Soulfire: I wish it were so simple to just give out the keys in a very straightforward fashion. I guess I “could” just give them to you, but to do so may hold little meaning for you—as well as do you no real good. You would still have to trust “me” on what I say about these things unless you are familiar with these ancient languages and have access to them in Hebrew and Greek. These levels of meaning are very “fluid” so my interpretation would—by far—NOT be the “only” interpretation. I can, and will, give many examples as this discussion unfolds. So, I am being vague for a very specific reason and I realize this can give rise to suspicion. I am not boasting of having possession of these keys—most all of the ones that I know of are available in books that you can purchase on amazon.com. I do, however, feel a great responsibility for the information that I personally discuss and give out. I do not know the level of understanding for those who may read these posts, and while I can discuss some of these keys, others will require preparatory work that I am not sure will ever be accomplished here. There is A LOT to this. It is NOT simple. We are all very spoiled and usually enjoy instant gratification, but in this it will take time and a great deal of study. It has taken me 10 years to learn what I do know.
I will start off by giving you some ancient background and academic backup for that background. The footnotes will provide you with a few of the major texts if you want to eventually purchase them. (BTW: I certainly understand having a long “wish list” of books! I have however, been blessed to have access to a major university library that is well-stocked with many of the necessary texts. I will be glad to share with you what I have found in these texts as we go along.)
Okay…we must first go to the Middle Ages to find one of the major keys. In the late thirteenth century c.e, Rabbi Moses de Leon, believed to be the author of the well-known mystical Zohar
, also wrote a now lost work titled Pardes
, which literally means “paradise” or “orchard.”1
The title of this work hints at its acronym (PRDS), through which de Leon expounded four different levels of biblical interpretation: P for peshat2
, the plain meaning known to the masses, R for remez
, the allegorical level, D for derasha
, the Talmudic and Aggadic interpretation and S for sod
, or the mystical meaning. R. de Leon does so in reference to the famous Talmudic story of the four ancient rabbis that entered the pardes. The term ‘paradise’ is also used in and believed to be directly connected to Paul’s revealing statement of II Corinthians 12:2-4
which also implies an astral projection into the “third heaven.”3
This four-fold division is language-based mysticism and entering pardes therefore came to represent mystical speculations of the true meaning of Torah on all four of these levels of meaning.
Since we are all familiar enough with peshat
, let’s move on to remez
. This is the level of meaning that arises from symbols and metaphors found within scripture. The term “allegory” from the Greek allegoria
, means most simply “to say something other than what one seems to say.” In general, however, allegory must have a narrative dimension which serves to distinguish it from metaphor, simile, and allusion, all of which are actually tools of allegory.
First let’s look at a few examples of metaphorical meaning. In Sefer ha-Bahir
for instance, “sea” is a metaphor for Torah.4
On the level of remez when Moses parted the Sea of Reeds (The Red Sea) what he really did was “part” or “open-up” the Torah. At the opening up of the Torah, the Israelites were able to “pass through”—perhaps in understanding—and thus escape the ensuing Egyptians. When Moses then closed the waters on Pharaoh’s army, they were subsequently drowned—perhaps you could say—they were way “over their heads.” So, from the metaphorical meaning of “sea” as Torah, an allegory arises that only the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses, could truly understand the Torah. This seems rather simplistic doesn’t it?—well perhaps it is—but that is one of the esoteric meanings that has been safely preserved within the surface story of Moses and the Israelites sojourn into the wilderness.
Another example is found with the “food” and “eating” metaphors that abound throughout scripture. “Food” was considered the metaphor for knowledge in general, and specially prepared foods or sacred foods were “higher knowledge.” The word “eat” appears over 500 times in scripture. Many instances of “eating” and the ability to digest certain foods are clearly obscure references when read on the surface level of scripture alone. For example, there is the ever-popular example in Genesis about eating the fruit from the tree of good and evil. Many misconceptions have arisen from a literal interpretation of this one!![
] There is also the even more obscure references in Ezekiel. In just the first three chapters you can read of “eating scrolls” some of which were sweet and some of which bitter. And finally, from the NT, just in the Epistles of Paul, the subject of eating is referred to on many occasions. For example in Hebrews 5:11-6:3:
5:11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. 61Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so.
With some reflection, this eating metaphor would also extend to Jesus and the Eucharist (The Lord’s Supper.)
So, the four levels of meaning within scripture are ONE "key." Within this is the second level of meaning or “allegory” and one of its tools “metaphor” becomes another “key”--a key that communicates a myriad of esoteric messages. There are no doubt, hundreds if not thousands of these metaphors scattered throughout scripture. See, I told you it wasn’t so simple! And already, there are many people who may read just this one post, and potentially have a very hard time “swallowing” and “digesting” this information. So please understand why I insist upon proceeding slowly.[
1-Scholem, Gershom, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, pg. 57, and Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition, pg. 16.
2-According to Gershom Scholem, this designates the literal or simple meaning which is always preserved although made “transparent by the mystical light shining through it.” On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, pg. 56-57. This is the first way in which one comes to understand scripture, further explained that at this stage of understanding, the intellect is still undeveloped. See Idel, Moshe, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia, pg. 83. In the New Testament, Paul refers to this as the Letter of Law, as opposed to the Spirit of the Law. Paul further likens the Letter of the Law to a child’s mentality.
3-II Corinthians 12:2-4: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. 3And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- 4was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
4-Kaplan, Aryeh. The Bahir Illumination, pg.2. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1979.
[note to Mustardseed
: Isn’t it interesting that you said “…you then have the whole truth served as a fast food meal”
I will also address your questions tomorrow. I will have to consult my Greek Lexicon and think about this for a bit. I am also in the US and it is past my bedtime[|)]!!—((((yawn))))—so, I will get back to you soon!]
[portions of this post were extracted from Fire on the Water: Biblical Proper Name Exegesis and Language Based Mysticism
, Beth B. Phillips, Copyright 2003.]