What actually happened in the Garden of Eden?

Isn't that whole story a call to anti-intellectualism?

Why isn't Objectivism obvious to everyone?

Man was created with a mind. And expected to use it to his best advantage. This is the essence of the commandment: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." Essentially, man was expected to live according to the tenets of Objectivism. If that seems ridiculous, if you can't understand how man almost 6000 years ago could have been expected to live according to the tenets of a philosophy that was created this century, then perhaps I should explain further.

Most of us have heard the story of Benjamin Franklin flying the kite with the key on it in the middle of a lightning storm and so discovering electricity. Does anyone think that Franklin invented electricity? Of course not. Likewise, Ayn Rand did not invent Objectivism. Her philosophy consists of the application of reason to the world around us. Man was created with that capability, and initially used it. Why, then, is Objectivist philosophy not obvious to everyone? There are a lot of misunderstood stories in the Bible. None more misunderstood than the story of Adam, Eve, the serpent and the "Forbidden Fruit." Here's what really happened:

When Adam and Eve were created, they were plopped down into the Garden. The Garden, like everything else in the world, belonged to Hashem, by creator's right. He made it, He can decide what to do with it. Hashem told them that they could eat anything in the Garden except for the fruit of one tree. Fair enough.

It's widely held that the sin of Adam and Eve lay in eating of the Tree of Knowledge, and that this story is essentially anti-intellectual. This is wrong. In the first place, that's not what the Tree was. If we look at the Hebrew, we see that the Tree is actually called, "The Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil. (Etz ha-da'at, tov va-ra)" The word used for knowledge is Da'at.

In Hebrew, there are three basic types of knowledge:

  1. Factual Knowledge(Da'at)
  2. Practical Knowledge, or Wisdom (Hokhmah)
  3. Theoretical Knowledge, or Understanding (Binah)

To use a simple example, Da'at is when I look at a lightswitch and know that it's a lightswitch. Hokhmah is when I know how to use it properly, which is by flipping it. Binah is when I understand that flipping the switch closes a circuit, allowing electrical current to flow through the light bulb.

Good understanding is understanding that most nearly approximates perfect knowledge of how the world works. If my understanding of the lightswitch is that there's a demon inside it who gets upset when I flip it and glows with anger, producing light, I have a bad understanding. Because I will not be able to learn further from it. So understanding can be good or bad.

Good wisdom is wisdom that works best. Throwing a bucket of water into the lightswitch may result in the light going out, but it is a bad method, because it has bad side effects. So wisdom can be good or bad.

But factual knowledge is only true and false. The biggest error in the world today is the perception that facts can be good or bad. Is it bad that a person jumping off of a high building will probably die? No. It's a fact. Jumping off of that building may be unwise (if the person isn't interested in dying, for example), but the rejection of unpleasant facts is the reason why the world is in the mess it is today. Good and bad are null terms when it comes to Da'at.

Anyway, back to the Garden. Man was created with the ability to distinguish between good and evil. He was created with the ability to choose to do good or to do evil. When the serpent came along and gave Eve a rationalization for the evil act of theft (oh, didn't you realize that the first sin was theft? - that fruit didn't belong to them), she had the choice to use her mind or to be swayed by the faulty logic of someone else. She blew it. And then when she "played serpent" to Adam, he had the same choice, and he blew it too.

What was the fruit? As I mentioned before, the Torah calls it, "The Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil." Commentators have commented on the strangeness of this term. Because we would expect something like the usual mistranslation: "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." But that's not what it says.

The fruit of that tree was poison. A moral poison. It was a drug that caused a kind of moral synesthesia. Synesthesia is when a person's sensory input gets all screwed up and he sees flavors and hears texture (for example). The Fruit caused Adam and Eve to perceive good and evil in facts. Which is why one of their first reactions after eating the fruit was to notice that they were naked, which they had obviously known before, and see something wrong with that.

All the of the punishments Adam and Eve received for eating the fruit were simply the consequences of perceiving the world in a warped fashion. Childbirth was always accompanied by pain. But it never would have occurred to Eve before this to think of that as something bad. It just was. Now it was a curse. Raising food to eat always required hard work. That is the nature of the world. Now it was a curse.

Interestingly enough, the Sages tell us that when the Israelites received the Torah, they were miraculously returned to the state of Adam and Eve before the sin. Seemingly unrelated to this is the Torah's description of the Revelation, where we are told that the Israelites "saw the sounds" that were coming from Mount Sinai. Was this related to their minds being readjusted to correctly perceive the world around them?

But if the Israelites were as Adam and Eve were, then they needed to be tested again. This time, the "serpent" was the "mixed multitude." And the temptation was the Golden Calf. And we blew it again.

This, basically, is why Objectivism isn't obvious to everyone.

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