As I mentioned last week, I have been studying Feminist Theology. I gave some examples of the way in which Christian and Islamic texts have been used to subjugate women, and called for people of all faiths to stand up against oppression of and violence against women wherever they see it. I also said that, together, man and woman can create Heaven on Earth.
I found that, shortly after writing about my hopes for the creation of Heaven on Earth last week, I read in the book, Introducing Feminist Theology (Anne M. Clifford), a story which gave me hope that this has been the plan all along.
I read in the book that a woman by the name of Phyllis Trible has reinterpreted the story of Eve in the Bible (Genesis 2-3) such that all that has been happening on the Earth, since that time, began to make sense to me, and I have added my thoughts to her interpretation.
These chapters of Genesis have traditionally been read to mean that woman was created from man for man and subject to man. In her reinterpretation of the original Hebrew, Phylis Trible explains that the human species began from an androgynous earth creature that God later developed into man and woman. She describes the extract of Genesis of “bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh” as words of unity, solidarity, mutuality and equality. Human sexuality originates from the one flesh of humanity, and was developed to give partnership and companionship to each human. Man and woman were to live together in peace and harmony within paradise – the Garden of Eden, as long as they avoided the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
However, Eve listened to the words of the Serpent: “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” She knew that it would make her wise, and so it did. She shared this fruit and this wisdom with Adam, as they were partners.
However, when God asked the man if he had eaten of the fruit of the tree, he blamed Eve and he blamed God: “The woman whom you gavest to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
In this response he was voicing the separation which this knowledge had created. It created an illusion of separation between man and his God, and between man and his other half.
When God asked Eve about it she said: “The serpent beguiled me and I ate.”
In her response, she was illuminating the illusion of separation which she now experienced between herself and the creatures of the Earth.
The consequences of eating of the tree for woman were that “in pain you shall bring forth children yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” For the man: “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it…In the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread…”
The consequences, in other words, were a patriarchal society, where woman craves the love of her husband, but has been assigned the role of producer of children, hopefully sons. In these patriarchal societies, man has seen it as his role to provide food for his family, and found it difficult to provide the love which woman craves.
The revised story of the Garden of Eden, where Eve and Adam live in sexual bliss, in harmony with all the creatures of the Earth, with each other, and with God, is a “memory of the future”. If we read between the lines in this story, we can learn the path that leads back to that Garden of Eden.
We will only find that path together, man and woman, hand in hand.
We will only find that path when we start to understand that we have never left the Garden of Eden; we have been there all along. Separation from each other, from the Earth’s creatures, from God, and from this beautiful Heaven on Earth is an illusion of our own creation.
We began to experience this separation when we became wise to the knowledge of good and evil. We can begin to lose experience of this separation when we understand that there is no separation between good and evil. We are all one.
In our many lifetimes, we have been it all, you and I. We have been axe murderers; we have been monks. We have been good, and we have been evil. Once we start to understand that we are all the same, our focus on good and evil is diminished. We can understand that God created good and evil so that It and we could know the difference – It and we could experience life in all its many forms, and in every moment we could choose which end of the spectrum we wished to experience.
Having already experienced the evil end as an axe murderer, most of us have decided we wish to focus on the other end of the spectrum, not because of our superiority, but because we have learned from that experience.
As we begin to understand that we are one, and our experience of separation is diminished, the path to paradise will be uncovered more and more. The bliss in which we were created will be a reality once again.
In the meantime, we have the now-beautiful story of Eve and Adam to remind us of where we are heading.
Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net