If the sacred scriptures of humanity are not intended to be understood literally, then trying to read and understand them literally might be expected to lead to some terrible errors, distortions, and even reversals of their actual intended message.
There is simply mountainous evidence which strongly suggests that the world's sacred traditions and ancient scriptures were actually not intended to be understood literally. This statement includes the scriptures which are included in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Saying that they were not intended to be understood literally should not be understood to imply that they do not contain profound teachings: on the contrary, the myths of the world (including those in the Bible) do indeed contain profound teachings -- but these teachings can actually be completely reversed if they are taken literally.
As Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote in Lost Light in 1940, "the sacred scriptures of the world are a thousand times more precious as myths than as alleged history" (24, italics in original).
An example of the way that the actual message can be turned around to mean the opposite by literal misinterpretation can be seen in what has happened to the message, which can be clearly shown to proceed from an allegorical and esoteric understanding of the world's "star myths," that each and every man and woman contains a divine spiritual element, which has been plunged into and nearly buried (or drowned) inside our physical, material body (please see discussions here and here).
This message is still taught in India, for example, and can be seen in the greeting "Namaste" or "Namaskaram," as discussed in the previous post entitled "Namaste and Amen." There, we explored the fairly indisputable teaching that the greeting "Namaste" conveys a meaning which can be expressed as "I bow to the divinity in you" or "the divine in me recognizes the divine in you."
In that post, we also explored the fascinating evidence which suggests that this concept was anciently present in the Biblical scriptures as well, for instance in the New Testament utterance of "Amen" or "Amen and Amen," a word which is strongly associated with the exact same hand gesture as that associated with "Namaste," and a word which can be demonstrated to relate to the ancient Egyptian concept of the hidden deity (Amun or Amen). We also saw that the ancient Greek author and philosopher Plutarch, who lived from about AD 45 to AD 120 in the Roman Empire, describes the same word "Amen" or "Amoun" as expressing the desire to make manifest the hidden God, and at the same time as being a common greeting for anyone: both of which concepts together can be seen to imply that greeting someone with "Amen" was at one time understood to mean much the same thing as greeting them with "Namaste" -- and understood as such in "the west."
However, the teaching that we must each search for and reawaken the divine in ourselves, while at the same time desiring to see the hidden divine in others shine forth as well, would be viewed very suspiciously by most representatives of literal Christianity, even to this day. In other words, those who interpret the scriptures literally have arrived at a conclusion which is almost the opposite conclusion as that articulated above and supported by a celestial, esoteric, and allegorical interpretation of the same scriptures: so opposite, in fact, that the teaching of the "hidden divinity within each man and woman" might be strongly condemned or even declared as heretical (even to the point of carrying severe sanctions in previous centuries).
Another example of the terrible misinterpretations which can arise from seeing the stories in the Old and New Testaments as literal history rather than as celestial metaphors designed to convey profound esoteric truths is the way that characters in the stories have been claimed to be the ancestors of historical peoples or groups -- and the way that this literalizing of the stories has been used to create divisions between the different supposed races or tribes or families of mankind.
There are many clear examples in the history of widespread teaching that some descendants of one or another scriptural character are either specially blessed or terribly cursed, and the use of these literal misinterpretations to support institutionalized racism or wars or enslavement or other criminal oppressions of one sort or another.
Fortunately, most of these overtly racist misinterpretations took place in previous centuries and are much less common today, and are even condemned by contemporary teachers who still believe the scriptures should primarily be understood and interpreted literally. But the fact remains that interpretations which see actual groups of living human beings as being descended from characters who may in fact be completely allegorical -- who may in fact be constellations in the night sky or planets in our solar system -- invite huge errors and conclusions which may in fact be completely the opposite from the intended allegorical message.
For example, even to this day, depictions of Adam and Eve might make some who look at those pictures wonder if Adam and Eve were members of one single "race" -- and in the past, some have taught that Adam and Eve were originally of one racial type but that God then cursed some of their descendants due to transgressions, based on literal readings of the stories of Cain and Abel (in which a curse or a "mark" is put onto Cain, in Genesis 4), or the story of Noah's sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth (in which a curse and a state of servitude is uttered against Ham's son Canaan, who is told he will be a "servant of servants" to Shem and Japheth, in Genesis 9).
These types of racist doctrines stemming from literalist misinterpretation can be demonstrated to have been used to garner support or suppress opposition to the establishment and continuation of racist forms of slavery and later segregation, for instance. And, while some proponents of literalist interpretations might argue that this type of racist teaching is a thing of the past, the literalist interpretation of the Adam and Eve story is still used to this day in some quarters to support the suppression of women's rights in relation to those of men.
I have also in my own lifetime heard some Bible teachers argue that Adam and Eve were probably "reddish" in skin tone, based upon the fact that the name Adam indicates the color red, and thus probably indicates that reddish clay was used in Adam's original creation -- and that based upon this, all the variations of skin color seen around the world probably stemmed from that original reddish hue.
But the stories in the sacred scriptures or traditions (whether they are scriptures preserved in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, or any of the other sacred traditions or writings of humanity from around the globe) should never be used to support or to excuse the violation of the inherent and inalienable rights of women versus men, or the inherent and inalienable rights of one group of the human family versus those of another, based upon the actions of some supposed progenitor such as Eve or Cain or Ham or Shem or Japheth or Canaan or Cush or any of the others.
As explained in The Undying Stars and in numerous previous blog posts on this subject, the ancient sacred stories of humanity are almost entirely built upon a common system of celestial metaphor, and they describe the motions of the sun, moon, stars, and visible planets -- not the actions of literal men and women on earth who then had offspring whom we can find on earth today.
As the image above declares, Adam and Eve can be shown to be personifications of the constellations Bootes and Virgo -- and the Serpent who deceives them in the Garden is Hydra, a celestial serpent nearby to Eve (Virgo). I explain the clear celestial connections in more detail in these "amateur videos" here and here which go into the Adam and Eve story (I'm just experimenting with those videos right now, and will work on creating videos of better quality and tempo in the future). I also discuss this particular scripture text in my recent interview on Gnostic Warrior Radio.
If Adam and Eve (and the Serpent) are actually in the stars, then the ancient texts which declare that we are all somehow "children" of Adam and Eve must be speaking in a metaphorical sense, and not a literal sense. It could be the metaphorical sense that we are all made up of elements which were once part of stars, as some cosmological models teach -- although I do not believe that this interpretation is actually the principle and most profound message that this story was intended to convey.
The teaching that all men and women are the children of stars who were "cast out" of the realm of Paradise -- just as the constellations Virgo and then Bootes are "cast out" of the starry sky when they sink down into the western horizon due to the rotation of the earth on its axis -- conveys the same message as that described above in the discussion of "Namaste and Amen." It is the message that every single man and woman in some sense came down here from the spirit realm, the realm of fire and air, the realm of the stars -- and is now temporarily plunged into a body of earth and water (the "clay" of which the texts tell us Adam was fashioned).
This is not a message that divides humanity: it should be a message that unites humanity. It should not be used to elevate any one group at the expense of another, including women or men (since both are equally shown to be -- metaphorically speaking -- stars who have plunged into the earth). In fact, it also includes the teaching that Adam and Eve's "eyes were opened" due to the action of the woman, which can be seen to be a shamanic message in that her action gave them a kind of spiritual sight, an ability to see beyond what can be seen with the natural senses -- an opening of the eyes beyond the physical act of seeing which they already possessed in the story, but which was then augmented by a spiritual "second sight."
However, the specific details of the story can be seen to derive directly from the actual organization of the constellations in the night sky: it is the Serpent who leads the Woman, and the Woman who leads the Man, due to the fact that the Serpent is to the west of (and thus crosses the sky ahead of) the Woman, and the Woman is to the west of the Man and so "leads him" as well due to the earth's rotation towards the east (causing all the celestial objects, including the stars but also the sun, to rise in the east and set in the west).
The Woman is the one who "plucks" the fruit, because she is the one with the outstretched arm (see the diagram above), and she is the one who then offers it to her husband by reason of the same outstretched arm.
No one is literally descended from Adam and Eve, if they are constellations in the sky. Thus, all the racist interpretations of past centuries, which posited that some members of the human family continue to resemble a literal Adam and Eve, while others have been "marked" or "cursed" or somehow made to look different because of sin or divine sanction, can be seen to be completely wrong and without a shred of textual support.
Similarly, it can be shown with abundant evidence that the Old Testament figure of Noah is closely connected with the zodiac figure of Aquarius (see the diagram below). The correspondences have been detailed at length by other researchers, and some of them are outlined in my book. The diagram below shows the stars of Aquarius, as outlined by the ever-helpful methodology of H. A. Rey.
One can immediately grasp that Noah, the character most closely associated with the Flood, might be related to the zodiac sign of the Water-Bearer. But there is also the idea that the constellation is pouring out water . . . or wine, and Noah is described in the Old Testament scriptures as the first to cultivate the grape for the purpose of making wine (see Genesis 9). If Noah is not a literal person but rather a constellation in the zodiac, then his three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth are presumably not intended to be understood as literal either -- and families of mankind cannot be said to descend directly (and literally) from any of them, any more than they can be said to descend directly and literally from Noah, or from Adam and Eve.
The ugly racist doctrines of previous centuries regarding a "Hamitic curse" or the identification of some men and women living on earth as members of the family of Ham (whose son was cursed by Noah and told he would serve Shem and Japheth) can thus be shown to be equally without support. Interpreting the ninth chapter of Genesis in a literal manner opens the door to all kinds of misinterpretations, but if Noah is seen to be Aquarius and the story seen to be a celestial allegory with a profound esoteric message that has nothing to do with a literal interpretation, then this enormous pitfall is avoided altogether.
The story upon which the curse of Ham is based, in Genesis 9 verses 20 through the end, involves Noah becoming drunk upon the wine that came from his cultivation of a vineyard after the Flood, and the somewhat mysterious verses that declare that "Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two bretheren without" (verse 22).
The scripture text itself does not tell us exactly what this might mean, but if we understand that it is celestial and metaphorical, one might look at the diagram below and suddenly perceive what this text is all about.
Once again, if the text is describing the details of the constellation Aquarius, then the entire literalist interpretation of the "curse of Ham" which has tragically been employed in past decades and past centuries to excuse, justify or condone all sorts of violations of human freedom and inherent rights, is shown to be without standing.
Once again, the argument that these scriptures are not intended to be understood literally does not mean that these scriptures were not intended to convey profound spiritual truths. The story that depicts all humanity as descending from figures who are actually in the stars, and who must "pass through" a watery Flood which surrounds them on all sides, contains many esoteric teachings regarding the nature of human existence in our incarnate bodies (which, we are often reminded, are seven-eigths water). The teachings we can extract from these scriptures apply to all incarnate men and women, and should be seen as unifying and ultimately as uplifting. Sadly, because it is based on a major error, the literalist approach has often extracted the exact opposite message from this particular chapter of Genesis: a message that divides the human family, and which has been used to oppress and to enslave, rather than to uplift and to liberate.
If the scriptures left to humanity, and which around the globe can all be shown to be based upon a common system of celestial metaphor, are not intended to be taken literally, then trying to interpret them literally can lead to some very grave mistakes. Some passages are perhaps more prone to yield heinous misinterpretations than others. However, when we see these scriptures for what they truly are, we can see that they often teach exactly the opposite of what they have in some cases been made to teach during previous centuries -- and that these teachings should unite the human family, refute racism and sexism, and point the way to greater consciousness and the recognition of the inner divinity in all men and women.