Monday, January 18, 2010

The Wisdom of Eating Duality

My last post of the image I called "The Blissful Serpent" stirred some passionate responses. The photo, gleaned from the Madonna Portal at Notre Dame Cathedral, depicts the snake who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this case, the wily serpent is portrayed as a radiant, sensual woman. Jo Braun, an artist in Seattle, pointed out a much overlooked detail in the story: the God character is the only one in the narrative who lies. God deceives Adam and Eve by telling them that eating from the tree at the center of the garden will kill them. But, the first couple ignore the warning label and bite into the fruit. Instead of dropping dead, "their eyes were opened."

What is the lie that doesn't kill you and opens your eyes? The carving in the photo above depicts the moment when Eve eats the apple. Around the left side of the pillar is another carving portraying God warning Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree. Around the right side of the pillar, a third carving shows God expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden. Warning, Partaking and Excluding appear to be the gestures of deception that reveals Truth.

The central figure in all these images is the serpent. Her movement animates the story. She also reveals the key to understanding the deception that uncovers Truth. Here's what I see. The serpent embodies the flow of consciousness becoming aware of itself. When the unified field of awareness appears to split into the awarenesses of the Perceiver and the Perceived, the wholeness of life appears to break into opposites: good and evil, light and dark, love and hate. Believing that these opposites are the only reality of life is ignorance. Believing these opposites will kill us the big lie. Stuck in the belief that we as Perceivers are separate from what we Perceive, we forget that we are already whole. We turn life into a pursuit for objects that will complete us. Attempting to heal a life that appears broken, but is actually whole, reinforces the lie and sends us on an endless round of chasing our own tails. As long as we believe this lie, we live in fear that we will never be whole again.

Yet this lie reveals a core truth. The opposites may appear separate, but they are actually one. By appearing to stand apart, opposites frame a gate through which creative energy flows from latent potential into vivid manifestation. Through this gate, the world sees unity behind the forms of duality.

In the story of Eden, God's lie allows Adam and Eve to engage the full spectrum of life's possibilities. The one-dimensional harmony of blind ignorance offers no place for the creative powers of life to flow. The joy of birth cannot radiate without the poignancy of death. The beauties of light cannot shine without shades of darkness.
The serpent is actually the hero in the story. Despite God's warning not to eat the fruit of duality, the serpent still urges the first couple to taste the sweet juice. By swallowing duality Adam and Eve awaken to a magnified unity, a oneness that includes all possibilities. After that awakening, the one dimensional Eden was no longer their true home.

The tale of rediscovering primal unity carries Adam and Eve out of Eden. Their exile represents the work of applying a magnified unity to daily life. Discovering unity within new and unexpected pairs of opposites works the vital mysteries of creation deeper into the bones. It presses the awakening of unity further into the earth. Like I imagine the Adam and Eve characters doing again and again, we can weave duality into the field of unity, perceiving astonishing patterns and possibilities emerge. With weaving we can engage the fluid energies of the serpent and find her radiant joy and beauty filling the already full world.


  1. Beautiful, wise and 'working on me' down in the deep places. Thank you, Tony. I can feel your words spiraling down deep within.

  2. I LOVE this post Anthony. I was struck by the beauty of the image when I first saw it. The serpent is a powerful metaphor for me and you have described it's essence so beautifully here. To find unity beyond the illusionary forms of duality is such an incredible revelation! "After that awakening, the one dimensional Eden was no longer their true home."

    Thank-you for this beautiful post.

  3. good gracious how i'm enjoying the juiciness of every bite of this apple. though i came back several times to look at the image in your earlier post, i didn't comment cause a) i figured/hoped there was more to the story (and you didn't disappoint, you sneaky thing, you) and b) i was raised in a southern baptist church, and i knew - i just knew - my still-lingering rebellion would spill out into my words causing a peripheral vision deficit. i'm gonna have to sit with this a while, but i sure do like the way you (and jo, too) see and situate. i really do.

  4. Thank you for another beautiful post. Yes to desire fueling expansion!!!