Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Garden of Eden (Glossary)

The Garden of Eden and its location have served as a source of intrigue and curiosity since ancient times. Eden in the Bible is the terrestrial paradise, the earthly model of Heaven. In the Eden paradise, we find the source of the earthly rivers and the source of life itself or at least that of humanity.

The fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden serves as the backdrop of humanity's loss of immortality.

Where was the Garden of Eden?

The biblical Garden of Eden appears derived from the older Sumerian stories of the lush island of Dilmun far to the East. Many themes in the biblical book of Genesis are very similar to Sumerian myths including the lists of the antediluvian patriarchs, the great flood and the far-off eastern paradise.

Apocryphal texts like the Book of Enoch and Book of Jubilees place Edem beyond "India" and the Erythraean Sea (Indian Ocean) . In Enoch, the "Garden of Righteousness" and the Tree of Knowledge are associated with the eastern regions where cinnamon and aloeswood are found.

In medieval times, the location of the Garden of Eden continued to be mostly associated, in Christian and Jewish thought at least, with the far East. Medieval maps generally placed the East at the top of the chart with the Garden at the highest position. Although the garden was usually on the mainland, sometimes it was instead an island in the sea. Most often Eden was centered on the equator although the geography here tended to be pushed southward from the true positions.

Muslim geograhpers more commonly placed the Garden of Eden in Sri Lanka at a location also known as Sri Pada in Ratnapura district.

Font of all rivers

As the source of four great rivers that were said to supply water to all other rivers of the world, Eden was also the 'garden of life.' The four rivers branching out usually in the four cardinal directions were of course only symbolic. They are met with also in different mythologies of the world.

The four rivers are fed by one great world river that appears as either subterranean, as heavenly or as both subterranean and heavenly. We can understand the world river originally as an underground river that rises up the cosmic mountain to the heavens spouting out at the peak of the axis mundi. In India, this is the Ganga, which metaphorically branches out into the Sita to the East, the Alakananda to the South, the Caksus to the West and the Bhadra to the North i.e., it is the source of all fresh water. The four rivers watered by Eden in the Bible are the Pison of the golden land of Havilah, Gihon in Ethiopia, Hiddekel towards the east of Assyria, and the Euphrates.

Sumerian myth tells of two oceans -- an underground freshwater ocean known as the Abzu and a surface saltwater one called Tiamat. The former provides waters for the Earth's rivers after rising in Mount Mashu. Both oceans are seen as locations for the creation of life and the world. The Chinese Daoists saw the field of creation as the "Cinnabar Ocean" and the Hindus had the "Milky Sea."

Indeed, the idea of the oceans as the source of life is widespread in many cultures agreeing to some extent with modern evolutionary theories of life originating in an oceanic "biological soup." Indeed, marine ecosystems contain more phyla of lifeforms than the terrestrial ecosystems probably due to the fact that only a subset of creatures took to the land from the sea.

It is interesting with regard to the theme of this blog, that the region with by far the greatest marine diversity in the world is found in a triangle formed by the Philippines in the north, Indonesia to the southwest, and New Guinea to the southeast. Biodiversity in itself is the "tree of life" with all lifeforms ultimately connected in one origin and speciation resembling the branching of a tree.

Graphic giving theory for world's highest biodiversity in "Coral Triangle." Source:

Heaven and Hell

Eden is portrayed in the Bible and related works both as a lush paradise and a fiery region protected by a revolving flaming sword. In this land was Mount Eden, a location described in similar terms to the smoking, fiery peak in Sinai where Moses received the divine commandments.

Mount Eden is itself the "garden of God," the location of the heavenly hosts from which the fallen angels were expelled according to Ezekiel.

The fiery upheavel in the Garden of Eden is related in this work to a volcanic conflagaration that sends waves of human migration in all directions.

When Adam and Eve partake of the fruit of the "tree of knowledge" they suddenly realize they are naked and seek to cover themselves. The theme suggests the loss of innocence connected by many with the rise of materialism symbolized by the fig leaves used to conceal their 'nakedness.'

From that point onward, abundance would cease and humanity would toil to survive off the cursed ground.

Paul Kekai Manansala


beepbeepitsme said...

Interesting blog.

RE: adam and eve
Were Adam and Eve Framed?

RINA, Sugarlicious said...

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