As a father of four children, it is easy to observe that young children do not inhabit the same world that adults do. They do not inhabit the mental world of facts, information, knowledge and conceptual understanding. Rather, they inhabit a world of wonder, fascination, play, fun, excitement and imagination. Adults often say condescendingly that children are naive to live in such a world, that they will soon enough learn the ways of the ‘real world’. But who is happier, who is freer, who is more in touch with the joy and wonder of being alive?
Adults can often be very arrogant about the superiority of their learned ways, whereas children are embodiments of humility. Wide-eyed, they accept information from their elders as facts, as absolute truths, and they assume that the adults around them are wiser than them in every way, which of course they are not. For where is the wisdom in losing touch with your joy and your sense of freedom? Where is the wisdom in becoming burdened down by so much unnecessary mental information, troubling thoughts and oppressive emotions that you can no longer enjoy the beauty of life?
This is what happens to children as they are schooled and educated to be like adults; to think like adults, to divide the world up and conceptually label it all, as adults do, to judge and criticise like adults do, to feel guilty about being who they are like adults do. To spend so much of their time wandering around in the realms of thought, like adults do.
It is very revealing that we call ourselves ‘adults’. The dictionary definition of the word ‘adulterate’ is “to render something poorer in quality by adding another substance.” Its synonyms are: “make impure, degrade, debase, spoil, taint, defile, contaminate, pollute.” My goodness, this tells us so very, very much. What substance has been added to the child to render it poorer in quality, to contaminate it? It is knowledge. Conceptual knowledge.
The story of the Garden of Eden is a perfect metaphor for this, with Adam and Eve eating from the “Tree of Knowldege” and immediately losing their innocence. In that moment of receiving knowledge, they stopped being the innocent children of God, and they became ‘adults’; adulterated, self-conscious, and contaminated by what they snake offered them: a mental realm of conceptual understanding, of dualism, of good and evil, love and hate, light and darkness, right and wrong. A world of judgement, rather than innocence.
The snake, with its forked tongue, represents the verbal imparting of this dualistic perception of the world; a conceptual world of opposites, of conflict and disharmony. Through the spoken word, through the dissemination of conceptual information, this dualistic realm is created within the mind of the listener. It is constructed entirely of thoughts, of the conceptual imagery we call ‘knowledge’, which is ultimately illusory. It is a world of abstraction, created by a sophisticated mind. It is worth noting that the word ‘sophisticated’ comes from the Latin ‘sophisticatus’ meaning ‘tampered with’.
In the garden of innocence, which represents childhood, the purity of the human being was tampered with, as the appealing words of the snake encouraged Eve to bite the apple. The biting of the apple represents the consumption of conceptual information, of ‘knowledge’, which then becomes part of our body, as food does. So not only the mind but also the body became contaminated. It became susceptible to death, to strife and suffering, to inner conflict, division and disease. It was quite literally poisoned by knowledge, as was the mind in its becoming fragmented, divided and dualistic. A divided mind can only perceive a divided world; a world of conflicting and disturbing information which masquerades as desirable and factual ‘knowledge’.
The word ‘knowledge’ makes it seem somewhat valuable, but it would be more accurate to say ‘abstraction’, which is truly an illusion. A pure, child-like mind does not perceive this illusory and divided world; it perceives a unified and divine world, undivided and interconnected. The world is perceived through the heart, rather than the mind, and because in essence this world is a material minifestation of the divine, creative and deeply harmonious energy of Love, it can only be correctly perceived with our heart. This is how we ‘see’ clearly, and it is a deeper seeing; intuitive and heartfelt, rather than superficial and conceptual.
Consider the symbolic meaning of the two trees mentioned in Genesis as being in the Garden of Eden: The Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One tree offers eternal life, the other brings expulsion from the perfect realm which is Eden, and the end innocence. These trees represent your mind and your heart. The Tree of Life is your heart, whereas the Tree of Knowledge is your mind.
So it is made clear that Adam and Eve should steer clear of trying to understand God, to understand the nature of their existence. This is knowledge, and it comes at the great expense of the heart. They are told to enjoy the Tree of Life, which means to revel in the heart’s delights, to be joyful, blissful, happy without reason. This is why they were created; to live in communion and to enjoy the beauty of where they found themselves. Nothing more was needed, all was perfect.
But in the Tree of Knowledge (i.e. in the mind) there is a voice that speaks, (the ego) and it speaks with a forked tongue (it speaks of duality). You only have to listen to your own thoughts to see this is true. The ego divides the world. It says there is ‘me’ and then there is ‘the rest of the world’. The ego judges. It creates opposition to itself, simply by taking a position, an thus conflict is born. The ego is the voice of separation and division, and thus suffering. This is the serpent in the tree. It is the voice of the essentially fearful ego, in your own mind.
But your heart does not experience division, it experiences union. It feels your connection to higher divine forces, it experiences communion and joy. Nothing is lacking whatsoever from the experience the heart brings to us, as it is totally fulfilling. But the snake whispers on, enticing us to taste the fruit of its tree and attempt to understand it all, to understand the purpose and meaning of everything, to understand the secrets of the universe. Who can deny that this is tempting?
It sounds deeply appealing, but the reality is that it means entering a completely different, more shallow, shadowy and cerebral realm of consciousness that does not engage our heart, our ‘Tree of Life’. We must enter the realm of thought, we must climb the Tree of Knowledge to pick its fruit, and accept the great consequence of doing so: the loss of the purity of divine awareness, and the ‘falling’ into dualistic awareness, of good AND bad, of light AND dark, of joy AND sorrow, of truth AND deceit. Essentially, it is the birth of spiritual darkness, the birth of suffering, pain, isolation and despair.
If a person experientially understood the full consequences of making such a choice, they would never choose it, because it means the loss of everything that is truly sustaining to our soul. It means losing sight of the beauty and divinity of the unified wholeness, completeness and perfection of Reality.
As adults we perceive the individual waves, named in their myriad of shapes, sizes, colours and functions whereas the unconditioned child’s mind perceives the ocean as a whole, unnamed and undivided. This is very much to do with the fact that children are open-minded towards everything, holding no prejudice. They are open-hearted also, because they have no reason to expect that life will hurt them, so they do not close their hearts in fear of life as adults tend to do.
Young children do not try and hide who they truly are, and masquerade like adults do. They are genuine, open, honest and un-self-conscious. They are free. This is evident from their enjoyment and comfort of being naked outdoors (as Adam and Eve originally were); to run around, play and interact, totally free of self-consciousness. For a child, the natural world is paradise, a magical playground. It is fascinating and absorbing. They demand nothing from it, they just want to explore it and immerse themselves in it. Unless they hurt themselves in some way, there is very little concern about their own self. They forget themselves very easily.
But what does our society teach children? It teaches them to focus upon themselves; to become concerned about their appearance, to be insecure about how they appear to others, to carefully present themselves in a self-conscious and well thought-out way, not only sartorially but also in terms of their personality. The freedom and courage to show yourself exactly as you are is not encouraged. Quite the opposite.
And what does society do to the minds of children? As soon as it can, it begins to educate them in the ways of ‘knowledge’, to sophisticate their mind. Even as parents, we start to explain the world in terms of facts and information, so that our children begin to relate to the world through these conceptual filters very early on. This is totally normal in our society, and who would question the wisdom of doing so?
But what happens to our children as they absorb more and more information, facts, and knowledge about the world and how society operates? Do they become happier, more creative, more inspired, or do they become top-heavy, more cerebral, more detached from their life-force, their feelings and their enthusiasm for living? Essentially we train them to become well-adjusted, functional and productive members of society, so that they can contribute to and hopefully improve the world. But what is the cost of this overburdening of their mind?
As they lose their innocence, their joy, their passion, their sense of wonder and excitement, what are they really contributing to the world? Don’t we need more of these qualities in our increasingly pessimistic and anxious world? Perhaps it is the very absence of these essential qualities among the general population that makes us collectively so negative, depressive, pessimistic, argumentative, critical, judgmental and afraid? We have gotten trapped in an entirely uninspiring and limited conceptual world-view which exists only within our own minds, and we have lost touch with the infinitely more inspiring realm of joy, creativity, excitement, laughter and spontaneity that brings light into our lives and into the world.
We have become adulterated by the dualistic whisperings of knowledge encouraged by our fact-driven society; whisperings that tell us all the things we ought to want to know about the world, and a great deal of it is not very pleasant. We get drawn further and further into our mind, as it’s furnishings become more and more complicated, elaborate, enticing, more detailed and sophisticated. We construct a mental realm which superficially appears to have everything we need, and we try to inhabit it. It provides us with our sense of security, it provides us with all the wants and desires that bring us worldly pleasures and material satisfaction. But there is no joy to be found there; no freedom, no inspiration and awe. These come from our heart.
It is only in the mind where we encounter darkness, doubt, fear, judgement and isolation, because these are all created through the processes of thinking, and they begin to form at a surprisingly young age. Many children are afflicted by these qualities early on in their life, as the adult world encroaches on their world of innocence and wonder. Of course, we say this is just an inevitable part of growing up, but it really depends on how we want our children to mature and operate in this world.
As loving parents, we naturally want them to blossom, grow and flourish happily, to engage deeply with their creativity, with their gifts and passions – not to become anxious, troubled, depressed and frustrated. But sadly this is usually the case in our society, and it can be observed if you look at groups of young adolescents. Inspiration, joy and enthusiasm are clearly lacking. Whereas self-consciousness, anxiety and insecurity are plain to see.
Do we really want to fully ‘adulterate’ our children, and condition their phenomenally brilliant consciousness to the same extent that ours was? Or do we want to do everything we can to keep their innocence, enthusiasm and joy alive, and nurture their sense of being at one with the natural world? Keep in mind that there is literally no substitute for the heart-felt connection to the natural world which children instinctively posses. It is an essential part of our identity, as we are expressions of our natural habitat, which is what the natural world is. We are a part of it. We have a deep inter-relationship with it, that goes far beyond what we can understand, and it is vital to our creativity and to our deeper enjoyment of life.
So it is crucial to understand that if these deeply positive and essential aspects of a child’s personality fade away and become forgotten by them, it is a momentous challenge to re-inspire them. Do you know how to restore a child’s sense of innocence, joy, enthusiasm and connection with the natural world? It is a near impossible task once a child has been burdened down with the full heaviness of our conceptual interpretations of the world and the ideologies of their society.
But eventually, later on in life, healing and transformation will impose themselves in a person’s life. What usually happens is that the ‘adultness’ runs a certain course, and it leads them to a certain distance away from the innocence, vulnerability and freedom of their heart. They become so corrupted by the world (and remember, we are all adulterated children in grown-up bodies) that they will either suffer from depression, a nervous breakdown or some other life crisis, like a life-threatening illness or perhaps even a serious accident. There will be a serious wake-up call at some point in their life which will shake their foundations, and if they are lucky they will realise how deeply lost they had become in their mental mis-understandings about the nature of the world and themselves. They will realise how far away from their heart, from their true self, they had strayed and as a result they will strive to re-orient themselves within its gravitational field. This is a kind of ‘rebirth’, a new beginning where we are given the opportunity to reconstruct our dwelling-place upon the rock-solid foundation of compassion, gratitude and love, rather than upon the sands of conceptual knowledge.
We can all return to the Garden of Eden, back to a state of innocence and joy, humility and gratitude. We were not banished by a divine force; we were simply poisoned by knowledge. As a result, we became deeply mentally unwell and thus deeply lost in a very disturbing nightmare, in which we turned our back on everything that we could ever have possibly longed for (paradise) in favour of the illusory promise of something greater which never existed in the first place. It was a chase for the mirage of some future reward, some future haven, created by our own thoughts, which we could never ever reach, because it never existed.
Once we realise this, we will see that Eden exists before our very eyes and always has done. We were simply blind to it. It is the beautiful marriage between our heart and the Earth, the latter being a reflection of the former. As our heart becomes stronger, purer and unadulterated by the toxicity of conceptual ‘knowledge’, we can perceive the world through the heart’s divine lens. As love looks out upon the world, it sees itself everywhere, expressed in a way that enables it to communicate with itself in a state of deep joy and ecstasy, like two lovers caressing each other in full awareness that they are one and the same consciousness, looking out through different eyes. Indeed, we are all this, but many of us are still looking at the nightmare playing upon the screen of our own mind, believing its story, its projection of the future, when we could be beholding and enjoying the true divinity of life.
Knowledge corrupted and poisoned us all, making us argue, judge, fight, hate, and suffer when there was absolutely no need for any of this, because none of it was ultimately true. We were sick; deeply unwell, and afraid, and much of our suffering was created through our deep and primal need to feel secure in what seemed like a very threatening world.
But we will be healed of all of this, as we simply decide to renounce all that we think we know, by realising its illusory nature. If we want to know what is true, if we wish to be illuminated by the highest truth we must turn our attention towards our own heart, for it is there we find the depth and meaning that we were searching for in our understanding of the world. There is truly nothing to understand in the world that will illuminate our soul in the way we are longing for.
The sense of awe and magnificence, freedom and joy that we encounter as we learn to fully occupy our heart is indescribable. Suffice to say that it fulfils every need that we have, including the need for total security and safety. The need to hide in fear evaporates and we can live in the full presence of the higher consciousness that we have hidden from for so very long. We were never punished, and we will never be punished, for all punishment is self-inflicted.
When we are cold and we deeply crave the warmth of the Sun, it is simply self-denial to go and hide in a cave. The Sun cannot reach in there and find you. You have to step out into its light and know that it will not harm you. It will warm you to your very core, it will heal all your woes and illuminate all your misunderstandings about what is real. The shadows of doubt will vanish. The coldness and darkness will become distant memories, and you will remember once again how to dwell in the realm which is your original home, as security, trust and joy are fully restored to your loving and thankful heart.
“Develop the strength of your heart”
“We are but children, innocently longing to find our way back
to the world of joy, freedom and happiness we once knew..”