Adam and Eve had everything in the Garden of Eden, didn’t they? Well, almost everything. They didn’t know the difference between good and evil, but we are told that Eve and the snake changed all that. God had given Adam and Eve only one rule: Do not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. For a while, Adam and Eve found it easy to honor this rule, for there was much to discover in the beautiful garden and each other.
But eventually temptation came in the form of a snake who suggested they break God’s rule. Eve must have resisted at first, but gradually she began to question God and wonder about the forbidden fruit. How does it taste? she must have asked herself. Why shouldn’t we eat it? “C’mon, Eve. Just one bite,” we can imagine the tiny voice in her mind saying. And so the first rule was broken and Adam and Eve were forced to leave the beautiful walled garden and lose their blissful, childlike innocence forever.
The sacred stories from every religion represent psycho-spiritual truths. This one is about the birth of human consciousness, and it is as relevant today as it was to our earliest ancestors. Like Adam and Eve, during our youth most of us focus on the rules and expectations of our outer, omnipotent gods: religious, familial or otherwise. Responding appropriately to the collective awareness of our time is normal and desirable, not just because we need the support and protection of our groups to survive, but also because we need their approval to validate our worth.
But when it comes to our inner lives, as long as we do not challenge the standards of our gods we live mostly in a state of foggy unknowing, never suspecting that the rules we feel compelled to keep might not be in the best interest of ourselves or others. We might be vehement in our support of them, but at bottom, it is not their rightness that makes keeping them so appealing, but the sense of security they provide. The illusion of safety protects us from the confusion, terror, and loneliness of following our own mysterious inner impulses.
The miracle of life is about growth and change, and human life is no exception. Whether we like it or not, the very fact of being alive compels us to evolve beyond outdated and incomplete forms. Eve is a symbol of this sacred energy which shows up in a powerful need to honor formerly forbidden behaviors or thoughts and questions deemed “heretical” by our groups. Like her, every ego resists this urge because breaking from conformity involves great suffering and risk. But if we take enough little risks along the way, we can grow strong and conscious enough to listen to our inner voice and tolerate the tension of making conscious choices.
An ego with this kind of strength will eventually challenge repressive rules and wander alone on a dark wilderness path with only its unknown self for company. Eve’s inner opposite is symbolized by Adam, her undeveloped masculine side. Working together, our inner partners will follow a path defined not by conforming or rebelling, but by cooperating to fulfill our unique purpose in creative new ways that benefit all.
If God is Love and Life, then God/Love/Life wants us to become conscious of our potential for good and evil so we can grow out of blind ignorance and slavery into moral responsibility. As for me, I think Eve was the first Warrior and I’m glad she took that bite!
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
haha i guess i would have to agree with you. we all eventually take our bite of the forbidden fruit and start asking questions, but still i’d prefer to ask and find the answers for myself instead of remaining in blissful ignorance. thanks for posting!
Yes, every family, every social group, has its particular set of no-no’s. Some are good for all of us; some for only a few, and some — those based on ignorance, prejudice and fear — aren’t good for anybody. It’s a huge temptation to remain blissfully ignorant, but that’s one temptation we can, like Eve, acquire the courage not to give in to! You’re welcome! Thanks for commenting!
Don’t know if you’re familiar with the midrash, but according to the midrash there was a woman before Eve–her name was Lilith. The rabbis struggled with the text because in Chapter 1 of Genesis it states that God created man and woman, and then in Chapter 2 is the story of God taking the rib from Adam to create Eve. They asked: what happened to the first woman? As the midrash goes, there was indeed a first woman. Turns out she was a little taller than Adam, and male ego/hubris was already present in Adam’s character (no, he was not perfect!) and he was bothered walking beside her by her superior height. So he insisted that she walk in front of him, but that made her first to arrive everywhere, then he made her walk behind him, but he didn’t like that he could not see what she was up to. So, he dug a hole and made her stand in it which she put up with for about 10 seconds, then said screw this, and fled the Garden. Adam was suddenly alone and heartsick and went to God and told him that the woman he gave him had abandoned him. God sent three of his most trusted angels to catch up with Lilith and bring her back and they caught up with her over the Red Sea. She refused to return and cursed man, and then supposedly descended to the abyss and fornicated to her heart’s content with all of the creatures there. The way the midrash goes is that she did say after her curse of mankind that if the names of the three angels were placed over the baby’s crib she would spare the child. Interestingly, Lilith’s curse was an explanation for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and many Jews through the angels would place these amulets with the names of the angels on them to ward off Lilith. The angels returned and reported their failure to persuade Lilith, so he was in quite a pickle! So, he had to create Eve.
This comment is absolutely delightful! I know of the midrash, and love it that the rabbis of old used their deep inner wisdom and intuition to expand (and expound) on the sacred scriptures in ways that illustrated truths often ignored by the average individual. The idea of masculine hubris creating the necessity for a more submissive feminine energy is absolutely priceless and classic. There is, of course, feminine hubris too. But it is so special to know that the rabbis of old were aware of their own shadows and created stories to help explain them. I love it that these psychological truths are now being shared for all to see. Thank you so much for your comment.
You lost me on this one…Donna
Sorry, Donna. My point was that this story is about how early, primitive people, symbolized by Adam and Eve, were at the mercy of the rules made up by the leaders of their tribes. If the leaders said, “I talked to God last night and God says you can’t shoot marbles with the kids from across the tracks, or wear the color red, or eat that kind of food,” or whatever, then most people were too terrified to think for themselves, question the rules, let alone consider breaking them, because they could be banished from the tribe, which was their only source of protection, and they could die all alone out there in the wilderness. But in the history of humankind conditions changed, and people acquired more survival skills to the point that some of these early rules lasted far longer than necessary, yet people felt they couldn’t break them, even if they no longer made sense. And as long as they didn’t really stop to think about what the rule was for and why they shouldn’t break it, they were living in a lala land of ignorance and childish innocence, where whatever your tribe told you was good was good, and whatever they said was bad, was bad.
In this condition, they had no idea what real good and evil were; no concept of moral responsibility. If the leader said to stone someone because her dress was too short, they all did it without compunction because after all, that was “God’s” rule so stoning people for wearing certain clothes must be good. See what I mean? It’s the same way with parents and kids. Some rules are important when we’re young and innocent and vulnerable, but at some point we have to start figuring out for ourselves what’s really good and what’s really evil. If we don’t, if we just follow the leader’s rules without question, we’re capable of committing evil without even knowing it!!
Eve represented the courageous human spirit that said, “Wait a minute. This is a stupid rule and I’m not going to keep it any longer..” So while what she did was bad from the perspective of her tribe, it was actually a courageous moral act. “Eating from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil” means that someone at some point in time decided to think for themselves about what was right and wrong and decided that, in fact, some of the rules they were living by were unfair and unjust and repressive. So they broke the rules and broke out of the narrow boxes their groups had forced them into. And that’s how we grow and make newer and better rules that are fair to all. That’s why it’s not okay to treat others with prejudice and disdain or enslave or kill them just because they come from a different tribe, eat different foods or have different customs. Because someone at some point in history realized that their tribe’s prejudices were immoral, and had the courage to break the old rules. I hope this makes it clearer.