The word “Gilgal” appears in the Old Testament about 40 times. It’s most prevalent in the book of Joshua. When the Biblical narratives are read literally, the term designates a specific place in Palestine; it was at Gilgal that Joshua pitched the famous 12 stones drawn from the river Jordan.
Jewish mystics believe that the meaning of Gilgal implies reincarnation. I agree, especially when you look beyond the veil of literalism. Let’s begin by breaking down the meaning of Gilgal.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary states it means “rolling.” Smith’s Bible Dictionary states in means, “wheel.” Other study aids and different scholars may give slightly different variations of the above meanings, but they all seem to agree that Gilgal means one or the other or a combination of the two. If this is the case, it would seem that Gilgal denotes an ongoing circle or wheel. From the context of Joshua’s actions with the twelve stones from the river Jordan, the most literal translation would probably be “circle of standing stones.” Such imagery reminds us of Stonehenge, but it also reminds me of two other terms in mystic lore: the “wheel of existence” or the “wheel of birth and death.”
Both terms are symbols for the incarnation of personalities into the lower planes and their subsequent rise. We incarnate, we experience and grow, and we die physically. This process continues until perfection is attained. The great R.J. Campbell once stated, “God, our dwelling place before time began, brought forth the material universe to be a school of discipline for us, a necessary means to the realization of certain qualities of our nature.”
The above information begins a strong case for Gilgal being linked with reincarnation, but it is in the esoteric setting of the Israelite journey itself that the case is solidified. Let’s review a few important Biblical terms esoterically first.
Israelite: Called God’s chosen people simply because an Israelite is a symbol of the lower mental qualities of man ready to be further refined and joined to the higher divine nature of God.
Joshua: Like Jesus, Joshua is a symbol of the indwelling Higher Self within all of us, spiritually evolving towards completion by a total manifestation in the here and now. In other words, it is the spiritual ego or personality that is almost completed its journey.
Wilderness: A symbol for the arena of life in the lower planes, where the soul must journey in order to experience, grow, and mature. The hardships and conflicts experienced in the wilderness pit the ego against the Christ within. After many trials and tribulations (reincarnation), man begins to yearn for the truth.
Promised Land: A symbol for a state of consciousness of the higher mental plane. It is not as high as heaven (state of consciousness above the mental plane).
Jordan River: A symbol for the “river of life,” which is the divine light above flowing down and permeating the lower planes.
Egypt: A symbol of the lower mind and it’s attachment to things of desire.
Now that we have reviewed the above terms, let’s plug in a few scriptures about Gilgal keeping in mind what the above terms signify overall. Remember, the Israelite exodus of Egypt and their subsequent journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land represents the journey of us all through many incarnations.
Gilgal in Scripture
Although there are over 40 appearances of Gilgal in scripture, we’re going to focus on a few key verses from the Book of Joshua. In those scriptures we’ll see patterns that show how Gilgal is connected with reincarnation.
Joshua 4:19: And the people came up out of Jordan (the river) on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.”
As we briefly discuss the next scenes in the narrative, remember that they take place at Gilgal. It is in the next scenes of the narrative, here at Gilgal, that the natural cycle and benefits of reincarnation evolve the soul.
As we have already seen, the Jordan River is a symbol for God’s divine essence permeating the planes of existence. As the Israelites cross over the Jordan they are symbolically entering a new plane of consciousness. After crossing the Jordan, the LORD has Joshua circumcise (symbolic of cutting off the lower nature) all the generation of men that rose up after the first generation died out. The LORD let the first generation die out in the wilderness because it is symbolic of disobedience to the Christ within—i.e., their continual succumbing to their own lower nature and desires. Now the author of Joshua gets us to focus on the new generation of Israelites. This new generation represents a more refined spiritual people, and as such, are ready to enter the Promised Land.
Now let’s focus on why the LORD calls their campsite on the other side of the Jordan “Gilgal.”
“And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places at the camp, till they were whole. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of this place is called Gilgal unto this day” (Joshua 5:8-9).
Gilgal is designated as such because it represents the place where God has “rolled away the reproach from Egypt.” What is the esoteric significance of this name? I want you to consider that it is because Gilgal represents that natural law of God (reincarnation) providing the opportunity through which the reproach of Egypt (the ego) is transcended.
Through the process of reincarnation, the Israelite (any spiritual person) has been able to shed the lower mental nature and continue its spiritual evolution towards that state of consciousness known as the Promised Land. The rolling wheel, or the circle of 12 stones, each one representing a different tribe an aspect of the soul, is continually evolving towards perfection.
Below are just a few other scriptures that hint at Gilgal’s esoteric meaning:
“So Joshua ascended from Gilgal…” (Jos. 10:7)
“Joshua therefore came into them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.” (Jos. 10:9).
“And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp of Gilgal” (Jos. 10:15).
“And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp of Gilgal” (Jos. 10:43).
“And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh” (1 Sam. 7:16) – please see Anny’s second comment below for a great explanation of this above verse!
As you can see Joshua, the Israelites and Samuel are continually going up from and returning to Gilgal. This is the great “wheel of existence,” wherein the soul has the opportunity for spiritual evolution towards manifesting the Christ within. This is the reason for the narratives of the Exodus and the entering of the Promised Land.
Reincarnation seems so foreign to many Christians because they have been taught God is a personal being who immediately judges a person’s soul upon physical death. That soul is then placed by God in either heaven or hell. This really doesn’t make much sense nor does it align with other scriptures. In reality the soul is judged on a continual basis, moment to moment. Every thought, deed, and action judge us. This is why we must reap what we sow, and hopefully, through the process of reaping, we learn to judge ourselves and become higher-functioning conscious beings.
Reincarnation is the only rational way to explain the spiritual development of our souls. To believe in traditional Christian doctrine as it relates to life and death is absurd and contradictory on so many levels. How can we reconcile the fact that a moral, conscious being knowingly and willingly created billions upon billions of souls with the foreknowledge that only a select few would ever have the blessings of eternal life while most of those souls would experience eternal damnation? To even try to reconcile such notions defies rational thought.
The writers of the Bible never emphasize reincarnation because the greatest of the spiritual ancients accepted it as natural law of God just as we accept the idea that we need to breathe oxygen to live. People who use individual Bible scriptures to deny reincarnation do so because of doctrine. Most doctrines throw common sense and rational thought out the window, and if you trace any doctrine to its root you inevitably will end with an answer of, “I don’t know why God does it that way. He just says so in the Bible.”
In the next post we’ll look a little closer at the spiritual development of the Israelites entering the Promised Land through a specific story in the Book of Joshua.