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'The Tree of Life'
The Garden of Eden: Genesis 2:8-14
-8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”
The repeated use of the double metaphysic honorific “Lord God” to the early pagan [1] or later heathen mind could only mean the greatest of gods, a creator of lesser gods as well as of man. [2] This Lord God phrase, rather than be redundant or contrary to the heathen view, might very well have indicated the conquest of lesser gods by this Greater God. Indeed, a lord was he who conquered and ruled over other men. Of course, every Heathen of Dark Age Europe would know Christianity as the faith of Rome, not of Judea under Rome, but as the very faith of Constantine and his hundreds of years of succeeding imperators—all of them the greatest of Lords, Kings of Kings. From the very first exposure to Christianity and the Bible in heathen Europe, Christendom was seen as the center of power and and its faith the religion of power. In no time in history did Might more comprehensively make Right, and make it with more sense than in Dark Age Europe.
-9 “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food...”
Not EVERY tree. This is a clear invocation of Eden, not as a source of plant-life and plenty, but as a gathering of those plants most conducive to settled living. For the pagan mind of Rome, this was entirely congruent and required no reexamination of the earthly values of ancient civilization shared across the Middle Sea since the Early Bronze Age. Likewise, the aristocracy of Heathen Europe that accepted Christianity and forced it by torch, torment and sword upon their folkish subjects, clearly understood that Christianity was a superior value system in terms of supporting economic scale. Where Christianity tended to fail on first contact and have limited inroads even after centuries, was in those places where farming, gardening and particularly orchard management were not staples of life. The Bible does not extol a notion of natural, wild and uncultivated flora as basic to human life, but rather the act of cultivation. Christianity is first and foremost a faith for the gardener, which was man's first duty under God, to tend his selected plants, not all of Creation, but specifically that garden varieties gathered according to God's own word.
“...the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
The tree of life as central to creation would be readily accepted by a multitude of animistic and later stage metaphysical systems. However, that this tree was not the One Tree foundational to a heavenly covenant with man upon the earth, but that there was a separate tree of knowledge divorced from the tree of life would provide the most friction with heathen and animistic beliefs, though the complexity of this appears to have been no great hurdle in the conversion of the over-complex pagans of Late Urban Antiquity. Resistance to the Bible was almost always to be found in the countryside where people lived close to nature. This urban hatred of the rural heretic is so strong a strand in Modernity that the rural Christian is now hated by the urban atheist on principle in almost the same way that the ancient and medieval urban Christian derided the rural heathen [3] as a country bumpkin.
It is clear from my readings of Alexander Eastman, Black Elk and Standing Bear that a resistance to Christianity, and then a backsliding into heathenry once converted, seems most commonly to come from these internal schismatics of Christianity vested in Genesis 2:9 when imposed on more holistic worldviews which do not separate Life from Knowledge. As a novelist, I find this passage to be invaluable in considering Modernity. As an amateur historian who often struggles with sourcing through the lineal lens of academia, the illuminating of cycles comes to life most starkly in the mind when the journey of Christianity from ancient civilizations down to Modernity is considered. For the pagans of Late Antiquity who overwhelmingly embraced the Bible, strike their reader as far more modern than many of the cursed and blessed peoples who have been part of the descent of the Bible down through the ages as Man's most persistent witness.
-10 “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted and came into four heads.”
This somewhat metaphoric expression—which is not and was not geographically accurate—that the world had a central bounty watered by four great rivers, perhaps with separate headwaters, would find much acceptance, in Europe, Western and Mexican North America, and especially in Peru, which was known to its people as The Four Quarters of the World. Amerindians living east of the Appalachian Mountains would regard it as retarded, though it might make more sense to those familiar with the Great Lakes Region. One thing that we must consider when regarding the export of religion from the Middle East to other regions, is that Middle Easterners came from an area of the world ill-served by river systems compared to most of the places the adherents of their faith would venture.
Notes
-1. Art historians have clearly traced our long-held image of Jesus as being based on the image of Zeus from the temple at Olympia, in Elis, on Red-face-island.
-2. Pre-Christian peoples almost all held beings like angels, saints, devils and demons as minor expressions of the divine or gods, grouping numerous extra-human powers as gods, contrary to the vision of the modern mind that holds a more clearly defined division between the here and hereafter. This simpler view of the Powers seems to be most heavily invested in post industrial worldviews, with Christians prior to the 1800s much more complex in their view.
-3. A heathen is a person of the heather, someone that lives in the high country and back country of Medieval Europe. See any modern horror movie for this sentiment depicted in hateful form, most recently starring Russel Crowe as a road rager.
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