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book one

part two

A Continuation of the Landscape Symbolism of the Bible

as it Relates to the Spiritual Journey

1996, 1997, 1999, 2001 by Ann K Elliott




Part II





Metaphor, myth and symbolic image--
for human beings these are the age-old doorways
from ordinary to non-ordinary reality,
from the personal to the transpersonal,
from the temporal to the eternal


Encountering the Archetypes

In Part I the Garden was seen as a mandalic whole. Its main components were a central fountain, two trees and four rivers--the rivers fanning out so as to water the whole of the Garden. In design Eden was seen to reflect the structure of the human psyche.

Now, in Part II, Eden becomes the symbolic doorway from the ordinary reality we think of as "the real world" into an infinitely larger, multi-dimensional sphere of being where, behind the scenes of conscious awareness, archetypal dynamics are at work exerting transpersonal influences on human lives.

In his later years Jung explored this deeper, edenic dimension of the psyche, describing it as

that mysterious shadow realm, the collective unconscious, to which we shall never have direct access, and of whose existence and operation we can have only indirect knowledge, precisely through our encounter with the archetypes . . . .(1)

[There] archaic man still lives in us . . . without fixed boundaries, and still wholly interwoven with the world and nature.(2)

Progoff similarly defined the archetypes as " expressions in individual form of the processes and rhythms . . . of nature."(3)

In the development of consciousness we become separated from nature. We leave the Garden. But in our archetypal depths where consciousness is "without fixed boundaries," there, in our inner collective depths, psyche and nature remain "wholly interwoven."

From Jung we understand that archetypal levels are not accessed directly or through "ordinary" consciousness, but indirectly through encounters with the archetypes as they are activated in our lives. Their activation, Jung tells us, is detected "from the effects they produce."(4) Learning to detect these effects is part of how we gain greater conscious interaction with archetypal reality.



Land of the Shadow

Just as in Part I the mandalic Garden was divided into four by its four rivers, so now in the dynamics of the drama that takes place in Eden there are the four players who represent the four primary archetypes of the psyche. And corresponding to the central fountain is the Self--the wholeness-ordering wisdom of the psyche. The Self is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price buried in the field of the human psyche.

Back in Genesis, after Adam's and Eve's expulsion from the Garden, the Tree of Life was placed under guard on all sides by a flaming sword.(5) In similar mythic truth, the Self is guarded all around by a fire-breathing dragon. This means that in the search for wholeness the realm of the dragon--the unconscious--will have to be entered and our own inner dragons encountered.

Encountering dragons involves facing up to having those inner selves we try so hard to conceal, both from ourselves and others: our angry, prideful, deceitful selves, as well as the envy, greed, lust or laziness we disown but project onto others. It means removing the "log" from our own eye rather than the "specks" we think we detect in the eyes of others.(6) Put together, those selves we disown form the archetypal shadow about whom Jung warns:

The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real.(7)

Condemned to the unconscious, the shadow is capable of wrecking havoc in lives, particularly in relationships where we condemn in others what we have yet to accept as part of our own human nature. But in recognizing and accepting the shadow we are put in touch with our own vulnerable human sameness. As a result we become less judgmental and more kindly inclined towards ourselves and others.

The dragon (as shadow) is caught off guard, and therefore disarmed, when accepted. Similarly the ego, when taking a stance in opposition to the Self, is disarmed by our acceptance of human nature as a co-mingling of light and dark. Moreover, this is the way we assume responsibility for the darkness apportioned each of us, and until we do we will continue to project our own capacity for evil onto others, thus increasing rather than decreasing humanity's collective shadow.


Doorways into Archetypal Reality

Owning one's shadow takes considerable moral effort because the only way to become conscious of the shadow, as well as other archetypal aspects of the psyche, is through self-knowledge. And there is only one way to gain self-knowledge, and that is through self-observation. For this a shift of perception is needed so as to discern our own unconscious processes at work. Following Jung, we will here approach archetypal reality indirectly, as through a backdoor into the psyche.

Metaphor, myth and symbolic image are all doorways into archetypal reality. For just as the shaman uses the drum as "canoe" or "horse," so the repetitive rhythms of metaphor, myth and image are primary modes for being transported into the land of the archetypes. Try entering by so-called rational means and you will not get there. Knock, however, on the doors of symbolic perception and the way will be opened.

Non-ordinary reality can be recognized in several ways. There will be about the landscape a subtle sense of other-worldliness, something qualitatively different--a numinosity. And about its lighting there will be a peculiar luminosity. The atmosphere also will feel "charged," "heightened," "enlivened." Finally there may be a feeling or a sense of familiarity--of having been there before.



Places Where the Past is Still Palpably Present

There are also places in "ordinary" reality so impregnated by the past as to leave an imprint still palpably present. Rupert Sheldrake's theory of "morphic resonance"(8) includes the idea that "fields of resonance" build up as "cumulative collective memories." This could explain why certain geographic locations evoke the same kind of resonance and effects that archetypes do. They have become impregnated with archetypal energies.

Inner or outer, there seem to be "fields" of energy that evoke images and feelings capable of impacting us emotionally and sometimes physically. These then become examples of "the effects" Jung refers to which have "a kind of autonomy" and "possessive"(9) quality capable of bringing forth both positive and negative effects.

Dreams are also doors into non-ordinary reality, as are spontaneous fantasies, or the process of active imagination which when initiated may take on a life of its own.(10) In any case, finding ourselves in a different from ordinary state of consciousness we are alerted to the opportunity to observe and to ask what is happening in an area of the psyche not ordinarily available for our observation. What am I doing here? What am I feeling? Why here? Why now? What might I fantasize as my connection to this place?



Who is Visiting?
Figure 1











The Realms of Ancestral Roots

At times we may become conscious of an interpenetration of ordinary and archetypal levels of reality. Some years back my husband Bob went to Scotland seeking his paternal roots. He described his week there as "enjoyable" and "interesting." But then on a brief jaunt down to southern England, coming to Glastonbury and sitting midst the ruins of the old abbey, there in the geographic proximity of his mother's people, he experienced an intense feeling of having "come home."

A year or so later, the resonant effect of Southern England called Bob back to look more deeply into his maternal roots. Shortly thereafter we learned of the work of Dr Kenneth McAll (described in his book Healing of the Family Tree.)(11) Dr McAll, a psychiatrist and also an Anglican layman, explains how insight into the family tree and the healing power of the Eucharist can work in conjunction to free persons who may be suffering from cross-generational influences. Relating his findings to biblical references to "the iniquity of the fathers" being "visited" on future generations,(12) Dr McAll suggests that in some cases the unresolved problems of those who have died may be effecting, or "being visited upon," the living. He then suggests a family tree be drawn for the purpose of asking: "Who is visiting?" Figure 1 is a sketch by Dr McAll of a person whose mind is under the siege of unconscious voices.

Both Bob and I had personal reasons for being interested in Dr McAll's findings. When Bob had been thirteen his parents, first his mother and three months later his father, had taken their lives. And on both sides of my family tree there was a history of serious, life-immobilizing alcoholism. If such was possible we wanted to learn how to pray for the deceased of our families whose souls might benefit from our prayers. Our concern was also for our children and grandchildren, that their lives be free from the influence of destructive family patterns.

How family patterns are transmitted can only be speculated. It may be genetically, or perhaps through some form of psychic resonance. In some cases it simply may be a matter of the attitudes and assumptions of parents being caught by the children. In any event, whatever way generational influences are passed along, if we believe God to be a loving God, then we can't believe that God "punishes" children for their ancestors' sins. Perhaps, though, there is some other aspect of truth behind these troublesome scriptures, some trans-dimensional, time-transcending overall reality in which forgiveness flows freely both backward and forward in time so as to allow for the past to be healed in the future. Jesus' words in the eighth chapter of John suggest his availability throughout all time: "before Abraham was I am."

In Dr McAll's work the Eucharist--the Blood of Christ--is the healing agent applied to the family bloodline. But when the Eucharist is not available, what then? Perhaps it is then that, in touch with the sacrificial meaning of the Cross, human empathy and compassion become the "Blood of Christ" universally and eternally available for all and all times.

One of the truths Eden mythologically presents is the unity in origin of all of humanity.



The Transformation of Perception

Just as geographical places can be "fields" charged with particular energies, so there are areas in the psyche similarly charged by archetypal energies. Jung called these highly charged areas complexes. The images we bear within us of our personal parents are undergirded by archetypal parents. In this sense we are all in the grips of father and mother complexes by which we feel accepted and supported or rejected and abandoned. Sometimes we project our parent complexes onto others in our present life situations. And sometimes, in so doing, we set ourselves up to experience all over again the pain of rejection we had felt as children.

An approach to the healing of our inner parent images is one in which the judgments we have placed on our parents are transformed into empathy for them as we gain insight into the hopes and expectations they had held for their lives. In this way our focus is on their aspirations rather than their failures. We thus broaden our perceptions of who they were and also gain insight into how their hopes may have played a role in forming our own aspirations. Even where they failed, their hopes nevertheless live on in us.

In active imagination we can sense a parent blessing us at whatever period(s) in our lives we most needed them to be free to express their love for us. Nor does our doing so depend on whether a parent is still living or not, this because it is our perceptions concerning them that need be transformed. And when our perceptions are changed the result is a new emotional reality which heals the personal parent image by enjoining it to the undergirding divinely-infused archetypal parent.

I can personally attest to a transformational healing of this nature that occurred around my feelings of having been abandoned by my father. This happened when I was in my late thirties. I had shared a dream with a friend.(13) He responded by suggesting I visualize my father holding me in his arms when I was an infant. Evidently the meaning of my dream (which I no longer recall) was so obvious to my friend that he led me straightway into the heartland of archetypal reality where he knew my father would be waiting. Once there, he suggested I sense how much my father had wanted to love and care for me. He instructed that in my imagination I see written on my father's face and shining from his eyes the love God as Father implants in every human father's heart. As I imagined the infant I was, my friend suggested I open my heart to allow this co-mingling of human and divine father-love to pass through my father's heart into mine. Ever after I have perceived myself as loved by both an earthly and a heavenly father, the personal having been assumed into the archetypal.

The negative perception or "field" of psychic energy around the inner image of the personal parent is transformed into a positive one when the archetypal parent (the divine Mother or Father) enters in and becomes part of the equation. And often, as in my case, it is a dream that opens the door.



How Archetypal Encounters Guide Creative Work

Another example of the way ordinary and archetypal levels of reality can interpenetrate involved my mother on a trip she made to Spain. Moreover, her encounter there directed the creative movement of her life for the next ten years. Visiting an old cathedral she felt something so oppressive in its atmosphere as to bring on an attack of nausea. Accompanying this physical reaction was an intuitive sense of something to do with the Spanish Inquisition.

Having gone to Spain to research the early life of Fr Junipero Serra, her bizarre "flashback" so captivated her interest in inquisitional Spain that, after finishing the Serra story,(14) she returned to Spain to pursue the life of another Franciscan, a Poor Clare abbess whose life, a hundred years before Serra, had been subjected to hierarchical scrutiny. In my mother's research she had come across a reference in which Serra credited Mary of Agreda with his coming to North American. Serra believed that Agreda, a century before, had laid the ground work for his founding of the California Missions. How? That question led my mother further and further afield in searching to know how a Seventeenth Century nun who never left Spain could "visit" Indian tribes throughout the American Southwest.(15) If a satisfactory explanation for Agreda's and others' "bi-location" travels ever is found I venture it will lead into the deep ground of the Self where, "without fixed boundaries," nature, the universe, and the human psyche co-exist in a state of oneness, and where, according to Jung, synchronistic occurrences have their origin.(16) As for Agreda, when she was questioned about how she could have been in two places at once, she simply quoted St Paul: "Whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows,"(17) and thus she personally escaped the tyranny of the Inquisition.



Spiritual Lineage

Jung noted that archetypal influences are characterized by their capacity to fascinate. Serra had been captivated by the New World "journeys" of Mary Agreda. My mother, in turn, "caught" his fascination. Shortly after my mother's death, and probably more than a little related to it, I discovered there was an Anglican branch of Third Order (secular) Franciscans. I recognized at once that I was by nature and inclination Franciscan. Eastern religions speak of "spiritual lineages," a concept that may have validity in the West as well. My mother, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, had no apparent connections to the Franciscans. Nevertheless the lives of two Franciscans fascinated and captivated her creative energies so as to lead her deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the human psyche, and now my life was being directed onto the Franciscan path. Of Agreda my mother had asked: What was the motivating force behind the extraordinary accomplishments of her life? And of Serra, what was the common spiritual bond that attracted him (a scholarly university professor) and the California Indians (living in a Stone Age world) to one another, causing each to recognize the other as brother or sister "in Christ"? And now I too wonder of Francis, Agreda and Serra: What is it that binds us one to the other and not only in visible but invisible realms?

While there may be alternate explanations for why we feel emotionally impacted by one place and not another, or attracted to certain spiritual practices or disciplines and not others, when we look back over our lives certain destiny-determining archetypal influences emerge as the connecting threads of our lives.



Healing the Residue of Unresolved Grief

In the 1970's we moved to a narrow creek valley in the California Mother Lode where the Miwok Indians had lived before their land and lives had been taken from them out of greed for gold. Shortly after settling in, I began to sense a sadness beneath the sylvan beauty and tranquillity of this place. It felt to me like the "unresolved grief" of those who had been here before. I sensed their anguish and also their bewilderment over the abruptness with which their way of life had been crushed. Walking along the creek and coming to the rocks where they had ground acorns, and to the deeper holes where they had bathed, it was as if I could hear their mournful cries. It was as if their existence continued on, but in a reality of unresolved, bewildering, and meaningless grief. As one whose roots trace back to the Europeans at whose hands the Indians so grievously had suffered, I asked for forgiveness.

Following my prayers I began to perceive ways greed and acquisitiveness have played out in my own life; how prone I have been to compensate for my inner greedy self with outward showings of generosity--one being the shadow of the other. Following my indignation at the greed of others I became acquainted with the face of greed in my own psyche.

Through self-observation we gain self-knowledge. And wounding as it may be to the false self's sense of pride, self-knowledge is the kind of truth by which the true Self is set free.

Gradually my perception of the presence of the past here has changed, until now the resonance of those tragic days feels superseded by the happier, tranquil lives the Miwoks had lived in harmony with nature. It feels now to be an environment where the soul can be nourished by the tranquillity and harmony that is here.

But this is also a good place to do grief work, perhaps because of the human suffering witnessed here: grief over what was or what never was. Grief work for ourselves, our ancestors, and our planet is something we each can do to lighten the load we collectively bear. In this way we help free future generations from the burden of the past. Grief experienced through to resolution serves this purpose. To grieve loss is part of what it means to be human.

On this earthly plane, joy and sorrow, and life and death co-exist--life that is not separate from death but as one life/death pulse beat eternally repeated. There is about any place whose roots reach into archetypal reality a sense of paradoxical simultaneity. Our souls are layered with opposite and alternate experiences. We have experienced this and that. We have felt this and that. Self-knowledge is gained through experiences that put us in touch with the opposites that make us human. Our capacity to experience the heaviness of sorrow and the lightness of joy simultaneously is part of what makes us human. We are both shadow and light; both conscious and unconscious. One of the miracles of being human is this capacity to embrace, contain, and experience the opposites of human nature.



Self-Knowledge As a Pressing Necessity

In assessing the collective psychic condition of the mid Twentieth Century, Dr Jung wrote that "self-knowledge in particular has become one of the most pressing contemporary problems."(18) He goes on to explain that this is what affords the individual protection from the "isms" of mass-mindedness and its "irresistible urge to catastrophe."(19)

Self-knowledge is what inoculates the individual from the contagion of fear constantly loosed in the collective. Jung cites two areas in particular where self-knowledge is needed. The first is for recognition of the shadow component of human nature which unrecognized is projected onto other people, races, religions, organizations, institutions and governments. The blind-to-self shadow tries to make itself right by making what is wrong "out there," thus avoiding personal responsibility for the resolution of collective problems. Concerning the shadow and self-knowledge, John Sanford advises:

The kingdom requires a morality which is not founded on rules and regulations imposed from outside, but on self-knowledge. This self-knowledge can be achieved through inner confrontation. The inner confrontation occurs when we confront the person within us for whom the Law is necessary. It would not be necessary to have a Law forbidding murder, adultery, stealing, coveting, and slander if there was not a part of our personality which might do exactly these things. The scribes and Pharisees seek to avert the danger of this inner "shadow" by following rules which prohibit these things. But the higher morality requires confronting the shadowy one within us who has made the rules necessary in the first place. In this way we achieve a truly differentiated moral attitude toward ourselves and life and are fit for the creative life of the kingdom.(20)

The second necessity Jung called for was recognition of "the existence and the importance of the archetypes." Shadow and other archetypes inform us concerning our human commonality, knowledge of which perhaps really is, at this point in history, our most pressing need if we are to survive this present evolutionary passage.



Archetypal Reality and the Bible

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, abounds with archetypes and archetypal personifications and situations. When, in the course of our everyday lives, we are put in touch with persons or situations that "set us off" we can be sure there are biblical correlations to what we are experiencing. This is because the Bible, as well as the myths and wisdom of every culture, address a limited number of typical (archetypal) situations. The Chinese book of wisdom, The I Ching, speaks to 64 possible human situations that occur and reoccur in our lives as "patterns of change."

When we seek out biblical correspondences to our occurring life situations we open ourselves to insight. This pursuit of insight into the meaning of life's challenges is how an activation or "disturbance" of the contents of the unconscious is resolved and assimilated into consciousness. It is also the way we learn to recognize, communicate with, and reclaim the archetypes as part and parcel of our human nature. Jung (in pre-inclusive language) wrote: "Man's capacity for consciousness alone makes him man."(21)

In particular, the Bible of our Judaic-Christian heritage furthers self-discovery by presenting myths, metaphors and symbolic images that resonate from the past up through the present. Resonance alerts us to the activation of an archetype. Then, if we seize the opportunity and follow where this leads, it will be in accordance with the innate wisdom of the Self. This approach to following where the archetype leads is the one followed below in attempting to derive personal meaning from the drama taking place in Eden.



Finding Ourselves in Eden

If, in a dream, meditation or some other inscape, we find ourselves in an edenic-like place, very likely we will be awestruck before its verdant, primeval beauty. Looking about we may surmise ourselves to be alone. Surprisingly, however, we will not feel lonely. Rather we will sense the place to be alive with a sentient presence.

In the Judaic-Christian tradition Eden is a metaphor for an archetypal level of consciousness that exists in each of us. Here Adam and Eve, representing humanity's first parents, "walked and talked" with an all-knowing, all-pervading presence sometimes called "Yahweh" and sometimes "the Lord God." But the experience of the presence that they knew there could also be describing an experience of the Self, the God-Self, in whose image our most essential, eternal being is made. The drama in the Garden speaks metaphorically of how and why our original connection to God through the Self was broken. With the expulsion of human consciousness from the Garden, the journey back into God's presence--now knowingly--began.



Encountering Eden's Archetypes

Eden, then, is not a place that no longer exists (or that never was) but a common ground of archetypal reality where a drama concerning the evolution of human consciousness is being enacted. And since the evolution of consciousness is something that is happening simultaneously, both collectively and individually, we too are part of the drama.

In that the archetypes of Eden are transpersonal, we are not connected to them through personal memory or history. Nor do they belong to any one culture or religion but rather to all who share a common identity as human beings. Just as at the bottom of all oceans all land is one, so it is with archetypal reality. The archetypes, although emerging from common ground, are nevertheless as varied in form as the individuals whose lives they both energize and transform.

Stages of life have a way of running out of energy. When this happens the archetypes, as the transformers of psychic energy, have an important role to play. At such times it is the Self--the archetype of wholeness--who calls forth some new potential waiting in the wings of the unconscious for its turn on the center stage of our life, bringing with it a whole new reserve of energy and enthusiasm for life. Thus our individual lives are moved from one stage to the next by the power inherent in the archetypes.



Human Nature as Part Animal and Part Divine

As human beings we are creatures of both earth and heaven. We are part instinctual (part Serpent) and part divine (part Yahweh). We are also part dark and part light--partially conscious and partially unconscious. This is the primary, vertical duality of human nature. Secondarily, and on either end of a horizontal axis, we are also both Adam and Eve, both masculine and feminine. We have both active and passive poles as well as the capacity both to think and to feel, to sense and to intuit.

The human psyche is the crucible within which the opposites of human nature are held in suspension in order to be reconciled. Eden is the stage upon which the drama of awakening consciousness takes place. The players are the four primary archetypes. As Adam and Eve and Yahweh and the Serpent, they represent the masculine and the feminine and the divine and the instinctual. They are the four corners upon which consciousness is founded. As they become reconciled in us we become whole.

Figure 2 reflects Eden's four rivers and shows Eden's four players in their polar-opposite arrangement. As two opposing pairs they exert the tensions that keep our lives from complacency. They keep us moving towards wholeness. The psychic energies flowing between the opposing poles also work to bring the light of consciousness into the dark recesses of the unconscious, causing some of what lies latent there to rise to consciousness. Increment by increment we become more conscious by a process that is both humbling and ennobling as we come to accept both the heights and depths that make us human.

Eden's Archetypal Cast of Four
Figure 2

Even should we give these four different names, or even leave them unnamed, still they would exist as representatives of the four parts of human totality. Similar to how astronomers plot out the heavens, working from what they do know of the orderedness of the heavens, so psychologically the existence and unique characteristics of these archetypes can be deduced from what is known of the essential order of the psyche. This, in any event, is the "scientific" premise from which Jung approached his study of archetypes.

Moreover, just as our perspective of heavenly bodies changes over seasons and more greatly so over eons, so the collective perception of the archetypes changes as cultural persuasions change. Thus succeeding generations bestow upon the archetypes new meanings or shades of meaning. Also, because the language they speak is common to all peoples, archetypes are the bridges between different cultures and religions. In this capacity they reinforce human sameness and our underlying unity.



The Transformation of Consciousness

Even though the archetypes are universal they can only be understood particularly. And when it comes to deriving personal meaning from them they shift similarly to the sands of changing tides. Illusive, in fact, is the very nature of an archetype. More an energy than an image, an archetype sidesteps letting its meaning be pinpointed. Rather it points in a general direction of relevance to a particular time or situation. Realizing this we can assume as our responsibility the need to work with and get to know a particular archetypal image from as many facets as possible, a task that requires both patience and perseverance.

An archetype, in order to fulfill its role in the transformation of consciousness, must, first of all, connect with and even become attached to something in the individual psyche that is ready to be moved from the darkness of the unconscious into the light of consciousness. In this way it is like a catalyst that triggers a chain reaction resulting in a change from one state to another: as when a liquid becomes a solid; or an aspect of self that has been unconscious becomes conscious. A biblical example is the story of the angel who from time to time would stir the waters in the pool of Bethsaida.(22) Then it would be that the person first into the disturbed waters would be healed. The inner meaning of this story is that until our unconscious blocks and fears are disturbed, exposed and challenged we will continue to find ways to avoid the responsibility of living our lives to the fullest.

As the container of a latent potential an archetype is "programmed" towards a goal. This goal is to bring the part of the whole that it represents into a conscious relationship with the totality of who we are, and then this totality into conscious relationship with the greater Whole, the All-in-All, that God is. The dynamic symmetry of Eden, as presented in Part 1, is our potential for wholeness, and its four players are the North, South, East and West of the human psyche. With this as a foundation upon which to build understanding, we can next ask: "Who in us are the archetypes of Eden?"




The Caduceus
Figure 3



Two-Headed Serpent
Figure 4




The Serpent of Eden

"Well, certainly," we may say, "not the Serpent, not the cause of suffering for the whole human race." But yes, this creature who is as complex as its comparable part of human nature, is also us, and a part without which we could not have made it into this life or our lives thus far.

Although the Serpent has been interpreted in opposite ways by various peoples and historic times, its most essential symbolic meaning is unconsciousness and instinctuality. But also, even in the Bible, its other connotations are wisdom and healing, and to this day this meaning survives in the caduceus emblem of the medical profession. (Figure 3)

According to Jung the ambiguity of the Serpent corresponds

. . . to what is totally unconscious and incapable of becoming conscious, but which, as the collective unconscious and as instinct, seems to possess a peculiar wisdom of its own and a knowledge that is often felt to be supernatural.(23)

Larger-than-life and multi-faceted, East and West understand the Serpent from different points of view. This two-headed aspect of the Serpent is shown in Figure 4. Not only do East and West view the Serpent ambivalently but past and present, influenced by changing cultural and religious values and mores, also fluctuate concerning the value judgments they place on the Serpent.




The Instinctual Serpent

In the process of being "civilized" our instincts are for the most part repressed. And because by nature they are unconscious, it is only under rare circumstances that we are afforded the increment of distance necessary to observe and identify our instincts in action. Such a moment of truth is always awakening.

One of the problems we commonly face is that in our alienated-from-nature society we have been made uncomfortable with the idea of our instincts and therefore prejudiced against the Serpent. Like a snake in the grass our instincts hide in waiting. And for the very reason that they have been culturally repressed we have been rendered "unconscious and incapable of becoming conscious" of the ways instinctuality rules and overrules the outer veneer of our out-of-balance intellectual and technological civilization. But, if we dare, we can receive insight through the archetypal Serpent as to how instincts disguise themselves in our personal lives and in our culture.

Serpent, snake and dragon carry interchangeable meanings with somewhat different emphasis. In mythology it is the dragon who guards the "treasure," the treasure being the Self in its totality, and which includes the "peculiar" or instinctual wisdom referred to above, while the more common garden variety snake is symbolic of the "dark, chthonic world of instinct." But as Jung further points out, "the snake is not just a nefarious, chthonic being; it is also . . . a symbol of wisdom, and hence of light, goodness and healing."

. . . The inner polarity of the snake-symbol far exceeds that of man. It is overt, whereas man's is partly latent or potential. The Serpent surpasses Adam in cleverness and knowledge and can outwit him.(24)

Implied here is a warning: Never underestimate the power of the instincts. "She," Jung goes on, "is older than he, and is evidently equipped by God with a superhuman intelligence, like that son of God [of Hebrew mythology] who took over the role of Satan." It is this double significance of the Serpent that places her (according to Jung) at the lower end of the primary axis of the human psyche--its vertical axis--by which the heaven and earth of human nature are united.(25)



The Egocentric Serpent

A duality similar to the Serpent's applies to the ego. Through our egocentric arrogance we, along with the fallen angels, are brought low, but only because we (our egocentricity) also aspire to ascend to a position higher than God. This is how egocentricity functions. It usurps the place of God. It places itself higher than God and so takes the place of God in our lives.

But egocentricity is only the unredeemed aspect of the ego. The redeemed ego is our link to the Self, to knowing God and the realization of the Kingdom as an inner reality. For this reason Jungians, rather than seeing the ego as something to eliminate, advise instead that the ego-Self axis be strengthened in order to establish an open line of communication with God.

In recent times the person who seems to have had the greatest insight into egocentricity was John Sanford's mentor Fritz Kunkel.

Kunkel believed that our egocentricity is the equivalent of the biblical idea of original sin. It is this that corrupts us; it is the spiritual disease from which we must be cured. Kunkel once made the statement that the closely guarded secret of evil is that the ego is the devil, by which he meant that the ego in its egocentric condition is the door through which archetypal evil enters the soul and eventually comes to possess it. When this happens, Kunkel noted, "the [egocentric] ego, without knowing it is always fighting on the side of evil and darkness though it pretends to be a servant of light."(26)



Separations and Differentiations

We have been told that in Eden it was an act of disobedience that caused the fall and brought about the ultimate tension of the human soul--self will in opposition to God's will. As unconscious beings Adam and Eve were "obedient children." In common with what anthropologists tell us about the earliest humans, their sense of immediacy was with nature and their environment. But with the dawning of self-consciousness came the establishment of boundaries between the individual and the natural environment. Perhaps it was at this point that Adam was given the task of "naming" the animal kingdom, thus differentiating and ordering them into species.(27) If so, this would mark a time in evolution when a separation from undifferentiated unconsciousness was taking place--the time of emergence into self-consciousness.

The growth of human consciousness proceeds through repeated separations and differentiations. This is how autonomy and consciousness-of-choice are established. But the gain is also a loss. The ability to make choices leads to the painful consequences of choices made for the wrong reasons and under the influence of a voice that urges towards self-will and "hardens" the heart towards God.



To Obey or Not Obey

In the evolution of consciousness one of the most vulnerable points of temptation is early adolescence with its glandular changes, erupting emotions, and power struggles. Let us assume that in the Garden Adam and Eve had come to the adolescent stage of development and, as typical adolescents, they were vulnerable to suggestion. To obey or not obey? To resist or not resist temptation? To believe the voice of parental and cultural guidance or the voice of the intinctually-rooted Serpent?

Discontentment is another aspect of adolescent consciousness. And although Adam's and Eve's fall from grace is blamed on disobedience, it could be that just as much at fault was the same discontent with constricting circumstances that causes young people today to become disruptively restless. Up to this time Adam's and Eve's obedience had been without questioning. Yet, without the ability to question there would be no basis upon which to learn to make choices and therefore become self-determining adults. To obey or to question authority, this is one of Eden's paradoxes to which each of us can relate.

Having been an adolescent as well as having seen six offspring through their teen years, my sympathy is with both Yahweh and Adam and Eve. My experience has been that when the time comes and children are restless to move on into a larger, less constricting world, the tensions that mount cause a mutual readiness to let go. Someone (I don't know who or even if I recall it correctly) expressed the dilemma of parenthood: "Love, if held too tightly, will die; if held too lightly will fly away; lightly, tightly, how do I know if I'm letting you die or letting you go?" This may have been Yahweh's dilemma.

Could it, then, have been adolescent discontent, together with the capacity to make choices, that caused Eve and then Adam to listen to the voice of temptation, and therefore set themselves up to be driven from the Garden?

As with ourselves and our children, sometimes our choices too have led to painful consequences. As part-smart adolescents we were unaware of our own latent powers. This together with surfacing instinctual tensions--the very elements the Serpent symbolizes--made us particularly vulnerable to temptation.



Proneness to Suggestion

In reference to the Serpent, Jung wrote the following:

Most people do not have sufficient range of consciousness to become aware of the opposites inherent in human nature. The tensions they generate remain for the most part unconscious . . . . . Traditionally, the snake stands for the vulnerable spot in man: it personifies his shadow, i.e., his weakness and unconsciousness. The greatest danger about unconsciousness is proneness to suggestion.

And early to mid into the Twentieth Century he began to fear that because our society had become so overly rational we were headed for a time of extreme vulnerability and susceptibility to irrational violence. He feared that "rationality without tradition and without a basis in instinct" would leave us vulnerable, unprotected, and unable to discern "absurdity" when we would be faced with it. He felt that

the ever-widening split between conscious and unconscious increases the danger of psychic infection and mass psychosis. With the loss of symbolic ideas the bridge to the unconscious has broken down. Instinct no longer affords protection against unsound ideas and empty slogans.(28)

Kunkle also expressed concern for the dark side-effects of a collective time of "puberty" as "human character comes of age."

Our time, like the first century, is characterized by the decay of national structure on an international scale. The individual must stick to old conventional values which are obsolete, or he must set out on his own account to find the entrance into the realm of the future. The new outer structure is developing within the character of the average individual. We are witnessing a psychological mutation; the old species, homo feudalis (feudalistic man), is changing into the new species, homo communis (common man). But every mutation has to be paid for with much loss of life. There will be many criminals and madmen for each single "reformer" who finds the entrance into the kingdom.(29)

But we are not without a ray of hope. Along with the collapse of our spiritual and psychological "bridges" there is a simultaneous collapse of racial and political barriers. With the collapse of the latter, the common people of earth are moving closer towards one another. In our connectedness we move beyond individualism towards realization of our human sameness. In our personal egocentric strivings we move away from unity and into separateness, but in becoming mindful of the whole we reconnect with a personal sense of being part of the Whole. Our sense of individuality merges with our sense of universality. Echoing Teilhard, Barbara Marx Hubbard describes the next level of human transformation as from Homo sapiens to Homo universalis with Christ as the "evolutionary template."(30)



The Psyche as Crucible

The human psyche is the crucible within which the opposites of human nature are held in suspension: hate and love; doubt and fear; despair and hope; dark and light; sadness and joy. Similarly the duality of the Serpent is a part of human totality, not only as Satan (the rebellious ego) but also as the elemental level of consciousness which when elevated empowers creativity. It seems important, then, that we free the Serpent from its negative connotations and cultural judgments and see that most essentially the Serpent is symbolic of the life force hidden in the very heart of creation--even matter itself. But we need also do so without losing sight of how being unconscious of elementary instinctuality makes us vulnerable in the extreme to temptation. And temptation, if followed, ends in alienation from God, from the source of our creativity and therefore our sense of meaning and purpose.



The Patriarchal Slant of Genesis

As far as cultural history goes, whether the Serpent has been interpreted positively or negatively has depended on the particular culture's point of view. Certainly in Genesis we are given the patriarchal slant, and naturally so, since this was the point of view from which the writers and translators purposely told the story.(31)

Crawling close to the ground the Serpent symbolizes the pre-conscious or instinctive side of human nature whose primary concern is for the survival of life and the species. If we are to read the Genesis story as consistent with the instinct to survive then we will have to allow that it is the patriarchal slant that causes the story to color the Serpent, and therefore the feminine, at fault. And yet where would any of us be without the survival concerns of the nurturing feminine who, of necessity and in the ordering of creation, is instinctually rooted?

Because the drama of Eden contains mythological elements and archetypal symbols, as we delve into the story new levels of meaning naturally emerge for us, the significance dependent on where in our individual journeys we happen to be. Moreover, what the story means for one generation or one culture will be different for succeeding generations and under culturally changing views.

To find the correction to the patriarchal slant we have but to look to pre-patriarchal and eastern cultures. These cultures more readily recognize and honor the feminine principle, and understand the Serpent as symbolic of the kind of wisdom that looks to earth and to nature for insight. It would seem also that eastern cultures make allowances for the darker aspects of their gods and, more generally, recognize that dark as well as light is a part of total reality. This is particularly true of the artworks of eastern religions where the goddess is sometimes shown as having a ferocious aspect, as does nature herself.



Masculine and Feminine Ways of Knowing

Referring back again to the wheel of archetypes in Figure 2, if egocentricity were to replace the Serpent, and the Self take the place of Yahweh, in Jung's sense of the Self as our God connection, then for Adam we could substitute the masculine way of knowing which is direct and mental, and for Eve the feminine way which is indirect and intuitive. In this manner and as shown in Figure 5, the wheel of the psyche would be stepped down from the archetypal or collective to a personal and individual level.

The Essential Polarities of the Human Psyche
Figure 5

As happens, in the process of the psyche coming into greater balance, the pendulum swings back-and-forth between the two sets of polar opposites. Similarly the poles of cultures also shift. In a dominantly masculine culture, feminine ways of knowing are feared and suppressed. Although feminine values are making a come back, it was not so long ago that "witches" were being burned at the stake. (Moreover, this was being done by Christians and in America, a land supposedly founded on the principals of freedom and equality.)

If, however, feminine ways of knowing are understood to apply to men as well as women, then we can observe how the feminine pole functions in both negative and positive ways in men as well as in women. Receptivity is to the feminine pole what the capacity to take action is to the masculine pole. In the feminine, be we men or women, we receive. In the masculine, be we women or men, we take action.

As a spiritual capacity, receptivity is the ability to hear God's inner directing voice, to receive it in our hearts, to hold it there, to ponder it, and, if further directed, to take appropriate action. Because Mary was receptive to a messenger from God and acquiesced, Jesus was born. Because Joseph received guidance through his dreams the child Jesus was protected from those who sought to harm him. Thus the Child was able to survive to adulthood in order to fulfill the purpose for which he had come. Mary received and acquiesced: Joseph received and took action. Together they exemplify the necessity for being free in the feminine pole.



The Sin of Manipulation

But there is another, a negative side to the feminine way of knowing. And how can we judge when a way of knowing is "of God" or not? What makes one person a prophet or prophetess and another a "witch"? And how might we, in a present cultural context, define a witch?

The definition I once heard, and tend to agree with, is someone who manipulates another person's will for their own purposes. This definition has helped me identify a few "witches" who have crossed my path. But it also has caused me to think of the more subtle ways I, too, have been guilty of manipulation. In doing inner work, and particularly where the shadow is concerned, we are forced to redirect our accusing finger to ourselves.

Accordingly, if witchcraft is understood as manipulation, then it would have to include all the ways persons intuitively or instinctively "psych" others out to get their own needs met. And since "needs" are instinctually rooted, whether for survival, gratification, or power, it then would be our own neediness that sets us up to be "psyched out." Moreover, it would be our same neediness that tempts us to manipulate others for our own purposes. In either case, it is unconsciousness of where we are needy that makes us vulnerable both to being manipulated and to being manipulators. Here again the evolution of consciousness is dependent on self-knowledge.



Insight into Self Images

If our need is to fulfill a self image of how we want others to see us, this makes it even more difficult for us to catch sight of our shadow. If, for example, someone looks to me for help because they have me pegged as a good Christian or even just plain motherly--the earth-mother type that I am--I may fulfill their expectation simply because it matches my own self-image. If I do so unconsciously I may soon find myself in the position of being this person's source--their god--and therefore their co-dependent in the dark art of manipulation. The Serpent, as a perpetrator of manipulation is truly wise beyond all creatures and "more subtle."(32)

But I would dare say that as children we were all, to some degree or another, masters in the art of manipulation. Speaking for myself, I remember a time when I was in third or fourth grade and knowingly and with remarkable subtlety manipulated my teacher so as to get out of having to stay after school. Can I claim innocence of age? I don't think so since I still recall the scene and the way I "colored the facts" in order to win her sympathy.



Original Sin as Generationally Perpetuated

When, even as children, we knowingly and consciously practiced deceit we were diminishing the light of our souls. Nor is the capacity to deceive something every child reinvents. Rather it is an aspect of the "original sin" into which we are born, and even may be a part of the DNA patterning passed on to successive generations. In any case, we also have the capacity to choose not to practice deceit. Some of our ancestors did and some did not, some more and some less. Thus, we are all both cursed and blessed by those who came before us. If we make an effort to become more conscious and more self-honest concerning the motives behind what we say and do and how we go about getting our needs met, then, instead of being the perpetrators we become transformers of generational sin. Rather than blaming "sin" on Adam and Eve, we can assume responsibility for our share in transforming consciousness collectively.

In observing and honestly assessing the ways we use our own lower intuitive powers we initiate the process by which the shadow aspect of human nature is redeemed. Kunkel speaks of this shadow aspect of inner work as "a painful and exclusively personal task:"

It implies the acceptance and assimilation of our unconscious fears and faults, the removal of our inhibitions and prejudices, the reformation and integration of our passions and compulsions.(33)











The Uroboric Serpent
Figure 6



Suffering, Endurance and Consciousness

The drama in the Garden tells of the beginning and cause of suffering. But, as we have already surmised, the beginning of suffering was also for the sake of the evolution of consciousness, and for humanity's conscious reunion with God. The New Testament, as well as the writings of mystics both past and contemporary, speak of a "suffering endured for the sake of Christ" and that is transforming. Although judged "foolishness" by the rational mind, it is nevertheless the "wisdom of God" to which Paul and many have attested.(34) James, in his New Testament letter, speaks of an endurance that is rewarded by "the crown of life."(35) And Sweitzer, in discussing the "being in Christ" mysticism of St Paul, refers to a suffering that is atoning when endured for the sake of Christ and borne in conscious union with Him.(36) There is also Jesus' directive to his disciples to pick up their crosses and follow him.(37) In context, Jesus seems to be referring to self-denial--to yielding self-will to the higher will of the one he calls Father. Symbolically understood this amounts to the death of self-will--its crucifixion.

From personal experience I know that suffering can be physical, emotional or mental. I know also that there is a kind of suffering that takes the form of a moral dilemma and that places one in the fire of painful or conflicting emotions or desires so as to evoke images of being "tried" by fire. It is James again who observes how often it is the tongue that sets in motion the "wheel" of fire--of hell.(38) But even self-ignited suffering can be transforming when it leads to self-examination, and self-examination to insight as to how self-will exerts itself in our lives. In this way we "eat our sin," that is to say we assimilate into consciousness a portion of our previously unconscious shadow self. The uroboric Serpent who swallows its tail is symbolic of this self-assimilation process. (Figure 6)



Entering Myth as a Participant

Characteristically an archetypal myth invites the reader to become a participant, to put him- or herself into the story as one (or more) of the players. This is possible because a story that is mythologically true is able to reach beyond our conscious blinders and directly into the unconscious where its meaning is symbolically understood.

Just as there are levels upon levels to human consciousness, so there are levels and levels of meaning in an archetypal myth. But for as long as the patriarchal finger of Genesis has kept us focused on "the woman's" eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil we have missed some of the more subtle messages of the story and its paradoxical nuances.

As already noted, the Serpent not only has a dark side but also a light side. In both the Old and New Testaments there are hints of both: the Serpent as Satan, and as bearer of wisdom and physical healing. Moreover, even though the meaning of a myth may be culturally conditioned, the symbolic language through which it communicates allows its truth (not to be confused with the facts) to be transmitted from age to age and place to place. The reason we can personally relate to an age-old myth is because we have within us counterparts to what is being portrayed in the story.

In addition to the masculine point of view presented in Genesis, a feminine voice also can be heard speaking from a purely earth mother point of view. This causes me to wonder, "If I were Eve, deceived or not, what would be going through my mind as the sequence of events unfolds?"



An Earth Mother View of the Fall

True, as we listen to the Serpent as tempter, the tale is one of unabashed guile: How to practice guile and how to be beguiling.(39) These, however, are the very characteristics of consciousness that develop along side of egocentricity. Therefore, if it was through egocentricity that the Serpent intended to "psych out" Yahweh's children, perhaps Adam would have been a better victim. But what if there was something else that made Eve susceptible to this particular temptation? From what other angle could Eve have been beguiled?

An important point of the story is the Serpent's contradiction of Yahweh by telling "the woman" that what Yahweh really fears is that if she and Adam eat the fruit of this tree they will become "like gods.". I think "being like gods" would mean something different to a man than to a woman. Speaking for myself, I don't see the Serpent as appealing to Eve's egocentricity so much as to her instincts as an earth mother. And if so, how exactly did the Serpent go about setting Eve up for "the fall"? In other words, what could have been going on in Eve's mind? What beneath the surface of the story might be at issue here?

For one thing, as Eve it would seem to me that the most important thing about becoming "like gods" would be "to live forever." Moreover, the first argument the Serpent presents to Eve is to contradict Yahweh by telling her, "You will not die." To the part of me that is Eve this would certainly be more appealing than gaining "knowledge of good and evil," except perhaps as idle curiosity. But I know from Eve's name that her primary nature is in being an earth mother. And I know how primarily concerned an earth mother is for the safety, well-being and the preservation of the physical life of her offspring. And if Eve is destined to become the "mother of all," as her name indicates, then this desire is basic to who she is. I know that on this level I am unconsciously and sometimes outrageously instinctual. At times I even have been just conscious enough to observe how even mild apprehension can evolve into full-fledged anxiety where my children are concerned. For these reasons I feel that for Eve, the original earth mother, this priority of physical survival would have been essential to her nature.

As I read the story, Yahweh's focus, too, seems more concerned with the Tree of Life than the Tree of Knowledge. Only after the fact of the temptation is Yahweh overheard to say, "See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the Tree of Life also, and eat some and live for ever." It is for this reason that Yahweh bans Adam from the Garden and places the Tree of Life under the guard of the flaming sword.(40)



The Tension of Opposites

At this point in the story as it has come down to us in Genesis, it is almost as if Eve, being a mere woman, has become so unimportant as to be invisible. I also can relate to this, to times in the midst of highly charged, "important" masculine situations when I, too, have felt invisible. But in all fairness, I'm sure the same could be said for men when in the vicinity of women totally involved in their own gender happenings.

Just as the Serpent and Yahweh create a tension of opposites--the instinctual and the spiritual--so Adam and Eve--the masculine and the feminine--have their own characteristic and opposing energies that from time to time build up to a collective fervor capable of obscuring all else.

If the Serpent is instinctual--is of the earth and matter--then Yahweh is of heaven and spirit. If Yahweh represents consciousness, then the Serpent represents unconsciousness. If Yahweh is "good," then the Serpent is "evil." If the goal is to return to conscious union with God then the "evil" that the Serpent represents is that which is done out of unconsciousness.




The Bible nowhere defines for us an ultimate, absolute, transcendent God, perhaps because this, as Judaism holds, is beyond human understanding. Instead we have different names for God, names defining different divine characteristics. These different names clue us into the different facets of the One who is beyond our comprehension. When Moses asked of the Voice from the burning bush, "Who shall I say sent me?" "I am who I am" (also translated "I exist",) was what he was told. Thereafter it was this "I am" who, through Moses, directed the Israelites and who became known as Yahweh.

But Yahweh is not the only name by which God is known in the Bible. In Genesis 1:1 it is Yahweh-Elohim who creates "heaven and earth." Nor is Yahweh, as he is characterized in the Old Testament, the same in character as the Heavenly Father whom Jesus calls "Abba," (or as we would say, "Daddy.") At least by name--by nature--Yahweh is not even the name of the one who spoke to Abraham saying:

I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations shall descend from you. Even kings shall be numbered among your descendants.(41)

El Shaddai, according to David Ebaugh's research based on Strong's Concordance, is a feminine Hebrew word related in meaning to"large or multi-breasted provider." Yahweh, on the other hand, is a masculine word whose root meaning includes the idea "to produce with the hand," and the Elohim of Genesis 1:1 is a plural androgynous word etymologically related to "strong oak tree."(42) These different names for God suggest different facets of the Hebrew Godhead, only one of which was Yahweh.

It was "Yahweh-Elohim," who walked and talked with Adam and actually spoke of himself in the plural. Let us just suppose that this Yahweh-Elohim of the Hebrew Godhead had some reason other than a demand for blind obedience for not wanting his children, in their present stage of development, to eat of the Tree of Life. From the perspective of wholeness, what motive might we assign Yahweh that would be more in keeping with how a loving father could be expected to deal with disobedience in children? To gain insight here we need turn now to Adam and the role in the Garden drama assigned him as representative of the masculine pole of the human psyche.



The Archetypal Adam

As the first man and the first woman, Adam and Eve represent the masculine and feminine principles of the human psyche. Eve's role as earth mother--as the primal maternal--has already been noted. Adam, as her opposite, carries the potential for masculine or paternal responsibility. One of the positive functions of the masculine principle is to assume responsibility for the protection of offspring until they become old enough to shoulder responsibility for themselves, at which time they will be better equipped to make responsible choices and be responsible for their choices. Along with the freedom of choice comes exposure to unknown dangers.

If there was something about the nature of the Serpent that resonated with Eve's basic role, then it follows there was something about the nature of Yahweh that related to Adam. If in the development of human consciousness Yahweh exemplified, among other things, the protective masculine then his justification for expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden may have been that human nature was not yet ready to assume the responsibility for making mature choices.

But why, having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil and already having tasted something of what it is like to be gods, would Adam ("the woman" is not mentioned) have needed to be protected at all costs from eating of the Tree of Life?



From Unity to Multiplicity

Back in Genesis the "innocence" that was lost was an original state of undifferentiated unity of consciousness. Eating of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was symbolic of the beginning of the process of differentiation. Before that, we may surmise, the individual human being was not yet aware of existence apart from the whole. Reflective thought, except in undifferentiated reference to the whole, had not yet been experienced. Only after the fruit of duality was consumed and digested, only from that point on did the ability to think in terms of opposites become apparent: good and evil, light and dark, male and female, heaven and earth, the divine and the human, life and death. And, as human consciousness continued its evolutionary path of increasing complexity, the list of opposites multiplied proportionately.

Yahweh's immediate concern had been with "the man" who had become like god in his knowledge of good and evil. But what if Yahweh's ultimate concern was the near certainty that these humans next would eat of the Tree of Life and consequentially obtain immortality. Apparently in Yahweh's mind to have done so would have been disastrous.



Yahweh's Worst Fear

Eve, "the mother of all those who live,"(43) is the earth principle with its inherent instinct for physical survival. If Eve could have secured physical immortality for herself and her children her innermost desire as an earth mother would seem to have been fulfilled and, as far as she was concerned, creation would have fulfilled its purpose. But, at the same time, Yahweh's worst fear would have been realized. It has been said that high on the list of human fears is the fear of dying before one has really lived. When life becomes complacent and settles in at the level of mere existence there is no motivation to make of one's life something more than it already is. For this reason Jesus said, "Whoever would preserve [as in pickle] his life will lose it."(44)

Perhaps this is what Yahweh was bent on preventing from happening: humankind's eating of the Tree of Life and thereby attaining immortality too soon--before having lived long enough to become conscious enough to appreciate that without purpose and meaning life is not really being lived. A tragedy of our times is that so many young people are "falling through the cracks" of our society, the potential of their lives being lost before they have had an opportunity to live.



The Tree of Life--Its Heart and Side Shoots

A Jewish "cabalistic" explanation of the Tree of Life sees it as having lateral branches representing the sub-human species. These side-shoots come to a halt at one level or another, ending on the same level where each began. Humankind, however, is understood as being the heart or trunk of the tree. (Figure 7)

The Heart and Side Shoots of the Tree of Life
Figure 7

Consequently, each species is compelled to exist in a milieu which varies only to a slight extent. If the milieu alters beyond the species' capacity of adaptation, then the species dies. . . . . For the genus Homo, however, the situation is completely different. . . . The life to which Adam is called is a series of destructions and new beginnings. Allegorically, life is "saying" all the time that this "germ" of humanity must always be prevented from achieving perfect protection and shelter. If ever it should find a fixed refuge, a comfortable stability, it would settle down lazily into a subhuman species; it would become one of these side-shoots on the tree of life.(45)

A similar point of view is given in The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian, by Joseph Epes Brown, who explains the complexity of the spiritual endowment of the Plains Indian, and why their beliefs cannot be put off simplistically as pantheism.

. . . although man was created last of all the creatures, he is also the "axis," and thus in a sense is the first. For if each animal reflects particular aspects of the Great Spirit, man, on the contrary, may include within himself all aspects. He is thus a totality, bearing the Universe within himself, and through his Intellect having the potential capacity to live in continual awareness of this reality. . . .

[Peace] comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.(46)



The Ordering of Priorities

In Eden, while Yahweh's concern had been with Adam, the Serpent's conversation had been with Eve. In apprising the Tree of Knowledge Eve saw, first of all, that it was "good to eat," secondly that it was "pleasing to the eye," and last of all she conceded it to be "desirable for the knowledge it could give". If the archetypal Eve is a part of each of us, it can be self-revealing to note Eve's priorities, and then honestly assess them against our own. What are our survival concerns? Our emotional needs? The value we place on knowledge?

The transformational process asks that we become observers but not judges of our own unconscious attitudes and assumptions. In becoming observers we gain the distance and detachment necessary to see how some of our most basic attitudes and cherished assumptions are the cause of our resistance to change, and therefore to having alternate choices. Judgment, on the other hand, (whether directed towards ourselves or others) causes a defensive response which blinds us to alternate possibilities. Biblical personalities, however, offer another avenue to self-knowledge, one that is indirect and therefore able to bypass the resistance we all have to seeing into the inner depths of our own souls. When we read about them we are drawn to reflect upon our own human similarities. In this way we become more psychologically honest. John Sanford, speaking of what made Jacob a candidate for transformation, notes:

To be psychologically honest means that a person is capable of seeing the truth about himself and what he is doing. . . . He calls a spade a spade, and this quality of psychological honesty is of fundamental importance to spiritual and psychological development. Without it nothing can take place; with it there is always the possibility that God (Who, psychologically speaking, is the urge toward wholeness) can break through our egocentricity and make something of us.(47)







How Opposites Interchange

As noted in Part I, the components of the Garden form a mandala that reflects the structure and dynamics of the human psyche. Another way of seeing the same dynamics at work is in the Star of David, which symbol is to Israel what the Cross is to Christianity. Both Cross and Star are symbolic of the reconciliation of opposites and have common components. Previously we have seen Adam and Eve and Yahweh and the Serpent as pairs of opposites. Now, in Figure 8, Yahweh and Adam are shown occupying the upper, downward pointing triangle and Eve and the Serpent as occupying the lower but upward pointing triangle.

Figure 8

As shown in Figure 8, the upper but downward pointing triangle is the territory of Yahweh and Adam, with Yahweh representing the higher and Adam the lower archetypal levels of the masculine principle. Inversely, Eve's territory is the upper portion of the lower triangle, the one pointing upward, which for our purposes represents the feminine principle. Its lower-most archetypal level is the habitation of the Serpent

Note the small diamond in Figure 8 where the tips of the two triangles (marked with a plus sign) meet. Then, in Figure 9, note how in the integration process opposites interchange. For Eve and her daughters the journey towards wholeness leads upward from the lower world of the unconscious--a place or state of mind where no one questions Eve's ability to carry on a conversation with a Serpent. But for Adam and his sons the journey leads downward from the upper world. Whereas it was Eve who conversed with the Serpent, it was Adam whose task it was to name and categorize the animals. Adam's challenge, or the challenge of the dominantly masculine, is to become more intimately familiar with the lower regions of consciousness referred to as the unconscious.

Figure 9

The Process of Symbolic Inversion

In Figures 8 and 9, as Eve's and the Serpent's triangle ascends and Adam's and Yahweh's descends, what is a small diamond (a seed potential) in the center of Figure 8 has expanded so as to include all four of Eden's archetypal personages. Moreover, Yahweh and the Serpent, instead of being relegated to the upper and the lower outermost territories, (representing the archetypal extremities) have now become co-joined and included within the very center of the diagram.

This process by which opposites interchange is called symbolic inversion. As a principle of nature it is constantly happening in our daily lives as day turns into night and summer becomes winter. Something similar is also constantly taking place in the human psyche with its rhythmic movement from times of withdrawing inwardly to times of moving back out into greater activity and involvement. This ebb and flow of psychic energy is as regular as the rise and fall of the ocean and follows laws of nature as dependable as those upon which the tides are regulated.

In Genesis, Yahweh and the Serpent are the archetypal representatives of the principles symbolized as heaven and earth: Adam and Eve are the representatives of these same principles in human nature. The creative task of becoming individually whole is the progressive work by which the opposites on both personal and collective levels of consciousness are united. The diamond, as it is double outlined in Figure 9, is symbolic of the many-faceted, whole psyche--the diamond Self.



The Creative Process at Work in Our Lives

Our survival into adulthood gives us firsthand knowledge of life's passages. From infant to child to adolescent to young adult, we pass through "initiations" that symbolically relate to our emergence from unconsciousness. In the embryonic state we were contained within an encircling environment that provided all our needs. After being so rudely pushed from the womb we gradually experienced separateness. Incrementally our independence and self-identity increased and strengthened. Gradually it dawned upon us that someday we would be expected to assume responsibility for our own lives. As teenagers we began to resist what we experienced as barriers to our freedom and to rebel against those who imposed limitations on us. We were betwixt and between the womb and the world. We were about to be banished from Eden's gates.

On the transformational journey we become conscious of who we are both individually and in our relationship to the whole. Our need is to know where we have come from so as to appraise where we now are and be receptive to direction from within as to where we are to go from here. In this movement the creative process is at work in and through our lives.

The story of Eden is about the initial phase of the repetitive pattern by which consciousness evolves. In grasping this we come to see that the real life situations that cause us the psychic pain of alienation are not working against us but for our wholeness. If only we could more readily embrace rather than resist our pain, then our suffering would be less and we would understand it as something not to escape but to wrestle with. "To prevail" in this sense is to not let go of what we are wrestling or struggling against until we are able to discern its message, meaning, or guidance for our lives. When we do this the experience then becomes transforming and prepares us to ascend higher up the evolutionary spiral where our lives can be seen in terms of their intentional course.

To know there is intent behind our lives is to know that we are connected to and part of a larger life and a greater reality than the limited one we know through our five senses.



From the First to the Second Adam

Paradoxically, for the individual as well as for humanity, emergence from that original edenic state of collective containment causes an erasing of memory. We are born into this life with only "intimations" of our immortality. In the original, undifferentiated, unconscious state we are so identified with the whole we don't know who we are apart from all else. The biblical journey from Genesis to Revelations points our way of return to the eternal All-in-All that God is, not as an unconscious union but in a fully conscious reunion.

The real choice to be made is between accepting the responsibilities of becoming more fully conscious over the consequences of remaining unconscious, a choice most acutely brought into focus at each of life's crossroads. For pre-conscious humanity the Garden of Eden was just such a crossroads.

If Yahweh is the archetypal representative of the divine masculine principle, one of his primary functions is to keep humanity on its evolutionary course in order for it to reach its goal. The way an archetype functions is to set in motion a particular kind of energy by which the human psyche--individually and collectively--is moved from one phase of its journey to the next. In this light, even the violence of the Old Testament and of Revelations can be read as symbolic of how the human soul's resistance to transformation is overcome--is itself done violence to--as when a tornado uproots everything in its path that is not sufficiently lashed in place, or an earthquake shakes the very foundation upon which a person is standing, causing whatever is not firmly anchored to come tumbling down.

The Garden of Eden was a pivotal crossroads for collective humanity. Jesus, in the agony he experienced in Gethsemane, made a symbolic return to Eden. About this the Apostle Paul wrote:

The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.(48)

In accepting the "bitter cup" of crucifixion Jesus was opening himself to all the cumulative darkness and pain of the human race. Rather than making any effort to preserve his own life, he accepted "obedience unto death," thereby blotting out that first and all subsequent acts of disobedience--past, present and future.

If in Eden disobedience caused humanity to veer from some originally intended course, in Gethsemane humanity as a whole was put back on course.

O happy fault

That merited such and so great a redeemer!(49)



Illustration Credits

Marianne Elliott: Frontispiece and Figures 3, 4, & 7.
Kenneth McAll, M.D.: Figure 1 (permission requested)
Ann K Elliott: Figures 2, 5, 6, 8, & 9


1. Jung, C G, quoted by Jolande Jacobi in Complex, Archetype, Symbol, Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1950, p 31 and following in which Jacobi gives a clear and concise treatment of the archetypes. Italics in text mine. 2. Ibid, p 32
3. Progoff, Ira, Jung, Synchronicity, and Human Destiny, Dell, NY, 1973, p78
4. Complex, Archetype, Symbol op cit, p 31
5. Genesis 3:24
6. Matthew 7:3
7. Jung, Collected Works, Aion, Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, Vol 9,11, para 14, p 8, Bollingen Series XX, Pantheon Books, 1959
8. Sheldrake, Rupert, The Presence of the Past (Park Street Press). Also see Dan Menkin's interview with Sheldrake in Quest Magazine, Autumn 1995.
9. Ibid, p 8
10. For an in-depth treatment of active imagination as developed by Jung see Barbara Hannah's Active Imagination, Sigo Press, 1981
11. McAll, Kenneth, M D, Healing the Family Tree, Sheldon Press, SPCK, Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DU, England, 1982.
12. Exodus 20:5
13. The friend to whom I refer is Cliff Custer. See his book Love is an Inside Job. Address inquiries to his attention, 421 Avenue De Terresa, Grants Pass OR 97526
14 . Karney, Beulah, Old Father's Long Journey, ..\..\..\serra\californiamissionstudies.htm
15. The Agreda Story, by Beulah Karney ..\..\..\agreda\maryofagreda.htm
16. Jung, Synchronicity, and Human Destiny, op cit, pp 112-3
17. 2 Corinthians 12:2
18. The Basic Writings of C G Jung, edited by Violet Staub de Laszio, Modern Library, Random House, 1959, N Y, p 115
19. Ibid
20. Sanford, Kingdom Within, p 51
21. op cit, Basic Writings, p 102
22. John 5:2-9
23. Jung, C G, Aion, Pantheon Books, New York, 1959, p 234
24. Ibid, p 245
25. Ibid, p 247
Westminister/John Knox Press, KY, 1992. Kunkel quote from Fritz Kunkel: Selected Writings, p 387, Edited by Sanford and published by Paulist Press, NJ 1984
27. Genesis 2:19
28. Aion, op cit p 248
29. Kunkle, Fritz, Creation Continues, pp 64-65, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1973
30. This is thematic in The Revelation, Our Crisis is a Birth, by Barbara Marx Hubbard, Foundation for Conscious Evolution, Greenbrae, CA, 1993
31. Sanford, John, The Man Who Wrestled With God, (Revised and Updated), Paulist Press, (1987) NY See Chapter 12, particularly the last few pages in discussion of the Wisdom interpretation of the Serpent of Eden which suggests that at the time of the writing of the story there was actual concern for the kind of evil that is morally defiling and capable of causing a person to darken or lose their soul by corruption from within.
32. Genesis 3:1
33. Kunkle, op cit, p 70
34. With reference to 1 Corinthians 1:25
35. James 1:12
36. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, Macmillan, MY 1956, See pages 141-7
37. Matthew 10:38

38. James 3:6

39. Genesis 3:3

40. Genesis 3:22

41. Genesis 35:11-13
42. Research on The Names of God provided by David Ebaugh in his newsletter Monarch, October 1990, 102 Park Terrace, Harrisburg PA 17111-1667
43. Genesis 3:20.
44. Matthew 16:25
45. Suares, Carlos Cipher of Genesis, Bantam Books Edition, NY, 1973, p 98-99
46. Brown, Joseph Epes, The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 135, 1964, Pendle Hill PA, pp 18-19
47. Sanford, John, The Man Who Wrestled With God, Religious Publishing Co, PA, 1974, p 24.
48. 1 Corinthians 15:45
49. From the Roman Missal


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