For hundreds of years Sunday schools all over the country have taught children the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale. But the deeper meaning beyond the literal story takes us beyond a man who was swallowed by a big fish; in its esoteric sense, the story is about the human condition and the initiation process into Christ consciousness that we are all destined to go through. And while the literal viewpoint gives us the impression that Nineveh is being presented with an important opportunity, the real opportunity is for Jonah, and as you’ll see, Jonah experiences an initiation process and subsequent rebirth from his lower nature to his higher nature.
The story begins by the “word of the Lord” instructing Jonah to go to Nineveh to ask them to repent. In ancient religious texts big cities like Nineveh were often symbolic of the lower human mind that is steeped in spiritual idolatry; the hustle and bustle of city life represents the egoistic mind—with our thousands of daily busy thoughts—anchoring the soul to the material plane.
When the “word of the Lord” comes to Jonah, he tries to flee from presence of the Lord by taking a ship out to sea and avoiding his destiny. Since the “presence of the Lord” represents drawing near to him through the stillness of meditation and going within ourselves, we can see that Jonah would rather remain in his ego and lower nature.
As the literal story continues, we learn that the Lord sends a “tempest” (mighty storm). Esoterically, this act starts Jonah’s initiation process. At this point in the story it is important to remind you that most of us are completely unaware that we consciously reside in our lower natures (ego). This is a state of ignorance that was often portrayed in ancient literature as someone who is asleep. I now want you to think about what Jonah was doing on the ship to Tarshish during the raging storm: he was asleep! Think about it. If this story were really literal as so many have taught us, does it make sense that anyone could sleep during a raging storm at sea! Of course not! The Biblical author tells us that the storm was so bad “that the ship was like to be broken,” and there Jonah was in the bottom of it fast asleep. The Biblical author wants us to know that Jonah, as well as all of us, remain in a state of ignorance about our true natures until we are awakened.
As we continue with the story, we see that the other men on the ship to Tarshish are in a panic about how to appease the God that is causing the storm. Jonah comes out and tells them that it is his entire fault because he is fleeing from the Lord. He also tells them that he is a Hebrew that fears the Lord God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Like so many of us who are interested in spiritual things, Jonah has a knowledge of the higher nature, but he hasn’t been transfigured yet.
Finally, the Biblical author records these words in chapter 1 verse 17:
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
Here is where the story really gets interesting because of all the important symbolism. The first is the number 3. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days and 3 nights. Similarly Jesus was in hell for 3 days and 3 nights after the crucifixion. You might even remember that the Apostle Paul was blinded after meeting Christ (in a bright light) on the road to Damascus for 3 days. What’s so important about 3 here? This recurring pattern in Biblical literature is symbolic of the initiation process into higher conscious awareness. It is representative of what some call Christ consciousness where the subconscious and conscious become one. (See story of Adam and Eve here and here to learn more).
So why the number 3? Most ancient religions before Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were based on the zodiac and the sun. During the winter solstice, the sun can symbolically be thought of as dying because during the 3 days around December 21st, 22nd, and the 23rd (it varies slightly from year to year) the sun seems to stand still.
Wikipedia has this to say about the observation of the sun during the solstice:
“Direct observation of the solstice by amateurs is difficult because the sun moves too slowly at either solstice to determine its specific day…”
In a higher state of consciousness beyond the ego, time can be seen for the illusion that it is. This is important to our discussion for several reasons. The solstice was a way that the ancients symbolically represented a higher state of consciousness where time and space cease to exist and all is realized to be ONE in the eternal NOW. As it says of the Lord in Revelations, he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end (of time and space). We mustn’t forget the scripture in Malachi that states that those who fear his name will the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wing…”
While all this might be interesting, how can we be sure that the 3 days and 3 nights in the whale’s belly symbolically represents the winter solstice where the sun dies and then resurrects to give new life?
To answer that let’s discuss the symbol of the whale based on two more Wikipedia quotes which should help solidify your understanding of the Jonah story as it is supposed to be represented:
“Cetus is a constellation. Its name refers to Cetus, a sea monster in Greek mythology, although it is often called ‘the whale’ today. Cetus is located in the region of the sky that contains other water-related constellations such as Aquarius, Pisces…”
Cetus is also viewed as a misfortune or bad omen by sailors. Superstitious sailors believed in a cetus as the bringer of a great storm or misfortune to the ship that is lost cargo, pirates, or being swept off course…”
Hopefully you’re beginning to understand the way the story of Jonah and the whale unfolds the way it does. The constellations referred to above in ancient lore were identified with grand happenings during the winter solstice. Could this grand event be likened unto a conscious resurrection? Sure it could. In ancient literature the whale, or great fish, usually represented the earth and man’s lower nature. In contrast to this, the sun represents the great light of man’s higher consciousness nature.
So, Jonah in the belly of the great fish represents the dormant state and darkness of the winter solstice (ignorance) that must be overcome if he is going to transcend his lower nature. Remember, Jonah is thrown in the watery grave of the sea, entombed by the great fish, and has the opportunity to rise the third day with his born again, resurrected spiritual nature!
This is what happened to Jesus. Why do you think Jesus is supposed to have been born at Christmas? Because this is the time of the winter solstice! And the story of Jonah is a resurrection story of sorts just like the story of Jesus. Why do you think Jesus himself quotes the story of Jonah as the only true “sign” to the Pharisees?
“…An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).
Remember I told you earlier that the great fish represented the “earth” and man’s lower nature? Even Jesus is telling us symbolically that his story represents a birthing from the lower nature to the higher nature when he states that the “Son of man” must go to the “heart of the earth” (death to the lower nature).
When we continue with the story of Jonah, we learn that something significant happens to him in the belly of the whale. He begins to pray and meditate on the Lord. Did he really die physically as we are taught in the traditional Christian church? Not at all! Rather he died to his physical nature. The Biblical author makes this clear in Jonah’s prayer:
“I went down to the bottom of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought me up my life from corruption, O Lord my God” (Jonah 2:6).
Notice how this prayer has nothing to do with being the literal belly of a whale. Jonah’s prayer returns us to the theme man’s lower nature as represented by the earth! Remember that the earth represents the lower nature. The corruption he speaks of deals with the physicality. If you look closely at Jonah’s prayer you will see that it is about completing the initiation process into higher awareness through the process meditation and prayer (going within the kingdom). This brings the initiate beyond the physical and into spiritual awareness beyond the ego.
In essence, the three days in the tomb of the earth / whale which Jonah resides gives the opportunity for a new emergence of higher consciousness, through a process of initiation by prayer and meditation. And just like the sun emerges from the winter solstice and provides the resurrection of life by the coming spring, so too, does Jonah rise to give the repentance message to people of Nineveh and God lets them live! Jonah has awakened, and, in the metaphorical sense, the dry ground represents the solid truth of the higher conscious state.
In conclusion, I encourage you to read Jonah’s prayer again while he is in the belly of the whale. The prayer is clearly about Jonah’s soul, and it is a great read when your lower nature seems to be ruling your life. It reminds us to step back from the ego and return to a time of meditation and prayer where we can draw near to the Lord.
How does this knowledge help you?
You have two natures. You are comprised of the low man and the high man. By going within the kingdom through meditation, you begin the process of joining to the two natures into ONE with the Lord. Unlike Jonah, who was forced into this process, I recommend you do it now on your own time. With the changes coming in 2012, many will be forced beyond their comfort zones. It isn’t fun being forced. It’s much better being prepared. I recommend setting aside time early each morning to meditate. Go in with high expectations and be prepared to meet the Lord!
Don’t forget to spread this message by using the social buttons at the top and bottom of this post if you enjoyed it. Thanks!