Although they may not practise their religion, most western people today, still call themselves, Christians, which is right and proper, for our religion is based on the story of Jesus Christ. However, that statement is not quite as simple as it sounds, for His story began long before He was born in Bethlehem. We know this, because as St. John tells us 'He was in the Beginning with God' (John 1: 2.) But what exactly does this mean?
Are we being simply told that his earthly ancestry stretches far back in time, as we read in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, where his line is traced back to 'Adam, the son of God'? (Luke 3:38) But even this is no answer! Who is this Adam? Obviously the reference says that he was the "Son of God", but elsewhere in the Bible this title is only used to refer to Christ and Melchizedek. Clearly then, this phrase does not tell the whole story, but it does indicate that Adam was not a "normal" historical man. Adam was a 'son of God', a spiritual being, not simply a part of God's Physical Creation. To confirm that detail we must read Genesis 5: 1-2 which says: "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created."
We notice straightaway that Adam is both male and female, which means that Adam was not simply the first man - the start of the human race. In some strange way, which we shall seek to explain in due course, Adam was both male and female. Someone may suggest, that that means that "Adam" is a general term, like "Man" and refers to the whole human race – both men and women. It is obviously not referring to the creation of one single specific male human being. Perhaps it is dealing with the spiritual creation of Mankind, not the evolution of his physical body at all! Let us look again at the text: "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, ... "
This means simply that Adam is both male and female. But this is not the end of the story for in fact most of chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis are about Adam. And if Adam is both male and female, what is "Eve"? We have to explain her too. We also have to consider the fact that both Adam and Eve were originally in Paradise, a spiritual realm, not somewhere on Earth. And we must even say why Eve was said to have been made out of one of Adam's ribs, although modern men and women have an equal number of ribs! All these and other problems can only be solved if we accept that Adam and Eve represent the spiritual nature of every individual, rather than a physical man and woman.
This story is an allegory, and within it there are many hidden truths. It is not a myth and not a parable either. To use the term 'myth', in the old sense of involving supernatural ideas about natural phenomena, like the myths of the ancient Babylonian gods, or the gods and heroes of ancient Greece, would not be applicable here. Nor would 'Parable' be the right word to use, for Parables usually point out a single truth or group of ideas. An allegory contains a message - a whole string of truths, one truth leading to another, and this is what we find here. We also find such allegories in other parts of Genesis.
Hebrew dictionaries list many different meanings for the word 'Adam'. These include: "ground", "red", "ruddy", "man", "parson", "man of low degree", and "generic man". In the Jerusalem Bible (Gen. 5:1,2) 'Generic Man' is their favoured interpretation and refers to both male and female of the human species, but the meaning of the word 'Adam' goes far deeper than anything pertaining just to 'physical man'. We can say this with certainty, because in this part of Genesis we are not talking about the physical world at all. A moment's thought will prove that, for 'the garden eastward in Eden' is usually identified with Paradise, which is elsewhere described as a spiritual realm. (2 Cor. 12. 2 - 4)
Genesis chapter 2 and 3 make it abundantly clear that the narrative describes Adam or Man in the spiritual state, before he enters earth-life. The concept of Adam and Eve as the first man and woman in an earthly paradise is obviously a more recent invention and probably began to find its way into Jewish thought about the time of Alexander the Great, along with many other Hellenistic influences. Many of the early Greek converts to Christianity appear to have known of the idea, and there are references to it in some of the pagan writings.
To Christ and his original Apostles, who abhorred the Hellenisation of Jewish thought, this was a foreign idea, quite incompatible with their teachings. And as we have already seen, Origen, the greatest Christian scholar of the early 3rd century (and perhaps of all time) was under no illusions either. On this very subject he wrote: "Who would be so childish as to think that God was like a human gardener and planted a paradise in Eden facing the east, and in it made a real visible tree, so that one could acquire life by eating its fruit with real teeth or, again, could participate in good and evil by eating what he took from the other tree? And if the text says that God walked in the garden in the evening, or Adam hid himself under the tree, I cannot think that anyone would dispute that these things are said in the figurative sense, in an effort to reveal certain mysteries by means of an apparent historical tale and not by something that actually took place. . . . . " (First Principles - 4: 16 by Origen of Alexandria)
Origen was right, of course, but today there are millions of Christians who know nothing of all this. Nor do their ministers either. All they seem to be concerned about is using the story to demonstrate that God made Man and whilst this is true enough, the Allegory of Adam and Eve goes far beyond that simple explanation. Therefore let us who seek wisdom, investigate.
The story of the physical creation really ends with its summing-up in Genesis 2: 4 "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth. . ." The word translated 'generations' is 'toledath' in Hebrew and means the "origins of"' so that a better interpretation is "This is the book of the origins of the heavens and the earth..." - and it refers BACK to the preceding information including all of chapter one. In the Jerusalem Bible this is brought out very clearly.
As written verse four contradicts all that has just been said! Having just finished telling us that it took Six (or Seven) days to create the Heavens and the earth, the second part of this verse says that it all happened in a single day! How do we explain this?
Obviously the division into verses and chapters in our Bibles is very recent and the second part of verse 4, actually begins the new account. This is made even clearer, because it contains a change in the name of the Divinity. No longer is it 'God' but 'the Lord God'! (Yahweh Elohim sometimes rendered The Everliving Godhead) That is not an accident but indicates a change of narrative. In this next section of the book of Genesis we are not going to talk about the physical creation any longer but about the spiritual creation of Man. This is confirmed when we read verses 4b and 5 together, thus; "… in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew . . . "
Almost immediately the narrative lets us know that we are now speaking of things which are not of the physical Plane. The latter part of this phrase could refer to the making of the seed but the first part obviously could not. We are told that God created 'every plant of the field BEFORE it was in the earth' and if this means what it says, then clearly God created 'every plant’ before it first came into existence in the physical world - even before it was a mere seed.
However, since we are now reading a new story which is talking about the spiritual state that makes sense. Each plant has its spiritual counterpart or blueprint that is brought into existence before ever it enters the physical plane. And if it can be said that this is the case with plants then how much more so does it apply to animals and human beings? In other words this teaches us that each physical lifeform exists in the spirit realms before it comes into being on the Physical earth. The second part of the verse emphasises this fact. "for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground." (Gen 2 5b)
This makes it clear that the writer is emphasising the fact that he is not talking about the physical world as we know it. But there is also a suggestion that he is referring to that stage in the physical creation of the worlds which scientists tell us, took place before the formation of the oceans, when the surface of the world was still so hot than any water which might fall, immediately boiled away again. The next verse is often thought to refer to the same period:"There went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground… ." (v.6)
But the context makes it quite clear that here we are dealing with spiritual creation so we should not be hasty to think that what we read has a physical meaning at all. The spirit world interpenetrates everything physical and is often seen by the psychic as a 'mist'. Perhaps this is what the author is trying to represent in this account. Perhaps he is merely indicating that in the spirit world, plants do not grow through the instrumentality of rain, but through the spiritual life-force, which surrounds them, and which he represents as a mist. The same spiritual life-force affects human spirits too, and in the next verse (v.7) we come to the real subject matter at last but still there is a reference to both the physical and spiritual creation of Man: "And the Lord God formed Man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Man became a living soul"
The Jewish philosopher, Philo, drew a distinction between 'formed' or moulded Man (physical body) and Man made in the image of God, (the spirit body) but I cannot agree with him. The physical Man of chapter one is made male and female, in the image of God made manifest, but so is a spiritual human being. There are both male and female spirits - both sons and daughters of God - and as any good psychic can tell you, the difference between male and female goes much deeper than the differences between their physical bodies. It is also worthy of note that there is a significant difference between a 'living soul' and the 'quickening spirit' which are both mentioned in 1 Cor.15: 45. "The first man Adam became a living soul (life-having person) and the last Adam became a life-giving spirit"
Some people align this quotation with St Paul's reference to Christ as a "second Adam" (Romans 15: 22) but this is not a valid comparison, for there he has just been discussing life after death. Thus we may perceive that although he quotes this account of Adam being made a 'living soul' he is using the simile to point out how much better off a spirit is, after it has died, than when it is incarcerated in the flesh.
He emphasises that in the allegory of the first Man, Adam, the human spirit entered incarnation and although thus encased in flesh, was totally ignorant of life's experiences. But when it has completed its earthly incarnations and entered fully into the Life of the Spirit World (Become a Saint) the human Spirit has become wise in spiritual things and is able to be used by God to transmit God's spiritual life-force to others.
Before we leave this verse we should note that the phrase 'living souls' is not only applied to mankind, but to all other Mammals (1.24) and even to the reptiles. (1:20). The importance of this in support of a belief in spiritual evolution is obvious, for it means that the animal kingdom contains "living souls". Those souls too, are encased in flesh, just like the human souls within human bodies - a much a sounder view of life than the one currently followed by many Christians, who ignoring these Biblical references, suggest that only human "animals" have "living souls".
We should also note that in the Septuagint version the word is rendered 'face', instead of 'nostrils' and this is important because that is not only where we begin our intake of physical air but also where is seen our spiritual nature. In other words; one can tell much about the spirituality of another by looking deeply into his/her face and it is commonly said: 'The soul looks out from the eyes'. In this passage, we are thinking of the spiritual creation rather than the physical one and this is stressed again in the next verse: "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; " (2: 8a)
In ancient rituals East is the symbolic gate of birth and we should remember that it is from Paradise that the Adam-Eve entity eventually emerges into physical life, through that gate of birth, clothed, as the Bible aptly says, in a "coat of skins". (See Genesis 3; 21) We shall consider this point in more detail in a later section, but for now we shall continue our present discussion with the words: "He put there the Man He had formed" (2: 8b)
We are still talking about the spiritual realms and though in Paradise the human spirit has no Physical Body, it does have a "Form" that appears very similar. So much so, in fact that the Spirit Plane is also called the "Form Plane". In this state, Man has not yet obtained an astral body, (sometimes called the emotional or psychic body) so we may say he is in Paradise in a Form Body. The Paradise we know today is the place to which good spirits go at death, but here we are talking of a special part of Paradise (Eden) which is the abode of young newly-human spirits who have never lived on earth as Man. They are still totally ignorant of earth life as human beings. That means that though the spirit contains within it a Spark of God, it has yet much to learn, for it has yet to find the answers concerning the purpose of life.
Verse 9 introduces the subject of the "garden" and in particular, Two Trees. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil plays the most important part in the story. In one sense, it is symbolic of the good we all experience as human beings living on earth, all the blessings we receive, the lessons we learn and all the difficulties and blows of fate we each undergo as part of our spiritual training. But most importantly it symbolises the desire for knowledge or experience - the curiosity which leads the Adam-Eve entity to leave Paradise and seek to satisfy that desire for knowledge on the physical earth.
This brings us to the Tree of Life. It actually plays no part in the story in Genesis and we may well wonder why it is even mentioned. What does it mean? This is a reasonable question, but before we try to answer it we should remember that one of the great Hebrew scholars of the Bible, Farrar Fenton, translates 'tree of life' as 'Tree of Lives'. This at once gives us a very different meaning.
As such it refers to the memories of those lives which each person carries within their subconscious self as they pass from life to life on earth. To eat of the Tree of Lives (Rev. 2: 7) is a sign that one has completed ones earthly incarnations and has earned the right to "go no more out" (Rev. 3: 12). Once one has done so, one is no longer desirous of returning to Paradise, whence we came, and obtains a better life in Heaven. This is the result that is envisaged by St Paul in Hebrews 11:15-16, when he tells us: "If they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly"
The Genesis account, by contrast does not discuss the ending of the earthly journey of the human spirit, but rather its beginning. The Adam-Eve at this stage has not yet entered incarnation as a human for the first time. The account tells us about its first step as a human, how its curiosity was aroused and it ate of the Tree of Knowledge. It did this because it desired knowledge, a knowledge that it could not obtain in Paradise but once having commenced the journey to earth it could not be permitted to remain in the Garden of Eden as we discover later in the story. (3: 22)
The way that the Tree of Lives is linked with the Tree of the Knowledge shows us that together they also symbolise the knowledge and experience we can each gain in our many incarnations. Truly the perfected human spirit is the product of many incarnations for though we may not remember these experiences, nothing of that knowledge is ever lost - all our past experiences, good and bad go with us. We may not remember them, but together they make us what we are today. They remain in our sub-conscious selves, or to put it another way, the main body of the Tree may be hidden, but its living, growing tip is revealed in our present character the result of all we have been in our many past lives.
One of the most important similes in the whole Bible concerns the use of water as a symbol of the Divine Life-Force and we have previously seen it likened to a mist that waters all of Paradsise. In the next passage we find it described slightly differently – as; "a river went out of Eden to water the garden" (2: 10)
In considering this and subsequent verses, we must tighten our actual use of terms. We have been speaking loosely as if "the garden", Eden and Paradise were the same place, but is this so? Genesis does not actually use the word Paradise, (which is of Greek derivation, not Hebrew) but it is quite clear that the 'garden" is not actually 'Eden'. According to verse 8, the 'Garden was planted in 'Eden', but that does not mean that the garden filled Eden completely – in fact the contrary is inferred. On the other hand, verse 10 tells us that the River went out of Eden to water the garden, so perhaps the garden was not "in" Eden at all!
These apparently contradictory geographical statements confirm the fact that we are talking about places that exist and events that took place in the spiritual realms and not on earth at all. They also confirm that the "garden" (sometimes equated with "Paradise") is not the same as "Eden". Clearly then, Paradise and Eden are not identical. So what are we to understand about the river that "flows from Eden to water the garden"? Is this the River of Life that flows from God, and quickens all His Creation? If so, then the "garden of Eden" must represent a special part of the Spirit Plane - that part which is closest to God. Nor is this of purely academic interest, for we are told in Revelation (2: 7), that the Tree of Lives (and therefore presumably the rest of the garden) is still there in Paradise! Now if the Garden of Eden is still there in Paradise, then the River of Life is still there, too. It still flows from God and energises his whole Creation.
There are many similar stories in other philosophies. For instance one Norse account refers to a Bridge that reached from the Underworld to Heaven. On it stood three Fates, representing Time, namely the Past, the Present and the Future. Beside them stood a Holy Fountain, which watered the whole earth, clearly a similar concept to the spiritual river of life. Such tales are to be found in many ancient accounts, and always their Source is God as it is in Genesis - a view that is only strengthened when we return to Genesis 2, and analyse the names of the four streams that emerge from that River of Life.
The River comes from God, and after watering the garden it comes to earth. (V. 10) There it divides into four streams of Life, named respectively "Pison", "Gihon", "Hiddekel" and "Euphrates". Josephus equates these streams with the four principle Rivers of his world; the Ganges, the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates, respectively. All these rivers were (and still are) central to the lives of those who live near them and we know that civilisations first arose along their banks. They are indeed Rivers of Life, but we may never know whether Josephus was right.
This is because in Genesis most are called by different names and this itself is strange and lets us know that whether or not they do refer to real rivers, this account is not to be taken literally. They are part of an allegory and the interpretations of the names provide us with an indication as to their real spiritual meaning within the allegory. The River of Life embraces all Life, and divides into four streams each of which is linked to a part of the whole.
Even today, we still divide Creation into four broad categories and speak of four Kingdoms - Mineral, Vegetable, Animal and Human. Perhaps that gives us a clue, and with that in mind we will now analyse these names, starting with Genesis 2:11-12. "The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone."
Pison means 'free flowing' or 'overflowing', also ‘dispersive’. Since Havilah means ‘whirling’, ‘circling’. 'brings forth', perhaps we are talking about the 'struggle of elementary life', for both words can be said to indicate how the free flowing lifeforce of God streams into the Mineral Kingdom. Note too, the examples of minerals listed in verse 12.
Gihon means 'bursts forth' or 'bursting forth' which is exactly what happens to the seeds and buds of the Vegetable Kingdom. It can also mean to "gush forth" as a spring of water, and that is exactly what does happen to the Spark, when its long sojourn in the Mineral Kingdom ended, it starts on its great journey back to God. It gushes forth into many different forms of simple plant life.
Hiddekel means 'sharp voice' or a ‘sound', as well as 'swift' and 'rapid' surely a great description of the members of the Animal Kingdom.. Note, too, that this stream was later identified with the River Tigris which runs into the Euphrates River. This is significant, for it seems to refer to evolution, and perhaps points to the way that after flowing through the Animal Kingdom, the stream of life then passes into the human kingdom.
Clearly then, this Human Kingdom is represented by the River Euphrates. As the most important river of Ancient Asia and the scene of the civilizations out of which Abraham emerged, what could be a better symbol of the Human Kingdom? The name means 'to make fruitful' which refers to the spiritual fruit that Man alone among physical life-forms can bring to perfection.
In the physical sense fruitfulness was achieved through irrigation along a multitude of life-giving channels from the river. In the same way every human being has an individual channel to God. If only he will make the effort to use it he will come to know God, something which an animal is not yet able to do. It is also true, as we have already seen that it was only the ‘spare time’ that such advances as irrigation brought to mankind, which enabled him to start producing spiritual fruits. Before moving on, let us consider briefly the statement in verse 13: 'The name of the second river is Gihon which encompasses the whole land of Ethiopia'
The significance of this passage becomes clearer when we find that Ethiopia was the Land of Cush, a son of Ham. As we will later discover, Ham symbolically refers to the physical state, so the verse can be seen to indicate that the vegetable stream of life is to be found everywhere that man also lives. The word ‘Ethiopia’ itself means 'country of burning', which is itself an indication of the state of physical Man as he settles his debts and burns away the dross to reveal the pure gold within.
Then we are told that God placed ‘Adam’ in the garden He had created in order than he might ‘tend’ it. He is given instructions which include a warning not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil for on the day he does he will die (2: 17) which again proves that we are talking of Man in the spiritual state before he first acquires a physical human body. In effect it is warning him what human life on earth will entail, namely the process of physical life and death, of coming to know good and evil and of making the right choices about them.
This is clear to us, for it is the method God employs to help a spirit evolve towards maturity and perfection even today. It is also true that each of us dies to the spiritual realms as soon as we are born on earth. In fact, as we have already seen, the ‘death’ that precedes one’s birth on earth is far more terrifying than that which ends our mortal existence. (This is largely because of the loss of memory that it entails).
Paradise is not a place of dissipation and slothfulness, and we are reminded of this in verse 15, where Adam is told to care for the Garden and to guard it. And this is indeed needful, for life beyond is as real to the dwellers there as this world is to us, it has gates of entrance and departure more clearly marked than our own gates of birth and death. Such gates are largely controlled by the spiritual state of those who live there, for as we have seen in the Spirit Plane it is spirituality or the lack of it which determines the state in which we dwell.
In verse 20a we are told about the naming of the animals by Adam, but we are still in the land of the spirit so it is obvious than even there, animals function. In other words they too have a spiritual nature, though less than that of Man and so come under the control of Man.
Next, in verses 20b to 22, comes the account of the creation of Eve, which has been the subject of so much misunderstanding. The whole tone of the story betrays its eastern origin. Adam was placed in a deep sleep for the operation and then we are told that Eve was made out of Adam’s rib. The Hebrew word "tsalaw" that is here translated as 'rib' is not translated ‘rib’ in any other place in the Bible. It is a word which denotes something that limps as if one-sided, or something that is curved, such as an arch. It is in this sense that this translation is sometimes defended. (the human rib is curved) It may refer to the curved ribs on the underside of a ship. To make the ship complete and to protect its centre against storm, it needs ribs. It may also mean a plank, beam or the side of something. So Eve is "one side", perhaps "the underside" of Adam, who is the Spirit of Man.
The name 'Eve' (Khavah) means "life-container" or "life-giver", and refers to the soul which is the means by which alone the spirit is able to enter mortal life. It is and remains, united with the spirit as one spiritual entity.
According to Eastern philosophy, life on earth is a sleep. The story of the Red King in "Alice through the Looking-Glass" may well be based on the Hindu Father-god Brahma in whose dreams we all exist. Tweedledee upsets Alice by telling her: "if that there king was to wake, you'd go out - bang - just like a candle," Alice refused to believe him, of course, but there is some truth in the idea.
The important thing about the account in Genesis is that although we are told that God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, we are never told that he woke up! In the context of eastern philosophy this is significant. When a spiritual entity - such as Adam - is described as being asleep it means he is sleeping relative to the spirit world, in other words, he is functioning on earth. This implies that our whole earth life is but a dream - our real life takes place in the realms of the Spirit, a view that is common in eastern philosophies. Many westerners think likewise.
There is a further analogy. For many millennia, thinkers have suggested that normal people on earth are spiritually asleep and have seen it as their duty to awaken them. Socrates, for instance, did this by asking questions to see if others really knew what they were talking about. In verse 23, Adam calls Eve 'bone of my bone' and 'flesh of my flesh'. This is often seen merely as a reflection of Patriarchal bias - a suggestion that compared with the animals which are his other "possessions", a man’s wife is more closely affiliated with him. In actual fact it has a much greater significance, for as Christ Himself says, when they marry a man and his wife "are no more twain, but one flesh" (St Matthew 19; 6)
Yet in the context of this allegory it has even more significance. Eve, the soul, is of the very nature of the spirit and cannot be separated from it. They are one, even as the organs of the body function as one. In what is obviously a later commentary and not part of the original allegory, Verse 24 seizes on this fact to ram home the indissoluble nature of matrimony. It says: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
As we just noted, Jesus Christ made use of this very reference when He condemned divorce in St Matthew 19; 4 – 8. (In the same reference he also tells as that at least in this matter, Moses deliberately broke the original commandment of God.)
The last verse in the chapter, Verse 25 adds what seems to be a rather unusual comment to the account, by telling us that "they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed".
This tells us two things; Firstly that Adam-Eve had not yet been clothed with a physical or even an astral body. It was simply a naked spirit and soul, and the last comment – they were not ashamed – indicates that they did not regard this state as being in any way unusual, for they had never been clothed in such a way.
It also refers to the Adam-Eve spiritual nature of us all. In the eyes of God we are revealed completely, we can hide nothing from Him. In this context, we still talk of baring the soul, when we tell everything about ourselves. At this point in the narrative Adam-Eve had no wish to hide anything from God, although later, after it had disobeyed Him, it did wish to and tried to do so. (Genesis 3; 8)
In the third chapter of Genesis we move deeper into the allegory, which introduces us to the subject of good and evil, and begins to show us how the spirit is tested. In this story the one who does this Testing is identified as the serpent, and we are shown how God uses this testing to train man and how it affects him in his life on earth.
First, we must analyse that which is called the "serpent", and the key to this is given by the Hebrew original for the word. The Hebrew root is 'nawkhash' meaning "to hiss or whisper an enchantment", "to learn by experience" and "to prognosticate", among other things. The extrapolation of 'serpent' from hiss is obvious, but it is not the whole story, for the same Hebrew root also gives us 'fiery' 'burning', ‘Satan’ and 'seraph' meanings which suggests that we are not talking about a normal animal. In fact, the text itself makes this quite clear. It says "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." (3: 1a)
Please note that we are not told that the serpent was more cunning that any other beast, but merely that it was more cunning than any beast and the absence of this word must suggest that perhaps we are not reading about a creature at all. Apparently we are talking about some being that was more cunning than any beast a term that must include Man for, biologically Man is an animal.
To be more 'cunning' than Man, the 'serpent' must be more than human - that is - it must rank with the Angels – those great celestial beings that in that other work of Moses, the Book of Job, are also called the "Sons of God". (See Job, 1; 6, 2; 1 & 38; 7). And if we study the Book of Job we find that Satan is one of these Angels who periodically present themselves before God. Now, considering that the Hebrew root for serpent also gives us the words "Seraph" and "Satan", it is apparent that the serpent is really Satan, the Seraph.
This view was undoubtedly shared by Christ and His Apostles as is made very clear by St. John in Revelation where he describes a vision of a "dragon". A dragon is a fearsome, though mythical reptile, but in Revelation 12: 9, John describes this dragon as "that old serpent, called the Devil and `Satan’...".' In Genesis, as one might expect of Satan, but not of an ordinary reptile, the serpent talks!
Clearly the description of this being as a serpent is symbolic, which is just what you would expect in an allegory. This being is a Seraph whose unpleasant task is to test the children of men in the Name of God. A fuller examination of the book of Job will supplement our knowledge of the Ancient Wisdom on this subject.
Job is possibly the oldest book in the Bible and was accepted as such from the earliest times. Like Genesis it is traditionally ascribed to Moses, or sometimes to his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, but unlike Genesis it seems to have no relationship to the Children of Israel. It makes no reference to the Law of Moses, nor to anything that is obviously connected with the ancestors of the Israelites. Seemingly, it too reflects the Wisdom of a pre-Mosaic time. In the first and second chapters of the Book of Job we read that God arranged for Job to be tempted by Satan. Job 1; 6 –12 describes how this arrangement began:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
Satan tempts Job, who does not succumb and after a time Satan reports to God again. This time, (chapter 2; 1 – 7) God authorises a further and more severe testing. The rest of the Book of Job describes this testing and consists mainly of dialogues between Job and his friends. At length, however, Job passes the test and God speaks with him, after which he is restored to Divine favour.
The key point in this account is that Satan only tempted Job when God authorised it and only to the degree that God authorised. Clearly this concept was part of the Ancient Wisdom, which saw Satan as the servant of God, the Tester of Men, who tempted and tested them, but only as God permitted. He could be described as the Enemy of Man, but not as the Enemy of God. He was the Servant of God, and it is in this capacity that the serpent plays a role in Genesis. In fact the third chapter of Genesis, shows us how he goes about that task. In Genesis 3: 1b we read: "And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
The first thing that we should note, is that it is the soul that is tempted - not the spirit, for although the spirit needs the soul in order to contact matter, it is likewise through the soul that the spirit can most readily be led astray. This part of the story is just one more proof that the account is an allegory. We are clearly not speaking about a physical man and a woman, for men are just as susceptible to temptation as are women. But let us follow the account: "And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."
There is another interesting point in this passage: "the tree in the midst of the garden" is obviously the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But there is no mention in this section of the Tree of Lives, nor is it mentioned again in the story, until after Adam-Eve has acquired knowledge. In due course we shall see why, but reading verses 4 – 5 we see that the Tempter is now ready with his test; "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
The phrase that is here rendered "you shall not surely die" is more literally translated; "You shall not die for ever", which may sound strange to worldly people. However, from the very oldest times it has been known that "death" is not "for ever". Rather it is a gateway between one life and another, through which we all must pass, whilst life itself is continuous, and goes on after death. In other words, when we die to the spirit world, it will not be for ever, for we shall surely return to it. The Greek puts it: "You shall not die by death" which amounts to the same thing.
In the Allegory, the Tester is tempting the soul to seek for knowledge of Right and Wrong. (eat the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil) This is significant for it tells us that the ability to distinguish right from wrong is one of the key attributes of the human state. The Tester also tells the soul that when spirits do know Right from Wrong that they will ‘be as gods'.
This is an interesting phrase. It is a wonder that it has survived in the Hebrew text for so many centuries of strict monotheism, but it has, and there must be a reason it is still in the narrative. A similar phrase comes up in the Psalms with an important addition. "You are gods and all of you are children of the Most High" (Ps. 82: 6)
This perhaps helps to explain the earlier statement in this writing of Moses. Like the rest of the Pentateuch, Genesis would have found a ready understanding among those who had followed him out of Egypt and indeed amongst all who later who lived among pagan gods in Canaan, but the phrase 'you are gods' meant nothing like pagan "gods" to the later strictly monotheistic Jews. It merely meant 'you are divine' you are 'children of The Most High' sons, and daughters of God, each with a Divine Spark within you.
Even when Jesus said: 'Ye are gods' (John 10.34) His listeners would have known the rest of that quotation from Psalm 82. Nowhere in the Bible does it say: .'You are God", (singular with a capital G!) So the Tester was behaving in his accustomed manner, exaggerating a half-truth, and twisting it to suit his purpose. Certainly Adam-Eve would come to know good and evil but the acquisition of that knowledge would only be achieved through the greatest test of all - birth on earth in a primitive human body, not once but many, many times. For only after many such births and much struggle through many earthly incarnations can the human spirit learn all the lessons of mortal existence.
It was the soul (Eve) that first tasted of the fruit because the function of the soul is the gathering of experiences. Note, however, that in the allegory we are told that Eve passed the fruit to Adam, which teaches us that whatever the soul knows is automatically known also to the spirit. It is thus that the Spirit also comes to know good and evil, although it must be understood that the fullness of this knowledge is only acquired gradually as it is revealed life by life. Even after many lives, the human spirit does not know good and evil fully, as God does; it continues to acquire knowledge in stages as it evolves.
It is important to understand this. Every human spirit evolves! It learns through its earthly experiences! Whenever a human being chooses this or that experience it is its spiritual nature speaking, for better or for worse. It is not the physical body or brain that makes this choice, for they are no more than a mask that is worn by the spirit when it lives on earth. It may attempt to hide its motives from others but if it does so, its motive then is to deceive and that deception comes from the spirit, even if it has been suggested by the Tester. Every human being, as a spirit incarnate in flesh has the opportunity to choose either evil or good.
In considering the previous chapter we referred to the ‘naked spirit' (2:25) and it is interesting to see how at this point in the allegory, we are told how the Adam-Eve is first clothed in a garment to cover the nakedness of its spiritual nature. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (Verse 7)
This is the first stage of approaching incarnation, and we should note that the Adam-Eve entity takes the step on its own. It is by its own free will that it has sought for knowledge and its choice to become incarnate likewise begins with its own action. This is the beginning of the descent of the Adam-Eve out of Paradise towards life on Earth. Its first step is to seek protection from the coarse and harsher vibrations of the physical world so it gains an astral or emotional body. This is semi-material so for the first time in the allegory a garment is mentioned, but it is only a small and flimsy covering, assembled out of fragile and ephemeral elements, symbolized by leaves. In Hebrew, the word used "Aleh" (5929) is usually translated leaves, but it derives from the prime root "Alah" (5927) which before the invention of vowel points was spelt exactly the same way and may have been the original meaning. The word actually refers to "ascending" and its other meanings include "dawn", "depart", "light up," and "increase".
In this context the fact that the leaves are "fig leaves" is important. Figs have long been seen as an ancient symbol for sex, at once our most characteristically physical need and our most vital physical emotion. No wonder that it is employed here to represent that which marks the beginning of the spirit’s approach to incarnation. On the other hand the word here translated "fig" is "ta’aniyah" (8386) which derives from the primary root "anah" (578) and which actually means "to groan" and is usually translated to mean "Heaviness" or "mourning".
Properly therefore, in this passage the "fig" refers to mourning or suffering – another key element of earthly existence. Placing the two words together, we could infer that the Adam-Eve is about to "depart" to "suffering"!
Even the word "Chagowr" (2290) which is translated "apron" or in some versions of the Bible as "girdles" and which derives from "chagar" (2296), meaning "to gird on", has an expanded meaning of "restrain on every side", which is exactly what the Astral Body does to the Spirit.
But the Astral Body is only the first step on the road to incarnation and in verses 3:8-10 the allegory continues; "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
The idea that God would actually walk in the Garden, and that he would choose to do so specifically in the cool of the day, is another incongruity, as also is the idea that Adam would think he could hide from God. Many commentators have mocked this passage, but it too is significant, because it indicates that even from the very beginning, the Adam-Eve has certain 'human' characteristics. Incongruous as it may seem, even today there are many people on earth who believe in God, but who act as if they can hide from Him, or deceive Him, even though in their hearts, they know it to be impossible.
The allegorical meaning is connected with the fact that the "cool of the day" refers to the cool of approaching evening. It is the ‘evening’ of Adam-Eve’s long day in Paradise, for it is about to leave it. And as we have already noted, Adam-Eve was afraid to stand before God, because it had begun to discover the difference between good and evil. But God was not deceived and He immediately understood from its change in behaviour what Adam-Eve had done!
We then read that He questioned Adam about what he had done, and the spirit (Adam) blames his soul (Eve), and indirectly, God Himself in verses 11 to 13; "And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."
The spirit cannot deceive God and does not attempt to do so, for it receives its information through its soul and the senses. The soul too, does not deny its actions, but it blames the Tester, who was only doing his duty. . . We must note again that the spirit within us is responsible for our actions. And this is true at all stages of our development, whether in our early lives when we are spiritually ignorant or later when we have begun to understand the purpose of existence. But it is especially true during our last few incarnations when finally we are beginning to know God and follow His Will.
The allegorical drama continues and in Verse 15 God tells the Serpent that He will put enmity between him and the soul, between his seed and her seed: and that that Seed shall bruise his head and he will "bruise his heel".
This verse contains quite a lot of wisdom. The first meaning refers to the fact that life is a constant battle between the Tester and his seed (agents) and the souls of Men. Eventually however the Soul of Man will triumph; It will "bruise the Serpent’s head" in other words damage or destroy his ability to deceive.
The reference to the bruising of the Soul’s heel refers to the lowest and weakest point and indicates that the Lower aspects of our human nature (the Lower Self) must be trampled under foot before we can achieve perfection.
A Second meaning is more widely recognised. It sees the "Seed" of the human soul as including Christ Himself, who was indeed "Born of a Woman". Christ defeated Satan on many occasions as St Paul tells us (Hebrew 4; 15) and thus "bruised his head". In other words he damaged his ability to harm other humans. Yet in the process, Christ Himself was "bruised" (Isaiah 53; 5) though only in the "heel" the lowest and least spiritual part of Him, His Physical Body, which was slain on the Cross.
Verses 16 - 19 conclude the Divine Judgement, but we can see that they also include a lot of later moralising. In particular the subordinate role of women is emphasised, to accord with later Jewish traditions, rather than the near equality with her husband that Sarah had enjoyed in Ur of the Chaldees: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
But despite the obviously later elements, this too contains key wisdom. Note that one of the key limitations imposed upon the spirit by life on earth is the need to provide for the physical needs of the body – mainly food. It is the labour required to produce the food we need for mere survival that forces the vast majority of people to spend much of their lives on earth in worldly pursuits of one sort or another. Except in the most advanced societies only a small percentage of the population enjoys the privilege of leisure that alone allows them the opportunity to make significant spiritual progress. Unfortunately, it often happens that those who do enjoy this privilege fail to use it for spiritual purposes and instead spend it in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and material gain.
The reference to "dust" is also important. It occurs several times in the Old Testament, (See especially Psalms 22; 15: and Ecclesiastes 3; 20 & 12; 7) and is one of the few Aspects of the Ancient Wisdom that still survives in most Churches today. It symbolises worthless material things - things of the earth and indicates that the physical body is just that. It is made of the material elements of this Physical Plane of Existence, which are animated by the spirit for a brief space and then return to dust. The last phrase also provides the authority for the church to encourage burial rather than cremation.
Perhaps the best summary and that which is most consistent with the rest of the account, looks at the "judgement" of God and sees it as identifying the long-term future of Adam-Eve on the Physical Plane. It is Adam (the spirit) that will have to struggle to draw forth spiritual sustenance from the material things of the earth, whilst it is mainly through the soul (Eve) that the Tester seeks to lead both spirit and soul astray.
The narrative continues and God tells the Adam-Eve what to expect as the result of eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is about to "depart" from Paradise and enter Earthly Life, with its "suffering" and toil. And to abide in the physical state they will need a physical body, and God Himself provides them with one, or as it is called in verse 21; a 'coat of skins'.
We have seen how the Adam-Eve began its descent by "girding" itself with an Astral Body that "restrained it on every side". Once begun that process is as irreversible as death on earth, but at this stage, and indeed for most of its time on earth, the human spirit is quite incapable of organising a physical body for itself, and so God does so, usually through its Guardian Angel. This is what is meant by the "coats of skins" a much sturdier garment than the "aprons" or "girdles" which Adam-Eve made for itself – and indeed the physical body is much more solid than the comparatively ephemeral Astral Body.
It is worthy of note, however, that although the King James Version speaks of "coats of skins", other versions speak of "coats of skin" and the word for "skin", "Owr" (5785) is not necessarily plural, so we should not infer that physical bodies are assembled from many different parts. In fact, science tells us that they are not. Initially the human body consists of a single fertilized egg cell, which then divides again and again till an embryo is formed.
In fact the basic root of this Hebrew word, "Owr", modified only by much more recent vowel points has a couple of completely different meanings, including to be made bare or naked, (5783) whilst "Coat" (3801) is more literally a covering and therefore the passage could equally have been rendered "covering of bare skin" or "cover of nakedness". Obviously both are appropriate as allegorical representations of a Physical Body covering a naked Astral body. But another meaning of "Owr" (5782) is even more interesting. It refers to "opening the eyes" and hence could be rendered "wake up". Hence one could say that the "covering" (body) "wakes up" – in other words, that the Physical Body begins to function and thus enables the spirit to "wake up" in earthly life.
It is when it is thus faced with the imminent reality of incarnation that the spirit hesitates – fear of the unknown trammels its curiosity, but the process of incarnation has already commenced and it is too for it late to pull back. This is because the knowledge it has gained means that its interest will inevitably turn towards the Tree of Lives and it cannot be permitted to stay in Paradise. If it were to do so, then surely and steadily that desire would start to develop, therefore as we will see, it becomes necessary to expel it from Eden and send it forth into the physical Plane. For however much it may desire to do so, the human Spirit cannot be allowed to sample the Tree of Lives all at once, for it would destroy It. It will do so by degrees, one life at a time and only when it has completed all his earth lives, will it be able to eat the fruit of the Tree and 'live for ever', a phrase which simply means that it will no longer need to return to life on earth but can start to live its new life in Heaven.
Now although it was through the serpent that the Spirit acquired the Knowledge of Good and Evil many writers have seen that it was also through the serpent that it lost this opportunity to eat of the Tree of Life and live for ever. This too, is partly correct, for clearly this is the effect of temptation – a spirit that has nearly finished its round of earth lives may have its chance of eating of the Tree of Lives snatched away through the work of the Tester. A similar idea is found in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, in which, after the hero has acquired the "plant of eternal youth", it is stolen away from him by a serpent. The passage is found in Tablet XI, lines 287 to 290 and reads thus:
Gilgamesh saw a well whose water was cool. He went down into it to bath in the water A serpent snuffed the fragrance of the plant. It came up (from the water) and carried off the plant".
Today we can see these stories as allegories of Eternity and certainly the basic idea of something that conveys immortality is widespread. In addition to a tree or some other plant it is most commonly identified as a spring or fountain of life or youth. It is possible, of course, that many such images refer to the Divine Spark within us and the Divine Life-Force, which sustains it, rather than to the completion of one’s earthly incarnations as seems to be represented here, nevertheless the two allusions are inextricably linked in allegory even as they are in reality - a fact which we should do well to ponder.
Returning to the Book of Genesis we find that in Verse 22 the narrative confirms the link with the end of our earthly iucarnations and our future Eternal life in Heaven: It reads: "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:"
The first part of this verse confirms the fact that the earlier words of the serpent (verse 5) were substantially accurate. God Himself seems to say that if or when, in addition to the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Divine Sparks acquire the Fruit of the Tree of Lives, they will indeed take their place among the 'Sons of God' (the Angelic Hosts). Note, however, that we have here another reference to the plurality of the Godhead: "The Man is become as one of Us!" Man’s ultimate destiny is not just Angelhood. Man’s destiny is to return whence he came, and ultimately to re-unite with God through the Trinity. But such a destiny demands that he prove himself worthy. He cannot be permitted to take a short cut, and so Adam-Eve must be driven out of Paradise and enter earth life through the gate of birth, as verses 23 & 24 tell us: "Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
Three times in the beginning of this passage it is emphasised that only the man was driven forth. (".. . sent HIM forth. . . .when HE was taken. . . . . .drove out the MAN.") This is to make quite sure that we have not missed the main point of the allegory - that the story describes only a single being, not a couple. We are not told that Adam was driven forth. It was "the Man" - the whole man, Adam-Eve, not just the Spirit of Man - who was driven forth
From this it is clear that both the Spirit and the Soul of Man is driven out of the spiritual state into earth-life through the gateway of birth. But the rest of the passage is also important. Paradise has always been seen to be in the East, and as we are told that the Garden was physically in the 'East of Eden' (2:8) then if it was in the furthest East of some earthly realm, when he left it man would have been going west. The part of Paradise closest to his earthly place of exile would have been the WESTERN side of Paradise. But God placed the guarding Cherubim on the East side! In other words, when Man was driven out he was driven out of the East Side – he went even further East than the garden of Eden!.
Now ‘East’ refers to the ‘place of birth’, so this apparent anachronism clearly confirms that we are not talking about leaving one part of the physical world for another. We are referring to our birth on earth, which means that birth on earth is a kind of death, for once in a physical body the spirit can no longer live in the Spirit Plane and must descend to earth. Thus it is shown to be the soul and spirit of each mortal - our Adam-Eve, our spiritual nature, which gives life to the body and it is in fact true that the soul, which initiated this process is truly 'the mother of all living' (v.20).
The guarding Cherubim are not placed at the Western Edge of the Garden of Eden. Verse 24 says they are placed at the East to keep the unauthorised from reaching the Tree of Lives. Let us look a little closer at this apparent anomaly. When the body dies then the spirit is withdrawn. To where? Not always to Paradise for only good souls may enter therein, souls who have learned to love others unselfishly. Hence the Cherubim at the Eastern Gate of Eden which is in fact the highest part of Paradise.
These cherubim form part of what we call the Wall of Fire. This consists of angelic beings who prevent the unauthorised from entering Heaven. Beyond lie two Paths as mystics from all faiths have indicated. One through reincarnation leads back to earthlife by the gate of birth. The other leads on to the Heavenly Planes. In either case the angelic beings in the Wall of Fire prevent unauthorised spirits from passing through. Not all these guards are of such an exalted rank as "cherubim", but clearly some are. In the context of this allegory, they prevent the spirit which has gone forth to be born on earth from turning back to life on the Spirit Plane. They are said to be in the East, because the one who has gone forth is going to the ‘East’, the place of birth.
I have just mentioned that after leaving Paradise and passing through the Wall of Fire there is one path which leads back to life on earth, whilst the other leads upwards to Heaven and this is quite important. Many people identify Paradise and Heaven, but it is important to point out that there is a marked difference between them, a difference that has been recognised since antiquity. For instance, St Paul, referring to the journey of mortal pilgrims, speaks about that difference in Hebrews 11: 15 - 16,: "And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: . . ."
The Heavenly State is clearly far superior to life in Paradise. To become worthy to enter Heaven one needs many virtues - most importantly love. This must be "poured out like wine, serving one's friends and one's foes" and we shall also require extraordinary patience and faith unto death, but by the merciful grace of God, Heaven can be reached. Only when we are at last ready to enter therein will our spirit be strong enough to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Lives. In other words, become capable of recovering the knowledge of all our past lives, (sometimes called "the Overself") and thus strengthened, prove itself worthy to pass to that ‘better country’ which lies beyond the Wall of Fire.
Then and then only will we mortals be deemed worthy to pass the sword of the cherubim and enter that Heavenly City where dwell the Saints of God. The purpose of our earthly journeys is to fit us for that role, and the Teaching of the Orthodox Catholic Church can provide us with knowledge and advice that if followed will help us to achieve that goal and achieve it speedily.