I was asked to read Genesis 3 at church tonight, the Garden of Eden story. Having spent 2 terms at university on Jewish and Christain understandings of it, I knew the chapter repaid close reading. I am tempted to get out those notes.... I used the word 'tempt' and didn't realise it, but it's an example of how tempting can be a vice or an invitation; it is sometimes simply a choice.
I found myself feeling rebellious about that reading and the subject. My earlier spiritual life was primarily concerned with temptation - and how to overcome it. Struggle (and guilt) were expected parts of our lives. I found a Christian website today (a Sunday) which quoted the end of Genesis 1 about the Sabbath being holy and said the website was closed to observe it - implying I the viewer was wrong to be looking at it. Isn't Sunday the day Christians are most likely to look at church websites?!
It's that kind of faith I have long put behind me.
Eden is often seen as not only the first but the worst temptation - to question God, to do the opposite of what he tells you, and to want to be like Him. However, my God no longer has a capital H for He (and often she's a female deity). Having strayed from my background to read some very non mainstream Christian things, I wanted to frame that Garden in a way I would never have dared as an undergraduate. It was pointed out at the time that the snake is not named as the devil - only linked with him later (eg in Revelation). Is the snake really bad? And is it significant whether he's a snake (said best with an English northern accent) or serpent? The Hebrew words for naked and crafty (also good in a Yorkshire tone) are very similar. That's fascinating and will be something to analyse further another time. Is being crafty bad? I understand crafty to be in the sense of 'wisdom'. Has the text and the meanings of 'snake' and 'crafty' been distorted by writers and interpreters, the same way that Eve's culpability has?
In some spiritual understandings, the serpent is wisdom, our inner awakening which is banished and needs to be re-found. Banishment (from the Garden and God's intimate presence) is what happens to Adam, Eve and the snake, who are all cursed by a God that I don't think I recognise. Why would God want us to lose our inner serpent? The Buddhists would call it the Kundalini; they spend time trying to get it back. I've read some very non Christian books that would call that inner wisdom Christ Consciousness, though I know that phrase has been coined in alternative anglican circles too (like the community I gave some of this talk in). I've researched essays on the pre-existence of Christ - what if he's here, in reptile form?!
(No lightning, I'll type on).
The Hebrew word for serpent - the same used for Job's mighty sea friend, the Leviathan - can also mean shining one - yes Lucifer, AKA the devil, is also the Son of Light. (I'm also not sure about his supposed back story in Isaiah and his fall following wanting to be top dog).
But I also note that light is usually about goodness in the Bible; and that Jesus says he must be lifted up like the golden serpent (same Hebrew word) that Moses used to heal in the desert. As I research online, I'm reading that "shiny" can mean enlightened, and ooh... I'm not the only person to link the Incarnation and serpents.
I'm wondering how the serpent is supposed to be evil when actually he's has got Eve to clarify what God has said and explore its meaning. Why would God want us not to have that knowledge from the tree?
The Tree of Life is a central to many belief systems I'm not yet well acquainted with, but I understand it to feature in all cosmologies. It links into sacred geometry. I'm wondering if the shape of fig leaves is also mystic - what do their five bits represent? Fodder for another time. But I'm coming to see the tale of oft conflated trees and fruit's consumption not as a naughty thing that these first humans did (dragging us all down with them) but something working on a much deeper level, and that this story is a many faceted allegory.
I am beginning to understand the desire for God-likeness not as the ultimate sin, but as enlightenment. Aren't the best leaders/talents those who share their power and help others up rather than those who keep others in a lower place - surely a good God is about that? Shocking for an ex Strict and Particular Baptist to consider, but I'm starting to get more interested in the mystic and esotoric interpretations of the Bible - it's the start of a new relationship with it.
I shall ponder more on leaves and snakes and return with my thoughts.