What is the esoteric meaning of Jesus calming the storm at sea with the disciples? The answer is a very positive message, but you’ll probably never hear it in mainstream Christian teachings. In a nutshell, it deals with what Paul calls, the “Christ in you, your hope of glory.” But what does this mean? We can come to understand what Paul means through the allegory of Jesus calming the storm.
Let’s jump right into our scripture, Matthew 8:23-24, which states:
“And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.”
As I often do, I have bolded key terms in the text. Notice how Matthew states Jesus was asleep. Let’s clear the air of why this story cannot be literal so we can understand the higher spiritual revelation.
There is a HUGE storm, a great tempest. The boat (most likely a small fishing vessel), is being covered by the waves so high the disciples are afraid it is going to sink. In fact, the text says they are crashing over the boat! This boat would have been tossed about quite fiercely, but yet, Jesus is asleep. Yes, it’s Jesus, but he was supposed to be fully human, correct? No man would be sleeping through that kind of ordeal. It just doesn’t make any sense literally. But as the Christ within us, as Paul states, our hope of glory, arises within the self, it all begins to make perfect sense. The fact that Jesus is sleeping in the allegory indicates that this is the natural state for all mankind before our hope of glory arises.
According to Gaskell:
A great tempest is a symbol of the surgings of the astro-mental nature. Also of winds of doctrine implying ignorance, which prevent the appearance of truth from within.” This doesn’t just mean religious doctrine, but doctrine in many forms. The astro-mental nature is a mediaeval term used to explain the part of human nature of lower emotions, existing between the physical and mental plane. According to E. Underhill, in her work, Mysticism, he states:
“Included in the subconscious region of an average healthy person are all those automatic activities by which the life of the body is carried on: all those “uncivilized” instincts and vices, those remains of the ancestral savage which education has forced out of the stream of consciousness…”
In other words, we all carry subconscious impulses which manifest as strong desires and passions that reside and make up the lower nature of man, or the first Adam. The development of the moral nature helps to curb these desires and passions, which, if left unchecked, creates chaos and depravity in the social structure of mankind. We can call them vices because they bring out the worst in us when we follow them without moral compass and direction.
Also, notice that word “within” according to Gaskell’s definition. The Christ is asleep in us until he arises, and most of humanity is ignorant of this truth. We too often look to follow the doctrines of men and look on the outside for the truth that is already simply a potential within us. That potential is realized through steady growth of the soul through the varied experiences that life gives to us. First comes the development of the moral nature, which is part of civilized education and why the Law of Moses was needed. Then comes the law of love, or the Christ within that enables the individual to exhibit the highest ideals which a man can exhibit. Again, love!
Ship is another important symbol, especially when it is being tossed on a sea. Again, it is a symbol of the lower mental aspect of the soul. The sea is always a symbol of the astral plane. Since this is where our desires and passions come from, we have an allegory which is explaining the state of our thoughts when subject to our base instincts and desires. It’s like a ship being tossed around on the sea! Our minds are subject to the whims of life just as the ship is subject to the winds of an angry ocean, or our emotions. These cumulatively are part of the lower mental nature which has to arise by the transmutation of the disciples, or certain qualities of our soul. Consider out next scripture to prove this point:
“And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us. We perish…Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:25-26).
Our astral or lower mental qualities can only be calmed by the Christ within. The great calm the scripture is referring to speaks to the peace that passes all understanding when true self-consciousness develops in the individual. The disciples themselves are simply the avenues and qualities of the soul. They are dedicated to the Christ within and that’s why they go to him in the storm. They are higher disciplined qualities that are ready to receive the teachings and influence of the higher nature, the Christ that is simply the potential of the higher nature that we all have access to when the time for proper development is ripe. When we become disciplined in the moral nature, we are ready to move on the law of divine love written in the heart and receive the benefits of the higher nature.
So what is this inner Christ?
In summary, it is the Divine Life which proceeds from the Absolute. It is the unveiling of the illusory nature of reality, and the revealing of the truth of ultimate reality. It cannot be explained with mere words, but must be experienced! No man can truly tell you what it is or isn’t, at least not in concepts or words that can be truly comprehended by the mind. Just as no one could explain the smell of a rose. Someone has to experience it to truly comprehend what it is. Gaskell gives a great definition which gives us a little intellectual glimpse into its possibilities:
“Christ is in everything. The forms or sheaths—the outward expressions of potential Spirit—are as the borders of his garment, which he shall cast forth when their purpose is effected, and afterwards he shall reveal his full form and stature to himself, for there is not another beside him. The All is no other than the One. We are rooted and centered in Him. In his sight, or upon the highest level, we, as spiritual egos, are within the outer as he is; but in our lower consciousness we see things not as they are in reality, but illusively, and wo we only behold the diversity and separateness which give rise to our misconceptions of the inner and real significance of our Individuality and of its ultimate re-absorption into the Infinite.”
So what can we learn from the allegory of Matthew 8:23-27? We must look to the hope of glory, the Christ within to receive and experience ultimate reality. This reality is one of unity and love for not only mankind, but all of nature. We are simply ships tossed on the sea until this happens. But we can look to the rich text of Matthew to keep the hope of the glory that is found within us.
Let the Dead Bury the Dead
I would like to back up and look at one more scripture in which Matthew emphasizes before Jesus calms the storm. Matthew 8:21-22 states:
“And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.”
What is meant by this strange saying of Jesus? Surely it is okay to bury our dead parents and give them the proper ceremony that we all deserve when something tragic like this happens, right? Of course. Again, the scripture is not meant to be literal here. Just as Jesus said you must hate your mother and father in order to follow him is not meant to be taken literal. It’s a spiritual truth.
Remember, Matthew 8:21-22 precedes Jesus calming the storm. It is referring to mankind who is not yet aware of the potential of the Christ within. The dead signify ignorance and the burying of the old ego. In other words, let the ego-filled be where they are. Follow me, the higher nature, and then you will be on the correct path.
The scriptures always connect in ways to give us larger spiritual truths. I greatly admire its authors.
In closing, I would like to mention a new podcast series that Paul Young and I are developing on his YouTube channel. Our first podcast discusses the allegorical nature of the scripture. You can find it below:
It should be the first video at the top of Paul’s channel (video #9).
If you enjoy it, please spread it around and don’t forget to return for other podcasts we’ll be putting together every other week on the same address.