass back into Eden in Spirit. Then we may look to see what’s really Real, the Truth. There we discover we are One with Life and Being and Love, and we’ve never been separate from it in Reality.
We partake of pure Love, and realize we are pure Love. We recognize we don’t have a life, we are Life. We find our Spirit is God’s Spirit. We awaken as pure undefiled undivided Consciousness, and this is God. It is One.
We are One in God.
10 thoughts on “A Psychological and Mystical Interpretation of the Myth of Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden”
I agree pretty much 100%, Bryce. The story of Adam & Eve is in essence a story of human-kind’s “fall” from a pre-egoic state into ego. I think our purpose as humans is not necessarily to pursue happiness, or peace, as is commonly suggested, but to evolve beyond ego into a post-egoic state. This brings with it a “return,” so to speak, to peace and happiness through oneness with God, but I prefer to see it as a moving forward, moving beyond ego — as growth, more so than a “return.” The end is the same, however, merely a matter of perspective. Psychology tells us the egoic sense of self begins to emerge between the ages of one and two, and continues to develop throughout adolescence into young adulthood, where unfortunately, for most of us, it stalls out, or becomes conditioned by society to become ever stronger, as opposed to progressing out of that stage and moving beyond it.
Well said, Walt. Some spiritual teachers like to talk about it as a progression beyond ego, rather than a return, a trans-egoic state, such as Ken Wilber. Others, such as Eckhart Tolle, are not hesitant to say that it is like a return to childlike innocence, prior to ego development, but he is also quick to say that this is not a regression, but a continuation of the evolution of consciousness. It’s interesting that Joseph Smith also framed it as a return to an “infant” like state (D&C 93:38). I think the “return” language helps complete the pattern of going out from Eden and returning back to it, of flowing out from God and ascending back to God. But I do agree that it is a transcendence of ego to a worldcentric or cosmocentric perspective of Self rather than a regression to a pre-egoic state. One is still aware of the boundaries of their finite body-mind, they don’t literally confuse other bodies for their own as in the pre-egoic state, it’s just that their sense of identity has expanded to include all people, all life, the whole world, and even the cosmos.
Yes, and it’s that maintained awareness of the boundaries of the finite body-mind, and the sense of expanded identity, that makes me prefer the “growing-out-of” perspective over the “return-to” perspective.
That said, even as I was writing my previous comment, I was reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son, which might be read as a retelling of the Adam & Eve story, and which is told from the perspective of venturing out, then returning. Added to which is the Advaitic notion of an infinite Self rising as a finite body-mind within the world, or dream, out of which it must awaken, or rediscover (return) to the Self it always was.
I may be getting talked out of my preference, but for now it’s still my preference. And the bottom line is, it probably doesn’t matter which perspective one sees it from, so long as it’s seen.
Yes, I think the story of the Prodigal Son is a retelling of the same myth with different symbols. I recently learned there is a very similar story in Buddhism as well, where the father represents the Buddha, and the son any human being. Returning to the father represents the human coming to know their Buddha nature.
The idea of falling away from God and then returning to God is a powerful one, and seems common. The falling from heaven of Lucifer, the morning star, also seems related to the Fall story.
Mircea Eliade’s work on the “myth of the eternal return” is likely related.
In Mormonism and other traditions there is also the idea of the gods becoming human and “forgetting” who they are, and must then remember. “Becoming God” is more of a remembrance of who/what they already are but had simply become ignorant of it, or unconscious of their true nature. They awake and arise to their true nature as gods in God, returning to a knowledge of their true identity. Alan Watts talks about this kind of thing in his “The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.”
Of course, Joseph Campbell’s research into the Hero’s Journey is also cyclical, with a “return” at the end of the cycle.
I agree that a mythos of sorts may be derived from the garden story. Even so, over time I’ve become convinced that the whole saga is based on hard analogues. It is a representation of real personalities experiencing real events in a real place and time. And inasmuch as Adam is an archetype for all of humanity it follows that each one of use are among those personalities involved in the story. But it is a real story–a real drama being played out on a real stage with a deep prologue of which we were a part before arriving here–as a result of our actions then and there.
Out of eternity we’ve come like a lion emerging from the wilderness–only we are now encumbered with the weight of the flesh. And if we do things God’s way that weight will have a taming effect–and, like an ox, we will become both useful and powerful under the yoke of Christ. We become established as individuals before God and are then able to proceed further in becoming like God. These are the great pillars of strength and establishment that must be erected before we can bear the weight of the knowledge of God. This is Boaz and Jachin–the gateway into the realm of the knowledge of God.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Jack. I do believe it is real, just not literal. By “real personalities” I assume you mean literal people, that Adam was a flesh and blood man, and Eve a flesh and blood woman? I’m curious how you became convinced of that?
The characters of Adam and Eve in the saga represent both themselves as individuals and the whole of humanity–much like the name Israel represents both the man Jacob and the entire nation that sprang from him.
I have my own interpretation as to their condition when they (or we) were placed in the Garden of Eden. But suffice it to say that, yes, I believe they were mortal human beings when they began to till the earth. And I’ve become convinced of this through much study and prayer, and pondering upon the subject. That’s not to say that I’ve got it all nailed down perfectly. It’s been an iterative process (for me) to learn these things–and, no doubt, I’ve got a lot more to learn before I get the whole picture in place.
I like Fr. Richard Rohr’s thoughts about Adam & Eve in his daily meditation today, describing his journey:
“I was gradually educated in a much larger world of the 1960s and 1970s with degrees in philosophy and theology and a broad liberal arts education given me by the Franciscans. I left the garden of innocence, just as Adam and Eve had to do. My new scriptural awareness made it obvious that Adam and Eve were probably not historical figures but important archetypal symbols. I was heady with knowledge and “enlightenment,” no longer in “Kansas.” Though leaving the garden was sad and disconcerting for a while, there was no going back…”
“I found a much larger and even happier garden (note the new garden described in Revelation 22). I thoroughly believe in Adam and Eve now, but on about ten different levels, with literalism being the lowest and least fruitful.”
I believe that our design and growth in mortality follow a pattern that is trackable on a larger scale — an eternal scale, if you will — and that our experience here is not (IMO) the full story. Even the various relationships of life that we experience as mortals — who we are to ourselves, our progenitors, our spouses, and our progeny — are analogous to far greater relations in eternity. So it is, as I understand things, with Adam and Eve.
That said, I agree that the Garden Story may be applicable on a number of different levels–even while the fact remains that Adam and Eve are real individuals and that we are part of the larger family of Adam.