In the well known story of Adam and Eve, which is found in the Old Testament of the Bible, the serpent tempts Eve to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we all know, Adam and Eve were commanded by their Creator to abstain from eating the fruit of this tree, as all their needs were provided for, and eating from this tree was forbidden by God for some reason. Of course, there are all sorts of theological speculations about why this tree was placed in the garden and what resulted when Eve decided to be disobedient. A literal reading of this mythological story has lead many Christians over the years to believe that the fall of mankind into evil and sinful ways can all be traced back to this one incident.
Unfortunately, the moral of Adam and Eve’s story has lead some to believe that women are responsible for the downfall of humanity. With a very rudimentary reading, the story essentially says that Eve gave into temptation and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then brought Adam down with her and got them both kicked out of the Garden of Eden. This has served as a pretty good excuse for subjugating women over the years, since their gender can now be held liable as being guilty by extension for causing man to fall out of favor with God. But this simplistic interpretation is based on a very literal and paternalistic conception of the tale, and really doesn’t account of any deeper meaning or allegorical teaching.
Obviously, there are other interpretations of the story, and not all who believe in the Bible as the word of God think that women are to blame for the sins of mankind. If we look beyond the very superficial, literal interpretation of this Biblical story, there is a more cosmic and primal message that can be gleaned from it. Instead of thinking of God as the typical controlling old-man-in-the-sky deity of the Judeo-Christian tradition, let us think in terms of our collective consciousness. If we consider the story of Adam and Eve and their “fall from grace” as an allegorical tale representing the emergence of self-awareness, or the knowledge of good and evil, as the Bible put it, we can gain a completely different understanding.
Instead of thinking of Adam and Eve as the actual first humans to exist, we could let them represent humankind in a more primitive state of being. Speaking in evolutionary terms, we all know that our tribal predecessors lived much more like animals, until they started building cities, developed agricultural methods for obtaining sustenance, and started to become more self-aware. At this point in history, our ancestors extended their intellectual capacity, expanded human consciousness, and began developing the modern day societies we now benefit from greatly, it was a major departure from the simple existence humans once enjoyed in the Garden.
So, what was it that changed the way of living that humans had developed over the millions of years which basically accounts for most of prehistory? The Garden of Eden represents that original state of being, the animalistic ways of hunter-gatherers, the naked and unashamed way of life that is epitomized by the myth of Adam and Eve. And as for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? This tree was a plant that caused a shift in perspective. Before humans discovered this plant, they lived as the other animals did. There was no concept of right and wrong, no moral philosophy, no belief in any higher power. But once they partook of the fruit of this plant, their awareness changed. Their consciousness was enlarged and they realized that there was much more going on, within and without. They became more self-aware, but also had their knowledge of the universe broadened as well. Suddenly, Adam and Eve realized they were naked and vulnerable. They immediately gained an understanding of right and wrong and were faced with the cognizance that they each had a choice.
The story of Adam and Eve is more often interpreted as a moralistic tale meant to describe the moment where humankind turned against God, but perhaps it is actually the other way around. Maybe our choice to partake of the fruit produced by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was really the point in human history that our ancestors discovered cannabis. There was definitely something that caused human consciousness to transform from the very basic animal nature that existed in prehistory, to the multifaceted, complex, and self-aware mind of the modern human being. Those who know how cannabis affects our perception of reality and consciousness, and the contemplative state of awareness which it helps us enter into will also understand how it very well could be the tree that caused us to leave the garden for the city.