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Some of those things may seem really kind of need; the question is – what do they all have to do with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil? If the snake’s temptation takes the form of giving mankind this fruit, fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, what does that have to do with this ideas of desire and all that and the snake? And how do we understand what that all means?
So, in other to really understand what the Tree of Knowledge means, I think what we need to do is to analyze the Tree. The question is – how do you analyze the Tree? You know, even if you imagine this Tree over here, you know, my lousy sketch of the Tree, so how do you analyze it? You take sap samples from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil…probably won’t give you the kind of knowledge you are looking for. Really, you have to analyze the only tools that we have to understand the Tree with just language.
We have the language. The Hebrew words which the Torah uses to describe this Tree and those Hebrew words are; there is the Tree of Knowledge on the one hand and there is knowledge of Good and Evil on the other hand. Those two ideas, idea number one over and idea number two.
And to really understand those ideas we are going to want to look at how they appear in the original Hebrew. Again, a translation with this kind of stuff is always going to be a proximate. You can want to try to understand what does the word mean in its original Hebrew?
And how then do you find out what the Hebrew word means? You might say, well, let’s just look at dictionary, we will find out what it means. Look at the Hebrew equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary. But, of course, the question is – how does the dictionary know? How does the dictionary know what the word means? And how do you know whether they are trusted dictionary?
Really, the tool that you need is not really a dictionary, but it’s something called a concordance. The concordance is the book which will tell you where it is that words appear in the bible. Because, really, the way that you understand something is you understand the word through its context, you understand a word the way the word is used.
We Infer the Meaning of Words by Seeing How They are Used
If you think about popular software programs like RosettaStone, RosettaStone doesn’t have any translation, whatsoever. All it would do is help you understand things by using it, by having actual speakers of that language used the words in different context and you figure out what it means by how it is used. It’s much more intuitive way of understanding something. This solves the real question. It’s how does the bible use this words; the word for Knowledge on the one hand and the word for Good and Evil on the other hand?
So let’s take a look at that: how are these words actually used. So start with “Knowing”. What does “Knowing” mean in the bible? So the first time “knowing” appears is really in the earlier on in Genesis. [Inaudible] look at Genesis for what this word means. So we have a pretty conventional use of the word over here.
In chapter 3 we talked about this actually, when the serpent is tempting Eve and says, ‘Oh, don’t worry; you are not going to die. Really, God knows that on the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
So, here, this use of the word “Knowing” is really a fairly conventional use of the term. Knowledge in the sense of a mind coming to understand something, I would say, is the way most of us will understand the idea of knowledge.
But the next time the Torah uses the word over here in chapter 4, we get a kind of a very different view if it. ‘The man knew his wife Eve.’ And this is, of course, the famous biblical sense of “Knowing”. As a euphemism, we might say, for physical intimacy between man and woman. Except that we might argue that it’s not actually of euphemism, but it’s actually a direct definition. These are two definitions of the world: definition of one and definition two.
So the real $64,000 question here is – if you take this two ideas, physical intimacy between man and woman and the mind coming to understand, someone coming to understand something, what’s the common denominator, where does this ideas meet? What’s the common denominator between those ideas? How do we understand that?
What does physical intimacy between man and woman have to do with understanding something?
So let’s start with mind coming to understand thing. Let’s talk about that for a minute. If you think about coming to understand things, in Western Philosophy we call that “Epistemology”, the study of knowledge of how people come to know.
So you have different kinds of philosophers, different kinds of really a dispute in the history of epistemology; in fact, how anybody comes to know anything. You have empiricism on the one hand and you have rationalism on the other.
Rationalist philosophers, maybe guys Kant or Descartes or this folk would say that: the only thing that you can really trust is your mind; experience can lie to you. Because, as Descartes says: maybe I am going to dream, you know! What I am going to dream, things feel real; how do I know that my experience is real? If I think something that makes sense, if I experience my mind thinking, so I can trust my mind. But that’s really the only thing I can trust.
Kant believes that certain categories of understanding which are a priority; and all of these things are facets of rationalist philosophy. They basically says, “The mind is the key; you know through your head.”
Rationalism says: You “Know” something when your mind comprehends it.
But then there is a whole other school of philosophy which basically says, “No, that’s not true, experience is what can be trusted and it’s the mind that can lie.”
So, for example, if you look at quantum physics, we talked about that before, quantum physics, there is just crazy kind of stuffs going on. There are things that you don’t know whether they are here or there; they are neither here nor there, electrons.
We talked about Heisenberg. “You can have an idea - it might be here, it might be there at the same time.”
And Einstein going crazy and saying, “That is ridiculous. God doesn’t play dice with the universe. It’s impossible that such things which don’t make sense could actually be true.”
But the Empiricists [inaudible] – “If you can show it to me in lab, if you can demonstrate it, I will believe it. It’s experience that matters.”
Empiricists: If you can demonstrate something by experiment, by experience…no matter how strange the result is to your mind, you must believe it.
Well, if we get back to this idea of “da’at”, knowledge. Here is the Hebrew word for knowledge – it’s “da’at”. So, which of these two does it seem like or after? It will seem like “da’at” is more associated with empirical knowledge. It’s knowing something by coming to experience it. And that seems to be the common denominator that [inaudible].
If we identify “da’at” as “Knowledge gained through experience”, we are well on our way to figuring things out…
Let’s go back to that idea. We asked - what is the link between this? Well, the link is kind of evident. It depends what we might be coming to understand. Not really coming to understand through mind, but coming to understand through experience.
If you think about what is it that the man wants when the man knows his wife, what is the man seeking when he wants to know his wife Eve. He doesn’t want to cognize her in a mental kind of way. Actually, it’s probably impossible for the man to really understand deeply in a mental way feminists. He is not feminine, he is masculine.
But he wants to have a visceral kind of understanding and experience of the feminine. Yes, of course, one motivation for intimacy is pleasure. The pleasure isn’t just it. Beyond pleasure, there is actually knowledge that the man is seeking. He wants to come to know this mysterious feminine that whom never really understand in a direct experiential kind of way.
And now that brings us back to the tree. If we are going to argue that the Tree of Knowledge is an empiricist kind of knowledge, and experiential kind of knowledge, a direct visceral experience, so then, that’s really kind of interesting.
We are saying that this Tree of Knowledge, actually, we have been mistaking all along; we have been thinking about it as sort of something that changes the way you think. It may change the way you think, but it does that through something more visceral than thinking it’s really an experience of right and wrong. It’s a way of coming to know right and wrong in a direct experiential kind of way.
In Hebrew, by the way, the word “da’at”, that word for “knowledge”; in cabalistic thought, the word “da’at” is actually associated with the idea of connection, of reaching out and touching. And maybe, by the way, it’s no coincidence that it’s actually the fruit of this Tree that you actually experience. And that’s the way that you come to know good and evil in different kind of way. You have some sort of direct connection to it.
So, the question is that – what does that mean? That’s like very abstract. That’s even like weird. If you would talk about direct experience of something, like you say ice cream, so you understand what direct experience of ice cream is. You know, you lead me to BR Baskin Robbins, I have some [inaudible] ice cream, I eat it, I understand [inaudible] ice cream, I get up; I have directly viscerally experience. I may not be able to explain it, but I understand it.
But, if you are telling that, no, that we are having direct experience on is not ice cream, but it’s actually something else, it’s good and evil, what does that mean? What does it mean? What does that mean to have a experiential, visceral connection understanding to good and evil?
What does it mean to have direct experience of “good and evil”?
That mystery is the mystery of this Tree and that is what we are going to have to decide for if we really want to understand the snake’s temptation. We are going to do that when we come back next time. I will see you then
1. The Lullaby Effect
2. Kinds of Questions
3. The Mystery of the Pre-Tree World
4. The Tale of Two Trees
5. Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle
6. The Primal Serpent
7. A Perplexing Temptation
8. A Naked Paradox
9. A Snake in the Garden
10. Beasts of the Field
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. What Does It Mean to Know?
13. A World of Broccoli and Pizza
14. Are All Dilemmas Created Equal?
15. The Phantom Boxer
16. The I of the Beholder
17. The Filter of Desire
18. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Disc Jockey
19. Epilogue: God as Knower of Good and Evil (Premium)
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