What does the Garden of Eden Represent?

by Joshua Tilghman on January 8, 2014

Eden paradiseMany Christians have wondered where the Garden of Eden is located, but we should be asking a more important question: what does Eden represent? It certainly shouldn’t be confused as a literal garden. To do so strips it of all its esoteric (inner) meaning and knowledge.

Just as Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of God was within you (a conscious experience), and not something that we can see (Luke 17:20), so it is with Eden. In order to understand this, we’re going to have to look at all the Biblical language and symbols within Eden. Once we break them down, I think you’ll discover that the true meaning of Eden becomes quite clear. I also promised I was going to discuss more about the topic of transmuting sexual energy in light of Adam and Eve. I’ve decided to push that back a post or two as it will make more sense after discussing Eden.

The two trees

Besides Adam and Eve, the two most important symbols in Eden are the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When we read about these two trees, it’s easy to miss the subtle hints telling us they aren’t really two separate trees. They’re both located in the midst of the garden, indicating two symbols representing different aspects of one totality. That totality is consciousness, that which is both immortal and eternal.

An important aspect that you must realize about consciousness is that when it is manifested it becomes dual in nature. This is why we have two separate symbols (trees, also representing man) that are both located in the midst of Eden.

Consider the scripture below:

“And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis: 2:9).

The tree of life

The tree of life represents the divine ray (logos, self) from the plane of consciousness before the fall of man, and the one to which we shall one day return. Again, this high plane of consciousness is symbolized by Eden. The tree of life then is the divine energy flowing from this higher conscious plane. Eden itself is an inward experience of the soul as opposed to an outward manifestation of it. Currently we experience reality through the ego and personality (outward manifestations of the soul through the lower natures). This outward manifestation of the soul through the mental, emotional, and physical natures leaves no memory of Eden. But this plane of high consciousness (Eden) can become indirectly known through the fruits of the spirit, or the higher emotions and intellect. To experience Eden we must follow Jesus’ example and crucify the lower ego.

Jesus also calls this higher state of consciousness “the tree of life.”

“…To him that overcometh (the lower egoic nature) will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).

The tree of knowledge of good and evil

The tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is also in the midst of the garden, represents the evolving moral nature we all develop as the result of our experiences on earth. It represents consciousness manifested through duality, and to eat of the tree of knowledge means to experience through the lower natures (mental, emotional, and physical) so we can raise the spiritual man from the experiences of the natural man. As Paul states, first in the natural and then the spiritual. This is a universal law within the unfolding of consciousness.

Therefore it is easy to see that both symbols are really two separate sides of the same coin, consciousness itself. Whereas one represents a higher conscious experience, the other represents the lower conscious experience through the personality and our physical bodies (the outward expression of consciousness through our thoughts, emotions, and physical senses).

Food on the trees

The food that was good to the eyes spoken of in the scripture above represents the spiritual truths we gain through our experiences within the physical realm. They don’t represent literal apples and oranges, but food for the soul, which are always truths assimilated into the soul. The more of this soul-food we eat, the more the illusion of duality fades, and the more real is incorporated into consciousness. The spiritual man is the real and the abiding nature, whereas the lower man/nature is illusory and dissolves after each reincarnated cycle.

Can we find evidence of such an interpretation in other scriptures? Yes. Acts 14:17 states:

“Nevertheless he (God) left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain (truth) from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food (truth) and gladness.”

As we eat the food of the tree of knowledge of good and evil through the many experiences of life, we eventually work our way up to higher consciousness and Eden again.

Adam and Eve

After discussing what the two trees represent, it should make sense why man (Adam and Eve) ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This act symbolically represents the “fall of man,” or the fall of the soul into physical manifestation, complete with a human ego and personality. Since the tree of knowledge of good and evil represents the evolving moral nature through experience, logically Adam and Eve would eventually “eat” of it.

The symbolic truths above make sense out of a story that is riddled with problems when viewed literally. For example, why would God place the bad tree (tree of knowledge) in the midst of the garden alongside tree of life to tempt man in the first place?

Wouldn’t you want your children to have knowledge of good and evil anyways? This is all gained through experience in life!

This is also why Adam and Eve must work among thorns and thistles (experience in the physical world) to produce food. It’s all about the spiritual food, the truths needed for the progression and evolution of the soul. Furthermore, this toiling among thorns and thistles can be likened to man’s responsibility to follow Jesus’ example of crucifying the ego and coming to express higher consciousness so that we can return to Eden or Paradise.

It should be obvious that Adam and Eve weren’t literal people. Over a year ago, I wrote an article explaining that Adam and Eve represent the conscious and subconscious. Originally these two aspects of consciousness were one, just as Eve was within Adam. In a sense they still are; the waking conscious and the subconscious are actually ONE consciousness, but it is convenient for us to make this distinction to describe the dual nature of consciousness when it is manifested in the lower planes.

The scripture states that Eve became the mother of all living. Eve, as the subconscious, is the power behind manifesting creation. This is true in our own lives because we perceive reality through the influences of the subconscious. In a sense this creates our reality. But the waking conscious (Adam) is the rudder that is meant to steer the power of the subconscious. Therefore, the waking conscious, must rule over the women (subconscious), to produce the right fruit. This is the power of choice to develop the moral character which eventually leads to higher consciousness and Eden again. As we learn spiritual truths through our experience in the physical realm we begin to reprogram the subconscious, bringing us closer to the mystical and divine marriage where we balance the opposing energies (Adam and Eve) within us.

The serpent in the garden

The serpent mentioned in Eden wasn’t Satan, an evil being that helped mankind fall. In former articles, Anny has given us some deep insight into the meaning of the serpent. She dissects him through symbolism and numerology, and she is absolutely right when she concludes that he is the downward force that begins the process of awakening in us. She also mentions that at its lowest point, this force begins to move upwards as the Christ within.

We could just as easily say that the serpent represents dual forces of a higher and a lower nature. These dual forces are the desire-nature and the wisdom-nature inherit in the totality of consciousness, both of which are at work when the soul is manifested. The wisdom nature comes down to us through the higher planes and the tree of life, whereas the desire-nature is at work through the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the ego on the lower planes. Both are needed to complete our spiritual evolution. Thus the tempting of Eve by the serpent was a logical progression of the story in Genesis, not a turn of events where man disobeyed God. It’s symbolic of the necessity for mankind to evolve spiritually through the physical plane where the soul manifests an ego through the mental, emotional, and physical nature. As the famous Italian poet Dante once stated:

“The path to paradise begins in hell.”

Many of the ancients considered the manifestation of consciousness on the physical plane as the experience of hell. The physical body was the tomb from which the soul must arise. In the Gnostic teachings this is what the resurrection of the dead means. It’s not something that will come to us in the next life, but something we accomplish before we die.

In conclusion it is clear that Eden is synonymous with heaven and paradise. It is a plane of existence above the physical, astral, and mental planes. In some esoteric literature it is known as the Buddhic plane. Whatever we choose to call it, it’s all the same.

Soon I still plan to address the topic of transmuting sexual energy in light of Adam and Eve. I think it’s too important of a topic not to discuss. In the next few posts Anny will explain more about the meaning of the serpent, and other contributors are going to give insight in to developing the Christ within through meditation and other avenues. I am also looking forward to another article from Paul soon. 2014 promises to be an exciting year for Spirit of the Scripture. It seems others with esoteric knowledge are coming forward to share their insight. I hope it’s a trend that will continue.

Blessings!

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Young January 9, 2014 at 7:08 am

Joshua, this is an incredible article, especially for me in light of my two videos on Biblical Hellfire (you will be astonished when you look at those). I think we come to the same destination, but from two different directions, which amazes me and confirms that we can indeed reach the same conclusions from differing points of view. I see the two trees as dual manifestations of the tongue, and of course, it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. And so representations of consciousness make a lot of sense to me. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (heart).” I believe the Apostle Paul to be a symbol of raised consciousness — as one who ultimately comes to see God for himself.

This is fascinating!! Thanks.

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Joshua January 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

Paul,
I appreciate the comment. It’s amazing how we both come to the same conclusions through a slightly different avenue.

I also love your comment about Paul. He is definitely a symbol of raised consciousness who births the Christ within. His Epistles were written before the Gospel accounts (as all Biblical scholars agree), and his Christ is much different than what mainstream Christianity realizes.

Blessings!

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IMMACULATE January 19, 2016 at 5:24 am

wow,wow wow- am so humbled to land on this website. I was but reading my bible -book of Genesis but this time i wanted to read and get definition of terms . Getting the DEFINITION OF EDEN WAS MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT. To my surprise i get a comprehensive explanation to the meaning how its symbolically used, aah!!!!! am so happy to get such a great revelation . GOD BLESS YOU

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anny January 9, 2014 at 7:28 am

Hi Josh,

This is a great article. I love it. I still remember when I tumbled to the fact that the two trees had to be one and hardly daring to believe it. And then I discovered that I was not the only one who had come to that conclusion which made it possible for me to trust my intuition more afterwards. It is just one great journey of discovery together.

Anny

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Joshua January 9, 2014 at 9:55 am

Anny,

I had the same epiphany one night reading Genesis over again. It had been staring me in the face all along, but when I was under mainstream Christianity I would never even have considered it. It is sort of like the pronoun usage for Christ in the New Testament. We take it for granted through modern translations that those pronouns do not have to mean “he” or “him.” Translators took statements about the Christ and made them about “someone else” personally instead of realizing they were speaking of the personal Christ WITHIN us!

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Bernhardt Adjedi Cadbury January 9, 2014 at 11:09 am

Hi Brethren in Christed Self,

I wonder what at all is happening! For about a year now, any time my mind contemplate a biblical issue, the revelation, solution or material needed for the truth appear to me. In Genesis there were two voices that tempted Eve’s evolution. thus; the voice that said you shall die and that which said ye shall not die but surely your eyes will be opened to be like God. Now the question is which of the voices lied and which said the truth? In Genesis 3:22 “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” the Serpent is the eye opener.

I agree with Josh saying, the Serpent is not Satan, and even if “Satan”, it’s a necessary spiritual force/energy of our essential core existence that leads to the highest consciousness of being / God. Now, could that be the force/energy of kundalini that was cursed to coil down the base of the spine? please i need comments on this . Thanks.

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Joshua Tilghman January 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Bernhardt, in a sense both were true. Man has died spiritually (not physically) since the fall. We have lost the ability to KNOW who we really are, but that can change.

Our eyes are also opened because as we experience in duality we learn good from evil. However, the way we were once taught to think about Good and Evil is not entirely correct. Its more about positive and negative experiences.

And yes, kundalini is all a big part in this force. Remember, kundalini is said to lied coiled at the base of the spine like a serpent.

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james July 10, 2014 at 10:45 pm

bernhardt was looking over what you said about eve’s evolution.could maybe the 2 voices you hear from the serpent are the voices of the ida and pingata ?? you know one is electric and the other is magnetic and they send the message back up the spine the tree of life .to the eye the pineal gland to see ..other words how could they see out ward this was the reason for the fall .just thought i would throw that out there..peace love and light..

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james July 10, 2014 at 10:48 pm

sorry josh meant this for bernhardt about the serpent..

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adrianne January 10, 2014 at 3:03 am

Insightful and inspiring. It is all starting to fall into place. Thank you

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Joshua Tilghman January 12, 2014 at 11:58 am

Glad the article had meaning to you, Adrianne.

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Alvin Davis January 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Really like this artilce!
Comment:
But the waking conscious (Adam) is the rudder that is meant to steer the power of the subconscious. True but
I think the waking conscious of man now is still deceived as to what is good or evil and can’t
guide the subsciousness?
Only by renewing our minds to the true meanings of scripture that’s normal NOT taught[ only the literal meaning ] that’s kill christianity.
So, thanks for your calling to this work!

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Joshua Tilghman January 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Alvin,

Yes, you are right, reading the scriptures and acquiring esoteric knowledge is only part of the calling. Going into our prayer closest and spending time in daily meditation and prayer also has to be part of our life, which will guide the conscious mind.

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Tony January 12, 2014 at 2:17 am

Eden =a state of unspeakable joy. Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him and us as well. The joy of Oneness with all that is. Christ is not divided. The glory we had before the world (system of duality)was.

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Tony January 12, 2014 at 2:22 am

The book of Revelations talks about the the serpent becoming the dragon. How?

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Joshua Tilghman January 12, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Tony,

Yes, in Revelations 12:3 and 4 appears the great red dragon. This dragon symbolizes the opposite of the Self as consciousness manifests. The opposite of the true self is the transitory personality consisting of the lower mental qualities and desire.

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KT January 18, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Thank you Josh, good article. It is interesting how we can analyze Bible in a different ways and give richer and deeper meanings.

Scott Peck MD calls this as multidimensional and paradoxical and I agree with him.

I find the core of the entire Bible to be unconditional Love and all the Biblical stories have to be with the message about Love. As in 1 John we read God is Love.

A few observations: God asking children not to eat certain things, knowing Children by nature are curious and love to adventure ?

Are there any healthy children who always obey their parents ?

God did not know they would not eat it ? Once freedom was given, didn’t God know it would be risky, that people also do some evil things ?

If God were to be serious of clearly defining good and evil , don’t you think he would have two separate trees, one for good and one for evil or SIN ?

I find the story of the Garden is a drama, purposely acted to let human beings taste both good and evil in full FREEDOM, because only in freedom Love is manifested.

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Joshua Tilghman January 24, 2014 at 5:53 pm

KT,

Yes, I think your line of reasoning is correct. We aren’t to be robots made to love, right? And I do think that all children must disobey to learn this principle. Most children who remain obedient and out of the spotlight usually go through a traumatic experience at some point latter in life that makes them reevaluate everything. Those who are honest must look deep within themselves and question everything they have been taught, while those who deny the situation and refuse to look deeper for a root cause don’t grow the level that the have the potential for. But that’s what reincarnation is for.

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Cherie Erten January 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Joshua, I told you I was on it. That makes sense and I understand it. I can get your point of not literal. I have sent a ghost to the light.

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Joshua Tilghman January 24, 2014 at 5:55 pm

It does make much more sense Cherie when we are able to look to the deeper meaning of the story. Thanks for your comment.

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james May 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm

really enjoyed your theme on the garden of eden.but when you talk about adam and eve being the conscious and subconsciousness minds .could it also be that if you take an ion out of atom you get positive and negative charge..could you explain a little of what i see in the garden..and i know the book is also about light…i also see the speed of light hidden in the book..ty enjoyed your thoughts..

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Joshua Tilghman May 19, 2014 at 8:22 pm

James,

Absolutely. This is true on another level, and all these levels are connected. I believe Bill Donahue teaches the same thing you are proposing. Good his name and the Bible if you haven’t already.

Thanks for your comment.

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james July 10, 2014 at 10:58 pm

josh have you ever heard of a guy from down under called santos bonacci..mr asrtotheology..santos is very gifted learned a lot about the body from him ..keep on planting the seeds that you have given now i have to water them..ty so much for your insights..pace love and light

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james May 31, 2014 at 6:22 pm

ty for returning my e-mail ..yes i do know of bill donahue ..very gifted man learned a kot from bill ..keep up the good work tho..

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james May 31, 2014 at 6:24 pm

by the way you were right about paul ..he said don not teach the law or the letter what he called it the letter kills,but the spirit gives life..

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Justin July 27, 2014 at 6:26 am

I look forward to your writings on the serpent and the transmutation of sexual energy. I first encountered these ideas on Youtube in the video: Sex – The Secret Gate to Eden. Since reading the ideas of Samuel Aun Weor and others, I have been working to conserve or not spill the “water of life.”

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Joshua Tilghman September 7, 2014 at 9:26 am

Justin, Sameul Weor makes some interesting points, some of which I believe. But I don’t believe in his overall premise. Transmutting sexual energy, for me, is more about integrating it properly not abstaining.

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Justin April 9, 2015 at 9:17 pm

I like this interpretation of the story. But what about the Bible pointing out that the serpent was lucifer in disguise? Also.. if the serpent is representative of the devil.. Then Why does the serpent energy rule all new age spirituality. It’s easy why people would not accept this based off of what the actual texts say. Can u explain any further on this?

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Joshua Tilghman July 23, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Justin,

Satan represents ignorance. The serpent, an active force, can also include ignorance.

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Nick Sandt April 23, 2015 at 8:45 pm

As a non-dualist and one who understands how the mind works myself, I’m right there with you. Excellent insight into the Adam and Eve story by the way! I read the whole article. But to your question: “Why would God place the bad tree (tree of knowledge) in the midst of the garden alongside tree of life to tempt man in the first place?”

Allow me to challenge your thought with this: What better way for Satan to become god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) than to play mind games with God’s clone in hopes to win him over? The tree had to be there in order for Satan (serpent) to reach for his dream of being “God” (Isaiah 14:12-14) over the true God’s footstool (Earth). Make sense? Maybe God put it there for Satan and not man.

You and your friend Anny don’t believe the serpent was Satan, but that’s where I differ.

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Joshua Tilghman July 23, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Nick, thanks for your comment. Why do you say I don’t believe Satan was the serpent. In a sense, as your comments suggest, they are one in the same. I believe what we should distinguish is that Satan is the force of ignorance, while the serpent represents growth. That can also come through ignorance.

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Kailasa Ishaya December 31, 2015 at 11:38 pm

Aloha Joshua!
Thanks for these great article! Plenty of ‘food for thought’! As this is your first article I’ve read, please forgive if my following comment is ignorant of further wisdom you have shared over the years.
Nick probably thinks, as do I, that you don’t believe the serpent was Satan because of what you wrote in the article, under the paragraph heading “The serpent in the garden”.
Your first sentence in that section is:
“The serpent mentioned in Eden wasn’t Satan….”
I won’t claim to be any kind of expert on the subject, but after years of contemplative meditation, and studying the ACIM and the newer “A Course of Love”, I have come to have the notion that “fall” of mankind came about as a ‘mistake’ – We, the Sons and Daughters of God, existing in an infinite Universe, “stumbled upon” the thought that We could be separate(d) from God.
Having watched my last dog discover pain and therefore fear as a puppy (which changed her completely), I wonder if the same didn’t happen to Us – that the thought of separation “freaked” Us out so completely that we ‘forgot’ to “let go” of that thought, and as a result, began to make an ‘overlay’ on Reality that reflected this belief in the possibility of separation to the extent that separation BECAME Our apparent ‘reality’.
As a blossoming non-dualist myself, like Nick, the “fall” I see as being the appearance of duality (beginning with the original Unity/disunity) – but I do NOT feel that the “fall” was inevitable, and Our needing to re-member God’s Truth, and return Home after learning all of the lesson’s of dualistic Life, an intentional part of Creation by God. In fact, Jesus in ACOL states that learning actually is NOT necessary – but that since we have chosen to learn so much and become engaged in separation (duality) that now, since a new choice seems to be beyond our ability, We have to UNlearn all our “lessons of Life”!

Along those lines, I see the “Garden of Eden” as what We first created in form, while Our memories of Heaven were still strong. However, being part of duality (as revealed by the numerous sets of dualism you well described in this article), the Garden itself was possibly the doorway to either Union (the Tree of Life) or separation (the Tree of Knowledge) – a kind of Purgatory location.
Now, if we consider that the myth of a rebellious angel is true, and peruse the possibility that angel would desire to usurp God in power, that angel could only do so by seizing control of the “duality matrix” and convincing those of Us who now believed in separation that knowledge was the “key” to achieving omnipotence in this new ‘realm’.
Seems to me, the perfect place to gain ‘new recruits’ to his new world would be to hang out where souls came to make their choice.
As part of the “Rebel Angel’s” plan for power, further consider what better way for him to control his new members than to play upon our memories of God, announce himself as “god”, and command us??
This has been the only sensible notion I have had as to how “the god” of the Old Testament (Jehovah) is soooooo different from the God that Christ Jesus speaks of – in other words, Jehovah/Yahweh is actually “Satan”(the Master Ego) in disguise.

As a closing thought, are you aware of how many indigenous religions have a “Keeper of Knowledge” that appear to the followers as a serpent?? It’s amazing….

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Joshua Tilghman January 9, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Kailasa,

Thanks for sharing this comment. You have some great ideas here. I tend to think the fall was automatic, as it tells about the natural progression of consciousness, but I will admit that I am not positive about this.

And yes, it is amazing how many ancient cultures used the serpent of the symbol. Further proof the Biblical account wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Thanks again!

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Christinaq January 22, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Then is this is the theory, can you explain the lineage of how Yeshua the Messiac was born and traced back to be the see of King David, the Son of Adam??

Thanks much.

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Joshua Tilghman February 21, 2016 at 10:38 am

Christinaq, I don’t think that genealogy is meant to be literal. It was written to be symbolic.

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Tim Gray June 23, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Oh my word!
Thankyou so much to the writer of this article. This has ABSOLUTELY blown my mind. Just incredible. I have recently .. just over the last few months.. .made the huge transition from being completely non-religious (to the point of being fairly critical of christianity) to a believer when I was touched by the holy spirit. I was cured of a serious illness and just couldn’t ignore the evidence. I am now learning about jesus and being a big thinker as well as a very scientific and political person, I am keen to learn every angle and every detail of the bible and all the religions that exist too. I am a thinker and I need to explore everything to feel safe I’m not going crazy! This has been a big shift in my personality and difficult for me to process with some big ups and downs in a short space of time. The holy spirit has visited me twice now and this interpretaion makes so much sense to me.

Wow.

and thankyou . looking forward to reading more interpretations from you.

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Steve Sponsler December 7, 2016 at 5:37 am

Buddahic? The LORD GOD was with them in ‘The GardeN’..do we neglect that Jesus was Crucified for the Salvation of they whom would we receive Him..or are we drawing conclusion from ‘the fruit of deception’..based on ‘self’ still? Is there any FORGIVENESS back to Adam in any of this from The Source that is outside all of Us who is Perfectly Pure and Holy and instead ‘save ourselves’ and become our own saviour? If that is the case..there’s no point to the story in the first place.

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Joshua Tilghman March 1, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Sorry, Steven, but I think you have missed the entire point of the article. Was Jesus literal? Basically you are asking me to explain myself as if I believe another aspect of the scripture is literal where the other is not. But this is not the case.

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