Meta. The "serpent" of the garden of Eden is sense consciousness. It may also be called desire, and sensation, or the activity of life in an external expression, apart from the Source of life. When the life is lifted to the realization that it is Spirit, it becomes healing, as illustrated by Moses' lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. Those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents (lustful expressions of life) were healed when they looked upon the serpent that was lifted up by Moses at the command of God. They looked up, or perceived the truth about divine life, and their minds and bodies were cleansed.
Bitterness always has back of it a bite for some one. When man rebels against life's conditions and curses God he sets up fiery forces in his thoughts that react on his body like poison. This is the condition illustrated in the allegory of Numbers 21:5-9. God does not directly send serpents upon man, but man's rebellious thoughts set up cross currents in his consciousness, and the burning and the biting seem a divine visitation. The original Hebrew does not imply that these were real serpents, but state that they were "the seraphim," "the burning ones."
The serpent is a form of elemental life. The Oriental symbol of eternal life is the serpent with tail in mouth. When this elemental form is "lifted up," or spiritualized, it adds glory and radiance to the whole man. The brazen serpent that Moses caused to be put up where all could see it, and so be healed, represents this elevation of the sense man to a higher consciousness.
Moses prayed for the people, and they confessed their sins and repented; there was a complete change of thought and especially a concentration on the one life (represented by the brazen serpent) to which all must look to be healed. When we turn our attention within and concentrate all our thoughts of life on divine life as manifest in Christ, a harmonizing and uplifting process sets in throughout the organism. The life force is no longer dissipated in sense sensation, but is conserved and concentrated at the various nerve centers. Through the action of the mind in prayer, faith, and meditation, the life force is transmuted to higher forms of energy and the whole man is lifted up. This is the way in which the body is spiritualized, and through this method man will finally make an immortal body.
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [of sense], even so must the Son of man [personal consciousness] be lifted up." Taking up serpents represents lifting up sense consciousness without being hurt by its reaction. Laying hands on the sick represents pouring out the healing power of Spirit. (See Mark 16:18.)