The story is well-known in some parts of the world:
God created Adam. Later, God created Eve from a rib of Adam. By God’s design, the two would live, without troubles or death, in paradise.
Adam and Eve, 1968, woodcut; Helen Siegl, 1924-2009, American born Austria. The Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia
Adam and Eve, c. 1942, oil on wood. Francis Picabia, 1879-1972, French. Private collection on exihbit at MOMA in the winter of 2016
Adam and Little Eve, 1921, watercolour and printing ink on paper mounted on cardboard. Paul Klee, 1879-1940, Swiss. Metropolitan Museum, New York
Only one condition: they were not to eat the fruit of a specific tree which would allow them to know good from evil.
Adam and Eve, 1515, glazed terracotta. Della Robbia workshop, Italian (Florence). Baltimore Museum of Art
The Proverbial Worm; mixed fibers and laser-cut acrylics. Made by Ed Bing Lee now in his 80’s, lives in the eastern United States. Snyderman Gallery (now closed), Philadelphia.
The serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. She persuaded Adam.
The image is after a wall painting of Eve in the Church of Mary in Qorqor, Tigre, Ethiopia. The feet vary from the wall image, as do the colours, as do the sample stitches surrounding the image.
Monopoint needlework of wool on cotton scrim made by this blog’s author.1992-1996.
Adam and Eve, oil on canvas, 1911. Francis Picabia, 1979-1953, French. Loaned by a private collector to MOMA, NY (2017)
They became aware of the conditions in which they were living: a paradisical garden, naked, subordinate.
Detail of Adam and Eve from a Spanish illuminated manuscript, the Escorial Beatus; c.950 CE; Spain.
Monopoint needlework made of wool in cotton scrim by this blog’s author. 1986-1991.
They were expelled to toil, pain and the knowledge that they and their progeny will die.
Expulsion, 1955, oil on canvas. Nora Speyer, American born 1922. On display at the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia in 2016/2017
Adam and Eve Leave Eden, 1973, model airplane enamel on fiberboard. John William (‘Uncle Jack’) Dey, 1912-1978, American. Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
I am not saying anything new below. This is all old stuff.
And, despite the lack of general discussion about any of this in Anglo-America, I believe that large numbers of people believe more or less what I believe.
To which I came because I could not make sense of this myth.
I wanted a life less conflicted than this myth and its dark shadows engulfing some of our civilizations down the centuries allow.
Even the Golzius cat is skeptical of the tableau behind him:
The Fall of Man, 1616, oil on canvas. Hendrik Golzius, 1568-1617; Dutch. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Untitled, 1987, soft-ground etchings. Francesco Clemente, American born Italy, 1952. Philadelphia Art Museum
This myth is a fear-mongering myth of origin. Do other cultures have such nasty myths of origin? I doubt it.
Spring, oil on canvas, 1935. Francis Picabia, 1979-1953, French.
Loaned by Centre Pompidou, Paris to MOMA, NY in 2017
This myth, of course, is the meaning of and context for the human life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Blind Faith, oil on canvas, 2002. Yvonne Muinde, born Kenya, works in Canada, unknown birthdate. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
It has justified the subordination and abuse of women.
And made the body (female) a vehicle of anxiety, shame, pain.
Amazing Grace, oil on canvas, 1989. Honoré Sharrer, 1920-2009, American.
Rochester Contemporary Art Center, NY loaned to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2017
Not to speak of the pain and ostracism it has delivered across time to the lives of those whose sexuality and gender presentation are not considered normative.
The Idol of Perversity and detail, 1891, graphite on paper. Jean Delville, 1867-1953, Belgian.
Loaned by the Museum Wiesbaden, Germany in 2017 to the Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY
This myth is encoded to this day in the law of countries with a Judaeo-Christian heritage such that, for example, the North American Supreme Court is still in hearings about abortion because women are, essentially, just a brainless rib.
Wall painting of Adam and Eve, Church of Abreha wa Atsbeha, Tigre, Ethiopia. After the 17th century CE.
This myth introduced and sustains a rigid schema of dualities: heaven/hell; good/bad; humans/animals; body/soul; gay/straight etc as though our reality is not composed more of spectra, overlaps, ambiguities and outright contradictions.
It encourages war against the ‘not us’. And has, for millenia, justified and maintained no social and economic justice for the ‘not us’.
Detail after The Temptation of Eve, Giselbertus, originally at Autun Cathedral, Normandy, France c.1130 CE.
Monopoint needlework made of wool on cotton scrim in 2008 by the owner of this blog.
With a gift of apples from the late Sharyn and the late Jean Augustson from their farm in Finger Lakes, NY. 2012. In loving memory.
This myth links the specific evolutionary achievement of our species – consciousness – to suffering for which we need solace; and sin from which we need salvation; and knowledge of death whose salve is the promise of resurrection.
This myth has not resulted in the protection of the earth which it views as the opposite of the Eden from which Adam and Eve were expelled. Over whose every living animal we were given dominance.
Vignette, and detail, 2003, acrylic on fiberglass. Kerry James Marshall, born 1959.
Shown at a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2016.
And, of course, this myth does not comport with our science.
Biological evolution has our species evolving over a period of more than 4 million years.
Mitochondrial DNA has not been shown to derive from a male rib.
The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise, 1445, tempera and gold on wood. Giovanni di Paolo (di Grazia), 1398-1492, Italian (Siena).
Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Astonished and confused young about the contradictions and nastiness of this myth, I threw it out as soon as I felt safe enough to do this. There is hell to put away, after all.
I looked about for what could ground me.
How I would like to retreat to the pre-patriarchal (Egyptian/Near Eastern/European) Great Goddess. As much as I value her values and her peace and envy her shape, her time has passed and has not yet come again.
Council of Goddesses, Romania, 4900 BCE. Baked earth on a glass demonstration circle. I don’t recall where I saw this.
Mother Goddess figurines, Romania, 5000 BCE. Baked earth. I don’t recall where I saw this.
The form of the great goddess Isis which emphasizes the fertility aspects of Aphrodite. Terracotta, englobe paint. Found in Egypt and dating to the Roman era, 2nd century CE. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 2016.
I came finally after much searching around to the grounding of our own earth. Paradise enough.
Of course, called and not called, the god(s) is present (oracle of Apollo at Delphi).
What we know of Dionysos has helped my understanding. Dionysos, (Bacchus) is the archetypal image of indestructible life, god of wine, theater, ecstasy and ritual madness.
Also what we know of Apollo, the master of pinpoint light which allows us to see forever, imagine and create. Apollo fills the negative spaces created by Dionysos.
The Dream, 1910; oil on canvas. Henri Rousseau, 1864-1910. MOMA, NY
Self-taught in art and not constrained by the conventions of French painting; a toll-collector, a man who visited the zoos and museums filling up with the loot of France’s empire. Where he saw the extent of our paradise of an earth.
A man whose death passed unremarked. His work to be taken up by Andre Breton and Alfred Jarry, breakers of norms.
I know this is my dream and our jungle because of that red sofa which I also have in my sitting room.
The Gypsy, and detail; 1897; oil on canvas. Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, French. MOMA, New York
The artist said that the lion does not harm the recumbent woman, an itinerant gypsy.
With many others, I am proceeding with this which we know.
We are an animal species and live and die in space-time, and simultaneously in ‘eternity’.
The eternity of the insight and experience of non-duality: that there is a life flow, it is one and centerless: we are not separated from it except by the function of our egos which like to imagine we are.
A copy in wool on cotton scrim by the owner of this blog (2002-2006) of a magnificent door curtain designed by John Henry Dearle, the head of William Morris’ studio after Morris died in 1898.
The original was embroidered in silk on silk and its background was a mass of flowers too difficult to reproduce.
Here the flower is growing in the world.
I completed this work in Addis Ababa, the city of my birth. There the light, at 7000 feet, is wonderful.
And so, at the top is the Yeha altar. This is associated with the Bronze Age Temple of the Moon, thought to be a Sabean structure dating from 700 BCE in Adwa, northern Ethiopia. And, of course, the lion of Judah.
Sin exists because Sapiens has an evolved consciousness which knows good from evil, and all the grey areas with which Sapiens likes to play.
But original sin which we inherit with our DNA? What a strange idea!
As to life everlasting: we are ourselves stardust. And this obtains because life feeds on life. Without which there would be no life. This is everlasting life.
The Repast of the Lion, oil on canvas, 1907. Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, French. Baltimore Art Museum
And the snake? It is a fine example of a creature which renews itself by shedding its skin. Because we must all – by mastery over our egos – be born again and again.
The ordering of our egos is critical for our lives and that of our earth. We will otherwise continue to destroy ourselves and the earth.
We live in a rare atmosphere which allows our being. All of it evolutionary biology and cosmology, the physics of which are still being unraveled.
Our earth is a paradise and our senses are the experience of it. This is enough for me.
Southern Gate, 1942-43, oil on canvas. Eldzier Cortor, 1916-2015, American. Smithsonian Museum of American Art.
From the museum’s notes for this painting:
Southern Gate offers, a surreal, dreamlike picture of a solemn young woman standing in a space defined by a once-elegant wrought-iron fence, a river, and the steeple of a distant church.
They are evocative elements – the river is a traditional metaphor for passage, the fence an emblem of both confinement and of safe haven from the outside world. Wearing a necklace adorned with a cross and with a bird perched on her shoulder, she invites associations with the Virgin Mary;
but Cortor’s figure is as physical as she is innocent, an Edenic Eve who stands outside the sacred garden.
Life in its eternal aspect – life feeding on and succeeding life – will continue until our sun goes supernova and our earth is done.
The Merry Jesters, 1910, oil on canvas. Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, French. Philadelphia Art Museum
Until then, so fortunate we are.
After that it will be up to the ingenuity of our species and the wonders of our universe(s).
Design for the cover of The Earthly Paradise, 1891, pencil, black and brown ink and gouache on paper. William Morris, 1834-1896, British. Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington
W.S. Merwin, American, born
from ‘Garden Time’ published in 2016 by Copper Canyon Press
As they were leaving the garden
one of the angels bent down to them and whispered
I am to give you this
as you are leaving the garden
I do not know what it is
or what it is for
what you will do with it
you will not be able to keep it
but you will not be able
to keep anything
yet they both reached at once
for the present
and when their hands met
Adam and Eve in an 18th century Ethiopian parchment fragment, blessing each other, their left palms open in supplication.
They are fully clothed and are no longer in Eden. Their countenances are of affection; and calm. There is no snake in sight.
This is the representation of the two on earth in that tragic gap which is the human condition and in which we live in our paradise of an earth: between the disorders we experience and the peaceful futures we know can exist, hoping for Christian benediction also known as Lady Luck.
That this little parchment exists sheds light on the underbellies of our religious institutions where everything I have rejected and adopted is fully understood even if it is not taught.