inner principle

Inner Principle of Scripture and Man

“So long as we only see the Logos of God as embodied multiriously in symbols in the letter of Holy Scripture, we have not yet achieved spiritual insight into the incorporeal, simple, single and unique Father as he exists in the incorporeal, simple, single and unique Son, according to the saying, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father …’. We need much knowledge so that, having first penetrated the veils of the sayings which cover the Logos, we may with a naked intellect see—in so far as men can—the pure Logos, as He exists in Himself, clearly showing us the Father in Himself. Hence a person who seeks God with true devotion should not be dominated by the literal text, lest he unwillingly receives not God but things appertaining to God, that is, lest he feel a dangerous affection for the words of scripture instead of for the Logos. …

“It is by means of the more lofty conceptual images that the inner principle of Holy Scripture can be stripped gradually of the complex garment of words with which it is physically draped. Then to the visionary intellect … it reveals itself as through the sound of a delicate breeze.” ~St. Nikodimos

Only Letters

St. Nikodomos, writing in the Philokalia, is telling us that trying to truly understand scripture by a literal interpretation of the words and symbols found there is not going to awaken our spiritual self. And it doesn’t matter what scripture you are looking at. The Bible, the Upanishads, the Koran, etc. all have hidden meanings, all are full of allegory. To try to understand them with literal interpretations produces an understanding that is not only false and incomplete but is often nearly the opposite of the true meaning.

What is really sad is that so many young people today, particularly the “Spiritual but not religious (SBNR)” crowd, reject all scripture outright because they recognize that a literal interpretation produces nonsense. It seems beyond their abilities to understand that these holy books were never intended to be literal. Of course, it is also true that many of these people have never actually read scripture, or have read only the scripture of one religion. They simply take the word of someone else that they are meaningless and irrelevant to those seeking spiritual enlightenment. In actual fact, there is much useful information in all of the world’s holy books, if you can understand the allegory used.

He Who Sees Me

There is a general misunderstanding of what Jesus meant when he said that if you see Him, you see the Father. Most interpret this as Jesus saying that He is God, therefore seeing Him, in the physical sense, is the same as looking at the Father. That is not what was meant. For one thing, God doesn’t even have a physical body.

What is meant is that those who have had a spiritual awakening and can “see” Jesus (and others) through the spiritual eyes of the soul are also seeing the Father. That is because when you see a person as a spirit—truly see it, not just believe it—you see that all spirits are the same and all spirits come from God. So if you know spirits, you know God. Individual souls are like bricks in the universal wall that is God. Or perhaps it might be better to say that individual spirits and souls are the flowers in the universal garden that is God.

Inner Principle of Holy Scripture

St. Nikodimos says that the “inner principle,” the true meaning of scripture is found by stripping off the complex garment of words. That may be part of it, but it isn’t enough. We not only need to look beyond the literal meaning of the words, but we also need to understand the spiritual meanings and symbols represented by the words.

Here is just one example. In the original Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek of the Bible, there are statements that seem to be constructed oddly or seem to have little meaning. But some of these were meant to be said out loud, perhaps repeatedly, much like a mantra in meditation. It was the combination of sounds produced that helped to awaken something in the listener, not the literal meaning of the words. Then when academics translate the words into other languages such as English and do it based on a literal meaning of the words, the sounds that were the true meaning, the inner principle, is lost.

Then there is the symbolic meaning. Symbols are often used in scripture. This is partly done to hide the true meaning from the unworthy, and partly to make it easier for people to remember the lesson being taught. Talking about evil forces opposing the good ones is vague, it doesn’t produce a mental image easily. But change it to a dragon fighting with a saint and you have produced a mental image that is easy to remember. References to things like flying carpets, pillars of fire, burning bushes, and water turned to wine sound like fantasy tales, but they are not. Others interpret such things as evidence of alien visitors. That is not true either. What those things are is symbols. Symbols of something spiritual. You can start to understand many of these symbols by getting a good dream dictionary. The meaning of dream symbols often coincides with the meaning of the allegorical symbols found in scripture. Learning to understand the inner principle of scripture is an important step in spiritual growth. Learning to understand the inner principle of ourselves is even more so.

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scripture, spiritual doctrine

Scripture has two Sides: Literal and Allegorical

“All sacred Scripture can be divided into flesh and spirit as if it were a spiritual man. For the literal sense of Scripture is flesh and its inner meaning is soul or spirit. Clearly someone wise abandons what is corruptible and unites his whole being with what is incorruptible.

“The law is the flesh of the spiritual man who here corresponds to sacred scripture; the prophets are the senses; the Gospel is the noetic soul that functions through the flesh of the Law and the senses of the prophets, revealing its power in its actions. …

“He who fulfills the law … abstains from the actual commission of sin. … he who has been trained by the prophets’ words not only refrains from the outward fulfillment of the passions but also renounces all assent to them in his soul.” ~The Phyilokalia

Two Sides of Scripture

I have never thought of comparing the two levels of scripture with the two levels of man, but it makes perfect sense to do so. It also helps explain why certain types of people misinterpret scripture, while others—the more spiritual ones—make perfect sense of it.

The Physical Side

Those people who are caught up in the physical realm and think matter is just what it appears to be rather than illusion are likely to interpret scripture literally. This interpretation is not completely wrong, just limited. It is like the person who sees the iceberg only as the ten percent above water. Then they wonder what happened when their boat hits the much larger part that is underwater.

Some knowledge of ancient history can be found in scripture. In that sense, the literal interpretation is useful. The problem is that much of scripture, regardless of which religion produced it, was never intended to be taken literally. It is purely symbolic. A good example is circumcision. It was never intended to be used to maim male infants. It was a spiritual circumcision that was intended by the prophets. An even more extreme example is a cult in India that follows the teachings of a certain guru now dead. That guru said that men should be more like women if they wanted to become spiritual. The members of the cult, using a literal interpretation, castrate themselves and dress in women’s clothes. That, of course, does not make them spiritual at all. Fortunately, it’s a small group.

Religious and spiritual books are not the only place we find this confusion. Perhaps the most common form of it in the modern world is found in teen slang. Words like “cool,” “dude,” and “bae” become nonsense if interpreted literally. The same with most scripture here truth was intentionally hidden in allegory to keep the unworthy from understanding it. Continue reading “Scripture has two Sides: Literal and Allegorical”

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Universal Essenes

Universal Essenes Understood Spiritual Allegory

“They [the Essenes] interpreted the Torah and other Hebrew scriptures in an almost exclusively spiritual, symbolic and metaphysical manner, as did the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo. They also had esoteric writings of their own which they would not allow non-Essenes to see. But even more objectionable to the other Hebrews was their study and acceptance of “alien” scriptures–the holy books of other religions–so much so that an official condemnation was made of this practice. In light of this we can say that the Essenes were perhaps the first in the West to hold a universal, eclectic view of religion. Celibacy was prized by them, being often observed even in marriage, and many of them led monastic lives of total renunciation. They considered their male and female members–all of whom were literate–to be spiritual equals, and both sexes were prophets and teachers among them.

“They believed that the sun was a divine manifestation, imparting spiritual powers to both body and mind. They faced the rising and setting sun and recited prayers of worship, refusing upon rising in the morning to speak a single word until the conclusion of those prayers. They did not consider the sun was a god, but a symbol of the One God of Light and Life.

“They believed that miraculous cures were natural extensions of authentic spiritual life. They would wear only white clothes as a sign that they worshiped God who is Light and were clothed by him in light. … The disciples of Saint Thomas in India had a similar rule, only wearing white clothes in worship.” ~Abbot George Burke

Interpreting Scripture

The Universal Essenes, as well as other spiritual groups, did interpret scripture from all religions in a spiritual way. But what does that mean? Doesn’t everyone interpret religious writings in a spiritual way? Sadly, no, they don’t Many interpret them literally. They act as if they are reading a newspaper or history book rather than scripture.

Scripture is almost always written in the form of allegory, parables. Most ancient myths fall into this category also. They are written this way for several reasons. One is that human languages do a poor job of explaining the spiritual. They are simply not designed for it. So those who have spiritual experiences are forced to describe them in allegory. A second reason is that they wanted people who were not ready for a spiritual awakening to remember these teachings until they were. Making them into allegorical tales made them easier to remember. Third, they wanted to make it difficult for evil and materialistic people to understand the truth, so they hid it.

Universal View

The Essenes did have a universal view of religion. They studied Buddhist and Hindu writings as well as Jewish scripture. This also is true of most spiritual or mystical schools. Once you know how to interpret the allegorical tales found in those books, you find that the hidden truths in all of them are essentially the same.

This is different from some of the churches of today that call themselves universal. While they have attempted to do the same thing, they to are interpreting things much too literally. As a result, they ignore some of the most important teachings of the great spiritual masters hidden in allegory.

In short, they understood that while there may be many ways of expressing it, there is really only one truth. Continue reading “Universal Essenes Understood Spiritual Allegory”

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Allegorical Scripture

Allegorical Scripture and Finding the Pearl

“I have perused many Master-Pieces  [sic] of writing, hoping to find the Pearl of the Ground of man; but I could find nothing of that which my soul lusted after. I have also found very many contrary opinions. And partly I have found some who forbid me to seek, but I cannot know with what ground or understanding, except to be that the blind grudge at the eyes of them that see. …
“But when I found the Pearl, then I looked Moses in the face, and found that Moses had written very right, and that I had not rightly understood it.” ~Jacob Boehme

Reading and Writing

Those who seek truth and wisdom in ancient writings are almost always disappointed or misled. Those who have any intuition at all will realize the scriptural writings are misleading or incomplete. Usually both. This is not to put down any of the great spiritual writings of the world. The authors of them did a great service to humanity with their attempts to put as much wisdom as possible into them.

Allegorical Scripture

The first thing that must be learned and excepted is that almost all of these great writings are allegorical. Even in the cases where certain stories and passages are literally true, they are almost always included because of their allegorical significance.

The farmer may literally find that the seeds that land on rock do not grow. Likewise, those that fall in bad soil will not grow, or will not grow well. Others will be eaten by insects, or shriveled by the hot summer sun. Yet none of that matters in scripture. It is the allegory of it that is important.

The farmer represents a spiritual teacher. Prophet, or other source of truth including the Light of the Spiritual Sun. The seeds are the bits of truth ans wisdom send out to many. Rocks are those too hardened in their ways to be willing to change and learn anything new. Bad soil is allegory for those who are too caught up in matter to be concerned with spiritual growth. Those eaten by insects are the ones who are attacked by demons because they fail to protect themselves. Others may come up with a slightly different interpretation for each symbol, but the general idea remains. Such tails are allegory. Continue reading “Allegorical Scripture and Finding the Pearl”

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