The parable of the prodigal son is probably the most well-known parable of all and it is clear that the story is about the life journey of Man. It is all about us and our journey through life. Depending on the teaching of the different churches the emphasis may be put on different aspects of the story, on the sinfulness of man or on the love of God. However, the story is almost always told as an interpretation of the life of the son who undertakes the journey, the bad son. Not much is said about the other son, the son who stays home with the Father and faithfully attends to his tasks. He is supposed to be the good son who should be an example to us all. But is he? I would like to look at this parable from a different viewpoint and see what I come up with about both sons.
In my article The Tree of Judgement? I wrote about a comparable journey in which I started with a summary in order to make clear what the deeper meaning of this journey is. It is a journey into duality, which is symbolized by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but also by the story of the prodigal son. That is why I want to start this article with quoting this summary in its entirety, so it is clear what the process it is all about.
“I found the meaning of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to be the tree of duality, ets-2, in Hebrew.
Eating from that tree caused the descent of Man into the world of duality and matter, also called the fourth world or the world of the seventh day. Eve, the female, nourishing and creative side of Man, was enticed into eating from it by the serpent, the nachash, numerical value 358, which proved to be the downward force in Man during the descending part of the involution / evolution cycle. This is a cycle, which you could see as a circle that is divided into three segments:
The first segment is the descent out of a world of higher consciousness as described above; this is called involution.
The second segment, described in the next paragraph, is the period that mankind resides in the world of matter.
The third segment, called evolution, is about ascension, going upwards in consciousness again, as described in the third paragraph of this description.
When man had almost reached the bottom of the cycle, the downward force got the upper hand and turned into par’oh (pharaoh), and man became enslaved / addicted. After a call for help to God and a promise to address this addiction themselves later on, man was delivered from this slavery by God and the nachash got its head / its downward principle, crushed, which made it fall asleep. It was then called the Kundalini that slept in 3½ coils at the halfway point of the cycle.
After having been anointed with the oil that was produced by man through processing and digesting all that happened in his / her life during this stay in the world of matter, the downward force changes into an upward one as the messiah, mashiach, also with a numerical value of 358, which leads man upwards again, and to its rising as the Kundalini serpent at the end of the process as the conclusion of the cycle.
The descending phase in this whole process is part of the sixth day and the serpent, and the nachash, is therefore associated with the number 6. The world that we enter after descending into the world of duality and matter is called the world of the seventh day, as mentioned before, and the deepest point of the cycle, where the sleeping Kundalini lies, is exactly its halfway point (3½).
Because of all the work that man has to do in order to process and digest everything, this day is also called Yom ha Assiya, the world of doing things. In this world God, the Higher Consciousness, rests and man works his / her way through the process of ‘eating’ the fruit of the seventh day.
This fruit is the tamar, 400-40-200. You can also read this as 400-mar. Mar means bitter and 400-mar means the bitterness of the four hundred. The bitterness of slavery and addiction and the bitterness of the cross, as the number 400 used to be written as a cross on its side. The word tamar means date. A date is sweet. In order to discover that all this bitterness is sweet, man will have to process and digest it however, symbolized by the verb to eat.
Another image that is used to describe this process is the word oil. As the nachash, the serpent, turns into the mashiach, messiah (both having the same numerical value, 358) which means the anointed one, there has to be oil, olive oil, to do the anointing with. Oil is shemen in Hebrew, and is connected to the number 8, shmona. That is why the messiah is connected to the eighth day of resurrection and ascension. This oil is produced by crushing the olives, fruit of the sixth day, in an oil press, gat shemen, or in English Gethsemane.
So processing the fruit of the sixth and the seventh days is the process of Gethsemane and Golgotha, and although in the Bible it is the story of Jesus, it is a process that all of us have to undertake. All this processing lies hidden in the symbols of the cycle.
Processing and digesting also includes embracing everything that is being placed before us today without resistance and with love. It includes calling it Good in the end because we have become aware of how much we have grown in conscious awareness because of it.”
The Prodigal Son
When we look at the parable of the prodigal son, we can see that his journey follows the same pattern. It is also a descent from a world of Higher Consciousness, from where the Father keeps watching the younger son with Love and without judgement, into a world of ever lower consciousness and slavery, and then the phase where the son becomes aware of his situation and what had led to it, followed by his conscious decision to return to the Father. And his willingness to become even a lowly servant there. The process ends with his loving reception by the Father.
It is the same story and the same process, told in a different way and with different aspects. Both stories symbolize the totality of the cycle and can be seen as a circle, with the phase of High Consciousness on top. However, the story of the prodigal son also shows what happens after his return to his Father’s house. He is not met with anger, judgement and condemnation by the Father but treated like the most honorable guest and reinstated as his beloved son. His Father had even run towards him as soon as he saw him and ‘fell on his neck and kissed him’, as the KJV Bible tells us. There is no trial but a festive party after a successful journey.
The Other Son (The Good One)
But what about the other son, the ‘good’ son? I never heard much about him in church. What is his role in all this?
The son who did not embark on this journey is often looked at as the good son as opposed to the bad son who went away and got into trouble. But is he? His reaction to his brother’s homecoming is not exactly heart-warming. What is he supposed to represent?
Let us first consider the fact that here there are two sons. Two is the number of duality and sure enough these two are described as opposites: the ‘bad’ son who left home and the ‘good’ son who stayed home and fulfilled his duties. But a closer look at the bad son showed that he was not bad after all and also that his father had kept following his journey closely and continuously sent him the love that he needed in order to be able to consciously decide to return home as a transformed person. By processing the bad when he needed to he had now become Good without an opposite evil. So the so-called bad led to something Good after all.
Can the same be said about the good son who stayed home? I do not think so. Not yet at this stage. When the younger son returns home transformed, the ‘good’ son shows himself in a very different light. He does not seem to have regretted the fact that his brother left the house without a fixed destination nor worried about what might have become of him. He had just continued to fulfill his duties at the farm that seems to symbolize the house of the Father here. He had probably enjoyed his position as ‘the good son’ who had not deserted his father.
So, when he learns that his brother has finally returned home as a changed man, he is not glad. He had expected his father to meet his brother with indignation and to tell him to get of the premises and never to show his face there again. He had expected his father to show him, the elder brother who knew his duties, to his brother as the example he should have followed. But no, instead his father welcomes his brother with a festive party for which even the fatted calf had been killed, and all that while he himself was still working in the fields. So he is bitter and angry. He refuses to join the party and shows clearly that he is jealous and judgmental. He even hurls accusations at his father.
The words of the father’s reply to his eldest son after this outpouring of his grief make clear that the son who stayed home had not even realized what it means to be a son. For shouldn’t he have known that everything that his father possessed was his also? However, he had behaved like a servant and expected to be given what for a son had been his to take.
This shows that by staying home he had not been able to gain the conscious awareness that his brother did manage to gain by his journey. For the younger son had done exactly what according to the Father his eldest son could have done also. The younger son had demanded his share and taken it with him on his journey. Of course he had not known what he let himself in for, or what challenges he would have to face. He had not taken into account that causes would have consequences but when he was confronted with the result of his actions – and initially he had become overwhelmed by them – he had met them head on. He had accepted the consequences. He had taken a good look at himself and decided to return home, even if that would mean that he could only be a lowly servant from then on. By willingly relinquishing his right to be treated as a son he had in fact earned the right to be considered a real son.
My conclusion is that all this implies that this journey through the involution / evolution cycle is not a bad thing but on the contrary that it is absolutely essential and necessary for this gaining of conscious awareness.
Good and Evil
So can we even speak of a good son and a bad son here? The concepts of good and bad do not seem to be as clearly defined as we thought they would be. Good as in dutiful does not necessarily mean Good with a capital G, without an opposite evil. It appears that a dutiful son is not necessarily a good son and that he also needs to go through this process in order to reach that state of consciousness.
Could his work at the farm and the fattening of ‘the fattened calf’ have anything to do with all of this? In that case the house of the Father may symbolize something like ‘heaven’ here but it is definitely placed in the earthly setting of a farm. In which the symbol of fattening a calf and afterwards killing and eating it has a place. This means that in this case it can also be seen as a symbol of the involution / evolution cycle and that the eldest son has to go through that within this setting.
A calf is the offspring of a cow and a bull, a para and a par. These words, and also the related word pri, fruit, are symbols of fertility, of multiplying and therefore symbolize the opposite of unity. They are also related to the word par’oh, which in this context is a symbol of the ego out of control.
A calf is egel in Hebrew, written as 1-3-30. This contains the concept ‘gl’, 3-30, 33, that means ‘public, external, superficial, naked’, and it also symbolizes the round aspect of the circle, the igul. In this case pointing to a running around in circles without getting anywhere as the eldest son obviously has not yet a clue what it is all about and has not got anywhere yet.
There are many words and names that contain the concept ‘gl’ (among them Golgotha, Gulgolet, and Galil, Galilee). As such this concept figures largely in the life of Jesus, and in the age he is supposed to have had when he was crucified (33). And therefor also in the process of the cycle that his life symbolizes.
As egel, calf, it symbolizes the round aspect, especially as a fattened calf. It symbolizes both the ego and the circle of the cycle. During this cycle the calf is first fattened (growing power of the ego), then killed and finally eaten / digested. The three phases of the cycle. The younger son has already completed the whole cycle and is now enjoying the nutrients of this process during the concluding feast. The state the eldest son is in however seems to show that he is still fattening it and as such is still in the first, descending phase. He is not even aware of his own state of mind but only lashing out at others, bitter, jealous, judgmental.
The question is: can we trace the whole necessary process in the part of the story about ‘the other son’? Maybe it will help if we also include the symbols of some of the other parables that Jesus told the people.
First of all it should be clear that the journey of ‘the other son’ will be another type of journey than his brother took. He does not physically leave the farm or the Father. You might say that he remains a staunch member of the Church (or the Synagogue, Mosque or Temple or whatever). He does not commit the ‘sins’ his brother committed but his journey is to be found in the development of his attitude, so looking at some of these other parables might be of help. And then we see that many these complaints of the eldest son are indeed addressed by Jesus in some of those parables. His righteous indignation, his feeling of being superior to his brother is mirrored in the attitude of the Pharisee who compares himself favorably to the publican in his prayer. His indifference to the fate of his brother we also see in the attitude of the rich man toward Lazarus, the poor man who lay on his doorstep, hoping to receive scraps of food but receiving nothing. Are these and other sins like them not worse than squandering your money on parties with harlots, of which he accused his brother? And are they not more difficult to recognize as such?
This will be the task for this son however and then there will finally be the way upwards again. Also this can be found in other parts of the Bible. His story starts by telling us that he returned home from the field soon after the arrival of his brother. That should take us back to God’s promise to Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They had to leave the Garden of Eden but God had given them the promise that from then onward they would work in the fields to get their food. And that they would get to deal with thistles and thorns. Which is the start of the active part of the process.
A thorn is kots in Hebrew, which is related to the verb hakets, which means to wake (someone) up. At this stage the elder son is working in such a field and all too often for his taste he is confronted with the thorns and the thistles in it. He is not aware of it yet but he will become aware of the possibility that these thorns are there for a reason and that they might wake him up as well. And at that stage he will also recognize the field in which is buried a great treasure, which is mentioned in another parable, and sell all he has in order to buy this field and dig up this treasure. This treasure means that he will find out what is really valuable in life and that he will finally take the decision to return to the Father, in spirit as well as physically. Then he will go on his way back and realize that his Father has never stopped following him lovingly and that he will be received with the same Love and honour as his younger brother. He will realize that they will harmoniously share their inheritance again. This latter part of the story is not part of the parable of the prodigal son however. It has been left to us to find out for ourselves during our own journey, whatever form that journey may take.
All this could mean however that a ‘repentant sinner’ might be further along in his process than a dutiful son who has not even become aware of a process yet. And that all ‘righteous people’ who look at ‘sinners’ with judgement and contempt had better have a good look at themselves first.
Let us now consider carefully what it might mean to be a son.
To Be A Son
This seems to confirm the idea that the eldest son initially was not aware of being a son yet because he had stayed home and instead of attending to a process of gaining conscious awareness ‘in the field’ had only been running around in circles by continuing to feed his ego, the fattened calf. So the implication of him being the good son shows again the relativity of the concept good within duality.
The numerical value of the word ben is 52. This has different meanings. Fifty-two is the number of weeks in a year and the concept year also symbolizes the process of a cycle; in this case the cycle of the seasons which also give us pointers. So a son is someone (not necessarily male) who is going through this cycle.
Fifty-two is 4 x 13 and 13 is the numerical value of the words ahava, love, and echad, one, oneness, unity. It implies that the fourth world of matter, and each season of the journey of the year in it, are all stamped with these concepts of love and unity (in diversity). We are not left alone in this process, even if it feels that way sometimes.
Fifty-two is also 2 x 26, and twenty-six is the numerical value of the name YHWH, the Name of God in this world of duality and matter, who never leaves us out of his loving sight during our journey.
A son therefore is something special, someone who carries all these aspects in him / her during this journey through this cycle, this circle of transformation. That is what in this parable the Father tries to make clear to the eldest son who had not even started on his journey yet. He approaches him just as lovingly as he welcomed back the younger son.. Nowhere is there any judgement from the side of the Father. Each of us is allowed to take as long as we need for our own special journey. The only judge and jury we will have to face will turn out to be not the Father, who never judges, but we ourselves. At the turning point of our cycle we will take an honest look at ourselves and see our life and attitudes from another perspective. That is what will make it possible for us to turn the corner and to return to the house of the Father.
It becomes clear in the end that good and bad are very relative concepts with no inherent meaning of their own. Once the whole cycle has run its course all good and bad will have been transformed into Good without an opposite.
And maybe it is true that those who chose the steepest road, the ‘sinners’, will be the first to return home to the Father after all. Isn’t it said somewhere in the Bible that the last shall be the first? But what off it, as long as we all get there?