The Serpent and the Tree

In one of the Stanford Readings by Brother Philip, the Ancient Awakenings group learned that our symbols are the serpent and the tree.  If you were raised in the Christian environment, that may have set off alarms because Christians are taught that the serpent led to the downfall of Eve by tempting her with the apple. I, a devout Christian, love the serpent, because he brought Wisdom to Adam and Eve. What is there not to love about wisdom?

In my meanderings in the minefields of our family history, I learned that there was one side of our family who brought the Wisdom teachings to humanity, and the other side that corrupted them. Without going into details, suffice it to say that the image of the serpent has been corrupted – at least to a degree. I say that because, as far as I can see, in this dualistic game of polarity we are currently engaged in, there is a shadow and a light side to just about everything. The Jewish version of the esoteric Wisdom or Mystery teachings is called the Kabbalah. I will start with a Jewish Rabbi’s insight into the meaning of the serpent.

In an online article titled The Serpent and Its Transformative Power by Rabbi Michael Ezra, the Rabbi calls the serpent one of the least understood of biblical symbols. He says that by taking a deeper look at the Kabbalistic teachings behind the story of the Garden of Eden we can discover insights about the serpent and its trans-formative power in spiritual development. He writes that in the Chassidic (Hasidic) tradition, one of the essential principles in gaining a deeper understanding of what Christians call the Old Testament is to use it as a manual to understand the inner psychology of the soul. According to him, every person, place or event in the Old Testament represents an instinctual human drive or complex. The Rabbi says that the serpent symbolically represents our primal drive for ultimate fulfillment. He writes, “In fact, our sages say that the snake was originally intended to be the great servant of man.”

He explains that the serpent had legs before it was cursed. To the Kabbalists this means that the primal drive within each of us initially had the ability to move and climb upward in order to reach its ultimate fulfillment, which the author calls the “sacred Divine realm within man”, the pinnacle of consciousness where spiritual bliss became possible. When the serpent was cursed by God to lie on its belly and eat of the dust of the earth, the primal drive within us changed drastically and was confined to lower forms of passion.

Rabbi Ezra goes on to write that the mystical tradition explains that by removing the serpent’s legs and forcing it to slither on the ground our primal drive was confined to the earthly or physical realm. “As a result of the serpent’s curse, the primal energy that once impelled us to attain our spiritual potential was now in a natural state of confinement in the lowest energy vortex of the body associated with sexuality, physical passion and lust.” He says that consequently, the serpent has been condemned as evil and passion has been shunned in Western spiritual circles. He says that the Torah gives powerful insights as to how valuable our primal energy can be when it is re-elevated and channeled in the right direction. He gives as an example the incident in the Bible when Moses encounters God at the burning bush and is commanded to drop his staff to the ground and then raise it upwards. He says this is symbolic of the tikkum or repair that is needed for true spiritual evolution. He explains that in its fallen state, the staff was a serpent that evoked fear in Moses, but in its raised state, it became a staff of God through which Moses later worked miracles. He says that this Old Testament story is meant to teach us that when our primal urges remain repressed at ground level we are out of control, but when the same primal energy is raised and transformed, God works miracles through us. He says that by channeling our passions toward the spiritual we can transform a potentially destructive drive into one of our most holy and sacred.

He goes on to say that in Chassidic philosophy, the yetzer harah, or ‘man’s evil inclination’, is perceived as nothing more than repressed energy that can be transformed when expressed spiritually. He says that the Baal Shem Tov explains that the two Hebrew letters raish and ayin, which spell rah or evil, can be reversed to spell the Hebrew word err, which means awakened. The Kabbalist’s explain that when two Hebrew words have the same numerical value they are of the same essence on a more subtle and hidden level. Rabbi Ezra states that perhaps this is why the Hebrew words Mashiakh (Messiah) and nahash (serpent) have the same numerical value of 358. While on the surface they seem to represent the two diametrically opposed forces of good and evil – they are related in their essence.

According to Kabbalistic tradition, when the Messianic era arrives our primal drive for lust and physical gratification will be removed and everything will be transformed to complete good. Rabbi Ezra explains that, “Figuratively, this means that our passions will be elevated, the serpent will no longer be coiled and confined, and the primal drive within us will return to its original state of seeking ultimate fulfillment in a life of Divine living. …If we allow our passions and desires to increase in spiritual and creative expression, we can truly blossom. Those of us who allow our primal energy to emerge will enter the doorway to the divine, travel the road back to the Garden and experience the return to the Temple of God.”

The last sentence is a succinct description of enlightenment. This example brings to the forefront the fact that Christians are using an Old and New Testament that was written in code and allegory of which they do not have the key. Part of that code is called the Pesher code – which uses numbers.

In the Gospel of Thomas, one of the Nag Hammadi texts, Jesus says; “I have come to cast fire upon the world and see, I am tending it until it blazes.” He also says in the Jeshua Channelings by Pamela Kribbe that his coming two thousand years ago was an effort to try to bring light into the world because the world was in such a sorry state. Souls from the Light realm determined that an effort was needed to re-direct humanity at that time, and Jesus/Yeshua volunteered to undertake the role.

When the Rabbi makes the statement; “when the Messianic era arrives,” he is making a statement that comes to the crux of the argument between Christians and Jews regarding whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. It is clear to me that the role of Messiah that Yeshua undertook was meant to be imparted in two visitations – as Yeshua did say that he had just “lit a fire” in his incarnation as Jesus.  The very words ‘second coming’ imply a relationship with the ‘first coming’.  We Light workers know that Yeshua has already returned. We also know that there are many Messiahs here along with him – and we are among them. I ultimately believe though, that everyone has to ‘save’ themselves, as they are each their own sovereign god-being given their own free will in this particular creation. The greater and lesser avatars/saviors come to show the Way to enlightenment by our example – it is not something we do for others.

Paramahansa Yogananda was a master yogi who wrote the book Autobiography of a Yogi. He spoke on the meaning of the Eden allegory. He wrote; “The Biblical authors never intended the Serpent on the Tree in Genesis to be taken literally. Instead, it was meant to be a motif representing the serpentine Kundalini power that ascends the “Tree of Life”, a term used by yogis when referring to the human spine.”

My understanding of our family story is that our souls incarnated into the animal realm on Earth and some became stuck there. They – or we, became disconnected from our god-hood.  The way I see it, the ultimate goal of all this biological manipulation of human life was meant for one thing – to upgrade into a human body that would enable these souls to re-connect with their god-selves. We have reached the culmination of that process and are undergoing the final stages of it now.

This brings up our Tree symbolism, and as stated by Paramahansa Yogananda, it represents the human spine which the Kundalini energy rises up through, and is shown here in a Mesopotamian depiction. The two snakes represent the Kundalini energy rising up the spine:

The Adamic human – the current human, was given seven chakra centers to facilitate our return to god/goddess-hood. Edgar Cayce called the chakras “life centers, points of contact between the physical body and soul” and described them as “whirling vortices of energy.” In the Wisdom religions, the snake is characterized as the Kundalini energy coiled at the base of the spine. The object of the teachings is to facilitate the activation of this spiritual energy up the spine and through the power centers until enlightenment occurs. The seven branches of the tree signified these spiritual power centers. Christians know it as the Tree of Life, but have no understanding of its deep esoteric symbolism. The roots of the tree represent aspects of material reality, likened to the lower ‘base’ chakras. According to Paramahansa Yogananda, since the serpent in the Eden allegory is in the upper branches of the tree, this shows that the Eden being spoken of was the one in the spiritual realm before humans ‘fell’ into matter. The fall was simply the soul’s manifestation in matter. It doesn’t signify anything sinful at all. We souls were just doing what we intended to do. Paramahansa Yogananda said that when enlightenment occurs there is a dramatic awakening of the three quarters of the brain which aren’t normally active as well as the inner antenna that receive psychic information. He wrote that the heart chakra is the last to open and when that happens it aligns a person with “his or her true self and their identity as the Infinite Spirit.”

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote that when the chakras are all activated, they work to endow a person with Gnostic awareness regarding the secrets of the universe and their true identity. The Gnostic yogis of India say that this is how the serpent teaches its students gnosis. It doesn’t transmit gnosis by facts or information, but rather by activating the gnostic centers within a person so that he or she can know the wisdom directly and intuitively. A person’s intuition is – as Light workers already know – the voice of God speaking within them.

The keys to the Serpent, Tree of Life and knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden are explained in the Jewish Kaballah – otherwise known as the Jewish Old Religion, the religion practiced by Jesus and his family. Their explanation of the Eden allegory is the same as Paramahansa Yoganandas.

Early on in my research I learned that the pagan Mystery religions and all major world religions today contain veneration of the serpent – which, considering the serpent’s status in Christianity – was very confusing. I came to understand that the Eden allegory is not as simplistic as Christians are led to believe. I also learned that there is usually more than one meaning to most of our allegories.  In Isis Unveiled, H. P. Blavatsky makes this statement concerning the serpent;

“Before our globe had become egg-shaped or round it was a long trail of cosmic dust or fire-mist, moving and writhing like a serpent. This, say the explanations, was the Spirit of God moving on the chaos until its breath had incubated cosmic matter and made it assume the annular shape of a serpent with its tail in its mouth – emblem of eternity in its spiritual and of our world in its physical sense. The seven-headed snake represents the Supreme Deity manifesting through His Elohim, or Seven Spirits, by whose aid He established His universe. The coils of the snake have been used by the pagans to symbolize the motion and also the orbits of the celestial bodies, and it is probable that the symbol of the serpent twisted around the egg – which was common to many of the ancient Mystery schools – represented both the apparent motion of the sun around the Earth, and the bands of astral light, or the great magical agent which move about the planet incessantly.

Electricity was commonly symbolized by the serpent because of its motion. Electricity passing between the poles of a spark gap is serpentine in its motion. Force projected through atmosphere was called The Great Snake. Being symbolic of universal force, the serpent was emblematic of both good and evil. Force can tear down as rapidly as it can build up. The serpent with its tail in its mouth is the symbol of eternity, for in this position the body of the reptile has neither beginning nor end. The head and tail represent the positive and negative poles of the cosmic life circuit. The initiates of the Mysteries were often referred to as serpents, and their wisdom was considered analogous to the divinely inspired power of the snake. There is no doubt that the title ‘Winged Serpents’ was given to one of the invisible hierarchies that labored with the Earth during its early formation. There is a legend that in the beginning of the world winged serpents reigned upon the Earth. These were probably the demigods which antedate the historical civilization of every nation.”

Those ‘Winged Serpents’ are us.

According to the author of The Gnostics and Their Remains, “The Serpent became the type and symbol of evil, and of the Devil, only during the Middle Ages. The early Christians – besides the Ophite Gnostics – had their dual Logos: the Good and the Bad Serpent, the Agathodaemon and the Kakodaemon. This is demonstrated by the writings of Marcus, Valentinus, and many others, and especially in Pistis Sophia – certainly a document of the earliest centuries of Christianity. As for the figure of the serpent, supposing these talismans to emanate not from the Isiac but the newer Ophite creed, it may well stand for that “True and perfect Serpent,” who leads forth the souls of all that put their trust in him out of the Egypt of the body, and through the Red Sea of death into the Land of Promise, saving them on their way from the serpents of the wilderness, that is, from the rulers of the stars.”

The reference to the rulers of the stars refers to the fact that in the exoteric mysteries, one is subject to the Law of Cause and Effect, karma, etc., which is ruled over by the planetary rulers. Some of us are just now ready to rise above that level and ‘graduate’ to the fifth dimension, where we would in effect reach enlightenment and re-connect with our god-hood. Hence we would no longer be subject to the lower rulers.

So for the Gnostics, the serpent was the Logos and had both higher and lower aspects. This is one of the most controversial topics that will come up, because as Christians know, the Logos is the Son of God – one part of the Trinity. In the Mystery religions, one archetype is the good son – bad son.  These are nothing more or less than this dual representation of the Logos. In the book Edgar Cayce on the Old Testament from Joshua to Solomon, the author wrote that according to the readings, “The two twin sons represent the two principles of worldliness and self-gratification as opposed to selflessness through service and the seeking of the Truth.”

As recorded by St. Epiphanius in his work Adversus Haereses, the Ophites – a Gnostic Christian sect, stated in their writings; “We venerate the serpent because God has made it the cause of Gnosis for mankind. Ialdabaoth did not want men to have any recollection of the Mother or of the Father on high. It was the serpent, who by tempting them, brought them Gnosis; who taught the man and the woman the complete knowledge of the mysteries from on high.”

In the ancient apocryphal text The Secret Book of John, Jesus tells the apostle John that it was he, Jesus, who made Adam and Eve eat the apple, i.e., gain knowledge or Gnosis. He said that he did that as an eagle in the top of the tree. It probably took a year before I understood what he was saying. The eagle at the top of the tree is the crown chakra in the head. Jesus opened this in Adam and Eve, giving them Christ Consciousness or Enlightenment. Jesus goes on to tell John that the serpent taught them “lust and begetting.” What he refers to here, is that as a serpent, the spiritual power in a human rests at the bottom of the spine and in the lower chakras, which have to do with generation/sexuality and basic survival. I don’t believe he was referring to a person or spirit as the serpent, but to the serpent power trapped in the lower nature.

Jesus, as channeled by the author of The Revelation: Our Crisis Is a Birth, says this in regard to Adam and Eve’s eating of the fruit; “Generations ago the first man and woman broke out of the creature-human condition. They ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and felt separate from the Creator. They gained their own capacities for co-creation through the development of individuality and intellect. They were prevented from access to the Tree of Life, to the knowledge of how the invisible technologies operate, for they were still in a state of separate, self-centered consciousness, too childish to inherit the Kingdom.”

So from Jesus’ own channeled words, we learn that humans weren’t denied the Tree of Life, they just weren’t evolved enough to partake of it. They felt separate from the Creator, because this was the point when they entered the realm of duality, when they first separated from the All. They entered duality in order to gain experience as God’s separated consciousness. As the channeled Jesus states, it was necessary for human souls to separate from God in order to; “Gain their own capacities for co-creation through the development of individuality and intellect.” It’s just now, that some of humankind is ready to inherit the invisible technologies found on the Tree of Life.

The keys to understanding the Old Testament lay in the Kabbalic text called the Zohar. Richard Smoley, author of Forbidden Faith traced the origin of the Zohar to the Languedoc region of France in the days of the Cathars – a Gnostic Christian group that traced their origin to Jesus, Mary Magdalene and John the Apostle. The author points out though, that the Kabbalah’s origins go back to the Garden of Eden when the archangel Raziel gave the teaching to Adam and Eve. Adam passed it to Seth, who passed it to Noah, who taught it to Shem. Abraham learned from Melchizedek, the priest-king of the Bible who many say was Noah’s son Shem. Abraham taught it to Isaac, who taught Jacob, who passed it to Levi. The teachings continued in the line of Levi until Moses passed it to seventy hand-selected men who in later generations were known as the Essene’s. One account has the teachings going to Egypt with Abraham, and then Moses receiving the teaching from the Egyptians.

This picture is a closer rendition of the reality of the Garden of Eden, rather than the one of a serpent slithering up a tree. The serpent was an angelic Serpent of Wisdom.