The following is excerpted from Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story, recently published by Sounds True.

Imagine, if you will, one fair morning in the Garden of Eden. Eve is aimlessly meandering through organic rose bushes and fragrant sage grasses, when suddenly she encounters a truly tremendous tree:

“Holy Mother of Gawd!” she most likely gasps.

The tree glows with life. Its vibrant bark and dancing leaves positively shine with knowledge, consciousness, and what we today know as gold body glitter.

Under the bright sun, the tree appears to wink at Eve, and the ripe Red fruit pulses to the rhythm of her fiercely beating heart.

Eve vaguely remembers some sort of lecture from The Father about “forbidden tree” or “forbidden fruit” or “forbidden knowledge” or “forbidden something or other,” but she’s so taken with this tree’s stunning beauty that she brushes that external, stern voice of warning away and allows her body to respond instinctually, naturally. In other words, she lets this numinous piece of Mother Nature totally rock her world.

Suddenly, a serpent sinuously reveals herself from behind the tree. She raises her elegant head, looks Eve straight in the eye, and seductively whispers:

Psssst, hey there, sssweet sssista. You have the right to Know your self, your divinity, your messssy mighty Feminine mojo. Not only the right, but you have the responsibility. And get this: you can only truly Know your self via lived experience, by bravely walking your unique path. But in order to start the journey, you gotta stop playing this whole infantile “spiritual” innocence game. Get out from under the tree of your Big Daddy and take the first steps toward becoming a spiritual adult.

In other words, take a bite of freedom, grab a fig leaf, and let’s blow this joint.

There’s a pregnant pause. A holy hush. An intuitive nod. And Eve, for the first time in her previously curtailed existence, gets a twinkle in her eye, a Red flush in her cheeks (both sets). She slowly reaches out, extends her left arm, plucks a bright Red apple from the tree, raises it to her moist and open mouth, and takes a huge, juicy, loud bite — the noise of which can be heard throughout all of existence, thoroughly and completely disturbing the Universe.

Girl Gone Wild

We all know that Eve does not exactly have the best reputation in Western culture. Her story is often interpreted as an example of what not to do, of a choice not to make, of a fruit not to bring to your parish priest. Specifically, Eve is believed to be the cause of original sin (according to popular Christian theologies), and therefore, women have unconsciously inherited an archaic spiritual reputation of being sinful, disobedient, untrustworthy, dangerous,
and sexual temptresses.

As scholar Elaine Pagels documented in her book Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, one early Church leader, Tertullian, told women: “You are the devil’s gateway. . . . You are she who persuaded him who the devil did not dare attack. . . . Did you not know that every one of you is an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex lives on. . . . The guilt, of necessity, lives on too.”

Now, we’re intelligent, liberated, modern people who might not think we need to take these creation stories or the early Church’s misguided misogynistic missions seriously (especially if we were raised in another religious tradition or have purposefully created a nonreligious household). But what I encourage you to take seriously are the effects those missions might still have on your body, your sexuality, your spirituality, and your psyche. As Sue Monk Kidd states in Dance of the Dissident Daughter:

To understand why the Eden story is so important we have to remember the extraordinary way origin myths operate in our psyches. In a way humans are not made of skin and bones as much as we’re made of stories. The Eden myth perhaps more than any other floats in our cells, informing our vision of ourselves and the world.

This brief interlude is also not just about shaking a well-manicured Red fingernail at the early Church or giving you a slightly dry lecture on religious history or feminist theology; it’s intended to be an electric reminder that spiritual stories, characters, and symbols are fluid and open, and the Divine wisdom they carry is dynamic and interactive and is supposed to evolve through us.

It’s our right — I would go so far as to say our duty — to bring forth new or alternative “truths” about old spiritual myths, symbols, texts, and especially the Divine Itself, even if these new truths don’t exactly reflect the religious culture at large.

A few years after I revisioned the Eve story, I discovered that it wasn’t too far from certain early Christian Gnostic interpretations of the Genesis myth. Turns out some Gnostics viewed Eve not as some floozy floundering sinner, but as an illuminated liberator. As Elaine Pagels explains: “Whereas the orthodox [early Church] often blamed Eve for the fall and pointed to women’s submission as appropriate punishment, Gnostics often depicted Eve — or the feminine spiritual power she represented — as the source of spiritual awakening.”

According to the Gnostic text Reality of the Rulers, when Adam first saw Eve: “He said, ‘It is you who have given me life: you shall be called Mother of the Living [Eve].’”4  And in the Gnostic text The Secret Book of John, Eve was written about as An Awakener of the Soul, and the “perfect primal intelligence” who, Elaine Pagels declares in Adam Eve and the Serpent, called out to Adam (and to all of us) “to wake up, recognize her, and so receive spiritual illumination.”

Wake Up!

Recognize Her!


Receive Spiritual Illumination!

Perhaps Eve knew that we can only grow so much in a perfect garden with way too many perfect fruit trees and that it’s our natural birthright and inspired impetus to trade our halos for hammers, hula hoops, and apple tattoos. In other words, perhaps Eve knew we were here not just to be something but also to become someone. Perhaps Eve was leading humanity away from an externalized, stagnant, subservient relationship with an overly masculine Divine and toward an internalized, evolutionary, and more co-creative relationship with the masculine and feminine Divine.

The point is, no matter how Eve’s been construed by Western religions, she’s still talking. We just hafta have the ears to hear. In the Gnostic text The Secret Book, Eve says, “Whoever hears . . . Arise and remember . . . and follow your root, which is I . . . and beware of the deep sleep.”6 What’s the “deep sleep,” you ask? Well, in my opinion, it’s a numbed-out and dumbed-out state of being that stifles your Divine Knowing. Some snooze-inducing culprits: the matrix, patriarchy, political propaganda, social climbing, spiritual subterfuge, too much white sugar, gossip mags, and certain reality TV shows.

Now that we are a bit clearer on the meaning behind Eve’s cryptic warning to us about the “deep sleep,” I really think that last part of her text deserves repeating and probably should be written in Red lipstick on your mirror or at least the side of a church:

“Arise and remember . . . and follow your root, which is I (Eve) . . . and beware of the deep sleep.”

P.S. Don’t hit the Snooze Button

Teaser image by madlyinlovewithlife, courtesy of Creative Commons license.