At the heart of symbolism

The Tree of Life of the Biblical World (Summary)

Tree of Life

The original fall

Chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Genesis speak about the presence of not one but two trees in the Garden of Eden. The text may be summarized like this:

  • God lets grow the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden of Eden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2.9);
  • Adam and Eve are created in the blissful state of innocence: they are one flesh (2.24) and not ashamed of their nakedness (2.25);
  • God forbids all beings to taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge on pain of dying (2.17). The serpent, guardian of the tree(s), persuades Eve that the fruit will give her the divine wisdom and not death (3.1-4), that she will become just like God (3.5);
  • After having tasted the fruit, Adam and Eve are very disappointed. They stare wide eyed, feeling ashamed of their own body and cover themselves with fig-tree leaves (3.7);
  • God asks Adam if he has tasted the forbidden fruit (3.11). Adam hides behind Eve (3.12) and Eve behind the serpent (3.13). God blames and overwhelms all three creatures (3.14-19);
  • God forbids Adam and Eve to taste the fruit of the Tree of Life (3.22) and chases them out of Paradise (3.23). Cherubims, each armed with flaming sword, henceforth keep the entry to Eden (3.24).

Let us note that the sword is a weapon with two sharp edges joining each other at the point. It symbolizes duality and its resorption into unity. Moreover, the sword produces sparks and blazing light, symbols of illumination and access to Knowledge. An access related to the Tree of Life and represented by the flaming sword.

The story of the fall shifts the blame onto Adam, then Eve and finally the serpent. It is at the source of the original sin, a blame difficult to carry and continually transferred from generation to generation. And yet, the same text may be read with different eyes. Admittedly, the fall is unavoidable, but the way back is no less inexorable. Everything depends on how we look at the Tree of Life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

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