It took me a while to understand the whole “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” bit in the bible. I mean, what the heck is so wrong about “knowledge” anyway? Not being able to wrap my head around it, I simply just consigned myself to thinking that it was not the tree that caused all this disorder in life, but that it was the act of disobedience. That it could have really been anything up there; a banana, bicycle, country music, or walking on the cracks of a sidewalk. Later, when I got into studying theology, I opted for the view that there was no “tree” at all, but the whole the whole story was figurative — that Adam and Eve just represented mankind, and that them eating the fruit was just a metaphor for them “falling” in general. In fact, most bible scholars that I know now all tend to take the story this way these-days; that there was no literal garden, no talking snake, no literal tree of knowledge, and that it all just symbolizes mankind being tempted to go against God.
But even if that is the case… then why a Tree of Knowledge? What is the importance of such a thing? Is there any?
I would like to propose that there IS an importance to this tree. That is is not just something to be taken as a stand-in for any-old act. That there is a reason that it is something that gave to mankind the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Because this is the birth of contrasts and opposites. This is the birth of distinguishing or perceiving something as good and another as evil; one thing as pleasant and another as unpleasant; right and wrong, this verses that, man and woman, me and you, us and them… to cut-it-short: this was the beginning of objectification — this was the birth of self-awareness.
If you take most regions or heritages “Beginnings” stories back far enough they have some kind of a similar account or notion to them. I know that in Taoism they paint the picture of a time where mankind lived in a peaceful “Eden-like” state with all of creation, and that they fell from this when they started to distinguish themselves as other-than and greater-than the rest of the animals and nature. In Kabbalah it describes more of a vast organism of Spirit in which some of the working parts became self-aware and forgot their roles in the organism — thus creating a vacuum. Picture it like a bunch of cells that make up a larger organism that somehow become aware of themselves and consider themselves to be apart from each-other, and the organism that they make up… then spreading like a cancer.
Once we set one thing apart as good, we create evil. Once we set one thing apart as beautiful, we create the ugly.
If you believe in the message of the bible, then I would hope that you can at least agree that the goal is to one-day return to this state of peace that comes from no objectification; that comes from a dying to “self” or better put: self-awareness. Maybe you think that one day Jesus or God will come down to the earth and set-up a new one that returns us all to the state of blissful Eden. Although there is an increasing thought in even Christian circles that maybe they have missed the point here; that maybe the “kingdom” IS actually here now (as Jesus said quite blankly) and it is just up to us to become aware of it.
Take most of these religions and strip them of all their metaphor which somehow along the way became taken as sacred, true, or actual, and they all become very close to the same. They all start to sound a whole lot like Zen — atleast in goal, if not practice.
And how do we accomplish this loss of awareness — this return to Singularity?
Well, some pray for something else to give it to them, others fast, some punish their bodies or go through extreme acts of asceticism, some try drugs or other intoxicants; Christ (and also later the Apostle Paul) describe it as allowing our thoughts, our minds, our awareness… to be changed by “truth” and light that comes from hearing the gospel and especially that which comes to us (is revealed to us) by the Spirit which will enlighten us when we take enough time to stop and listen.
In Zen it is all about stopping and listening. We sit-down, shut up, and listen for it. Although in our case there is no Spirit outside of us penetrating us with something, or giving us anything — it was just us and in us all along.
Come to think about it though… as a Christian isn’t the Spirt (or God) in you (so, a part of you), and you are in it (so, a part of it) as well?
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