For better or worse, humans were always fascinated by snakes. We go a long way back and, similarly to spiders, snakes in human symbolism represent mortal danger as well as wisdom of efficient, stealthy, and cunning predator. They evoke disgust and fear, which are even encoded in our evolutionary makeup, and almost reverent respect alike.
Considering also the peculiar feature of shedding their skin and the weird fact that some species are known to attempt to consume their own bodies, it’s no wonder then that we can find snake as a universal metaphor for cycle of life (but also creation in general, in essence, the principle of change that drives the whole world of phenomena, that is to say, Universe) in human cultures all around the Earth. As you may have guessed, I’m talking about the famous symbol of Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail.
While the first known depiction of Ouroboros dates back to 14th century BCE, Egypt, and the symbol is in various forms present across cultures all throughout the world (Yin-Yang, Ensō, etc.), the oldest mention of the concept can be, surprisingly, found in the Book of Genesis. Even though most scholars date the composition of the book to late 2nd to early 1st millennium BCE, from the semantic point of view the concept of Ouroboros present in there must have originated during the transition from Copper Age to Bronze Age around 4000 BCE.
Coincidentally, this was the era when first vanguards of Proto-Indo-Europeans from Pontic-Caspian steppe, the home of Cannabis Sativa, arrived to Levant and brought with them the precursor of what would later become Zoroastrianism, Judaism, as well as Vedic Hinduism respectively. And as a side note, it was also the age when hierarchic model of civilization took firm roots in Sumer and adjacent areas.
But let’s go back to Ouroboros and Book of Genesis. Obviously, as everyone even remotely familiar with the story knows, the only significant snake character in that tale is the infamous serpent whispering to Eve, tempting her to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Here’s where the semantic point of view comes into play.
In Hebrew, the snake is called “Ha Nachash”, literally “The Snake.” But “nachash” has multitude of other meanings, too. It can mean “to practice divination, divine, observe signs, practice fortunetelling, take as an omen, to divine, to make action dependent on an omen, to augur,” as well as “learn by experience” or “diligently observe.” Furthermore, it can denote “copper” or “bronze,” and finally also “image (of serpent)” and “to whisper.”
In other words, it’s an umbrella term for all means and tools of the world of phenomena a person in 4th millennium BCE had at their disposal to get a survival edge: whispers of intuitive magic, hard earned empirical knowledge, and cutting edge metallurgic technology (see by how much only copper tools are superior to stone ones) and valuables.
Now, you don’t even need to read Genesis to know that, if you listen to the serpent, that is, if you make decisions based on what works best for your survival in the phenomenal world, you will inevitably “eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.” That is, you will start labeling everything in terms of what is or isn’t profitable toward the goal of physical survival.
In that sense, it’s also not a coincidence that Eve was “cracked” first according to the story. Women, as potential mothers, are naturally more prone to be preoccupied with survival and thus all things phenomenal, while men, if they want to be allowed to breed, are expected to provide and thus commit to “eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.” Nowadays, we call it common sense. But is it?
When you are under the spell of the fruit, when you choose to divide the world into good and evil, you lose sight of the big picture and start to love the good and hate the evil. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but, while dividing the world in such a way, humans tend to lose sight of the fact about God which Isaiah 45:7 highlights, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
In other words, by choosing the duality (ultimately, the duality of God and the other) you lose sight of the non-dual reality. You lose sight of the fact which you will find stated in Psalms 82:6 and later paraphrased by Jesus in John 10:34, “I said you are Elohim and all of you are sons of the Most High.” And losing sight of that amounts to death.
Not a physical one, hence why snake’s tempting was successful — Eve saw that she ate and didn’t die — but a death in the real sense. You lose sight of your true nature, you forget your identity with Absolute, your innate immortality. You lose access to the tree of life, which was freely available before. Naturally, you also lose sight of Eden. You become blind to it, which amounts to the same as being driven out (which is a causal result, and causality is “God’s doing”).
First comes doubt, because the relativistic world cannot give absolute answers to anything. That naturally leads to shame and guilt, as is oftentimes the case when results of actions completely miss the intended mark, because there is no absolute anchor or reference point, because the only absolute in this relative world is death. You definitely feel like the world is out to get you; chasing you biting your heel while you try to escape kicking it in its head in futile attempts at self-defense. You live constantly in the place of struggle, pain, and suffering. Exactly where Ouroboros’ mouth meets its tail.
That was the reason why Jesus’ ministry basically revolved around unconditional love; that’s the reason behind not judging and loving your enemies, ultimately, even everything the symbol of the Serpent, or Devil, who’s literally your brother, represents. As should be obvious, “original sin” is not something we are born with. It did not happen in past as a singular event; it happens in present to all of us, and all we inherit are mental and behavioral patterns of our predecessors who went off track. Therefore, believing that someone’s death redeemed you from the way you behave right now is simply ridiculous to say the least.
Of course, stopping categorizing the world, dividing it on good and bad parts and simply ditching the judgmental attitude as bad is just yet-another-meta-trap. You are still under the influence of the fruit, only now judgment is bad while non-judgment is good. As I said above, there is nothing wrong with judgment per se. Without it there sets in that attitude that anything goes, that no one can tell what is good and what is bad. That, however, is just another sophisticated self-delusion and a clear sign of lazy thinking.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with our inherent intuitive perceptual dualism. There’s no need to escape or destroy it. You don’t return to Eden by rejecting the world. You just don’t ask Ouroboros to tell you who you are or what you should do, because it can not answer those questions.
And neither can an Oracle — after all, it’s no different :D