Somebody asked me how I could square the idea of a fall with the theory that we are evolving to higher states as I believe in both of these and, at first sight, they might appear contradictory. If we once lived in Paradise and knew neither good nor evil, how could we ever change? Why should we ever change?
That's a good question but I think the two ideas can be reconciled without too much trouble.
We were always intended to evolve from unconscious to conscious oneness. That is, from a state of passive non-separation from life to a creative union with it in which we could wield its powers in love. God created us as individuals and we were intended to grow to personal godhood through expressing our individuality. A static condition was never envisaged. But something went wrong and this evolution is consequently harder and longer with more suffering involved. But it still proceeds towards the always intended goal of divine union.
If Adam and Eve had not sinned by disobeying God then sin and death would not have entered the world. I am not saying that I believe in the literalness of the account in Genesis but it does contain a very profound truth presented as a simple story which all can understand. What actually took place probably did not occur in the physical world at all and was unlikely to have been the responsibility of just two individuals. It seems more reasonable to speculate that humanity as a whole, such as it was at the time, took a collective wrong turn, no doubt instigated in part by the forces of evil as the story says, and the result of that was a descent to a lower dimension of being in which full separation from the creative source of life was known. This had the knock-on effect of allowing for the development of individual consciousness but also meant there was nothing to stop that development from proceeding into permanent separation from God with no chance of a return until Christ was born to give that chance to those who would accept it.
If Adam and Eve had not fallen I believe they would still have developed as individuals but in an environment in which their growth proceeded without pain and suffering, and in an orderly way that was what you might call spiritually organic. It would have been a natural progression, as a tree grows or as physical growth occurs in human beings. Now, our spiritual growth is uncertain, sporadic and may not even occur. Without the Fall growth would have been rhythmically arranged, like seasonal change, and without pain. Because of the Fall it involves much greater hardship and is not inevitable.
God can bring good out of evil. The Fall was evil. I think that those who theorise that it was an intended part of the cycle of growth, on the basis that knowledge of good and evil allows for self-consciousness and the growth of mind, are mistaken. These things would have happened but they would have happened in a different, presumably better, way. God did not mean to leave Adam and Eve, nascent humanity, sitting in the Garden of Eden picking fruit forever. He meant them to become gods themselves, beings in whom (perhaps in contradistinction to the angels) spirit and matter were united and who could create something new out of that union. (Note: this is where those who acknowledge the reality of duality are more spiritually perspicacious than those who espouse a purely monistic philosophy - as long as their duality is grounded in monism.) He meant them to evolve according to the root meaning of that word which is to unfold. So this evolution is not of the Darwinian kind but the unfolding and expression of already present, albeit in a rudimentary form, elements.
Human beings fell into a lower state of being through the misuse of their free will. But they can rise in the same way by reorienting their will to divine reality. I don't know if this can only be done through Christ but I do think it is best done through Christ. Before his advent the way to escape the prison house of matter (in that it had become separated from God, not absolutely because then it would cease to exist but apparently) was by renouncing it in the manner of a Buddha. But Christ, through his life and death, reopened the connection between spirit and matter and enabled the union between the two to take place which they first fully did at his Ascension. Christ brought the light of spirit to the darkness of matter and gives us the opportunity to do the same.
If we had not fallen we would still have risen from Paradise towards Heaven (looking at those things in terms of conscious connection to God) but this would have been a natural process. Now it's not natural but it's possible that through the experience of sin and death something is gained by those who overcome them that would not have been available to us before. Might that be a deeper awareness of the reality of love?