Limiting His sense of awareness so that God could know Himself as a separate, distinct self, is only the first half of God’s plan. For the undertaking to be successful, God has to be able to transfer the sense of self-awareness gained in the state we call our lives, to His Natural Condition. After all, the idea of this exercise is not simply to become self-aware in an apparently limited environment, but rather to export or impart that sense of self-awareness to the infinite environment. Thus, this process is about creating God’s Sense of Self-Consciousness, the self-consciousness of an infinite being. Remember, this dance was choreographed because God the Infinite One seeks to Know Himself as the Infinite One. That was the focus at the outset, and it remains the focus.
So, God creates the apple, and takes a bite from it. Instantly, as planned, He perceives Himself as us.
Now, comes our part. Our creation as separate and distinct individuals in a separate and distinct reality is not the result of a random accident in a random universe, but rather to fulfill a specific, two-fold function. First, we are here to enjoy our lives. That sounds a little silly and pretty easy; in practice, it is neither. It means we must be willing, even eager, to live our lives fully and unconditionally, their ups and their downs, their beginnings, middles, and endings, welcoming and experiencing every moment for its own sake, relating responsibly and cheerfully toward every other person, every other event, and every other thing we come across – every other, whatever form it may take – however beautiful or ugly he, she, or it may seem to us. Further, it means, whoever and wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given time – literally or figuratively, in our personal lives, our social lives, our professional lives, our spiritual lives – to be that without hesitation, without reservation, and without regret. It means being fully aware of ourselves as we live our lives in this way; observing our actions and our reactions. It means, in a phrase, living joyfully and alertly. Far from easy or silly, this is an awesome assignment.
Secondly, we must commit ourselves to the spiritual process in whatever manner or form seems appropriate to us. That is, sooner or later, one way or another, here or somewhere else, we must set out upon the spiritual path leading to Self-Realization, which position, in this context, we might label ’God as Finite Us Now Remembering His Truly Infinite Nature’. And we are to do that precisely so that the sense of self-awareness each of us develops while living our separate and distinct egoic lives in the mature manner just described, will be transferred to the One in Its Undivided Infinity. That is, our ability as separate individuals to say “I know myself” serves God only if, through Self-Realization, we transfer it to Him, so that then He can say it.
Thus, our lives are not ours! Contrary to what most of us assume, our lives are not for us but for God. And Self-Realization is likewise not for us, but for God. Remember, in a way we cannot now understand, God and we are one and the same, and always have been, and therefore, when we undertake the spiritual path, so too does God (whatever that might mean). And, likewise, if Self-Realization is good for us, then it must be good for God too (whatever that might mean). The important thing to remember here is that the distinction we continually draw between ourselves and God is false. So, if the phenomenon you and I each call ’my life’ is how God experiences living separatively, then it follows that the culmination of that process — Self -Realization — must serve God too. Perhaps, as we are suggesting here, it carries the awareness of self from the finite environment to the infinite environment. If so, then the entire process is, and always has been, for and about God. And why not? God is all there is, so who else!
What about the snake? Unfortunately, like all perception-altering drugs, the fruit of the tree of knowledge has a down side: It’s addictive. That is, even though we whine and complain about them tirelessly, the fact is you and I are addicted to our lives. We are hooked on the finite bodies we perceive ourselves to be. We love the good parts of separative existence, and evidently we love the bad parts, too, for we keep repeating them, over and over again, even seeking them artificially through books and movies and other forms of entertainment. Indeed, we love our lives so much we ridicule or persecute, and if necessary prosecute, those among us who seek to remind us that our lives, our being human, are not an end in themselves, but rather they have a purpose beyond purely physical pleasure and excitement. Fortunately, God, being God, foresaw this eventuality, and provided for it.
You will recall that in the traditional interpretation of The Fall, the serpent in the garden is the enemy. Well, as kids say these days: Not! In fact, the serpent is the fail-safe instrument in the Plan. The serpent is a symbol for that aspect of God which, throughout the process of intentional self-forgetting we have just described, remains aware of What Is Going On and Why. The serpent in the garden represents not evil (What does it say about us and our own value systems that we have so little difficulty convincing ourselves that God would place an evil serpent in Paradise to torment us?) but rather the spark of infinite divinity that resides within each of us, and that never forgets What Is: who and what we truly are, and what we are supposed to be doing here. It is the serpent’s function tirelessly to remind us of our role in God’s scheme, and, once we have heard that call, to facilitate our spiritual reawakening, to guide us and provide for us along the spiritual path. Accordingly, Jesus, who surely was familiar with this story, tells us, “Be wise as serpents,” and, likewise, in the Hindu tradition, the spiritual force within each of us, the kundalini, is symbolized as a serpent, coiled at the base of the spine. Most of us, of course, are afraid of the serpent, just as we are afraid of the Teacher; but we are also fascinated by it. All of that is so, precisely because we know what it represents. We know what it means, we know what it requires of us, and we know what it promises.
Reality check: Was there ever actually a garden, a serpent and an apple tree? No, of course not, and searching the globe for relics of them, as adventurous archeologists do from time to time, is like looking for signs of Santa’s home at the North Pole. Of course it exists, but that is not where you will find it. In fact, the Garden of Eden exists in the very same place where Santa Claus lives: In your heart and in my heart. Both the Eden story and the Santa story are myths, meaning that they are true but not exactly as told. That is, just as we tell our children the story of Father Christmas as a way to explain to them the inexplicable nature of selfless love and motiveless generosity, so too we tell ourselves the story of the Garden of Eden to explain to ourselves the inexplicable nature of creation generally, and, as suggested here, of the creation of Cosmic Self-Consciousness specifically.
Further, not only was there never really a garden, but neither is God now, nor has God ever been, incapable of seeing or knowing Himself. By definition, God lacks nothing. Besides, God is not the product of a process. God now and always is wholly, absolutely, and changelessly Perfectly God. Once again, the purpose of the garden story, or of this interpretation of the garden story, is to attempt to paint a picture of a subject which is formless, and which, therefore, cannot be depicted – to give meaning to something (our reality) which may seem meaningless because we are conceptually unable to see it in its magnificently simple entirety.
The problem is, the Truth is too big to grasp. As Lao Tzu said it, “existence is beyond the power of words to define,” and Sri Nisargadatta, “Words are made by the mind, and are meaningful only on the level of the mind.” For this reason, many Teachers offer their Teaching only in silence, either for a period of years, like Sri Ramana Maharshi, or even indefinitely. There is nothing to be said, and so they say nothing. In the words of the Old Testament, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” Similarly, in Zen, silence reigns. And in many other traditions, the Most Secret cannot be spoken, in part from reverence, but also because those who Know, know that there is no word or set of words, no label or definition, that can rightly say, “this is True and that is not.”
All the same, be these stories myths or failed explanations or even simply futile gestures, knowledge empowers us. And there is nothing wrong with your life or my life that cannot be fixed with the knowledge resident in the story of the Garden of Eden. Recognizing who we are and why we are here releases us from our attachment to the bodies we seem to be inhabiting, and frees us to be what we truly are. When we understand the Secret of the Intensely Intimate Relationship we Share with the Omniscient Omnipotent Infinite One God, nothing can threaten us or frighten us. The truth is, there exists nowhere in the entire physical or metaphysical universe a greater force for healing than this knowledge, for it releases love, which illuminates, liberates, and makes whole every thing.
Seek it. Trust it. Abide in it.
Do not be afraid!
“Vieille Auberge” signed Raffray,
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