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 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)
Adam and Eve, 2010, acrylic on panel.
Peter Paone, American born 1936
The Proverbial Worm; mixed fibers and laser-cut acrylics.
Ed Bing Lee now in his 80’s, lives in the eastern United States. Snyderman Gallery (now closed), Philadelphia.
Adam and Eve became aware of the conditions in which they were living: a paradise of a garden in which they were naked and 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 would 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
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
I don’t understand this myth which is the myth of origin of a Middle Eastern tribe.
Such myths put their people in the golden center of a story of origin.
This myth is dark, judgmental, and full of fear and guilt and pain.
Even the Golzius cat is skeptical of this myth as an origin myth; and cats know everything.
The Fall of Man,1616, oil on canvas.
Hendrik Golzius, 1568-1617; Dutch. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
The second oddity of this myth is why the God who created our species would have permitted the evolution of an advanced consciousness
and then attempted to restrain it by forbidding Homo from eating of the tree of knowledge.
Untitled, 1987, soft-ground etchings.
Francesco Clemente, American born Italy, 1952. Philadelphia Art Museum
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 context for the birth, life on earth, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus
to become the Christ, the interpreter of a new testament offering Mankind salvation from his/her fallen state.
And here we get to a central Christian interpretation of what suffering is which is beyond believing: that unearned suffering is redemptive.
MLK’s humanity of Man, 2001, offset lithograph, screeprint, stencil, and collage on paper.
Allan L. Edmunds, American born 1949. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Suffering is pain. I do not know what ‘earned’ and ‘unearned’ suffering is.
Pain is one of the great burdens of all species which have the neurology to experience it.
There is nothing good about it and the human effort to remove the sufferings of pain of all kinds is the best part of human effort.
To say that it is ‘redemptive’ is to exonerate those institutions and peoples who have created pain and have ‘benefitted’ by the pain of others.
We only have to think of slavery, of colonialism and of sexual abuse. Nothing redeems the pain caused.
Allegory of the Old and New Testament
oil on panel, early 1530’s
Hans Holbein, the Younger, 1497/98-1543, German. National Gallery of Scotland loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022
Blind Faith, oil on canvas, 2002.
Yvonne Muinde, born Kenya, works in Canada, ndb. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
The Adam-and-Eve myth introduced and sustains a rigid schema of dualities:
Wall painting of Adam and Eve, Church of Abreha wa Atsbeha.
Tigre, Ethiopia. After the 17th century CE.
heaven/hell; sin/redemption; good/bad; humans/animals; body/soul; gay/straight etc.
as though we are not part of a non-dual reality in which life is one
and in which darkness and light cannot be separated.
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.
Vignette, and detail, 2003, acrylic on fiberglass.
Kerry James Marshall, born 1959.
Shown at a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2016.
Christianity is encoded to this day in the law of countries with a Judaeo-Christian heritage
such that, for example,
the North American Supreme Court, hiding behind justifications which go back to the ‘Founding Fathers’, denied women the Federal right to abortion in 2022;
and implied that they have cause to deny a Federal right to marriage for homosexuals and lesbians.
Astonished at the contradictions and nastiness of the Old Testament myth,
and at the idea of a faith which considers its communicants to be worthy of being saved from a hell to which everyone else is condemned,
I declined to be confirmed at 14 into the church.
It was after I grew up that I understood that, to the extent that the Church has been part of any governing establishment,
the Church has been involved in the sins of that establishment.
From the pre-modern period onwards, this has included
the continued relegation of women to subordinate status;
a justification for slavery and an essential accompaniment of colonial abuse;
and justification for dominance over the earth which has brought many species to extinction and the earth itself to a dangerous place.
The sexual and emotional abuse of children and adults by the priesthood, resulting in despair, soul-death and suicide has to be added to this list.
The Repentant Magdalen, 1635/40, oil on canvas.
Georges de la Tour, 1593-1652, French. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
This abysmal history would probably have given me pause.
But I moved away from the church not because of this history which the church has addressed inadequately
but because of what I knew at 14: the Old Testament myth of the origin of a people does not add up. It does not speak to me.
I am aware that many Christians and Christian institutions have taken up the challenge of the history of their church
to work today for social, economic and ecological justice;
and some Christians have withdrawn to the mystical and purifying source of their faith.
I know also of some Christians – very, very few – who have wisely followed the advice of St. Francis: spread the message of Jesus (compassion) and, if absolutely necessary, do it with words.
I also know that there are saints dead and alive who were and are Christians;
as well as others who were and are not.
I have never had any experience of this myth. It is a myth. It was made up by human beings and finessed by human beings and institutionalized by them.
It has never spoken to me and I have never had faith in it to lose. In this, I feel fortunate.
The Sorrowing Soul Between Doubt and Faith, 1899, oil on canvas.
Elihu Vedder, 1836-1923, American. Baltimore Art Museum
I began to research what could ground me:
a search undertaken by so many others that Europe and the United Kingdom today are minority Christian civilizations
despite the courtesies still offered the institutional churches in those countries;
and the number of Christians in the United States is on the decline year after year.
Pagan Void, and detail, 1946, oil on canvas.
Barnett Newman, 1905-1970, American. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Of the spiritual traditions I researched,
how I would like to have retreated, most, to the pre-patriarchal (Egyptian/Near Eastern/European) Great Goddess.
Council of Goddesses, Romania, 4900 BCE.
Baked earth on a glass demonstration circle. I don’t recall where I saw this.
As much as I value the values of this archetype
for the centrality of fertility
for the peace the goddess brings, without which children and plants cannot be grown in health and safety;
and for her no-diet regimen,
Mother Goddess figurines, Romania, 5000 BCE. Baked earth. I don’t recall where I saw this.
Female fertility figure, marble, 4500 -4000 B.C. Cycladic. Neolithic.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The form of the great goddess Isis which emphasizes the fertility aspects of Aphrodite. Terracotta, englobe paint.
Found in Egypt. Roman era, 2nd century AD. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
the time of the Mother Goddess as a dominant feature of our cultures has passed and has not yet come again.
I came finally to the grounding of our own earth.
What we know of the Graeco-Roman Dionysos has helped my understanding.
Dionysos, (Bacchus) is the archetypal image of indestructible life,
god of wine, theater, ecstasy and ritual madness.
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,1897; oil on canvas.
Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, French. MOMA, New York
The artist said that the lion does not harm the recumbent itinerant gypsy woman.
With many millions of others to whom the Christian message does not speak,
I am proceeding with this: which we know.
We are an animal species and live and die in space-time, and simultaneously in eternity.
…”Eternity, (which has nothing to do with time) is that dimension of the here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off….
“The experience of eternity here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.”
Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth, 1904-1987, American
Non-duality is the interconnectedness of all life forms. It is centerless.
We swim in non-duality and only the function of our egos cuts us off from this understanding.
It follows that the management of our egos is the primary function of our spiritual lives.
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 (1859-1932, British), 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.
Sin exists because Sapiens has an evolved consciousness beyond instinct.
We know good from evil, and all the grey areas with which we like to play.
Original sin was codified by St. Augustine from ideas extant around his time ;
original sin which we supposedly inherit with our DNA is a deduction from the Adam-and-Eve myth; and has no reality.
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 serpent?
It is a fine example of a creature which renews itself by shedding its skin.
Untitled, 1992, electrophotographic prints with printing ink and watercolour on smooth, lightwave, white wove paper.
Giuseppe Penone, Italian born 1947. Philadelphia Art Museum
Because we must all – by mastery over our egos – be born again and again.
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.
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.
Or we (continue to) destroy the earth.
Whichever comes first.
The Merry Jesters, 1910, oil on canvas.
Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, French. Philadelphia Art Museum
Until then, so fortunate we are.
After then it will be up to the ingenuity of our species, to luck, and to the wonders of the universe(s).
Vaclav Havel, written in July 1989 as an acceptance speech when he received the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers Association.
I have added it here because it is the case that even the new testament of Jesus Christ is not that straightforward….
“But I’d go further and ask an even more provocative question:
What was the true nature of Christ’s words?
Were they the beginning of an era of salvation and among the most powerful cultural impulses in the history of the world
—or were they the spiritual source of the crusades, inquisitions, the cultural extermination of the Americas, and, later, the entire expansion of the white race that was fraught with so many contradictions and had so many tragic consequences, including the fact that most of the human world has been consigned to that wretched category known as the “Third World”?
I still tend to think that His words belonged to the former category,
but at the same time I cannot ignore the umpteen books that demonstrate that, even in its purest and earliest form, there was something unconsciously encoded in Christianity which, when combined with a thousand and one other circumstances, including the relative permanence of human nature, could in some way pave the way spiritually, even for the sort of horrors I mentioned (Marxism/Leninism in execution)…….