Tree of Life or Tree of Good and Evil?
By Cathy Eck
What Do I Value Most In Life?
Ask yourself, “What do I value most in my life?” You might get an answer right away, or your mind might go blank. You might get superficial answers like your car, sex, or pizza. You might think you value a particular person most of all.
If that occurs, ask your mind, “What does my car, sex, or pizza represent to me?” What quality does that person fulfill in my life? If you keep drilling down, your final answer will ultimately be a quality that is void of emotional agitation, such as joy, unconditional love, peace, perfection, or freedom. These are all qualities that can only be eaten from the Tree of Life.
Knowing what you truly value from the bottom of your heart can help you determine which beliefs to keep and which ones to let go. It can help you decide if a relationship will have lasting value. Both partners in a relationship must be eating from the same tree for the partnership to work. It can even point you in the direction of a meaningful career that will bring fulfillment and reward. Most important, it can point you to your Self.
Losing My Values
When I married at twenty years old, I naively saw marriage as freedom. I was escaping from the prison of my youth, moving to a new city, and starting a fresh life. On the surface, it felt like I won the freedom lottery.
I didn’t notice that I was marrying someone who valued something very different from me. His most cherished value was being liked, following the rules, and fitting in. I liked those things too; but I valued freedom much more. I was willing to forgo applause and at-a-girls for freedom.
I went along with his line of thinking because it was reasonable and popular. I couldn’t find an argument for why he might not be right about life. I changed careers, starting dressing differently, and started caring what others thought. I even made peace with the notion of hard work as virtuous.
I also developed a strong attraction to self-improvement books during this time in my life. Clearly some part of me knew that I was heading off course. I was becoming a seeker of truth because I no longer had it. But my husband was pleased with the new me, because I mirrored his values. So I assumed that I must be doing something right.
The Mental Virgin
Religion teaches us to protect our physical virginity. “If you lose it, you can’t get it back,” I was told. That sounds very serious, but to the ancient master, physical virginity was worthless. The gold was in our mental virginity; and we must maintain it at all cost.
Mental virginity was the ability to return again and again to a pure mind — to keep one’s mind free of judgments, beliefs, and prejudices. The ancient masters knew that when one hides their true Self, they create problems, opponents, and diseases in order to force the false mind to let go. They realized that the true Self will not go down without a fight.
These masters were right. One day, my free spirit came out of hiding; and I did something that my husband considered wrong. Then I did a few more things that caused people to judge me. I was damaging his good reputation. Now I looked like his opponent. He saw me as hurting him and part of me believed his accusation.
Because I’d accepted his values as the key to my life, I hated myself for breaking his rules. I could not understand what came over me that caused these demons to speak and act out.
I completely forgot that before I accepted his values, I did the same things and no one cared. People just viewed me as a free spirit that did crazy things and spoke her mind. I suspect that was even what my husband found attractive. But once I accepted his values and beliefs, my world judged me under his more rigid point of view.
That is how life works. What we hold in mind projects the world that we experience. We create our own judges. And those judges become our prison bars.
After a long fall and a hard smack at rock bottom, I realized that my heart didn’t give a damn about fitting in. I was good. I knew that I never did anything to purposefully hurt another. Slowly the prison bars weakened.
Choosing Between the Tree of Life
or the Tree of Good and Evil
Many years later, after much introspection, I came to realize that what caused me to break my husband’s rules was not some crazy, inner demon; it was my heart’s desire for freedom. You see, I could cover up my desire with his values and even do a pretty good job of forgetting that I desired freedom. But the cover was fragile, and one day my heart broke through it.
Our true Self holds the qualities that we value and desire. Freedom, peace, joy, unconditional love, harmony, and perfection are all true-Self qualities. Our heart only knows of paradise. It feeds only off the Tree of Life. While one of these qualities might have a bigger draw, anyone who values one of them will value all of them. These true Self qualities don’t come with the nervous agitation of emotion. They feel good like the softness of watching a sunset or the quietness of meditation.
The false self (or ego) is a card-carrying member of the dualistic illusory world of good and evil, where stress, emotion, and problems are normal. It doesn’t realize that you can’t have good without evil or right without wrong. It even tells you that being good is the cure when it is actually the curse. The ancient people called the perspective of good and evil being stuck on the cross.
Good and bad or evil are two sides of the same coin. We can’t have one without the other. Accepting the false self’s perspective causes us to move back and forth creating the superficial appearance of change without any real forward movement. Sadly, religious leaders created the notion that we can’t take a bite from the Tree of Life because we ate the apple from the Tree of Good and Evil, so most never try. But they lied.
The good person in duality contains the seed of evil; and the evil person contains the seed of good. The two halves meet up attempting to find wholeness. But two halves don’t make a whole. They make a mess. They are stuck together like powerful magnets. True wholeness lives beyond duality.
Memories of Wholeness
I was lucky. I had childhood memories of thoughts without opposites, so I knew something was not right when I found myself caught in the good and evil mindset. I knew in my heart that I could spit out that apple and take a bite from the fruit of the Tree of Life. However, once the seed of good and evil had been planted, I didn’t know how to dig out the root so the plant would not grow back.
I had to turn to the ancient masters for some more guidance. The idea of needing faith in the ancient world came from this very predicament. Faith was not about some angel or god fixing your problem. Faith was about sacrificing the beliefs that caused the problem, and trusting that using your will to let go would make everything right. Letting go was the key to Eden. The gate to heaven was not locked.
The ancient initiate knew that paradise was a perspective, not a place. And the first step to finding paradise was the clarification of values. Once the value set the destination, the initiates cleared their minds of everything that stood in their way until they were standing at heaven’s gate with key in hand.
Once I realized that looking good was not my true value, I was able to make new choices. I realized that I had no desire to play the good and evil game. I no longer believed people who told me their view of what was right and wrong. I listened to my heart. I no longer took jobs working for the man. I created businesses and projects that gave me flexibility, creative license, and a wide-open pathway. I no longer wanted to be with someone who judged my heart’s desires. And, I no longer wanted to upset my partner with something that I could not contain. Even my friends changed. I was no longer willing to sit in long, whining sessions. I wanted to talk about creativity and new ideas. I wanted to let go, not hold on.
It took me a long time to get to this understanding and honor my heart. I tried for so many years to just be good and not make waves. But I just could not do it. Eventually, I found the wisdom of the ancient masters. I learned to discriminate and let go; I learned the power of becoming a mental virgin. And I learned that we can all return to the Tree of Life if we just let go of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil.
The Journey Continues…
As I continue to challenge each belief that opposes freedom, I find insights and clarity that keep me going. I now remember the fresh, clear mind that I had as a child. It wasn’t lost or sold to the devil; it was covered up like the golden Buddha. And it is my job to uncover that Buddha one chip of plaster at a time.
I then could see that others who are often labeled as problems, bad, or wrong are just people who have a harder problem containing their hearts. They don’t make good prisoners, but they make damn good creators when you give them their freedom. They have the higher vision to see that good and evil are both false, and they live for truth.
I suspect that one day everyone will find the heart more appealing than the mind’s illusory reality. But life is not a race. There is no rush back to paradise because the true Self knows that we’re not only free, unconditionally loved, and joyful beyond measure, but we are also eternal. We have all the time in the world because time is part of the illusion. It only exists in the world.
Cathy Eck, Ph.D., has studied the ancient initiatory teachings and practices for the last twenty years in order to uncover the secrets for freeing minds, clearing emotions, and returning to our true Self. For more on the process of returning to a mental virgin, read “The Secret to Remaining a Mental Virgin.”