Paramhansa Yogananda was the most influential yogi of the 20th century, making knowledge of the concept of yoga virtually universal in America during and beyond his lifetime. He wrote the famous Autobiography of a Yogi which has become a a spiritual classic.
In the higher worlds fact is also allegory–that is the nature of those worlds. The story of Adam and Eve in Paradise (not in this material world) has a historical basis, but a most important meaning for those who aspire to higher life and consciousness. Therefore the following passage from Chapter Sixteen of Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi is of great value to us. (Editor’s Note.)
“The Adam and Eve story is incomprehensible to me!” I observed with considerable heat one day in my early struggles with the allegory. “Why did God punish not only the guilty pair, but also the innocent unborn generations?”
Master was more amused by my vehemence than my ignorance. “Genesis is deeply symbolic, and cannot be grasped by a literal interpretation,” he explained. “Its ‘tree of life’ is the human body. The spinal cord is like an upturned tree, with man’s hair as its roots, and afferent and efferent nerves as branches. The tree of the nervous system bears many enjoyable fruits, or sensations of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In these, man may rightfully indulge; but he was forbidden the experience of sex, the ‘apple’ at the center of the bodily garden. [“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Genesis 3:2-3]
“The ‘serpent’ represents the coiled-up spinal energy which stimulates the sex nerves. ‘Adam’ is reason, and ‘Eve’ is feeling. When the emotion or Eve-consciousness in any human being is overpowered by the sex impulse, his reason or Adam also succumbs. [“The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. The woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Genesis 3:12-13]
“God created the human species by materializing the bodies of man and woman through the force of His will; He endowed the new species with the power to create children in a similar ‘immaculate’ or divine manner. [“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Genesis 1:27-28.] Because His manifestation in the individualized soul had hitherto been limited to animals, instinct-bound and lacking the potentialities of full reason, God made the first human bodies, symbolically called Adam and Eve. To these, for advantageous upward evolution, He transferred the souls or divine essence of two animals. [“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7.] In Adam or man, reason predominated; in Eve or woman, feeling was ascendant. Thus was expressed the duality or polarity which underlies the phenomenal worlds. Reason and feeling remain in a heaven of cooperative joy so long as the human mind is not tricked by the serpentine energy of animal propensities.
“The human body was therefore not solely a result of evolution from beasts, but was produced by an act of special creation by God. The animal forms were too crude to express full divinity; the human being was uniquely given a tremendous mental capacity–the ‘thousand-petaled lotus’ of the brain–as well as acutely awakened occult centers in the spine.
“God, or the Divine Consciousness present within the first created pair, counseled them to enjoy all human sensibilities, but not to put their concentration on touch sensations. [“Now the serpent (sex force) was more subtil than any beast of the field” (any other sense of the body).-Genesis 3:1.] These were banned in order to avoid the development of the sex organs, which would enmesh humanity in the inferior animal method of propagation. The warning not to revive subconsciously-present bestial memories was not heeded. Resuming the way of brute procreation, Adam and Eve fell from the state of heavenly joy natural to the original perfect man.
“Knowledge of ‘good and evil’ refers to the cosmic dualistic compulsion. Falling under the sway of maya through misuse of his feeling and reason, or Eve–and Adam–consciousness, man relinquishes his right to enter the heavenly garden of divine self-sufficiency. The personal responsibility of every human being is to restore his ‘parents’ or dual nature to a unified harmony or Eden.”