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Hidden esoteric wisdom in the Bible
by Rev. Howard Ray Carey

Someone has asked: ''Why on earth did Christian teaching not bear any relevant information in relation to esoteric knowledge, to reincarnation, etc.?'' Another form in which this question is put to us is this: ''Which are the hidden biblical clues? Where flows the esoteric stream beneath the surface of the Bible?''

Perhaps the first question should be slightly reworded to read: ''Why did Christian teaching not bear any obvious information relating to esoteric knowledge, including reincarnation?'' This comes nearer the mark. For the Bible is full of esoteric wisdom. But it may take some insight to discover it. It seems to be the case, especially in the past, that esoteric information, when embodied in literature made available to the public, was veiled beneath exoteric or more obvious interpretations. For if the deep symbolic meanings in biblical literature had been made obvious, on the surface, it is questionable whether the Bible could have survived, especially through the dark ages. It probably would have been discarded as irrelevant.

It seems to be an indication of genius on the part of many writers, whose works later were gathered together to make up the Bible, that they produced material which could be interpreted on at least three different levels. The first level is of course a quite literal one. The second is a bit more sophisticated but still subject to interpretation by the concrete mind of the orthodox religionist. The third carries an esoteric meaning.

Let us take as an example one of the best known and most loved of Jesus' parables, that of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32. Looking at this from a very literal perspective one might explain it as a warning about what happens to a reckless youth, one who demands everything he can get from his father, and squanders it all on drugs and 'women'. Then he ends up broke and feeding pigs (the ultimate humiliation for a Jew of that time), and finally comes crawling back to dad in a state of near starvation.

A second but still fairly obvious interpretation which might be made by a traditional churchman could be: Here is the rebellion of youth, striking out against parental authority. The youth sinks into a life of flagrant 'sin'. But sometime before death he accepts Christ, becomes converted ---- so he is saved from hell, and the father (God) welcomes him to heaven following death.

The third level of interpretation, though there may be many variations, sees it this way: The son, leaving home and traveling to the far country, indicates the Soul or higher Self on the involutionary spiral of experience ---- finally sinking into the deepest possible involvement in matter. In that mess he finally discovers that the pleasures and rewards of materialism leave him deeply hungry for a more satisfying life. Thus he comes to some measure of realization of himself. Then he begins the long journey of many lifetimes back to the 'father's house' (the Monad), the home of the Soul.

In this interpretation the older brother can represent the devic or angelic line of evolution. How meaningful to us, then, is the closing word of the Father: ''This, your brother, was dead, and is alive. He was lost and is found.'' Can we not see that the wayward son represents all of us in the human race ---- at one point or another either on the trek to the far country to feed the animal nature ---- or on the long, long journey back home!

If we read the 13th chapter of Matthew with open eyes we find that Jesus' disciples were deeply puzzled as to why he spoke to the curious crowds in these word pictures, with such deeply hidden meanings. So they put the question to Jesus. He replied:    ''This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.''  But He was planting the good seed deep in their lives to ponder upon, so that hopefully some time it would sprout, grow, and as He suggested ''bring forth grain, some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.'' (All significant numbers, symbolically, no doubt.)

But to His disciples Jesus said: ''Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.''  As you and I read the Bible let us ask ourselves: How acute is our esoteric vision and hearing?

Geoffrey Hodson, a theosophical writer, in his book The Hidden Wisdom in the Holy Bible, Vol. I, gives us excellent clues to the symbolic meanings of the Bible. One of his suggestions is that we look at many biblical passages not for historical information, but that we consider them as happenings within our lives.

Take, for instance, the account given in Mark 4:35-41. It is the story of Jesus and His disciples caught in a severe storm on the Sea or Lake of Galilee. The boat seemed in danger of sinking. Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat, when His disciples, in panic, awakened him. He asked,  ''Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?''   He is reported to have calmed both the sea and the disciples by His word. Those who look at this as an historical incident sometimes argue as to whether the water becoming calm was a natural phenomenon, or whether Jesus used supernormal power to still the raging waves.

But let us look at it as having an important hidden meaning as an inner happening within us. Let the waters of the sea represent the sea of life over which we are making our life's voyage; the boat, our lower self or body; the raging storm, the emotional disturbances we may encounter; the disciples, the many aspects of our consciousness. The most important passenger in our boat ---- our life ---- is the Christ within. Why do we wait until some crisis seems to threaten us before awakening this Christ consciousness? But when this Christ life is awakened within us, what power it has to quiet the surging billows of our emotions ---- including the fears aroused by life's threatening storms!

The initiate Paul gives a number of clues about this hidden wisdom. In writing to the church at Corinth he says: ''I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it, and even yet you are not ready.'' (1 Cor. 3:2) ''Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom. We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification... What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.'' (1 Cor. 2:6-7, 9-10)

In 1 Thes. 5:23 Paul mentions what the Master DK calls our three periodic vehicles: Spirit, Soul and body. And in his second letter to the Corinthians Paul refers to out-of- body experience as well as to the third level of the heavenly or inner life: ''I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven ---- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise... And he heard things which cannot be told, which man may not utter.'' (2 Cor. 12:2-4)  Note that here we have reference to inner truths too esoteric to be put into print or to repeat orally.

In the Jerusalem Bible translation ---- more accurate than most ---- Paul reports going through an initiation: ''I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere; full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.'' (Phil. 4:11-13)

Space does not permit setting forth in detail the many esoteric references found in other parts of the Bible, but let us look at a few of them, such as the creation story in Genesis, with the inner meanings of Adam and Eve as the masculine and feminine principles of our personalities; the garden of Eden, the experience which every baby repeats in his earliest years; symbolic meanings of the serpent, and the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life; primitive man driven from the Paradise of Eden, as every baby ---- unless retarded ---- has to leave babyhood behind.

Look at the story of Noah, the ark, and the deluge (Atlantis destroyed). Note Abraham visited by angels; Abraham paying tribute or tithe to Melchizedek, king of Salem (peace), priest of the most high God, referred to by the writer as a being ''having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God.'' (Obviously an avatar.)

Think of Elijah, with his supernormal power to call down fire from 'heaven' to consume the water-soaked wood, as well as the offering on the altar; Elijah coming out from the cave, where he had hidden, as you and I sometimes do; coming out to the mouth of the cave, where he witnessed the earthquake, wind and fire; but found God speaking to him through the 'still small voice within'; later that same prophet escaping the usual process of death through being caught up to heaven in a chariot of fire.

Elijah is followed by Elisha, who saves the day for the king of Israel by his powers of telepathy and clairvoyance. He also brings the guerilla warfare of the time to an end through his wisdom. Think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the seven times overheated fiery furnace. Are we not all subjected to this on the burning ground when preparing for initiation? In the fiery furnace a fourth being is seen with them ''walking in the midst of the fire.'' They came out unscathed and ''no smell of fire had come upon them.'' Can we come through our testings with no hint of the fire we have been through?

What about the Virgin Mary being impregnated ---- not by Joseph, the rational mind ---- but by the Spirit? And Herod, symbolic ruler of the lower self, seeking to kill the new-born Christ, just as the 'Herod' in us seeks to kill off the growing Christ consciousness, because the lower self is ever jealous and fearful of having its reign snatched away.

Then there is the greatest esoteric account in the Bible: the crucifixion of Jesus, followed by His coming forth from the tomb in a resurrected body. Isn't this the experience we all must eventually go through: death and rebirth on higher levels? And the Bible has so many more esoteric treasures.

Though we cannot report on these scores of other esoteric matters, we must say a word about reincarnation. In the eleventh chapter of Matthew we find Jesus saying: ''Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no-one greater than John the Baptist. Yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'' (Matt. 11:11) Take note that those merely born of women have not yet undergone the spiritual birth of first initiation. But those who are least in the Kingdom of Heaven, the fifth kingdom, have had the first initiation. Two verses later, following the Jerusalem Bible, we find Jesus emphasizing: ''And he (John the Baptist) if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.''

Again in Matthew 17 after the account of the transfiguration ---- a symbolic portrayal of the third initiation ---- we have a similar reference to John the Baptist as Elijah: ''The disciples put this question to him. Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? True, he replied...however I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognize him. The disciples then understood that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.'' (Matt. 17:10-13)

In Revelation 3:12 we read: ''He who conquers I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it.'' Some of us understand this to mean that he who conquers is one who has worked out all his karma, and thus does not need to go out into any further incarnation.

So as we read the Bible let us perceive it with seeing eyes and inner understanding. The Christ indicates that when we do that we will discover the pearl of great price. Can we sense the inner meaning of this? When we make that discovery we will be ready to give up all our accumulated treasures for this One Great Jewel! Are we ready?  

This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation.  Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated. 

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005