Day Three – The Rise of Virtue

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

This water can be seen as a the embryonic state of a civilization, a community or an individual. The myth conveys archetypes that are manifested repeatedly and in many aspects of creation. The land that rises from the water can be recognized every time a new religion emerges, when a society is entering a time of renewal, or when an individual is lifted from the depths of ignorance. It may also be worth noting that man’s element as a species is earth, not water. In the Flood Myth of Noah the imagery is more elaborate, but the symbols tell us the same story. When the water is gone, peace is established, as expressed in the symbol of the dove with the olive branch. It is in this, the third day of Creation that the community becomes visible, when repression turns into acceptance and the spiritually inspired society is, even in a worldly sense, distinguished from and raised above the materialistic.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

The divine spring time. In Jewish tradition the earth is being seen as the heart of man. So when the earth sprouts vegetation this tells us something about the nature of our inner life – the organic process of building character, of cultivating virtue. Kind words, compassion, truthfulness, honesty, trustworthiness, generosity and helpfulness grow like plants that spread their seeds in the wind – seeds that may fall into the earth of the hearts of others. Note that neither the plants (or herbs), nor the trees here are mentioned without them being seed-bearing. As described in the Sixth Day, only man is given the seed-bearing herbs and fruits, and man stands for perfection (the image of God). This verse can then, in a sense, be seen as referring to the perfecting of man’s character. In the Parable of the Sower we may also gather that the earth is indeed the symbol of the heart, as it is there that the divine teachings, the heavenly virtues can root.

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root,they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”[1]

The tree is a symbol of perfection or greatness. With its roots deep into the ground and branches stretching out towards the sky, we see the qualities of people who stand firm, who are offering a shelter and a refuge; individuals who are strong and upright, seeking sustenance from the Sun of Truth. “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring…”[2] describes these qualities of the Jewish prophet. The greenery that comes out of the earth can be interpreted both as individuals and as society. The earth may be a symbol of the heart as well as the world of humanity.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.[3]

In the myth, these events are renewals, thus each kind of plant, herb and tree have grown in past societies and will appear in future ones. This can be understood to be the meaning of “each according to its kind”; spiritual qualities, embodied in people (or personality types), are recreated in each spiritual cycle, in each society. “Let the earth sprout…” may also be taken as an exhortation to spread love; to teach one’s fellow men about virtue, to spread the message of peace and unity far and wide.

For glorious is the fruit of good labours: and the root of wisdom shall never fall away.[4]

Notes and references:

1 Matthew 13
2 Genesis 49:22
3 Psalms 1:3 also Jeremiah 17:8
4 Wisdom of Solomon 3:15


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