“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
Notice that Adam’s behavior in this story is completely passive. Throughout the scene he is present but silent. The Serpent and Eve have their discussion, she decides to eat the fruit, she gives some to Adam, and he eats it too. The story does not say that Eve tempted him, and nothing in the narration or in his silence suggests that she did. There is no indication that he is reluctant to eat the fruit, that his better judgment is overwhelmed by treachery, or even that he thinks about it at all. He says nothing and takes no initiative. It is merely a passive act of acquiescence.
Socrates will later describe the human soul as composed of three parts — Mind, Heart, and Body — and he will explain that “perfecting one’s soul” means that each of these parts must perform its own proper function in a well-ordered harmony with the others. In the story of the Garden of Eden, which is a parable of our inner life and the need to evolve and perfect the soul, Adam represents the Mind, Eve represents the Heart, and the Serpent represents the Body. In their proper alignment, the Mind is the Active principle that governs the soul. The Body is the Passive principle that supports and is governed by the Mind. The Heart is the Reconciling principle that guides and integrates the complete internal relationship.
But what happened in Eden is that this ‘order’ became inverted! The serpent (the Body) interfered, took the active lead, and persuaded the Heart to go along with its wishes. The Mind, unnaturally passive, silently acquiesced and joined in.
This was the real ‘sin’ that occurred in the Garden of Eden, and that recurs within the soul of each one of us. ‘Original Sin’ is not ‘something bad that a woman did a long time ago’. Original sin – that is, the ‘fundamental’ sin from which all the others spring, and which we are all committing right now – is the sin of an inverted soul.
It takes very little imagination to see that this allegory provides a complete and accurate description of our contemporary lives: the pop culture, the intellectual barrenness, the relentless vulgarity, greed, and gluttony. The Body’s appetites are completely in charge of our lives, the Heart’s emotions fawn over these cravings, and the Mind just sits there silently and lets it all continue.