The Fundamentalist Christian View:
Six thousand years ago God planted a garden somehwere in the Middle East. and the rivers Tigris, Euphrates, somehow flowed from it. The continents were all together in one land-mass (the Earth not becoming separated until the time of Peleg). There were no great mountains; since the Flood could only rise 15 cubits in height, and the Flood covered the mountains. Just small hills; not mountains as we have today.
God made all the animals just as they are today (including apparently the 98% of animals now totally extinct). He planted a Garden eastward in Eden, and put all the animals in it; including all the dinosaurs so Adam could name them all.
God made Adam literally from the clay, and took a rib from his side and from this rib made Eve (why He couldn't use clay for Eve too...is never explained). Adam and Eve were in "the image of God"; so naturally they appeared to be white-skinned Anglo-Saxons; since this is what God and Jesus look like (according to most Christian artists).
Also, to serve His divine purposes, God put a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of it, and also he allowed Satan into the Garden in the form of a talking-snake.
The talking snake "temps" Eve with a fig, yahda...yahda...yahda...
Adam and Eve are thrust out of the Garden where they had children, Cain and Abel and daughters not mentioned in the Bible (where else would Cain and Seth get their wives)?
Adam and Eve live for about 870 more years, begetting many sons and daughters, then they die.
A BAHA'I VIEW......
Adam truly existed, as did Eve. But the Garden, and the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Talking Snake, are all "metaphors".
MY PERSONAL VIEW....
According to 'Abdu'l-Baha, Adam truly existed. I have asked the Friends over the years:
"If Adam existed, did Eve exist? Also, what does the talking snake mean? What does the rib mean? What does the Garden of Eden mean?"
In 95% of cases, the Baha'i gives me "the look" (like I asked them the price of cheese on the planet Venus), and then they walk away. About 5% of Baha'is'
reply, "Well, Adam existed, but we don't know who He was. The rib story, and the rest, are metaphors".
I ask, "Metaphors of what?" They reply: "We just don't know". Then they too walk away.
I have endeavored to discover the meaning of the Garden of Eden of Story since then by using ISHRAQ (Arabic: "Divine Illumination").
ISHRAQIYYAH (the School of Illumination)
While in Paris in 1911, 'Abadu'l-Baha spoke before a group of Quakers (Society of Friends) and purportedly said the following:
"About one thousand years ago a society was formed in Persia called the Society of the Friends, who gathered together for silent communion with the Almighty.
They divided Divine philosophy into two parts: one kind is that of which the knowledge can be acquired through lectures and study in schools and colleges. The second kind of philosophy was that of the Illuminati, or followers of the inner light. The schools of this philosophy were held in silence. Meditating, and turning their faces to the Source of Light, from that central Light the mysteries of the Kingdom were reflected in the hearts of these people. All the Divine problems were solved by this power of illumination.
This Society of Friends increased greatly in Persia, and up to the present time their societies exist. Many books and epistles were written by their leaders. When they assemble in their meeting-house they sit silently and contemplate; their leader opens with a certain proposition, and says to the assembly `You must meditate on this problem'. Then, freeing their minds from everything else, they sit and reflect, and before long the answer is revealed to them. Many abstruse divine questions are solved by this illumination.
Some of the great questions unfolding from the rays of the Sun of Reality upon the mind of man are: the problem of the reality of the spirit of man; of the birth of the spirit; of its birth from this world into the world of God; the question of the inner life of the spirit and of its fate after its ascension from the body.
They also meditate upon the scientific questions of the day, and these are likewise solved.
These people, who are called `Followers of the inner light', attain to a superlative degree of power, and are entirely freed from blind dogmas and imitations. Men rely on the statements of these people: by themselves-- within themselves--they solve all mysteries. (Paris Talks, pages 173-174)
'Abdu'l-Baha taught that the "Society of Friends" (ishraqis) of Iran "solved all divine mysteries"; not by debate, not by studing scholars, but
by "divine illumination". He said that when the Society of Friends (not Quakers....this refers to the School of Illimination in mideval Iran) wanted
to discover a divine truth, they did not study, they did not debate, they did not read the scholars, but they MEDITATED until God put the right
answer into their minds. They could fast and pray and "meditate" (clear their minds completely) until a "thought" or answer came into their
heads. This is how the School of Illumination (Ishraqiyyah) came to "solve all mysteries" according to 'Abdu'l-Baha.
When 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke of "Spiritual Solutions to Ecomonic Problems" the Friends always always think He meant this:
*Get all the economists together in a room and have them consult about the best economic plan, and when they come to agreement, that is a spiritual solution".
However, that is probably NOT what 'Abdu'l-Baha had in mind! He probably was referring to "ishraq" (divine illumination). In other words, if a person, or a family, or a village,
or a town, or a city, or a country had a certain problem, such as an economic problem, then they would use a "spiritual solution" (ishraq) to solve that particular problem. This
doesn't refer to consultation by experts! It refers to "divine illumination". You should know that many inventions came NOT with men studying or debating or consulting, but
via "ishraq" or what Americans or British would call "sudden inspiration" or "a lightening bolt to the brain". This "inspiration" is not the result of the consultation of experts, nor of study, but it occurs when men or women "clear their minds" completely. They wipe clean their thoughts. They literally have "no thought" of their own. In other words, if two radio signals are being received on
the same frequency, you can't hear either. But, if you "clear" the frequency, then one signal will come through. Such is ishraq. It's not you "consulting with experts". It is not you studying
or even "thinking". It is the negation of thought--the ceassation of "thinking" so that divine inspiration can come clearly into your mind.
If you got a "council of economic experts" into a room, and said "Solve the countries current economic problems" they would debate and consult until Hell freeses over, and some of them would advocate socialism and others would advocate a free market solution. Some would advocate higher taxes, and some would advocate lesser taxes. This is not ishraq! But, if you put the men into the same room, and had them pray and fast, then MEDITATE (clear their minds of thought), then, if all did the same and truly followed the Path of Illumination, you would come to a concensus; because the Spirit would give them al the same "Flash of Inspiration". The solution would be "spiritual" and not based upon scholarship or "experts" or anything like that.
So too, in dealing with the Mysteries of the Faith, or the Bible, one can consult and experts for 100 years, and still come up empty. One must use ishraq if one is to solve these mysteriies. I have strived for years to do that.
So, with that in mind, I present you the following.
According to 'Abdu'l-Baha, in Some Answered Questions, Adam is a symbol for the "Spirit of Adam" and Eve is a symbol for "his soul". What ON EARTH does that mean? Baha'is have no idea. In fact, Baha'is don't wish to discuss it! What does that have to do with World Peace, Race Unity, or Esperanto? Baha'is don't have the slightest clue how to interpret that, other than to say: "Who cares?" Well, I care! The Garden of Eden Story is there for a purpose. The words of 'Abdu'l-Baha in Some Answered Questions means something! I think we should try to solve this mystery, instead of ignoring and running away as the Baha'is always seem to do.
We know THIS:
*Adam truly existed and was a Manifestation of God.
*The Garden of Eden story is not a "myth" but a "metaphor".
A "myth" is an invented story based upon no historical even. Superman and Batman are "myths"; based upon no historical event or person. But, what is a "metaphor"?
What is a metaphor? For example:
"Santa Claus" is not a "myth" but a "metaphor". Santa Claus is based upon a historical person: Saint Nicolas of Turkey, who, in the 11th century, made toys for children and
used a sled to deliever them around Christmas time. Santa Claus is a "metaphor" for Saint Nicolas.
In Genesis we are told that Eve was made out Adam's "rib". Baha'is say this is a "myth". It never happened. But I say, it is not a "myth" but a "metaphor".
In Hebrew the word for "rib" is TSELA. It's literal meaning is "rib". But, the metaphor of TSELA in Hebrew is "penis".
In English, the word "bone" can mean "bone" (literal) or "erect penis" (metaphor). "Cock" can mean "rooster" (literal) or "penis" (metahor").
In modern American English "junk" can refer to "trash" (literal), or to "genitals" (metaphor). And so on. The Hebrew word TSELA can mean "rib" (literal) or "penis" (metaphor).
So, the "metaphor" of Eve being taken from Adam's "rib" is a metaphor meaning that Eve was "taken from the rib" (i.e. a descendant) of Adam. This is what Brigham Young also taught (probably based upon something he heard Joseph Smith say); that Eve was the grand-daughter of Adam. I will reveal later who ADAM was and who EVE was, and how they were related to each other.
"Forbidden Fruit"--the literal meaning is "fruit" but the metaphor is "genitals". In other words, men and women have "fruit" which contains "seeds" which "hangs" from them. The genitals of men resemble "fruit" as do the genitals and breasts of women. This "fruit" is "forbidden" in most cases. To "know" this fruit (to partake of it) brings one "knowledge" that can be "good" or "evil" depending upon the circumstance. Thus, the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" refers to SEX; which can be "good" or "evil" depending upon the circumstance.
"Talking Serpent"--the literal meaning is of a talking snake who lies to Eve, telling her she wouldn't die if she partook of the forbidden fruit (an apple or fig). But the metaphor is this: the ancient Hebrew word for snake or serpent is "NAWKhAWSH". It's literal meaning is "hisser". The name was applied to snakes (who hiss as a warning) but ALSO the name was applied to shamans; who "hiss" while in trances. So, the talking serpent was not a "literal" snake (since snakes do not talk nor tempt women with figs), but a shaman; whom the ancient Hebrews (and Arabs) referred to as "Hissers" (Naw-Khawsh--"serpents").
In other words, a talking snake did not tempt Eve with a fig or apple! A Shaman (naw-khawsh) temped Eve with "forbidden fruit" (i.e. taboo sex), and then Eve templed Adam with the same. Because they partook of taboo sex, they were thrust out of the Garden of Eden.
THE GARDEN OF A-DEN
Actually, in Hebrew, it doesn't say "Garden of Eden" but "Gan A-den". Gan means "Garden" and "A-Den" means "delight". But, there is also an ancient Kingdom on the Arabian penninsula called A-den (now in the south of Yemen).
Also, in the time of Pharoah Akhenaten, he planted a huge walled Garden along the Nile at what is now Tel-Amarna, and called it Meru-Aten (The Garden of Aten). He worshipped the One God called ATEN. This is very close to the Hebrew A-DEN.
Meru-Aten was massive, and included all sorts of fruit-bearing trees, and had a "Tree of Life" in the center! It was watered by four cannals; named after the four great rivers that the Egyptians were familiar with; including the Tigris and Euphrates.
The father of Akhenaten's main queen, Nefertiti, was AYE ("eye"), who claimed to be the "Son of Yahu" (Yahu is the Egyptian name for the Canaanite god YAH, son of EL). After Akhenaten and Nefertiti died, AYE became Pharoah, and married the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, his own grand-daughter, named KHIYAH (Egyptian: "fiesty little animal"). The Egyptian name KHIYAH is very close to the Hebrew name for Eve which is KHIVAH ("life").
Was KHIYAH "forced" to marry her own grand-father (AYE), or was she "tempted" into doing so. After all, the only way she could have the power was to marry the new Pharoah; which happened to be her own grand-father.
Why did Khiyah marry her own grand-father?
Again, in Genesis we are told that a Serpent "tempted" Eve to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; against the Law of God.
In the true historical story of Aye and Khiyah, we know they married. We don't know who asked whom. But, we know that the Pharoahs of Egypt ruled according to the "Divine Wisdom" of the gods. This "Divine Wisdom" was symbolized by a Cobra. On the crowns of the Pharoahs, was a cobra; which symbolized the "wisdom of the gods" by which knowledge or wisdom they ruled.
The metaphor is this: KHIYAH wanted this "Divine Wisdom" (i.e. she wanted to be queen and co-ruler with Aye), but to get this "divine wisdom" she had to partake of "forbidden fruit" (i.e. marry her own grand-father). Aye was "tempted" by Khiyah's "fruit" and he "partook". This was not against Egyptian law, but against the Law of God.
In other words, the Cobra-Serpent (symbol of the "Divine Wisdom" by which the Pharoahs ruled) "whisperred" to Eve, telling her to partake of "forbidden fruit". It she did she would become "wise" like the gods (i.e. she would rule Egypt along with Aye the Son of Yahu.
Now, Ankhenaten had an "older brother" called Tut-Moses; who never ruled, but was a high-priest of the God Re in Memphis. According to legend, Tut-Moses took the worshippers of Aten out of Egypt after Aye was dead, and the worship of Aten had become illegal by the new Pharoah who returned to Egypt the worship of the gods including the cult of Amun.
The Hebrew word "Adam" is AW-DAWM, and simply means "to appear red" or "to show blood". We have paintings of AYE that still exist, and he appears to have red skin.
The Hebrew word for Eve is "KHIVAH" (which means "life"), and is very close to the Egyptian name "KHIYAH"; the grand-daughter and wife of Pharoah Aye.
Aye and Khiyah were "thrust out of the Garden" (i.e. lost the throne in the Garden of Aten). We are not told why this happened. Moses wrote because they offended God by partaking of "forbidden fruit".
The name Moses is Egyptian and means "born of". What Egyptian princess would call her son "Born of". Moses was probably Tut-Moses; which means "Born of Thoth" (Egyptian god of wisdom). Not being a believer in the Egyptian gods, Tut-Moses probably called himself "Moses"; especially around his Hebrew kin.
So, in conclusion, the Garden of Eden Story is not a "myth" nor a "mere parable" by a "metaphor" of something that actually happened anciently; reported by Moses who would have known the story quite well since Aye and Khiyah would have been adopted relatives of his.
You can read more about this in the book MOSES AND AKHENATEN by Ahmed Osman, available at Amazon.com
I must add, all this is not "official" Baha'i doctrine! All official Baha'i doctrine says is that Adam and Eve existed as real people and that the "forbidden fruit" and "talking snake" and "rib" were all "metaphors" but not "myths". Beyond that, we can only speculate.
I just can't "buy" the Fundamentalist Christian version of the Garden of Eden story; a white Anglo-Saxon Adam and Eve as the first humans, Cain and Seth marrying their sisters (because no other humand existed), all animals and dinosaurs in the Garden eating grass and not each other. Eve taken from a literal "rib" fo Adam; with Adam himself being molded by clay. Just can't "buy" it anymore than I can buy Santa Claus! It's too childish!
But...."Santa Claus" is also a "metaphor" and not a "myth". Santa Claus is based upon a real man who lived in Turkey long ago; Saint Nicolas. And, if you pronounce his name (Saint Nicolas) as the French do, it is "Sawnt Nee-Claus". So, even Santa Claus is not a "myth" but a "metaphor"; a symbol of a real historial man-in-time who really existed.
All research or scholarship questions
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Sorry just dropping in a quick response after skimming your post, but besides the explanation in Some Answered Question, there is also this very interesting, but as yet unauthenticated Tablet ascribed to 'Abdu'l-Baha:
Regarding thy question as to the beginning of Creation: Know thou that the Truth (GOD) has eternally ever been, and so also have His creatures, for there is no beginning either for the Truth (God) or for the creatures. According to the bodies in the contingent world, the "beginning" mentioned in the Holy Scriptures means the beginning of the Manifestation, and "creation" signifies the Second Spiritual Birth: as Christ says, "You must be born again." There is no doubt that the beginning of this Spiritual creation was the Manifestation Himself, for each Manifestation of the Divine Manifestations is the Adam (of His time,) and His first believer is Eve, while all the souls who are born of the Second Birth are His children and decendents. In the New Testament it is recorded: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." Again in John 1:13" Which was born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."