The way that the serpent is best known in the Bible is as the cunning traitor who convinces Eve to eat the “forbidden fruit.” But there are other representations that are less well known. There are serpent priests, a feathered serpent, a healing serpent and a wise serpent. (Chapter 13 in 21 Secrets of the Bible). The serpent priests are the Levites, the feathered serpent is a seraph (Isaiah 30:6), the healing serpent is the fiery serpent that Moses carries on a pole (Numbers 21:8) and the wise serpent appears in Matthew 10:16 “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Why, then, is the serpent so reviled? Could the image of the serpent be a Biblical reversal of even more ancient teachings?
The name Eve, in Hebrew means “life.” There is a tree in the Garden of Eden also named “life.” In fact, its name is the “Tree of Life.” Rather than forbidden fruit, this tree is the Tree of Eve. It was only later in translation that humankind in general and Eve specifically was forbidden access to Her Tree. (Discussed in 21 Secrets chapter 14, and in more depth in ONE GODS, chapters 10 and 11).
Janet Rudolph, One Gods, The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bible
Janet Rudolph’s insightful interpretation of the Tanakh, the Bible also known as the Old Testament, draws on comparative linguistics, comparative religion, cross-cultural myths, and archaeology, as well as a wholesome world view perceived in the course of her religious training, life experience, travels, and observation of nature. This world view is one of “functional harmony,” or “inter-arching oneness,” uncovered in literal translations of passages from Genesis, presented in Chapter 1. The theme of “inter-arching oneness” influences discussions of ancient Hebrew letters as well as sounds and syllables of the names of God; the life of the prophet Moses, founder of Judaism; the burning bush, symbolic of the interpenetration of spirit and matter; the many-named Venus, morning and evening star; and mythological twins, one mortal and one immortal, for example, Jacob and Esau. Chapter 7 clarifies the concept of “oneness” in terms of related and opposite (dualistic) perspectives, in the process of consolidating the theme with references to poetry and physics. This chapter abounds in summary passages, for instance,
Although the Bible speaks of a “one god”, it is my belief that
Moses’ primary message was the oneness of all creation. Divinities such
as Isis, Venus, and Quetzalcóatl are actually depictions of creation’s one-
ness, appearing as we are able to see them–in the full glory of diversity,
a mystical tapestry with its various threads come to life (p. 117).
Such bridging prepares readers for ensuing adventure: exploration of the divine origin of alphabets; the labyrinth, pilgrimage, and quest; the world tree, with birds in its branches and serpent at its root, pertaining to the feathered serpent shown on the cover of the book; marvelous myths of goddesses inhabiting the tree, and more. The book offers “to Do’s”—activities such as breathing, chanting, and visualization—for those who opt for palpable experiences of oneness.
As Rudolph states at the outset, her theme of inter-arching oneness is both radically old and radically new. Why so? The concept of “oneness” is old, for it is based on ancient spiritual knowledge, for example, the dictate of Hermes Tablet, “as above, so below,” and it is implicit in the Bible, as Rudolph demonstrates. The concept is new because dualistic philosophy and traditional readings of the Bible have obscured “oneness” over the centuries, and scholars are presently referring to the notion “as above, so below” as they attempt to explain dark matter or “nothingness,” which is invisible yet certainly related to human experience.” For example, at a recent conference at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California, titled “Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas” (April 2016), one lecture recurrently referred to the dictum “as above, so below”; another presented research on dark matter while relating macrocosm to microcosm in various ways. Thus, in reading Janet Rudolph’s One Gods, we not only gain better understanding of the Bible and a spectrum of related topics, but also acquire important background for notions explored in depth psychology (as well as biology, physics, cosmology, et al.) today.
Ph.D., Comparative Literature
So was it legit to blame the serpent for Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden? I say resoundingly NO!
It was said among Rabbis of old that the skin of the serpent enfolded all of creation. This is, I believe a recognition of the serpent as SEED CARRIER. Seeds are the roots of all-potential. It is through seeds that life exists as it does on this sacred Earth we inhabit. The serpent has been likened to the umbilical cord which connects the developing one to its mother, providing nourishment for growth. The serpent is also the mystic umbilical cord feeding us nourishment of both the heavens and the earth.
In a Sumerian story, which comes from the Gilgamesh myths and is a precursor to the story of Noah in the Bible, the themes of seeds and serpent meet. In the story, he meets the Sumerian Noah named Utnapishtim, and pleads to him for the secret to immortality. At the ending to the story, Gilgamesh is able to find the seeds of immortality called “An Oldster Man Becomes Child,” in the “abyss,” that cauldron of chaos from whence life emerged. With the seeds in hand, Gilgamesh heads for home, planning to eat them when he grows old and needs the spark of youth. But in a moment when Gilgamesh isn’t watchful, a serpent finds the seeds, snatches them and disappears as it sloughs off its old skin and transforms.
This is partially why the serpent is always found coiled at the base of the Tree of Life. The tree of life contains the fruit which will confer immortality. The serpent is their guardian, their keeper, their protector, their grail. The fruit from the tree of life is merely the seed in another form (as is any drink or elixir of immortality – soma, ambrosia, fountain of youth).
Through the seeds, which the serpent embodies, life is created. The “fall” is merely birth, something to be celebrated, not pounding our chests in fears of some inborn “sin” of the human race. Without birth there would be no human life. Without the seed growing to maturity, there would be no human life. Without the serpentine connection we have with our birth mothers and continue to have with our spirit ancestors, there would be no human life. And for all this we can thank the serpent.