The Serpent and the Virgin
The second story of creation offers profound insight into the ability consciousness has to conceptualize and categorize events from a polarized, conscious perspective.
The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.(Gen. 3:1-8)
This passage provides clues about how consciousness arises within the individual. It also shows a path from which we can escape the paradoxical nature of a consciousness that identifies with ego ideals that are separate from the completeness of God’s unity. From an analytical perspective, this unity of consciousness is called Self-Realization (Jung 1951/1969).
In the psychology of the individual there is always, at such moments, an agonizing situation of conflict from which there seems to be no way out—at least for the conscious mind… But out of this collision of opposites the unconscious psyche always creates a third thing of an irrational nature, which the conscious mind neither expects nor understands… For the conscious mind knows nothing beyond the opposites and, as a result, has no knowledge of the thing that unites them. Since, however, the solution of the conflict through the union of opposites is of vital importance, and is moreover the very thing that the conscious mind is longing for, some inkling of the creative act, and of the significance of it, nevertheless gets through… The new configuration is a nascent whole; it is on the way to wholeness, at least in so far as it excels in “wholeness” the conscious mind when torn by opposites and surpasses it in completeness… Out of this situation the “child” emerges as a symbolic content… this new birth, although it is the most precious fruit of Mother Nature herself, the most pregnant with the future, [signifies] a higher stage of self-realization.Carl Jung (1951/1969, p. 168)
This form of consciousness also mirrors the Buddhist concept of Nirvana. Although many symbolic images form the content of this rich passage, an analysis of the relational dynamics that exist between man, woman, and the serpent will show an emergent path for consciousness to realize an integrated, Self-Realized state.
The serpent is the first symbol present in the passage. Although popular interpretation of this symbol links it to Lucifer, “the principal fallen angel” (Maas, 1910) that tricked human kind to become conscious of “good and bad,” within the context of Genesis, the serpent is solely mentioned as a trickster figure. It talks Eve into eating a meal that was forbidden. While popular interpretation would have us believe this symbol is evil, from a psychoanalytic perspective, the serpent represents a phallic object. Furthermore, there is no mention of the snake necessarily being evil. Instead, it is an object of nature, which in this case also has the capacity to talk Eve into partaking in the forbidden fruit.
Although a simple interpretation, the phallus represents the masculine creative force. The symbolic interpretation of the phallus also links this construct to creation. Through this creative force, the survival of our species is ultimately assured, as consciousness can continue to participate in the divine nature of God’s creative plan.
The serpent entices woman to partake in the forbidden fruit, which she gratefully offers to her husband as a gift of loving kindness. While this passage suggests that the woman is the first to partake of the fruit and therefore fall into consciousness, this assumption can be misleading, as it is the phallic nature of the serpent symbol that entices Eve to let her guard down and take part in this forbidden act.
Naturally, all animals must become aware of their sexual potency. This is no different for humankind. Man and woman must become conscious of their sexuality. This assures the survival of our species, and introduces the psyche to the process of categorical thinking.
We are first introduced to the idea of categorical thinking through the construct of gender identification. The differences in our sexual assignment allows us to develop further areas cognitive differentiation, which allows us to assign categorical weight to environmental events as being either good or bad, black or white, night or day, and countless other paradoxes that drive healthy psychological growth. This further sets the stage for humanity to transcend categorical thought processes, and realize an integral state of Self-Realized development.
Prototypical man and woman are created in the wholeness of God, fall from the grace of perfection, and ultimately spend the majority of the life-sequence seeking this place of initial perfection. We spend our childhood, oftentimes mislead by yearning to be an adult. We then spend our adulthood yearning to relive those childhood reveries of the past.
The implications of the a-sexual nature of perfect consciousness are foretold in passage in which God creates woman from cellular matter taken from the prototypical man.
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”(Gen. 2:21-23)
The message inherent in this passage shows one path towards psychological wholeness. Creation occurs through the union of man and woman. This concept is furthered in the next verses.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.(Gen. 2: 24-25)
In these passages, man and woman unite in innocence. They unite though the symbol of the serpent. The symbol of the serpent alludes to the Uroboris, that alchemical symbol that is capable of finding completeness through the divine trick that originally enticed humanity to become conscious in the first place
In the passage above, woman is created through man, just as man is created through woman when viewed from an a-sexual lense. Woman and man unite in order to further engage in God’s creative plan. Biologically, the flesh of the spermatozoa and the ovum must unite in order for new consciousness to be born. If woman is created from the “flesh” of man, then her wholeness is reliant on the underlying masculinity that operates in symbiosis with her inherent femininity. While the passage only poses a masculine perspective of this process, from a biological perspective, the opposite is true for men. If man is created from the flesh of the ovum, then to transcend the gender specific nature of consciousness, man must reunite with the feminine aspect inherent in his soul. This process exists a-priori to the development of consciousness, and is representative of the specific genetic sequences passed onto new consciousness as it develops into new life. Carl Jung (1969) called the inherent masculinity that exists within a female the animus and the inherent femininity that exists in a man the anima.
Self emerges when psyche assumes a neutral position capable of housing the paradoxes that exist within consciousness. This includes the internal and external dialectic tension that exists between males, females, and the inherently paradoxical nature that underlies each individual’s psyche. Man unites with woman in one body, just as woman unites with man in one body. We are born through the union of male and female matter, which unites in “one body.” The psychological union created through this process allows consciousness to transcend its paradoxical nature and realize the unity associated with God’s divine plan.
In the passage, “them” becomes “one” that feels “no shame” engaging in the act of creation that God willed to occur. To become whole, “one” must seek the balancing force within and engage the creative instinct of God’s will. This allows psyche to mend the dialectic tension that exists between man, woman, and the Self.
Integral consciousness occurs only by mending the polar aspects of a conscious that falls from God’s grace. One division common to consciousness and the biological development all living individuals undergo is the assignment of sex during conception. However, the new consciousness formed through the union of spermatozoa and ovum houses within its genetic traits the polarities of the opposite sex’s genetic matter. Regardless of sexual assignment, new life takes form through the union of male and female genetic matter that houses within its structure the sequence that allows new life to flourish. By falling into consciousness, new life arises to carry on the eternal process of passing on this same story line and genetic sequence to new life, so that they may partake in the divine plan of creation.
Consciousness occurs at microcosmic and macrocosmic levels of existence. Each level of development is capable of its own form of consciousness while at the same time is part of greater forms of consciousness. Although the idea of masculine and feminine consciousness suggests a dualistic psychological model, their union allows a holistic state of consciousness to emerge. By uniting with the divine force that underlies psyche, humanity falls from grace while it seeks an ever-present union with God as an entity that exists both within and outside our propensity to take part in the holistic plan of Creation.
Jung, C. G. (1969). The psychology of the child archetype. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. Hull, Trans., Vols. 9-1, pp. 151-181). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1951)
Jung, C. G. (1969). Archetypes of the collective unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. Hull, Trans., Vols. 9-1, pp. 3-41). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1954)
Maas, A. (1910). Lucifer. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved December 1, 2019 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09410a.htm