The Knowledge of Good and Evil

Ancient lore from the Middle-east tells of a mythic land of lush vegetation and creatures of every kind. The first man and the first woman were placed there to tend that garden. They could eat fruit from any tree in that garden, except one. This familiar and ancient tale tells of humankind’s fall from grace with their creator, God; it is the story of their separation from the great Spirit. This tale is foundational in explaining why humankind suffers.

biblesGreat religions have been founded on the lore which begins this ancient tale. Some of the followers of those religions view that lore as the literal history of humankind. Some declare that the ancient writings mean exactly what they say, that these writings are to be read literally. However, few seem to actually pay attention to how those scriptures were truly written.

The one tree that the first man and the first woman were not supposed to eat from stood at the center of the garden. Some refer to this tree as the tree of knowledge, but this is wholly inaccurate. The tree was not a tree of all knowledge, general knowledge, or just any old knowledge. It was a tree of some very specific knowledge: the knowledge of good and evil. This detail is intrinsic to truly understanding this ancient lore.

A cunning creature, the serpent, disputed what the great Spirit claimed about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is clear from the accepted verse that the serpent directed the conversation toward the woman, but it is also clear that her husband was with her at the time. Convinced that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make them wise, the woman took some fruit from the tree and gave some of it to her husband who was with her. They both ate the fruit, but nothing actually suggests that the woman deceived or coerced the man in any manner. There was an immediate effect from eating the fruit, though.

The first and immediate result of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil should be a strong clue as to what that fruit actually was. It seems commonly accepted that the fruit was apples, but some have speculated that it might have been pomegranates. However, the obvious fruit of the knowledge of good and evil should be judgment!

The first thing the man and woman do when their eyes are opened by the knowledge of good and evil is to judge their nakedness to be evil. They attempted to cover themselves with leaves. However, nudity was not a problem with the great Spirit before they ate the fruit. The great Spirit need not be all-knowing, all-seeing, or even a genius to know what happened when the man and woman hid because they were naked. Contrary to the serpent’s assertion, the knowledge of good and evil did not make them wise… or even smart.

bornagainSin, as some advance it, is what causes a separation between humankind (people) and the great Spirit (God.) Clearly, nudity did not cause a separation between the great Spirit and the first man and woman; judgment did. This should be evident to those who claim to follow the teachings of a Child of Wisdom who said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” However, according to this tale, the great Spirit also explained the reason for expelling the first man and woman from the garden:

Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ (Genesis 3:22 NASB).

Partaking of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil caused more than just a separation between people and Spirit. A comparison of conditions before and after the fruit of judgment was eaten reveals a separation between man and woman, also.

When the great Spirit formed the first man from the dust of the ground, he was called Adam. Then the great Spirit created creatures to help Adam, and Adam named every creature presented to him. However, none of these creatures seemed to be a satisfactory helper for Adam. For this reason, the Great Spirit caused Adam to sleep and removed a rib from Adam to create a suitable helper for him. This helper was called “woman” because she was taken out of man. However, she was given no other name because she was taken out of Adam, she was part of Adam, she was one with Adam; she also was Adam.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24 NASB).

When the great Spirit asked Adam if he had eaten the fruit he was commanded not to, Adam tried to avoid personal responsibility in the matter by blaming the woman. In contrast, the woman succinctly tells what happened and admits her fault when asked. The great Spirit then makes pronouncements to the serpent, the woman, and then the man. However, before the pronouncement is given to the man, a clear statement is made that the attempt to blame the woman failed.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;” (Genesis 3:17 NASB).

This eye-opening line should cause a curious soul to go back to investigate the story leading up to this statement. Even a quick scan will reveal that the great Spirit commanded Adam not not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before the woman was created. There is no indication that this command was ever given to the woman by the great Spirit directly. It seems a reasonable assumption that her knowledge of this command only came from Adam. However, after the great Spirit’s pronouncements are made, Adam then names the woman Eve.

Eve is no longer Adam; there is a separation between the two now. Based on contemporary behavior, it seems reasonable to deduce this to be because Adam still felt Eve was to blame for him eating the forbidden fruit, despite the statement from the great Spirit that held him responsible for his own actions. For this reason, Adam makes a distinction between himself and the woman by giving her a different name. In fact, some believers of this lore continue to blame women for “original sin” to this day.

The problem with the fruit called “judgment” is that it is commonly prejudiced in favor of the one making judgments. After the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden commonly associated with paradise, what humankind judged to be “good” lead to such corruption that the great Spirit caused a deluge to wash the face of the Earth clean, according to that ancient lore. Even today, the common judgment of who is better than who usually leads to misery for somebody, even to war.

darktreeThe strange part of this ancient lore is that those who claim it is the “gospel truth” are quick to judge others and ready to make war. Women are still not perceived as partners and companions, but rather as subservient with discrimination, domestic violence, genital mutilation, and murder being promoted. They also tend to still view nudity as sinful. The only likely explanation for this is that they have eyes, but cannot see, and they have ears but cannot hear. However, this is also why they lack spiritual power. You will know them by their fruit.

It has been asked, “How can your live a right and proper life without making judgments as to what is good and what is evil.” Perhaps an answer can be found in this ancient lore? It would seem that the ability to discern what is true and what is false would have been much more valuable to the first man and woman than the killing fruit of judgment.

Can you discern truth?

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6 thoughts on “The Knowledge of Good and Evil

  1. This is – these are – rather difficult subjects to discuss, let alone try to discern the truth in the words. One question that struck me, is that is Eve was with (part of) Adam, at the time of the instruction, then they were fully aware. One must also consider the fact that Adam (and thus Eve) were given free will from the creator, therefor what command did they dis-obey?

  2. The sequence I read is that Adam was commanded not to eat of the fruit before Eve was created. However, it is evident in her conversation with the serpent that she was aware of the commandment to not eat the fruit. Nevertheless, God does appears to be much more angry with Adam than her by the manner His pronouncements are made. Of course, like an Internet conversation, we do not have the benefit of hearing a tone of voice or seeing any body language to help provide intent or meaning.

    I agree that these are difficult things to discuss, which is why I have waited a long time to write this. I have been very hesitant to even attempt to raise these issues. However, there seems to be a growing need to discuss them as too much is being taken for granted and being misunderstood. Too many people are referring to the forbidden tree as simply “the tree of knowledge.” I have even recently heard the host of “America Unearthed” make this common mistake.

    I am also not certain that “original sin” was about disobeying a commandment. What many consider God’s judgment on the matter, I refer to as “pronouncements.” This is because I am not certain whether God was making “judgments” or actually prophesying the consequences of the actions of the three; warning them. If we look closely at what humankind has done to the planet Earth, it may have been necessary to expel them from paradise to prevent them from destroying it. I suspect that partaking of the fruit of judgment has much more bearing on matter.

    Another reason for writing this was due to a discussion with a Pagan who apparently thinks “original sin” implies that humankind is inherently evil. I believe the actual [Christian] concept is that nobody is perfect because of sin, but that does not imply that all of humankind is absolutely evil, either. I suspect that most subscribing to this lore view people as being combination of good and evil, much as Pagans do… a balance, if you will. Regardless, there appears to be far too much judgment taking place against people (on both sides of the fence) that is terribly wrong. We really need to examine this “judgment” thing closely.

    Do you think the demonstrated penchant Christians, Jews, and Muslims generally seem to have to violence, crusades, jihads, terror, war, or even false witness reflects well on their religions or their God?

  3. Religions, not God bring more war, and suffering than any other thought or concept the human mind has imagined. It is difficult to say why this happens, I agree with the thought that most people are inherently good, but we allow the less good to lead us, and in that regard they use our own conscience against us – lead us into ‘patriotic wars’ for the sake of God and country.
    As I said this is a difficult concept and admire your efforts …

  4. I try not to deal with biblical interpretations since there is so much distortion, mistranslations and agenda being promoted by those who are considered religious authorities. “Original sin,” what a concept compared to Buddha nature which presumes we start out fully enlightened. The word “sin” come from the ancient Greek, and means to ‘miss the mark’ as in archery. Learning this puts a whole new twist on such teachings, no fatal flaw but a failed attempt.

    Adam and Eve. Most people recite that Eve came from Adam’s ribs, a sort of woman are spare ribs theology. Yet I have read that Genesis has two creation stories. The other has both Adam and Eve as created at the same time. Emphasizing the spare rib version keeps women secondary.

    Your basic point seems to be that the creation story is more about starting with oneness, moving to separateness. The spiritual path then is a process of returning to oneness. Perhaps like Suzuki Roshi’s “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.” The infant is open to what is having not yet learned to distinguish between people and objects and such. In growing she learns all sorts of ways to distinguish, not just sensorially but emotionally and intellectually as well. Yet to spiritually awaken, she needs to rediscover the connectedness of all creation.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  5. The very reasons you “try not to deal with biblical interpretations” are the very reasons I hesitated for a very long time to write this. Ironically, those eventually seemed to be the very compelling reasons to write this. I do not consider myself an authority, but after a few decades removed from the influence of those who do consider themselves authorities, I believe there is much more hidden in the Judeo-Christian scriptures than most realize… mysteries lost through the ages!

    The impression I have had of the “two creation stories” has been that Genesis 1 gives a grand and general overview, but then Genesis 2 gives a more detailed version of part of that overview. I do not see two creation stories there. It does get more complicated if you consider the lore of Lilith. However, just using the generally accepted canons, it seems the entire story has been twisted to keep women as secondary. If we read what is actually written, Adam said nothing to refute the serpent or to prevent Eve from eating the fruit; he simply took the fruit and followed her example. Adam tried to make Eve to blame for his part in the fiasco, but God appears to have seen through that juvenile ploy. In fact, God appears to have been very disappointed with Adam’s character. It is really hard to read this (without “authoritative” influence) and not be disgusted by Adam’s actions and that men have continued to propagate that arrogance through many centuries.

    Thank you! You do seem to have gotten my basic point about moving away from oneness and towards separation. By Christian standards, the wages of sin is death, and death is separation from God; the theme is very present in that story. I am not familiar with the work of Suzuki Roshi, but your summary sounds right. However, I also find it ironic that the self-righteous frequently partake of the very fruit that got the first man and woman expelled from paradise, as they are the most judgmental people on the face of this planet. They are in stark contrast to a small group of people who say that if you harm none, do as you will, and a growing number of people who feel it is humankind’s job to tend to the well-being of this planet, Earth. The only explanation seems to be that the “judges” have eyes, but cannot see, and have ears, but cannot hear.

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