Blavatsky’s Interpretation of the Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
“Were it light alone, inactive and absolute, the human mind could not appreciate nor even realise it (…) According to the views of the Gnostics, these two principles are immutable Light and Shadow, Good and Evil being virtually one and having existed through all eternity, as they will ever continue to exist so long as there are manifested worlds.
This symbol accounts for the adoration by this sect of the Serpent, as the Saviour, coiled either around the sacramental loaf, or a Tau, the phallic emblem. As a Unity, Ennoia and Ophis are the Logos. When separated, one is the Tree of Life (spiritual), the other, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Therefore, we find Ophis urging the first human couple — the material production of Ilda-Baoth, but which owed its spiritual principle to Sophia-Achamoth — to eat of the forbidden fruit, although Ophis represents divine Wisdom.
The serpent, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life, are all symbols transplanted from the soil of India. The Arasa-Maram (அரச மரம்), the banyan tree, so sacred with the Hindus (since Vishnu during one of his incarnations, reposed under its mighty shade and there taught human philosophy and sciences), is called the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. Under the protecting foliage of this king of the forests, the Gurus teach their pupils their first lessons on immortality and initiate them into the mysteries of life and death. The Java-Aleim of the Sacerdotal College are said, in the Chaldean tradition, to have taught the sons of men to become like one of them. (…) for ignorance is death, and knowledge alone gives immortality. (…)
Now it may become comprehensible why the earliest Initiates and Adepts, or the “Wise Men,” for whom it is claimed that they were initiated into the mysteries of nature by the universal mind, represented by the highest angels, were named the “Serpents of Wisdom” and “Dragons;” as also how the first physiologically complete couples — after being initiated into the mystery of human creation through Ophis, the manifested Logos and the androgyne, by eating of the fruit of knowledge — gradually began to be accused by the material spirit of posterity of having committed Sin, of having disobeyed the “Lord God,” and of having been tempted by the Serpent.
So little have the first Christians (who despoiled the Jews of their Bible) understood the first four chapters of Genesis in their esoteric meaning, that they never perceived that not only was no sin intended in this disobedience, but that actually the “Serpent” was “the Lord God” himself, who, as the Ophis, the Logos, or the bearer of divine creative wisdom, taught mankind to become creators in their turn.‡ They never realised that the Cross was an evolution from the “tree and the serpent,” and thus became the salvation of mankind. By this it would become the very first fundamental symbol of Creative cause, applying to geometry, to numbers, to astronomy, to measure and to animal reproduction. According to the Kabala the curse on man came with the formation of woman. The circle was separated from its diameter line. “From the possession of the double principle in one, that is the Androgyne condition, the separation of the dual principle was made, presenting two opposites, whose destiny it was, for ever after, to seek reunion into the original one condition. The curse was this, viz.: that nature, impelling the search, evaded the desired result by the production of a new being, distinct from that reunion or oneness desired, by which the natural longing to recover a lost state was and is for ever being cheated. It is by this tantalizing process of a continued curse that Nature lives.” (Vide “Cross and Circle,” Part II.)
The allegory of Adam being driven away from the “Tree of Life” means, esoterically, that the newly separated Race abused and dragged the mystery of Life down into the region of animalism and bestiality. For, as the Zohar shows, that Matronethah (Shekinah, the wife of Metatron symbolically) “is the way to the great Tree of Life, the Mighty Tree,” and Shekinah is divine grace. As explained: This Tree reaches the heavenly vale and is hidden between three mountains (the upper triad of principles, in man). From these three mountains, the Tree ascends above (the adept’s knowledge aspires heavenward) and then redescends below (into the adept’s Ego on Earth). This Tree is revealed in the day time and is hidden during the night, i.e., revealed to an enlightened mind and hidden to Ignorance, which is night. (See Zohar I., 172, a and b.) “The Tree of the Knowledge of the Good and the Evil grows from the roots of the Tree of Life.” (Comm.) But then also: “In the Kabala it is plainly to be found that “the ‘Tree of Life’ was the ansated cross in its sexual aspect, and that the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ was the separation and the coming together again to fulfil the fatal condition. To display this in numbers the values of the letters composing the word Otz (עץ), tree, are 7 and 9, the seven being the holy feminine number and the nine the number of the phallic or male energy. This ansated cross is the symbol of the Egyptian female-male, Isis-Osiris, the germinal principle in all forms, based on the primal manifestation applicable in all directions and in all senses.”
This is the Kabalistic view of the Western Occultists, and it differs from the more philosophical Eastern or Aryan views upon this subject.† The separation of the sexes was in the programme of nature and of natural evolution; and the creative faculty in male and female was a gift of Divine wisdom. In the truth of such traditions the whole of antiquity, from the patrician philosopher to the humblest spiritually inclined plebeian, has believed. And as we proceed, we may successfully show that the relative truth of such legends, if not their absolute exactness — vouched for by such giants of intellect as were Solon, Pythagoras, Plato, and others — begins to dawn upon more than one modern scientist. He is perplexed; he stands startled and confused before proofs that are being daily accumulated before him; he feels that there is no way of solving the many historical problems that stare him in the face, unless he begins by accepting ancient traditions. Therefore, in saying that we believe absolutely in ancient records and universal legends, we need hardly plead guilty before the impartial observer…” (Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2., pg. 214-17).