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Lesson 5 Joseph

Lesson 5 Joseph
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A Spiritual Interpretation of the Old Testament

As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065

Lesson Outline

  1. Metaphysical meaning of Joseph in both earlier and later years.
  2. Joseph as a prisoner in Egypt.
  3. Joseph as a secondary ruling power in Egypt.
  4. Reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers.
  1. Genesis, Chapters 37, 39-50
  2. Mysteries of Genesis Chapter XI to end of book (p. 293-376)
  3. Let There Be Light p. 52-55
  1. What does Joseph stand for in human nature in the earlier part of his story?
  2. What does Joseph stand for in human nature in the latter part of his story?
  3. What is the symbolism of Joseph's coat of many colors?
  4. What is the main metaphysical point brought out in the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers?

Lesson Text

The twelve sons of Jacob constitute the earliest Bible symbolism of the twelve powers of man. This first listing is not the same as it is found in the Gospels as it appears as the twelve disciples of Jesus, nor as it was formulated by Charles Fillmore in the form we have it in Unity today.

  1. REUBEN: "behold a son; vision of a son"--understanding through seeing
  2. SIMEON: "hearkening; obeying"—understanding through hearing
  3. LEVI: "joining; clinging"--love in human consciousness
  4. JUDAH: "praise Jehovah"--prayer and praise in human consciousness
  5. ISSACHAR: "he will bring reward"—zeal in human consciousness
  6. ZEBULUN: "habitation; dwel1ing"--order in human consciousness
  7. JOSEPH: "whom Jehovah will add to; Jehovah shall bring increase" --imagination
  8. BENJAMIN: "son of good fortune"--faith in human consciousness
  9. DAN: "a judge"--judgment in human consciousness
  10. NAPHTALI: "my wrestling"--renunciation and elimination
  11. GAD: "fortunate; good fortune"—power in the human consciousness
  12. ASHER: "straightforward"—understand!'ng in the human consciousness

We can see by the above listing that this is not the same as the body of the twelve powers of man we now have in our Unity presentation. WILL, STRENGTH, AND GENERATIVE LIFE are not listed here. UNDERSTANDING is listed in three different ways. Also, PRAYER AND PRAISE are listed here as a faculty, but is not on the present day listing.

The fact that Joseph stands for the faculty of imagination is significant. Right use of the imagination is the main basis for what we now designate as "right thinking" or sometimes as "positive thinking." And, of course, right and positive thinking is a vital first step on the pathway of growth and unfoldment leading to the Jesus Christ level of consciousness. All true spiritual development begins with right thinking.

In the early part of his life Joseph symbolizes undisciplined and uncontrolled imagination. Such use of imagination can be exciting but can also cause mischief and trouble. Joseph told tales critical of his brothers, dreamed of being superior to them, dreamed of being superior to his parents. Later in his life Joseph learns through hard experiences and he develops depth.and insight and self-control. His metaphysical meaning changes from mere imagining and becomes positive, constructive thinking.

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children ... and he made him a long robe with sleeves." (coat of many colors in KJV) (Gen. 37:3) Joseph (imagination) being the favorite son is quite easy to understand. This faculty is capable of giving great delight to one who is willing to use it. What is obviously the favorite faculty of most young children? Imagination, of course!

The coat of many colors represents the most striking and attractive of the abilities of imagination, which is the ability to project color and emotional meaning into all areas of life. The imagination is clothed with this power to project color toward whatever we give our attention to. No other faculty can quite duplicate the feat.

Joseph's first two dreams (Gen. 37:6, 9) represent one of the common errors of unwise use of imagination--dreams of being superior to others. Superiority over others is really an unwise dream of uncontrolled imagination. And even MORE UNWISE is the telling of such dreams as though they were facts! Joseph made both mistakes, and the consequences for him were soon felt.

"So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore..." (Gen. 37:23) Negative or critical use of the imagination will eventually lead to devitalization of that faculty. The imagination loses its unique capacity to project color into life, and we lose much of our capacity to find interest and enjoyment. When this is carried to the extreme it is called "depression." It is almost an illness.

Gen. 37 ends with an account of his brothers intending to kill Joseph, but changing their minds under Judah's persuasion. Instead, they sell him to some passing Ishmaelites (for 20 PIECES OF SILVER!) who in turn sell him to Potiphar, a captain in the Egyptian army.

Metaphysically Egypt symbolizes the realm of the subconsciousness. It also symbolizes materiality and sensuality. Joseph as a slave in Egypt stands for an imagination temporarily in a repressed state, being used almost entirely for materialistic purposes or sensual fantasies. The episode involving Joseph and the wife of Potiphar (Gen. 39:7-20) bears out this interpretation. Potiphar's wife symbolizes sexual fantasies which attempt to take oyer all the energies of the imagination. Her frustration over Joseph's rejection of her results in Joseph being put into prison.

In Gen. 40 and 41 Joseph correctly interprets the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners. One of them is Pharaoh's butler, who later remembers Joseph and recommends him to Pharaoh, who has had a puzzling dream. Joseph interprets the dream as a warning of plenty and then famine and recommends protective measures to be taken, Pharaoh agrees and places Joseph in charge of the work, eventually raising Joseph to a position second only to himself.

Metaphysically all this symbolizes progress and improvement in the right use of imagination. Correctly used, our imagination becomes a verg valuable faculty for both cur outer end inner life, Riant use of imagination can make our life very useful and productive even on a strictly material and sensual level (Egypt). Even our own personal ego (Pharaoh) is able to appreciate the value of good imagination.

In Gen. 41 we learn of Joseph's marriage to Asenath and the birth of two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary tells us that metaphysically Asenath stands for "the feminine, or love side of the natural man." Ephraim stands for the will. Manasseh stands for understanding. All this symbolizes the development of new love, new understanding, and new willingness working with the imagination.

Chapters 42-49 are accounts of very long and involved interactions between Joseph and his brothers, and not until they all become honest in chapter 50 does their reconciliation occur, to the great satisfaction of all. Metaphysically this can be interpreted as an extended expose1 of the futility of any sort of deception and guile. No real progress is made, and no real satisfaction is experienced until the intrigues come to a halt. It may take a long time for some persons to realize this, but when the realization does come it can produce results as happy as those described in the final chapter of Genesis.

Gen. 50 brings the story of Joseph to its famous conclusion. This fame is very much based upon the words spoken by Joseph to his brothers. After they confess their wrongdoing toward him, they beg his forgiveness. Joseph replies to them: "'Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good. ..."' (Gen. 50:19-20)

There is a great depth of metaphysical meaning in this statement. It offers much food for thought to our spiritual perception. Some readers feel that this forgiveness extended by Joseph toward his brothers was a very Christ-like act, on a par with that of Jesus. But a careful examination will reveal that there is a notable difference. Joseph forgave with the aid of hindsight. He saw clearly that the evil intentions of his brothers had come to naught. What they did failed to cause him any real harm. He could easily review the pattern of past events in his life and see how time and time again God's good purposes became the outcome he always experienced in his life. He also had the human satisfaction of seeing his brothers afraid and repentant. This made it much easier for him to forgive them. So although his act of forgiveness was genuine, it was made easier through the power of hindsight. Joseph expressed magnanimous forgiveness.

Jesus expressed divine forgiveness. Jesus' forgiveness was expressed DURING his execution. He forgave even while the offense was being committed. He was witness to no sign of fear or repentance on the part of the tormentors And most important of all, Jesus took no personal credit for the forgiveness He was expressing. He acknowledged all forgiving power to be entirely of God. He said, "'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'" (Luke 23:34)

We can say that Joseph's type of forgiveness was a genuine act of human magnanimity. Jesus' type of forgiveness was a divine realization. Both are right. But the outer GRANTING of forgiveness is limited to a fine human gesture. While the inner ATTITUDE of true forgiveness in Jesus is a divine attribute.