Messages in Myths: Eden A Poetic Rendition Of Reality

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Depiction of the original sin by Jan Brueghel de Oude and Peter Paul Rubens (1615)

Messages in Myths: Eden A Poetic Rendition Of Reality

There are few people in the world today who have not at least heard of the tale of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the mysterious Garden of Eden. Their story is told in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, and is a foundational myth of at least three great world religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Countless lessons of morality, ethics, and religious teachings have been drawn from it, and it continues to be a great source of spiritual wisdom. Some read it as history – an explanation of why the world is the way it is. It explains the human condition of separation from nature, separation from God, and separation from each other. Others view it as a metaphor, a myth with a message.

Painting from Manafi al-Hayawan (The Useful Animals), depicting Adam and Eve, from Maragh in Mongolian Iran. (1294) (Public Domain)

Painting from Manafi al-Hayawan (The Useful Animals), depicting Adam and Eve, from Maragh in Mongolian Iran. (1294) (Public Domain)

Eden A Poetic Rendition of Reality

What if both interpretations are, in a very real sense, true? Could it be that it is a poetic rendition of something that really happened? Can one find in the Eden stories a transition of humankind from Paleolithic to Neolithic — from a hunter/gatherer culture to that of modern civilization? Memories of a mythical paradise are universal. The old days always seem to have been better than the present. The Eden story carries on this tradition. It harks back to the beginning when humans were one with nature. But in one sense, buried in the text might be an actual dimly remembered past of an epoch that goes back at least 200,000 years, maybe even longer, to the emergence of anatomically modern humans. In the Eden story, these first humans are given names – Adam and Eve.


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