Paradise Within

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.Genesis 2:8

Dear members & friends,

The Garden of Eden is considered the ultimate paradise for three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The garden was formed and planted by the Creator, and in it there is no cruelty, no violence, and no death. According to the Bible, being driven away from the Garden of Eden caused humans to encounter death, suffering, and all hardships necessary for survival. Finding a way back to the Garden of Eden has been and still is the goal for many Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

The Hebrew word for the garden is gan, which means garden, but also enclosure. According to an English dictionary, enclosure means “an area that is sealed off with an artificial or natural barrier.” It becomes clearer with the root word of gan, which is ganan, meaning “to cover, to defend, or to surround.” Thus, it is safe to assume that the Garden of Eden in Genesis is not exactly identical with the garden(s) that we normally encounter and visit. At the same time, most likely the Garden of Eden is meant to describe an actual and physical garden. God planted this garden in the east of Eden. In Hebrew, the word eden means pleasure. The Garden of Eden could mean the ideal state of being, which was defended (or surrounded) by the divine power and was filled with pleasure.

Emanuel Swedenborg explains that “the garden symbolizes intelligence, Eden love, and the east the Lord. So the garden on the east of Eden symbolizes the intelligence of heavenly people, which comes to them from the Lord, love being the conduit.” (Secrets of Heaven #98) Swedenborg’s interpretation of the Garden of Eden presents us with an ideal state of being as a human whose intelligence stems from the inner love from the divine. In other words, God gave humans higher intelligence as the means through which humans might find an appropriate way to channel love from God. If humans were to use their intelligence for any other purpose, essentially it is the perversion of the divine order.

Lastly, the Garden of Eden symbolizes the pure, perfect and innocent way that all humans begin their life. Many challenges and hardships in life may make us tough, anxious, and fearful of each other, but if we were to look deeply within our mind, the God-planted Garden of Eden is still there and waiting for us to return. In other words, the path to the Garden of Eden is neither lost or blocked by God, but trivialized by our very self.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee