image: Wikimedia commons (link).
As men and women in Great Britain go to the polls to vote on "Brexit" (the UK referendum on EU membership), consider the dream of Solomon recounted in I Kings chapter 3, in which the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream by night, and promises to Solomon the gift of "a wise and understanding heart" in response to Solomon's request for the ability "to discern between good and bad."
What a gift it would be, to always be able to discern rightly between good and bad, right and wrong, in any situation! Some situations seem to be almost impossible to know for sure which is good and which is bad, which is right and which is wrong -- and yet immediately after this vision of Solomon is related in I Kings 3, the scripture segues to a situation in which Solomon finds himself faced with just such a knotty problem requiring his judgment, and demonstrates an ability to almost instantly cut to the heart of the matter, and solve the dilemma.
The outcome of that famous encounter, known as the "Judgment of Solomon," caused all the people to say of the king that "the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment" (I Kings 3: 28). The episode itself, and the evidence that (like the other Star Myths of the world) it is based upon celestial metaphor, is discussed in this previous post and accompanying video.
The fact that this episode is a metaphor, based upon the stars, indicates that it is not intended to be understood as literal history involving an individual king who lived on earth in ancient times. If it were, then we would be correct in saying "Well, that was Solomon -- he received divine wisdom, which is great for him, but it doesn't really have that much to do with me." If the story is about a special king who lived in terrestrial history thousands of years ago, then the gift of understanding which he received cannot be expected to help us very much in sorting out difficult questions such as those we face every day.
However, if the story is celestial metaphor, which I believe that it can be shown to be, then we must ask what it is trying to tell us, if it is not actually telling us about a literal historical ancient personage who received a special gift of wisdom and once judged between two harlots in the case of a baby.
The answer is that the story is trying to tell us something about our own condition, here in the dual spiritual-material condition in which we find ourselves in this incarnate life. Among many other profound truths which this episode is intended to convey to our understanding is the message that this gift of "a wise and understanding heart" and the ability "to discern between good and bad" is not exclusive to Solomon: it is available to each of us.
And the scriptural passage is showing us that this understanding is available through connection with the divine realm, the infinite realm, the invisible realm which the ancient myths attempt to dramatize and make visible to us through the metaphors involving the starry realm of the heavens (the heavens being, in a very real sense, an infinite realm).
Solomon receives the gift of a wise and understanding heart when he is in the dream-state: and yet the encounter which follows demonstrates that the wisdom and understanding that he was given was very real, and applicable in the pressing decisions he faced every day. There are many ways in which we can have access to the invisible realm, and in which we can connect with the wisdom and understanding of what some traditions have called our Higher Self. Dreams and the dream-state are one of many ways in which we are able to do so: others include meditation, mantras, some forms of sacred song and chanting, drumming, disciplines such as Yoga and Tai Chi and Qigong, and many others.
The exchange between the Lord and Solomon in the dream state is extremely instructive. In I Kings 3 and verse 5, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream by night, and says to Solomon, "Ask what I shall give thee." Note that there are no boundaries to this offer: the infinite realm is a realm of infinite potentiality.
Solomon then replies that he is "but a little child," who knows not "how to go out or come in," and what is more that he is in the midst of "a great people that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude," and that because of this he asks for "an understanding heart to judge thy people" (I Kings 3: 7 - 9).
The next verses tell us that this request pleased the Lord, who tells Solomon:
"Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done so according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor" (I Kings 3: 11 - 13).
These verses, I think, teach us some extremely important lessons about accessing the divine realm. It is a realm of infinite potential, but it is not to be used for the purposes of self-enrichment, or selfish gain, or for inflicting harm upon one's enemies.
The Lord is pleased with Solomon's request because Solomon seeks wisdom and discernment between good and bad, for the purpose of helping others.
The passage shows us that the Lord granted Solomon this discernment and wisdom, and also gives Solomon some of what Solomon did not ask for, including riches and fame -- but these are "incidental" to the encounter, and not necessarily something that we should be worrying about: the purpose of seeking the wisdom available to us in the infinite realm is to help others, and to judge rightly between what is good and what is evil.
In his 1936 lecture, "The Stable and the Manger," which I have cited many times in previous posts, Alvin Boyd Kuhn said:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. As such they would have little significance for mankind. They would be the experience of people not ourselves, and would not bear a relation to our life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring as a reality of the present in all lives. They mean nothing as outward events; but they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul. The Bible is the drama of our history here and now, and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it! The Bible is about the mystery of human life. Instead of relating to the incidents of a remote epoch in temporal history, it deals with the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth. 4
This means that the wisdom of Solomon, as incredible as it may seem, is available to you -- and that the scriptural passage is trying to tell that to you and to me. And it is for helping others and judging properly between right and wrong.