I am not sure if the author of the Adam and Eve story in the Bible knew how many ways the story will be interpreted. Even if he or she didn’t, it does not take away anything from the author’s erudition and the eternal wisdom behind the story.
I have written before on this story. See earlier post, ‘Ego, Adam And Eve And The Real Poverty’, in which we discussed the parallels between the story of creation to what happens between the universal mind, the human mind and the human ego.
Lets go back for a while to see the creation story again.
The Biblical story is that God created Adam and Eve. He put them in the garden of Eden and allowed them to eat everything except the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Adam and Eve ignored the divine wisdom and their individual minds fell prey to the devil’s temptation. They ate from the tree of knowledge. God found out and banished them from Eden. That was the beginning of the separation of God and the human race, separation of the eternal and the temporal and the separation of the universal mind and the individual mind.
This separation was, I believe, the ‘original sin’. Christianity (and for that matter, Judaism and Islam too) begins with this original sin.
For Christianity, things come full circle with Jesus, who brings with him the alchemy for reversing the separation. The wisdom of oneness, the wisdom of mysticism. Jesus was a wisdom teacher and mystic of the highest order, of the same caliber as Lord Krishna or Buddha or Lao Tzu or Mohammad or others. But people (who did not understand Jesus and who used Christianity for their own political / propagandist purposes) labelled him as the ‘Son of God’ and instead of understanding the true inner revolution that he preached, the so-called Christians began worshipping him, thus effectively killing him and his teachings.
(And by the way, that’s the most effective way to kill, manipulate and neutralize any great spiritual teacher: start worshipping him or her. That will kill off the seeds of any real revolution in their teachings. And then you can do with them as you please.)
Jesus’ key message was denial of the ego, which is the dividing / separating agent. If and when the ego is removed from the picture, the universal meets the individual, the eternal meets the temporal, the creator meets its creation and the two become one. And in this resulting oneness is the return to Eden. Adam and Eve’s wrong was righted by Jesus. That is the only reason why he can be called the saviour. He, like other great wisdom teachers and mystics, gave us a formula for oneness, a formula for return to Eden. His call for “repentance” was exactly this, he was trying to say, “Lets go back to Eden”. He was saying, “Lets go back home”. Because that is where we came from.
The modern Christian idea that he “… gave up his life to wash away our sins” is, at best, hogwash and wishful thinking. We want to take the shortest way out of our so-called ‘sins’. And what better than to say that Jesus has already done that for us. He sacrificed himself on the cross and took away our sins. Now we don’t need to do anything, except attend Church every week and give 10% of our monthly income to the Church.
Well, first of all, there are no ‘sins’. Secondly, if there is any sin, it is the continuation of the ego. That sin can be washed away only by elimination of the ego. And Jesus cannot do that for us. Only we can do that. Jesus and other teachers have showed us the path. Only we can walk it. And if we choose not to, then so be it. No big deal.
Now, coming to the story of Faust. It comes from old Germanic myths, which were retold by Christopher Marlowe in 1587 as ‘The Tragic History Of Doctor Faustus’ and also by Goethe as the play, ‘Faust’ (1770s).
The gist of the story is that Faust is a learned scholar who is frustrated with the limitations of his knowledge and bored with his life. He makes a bargain with Mephistopheles, the devil’s representative, whereby Faust will get magical powers from Mephistopheles to indulge in all the pleasures and gain all the knowledge that he wants for a certain number of years, but then, at the end of that term, the devil will come and take Faust’s soul. (The details are different in different Faustian tales.)
This deal that Faust made with the devil or his representative, Mephistopheles, is called the Faustian Bargain. We also say sometimes, ‘selling your soul to the devil’, referring to trading one’s values for material gains and pleasures.
Many years ago (about 15 years ago, to be more precise), I made a Faustian Bargain too. I was about 34 at that time and while I had realized that the spiritual aspect was the missing link in my life and that it was the aspect that could lead me to a wiser, more meditative, blissful life, yet, unfortunately at the same time I was beginning to make very good money. And I chose money over spiritual understanding. The lure of money and the pleasures it could buy was too strong. My ego was big and strong and the connection to the other world, the un-manifest world, the spiritual world, very weak. As per the old native American tale of each person having two wolves inside, my ‘good’ wolf was weak and my ‘bad’ wolf was strong and it proved to be the winner. I sold my soul to the devil. Money won over spirituality.
It took me years to understand what had happened and to start over again. I don’t really regret it, I guess that is how I was supposed to learn.
Jesus used to tell a parable to his disciples: a farmer was scattering seeds to grow crops. The seeds that fell on the path or on rocky places or among the thorns did not grow. It was only the seeds that fell on good soil that grew and produced the crop. The seeds, no matter how good they might be, will not be enough on their own to produce a crop if good soil is not present. Great teachings, great ideas or the words of great spiritual masters are the seeds and we are the soil. If we are not open to reviewing ourselves and to change, if we are not open to silence and stillness and meditation, then we are not good soil and none of those words will bear any fruit. I was not good soil 15 years ago. Maybe I have changed a little bit now.
To go back to Adam, Eve and Faust, the two stories are about people surrendering to their greed and acquisitiveness at the cost of their true values. And paying the price for that surrender.
I believe that in our own lives, each one of us can, at any moment, re-evaluate his / her life and see what Faustian Bargains we have made in the past and what did we gain from such bargains.
And, in future, lets think twice, thrice and many times over before entering into any more Faustian Bargains. It will be difficult to resist because that’s how we have grown up. Money and material good and property and bank balances have become much more important than inner peace, contentment, compassion and the original blissfulness that we brought with us when we came into this world.
(Illustration: by Harry Clarke For Goethe’s Faust, Wikipedia)