One day in Paradise, Adam sees Eve for the first time.
”I am Adam,” he says to her.
”Yes, I know,” Eve replies, “so am I.”
In the beginning, we have discovered, God had a problem. Being everything there was had one serious drawback: It denied Him self-awareness. The one thing an infinite being cannot do is find a place where it is not, there to perch and observe or reflect upon itself. At fault was the basic, underlying premises of the Universe God had just created and already dearly loved; that is, that it is all One and only One (hence, the “uni” in Universe). He did not want to tamper with that, but still if He was to be able to resolve this dilemma, He was going to have to tinker with it, even if just a little. Or so it seemed.
Bedeviled by this challenge to His omnipotence and omniscience, God brought to the matter the full scope of His creative genius, but the more He struggled with it, the more it shaped itself into riddle form: Where could He go to gain a perspective on Himself as an other without actually going anywhere or without actually becoming an other? How to divide what is indivisible? How to create something else, an other, without actually creating another? How to change the rules without changing the rules? And then, with the suddenness of a thunderclap and the clarity of lightning, the solution struck Him. It was brilliant in its simplicity, and although it had risks, it was ultimately failsafe. Besides, it might even be fun. And this was it: Where else to accomplish what had all the characteristics of an impossible dream but precisely there, in a dream! Everyone knows there are no rules in dreams. Why, in dreams, even elephants fly, and why not? After all, they are, well, just dreams. Dreams do not change anything, and they permit everything. It was the perfect answer, and God seized upon it.
Precisely so, we are told in Genesis that before creating Eve, God put Adam to sleep. This passage was not, as most of us have probably always supposed, the presiding anesthesiologist’s report of appropriate surgical procedure properly administered before removing the lad’s rib. Not at all. We are to understand this incident to be informing us that only in sleep, only in the harmless anarchy of a dreamscape, could God accomplish what His Own Rules of Law prohibited, a change to the immutable. God created Adam, and being Infinite, God was wholly in Adam. Thus, for all practical purposes, Adam was none other than God-Being-Adam, just as everything else was, and is, in Creation. Then, and here is where it got interesting, God numbed Himself-as-Adam to the Truth so that, as Adam, he no longer knew who he was. He blinded Himself-as-Adam to the awareness of wakefulness by putting Adam to sleep. If you will, borrowing from the Superman comic strip of our youth, God gave Himself-as-Adam a sniff of kryptonite, thus impairing his God-Vision.
In a word, then, to perceive an other, any other, so that He could perceive Himself, God took the fall. He created Himself-as-Adam, and put that aspect to sleep so that, in sleep, He could dream what could never be True, a world of separately perceived things, of Himself-the-One as the “ten thousand things”, to borrow from Lao Tsu’s phrase from the Tao Te Ching coined to teach the very same Genesis lesson in another culture. (See Note)
God asleep is Adam. Adam is not a separate entity or being; in Paradise, there are no separate entities. In Paradise, there is one, only one, the Infinite One, God. Adam is God, asleep. Notice, if you will, that while Genesis specifically informs us of Adam’s being put under, we are never told of his awakening. For those inclined to dismiss that omission as a meaningless oversight, we need only recall that far less significant matters are presented to us throughout Genesis, often in dizzying detail. If it was worth reporting when and how Adam lay down to sleep, the circumstances of his arising would surely have been deemed equally relevant. And indeed they were, but not in Genesis, for it did not occur in Genesis. But when it does occur, later, we are given the good news. But in Genesis, God-as-Adam is asleep, and stays asleep.
Now, looking at the scene in this new light, some of what had seemed confusing to us about The Fall account begins to make sense. Even the tree with its forbidden fruit assumes a different shape and an appropriate function. Consider, for example, the name of the tree, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil”. That single word “and” in the name gives away its secret to those whose ears will hear. In the beginning, when there was only One Thing, there was no word “and”. Of what use would it have been? The word “and” is a conjunction, and conjunctions serve to join or connect things. Where there is only one thing, there is nothing to connect. In the beginning, there was only God, no God and … anything. In fact, as we have observed, that was God’s problem. But eating of the fruit of this tree imparted “the knowledge of and”, a knowledge heretofore excluded from, or forbidden to, Paradise. Hence, we call it the “forbidden” fruit, a fruit whose effect is the world we know, the world of things, the world of “and”, a world denied or, again, forbidden, to the One.
Genesis gives away this secret again in the passage in which God says that who eats of the fruit will surely die. As we have now realized, that was precisely the purpose of the fruit: to permit an aspect or image of God (called Adam) temporarily to not be (or to forget that it is) God — in effect, to die — for the purpose of achieving self-consciousness. Thus, God’s announcement that who eats of the fruit will die is not so much a warning or a threat as it is the happy exclamation of a chemist upon successfully developing a formula to achieve a desired result. “Eureka!” he shouts triumphantly, “I’ve found it. Whoever eats of this will surely die.” The apple God placed in Eden was not a poison — (How much it says about our sense of God, and our measure of His love for His creatures, that we thought it was!) — but a prescription.
Notice too in this context that in Genesis God delegates to Adam the function of naming “every living creature”. To God in His Wholeness, there is no need for names. In Truth, there is only One “living creature”, God, and it is nameless, at least to Itself. After all, what use to name It? Who would address It? There is no other. It is only from the perspective of those with “the knowledge of and”, those who see the One as many, that things need to be named, to be distinguished each from another, to be addressed. To God it is all One, Himself. It’s All the Same to Me, God might say; but as Adam, it is quite another story. To Adam (remember, that’s God-as-Adam), it is boys and girls, and cats and dogs, and chickens and foxes, and all sorts of other good things!
As for the rest of the tree’s name, for our purposes here, any set of pairs could have served as well as “Good and Evil”. It might have been “The Knowledge of Up and Down”, or of “Life and Death”, or “Past and Future”, or, and ultimately this is it, “You and Me”. However, to be fair to the Genesis storyteller, we should note that “Good and Evil” was a particularly apt choice, and incidentally it confirms our own conclusions so far. Remember that early in Genesis, during the first seven days, God pauses every so often to observer His handiwork, and remarks each time that “it was good”. To Him, it was always Good. Being Infinite, God sees Himself everywhere; thus, everything He sees is Good, or Himself. So, it is not that God was saying to Himself that what He saw in those early days was good as opposed to not good (or evil); rather, it is that it was good because there was nothing else it could be. In a word, then, God was not making a judgment or a comparison, but simply an observation.
To see anything any other way than good would be to see it differently from the way God sees it, which is precisely what God wanted to achieve by The Fall. Remember, the point here is that God was looking for a device by which to see Himself as other than Himself, so that He could come to know it was Himself! So, again, what does He do? He plants a tree whose fruit imparts the ability (or, if you prefer, the disability) to see not only good, as God the Whole always and only sees, but good and not-good, or evil. To see dualistically or separatively. Not one, but many. (It is, of course, still the One, because there is not anything else except That, and there never could be, but it is the One seen as if it were many.)
Now, we should diverge just a moment to note that this reference to evil is most certainly not the same evil you and I were brought up on, which is moralistic, judgmental, and anxiety-inducing. God did not want to induce anxiety here, but simply to solve a problem. Thus, the word here is intended to mean, in effect, different from the way God in His Wholeness sees. In Truth, then, evil means “not One”, which of course is impossible, and therefore cannot exist and has no real meaning, except in a dreamscape which was itself specifically devised by God to permit the appearance of “not One-ness” to fulfill His own purposes. (The other evil has to do with that ethical/moral morass of shalls and shall-nots that governs our behavior in society. As such, it is an altogether different beast, and not an appropriate subject of this book.)
So, precisely according to Plan and the chemist’s formula, upon eating the fruit of this tree, the One perceived itself as the many. Just so, it is in Adam’s sleep that we are introduced to the first real other, Eve. Finally, the word “and” finds a useful place in the vocabulary: Adam and Eve. Someone else. An other to whom he could say, “Madam, I’m Adam”, and perceive that he is. And it takes place in a setting where it does not matter, where it could not alter the unalterable unity and wholeness of the Universe — it takes place in a dream.
Let’s take a closer look at this dreamscape now that we understand a little more about it. Notice first that we now seem to have in effect not one Adam, but two. First, the Adam whom God put to sleep, who we said is actually God Himself, asleep, and second, the Adam in the dream, the Adam who appears on the scene after the first Adam falls to sleep. This latter is the Adam who is tossed out of the Garden, moves east of Eden, tills the soil, and initiates the endless begatting. We have, then, the sleeping Adam who is God asleep (or, if you prefer, an aspect or image of God), and the dreamed Adam, who is God’s dream. God-as-Adam is dreaming, and, naturally enough, he is dreaming about himself. Don’t we all? Our confusion here, also natural enough, stems from the fact that, in the Genesis story, both are given the same name, and why not? However, as most dream analysts might agree, the second Adam, the dream character, should not be considered by himself to be a representation of the dreamer, of the first Adam. At least as I understand dream theory, generally speaking a dream represents, or is a representation of, the dreamer only in its entirety. That is, each character or element of the dream is a representation of an aspect of the dreamer, and must be viewed or interpreted together with all the other characters, elements, and events as a whole, if the full meaning or intent of the dream is to be deciphered. Even when we dream of a character who looks like us, answers to our name, and who we assume is us, the likelihood is that that character is intended to represent only one of our aspects or characteristics. A dream is a whole unit, and as that whole unit it is a representation of the dreamer. Thus, no single character but everyone and everything that appears and occurs in the first Adam’s dream, taken as a whole, is a representation of the dreamer, or of Adam, who is God, asleep.
At the risk of oversimplifying (some more!), we might say that the dreamed Adam is the male aspect of the sleeping Adam. In Oriental imagery, the yang. The second aspect of the sleeping Adam we call Eve, the female, which is yin. Adam and Even are two aspects of the same thing, the One, which is God-being-Adam asleep. Thus are we told that God created Eve from the sleeping Adam. Just so, for Eve, like the second or dreamed Adam, is an aspect of the first or sleeping Adam, and therefore must “come from” him. We might even say, they reside in him. The dream characters Adam and Eve in composite are a representation of the dreamer, the sleeping Adam, who is God. Indeed, taken together, as a whole, along with all of the rest of the dream, they are the sleeping Adam. They appear to us in the dream as two separate entities, but that is a deception; however, that is precisely the dream’s purpose, to deceive. Adam and Eve are like two sides of the same coin, not really two at all. In that sense, we might say that Adam and Eve are an illusion. Not that they do not exist, for they exist just as surely as God exists, but that as we perceive them — as distinct, separate entities (he and she) — they do not exist. Except, of course, in the dream.
The Genesis storyteller depicts with particular skill the phenomenon we are trying to understand, in the scene in which Adam and Eve meet God in the Garden for the first time after having eaten of the fruit. Suddenly, as never before, they perceive themselves separate and apart from one another, no longer one unity, secure and intact, wholly sufficient, but now two, severed, divorced, and torn asunder, dangling in the wind in Eden. The Bible tells us they felt naked and ashamed. How else should a thing deprived all at once of its wholeness feel, if not naked? Like a turtle deprived of its shell. And ashamed? Yes, if we recall that the word means “disconcerted or discomfited by a sense of impropriety or of things being improper” (like incorrect, abnormal, irregular, unsuitable, or inappropriate). It is a wonder they were not in hysterics. Then, still reeling from this blow, they perceive God, their Whole, that which, as one together as they belong, they are. But now the One seems not to be of or in them, as it ought to be, but “over there”, apart, something else. An other. Now they are thoroughly disoriented. The Bible says they hid themselves from Him. Of course they did. They panicked. Still, was it not instead that it was He Who had hidden Himself, His Wholeness, from them? The Fall having been accomplished, the conspiracy in train and the parts separated from the Whole, they see God altogether as an other. They no longer recognize themselves in Him or as Him. They do not see Him for what He is, themselves. God, or the Truth of God, or the Truth of their True Nature, is hidden from them. And they are frightened. Despite our dogged insistence to the contrary from pulpits and confessionals, this scene has nothing to do with genitals and fig leaves. Rather, what this poignant passage reveals to us, for those who would know it, is nothing less than what it feels like, in human terms, to be the elements of a split atom: naked, alone, and terrified.
Again and again is this same awesome theme addressed for us in the Genesis account, but just as often we miss it, obsessed as we are with sin, guilt, and genitals. Just before banishing Adam and Eve from Eden, God is said to have made for them “garments of skin”. At this report, we nod approvingly, pleased that finally they are appropriately and discretely attired. But that puritan perspective is not what this is about. This is about garments of skin alright, but our own. Literally. When the Bible tells us that God put Adam and Eve into skins, we should understand that to mean that He incarnated them. He took Himself the Infinite Indivisible One, and split it into two (or many), finite and discernible, with limits and boundaries, limits and boundaries which we call bodies. Our bodies, these bags of skin we think we live in, were devised to make separate existence seem real. They are the evidence of separate existence, the “proof” that we exist as separate beings. It is by the evidence of our bodies that we convince (or deceive) ourselves that we exist separately from one another. But now you and I now why He did it. He gave them (and please, remember that what we call “them” is in Truth always and only Himself) bodies so that as them He could do what had eluded Him in His Unity. After all, an entity encased in a garment of skin can do what God in His Wholeness cannot: It can see itself in a mirror!
There is a very interesting and curious shift in wording that takes place in Genesis and which heretofore may have seemed to us to be of little import, but which now assumes special significance. Shortly after the report of the first seven days of creation, all of a sudden and without explanation, “God” becomes “the Lord God”. I expect that more than a few theologians have addressed this phenomenon, and brought to it far more erudition than we can here; still, we do well to ponder it in the context of our own reach for understanding. A lord, by definition, is a person or being who has dominion over other persons, territory, and things. Thus, a lord needs there to be something for him to be lord of, otherwise his lordship is merely a fiction, a joke. Yet, we have said that in the beginning there was God and God was all there was. There was nothing else but God. In the beginning, there was nothing to be lord of. And so, quite rightly, in the beginning, God is not “the Lord God”; He is simply God. But after The Fall, a new environment evolves, an environment most unlike, at least in appearance, the Whole environment of the beginning. In this new environment, which we have suggested might be the sleeping God-as-Adam’s dreamscape, God the Whole One seems not to be present, at least not as such. Here, what is whole is perceived and experienced separatively, or piecemeal. And so it should be, for, as you and I have discovered, that was the purpose of the dreamscape. Now, this dream environment with its apparently multiple and various inhabitants who feel very much other than one another and than everything else, and which at least has the appearance of territory and other things, can very comfortably accommodate a lord, for now there is plenty for a lord to be lord of.
But how is that role or function to be portrayed? Remember that we observed that the characters in dreams represent aspects or traits or tendencies of the dreamer, who, in this instance, is God (albeit, as Adam). Just so, we can presume that the Lord God in the dreamscape is intended to represent not the Whole of God, for that is portrayed or represented by the dream in its entirety, but only an aspect of the Whole of God. Thus, we perceive the Lord God to be merely another character in the dream, a piece or an aspect of the whole. Even a cursory reading of his lines and actions in the biblical text suggests that the Lord God is intended to represent what we may call the authority aspect of God the Whole, but an authority which is dependent upon its dominion for its existence. Thus, the Lord God needs Adam and Eve just as one side of a coin needs the other, for he is, if you will, the third side of that same coin of which Adam and Even are two sides or aspects, the aspects we call male and female. For their part, Adam and Eve perform properly as the subjects of the Lord God, for they look to him as their external source for everything, a source they must worship, fear, beg, cajole, and please. Formerly, of course, (or, actually, in Truth, which is Now), no such wheedling was every necessary or appropriate; as aspects of the Whole and in place, they were whatever they needed. Now separated from each other and from the Lord God, albeit only in the illusory reality of a dream, they behave accordingly. They approach and treat the Lord God as if he were separate from them, and he responds to them in like manner. Recalling our earlier reference to atom splitting, we might remark here that our witnessing Adam and Eve and the Lord God interact in Genesis is not altogether unlike a modern scientist’s tracing and charting, and trying to make sense of, the movements of an atom’s parts. In fact, reports of those observations, such as I am able to comprehend them, describe relationships and activities no less confusing, and sometimes even outrageous, than those of our biblical friends and forebears.
Before we permit to harden our conclusion that the Genesis story from The Fall on may simply be an elaborately contrived dreamscape, we ought to ask ourselves how far we are prepared to carry that idea. Are we willing to entertain the possibility that everything that followed from The Fall has been and is a continuing dream? Even if we are not willing to accept the Garden of Eden as a literal, geographical place or The Fall as a factual, historical event, can we permit the message of this lesson to be that life truly is, as the nursery rhyme would have it, nothing but a dream? Who among us is ready to believe that our lives today, not to mention all of human history, the human race, the earth itself, our solar system and the entire astronomical universe, are merely a dream, when it is all so obviously real? One has only to drop a heavy rock on one’s foot to realize that this is no dream. And yet, to be precise, we have not said that this is our dream. Rather, we are saying that it is Adam’s dream (or, again, to remain precise, God-as-Adam’s dream). That is, it is not a dream we are having but a dream of which we are the inhabitants! And to the inhabitants of a dream, to those who do not realize that they are part of a dream, dreams seem, dreams are, real enough. In fact, from their perspective, the dream is all the reality there is. Just so, in our dreams, in our own sleep each night, the personalities and events seem decidedly real to us as we dream them, sometimes disturbingly so. It does not help that they are “just” dreams; at least, not until morning, when, awake, we can find relief in that observation. Even those of our dreams that defy the laws of our waking life, dreams in which elephants fly, dreams in which we fly, seem fully real while they are unfolding. Later, exercising armchair wisdom, we interpret these kinds of phenomena as symbolically standing for this or that, but as they happen they are not symbols, and neither are they unusual or inappropriate; they are real.
Part of our discomfiture here is undoubtedly due to the way we think, in subject-object terms. We say, for example, “Last night, I had a dream,” as if a dream were an object, like, say, an automobile, which one can have or own. But a dream is not a thing; it is more a process. We would do better to think of it in its participle form, dreaming. “I am dreaming,” then, means not something I am having, but something I am being. “My dream” is not mine so much as it is me at the moment of its unfolding. Likewise, then, we are no so much the characters in God-as-Adam’s dream as we are God-as-Adam dreaming. We are the dream. The dream is the dreamer. And the dreamer is, ultimately, God. It may seem like a series of Chinese boxes, one inside the other, and in a sense it is. But more precisely, it is all the same “thing” seen differently. Remember, in the beginning there was only the One, God. That never changed. That will never change. That cannot change. What has changed is simply that now the One seems to be many, seems to itself to be many, and in a very real sense just so that we would eventually have this very discussion!
Still, the conclusion that this, our lives and our world, is just a dream can be disconcerting in the extreme. Yet imagine for a moment if one of the characters in one of your dreams tonight were to come across a book in your dreamscape and therein to read that the truth of its reality was that it was just a part of a dream, of your dream. Do you suppose it would react any differently from the way you and I are reacting now, with disbelief perhaps approaching horror? More importantly, would the character believe what it read? And even if it did believe it, what would it do about it? But, most importantly, would it attempt to awaken you, the dreamer, knowing that doing so must inevitably extinguish itself and its reality, your dream? What would you do in that situation? Indeed, what will you do?
Editor's Note: The phrase “the ten thousand things” is from the translation of the Tao Te Ching by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English, published by Alfred A. Knopf, and used here with permission. (Return to Text)
Nothing is too wonderful to be true.
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