“The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil………….And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” ………………..Genesis 2:9 – 3:22
“Two completely opposed mythologies of the destiny and virtue of man, therefore, have come together in the modern world. And they are contributing in discord to whatever new society may be in the process of formation. For, of the tree that grows in the garden where God walks in the cool of the day, the wise men westward of Iran have partaken of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, whereas those on the other side of that cultural divide, in India and the Far East, have relished only the fruit of eternal life. However, the two limbs, we are informed, come together in the center of the garden, where they form a single tree at the base, branching out when they reach a certain height. Likewise, the two mythologies spring from one base in the Near East. And if man should taste of both fruits he would become, we have been told, as God himself (Genesis 3:22) — which is the boon that the meeting of East and West today is offering to us all.” ……………..Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. II: Oriental Mythology
When I read Campbell’s analysis of the situation in the world today and how the two directions which the east and west have taken, my mind progressed to an answer that lies in the evolutionary history of the consciousness of the human race. When Homo Sapience walked out of Africa, the first point, before the main geographical divergence took place, was in the Fertile crescent in the region of Nile, Sumerian and the Bosporus due to its fertility. Once human settled down in an agrarian society from his nomadic nature, which was driven by the pursuit of prey in very selective regions with open terrain, he had time to contemplate. He started the progress from an animalistic and physically driven existence to one where the thinking man evolved.
This is where the initial seeds of the mythological and rational consciousness were sown. The ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’, circa 2100 B.C, is a classic example in the Sumerian civilization. This was followed by age of Greek philosophers where knowledge through analysis took its root. The Aryan movement towards the east was predominated by a civilization that had spiritual masters in the mythological and mystical tradition. The rational mindset predominated the westward moving groups due to the sea route through the Mediterranean from the Greek and Egyptian ports provided easy access to fertile deltas and agrarian locations. The clash between the southern European agrarian communities and the hunter gatherers like the Neanderthal needed better tools and weapons. Thinking became essential for more effective and advanced tool development. The absence of a mystical mindset and the increasing rootedness in objective, rational led to belief in an external deity and a single life span in this world.
The situation with the eastern migratory community was however different. The Himalayas provided an impenetrable defense ensuring long peaceful life of contemplation and introspection. This resulted in the belief in universal nature of the Divine as well as the permanency or the eternal existence of the soul. Human consciousness rather than physical well being became the subject of constant exploration.
The first authors of the creation story, whether it be Moses or whoever wrote in his name, took the theme from The ‘city of Dilmun’ in the Mesopotamian mythological story of Enki and Ninhursag as the heavenly abode of the immortals, where sickness and death were unknown.
The two trees in the garden. They are the "tree of life" which is a motif from Mesopotamian myth: in the Epic of Gilgamesh the hero is given a plant whose name is "man becomes young in old age", but a serpent steals the plant from him. There has been much scholarly discussion about the type of knowledge given by the second tree. Suggestions include: qualities in the physical and mental domain or a worldly for survival as species. But having been created in the image of God, a conscious choice is made to live at the sensory and physical level symbolized by the taste of the fruit. In Eden, mankind has a choice between wisdom and life, and chooses the first, although God intended them for the first.
The important part of this mythological narrative is seen in chapter 3 of Genesis:
“And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” ………Genesis 3:22
The temporarily of human existence in the present form has been specified through the rational route which mankind took. There is hidden a subtle message in the above quote from Genesis. Man’s existence in this present level of consciousness is not permanent and the promise of a new level of consciousness is indicated in Genesis 3:15. The serpent symbolizes consciousness in the Biblical narrative. A serpent that crawls on the ground symbolizes the rationally rooted consciousness (bringing death to the Israelite) but the raised up serpent symbolizes life or higher level of consciousness (bringing them back to life) ……………...Book of Numbers 21: 4-9
As Joseph Campbell says, It is only by merging of the rational dimension of empirical thought with the intuitive mythological dictates at the deeper level of human consciousness that mankind can find a route to transcendence towards eternal life.
Love to you all.