A Handbook for personal development
by Ken J. Killeen
[ed. note: Ken presented the following at the ATS Conference in Melbourne, exemplifying fourfold interpretation with both the Bible and Tarot - jmd]
The Bible is a book written by Initiates. In a sense we are all Initiates, but we are at different levels of Initiation. Initiation takes place by degrees, and when we graduate into each level, new knowledge and understanding is revealed to us. That knowledge and understanding is freely available to all who seek, but it remains indecipherable to the uninitiated. The Bible, written by Initiates is written in code and there are keys to unlocking that code.
We live in interesting times, and the dominant paradigm of the western world and increasingly so in the east, is a highly materialistic consciousness. Materialistic science seeks evidence that is verifiable by the five senses and denies or scoffs at the numinous and the divine. Contemporary materialistic theology seeks to prove the Bible as a literal and historical document. Creationists and materialistic scientists are the two sides of the same coin.
The contemporary paradigm has also spawned another kind of theologian; one that says the Bible is completely metaphorical, nothing recorded in there actually happened. My understanding of the Bible is that it contains both literal and metaphorical truths, and more. As a book written by Initiates, the Bible contains layers, or degrees of knowledge that are revealed to us, when we are ready, when we look, when we are called.
It has become very unfashionable to study the Bible. It is not that long ago that it would have been rare to find a home that did not have a Bible. Now the opposite is the norm. I recall a friend of mine being asked by her devout mother if she owned a Bible and she replied, ‘yes, it’s in the fiction section of my bookcase under G for God. At least she was acknowledging its divine authorship. I am a frequenter of esoteric bookshops and the esoteric section of ordinary bookshops; often the first thing I look for is a Bible, and I rarely find one.
Many people think the Bible is irrelevant, boring and out-of-date. For some people, the Bible evokes memories that are very unhappy or unpleasant, perhaps as a result of bigotry, dull lessons, and reaction to some of the content. These attitudes do exist but they have not been brought about by the Bible itself but by the way the Bible has been used.
If you are prepared to drop old concepts and look at this book with an open mind and the eyes of your heart, you will find that it becomes alive and relevant.
Why Study the Bible?
The Relevance of the Bible Today…
When I scour the esoteric bookshops I am more likely to find the Yoga Sutras or the writings of the Dalai Lama and whole shelves on Tantra, and I love these books, (especially the tantra books with pictures), they contain many pearls of wisdom. And all scripture contains the teachings of Initiates and has layers of meaning for those with eyes to see. Yet the Bible remains centrally relevant and understandable to the western psyche.
The Bible has a message for each age. Today, our understanding of the Bible is different from that of the theologians of five hundred years ago or even of twenty years ago. As humanity goes on evolving, the hidden content of the Bible will increasingly become more available to us. It’s like reading something again that you read when you were a teenager and discovering so much more in it. You say to yourself, “I don’t remember reading that.” As you grow, the knowledge you are able to receive increases.
The Bible is also a very human book. It teaches about issues such as human needs and failure, and human strength and victory, which are always relevant. The essence of the human being is the same as when these priceless teachings were set down in writing. Evolution has progressed, and so have we, but the essence of human beings is the same and we can still learn from the deep spiritual insights of the Initiates, seers, teachers, priests and prophets whose writings have come down to us in this book.
These are the main reasons we study the Bible, but there are also other reasons. The Bible has had a profound influence upon our culture and history. Most of the great literature and art of the western world has been influenced by the Bible and is full of references to Biblical events or teachings. Our western society was founded on principles which come from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, on principles which are to be found in the Bible. To study the Bible means we understand our present time better. So many of our common sayings are to be found in the Bible (see page 6 resource book) (Only Shakespeare comes anywhere near the Bible in this respect.
Many many people have been transformed because of what they have discovered in the Bible. Sometimes this transformation has been sudden and dramatic. For others it has been a gradual growth as they have studied the biblical teachings and put them into practice. Windows open and new vistas are revealed.
The Bible relates the journey of the soul
The reason why the Bible has a transforming influence is because it contains the blueprint of our human evolution. It begins with the creation of this earth and ends with the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, which represents the whole cycle of our human evolution. (Rev. 21&22) – The macrocosmic story – the esoteric or occult level.
It also tells the story of the human soul. It documents the journey of humanity from its descent into the physical, to the development of consciousness and the emergence of the human spirit from matter in full consciousness. It relates the development of us as individuals through each incarnation, from Genesis to Revelation, tracing the unfolding of spiritual life in each person. It gives a pattern for how to make this happen so that we may progress spiritually – the microcosmic story – the metaphysical level.
The story of the human race is told as an allegory. The historical development of the Hebrew people, whose story the Bible tells, is metaphysically the story of your soul – each of our souls – evolution.
1. It begins with the human soul becoming enmeshed in physical existence, which is often symbolised in the Bible as “the fleshpots of Egypt”. The Hebrew people became enslaved in Egypt. The story of their exodus from Egypt, under the leadership of Moses, is an allegory for the journey of the soul from its bondage to the flesh, Egypt, to a higher spiritual level represented by the Promised Land.
2. The development of the soul’s inner life, with its strengths and weaknesses, is pictured in the experiences of the Hebrews in gradually establishing their culture on the soil of Palestine, the Promised Land.
3. The soul’s journey culminates in the realisation of its own spiritual nature, that God is within. This is portrayed in the Christ and the era he ushered in. The journey of the soul reaches a new stage with the coming of the Christ, or the Real Self. The soul, awakened to its spiritual aspect, moves towards union with the spirit.
So the Bible, even though some of it was written down as long as three thousand years ago, still points out the path of personal and spiritual growth with great clarity for those who learn how to read it. The writers were inspired people, in touch with the heavens and so in touch with eternal truths of spirit.
You need knowledge to interpret the Bible
The Bible is not easy to understand, and perhaps that’s the real reason people tend to shy away from it. Spiritual truth is not easy to understand, especially at this present time in history when we have grown so estranged from spirit.
So to be able to really make the Bible story your own story, it is important to have some training. In the days before the Reformation, the Bible was only available to the clergy who were trained for years in metaphysics, philosophy, ancient languages, theology and history in order to understand it. This training not only prepared them to understand the Bible, it also enabled them to teach it in such a way that its apparent contradictions did not confuse or discourage people.
Nowadays the Bible is freely available to everyone, but training is still necessary in order to understand it. It is not enough just to be able to quote verses from here and there, and out of context, for by that means you can use the Bible to support almost any point of view.
There are two kinds of knowledge required in order to interpret the Bible metaphysically:
1. A literal understanding of what it says – its structure, the types of literature it contains, the history of the Jewish people and of the early church. Reading the Bible in this way is like being on an archaeological dig; it is concerned with the way things were in the past – which, of course, has its own interest. Unfortunately, many people stop at this point, thinking that is all there is to the Bible, when it is really only the starting point for developing a vital and personal understanding.
2. An understanding of the symbolism of the Bible, for that is basically what a metaphysical view of the Bible is. It is going beyond the literal meaning of a passage to see everything – people, places, objects and events – as symbolic, and for this some study is also needed. Just as we need to open up our senses and prepare our minds to appreciate a symphony or a work of art, so we need training to understand the language of symbolism and allegory which we find in the Bible.
To look at the Bible from a symbolic or metaphysical point of view is not something new. For centuries the Jews used this approach in interpreting the Old Testament.
A great Jewish philosopher of the first century, Philo of Alexandria, spoke of the symbolic interpretation of the Bible and of the:
‘inspired men who take most of the contents of the Law to be visible symbols of things invisible, expressing the inexpressible.’
This was also the way in which the church read the Bible for the first 1500 years of its life. Origen of Alexandria, a learned scholar of the church in the third century, said that the mystical sense of the Bible was often concealed in its account of the events of history. Woven into what was presented as a historical story were:
1. Actual events
2. Events which could have taken place but didn’t, but which portrayed the mystical meaning
3. Events which could not have happened, but which also portrayed a mystical meaning.
It was therefore essential, he said, to go beyond the literal level of understanding to find the inner meaning. When one takes this approach, you can interpret the Bible allegorically. This was common in the Middle Ages and right up till the early Renaissance. It allows you to see the symbolic relationship with self. Many people today approach myths and fairy tales in this way. Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, and even Carl Jung have opened the eyes of many to the ‘power of myth’ and the hidden truths contained in myths.
When going beyond the literal in interpreting the Bible we are upholding a way of understanding the scriptures which has a long history. But we differ from those earlier figures in two ways, as a result of the development of intellect over the past 500 years:
1. We bring our intelligence to bear on the contents of the Bible. We do not read the Bible with the eyes of “blind faith”, as people did in earlier times, and as some people still do today. This is the positive aspect.
2. On the downside, because our intellect can be so sceptical and rational, we can become bogged down in intellectual ideas and miss the inner coherence of the Bible that was plain to those of earlier times, when the picture stood before them.
Allegorical or symbolical interpretation was not only recognised as an important way to interpret the scriptures, it was regarded by some of the early church fathers as indispensable. This view was summarised by Origen who wrote it was important to realise that
wherever the Word found historical events capable of adaptation to these mystic truths, He made use of them, but concealed the deeper sense from many; … Scripture interweaves the imaginative with the historical, sometimes introducing what is utterly impossible, sometimes what is possible but never occurred… and not only did the Spirit thus deal with the Scriptures before the coming of Christ, but, inasmuch as He is the same spirit, and proceedeth from the One god, He has done the same with the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, for not even they are purely historical, incidents which never occurred being interwoven in the “corporeal” [physical] sense…[i]
Why the Need for Secrecy?
The symbolic nature of the Bible was understood in earlier ages, but is not so clearly understood today. But if we remember what great people of history have said, it becomes clear that the inner meaning of the Bible is cloaked in an outer story.
We come across this in the New Testament where we find Christ telling many stories or parables. He told these stories to the crowd and later on, when he was with his inner circle, the disciples, he would reveal the real meaning.
The question we must ask is why is the real meaning hidden? Why this need for secrecy?
And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand.”
Spiritual knowledge is powerful and it can either prove beneficial to the sane person with their feet on the ground, or detrimental to someone who is unstable. Therefore, it is presented in a veiled manner. Only those who are worthy and are committed are initiated to penetrate into the secrets of existence as portrayed in the Bible.
Christ did not give deeper teachings directly to those who were not ready or able to handle them and He warned his disciples not to do so either.
Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.
To do this can mean that the teachings are treated with contempt (trample them underfoot) because they are not understood; and so the sacred is profaned. The second effect is that the person who passes on these teachings places themselves in a vulnerable position and may find these precious truths being used against them (turn to attack you).
So there is a double message here:
- In order to enter into the deeper teachings, we need to show profound respect for them.
- Esoteric knowledge is passed on only to those who are ready and who ask for it.
Origen regarded the Bible as a multilayered book consisting of three levels of interpretation:
One must therefore record the meaning of the sacred writings in a threefold way upon one’s own soul, so that the simple may be edified by what we may call the flesh of the scripture, this name being given to the obvious interpretation; while the man who has made some progress may be edified by its soul, as it were; and the man who is perfect … may be edified by the spiritual law.
-A New Eusebius, edited by J. Stevenson: SPCK London. 1978, pp.219-220
Other Christian writers, such as Thomas Aquinas, found four major levels of meaning which he called the historical, the moral, the allegorical and the spiritual or mystical. In the Zohar, the kabbalistic classic published in the thirteenth century, the scriptures are said to be read on four levels also: the literal (peshat), the hermeneutical (derash) or path of ethical commentary, the allegorical (remez) consisting of philosophical truths, and the mystical (sod) which interprets the Bible in relation to the spiritual worlds. The acronym pardes, literally meaning ‘garden’, was formed from the first letters of the Hebrew words for each level. The rabbis entered the allegorical garden of delights, the inner world of spirit, through knowledge of the Kaballah.
I have been taught four levels of interpretation of scripture:
By the way, Mario taught and wrote a book about Tarot and applied these same four levels of interpretation.
The literal level which contains within it moral, historical and theological components.
The metaphysical – beyond the literal – the allegorical and symbolic level. Wherein all aspects of the Biblical story relate to self. Names and places depict states of consciousness.
The esoteric or occult level that tells the story of human evolution. It takes an Initiate capable of reading the Akashic record to interpret the Bible esoterically. Rudolf Steiner was the great interpreter of the Bible on this level.
The mystical level cannot be taught. It occurs when you have a living relationship, an inner experience of the truth of scripture. Mario taught that mysticism is the consummation of metaphysics. Metaphysics provides the framework for the actual experience of mysticism.
Lifting the Veil
How can we then lift the veil of the biblical text so that the inner meaning is disclosed to us? There are eight practical ways of training yourself so that this can happen.
1. Get to know your Bible. A handbook or manual is no use unless you keep it handy and refer to it often. If you are to get the most from the Bible, you need to read it often. Get into the habit of reading a little each day.
Make your Bible really your own. Don’t be afraid to mark special passages and make notes in it. It will then become your personal handbook.
2. Ask for guidance. Before you read, inwardly ask for guidance, for the light of intuition to help you in your quest.
3. Be determined to discover the essential underlying truth of the passage. A rabbi, philosopher and physician of the twelfth century, Moses Maimonides, wrote:
Every time that you find in our books a tale the reality of which seems impossible, a story which is repugnant to both reason and common sense, then be sure that the tale contains a profound allegory veiling a deeply mysterious truth; and the greater the absurdity of the letter, the deeper the wisdom of the spirit.
In other words, the more difficult the passage seems from the literal, rational point of view, the greater the riches to be found in it.
4. Clear your mind of any conditioning from the past that there is only one permissible meaning. If you were brought up with a dogmatic interpretation of the Bible then it may take time to achieve this. Dogmatic interpretations have no life. They are rigid, and there is no room for a new perception to emerge.
5. Look at the symbolism in the passage. There are resources that can help you with this:
a. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary by Charles Fillmore, which is a textbook for this course, is an excellent starting point for discovering the symbolic meaning of people and places. For each person or place, it gives a literal interpretation of the name, a summary of various Bible references to the person or place, and an explanation of the metaphysical meaning.
b. A dictionary of symbols is another useful source of information, particularly on the symbolism of objects, only some of which are dealt with in the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary.
6. Practise meditation and prayer in conjunction with your reading. Use your imagination as well as your rational mind as you read. Contemplate the passage, visualise the scene as if you were there, and let your imagination work on it. In this way your rational and imaginative levels will combine to bring you a deeper understanding than if you work with one level only.
7. Use discernment and judgement so that your interpretation is balanced. See the total picture presented in the passage. If you focus too much on one little detail, you will not be able to see the wood for the trees.
8. Study the writings of noted interpreters of the Bible. There are many commentaries which can throw light on the meanings of words and passages. A commentary is a book which “comments on” the biblical text or a part of it. Commentaries which have a spiritual and metaphysical emphasis can add a greater depth to your interpretation.
If you follow these guidelines, you will find that the Bible (and the Tarot) will begin to give up its treasures to you.
Principles of Interpretation
In studying the Bible from a metaphysical point of view, there are certain fundamental principles to keep in mind.
1. The outer also occurs within.
2. You are the centre of the story
3. I only ever confront self
4. Every story has an application in the NOW
5. You have authority and power to interpret the Bible
Cast your mind back to your own experience of the Bible, your first contacts if any, stories that stood out for you, your feelings about the Bible then and your feelings about it now, any attitudes you may have brought with you into your adulthood.
[Here Ken shared his thoughts with the attendees.]
The Development of Allegory
For some centuries Greek philosophers had struggled with the traditional stories of their gods; stories of sexual scandal and in-fighting, high drama and intrigue. The philosophers deduced that many of these stories were allegories or metaphors that had a deeper meaning. Thus the story of Psyche and Cupid was transformed from a sordid tale of one-night stands and psychotic mother-in-law jealousy into a beautiful representation of the travails of the soul seeking spirit. In the Derveni Orphic papyrus (pre-dating the writings of Plato) the gods are interpreted as cosmic principles. The writings of Plato – for example, the etymologies of the names of the gods in the Cratylus – further demonstrate the development of Greek thinking along these lines.
With such a recognised and respected philosophical tradition already in place, it was inevitable that Jewish and Christian writers such as Philo of Alexandria and Paul of Tarsus, who were familiar with cultured Greek thinking, would begin to interpret their own traditional writings and stories in the allegorical way. Indeed, we have indirect evidence that there was a whole school of Jewish scholars who took to this type of interpretation. Philo Judaeus of Alexandria in Egypt stands head and shoulders above the rest and is recognised as the founder of the allegorical interpretation of the Bible – the father of Bible Metaphysics.
The Greeks provided the Hebrews, through their philosophy, with a key to the inner meaning of their Jewish scriptures. What had been understood on an intuitive level was now able to be explored through the tool of the rational intellect that could discern the moral and spiritual lessons imbedded in the myths, legends and sagas of the patriarchs, the judges, the prophets and the kings of Israel. Philo was a pioneer who applied Greek philosophy to the Hebrew Scriptures and succeeded in drawing out the personal meaning of texts dealing with the history of the people of Israel.
Philo: Founder of Bible Metaphysics?
Philo spent his life trying to bring Judaism into the mainstream of philosophy for both Jewish and Gentile readers. He did this through a systematic allegorical interpretation of the scriptures, concentrating on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible whose authorship is traditionally attributed to Moses.
Philo’s Bible Metaphysics makes use of two important keys:
Philo is full of information regarding numbers. He received this from the tradition of the Pythagoreans who considered that the universe was created from number. For example, when trying to explain why God should create the world in six days rather than any other number, he says:
… the world was made in six days, not because the Creator stood in need of a length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement: and number is akin to arrangement; and of all numbers, six is, by the laws of nature, the most productive; for of all the numbers, from the unit upward, it is the perfect one, being made equal to its parts, and being made complete by them; the number three being half of it, and the number two a third of it, and the unit a sixth of it, and, so to say it is formed so as to be both male and female, and is made up of the power of both natures; for in existing things the odd number is the male, and the even number is the female; accordingly of odd numbers the first is the number three, and of even numbers the first is two, and the two numbers being multiplied together make six. It was fitting therefore, that the world, being the most perfect of created things, should be made according to the perfect number, namely six; and as it was to have in it the causes of both, which arise from combination, that it should be according to a mixed number the first combination of odd and even numbers, since it was to embrace the character both of the male who sows the seed and the female who receives it.
Six is the first perfect number. A perfect number is one which is equal to the sum of its divisors:
6 = 1 + 2 + 3
28 (another perfect number) = 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14
You may be interested in Philo’s interpretation of other numbers.
1 is unity, concord
2 is matter and separation – the feminine
3 is growth and fruition – the masculine
4 is equality, justice and time
5 is the animal kingdom and wedlock (3 +2)
6 is mortal perfection, perfect balance (3 X 2)
7 is immortal perfection and virginity,
because it neither generates nor is generated by other numbers.
8 is fullness and justice recapitulated (2 X 4)
9 is the number of the muses and all they are associated with.
10 is the musical, geometric and arithmetic basis of the universe and creation.
Philo makes use of Pythagorean ideas when explaining the occurrence of various ages in the Pentateuch. For example, he endeavours to explain why (in his version of Genesis which is at variance to ours!) Enoch, who cultivated repentance, is said to have lived 165 years before his repentance and 200 years after his repentance (Gen 5:22). Philo’s explanation is something like this:
165 is obtained by
- Adding all the numbers from 1 to 10 = 55 a male number
- Adding all even numbers from 2 to 20 = 110 a female number
- Adding the male and female number together.
Much of Philo’s metaphysical interpretation is profound and insightful. An example is his discussion of the migration of Abraham. He takes the text: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great…” (Genesis 12:1).[ii] Philo says:
God wishing to purify the soul of man, first of all gives it an impulse towards complete salvation, namely, a change of abode, so as to quit the three regions of the body, the outward sense and speech according to utterance; for his country is an emblem of the body, and his kindred are the symbol of the outward sense, and his father’s house of speech.[iii]
In this classic metaphysical interpretation, Philo makes use of three techniques that have become standard:
1 He equates the biblical figure (Abraham) with a part of the human being—in this case, the soul.
2 He equates a place with a state of consciousness—in this case the consciousness of the body.
3 He makes a “play” using the symbolic characters: the passage becomes a story of the progression of the soul from body consciousness into higher levels of awareness.
The Meaning of Names as a Key to Bible Metaphysics
Philo develops the symbology of names both of people and places at great length. Again, this symbology comes from his Pythagorean background. The Pythagoreans attached great significance to names and their numerical equivalents. Over a period of three hundred years, the names of the Greek gods were redefined to fit in with an intricate numerological system of interlocking values.
Our modern forms of numerology and the kabbalistic systems of gematria both stem from the Pythagorean philosophers.
This was recognised by the early writers of the Christian church. It was also recognised that the scriptures concealed truths within the historical events they purported to record. For example Origen (186 – 254 CE) complained that
very many mistakes have been made, because the right method of examining the holy texts has not been discovered by the greater number of readers.[iv]
Modern Bible metaphysics decodes the symbolic meaning of each biblical character by looking at the derivation of the name. Thus the name “Abraham” comes from the Hebrew meaning “father of a multitude.” In turn this is applied to that quality of the mind which has the power “to reproduce its ideas in unlimited expression”[v] The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary goes on to equate this property of the mind with faith.
There are hints in Philo’s writings that there was a whole school of Jewish philosophers in Alexandria who worked with the Torah in an allegorical way, but his are the only writings of the period to have survived. During a long and active life he wrote more than forty works which have come down to us. He completely allegorised the books of Genesis and Exodus and bequeathed his techniques to later generations of scholars.
[iii] Philo: On the Migration of Abraham (2) op cit p252
[iv] Origen, Philocalia 1.8
[v] Metaphysical Bible Dictionary p 17(b)
[here follows examples given on the day]
CHRISTMAS: THE INNER BIRTH OF CHRIST
Esoteric Christmas 25th June
In Luke’s version of the birth of Christ he records the following well-known words:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
- Luke 2:1-7
In a few short sentences Luke conveys so much about the birth of Jesus, precisely because he leaves a lot unsaid and leaves it to our imagination to fill in the details.
The Birth of Christ Within Us
Metaphysically, this is the story of the birth of Christ within us. Those who are stuck in the literal, read the Bible as an account of long past events. Yet in the spiritual world time does not exist. There is only the eternal now which is part of every moment the world has lived through. When you experience something significant it is a moment which always lives in your memory and in a sense is separate from the flow of time which causes so many impressions to fade in our consciousness. This moment, right now, is connected with the time when Mary gave birth to Jesus. Angelus Silesius, the medieval mystic, emphasises the personal meaning of Christmas when he says:
Were Christ born a thousand times in Bethlehem and not in you, you are lost eternally.
This beautiful saying indicates that the way we celebrate Christmas outwardly needs to quicken and stimulate the deepest forces in our souls. The true celebration of Christmas must be celebrated in our hearts.
It warms our hearts when we behold the little baby lying in a manger, for how can we not be touched by a story of new life. When Christmas is rightly understood it deepens our feelings and heightens our sensitivity. Our decorations, gifts, fellowship and rituals open us to the higher, religious feelings.
The second aspect of Angelus’ saying indicates that today we can become conscious that inwardly we are united with the Christ. Christ must be born in us, otherwise Christmas is an empty time of holidays and over-indulgence. Christmas is about the birth and growth of individuality, of self-consciousness as this is exemplified in Jesus who became the Christ. This is a mystical concept of Christmas.
Let’s look at some of the symbols in Luke’s Christmas story to highlight its personal meaning and relevance. In the metaphysics of the Bible a story is interpreted as a metaphor for an aspect of spiritual development. We place ourselves in the middle of the story and affirm that the Christmas story is about new life forces streaming into us and the expanded consciousness which results.
Luke records that a census was being conducted by the Romans under the orders of Caesar Augustus at the precise time that Jesus was born. This gives us a picture of an outer event with an inner meaning. Outwardly the census indicates taking stock and seeing what you have achieved thus far. What were the outcomes of your efforts and striving? It is good to be detached at Christmas and to observe the outcome of your physical labours and efforts.
The census points to an external political and economic reality which Mary and Joseph have to comply with. In the gospels the Romans are the bad guys. They symbolise the forces at work in the physical body, forces which have an essential part to play and yet which are antagonistic to spirit. Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem to sign the roll and pay their taxes. This provides us with the insight that in following our spiritual path we must also abide by the rules and laws of the land, or of physical existence.
The symbol of the census reveals that Christ consciousness is born from order not chaos. Just as God imposed order on chaos to create the world, so we must discipline ourselves so that the new creation of consciousness of the I AM can come about.
This is a recreation, a rejuvenation of the human being from the inside out. It is not a bandaid solution. Metaphysics, kin fact sets out the discipline necessary for the inner life to unfold its treasures.
When our lives are in order, when we have rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, something new can unfold on an inner level. We are balanced and can experience this new impulse without getting carried away and without forgetting our responsibilities.
The Spiritual Geography of Palestine
Today we ask “where are you at?” to enquire into a person’s state of mind. The same kind of reasoning applies to a symbolic reading of the Bible where a place stands for an inner state of consciousness. When viewed in this way Palestine is a map of consciousness, a symbolic landscape which outlines the spiritual geography of our soul. The mountains symbolise our peak experiences when our consciousness is raised: the valleys our low points when we feel cut off from our spiritual source. Every town and city has its own unique character.
It is becoming increasingly common to speak of the spiritual path, of life as a journey and it is fascinating to examine metaphysically, the route followed by Mary and Joseph in becoming the parents of the baby Jesus, the child of such promise. They travelled along the dusty roads of Palestine, Joseph on foot and Mary on an ass, journeying from Nazareth in Galilee into Judea to Bethlehem, the city of David. We have to follow in their footsteps if we want to give birth to the Christ. In other words, there is preparation and effort involved.
How can this individuality be born in us? We have to begin in Galilee, for Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth in Galilee. The word Galilee means “power” and “energy”. We must organise our lives in such a way that we are in touch with the power of spirit which can make our lives vital and meaningful. Without this energy and vitality life becomes boring and tedious. To live in Galilee means there is energy left over for spiritual pursuits. We are able to manage and control life rather than being pushed and shoved by the ups and downs of our earthly existence.
From Praise to Nourishment
If we live in Galilee then we can move from one level of consciousness to another, which brings me to Judea. The word Judea means “praise” or “thanksgiving”. If we live with power and vitality then we can praise God. This means to experience awe and wonder in life and to give thanks for being alive. It has nothing to do with asking God for anything.
When was the last time you praised God? Think of a time when you praised God with your whole heart. It may not have been a conventional prayer. It might have happened when you gazed into the starry depths of space on a silent night in the country. When you praised God you were in the land, the consciousness which is symbolised in the Bible by Judea.
What happens when we dwell in Judea, in a state of consciousness in which we can give thanks for life? We can then travel to Bethlehem. The town of Bethlehem, a name meaning “house of bread”, symbolises the state of consciousness in which we can receive spiritual nourishment for our soul. Bread is fundamental to our existence. Without bread on the table our existence seems so much the poorer. In nutritional and psychological terms our daily bread is important.
But surely “our daily bread” is also important on a spiritual level. How do you get your spiritual nourishment? How do you give content and substance to your soul? The biblical story of Christmas reveals that it comes through an attitude of praise which impels us to take time for prayer and meditation, for in the selfless act of praise our souls are filled with vital enlivening forces. That is, from Judea we travel into Bethlehem where our inner self is fed and nourished with the food and drink which only spirit can provide.
If we do not take time to regularly enter into Bethlehem, then slowly but surely our inner self will shrivel up and die. Look around you and see that many people in our society are spiritually hungry and lost.
Mary and Joseph as the Faculties of Love and Imagination
The couple Mary and Joseph hold the key to the inner meaning of Christmas. Look into yourself and see if you can perceive them as qualities in your own being, for this historical story mirrors an equally significant psychological story which is very personal.
In Bible metaphysics it is fascinating to realise that the main characters represent faculties and abilities within us.
Names give us important clues in deciphering the meaning of biblical symbols, for in the name there is the essence of what the person signifies. The name Mary means “seeress”, “the one who sees”. She denotes the spiritually perceptive qualities in us. Mary may be deeply buried within you, so that you can’t even recognise her but she is there as a pure and silent aspect of your spiritual being.
When a disaster happens to you, can you see the reason behind it and the lesson to be learnt? If you can, then blessed are you because you can perceive the action of spirit working to smash through the concrete of your egotistical nature so that in vulnerability you can commune with spiritual truth. If you can perceive the causes behind the effects which occur in your life, then Mary is alive and active in your soul. This spiritual perception is necessary to recognise the inner presence of Christ.
But where does spiritual perception come from? How is it that one person can perceive through the veil of the physical and another cannot? The secret of spiritual perception actually lies in the ability to love. If you love another person then you become perceptive of many aspects of that person. And if you have been loved deeply then you will have realised that your lover notices things about you that no-one else has ever seen. Mary, then, is the power in us to love purely and simply without the interference of the mind. When we say “no” to love, we close the doors of perception and cut ourselves off from others and the world.
To love also means we do not cling to things, and therefore we can be purified. This is why Mary is described as the virgin, for love leads to purification and innocence. Love gives us the freedom to just be who we are, without pressure or pretence. It also enables us to let other people be themselves.
What about Joseph? His name means “to add”, “to enlarge” or “to expand”. He is betrothed to Mary, his beautiful wife. What is it that goes hand in hand with spiritual perception and love? Elsewhere in the gospels we find that Joseph was a dreamer of dreams, which suggests that he symbolises the faculty of imagination. Our society tends to limit this faculty in us. Every five-year-old is an artist, so what happened to 99.9% of us adults? We deny our imagination so often that it is tragic. We perceive an image in our meditations or daydreams and say,
“Oh, it was just my imagination!” We undervalue it. Trust what you inwardly feel and perceive and the Joseph faculty will be strengthened.
Imagination is a spiritual faculty, a faculty which we need to enlarge and strengthen if the Christ child is to be born in us. Use it or lose it! Joseph is “active imagination”, for he is a masculine figure. The males in the Bible represent outwardly directed faculties, while the females represent more inward qualities. The Joseph faculty acts in such a way that we can live out our ideals and make them happen.
No Room in the Inn
I find it marvellous to contemplate the extraordinary fact that there was no place in all of Bethlehem for this couple to spend the night at the very time Mary was to give birth. They were only given shelter in the manger or stable with the animals. This is very apt on a psychological level, for we tend to put Christ last on the list of our priorities. We forget about God unless we are in some kind of trouble. In the Old Testament God complains because the Israelites offer him burnt offerings – and we are still doing the same thing. Let’s get our priorities straight.
I want you to imagine yourself in the hills and mountains by a lake. This is the world in which your imagination can freely flow, for you are not confined in your thoughts. But this kind of consciousness is not so easily maintained when you go indoors and sit looking at four walls. Somehow or another thinking becomes more introspective and limited.
Inside a house or inn we begin to think rather than to imagine and dream. The inn symbolises the mundane consciousness in which we feel at home. On these occasions our mind is concentrated in the head and we contemplate the world from a rational viewpoint. When you are sitting in your house looking out of the windows, opening and shutting doors, you are self-contained under your own roof. The inn and the people in it represent the rational and materialistic part of our consciousness which is totally focused on the physical body, the emotions and the mind.
The body is the house or inn in which our spirit, our I AM dwells. The body itself gives us the opportunity to withdraw and become a thinker. The hard skull provides the roof, the eyes and ears are the windows, and the mouth is the door. While dreaming and allowing our thoughts to soar our soul goes out of the house, so to speak. In thinking the soul comes home to the body and brain.
Having said that, it is easy to see why there was no room in the inn. There is no room in our ordinary materialistic consciousness for Mary, for divine love, and for Joseph, the power of active imagination. And there is no room for Jesus, the beginning of spiritual individuality. We are already full and satisfied, in so many ways. Yet, Luke’s story tells us that the Christ child can still be born – but outside our everyday awareness.
Christ is born in the manger, in the cave of the unconscious where tremendous vitality is to be found. This new life shocks us out of the comfort zone, for a baby demands our attention. Did you know that it takes seventy hours a week to care for a baby? Let’s metaphysise this: consider the time and effort required to nurture the inner Christ child.
Making Room in the Inn
Jesus signifies the seed, the beginning of a new consciousness, of a new way of thinking, of responding and of acting. And Luke’s story tells us that in the beginning there is no room in the inn, there is no room in our ordinary everyday consciousness for this new-born divinity.
It is our task to make room for him, to get rid of the clutter and the irrelevancies so that there are spaces within us so that our spiritual nature is free to grow stronger and more mature. Otherwise we are like a child wearing shoes which it has grown out of. The growth gets stultified and distorted.
At Christmas, by opening yourself up to the heavens, to the radiation of love which streams to us, you can feel the pulse of that new life rising up from within you. You can, in fact, experience the real Christmas. Not the Christmas of department stores and parties, and all of the hysteria that goes with them, but the Christmas celebrated by the angels who draw near to us at this magical time of the year. It is a Christmas of joy and of feeling quickened and inwardly alive. It is a matter of opening yourself to what is humanly possible in the spiritual atmosphere which descends upon us and surrounds us when we pray and meditate, thereby attuning ourselves to spirit.
Take time out this Christmas to be with yourself and to be yourself, and acknowledge your need to give birth to a new consciousness, a consciousness of love and light, which we call the Christ. Then, as Angelius Silesius indicates, the real purpose of Christmas will have been fulfilled in your heart and mind.
The Seven Days of Creation
I would like to look at the very first chaper of the Bible from a metaphysical perspective. The fundamentalists interpret this literally and believe that creation happened in seven 24 hour periods. A day exists because of the relationship of the Earth to the Sun. But the Sun wasn’t created till the fourth day. The Biblical term for day, which is yom in Hebrew must have a different meaning. Esoterically yom means age, or epoch or era.
But I am not looking at Genesis esoterically. Metaphysically the story of creation explains the process of our own creativity. The creative process duplicates the process which originated in the mind of God.
There are actually two creation stories in the Bible. The first appears in Gen 1:1-2:3 and the second in Gen. 2:4-3:24. They are like mirror opposites. In the first the creative process begins in a watery chaos and minerals, plants, animals and finally humans, as the pinnacle of creation, come into existence. In the second story, the earth is a dry place and the human being, fashioned from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7) , is formed first and then plants appear and then animals.
Metaphysically, relating these stories to ourselves then we can say that creativity has two distinct parts. Firstly there is the planning, the thinking, the musing and the imagining, then there is the work of bringing the ideas into manifestation.
The Nuances of Words
It is very difficult to do justice to the original Hebrew of Genesis. Hebrew verbs, for example, do not have past, present or future tenses, but aspects. In Hebrew an action is either completed and perfect and incomplete and imperfect. A more correct translation of the first words of Genesis is “In a beginning God began to create the heavens and earth”. It is also interesting to note that the hebrew word for God is the Elohim, a plural term.
The Number Seven
The number seven is of special significance for creation and creativity. Philo called it the number of immortal perfection.
It is the number of completion, of an entire cycle. We have seven days in a complete week, and seven year cycles of human development. A day symbolises a complete stage and seven days a complete process from beginning to end.
Stages in the Creative Process
Creation doesn’t just happen. It is a multi-stage process and each stage follows in a specific order. We follow the sequence so that our efforts may bear fruit; we can’t shuffle around the days of the week.
Each stage has two parts, an aevening and a morning in that order. The Hebrews inherited the idea from the Babylonians that the day began at 6.00 pm, the apprximate time of sunset. The day began with darkness and emerged 12 hours later into light. The evening symbolises the unconscious, which precedes the light of consciousness. Creativity therefore begins in the unconscious and retains elements of the unconscious. T.S. Eliot once said that the art of writing poetry requires the discernment to know when to be conscious of what you are writing and when to be unconscious. If everything is explained by the poet, then the poetry loses its evocative power to move and inspire us.
Mind and Manifestation
In the creative process there are two basic spheres of activity.
- The first sphere is “the heavens” which is the realm of ideas. It is the spiritual dimension. Thinking and imagining are spiitual activities.
- The second sphere is “the earth”, which is initially empty and void, (tohu and bohu) the sphere with the potential to manifest the things conceived in the mind.
Associated with heaven and earth is a trinity. On p. 158 of the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Charles Filmore writes,
The law of mind action may be described in three steps – mind, idea, manifestation.
Creativity requires this trinity, we need our mind, then the potential and power of an idea and finally the expression or manifestation of the idea.
Order from Chaos
The word for “deep” is tehom in Hebrew and some scholars associate it with Tiamat, the Babylonian chaos monster. In Babylonian myth, Marduk, the god of light, killed Tiamat and slit her body in two and used one half to form the heavens and the other half to form the earth. Metaphysically, creation occurs when we create order from chaos. We need a certain order in our life for the creative energies to flow. We also may have to dispense with the old to create something new.
Day One – Let There Be Light (Gen 1:3-5)
The creative process begins with God, with Spirit, through the utterance of the Logos, the divine Word. We also have the power of the Logos. We have the power of the spoken word which is preceded by the thought, (hopefully). Affirmations can play an important role in the beginning of the creative process. Affirmations make the unconscious conscious. And He said “Let there be light”. The beginning of the creative process is an illuminating one. The light of intuition can flash, we have insights, seemingly out of the blue, as if from nowhere, but in fact the intuitive idea comes from the realm of spirit. Light allows us to see, to understand to comprehend. And in each day there are two very important times when light and darkness intermingle, evening and morning, sunset and sunrise can be very inspiring times. The first day of the creative process requires light, an illumined mind which has an idea.
Day Two – Making the Firmament (Gen 1:6-8)
The Hebrew word for firmament is raquia which means something like a flat metallic dish, which also served as a mirror. The second stage in the creative process is that what is to be created is a reflection of the idea that began in the heavens. Creativity requires consciousness and consciousness allows us to be discerning and to separate the parts of the idea. Two is the number of separation. The second stage of creativity is to take the unity of the idea and separate it into its parts so that it may become manifest in the earthly sphere.
Day Three – The Fruitful Earth (Gen 1:9-13)
The third stage is the beginning of the manifesting of the idea, the earth becomes fruitful. And with the bebeginning of actually manifesting the idea, a new impulse is given, new energy; life forces are added, connections are made from the unconscious, through the creative idea intothat which is beginning to become manifest.
Day Four – The Lights of Heaven (Gen 1:14-19)
The fourth stage is a complete manifestation of the idea, but not yet perfect. It is the manifestation of the prototype, the maquette. The idea has been organised. There is now a sun to rule the day and a moon to rule the night. And as the moon reflects the sun, we need now, on the fourth day to reflect on our idea and to seek feedback. When I was at Art School the feedback sessions when we discussed our ideas and our artwork with each other was one of the most valuable components of the creative process. Constructive criticism is invaluable and discussing others ideas enlarges our own. Without this ordering and feedback stage our creativity remains completely naive. In the fourth stage we are also influenced by the stars and planets in the sky, radiating their forces upon us.
Day Five – The Birds and Fish (Gen 1:20-23)
The birds and fish are the further prototypes of your idea. The living creatures are new thoughts and new ideas. Creativity also requires experimentation and practise. With practise and perseverance, our ideas evolve, each prototype is a little better than the one that preceded it. Yet at this stage that which we manifest still does not match up to our original vision. It is this mismatch that keeps us working, keeps us creating, keeps us manifesting. If the first thing we did was perfect, we would have no impetus to do anything else. Yet there is also an excitement about the fifth stage because we are being creative, and productive and drawing close, bringing forth swarms of living creatures. They come from the waters, from the realms of the unconscious and ‘fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens’ into the realms of the superconscious. In this fifth stage of manifesting our ideas we are re-establishing a connection to spirit, consciously through the soaring of our ideas, our thinking and feelingactivates our will.
Day Six – The Creation of Animals and Man (Gen 1:24-31)
There are two components to the sixth stage; the creation of animals, cattle, creeping things and beasts of the earth and the creation of man. The animals signify emotions and feelings which give new energy, new life to our ideas. We could spend a lot more time on contemplating this stage because the living creatures all bring different qualities to our creativity.
And finally god makes man in His own image. the idea comes forth in all its fullness. It is fully rounded and the complete manifestation of the inspired image we had in the beginning. We perceived the idea, visualised it, planned it out and gave order to the idea, perhaps drew a sketch, made prototypes and now we fully realise, fully resolve our creative idea. And we note also, that this stage is only one seventh of the whole process. In getting to the sixth stage we have acquired much, we have learned much, we have honed our skills and concepts, so that we can fulfil our creative potential.
Day Seven – God Rests (Gen 2:1-3)>br />Saturn
There is an epidemic of busy-ness in the twenty first century. We have a shortage of time and we neglect to rest. Yet it is essential, for keeping us vital and creative and effective in the world. To rest is also to let go, to detach, to release what we have created into the world, to hand it over with trust. Resting is freeing yourself from fear and anxiety. Then we reenter the darkness, the realms of the unconscious and we begin the creative process anew.
Let me summarise then the seven stages of creativity.
- Let there be the light of intuition, the creative inspired imaginative idea.
- Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters and let it separate the waters so that out of the unconscious realms arises the conscious. We can add discernment to our idea and separate it into its parts.
- Let the earth put forth vegetation so that we may begin to manifest our ideas and in so doing become vitalised.
- Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night, so that we may reflect on our ideas, seek feedback and see more clearly.
- Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures that swim and fly so that we can be productive. And in our productivity we can refine our ideas.
- Let the earth bring forth living creatures to add the warmth of feeling to our thinking. Then let us make man and fully realise our creative potential.
- God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it so we can rest from the work of our creation and let it go.