METAPHYSICAL BIBLE INTERPRETATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
This is a series of lectures given by Mr. Edward Rabel, member of the faculty of S.M.R.S.
Fall semester 1975 - 2nd. Yr. Class. Lecture given on October 13-14, 1975
Gen. 21, pp. 131-136 of transcript.
Isaac is Born
Now, in Chapter 19, verses 30-73, there is a description of what outwardly sounds very unpleasant, very immoral, incestuous acts, but these sections of these chapters are very beautifully metaphysically explained in Mysteries of Genesis; they are not what they sound like. Now we are coming to our important event, which is that Sarah finally conceives. "And she bore Abraham a son in his old age." This always bugs me, why doesn't it say, "She had the baby?" - instead of "She bore Abraham a son!" You get the chauvinism there? She bore Abraham a son, what about she had her baby? That's the way I feel about it. And in his old age, well, she was no chicken either. So this male-oriented Hebrew thing comes all through the O.T. So, "at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, Isaac."
The word Isaac means elapse, laughter, joy and metaphysically stands for an inner consciousness of inner joy and satisfaction. Also, we could now add to that he stands for a positive or optimistic outlook or viewpoint, and of all the great characters in Genesis, Isaac is the most passive, is Isaac. He takes a role in the narrative which is almost completely. He doesn't do much of anything except let things be done for him, which takes some doing. Doesn't it take some doing to let things be done for you? It's an accomplishing, but he doesn't do much of anything, but things just seem to happen to him and around him. His main importance in the Bible is in what he means to other persons.
I want to call your attention to the fact that this is often the case in life, and it's good for us to recognize this and to see the good in it. Unfortunately, too much emphasis is place in our culture on the belief that a person's importance is determined by his degree of doing-ness, what he accomplishes, what he can show to the world as his product, his position. This is very pernicious because it is unfair. It is unfair to the other type of importance available to people. There is that, to me, at least the other type of importance, which lies in simply what I am and what I mean to other people because of what I am. I don't have to write books to become important in the Unity movement, do I? Do you? If that's your thing and you can do it, fine, but don't you think that a person can be very important to the Unity movement just by what his being in Unity means to a lot of other people. Just because you're there and you're you. So, Isaac is the first character brought out in the Bible who stands for a type of quality which is important not because of its externalized doing and getting, but more because of just the fact that he's he.
Now, there's a similarity between the character Isaac and which other character? Abel. Abel was very similar in metaphysical meaning. Inner joy and satisfaction are mostly subjective qualities. When you're talking about happiness how do you usually refer to that? I feel happy - and the feelings are of the subjective nature, even though this is a masculine character, but you'll have a lot of this, masculine or feminine body in the narrative might have a feminine symbolism, or belong more to the other gender of metaphysical symbolism. This is the case in Isaac, he's a male character, but represents female characteristics.
Inner joy and satisfaction are mostly subjective qualities, their greatest importance aside from how good they make us feel is in how they help relate us to other persons and how they help other persons relate to us. This is very apparent in the case of Isaac, if you read his story, waiting for him to do big things and great things, you don't, get that. But if you read his story taking note of the effect he has on other people, just by what he is, then you get deeper insight into human nature. This positive, optimistic, joyful, satisfying viewpoint for existence becomes not so much a power of doing, but a magnet of attracting other things, which do.
Early in the story, while Isaac is still a child, in Chapter 22, we have the very famous incident of Abraham interpreting his guidance from the Lord to be, to prove his love and obedience to the Lord by sacrificing Isaac. Evidently, Abraham was willing to go all the way and to do this, because in the story we are led right to this, led right up to the point where the knife is raised above the heart of the bound child on the sacrificial altar. Then, at the last moment an angel is at the hand of Abraham and tells him, no, no, don't do this, you don't need to do it, and instead of the child a ram is caught in the bushes and sacrificed instead of Isaac. There are many theories about that story and I've heard many different interpretations of it, and most all agree on one point: that probably the main point being made in that bizarre incident is that we will never really be called upon to rev up our joy and satisfaction, and the happy optimistic outlook we have got, no matter how close we may seem to have to come to it. There may have times when we have the feeling that, "this is it, I am going to have to renounce to our joy and happiness," but this will not really be so.
We said that Isaac represents the capacity for enjoyment - a very important quality that we need to develop in ourselves if we are to become truly balanced all round whole individuals. We cannot leave out of our expression of wholeness our capacity for enjoyment. If you know that a person has not developed that capacity, what kind of opinion do you really have about the person who has not developed the Isaac quality - that is the capacity for enjoyment? You are repelled in a way - you feel that that person is not really all there - that he's not home most of the time. I mean the body there, but he's not home.
You know what I mean, so now I want to make a little distinction here which will contradict some of my former teachings, simply because this came to me last night. Now Isaac does not stand for joy itself. I have always taught that that is what he stands for - joy itself, yet I have never been happy with that explanation of him as a character, and then it came to me last night that Isaac does not really stand for joy itself. He doesn't so much represent joy, but the development of the capacity for enjoyment within us which becomes a trait of character - a facet of the expression of our whole nature and joy comes as a reward for our having built the capacity for it. And I've noticed this in other qualities such as peace, non-resistance and then it came to me last night that we've always taught that these are the things you do - that you get, that you conjure up in yourself and that by doing that you become more spiritual. I don't think so. I think it is the other way around. I do something to improve my spiritual awareness, some kind of discipline, some kind of denial some kind of affirmation, some kind of righteous effort, and then I increase my capacity to enjoy. I increase my capacity to be peaceful, and I increase my ability to be non-resistant. Then I am blessed or rewarded by that type of pleasure. It is a pleasure to be able to be joyful. It's a reward that I have earned by increasing my capacity for it - my willingness toward it. I don't start off with joy. A lot of people in Unity try this. You shove joy down your congregation's throat cold turkey. It doesn't make metaphysical logic. What you do with your congregation is you help them increase their capacity for enjoyment by telling them Truth.
When a person hears Truth he loves it. His soul expands. He has increased his capacity for enjoying life, people or anything. Then joy comes because Spirit abhors a vacuum. If you've got an increased capacity for a spiritual quality. Spirit will fill in that increased capacity with the type of quality it is. It is like peaceful. You can't start out by being peaceful. Where do you get it from? You increase your capacity to be peaceful. Mostly by living peace - by approving peace, by desiring peace for all people. This merely is your giving - then you increase your receiving capacity and the same is true of non-resistance.
Mrs. Shanklin was a great teacher, but at many points she jumped the gun. She put cart before the horse which is very common habit among all teachers and there is a tendency at some point to put the cart before the horse in her famous chapter on non-resistance. She puts the result before the effort needed to get the result. In other words she says starts out with non-resistance and then you have done something virtuous and you will be rewarded. It's the other way around. You do something else which increases your ability to be non-resistant if it's needed and when it is needed, guess what? You find you have it.
Question. Don't you think sometimes that if we try to shove these things down people that we just make them feel guilty?
ED. Yes. If they are not in the mood for it they will feel out of place. If I'm not in the mood to be joyful, and some Unity minister shakes her finger at me and says, "You be joyful." I'm so embarrassed I want to get out. But if the teacher will give me a sample of her understanding of Truth, then I become quite willing to be joyful. I enjoy hearing someone teaching Truth well, and this sparks me up and then nobody has to tell me. "Hey, you. Be joyful or "You're not spiritual, because hearing something spiritual makes me spiritual. Then I'll sing as loudly as anyone else. Let's shift gears a little in our contemplation of the meaning of Isaac. Primarily the development in us of our capacity to enjoy, our willingness and capability to have a positive and optimistic view point toward life and by having this capacity further developed we receive the infilling of the quality which it is able to express and in the case of Isaac, the ability to enjoy causes our character to become more enjoyable to other persons and even to just life itself and once the character of being an enjoyable person, because we know how to enjoy life and other people, this causes us to establish a factor in our consciousness which is very important and should be understood I believe by ministers. It is something in our consciousness which will constitute an alternative to always having to work hard to get our good.
Now there are many persons who are still under what we call the hard work oriented upbringing. Most of us here today I would say are products of that type of upbringing - that hard work to get your good because it works must be the only way to get your good buds now, and it is symptomatic that our choosing of Unity as our life religion would indicate that if we haven't already learned this we are ready to learn. Hard work is not the one and only respectable way to get your good. There is another way and this other way would be symbolized in the character of Isaac - especially in the very important incident in the finding of a wife for him - instead of what is the usual procedure in these things. Instead of his having to go out and find the right woman and go through all the formalities of having to win her and then getting her, which would be the norm, it doesn't happen that way.
Question. I can understand your saying that it doesn't have to be hard work that someone else can do it, but it seems to me that no matter what the channel is there must still be the preparation in consciousness of the person so they can draw it to themselves.
ED. Absolutely. The father and mother of Isaac worked awfully hard - do you understand - and then they got this son. The hard work was done to earn that irresistibility. You see. But once that irresistibility comes, that magnet to your good through consciousness, that's a part of you, but you earned it. You worked to develop it. There's where the work went, and it's not saying that once you get this realization that you don't have to work for your good any more. That's not what we're saying. But it just means that you have expanded your awareness where you now know there is another factor in you which will be part of your receiving your highest good. It doesn't always have to be hard work motivation. It can be another thing because you worked hard to get this other thing. There is divine justice in everything. So we have the story found in Chapter 24.
Transcribed by Margaret Garvin on February 23, 2015.