The Evolution of Eve
Collage with Michelangelo’s Eve by Herb Greene
In an ever increasing fascination with the principles and teachings behind yoga, I’ve been studying the Yoga Sutra, supposedly collected by a yogi named Patanjali, and the teachings of which are believed to be much older than the Bible. In my reading and pondering, as I’ve come across ideas and practices that feel True to me, I’ve re-explored my relationship with the scriptures that I grew up with; specifically some sections of the Old Testament and the Pearl of Great Price. In reading the well known versions of the creation story, which I had already accepted more as allegory, something struck me that I’ve been wanting to unravel.
Throughout the tale that we read in Genesis and Moses, there appears to be a step by step process described of how we came to exist on this earth. But upon further inspection, if you are able to set aside a literal interpretation (and all the sexist baggage that comes with it) it begins to look more like a formulation; a prescription for personal progress and enlightenment hidden behind details that are often too easily made into an excuse for the “way things are”.
There are multiple sources of evidence to suggest that the principles contained within the Yoga Sutra have been around far longer than anything written by Moses or any other prophet of God. Because of this, and because of our related lack of information on the life of Christ, it’s been easy for me to open up to the possibility of Jesus being acquainted, through travel and study perhaps, with teachings and practices that we today attribute to eastern philosophies. In my own view of the progress of world religions, I see many of the core teachings of yoga (intersecting with both Hinduism and Buddhism) as being a foundation for what Christ later came to teach the world. As a groundwork for the soul, I believe they pointed to the ways in which we can find true inner peace and happiness, something that we don’t usually see as necessary in Christianity, but which I believe to be pivotal in learning to truly serve and care for others, especially without sacrificing ourselves – which in the context of our spirit, we are not asked to do.
In returning to Genesis with this perspective, I see the messages that we have been taught more as equivalent to the teachings of the Yoga Sutra, though far less clear. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear? Is it possible, that in the example of Adam and Eve, we see the indirect harm that comes from living a life of delusion, aversion, and clinging? In the story, are they not unable to see reality for what it is? In the second chapter of the yoga sutra, it reads, “The causes of suffering are not seeing things as they are, the sense of “I”, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.” It further explains that all suffering germinates in the field of delusion, and that attachment is a “residue of pleasant experience”, aversion is a “residue of suffering”, and “clinging to life is instinctive and self-perpetuating”. Also, did Adam and Eve not cling to each other, in addition to the comfort in which they lived? Were they not, by virtue of blind obedience, unknowingly averse to taking the steps to live outside the Garden?
Which leads to the next part of the story. Eve, having been good and faithful, decides (especially when told through an LDS lens) that it is better to see things as they really are. She (as almost a heroine to the existence of human life to hear some people tell it) accepts that the way they are living, by not moving forward and by avoiding temporal death and physical pain, is merely a falsely happy existence. True joy, she reasons by extension, cannot be attained without accepting the causes of true suffering and removing them, and by accepting the natural balance of life. And in essence, she is enlightened, along with Adam as “the eyes of them both were opened”.
And the rest is history (or is it historical fiction?). As far as I can find, there are no other interpretations of the book of Genesis in this form, though there is an article that explores other aspects of the book as being extensions of hindu teachings about the creation of the mind from the lower to the higher, separating the soul from the ego using Cain and Abel as allegory. So I am perfectly willing to entertain other interpretations of what I have observed. But is it possible that through Eve’s example we are being told not only to take things into our own hands and choose for ourselves based on knowledge and understanding, but that we have an obligation to remove the obstructions and afflictions that prevent us and others from seeing the world as it is? Just a thought.
(painting subject explored here)
Eve is one of the most inspirational women.
This interesting, Corktree. I have read previously some anthropological discussion that Jesus may have sojourned through the East in His late teens, studying Eastern philosophy. I like this idea, if only because it adds to the 11th and 13th Articles of Faith; i.e. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege” and “We believe all things, we hope all things”, as well as the blending of philosophies to gain a greater truth. Increased knowledge of truth in any form is always a good thing.
I’m liking a fresh take on the Articles of Faith. Thanks Spunky!
me, too! Awesome! 🙂
Wow! What a great post. I have a vivid memories of the morning I received personal revelation that Genesis did not have to be a literal interpretation. I was on my mission, struggling with the ideas of creationism and theory of evolution. While reading Genesis for the 10th time, for some reason I just decided to plural everything. When Genesis is read with the assumption that Adam and Eve are representative of the human species, everything makes so much more sense on so many levels.
Ever since then, Genesis has been my favorite OT book. In my mind, the partaking of the fruit is symbolic of the moment Eve became self-aware. She immediately wanted Adam to have the same enlightenment, and so asked him to also go down that path with her.
I could discuss the book of Genesis for weeks on end with a wall. Thank you for this post, a whole new perspective for me to contemplate.
Thanks N. Doesn’t it actually say something to that effect in one of the translations, that Eve was the name for all the symbolic women of creation? (or at least, it says it’s the name for all the first women of each world I think).
This is one of the few interpretations of Eve as a hero that I can get behind. I really like it and will probably use it in discussions in the future. I love the idea (I first read it in Strangers in Paradox, I believe) that by examining what ancient world religions have in common, we can come close to understanding what God really wants us to know.
Seeing things as they really are. So beautiful.
I think AofF 9 is particularly germane, too:
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
My interpretation of that is perhaps some Book of Mormon-like text will come out of the East, that it will be ratified, made Scripture, or something like that to help fill in the holes. 🙂
Very interesting. Thank you for sharing your perspective Rachel. It would me amazing to have something akin to the teachings in the Yoga Sutra canonized – though part of me wonders if that would ruin it somehow. As much as I long to be able to talk about the principles in the context of the Gospel and have a group that understands where I’m coming from in both respects, I’m wary of it being correlated. 😉
I don’t know. I would watch alot more general conference if that saturday afternoon session had at least one of the 12 doing the peacock pose.
Excellent post Corktree. I believe Jesus was enlightened, what does a halo depict in Christian art if it is not the crown chakra? And what does enlightenment offer if not spiritual gifts?
What a wonderful thought Howard! The halo as the crown chakra – “I am that I am” – beautiful, and something I hadn’t considered. You just opened up a whole new level of appreciation for Christian religious art, thank you.
What a great painting! And thank you for this great post as well. I really appreciate this perspective on Eve – I had never considered relating this story to Eastern ideas before. Very cool.
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Great post, Corktree. I’m just beginning to explore Eastern thought more and am finding so much richness there. I see a lot of potential in the convergence of Eastern philosophies/religion with Christianity.
Thanks, Corktree. I find so much truth in many religions and writings that really doesn’t contradict what Christ has taught- even if some people see it that way. When we open our minds and hearts to these truths, our experience becomes all the more richer. Much food for thought!
Thanks. I really enjoyed considering a new perspective to a familiar story. I think this story often comes with considerable historical baggage, so it’s nice to find fresh ways of interpreting it.
Another view I have also considered is how the Genesis account can be viewed as an allegory for the pre-existence (a core LDS doctrine that is notably absent from most of the Bible). Viewed from that perspective, the Garden of Eden is analogous to the premortal realm and the earth represents our mortal probation.
Thus, Adam and Eve in the garden represent all of us in the premortal life: we lived in the presence of God, but we had not tasted the good and evil of mortal life. We could have existed forever in that realm, but we would have had no increase or progression. We did have the ability to choose and as yet we were innocent of the sins that would come in mortality. As spirits, we were still naked of our physical bodies.
Eve and Adam choosing to eat the fruit represents each of us accepting the option to come here to mortality. We recognized that would involve a separation from our Heavenly Parents, one which would only be overcome through the intervention of Jesus Christ.
I think this interpretation leaves a few unanswered questions, but also gives me new insights into the story.
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