Almost everyone knows the story of the Prodigal Son. Traditionally, this story has been used to illustrate the hopeless plight of man and his subsequent need for repentance and salvation. This exoteric (literal / outer) interpretation is comforting, but it pales in comparison with the scope and breadth of the esoteric (inner) interpretation. Let’s dissect the story to better understand your reason for being here, what you can look forward to, and the direction you need to take in order to arrive! And yes, all that wonderful information is packed in the simple yet brilliant parable of the Prodigal Son.
When I was young Christian, still limited to the traditional Christian mindset, pieces of this parable were confusing, especially the condition of the older brother. After all, the story is about two brothers. But it wasn’t until I learned the esoteric understanding of the Bible as a whole before I realized the true meaning of this parable. The traditional Christian interpretation, while encouraging, falls short because it fails to address a few basic but very important questions:
1) If the focus of the story was really about the need for man’s repentance and salvation, why was the older brother never lost and in need of salvation?
When the angry brother confronts his father for killing the fattest calf and throwing a party for the return of the younger brother, the father replies: “…Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine” (Luke 15:31). Jesus’ point for including the older brother in the parable certainly doesn’t fit the traditional Christian paradigm.
2) Why does the brother remain ignorant to the blessing of his brother’s return? In other words, why isn’t he able to understand love?
I am going to give you the reasons for the questions above through the esoteric understanding. Not only will this story make more sense, but it will also give you the knowledge of the individual soul’s reason for having the physical experience. You will also come to realize that upon close inspection, The Prodigal Son builds upon the story of Adam, Eve, and the fall from Paradise.
As the story goes, the younger of the two brothers comes to his father and asks for his inheritance.
“…A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living” (Luke 15:11-12).
The Greek word used for living above means existence, not goods or wealth. This is our first clue into the esoteric interpretation. The Father represents the unified state of consciousness before the fall. Dividing up his living is symbolic of consciousness fracture into the subconscious and waking conscious states for experience on the material, or earthly plane of existence.
Jesus then states that the younger brother “took his journey into a far country.” The far country is symbolic of experience in material consciousness. It represents life on the physical earth, and just as Abraham realized that he was a sojourner on this earth and looked for a heavenly city, the younger brother in this parable will have a similar awakening.
The question we must now ask ourselves is why? Why would the father choose for the individual to experience life on the physical plane? Is physical existence with the accompaniment of the ego necessary for something grander? Keep this question in mind. We will return to it when we discuss the plight of the older brother who was angry at the end. As you will see, it all comes back to LOVE.
Next in the parable Jesus tells us that the younger brother spent everything he had on “riotous living.” Then a famine arose in the land, and the younger brother “began to be in want.” The younger brother now had to endure the hardships of the physical plane. These hardships are really symbolic of physical experiences in general. As you’ll soon learn, all physical experiences—whether painful or pleasant—become both necessary and good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…” (Romans 8:28).
Physical experience is the reason for your being here. It is through physical experience that the soul has the opportunity to grow. It doesn’t matter whether the physical experiences are ones of pleasure or pain. They are all opportunities for the self-recognition of the Christ nature within.
As I have stated on this blog before, you cannot truly KNOW what cold is without experiencing heat. You could not appreciate love without KNOWING fear. You cannot KNOW the victory of the cross until you have first experienced the cross!
The experience of the ego-centric life on the physical plane provides the experiences and opportunities for us to progress to the resurrection of Christ consciousness. The traditional Christian mindset learns to judge certain experiences in life as negative. While they may be painful, they are certainly not meant to be viewed as negative, and they certainly aren’t meant to be viewed as evil, either. They are only so if you believe that they are.
As we continue with the parable we learn that the younger son has an awakening through all his riotous living. In other words, somewhere along the journey he realizes his connection to Spirit (the Father).
“And when he came to himself, he said…I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 15:17-18).
The Prodigal son then has awakened to the divine Christ nature within as a result of the opportunities life on the physical plane presented.
As we near the end of the parable, Jesus tells us that the son comes home and the Father is filled with joy. It is important to note here that his Father isn’t angry; God will never judge your experiences, and he certainly won’t place you in an eternal hell. Upon your awakening, your experiences cannot be judged, for the awakening process itself requires a non-judgmental attitude in the first place. This is part of going beyond the ego.
Now I want you to pay attention to what the Father says about his lost son:
“And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again: he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (Luke 15:23-24).
In ancient esoteric literature, the meaning of being dead has nothing to do with physical death. Why do you think Adam and Eve didn’t die the physical death the day that ate the fruit? To be dead represents the state of the soul in the physical body before it is awakened to the Christ nature within! It surely isn’t about a resurrection after physical death, for if you fail to be resurrected in this life, you must go round the mountain again (Yes, I mean reincarnation). So realize that the physical body is the tomb (though a holy one) for the spirit to first experience spiritual death and then to experience spiritual resurrection. And even though the body is a tomb, it is holy! A holy journey requires a holy vehicle.
Now we need to discuss the older brother. We have already seen his reaction. He is angry and is unable to love. Why? It is obvious that the older brother doesn’t recognize his connection with Spirit. He hasn’t been awakened. In other words, the older brother “is ever with [the Father]” and has access to all that the Father has. However, the older brother cannot enjoy love because he is not awakened!
And this is the reason that Jesus stated that both great and misunderstood statement found in Luke 7:47:
“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven: for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
Now do you see why the older brother could not enjoy love? He had not experienced the fall and the awakening that his brother had. We could compare this older brother to the Christian who has been in church all his life and remains untainted by the vices of the world. Sometimes it seems like they are clueless and have no common sense as to the realities of life. They judge the silliest things and make anything they don’t understand an act of evil. (I was once one of these so-called loving Christians, so please realize I am in no way judging.) In the same way the older brother represents the part of our consciousness which remains in the ignorance of the ego.
It is experience that is the greatest teacher! It was the gift of the fall that provided the greatest love experiment God could provide. The fall of man, or the experience of consciousness on the physical plane was therefore meant to be one of the biggest and grandest opportunities for spiritual consciousness development in the history of the cosmos!
How can this knowledge of the Prodigal Son parable help you?
First of all realize that your fall was a necessary blessing, not a curse! In fact, the greater your experience (riotous living), the greater is your opportunity for self-realization. You must understand that although the opportunity to experience this fall has been your greatest opportunity, you must now take advantage of it and see the reality of your fall. The Apostle Paul taught us that he learned to be content in every situation. Ultimately, not to judge his experiences as good or bad. Instead he learned to take the experience for what it was: an opportunity for consciousness expansion, and hopefully, the realization of the Christ nature within!