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 September 26 and September 29, 1975
Gen. 11:1-5, pp. 88-96 of transcript.
Tower of Babel
Okay, folks, the next thing we're going to deal with is the tower fable. This is a very interesting allegory on many different levels, but in our class, we're only going to deal with the level of my notes, and since I want to cover it before class time is up, I'm just going to read through my notes as is.
This is in the eleventh chapter of Genesis, and this allegory does not reveal its meaning until one ponders it more deeply than the casual reader usually does. For instance in Mrs. Turner's book, Let There Be Light, she accuses these builders of working without God. What right have we to say that? That's not in the text — that they tried to do it without God. My understanding is that these were very devout people. Where were they trying to get to? Does that sound right? Without God?
It sounds to me like they're quite interested in God. So, many conclusions have been jumped to about this allegory that should get straightened out. On the surface, it seems to be the story of a collective failure. Right? But careful study of it the way it actually is worded reveals something a little different. True, there is a type of failure in the story, but in no way a total failure. To build a tower means to attempt to rise in conscious awareness. The building materials used in this Babylonian tower were burnt brick and slime for mortar. Let's save it for the next class.
(End of lecture on September 26, 1975)
(Start of lecture on September 29, 1975)
One of the important allegories of Genesis, this is to me and obviously to other persons who interpreted Scripture, is very puzzling. It is very difficult to come up with what I call a finished product in the art of metaphysical interpretation. I'm not sure as to the reason why. There could be a number of reasons. First of all, it's quite possible that this particular event is so near to an actual historic happening, that the writer then decided to stick more to the actual history of an event, and therefore weakened his compilation of symbolism. You see, it's much easier to present a beautifully constructed symbolic or esoteric metaphysical lesson if you're making up the whole thing from scratch, you see, but the Bible writers obviously patterned many of their symbolic structures, their allegories, after actual historical things; and sometimes, it's quite possible to believe, they were carried away by their contemplation of the historical thing, which could weaken the structure of the pure symbolism of it. And I think this might have happened here, that he was talking about an actual history thing and got too close to it and, therefore, was not completely consistent in his arrangement of metaphysical symbols.
When you try to interpret this allegory, you find you can only do it fragmentary, this is this, that is that, out the whole thing doesn't seem to build up into a coherent lesson, as most of the other allegories do. Mrs. Turner, in her book Let There Be Light, makes an attempt to interpret it metaphysically; but if you read it, you find out that it's lacking. It doesn't gel; it doesn't hold together. It isn't that what she says is not correct, but all that she says doesn't add up to a whole.
I have two different interpretations, one twelve years old and one three years old, neither of them are satisfactory. I read them over again; I go back to them, and I see where I've left gaps and inconsistencies, etc. So, today I'm going to try it off-the-cuff with you, impromptu, and maybe starting all over again, we'll get somewhere; and it's very interesting that the main point made in this allegory is the compounding of one language.
The one language that everybody was speaking, and had they persisted in it, they might have done something, which outwardly would have looked like a success, out we wonder, would it really have been a success? I wonder. First, let's go back to the original text. This is Chapter 11. The whole earth was of one language and one speech. Now, you remember in our last class, I defined what earth means, metaphysically. Does it mean this planet and all the people living on it? No, it means the individual consciousness and the environment it is manifesting. And the people of the earth always means your current population of thoughts and feelings, men and women and attitudes which make up your current state of consciousness, which would always be in the narrative as the current state of the earth being talked about.
Now, here we have the earth in the state of one language, one speech, and this is complete single-mindness of purpose: I know what I want and why I want it and how I'm going to get it. When you're in that state, your consciousness is speaking one language, determination, singleness of purpose, one-sided viewpoint. But, when one is in that state, when you absolutely know what you want and believe you're going to get it with both your thoughts and feelings, you're going to get it.
Did you ever read a little book called Think and Grow Rich, did you ever hear of treasure mapping? It's in all the metaphysical teachings; if everything in you is single-minded and all of one language, that's it, you're going to get it. Except one thing you can't get by that technique. You can get riches, you can snag a husband, you can get a new house, but there's one thing you can't get by that technique. Where did they want this tower to reach? You can't get heaven by that kind of technique, that is, real spiritual understanding does not develop in a person by single-minded purpose and one language. You don't get to heaven until you learn every language that can be spoken. So as it came to pass and they journeyed from the East, from the East in the Old Testament or anywhere in the Bible, always means in an externalized direction. The East always means the within. From the East means, then, from the within to the without, from center to circumference.
Where did the wise men come from in the Christmas story. From the East, from the deepest, hidden levels of former knowledge; and this is describing this event which occurs as we externalize our direction of consciousness. "And they found a plane in the land of Shinar and they dwelt there." The land of Shinar is the ancient name of the country now called Mesopotamia. Those of you who have studied geography at all know that Mesopotamia's most characteristic feature is where the Tiberius and the Euphrates Rivers divide and run concurrently, parallel; and it is that area where these two rivers, which are its main physical character, has made that land famous.
So, Shinar, or now days Mesopotamia, becomes the metaphysical symbol for a divided stream of thought, or a belief in the reality of two powers, good and evil. And so, that becomes the foundation, the basis upon which the effort to build this tower to reach heaven will be attempted; and we said in our last class that to build a tower means to build consciousness, to make effort to rise in level of awareness and consciousness. But this attempt is being done on a belief in the reality of two powers; and so, as Mrs. Turner points out, it's already kind of earmarked for failure, as any attempt to build into spiritual understanding is earmarked for failure. Basically, we still believe in the reality of two powers.
Q. It seems to me that in the journey to the within, you have to deal with two powers.
A. Do you believe in the reality of two powers? No. Well, you've just rebutted your own question. You have to deal with appearance; you have to participate in the process of manifestation, right; and all manifestation in the atomic realm depends on a condition of energy called polarity, which is far different from the belief in the reality of two powers [TruthUnity note: see Basic Self Knowledge, 14:10, "All energy expressions have to be polarized in order to be creative".] They are not the same thing. What you're talking about, the necessity for polarity in physical manifestation, is correct; this is a fact of electricity, of chemistry, of atomic structure. But that's something else. That isn't a belief in a power of good and belief in a power of evil. It is negative and positive polarities of energy, so in no way contradicts what I'm interpreting here.
Q. If I chose to manifest God-consciousness in the without, if I wanted to make a manifestation or even a writing, I'd have to deal with polarity.
A. Polarity of energy.
Q. Isn't the story saying that God-consciousness can only be sensed from within and it cannot be demonstrated without. All manifestation is polarity.
A. Well, we're not talking about manifestation; we're talking about the building of consciousness, of spiritual consciousness. We're not talking about anything out here, which the allegory is not about in its metaphysical meaning. Whatever historical resemblance it has, we're not concerned with that right now. We're talking about a description on the part of the writer of Genesis of a type of effort we all attempt at some time or another, which is to build spiritual awareness or spiritual consciousness.
We're taking it step by step as it is in the now. Wait until we get a little further and see if you still have these questions, because I'm not really sure of what ground we're on right now. Remember, now, we're dealing with metaphysics. This is an inner thing, which illustrates something you and I have all tried to do, and many people in the world today are doing it at this moment; and maybe we are too. And this is trying to analyze an interior thing in mind, in consciousness, so it will give us greater light on this kind of thing. So, let's wait until we make a few points, and we'll come to conclusions afterward.
Now, we have a person, any person, or any part of a person, which believes in the reality of two powers in the sense of a power of good and a power of evil, which has nothing to do with polarity of electrical energy; and they dwelt there. And they said, one to another, "Let us make brick and burn them thoroughly." And they had burnt brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. In ancient religious symbolism, stone, natural stone, stands for the word of truth, burnt brick, which is an imitation of stone or a man-made product, as contrasted to stone from the earth, would stand then for man-made concepts, or in this case, burnt bricks for stone, materialistic concepts, strictly materialistic concepts.
Now slime for mortar - in Lessons in Truth Annotation 7, Bondage or Liberty, Which?, we are given the definition for love as a divine idea. It is "the unifying, harmonizing, binding, cementing power in the universe. Now there is a description of what I would call perfect mortar.
Slime, you all know what slime looks like feels like, and how it works, when you try to hold things together with slime as mortar, so to me - now, I've never read this anywhere, but I have a brain too. I don't use books for all my thinking, do you? I hope not. We've got to figure out some things for ourselves once in a while to contribute to truth teachings, not only teach that which is already sanctioned and published somewhere, because then who'd do the writing?
So I've figured out that slime could be the symbol for motivation lacking love; if love is the binding, cementing, unifying quality or idea in the universe, then slime, which is just its opposite, then, would be motivation lacking in love. So, anytime in our life when we have tried to build greater consciousness or attain greater spiritual understanding, with the best of, intentions, because we only want to get to heaven, who doesn't? That's all they wanted; they didn't set out to do anything wrong, they just tried to get to heaven.
But this allegory illustrates some of the components of misguided effort, and first, the author points out that to start the whole thing on the basis of a belief of a reality of two actual, opposing powers, good and evil, is not the right basis. The foundation would have to be changed, which it will be later. Also, we are told, or we find out, that trying to build spiritual consciousness, with the building blocks being materialistic concepts, and then trying to make everything fit into place with motivation or an attitude lacking in love, we can't really, sensibly expect total success.
Evidently, we're meant to be told that they did reach a certain height, because it says then, "And the Lord God came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded." In other words, there must have been some visible sign of progress here. And this is true of most people whose intentions are good. Even though they're misguided and they're using, perhaps, wrong building materials in this particular effort, and remember this is representing only isolated times and efforts in us, yet because they meant no harm, no evil, a certain degree of progress is made evident.
And you and I can look on our life, and we can see that many times, even though certain things that we attempted to do in consciousness, while we didn't get what we were after, it was not entirely wasted time, wasted effort. Usually the reason for that would be because you're heart was right, your intentions were good; you weren't out to harm anybody. You weren't deliberately trying to make a mistake, but in the long run and in retrospect, you can look back on it, and you can say, "I'm glad I didn't complete it. It's a good thing for me that I was diverted from that or that the language got confounded before it turned out exactly as I had planned."
Transcribed by Margaret Garvin on February 26, 2015.