Returning To Eden: An Illumination Of The Mysteries

Returning To Eden: An Illumination Of The Mysteries April 21, 2023

First of all, thank you to Matthew Distefano who graciously invited me to take up some space at the All Set Free table. My name is Heather Hamilton, and I’m the author of Returning to Eden: A Field Guide for the Spiritual Journey. I’m an enthusiastic guest and I hope you’ll enjoy the dish I’ve brought to the party!

My aim is pretty straightforward: I want to introduce you to my new book, Returning to Eden, and by the end of this blog, I hope you will be interested enough to read (or listen to) it.

Returning to Eden is the first book I’ve published. About five years ago, I had a massively disruptive mystical encounter with Christ in the body of a transgender woman while immersed in evangelicalism in the Bible Belt. This experience was simultaneously terrifying and illuminating as I recognized the shell of my ego, or False Self, split open abruptly and discovered the Christ within, or True Self, had begun its germination process. Whether I liked it or not, the old Heather was dying and something new was being born. There was simply no going back and no un-seeing what I had seen.

Ironically, as literal interpretations of the Bible were quickly becoming absurd and obsolete for me, the best language I could find to describe my experiences were Biblical metaphors. I quickly recognized the Bible stories as symbolic maps into the inner world, beckoning me to follow my own internal labyrinth to the very center of my being—the inner sanctuary, or bridal chamber, where the two (flesh and Spirit) become one with God.

Although I was not reading the text as historical headlines anymore, I knew that the symbolism in the Bible stories was not just made-up fairy tale. No. The stories were mythologically revealing the pathways to rebirth and union with God. The belly of the whale suddenly leapt off the flannel board in the Sunday School room and became a personification for all my unconscious fears and desires. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the dynamism of my own life force. It had been buried so far deep within myself that I wasn’t even aware that I’d lived most of my life cut off from the vitality of my heart, my body, and my life.

When this dynamism erupted in me, it nearly took me out. I don’t say that flippantly. The intensity of the energy that was released into my nervous system completely overwhelmed it, to the point where I feared suicide were I not able to find effective help—and quickly. As I worked with a trauma therapist fixing my psychological pipes, I began to feel my vital life-energy flowing easily in my body for the first time. I finally understood what it actually meant to be “reborn.” It involved the Divine seed in you germinating, like a seed to a tree, which gives way to a brand-new way of seeing and experiencing reality.

“The Christian mystic is one who has made the leap from loving Jesus to loving everything because they see Jesus in everyone and everything else. That is the reality from which they see.” –Returning to Eden, pp.6

After being a “born-again” Christian for twenty-five years, I finally felt “saved.” Salvation was found in my religion falling apart, and it was truly worked out through “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Through the paradigm of the True/False Self and understanding the biblical stories allegorically, I came to understand that the stories were telling me something deeply profound about myself, who I really was, and why I was here. Of course, this understanding was nowhere to be found in evangelicalism, but I found this reading of the Bible to be mostly lacking within a lot of Progressive Christianity as well. My goal with the book was to introduce the biblical stories as a language to open you up to deeper experiences of your life and reality. If you grew up with Christianity as your “mother tongue,” my aim is to give you a deeper understanding of your native language. I believe that by understanding the function of biblical mythology and symbolism, the language you know best can be of great service to you as you plunge the deepest mysteries of yourself and life.

In Returning to Eden, I re-examine familiar stories like Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Ark, the Parting of the Red Sea, the Virgin Birth, and many others. Instead of stories you either choose to believe or walk away from, I illuminate them as maps drawing you deeper into yourself and a more meaningful understanding of your life. Stories with the power to awaken you to your life’s adventure.

For believers, you’ll find a pull to consider looking more closely at what you think you know.

For doubters, you’ll find an invitation and possibility that honors your intellectual integrity.

For everyone, you’ll find a break from the frustration of irreconcilable differences which impede our ability to communicate and live peaceably and lovingly with one another.

As Jim Palmer so poignantly writes in the Foreword of the book, “Consider Returning to Eden as your introduction into what every true spiritual seeker ultimately discovers—that the highest truths that set us free are hidden in places most people are not looking.”

Regardless of your relationship with the Bible—whether that be healthy or estranged—I’m willing to bet that in reading Returning to Eden, you will find yourself reading the Bible for the first time. I hope you will say “yes,” and come along the journey with me.

You can purchase Returning to Eden on Amazon:

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Instagram: @heatherhamilton1


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