Tree of Knowledge

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Michelangelo: Fall of Man and Expulsion from Paradise (ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel)

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Hebrewעץ הדעת טוב ורע °ez had-da°at tôb wâ-râ; Greekτὸ ξύλον τοῦ εἰδέναι γνωστὸν καλοῦ καὶ πονηροῦ to xylon tou eidenai gnōston kalou kai ponērou; Latinlignum sapientiae boni et mali) stands, according to the Genesis account, together with the tree of life in the middle of the Garden of Paradise. Evil is mentioned for the first time in this place in the Bible. The tree of knowledge is, in the language of the Elohim, which they had already developed on the Old Sun, the physical body of man. The tree of life, on the other hand, means the etheric body (Lit.:GA 253, p. 58ff). In a handwritten note by Marie Steiner it says: "Tree of knowledge means human knowledge." (Lit.:GA 265, p. 342)

„This tree of life and this tree of knowledge must have something to do with the human being itself. The prohibition against eating from the tree of knowledge means - you will find this out in the end - that the soul of man should not seek knowledge that clings to the physical body; the present sensual conception arose from this. To "eat of the tree of knowledge" means to unite with the physical body in such a way that the present kind of knowledge - and I described it the other day - brought about by Lucifer, came into being. So the Elohim meant something about the human being itself when they spoke of the tree of knowledge. And again, they must mean something about the human being itself when they speak of the tree of life. One must ask oneself: Yes, how does man see as he sees today? How does he perceive in this way? Because his spiritual-soul, saturated with Lucifer's essence, is embedded in the physical body and undermines it. This was not determined from the outset, that the soul should be embedded in the physical body as it is now. This physical body is the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life is the etheric body. Men, having allowed themselves to be seduced by Lucifer into using their physical body for the knowledge to which we are accustomed, should at least not now also have knowledge through the etheric body. This is denied them.

If one really thinks, my dear friends, one can come to such lines of thought. And then one must ask oneself: Why then do the gods call the physical body the tree of knowledge in their language? Why do they speak of a tree? And why do they call the etheric body the tree of life? Why do they speak of trees?

Well, one can easily understand what is meant in the language of the gods, if one considers that the gods of whom we are speaking had their special evolution during the solar period, that is to say, they absorbed something essential precisely from the solar being. Now consider: old Saturnian times - everything stands on the standpoint of the mineral; old solar times - everything stands on the standpoint of the vegetable. If, then, the gods whom we call the Elohim have acquired the character of their language during the solar time, they will, when they speak out, not speak of that which can only be experienced on the Moon and on the Earth, but of that into which the cosmos has developed up to the solar time, namely, the vegetable. That is why, when they speak in their language, they speak of trees, because they speak in the language of the Sun.“ (Lit.:GA 253, p. 60f)

The Paradise Man was still a dual-sex, hermaphroditic being. Through the Luciferian temptation he became entangled in the Fall and took on a denser physical body than was originally intended. But only through this could he develop an independent I. The fact that man was also denied access to the tree of life was the reason for the separation of the sexes. In fact, the powers of knowledge are transformed or paralysed reproductive powers:

„Physically, we first have the woman who is fertilised from above. The fertilising was the divine spirit in the woman. When the division of the sexes took place, the differentiation occurred in such a way that the spiritual organs of fertilisation were first transformed into organs of wisdom for the female sex. The masculine power that the female had within her transformed the creative power into the organs of wisdom. Thus, half of the creative power remained with the woman; the creative physical power remained with the man. This separation gave rise physically to the spinal cord and the brain with the nerve cords, represented in the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The organ of wisdom is formed in the spinal rings with the spinal cord and its extension in the brain. From then on there is a duality in the human being: These are the two trees in the biblical document, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. It is well known that the bisexual man is forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge. The power that Yahweh had placed in man was: to have His wisdom work in the woman. "Thou shalt not eat of the tree of knowledge" means as much as: Thou shalt not separate the fertilising power and make it independent.- For thereby the woman loses the Yahweh power, the fertilising power. When the woman ate from the tree of knowledge, she laid the foundation for becoming independent in wisdom and thus ceasing to remain a dependent instrument of Yahweh, as He had planned. This is followed by the punishment inflicted by Yahweh. New bodies must come into being, bearing the karma of the previous life, death and being born come into the world.“ (Lit.:GA 93, p. 231ff)

Eating from the tree of knowledge is closely related to the awakening of the I-consciousness.

„One enjoys the fruit of the tree of knowledge if one is able to say "I" to oneself at all.“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 211)

Since the blood is the physical carrier of the I, eating from the tree of knowledge also has a strong influence on the blood. Only with the beginning of lung-breathing did the red blood come into being, which forms the basis for I-consciousness and for conscious knowledge in general, but which was now also seized by the sensual desires. At the same time, however, this also killed the tree of life. The red arterial blood gives rise to the blue venous blood. Rudolf Steiner explains it this way in a lecture on the legend of the wood of the cross:

„When Seth, the son whom God gave to Adam and Eve in place of Abel, who had been murdered, once entered Paradise, he found the two trees, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, intertwined; they intertwined their branches. And from this tree Seth took three seeds at the command of the Angel who guided him. He kept them, and when Adam died, he put the three seeds in his mouth. And out of Adam's grave grew a tree; this tree showed to him who knew how to look a writing in letters of flame; they were the words, "Ehjeh asher ehjeh - I am who was, who is, who will be." Now Seth took wood from this tree that grew out of Adam's grave, and from this wood many things were formed: among others, the staff that was Moses' magic wand. And further on it was planted; formed from it was the gate to Solomon's temple, and later, after it had experienced various other fates, the cross on which the Redeemer hung. Thus the legend brings together the wood of the cross of Golgotha with the tree that grew out of the seeds of the tree of Paradise from the grave of Adam.

This legend conceals the same mystery that I hinted at today. It was meant to say that in primeval times the human race had not yet sunk down to the flesh filled with lust, but was chaste and pure, like the plant that stretches out its calyx to the Sun. Then man came down through the Fall: his flesh was filled with lust. But all that man once had in an innocent state he shall have again when, through the path of knowledge, he shall have created for himself the desireless body, the body as it once was before man entered into knowledge; remember whence the I came. That he no longer has that body is connected with the fact that man has become a lung-breather, that he has been able to form his red blood. Thus man's present form is connected with breathing and blood circulation, and that he could become a bearer of knowledge in the present way.

Now put yourself in the present body. There you can get an idea of how the oxygen flows in, how it excites the red blood, how the red blood runs like a branching tree through the whole body, how the blue blood then runs back, filled with carbonic acid.

You have two trees within you: the red and the blue blood tree. Without these two, man could not exist as an I-bearer. For this, the red blood must be absorbed; that is the way in which our present cognition is brought about. But death was connected with it; for you change the red blood into the blue, carbonated blood. Therefore the Old Testament secret teacher said: Look at you, you have within you the red blood tree; if you had not received this tree, you would never have become a cognisant human being. You have tasted of the tree of knowledge, but at the same time you have been deprived of the possibility of giving life to yourself.

What was formerly a tree of life has become a killing tree; therefore the blue blood tree in us is the tree of death. This is the present state. For the initiate, however, a future state presents itself before the soul, where man has the plant nature in him, where he will change the blue blood back into red blood through the heart apparatus in him. Then he will have transformed the tree of death into a tree of life. Man will then have become an immortal being; what he was on a lower level, he will be again on a higher. The apparatus which is now in the plant he will then have in himself. - So that in Paradise one has a final state of humanity. And Seth's mission was conceived in such a way that he sees what is at the end of time: the balancing of the two principles in man himself.“ (Lit.:GA 100, p. 182ff)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.