Garden of Eden

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Page 7

An account in which our actual human reality is seen to be formed in the light of and consequent upon a pre-individual condition in which man was not yet sexually differentiated, must necessarily express and reflect upon the psychological aspect of the development. Consequently, the physical and spiritual enjoyment of human love, bound up with individuality and death, cannot be seen as the highest happiness of which life is capable. Theory must have an idea of love that is not yet the definite and autonomous phenomenon experienced in human life as we know it, but one that must needs already be contained in life before it became individualised. The view must be kept open to some form of happiness higher than earthy love, to some ultimate contentment; otherwise, the double, ambiguous connection of love with both life and death - in mythological language, the juxtaposition of blessing and prohibition - would be incomprehensible.

If we move away from our consistent presentation of all the details of the mythological story and allow new interpretative ideas, we lose the illuminating correspondence between image and concept. A case in point here, for instance, are statements by a 13th century kabbalist, speculating about the Tree of Knowledge: "Man was originally a purely spiritual being" and "It is to sin that he owes his corporeal existence" (cf G.Scholem,Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Jerusalem, 1941, pp 227,397 on Ezra ben Salomon). These statements express one person's views in open contradiction to the text which states that man was formed from the dust of the earth, adama, whence his name, Adam. In our reading, all the components of a theoretical account follow the pattern of the mythological images and, on a different plane, constitute a counterpart, where no meaning is posited that is not documented in the myth. Not only the accuracy of the translation of a single episode but, above all, the consistency and coherence of all the parts of the theoretical transcription give us an indication of the truth value and rank of the story. \the truth of a story cannot,, of course, be subjected to a test of logic, but the truth of a theory can and must be logically tested. If both are then seen to refer to a given process of genesis, the valitdity and cogency of the theoretical formulation reflect back on the story.

Most important in this connection are the different ways that the two versions, the theoretical and the mythological, refer to the activity of G-d. By and large, the myth is more concerned with the coming into being of the world; the theoretical account notes the logical sequence and the consistency of the origins. Consequently, the mythological exposition plainly stresses the sheer creativity of G-d, not the order and coherence of His creation. If, as is the case of most other mythological conceptions, we do not find any clear order in the development of entities, or only a very crude one, we cannot formulate a theoretical description at all. The creator then appears as an arbitrary power, whose actions are exclusively the expressions of his will. If, as this essay is trying to show, the Hebrew myth does lend itself to such a transcription and description, it is to demonstrate that, among the attributes of the Creator invoked, we find not only His will and power, but also cosmic reason. Hence the emphasis on coherence and order. The products of creation which, since they issue from G-d, should be regarded, on that account alone, as perfect are yet subjected to a second test and examination by G-d. The rare, if not unique, feature is that they are required to 'serve a purpose, the 'good', as in "He saw that it was good"; in the case of light, for instance, 'good' cannot have a moral connotation, rather the sense of 'right', appropriate, satisfying all possible norms, amongst which are intellectual standards.

This reveals a differentiation into the attribute of power and that of laying the foundations of the cosmic order. The myth explicitly stresses the creative power of G-d, whereas the conceptual account emphasises the cosmic reason inherent in reality. It follows that the references to G-d's acts will differ. Only with respect to the ultimate answer will myth and theory coincide; only, that is, in answering the problem of the very first cause of all being. In all other respects they will differ. The myth will continually and explicitly report the part of G-d at every turn of a new phase of events; the conceptual transposition will stop its reference to G-d at the statement of divine or cosmic reason and confine itself, in the remainder of the account of the development, to an emphasis on the rational and natural context of a self-expanding and self-propelling evolution. Where, for instance, the myth says "And the Lord took the man and set him in the Garden of Eden", the non-mythological description will point out the condition, as already stated, that man could only have come into being in surroundings in which he could find everything that he needs ready for him. Therefore, the words "And G-d planted a garden", stressing G-d's act, would receive or retain their meaning only by this being derived from G-d's initial creation of a rational world order, ignoring the vast intermediary realm of natural processes, the immediate cause of 'there was' such a garden. Although this in no way contradicts the meaning of the myth's phrase "And G-d planted", the theory would not consider it permissible to invoke a direct act by G-d where it can adduce the rational pattern of creation. There may be instances in the created world of happenings that occur in accordance with the ways of nature and where the causes of such happenings would seem to be more closely related to divinely intended developments; even non-mythological accounts might then be justified in referring to a preference and relating them to G-d's direct activity within the framework of the order of this world. Generally, however, where the myth speaks of G-d and mentions Him, the conceptual transcription, speaks of God, as it were, without mentioning Him.