Who Was Eve: Wanton or Wanderer?

Who Was Eve: Wanton or Wanderer?

The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth Chapter 12 

ADAM AND EVE HAD EVERYTHING in the Garden of Eden, didn't they? Well, almost everything. They didn't have the knowledge of good and evit but we are told that Eve and the snake changed that. God had given Adam and Eve only one rule: Do not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. For a while, Adam and Eve found it easy to honor this rule, for there was much to discover in the beautiful garden and each other.

But eventually temptation came. In the Garden of Eden story, temptation is symbolized by a snake who suggested they break God's rule. At first Eve must have resisted, but gradually the forbidden fruit took on greater and greater significance in her mind until she became obsessed with it. How did it taste? she must have asked herself. What made that tree so special? And what was the big deal about taking a little bite of fruit? Why shouldn't they eat it? "C'mon, Eve. Just one bite," we can imagine the tiny voice in her mind saying. And so the first rule was broken, and Adam and Eve were forced to leave the beautiful walled garden. And they lost their blissful innocence forever.

Apart from its religious significance, I believe this simple story about the first two people has lasted from ancient times to the present because of a powerful psychological truth it conveys about human existence. Each of us is destined to reenact the same primal story in our own lives if we are to grow into awareness. Carl Jung said that embarking on the inner journey toward meaning and wholeness is the task of the second half of life. And this is the thing that brings us to the point of leaving the safety of the castle walls to follow the mysterious call of the Golden Bear: questioning and perhaps, like Eve, breaking some of the rules that have heretofore governed our lives. This must happen, because questioning is the only way to become aware that we have the power of choice; and choosing, with full knowledge of the consequences of our choices, is the one faculty that separates the pitiful, powerless puppet from the gloriously free, truly responsible individual.

As long as the "rules" (by which I mean the accepted do's and don't's, should's and shouldn't's, and attitudes and values of our family, religion, and social groups) remain unchallenged, we remain in a state of blind ignorance, congratulating ourselves for our goodness, never suspecting that the rules we are so proud of keeping might not be in our own best interest, or even that good for anyone else. Like the Pharisees in Jesus' time, we are convinced we are doing the right thing by conforming to all the written and unwritten rules of our social groups. What we do not realize is that it is not the rightness that makes keeping the rules so appealing to us; it is the safeness. By choosing to remain under the illusion of security provided by outer control- in other words, by choosing to remain behind the carefully constructed walls of our castles - we retain the approval of our groups and protect ourselves from the confusion and terror of follOWing our mysterious inner impulses.

For many years blind conformity felt right to me. In fact, I tended to feel rather proud of myself because I was such a "good girl" and almost always kept the rules. What I didn't know about myself was that many of the rules were easy for me to keep beca use of the loving, trusting way in which I'd been brought up, and the only reason I hadn't broken some of the hard ones was that I was afraid. I had yet to learn that a rule that's never tested is like a war that's never fought: Nothing whatsoever is gained or lost.

So, after realizing that my goodness was only a way to remain safe, I no longer had any reason to be proud of myself. There is no virtue in keeping a rule that is easy to keep or that you are afraid to test just as there is no reason for a puppet to be proud of the way it moves. A puppet moves the way the strings are pulled; a fearful blindly obedient person does the same thing. Both are lifeless, unconscious creatures, responding to the movement of someone else's hands, moving to the beat of someone else's music. Unless, like Pinocchio, they become aware of their slavery and begin to rebel against their masters, they will never be real, free people. As long as I was unable to challenge rules that kept me from expressing my individuality, I was, like Pinocchio, childishly resentful and depressed, wondering why life was passing me by and what I could do to change things.

I wanted to change, but I didn't know how. Questioning the rules seemed very dangerous to me, as if to question the rules would be to challenge God. To break a "God-given" rule felt like a very serious thing, so it seemed better to comply and ignore the little temptations. In reality this was the worst thing I could have done, for each time I complied with a rule that felt uncomfortable, I became resentful. But feeling resentful did not fit the image I had of myself, so I forced my annoyance to hide in the darkness of my unconscious, where it grew and acquired a poisonous power that sapped my vital energy as I struggled to keep it hidden. If Eve had refused to acknowledge her inner temptation, the snake within her would have grown until it so dominated her nightly dreams and waking hours that it would have eventually destroyed her. Eternity is a long time to spend trying to hold a powerful snake underground - or trying to ignore the compelling call of the Golden Bear.

As I became more conscious of my dissatisfied feelings, I began to see how they were related to the unwritten rules I'd always lived by. For example, as a young girl I had accepted the role of being a compliant, pleasant, passive female. But as my dissatisfaction emerged, I began to wonder about this choice. What was so awful about expressing my anger? Why did I have to keep my thoughts to myself when I disagreed with someone in authority? Who said my differing opinions were always wrong? Was my powerful need for space and time to be alone really so selfish? What was so awful about wanting to do something different from what other people wanted me to do? Who said other people's needs were more important than my own? Why should I spend the rest of my life trying to keep everyone else happy at my own expense?

As I unearthed rule after rule, I began to see how silly and unnecessary some of them were, and I got a glimpse of how much I had sacrificed to keep them. The pendulum began to swing to the other extreme: Self-sacrifice seemed ridiculous, and at times I felt so angry that I wanted to give up sacrificing altogether. I wanted to break the rules without a struggle, to say "To hell with everyone else" without caring what anyone thought or who got hurt. But, except for rare times when my anger erupted despite my careful control, I couldn't bring myself to indulge in wholesale rebellion, no matter how satisfying it might have felt! Rebellion is often chosen by people who have been badly hurt by their upbringing or who, like Pinocchio, are simply too innocent or ignorant to know any better; but I had been well-taught and well-loved. I cared too much about myself and my loved ones to be willing to suffer the nasty consequences I knew would result. No: Thoughtless, wanton rebellion was no more satisfactory a response to temptation than was total denial of its existence.

Then what was the best way to express these feelings? Through sheer perseverance I gradually found the faint path that Eve long ago marked out for me and others like me. It is the way of the wanderer. It involves a conscious willingness to challenge the rules, which means leaving the safety of the castle and wandering in the wilderness while listening to the two opposing factions within oneself. One side (obedient Eve) wants to run back to the castle and keep the rules and stay safe; the other (rebellious snake) wants to follow the mysterious call of an inner traitor who urges us to treasonous acts against the rule of the realm.

Listening to both sides can be a very long, involved process lasting weeks, months, and even years; at times the inner chaos seems unbearable. We sense we may never find what we are looking for - we do not even know what we are looking for yet neither can we give up. So we continue to wander in the wilderness, with no assurance that our quest will ever end.

To me, the important lesson to be learned from the story of Adam and Eve is a psychological and spiritual truth about the way we are all made: We begin in innocence and submit to the rules of our groups for as long as we need their support and protection. But when we are strong enough to become whole individuals, we will, like Eve, be tempted. And then we will have to wander all alone in a dark wilderness, searching for a path that is our own neither conformity nor rebellion, but our own individual path to wholeness.

If God is omniscient, then God knew what would happen to Eve. Could it be that God wants us all, like Eve, to face our temptations honestly and suffer the agonies of becoming aware of the evil within us? Could it be that this is God's way of bringing us out of blind ignorance and slavery into moral responsibility and freedom? If this is so, then Eve was a courageous pioneer, not a miserable, wanton sinner. She is our psychological mother, the one who made humanity aware of its hope of attaining wholeness by leaving our walls behind and searching in the wilderness for the elusive, mysterious Golden Bear that calls us to consciousness.

As for me, I'm glad Eve took that bite!

Dr. Jean Raffa is an author, speaker, and leader of workshops, dream groups, and study groups. She maintains a blog called "Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom." Her job history includes teacher, television producer, college professor, and instructor at the Disney Institute in Orlando and The Jung Center in Winter Park, FL. She is the author of three books, a workbook, a chapter in a college text, numerous articles in professional journals, and a series of meditations and short stories for Augsburg Fortress Publisher.

Her book The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth (LuraMedia, 1992) was nominated for the Benjamin Franklin Award for best psychology book of 1992.

Reviewed in several journals and featured on the reading lists of university courses, it was also picked by the Isabella catalogue as a must-read for seeking women. Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dreamwork (Innisfree Press, Inc., 1994) has been used in dreamwork courses throughout the country and is included in Amazon.com’s list of the Top 100 Best Selling Dream Books, and TCM’s book list of Human Resources for Organizational Development.


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