A large number of writers in both ancient and modern times have affirmed that spiritual wisdom and a practical philosophy of life have always been available, and that, however deeply hidden, they are to be found in the scriptures of the great world faiths. Readers, they state, have but to remove the concealing veils of allegory, parable and symbol to discover a knowledge which can bestow serenity of mind and heart and lead to spiritual illumination.
Mere folk tales and primitive superstitions apart, the scriptures and mythologies of ancient peoples may, it is claimed, be similarly approached. At least two views exist concerning their origin. According to one of these, world myths gradually developed as explanations of the phenomena of nature. Early peoples, who possessed little or no scientific knowledge, personified the forces of nature and dramatized their interactions. Such tales may be thought of as folk myths in contradistinction to those based upon historical, or presumably historical, foundations.
The second view is that many of these ancient stories were given deep cosmogonical, religious, psychological and moral significance by poets, seers and prophets who later arose within the nations. Aeschylus, for example, relied upon Greek myth and legend for many of his plots, as also did Homer, Sophocles and Euripides and more especially Pindar and Hesiod, who incorporated the Homeric gods into the Greek pantheon. In this way many archaic legends were both preserved and vitalized, having become imbued with religious or philosophic meanings. Initiates of the various esoteric schools and the mystery religions of the older civilizations are also said to have deliberately refashioned the stories into vehicles for the transmission to later peoples of their knowledge of cosmogony, cyclic involution and evolution, and the true nature and destiny of humanity. Modern scientists have also found in ancient myths appropriate symbols for the subtle mental processes they study and attempt to elucidate. Freud, for example, used the phrase â€œOedipus complex,â€ while the term â€œAchillesâ€™ heelâ€ is sometimes employed to indicate vulnerability. Jung, in his turn, found in the ancient stories symbolic archetypes of human responses.
In these various ways the religions and philosophies of the ancients prove profitable to the modern student, while those possessed of knowledge of the sacred language and the keys of interpretation recognize ideas which are found to be common to all world faiths. The universal use of symbols with which to portray those ideas makes them readily available; for the meanings of the symbols used are found to be constant, as constant also are the doctrines which they reveal. Thus, while ancient superstitions and magical practices, and the instinctive personification and dramatization of natural phenomena by early peoples are recognized, world scriptures and mythologies may legitimately be regarded as rich mines of the Ageless Wisdom. On occasion throughout this work, therefore, parallels are drawn between biblical statements and the same ideas appearing in different forms in other sacred writings.
The value of this approach to world scriptures becomes evident when the keys of interpretation are applied to the Bible. This has, however, been rendered difficult by at least three prevalent practices. The first of these is to mistake the veils for the truths which they both conceal and reveal. The second is to require the acceptance as fact of much that is purely allegorical and, indeed, in some cases incredible. The third is the insistence by some Christian denominations upon unquestioning belief in dogmas, based upon a literal reading of certain passages of the Bible, as essential to salvation here and hereafter. Unfortunately this is carried to still greater lengths by pronouncements that failure to affirm implicit belief in stated dogmas may lead to excommunication and even to eternal damnation.
These trends observable in orthodox Christianity may be regarded as particularly harmful at the present period in world history; for as a result of them the attention of Christians is diverted from eternal verities. These especially include the existence of the divine presence within, â€œChrist in you, the hope of glory,â€ (Col. 1:27 ) and the fact that the divinity in all human beings is one and the same. When the spiritual unity between all members of the human race is fully recognized, aggressive competition, organized crime and wars of conquest become impossibilities.
How, then, may the veils of allegory and symbol be drawn aside and the hidden wisdom revealed? This work-among many others upon the subject in ancient and modern literature-offers both general and detailed answers to that most vital question. Briefly stated, those who seek to discover the wisdom underlying inspired allegories should proceed as follows:
- Determine to discover essential truths.
- Mentally utter a cry for interior light (Luke 11:9â€“10 ), with the single motive of becoming an ever more efficient servant of humanity.
- Clear the mind of the tendency to regard the literal reading as the only true and ecclesiastically permissible one.
- Practice meditation in order to develop the intuitive perception necessary for the discovery of the successive layers of revelation concealed beneath scriptural allegories, ancient myths and some traditional fairy tales.
- Study the writings of notable exponents of the sacred language.
- Learn the major keys and the method of interpretation, and practice until proficient the science of their application to the elucidation of world scriptures and mythologies. As stated in the preface, care must always be taken neither to overstress a possible symbolic significance, nor to read into a narrative more than is inherent within it or was presumably present in the minds of the authors, merely in order to support preconceived ideas.
The task of unveiling was undertaken in this age with great insight and erudition by Madame H. P. Blavatsky, cofounder of The Theosophical Society. Her aptly titled books, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, give the traditional keys and many interpretations of world allegories. G. A. Gaskell has made a magnificent contribution to the subject by producing a Dictionary of the Sacred Language of All Scriptures and Myths. Fabre dâ€™Olivetâ€™s The Hebrew Tongue Restored and F. J. Mayersâ€™ The Unknown God advance the kabbalistic keys and apply them to the book of Genesis. Indebtedness is here acknowledged to these and other standard works.
The literature which proceeded from the Neoplatonists of Alexandria, especially the writings of Philo Judaeus (approximately 30 B.C. to 45 A.D.) to whom this work is dedicated, is also a valuable source of information. The interpretations of the symbolism of the Bible which he gives are very remarkable. The animals, birds, reptiles, trees and places mentioned in the Bible are said by him to be â€œallegories of conditions of the soul, of faculties, dispositions, or passions; the useful plants were allegories of virtues, the noxious of the affections of the unwise, and so on through the mineral kingdom; through heaven, earth and stars; through fountains and rivers, fields and dwellings; through metals, substances, arms, clothes, ornaments, furniture, the body and its parts, the sexes, and our outward conditionâ€ (Dictionary of Christian Biography).
The disciples of Ammonius Saccus were called Analogeticists because of their practice of interpreting sacred scriptures and mythologies by a principle of analogy and correspondence, also found in both the kabbalistic system and the esoteric philosophy of the East. Thus studied, many books of the Old and New Testaments are found to contain hidden knowledge of the greatest value; for, in addition to its content of metaphysical teachings of profound significance, the Bible also indicates the existence of a pathway of hastened evolution and the means by which special powers for the service of humanity may be attained. These powers can, however, be misused to bring grave harm upon their possessors and also upon their victims. The more metaphysical teachings in the Bible are therefore, as also previously stated, written in an allegorical language which conceals, even while it reveals, power-bestowing knowledge. The Lord Christ referred to this pathway of hastened evolution as â€œthe narrow wayâ€ which is entered through â€œthe strait gateâ€ ( Matt. 7:13, 14 ). Isaiah wrote of â€œthe way of holinessâ€ (Isa. 35:8 ). Hinduism similarly teaches of the Razor-edged Path, and Buddhism of the Noble Eightfold Path. In essence, each is a path of discipleship and initiation, which leads within a relatively short space of time to salvation, Moksha (Hinduism) or Nirvana (Buddhism).
Since the essentials, the procedures and the pitfalls on the narrow way, as also the powers attained by those who tread it, are portrayed by the authors of the Bible, interpretations of biblical allegories from that point of view are included in this work. This first volume of two contains an introduction to the symbolic language, some keys of interpretation and examples of their application to various scriptural passages.