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A painting of the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve

The Garden of Eden, or Why we Long for the Unknown


Although we have only known it through literature and dreams, Eden is a place we yearn for in different, pervasive ways.

The Garden of Eden is the symbolic space of perfect harmony, the place in which absolute happiness reigns. It is nothing less than what is speculated to have been that God imagined as the zenith of creation and paradise. But humanity has sought it on Earth as if it were a secret garden. Based on the descriptions in the Bible, it was located in the birthplace of the Tigris and Euphrates River in Northern Iraq, according to the following description in Genesis 2: “A river flows out of Eden to water the garden and from there divides into four rivers”. The text affirms that in the Garden, the river was divided in four branches –– presumably the Tigris, Euphrates, the Blue Nile and Pishon. It has also been speculated it lies in Africa or in the Persian Gulf. But for many medieval writers, the image of Eden was a location for sexuality and human love, associated with linguistic tropes and the literary term locus amoenus (which in Latin means “idyllic place” or “pleasant place”).

Thomas Cole painting of the Garden of Eden

In any case, Eden is our unconscious model par excellence. From that very first garden all the gardens of the world spring forth like small imperfect pieces of a lost paradise. When we imagine Eden we can pick a delicious fruit by merely reaching out for it, run naked without feeling cold or hot and coexist with “all the domestic animals, all the birds, and all the wild animals” (Genesis 2 9:15). The nectars, the juices and silts, the flowers and the alchemical tree of wisdom were all at our disposal in that celestial prototype of simpler times. Times when we were innocent and, above all, times where desire was not born (the stem root of human suffering).

The numerous descriptions of this land evoke the simplest of hedonistic joys. For example, in the “Song of Salomon”: “Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates with the fruits of the orchard with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, there the plants flourish”. But this is an absolute happiness that does not come from unconditional freedom (the forbidden fruit precisely defines the limits), instead, from absence of desire. The serpent introduces the element of desire, and when Eve bites the fruit she simultaneously triggers the first free action and the destruction of paradise.

Isaak Van Oosten painting of the Garden of Eden

Within its mythology (and still for many Christian believers) the magical sphere of paradise is the place of origin and of the end: where man comes from and where— if he lives righteously following the scriptures— he will return. The Jewish tradition, however, which is less attached and more mystical (very much like that of the Middle Ages), states that the Great Eden exists in a purely spiritual and metaphoric level. That it is a place we can access in our resting days and enjoy the golden fruit. In this sense, Eden is the utopia of a mankind that yearns for something only known to him through revery —although we must not forget that, perhaps, life is a dream. It is the fundamental garden where every tree, every flower, every serpent and every fruit is a manifestation of the human nature.


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