Evolution & the Two Trees in the Garden

Evolution. The very word struck fear into the hearts of 1980s homeschoolers everywhere – myself included. I remember my first encounters with the term, in an Answers in Genesis video series that our Douglasville-area homeschoolers association banded together to purchase and watch. Kids 4-17 huddled together in the Prays Mill Baptist Sunday school room, adjacent to the gym, to watch long, sweeping caricatures of evolutionary theory dismissed with two refrains said derisively-yet-sweetly by Australian creationist Ken Ham (who still had red hair back then):

It’s only a theory!   and,

Were you there? 

 This video series (and the accompanying subculture) were all we needed to realize that the universe was created in six literal days 6,000 years ago, with carbon dating a sham and evolution a Satanic plot to discredit the bible and promote abortion, homosexuality, and one world government by the same godless people who took prayer out of public schools and watch Susan Sarandon movies.

Fast forward to college around the turn of the century. A philosophical young lad and fellow student turned me on to Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe, with his argument that the Big Bang and an old earth/universe was indeed compatible with the biblical narrative of Genesis. I took to Intelligent Design like a duck to water – it was refreshing to not have to believe that God made rocks and stars appear old as a test of faith (as SBTS president Al Mohler apparently believes). It turns out some friends in my Atlanta-area house church were Hugh Ross fans, and indeed he was invited to speak at the school where one of them teaches – so I joined them there one night for a lecture from the man himself. While I was more convinced than ever of the scientific arguments for an old earth and cosmos, I learned that night Ross did not extend the same courtesy to biology that he did to physics – he rejected ‘macro’ evolution outright, seemingly on theological grounds.

It wasn’t until 2007, when I with TheOOZE helped put on Soularize in the Bahamas, that I heard a clear, passionate, positive articulation of the relationship between science and faith – in one Michael Dowd, pastor and author of Thank God for Evolution, curator (with his wife, scientist Connie Barlow) of the Evolutionary Christianity interview series. From Dowd I discovered Bruce Sanguin, author of Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological ChristianityThe Emerging Church: A Model for Change and a Map for Renewal,  and the beautiful, poetic, prayer/worship book If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics. Finally, thanks to my buddy Tripp Fuller, I discovered the dizzyingly brilliant heart and mind of Philip Clayton, whose insights on evolution and Christianity are many and substantial. I really want to read his The Predicament of Belief : Science, Philosophy, and Faith, coming out in a few days!

Coevolution from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Do yourself a favor and watch the video above, and the rest of this series by my friend Travis Reed at The Work of the People/Alter Video Magazine. Even if you have to stop reading this blog post – they’re that good, and might change your life. Seriously.

From their insights (and the many antecedents they point to), I began to see the evolutionary impulse as emergent nested creativity, a divine spark that is ever-expanding in complexity and empathy, bringing us, quite possibly, to an approximation of Jesuit priest and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin‘s idea of an Omega Point, where the universe is becoming conscious of itself (vis-a-vis us) and all of reality is forming the cosmic Body of Christ. Celebrating the gifts of the scientific community, these thinkers and idea-leaders embrace science with zest as (to put in Augustine’s terms) God’s other Sacred Book – nature.

More recently still, I’ve been reading some more cautious, but equally vital, works of scholarship: Peter Enns‘ magisterial Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins and Christopher Southgate‘s The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil.

With all this as preamble, I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about the second creation narrative in Genesis 2-3 – with Adam, Eve, the Serpent, two Trees, God and the garden. I’ve been pondering its significance, and how certain epiphanies in this narrative have led me to substantially re-imagine an eleven-year personal writing project. I’m currently staying in a lovely rural house with friends about 40 miles outside of Raleigh, on a writing ‘semi’ sabbatical. In addition to serving my many clients (don’t worry folks – I am still working!), I’m looking to at long last complete at least the ‘First Act’ of my Four-Act book. The book – and this is the first time I’ve said this publicly in 11 years – is titled Eat God, provisionally subtitled Taste Heaven, Party like a god, and Save the World.

Yesterday, my e-friend Shane Crash asked a pitch-perfect setup question via Twitter and Facebook – the kind of thing that primed the pump for me to road-test some ideas for the book. Here it is:

“People who believe God is punishing humanity because a chick ate an apple. Why?” 

There were some fun answers, which you can read if Shane’s privacy settings are sufficiently low (I’m not sure). Here’s what I said, edited slightly for better coherence:

I’m not always fan of Augustine, and I’d like to get away from the idea of “The Fall,” believe me. I enjoy Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing, and I think he makes some compelling arguments for the original and sustaining goodness of creation, affirmed in Scripture and our experience. And yet, I can’t believe that humanity was just blissfully enjoying life when one day some grumpy religious people made up the myth of Eden and the rotten fruit. No…we must have felt something happen, some kind of existential shift, and then told this story of a primal human pair, two trees, and a tragic dietary choice.

Do I believe that God is ‘punishing’ us? No way! Do I believe a literal piece of fruit was ‘eaten’ by some first woman? That is highly debatable. But here’s what I think happened:

For some 200,000 years, homo sapiens enjoyed a pretty good life. Far from being ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short,’ a growing number of today’s anthropologists and archaeologists are pointing to a quite new vision of our deep pre-history. During the paleolithic era, we seemed to enjoy a deep sense of connection to our own bodies, one another, our natural environment, and our sense of the sacred (the last one of which seemed to include a High God/Creator, an immanent sense of the ‘spirit-ness’ of everyday objects and things, plus an ongoing communion with ancestors who have gone before us). We can see this way of living mostly neatly glimpsed in the rare, surviving aboriginal cultures on our planet today.

During most of our history, we shared everything. And there was abudnance – enough. We lived on a relatively ‘virgin’ planet, and population was much lower, for instance. Women were equal to men, and organized warfare was unheard of. I know this sounds like pie-in-the-sky, but read some Jared Diamond or Jetha and Ryan’s Sex at Dawn. It’s astonishing, the new consensus emerging about our original culture.

But then…something happened around 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. A magnetic pole shift, climate change, or the dawn of complex agriculture – there’s debate about which factor(s), but there’s a clear demarcation in our collective psyche, beginning in the Fertile Crescent and radiating outward along trade paths and weather patterns. Suddenly (over a period of 2,000-4,000 years – but ‘suddenly’ in geologic time), something changed in our fundamental psychological functioning. Whereas before consciousness was distributed through our entire bodies, now it all rushed up into our heads. Where we used to be instinctual, feeling, tribal creatures, every condition was now in place for us to be discursive reasoning, thinking, individual decision-makers. Psychologists call this until-now-unheard-of process self-reflexive consciousness.

Self-reflexive consciousness, the ability to reflect on ourselves “as though” from the outside, turned out to be a burden as well as a blessing. Over the milennia it’s given us planes, trains, and automobiles, but also war, pestilence, and famine. It’s given us art and ache, innovation and envy. This development of the ego is fundamental to all that is recognizably human. And yet, it is what gives us this undeniable feeling of four-fold alienation: from God, self, others, and our environment.

I think that the Hebrew bible and it’s narrative arc is wise beyond it’s years, but of course we (whether fundamentalist or modernist) over-literalize and argue about details. In its broadest strokes, though, I think that the break with ‘oceanic,’ interconnected ways of knowing to this four-fold alienation is “the fall.” I think that the Tree of Knowledge represents self-reflexive consciousness, dualistic thinking, and discursive reasoning, whereas the Tree of Life represents a kind of non-dual seeing, a holistic living in the present moment that embraces all of life as it arises.

This ‘Tree of Life’ consciousness, which is more a practice than anything (a practice I call eating God), is both backward-reflecting on our deep-time roots as humanity and forward-looking to our aspiration of integration: Taking the best attributes of our recent 10,000-year adolescence in division, judgement, and Fruit of Knowledge indigestion, putting us on a Tree of Life de-tox regimen so that unripe knowledge is purged from our systems, making way for the ripened fruit of the Wisdom we need before it’s too late for us as a species or an ecosystem.

[As a parenthesis, the story of Cain vs. Abel is the story of ascendant complex agrarianism (on its way to nascent urbanism) clashing with hunter-gatherers and simple pastoralism. God prefers the worship-connection of the hunter-gatherers over those of the upstart agrarians – the violent farmer knows this, and murder is born. For more on this perspective, see Brian McLaren‘s novel The Story We Find Ourselves In, and Daniel Quinn‘s fascinating Ishmael trilogy]

I think that Christ can point the way, or even BE the Way, if we ‘eat Christ‘ and take him as both Life and the Wisdom of God. Seeing what Jesus sees, and knowing what Jesus knows, is the route out from the dead-end of small-egoic consciousness and the on-ramp to four-fold re-connection with God, self, neighbor, and ecosystem.

Moby is a fan of 'Eat God'...don't you want to read?

Eat God: Act 1 (‘taste heaven’) transfigures the classical Christian mystical stages of ascent – illumination, purgation and union – into tasting, de-toxing, and digestion – and looks at how to make this practicable every day. It should be juicy. But in the meantime, if you’re interested in these concepts, I’d recommend you check out The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History. It’s not from a ‘Christian’ perspective (which is fine by me though the author missed some obvious, rich literary material) and the guy could’ve used an editor, but the research he pulls together is pure gold.

Eat God: Acts II – IV weaves all of this together with spiritual practice, Jesus’ subversive meal-sharing habits, and our contemporary food and water crises as a clarion call to a new way of being spiritual and human in the 21st century. It’s rooted in the deep tributaries of the Christian tradition, but incorporates science, poetry, and a good deal of strategic foresight and systems thinking as it applies to our food and water systems.

As I mentioned, I’m at a farm-house outside of Raleigh making a dent in writing part one, as I’ve been working on this puppy since a few months before the twin towers fell.  I’m realizing now how much more editorial work is needed to keep it fresh, concise, and accessible. I hope this isn’t my own ego talking, but I see this as an important work – spiritually, culturally, and ecologically – as we need a contemplative, mystical, “deeper life” literature for today that inspires us, from our deepest convictions and highest apsirations, to live – sacrifically if needed – for the good of our children and our planet. Because I want to take advantage of the freedom and innovation that is contemporary self-publishing, I’m considering a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for the completion of the manuscript(s) and their innovative word-of-mouth marketing. So – a poll for you dear readers: Would you consider supporting a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign if it meant that a.) This work could get out there in the world, and b.) You would get the first copies of it? There’s no wrong answer here – I’m just curious what interest is out there.

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(If you answer ‘yes,’ please leave a comment below! I’ll want to let you know if I actually do this. :) )

I’ll close with a gem from Joesph Campbell‘s Thou Art That which has deeply informed my thinking and intuition:

When Man ate of the fruit of the Tree, he discovered himself in the field of duality instead of the field of unity. As a result, he finds himself out, in exile. The two cherubim placed at the gate are there representative of the world of the pairs of opposites in which, having been cast out of the world of unity, he is now located. You are kept in exile by your commitment to that world.

Christ goes past that – “I and the Father are one” – back into the realm of unity from which we have been expelled. These are the mysteries. Here is an echo and a translation into another set of images of what we ourselves are experiencing. What comes forth now with the grain, as particles of that one life that informs all things, is the revelation of the spiritual unity in all its aspects.

Adam and Eve are separated from God and they are aware of this break in their sense of oneness. They seek to cover their nakedness. The question becomes, how do they get back to the Garden? To understand this mystery, we must forget all about judging and ethics and forget good and evil as well.

Jesus says, “Judge not, that you may not be judged.” That is the way back into the Garden. You must live on two levels: One, out of the recognition of all life as it is without judging it, and the other, by living in terms of the ethical values of one’s culture, or one’s particular personal religion. These are not easy tasks.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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43 thoughts on “Evolution & the Two Trees in the Garden

  1. The book sounds really interesting and I would think it would be a good fit for funding through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.

  2. Mike, the book sounds fantastic! I would 100% like to contribute to it.

    Two related points I’d like to throw at you:

    1) It’s always been my belief that a creation myth says less about the time period it’s describing, and more about the time period during which it’s popular. In other words, creation stories are not about our past, but about our present. If they weren’t about our present — if they didn’t serve to explain, in some deep way, our present circumstances — then they would fall out of favor. For example, you talk a lot about the Fall here in your article, because that’s what resonates with you; but you don’t talk much about the misogynistic elements of the story. I’d be interested to see what parts of Genesis you address in depth, and what parts you don’t, in your book. What does that say about you, about us, and about the times we live in? What does it say about the place of an unchanging holy text in a living religion?

    2) I’d like to see more about the alleged development of self-reflexive consciousness, and when it is supposed to have occurred. Is it actually claimed that modern-day indigenous peoples living in non-agricultural societies continue to have non-self-reflexive consciousness? That’s a really strong claim, and I’d be interested to see how it’s proven. On the face of it, it seems to me that self-reflexive consciousness is necessary for even very basic human activities like speech — after all, every human language has words for ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘they’. … To me it seems more likely that the story of the Fall is about the present, not about the past. After all, everyone has a personal Fall — a personal transition from non-self-reflexive consciousness to self-reflexive consciousness, in some sense — around the age of two!

    Anyway, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Jeff, there are so many good thoughts here I don’t know where to start. I hope to take the time on Saturday!

      • I refer you to the work done in the Zeitgeist film entitled “Moving Forward” where you will find an explanation of the transition from implicit to explicit memory in infants. I doubt that what is happening there represents the difference between our own agrarian society and hunter gatherer cultures. I refer you instead to Rousseau in his work “Discourse on Inequality” where it is the notion of ownership that sullies the peace. Where the hunter gatherer societies differed from there agrarian counterparts is not in there ability to create and use technologies or even for reflexive thought, but with regard to the concepts of ownership and profit that simply did not exist among them.
        What was it that created this “original sin” (the fruit representative of an object of desire, material wealth and gain)? What turned humanity from a caring and sharing society to a society of profiteering, greedy, homocidal (both implicitly and explicitly) psychotics?

        • What strikes me about so-called ‘Christianity’ is the utter lack of progress made since the writing of the Christian Testament. Where we read of Jesus, Peter, John, Paul and James acting in dynamic circumstances in reaction to the movement of the Spririt, today’s so-called Christianity moves by the edicts of these men who were acting, writing and moving rather than acting and moving according to there own circumstances. This is its inherent falseness. It fails to recognize the efficacy of the spirit in concert with society and social dynamics and the meaninglessness of ritual worship and religious rites.

          Jesus called his followers to do one simple thing, to serve others in love. To the degree that we do this in real terms and not with empty platitudes and ritual worship, people will identify us with love, which is God. Repentance from the way of this world is to simply care and share with others from your substance. It is to reverse the profit and greed paradigm in our lives and model our repentance to others.

          • The consequences of doing otherwise are on full display in this world of ours and are legion. The genius of Jesus was that he identified this pattern when he walked the earth some 2000+ years ago. The genius of his spirit is to be able to identify what will happen to those who refuse to turn away from the current paradigm of profit and greed and it won’t be pretty.
            The beast of profit and greed must fall, both systemically and personally and that is what this process is all about. There are no band-aid solutions. Repentance and change is needed to avoid systemic and/or personal disaster and suffering. Love one another by your service to each other from your substance.
            Jesus said, “Mine is the spirit of prophecy”. We do not want to mess with that. However, if we doubt, then we should go to it and have at it, filling up our full measure of iniquity, for as Jesus pleads, “I would that you were either hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
            There is value in extremes, for we recognize in them what we lack and what love (God) is for and what God (love) means.

  3. Mike, I’ve been exploring this dynamic a bit recently. My take is nuanced a little differently – I think that consciousness or pre-consciousness emerged as part of our ongoing development, but like every new stage of life, it came with complications. The main one was the ability to truly and deeply be aware of one’s own mortality. This is my reading of what “knowledge” was gained, and why it was so tightly woven with “death”. Genesis is narrating humanity’s first glimpse of an awareness of death previously absent from the animal kingdom. We recoiled in terror, and founded civilization upon our fear.

    http://micahredding.com/blog/2012/03/06/why-are-humans-evil

    So I would see the negative egoic aspects as deriving from the fear of death, rather than the other way around. Consciousness led to fear, fear caused ego.

    Consequently, I don’t see reflexive consciousness as a parasite to overcome, I see it as a new stage of development, which introduced the problems of fear and violence. Just like an adolescent has all kinds of new problems to face, humanity did too. And just like an adolescent doesn’t get rid of the problems by “going back”, humanity overcomes fear and violence by moving forward.

    Incidentally, Jeff questioned the timing of the rise of consciousness, and I just want to say that “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” is the most clear and provocative take on this I’ve ever read. It gives a very specific definition of consciousness, and shows how primitive humans didn’t have it or need it. It suggests consciousness rises from language, rather than the other way around. And most controversially, it suggests that consciousness didn’t arise until around 2000BC.

    -Micah

    • Micah, there are so many good thoughts here I don’t know where to start. I hope to take the time on Saturday!

  4. I’ll contribute a few kiwi dollars to your kickstart, for sure.

    I’ve been trying to piece this all together for a few years – making slow progress… but you’ve just filled in so many gaps and blanks in a few moments that I’m still spinning. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m almost a little excited about the Biblical narrative. I’m catching glimpses all the time of how this really reconciles, and even seeing some sense in the ecological crises we are facing. Birth pains, I suppose.

    • Steve, I’m so glad that this is meaningful to you. It’s only an interpretation – of course – but isn’t that all we have? This interpretation’s working for me as an accurate spiritual depiction of what happened to us as a species in time & space, and how we might be able to, not “get back” to some prehistoric past, but how we can move forward, integrating what we’ve learned from our brief-but-sometimes-catastrophic adolescence.

  5. Very interesting. I’ve long thought that the creation stories in Gen are a true myth more so than anything else.

    I do have a little push back with the Cain/Abel story- I don’t think we can legitimacy take it as God has a lifestyle preference. Rather, I think God has a life quality preference. Able living by faith had an open hand. Cain, living for acceptance and power, closed his hand towards God, and struck his fellow man with that closed hand. The idea of the shalom of the garden was not about being a hunter gatherer people. Rather, it was about having a proper relationship with the garden we tended, the God we serve, and the humans we danced with.

    • I agree, Aaron – I stand corrected. :) I would only add to this that agrarianism tends to encourage acquisitiveness and hoarding, whereas hunting & gathering is more like the “daily manna” that can’t be hoarded.

      Hey – it’s good to hear from you!

      • Ya, I’ve gotten reclusive for some reason. Oh, I’ll email you in a day or so with some stuff you will like, BTW.

        I think a healthy agrarianism (as originally designed by God in Shalom)is a cultivation of manna from God. When we get to the Mosaic law, God tells the people to let the land rest (the Sabbath year). Also, consider that Esau was a hunter/gather type, and he was rejected by God.

        I think over all this displays to us that 1- humanity was designed to grow into our selves, changing our society and becoming more and more mature “full humans” and 2- any life style that is out of balance in it’s growth (balance referring to the original Shalom of Eden)is going to reveal the heart of the people. A heart that is attempting/learning faith is accepted by God. A heart that is trying to earn it’s way, has become all about the ego, or that gives into the sin sickness is not accepted.

  6. I have always respected you and also knowing, that at least, in some part, your background is cut from the same cloth as mine. I would gladly support and contribute to this project.

    • That WP plugin is fascinating, Andy – certainly the idea of not giving any $ away sounds appealing, and yet I wonder if there’s a certain ‘trust’ or ‘safety’ in folks feeling confident to contribute through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?

      I wonder if there are any studies out there – either on attitudes toward giving with or without these relatively-new but swiftly-ascendant services, and also does 100% of the traffic and donations for a campaign come from the campaign-thrower, or do the platforms actually drive new donors to them..? I know for myself, I’ve never randomly searched Kickstarter thinking “Hmm, I’ve got this money burning a hole in my pocket…”

  7. Hooray…found you again, Mike!! (When you switched around I couldn’t find you.)
    So glad you are writing this book… sounds intriguing…can’t wait for more.
    The tree of knowledge represents separation (along with God knowledge and a host of other concepts & ideas). This separation of self from the whole was encouraged by the spirit of separation/ serpent. The PERCEPTION of lack was/is at the heart of this separation. Lack is jealous of God; is greed, lust, war, over-population, and built “civilization” but of course it is a 2- edged thing. i.e.”It’s given us art and ache, innovation and envy.” I do think indigenous folks & folks in deep pre-history have/had self-reflexive consciousness but the 4 fold alienation is a convincing argument for humanity’s downward tumble in self-esteem. Maybe it was not about how we were made. Perhaps we had to be there to get where we are going as a species… on-going evolution. Also, the human paradigm of utopia is illusion. If we were to accept that the cost of breathing & sentience is challenge & struggle and worth the work, we would see things differently. We mistakenly think God does not struggle. Creation is struggle … I am an artist.I know :)…. What if struggle is just part of growth??
    Thanks for being my internet conduit to the emerging Kingdom, years back. … will you be going to co-creation??

    • Hi Mary – thanks for finding me here! I am indeed going to Co-Creation…it looks to be a most singular gathering. Will you be there?

      I appreciate what you’re saying here, and I hope to avoid the pitfall of utopian thinking in my book, if by “utopian” you mean “changeless” – I mean, how boring would that be? I think that naive conceptions of origins, eschatology, and afterlife tend to all have this static/changeless thing built into them, and yet I don’t get that from a close reading of Scripture. F’r instance, an awesome eschatological vision from Isaiah 65, it says

      Look! I’m creating
      a new heaven and a new earth:
      past events won’t be remembered;
      they won’t come to mind.
      Be glad and rejoice forever
      in what I’m creating,
      because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
      and her people as a source of gladness.
      I will rejoice in Jerusalem
      and be glad about my people.
      No one will ever hear the sound
      of weeping or crying in it again.
      No more will babies live only a few days,
      or the old fail to live out their days.
      The one who dies at a hundred
      will be like a young person,
      and the one falling short of a hundred
      will seem cursed.
      They will build houses and live in them;
      they will plant vineyards
      and eat their fruit.
      They won’t build for others to live in,
      nor plant for others to eat.
      Like the days of a tree
      will be the days of my people;
      my chosen will make full use
      of their handiwork.
      They won’t labor in vain,
      nor bear children to a world of horrors,
      because they will be people
      blessed by the LORD,
      they along with their descendants.
      Before they call, I will answer;
      while they are still speaking, I will hear.
      Wolf and lamb will graze together,
      and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
      but the snake—its food will be dust.
      They won’t hurt or destroy
      at any place on my holy mountain,
      says the LORD.

      Now, what’s fascinating about this in my reading is that Isaiah’s prophesied vision of God’s New Creation ecology blooming in fullness is one of long life and not immortality, meaningful work and not idleness; delicious food and not sitting around without a digestive tract, strumming a harp on some cloud.

      The New Jerusalem sounds an awful lot like this world, functioning at her peak potential – not some otherworldly phantasm that will utterly displace this world. Perhaps indeed this has been fulfilled: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will rule forever and always.”

      Perhaps it’s full real-ization is up to us. If you find this idea compelling, I’d encourage you to check out my friends at Presence. I think they’re onto something.

      • Thanks for that awesome version of Isaiah 65 and yes you are right on the $ with the thinking here. I have visited Presence more than a few times and (although sometimes the videos seem long) they are on to something! If all the stars line up, husband and I want to come to Thursday pm (free to public :) ) Co-Creation with Brian McLaren.Hope you will be there.
        PS Bruce & Pete are touching on Presence & Wilber themes that address human consciousness’ evolution and perhaps threads of Process theology? What do ya think??

  8. I really wanted to vote 3) because the phrase “flaming heretic” holds so much meaning these days but then I couldn’t contribute. So I’ll do what I can brother.

  9. Love the comments–you have good, challenging followers!

    My very random thoughts:

    1. As you know, it’s the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”–subtly different from the “Tree of Knowledge”, but it seems an important differentiation for your thesis. e.g. the duality that Campbell mentions.

    The Alphabet vs the Goddess by Shlain postulates that the rise of left brain dominance concomitant with development of language was world changing–loss of the feminine, etc. His descriptions of left/right brain functions are more intricate than the typical “you’re so creative, you must be right-brained” and very much in line with the latest neurological insights on brain development and relationships.

    Many Jungians have written about the Genesis story, especially the Tree story being about the advent of consciousness.

    How/why does the Tree of Life get lost until the end of Revelation?

    • Hi Penny,

      Thanks so much for these reflections. Why indeed does the tree of life get lost? I don’t know. There are a few mentions in Proverbs too, but by and large you’re right.

      I need to revisit The Alphabet vs. the Goddess – thanks for the reminder?

      You say that “Many Jungians have written about the Genesis story, especially the Tree story being about the advent of consciousness” – bibliography, please! I am aware of several, but would like to read more. I am particularly interested in those who corroborate Jungian theory (fascinating enough in itself) with findings of neurology, behavioral science, archaeology and anthropology. When myth in all its explanatory power meets with empirically-validated theory, that’s where the magic happens for me. Perhaps this is what CS Lewis meant by “true myth.”

  10. Thanks for this Mike,

    Love your idea of the two trees, and the loss of unitive consciousness. My take on this comes from models of the evolution of worldviews which tends to proceed along a continuum of unity/communal and differentiation. For example:
    Archaic-differentiation (survivalist)
    Tribal – unitive
    Warrior – differentiation
    Traditional/Mythic – communal
    Modernist – differentiation
    Postmodern/Egalitarian – unity
    Post-post modern, etc….

    There’s a lot of overlap and intermingling, of course, but each of these privileged one or the other. The modernist/achievist worldview is hyper-individualistic. It’s brought good and bad. But it’s based on separative consciousness. The goal is synthesis at increasingly complex levels of intelligence.

    This happens to coincide with some of the brain research around left/right hemispheres. (The Master and Its Emissary, for example). One or the other hemisphere is privileged by these worldviews. It’s really important that the right hemisphere goes to bootcamp in our day and age, because we’re about to destroy our planet with separative consciousness.

    So, for me it’s more a matter of this ever-present duality as part of human nature, and how emergent worldviews privilege one or the other. Evolution is Spirit in action, effecting a synthesis of the two in willing (discipled), conscious souls. Christ is an example of one in whom this synthesis was achieved.

    By the way I agree with your analysis of the Abel and Cain story. It’s not so much a question of God literally taking sides, as it is the writer of the reflecting reflecting a shift in consciousness, the emergence and dominance of agriculture over the nomadic life. The writer’s perspective is that Cain (agriculture) triumphs, but God ain’t happy about it, and goes to work mitigating against increasing violence.

    Blessings on your epic project.

  11. Mike, many thanks! To have bumped into you at the Postcolonial Theology Network is simply providential. Am extremely interested in what you’ve been doing and saying. But may I be allowed to know your take on Ken Wilber’s Integral Framework?

  12. Mike, I am intrigued by this. I’m far too tired tonight to articulate all the problems I have with the Augustinian concept of Original Sin, but I think you might be barking up the right tree. I’ve been fascinated by alternative explanations about the subject of the “Fall” since I’ve been a girl, and hearing the patriarchal reinforcements of misogyny based on eating the fruit has made me wary of the traditional interpretation. Philip Pullman’s Amber Spyglass started me thinking about alternatives. So let’s think of some!

    • Jessica, I loved Philip Pullman’s trilogy, and thought it provided a deeper reflection on issues of innocence, consciousness, the fall, etc than most Christian sources. I think my recent reflections on these issues have been influenced by him, at least aesthetically.