WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN?
“Adam and Eve are like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one... If you include it in your equation, you can calculate all manners of things, which cannot be imagined without it.” ~Philip Pullman.
I have been obsessed with understanding the biblical Garden of Eden story for the past few years. I think this is because I believe a correct and complete understanding of this story may reveal the most fundamental problem in life, as well as its only solution. In the Garden of Eden, God the Creator presented the ultimate catch-22 choice for Adam and Eve; but from the back end, the outcome from either choice turns out to be the ultimate therapeutic double bind. The two original ancestors of ours were told they could eat the fruit from the Tree of Life, but not from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Of course we all know what they chose and we have been suffering ever since.
My preferred translation and interpretation of this story is that God created life and established all His rules for how to be most successful in living it. We can either eat from The tree of Life—understand and accept the absolute truth in that reality as it is and be a part of life; or we can eat from The tree of Knowledge of good and evil—reject the Garden of Eden, throw caution to the wind and set out on a more personal and selfish adventure to find success by analyzing life, rearranging and reinventing the rules, and making our own choices to get where we think we should be. The choice is still the same as it was from the beginning.
I remember reading in one of Alan Watts’ many books, “The Two Hands of God,” that the ancient Hebrew words of “good” and “evil” were mistranslated from the original spoken ones, along with the whole concept of “sin,” which were all more like the non-moral distinction between “useful” and “useless.” I have attempted to verify this important judgment with the scripture critiquing Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Sponge, but I haven’t hard back from him. At any rate, when you take the moral spin off this fundamental choice that Adam and Eve were confronted with, the whole story changes more to the theologian Paul Tillich’s fundamental human movement between union vs. separation.
Lately my understanding of the Garden of Eden story exemplifies something rather astounding and sheds light on the reconciliation of the devil and angel nature of the story—the initial dreadful catch-22 dilemma of the choice vs. the intended win-win therapeutic double bind outcome.
My oldest daughter Deisha and I have taken much different religious, spiritual, professional and personal paths in life. But oddly we both ended up at the very same place—appreciating life freely, enjoying it fully and sharing that joy with others. She chose to simply accept and join the Garden of Eden from the get-go and I chose to overcomplicate things with my ADHD thinking and tried to re-invent it all from scratch. She quickly walked straight to “Start” and I played football, swam, fought, ran, marched, struggled, thought, felt, prayed, planned, and argued my way there. Same place though, just two opposite paths.
We all want to be successful in life in finding the abundance that was there to accept and enjoy in the Garden of Eden. You can accept, join and enjoy this abundance without much fuss, but then again that is contrary to the human nature and self-consciousness that Adam and Eve cursed us with. Or you can take the long way home and judge everything you see into the endless either-or variations of okay or not okay, until the meaning of the opening quote above becomes apparent. Either way though, you finally see past the illusions of scarcity and the personal achievement of abundance.
At this point in my life, I think the real solution to understanding the Garden of Eden story lies somewhere between mine and my oldest daughter’s. We do make things much more complicated than they need to be, but sometimes we fail to understand the complications well enough to completely uncomplicated them. Either way though, life was designed to eventually help us all get to where we really want to be—enjoying more of what we decide abundance is, and experiencing less turmoil and failure from grasping at empty scarcity. And I am no longer sure that moral control and judgments are the best way to facilitate progress in this journey, or at least how we currently present them.
William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Reality Repair Coach, Photographer, Episcopal Church Visioning & Discernment Participant and Writer. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing), Passwords to The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press), You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers). This article is part of his new book Reality Repair Rx coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or email@example.com