Perpetual Free Fall

Following the tail of the last post, I want to turn toward the account of the Fall in Genesis, focusing on a couple of details. The first is that the creation of Eve is something of a capstone to the creation of animals. The second is that Eve is not given a name until after judgment has been passed on the Serpent, Eve, and Adam.

First, an excerpt of the relevant section (it’s a touch long):

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.  And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
[….]
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.”—Genesis, 2:18-3:4; 3:20

Structurally, the naming of Eve completes her identification with the world of animals. As God creates animals, Adam names them. God creates Eve from Adam and for quite a while she is only ‘the woman.’ But, then, at judgment’s end, Adam gives a name to her, and that name links her to life itself, not just to human life.

In the account of God creating animals as possible companions, what we see is the failure of the animals to be a proper companion. Adam names them, but they do not name him, or even speak back to him. When Eve is created, she is from his rib and so capable of speaking back to him.

We can read ‘rib’ as side, thereby attaching to the creation of Eve the divine differentiation of the Tree of Life into two sides (hardly a radical idea that, the pillar of severity being feminine and the pillar of mercy being masculine). Reading the Fall in this light, though, firmly joins the account of Genesis to the gnostic account of Sophia who can, with her partner, under the auspices of the Highest, create. That triplicity is what structures the ideal tree of life diagram.

With Sophia at the back of my mind, the rest of the Fall comes into focus. The two stories parallel each other in other ways. Here a little historiography might be in order. The account in Genesis is the older of the two, but that does not necessarily mean that Genesis provides the model. The story of Sophia may share a common literary ancestor with Genesis without deriving from it; it could easily derive from a parallel line of transmission of which Genesis proper is not a part though it would be hard to imagine a case where Genesis wasn’t at least an influence).

In both stories, the ideal tree of life is not the tree that comes into manifestation. Instead, something gets in the way of the triad as envisioned by the law of three. Instead of the Highest, we get a diminished third, in both cases occupied by the Serpent. The middle pillar falls to the Serpent instead of the Highest. This is standard iconography, but we don’t often focus on it. The middle pillar distinguishes and, well, what does the (diminished third) of the Serpent do?

A relief of Adam, the Serpent, and Eve, with the serpent coiled around a tree. the serpent here has a human face virtually identical to Eve's/

The Serpent divides, seeding a disunion between Adam and Eve that becomes the basis for their differentiation from the Garden. It is only through the Serpent’s intervention that the Fall transpires, and it is the Fall that secures Eve’s individuality from Adam (her name that links her to both animal life and the Serpent).

Pay attention to the naming that precedes the creation of Eve. What is it that Adam names? The birds of the air and beasts of the fields. He divides them up into two broad realms mirroring the division of earth and sky that God himself makes in creation. Where do we so often find the serpent in this story? Nowhere but in the tree of knowledge itself, positioning the serpent once again as an intermediary third, this time between creatures of the earth (which he rises above) and creatures of the air (many of whom rest in the trees).

There are a couple of suggestive things going on in the Hebrew on these points. In Hebrew, Adam (אָדָם), Eve (חַוָּה), and the Serpent (חוה) are all three-letter words (Adam is Alef-Dalet-Mem) and the word for ‘Eve’ and ‘Serpent’ are very close to each other (Het-Vav-He, accented differently).  Compare this to Sophia who extrudes the Demiurge from her own self.

We have three letters, each identifying them with the generative rule of three, three individuals, but then a too close intimacy (Sophia/Demiurge parallels again) between two of the three that leads to an ambiguous doubling (the route toward four). That shift toward a slippery quaternary process intrigues me because for all the rule of three talk, the name of the Highest has four letters (not repeated here out of respect).

The ambiguous four seems a partial recapitulation of the Highest’s fourfold nature, a recapitulation which is impossible in the ‘perfected’ dyad of the pre-Fall man and woman. While initially the world is seen as an extrusion of Adam, over the course of the Fall what we discover is that there is an independence to the three (faulty) elements which makes it possible for them to discover, in their faultiness, their relationship to a higher order.

In their interactions, the three each produce for themselves an image of the divine in which the others would be subsumed as secondary and tertiary elements. There is not a perfect tree of life, but several (three?) overlapping and flickering trees of knowledge between which we can glimpse the tree of life.

Which is to say that the diagram labeled the ‘Tree of Life’ is quite the opposite. Rather than a diagram of the union of man with God, it is a diagram of the Fall itself, though we can appreciate in it a certain necessity for the plan of creation, though in a gnostic sense, one that is inherently problematic in that it knowledge manifests the prison even as (or if) it makes possible the opening of the prison doors.

A serpent, tail coiled, with a lion's head. The lion's head is surrounded by a halo in which its name is inscribed. To the right is a stylized sun and to the left a stylized moon. Beneath the serpent's coils is the sigil of Saturn. The entire image is encompassed in a mandorla.
Ialdabaoth by Jose Gabriel Alegría Sabogal; Artist’s website: http://hathrul.blogspot.com/ ; Author of Handbook of Sacred Anatomy

Read through the Apocryphon of John with the Kabbalistic divisions in mind; it opens doors. But for the moment I just want to point out this regarding the name of the Demiurge:

The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas (“fool”), and the third is Samael.

Yaltabaoth in Saturn, Saklas in the Sun, and Samael in the Moon, right? The name Samael links him explicitly with the Fall, too. This also gets us Malkuth as the fallen world, with the Da’ath-ian and Malkuth-ian distortions of the rule of three into four occurring along the Serpent’s coil in cooperation with the Eve’s matrical potency.

Just as I could read the matrical element as a necessary but supressed element in the standard account, it seems like the serpent is another element and is implicated in its own mirroring of the archetypal. If I called the concubine’s influence the matrix and matrical, it seems sensible to describe the Serpent’s as catalyst and catalytic.

Archetype, matrix, and catalyst, patterns which are repeated and related to all the trees. Which, for those reading at home, suggests a more complicated relationship that can be formed between the four or five ‘worlds’ of traditional Kabbalism. We have

Adam-Archetype-Emanation-Atziluth
Eve-Matrix-Creation-Beriah
Serpent-Catalyst-Formation-Yetzirah

forming a knotted prism (all of the trees on the same ‘level’ and perhaps even sharing discrete sefirot, not just doubles of each other’s) rather than a ladder as I have seen most often in theosophical-hermetic takes. The Highest remains outside the system and Assiah appears as the means through which the three worlds are mobilized in order to produce images of the Highest (not entirely unlike Plotinus’s account of the soul). Because I am me,  the metaphor that comes to mind is three arms descending from a height (the Highest) to operate on the world (Assiah).

It is necessary to keep in mind that though the prism at the highest level contains a triple rooted tree, in practice most of us (all of us?) will participate in one projection of that tree, taking our alliances from within it, our connection to the Highest mediated through a single channel. More than that, we will be working within a single channel of a single channel, a practice that descends through a lineage of sacred potencies.

To work within the lines of Adam is not the same thing as to work within the lines of Eve, nor yet the same to work within the lines of the Serpent. Nonetheless, despite our personal need to clarify our place in the orders, there is an overarching order in which we are all included precisely according to our capacity to maintain and develop our proper differentiations.

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