Paradox and the Tree

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
Post Reply
User avatar
just me
Posts: 582
Joined: 10 May 2009, 19:44

Paradox and the Tree

Post by just me » 05 Jul 2009, 13:15

I am so fascinated by our mythology. Right now I am reading The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell) and Strangers in Paradox (by Margaret & Paul Toscano).

Anyway, while reading in Strangers in Paradox something dawned on me.

While we believe that Adam and Eve brought death into the world by eating the fruit of the Tree on Knowledge, we also believe that they brought LIFE into the world at the same time!

Now, I know we do teach this, but the paradox has never occured to me. It's amazing that through their AGENCY they were able to bring death AND life into the world. I think we are speaking of both spiritual and physical death/life.

Just eating from the Tree of Life could not accomplish this task.

We all acknowledge the paradox of the commands they were given in the garden. Why does God seem to give us opposing commands? So that we can choose which to follow. Perhaps this is not a choice between good and evil. Perhaps it is a choice of lesser truth and higher truth...or what we are ready for at that time.

Then follows the paradox of Adam and Eve being "punished." Adam must till the earth to earn his food. But what a blessing! Eve must pass through pain to bring forth life. What a blessing! Adam and Eve are two beings who must realize they are actually ONE. What an amazing journey of discovery that will be!
What a blessing to no longer remain a child and to grow into an adult. Leaving your Father and Mother to strike out and make it on your own. To discover how you are still connected to your Parents and they permeate everything in life. Maybe they aren't as far away as we think.

I have gone through several interpretations of the Garden story...and they all are probably true. There are layers and layers of truths that constantly amaze me. It'll take me a lifetime to scratch the surface.

One of the amazing things Joseph Campbell says in The Power of Myth is that our myths are supposed to aleviate our guilt about having to "kill to live." It has brought a whole new dimension to the gospel for me. Thinking of Christ and the sacrament in this context today was very enlightening. Our myths, or the gospel, should be building us up not tearing us down. We have the power to choose which side of the paradox to partake.
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

LaLaLove
Posts: 230
Joined: 26 Apr 2009, 19:50

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by LaLaLove » 05 Jul 2009, 17:19

Regarding your last few lines I just wanted to say-Sometimes I feel like I'm tearing myself down for trying SO hard to believe in things that internally kill me. Make me sad - confused. Is it The Church - Is it me - Is it expectations of family. I don't really know. Adam and Eve story is filled with so many symbolic lessons - It really can be read so many ways and it really is pretty cool :) .

User avatar
Heber13
Posts: 6710
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by Heber13 » 06 Jul 2009, 11:46

What a great thread, just me. The paradox of the tree and life and death is great to think of at so many levels, as you said.

One thing I accept in the story, is that while Eve partook and got Adam to partake, I don't sense anger or "punishment" that God imposes on either of them. However, He turns to the serpent and curses him for knowingly getting them to disobey, and curses him that his head will be crushed.

I believe Eve and Adam did what was inevitable to start the family and put the plan in motion, and God knew this. The separation of God from Adam and Eve, and that they would surely die, and that they would surely bring forth new life, and the change in the world so that weeds and pain and sickness is introduced, were natural consequences of actions, not God being angry and punishing them for something.

I believe we all rejoiced when we heard Adam and Eve fell, not groaned.

To me, the paradox that God puts 2 trees in the Garden is also symbolic for my life, and how there are many choices or paths I can take, and more important than not making any mistakes, is that each gives me an experience to learn from, just like Adam and Eve learned and progressed from their choice.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

User avatar
jmb275
Posts: 507
Joined: 28 Apr 2009, 11:31

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by jmb275 » 07 Jul 2009, 19:38

I have an interesting relationship with paradox. For example I am okay with the paradox in the Garden of Eden story. I am comfortable with the paradox of surrendering one's will to obtain freedom (as long as the thing being given my will is God).

But I also have a strong tendency to question paradoxes. I hope that in doing this, I really find out if there is a paradox, or if it is just a perceived paradox. For example, I am a big proponent of the free market, and the Austrian School of Economics. Many believe that the problems we are having are a result of a free market, and that it needs to be reigned in by legislation. My research into economics convinces me that this is a perceived paradox. Markets are indeed a good method for determining prices (in the aggregate), and I believe that gov't regulation is what caused this mess, not the free markets.

I don't want to turn this into an economic debate, but I want to point out that I think it is important that we check our supposed paradoxes to discover if they really are paradoxical, or if we create them from our own mortal tendencies and limitations. In other words, are we imposing our limited views and ideas on the symbolism, or is there really a paradox? Do you think that God is comfortable with paradox, or are there no paradoxes to God?
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

User avatar
Heber13
Posts: 6710
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by Heber13 » 08 Jul 2009, 08:21

I would say that a paradox includes what "seems" to be a contradiction, and so we are back to discussing our perceptions of the truth. What may seem to be a contradiction to us may not be to God, but for our mortal experience, there are actual paradoxes for us to deal with in our perceptions of things.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

swimordie
Posts: 755
Joined: 02 Jun 2009, 21:50

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by swimordie » 08 Jul 2009, 13:13

I agree that we create paradox in trying to form functioning human community/society. Biologically, it seems, men have the natural "urge" to procreate with as many women as possible. Women, to find the best "mate" as is possible; healthy, wealthy, wise. Some of this biology creates "contradiction" or "paradox" when humans are forming communities to function in what would be deemed the "best" way based on cultural or traditional mores, probably which have been established through the trial and error of previous generations.

When these mores become interwoven with spiritual belief, government, social etiquette, etc., imbalances between perceived "reality" and the natural world seem to create these "paradoxes". So, inasmuch as God communicates with man, and man interprets this through the filter of their own learned mores, man is the one creating these paradoxes, not God. Man could create myths or God could communicate myths to man (again filtered) that would entrench paradox into multiple planes of consciousness (self, collective, etc.) This would make paradox "seem" natural/normal/indemic to the human experience.

Maybe... ?? :D
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 15842
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Jul 2009, 17:24

Wonderfully said, swimordie. It is fascintating to consider whether those things we classify as paradoxes really are such in and of themselves only.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

User avatar
jmb275
Posts: 507
Joined: 28 Apr 2009, 11:31

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by jmb275 » 08 Jul 2009, 21:38

I agree, well said swimordie. One paradox that is always interesting is the paradox of experience vs. current analysis.
swimordie wrote:probably which have been established through the trial and error of previous generations.
Unfortunately, "times they are a changin'" as the saying goes. Often, I have found that my Dad's words of wisdom, based on his own experience, have been downright incorrect. That's not to say that they always were, or that his wisdom is worthless, but things change, conditions change, people change, and two situations are rarely (ever?) exactly the same. I have a propensity to question the wisdom of previous generations for precisely that reason - they are from previous generations. I think their counsel is wise, and that I should incorporate into my analysis, but it is certainly not the final word.
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

User avatar
Brian Johnston
Site Admin
Posts: 3486
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 06:17
Location: Washington DC

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by Brian Johnston » 09 Jul 2009, 09:24

I think paradox is a leavening agent in our existence to help us develop, from a "plan of salvation" view. For a good portion of our life, inconsistency and contradiction is upsetting. We want to make the right choice and avoid the wrong choice.

As we get older and see how gray the world, that starts to break down. I've had too many situations now where I could only decide between bad and worse, or good and a little better. It's just like Joseph Campbell's "we must kill others to live" problem.

At some point, we decide to embrace and explore paradox. I think it is a mental and spiritual exercise that takes us to something new farther on down the road (perhaps after this life).
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

User avatar
Orson
Site Admin
Posts: 2252
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 14:44

Re: Paradox and the Tree

Post by Orson » 09 Jul 2009, 17:08

Thanks for bringing up this topic. What I love about the garden story is the symbolism that partaking of the tree of knowledge represents a deliberate decision to become responsible for your own actions - and to me you don't truly begin to LIVE your own life until you do.

There is so much symbolism between what Adam and Eve did and what we all do as we seek the "fruit" of the tree of knowledge.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

Post Reply