Original Sin

And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

— Genesis 2:16–17

In the story of Adam and Eve we are to believe that the apple is representative of sin. I believe this thinking is indicative of the inherent struggle that most of us have with confronting our own inner emotional needs, because what the apple really represents is growth. The story depicts Adam and Eve as having everything they need and only being asked to resist temptation in one circumstance, which was eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. The idea is that if one’s basic needs for food, shelter and companionship are met, why would they be tempted to seek more? It is because in that apple lies the truth of our own individual selves. In the apple lies the complex emotional patterns that cause us to no longer be satisfied with simplicity but to long for something else. It is authenticity we are longing for, and this sense of individuation is at the heart of why the fruit is depicted as sinful, wrong, and evil.

The challenge inherent in biting from the tree of knowledge is that once we do, we may no longer view Eden as the sanctuary that fulfills all of our needs, and we may begin to consider that our individual needs may be better met elsewhere. This story is designed to create a fear of exploration. It is designed to make exploration synonymous with wrongdoing or irresponsibility. Questioning the status quo is in effect branded as “sinful”. Challenging the expectations of continuity, duty, and obedience is in essence what “evil” becomes from this perspective. Change becomes equated with loss and this is the fear that creates the symmetry between sin and exploration—placing goodness and obedience on the other side of the coin in this binary thought process.

The fear is that once Adam bites the apple he may no longer want Eve, or when Eve bites the apple, she may no longer want Adam. There is no room in the story for individual wholeness, self-knowledge, or trust. This autonomy is indeed the ultimate fear. In the apple lies the answer to our self-empowerment in that its consumption causes the inevitable swallowing of the seeds in the core that are designed to precipitate growth. Growth is not a word that is brought into a compatible context with sin. Growth tends to be thought of as positive, while sin is invariably negative. It is because from the perspective of a person or institution that wants to remain in control of you, emotional growth is indeed bad, but this thinking cannot be communicated directly. This is called manipulation.

Yes, I am arguing that the story of Adam and Eve is manipulative, and I am not the first to make such an assertion.[1] I also believe that most people see this story as an allegory and do not take it literally. This single story however is only a symptom of a problem that plays out in a much larger context, and like many fables reflects strongly symbolic imagery embraced by the collective. Even if we understand on an intellectual level that this story shouldn’t be taken literally, we still internalize these values because they are interwoven in the fabric of our most primitive responses to fear.

When we are afraid, what we look to comfort us most is consistency. We want to know that the values and the people we have relied on will remain in place if and when we decide to explore. Those that want to manipulate us know this, therefore we have become accustomed to acquiescing to various degrees of emotional blackmail in response to our desires for exploration or deeper knowledge of ourselves. This is what the story of Adam and Eve represents. It is sanctioned emotional blackmail that keeps many people from swallowing the seeds necessary to precipitate growth into one’s true self.

We are to believe that the apple from the tree of knowledge was poisonous. It is true that growth can be painful and in the process we can all feel as though we have been subject to some sort of abuse or illness as it unfolds. At times this may literally be the case. However, this is not poisoning any more than the pain of childbirth should be considered a curse for having sex. Growth is painful like childbirth because life is hard —and it’s supposed to be.

Life is hard because we are here to learn and grow, not to remain complacent in our perceptual innocence or perpetually sheltered from pain. We have to face pain in order to distinguish what is worth our effort and what isn’t. Many of us live our lives around avoiding any kind of pain as well as the possibility of being persecuted or blamed which may in turn become the basis for the development of a false identity (Perfectionism/Denial/Narcissism). When we don’t know who we are, the only identity we may feel worth pursuing is one in which we are thought of us as perfect and or blameless in all circumstances. This is how the manipulator wins. They successfully cause us to disown the very essence of ourselves by making us believe it is bad. 

Life is also hard because we fear letting go. We are supposed to fear it because our survival as infants was contingent on our ability to hold on. We survived as infants by accepting whatever nurturing we could get and fighting for our share. We screamed when we were hungry and clung to our caregivers no matter how long it took for them to respond to our pleas. We needed another person for survival and any shifts in our ability to rely on that person threatened our very life. This is where the story of Adam and Eve is derived. This primitive fear of change that results in our overwhelming desire to control others is an unevolved adult’s way of beseeching their current caregivers (husbands, wives, friends, relatives, children, lovers, employees, voters, and congregations) into remaining consistent. It’s the adult baby’s way of begging it’s mommy to stay.[2]

The baby doesn’t yet understand that when mommy leaves the room, the chances of her coming back are extremely high. The baby isn’t evolved enough to know that mommy returns out of love for the beauty she sees in her baby. The baby only sees change=bad. It’s the seed within the apple that provides us with the growth that allows us to see this reality clearly. It is the very thing we fear most that holds the key to our salvation.Trees-Grow-Around-Objects-Arborist-Springfield-MO-197x300

Varying states of dysfunction occur when we try to suppress our growth. This suppression leads to dysfunctional behaviors because once the growth process begins, it cannot be stopped. Attempting to stop it twists, contorts, and stunts the growth of the tree.

The key is to cultivate its growth by continuing to nourish it properly—letting it get as much exposure to sunshine and water as needed. Our culture of shaming makes this difficult, because we often need support in this regard and the idea of this sort of exposure and dependence relates back to fears of vulnerability and persecution.

We have to remember that it is our individual tree that grows the fruit needed to spread the seeds for other trees to grow. Allowing our development to become stunted is indeed the sin. Our life on this planet is a gift not just to ourselves but to others. Therefore, we have a responsibility to thrive as our authentic selves regardless of the fear and resistance this may create in our own inner baby as well as from those we hold most dear.

green-forest-trees.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scale

 

[1] Wikle, C.E. and Ishah, H., 2017. The Problem of Human [Dis] Obedience, The Providence Of A Supernatural God. JOURNAL OF AGGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY, (108), p.28.

[2] Klein, M., 1935. A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic-depressive states. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 16(1), pp.145-174.

 

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