When God first created the Earth he put man in the Garden of Eden. Eden has been translated as meaning: paradise and delightful, as well as fruitful. It was a garden with fruits of many kinds. Fruit can be seen as a source of nutrition and therefore, life and power. Fruit is technically the ovule of the plant, containing its seed, or embryo, the beginning of new life of a new plant. This garden was the place where Adam and then Eve were like the two gametes inside the enclosure or ‘paradeisos’ (Greek word,meaning literally, enclosed park). This was the beginning of life for mankind.
God created an earth that He pronounced as “good”. God, being the fountain of all goodness, could not make anything ‘bad’. Therefore, God’s initial creation was good, and a place of delight and goodness. But within this paradise were the seeds of possibility and discord that were waiting to be released.
God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of all the fruits in the garden, but of the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they were forbidden to eat. They were told if they did eat of it they would “surely die”. This is because within the seeds of this fruit were the beginnings of not just good, but also evil. Knowledge could only be attained through a full mortal experience, a school- ground that would contain contrasts. For one way that people learn is through contrasts. We learn what is good by seeing the bad and comparing the two. We know light by knowing its absence and we know cold by experiencing hot. Although we do realize now that these opposites are not really opposites, but are actually on a continuum. But as we all know, continuums, or number lines, have two sides, positive and negative, which could be called opposites. With these opposites, we experience opposition. Where there is one side of the coin there is the opposite side. But you can’t pick up the coin without picking up both sides.
Eve partook of the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil when the Devil in the form of the subtle serpent, tempted her by saying if she took of this fruit she would become as God, knowing good from evil. The Devil was truthful in saying that through this she could gain knowledge and wisdom and be on the path towards becoming like God, but he also told a lie, saying “and thou shalt not surely die.” The Devil intimated to Eve that she could have the good part without the bad, that she could pick up one side of the coin, but not the other. But of course this was not the case.
Before the earthly life, the Devil had wanted much the same thing. When told of the Plan of Salvation, the Devil’s alternative plan was that he would go down and make sure that everyone was saved and all would make it back to Heavenly Father. He also asked for the glory to be his because of this. He wanted everything to go right through his power. But he did not want the risk of free choice. He wanted all the good, but didn’t seem to realize that his version of good could not come without bad. He did not realize that the plan would have to include risk and opposition in order for people to learn and grow. People do not learn and grow when they have no choice and are forced to do this or that or have everything done for them. The Devil wanted all the good things without the sacrifice and risks that would have to come.
In contrast, Jesus Christ understood and took on the responsibility of the great sacrifice that would be needed. He took on this responsibility as the preeminent Firstborn and most developed and perfected son of God. He also offered up the Glory to God, not asking for himself the glory.
So the Devil was trying to deceive Eve with his typical way of trying to entice her to take all the good glory to herself and not worry about the consequences. Eve partook, perhaps wanting to progress and follow God’s commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth. Perhaps she was tempted by the idea of goodness without the consequences, but after she partook, she realized, at that point, with the inklings of knowledge of good and evil, and her conscience having pricked her, she realized what she had done in transgressing the commandment and perhaps knew she would be cast out, so she told Adam he should also partake so they could be together. Or perhaps she wanted Adam to have the same knowledge she had. I don’t know the exact details of course. But she did partake of this fruit and so did Adam, and from that time on they were cast out of the Garden, from Paradise, from God’s presence, to the world where contrasts existed and where the principles of entropy prevailed wherein in order to survive mankind had to work. In this world, estranged from God, the creator and organizer and fountain of all good, they had to experience sorrow in order to understand joy and had to feel pain in order to appreciate pleasure.
When casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden, God placed “at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24) in order to keep Adam and Eve from partaking of that fruit and living forever in their fallen state.
The Tree of Life contains the fruit which has been described as “sweet and pure and white” above all that is sweet and pure and white. It has been interpreted as the Love of God and is basically, Eternal Life, or all the blessings of God given to his heirs, who will find joy living again with God in eternal splendor and love. This is the end result of the plan of salvation and is the fruits of really becoming as God is.
But Adam and Eve and all mankind now have to work towards this tree through following the Gospel plan. In the Book of Mormon is recorded the vision of Lehi and his son Nephi who both saw the vision of the rod of iron leading to the Tree of Life. The rod of iron was interpreted as meaning the word of God. Therefore, through following the word of God mankind could reach Eternal Life. The Word of God could be seen as the commandments of God. As Jesus said, “Man lives by every word that proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God” (Mathew 4:4).
But Jesus himself has also been described as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. “ (John 1:1) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Therefore, the idea is that if man follows the commandments of God through the Son, Jesus Christ, they will reach the Tree of Life or Eternal Life, Exaltation, or all that God has to give us.
This is the Plan of Salvation and the growth and development of man.
Once in the mortal world of opposites and opposition, the objective of mankind becomes unifying the disparate elements, taking the divisions and opposites and bringing them together in one. This can be seen in a number of different elements. For example, the man and the woman come together in unity to create a family unit and procreate with God to multiply and increase.
Also, mankind, having been separated from God, seeks reunification with God, through the AtONEment wrought by Jesus Christ, the mediator, and the one who performed the great sacrifice.
In Buddhism we also see a tradition of seeking unification. In this tradition, mankind tries to make sense of the duality of the universe and in order to overcome pain and suffering the Buddhist seeks to transcend the dualities of good and evil and reach a state of Nirvana or Original Mind in which they become one with the universe or with God by sublimating the individual to the oneness of the universe. Adherents seek oneness of mind with their body and their actions. In this way they gain control over themselves and are not controlled by their circumstances.
Other traditions also seek harmony and equilibrium in their environments and in their souls. The extremes of the continuum are avoided and the unity of the middle way is sought after.