Rethinking the Creation Story
The story of mankind is a story of constant struggle against chaos.
Ever since the emergence of civilization mankind has been trying to make sense of its precarious lot in life.
One of the weapons that early humans used to battle the unknown was the idea of religion — a belief and worship in the divine. Religion has its origins in the struggle to shed light in a world of darkness and chaos; an explanation to the utter confusion of existence.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” ~ Carl Jung
One of the initial means that ancient cultures used to try to understand the origins of their existence was language written in the form of myths and symbols.
Myths and symbols, in the words of existential psychologist, Rollo May, “express the relationship between conscious and unconscious experience, between one’s individual present existence and human history.”
“Myths are first and foremost psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul.” ~ Carl Jung
In other words, myths serve as clues to the process of self-realization; a vessel of meta-truths that reveal who we are.
In the Christian tradition, we have the Garden of Eden myth that chronicles the beginning of time, space, and history. It’s a story of seduction, temptation, serpents, sacred trees and awakening. It’s a story that introduces us to the idea of monotheism and the ultimate battle between good and evil.
“The bible is a collective attempt by humanity to solve the deepest problems that we have. The deepest of all problems that we have is the problem of self-consciousness. The unique predicament of human beings is that we are self-conscious. Not only is it true that we are mortal and that we die, but most crucial is the reality that we know we will die. That’s the unique predicament of human beings. And that’s laid out in the story of Adam and Eve.” ~ Jordan Peterson
When I was a child I was taught to read and understand the creation story as literally true. I believed it even though I had my doubts at a very early age. The story never really resonated with me. It seemed bland, a little out there, and quite predictable.
I thought God to be a very dark, resentful, temperamental figure. I didn’t think the way he treated his first creations was fair at all. It seemed that Satan had more influence over God than the people he created.
When I read the creation story as literally true the message was dead to me.
It wasn’t until I read Genesis as a metaphor of a deeper, more profound message that it finally clicked. It finally made sense.
Lets take a deeper look at the creation story in the Bible and see what it’s trying to reveal. See if we can make sense out of the symbols in the message and apply their meaning to our modern-day individual existence.
In The Beginning…
There was nothing. God hovered around endless nothingness beyond space and time.
Out of the infinite abyss, God decides to make something. He creates heaven and earth. God also creates cherubim — angelic beings involved in the worship and praise of God — to keep him company in heaven.
Over time, a particular angel — the highest and one perfect with beauty — becomes unhappy and discontent with his splendid circumstances. This angel tries to become Godlike just like his creator. This made God very angry so he cast the corrupt angel out of the heavens and back down to earth.
This prideful angel became known as “Satan” or the “Devil” — the root of all evil.
But now we have a slight dilemma if we take this story as literally true so far.
The devil is the creation of God. God, in his omniscience, created the devil prior to mankind knowing full well in advance the barbarous consequences that would follow. This means God deliberately created the devil (evil) in spite of knowing the trouble it was going to reap on earth.
Maybe since God — the pinnacle of good — believed all that he created was good, the devil (the embodiment of the highest evil), must be in part good, right? Or, at least necessary for God’s grand scheme?
God is all-knowing. He knows the future, the past, the now. He could have consulted his omniscience to see that the angel he created would fall and become the author of evil.
He could have seen that man would fall; Cain would murder Abel; Sodom and Gomorrah would taint the earth; and all the whirlwind of suffering the devil would bring to his creation.
God knew he would come to regret all his creation because of the devil’s potent influence. God knew he’d have to wash the world of the Satan’s influence before he created one single thing on this earth.
Why create an angel knowing full well in advance that this angel will be cast from the heavens to wreak havoc on the future?
Why create humanity in the first place when you know damn well that you’re going to have to kill them off and start anew?
Garden of Eden
This is when the symbols and metaphors start to reveal themselves.
God (nature) fashioned a perfect, blissful Garden of unity (mind of man). Then created Adam (consciousness) to tend and watch over it. In it everything was perfect. In the middle of the Garden were two sacred trees — the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (symbols of moral consciousness and ethical philosophy).
“You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die,” God told Adam.
(“The one forbidden thing” is an old folklore motif that predates Genesis. When you tell a child that they can have any piece of chocolate they want except THAT ONE with the red bow, which one are they going to flock to? Exactly.)
God figured Adam would get a little bored and lonely in this perfect Garden, so he created animals and livestock for Adam to name. That wasn’t enough. So he finally concocted up a woman for Adam to keep him company.
God put Adam (our conscious mind) into a deep sleep and pulled out of him a rib (sides/halves) that would become Eve (subconscious, or soul).
The human soul was birthed out of the unconscious mind. The infamous Fall symbolizes the marriage between consciousness and the physical body.
(There’s two creation stories in Genesis: mankind is created after the animals and plants in chapter 1, but before the animals in chapter 2)
Of course, we forgot to mention that God permitted the embodiment of evil — the serpent (ego) — to slither around the Garden. The brilliant mythologist and teacher, Joseph Campbell, explains the myth up to this point like this…
Formerly you had a dreamtime paradise there in the Garden of Eden — no time, no birth, no death — no life. The serpent, who dies and is resurrected, shedding its skin and renewing its life, is the lord of the central tree, where time and eternity come together. He is the primary god, actually, in the Garden of Eden…The Garden is the serpent’s place. It is an old, old story.
So, as we all know, Paradise didn’t last too long.
God’s perfect utopia was destroyed by his own perfect creations. The serpent (ego), with his appetizing wit, convinced Eve to seek a little wisdom, to wake up from this blissful slumber she found herself in. “Just take a bite baby girl and you can be like God,” he said to her.
So Eve (subconsciousness) took the bite out of that forbidden fruit and gave a little to Adam (self-consciousness). This is when oneness was destroyed and the pairs of opposite (duality) were discovered — light/dark, man/woman, right/wrong.
What does that mean?
To be whole as a human being, to reach a higher state of consciousness you must deal with your subconscious, or your dark side (shadow) and learn to integrate it with who you are.
If you suppress the shadow you risk walking around as a shallow, resentful person who lives solely for the purpose of trying to impress others. You’d just be a walking persona, a pushover, with no depth. Then down the road, that shadow you’ve been suppressing, usually comes back to haunt you.
As Joseph Campbell understood, gods suppressed become devils.
After Eve took the notorious bite, history was born — pain, love, hate, bliss, misery, beauty, and suffering…all of it.
Humanity rose from the ashes of The Fall.
“What happens in the story of Adam and Eve is that when people become self conscious, they get thrown out of paradise and then they’re in history. And history is a place where there’s pain in child birth, and where you’re dominated by your mate, and where you have to toil like mad like no other animal because you’re aware of your future.” ~ Jordan Peterson
Adam and Eve with eyes wide open (consciousness & self-awareness) now found themselves naked (vulnerable) and ashamed in a cold, cold, world with no hope.
They’ve awoken to the reality of their littleness in a vast unforgiving world, divided, deserted, separated, and brutally aware of their own mortality.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain…One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ~ Carl Jung
Adam and Eve covered their body parts and tried to hide from God. The all-seeing God, as he strolled in the Garden in the cool of the day, couldn’t find them at first and asked “where are you, why are you covering yourselves, how do you know you’re naked?”
This is when morality was developed — a sense of good and evil and shame.
They were then tossed from the Garden (order) and thrown into Life (chaos).
The world was now an arena of suffering where life survived solely off life, creatures devoured each other to stay alive, and childbirth was utter anguish while men stood prey to the vast appetites of God’s murderous creatures.
Was it Satan’s influence that caused God to throw us out of the Garden and into history?
Was it Satan that exposed the lie of God’s complete goodness?
Rational minds who read the scriptures can see that God has a very dark side. He has the same dark traits as humans. He’s a jealous God, an angry God, a vindictive God with a dangerous, untamed wrathfulness.
You can see this clearly in the book of Job when God plunged himself into a pissing match with Satan. Poor Job had to suffer unbearably because of God’s perverted ego, which again, showcases the divine darkness concealed in goodness. But Job remained faithful and plead his case and prayed to the same God that was the cause of all his agony. So, in truth, Job desperately seeks help from God against God.
All throughout the Bible, God hurls threats to anyone who tries to go their own way. He despises critical thinking and those who ask questions. He promises destruction and eternal agony for those who refuse to praise him.
This is the divine darkness harbored within all good — the shadow figure that resides in all of humanity.
“What’s the enemy? It’s the snake. Fair enough. That’s good if you’re a tree dwelling primate. But for a sophisticated human being with six million years of additional evolution, and you’re really trying to solve the problem of what it is that’s the great enemy of mankind, well it’s the human propensity for evil…that’s the figure of Satan. That’s what that figure means.” ~Jordan Peterson
Satan was the only “created being” powerful enough to challenge God’s goodness. This is why Satan is such an important mythological figure in the major religions. He’s the archetype of evil that lives in the soul of man.
As Solzhenitsyn reminded us when writing about enduring the Russian prison camps, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
The question remains: Why was the knowledge of good and evil forbidden to Adam and Eve? Without that knowledge, right, we’d all be a bunch of unconscious imbeciles running around Eden, bearing no responsibility in life.
What would be of the world if the serpent (ego) never tempted Eve (subconscious) and we were stuck in a prison of unconsciousness?
Human consciousness is what distinguishes us from all other species on the planet. We need pain to appreciate pleasure, we need ugliness to appreciate beauty, we need death to appreciate life, we need to be painfully conscious of ourselves, we need to be aware or our own lives, of our own death.
We need to suffer to grow to prevent us from floating around as stagnant ghosts unable to thrive in the chaos of the world.
Ever since our expulsion from the Garden of unity, of oneness, we’ve been slowly trying to inch our way back to the gates. But God placed angels with a flaming sword flashing back and forth to keep us out (fear and desire).
We’ve been conditioned to believe the only way back into the Garden is through a belief system. But it’s not our beliefs or God that is keeping us out of Eden. Maybe it’s ourselves. Maybe it’s our fear and desire, symbolized in the flaming swords, that stands between mankind and Eden.
Christ — who symbolizes the return back to the Garden — enlightened us that the Kingdom of the God is within.
In the Buddhist tradition, Buddha tells us to throw away “fear and desire” and come right on through.
The legendary poet William Blake tells us to remove the cherubim from the gate, and we will see that everything is infinite. We’ll clean desire and fear from our eyes and see everything as a revelation of the Divine.
“Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Unfortunately, the failure to appreciate the metaphorical meanings concealed in these beautiful myths has led to senseless wars, brutal crusades, untamed fanaticism, witch hunts, and bitter fights between the theologians and scientists.
If we read the biblical stories as factual, we kill the story and its message. It’s irrational, contradictory, unscientific, and possibly even evil. The stories in Genesis are very old stories, older than Genesis itself, and written by unknown authors during very tribal times. It’s not a true story in the historic sense.
But if we read the creation story as a metaphor, we’re able to snatch out the important symbols that manifests itself inside the deeper dimensions of the psyche which arouses a sense of awe.
When I read Genesis now I see God and the Devil as the duality of the human heart. And I see the Garden as the mind of man, a place of unity, and Adam as consciousness and Eve as the mother of all life — the subconscious that births our reality.
I see the serpent as the ego — the sense of self-importance. I see the forbidden fruit as the birth of morality in a time when the human brain was flowering from its primordial bud.
The creation story illustrates an upheaval at the beginning of time, which was the emergence of self-consciousness in human beings. Our self-awareness led to the unpleasant knowledge of our own limitations and our own mortality.
Myths, art, fables, rituals were drawn out of the unconscious and used to shield us from the pandemonium of the unknown.
It’s our way of taming the chaos in a vast, unforgiving universe.
These beautiful biblical myths are still relevant today as they were 6000 years ago if we’re willing to read them with discerning eyes and a fresh perspective.