Today’s topic, the serpent and the messiah, has been addressed on this blog before by Anny, but today I am going to look at it from a few additional angles. I recently had a great discussion about it with a friend. This friend doesn’t agree with esoteric teaching because she is a mainstream Christian, but we greatly respect each other’s views and enjoy a healthy debate from time to time.
I will share some highlights from the conversation. This post will also be geared towards both the Christian and the already mystic. For the mystic, I hope to teach you some additional info you may have not heard before. For the Christian, it is my desire to show you a deeper spiritual lesson meant to be conveyed in Genesis. Overall, my hope is to encourage everyone to look deeper. Some of the writing below may initially shock the Christian brought up on Western theology, but if you’ll keep an open mind and follow the post to its end I believe you’ll walk away with some great insight. 🙂
The serpent from the Garden of Eden has been a topic of great controversy. For the average Christian, the serpent in the Garden was Satan. In traditional Jewish thought, the serpent was simply an agent of negative influence toward mankind. There have been other views. According to the popular Jewish sage Rambam of the 12th century (Maimonides), the serpent was symbolic of man’s “appetitive faculty.” In my humble opinion, Rambam was on the right track, but he was more of a rationalists than a true mystic, and therefore, his interpretation lacks the depth and breadth of the truer mystical interpretation found in Kabbalistic thought. While seeing the serpent as man’s desire nature (appetitive faculty) is a big step in the right direction, it can easily give us the wrong pretense. Namely, that the serpent is solely representative of man’s ego. The true mystic understands that the serpent was neither good or bad, positive or negative. Rather, the serpent is symbolic of a universal truth regarding the consciousness of man and the creation of the physical world. In other words, the serpent isn’t just man’s desire nature, but also an integral aspect of his/her path to higher consciousness and experiential knowledge of God while in living right here on earth.
Do we have any Biblical proof for this, or is it just mystical mumbo jumbo as so many Christians have been apt to believe when speaking of the Bible and consciousness? This was my friend’s question. Our conversation lasted for about three hours, and by its end, she had much more respect for the mystical interpretation. Not only can we find additional evidence in certain stories of the Bible following Genesis for the mystical perspective, but it’s also in the Hebrew language itself.
Gematria: Mathematical Insight into the Serpent and the Messiah
Gematria is the practice of finding additional meaning in a text through numbers. In the Hebrew language, every letter has a corresponding mathematical value. By comparing the mathematical values of certain words or phrases, additional meaning can be gleaned through association.
Historically speaking, the first attested use of gematria can be found around 700 BC by the ruler Sargon II through an inscription on a clay tablet. The use of gematria probably dates much earlier, but we don’t have the physical evidence as of yet. After Sargon, philosophers such as Plato discussed it, and Pythagoras once stated that “Numbers are the language of the universe.” Ancient philosophers and thinkers clearly placed great emphasis on numerical values when explaining natural phenomenon in their writings. Furthermore, gematria was clearly in use when the Torah was written, and I believe it is safe to assume that when the Torah is explaining the origins of the universe, the Torah authors also had gematria in mind.
I want to make it clear that the use of gematria is a mystical practice. I also want to make it clear that Gematria has been greatly abused. The famous book, The Bible Code, is probably one such abuse. In it the author tries to prove that all future events could be decoded in the Bible by using a complicated form of gematria. But the author stretches the purpose of gematria by attempting such a feat, and he made some good money and fame through a sensational idea that much of the Christian world ran with.
The original Torah authors used a more simplistic form of Gematria to give additional insight to the meanings of names, places, and events in the stories. Rather than try to predict the future or find historical events encoded in the Torah, they used gematria to reveal higher spiritual truths through association with numerical values. One such example is the gematria value of the Hebrew words for serpent and messiah.
Before jumping into what that value is and means, it is important to note the accuracy of the Old Testament text we have today. With the Old Testament, we have one great advantage over the New Testament. While the New Testament is known to have been abused and mistranslated over and over in the early centuries of the church, the Old Testament was not. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls shocked many scholars, because it proved just how careful the Jews had been with the procurement and dissemination of their holy text. In other words, we can be assured through scholarly research that the Old Testament we have today pretty much matches the original. The rules for producing a new copy of the Torah were so stringent that if even one letter was added or deleted from the text the scroll was destroyed, even though the task of producing one scroll was an extremely long and painstaking process.
We don’t have to worry about mistakes in the Old Testament like we do in the New Testament, which brings us to a very important point when studying the original Hebrew words used for serpent and messiah: I think we can all agree–whether you’re a traditional Christian or mystic studying Kabbalah–that each Hebrew word was chosen very carefully. Therefore we can also assume that gematria values of each of these words was also very carefully considered. When I first began studying the priority of the spiritual meaning over the literal one in the Bible through symbolism and allegory, I was confused at the fact that the Hebrew word for serpent (nahash) and the word for messiah (meshiach) both had the exact identical gematria value of 358. Broken down, both words add up as such:
The word serpent / “Nahash:” nun (50)-het (8)-shin (300). Total: 358.
The word messiah / “Meshiach:” mem (40)-shin (300)-yod (10)-het (8). Total: 358.
It was confusing because the concept of the serpent and the messiah were supposed to be diametrically opposed to each other, just as evil is to good and dark is to light. In my Western theological upbringing, it just didn’t make sense. Why would God allow these words to have the same numeric value? Was there something I was missing? Something that all my pastors and other religious teachers of my childhood and early adult years had missed? While some can easily gloss over such an uncanny thing, I could not. The serpent was supposed to be forever linked with evil Satan, and the messiah was God’s perfect son. How dare they have the same numerical value in Hebrew!
Of course I have since discovered the answer through mystical teachings, but I figured my Christian friend had never even considered it. I was correct. She thought about it for a moment before telling me there was only one obvious answer. She stated they must have the same numerical value because Jesus and Satan were both angelic beings and sons of God. Satan was once equal in power, but turned away from God, and therefore fell and turned into the evil being he is today. I told my friend for the sake of a good discussion, we would assume she was correct. So I asked her to provide additional Biblical info that would support this claim. I received a blank stare, and she eventually had to admit that she didn’t know. Frustrated, she turned the tables back on me. “What do you believe, and give me Biblical evidence for it,” she stated.
I’ll admit, I was more than happy to because it was a subject I had studied and given much contemplation to. I told her the reason why the serpent and the messiah both had the same gematria value was because both the serpent and the messiah, allegorically speaking, symbolize the same thing: the path to higher consciousness.
She didn’t like this idea at first, but she listened carefully and eventually admitted she couldn’t argue with the Biblical evidence. Here’s how our conversation unfolded.
I began with a reminder of what God told himself after man had eaten of the forbidden fruit:
“And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing both good and evil…” (Gen. 3:22).
In the literal interpretation, God sees a problem here. He cannot let man partake of the Tree of Life while in his current state of conscious fragmentation or he’ll live forever separately from God. If this idea seems off track, consider that Genesis 3:22 begs the question: what did God mean when he said man has now become like God? What new power did the eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil bestow to man? The answer is simple. The allegory illustrates that because man ate the fruit, his awareness was raised. The story illustrates a huge difference in man’s conscious state before and after the eating of the fruit. Before partaking, man had little free will. Being told not to do something as a child doesn’t teach us anything, it only gives a command. But once we disobey, and suffer a consequence, as children we gained a new awareness. Prior to eating the fruit, man was ignorant of good and evil, which could be equated to a very childlike understanding of himself and the world. But once his eyes were symbolically opened, he gained a new awareness (saw the nakedness of his flesh) allowing the opportunity for continual expansion of awareness with each new experience in the physical world.
When read literally, the story of Adam and Eve is about disobedience and falling from grace, but allegorically, it symbolizes human consciousness and what it means to become separate from God. The serpent further symbolizes conscious fragmentation, and the beginning of man’s journey with his new separated, individual conscious identity and ego. In essence, man’s fall is about the fragmentation of unity consciousness from God. Why would man benefit from leaving this unity consciousness? Simple. To be in unity consciousness with God without first having an individual ego meant that man would be a simpleton as far as awareness is concerned. The literal interpretation leaves us with superficial understanding, whereas the mystical interpretation provides us with the keys to understanding a better human condition.
The serpent, then, is eternally linked with man. And here’s the cool part: through the serpent’s influence, man has the continual opportunity to gain more awareness.
If this still seems like mystical mumbo jumbo, hang in there. We’re going to discuss more Biblical evidence below. For right now just remember that there is a good reason the serpent and the messiah have the same gematria value. As you’ll shortly see, the messiah is symbolic of the continuing process of raising man’s consciousness following what the serpent symbolically started.
The Serpent Rises Within Man
Rabbi David Cooper, a brilliant modern mystical teacher, states this in his book, God is a Verb:
“There is a different way to read the traditional translation in which Eve says ‘the serpent beguiled (seduced) me and I did eat.’ The word used here for seduction, hishiani, can be translated in a way to mean “to elevate,” or to “lift up.” Thus, one could translate this same sentence as: “He elevated me [to a higher state]…”
I will admit, Rabbi Cooper adds a footnote to this statement in the back of his book which makes it clear that this translation changes the letter shin into the Hebrew letter sin, which is something Talmudic scholars often justify since the Torah is written “strictly in consonants, without vowels or diacritical marks.” This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but based on other Torah passages I also found this meaning to be justified. By this I mean there is another Torah passage which shows a lifting up, or a healing of man based on the serpent itself being elevated or lifted up. We find in Numbers 21:9:
“So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!”
Jesus further provides us with the imagery that the serpent “was lifted up on this pole.” Symbolically, bronze refers to the mental state of man. In the story from numbers God had sent serpents into the Hebrew camp to bite the Israelites, and they were dying. However, anyone who looked upon the serpent lifted up on the pole was mentally and physically healed. The symbolic interpretation here refers to man’s healing within the psyche as well, the unity of his subconscious and conscious mind.
Here we have the concept that the serpent was lifted up, and man therefore had to respond by also by looking upwards, further symbolizing the fact that this potential energy from within creation and man, must rise for higher awareness, or higher consciousness. Jesus confirms this when he states that “just as the serpent had to lifted up” to heal the people, “so must the son of man be lifted up.” Of course Jesus here is also symbolically referring to the lifting up and raising of consciousness of all men. (For more on the subject of Moses lifting the Bronze Serpent click my article HERE.)
When we compare the story from Numbers to that of Genesis, we clearly see what the imagery of the serpent symbolizes – a powerful force from creation that provides the opportunity for greater awareness. In other words, the fall of man had nothing to do with sin or disobedience to God per se as much as it has to do with what this physical experience means on earth: the ability to grow emotionally and spiritually, and to exercise true free will. Now let’s switch gears to the concept of the messiah.
The Jewish Concept of Messiah
Contrary to popular Christian belief, the Old Testament concept of the messiah is not a personal savior that sacrificed his life in order to reconcile us with God. This is entirely a Christian influence. In the Old Testament prophets, the messiah is portrayed as a Davidic-type ruler that will dispense justice during the end of days. Any unbiased reading of the Old Testament scriptures reveals this. However, there are some important parallels between the Christian and Old Testament messiah concept. Both are seen as the righteousness of God that provides a link from the common man to the divine. This is the parallel I want to concentrate on. It is here that the true meaning of the gematria values for the words serpent and messiah both equal 358.
The process that begins with the serpent ends with the messiah. In order for higher consciousness to truly be accomplished, man must incorporate what the messiah also symbolizes. What the serpent began culminates in the messiah. The messiah symbolizes the fully conscious man who is also united with the divine. The messiah further symbolizes the higher self that is born in the soul of man (more on this shortly).
The Garden of Eden and Man’s Consciousness
It should be obvious to the reader now that the Garden of Eden represents a plane of conscious existence beyond what we currently know. The writer of Genesis never meant to literally convey that Adam and Eve were created as two separate physical beings in a Garden paradise on earth. This is shown through a careful reading of Genesis chapter one. Remember, between chapters one and two there are two creation stories. In the first one and then later on in Genesis chapter five, the author hints that God created both male and female simultaneously.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image and likeness of God he created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27).
“He created them male and female, and named them Adam on the day they were created.” (Gen. 5:2).
Pay careful attention! God created them in his own image, which is both male and female. Are we to take the literal interpretation here the God is both male and female gender? Of course not! God is a spirit (a level of consciousness) and is gender neutral. To interpret that verse literally is ludicrous and contradicts many other parts of the Bible. But notice how the Torah subtly hints at the fact that Adam and Eve was an androgynous being. And then the Torah repeats this idea (emphasized twice means pay attention and look deeper) in chapter five by saying they were both named Adam when they were created.
What does all this mean? Are Adam and Eve really an androgynous being, or is it about consciousness? Can it be both?
Before consciousness fell into matter (symbolized when Eve and Adam ate the fruit and realized their own naked flesh), Adam and Eve symbolize what I like to refer to as primordial consciousness. They were one, as God is one. This process of the fall of man is not actually a fall at all, but simply the fragmentation of primordial consciousness (without individuality) into individual egos. As a separate ego, mankind now had the opportunity to expand awareness through the experience of individuality and the flesh. This wasn’t planned, but is simply the nature and reality of how consciousness enters duality and robes itself with flesh. Then the fruit of experience and expanded awareness has the opportunity to take off.
At this point in the discussion with my Christian friend, the light bulb began to go off. I literally saw the expression change on her face. She then took back control of the conversation and asked me about the New Testament concept of Adam as symbolized by Jesus: through this question I could discern that she now began to understand that the messiah concept symbolically represents the highest stage of man’s conscious evolutionary process, where he/she becomes ONE again with God. The messiah, then, is the culmination of what was started by the serpent! No wonder both terms equals the same numerical value according to gematria: they both symbolically represent a change in man’s conscious state. The serpent and the messiah both must be lifted up within man.
As I have stated so many times on this site in many, many blog posts: Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom of God (a state of conscious BE-ING and awareness) is within you!
I cannot end this blog post without mentioning an article written by Jamil Middleton on the website in pursuit of truth. I do not know him or even what he teaches, but from his quote below I can see that he has great mystical insight, at least into the understanding of the serpent and the messiah:
“When the serpent appears in the garden, the word that is used is Nacash. The meaning of the word is to “subtly whisper” as our subconscious likewise whispers to us destructive notions often rationalized in an intellectual manner. The root of the word Nacash though, has its root meaning in the concept of “learning by personal experience…This becomes interesting when we begin to look at the word Messiah, which in Hebrew is Mashiach which means to smear/imprint or awaken/empower the consciousness of man of the purpose of spiritual liberation. Messiah is man disciplining or discipling himself to be receptive and responsive to the light (inheritance) of God’s spirit in order to selflessly repair the brokeness of consciousness between himself and his creator.”
So as you can see, the serpent and the messiah are paradoxically both different and one and the same. Is to say so blasphemy? Only if you hold onto the literal traditional teachings of Western theology. The mystic isn’t restrained by dogma or doctrine, so he or she is free to explore the deeper mysteries of the scriptures without worry of offense.
The Bible is already an incredibly complicated allegory, but to read Genesis literally makes things even more complicated with many Biblical contradictions. For example, God said the serpent was cursed more than any other beast of the field because of its seduction of Eve. But wait a minute! If it became more cursed than any other beast of the field, why were the other beast cursed in the first place? Did God create them with a curse? Other places in the Bible state God created everything from day one perfect. Surely then something is wrong.
It’s problems like the one mentioned above that spring up all over the Bible when reading it literally, and then believing it is meant to be a historical account. Every event, name, and place in the Bible is symbolically about mankind, and you. And while some of it is based on actual events or persons in history, we aren’t supposed to rely on the fact that it’s historically accurate.
As you hopefully saw, the serpent and the messiah are just two more examples of this.