The Symbolism of the First Quarter: Genesis 2:4–9


In The Key to the First Chapter of Genesis it has been shown that the First Day and the Seventh Day “cover the same ground” from two opposite points of view. The stage of Capricorn and Aquarius in the Zodiac stands for both the highest and the lowest spheres. In a parallel manner the stage of the first quarter of the path through the Zodiac, consisting of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, stands for both the lowest and the highest of the Five Elements. In Genesis 1:1 there is the contrast between “heaven” and “earth”; in the first quarter of the path, dealt with in Genesis 2:4–9, there is the contrast between, on the one hand, verses 4–7, and on the other, verses 8–9. Verses 4–7 are focussed in the Element Earth, and verses 8–9 in the Element Ether.

4 “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth 
 when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”

This verse forms the connecting link between 2:2–3, belonging to the first Chapter of Genesis, and the verses to follow, belonging to the second Chapter. They all pertain to the same stage of the Zodiac, consisting of Capricorn and Aquarius, to which from now on Pisces is added. “The generation of the earth” are dealt with in verses 5–7 and “the generations of the heavens” in verses 8–9, as we shall see presently.

5 “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: 
 for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.”

This verse denotes the stage of evolution before man had evolved out of the horde-animal and mankind appeared on earth. There was no “culture” of the world of feeling among man’s ancestors, neither with special reference to the lower mind, symbolized by “plants”, nor with special reference to spiritual life, symbolized by “herbs” yielding grain. Rain from heaven symbolizes, as has been shown elsewhere, spiritual inspiration shed by Divine Grace. “There was not a man to till the ground” signifies that the dominating and creative faculty of the mental and moral plane had not yet been born to take command.

The Hebrew word which has been translated by “the Lord”, is Adonai, often translated by Jews as “the Eternal”.

Besides applying to the biological stage before mankind had been born, these verses also refer to the state of affairs before the birth, and even the conception, of an individual man.

As we note, there is no question of wilderness, voidness or darkness or a state of “hell” as indicated by “the deep” (as in Genesis 1:2), for the Fall is not implied.

It is clear that in the case of the individual man, there is a connection between the schemes of Genesis 1, applying to the spiritual path, and Genesis 2, in so far it deals with a life-time of a human being.

In another symbolic sense, “a man to till the ground” has sexual meaning. “The ground” symbolizes the womb, and the act of “ploughing the earth” and “sowing the seed” denotes the sexual act. This is universal symbolism.

Apart from “the heavens”, which will be dealt with presently, the only positive thing which has so far been mentioned as existing, is “the earth”. It forms the basic and starting point of the present Chapter of Genesis. All the rest that has been mentioned, is stated not to have appeared yet. “The earth” now symbolizes the physical state attained by the creature destined to become man, after the evolution of the faculties of feeling, creative thought, and spirit. In the next two verses these will be dealt with systematically.

6 “But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the earth.”

This verse symbolizes the evolution of the emotional life, represented by the Element Water. In Genesis 1, Water came down from Heaven, symbolizing “heavenly Grace”. In the present verse Water springs from the Earth. This symbolizes the slow emergence of feelings from the life concentrated on the matters of the material plane.

7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, 
 and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Man is the thinker and therefore the creator. The English word “man”, as the word for man in many other languages, is derived from a word denoting the faculty of thought, as is well-known. As regards the former two processes, applying to Earth and Water, the initiative of the Lord was not mentioned. Now, however, it is said that “the Lord God formed man”. “Forming” is an intelligent process. “Man” represents the intelligence of the Element Fire. The fourth process is immediately mentioned in that “the Lord God breathed into his nostril the breath of life”. This applies to the Element Air, the Sphere of the Spirit. The “breath of life” is said to come directly from Divinity. It is not without significance that the two processes of the faculties of thought and spirit are mentioned in one breath; for it is evident that intelligence without spirituality is a dangerous asset. It is also very significant that, though God formed man, the material on which He worked was “the dust of the ground” (surely mixed with water), or, in other words, “material” as it had evolved from below. God as Creator and Life-giver in the sense of this verse, was called in many ancient traditions the Potter. Man, “the pot”, was made from dust; mixed with water, formed into the proper shape, baked with fire, into which air was blown. The value of the pot depends upon what it contains: that is the “quintessence”.

It is clear that the four processes, dealing with evolution in the Element Earth, Water, Fire and Air, may also be considered in connection with the four quarters of the path through the Zodiac.

With reference to individual man, the verses have a double meaning. First of all they apply to the prenatal happenings in the womb, birth being indicated by the entering of “the breath of life”. Secondly they hint at the four stages in a life-cycle.

It is significant that only after the Lord God has breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life; man becomes “a living soul”. When we deal presently with the symbolism of “death”, we must remember that “life” is symbolically always closely bound up with “the Spirit”. This is the case because physical life depends on breathing.

Verses 4–7 refer to “the earth” of the beginning stage, verses 8–9 to “the heavens” of that stage. If we consider the four processes dealt with so far, as applying to the four phases of evolution associated with the four quarter of the Zodiac, verses 8–9 deal with the fifth or final phase, focussed in the Ether-Sphere. We can compare that phase with the Seventh Day of Genesis 1. It consists of the Signs of Seventh Day plus Pisces.

8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”

The Hebrew “Eden” means “delight”. Sanskrit scholars have suggested that it is related to the Sanskrit “adhan”, meaning “home, abode”, and that “Adam” is related to the Sanskrit “adi” and “adim”, meaning “first, original”. Traditionally the original Home of the soul has been connected with Capricorn and Aquarius, forming the stage of the First and Seventh Days, symbolizing the states from where the Return and the Fall, to and from that Home, begin, and placed in the same region of the Zodiac.

In view of the symbolic corroboration, it is more likely, as has also been suggested, that “Adam” is related to the “Atum” or “Atmu” of early Dynastic Egypt, the name of the Father of the human race, who is called “the creator of man and woman” and “the producer of the staff of life” (implying, among other things, the living symbol of the spirit in the form of wheat and barley). It is further said of him: “Thou art the Great Hawk which gladdeneth the body, the beautiful face which gladdenest the breast.” Staff of life, bird and breast are all symbolically connected with the spiritual life. The etymology of “Atum” is given as being from a verb meaning “to be perfect, to be whole”, which surely implies spiritual perfection. Moreover, Atum is connected with the evening, which is the spiritual period of the day-cycle and the stage of the attainment of the “whole” or perfect man.

If the relation of “Adam” and “Atum” or “Atmu” is established, “Adam” is not etymologically related to the Sanskrit “Adi”, but we have parallel symbolical evidence that it is connected with the Sanskrit “Atma”, a word meaning the spiritual self, which is related to the German “Atem” and the Dutch “adem”, both meaning breath — the main symbol of “the spirit”. In this connection it should be remembered that “man became a living soul” only after the Lord of Gods had “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”. True Manhood is dependent upon the manifestation of Spirit.

Many parallel traditions about “the Garden” have been mentioned elsewhere, and it has been shown that it is always associated with the quarter of the Zodiac consisting of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, with the understanding that, once it has been found, or founded, it extends over the entire world of the soul, represented by the full world of the stars. Some of the significant forms of the Garden are the Field of “Ida”, of the old Norse tradition, the Elysian Fields of Greek tradition, and the Fields of Aahlu, of the Egyptian tradition.

The eastern direction that is mentioned in verse 8 stands in relation to the fact that the quarter of the Zodiac of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces represents the stage of the night, and that the sun rises in the east.

The word “paradise” is derived, via other languages, from an old Persian word, meaning park. Elsewhere the traditional “etymology”, projected into the Hebrew form of the word, has been dealt with.

9 “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

In this enumeration four kinds of trees are mentioned. A tree pleasant to the sight appeals to the emotions: it represents the Element Water. A tree good for food represents the Element Earth, it nourishes the physical body. The tree of life represents the Element Air, the sphere of the Spirit, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Element Fire, symbolizing the world of the lower mind, the animal functions and morality.

10 “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden.”

This verse applies to the stage of the Water-Sign of Pisces. This picture shows us that there is a distinction between “Eden”, standing for Capricorn and Aquarius, and “the Garden”, which includes also Pisces. It has been shown elsewhere that the symbolism of “world-trees” or “heavenly trees” appears very often in mythology in connection with Pisces.