A Spiritual Interpretation of the Old Testament
As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065
I. MAJOR POINTS
- Metaphysical meanings of the seven days of the creation allegory.
- Significance of the Sabbath.
- Introduction to the law of mind action.
- Significance of the "knowledge of good and evil."
- Metaphysical meaning of man, male (Adam); and woman, female (Eve).
- Genesis, chapters 1 and 2
- Mysteries of Genesis Chapters I and II
- Let There Be Light Chapters I and II
- In general, what is the creation allegory dealing with metaphysically?
- Why is the seventh step (Sabbath) important to man?
- Give at least a partial definition of the law of mind action,
- In what respect is man "the image and likeness" of his Creator?
- Why is a return to Eden not the goal of man's evolution?
If it is felt that not enough explanation is given to the Sabbath in the course material, a more in-depth treatment of it can be found in Mysteries of Genesis 31-32. Also, a quite extensive treatment is given the subject in the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary under the heading "Sabbath."
"In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth." Thus the book of Genesis begins with an already created universe! The words which follow are not descriptions of actual creation, but are rather symbolic references to processes which take place within the already created universe. These processes are the same as those we use in co-creating in our own lives.
"And God said, 'Let there be light1; and there was light." (Gen. 1:3) This states the coming forth of intelligence and awareness.
'"Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters. . .'" (Gen. 1:6) This states the coming forth of the power of affirmation (a-firmament). The affirming power within man is called faith. The firmament represents our affirmative faculty which works in the midst of all the possibilities and potentials within life ("separate the waters from the waters.")
"'Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.' And it was so." (Gen. 1:9) This states the coming forth of the powers of concentration and attention. Concentration and attention enable the faculty of imagination to do an effective work. In Mysteries of Genesis, "The third step. . . is the beginning of the formative activity of the mind called imagination. . . the imagination begins a great multiplication of forms and shapes in the mind." (page 18)
"'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night. . .'" (Gen. 1:14) This states the coming forth of the faculties of will and understanding. "'Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth. . .'" (Gen. 1:20) This states the bringing forth of the process of thinking in general. Thoughts blend with other thoughts of their own "kind" or character and they tend to reproduce themselves. This is characteristic of the law of mind action, which decrees: LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE, LIKE BEGETS LIKE.
"'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'. . . So God created man in his own image. . . male and female he created them." (Gen. 1:26, 27) This states the culmination of all the processes so far mentioned in the allegory. This is the Genesis presentation of the God-created Real Self of every human individual. This is man's spiritual identity and spiritual nature.
"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31) Good is not a word which needs to be challenged or argued about. If one does not know what good means, then all the defining in the world will not illumine that person. The innate logic of the human mind recognizes good. Good is the basis and reality of what is true and meaningful to mankind.
On the metaphysical level of meaning, what have we been dealing with in these statements? Tradition insists it deals with Creation. But Creation has occurred before the allegory begins. The allegory is dealing with something which occurs after the original creation. It symbolically" describes a process which has the spiritual identity and spiritual nature of man as its grand climax. What has been created is not "Creation" itself, but rather an environment within Creation. It is the environment in which the human family will exist and in which they will experience true evolution.
For persons who do not believe in metaphysical Bible interpretation, the next step in the allegory should present something of a challenge. If we are to take everything in the Bible literally, then why is this next statement included? "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work. . ." (Gen. 2:2) Where is all this hard work which causes God to need a rest? Do the steps in the allegory sound like hard work? We read simply that God says, "'Let there be,'" "and there was." Is this hard work? Does this make a day of rest necessary? And we may even ask the very, very significant question: Do you worship a God who gets tired? Do you not worship a God who is omnipotent? Can omnipotence get tired? Can we not see that it is important that Unity students exercise what Charles Fillmore so strongly emphasizes in his book Christian Healing, when he says so much about the "innate logic of the human mind"? Mr. Fillmore urges us to learn to trust that innate logic of our minds. And the study of Bible interpretation surely gives us many good opportunities to test that innate logic.
The seventh step of the allegory is the symbol of that process within true creativity now called the Sabbath. The Sabbath symbolizes the process of conscious, willing rest. It is an inner resting, rather than "not doing." Becoming still and silent within, even is vitally important for a large number of reasons first reference to it in the Bible.
Beginning in the 2d chapter of Genesis, the name given to God is no longer Elohim, as in the 1st chapter. In the King James and Revised Standard translations it becomes Lord God. In most other English translations it becomes Jehovah from the German translation of the Hebrew YHWH, or Yahweh. In this course we shall use the name Jehovah. Jehovah is the God who is the subject of the entire Old Testament. Jehovah is the name of a human concept of God, representing the human awareness of "I AM." Jehovah is the human concept of a God of nature, a God of survival, a God greatly concerned with the difference between good and evil. Jehovah is a concept of a God who is influenced by human behavior. It is important for students of today to gain some understanding of the nature of the Jehovah concept, for it helps to clarify many of the strange things that are said and done in the Old Testament,
". . , and there was no man to till the ground." (Gen. 2:5) This statement indicates that the story of Genesis has net so far been about manifest man, out rather the inner nature of man. Manifest man presented in the Bible for the first time in these words: ... then the Lord god (Jehovah) FORMED man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen 2:7).
This is a statement about the history of mankind in essence. It is not necessary to get too literal about it in the sense of dates in history, geographical location, or possible numbers of persons, etc. It is a statement of very broad scope and should be accepted with great flexibility of mind.
"And the Lord God (Jehovah) planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed." (Gen. 2:8) Eden has multiple metaphysical meanings. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary mostly defines it as a state of great spiritual harmony and pleasantness. But it also states that this state contains "ALL POSSIBILITIES OF GROWTH." (page 181) These words are highly significant, for they point to the fact that the metaphysical meaning of Eden is that of a matrix for all possibilities for good. It is a state of all-inclusive potentials. It is a passive state, not an active or creative effort. It is beautiful and enjoyable, but it is not gained as a result of creative effort.
"And the Lord God (Jehovah) commanded the man, saying 'You may eat freely of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.'" (Gen. 2:16, 17) The key words here would be "knowledge of good and evil." This is actually just another way of referring to worldly knowledge — knowledge of facts as they exist on Earth. The warning from Jehovah is applicable only to man if he chooses to remain in the Edenic state. The Edenic state is prior to evolution. It is static harmony and passivity. It is the inner realm of undeveloped potential. But the human soul sooner or later will begin to long for something more. The experience of being "tempted" usually begins with curiosity and a desire for sensations and experiences. We hunger and thirst for knowledge. But once the soul begins to gain knowledge it begins to "die" to innocence, ignorance, and passivity. And since all worldly knowledge contains the characteristic of polarity or duality, the "knowledge of good and evil" causes the soul to leave the Edenic state and enter the pathway of human existence and human evolution.
Further reference to the law of mind action is symbolically presented in Gen. 2:19, 20. Adam is given the power to give names to all the life forms which are part of his environment. This idea symbolizes man's involvement with the law of mind action. One aspect of this law is: LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE, LIKE BEGETS LIKE. The other aspect is: THOUGHTS HELD IN MIND PRODUCE AFTER THEIR KIND.
"Then the Lord God (Jehovah) said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'. . . So the Lord God (Jehovah) caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God (Jehovah) had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man." (Gen. 2:18, 21-22) Man (male, husband) symbolizes man's basic thinking nature. Woman (female, wife) symbolizes man's basic feeling nature. Before man can effectively begin his true spiritual evolution, he must be more than just a mental thinker (man alone). He must develop an extension of abstract thinking. This extension will have great beauty, It will be his intuitive and feeling nature (woman). This is his "helper fit for him."
Gen. 2 ends with some beautiful and significant words. "And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed." (Gen. 2:25) When we are honest in our thoughts and feelings, we are not ashamed of the basic thoughts and feelings we have toward ourselves, toward others, and toward life in general. Shame and guilt are acquired negative emotions. An honest (naked) person does not need to be burdened with such emotions. A very wise Truth-teacher at Unity School once stated the idea thus: "An honest mistake is more valuable than any successful deception."
Preceding Entry: Old Testament Metaphysics 0: Old Testament Introduction
Following Entry: Old Testament Metaphysics 2: Lesson 2 Additional Allegories of Genesis