Lazarus the beggar and the rich man: Understanding Soul Growth and Meaning of Hell

by Joshua Tilghman on April 16, 2016

Lazarus and the rich manAs promised, this post will unveil the esoteric meaning of the beggar Lazarus who died an ended up in Abraham’s bosom, while the rich man died and ended up in what appears to be a description of eternal torment, i.e., hell. Of course the Bible never describes a literal hell in the traditional Christian sense (see part one of this series for more information). The same holds true for the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.

I remember hearing this story in church when I was boy. It was particularly disturbing. The rich man experiencing fiery torment so bad that he pleaded for just a drop of water on his tongue. And there was no chance to escape. Ever. He was going to endure that intense torment for eternity.

As a child, that parable, when interpreted literally, is chilling enough to make you want to always follow God. And that often translates into following church leadership, too. But a literal reading of this parable and other parts of the Bible does not always yield the proper way to follow God, and certainly not another man who also interprets the Bible literally.

Let’s paraphrase our parable found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 16 verses 19-31, and then we’ll go through the symbolic meanings of the characters and items found within it:

As the story goes, there was a rich man that wore fine purple linen and lived a luxurious life. There was also a poor beggar named Lazarus. He was full of sores which even the dogs licked, and he desired to eat crumbs from the rich man’s dinner table. Both of them died. Lazarus ended up in what is referred to as “Abraham’s bosom,” while the rich man ended up in in what the author describes as hell. The rich man could see across a “great gulf” that existed between Abraham’s bosom and hell. He glimpses Lazarus in Abraham’s Bosom, which apparently was Abraham himself (also symbolic), because he calls to Father Abraham for a drop of water to alleviate his intense suffering. Abraham then explains that the rich man should remember that he experienced a life of wealth and blessings (good things) while Lazarus suffered evil things. Abraham then tells him that Lazarus is now comforted while the rich man is tormented.

Right from the start, there are several scenarios wrong with a literal interpretation of this parable. For one thing, Jesus makes no mention of the rich man having ever done anything wrong in life except live richly and receive “good things.” Does being rich and receiving good things in this life condemn one to hell? The way the story is worded makes it seem as if living a life of luxury somehow is automatically and spiritually inconsistent with receiving Abraham’s Bosom (comfort) in any kind of afterlife. Yes, it is true that pursuing material wealth often leads to a deprived soul, but this depends on our overall level of spiritual maturity. Furthermore, the overall wording of this story suggests that the symbols used teach us about the condition of the human soul. As I hope you will soon see, this is the key to reconciling the parable with reality.

A second and even harder aspect about this parable to believe literally is that an eternally LOVING God could create a sentient being and then condemn them to eternal intense suffering. This is a contradiction of what love embodies. Temporary pain and suffering often helps the soul to grow, and thus is indeed merciful in the end, but eternal suffering with no hope of escape would be ridiculous as it would ultimately serve no purpose for any creator, unless that creator himself was not the embodiment of love.

Lastly, it is also quite ridiculous to assume that a material object such as water or fire could affect an immaterial object such as a soul without a physical body. What could physical water do for the immaterial suffering soul?

There are many more problems with a literal interpretation of this story, but the above is ample enough reason to hint at its deeper meanings, which moves us away from any sort of literal reading and it behooves us to look for the deeper, esoteric meanings.

Let’s review a list of the symbols involved in this parable before giving an explanation of what they mean.

  1. Lazarus
  2. Sores
  3. Rich Man
  4. Purple, fine linen
  5. Crumbs (from rich man’s table)
  6. Abraham’s Bosom
  7. Hell
  8. Five brothers (not yet mentioned but saving for last to solidify our interpretation which will leave you with little room for doubt that we have the correct interpretation).

Let’s start with Lazarus and the Rich Man. Consider a quote by John Ward, in his work, Zion’s Works.

“The rich man is an invisible being, and so is the poor man [Lazarus]; these two spirits have been in man all through time. Lazarus was presented to the will of the rich man; for the will is the gate at which alone the LORD can enter, begging for the rich man to bend his thoughts toward him.”

What Mr. Ward is saying is that both men in this parable are aspects of us. The rich man symbolizes the lower self and personality. The lower self is gratified with the pleasures of the world. This is further symbolized by the purple clothes of fine linen, which Gaskell tells us refer to the lower emotions and the astral body which carries the ego. The astral body, which is responsible in conjunction with the chemicals in our brain, allows for desires and lower emotions to be. Gaskell further tells us that Lazarus is the higher spiritual body, known in ancient teachings as the causal body. Think of this higher energetic vibrational body as an embryo for developing the spiritual ego, which births higher eternal truths realized in the soul.

As explained in other articles on this site, the Bible uses allegory and symbols to teach us that the goal in life should be to transform the lower ego into the spiritual ego, the lower emotions into the higher ones. By crucifying our lower nature, we can look forward to a symbolic resurrection where the lower and higher self is unified. This is why we must see Lazarus as the potential embryo for the lasting eternal qualities such as truth and pure love to be developed. This is also the reason why Lazarus goes into Abraham’s bosom (more on this symbol in a minute)

So why did Lazarus have sores? Sores are a symbol of the suffering nature in physical life (remember Job?). The reason that Lazarus is a beggar is because the causal body or embryo of the developing spiritual ego MUST incarnate and EXPERIENCE to develop. And through that experience we endure trials and tribulations and sufferings which push us towards soul growth. This is why Lazarus begs from the rich man. Trials and tribulations in life afford the soul opportunities to grow and eventually come to exhibit love. Often times we miss these opportunities and do not learn our lessons, which is why must often repeat the same mistakes in life over and over until we learn what we must to progress past them. But when we do learn them, either in this incarnation or another one, we grow closer to the goal of being a vessel and conduit of love in a variety of ways. Abraham’s bosom, representing comfort and contentment, is also symbolic of this love. Furthermore, the crumbs from the rich man’s table, which Lazarus did not eat but yearned for, symbolizes the spiritual embryo’s (causal body) gravitation towards experience in the physical world to learn the lessons necessary for our soul development.

Now we come to hell. In further establishing what I have already said about hell in the first part of this series, it represents the ego and personality’s (Rich man) condition in relation to Lazarus. They are opposites. We are all in a condition of hell when we are led by the ego and lower emotions, which can only eventually lead to suffering in some form. But at the same time that suffering pushes the soul to a higher truth and reality.

According to Gaskell, Hell, Sheol, and Hades are “…symbols of the underworld or four lower planes of nature, namely, the lower mental, astral, the etheric, and the physical planes. The underworld is the arena of life for the spiritual egos who incarnate therein to gain experience and the development of their potential natures.”

And now to solidify our argument which will leave little room for doubt (possibly even for you, RobertJ)

When I decided to do a post on this parable since it is one of the obvious ones in the New Testament giving us a good picture of what hell really is, I thought I remembered the parable saying that the Rich man had three brothers. Before I went back and reread it, I had the thought that it should be five, since five represents the number of the senses in many parables of ancient religious literature (see my article entitled, Sampson and Delilah: The War of the Mind, for another parable explained which has similarities to this one). So I flipped back to Luke chapter 16, verse 27-28, and bingo! The number was indeed 5! This is a recurring number in the Bible which always represents the senses, as in David choosing five stones to slay Goliath (the ego).

Luke 16: 27-28 reads:

“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, Father [Abraham], that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

Again, the five brethren symbolize the five senses which easily get us caught up in the lower emotional-desire nature, and keep us from crucifying the ego. The rich man is in effect pleading for a relief of potential suffering the five senses can cause us. It is Abraham’s response which even further solidifies our overall interpretation:

“Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets: let him hear them.”

Moses represents the moral nature, which must be developed first. Then the Christ nature can arise. It is the natural progression of evolution in the soul through experience. One proceeds the other, which is also why Moses and the prophets came first. Also consider the fact that the rich man asks Lazarus to go. But Abraham’s explanation confirms this process. Lazarus, the embryo of the spiritual ego (vs. the lower ego and personality), must develop through the moral nature first.

A little side note: I am often asked in spiritual conversations what happens to us at death. Ancient mystics have always said that the lower ego is extinguished, but the truths and higher qualities that the spiritual ego has assimilated through its physical experiences goes on. That is the real you that is being developed and will always abide. Therefore we do not need to fear death. The true you, the part of you that means anything, will live on.

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome.

Blessings!

Maryann April 17, 2016 at 12:26 am

I was familiar with this passage too growing up. But I was taught it was not because the rich man was rich that made him bad, but it was his cold heart (shown by the fact that he saw this beggar laying at his gate in utter misery, and that he didn’t care at all), that gives us a hint of the rich man’s true character. People aren’t bad because they are rich, but riches are powerful-one must be careful, not to put more value in the flesh then in the spirit. And per this teaching, this particular rich man was way past that point, he lived in great luxury and passed Lazarus and I assume many other hurting people everyday and didn’t feel any compassion. Like with us all, our character affects all parts of our lives, as it did this rich man. This passage doesn’t go into that. But however cold this rich man’s heart really was and how he conducted his life God could see clearly, we just get a strong hint by that illustration. When I was older, I remember one teacher saying that a lot of the pain and suffering spoken about in the Bible is symbolic. But he taught (and I kind of believe this), that maybe the pain of Hell is only seeing clearly the truth of how great and magnificent God is, and knowing and always feeling the separation of God from your life. And that is the torture. Sort of like Dante’s Inferno- it doesn’t really matter whether it’s fire or ice- or what else it is, Hell will be great suffering. But I’d like to believe God gives us many chances to correct ourselves and chose a different path before one comes to that point of choosing to be in permanent Hell which our loving Father allows them to chose. To put some irony in it, I guess sort of like the story in “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre. These people are in misery, complaining all the time but really don’t want another life.

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 12:36 am

Maryanne,

You state:

“When I was older, I remember one teacher saying that a lot of the pain and suffering spoken about in the Bible is symbolic. But he taught (and I kind of believe this), that maybe the pain of Hell is only seeing clearly the truth of how great and magnificent God is, and knowing and always feeling the separation of God from your life. And that is the torture.”

Yes, yes! In a sense we are truly separated from God in so many ways because of the ego, and when we truly come to understand this, in the innermost part of our beings, it is a sort of hell. However, the hellish experience of crucifying the ego I believe is the true hell that encompasses fire and brimstone. In esoteric literature it is said to be the great AND terrible day of the Lord, because it is both a blessing and truly terrifying. In a sense, it is a death.

Thanks for the comment.

anny April 17, 2016 at 11:24 am

Hi Josh,

In the last sentence of your comment you write: “In esoteric literature it is said to be the great AND terrible day of the Lord, because it is both a blessing and truly terrifying. In a sense, it is a death.”

Where you quote this text, you are only quoting a translation. The word terrible is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘nora’ which can be translated as such but is more like awe inspiring than awful in this case.

It is awesome (which is also a translation of ‘nora’) which suits much better with great and inspires a totally different feeling than terror. It contains the word ‘nur’, which means light as from a candle. It could cause trembling because of the intensity of this day but not fear.

At least, that is how it has always felt to me. Even as a child, before I had even heard about Hebrew, I somehow interpreted the term “Fear the Lord” – which it is also in the Dutch translation – as be in awe of the Lord. No one taught me that, I just knew and thought other people knew too.

Robert April 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Anny,

I agree with you about some positive aspects about Nora. It can be a time of wondrous fulfillment of prophecy and promises awaited eagerly by the righteous. In some applications it can mean judgement and wrath. Maybe its both painful and awesome, sort of like when you go to the dentist to get a cavity filled and come out with smiling white restored teeth. I would joke that some marriages are like that, eagerly awaited and then the clash of ego’s after the honeymoon is over, until both partners put more value on the others needs than their own and value the union over individuality. Maybe that could be described esoterically as the lower natures falling off.

anny April 20, 2016 at 1:17 am

Yes, I agree that awesome may have its painful side as well. In fact, I know it has. Giving birth is that way too! It is both painful and awesome and if all goes well it presents you with a beautiful result. And this great and awesome day of course is some sort of birth as well. The birth of a new world.

Thanks Robert, for showing this aspect. The word terrible however does not encompass all these elements, don’t you think?

Robert April 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Anny,

Yes, using the word “terrible” can shake up the insides with feelings of fear and impending doom in its harsher meaning. I have a new view of harmonizing the direct (exoteric) meaning of scripture with various interpretations of it, including the deeper mystical (esoteric) ones. This view assumes the direct meaning is accurate and relevant. If it is a historical narrative that is not obviously a parable or metaphorical, then it happened. If it is a prophecy of coming events, then for the most part they are destined to occur in some literal way (given a little leeway because the prophets described these coming events using the limited language and imagery known to them in their day; also there is some prophecy that was meant to be metaphorical rather than literal). When we factor out everything that is not meant to be literal, then we are left with events that really happened or will happen in the physical plane. These are “Signs of God” in our physical world. Each Sign of God has many spiritual (esoteric) interpretations that we can comprehend with our spirit (that sacred part of us that is accessible to us in the physical plane, but transcends the physical plane). The next principle I am going to mention is very important: the esoteric interpretations do not invalidate the exoteric Signs of God. Two individuals can have different esoteric interpretations of the same exoteric scripture reading. One individual can have different esoteric interpretation at different times and even simultaneously. This is partly because of our individuality, and partly because the spirit realm through which we become aware of these interpretations is a dimension beyond linear thought in the physical plane.

So one individual may respond to the Terrible Day of the Lord as meaning he’d better get his act together and stop backsliding. Such an individual may need that kind of wake up call. Another individual in a different state of spiritual development may be brought closer to God by beholding his awesomeness. If you are like me, I need a little of both, God’s rod and his staff (the carrot and the stick).

Does this make sense?

I don’t think anyone has to agree with me or be persuaded. I am kind of thinking out loud and sharing with friends what the journey intended for me is showing me. I have been on a course to harmonize the esoteric and exoteric for several years. I just recently realized my frustration over esoteric truths that invalidated the exoteric, and am now trying to reconcile them for myself, since both are important to my spiritual health and growth at this time. To me this opens up a door of discovering new ideas that fill in the gaps . And who knows, I might be onto something.

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 6:40 pm

@ Robert and Anny:

Anny, great comment and additional information about Nora.

The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord is indeed both a wondrous and severely painful event, but not pain in the regular sense. It refers esoterically to the death of the ego, (terrible day) and salvation (great) afterwards. So yes, it is a necessary and painful experience because the ego-death is a traumatic event, but the benefit and reward is worth every bit the pain aspect.

Matt Knowles April 17, 2016 at 2:45 am

Here’s like symbolism: “Though I walk through the valley of he shadow of death I fear no evil…” The “V” of the valley would have suffering to your left and right as you proceed down its middle path, thus in essence helping you toward your goal. The evil or suffering is not to be feared since it is an aid to keeping you on your better path.

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 10:30 am

Great analogy, Matt.

Matt Knowles April 17, 2016 at 8:25 am

I love your picking up on the “5 senses” allegory. The mechanism that keeps us believing in the illusion and that fear is real. Like good scientists we believe in what we see, hear, touch, smell or taste. But you’re a quantum student, tell me, didn’t scientists measure with their 5 senses the results that lead to the conclusion that that which is not measurable is real? Or is perhaps quantum physics itself an allegory picked up by the 5 senses, and therefore not real, but like all illusions can lead us toward the truth? What do you think?

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 10:48 am

Matt,

Although some scientists still refuse to accept it (claiming there must be another explanation although they don’t know what), it has been shown time and time again that when we observe our world, we change the outcome. Matter can act as both a wave and a particle depending on whether someone is observing it or not. This is known as wave-duality theory, and the more sophisticated our experiments get, the more conclusive the evidence gets. Scientists are able to set the experiment up in such a way that it excludes our five senses. If you are interested in a short technical piece that further supports the Double Slit Experiment, click here, although it’s quite boring!

http://highexistence.com/docs/experiment.pdf

Matt Knowles April 17, 2016 at 8:41 am

Where can I read to understand more on the “moral nature” that proceeds the “christ nature”? What are good ways of sharing with others about this nature?

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 10:59 am

Matt,

You could start with an article I wrote here: http://www.spiritofthescripture.com/id2930-what-do-the-new-and-old-testaments-really-mean.html

As far as sharing with others, remember someone has to be inquisitive and receptive for it. I usually wait for people to ask me a question that would naturally lead to such a subject. Otherwise, I leave it to the blog where people are already searching for such. When I first began my spiritual path in the esoteric world I learned very quickly that many did not share my enthusiasm. At first I would reply with something like, how can this information not be interesting to you?!! But then I figured out that everyone is on a different path in their journey, and it’s not really that this information is right and that’s not. It’s more about our own personal revelations that give us the meanings we are yearning for.

Matt Knowles April 17, 2016 at 11:36 am

I thought to amplify the collective pain and suffering and social ills that plague my community. To lead my audience to the realization “there’s got to be a better way”. To lead them to be ready to listen via the amplification of discomfort. And discuss the moral nature as the cause and what is seen the effect.

I hope the discussion leads to a willingness to learn. To learn more about the moral nature, and bridge to the christ nature. Then as a consequence be able to do and manifest more of their christ nature in their present.

Matt Knowles April 20, 2016 at 10:35 am

I realize God will show me, no need to struggle for this. Relax.

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Matt, you will know at the right time. I agree with you. Let it come naturally.

Brahmi April 17, 2016 at 9:45 am

My experience is that “original sin” is the belief in separation, or duality. Ignorance of our true nature is the root of all “sins”, which are the mind’s attempts to control circumstances in order to feel safe and to feel loved.
A creator who loses most of his creation to eternal suffering, and knows from the beginning that will be so is hard to appreciate as “loving, merciful, able to keep you from falling.”

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 10:28 am

My thoughts exactly, Brahmi.

Matt Knowles April 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

Thank you, I will build from that. A great help.

Robert April 20, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Brahmi,

I like your explanation for the root of all sins in terms of controlling. Just food for thought, where does temptation fit in?

Brahmi April 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm

To be tempted is not the same as ” sinning”. Temptation takes many forms that reduce to protecting and nourishing the ego, being safe, holding a position.
Christ’s advice was “flee temptation”, not “fight or struggle with it.” Temptation is a thought and although many kind of thought may come, it is always possible to choose which thoughts we will entertain.
We are told in scripture that God will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him. In other words, we “flee temptation by simply turning awareness to god instead of the temptation. When did Petrr start to sink as he walked on water? The moment he began to focus on the size of the waves and syrength of the wind. Daily life is as unsteady as water.
A meditative practice is praying without ceasing, because awareness is constantly returned to what is everlasting and unchanging.

Robert April 24, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Brahmi,

I understand your explanation. It applies well to common temptation we experience every day. And I am thinking this probably works well for people whose conscience (and consciousness) and self discipline are well developed.

I’m not sure about this, but I think there is another kind of temptation. The Lords Prayer asks the Heavenly Father to “deliver us from temptation”. Perhaps this is desiring the divine nature (spark) inherently is us (as some believe), or the infusion of the Holy Spirit imparted to us that is not inherently in us from the start (as others believe) to help us accomplish what we might not otherwise. I saw this happen to a relative who had a substance abuse problem and failed several times over years to kick it, who I prayed for, and saw events occur that strengthened this persons conviction and resolve to finally quit. So this could have been a kind of divine intervention.

So what I am trying to say is that it is not always just a matter of making right choices. Divine intervention may also be a factor.

Some believe that the sin nature must be dealt with by divine intervention.

Robert April 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm

Brahmi and Josh,

This comment goes after my next one starting with “I understand your explanation.” I have to do it this way or I would use up the chance for you to reply to my comments if you so desired. The reply to a reply to a reply only goes so deep, and after that then there is no place to reply.

One interpretation of Adams fall that is closer to the traditional one is that it happened as a result of a combination of temptation (or a weakness of self-deceit or self-illusion) and disobedience (failure of the mind to be consistent in following established principles). When the established principles are established by an external authority, then the fall becomes an act of rebellion (mutiny) against the external authority. It can also be seen as an act of rebellion against one’s better self, a kind of splitting of one part of the self from the better (sacred) part of oneself. Whatever the underlying cause of the fall, weakness or rebellion, etc., it is a problem that results in brokenness (lack of wholeness) which can be described as separation from God, self-defeating splitting inside the self, or splitting of the lower ego from the higher “I”).

This brokenness requires fixing.

The underlying cause of brokenness is what some refer to as the original sin or the sinful nature. It is a flaw in (the lower) human nature that results in man not making choices in his overall best interest or the interest in others he is connected to (whether he is ware of the connection it or not). It is out of some kind of self-blindness, which he does by exercising free choice. The blindness is not necessarily a result of innocence, because there may be inclinations such as greed involved.

But there is some degree of innocence in that somehow temptation robbed us and caused us to fall. This is depicted by the cunning serpent in the Garden, who God punishes, and who is ultimately defeated for eternity in Revelations. This is the part of evil or darkness that is not our fault, or is our fault but is being extracted out of us and labeled “bad” so we can see it and remember to shun it. This is the bronze serpent (sin on a stick) and Jesus becoming the scapegoat on the cross.

So self-blindness is not always innocence. In fact, the fall may represent the transition from innocence to awareness (of right and wrong) and accountability for the consequences. But we can have compassion for the fallen because we can see their original and perfected potential, referred to as being made in the image (likeness) of God (absolute perfection), and we ourselves have experienced the fallen state and are in the process of being raised out of it. We can identify with the fallen and have grace on them because grace has been granted to us to give us the chance to rise above the prison of human limitation in the fallen state.

Thus the concept of grace and forgiveness evolve as a consequence of our experience in the fallen state. I sometimes think the more I am aware of my fallen state, the more I appreciate the grace that is raising me from it. Grace rescues me from the prison, it saves me from an otherwise calamitous destiny of being separated from God (or separated from my better self or full potential, or from remaining broken).

Now we come to the big question. Where does grace come from?

The bible says we are saved by grace, it is a gift of God, that no one should perish (continue in the course of further corruption beyond the point of no return or remedy). Grace in this respect seems to come out of nowhere, or from a benevolent source that transcends our perception of reality, beyond our animalistic nature. I may have experienced some degree of nurturing from my parent’s love, overlooking my acts of immaturity and sometimes being surprisingly generous despite it. Baboons bestow the same nurturing of their young. Nurturing has an element of grace in it, but grace is more than nurturing. I really didn’t “understand” what grace was as a a definable principle until someone explained it to me. So we might say we come to understand grace from knowledge.

Ah, but where does the knowledge of grace come from? Where did the person who explained the principle of grace get it from. We can keep going down this path of asking again and again where the origin of grace comes from, and eventually run out of logical causes. Grace is like some kind of welcome addition to the universe that we didn’t expect. Some benevolent creator or force beyond us is super-nurturing us. Why? And what is the nature of that creator or force?

Some of us represent this agent of redemption as Christ (from without) or Christ Consciousness (from within). Where did we get the notion of Christ? I think most of us get the notion of Christ from the bible. Where did the people who wrote the bible get the notion of Christ from? Regardless of whether is came from a historical Christ or a mythological/metaphorical Christ, where did the notion come from, that there is this awesome pervasive undeserved goodness in the universe? Perhaps it comes from the simple observation of our experiences in the universe, that it has a surprising characteristic of grace, that things are sometimes too good to be true. It is more often the case that we just think we are lucky or take grace for granted, until something teaches us to appreciate it.

Redemption in the traditional Christian sense comes from first having the intrinsic propensity for sin removed by divine intervention (salvation), and then for the redeemed person to work out the rest of redemption through struggling against sin in a battle that is rigged in his favor (sanctification). Thus Peter sinks when he sees the waves and is pulled back up to “walk by faith and not by sight” another day. He was called by Christ, he responded by following Christ, and he is maintained by Christ.
to fulfill his calling.

Redemption in many esoteric interpretations involves obtaining knowledge about redemptive enlightenment that comes from within, possibly through deeper self-knowledge about the ego often aided through meditation and contemplation. We are able to find a calm space to withdraw from the lower ego and observe our experience without judgement, which can provide better objectivity in making decisions. Sometimes this is referred to as finding the inner Christ.

Both the traditional and esoteric paths involve something special and mystical – the Christ, a redemptive agent that releases us from the prison that our broken selves create.

This brings us back around to the issue of temptation. What gives the ability of the weak-willed person to resist temptation, or the desire of the strong-willed person to crucify the desire for power or pleasure that causes himself or someone harm? Is it not through illumination of the self by some special fashion that propels the self to transcend one’s limitations and then make the better free choice? It is not just by deciding to make a better choice, although it may seem like that after the illumination or salvation experience when it is much easier for us to do so.

In short, something has to happen to us in order to make the better choices, otherwise we are like moths being fatally attracted to a flame.

.

anny April 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Hi Josh,

This is a very interesting article that especially interests me as I have never examined this part of the Bible esoterically before. Your interpretation sounds very logical indeed and I do not have to say very much about that.

However, you know that I do believe that the literal interpretation of the Bible is also a valid one; we must only distinguish which part may be interpreted literally and which part should only be taken symbolically. Personally I believe that all parts that call for war or violence should never be taken literally. In the case of this story at least the first part might be taken literally as well as symbolically, up to a point.

You write: Right from the start, there are several scenarios wrong with a literal interpretation of this parable. For one thing, Jesus makes no mention of the rich man having ever done anything wrong in life except live richly and receive “good things.” Does being rich and receiving good things in this life condemn one to hell? The way the story is worded makes it seem as if living a life of luxury somehow is automatically and spiritually inconsistent with receiving Abraham’s Bosom (comfort) in any kind of afterlife.

I think that you overlook something here, as Maryanne also wrote. No, Jesus does not mention anything that the rich man has done wrong but he implies it. The rich man continued to be rich and enjoy the good things in life day after day and Lazarus continued lying on his doorstep, longing to eat the crumbs of the rich man’s table. That implies that the rich man must have been aware all the time of the condition of Lazarus and had done nothing to relieve his suffering, even though it lay well within his ability to do so. That cannot remain without consequences, quite beside the ones you mentioned. And not just for the rich man in the parable but for all of us here and now. How much are we doing to relieve the suffering of the suffering ones of this day and age. Sometimes in the form of refugees almost on our doorstep as well? Not being rich is wrong but being rich and unwilling to share or even to care is what the literal interpretation of this parable about. And when we go on to the description of hell in it and compare that to the view of the Chabad about the life review after death (as described in the link I sent you in my comment to your previous article and which they call heaven and hell), then there is a marked resemblance although that experience is described as being more balanced (both good and bad deeds are relived) and it is not eternal.

Then you write: A second and even harder aspect about this parable to believe literally is that an eternally LOVING God could create a sentient being and then condemn them to eternal intense suffering. This is a contradiction of what love embodies. Temporary pain and suffering often helps the soul to grow, and thus is indeed merciful in the end, but eternal suffering with no hope of escape would be ridiculous as it would ultimately serve no purpose for any creator, unless that creator himself was not the embodiment of love.

I believe that what you write above is completely true. No loving God could ever literally do such a thing but the possibilities of soul growth from temporary pain and suffering do more or less coincide with the view of heaven and hell as a life review in which you get to experience everything you did during your life from all sides, pain as well as bliss.

Given the fact that it has been established that there has been quite some manipulation with the manuscripts of the New Testament during the first centuries and that there are lots of variations between them, could it not be that the original parable had this kind of suffering for Lazarus in store?

In the literal interpretation?

Anny

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Anny,

Thanks for the insightful comment. I respect your willingness to accept the literal interpretation also. You have always valued both. In some of my posts, it may seem that I am against the literal interpretation, but that isn’t really the case. In Jewish mysticism, all four levels of scriptural interpretation are important, from the literal to the deepest spiritual level. While I do not believe some of the stories in the Bible literally happened, I believe there is benefit in the literal at times because we have to have a foundation to build from. We are humans living in a world of duality, and although the ultimate truth is bigger than the physical world, we still have to live and function in it through much of our existence. Everyone must progress first from a literal understanding before the deeper revelation is revealed.

In your next paragraph you assume that I missed that it is implied that the rich man never did anything to help the poor man, and that was the problem. It’s not that I missed this. In fact I have a sentence in that paragraph which states:

“Yes, it is true that pursuing material wealth often leads to a deprived soul, but this depends on our overall level of spiritual maturity.”

I probably didn’t explain that well. What I meant by that is that yes we sometimes only pursue wealth, and therefore anyone who does so most likely automatically neglects the helping of others. I can see where you think that I gloss over this because I didn’t go into detail. But I mean that the overall parable of the story doesn’t go into this precisely because it isn’t what the parable is REALLY trying to say. Yes, we can assume not helping others when we have the means is wrong, because you and I know this from life. We automatically understand this because of our experiences. If we don’t help our fellow man, hell ensues for us all, because we are all connected. But it is the deeper meaning of this parable that I want to recognize. It is simply teaching us the deeper revelations of the makeup and necessities of the human soul and its evolution, and that’s what is really implied here. I hope that makes sense.

As to your last question, I am not sure. You are correct. There has been a lot of manipulation of the texts.

Blessings,

Josh

anny April 18, 2016 at 10:13 am

Hi Josh,

Thanks for your comment.

First of all, I just reread my own comment in order to remember the details and then I saw that at the end I wrote: “Given the fact that it has been established that there has been quite some manipulation with the manuscripts of the New Testament during the first centuries and that there are lots of variations between them, could it not be that the original parable had this kind of suffering for Lazarus in store?” Of course I meant to say “ .. for the rich man ..”.

With your esoteric interpretation I fully agree and my literal one is purely in addition to that. I am entering the ‘What if” area in the heaven and hell part because I think it is good to look at any subject from all possible angles. My question purely was a tentative one. Could it possibly be true, given the fact that so much manipulation took place with the manuscripts of the Gospels themselves and with the translations also?

That is also why I would not say: what the parable REALLY wants to say. In my view it need not be either or but, if possible, both and maybe even more. Apart from the fact that with this word ‘really’ in this sense you seem to enter the realm of right and wrong, true and not true, important and not important = duality again

You know that my view of a literal interpretation does not mean that everything in the Bible is history and that everything that is history happened exactly as it is described in the Bible. I believe that history was used as a garment to put a universal truth in in order to make it more accessible for the people, and probably not only in the Bible.

In this case of course there is no history in it at all as it is a parable. As such literal means here that the message of this parable is literal (as well). Which it very well might be in my view. In this case this feeling was probably called forth by the fact that at the moment we here in Europe are faced with such a situation in a very literal sense (by the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees), in which we would much prefer to ignore their presence on our doorstep. This places us Europeans in the position of the rich man pretty literally, do not you think? Do not say there is no message for us here. I think the Gospels can be taken quite literally in this sense as well where it concerns the message that Jesus is giving us through his teachings. I remember that half a century ago the Jewish Bible scholar Pinchas Lapide was of the opinion that the teachings of Jesus should be taken absolutely literally for humanity to survive. And all hell might literally break loose if we do not take the right decisions here.

You wrote that you did not overlook that the rich man did nothing to help Lazarus because you wrote: “Yes, it is true that pursuing material wealth often leads to a deprived soul, but this depends on our overall level of spiritual maturity.” That is true but that is also true in a general sense, without any suffering people on your doorstep that you might be expected to take care of. So it somehow blurred the message you wanted to give with it a little. And I do not necessarily agree that this aspect of helping your fellow man is not important in an esoteric interpretation. If that is so, and this parable should only be interpreted esoterically, then why is that implication there?

Love,

Anny

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Anny, I see your point. Helping is a part of love and love is the message of the esoteric interpretation. It is a living Word, so perhaps the focus of the observer is what’s more important. We both will see and focus on things the other might not. At any rate, both points are valid and I see where you consider them both obvious and necessary.

Robert April 19, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Josh,

I think the aspect of the Pharisees that Jesus was addressing is that they were puffed up in their knowledge and authority, and catered to the interests of the wealthy and well-educated, looking down on the less fortunate as deserving their fate probably because God was not pleased with them, and so they felt justified in ignoring their needs. This speaks to all of us and, as you would likely to explain, to our lower nature. Some elements of political parties in various countries that favor the rich exhibit this lower nature.

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Robert, good points also. Pharisees are symbolic of dogmatism which takes us away from the true spiritual issues, so their puffed up attitude and ignorance is certainly important here.

anny April 24, 2016 at 5:25 am

Josh,

I do not think that we have the right to make all the Pharisees a symbol of dogmatism and hypocrisy. A long time ago I learned that there were several types of Pharisees.

On the one side there were the Love Pharisees and on the other the Shoulder Pharisees (and it is not difficult to imagine what each stands for), if I remember correctly and then there were some other kinds in between, much like you have several types of churches also, and you cannot blame one for the faults of the other.

In any case it is not correct to transfer this symbolic interpretation to a historic context, which is not what you do in this case but which often happens.

Joshua Tilghman April 24, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Absolutely, Anny. I do not mean to convey that. I only refer to the ones Jesus was addressing in the parable.

Christine Hoeflich April 17, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Hi Joshua,

nice interpretation, and it makes sense!

I’d also add that I view “Abraham’s bosom” as the higher self / soul, as this is the “sacred space” of the heart and soul area. It’s also where I would feel a glowing warmth, when my higher self wanted to get my attention so that I’d notice a strong guidance I was to follow.

Christine

Joshua Tilghman April 17, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Hi Christine,

Your comments are Abraham’s Bosom are correct. I didn’t go into that term much, but you nailed it!

Robert April 19, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Josh,

Since you winked at me (RobertJ) in the your post, I am returning the wink. 😉 That is an interesting connection about the 5. I have read that 5 also represents completeness. In the parable about the ten virgins, they were divided into two groups of 5, two complete groups. One group was not prepared. I have also read that Caiaphas the High Priest had 5 sons, and that Jesus was making this parable hit home while addressing the Pharisees about the corrupted values of the Temple leadership at the time. This was just after Jesus told them that they could not serve God and Mammon, which incited them in anger to question him, so that he replied with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, after which the Pharisees stopped questioning him. They stopped because the parable was based on a model of hades that the Pharisees had adapted from the Greeks, in violation of the Torah, and Jesus used that model as a hypothetical parable in terms to catch them, not as a discourse on the true nature of the afterlife. If the Pharisees had questioned him about this parable, he would have been able to checkmate them by questioning them back in front of the crowd as to why they believed in this pagan model. Jesus used a similar checkmate strategy on other occasions to silence the challenges of the Pharisees.

Robert April 19, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Josh,

I have been complaining about metaphorical interpretations that deny the standard reading of scriptures. Also I concede that there is something valuable about metaphorical interpretation in inspiring readers to be their better selves and fulfill the best intentions (spirit) of the standard scriptures. But I just wish the interpretations did not treat the standard reading as mere mythology that has no historical bearing, and am uncomfortable that this downgrading of scripture to mere mythology ignores evidence of the historical enfolding of prophetic scriptures throughout history until modern times in real life on earth (or what you might refer to as the physical plane). So I have been searching for some other paradigm that allows the standard reading of scripture to coexist with metaphorical expositions on the standard themes.

Oddly enough, I think I am making some progress in this search from an article by a follower of Baha’i who uses a paradigm from Islam and Sufi interpretation of Quran and other scriptures. A sect of the ancient Shiite branch of Islam (not to be confused with the corrupt political Shiite government of Iran today) practiced TA’WIL (metaphoric exposition of the Sign of God). The principles of TA’WIL emphasize that the historical and literal portions of the standard reading of scriptures (excluding portions that are clearly intended to be metaphorical) actually happened (manifested in the physical plane) as a Sign of God. TA’WIL asserts that metaphorical meanings then extracted from the standard meaning must not deny the standard meaning, and that each Sign of God has 70 metaphorical meanings that can be extracted from it (meaning many shades, varieties, applications, levels of depth…the 70 is just a symbol meaning a large number).

The article then describes how the death and resurrection of Jesus is a Sign of God (i.e., a manifestation in the physical plain, not a myth), and how metaphorical explanations of this (which are the same or similar to the deeply illuminating metaphorical insights explained on SOS) can be explained in a way compatible with the standard meaning. This is done by defining phenomena that are in between the physical and spiritual planes, such as visions (what the disciples experienced and reported when they witnessed Jesus’s ascension and transfiguration) and ethereal bodies (more perfect versions of our physical bodies) which is what the disciples saw when they went to the empty tomb and saw Jesus alive as a glorified body.

This provides a way to get from the standard reading of scripture to variations of deeper levels of interpretation, the same or similar to those presented on SOS, without downgrading the Gospel to a myth.

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Robert,

I understand your reluctance to disregard possible historical elements in the Bible. I do believe it is full of history, but I do emphasize the esoteric interpretations over anything else. I never wish to offend, but sometimes the literal can hurt us spiritually when we fail to see the bigger picture. Of course this is not the case when it comes to whether Jesus was a literal figure or not. I think someone who believes he was literal can also get as much benefit as someone who looks at the Bible from a strictly esoteric viewpoint. I am glad that you feel you have found a common ground you are comfortable with. This is important for all of us on different stages of our journey.

David April 20, 2016 at 5:20 pm

“By crucifying our lower nature, we can look forward to a symbolic resurrection where the lower and higher self is unified.” This is the core centric message behind the dance of religion. Or how Jesus said take this yoke(unification) and learn(staying still to know) of me(The Christ nature). The Oil unifies our dual nature as a whole to operate in Christ consciousness. Amen! Great post to meditate upon. Infinite Blessings!!!

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Preach David!

Robert April 20, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Josh,

I was wondering what you considered about the following. Different cultures have different exoteric writings and oral traditions that are meant to promote morality and maturity. Each has its own set of explanations for the origin and purpose of life. Each has a description of what happens to people when they are being good or bad, what good and bad consequences for their thoughts and behavior await them. This is the “moral structure” you mentioned that each of us must first experience in one of its varieties as a prerequisite to higher spiritual development. The moral structure is not sufficient in itself to promote higher development. Our struggle to abide by the structure, or to even respect the structure, can impel us to keep searching for something better, something more. Sometimes our rebellion to the structure can comes from succumbing to temptation. Sometimes it is because we sense something insufficient or hypocritical about it or the people that claim to practice it. Still it is the structure that is the vehicle that propels us beyond it, whether we love it or hate it. Usually we do a little of both and carry forward the parts of the structure that we can still resonate with, and discard or criticize the rest.

It is hard to say whether one structure in better than another. It may be the same or similar basic truth filtered and apprehended by different cultures . Structures are not perfect. They are made of words, language and emotions that are familiar to the physical plane, or the lower mental plane linked immediately to the physical plane. They are subject to inaccuracy and ambiguity, even though they are meant to be a preparatory reflection of understanding that can only be fully understood on a higher plane later on.

That being said, it is now easier to understand that different structures don’t mesh with each other when looking at them from the lower plane. So we can argue about whether hell or heaven is a place or a state of mind, about the degree of tribulation that occurs in hell, that one structure’s version of it is not compassionate enough, etc. But we are arguing from our limitations in the physical/lower mental plane. What matters most is that we make progress to the higher plane where we are more unified with the divine and which will heal unnecessary forms of separation from each other.

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Robert,

I like this comment, and I completely agree. Even the greatest teachers of the Kabbalah do not negate the literal interpretation – from what I have studied, I believe that most do this not so much because they believe it all literally happened, but because they realize that our minds need this first step. The moral nature must be developed first, and a large part of this in today’s society is to first believe in the literal. Almost everyone esoteric interpretation from great minds has admitted that they begun from a literal belief at sometime young in their life, but then begin to emphasize the deeper meanings when they further their studies.

I believe that our physical bodies and personality are the costumes we wear during each incarnation. These costumes limit us as you say, and we can argue about many things. But the true self that is developing beneath the costume is what really matters. All the great religions truly preach this message. So therefore your comment is so relevant to this world of duality.

Robert April 21, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Josh,

In response to your challenging questions in the comments in the previous article about what happens to infants and mentally handicapped when they die, I’ve looked over the usual explanations given by the mainstream Christian denominations and found them to be lengthy and complicated, and no one explanation seems fully satisfying. I am guessing that they don’t really know a better answer and this is their best shot, and enough of a semblance of an explanation, framed in the language of apologetics that congregational members have learned to accept as authoritative, even though it may break down under more scrutiny.

I can understand how believing that souls exist before birth, then incarnate, and then also may reincarnate to complete unfinished and interrupted work, how this provides an explanation that does not have so many holes in it, and takes the edge off of fearing the terror of impending and final judgment. But then it is only a belief, coming mostly from Eastern religions, some of which may have diffused into Western religions and spirituality.
There are no Signs of God that I know of that would authenticate this belief.

As comforting as it is to entertain the idea of reincarnation, and has an appeal to my ego, there is nothing I know to make me sure it is a certainty. In the long run, we don’t really know. There may be some evidence put forward to support it like interviews with children who remember past lives, but so far these things do not have a high rating of credibility.

Another explanation is that immortal souls do not exist before or at birth, but develop sometime afterward in people that are able to develop it, all other cases are seeds that do not develop into souls. I’m not sure I like that one either.

Still another is that those who are unable to develop and exercise a conscience before they physically die have an opportunity to develop and exercise it in some special disposition for them in the afterlife. I like that better.

In the long run, I think I really do not know which explanation is true and, if one were true, how I would work out all the details about it so I could convince myself it is completely sound. I only know that belief in an afterlife or anything spiritual was not an issue for me
when I was an agnostic. When I became a Christian I learned that I might actually have a soul and to hope in the resurrection. And now, regardless of whether religious doctrines seem to have holes in them, I still have a sense of hope and an intuitive sense of certainty about the future being good, and that my present, regardless of how it may sometimes look when I am not particularly feeling positive, is also good.

Joshua Tilghman April 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Robert,

This is very tough and I understand where your dilemma is. But reincarnation and the concept of Karma is the ONLY system that truly incorporates justice and fairness. Consider Gaskell’s comment:

“…to deny the fact off reincarnation is on the face of it absurd, because without it any theory of the gradual evolution of the immortal soul through time, past, present and future is inexplicable. All the sacred books teach involution and evolution through vast periods, and never hint at the creation of souls…”

I know you might have trouble with the fact that souls aren’t created, but perhaps my next post will help you to see that the Genesis account in chapter 3 describes involution and evolution perfectly.

Blessings, my friend.

Brad April 22, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Howdy Robert,

Long time. Thought I’d pop in and say hi. I see you’re still on the journey of reconciling scriptural meaning and intent. Rather than attempting to flesh it out of already contentious scriptural interpretations, thought I’d offer you an alternative pointer if you’re interested.

Consider the Greek aphorism “Know Thyself” that was prominently engraved in the outer walls of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Seems an absurd bit of guidance upon first glance. Our immediate thought usually is “well of course I know myself, how ridiculous it is to suggest otherwise!”. For those not yet ready to investigate, any further curiosity abruptly ends here.

If you feel prepared to ponder it further, let the investigation begin.

There are an endless variety of intellectual/academic interpretations. Feel free to evaluate these at your leisure. I would however, suggest that those offering alternative interpretations have already assumed that they’re quite sure they “know thyself”, therefore the aphorism must have some deeper, more profound and esoteric meaning not immediately obvious that needs to be “figured out”.

That’s certainly one way to go about it. I might suggest that ultimately, trying to work this out intellectually will result in an unsatisfying conclusion.

What if “Know thyself” meant exactly what it asks? This is a far more interesting subject.

Do you know yourself? How sure are you? What is that you know with absolute certainty? What things do you “believe” in your mind/thoughts that masquerade as “knowing”?

These are just a few interesting questions worth contemplating.

Many of the most profound Eastern teachings offer an apparently very simple path to liberation. Westerners can often needlessly complicate these teachings beyond recognition that often result in continued pain and suffering. The Western confusion can be attributed to the endless efforts by the mind to quantify, control and understand. An affliction many born into simpler cultures never have to contend with.

There are but a few simple teachings from these Eastern sages. Meditation is prominent in all, and I’m aware you have recognized the benefits of practicing it. Witnessing/Observing is a second practice that is common to these teachings. The goal of witnessing is to become less “involved” with the “outer reality”. Witnessing is the spark toward withdrawing one’s judgment from the world. It is a powerful and profound practice.

And the final teaching given is contemplation. Depending on where one is on their journey, contemplation can be performed on many a different subject, question, problem, etc. Throughout it all, however, these teachings agree there is really only one core question one need contemplate. And that question is; “Who Am I?”.

Essential to the teaching of contemplation is that the student must not accept any answer that appears in the mind, in thought. Thoughts are to be ignored. Instead, these sages insist the answer can only be revealed or experienced. As they also agree that the truth can never be known. They say that truth can only be experiential or revelatory in nature and that all efforts to translate into words, ideas, concepts or thoughts bear no resemblance to the truth whatsoever.

If you find this interesting and consider the possibility that this may be so, than consider this; whatever words that appear in scripture or any other religious text for that matter are mere pointers and approximations of, ultimately, an experience so profound, so “mind-blowing” that whether one comes to terms with whether the words are literal, or metaphorical, or both, in the grand scheme of things, makes no difference in comparison.

What if you’re busy trying to figure something out intellectually and yet you had not yet figured out who you were? This was the great dilemma that Socrates went through if Plato is to be believed. And this is the great dilemma that many who follow the Eastern traditions and become liberated to this very day, also go through if the many sages, gurus and masters of these traditions are to also be believed.

The guidance is both simple and profound. Before you can figure out anything else in this world, first you must find out who you really are.

Do you really know who you are?

Namaste,

-Brad

Robert April 23, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Brad,

Namaste and much thanks for your comments and suggestions. I will examine them for awhile. I think the struggle to reconcile exoteric and esoteric theology has already made me weary and wanting to close my eyes to it all. But I know the exoteric and the esoteric have been helpful. And so yes, when I close my eyes (stop thinking how to reconcile them) it is easier to see how they both point to a more important “something” beyond. I was starting to head that way and your comments gave me a little push.

Brad April 24, 2016 at 2:13 am

Wonderful Robert, and as always, beautifully said.

That which comes and goes is unreal (the world of death). That which remains is what is being sought by all. The seeker is that which stands in the way of the revelation.

Namaste,

-Brad

anny April 24, 2016 at 5:05 am

Hello Robert,

This comment is in reply to your comment addressed to me on April 20, which is way up there but does not have a reply button anymore.

It concerns your re-evaluation of the concepts of exoteric and esoteric interpretation. Thanks. I really appreciate that you have thought about it anew and give us your findings. I am going to copy and paste the parts I am replying to, so people do not have to wonder what it is all about.

You write: “This view assumes the direct meaning is accurate and relevant. If it is a historical narrative that is not obviously a parable or metaphorical, then it happened. If it is a prophecy of coming events, then for the most part they are destined to occur in some literal way (given a little leeway because the prophets described these coming events using the limited language and imagery known to them in their day; also there is some prophecy that was meant to be metaphorical rather than literal). When we factor out everything that is not meant to be literal, then we are left with events that really happened or will happen in the physical plane. These are “Signs of God” in our physical world. Each Sign of God has many spiritual (esoteric) interpretations that we can comprehend with our spirit (that sacred part of us that is accessible to us in the physical plane, but transcends the physical plane).”

I more or less agree with that although I would not necessarily state that the historical event happened AS DESCRIBED IN THE STORY. In order to express a certain esoteric meaning the writers of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for instance gave two rather different versions of the story of the birth of Jesus. And so it is with other stories as well. Also the birth registers of Matthew and Luke are slightly different, which in an esoteric sense does not mean that either of them is wrong but that they both wanted to address different aspects.

As far as prophecies are concerned, my opinion still is that the idea behind them was to warn people of what would be the consequences of their actions if they continued on the way they were on. Which would mean that a prophecy that came true had failed to reach its goal. I do not believe in a loving God threatening with terrible punishment.

You write: “The next principle I am going to mention is very important: the esoteric interpretations do not invalidate the exoteric Signs of God. Two individuals can have different esoteric interpretations of the same exoteric scripture reading. One individual can have different esoteric interpretation at different times and even simultaneously. This is partly because of our individuality, and partly because the spirit realm through which we become aware of these interpretations is a dimension beyond linear thought in the physical plane.”

I completely agree with the bolded part though I might have phrased it differently. The rest is an interesting way of putting it. It makes it clear. Thanks.

You write: “So one individual may respond to the Terrible Day of the Lord as meaning he’d better get his act together and stop backsliding. Such an individual may need that kind of wake up call. Another individual in a different state of spiritual development may be brought closer to God by beholding his awesomeness. If you are like me, I need a little of both, God’s rod and his staff (the carrot and the stick).”

Yes, that is a valuable addition, and yes, I am afraid that I too need a little (or maybe not so little) of both. And it definitely does make sense.

You write: “I don’t think anyone has to agree with me or be persuaded. I am kind of thinking out loud and sharing with friends what the journey intended for me is showing me. I have been on a course to harmonize the esoteric and exoteric for several years. I just recently realized my frustration over esoteric truths that invalidated the exoteric, and am now trying to reconcile them for myself, since both are important to my spiritual health and growth at this time. To me this opens up a door of discovering new ideas that fill in the gaps . And who knows, I might be onto something.”

I appreciate your thinking out loud in this way. It is not necessary at all that anybody at all agrees with you. It serves its own purpose and we each can learn our own lessons from it. I can understand your frustration about the fact that some people think that esoteric truths invalidate the exoteric. That is the way they think and it may be only temporary. Whether or not that is the case, it has nothing to do with you or what is true for you. Just grant them the right to their view and continue on your own way.

Thanks for your comment on Josh’s article on Fran’s passing. I appreciate it and it certainly brought us back together again, if we even were apart because of personal circumstances.

Love,

Anny

Robert April 25, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Anny,

Thanks for your comments on this. I’m glad we are closer in spirit. I see what you mean by different Gospels giving a different point of view and some minor details being different. Someone who really knows a lot about esoteric Christianity is the author Richard Smoley. He wrote “Inner Christianity” and was editor of a major Esoteric magazine here in the states. He gives very accurate and thorough comparisons and explanations of the entire field of esoteric activities in a very understable writing style. He’s a Harvard guy who knows how to write for regular people who are not scholars but with some degree of intelligence. I can go to his book and find out parts and perspectives that other authors miss or leave out or get a little wrong. In other words, he tells me what other authors might know but were not able to express it as well, or what they were supposed to know and misinterpreted it somewhat.

He is just a tad on the other side of the fence from me in that he does not believe in the literal crucifixion and resurrection. Also he does not value prophecy, dismissing it all as worthless because false prophets have made claims about the end of the world that never come true. I don’t think he has had the experience of a prophecy given to him in his own life coming true, nor has he seriously considered the prophecies concerning Israel and the Messiah. I think those two topics is what make the difference. Also he says the “Course in Miracles” had a big effect on him, but he never mentions the shadier side of how that got commercialized.

There are many types of prophecies and prophets. Moses in Deuteronomy said the Jews would fall away in the promised land and be cast out by the way they came in. Isaiah and Jeremiah kept warning the two kingdoms of Israel that they would be cast out if they did not turn back to the Lord, and that there would be much suffering. I believe these came true. All this I consider to be mostly historical and an object lesson for us not to turn away from the one true God as we have come to know God from our various perspectives.
I am sure the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. was foretold in dated documents found among the Dead Sea scrolls more than a century before it occurred. I believe the rebirth of Israel is a sign from God, and that the status of modern Israel will continue to follow the path predicted in prophecy in all or some respects. A new Temple has already been prefabricated by a group in Israel, waiting for a political opportunity to put it up and reestablish animal sacrifices as a prelude to the abomination of desecration from the Anti-Christ. And yes, I agree the Temple and animal sacrifices are unnecessary for the Jews who follow Jesus, and the reform Jews won’t like it either. Its all a little crazy to me but will all resolve when Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives. And all the esoteric interpretations are relevant, don’t require so much human suffering, and so are easier to swallow. This is the viewpoint I have as a Messianic Jew following those exoteric ideas and discovering esoteric meaning to them also, not expecting others to see things the same way, but embracing what is meaningful for each to understand and grow.

anny April 26, 2016 at 7:13 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your reply to my comment. I must say that I am not too impressed by this guy Richard Smoley. At least not by the way you describe him.
You write: “I can go to his book and find out parts and perspectives that other authors miss or leave out or get a little wrong. In other words, he tells me what other authors might know but were not able to express it as well, or what they were supposed to know and misinterpreted it somewhat.”

In the way you write this you kind of set him up as the authority who knows best. If some other author sees something different or does not address something he does, it must mean that they got it wrong. Of course I do not know anything about the man himself, apart from the fact that he is capable of expressing himself clearly, but I do not believe that he is an authority whose interpretation has to be valued above everyone else’s. In the end each person has to decide for himself how to interpret things and what to believe. My guideline in that you know by now. It is unconditional love and unity in diversity. I discern with my heart, not with my mind.

What your words convey to me is that what he writes resonates with you (up to a point) and that is okay but that is all it is in my view. When others do not resonate with his view that does not have to mean that their view is wrong. It is just different.

As far as the Course in Miracles is concerned, I must confess that I bought the book some 20 years ago but after reading maybe 50 pages I put it down and never looked at it again. Somehow the language used put me off. But I did read some books by people who seriously studied it and rephrased the message in their interpretation (Marianne Williamson was one of them) and that appealed to me a lot more. But also that was a long time ago.

I do think however that you should not judge the message of this book by the misuse others made of it later. That has nothing to do with the original message and as such I agree with this Richard Smoley that he did not mention it. It is completely beside the point in this respect. In general it may be a good thing to bring it to the attention of people if something like this is being misused for ulterior motives by other people.

What I wrote to you about prophecy is about as far as I want to go about this subject. I have no opinion at all about prophecies concerning our own era. I do not take things quite as literally as you do. Years ago I paid a visit to this organisation that is preparing for the Third Temple project. I had never heard about it till then – it was way back in the last century – and felt really uncomfortable seeing all these temple utensils and priest garments ready for the new temple. It felt like going back to square one, with all these preparations for animal sacrifices and so on. If I remember correctly there is a bible verse somewhere where God says that He does not want all these animal sacrifices but only that the people do his will in behaving lovingly towards each other. This is a very free interpretation because I do not have the faintest idea where this verse is to be found but I did keep the essence of this message in my memory. And I do not think that this essence has changed, whether or not there ever will be another temple on the destined spot.

Anny

Robert April 27, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Anny,

David when repenting of his adultery/murder could not receive reconciliation through anima. sacrifice because there was no such ritual for those offenses in Jewish law, only true repentance and a contrite heart. So he says:

“O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16)

It is interesting that a few lines back in Psalm 51:6 he states “thou desirest truth in my innermost parts, and in the hidden part you will make me know wisdom”.

Not that you should feel compelled to put much stock in it, but by way of reference, the rebuilding of the Temple according to traditional interpretation of Daniel occurs after the 69 weeks and the indefinite holding period since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD is over, and then final 70th week of the End Times begins. It does not mean animal sacrifice will necessarily be acceptable to God, and it won’t last very long.

According to Messianic Jews, the Gospel provides what God ultimately desires for Jews instead of animal sacrifice.

Animal sacrifice is senseless to me as well. Your free interpretation captures the essence of the whole business.

I agree that Smoley is not the final authority. He just seems to collect a lot of information about different esoteric concepts and schools and presents it with a fair measure of objectivity without spinning it his way too much. He does briefly give his own personal view at the beginning of the book, but he does not try to sell it.

anny April 29, 2016 at 6:56 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your comment. Your quote of Psalm 51:16 indeed gives another, equally valid example of this rejection of animal sacrifice by God.

I do not see the erection of this Third Temple on the intended spot happening just yet, as this would not be possible without causing a major war with Islamic countries and from what I heard from the explanation by the organizers at that time their intention was not to do anything that would lead to such a development. If I remember correctly they trusted that God would make it come true somehow. But that was almost half a century ago and you should know my memory (or lack thereof) by now.

I have nothing against Smoley and his book may be very interesting for all I know. It is good that he gives his personal view as well, as his view. There is nothing wrong with all that. I just do not like it when he, or anyone else for that matter, should be seen as the final authority. It could be concluded from the way you phrased it but now it is clear that that was not your intention.

Rick May 30, 2016 at 11:20 am

Anny,

In Ezekiel 38 and 39, God is telling His prophet Ezekiel that when the time comes that His people have returned to His land “Israel”, and have made the once desolate land, fertile and fruitful, then He will bring about Destruction. In chapter 39, He says those in Israel (after the battle described), will spend 7 months burying the dead, and will not cut any trees for 7 years, because for 7 years they will be burning the remnants left by the armies that attacked Israel.

Some scholars say that this is describing the final battle at the conclusion of the 7 years, but that doesn’t fit with the context of physically burning those weapons for 7 years. It would more likely fit as being a starting point for the final 7 years. If there were to be a peace treaty of sorts (agreement for Palestinian statehood?) and Israel were required to open its borders to allow Palestinian free access, could that possibly fit the description of unwalled villages? And of course the media would state something like “finally, Peace in the Middle East, and Security for the Jews”. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 “for when they say Peace and Security, then sudden destruction comes upon them”.

God tells Ezekiel, that He Himself will bring the nations against His land, against His people, when they are living peacefully and safely, with unwalled villages. The number of those He will bring against them will be so great, He says they will cover the land likes cloud. Then God will destroy All those He just brought against His people, with a Great earthquake, centered in Israel, that will make every man on the face of the earth shake at His presence. He also states that “Every” wall will fall to the ground.

I don’t take it that every wall or building on the planet will fall, but since Israel is ground zero, it appears He is referring to the buildings in Israel. I assume that would include the Muslim Temple.

Zechariah 14 seems to be describing the same event in detail. Verses 16-21 describe that the people remaining alive, of those nations that attack Israel, will worship the God of the Jews from year to year.

In my opinion, those leaders of the nations that attack Israel, will understand it was an act of God against them, and will tell the Jewish People to rebuild their Temple. If this event is in fact at the beginning of the final 7 years, then it would fit with other scriptures that describe there being an abomination in the Jewish Temple at the mid point of the final 7 years.

In Christ,
Rick

Rick May 29, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Hello to All of my brothers and sisters here.

I study scriptures as it were a puzzle. If there “appears” to be a contradiction between verses, then We must break each verse down word by word, and analyze each in its original language, to find the truth.

In my understanding of this parable of Lazarus and the rich man, I first look at the approximately 8 verses where Jesus and Paul tell us that everyone who dies, remains in a sleep state until His future coming, at the conclusion of the final 7 year tribulation period (except in a few cases where He brought some people back to life for a short time). It is not until “That” future event, that All humans will be awakened and judged. In this example I do a New Testament word search of every place the words sleep or asleep are found, and analyze each verse, using online lexicons.

Understanding that All will be asleep until His coming, when He awakens All and Judges and separates All, It is my understanding that in this parable we are seeing an example of “the” future event of separation for All people. In the description, the rich man very quickly shows a repentive heart, showing extreme care for others, and is admitting in his heart that he did wrong, as he desires someone to quickly warn his brothers to turn away from wrong doing. (Not realizing that at that very moment, his brothers along with every other human who ever lived, are being judged likewise). This parable does not state an eternal separation. It only states that no one (referring to humans) can cross the gap.

Revelation 20 tells us that the first resurrection (of humans) occurs after the 7 year tribulation period (as it is understood that the time period for those who are killed for not accepting the mark of the beast, is throughout the 2nd half of the final 7years)

Revelation 20 also tells us that All the rest (which represents those in correctional pruning during the reign of Christ) Will come alive in a better moral state, at the conclusion of the reign of Christ.

In conclusion of the parable, scripture tells us that the rich man (being among those in hades for correction) will rejoin those of the first resurrection (represented by Lazarus) once God perfects him (and all others in hades) with the purifying fire, sent from heaven, at the time when all are released from the place of correction, and gathered around the new Jerusalem.

Now my brothers and sisters, consider this:

If even One person will in fact go to an eternal punishment (as we have been tauggt)? Then Jesus “having come to Save the world”, would in fact have failed, and satan would be the victor.

I am convinced “beyond a shadow of a doubt”, that scriptures tell us that the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ, is Not that some make the right choices and are saved while others go to eternal punishment, but that “Some” will be rewarded as a good and faithful servant, and All the rest (me included) will be exceedingly grateful, when we are redeemed after the pruning period.

Scriptures tell us that “With God, Nothing is impossible” and with God “All things Are possible”

No mans Free will is greater than Gods Will.

Test all things

Your brother in Christ,

Rick

Online Sources for testing scripture:
Scripture4all.org
Blbclassic.org
Studybible.info/Strongs

Joshua Tilghman July 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Thanks for the info, Rick.

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