59 QUESTION: Bearing in mind that Adam and Eve in Genesis stem from the masculine and feminine, that is, the active and passive aspects of the spirit, why is it that it is the feminine and passive aspect that is shown as taking the first step toward the Fall of the Spirit?
ANSWER: There is a very deep symbolism in that, my friends. In a forthcoming general lecture I shall deal with man and woman [Lecture #62 Man and Woman] – and you will surely find this question answered then. But I may now say a few words on the subject, enough to give you some clarification in response to your question. A great error in human thinking concerns the supposed difference between man and woman.
For you it is like two different worlds. One world has difficulty understanding the other world. You often feel discouraged because to bridge the gap between the sexes seems impossible. For man, a woman’s way of thinking and feeling is an enigma, and vice versa. They both battle along in their separate worlds. The only way they can at times unify is through their need for each other.
However, in actual truth the difference is not half as great as you think. Woman is a reverse of man, and man a reverse of woman, if I may put it that way. Man manifests an active current, whereas woman is more passive. Where man is more passive, the woman is more active. In both cases, it is the other side of the coin, so to speak.
The outer active side is passive inwardly, and vice versa. This applies not only to activity and passivity, but also to other trends that may be thought of as typically male or typically female.
There is a prevalent notion that the male is more intellectual, the female more intuitive. Even that is a misconception – at least it was originally. If it often works out that way, it is because people have lived so long with this mass image that only one side was developed and encouraged in each sex.
I will explain this in greater detail in the lecture I will give on the subject. By nature, both qualities are present in each sex and could and should be developed equally in both man and woman.
Even anatomically, the male is the counterpart of the female, and the female is the counterpart of the male. Understanding the anatomy of the human body should translate into a deeper understanding of the emotional level. For the body is always a symbol for the spirit and the psyche.
Now, to come back to your question: The symbolism shown in Eve taking the active part, thereby being responsible for the Fall, brings several factors to our attention. Activity, as such, is not wrong for a woman – no more than passivity, as such, is wrong for a man. But if a healthy, active current is suppressed, it will go into a wrong direction and become destructive.
The same with a repressed passive current, where an unhealthy, compulsive activity is superimposed. Both sexes have been afflicted by the long-existing mass images in this respect to which they adhered out of their own disturbed souls. If neither is allowed to develop freely, according to his or her very own nature, considering the person rather than the sex, this will have very harmful effects.
The incident of Adam and Eve is not to be taken as historical fact, but as a symbol. Now, Eve symbolizes the idea that activity becomes destructive if not allowed to function openly and healthily. By the same token, Adam was as much at fault by being too passive in a wrong and destructive way. Were he not passive where he should not have been, he could have stopped Eve.
In other words, he was passive where he should have been active, while Eve was active where she should have been passive. This symbolism does not show that man should be entirely active and woman entirely passive. This is a gross misunderstanding, and also illogical. For Adam and Eve symbolize original human entities, the basic qualities present before the Fall.
If before the Fall, activity was present in the woman and passivity in the man, then it was meant to be that way, and it is only a question as to what way these forces work and manifest. If humanity had properly understood this deep symbolism, it would not have suppressed a valid part of the personality in each sex.
People merely regarded Eve’s activity as wrong and then concluded that activity as such is damaging for womanhood. The symbolic incident with Adam and Eve shows that active and passive currents are present, to begin with, in both sexes, but become harmful when misdirected.
QUESTION: That makes sense if I think of Adam as the symbol of man and of Eve as the symbol of woman. But I thought that the actual symbolism was not of a symbolic man and woman, but of the active and passive elements as such.
ANSWER: No. Adam and Eve represent much more than merely the active and passive elements. They actually symbolize manhood and womanhood with all their various aspects. The explanation I just gave is only one of many interpretations. It exclusively referred to activity and passivity. Many other interpretations of this symbolism can be given on other levels, dealing with other aspects of the two sexes.
QUESTION: To me Eve seems to be one step closer to the Fall. Why is that?
ANSWER: This is not due to activity, but to other trends. Woman has always emphasized her intuitive forces and neglected her intellectual capacities. Inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity is considered a male element, manifesting constructively in the activities of a scientist, for instance, while woman is more spiritually inclined. This has been built up by society. But both elements exist in both sexes.
When Eve was found to be more immediately responsible for the Fall, it was again shown that intellectual curiosity exists in woman too. Only when this is suppressed, and thereby mischanneled, can it be harmful. If curiosity can express legitimately and combine with the intellectual faculties in both sexes, then something creative and constructive can evolve.
I know it is not shown clearly that activity and intellectual curiosity were suppressed in Eve, but it is shown that they were indubitably present. And when something is present by nature, it must be valid provided it is properly channeled.
And then there is something else. Just because woman is more intuitively inclined, she is more open to the spiritual forces. Therefore she can attain greater heights, but just because of that she also reaches greater depths.
66 QUESTION: I would like to ask a question about Genesis. In the Garden of Eden, there are the two trees. I understand why the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden – because we have to get it slowly by ourselves, instead of having it served us on a silver platter. But I don’t understand the other, the Tree of Immortality. After all, as spirits we are immortal anyway, so we have already eaten the fruit. Why is it forbidden?
ANSWER: It refers to your life on earth. It applies, just like the Tree of Knowledge, to the incarnated spirit. The meaning of both trees could not possibly apply to the liberated spirit who lives in the absolute reality of the Spirit World.
If human beings were born with the inner conviction, the inner certainty – not brought about by the labor of self-development – that they are immortal in spirit while they are not yet purified, their instinct for survival would be too weak. They have to have the uncertainty to the extent that they still have to solve their inner problems and confusions. This is for their own protection.
They would not undertake the difficulty of earth life; they would be lazy. They might prefer to develop in a slower way or be satisfied with a slightly raised consciousness, affording them better conditions, but they would lack the incentive of freeing themselves completely so as to enter sooner into a state of unity.
The entire Plan of Salvation would come to fruition so much later if people would not hold on to earth life because they have no certainty yet. The prohibition of this knowledge speeds development.
On the other hand, if the inner sense and conviction of immortality comes as a result of the hard labor of development, it will not reduce the will to live on earth. On the contrary, developed beings will then welcome life on earth in another sense, and even more than before, when they simply held on because they were uncertain.
The joy of life on earth in the knowledge that there exists a much better state is a byproduct of spiritual development, of a higher state of consciousness. Those who have succeeded in working themselves through to a higher consciousness know they are immortal.
They know so because in the sweat of their labor they have freed themselves of error. They will then find beauty in earth life, not because they think this is the only form of life and they have to hold on to it, but just because they know there is more.
The lack of this raised state of consciousness may make life on earth difficult; the outlook is rather gloomy because you still live in the illusion of evil and sin, in error and misconception. But no matter how hard you find it, if self-destructiveness is not abnormally strong, you will hold on to life – and this is good and important.
However, if without the organic growth of self-development, the inner conviction of immortality – I do not speak of belief – were given to humans “on a silver platter,” as you put it, they would not hold on to life. I do not say that such people would necessarily commit suicide, but their struggle to keep their joy in life alive – even if it manifested only rarely – and their capacity to see beauty in it would not be awakened.
67 QUESTION: This is a continuation of my question of last session in which I asked about the Tree of Immortality. Your answer seems to apply to the Tree of Knowledge only, since the knowledge of immortality has to be kept from us, lest it weaken the instinct for survival. It seems to me that the Tree of Immortality has to do with the fact and not the knowledge of it.
ANSWER: Knowledge is not the same as the certainty or the sense of immortality. All religions teach that the soul or the spirit is immortal. Yet, the knowledge you gather from the outside cannot give you the inner certainty that immortality is a reality. Knowledge is different from certainty, or the sense of the reality of immortality, which comes only after a certain stage of development.
Knowledge can be given to anyone. It is then up to the individual whether or not to believe it. There is something else that I did not explain previously, however. As long as you live in the imperfect world of unreality, of illusion, you are not immortal in another sense. Not only in the sense of having to endure physical death after each life and being reborn and again going through physical death, but also in the sense that sorrow, unhappiness, darkness, disappointment, hurt are each a little bit of death whenever you experience them.
As long as you have not worked yourself out of this darkness, resulting from error, you cannot be in eternal life – in the higher sense of the word. In that sense, immortality is to be understood as continuous happiness and joy. What is also meant by the Tree of Immortality is the sense and knowledge that this exists.
QA148 QUESTION: Different religions have taught that Adam and Eve committed the first sin. Does that have anything to do with man’s concept of sex – that it’s sinful? Is it symbolic or is there a different truth in it?
ANSWER: Well, it is both. I would not say man’s idea that sex is sinful comes from this symbolism. I would rather put it the opposite. Man has interpreted this symbolism because of his ingrained idea that pleasure is wrong.
QUESTION: But where did it come from?
ANSWER: It came from the fact that man has negativity in him and that the pleasure itself becomes almost dangerous seeming, to the extent man is negative. This is a subtlety in interpretation that might then be construed to mean that sex is sinful.
To the extent that an individual is unhappy – in pain with his own inner self – to that extent he shrinks away from all kinds of happiness, especially from the immediately tangible happiness of life experience. It seems like annihilation.
Why? Because, among other reasons, it implies the flexible state of letting go, of giving oneself to the life stream, of entrusting oneself into the life process, while the separated state of the ego is a contracted state that holds on to its little self. The more such contraction exists, the less can life be led in a truly creative way, in a truly meaningful way.
For the ego self is then shut off, not only from the life current of bliss, but also from the life current of supreme wisdom that guides automatically and naturally into the channels where the individual is bound to go in his evolutionary process. When this insistence on the outer ego self contracts the whole inner person, the contact to the source is cut off.
The loosening up of the contraction, which implies pleasure, must seem dangerous. Safety seems to be found only in the contracted, separated, alienated ego state. Because man is intrinsically fighting against this, he manifests in this form and fights the process that gets him there as dangerous. He’s afraid of it, and he makes a moralistic rule out of it.
QUESTION: But where would it have its beginning?
ANSWER: I explained it in what I said. Do not think of where as a happening back in time, for time is one of the dimensions attached to the dualistic way of perceiving Creation. I brought it back to man’s inner life, where this exists and existed ever since man exists and still exists. His fear of letting go of his contractions – that’s where it originated.
QA157 QUESTION: I’d like to continue on the previous question about allowing oneself full pleasure, after granting freedom to oneself and to others. Now that I have entered into that place, I find it frightening, and I want some guidance.
ANSWER: Yes. Now, it is only frightening to the extent that freedom has not yet fully been attained. In other words, when you believe that there still exists somewhere an authority that decrees that you are wrong, that you commit something bad – to that extent you are frightened.
On the other hand, if you know that even the internalized authority is a fallacy – it is a figment of your own imagination that can be dissolved, that you and you alone are responsible for yourself, you and you alone can decree of what is right and what is wrong – to that extent pleasure will not be frightening. This is one aspect, but this is only one; there are others.
Next is the question of self-responsibility. If you are frightened to assume responsibility in its totality – in every aspect of life, for yourself – to that extent the actual experience of pleasure becomes frightening, and perhaps even more so, painful.
It is something so naked and so direct and so touches you at the core of your being that it seems unbearable. You defend yourself primarily against this pleasure. You put clothes on, as it were, not to make yourself so vulnerable to the pleasure. And the result is numbness.
Whenever this numbness is penetrated, the first inkling, the first feelings, the first sensations are perhaps shame and embarrassment. One feels like naked in front of clothed people. But this has nothing to do with others. It is toward yourself, toward your own closed ego, the ego that puts a cloak around itself, as it were.
So when you come to the shame of being real – of being your naked real self – you are directly in touch with the fear of pleasure.
But before you come to the fear of pleasure, there’s often the shame of pleasure, the shame of being real, the shame of being yourself, the shame of your breathing, naked, real self. Immediately connected with that is the fear of it, because it is too naked, too exposing. That is then when the soul cramps itself up, hardens itself against it.
Now, if you can be aware of that feeling I describe here and look at it – let the feeling be in you for a few minutes, a few seconds, whatever it can be – come in contact with that feeling. Then you can speak into the depths of your divine being, which has the power to give you the courage for pleasure, the courage to be naked unto yourself.
For then only can you be real. Then only can you utilize the immense power at your disposal, the universal powers as they exist within you and around you, that can make life the most creative experience imaginable, with infinite vistas and possibilities of expansion and of experience in every possible way.
That is possible only when you can be naked in pleasure, naked in the creative forces as they exist in you, without shame. Now the biblical story of Adam and Eve in paradise represents this symbolism. This is exactly what is meant.
QUESTION: I just saw a play on Broadway where they enacted a similar situation. I realized that the Adam and Eve situation is always recreated rather than having happened one time.
ANSWER: Exactly! All biblical analogies and symbolism are not a one-time historical happening. It is constantly recreated in the human soul. If you think more carefully of that analogy and separate yourself from the distortion that the human mind and human religions have brought into this symbolic representation, you will find so much truth in it, as it exists right now in you.
For all the enslavement, the difficulties of living, the hardship of life, the suffering of life that accrued from Adam and Eve being driven out of paradise is exclusively the fear of pleasure, the fear of being naked unto oneself.
QUESTION: The tree is symbolic of noncommitment?
ANSWER: The tree is symbolic of intellectualization, of conceptualization – knowledge in the wrong kind of way, knowledge that separates itself from the immediacy of experience – as it happens only when mind, body, and the real, creative, universal, divine being are integrated.
When these faculties or factors of existence are separated, knowledge exists separately from experience. The mind and experience are often very different, as you well know. That mind is a tree of knowledge that is separate from experience and the feelings, the being.
QUESTION: Weren’t Adam and Eve supposed to eat that fruit and be driven out?
ANSWER: No, not in that sense, no. There is no “supposed to.” There is no “must.” This is so hard for the human mind to understand – that the created entity is completely and totally free.
Now, I know that the words I just uttered cannot possibly be understood with mind and concept and intellect alone. Only he who has experienced, at least at times, the integrative power of his real self and who is in this being-force will know the meaning of being completely free – when there are no fences, when there is no authority that expects anything of anyone.
It is a staggering realization that is only frightening for the child in man, for the immature, for that which fears the significance of this freedom. But when self-realization is joyfully seen as a privilege and not as a difficulty – and self-responsibility is the same – then the freedom becomes the greatest delight.
It is a wide-open world, where everything is possible, where there is no “must.” There’s only the full understanding of the lawful workings and operation of nature, of the cosmic forces, which you are at perfect liberty – you are perfectly free – not to heed and to suffer.
That suffering is only up to you. And the moment a person approaches self-realization, he finds he often – I would say always – deliberately suffers. He doesn’t have to suffer. He chooses it.
My friends with whom I’m working on this Path, I think every one of you here who has made some progress, has at one time or another come to a point when you see yourself deliberately holding on to a destructive attitude – out of spite, out of stubbornness, out of resistance, or because you want to perhaps punish life or the world or your parents for not having your way.
This childish, spiteful, stubbornness always exists somewhere in the soul. It is that that clings to suffering. Even when it is conscious, so often one is not yet willing to give it up, although one sees, “Here’s the way to freedom where I need not suffer; where one sees one’s self, I can go here and be free from suffering.”
Yet it may take quite a struggle for a human being to take that deliberate way out of suffering. It is as though suffering were safer. And then this is made unconscious, and the conscious mind then glorifies it into a religious command coming from a god that says you should suffer because it is good for you.
Now, the fact that suffering can turn out fruitfully where man makes it so is another matter. But to begin with, he chooses the suffering, constantly, at each moment. The most fruitful part of suffering is when he sees himself in that state, choosing it deliberately, and when he is about to give it up because he recognizes this.
This may be a new and unusual concept for some of my new friends who have found the way here. But if you really go deep enough in your own soul, you will see that this is not a theory. Nothing I say is a theory, and everything I say can be found to be so within your own self, if you go that way courageously and with an open mind.
QUESTION: It does seem that the universe is indeed open to you looking at it. Yet at the same time, when you actually try to put it into practical effect – with all the plans, all the things that you want to do, and all the possibilities seem wide open – you can’t do this in physical reality. Where is the blockage occurring?
ANSWER: The blockage is occurring that you, at this point, have only accepted the open universe as an intellectual concept, and you have not experienced it yet as a living reality within yourself. This living reality can come only when you overcome your personal blocks – when you understand them and transcend them because you fully face them.
As with every great experience, you cannot experience this freedom of the universe, of life, with your ego self. It is only possible to experience this when you are integrated with the greater self, the real self, the divine self in you – when you unite with this.
That, in turn, happens when your blocks are overcome. Then the state of being that you may at times have experienced in certain ways will become, more and more, a permanent state.
QUESTION: You explained the tree. What is the role of Eve and the serpent in this picture? Why is it that Eve, persuaded by a serpent, takes the fruit and not Adam?
ANSWER: The serpent has been given many symbols and many of them are correct. But in this connection, I would say the symbol of the serpent primarily connotes what man considers the animalistic life force; the life force as it moves in man; the pleasure forces.
It is not low, as the snake is not low. It is only man’s vision that this takes on a low characteristic. That is the answer.
QUESTION: So the serpent in the staff of the physicians, the caduceus in the Greek culture, the swastika in the Indian culture, the serpentine movement – are these all the symbolic expression of this life force?
ANSWER: Yes, they are all variations of the same. It is fertility; it is wisdom. The snake is often also said to symbolize wisdom. The life force which is accused of being low and blind and animalistic has a tremendous wisdom of its own. It is only the distorted life force that is blind and destructive.
But in its original beauty, it has its own wisdom. It is fertile not only in the sense of reproduction; it is also fertile in its deepest meaning – in a meaning of creativity – of representing life itself in all its myriad possibilities. Therefore, it combines all these symbols together.