The Garden of Eden story is packed with symbolism. Jeff Giliam has even made compelling arguments here at the Thang that the Garden story is entirely symbolic. In this post I will riff on this idea that the Garden story is symbolic rather than literal. Before doing so, I want to point out that I am not hinting that there was no literal Adam on this earth. I think the evidence that there was a literal Adam is quite compelling. Rather, I want to look at possible meanings of the garden story and pre-garden story.
Hugh Nibley often called the temple a “scale model of the universe”. There are clearly a lot of inferences in that but he preferred to keep many of them obscured. But it is interesting to me that in our scriptures and other sacred narratives we are taken from alpha to omega; from emptiness of space through the construction of the earth, through the formation of lower forms of life, through higher forms of life, through the formation of humans moving through the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial kingdoms culminating with them (us) entering a perfect unity with God. The part I want to talk about is the part prior to entering a Telestial sphere where Adam and Eve are in the Garden and do not know good from evil.
I will lead by mentioning there are lots of foundational facts we simply do not firmly know about our pre-mortal life, the nature of the fall, etc. I have talked about many of these things here in the past. For this post I will choose some options as a temporary structure to build on. First, I will assume that our spirits as currently constituted are not eternal, but rather the intelligence that makes up our spirits is eternal. As we have discussed here before, this is disputable but an acceptable position in the church and has been believed and taught by former apostles. Second, I will assume that the model Jeff Giliam proposed of the Garden of Eden as symbolic of action in our pre-mortal life is accurate. This is of course also disputable, but I find it the best model I’ve yet seen.
Alright, so if we fundamentally are “Intelligences” that are made up of what Orson Pratt like to call “particles of intelligence” and we have the capacity to gather more “light and intelligence” and have been doing so throughout the eternities past, that means that we have come a long way already. Part of that long way means that eternities ago we were much, much less “intelligent” than we are now. We have progressed to this point.
Are you with me still? Ok.
The point is this: It appears to me that the creation and garden narrative is saying that at some point in our past as intelligences we came to the point where we were ready to make the leap from innocence and ignorance to “knowing good from evil”. I am wondering if this is the point when our intelligences became sentient; the point where we went from being a lower class of intelligence to becoming our current class of intelligence. Is this the point at which we became prepared to come to an earth like this as Adam and Eve did?
This is very important on several levels. If this theory is accurate it explains how in the future we might make the leap from being human intelligences, to being like God himself. It means that while God is really nothing like us now, we, as intelligences, have the ability to transform from lower forms of being to higher forms. If it worked then it could work again in the future.
I know this is highly speculative, but I like the general direction. I think it makes the “Fall” actually symbolic of our “falling up” from being intelligences that didn’t understand the difference between good and evil to being intelligences that did. It represents the moment for our progressing intelligences when a massive light bulb came on. And if that light bulb came on to bring us up to this point from below, it makes sense that another more startling light bulb may come on for us in the future as we make another astonishing transformation to becoming more like our Heavenly Father.