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 November 18 and November 21, 1975
Now, the book of Job is famous for very obvious reasons, its poetic language, its thought provoking dilemmas, its drama, its unanswered questions and its exposure of all the gamut of human viewpoints and opinions, but also we have to remember that to very many persons it is a very troubling book, its unanswered questions are among its most trouble making factors and the seeming injustice that occurs in it troubles people, especially idealistic people. It doesn't bother traditionally religious people so much but idealistic religious people. The long winded and in many cases pointless discussion and the strangely arrogant tone given to Jehovah speeches, the great lenience that is given to Satan and so forth, all these have varying effects on the sensibilities of the readers.
But all in all the book as pure literature, very much in the category of grotesque Faust which does the same thing, makes a tremendous impact but a mixed reaction in most readers. Now, if you think I am analyzing it correctly, those of you who have read Job, if you think I am exaggerating, because I am gauging it only by my own reaction to it and what I have observed in discussion groups dealing with the book, you will find very mixed reaction about it and often you will find a person who has already made up his mind about something which the author never intended to make up his mind about. In Goethe's Faustus Goethe deliberately poses questions and dilemmas which he leaves completely unresolved in every way and people say, "Oh it is an imperfect poem" because Goethe did not give the answer, but it is a perfect poem exactly for that reason, it fulfills Goethe's intentions and I believe the same is Truth in Job.
We are dissatisfied with the Book of Job, we say that it is a faulty masterpiece because it doesn't spell out his answer to every dilemma and questions he poses but that is the very thing that keeps that book in such a special category of evaluation today. However, in that book as it is always in the Bible, there is a metaphysical approach. We are not dealing with it as a literature composition any more, which it is, and a very great one, but now we are dealing with it in its metaphysical aspects and we have to take the entire narrative then on to the level of metaphysics and realize that this whole book is referring to something which occurs within each one of us as an individual.
If you start thinking now about the cast of characters; God, and Satan, and Job and Eliphaz, and Bildad, etc. that these are different people, then you are not at the level of metaphysical interpretation, you are either on ethical, moral, cosmic, psychic or some other level, but in order for it to be metaphysical it must pertain to the inner life of each individual, each human being, and that is what we are trying to do in this class.
Now, I know that many of you, as we go along with the interpretation are going to be tempted to jump out of the metaphysical and start dealing with it on either moral or ethical, or political, or religious, or historical, even economical levels. If you are going to do that, know that that is what you are trying to do, don't do that and say you are making a metaphysical discussion, the metaphysical part of it is valid only when you are thinking of one individual, all of these characters, Jehovah, Satan, Job and each one of the friends are within each individual and Job, you will find out, he stands for everyone, that is what he stands for. The other characters are not, metaphysically speaking, separate persons who have separate existences, separate entities, all of the persons are components of the character Job, or everyone.
Jehovah stands for the Indwelling Lord, the spiritual Law of our Being, the Law of our Highest Good, etc.
Satan stands for error and negativeness, all of the error and negativeness possible to human nature, he is a personification of all the negative possibilities, of all of the unrealities possible to conceive of and to give expression to through human nature, he is an archetype, he is not an entity, he represents also the as yet unillumined, negative and violence prone aspect of each individual human being. Very interesting, it is odd that I should have compared this book to Faust, I hadn't planned on that. It came to me, but, who's the second main character in Faust's Mephistopheles, and in the poem Faust, he is by far the most interesting character. Satan is a very interesting personification.
Now, the word Job means persecuted, calamitous, afflicted, a coming back, return to ones senses, converted, right out of the MBD. What is the difference between the gamut of meaning of his name and the gamut of meaning of Jonah's name? That it develops in the opposite direction.
Christ is not a person, Christ is a word which refers to a quality, a reality and a relationship, but not an entity, not a person, not a thing. Christ is not the name of a thing, Christ is a word referring to a quality, or a reality and a relationship, you see. Brendon O'Keefe is what we say, not Brendon Christ, but Brendon O'Keefe has the Christ within him, which means he has a quality, a reality, a relationship to God in his being, but it is not a creature or a thing.
O.K. We'd better drop this because we could go on and on. Let's give it the light touch, for it is light. We'll finish the O.T. today, which will be Job. Job is everyman, he is you and within him are the whole gamut of possibilities of inner experiences of consciousness of our inner life and the reflections to outer life.
The first point that we want to consider is the fact that in the beginning of the book, Satan is given permission to afflict Job. Now, some interpreters feel that this fact illustrates a desire on the part of Jehovah to test Job, but Jehovah is part of Divine Mind and so why should Divine Mind need to test anything about us. God doesn't need anybody, because God is omniscience and what does omniscience ever need to find out? God is all-knowing so God doesn't test us, who test whom? We test ourselves, of course. Divine Mind is all-knowingness. Jehovah is in individual man. Satan is in individual man. Job is in individual man, in fact, is individual man.
Man has relative freedom of choice in all aspects of his nature, some aspects of us we have more freedom of choice than we do in others, but there is a degree of freedom of choice in all aspects of an individual, from his highest current level, Jehovah, to his lowest current level, Satan. And all that is in between these two extremes of level, which is who - Job. So, if an individual chooses to let his lower nature have its way, he can do so, the freedom of choice is there. If you choose to let the lowest level of your current nature have its way, who's going to stop you? So, Satan has been given permission, do you understand? If you want to be a snot, you can be one, you have permission to be one. If you want to be a saint, you can be one, you have permission. You have a pre-established permission already given to all aspects of you - so, in that sense, can you see the logic that Jehovah has given Satan permission to afflict Job.
But, does that mean automatically Satan's got to afflict Job? It's still the individual, the entity, the ego who decides if I want to avail myself of that freedom. You don't have to get cranky, but you have the freedom to. Who decides if you are going to avail yourself of that freedom and express that affliction? Your ego. Your controller, your observing, controlling self, which isn't the Christ, by the way, the Christ makes that possible. It's more than just the parts we're naming also, it is that which decides concerning all these parts we are naming. The one who is in charge of your unfolding, of yourself.
Now, this fact that Satan has permission to express if we will. This is part of our freedom of individuality. Note: if you want to be fearful, angry, resentful, who or what is to stop you. Even though you will suffer for it, being afflicted, Satan, your own negative attitude has permission to afflict. And so we can say that Satan in us takes advantage of this freedom and Job, the self, can be afflicted, is afflicted in the story, but Job is us, we all, each one of us, individually at different given moments do tend to use this freedom to indulge our negative tendencies. Now, who can deny this? There is not a one of us in here today that can deny that they have indulged in their tendencies simply because we are free to do so. That permission is part of my individuality, and I've done it, and I've paid. I've suffered. We can ask our self, are you never willingly negative, do you never hate, do you never lie, do you never boast, are you never ruled by vanity? We do all these things at times, or we have done them at times. We permit our negative side, Satan, to have its way and then we and our lives are afflicted. Where do you think your troubles come from, heaven? Which put very simply means that we then come face-to-face with the manifestation of our own negatively expressed consciousness.
The first set of afflictions do not cause Job utter despair because they happen to others in his life. Dr. Nicoll says the easiest thing in life to bear is another person's problems. While we do suffer from the misfortune of others, we can bear it, because the suffering is more vicarious.
But next, who gets it in the end, Job - he himself is afflicted, smitten with boils and deprived of help and possessions. He sinks into despair. Three friends try to comfort him, but are unsuccessful. They are Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, now all these have metaphysical meanings found in the MBD, but in a very general sense these three good intentioned, but ineffective friends symbolize all of the unsuccessful efforts by the human intellect to limit metaphysical truth to one-sided viewpoints, opinions, incomplete analyses and explanation. These three friends in a very general sense, symbolize all of the unsuccessful efforts of our human intellect to limit universal truth to one sided viewpoints. We could also add to this justification, excuses, fault-finding, all of that rig-a-ma-role.
We're all friends with that sort of thing, aren't we? They are friends that don't really help out too much in the long run, even though they would like to. In a very personal sense, these three characters represent our own inner attempts to explain life in terms of life itself, or to justify the happenings of life, especially the misfortunes and the mysteries on their own level. Where do we get when we try that? For instance, if you try to explain spiritual healing on the level of the existence of sickness, you're on a wild goose chase. You can't do it. You can only explain spiritual healing on the level of principle. The same with problems, if you try to explain or justify or solve a problem by dealing on with factors on that same problem level, you just don't get anywhere, you just exchange different forms of the same thing, and that's not what we really want. We cannot explain the mysteries of life in terms of life itself and to rationalize and justify on the level of completely human emotional reasons is another thing we try to do. It's fascinating, in a sense, if it done well, but it doesn't accomplish our purpose. Such attempts are not really successful.
Now, it is true that in certain cases it may seem to work. Words can be very convincing when cleverly used, as we see when we use this book, for a while it seems like these friends are going to hit the nail on the head and they're going to really help. It all seems that way when you read their speeches to him, and then what inevitably happens? They fizzle out. It looks like they're almost going to accomplish their desire to help him. They never do. They get near and then they fizzle because they're on the same level as the things itself. Words cleverly used can hold out a lot of promise, but this does not make them true. Cleverness does not make a thing true, it can make it convincing, but not true, unless it is true. Especially is this so when one is trying to explain or justify such things as accidents, tragedies, congenital birth defects and all that suffering in life, on the basis of believing that life events are an end in themselves, a reason in themselves, rather than a means to other ends. This is what will happen the moment you try to explain or justify or solve anything or any event in life, thinking that it is its own reason for existing and that it is the end in itself.
Life events, are not reasons for being in themselves, nor are they ever the ends within themselves. They are the outworking of prior factors and they are means always to greater and greater ends. But these ends turn out to be more means. Something even greater. In other words, we're learning that it is futile to try to explain certain things which happen in our life if we always take the things that happen only at their face value. Then we get into a pit - judge not by outer appearances, says Jesus, for example, a certain accident that occurs may not have any meaning or explanation strictly in and of itself. The only thing one might be able to say is, "my brakes didn't work", but it may not be justified or explained satisfactorily on its own terms, as a separate phenomenon. Now, we may try it, but how far do we usually get? This happened to me because, then we look at the thing and we try to explain the thing from its own circumstances and blah!
All through man's history he has gone through this sort of thing - Job is everyman and always these three friends are in every one of us and we've gotten really nowhere by them. Why did this happen to me? Why me? Why couldn't it happen to someone who's a little worse than me? See? Sickness, death, rejection, financial setbacks, human relation problems, they happen, yes, but why should it be me? Now, then that which is symbolized by Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar in us goes to work. We ponder, we reason, we justify, we blame, we judge, we resent, but usually all in vain, because it's after the fact. Because we look for an explanation for a negative event in life, in terms of the negative side of life itself, and it may seem as though this kind of thinking should work, only it doesn't, not really. It may stall things for a while, but it doesn't work, something very different is needed in our manner of thinking on these subjects. If I may I want to jump the gun for a moment.
Jesus brings this up. Two tragedies have occurred, a wall collapsed and killed a bunch of bystanders. Also a bunch of pilgrims were mistaken for some other group by King Herod's soldiers and they were attacked and slaughtered. Jesus said, "You're wondering why this happened, that it happened because these people had a consciousness worse than other people who it didn't happen to. You're all wrong - O.K." I'm not going to tell you what He did say because we'll come to that. Now, something is needed in our thinking about these things, something different from Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz.
This new approach to thinking about negative events comes into our narrative symbolized as the character, Elihu, which means my God is that which is. I love that. My God is that which is. Whose God is He, my God is He. Metaphysically he symbolizes spiritual thinking, thinking in a dimension which may include, but which goes deeper than strictly human reasoning and justifying. Our MBD also says that Elihu also represents the Holy Spirit and it appears certain that he did represent the only way of thinking which will really lead us to the help we need when we're in the midst of unexplainable and seemingly unjustifiable afflictions in our life.
The help which Elihu brings is not given directly by telling, or straightening you out, or explaining to your satisfaction. That's not the way the help that Elihu gives comes. The help Elihu brings is given indirectly. Mostly he does this by turning Job's mind to a different level of thinking and so it is often with truth thinking in our consciousness. Often we are not led by truth thinking into a point-blank explanation, point-blank answers, or head-on help which solves the problem. Quite often truth thinking leads the person to the possibility of a specific right answer or specific help, truth thinking may simply quicken positive factors in our consciousness and quicken the action within us, quicken their action within us and thereby make us a person who is able to understand the right answer. Instead of point-blank giving you the right answer. Truth thinking will often give you the help, not by giving you the right answer but by working in you in such a way to make you a person capable of receiving the right answer.
A person who is now really able to accept and appreciate help. So often we give right answers to people who aren't prepared for right answers. So, it turns out to be no answer in their sight, but if we can give them that which prepares them to be able to receive the right answer, our works done. Because they're going to get it within themselves. Thus it is in our narrative that Elihu says to Job, there is a spirit in man and the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding (Job 32:8). Now, can we realize the importance of this idea. Have you ever asked yourself these questions? What is my understanding? where does it come from? Did I create or make it? In fact, can I really explain anything? Can I really explain this? (Takes a breath) Not really. Try to explain thinking, try to explain how to move your little finger. I dare you - try to explain how you move your little finger. See? Of course, we cannot.
The spiritual truth cannot really be explained, but it can be spoken and understood. It is an understanding beyond the level of human explanation. The spirit of the Almighty giveth them understanding, refers to intuitive or spiritual understanding and it is only on this higher and more inclusive level of thinking that man can find the sort of help he really needs in the face of mysterious and seemingly unjust afflictions in his life. In chapters 38 through 42, these consist of long discourses spoken by Jehovah. Seeking to impress on Job the fact that ordinary man cannot do, but he can only participate in and be a witness to something that is done. Man is a receiving creature and an observer and a user, and only in this sense can he do. In our narrative Job comes to understand this and agrees to it.
The moment he stops arguing with God, he comes to that which he receives. He comes to understand the implications of what Jehovah very long-windedly states in all these chapters, and he agrees to it and as a result, he has an experience, an inner experience, which we now call "seeing the light". He surrenders his very existence into the living principle of God and so finds himself, his real self. Job, at this point, then stands for that in us which finally comes to the realization that the real answer to anything that occurs in your or my life is that God is the only presence and power that really, eternally is. God is the, is all meaning, the trials, the errors, the afflictions, the tribulations of life come and go. Some can be explained, some cannot. Man suffers, all men, whether one thinks he deserves it or not is really beside the point. Man suffers, but the truth is always there in spite of it all. Behind it all, beneath it all, God, the ultimate reality that all is good.
Now this takes courage, folks, this takes refining. I have an accident, I say why did this accident happen? Instead of that I've got to say, in spite of this accident, behind it, beyond it, all is good. God has a meaning for everything, what was Joseph able to say about the afflictions caused by his brothers? That car on 1-70 purposely wanted to kill me, why did it do that, it didn't let its brakes work. What's my karma? I'm still in the realm of accidents, see? And nothing is really solved there. Can I rise above that and say, accidents or no accidents, God is still the one presence and one power in my life and everything that happens comes to me in that lower realm, good, bad or indifferent, God means it for good?
If I can believe this, and surrender myself to it, what happens to Job? Not only everything, every affliction that occurred was made up to him, all his losses, his health, his finances, everything - but what? He got more. He was blessed with all kinds of new reincarnations of the good he thought he had lost. The ultimate reality of all is good, and no matter what may happen in the temporary realm of form and phenomena, God means it for good.
Now, I have written in my little side notes. One who can really accept that final statement is really on the way to true spiritual mastery. One who is no longer arguing with that statement but has really accepted it, that God means it for good. No matter what may happen in the temporary realm of form and phenomena, God means it for good. Then one of our Gospel characters indicated that's how he felt, he brings this response from Jesus: "Thou art not far from the kingdom", (additional note).
The strongest impression left on my mind by the book of Job is the fact that no amount of justifying or explaining gives a person any real satisfaction where human suffering is concerned. The only satisfaction we can ever have related to suffering is the overcoming of it. The book of Job tells me that only full recognition of the truth of God will overcome human suffering, nothing else really suffices.
Transcribed by Margaret Garvin on February 6, 2015.