The article below is taken from the late reverend Geoffrey Hodson’s book, Hidden Wisdom in the Holy Bible, Volume I and gives a good general impression of an esoteric approach to Christianity. We can recommend you purchase and read the entire work, available from Quest Books.
FOUR MAJOR KEYS
All Happens Within
The foregoing enunciation of the principal theme of all allegories may now be followed by the statement and application to man of four of the seven possible main interpretations of the allegories and symbols of the world.
The First Key is that some recorded, external, supposedly historical events also occur interiorly. All happens within every race, nation and individual, each recorded event being descriptive of a subjective experience of man. This application is essentially twofold, referring both to the experiences and attainments of races and individuals advancing by the normal, gradual, evolutionary method, and to individuals who are treading “The way of holiness”.
The need for the veiling in allegory and symbol of magical and occult knowledge is especially great in the latter of these two applications; for quite early in the approach to and entry upon the path of swift unfoldment an enhancement of the will power, and of the mental and psychic faculties, begins to be apparent. Premature awakening and development of these supernormal faculties, and their employment for purely personal and destructive purposes, could prove extremely harmful both to those who misuse them and to their fellow men.
The apostle Paul would seem to have accepted this First Key – the mystical interpretation. For him the Nativity of Christ, for example, was not only a particular event which occurred at a certain time in Bethlehem, but is also descriptive of a universal human experience. The narratives of the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception and the Nativity of Christ are so written as to describe allegorically the gradual awakening of Christlike powers of perception, action and attainment into conscious activity within the Soul of advanced man. The presence and the activities of the Lord Christ on earth evidently were for Paul but mirrors of the interior awakening and perfecting of the inherent, redemptive Christ-power and nature within man – the Logos of the Soul. Thus he wrote: “… I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” and “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
As the student of the Bible reads the great narratives with this key in his hand, as it were, he can consciously share in the recorded experiences. He may ascend the mount with Abraham, Moses, Elijah and Jesus and, in however slight a measure at first, begin to participate in their illumination. With the two dejected disciples he may walk the road to Emmaus, and hear the wise words of their temporarily unknown companion. With them, at the breaking of the bread, he will then experience that inner light which came when “… their eyes were opened, and they knew him….” Such, indeed, is part of the intention of the inspired authors. As one studies the scriptures of the world, therefore, one must read intuitively, sensitively, with one’s mind open and responsive to that vaster consciousness which so often seems waiting to burst through. Thus the First Key is that some recorded events also occur interiorly.
People Personify Human Qualities
The Second Key is that each of the persons introduced into the stories represents a condition of consciousness and a quality of character. All the actors are personifications of aspects of human nature, of attributes, principles, powers, faculties, limitations, weaknesses and errors of man. When purely human beings are the heroes, the life of a person evolving at the normal rate is being described. When the hero is semi-divine, however, the accent is upon the hastened progress of the Spiritual Self in man after it has begun to assume preponderant power. When the central figure is an Avatar or “descent” of an aspect of Deity, his experiences narrate those of the Spiritual Self during the last phases of human evolution to the stature of perfected manhood. Such is the general purpose, and such the method, of the ancient writers of the world’s immortal allegories, parables and myths.
The Deity or Father, when introduced into a narrative, generally refers to the Highest Spiritual Essence in man, the Divine Spark, the Immortal Germ, the Logos of the Soul, the Dweller in the Innermost, the Monad. This is especially true where the Supreme and Eternal Deity, the Logos, is brought into the story. A tragic, mind-darkening degradation of the Universal Self named “I AM THAT I AM,” to the level of the deity of a single tribe, sometimes bloodthirsty, wrathful and jealous, is thought by some authorities to have been made in the days of the restoration by Ezra of the destroyed books of the Israelites. The Supreme Emanator, referred to as “God” and “the Spirit of God,” is above all things universal and divine. The limitation of the one uncreate to become the personal god of a single tribe had led to much confusion and an appalling debasement of the idea of the Supreme Deity. Whenever the Eternal One is introduced into a narrative, it is always susceptible of interpretation as a personification of the Monad of man, as also of the Oversoul of the race.
In the parable, the bosom of Abraham into which Lazarus, “a certain beggar,” was carried by the angels, refers to the state of consciousness in which the human Monad perpetually abides and to which the Spiritual Soul or Immortal Ego eventually attains. Those following the initiatory path seek to hasten this realization, in waking brain-consciousness, first of their divine, immortal nature, and thereafter of their unbroken unity with the Supreme Lord of all. The full recognition of man’s unity with God, of the oneness of man-spirit with God-spirit, is the ultimate goal of all who seek the strait gate and enter upon the narrow way. In Hinduism this state is called moksha or liberation; in Buddhism, nirvana or conscious absorption; and in Christianity, salvation, ascension, Christhood, and being “carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” The symbol of the disciple John leaning on the bosom of Jesus is susceptible of a similar interpretation. Thus Abraham, as also many other people in the Bible, personates both a principle of man and a state of consciousness.
In this method of Biblical study the characters – divine, semidivine, patriarchal and human – are regarded as personifications of principles and powers of nature as the macrocosm and of man as the microcosm. This reading is supported by Paul, who writes: “all these things happened unto them for ensamples” and “it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman … which things are an allegory …”. It is not unreasonable to assume that such a theory may also be true of many other portions of the Bible. One may even go further than this and assert that the practice of studying the scriptures of the world in their literal meaning, and as records of actual historical events alone, can lead to serious confusion of mind.
Three other errors in modern Christianity urgently need to be corrected, I submit. These are: the degradation already mentioned, of the concept of the Divine Emanator of the universe to the level of a tribal god; reliance upon an external (instead of an interior) redemptive power; and the erection of a theological edifice founded upon incredible dogmas concerning this last error, the author of Proverbs would seem to have expressed a view similar to that which forms the basis of this work, namely that many of the scriptural passages upon which certain dogmas are founded were actually conceived and written as allegories or parables.
These difficulties are all avoided, and profound inspiration consistent with reason is gained by the recognition of a mystical intent and meaning underlying many portions of the scriptures and mythologies of ancient peoples. Thus the humility, the devotion and the selfless love of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; the human frailty and the inherent sainthood of a Magdalene and a Peter; the “busyness” of Martha and the far more valuable, spiritual, contemplative aspects of human nature and modes of human life displayed by her sister, Mary – all these attributes form part of the character of every individual, the conditions of life drawing out now one and now another.
The twelve disciples of Jesus personify them in a twelvefold classification as microcosmic manifestations of the attributes of the zodiacal signs. Discipleship, or nearness to the divine teacher, indicates that the evolution of the disciple had reached an advanced stage. Ultimately, all attributes will be fully developed as powers of heart and mind and spirit. Only as the twelve zodiacal qualities in man are “discipled” – or disciplined and refined – is he able to respond to his own inner spiritual will and to comprehend pure wisdom, both of which are personified by the Master. The Christ-Presence and power, whether asleep, awakening or being “born”, or fully grown to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, must, however, be added to all human attributes in order to complete by means of personification the full description of man.
The interaction between these various aspects of human nature, the effects they produce upon one another, the waxing or waning of one or more of them at different times and in different lives, and the gradual, triumphant emergence and predominance of the royal Spiritual Self, the immortal King within, the hero of every saga – all this is allegorically portrayed by the initiated authors of the scriptures of the world. The marriages in which many of these exploits culminate may be interpreted as symbolic references to the unification of the consciousness of the outer and the inner Self. In mystical literature they are therefore referred to as “heavenly marriages.” Thus the narratives themselves describe the experiences – particularly the tests, ordeals, defeats and victories – of one person, who is man himself. Successful exploits describe interior achievements, while partial and complete failures, defeats and surrenders are allegories of temporary victories of the purely human over the divine in man – conquests of matter over spirit. In the main, the manifold experiences of the immortal Self of man in its journey toward perfection are narrated as the adventures of numbers of persons in anyone story. The twelve labours of Hercules, each susceptible of association with one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the voyage of the Argonauts, the journeys and experiences of the Israelites, the lives of the Lord Shri Krishna and of the Lord Christ, among many others, are all descriptive in the symbolic manner of the journey of the Soul and the psychological, intellectual and spiritual experiences passed through on that journey. Thus the Second Key is that each of the dramatis personae represents a condition of consciousness and a quality of character.
Stories Dramatize Phases of Human Evolution
The Third Key is that each story is thus regarded as a graphic description of the experiences of the human soul as it passes through the various phases of its evolutionary journey to the Promised Land, or cosmic consciousness – the goal and summit of human attainment. Inspired allegories are always distinguishable from mere novels and biographies by several characteristics, such as the intrusion of the supernatural and the inclusion in the story of angelic and divine beings, and even of Deity itself. When these are found the existence of a hidden revelation may always be suspected. The reader possessed of the keys may then penetrate the veil of symbolism and find that hidden wisdom which it had concealed.
In this third method of interpretation each story may be studied from at least two points of view. The first of these refers to normal evolutionary experience and natural mental and emotional states, while the second point of view reveals the sacred allegories as more especially descriptive of the experiences of those who enter in at the strait gate and pursue the narrow way.
In the parable of the sower the different conditions of the ground – as the Christ explained privately to his disciples represent various evolutionary phases and states of spiritual receptiveness of the race and the individual, from complete unresponsiveness (rocky ground) to full perception and ratification (fertile ground). In the parable of the ten virgins, the foolish ones may be regarded as those who are not as yet sufficiently evolved to be able to respond to impulses descending from the higher Self (the bridegroom), and therefore not really to be blamed. The wise virgins, on the other hand, may be interpreted as personifying all those in whom the Spiritual Self has attained to a considerable degree of evolutionary unfoldment and the outer, physical nature is sufficiently developed to be aware of this fact and to give expression, in the conduct of daily life, to the higher idealism and the fruits of spiritual experiences. This is followed by the progressive illumination of the mind-brain by the Ego (betrothal), leading to the fusion of the immortal and mortal natures (marriage).
The incidents of the marriage feast of Cana may thus be taken to refer to this interior union achieved by those who have awakened the power of the Christ-presence within them, allegorically indicated by the presence of the Master. The all-essential blending of personality and Ego, the “heavenly marriage” or merging of the human individuality with the One Divine Self and Life of the universe as a whole, “the mystic identity,” has been attained. The presence of the Christ in this story, as in all in which he appears, including those which describe the miracles, indicates that spiritual wisdom, spiritual intuitiveness and a Christlike love and compassion are already well developed and active throughout the personal nature. Under such conditions the “water”, symbol of the desire aspects of the emotions, automatically becomes transmuted into the “wine” of spiritual wisdom. This is not a miracle, but a natural process which occurs when a steadfast aspirant finds and treads the narrow way. The grape and the vine also symbolize knowledge, wisdom and comprehension of the spirit of things. As fermentation gives a certain “strength” to wine, so the action of the intellect upon accumulated esoteric knowledge turns it into pure wisdom, implicit insight and deeply penetrative intuitiveness. Thus the Third Key is that many scriptural stories allegorically describe phases of man’s evolutionary journey and their accompanying experiences.
The Symbolism of Language
The Fourth Key is that some physical objects, as also certain words, have each their own special symbolic meaning. The sacred language of the initiates of the mystery schools of old is indeed formed of hierograms and symbols rather than of words alone, their meaning being ever constant, as constant- also is the doctrine which this language everywhere reveals. Words are thus used as keys with which to unlock the inner meanings of scripture and mythology.
These keys, when turned seven times, will reveal seven layers of sacred wisdom. This fact is allegorically referred to on many occasions. The fiery furnace for example had to be heated “seven times more than it was wont to be heated” before the three men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – were joined by a fourth who appeared “like the Son of God”. Similarly, the walls of Jericho were circumambulated on the seventh day seven times before they fell down. This Fourth Key receives fuller consideration in the first chapter of Part I.
The idea thus emerges that in order to discover the sacred wisdom of the Christian and other scriptures we must divest ourselves of the idea that they were conceived and written entirely as chronologically and historically accurate accounts of actual events.
The Gospel narrative, for example, in its initiatory interpretation, describes the progress of an advanced and elevated Soul through the final ascending phases of evolution until the highest, the Ascension, is attained. To be fully appreciated the great drama must be transferred from the material to the psychological, intellectual and spiritual realms and levels of human experience. An interpretation of the Gospel narrative from this point of view is suggested in Part Five of this volume.
The disciples, then, are personifications of the noblest attributes of man. Though still imperfect, they are becoming increasingly spiritualized, or brought into the presence of their Master, who personates the dweller in the innermost, the God-self of man. The disciples are not yet equal to the Christ, being younger in evolution and in consequence still under the delusion of self-separateness. This is shown by their question as to who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They are still tainted by grosser material attributes, hence the symbolical washing of their feet by their Master. A traitor still lurks in their midst, who must be self-revealed and self-slain before the great Ascension can occur. The Master admonishes, rebukes and warns them, indicating the spiritualizing activity of the divine presence within.
By the exercise of theurgic powers many of the recorded and miscalled – miracles could have been performed by an Adept, or even by an initiate of lesser degree. In possible mystical interpretations they also illustrate the processes of arousing into activity the faculty of responsiveness to spiritual vision (restoring sight), and to the still, small voice within (restoring hearing), the free exercise of the intellect liberated from rigid orthodoxy (curing those paralyzed) and awakening to full spiritual awareness and knowledge (raising from the dead). This method of interpretation will be employed in those later volumes of this work in which the New Testament miracles of the Lord Christ are considered.
The Gospel story, and indeed all the inspired portions of the Bible, are addressed less to the reasoning mind, which they frequently affront, than to the intuition, which can perceive in them references to the evolution of the spiritual Soul of man. The processes of the development and active use of latent deific powers are portrayed in world scriptures by means of symbols and dramatic allegories. This mystical view, it may be repeated, does not totally deny the presence of history. The kernel of tradition within the stories can still be a record of real events, however much the illumined authors may have lifted them out of time and space by the use of the sacred language.
Incongruities as Clues to Deeper Meanings
The student of the allegorical language is nearly always given a clue – one, moreover, which at first sight might seem to be rather strange. This clue consists of an additional veil, cover or blind which tends to increase confusion and so to repel those who regard as purely literal those portions of scripture in which potentially dangerous, because power-bestowing, knowledge is both revealed and concealed. Those who seek the hidden wisdom should guard carefully against this repulsion, whether it is aroused
by statements which are incongruous, incredible or impossible, or by stories which offend logic and one’s sense of justice, decency and morality. Unfortunately many people are turned away from the scriptures, and even from religion itself, by the discovery of these characteristics. The study and exposition of the sacred language are therefore of great importance.
Some Incredibilities and Their Elucidation
An apparent digression is here made briefly to examine certain incongruities in the Bible and to suggest possible resolutions of the problems which they admittedly present. Certain admittedly difficult Biblical passages are:
- (a) Three days and nights of creation pass before the sun is created. Here universal creative epochs of activity and quiesence rather than the alternations of day and night on a single planet are implied.
- (b) Deity enjoins massacre and extermination.2 Enemies of the soul are personified by enemies of Israel.
- (c) Noah collects pairs of every living creature from all parts of the earth – arctic, temperate and tropical- and keeps them alive in the ark for forty days. According to a universal principle, also operative throughout physical nature, the seeds of all living things are preserved from one period of activity or creative epoch to its successor. The fruits of each human rebirth are, for example, preserved between successive lives, the ark being the symbol of the conserving vehicle – cosmic or human.
- (d) The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. In the succession of reincarnations each human life is as the “father” of those which follow, they being referred to as its children. Character developments are transferred and sowing and reaping occur from life to life under the law of cause and effect or, in Sanskrit, karma.
- (e) Jericho is brought down by the sound of trumpets, horns and shouting. The Logos doctrine of the formation and the dissolution of universes by occult potencies of sound – the “Voice of God” – and their use in chanting to break down limitations of consciousness (walls) and to purify its vehicles, are all implied.
- (f) Joshua makes the sun and moon stand still to prolong the day. By the practice of contemplation the divine Will in man, his source of spiritual power and light (symbolically, the sun), is brought to its maximum power (the midst of the heavens) over the mortal man, enabling him to overcome the enemies of the soul (Gibeonites) and attain serenity.
- (g) The defeat of Samson by cutting off his hair, and his destruction of the temple by leaning his weight on the pillars. Hair is the symbol of the effective relationships between the Spiritual Soul and the mind-brain. When this is severed the power and the guidance of the inner Self are lost to the outer man, who becomes a slave to matter and the senses (Delilah). cf. Nazarenes, an ancient monastic group in Palestine, one of whose customs was to permit the hair to grow long. When man attains to equilibrium between the pairs of opposites (the pillars), limitations (the temple) upon consciousness are dissipated and undesired qualities (the Philistines) are destroyed.
- (h) Elijah goes to heaven in a chariot of fire. The sublimation of the fiery, creative force in man enables him to ascend the spiritual states of consciousness (heaven).
- (i) Jonah enters the belly of a great fish and remains unharmed for three days and three nights. At initiation the candidate is withdrawn from his body (the ship), enters the underworld (the sea), and is then elevated into full spiritual awareness (the fish) or attains to Christ-consciousness. After the passage of sufficient time (generally three days and three nights), he returns to his body (is delivered to dry land).
- (j) Tribute money is found inside a particular fish. All the necessities (the tribute money) for spiritual, intellectual, and even physical living are to be found in the divine aspects of human nature (the fish). Man should learn to draw upon the Christ-power within him.
- (k) A fig tree is withered for not bearing fruit in early spring. Unless a man gives freely of the fruits of his life, they will wither away and be lost. The text may be regarded as the enunciation of a law as well as the description of an act. A fuller interpretation of this incident appears in Part 1, Chapter III of this volume and also in Volume II, Part 1, Chapter 11 of this work.
- (l) Lazarus is raised after being dead for four days. Death symbolizes total spiritual unawareness. Miraculous restoration to life implies its recovery by virtue of the action of the interior divine power and presence (the Christ). The period of death refers to the time during which the body of the candidate is unconscious (figurative death) while initiation is being conferred. In the Ancient Mysteries being dead metaphorically described the condition of the uninitiated, while being resurrected was to pass through the sacred rite or to be “raised.”
- (m) The flesh of Christ is meat and the blood of Christ is drink, their consumption being essential to life. Our Lord insists that the partaking of his flesh and blood is essential to salvation. The “flesh” of a divine Being is a symbol for spiritual truth and law. Eating such flesh implies intellectual absorption, full comprehension of eternal verities. Blood symbolizes the ever-outpoured divine Life by which the universe and man are spiritually sustained. Drinking such blood implies conscious absorption in the one life of the universe and the realization of unity with its Source.
- (n) The events of the night before the Crucifixion are too numerous for all of them to have occurred in one night. Among them are:
The Last Supper.
The agony in the Garden.
The betrayal by Judas.
The appearance before Caiaphas and the questioning.
The appearance before the Sanhedrin and the questioning.
The appearance before Pilate and the questioning in the Hall of Judgment. (Courts to try malefactors did not sit in the middle of the night.)
The visit to Herod, told of by St. Luke.
The return to Pilate.
Pilate’s speeches and the washing of his hands recorded by St. Matthew only.
The scourging, mocking and arraying of Jesus in purple robes.
The long and painful journey to Golgotha, followed by the nailing to the Cross.
The difficulty disappears if the whole experience is also regarded as being descriptive of changes of consciousness as the threshold of perfection is approached!
While interpretations of these and a great many other incongruous statements in the Bible will be offered in their due place in later volumes, fuller explanations of two or three of the more perplexing texts may, perhaps, usefully be added here.
With regard to (a), applying the Fourth Key – that some physical objects, as also certain words, have each their own special symbolic meaning – the days and nights of creation refer to alternations of creative activity or “day”, and quiesence or “night”. These are later referred to in the text of this book by their Sanskrit names of Manvantara and Pralaya respectively.
With reference to (f), Joshua personifies the initiate who has brought his monadic will, symbolized by the sun, to its position of maximum power (the midst of the heavens or zenith). In consequence, he prevents the oncoming of night (mental darkness) and maintains his personal nature (the battlefield of Gibeon) in that condition of prolonged illumination (day) which insures victory in the battle between spirit (the Israelites) and matter (their enemies) in him. This wonderful allegory has been more fully considered in Part 1, Chapter V. Even from this brief interpretation, however, the element of impossibility may be regarded as both a hint or clue and an indication of a profound occult idea for which the reader is encouraged to search.
With regard to (m), quite clearly our Lord was not exhorting mankind to consume human flesh and blood when he said: “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father bath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” The words “flesh”, “blood”, “eateth” and drinketh” are not used in the usual sense. They are symbolical, metaphorical, and are so used in order to convey a hidden undermeaning.
What, then, do those four words – “flesh”, “blood”, “eateth” and “drinketh” mean? The flesh of Christ may be interpreted as divine truths, spiritual laws, or that in which he is clothed, by which he is covered and through which he as Logos is made manifest. The time comes – and is hastened as “The way of holiness” is entered upon – when the human intellect absorbs divine knowledge, becomes illumined and inspired by the interior discovery and revelation of spiritual truths. This experience in consciousness is symbolized as eating the flesh of Christ. Bread is also used to describe this knowledge of divine laws, processes and purposes. Eating consecrated bread is an allegory for the reception, absorption and application to life of that knowledge, gnosis, sophia, esoteric wisdom. Bread is also a symbol of the cyclic regeneration of life after each return to the seed state.
The blood of Christ is the ever-outpoured divine life by which the Universe is sustained and without which it could not live. The life-force does, indeed, perform a function for the universe and all it contains which closely resembles the life-sustaining office which human blood performs for the physical body. Normally man is unaware either of the outpouring and omnipresence of this divine life, or of the fact that it is the spiritually sustaining life within him.
At a certain stage of the evolution of the human intellect this fact is intuitively perceived. Such realization by the aspirant can be hastened by means of certain spiritual practices, meditation and prayer, and by the aid of his Master the hierophant and other officiants in the sacred initiatory rites of the temples of the Greater Mysteries. Ultimately full knowledge may be gained of the outpouring of the Christ-life into the universe and man, and also of man’s identity with that life and its divine Source. This attainment is described symbolically as drinking Christ’s blood.
Our Lord may be assumed to have been referring to a state of consciousness of unity with the cosmic Christ and his outpoured life rather than to an act of physical nutrition.
Once this symbolical eating and drinking, this spiritual agape, has occurred, then the process can be initiated in others who in their turn, starving for truth, can be fed in vast multitudes. As the incident of feeding the five thousand allegorically tells, in this ministration there is not, neither can there be, any loss. On the contrary, there is more of spiritual wisdom, knowledge and upwelling spiritual vitality afterward than before.