Adam and Eve do not seem self-conscious when they were created and placed in paradise – the garden of Eden.
The serpent appears in the third chapter of Genesis. God did not just create the serpent, he placed or at least allowed it in the garden. The garden represents a paradisal order while the serpent represents chaos. The serpent therefore means the possibility of the unknown and revolutionary suddenly manifesting itself where everything appears calm. Obviously God made room for chaos along with the order he established. No space and time in reality is completely protected from the unknown. Not even the most assiduous of parents can fully protect their children. Get your child and lock him in a room away from internet porn, drug, and alcohol. This is an extreme case in which the too-cautious parent has substituted him or herself for the other problems the child might experience. The question for the parent is: do you want to make your children safe or strong? It is far better to render beings in your care competent than to protect them.
If everything threatening, everything dangerous, and hence everything interesting and challenging were banished, another danger will arise – the danger of human infantilism and uselessness. How else would the nature of man reach its full potential without challenge and danger? What would we be good at if we have no reason to pay attention. How come God did not keep the serpent away from the garden? Maybe God in his infinite wisdom thought it better to allow the snake in the garden than to exclude it. Maybe God considered that his new creation – man – would be able to handle the serpent. And if man had handled the serpent, who knows what he may have become? The snake in the garden was probably an opportunity to Adam and Eve to grow and transcend themselves.
But anyway, there is a snake in the garden that is cunning. The serpent decides to play a trick on Eve. He tells Eve she will not die if she eats the forbidden fruit. “God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who knows what is good and what is bad,” says the serpent (Genesis 3:5). The serpent being deceitful was not completely honest with Eve. There are consequences for knowing good and evil but he was silent on that. Eve, being human and wanting to know more decides to eat the fruit. She wakes up. For the first time, Eve was self-conscious.
Now, an awakened, self-conscious woman will not tolerate an unawakened man. What does Eve do? She shares the fruit with Adam who becomes self-conscious. Notice what happened: the woman made the man self-conscious. For long women have been making men self-conscious. They do this primarily by rejecting men. Women bear the primary burden of reproduction and they definitely do not want to take full care of a grown irresponsible man while taking care of a completely dependent infant. The man can wake up if the woman rejects him. If the man is irresponsible, the woman is more likely to shame him. Eve woke Adam up. Women are still waking men up.
So, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and they awoke. To fall for the trick, Eve would have thought this was a good thing. They were awaken enough to discover some terrible things. We shall consider what they discovered shortly but for now let us come back to the snake.
What does the snake mean in the story of Adam and Eve? What does it represent?
You live on a tree infested with snakes. You kill all the snakes on the tree. You observe that the snakes on the tree were formerly on the ground, so you get down to get rid of all the snakes. No more snakes. Everything is paradise. No. Now you have human snakes. You are a tribe and you have tribal enemies. They are the snakes you have to defend yourself against – human snakes. Maybe you become an emperor and are able to get rid of all the human snakes as your empire expands. What happens? Snakes begin to grow and develop inside your empire. The snake is not just the snake in the garden; it is not just the snake on the tree or the possible snake on the ground; the snake is not just the human snake. The snake is your enemy. The snake can be in the form of your friend because your friend can betray you. Worse than that, you can betray yourself. In that case, the snake is you. So, get rid of all the external snakes and you find that there is a snake inside you and only God knows what it is up to.
What is the enemy? It is the snake if you are a tree-dwelling primate. But if you are a sophisticated human being trying to solve the problem of what it is that is the great enemy of mankind, you would realize that it is the human propensity for evil and that is displayed in the next story in the bible – the story of Cain and Abel.