Getting the Garden of Eden Allegory Right For Valentine’s Day
Here are four interpretations of the Garden of Eden story, just in time for Valentine's Day 😉 —
- Religious interpretations that focus on the importance of taming the passions. They are taken primarily from Unity magazine and Charles Fillmore's Mysteries of Genesis, p50-52. The serpent, who represents sense consciousness, is the untamed power within human beings which usurps the fine essence of life for the pleasure of the flesh. When the soul, through desire for sensation, indulges in pleasures that lie beyond the perfect balance of the creative law, it is robbed of its vital elements; consequently the body is shorn of the sustaining power of life, and decomposition results. We must then prove that we are master over all the appetites, the passions, and the sensations of our nature. We then discover the path by which we can retrace our steps, which will lead us back into the Edenic state idealized by God in the beginning.
- Later interpretations in Unity magazine are philosophical and emphasize the effect of duality in consciousness. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represent a consciousness of duality instead of a consciousness of the reality, good. The consciousness of duality gains entry into the mind by way of the soul, which is subject to impressions from the realm of appearances. The woman (the soul) saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. Human beings are saved from duality by Jehovah God, or Christ, the supermind in man, who brings to bear spiritual power in both mind and body, and sensation is thereby lifted up and harmonized. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”
- More recent interpretations of this story are psychological and focus on the interplay of mental/emotional processes. The authors are Ed Rabel, Joseph Wolpert, and Jim Lewis. Wolpert writes, “In the allegory, there are four characters, man, woman, the serpent, and God. Man symbolizes the thinking function. Woman symbolizes the feeling function. And the Serpent and God symbolize Sensation and Intuition respectively. With this understanding, it becomes clear then that the disobedience which this allegory illustrates was the failure to follow the Intuitive function of consciousness through which God speaks to man. The result of course was catastrophe.”
- By far the most radical (and prescient of feminist theology) interpretation of this allegory is from Ursula Gestfeld, New Thought pioneer and collaborator with Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Women’s Bible. She wrote in the late 1890s “The story of the Garden of Eden is an Allegory of nature and not of Ethics. Adam could not find among all the things brought to him to name, a Help-meet for his soul. Because of its divine origin, soul cannot thrive upon the husks of externality, but demands the spiritual food that nourishes. It must have self-knowledge, for it alone satisfies soul hunger. Eve (or Intuition) the ‘Mother of All living’ supplies this demand, for her office is to minister to the rational or masculine nature and lift the man who ‘tills the soil’—‘up and out’ the ‘slough of materiality.’”(Ursula Gestfeld, Course Notes, Chapter 4, The Origin of Evil and Chapter 5, The Ascent of The Soul)
If you prefer Ursula Gestfeld's interpretation, and I bet many of you do, you will enjoy a comment she makes about the current status of Adam and Eve. Commenting on Genesis chapter 3, verses 23-24, "Therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. So he drove out the man." Here is what Ursula has to say about that:
We find that the Woman was not turned out of the garden, but ever dwells in Eden, and makes Heaven upon earth for him who heeds her words of wisdom. Her spiritual insight pierces the veil of materiality and clearly sees what man’s outsight fails to penetrate. Adam (or intellect) leans wholly upon the outer until Eve, his “better half” shows him the “better part” and thus helps him to forsake the error of his way and turn to the Lord. (Ursula Gestfeld, Course Notes, Chapter 4, The Origin of Evil)
For the Bible text and the full list of annotations, go to the Fillmore Study Bible, Chapter 3 in Genesis.
The Garden of Eden passage comes up in The Revised Common Lectionary on February 26, 2023, The First Sunday in Lent. Our Monday morning study group will discuss this and the other three Bible passages one week from tomorrow, February 20th. See the Fillmore Bible Society Metaphysical Lectionary page for more information. You are welcome to join us.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Sunday, February 12, 2023
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