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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Enlightened Insight of the Woman

Adam is a pushover for the dark powers to corrupt. He is already compliant to the suggestions of the serpent. But within Adam’s innermost secret being lies a mysterious purity, a wise and essential other Self, which will prevent his further corruption. To weaken Adam further, so that he will become a willing participant in the [1]creator’s schemes, the creator knows that he must extract this pure and powerful essence from Adam, and so causes Adam to become unaware. Now with Adam in a state of unawareness his creator can, as it were, make a forced entry into Adam’s being.

And so within the deepest recesses of the Man’s inner being the creator is able to locate and remove this secret Self, this enlightened Insight from Adam. The creator places this Insight inside a female form, because this is the form which most closely mirrors the perfect Self that the creator had seen in a vision. In this way this essential part of Adam is removed from him and given its own independent existence: a form which reflects the purity that once had been an integral part of Adam’s own being, a form which embodies this precious quality of enlightened Insight.

Adam now sees this shining new form standing beside him. At this same moment his state of unawareness vanishes as enlightened Insight lifts the veil that has covered his mind. In this new being Adam recognizes his partner, his equal, his true other Self. And although they are now two separate beings, together they are a reflection of the unity that once had existed, and will do so again.


When compared with the widely known version in the Bible, the above story is an unfamiliar recounting of the creation of Eve. In the [2]second chapter of the Bible’s Book of Genesis Adam literally is sent into a ‘deep sleep’, during which God physically removes one of his ribs from which he then creates the Woman. The Genesis recounting of these events is literal indeed, and has the Woman being formed from the actual flesh of the Man. In Genesis, Eve is a creation from [3]second-hand material.

But the above first version of the creation of Eve concludes by assuring us that, although the Woman was extracted from the Man, it was a process of mysterious essence, and not, as the text emphasises, involving any physical modification of Adam’s anatomy, as [4]Moses describes in Genesis. This first version actually names Moses and ‘Adam’s rib’ in its striving to correct what it clearly considers to be an erroneously literal version of the creation of Eve.

In this 16th-century woodcut by Heinrich Aldegraver of the creation of Eve, a pontifical deity physically extracts Eve from the side of a sleeping Adam. However fervently we as believers might read the scriptural text, a literal depiction of the event confronts us with an anatomical absurdity.
What we notice in the above first version is that, far from being the rather condescending literalist description of Eve’s creation which Genesis offers us, it instead honours the Woman. In this version, the form of the Woman – her very body – is itself the embodiment of this precious quality of enlightened Insight. The Woman does not just ‘have’ insight: she actually is Insight. What at first seems to be an adjustment to the literalist Genesis account is actually a radical revision – a ‘re-visioning’, and we must weigh the two alternatives: the Genesis version which treats the Woman as a sort of creative [5]afterthought, and the other which, in the manner of her creation, grants her both status and dignity.

The Biblical version of the creation of Eve from Adam’s flesh is, as we know, recounted in the second chapter of the Book of Genesis. The other less familiar version related here is told in The Secret Book of John, one of the texts now known as the Nag Hammadi scriptures, after the nearby Egyptian village where they were discovered by chance in 1945. For over sixteen centuries the literalist version of scripture is the one which has had the official Church stamp of approval. Of the other, all known copies were burned or otherwise destroyed in the 3rd-4th-century purges organized by the Church. The text of The Secret Book of John discovered at Nag Hammadi is one of only [6]two known copies which we have.

Both of these versions of the creation of Eve are stories, not history. But stories also can be ways of transmitting greater truths, and we must decide for ourselves which [7]stories carry the most truth and meaning for us personally. But supposing that our choice of which story to take on board carries with it a moral responsibility, and with this in mind the weighing up of such a choice can have huge, even momentous significance, with consequences for our perception of womankind that will echo down the centuries. So: of these two stories of the creation of Eve, which version, the Gnostic or the Biblically orthodox, shows womankind more respect, and gives her creation – her very existence – a greater meaning and dignity?

[1] The identity of this creator will be the subject of a future post. 

[2] Although it is the familiar version in the second chapter of Genesis which is featured in this post, please see my post Lilith: Spirit of the Night for a separate and conflicting version of the Woman’s creation in the first chapter of Genesis. Please also see my posts Adam: The God who Failed and Eve's Story for other alternative versions of the Eden story.

[3] ‘Second-hand’, because in Genesis 2 God already has created the Man, and then creates the Woman from the material which already has been created. 

[4] Tradition names Moses as the author of the first five books of the Old Testament (the Jewish Torah), although this attribution is unsupported by scholarship.

[5] My use of the term ‘creative afterthought’ is justified by scripture itself, which relates that God, having created the Man, then decides that he needs a ‘help meet’ (K.J.V. Genesis 2:18). In the Revised Standard Version the term is ‘helper’. Apparently it only occurs to God to create the Woman once the Man has been created - and then not as his equal partner, but merely as his 'helper'.

[6] The other copy was discovered in a monk's tomb in the 19th-century. And while I am always cautious about floating the idea of conspiracy theories, it is possible, even plausible, that other copies of these Gnostic texts (and other such texts which the Church deemed to be heretical), which have yet to be evaluated or even viewed by impartial scholarship, were kept at the time for record and archival purposes, and to this day remain under seal either in the Vatican Library or in the Vatican Secret Archives.

[7] The current resurgence of alternative spiritual views and values did not grow out of a historical vacuum, but reflects the Church’s loss of control as the arbiter of truth in such matters. Only a little less than two centuries ago the Church still could – and did – impose the death penalty for any view which it considered heretical, with the last execution for heresy being carried out by the Inquisition as recently as 1826. The breaking of the Church as a political power altered the whole game plan – but it should never be forgotten that such countries as Iran and Saudi Arabia still provide a chilling example in our own time of what happens when religion has a political power base. Under Islamic law the death penalty for apostasy is still current. Keeping the adherents to one’s faith in line through threat and fear of the consequences has long been an option for those who wield religious power.  

The Secret Book of John, translated from the Coptic by John D. Turner and Marvin Meyer, can be read in its entirety with all textual notations in: The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, edited by Marvin Meyer. Published by Harper One for Harper Collins, 2008. The story retold in my post is only one episode in this text, which contains both further narrative events regarding the expulsion from Eden and the Flood, and advice about the soul's journey. The entire book is in the form of a first person narration by Jesus.

No illustrated version of The Secret Book of John exists. The first, second and the last images suggesting the events from this text have been painted for this post by Hawkwood for the David Bergen Studio © All Rights Reserved.

Please see my post The Ecstasy of Eve for several other versions of the creation of Eve by different artists.

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