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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866


Question 7


WILL you explain the meaning of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” and “the tree of life?”




REMEMBER that the earliest mode of writing among the ancients was by pictures and symbols. If you attempt to comprehend the various meanings symbolised in picture writing, you will arrive at the conclusion that there is nearly as much unity in man’s earliest attempts to record his thoughts as there is now in alphabetical signs. The universal significance amongst Oriental Nations of the story of creation was this: a tree represented life, its fruit knowledge; a garden the earth; beauty and peace the conditions of man’s first infantile state of being; a serpent signified the craft and subtlety of intellect, tempting the human soul to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man’s inquisitive intellect eats the fruit, attains to the knowledge, and finds he has forfeited his Eden of unconscious though ignorant innocence. He pays the penalty of becoming informed of the difference between good and evil by recognising that with his newly acquired wisdom he is a responsible being; he comes restless for more knowledge, goes forth into the world still paying the penalty of intellect by being compelled to outwork it, and in the toil and labour of a self-reliant life that ensues, he finds he has left his Paradise, learns to appreciate life’s struggles and realises the curse or antagonism of matter which is associated with his spirit, and by whose movings he finds that there is this antagonistic power as constantly drawing him downwards, as God, the Infinite, is drawing him up from matter to spirit. In a word, with the knowledge of good and evil, he realises that life’s destiny is labour and pain. The whole history of man’s exodus from the state of innocence, (which is still to the child Paradise though to the adult ignorance, still to the savage Paradise, in the absence of the cares, pains and penalties, that grow out of knowledge); the exodus of man in the earliest period of human history is thus simply represented in picture writing, or that symbolical Oriental mode in which the most early people of earth recorded their thoughts. We now comprehend the true purposes of this beautiful allegorical mode of representing the first condition of humanity, that came from the hands of our God perfect as our little children are perfect, because in their innocence and unconsciousness of life, they have not yet sinned, because they have not eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Nevertheless, if we would return to our Creator with the knowledge as well as the innocence which constitutes Divine love and wisdom, the day must come when, man must eat of the fruit of the tree, and like our children go forth from the Paradise of home and innocence, and bear earth’s pains and penalties, because they please the intellect to appreciate that their destiny is the warfare of good and evil. And behold the angel of progression stands with a sword of adversity and pain at the door of our Paradise and warns us onward, compelling us to use the knowledge we have gained in constant effort, labour and spiritual warfare, so that we may return again through the discipline of life and its mighty struggles back to the Paradise we have quitted; not as we left it, ignorant and without knowledge, but innocent through the love acquired by wisdom, instructed in knowledge through the teachings gained, by experience. This we believe to be the design which the Ancients intended to represent through the allegory of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of



good and evil, and the universal symbol of intellect and immortality represented in the East by a serpent.


Question 8  January 22nd, 1866