A Psychological and Mystical Interpretation of the Myth of Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden

5 thoughts on “A Psychological and Mystical Interpretation of the Myth of Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden”

  1. I agree pretty much 100%, Bryce. The story of Adam & Eve is in essence a story of human-kind’s “fall” from a pre-egoic state into ego. I think our purpose as humans is not necessarily to pursue happiness, or peace, as is commonly suggested, but to evolve beyond ego into a post-egoic state. This brings with it a “return,” so to speak, to peace and happiness through oneness with God, but I prefer to see it as a moving forward, moving beyond ego — as growth, more so than a “return.” The end is the same, however, merely a matter of perspective. Psychology tells us the egoic sense of self begins to emerge between the ages of one and two, and continues to develop throughout adolescence into young adulthood, where unfortunately, for most of us, it stalls out, or becomes conditioned by society to become ever stronger, as opposed to progressing out of that stage and moving beyond it.

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    1. Well said, Walt. Some spiritual teachers like to talk about it as a progression beyond ego, rather than a return, a trans-egoic state, such as Ken Wilber. Others, such as Eckhart Tolle, are not hesitant to say that it is like a return to childlike innocence, prior to ego development, but he is also quick to say that this is not a regression, but a continuation of the evolution of consciousness. It’s interesting that Joseph Smith also framed it as a return to an “infant” like state (D&C 93:38). I think the “return” language helps complete the pattern of going out from Eden and returning back to it, of flowing out from God and ascending back to God. But I do agree that it is a transcendence of ego to a worldcentric or cosmocentric perspective of Self rather than a regression to a pre-egoic state. One is still aware of the boundaries of their finite body-mind, they don’t literally confuse other bodies for their own as in the pre-egoic state, it’s just that their sense of identity has expanded to include all people, all life, the whole world, and even the cosmos.

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      1. Yes, and it’s that maintained awareness of the boundaries of the finite body-mind, and the sense of expanded identity, that makes me prefer the “growing-out-of” perspective over the “return-to” perspective.

        That said, even as I was writing my previous comment, I was reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son, which might be read as a retelling of the Adam & Eve story, and which is told from the perspective of venturing out, then returning. Added to which is the Advaitic notion of an infinite Self rising as a finite body-mind within the world, or dream, out of which it must awaken, or rediscover (return) to the Self it always was.

        I may be getting talked out of my preference, but for now it’s still my preference. And the bottom line is, it probably doesn’t matter which perspective one sees it from, so long as it’s seen.

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      2. Yes, I think the story of the Prodigal Son is a retelling of the same myth with different symbols. I recently learned there is a very similar story in Buddhism as well, where the father represents the Buddha, and the son any human being. Returning to the father represents the human coming to know their Buddha nature.
        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Prodigal_Son#Similar_parable_in_Mahayana_Buddhism

        The idea of falling away from God and then returning to God is a powerful one, and seems common. The falling from heaven of Lucifer, the morning star, also seems related to the Fall story.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer#Fall_from_heaven

        Mircea Eliade’s work on the “myth of the eternal return” is likely related.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return_(Eliade)

        In Mormonism and other traditions there is also the idea of the gods becoming human and “forgetting” who they are, and must then remember. “Becoming God” is more of a remembrance of who/what they already are but had simply become ignorant of it, or unconscious of their true nature. They awake and arise to their true nature as gods in God, returning to a knowledge of their true identity. Alan Watts talks about this kind of thing in his “The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.”

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