Another feature of the Mosaic legend of the "fall" which deserves consideration is the reference to the tree of knowledge, or wisdom. It is now generally supposed that the forbidden fruit was a kind of citrus, 29 but certain facts connected with arborolatry seem to me to disprove this opinion. Among peoples in the most opposite regions various species of the fig-tree are held sacred. Thus it is, throughout nearly the whole of Africa, with the banyan (Ficus indicus), the sacred tree of the Hindu Brahmins. Even in several of the Polynesian islands, as in various parts of the Indian Archipelago and in Northern Australia, the fig-tree is highly venerated. In ancient Egypt, the banyan, or the Ficus sycamorus, was always considered sacred. 30 So it was in Greece and Italy. According to Plutarch, a basket of figs formed one of the chief objects carried in the procession in honor of Bacchus--and the sacred phallus itself appears to have been made of the wood of the fig-tree, as was also the statue of the phallic god Priapus. 31
Judging from these facts, and considering that the sycamore was sacred among the Hebrews themselves--its fruit having the significance of the virgin womb 32--there can be little difficulty in identifying the fig-tree, whether the sycamore or the banyan, with the tree of knowledge planted in the midst of the garden of Eden. The sense intended to be conveyed by this expression would be evident enough without the introduction of the "tree of life." That this is intended to represent the male element is undoubted. The Chaldean god Hea, who was symbolized by the serpent, was also the god of life and knowledge; and RawIinson states that "there are very strong grounds indeed for connecting him with the serpent of scripture, and with the Paradisiacal traditions of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life." 33 The bo-tree (Ficus religiosa) of the Buddhists is said to derive greater sacredness from its encircling the palm--the Palmyra palm being the kalpa-tree, or the "tree of life" of the Hindu paradise. 34 This connection is termed by the Buddhists "the bo-tree united in marriage with the palm," and we have in it the perfect idea of generative activity, the combination of the male and female elements. Mr. Fergusson, in accordance with his special theory as to the origin of serpent-worship, thinks that this superstition characterized the old Turanian (by which probably he means Hamitic) empire of Chaldea, while tree-worship was more characteristic of the later Assyrian empire. 35 This opinion is, no doubt, correct; and it means really that the older race had that form of faith with which the serpent was always indirectly connected--adoration of the male principle of generation, the primitive phase of which was probably ancestor-worship; while the latter race adored the female principle, symbolized by the sacred tree, the Assyrian "grove." The "tree of life," however, undoubtedly had reference to the male element, and we may well suppose that originally the fruit alone was treated as symbolical of the opposite principle. 36
There is still an important point connected with the Hebrew legend which requires consideration--the nature of the protecting kerub. That this was merely intended as a symbol of the deity himself, there is every reason to believe, and that the symbol was nothing more than the sacred bull of antiquity, is evident from the description of the kerub given by Ezekiel (chaps. i. and x.). 37 But what was the religious significance of the bull, an animal which it would be easy to prove was venerated by nearly all the peoples of antiquity? It is now well known that the bull symbolized the productive force in nature, and hence it was associated with the sun-gods. The symbolic figure carried in procession during the festival of Osiris and Isis was representative, probably, of the phallus of this animal. 38 According to the cosmogony of the Zend-Avesta, Ormuzd, after he had created the heavens and the earth, formed the first being, called by Zoroaster "the primeval bull." This bull was poisoned by Ahriman; but its seed was carried, by the soul of the dying animal, represented as an ized, to the moon, "where it is continually purified and fecundated by the warmth and light of the sun, to become the germ of all creatures." At the same time, the material prototypes of all living things, including man himself, issued from the body of the bull. 39 This is but a developed form of the ideas which anciently were almost universally associated with this animal among those peoples who were addicted to sun-worship. There is no doubt, however, that the superstitious veneration for the bull existed, as it still exists, quite independently of the worship of the heavenly bodies. 40 The bull, like the goat, must have been a sacred animal in Egypt before it was declared to be an embodiment of the sun-god Osiris. In some sense, indeed, the bull and the serpent, although both of them became associated with the solar deities, were antagonistic. The serpent was symbolical of the personal male element, or rather had especial reference to the life of man, 41 while the bull had relation to nature as a whole, and was symbolical of the idea of fecundity. This antagonism was brought to an issue in the struggle between Osiris and Seti (Seth), which ended in the triumph of the god of nature, although it was renewed even during the exodus, when the golden calf of Osiris, or Horus, was set up in the Hebrew camp.
The references made to the serpent, to the tree of wisdom, and to the bull in the legend of the "fall," sufficiently prove its phallic character; which was, indeed, recognized in the early Christian church. 42 This view is confirmed, moreover, by analogous legends in other mythologies. The Hindu legend approaches very nearly to that preserved in the Hebrew scriptures. Thus, it is said that Siva, as the Supreme Being, desired to tempt Brahma (who had taken human form), and for this object he dropped from heaven a blossom of the sacred fig-tree. Brahma, instigated by his wife, Satarupa, endeavors to obtain this blossom, thinking its possession will render him immortal and divine; but when he has succeeded in doing so, he is cursed by Siva, and doomed to misery and degradation. Mr. Hardwicke, when commenting on this tradition, adds that the sacred Indian fig is endowed by the Brahmans and Buddhists with mysterious significance, as the tree of knowledge or intelligence. 43 This legend confirms what I have said as to the nature of the Hebrew tree of knowledge, and also the phallic explanation of the "fall" itself, which we consider the attributes of the tempter of the Hindu story. The Persian legend preserved in the Boun-dehesch is, however, still more conclusive. According to this legend Meschia and Meschiane, the first man and woman, were seduced by Ahriman, under the form of a serpent, and they then first committed "in thought, word, and action, the carnal sin, and thus tainted with original sin all their descendants." 44