Of Added Words…
There was a time, a wondrous time, where all was right and Eve and I and He/She/They enjoyed our life and breaths and heartbeats and radiance in the Creation around us. Time was rather relative there and then. Sun rose, set, stars came, went, plants grew, animals played, came and went, it was all quite marvelous.
He/She/They gave us fruits and seed and yield for food and we learned “eat”, and “consume”, and “nourish”… along with “plant” and “increase”.
In the center of All were the Two Trees. Both trees used the word “beautiful”. But of one, the Tree of Life, He/She/They said we could eat. Of the other, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we were not to eat. We did not understand. These were new words to us.
“Good”, we could understand. “Good” was the response He/She/They made when things were aright and there was no sadness. We, or at least I, had heard “Not” Good when I hungered not to be alone in this realm, before the coming of Eve.
But, “Evil”? “Evil” was a word I had never heard but for the name of this tree, nor did I understand its meaning. Somehow, I reasoned, it must be connected with this other new word, “Not”. He/She/They had never said a “not”-thing before. And, mark, there was only one “not” here… we were not to eat from that tree.
The Trees-in-the-Center seemed “special” somehow, though what exactly that meant, I was not yet sure. What made them “special”? Again, I am not sure. Perhaps it is simply that these had been set apart particularly by Him/Her/Them. Or, that there were particular instructions concerning them. Or, that all of Creation seemed to center on them in graceful arcs. See? With Eve’s help and conversation, we were mastering many new words! Always, we would present these to Him/Her/Them… always, the response was a muted “Good”.
But then there came that day… that Terrible Day.
It began like many another, as Eve and I toured the Garden, spoke with plants, animals, sang a bit to the skies with the rest of Creation.
It is sometimes hard even to remember what that time was like. It was so very very different from the now. Everything changed from that day.
As we walked, in our ease and freedom, we encountered the serpent I had named. With his lovely leathern skin and mottled pattern, he was a creature of great craft and beauty. But this day… this day he struck up conversation only with Eve, seeming to ignore me, as he gazed upon the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and, by his staring, directed her gaze there as well.
Now, it seems strange to say in this day and age, but you must remember that we, Eve and I, as yet had no words, no ideas, no conception of other sentient beings besides Him/Her/Them and ourselves.
We knew nothing of angels, or demons, or lies, or evil, or deceit. These were, unfortunately, Discoveries-Yet-to-be-Made. So when the Serpent asked his question of Eve, I did think it a bit unusual, as animals usually addressed us BOTH, but it did not disquiet me overmuch. At least not yet.
So he asked Eve, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
Now this was the first time we had heard the word, “God”… but it seemed a good word. It did not say particularly He or She or They or It. “God” was a good and specific word for our Creator, so we adopted it henceforth. Though it did seem strange to be “taught a new word” by an animal. Still, this did not yet disquiet me much. Though, perhaps it should have. Especially to be introduced to such an important word as “God”, but still… I had no suspicions.
Animals often accompanied us on our walks, and even asked questions. We spoke to them of what we learned. So thus far, the Serpent’s behavior was not that unusual.
Perhaps I should have stepped in right there. Certainly much tragedy may have been averted. For God had spoken His instructions to me alone, before Eve came forth from me. Her answer would be “second hand”. “But”, I thought, “she and I are equal, we reflect one another. She can answer this, as she is bound by the same prohibition and is beginning to discover words on her own and share them with me.”
Eve answered, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
In this, Eve erred, and I was concerned. There were two trees, not one in the middle of the Garden. And God said nothing at all about “touching” the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We were forbidden only to eat from it. My heart knew, for the first time ever, “disquiet”, or “anxiety”. Something was “wrong”. Words had been “added to God” by Eve, and they were not what He said. I did not know why. Couldn’t have explained it if you asked, but somehow I felt this was “Not Good”.
Still I watched. She was me and I was she – the serpent too. Our oneness had named – had created – serpent. He/She/They had breathed “Good” … we were Good. Eve was Good. And now Serpent was … Not Good? I knew not why. But this I did know she must be me, just as I am she. In the midst of all this “Not Good” – I knew she will be me!
The Serpent seemed to loll in his most relaxed pose, his languid eyes took on a half-lidded serenity, and ever so gently he crooned to her, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
These words, these incredible words of his, struck me like a hammer blow. You must try to understand, I had had my “eyes opened” only twice. Once was when I first came to Be. The second time was to find Eve formed from my very self. I knew, somehow, that we were made in His Image, but that I – at least – was not yet fully “named”. I knew this was somehow bound up in my destiny with Eve. I was destined, I reasoned, indeed to “be like God” – for what else does “His image” mean, but that?
So these words stunned me momentarily, as my attention wavered into my own questions and reasonings.
Unknown to me in those moments was that her mind flashed just as quickly as did my own, but along a different line of thought. She moved forward with the implications of the Serpent’s words, forming new words within herself. She had never yet encountered God Alone, had never had the experience of Him teaching her to sleep at His command, and surrender purely to “trust”.
These were words, ideas, she knew only through me, not Him. She knew we were bound in His image, that we were delegated authority and power to care FOR life in the Garden. But while “yearning” was a part of her makeup, as it had developed in me while awaiting her creation, she had never known want or desire for anything.
This is what the Serpent exploited.
Eve stared at the forbidden fruit of this amazing Tree, and allowed the Serpent’s words to kindle desire in her heart. She “bent reality”, as she saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise. We could sense each other still yet still I did nothing. Something we had not named was in the Garden. We knew. Yet we did not know. And as she bent the Truth of Trust in God, that to eat of this would render death, into a new word, an untruth, that she should doubt and mistrust God, the Lover/Beloved/Love and His plans for, care for, protection of… her. … I sensed these new feelings too and I too was curious.
She took of the fruit and ate and then handed me fruit bidding me eat as well. Startled as I was, both by the Serpent’s apparent revelations, by her silent reflections, and by my own musings and speculations… I ate as well. I would like to claim the excuse that I simply did not want us to “lose face” in front of the Serpent, and of course, that fleeting thought did cross my mind. But truthfully I was more concerned with completing my destiny, to be Image (Likeness) of God… to be Source of All That Radiance, not just recipient or reflector of it. I yearned to create – not just create by leave with endorsement. I yearned to speak “Good” of my OWN judgment… not waiting for His.
As I swallowed the sweet pulp and juice of this tree of wisdom, all these thoughts clarified in my mind.
New words rose, unbidden, to the surface of my consciousness. “Mistrust”, “secret”, “defiance”, “negation”, “dissonance”, “evil”, “darkness”, “concealment”, “deception”, and, worst of all… “shame”. Oddly enough, despite all the discussion thus far, “death” or “die” did not yet have a meaning for me. But suddenly, inexorably, “fear” did.
Like a thunderbolt, “fear” struck us both, as Eve and I joined hands, panic-stricken, and plunged into the deepest thicket of woods we could find. Our hearts pounded, our breath came in short painful gasps, as we sought to hide from the very tree leaves and needles that surrounded us everywhere. All that life and consciousness in which we had, only moments before, taken such joy… now became sources of paranoid fear. We were certain that all in the Garden knew, had seen, what we had done. That all condemned us and despised us, that we were vulnerable to everything.
We believed we could no longer be nurtured, cared for, protected. We could no longer trust God to do this. We could no longer trust one another to do this. We needed more, somehow. We were “naked”, we were “vulnerable”, we were “ashamed”. We cast about, all around us, seeking armor, protection, clothing. We tore vegetation from plants binding together garments for ourselves. What were we to do now? What could we do? All we knew to do was hide. And so we did. We ran, plunging headlong into the deepest of foliage… terrified… of… we knew not what.
[To be continued…]