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For a long while, I basked in the revelation of divine suffering and ultimate glory. Then the guardian broke the loud silence, saying, “You were led here for the revelation necessary to complete your calling. You are Anava, and as this water of life springs forth from your spirit through your soul to water the world, you will show others the meaning of grace. The prophets have revealed in times past that humility is the root of all grace. Grace alone grants access to this tree of life, but grace has been misunderstood and misapplied during the long dark ages of men on earth.”
He continued, “For a long time the flaming sword has guarded this tree, not to keep people from eating its life-giving fruit, but to discern who is worthy and when. I was given this sword and assigned the task of guarding the tree until men and women came through the proper gates, the gates of praise and thanksgiving. The law of the sword discerns soul and spirit, as well as the thoughts and intents of the heart. All who remain in the estate of Earthyman are forbidden to eat of it, for they were all sold into bondage. No debtor is allowed to eat of this fruit.”
“But does that not include everyone?” I asked. “Who then can eat?” My own desire for that fruit had been growing within me, and I was uncertain if the sword would allow me to access the tree.
“Most of those who walk the earth identify with Earthyman, who is the great debtor,” the guardian explained. “This makes them as unworthy as he. Such people identify with their souls, all of which are derived from the original soul of Earthyman himself. But the flaming sword can distinguish and separate soul from spirit. One who identifies with his spirit is no longer a child of Earthyman, but is begotten by the Spirit of the Mountain. Soul begets soul; spirit begets spirit.”
With a sudden flash of insight, I exclaimed, “I see it now! My soul separated from my spirit when I crossed the great divide and found myself in this place!” Pointing to the dead body dimly visible nearby, I asked him, “Did I leave my soul in that old man when I came into this place?”
“Yes,” he replied, “that is how you crossed through the Gate of Death and Life. Without this separation, the gate would have stopped you—or rather, you never would have found your way here. Flesh and blood cannot pass through the gate. You had to leave it behind you. You are spirit, and for this reason, your consciousness is here and not in the old dead man. If this were not so, you would yet perceive yourself lying upon the grass in that realm.”
“This flaming sword seems quite threatening,” I ventured, “but my heart perceives no threat.”
“That is because your heart is in tune with the sword. The sword has no quarrel with those whose hearts burn with the same flame as that which is in the sword. And because the sword contains the Spirit of the Mountain, it resonates with all who are begotten by that Spirit. To them it is a source of power and life, but to the souls who are part of the soul of Earthyman, this sword is terrifying.”
He continued, “The only reason this sword is an enemy of the soul is because the soul of Earthyman is bound to death. This sword is alive, for it was forged deep in the heart of the Mountain by the word of the Living One. Death fears life. He who fears is yet bound to death. The orange flame is the fiery law from the throne of the Ancient of Days; the blue flame is the sapphire pavement on which the throne sits. The ancient prophets told people to wear a thread of blue to remind them of the law. The blue flame is also the color of sky, for it represents the law of heaven and the Spirit of life.
Then lifting his sword high into the air, the Guardian proclaimed loudly, “The Voice has revealed His righteous nature, which men call the law. It is the standard of universal morality and the reflection of divine character, and it settles for nothing less than this in all that it meets. Mortal souls find it impossible to meet its demands, and so it kills every soul. Yet the same law is also a promise that gives life to every spirit.”
“But how can the same sword mete out both life and death?” I asked.
“It tolerates no deviation from the law,” he replied. “Mortal souls cannot help but fail, but those begotten by the living Spirit are children of light who live by that righteous standard. In their very nature is written the spirit of this law of life.”
I pondered this for a moment in order to understand it fully. Finally, I spoke up with humble boldness, “From the time that I first entered this place, I have desired to eat from this tree of life. Since I have been separated from my soul and am identified with my spirit, may I eat of this fruit?”
He looked into my eyes to search my heart. “Yes,” he said, “for you are a word from the Voice. A flaming sword is within you, bearing witness to my sword.”
I stepped forward and reached out my hand, picking one of many fruits. As I held it in my hand, the living flames from the sword in the hand of the guardian shot high into the blue sky, as if it were joyously celebrating a great holiday. I had no fear, but I was filled with faith from the word that was in me. I then put the fruit to my mouth and began to assimilate its sweetness.
With each mouthful, a surge of light and life pulsed through me, and my eyes were enlightened. In a moment I gained access to the wisdom of the ages that alone could utilize the knowledge of good and evil in the way that the Creator intended from the beginning. Wisdom showed me its ability to steward the knowledge of good and evil, but nonetheless, I turned to the guardian once again to allow him to explain it to me.
“So it is not true, as men have claimed,” I began, “that the Creator desired to keep men in ignorance and in darkness when He forbade men to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Such claims have maligned the Creator by implying that He feared free and informed men and women. Many have turned to the powers of darkness, believing that the Creator was wrong in denying them the wisdom from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
“That is correct,” said the guardian sadly. “This was the hidden motive of the serpent who tempted the original stewards of the earth. He questioned the goodness of the Creator and presented a stingy and spiteful Power who wanted to keep men from reaching their full potential, lest they overthrow Him. This perverted view of the Creator was the unspoken lie from the beginning. Once their minds were beguiled and perverted, they ate of the tree of knowledge before eating of the tree of life. Thus, they preferred knowledge of good and evil, and they mistook this for wisdom, because the shadow of death blinded their eyes to the truth that wisdom is the first fruit of the tree of life.”
“So the quest for knowledge,” I replied knowingly, “became their dominant motive, for they thought that knowledge could bring them life, rather than life bringing them knowledge. Believing themselves to be wise, they became foolish, and their idea of wisdom was vastly different from that of the Creator.”
“That is true,” said the guardian. “Even so, out of love, the Creator would not permit them to be locked permanently into such a state of darkness, nor would He allow His children to remain in a state of disagreement with Him. That is why they could not be allowed access to the tree of life. If they had been able to eat of this tree after first eating of the other, they would have been locked permanently into a state of disobedient immortality. In such a state, knowledge would have ruled over wisdom.”
He paused again momentarily, and then continued, “If Earthyman had eaten first from the tree of life, he would have gained all of the knowledge in the fruit of the other tree, but he would have obtained it through wisdom in a lawful manner with no separation and disunity…. But there is a deeper cause that most have not understood.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“If Earthyman had done everything correctly, he still would have lacked experience. To know good is meaningless without experiencing evil. How can one speak of light without knowing what darkness is? Wisdom may be known through its own virtue, but full wisdom is understood only when compared with foolishness. The Creator’s wisdom is beyond our capacity to know. But this I know, that Earthyman’s fall and death was no accident, nor did it take the Creator by surprise. It was all taken into account from the beginning and built into the original blueprint. Because it was in the plan from the beginning that the Creator’s will should be violated, the solution was contemplated and established at the same time, so that the Creator would succeed in His goal and achieve total victory in the end.”
“It is clear, then,” I responded, looking into the guardian’s eyes, “that the key to this greater understanding of the Mind of the Creator is to know the difference between His will and His plan. Men have violated His will from the beginning—and continue to do so to this day—but nothing has gone beyond the bounds of the divine plan. He is neither surprised nor confounded by men’s failures. Neither is He powerless to bring all men into the purpose for which they were created.”
I arose and looked into the guardian’s eyes, seeing clearly the presence of fire deep within him. I had already seen the Spirit of the Mountain in his eyes, but now I saw that the guardian of the tree was also Joseph, that is, the real Joseph. He and Joseph were in the process of becoming one, as heaven and earth moved steadily closer.
With unspoken understanding between us, I could only stand and gaze at the guardian with gratefulness and thanksgiving, knowing that Joseph had found this gate and had directed me to it as well. I saw in the grooved face of the guardian the same lines of experience that I had seen in Joseph’s wise face earlier that morning. I then knew that I was seeing the real Joseph, whose spirit had led me to this place.
I knew that it was time to leave, for I could not remain in Eden. A new day was upon us, and a new task lay ahead. Eden was a garden from the past. Much water of history had passed. Men had increased throughout the earth, and a city was being built to accommodate them. Even the sword itself was being replaced by an entire wall. Creation was continuing, and experience was preparing the people for a time of glory when apparent defeat was to turn into real victory.
So I stepped back through the gate and found myself lying on the grass next to the babbling river. I sat up, wondering if I had just wakened from a dream. The main difference was that I was no longer thirsty. I knew that the purpose of my hike had been fulfilled and that it was time to return to the lodge. I stood up and walked slowly back in the way which I had come, pondering all that had befallen me that day.