The Tree of Knowledge

Lily at Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, CAIn the Old Testament, God instructs Adam:

Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

(NKJV Genesis 2:16-7)

Adam did eat, and he didn’t die, but he did find himself cast out of the garden.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says:

Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.

(NKJV John 8:51)

The Gospel of Thomas (a gnostic text uncovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945) opens as follows:

These are the secret words which the Living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote. And He said:

Whoever finds the explanation of these words will not taste death.

(The Gospel According to Thomas, coptic text established and translated by A. Guillaumont, H.-CH. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till and Yassah ‘Abd Al Masih, p. 3 log. 1, ©1959 E. J. Brill)

Gautama the Buddha spoke of “the Deathless”:

As (one) dwells in body contemplating body, ardent… that desire to do, that is in body, is abandoned. By the abandoning of desire to do, the Deathless is realized. So with feelings… mind… mental states… that desire to do, that is in mind-states, is abandoned. By the abandoning of the desire to do, the Deathless is realized.

(SN V 182, Pali Text Society V p 159)

And again:

(One) cultivates right concentration, which is based on detachment, on dispassion, on cessation, which ends in self-surrender, which plunges into the deathless, which has the deathless for its aim, which has the deathless for its end.

(SN V 54, Pali Text Society V p 44)

Gautama taught the cessation of action born of determinate thought. He taught that such action ceases gradually, first in speech, then in body, and finally in “perceiving and feeling” (action of the mind).

The cessation of action born of determinate thought must needs include the cessation of action on the basis of the knowledge of good and evil.

We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

(Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock”; “Ladies of the Canyon”, April 1970)

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