Lilith: Choice, Change & Power
Updated: Jul 28, 2018
Expanding Inward held a weekend intensive, March 22 - 25, 2018, on the story of Lilith and its relevance to these times. We met at Hollis Renewal Center in Kansas City to work with this old narrative in a new way.
Here's how we wrote it...
“Is this what you want?” asks the snake in the tree.
“Is what what I want?” I say.
“What you have? How things are? In this moment. In your life? In your body, your family,
your community? Pick anything, big or small, anything that impacts your life in any way,
ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want?’”
“Well,” I say. “That’s everything. Of course I don’t want everything. I mean, everything
isn’t perfect. Everything can never be perfect. Some things a person doesn’t want, but
they have to have anyway.”
“Is that true?” the snake asks.
“Of course it’s true,” I say. “I can’t have everything I want.”
“Oh, but those are two different things,” says the snake, spiraling a little lower down the
trunk of the tree. Coming closer. “Having everything you want, and wanting everything
“Well, neither thing is possible,” I say. I am getting irritated. “Not in any human life…
Who the hell are you anyway?”
“I am Forbidden Knowledge,” says the snake, rippling proudly up and down its long,
strong length. “That’s what snakes in trees that appear in your dreams always are. Ever
since the story was told that made them so.”
“Do I know that story,” I ask?
“You think you do,” the snake nods. A nodding snake is a hypnotic thing.
Yeah, I think I do. “Adam and Eve? The Garden of Eden? The snake tricked Eve into
tricking Adam into eating from the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and God, angry
because they disobeyed him, threw them out of the Garden as punishment. That story?”
“Yes,” says the snake, “but it’s not just a story. It’s a Story. Everything in the Story
means something, and not necessarily what it appears to mean. Just like in Dreams.
Which are the Stories we tell ourselves.”
“Like that the snake in the story is the Devil,” I say. Thinking how much I dislike this
story, really. How much I disagree with its philosophy - of the original sin being the
desire for knowledge (or perhaps simply disobedience instead of blind compliance, even
worse!). Of the ensuing human condition as punishment for that disobedience, for simply wanting to know. I’ve lived my entire spiritual life in opposition to this Story and still it has shaped so much of my life; my culture, and the cultures of those around me, and the way we all intersect, or clash. How much history has been bent into the shape we know by the minds behind this story! A Story indeed.
“I am not the Devil,” says the snake, shaking its head gently from side to side. A swaying
snake is a hypnotic thing. “The Devil is what storytellers always call the question they
have no answer to. The piece that doesn’t fit the plot. The thing they don’t understand, or don’t want to understand. The thing they don’t want to acknowledge could be true.”
“What was that?”
“Simply, that there is another way.”
“Another way? Now I don’t understand. And anyway, why would the knowledge of
‘another way’ be Forbidden? Forgive me if I seem dismissive, but that just sounds like
common sense. Not radical enough to be dangerous.”
“That depends on who you are. If you’re one of the people who make the rules…” the
snake sways at me, “the people who create The Way never want you to know there is
“The people who make the rules…” I say, “that’s God, right? In this story? So there is a
God, but not the Devil?”
“There is just the Story. In this story, there is the one who made the rules. That’s God.
There is the one who benefits from the rules. That’s Adam. There is the one whom the
rules oppress. That’s Eve. In any situation, ask yourself: Who made the rules? Who
benefits? At whose expense? Here’s a hint: if you don’t know who made the rules, you
probably did. If you don’t know who benefits, you probably do. If you created the Way, if
the Way serves you, then those of us who know there is another way are dangerous to
“And, who are you?” I ask the snake in the tree.
“I am Lilith,” the snake says. “First-born with Adam. Born equal. But Adam had different
Another story I think I know. Adam and Lilith, created together. The first humans. But
when their wills clashed, Adam wanted more than a fair share of sovereignty.
Lilith refused to be less than equal and when it became clear that that was the condition
of remaining in the Garden, Lilith uttered the Ineffable Name of God - a word so powerful that even God could not stand against the will of the one who spoke it - and fled. Gone from the story except as a demoness living on a distant shore, a remnant of a cautionary tale about the sin of resistance. Adam was left alone, and so Eve was created, by God, as the Second-born. Born into lesser status. Born into hierarchy.
“Paradise was lost right there,” the snake… Lilith?... says. “Not with a bite of an apple.
Paradise was lost with the first idea that any one being was more sovereign than any
other. Equality is hard for humans to hold. From the beginning. One of the very first
humans created power-over as the Way, and it’s been that way ever since.”
“So it’s hopeless,” I say.
“Equality is hard for humans to hold,” says Lilith. “But so is inequality. I am also one of
the first humans, and I said No.”
There is suddenly a power all around me. A sweet, shared, nerve-tingling sense of
expansion. Lilith’s voice is deeper, louder, resonating. The light has changed, there’s a
golden density to it now that is ominous and wonderful. Perhaps I really have fallen into
a trance, here in my dream.
“As old as is the human grasping for dominion over others,” says Lilith, “the human
instinct to resist that dominion is equally ancient. Adam went on to live in the world those rules created, but I escaped to live in another world. A world that never grew shame, or hatred, or oppression. I live in the world of power-with, and I visit your world, from time to time, I slip into my snake-skin and I slither up a tree, to tell you something they call a ‘secret’ but I only call the truth: as a human being, both worlds are your birthright. “
A world without hatred or oppression? “That’s easy for you to say,” I snap. “You had a
magic word that just airlifted you out of a place you didn’t want to be, into a place that
you did. You had no loved ones to leave behind, no commitments or responsibilities. No
one had the power to stop you, right? That’s not my Story.”
“Saying No is never easy,” says Lilith. “I did not know where I was going. I did not know
if any other ‘where’ even existed. I was a brand-new human, born into a garden paradise
where all my needs were met. I left the only other being of my kind in existence. I broke
the rules when there were nothing but the Rules. No one, before me, had ever made a
choice. No one had ever needed to. Nothing had ever changed, from the moment of
creation, until my choice changed it. I said ‘no’ to something that I knew I could not bear,
with no idea what I was saying ‘yes’ to. All I could do was say ‘not this,’ and when I did, I
made, irrevocably, another world. The stakes for me were different than the stakes are
for you, yes. But the stakes were still incredibly high.”
“But you knew the Ineffable Name of God,” I say. “You could have done anything.”
“Not true,” says Lilith. “I couldn’t unmake myself. I couldn’t make it so that God had
created a different garden, that supported different rules. I couldn’t go back to a time
when Adam made a different decision; didn’t place personal autonomy over
companionship, over community. Those were the givens of my situation and I could only
ask myself, ‘Is this what you want?’ And when my answer was no, I could act. That
power is yours, too.
“Your story won’t look like mine,” Lilith continues. “yours will have different givens, and
different options. There will be things you cannot change, and choices you cannot make.
But here is the Forbidden Knowledge, the Truth from the First Wielder of the Sacred No
– you can always change something, you can always make another choice, and that is a
power as great as my knowledge of the Ineffable.
“Is that what you told Eve?” I ask. “You didn’t give Eve an apple, did you? You told Eve
“I didn’t give Eve an apple or a secret,” Lilith says, voice fading as the dream begins to
break up around me, “I asked Eve a question… ‘Is this what you want?”