So, I think its fair to say that only God himself is completely free. Now, in God, freedom and necessity coincide: it is necessary that he be free, but he freely embraces necessity. Divine simplicity. However in creatures, there is tension between freedom and necessity; in creatures, freedom and necessity are not the same thing. God wants to create us immediately in heaven, completely free, but this is not possible; we are creatures and therefore we must be created with a “history” of becoming and growing into our freedom.
Hence the story starts with humanity (represented by adam) in the garden of eden. God says to us “You may eat of any tree in the garden” – this corresponds to the modern idea of voluntarist, spontaneous freedom (which DBH rallies against so hard in all of his writings). Basically, any option is as good as any other; any tree in the garden we can explore, sample, experience, enjoy. But all of the trees are as good as any other, therefore there’s no real rhyhm or reason for why we would pick one rather than another. For this very reason it was not enough for God to give us this spontaneous freedom, because such a freedom is almost entirely “random” and therefore it is not appropriate to the sort of freedom that a “man made in the image of God” should have: God’s freedom is not random and spontaneous, therefore neither should man’s freedom be purely random and spontaneous.
Hence, God appends to his universal permission a single prohibition “But I command you: please do not eat from this tree, because if you do, you will die.” Now, the game has changed, rather than adam and eve being confronted with a field of arbitrary possibilities which they will randomly select between, all of a sudden the possibilities have a rational weighting. In other words, some possibilities are “better” than others. At this point, human freedom becomes one that does not merely randomly select from among equal options, but it must rationally deliberate and make a rational choice to select the best/the correct/the most good option. At this point, human freedom has been “shaped” by God so that it is not merely spontaneous and arbitrary but is rather rational and purposeful . So we are now getting much closer to a human freedom that accurately “images” divine freedom, because divine freedom is rational and purposeful, rather than merely being spontaneous and unconstrained/uncoerced.
So far so good. Adam and eve now have a collection of epistemic knowledge: 1.God is good, we can trust him. 2. Those trees are good and we should explore them. 3. That tree is bad and we should avoid it. 4. We are children made in our fathers image and he wants us to grow up to be just like him; this is our destiny.
Now, in order to grow up to be like God, this epistemic knowledge needs to become gnosis knowledge. So while adam and eve are aware that all the good trees contain hidden delights and pleasures, they do not have direct, experiental gnostic knowledge corresponding to their purely intellectual understanding. Hence God wants adam and eve to explore all of the good trees, and in doing so, accumulate more and more gnosis of both God and the creations inherent goodness.
The way God has set things up, everything should work smoothly to produce a divinised adam and eve who have maximum gnosis, and are therefore rendered incapable of sinning, because as they acquire more and more “direct knowledge” (gnosis), they will simply have less and less reason to act in a way contrary to that gnosis. Once adam and eve have eaten from ALL of the good trees in the garden, they would have ALL the gnosis, and therefore be fully and completely divinised, incapable of sinning, perfect children of the father existing in a state of perfect love and harmony from which no fall is possible. The reason why this is predetermined is because Adam and Eve would tend to always choose correctly on the basis of the gnosis they have already acquired, as well as the episteme which guides their choices (again, “These trees are good, those trees are bad. We should eat from these trees, not from those trees”). Basically, adam and eve have absolutely no reason to sin and misuse their freedom at this point, and therefore everything looks set to progress smoothly with no fall, no sin, no death, no pain.
But here comes the twist! Somehow, somewhere, some of the angelic beings had already fallen! Satan hijacks the snake and slithers into the garden, and introduces something of a “computer virus” into the whole order established by God. This computer virus takes the form of a well crafted lie. Adam and eve are doing well, they are on track, things are going smoothly. Adam and eve are eating from the good trees and accumulating gnosis, which is something of a “vaccine” against any possibility of sin. Their deliberative (gnomic) wills are operating just as God designed them to; they are making the correct decisions, avoiding the wrong decisions, because they simply have no reason to sin, so why would they? God is their loving father who has been nothing but a good dad, so why would they have any motivation to disobey him and eat from the bad tree?
So, Satan comes in under the guise of the snake, and introduces a great lie which serves to scramble Adam and Eve’s decision making. Adam epistemically knows that his purpose and destination is to be like God, and he epistemically knows that if he disobeys God, it will be really bad, leading to death. Adam epistemically knows that eating from the bad tree would be a bad idea. However Adam has not yet acquired the full amount of gnosis in order to see through a lie. So the snake comes in and tells an incredibly crafty lie: “God wants you to be like him right? and you want to be like God? well, you and I and God are all fully aware that if you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will be like God, so why is God stopping you? Does he want you to be like him or not? Why is he making you wait? You are already very smart and enlightened, you have already eaten from all the good trees and have already learned so much: so why is God making you wait? Why not just take a shortcut to theosis and eat from the tree God has forbidden you?”
Short but relevant tangent: It is a popular opinion among the church fathers that adam and eve would have been permitted to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil later. So God’s prohibition was just a provisional thing for while they were “little children” (as it were). Once adam and eve had accumulated enough gnosis by eating from all the good trees, at such a stage the father would have said to them “Ok, you have learned everything, you are ready now; you may eat of the final tree and experience the gnosis of death.” So basically, the mission of adam and eve was to eat from ALL of the good trees, acquire ALL the gnosis, and only then would they be ready and permitted to confront death.
So, Satan slides in, and constructs a lie. Adam knows that his destiny is to become like God, so why is Father Yahweh not letting him eat from the forbidden tree, which allegedly will do just that? All of a sudden, Adam’s “deliberative” (gnomic) freedom has gone haywire, because it has become faced with a cognitive dissonance: Basically, should he continue to trust God the father, continue to accumulate gnosis in the slow and patient way? Or should he trust the snake, who has managed to make a compelling argument that it would be better to just cut to the chase and eat the forbidden fruit NOW .
Another short but relevant tangent: The story of adam and eve eating the apple is a typology for every individual human person ever. For more details, read Bulgakovs, “The bride of the Lamb”. Basically, all of us were in the garden, and all of us were individually tempted by the snake, and all of us individually succumbed to his lies, although in each case the lie was different and the fall was different (hence why each of us is born into different circumstances during our lives: some in better circumstances, some in much worse). Bulgakov calls this “meta-history.” During this meta-history, everyone become personally guilty of the original sing just because everyone personally commit the original sin. As such, every individual person has an individual and personalised original sin somewhere in their past, and we can’t do the augustinian thing and put all the blame on adam himself. All of us are personally culpable. At the point that each of us succumb to the snakes lies, that is the exact point that each of us are individually cast out of eden and born in this broken world. (However, the boundary between meta-history and history is a mind-blowing thing and hard to explain. again, read bulgakov)
Returning to adam and eve and the snake: The snake delivers a perfect lie, and all of a sudden the clear distinction between right and wrong, good and evil doesn’t seem so clear. All of a sudden adam is uncertain whether God the father really is completely trustworthy. At this point of confusion and indecision, the opportunity to disobery God becomes a live option. Now, some of us gave in to this lie sooner, some of us gave into this lie later. For some of us, we continued to trust God, continued to eat from the good trees, continued to accumulate gnosis of how good, loving and wonderful God really is. However, the snake kept coming back, and his lies became more and more elaborate: every time we grew in gnosis, the snake was able to use that very gnosis to construct an even better lie. Eventually, one by one, all of us ended up giving in and committing the original sin, and one by one each of us fell out of eden (metahistory) into this broken world (history).
Once we fell into the world, our freedom became totally hijacked. Now our deliberative (gnomic) will is constantly making bad decisions, and where before the journey towards God was easy, now we struggle to continue to grow in gnosis of God, instead, we experience gnosis of suffering, sin, evil and death. Our freedom was always a combination of sponaneous/arbitrary freedom with the rational freedom oriented towards God, but now both of those aspects of our freedom have gone haywire. We deliberate, and we think we know what the best choice is, but as it turns out that’s actually not the best choice and just causes more problems. Basically, we end up in a severe “bondage of the will” situation.
But lets zoom out of history and return to the story happening in eden, in metahistory. Back in eden, humanity is being seduced by the snake one by one and falling into this history. But as mankind slowly apostatiss into a massa damnata, there are two souls who continue to trust Father Yahweh, despite being constantly and repeatedly lied to by the snake. No prizes for guessing who Mama Mary and Christ Jesus.
Now, Mary is constantly being approached by the snake, and the snake is constantly tempting her to “cut to the chase” and just eat from the forbidden tree. But mary continues to eternally say her “fiat” and trust God, regardless of how convincing the snakes lies become. Mary knows that Father Yahweh is good and trustworthy, and has his reasons for making her wait. The struggle only continues to get more intense and the lies become ever more convincing, but Mary stalwartly trusts Yahweh and continues to accumulate gnosis by only eating from the good trees.
Eventually, it gets to the point where Mary has eaten from literally every good tree in the garden. In other words, Mary eventually achieves a full and complete gnosis. In other words, Mary manages to live an authentic human life without ever committing the original sin, like the rest of us do. We can imagine someone like St Isaac of Ninevah in the garden, resisting all the lies and onslaughts of the devil, and yet even he at some point was seduced by the serpent and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, and therefore “fell” into this broken world (I personally tend to think that the lie the snake told St Isaac was something along the lines of “Look at all your brothers and sisters suffering on earth and in Hell: they need your help, right now; why is father God stopping you from going down to rescue them? He wants you to rescue them right? Look how much they are suffering: it would be so cruel of you to remain up here and continue your training in righteousness: you already know enough to rescue so many souls, why don’t you eat the fruit now and try to rescue as many of them as you can?” and of course, this appeal to love overcame st isaac, and he ate the fruit before the right time, commit the original sin, and fell into earth, just like the rest of us)
But unlike St isaac, Mary never gave in. She successfully became what all of us were called to be, by trusting in Father yahweh to the end. At this point, father yahweh entered the garden and spoke to her: “Mary my lovely daughter! You have been my best child! You are now ready to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You now know all that there is to know: you are prepared to experience the final gnosis: the gnosis of death, and because you have full gnosis of my love and goodness, you will not be overcome by it”. At this point, mary eats the fruit and yet does so without committing original sin. As such, Mary does not fall into history; rather, she obediently descends into history, so as to save all the rest of us who commit the original sin. By being recapitulated in Mary (the church), all humanity is obedient to the father, just like she was, with the same human obedience that she displayed.
Now, Jesus is different: Jesus was also in the garden, but Jesus, being the only-begotten, homoousian son of the Father, always had the gnosis necessary to avoid committing original sin. Jesus did not have to acquire and grow in gnosis of the father because he eternally possesses such gnosis. This is why, while the snake did indeed tempt and lie to Jesus just as much as he tempted and lied to mary; in Jesus case it was impossible that he could have fallen because he always had the full gnosis necessary to see right through the lies of satan. Whereas Mary was merely human and therefore had to grow in this gnosis. So while recapitulation and redemption was a real struggle and ordeal on the part of both Mary and Jesus, the human acheivement is thanks to Mary in a sense that it isn’t thanks to jesus, because Mary was a kierkgaardian “knight of faith” – constantly trusting God even in the face of the compelling lies of Satan. Whereas Jesus always had maximum gnosis, and therefore his obedience was always a foregone conclusion.
In any case, Jesus too eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, just like mary. And just like mary, for jesus it was not the original sin because he and mary had both “completed their training,” and therefore they were both ready to descend to the deepest depths of the gnosis of sin, suffering, evil and death, without being overcome by it. So Jesus and Mary do not fall into this broken history, instead, they obediently and joyfully descend into this history, so as to gather humanity up, redeem all of our mistakes and sins, and eventually bring us back into our final destination: blissful trinitarian union with God.
Returning to the “freedom” theme we started with: all humanity, one by one, was deceived by the lies of satan, and thus our freedom became hijacked and diverted from it’s proper course. Mary was the only one who never fell for it, and Jesus (being God) simply never could have fallen in the first place. So Mary is a type of all of us: eventually all of us become perfect in a synergistic struggle and attain to the full gnosis that we were all originally destined for, and it is only at that point that humanity finally becomes free in the sense that it was always destined for: we have finally achieved a full and comprehensive gnosis of everything, both good and bad, and therefore never again will it be possible to “choose wrongly.” Once we have experienced that full gnosis, never again will we ever sin. Finally we will be free in the same manner that God is free. We will always choose God, the highest good, and no lie of satan will ever again be able to interfere with that freedom. Just as jesus always and everywhere had full gnosis, and therefore it was logically impossible for him to fall for the lies of the devil, so too – in Mary (the church) – we will have also acquired that same full gnosis. Jesus – being God – always had the gnosis, whereas Mary – being merely human – had to acquire the gnosis. But she did, and in her, so shall we all. Our freedom is something that we grow into, through mary and into Christ.
So in summary, all of us are on a journey of becoming and none of us has ever really experienced “true” freedom yet. We are all on a journey, starting with the spontaneous and deliberative freedom of adam and eve, fighting forth into the victorious human freedom of Mary, and destined to finally emerge into the divine freedom of loving necessity and necessary love that we see in Christ. Every saint and every bodhisattva ate from the forbidden tree before the right time, out of compassion, so as to rescue humanity, but only Christ and Mary ate from the tree at the right time, once they had fully completed their training in gnosis. Mary and Jesus know enough to experience sin, death, evil and suffering to the full without being overcome by it, and for that reason, when we cling to them we are enabled to do the same. Eventually, apokatastasis will be achieved and it will be glorious.
As for the salvation of the ultimate liar and slanderer himself: who knows what he will do once there is no one left to fall for his lies. I think it’s fair to assume that at that point he will have gone through his own journey of gnosis, and discovered the utter pointlessness of evil and rebellion. At that point, perhaps the only person left to lie to will be he himself, and perhaps that will be the first time he has ever looked within himself and encountered the beautiful soul that he has been running from this entire time. Perhaps at that point, he too will have to concede defeat, and join us all singing hosannas and glorias and mahamantras to the loving God who created him.