The Truth About Evil in Myth
Brooke Harris 111542140 March 15th RE104 Evil and Symbols Essay: The Truth About Evil in Myth Many questions have been posed when it comes to the ever-controversial topic of evil, and will continue to be posed throughout time. Although prominent in everyday life, the battle between good and evil can also be seen in two of the most famous creation myths; the Christian myth of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, and the Native Creation Story of Turtle Island.
In the tale of Adam and Eve, it is said that God banishes the couple for eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, leaving them to deal with hardships all of their lives1. In contrast, the Creation Story is one that tells about the creation of land, with the “mother” giving birth to two twins on the back of the turtle, each twin being a vision of evil and of good, creating the multi-faceted landscape of earth2.
Although in both of the myths there are elements of evil, a closer analysis of the symbols and underlying motives and reasoning can conclude that there was no malicious intent in either stories and that they are ultimately not evil but relatively good. Throughout Kushner’s article and re-telling of the Christian myth of Adam and Eve, he poses the question of whether God was carrying out an evil act in banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. He argues that although there are foul acts being carried out, they are not with malicious intent, but with the intent to create a more fulfilling life for the couple3.
Kushner continues, explaining that by eating the apple from the Knowledge of Good and Evil tree, Adam and Eve have been elevated to a conscious state helping to be aware of their surroundings and themselves as humans and as a couple4. Kushner believes that this act was the “bravest and most liberating events in the history of the human race” and continuing with saying that although their experiences were full of pain and hardship, it was worth the pain5. Overall, their expulsion to the outside world and their experience with hardships is a way of teaching Adam and Eve to appreciate the good occasions.
In all respects of native tradition and belief, sacred balance is an ever-present theme, whether it is sacred balance in the forces and features of nature or in good and evil in day-to-day life, tying back to Kushner’s belief in a higher state of consciousness, as one can perceive the difference between good and evil. This perception is also seen in Thomas King’s telling of the native creation story; Woman Who Fell from the Sky, which deals with the creation of the features of Turtle Island (North America). In constructing Turtle Island, each twin designing the features is portrayed as a “good” twin and “evil” twin6.
For instance; as the right-handed and generally “good” twin is creating a vast, flowing river, the left-handed twin drops jagged rocks in it, forcing the river to only flow in one direction and making it more difficult for the animals to live in7. Like Adam and Eve’s situation, this can be seen as a blessing in disguise. Instead of having easily flowing water throughout the river, it can be interpreted to believe that the left-handed twin wanted the water creatures to appreciate when they did have an easy swim by knowing what it’s like to go through the hardship of the one-way current river.
Many symbols are used in the myths, which are linked to Kushner’s idea of a blessing in disguise, as the symbols are used in the myths as representations of evil but in actuality and in the conclusion, are essentially for good. Throughout the myth of Adam and Eve, an apple and tree are used as the main symbols of evil8; but with a closer examination can also be seen as liberating and good. The apple that Eve initially eats and gives to Adam to eat is used as the main symbol of evil. According to J.
C Cooper’s book An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, apple can be seen as “knowledge; wisdom; divination”, solidifying the idea that it is the ultimate ticket through the threshold to knowledge of consciousness, and the good and evil. The Tree of Knowledge (tree), when examined, is perceived as an “axis mundi” or the centre of the earth and life10. As the knowledge of good and evil a is the liberating factor in Adam and Eve’s life, bringing them to the ultimate state of consciousness, it is only appropriate that the centre of the world symbolize this idea.
In King’s story of the woman who created Turtle Island, the features that the left-handed “evil” twin created are seen as the evil side of the world; such as the thick forests and tall mountains7. According to Cooper, a forest is a “place of testing and initiation… the secrets of nature… which a man must penetrate to find the meaning”11, implying that although it is trivial and can sometimes be difficult to maneuver, it can also teach the secrets of earth and the lessons it can provide.
Lastly, as the right handed twin is building, vast, flat planes of land – the left handed twin “stomped around in the mud, piled it up, and created deep valleys and tall mountains”7, creating rocky terrains that are seen as part of the evils of the myth as they create difficult to manage terrain. When looking at mountains, Cooper’s defines the mountaintops as the “represent the state of full consciousness. ”12. In contrast to Kushner’s perspective, the hardship of voyaging up the mountains to the top can be seen as a virtuous experience as one gains the state of full consciousness, as Adam and Eve did with the apple.
In closing, through analysis of Kushner’s theory of good and evil and a heightened state of consciousness in both myths, a deduction can be made about the good and evil components of the myths. Although both myths contain evil aspects, there is no malicious intent to classify them as inherently evil, as the “evil” devices were meant to bring a sense of appreciation for the things that are good. In taking Kushner’s theory and an analysis of the various symbols of the myths, it can be said that these tales are not evil. . Harold Kushner, How Good Do We Have To Be? : A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997), 26-27. 2. Thomas King, The Truth About Stories: a Native Narrative (Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc. , 2003), 13-20. 3. Kushner, How Good, 27. 4. Kushner, How Good, 30. 5. Kushner, How Good, 31. 6. King, The Truth,18. 7. King, The Truth,19. 8. Kushner, How Good, 17. 9. J. C Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols (London: Thames & Hudson, 1978), 14. 0. Cooper, Traditional Symbols, 176-177. 11. Cooper, Traditional Symbols, 71. 12. Cooper, Traditional Symbols, 110. Bibliography 1. Cooper, J. C. An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols. London: Thames & Hudson, 1978. 2. Cooper, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc. , 2003. 3. Kushner, Harold. How Good Do We Have To Be? : A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997.