Stories of the Origin, Fall, and Redemption of Man

By William Barnes

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #2
Bahá'í National Center: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
March 25–27, 1994
(see list of papers from #2)

published in Scripture and Revelation, pages 309-340
© 1997, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    In Some Answered Questions (p. 122-126), 'Abdu'l-Bahá discusses the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and interprets some of the primary symbols of that story. He adds that the story contains divine mysteries and universal meanings, and it is capable of marvelous explanations."

    I would like to propose another possible reading of both the symbolic events in Eden and those related to the story of Babel, a reading that highlights the universal aspects of these stories. The perspective I Will construct draws heavily on the Bahá'í writings, but with support from the Bible, the Qur'an, and myth. It is the story - and "myth" means story - of man's creation, fall and redemption, the story of the advance of human consciousness,

    The process of redemption passes through four stages, or states of consciousness. It begins in Eden; that is, any unconscious state of psychic unity - where unconscious means people are not aware of the forces holding them together. There occurs a fall, or breaking of the unity into its component parts and their successive temporal appearance. The third stage is an apocalypse, the burning away of old and fragmented perceptions of reality to reveal the hidden and total form of Reality. Finally, redemption occurs, which means the regaining of Eden but with consciousness. Thus regained, Eden is a new, more psychologically complete unity of consciousness. The process occurs individually and collectively.

    'Abdu'l-Bahá remarks that: 'The Circle of life is the same circle; it returns. The tree of life has ever borne the same heavenly fruit." In another place, He states that in all cycles "the origins and ends are the same.' I will argue, that by studying the Eden and Babel stories, paying particular attention to the universal meanings in such symbols as the garden, tree, tower, and the role of Satan in the redemption process, the mythical events in Eden and Babel foreshadow the historical events in what Bahá'ís call the Prophetic cycle. Thus the truth of the Master's words becomes apparent.

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