There were three mysteries. First, human beings were created in the image and the likeness of God [Genesis 1:26]; what is that image and what is that likeness? Second, animals and birds, whether noble or not,159 are born with knowledge that relates to every drive or love they have; why then are human beings born without any knowledge that relates to any drive or love they have? Third, what does the tree of life mean, what does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mean, and what does eating from them mean [Genesis 2:9, 16-17; 3:6]? Below these points it said, "Connect these three into a single statement, write it on a new sheet of paper, put it on this table, and we will look at it. If on balance your statement seems well considered and accurate, each of you will be given a prize for your wisdom."
After they had read this aloud the two angels walked away and were lifted up into their respective heavens. Then the people on the chairs began to discuss the mysteries set before them and to unravel them. They took turns speaking. Those sitting on the north side went first, then those sitting on the west side, then those sitting on the south side, and finally those sitting on the east side.
The group took up the first topic for discussion: "Human beings were created in the image and the likeness of God; what is that image and what is that likeness?" First the following verses from the Book of Creation were read before the whole group:
God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, according to our likeness. " And God created human beings in his own image; in the likeness of God he made them. (Genesis 1:26—27)
On the day that God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1)
 Those sitting on the north side spoke first. They said, "The image of God and the likeness of God are the two kinds of life that God has breathed into us all: the life in our will and the life in our intellect. We read, 'Jehovah God breathed a soul of lives into Adam's nostrils, and the human being turned into a living soul' (Genesis 2:7). We believe this means that willing what is good and perceiving what is true were breathed into Adam—this is how he received 'a soul of lives.' Because the life breathed into Adam came from God, the image and the likeness mean a purity of love and wisdom, and of justice and judgment, in Adam."
Those sitting on the west side agreed, but added that the pure state God breathed into Adam is something God has been continually breathing into everyone else ever since. That pure state, then, is present in human beings inasmuch as they are vessels that receive it. Their capacity as receiving vessels makes human beings images and likenesses of God.
 Those sitting on the south side were the third to take a turn. They said, "The image of God and the likeness of God are two different things, although they have been united in human beings ever since creation. From some kind of inner light we see that we all have the power to destroy the image of God in ourselves, but not the likeness of God. We can glimpse this as though through a veil from the fact that Adam kept the likeness of God after he lost the image of God. After the curse it says, 'See how this human being knows good and evil, like one of us' (Genesis 3:22); and later on, Adam is called the likeness of God, but not the image of God (Genesis 5:1). We will leave it, however, to our friends sitting on the east side, who therefore have better light, to say what the image of God and the likeness of God really are."
 When it had grown quiet, those sitting on the east side rose from their chairs and looked up toward the Lord. Then they sat back down and said, "An image of God is a vessel for God. God is love itself and wisdom itself; therefore the image of God is our openness to love and wisdom from God. The likeness of God, on the other hand, is the perfect likeness and the full appearance that love and wisdom are in us as if they were completely our own. We all utterly feel as if we have love and wisdom on our own, as if we intend what is good and understand what is true by ourselves. In reality, though, not a bit of it comes from us; it is from God. God alone has love and wisdom on his own, because God is love itself and wisdom itself. The likeness or the appearance that love and wisdom or goodness and truth are in us as our very own makes us human and enables us to have a partnership with God and therefore to live to eternity. It flows from this that what makes us human is our ability on the one hand to intend what is good and understand what is true completely as if we were on our own, and our capacity on the other hand for knowing and believing that we are doing this with God's help. As we come to know and believe that we are getting help from God, God puts his image in us. God does not put his image in us, however, if we believe that we are doing it on our own without God's help."
 When they had said this, a passion from their love for truth came over them, which led them to say the following: "How could any of us receive, retain, or pass on any love or wisdom if we did not experience it as our own? How could we have a partnership with God through love and wisdom if we had no way of doing our part to form that partnership? There is no such thing as a partnership without mutuality. What makes the partnership mutual is that we love God and we act on what we receive from God, doing so as if we were on our own but trusting that we have God's help. How could we live to eternity if we had no partnership with the eternal God? How then would we be human if that likeness were not in us?"
 All agreed with this and said, "We need to draw a conclusion from all this." They came to the following: "We are vessels to receive God. A vessel to receive God is an image of God. Because God is love itself and wisdom itself, we are vessels to receive love and wisdom; our vessel becomes an image of God as we actually do receive love and wisdom. We are a likeness of God because we experience things from God in ourselves as if they were our own. We go from being a likeness to being an image of God to the extent that we acknowledge that the love and wisdom or goodness and truth in us are not ours and did not originate in us; they exist solely in God and they come exclusively from God."
 Next the group took up the second topic for discussion: "Animals and birds, whether noble or not, are born with knowledge that relates to every drive or love they have; why then are human beings born without any knowledge that relates to any drive or love they have?"
The participants began by verifying the truth of the premise in various ways, particularly the notion that human beings have no innate knowledge or instinct, not even in relation to marriage love. They made inquiries and heard from researchers160 that newborns lack even an innate knowledge or instinct for recognizing their mother's breast; new-borns learn to nurse only when their mother or whoever is nursing them gives them her breast. Newborns know only how to suck, an instinct they gained from sucking all the time while in their mother's womb. Shortly after birth, they do not know how to walk or how to shape sound into any human word, or even how to use different sounds to express their love and emotions the way animals do. Unlike animals, they have no idea what food would be good for them—they seize anything at hand, clean or dirty, and put it in their mouths. The researchers also said that without instruction people have absolutely no idea how to make love to the opposite sex. Not even young men and women know how without learning about it from others. In a nutshell, we are born as mindlessly physical161 as a worm and remain that way unless we learn from others how to know, understand, and grow wise.
 Next the participants verified that animals, whether noble or not, are born with all the knowledge related to the various drives or loves that affect their lives. This is true of land animals, birds that fly in the sky, reptiles, fish, and even the little creatures known as insects. They all know everything that is good for them to eat, everything about how to make a home for themselves, and everything about how to mate and how to produce and raise their offspring. The participants verified these facts by recalling the astounding things they had seen, heard, and read in the physical world where they used to live, in which animals are real rather than symbolic.162
Once the truth of the premise was proven in this way, the participants turned their minds to hunting for and finding a means of unfolding and uncovering this mystery. They all said that these phenomena must come about as a result of divine wisdom intentionally making humans human and animals animal, and creating the circumstance that our imperfection at birth becomes our perfection, while an animal's perfection at birth becomes its imperfection.
 Then the people on the north side went first in giving their opinion. They said, "We are born without knowledge so that we can be open to all knowledge. If we had been born with knowledge, we would not have been open to any concepts except those we were born with; nor would we have been capable of acquiring any further knowledge."
They illustrated this with an analogy: "When first born we are like ground in which no seeds have been planted, but which has the capacity to take in any and all seeds and help them grow and bear fruit. An animal is like ground that is already sown and is full of grasses and small plants. The seeds already sown in that ground fill it to capacity. If more seeds are planted, they are choked out. This is why we take so many years to grow up. In our growing years we are like ground that can be cultivated to yield crops, flowers, and trees of all kinds. Animals grow up in just a few years, and in their growing years they cannot be cultivated beyond their innate potential."
 The people on the west side spoke next. They said, "It is true that unlike animals we are born without knowledge. We are, however, born with a capacity and a tendency—a capacity for knowing and a tendency to love. We have an inborn ability to love not only things that have to do with ourselves and the world but also things that have to do with God and heaven. At birth our physical senses are scarcely alive except in a dim way and our inner senses are not alive at all—a situation that allows us progressively to come to life and become human. First we become earthly, and then rational, and finally spiritual. This would not happen if we were born like animals with various types of knowledge and love already in place. Knowledge and feelings of love that are inborn limit the progression; but capacities and tendencies that are inborn do not limit it at all. Human beings are therefore capable of being perfected in knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom to eternity."
 The people on the south side then took their turn in giving their opinion. They said, "It is impossible for human beings to learn anything from themselves. Since they have no innate knowledge, they have to learn it all from others. Because they cannot acquire any knowledge from themselves, they cannot acquire any love from themselves either, since where there is no knowledge there is no love. Knowledge and love are partners that are no more separable than the will and the intellect or feelings and thoughts, or essence and form for that matter. Therefore as we pick up knowledge from others, love accompanies it. The universal love that attaches to knowledge is love for knowing, and later it becomes love for understanding and growing wise. These types of love are found only in human beings, never in animals; they flow in from God.
 "We stand in agreement with our colleagues on the west side on the point that we are all born without love and therefore without knowledge; we are born only with a tendency to love and a resulting capacity for acquiring knowledge. We acquire knowledge from others, not from ourselves. Actually this happens through others, in the sense that they did not receive the knowledge from themselves either—it all comes originally from God.
"We also agree with our colleagues on the north side on the point that when first born we are all like ground in which no seeds have yet been planted, but in which all seeds, whether noble or not, can be planted. This is why 'human' is related to 'humus,' and 'Adam' to adama, or 'soil.'163 We would like to add to these points that animals are born with earthly loves and with the knowledge that goes with these loves. Nevertheless the knowledge animals possess does not lead them to know, think, understand, or be wise about anything. Their loves lead them to knowledge much the way guide dogs lead the blind through streets. Animals are blind in intellect. Or better yet, they are like sleepwalkers who do what they do from blind knowledge while their intellect sleeps."
 The last to speak were the people on the east side. They said, "We agree with what our friends have said. We humans learn from and through others, not from ourselves. Therefore we need to recognize and acknowledge that everything we know, understand, and have wisdom about comes from God. There is no other way for us to be born or generated by God and become an image and a likeness of him. An image of God is what we become by acknowledging and believing that all the goodness of love and goodwill and all the truth of wisdom and faith that we have received and are still receiving come from God, and none comes from ourselves. A likeness of God is what we are as a result of experiencing these things in ourselves as if they were our own. We experience them in this way because rather than being born with knowledge, we acquire it as we go along. Our acquiring of knowledge seems to us to be something we do ourselves. God grants us this experience so that we may be human rather than animal. Our seeming autonomy in intending, thinking, loving, knowing, understanding, and becoming wise allows us to acquire knowledge, elevate it to an understanding, and turn it into wisdom as we put it to use. This is how God unites us to himself, and how we unite ourselves to God. None of this could take place unless God had provided for us to be born in total ignorance."
 After this statement the whole group wanted to form a conclusion from their discussion. Their conclusion was, "We are born without any knowledge so that we can come into all knowledge, make progress in understanding, and move onward into wisdom. We are born without any love so that by intelligently applying what we learn we can come into all love, can come to love God through loving our neighbor, and can thereby develop a partnership with God that makes us truly human and allows us to live forever."
 Then the participants picked up the document and read the third topic for discussion: "What does the tree of life mean, what does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mean, and what does eating from them mean?"
They all asked the group on the east side to unravel this mystery, "since," they said, "it is a matter of deeper understanding and you who are from the east have a blazing light, meaning that you have a wisdom that comes from love. This kind of wisdom is in fact what the garden of Eden means, where the two trees were situated."
The people on the east side replied, "We will give an answer, yet because human beings receive everything from God and nothing from themselves, we will give an answer from him, although we will still give it as if it were our own.
"A tree means a human being," they said. "Its fruit means the good done by that human being's life. Therefore the tree of life means someone who lives from God. Because love and wisdom, along with goodwill and faith—or rather, goodness and truth—are God's life in us, the tree of life means people who have those things from God and who have eternal life as a result. Much the same thing is meant by the tree of life from which people were allowed to eat (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14).
 "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil means those who believe that they live on their own rather than from God—that the love and wisdom and the goodwill and faith—or again, the goodness and truth—that are in them are their own and not God's. They believe this because the likeness and appearance of their thinking, intending, speaking, and acting on their own is completely convincing. Because they use this appearance to convince themselves that they are in fact God, therefore the serpent said, 'God knows that on the day you eat some of the fruit of that tree, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil' (Genesis 3:5).
 "Eating from those trees means accepting and internalizing. Eating from the tree of life means accepting eternal life. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means accepting damnation. The serpent means the Devil, which is loving ourselves and having pride in our own intelligence. Love for ourselves owns the latter tree. If we have pride because we love ourselves, we are trees of the knowledge of good and evil.
"It is horrendously wrong, then, to believe that Adam was wise and did what was good on his own, and that this was what was pure about his state. Adam himself was in fact cursed because of that very belief. That is what it means to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that is why Adam fell at that time. His earlier state had been pure because then he believed he was wise and was doing what was good with God's help and in absolutely no respect on his own. This is what it means to eat from the tree of life. The only person who ever became wise on his own and did what was good on his own was the Lord while he was in the world, because divinity itself was in him and was his from birth. That is how he became the Redeemer and Savior by his own power."
 From these points the participants drew the following conclusion: "The meaning of the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and eating from those trees is as follows: Our life is God in us. With
God in us we have heaven and eternal life. Our death, on the other hand, is the conviction and belief that our life is we ourselves and not God. This attitude brings us hell and eternal death, meaning damnation."
 After this they checked over the document that the angels had left on the table. They saw written at the bottom, "Connect these three into a single statement."
They brought them together and found that the three connected to form a single chain. The chain, their statement, was this: "We human beings have been created to receive love and wisdom from God and yet to experience them completely as if they came from ourselves, for the sake of our receiving them and forming a partnership with God. For this reason we are not born with any love, any knowledge, or any capability whatever for loving or becoming wise on our own. If we attribute all the goodness of love and all the truth of wisdom to God, we become living human beings. If we attribute them to ourselves, we become dead human beings."
They wrote this on a new sheet of paper and placed it on the table. Suddenly angels were present in a shining white cloud. They took the document to heaven. After it was read there, the people sitting on the chairs heard voices from heaven saying, "Good! . . . Good! . . . Good!"
Immediately someone came into view, flying down from above. He had two wings attached to his ankles and two more attached to his tem-ples.164 He was carrying prizes—robes, hats, and laurel wreaths. He landed on the ground, then gave opalescent robes to the people sitting on the north side. To the people sitting on the west side he gave scarlet robes. To the people sitting on the south side he gave hats whose rims were decorated with bands of gold and bands of pearls, and whose raised left sides were decorated with diamonds cut in the shape of flowers. To the people sitting on the east side, however, he gave laurel wreaths with rubies and sapphires in them. Decorated with these prizes from their wisdom games, they all went joyfully home.
We have discussed divine love and wisdom and have shown that these two qualities make up the divine essence. We turn next to God's omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence because these three attributes come from divine love and divine wisdom much the way the sun's
Was this article helpful?