Skip to main content

Satan or the Devil (Rabel)

(Back) The Baptism of Jesus The Calling of the Disciples (Next)

This is a series of lectures given by Mr. Edward Rabel, member of the faculty of S.M.R.S.
Winter semester 1976 - 2nd. Yr. Class. Part of Lecture 4 given on January 19, 1976

It is surprising to me, coming into the teaching of Unity Fundamentals, how very closely connected Unity Fundamentals is to Metaphysical Bible Interpretation. Not in exactly the same way as a bonafide Bible interpretation but as a variation of statement on the different meanings. This has come to me very strongly this morning. In our Fundamentals class, we finished up the chapter in Christian Healing 7 on the true character of being, first chapter; and we covered a point today that is part of the meaning of the first thing we are going to have to deal with in this class, which is the three temptations that Jesus encounters from Satan, from the adversary in the wilderness. I want to give you just a brief exposure to Christian Healing then we will go into the Gospels themselves.

In Christian Healing 15 of that first chapter, Mr. Fillmore writes, "The understanding that God is not in a distant heaven, not located in any way geographically, gives us a feeling of nearness to and unity with the Parent Mind."

This intercommunion of the man's consciousness with the omnipresent spiritual force of the universe was beautifully exemplified by Jesus. God was closer to him than hands or feet. He referred all things to this loving Father who was in constant communion and cooperation with the Son. Well, so far so good; but, yet, there was even in His case, the independent, personal consciousness that beset Him. Now, this independent personal consciousness that,all men have formed and which was even present with Jesus is referred to in the language qf NT symbolism as either the adversary or Satan or just the devil. Those words, those personifications, always refer to the independent personal consciousness which besets our spiritual awareness. It is the adversary that we must cope with but - now, this is very important, friends - it is neither to be resented, feared, or worshipped; because it does have its own type of validity. But it can and should, as Jesus demonstrated, be made subservient to our total commitment to Spirit. It, too, serves the Christ or Jesus would not have utilized that symbol in His Gospels. He utilized it to show us something, and I have found the key to what it is He was showing us. I shared it with our Fundamentals class, and now I am sharing it with you, and then we will go into how He did it.

The adversary, the devil, Satan, the independent personal consciousness: it, too, has its own place of validity, and it serves the Christ, But it serves the Christ by bringing to us, to our spiritual awareness, opportunities for choice. In that way it serves the Christ, by serving the unfolding spiritual awareness of us, by taking the part of bringing us opportunities for choice; because, folks, when you and I have no choice in a matter, then there is no growth, the Christ is not served by removing choice. What if you had to be good (good in a relative sense), what if you had to be nice to everybody? You weren't nice then, you are only doing what you have to; there is no matter of choice involved, so there is no merit involved. But Satan, or the adversary, or the independent personal consciousness as Mr. Fillmore puts it, brings opportunities for choice, and it is the result of choice which brings the results in your life. If you make the right choices, if you make the choices according to your commitment to Spirit, you will reap the right results and the rewards. But, if it was possible (and it isn't, thank God) that you had no choices in any matters, you just had to be a rock because you are a rock and that is that, what would happen to your existence, to your evolution? It would simply stop.

Q. Isn't this what we are moving toward, to let only the will of God be done?

A. Do you think that? No. We might speculate about that, because we get so darn tired of having to make choices all the time that somehow we feel that there must be a heaven where just one grand finale choice will do it, but I have a sneaky suspicion that when we get to that grand finale heaven, we are going to find a lot of interesting choices, but not in the same sense that we choose now. It will constitute very much the same kind of activity, but from a different viewpoint. I know what you had in mind, but even this business of not having choice ... even God somehow (and I can't explain this) in His absolute goodness still has some kind of choice-making activity within Himself which I think we are. We are that choice-making activity which is included in the absolute goodness and allness of God.

So, give Satan his due, give the devil his due; don't just send him to hell and say, "You stay there." Jesus did not send Satan back to hell. He said, "Get behind me", take your place in the scheme of things, subservient to spiritual awareness.

Q. I am curious about what the metaphysical interpretation of Satan in Revelation is and how it relates to the metaphysical interpretation that you just gave us.

A. Yes, in the Book of Revelation the character is the beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit and the name Satan and Devil is tacked on to him as one of his synonyms; but it is not the same as the devil or adversary in the Gospel. In the Book of Revelation, that symbol becomes the symbol of actual destructive evil, erroneous thinking and feeling. This is the beast which ascended out of the bottomless pit, the unreality of evil and error, which comes from nowhere and becomes something that does damage and destruction, usually useless, unnecessary suffering. Where does it come from? It comes from nowhere, from nothing, but yet it is turned into something from out of nothing simply by the formative power of man's thought. Since it came out of nothing into temporary something-ness, it has to go back from whence it came. Think of that magnificant symbolism of the bottomless pit. It is something that can't be real, and yet it is a thought in the mind of the writer. Here is a beast that ascends out of a bottomless pit, impossible; and yet it exists even if only as a thought in the mind of the writer; but yet it exists and goes beyond the thought, and it becomes beast. Unreality made to appear real temporarily, it does great damage, causes much suffering and returns back into its native nothingness. But the devil of the NT is really a kind of a nice guy; he doesn't hurt anybody, he doesn't throw blood into the drinking water, he doesn't do anything to anybody. He simply plays his part in the ongoing progress of the Christ ministry, and this kind of adversary, this independent personal consciousness, which is not the real of us, of course, but is a factor which comes into the unfoldment process, can be dangerous if it is not seen for what it is, if it is not coped with in the right way, or if we do not allow it to do its job, which is simply bringing to us opportunities for choice. When these needs for choice are overcome in a "sense, when we really do not need to function so much in that way, then its energy is dispersed into other factors that are more useful, "so we are not afraid of him.

In our Gospels, this incident is found in your Harmony of the Gospels. I like Mark's version best, and I will show you why. (Read Mark's version of the temptations). I like that version best as a teacher because it is simplier, but unfortunately we have to use the Matthew version, which takes up every single detail.

Observe how the writer talks about this devil, and see if you see anything terrible about him. "If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." Well, nobody is hurt, a choice has been offered, that is all, an opportunity for choice; and then, again, "But he answered and said, 'It is written, man shall not live by bread alone...'".

"Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city, and he set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, 'If thou are the son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written ...'" The scripture says the angel will catch him and he will be alright, but Jesus says, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." "Again the devil taketh him unto an exceeding high mountain and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them and he said unto Him, 'All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.' Then saith Jesus unto him, 'Get thee hence Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.'" And the devil leaves Him. That is all. Do you see anything so terrible there about what the devil is doing? He is not hurting somebody, he is not torturing little babies who were not born Catholic, he is doing what that particular factor in us is supposed to do, bring to our unfolding spiritual awareness opportunities for choice, so that we know where we are, so that we can kin of test ourselves, check on ourselves, What are my priorities at this time? Am I really still committed to Spirit, or am I off on some tangent of success cult worship? The wonderful thing is that these temptations themselves, the way they are worded here, can be interpreted by as many different people as read them in many different ways and still hold validity. I know that the way I used to interpret the meaning of these separate temptations ten years ago is not the way I do now. I read different things in them now than I used to. I begin to relate them more to everyday opportunities for choice in my very mundane life experiences. How often are we in our own way tempted by our sense of personal identity and self "can-do-ness" to go around changing stones into bread, just to prove that I can do, I can do, Hey, I can do! So I change one form of matter into another form of matter. What a good boy am I! Just great! But then I think, is this what my life is all about? Is this what my commitment bids me do? Am I to change stones into bread, or am I to chang error into Truth?

Q. I think here is where people who discover their psychic powers run the risk of hanging up.

A. Yes, and some people have the magic ability and can change matter into other forms of matter. In this particular case, the symbol bread does not mean its metaphysical meaning. When Jesus said "Man does not live by bread alone", he means material food. There are a few times when the classic Biblical symbols are not used symbolically, when they are used literally. You have to let your alertness detect those times for you. So, really what the temptation is, is to manipulate matter as proof of spirituality: "If thou art the Son of God, manipulate matter." Well, you do not prove your divinity by matter manipulation, you prove your divinity by "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The word of God is creativity. Creativity is not the same as matter moving. There maybe some of that involved in creativity, for instance in painting a beautiful picture is the creative act of the artist, the physical movement of taking a dot of paint and changing it into a smear of paint physically, materially, is that the creativity? No. The creativity consists of the spirit of the subject that the artist is able to depict on his canvas by means of this physical transformation of dots of paint into smears of paint; but it is not the dot and the smear that makes the painting great, it is the spirit of creativity that the artist can imbue all this with, and where does he get that from? From the God Mind within him, the creative Spirit of God that is within him. This holds true of any life activity, but remember, this is not talking about just life activity. This is talking about one's spiritual awareness, one's attitude that is involved in all this. If you think, for instance, that being a Unity minister means getting to the center at 9 o'clock, opening the doors, and all of the moving around of matter which is involved in the thing, if you think that is the ministry, it is not true; it is a farce. But you know that even with these things, it is the creativity of God, of Christ, that you imbue and involve into these things, or "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God", the creative power of Spirit that will constitute your life.

Then, this taking Him up on a high pinnacle and challenging Him to cast yourself down, because with your status in heaven, the angel will come because you are a big shot in heaven, you are the Son of God. So the angels are going to be there, to see that nothing happens to you, and. Jesus says, "Stop it, stop it, do not tempt the Lord your God." Now, in our case it will not be quite in that spectacular way, but you and I often have occasions when we feel quite secure in our status of spiritual consciousness, and we feel we can afford a risk or two now and then because we have "built up merit. I have often heard people say, "Well, I am all prayed up, so I can afford to play fast and go on a binge of low consciousness because I am a favorite right now." That is tempting the Law, that is playing footsy with your own destiny, and it can lead to terrible reprucussions.

The third one, which is the most obvious and easiest one to interpret, happens to be the most difficult and subtle one to know within yourself and to overcome or avoid. The way it is worded here, it sounds as if Satan wants Jesus to literally worship him. Now, that could be true, but I have a preference here, and my interpretation of this and my application to it in my awn experience is not so much to literally worship Satan, we can hardly imagine anyone who would want to do that anymore, although it might have been done, but more subtly it would the temptation to reverse the priority, in a sense. Let us say your commitment is total to Spirit, to God and to Cause; but the temptation might come in order to gain things, in order to achieve things, especially of an ambitious nature and especially in the sense of your career in Unity. There could be this temptation, then, to not worship Satan but to put the commitment now on the attainment, on the product of Source, of the original commitment to Spirit. Such a subtle thing is hard to even explain. In other words, God, Spirit, Christ, Mind, Source, which should always be in the first place in our total commitment, instead of the possible results which can come from that commitment, the good things, the worldly achievements, the reputation and all of this, in a very subtle way, we could be tempted to put that as the commitment and Source, Spirit, Christ Mind. Also there instead of Christ,God, Spirit, Truth first and the accomplishments, the results also being added unto you. Jesus, of course, making the right choice among the opportunities offered Him, illustrates that spiritual awareness should always be called into when choices, important choices concerning our life, are to be made.

Text of the original transcript from paragraph 4 on page 20 through paragraph 2 on page 24.
Transcribed by Mark Hicks on August 8, 2013