I think Charles & Myrtle Fillmore, founders of Unity, were right. They concluded that the Judeo-Christian Bible is something of a handbook for evolution (my word, not theirs). They concluded that the characters, the geographies, the narratives, even the animals – all speak to aspects of spiritual growth, unfoldment and development. But when I say, “I think the Fillmores were right,” it shouldn’t be heard as a brand of right that makes other wisdom teachings wrong.
Arrogance of that sort, perpetuated by religious people, is one of the foundational problems in today’s world. It’s the bad news, really, but it’s also the good news because if religious people started that destructive pattern, we, as spiritually-minded people can stop it. And we stop it every time we approach our planet’s spiritual paths and their peoples with curiosity and respect. We stop it every time we pick up a Book of Mormon, a Tao te Ching, a Bhagavad Gita, a Course in Miracles and have some good coffee with their people (well, probably water with the Mormons, tea with the Taoists and Kombucha with the rest, but you get my point).
So, when I say I think the Fillmores were right, it should be heard as a brand of right that expands so far as to include the timeless wisdom offered by Romeo and Juliet and The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit and A Star is Born (and yes, I realize I’ve somehow managed to insert Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga into a conversation about Moses and Jesus).
In this, I’ve come to consider that when we read the various contributions to the Judeo-Christian library (and that’s what the word “Bible” means, by the way), we begin to see patterns and I’ve come to entertain the possibility that one of those patterns is a strategy for hope.
Abraham, considered to be the first historical character in the Hebrew Bible, was told that he and Sara would have a child. The problem was that Abraham and Sara were too old. Now, lots and lots of people were too old in these stories. It was a storyteller’s mechanism designed to let the listener know that something special was underway. So, believing that Sara was too old to conceive a child, Abraham first fathered a child with Hagar, Sara’s handmaid. (And that child named Ishmael would become a patriarchal figure in Islam.)
So, what we have is something of a promise that seems to have been denied; a divine inspiration, if you will, that has reached an impasse of earthly impossibility.
Sara was too old to have a child, and yet Abraham did father a child with Sara. That child was called Isaac, and he would become a patriarchal figure in Judaism. (So yes, Islam and Judaism are cousins, if you will.)
Story 2: Isaac went on to father Jacob who went on to father twelve sons who would become leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob’s favorite was Joseph, a reality which destined Joseph for greatness; and a reality which found Joseph sold into slavery by jealous brothers. The brothers than told Jacob that Joseph had been killed.
Now, I want to apologize if that’s happened to any of you. I don’t mean to strike too close to home. I realize that being sold into slavery by eleven siblings can be a sensitive matter.
And yet again, what we have, you see, is something of a promise that seems to have been denied; a divine inspiration, if you will, that has reached an impasse of earthly impossibility.
As a slave in Egypt, Joseph was accused of inappropriate behavior by his owner’s wife and was put in prison. Even so, given his gifts as an interpreter of dreams, Joseph soon found himself counsel to the reigning Pharaoh in Egypt.
Having predicted a famine, he was charged with gathering and storing food, and when the famine came to pass, his brothers came from their home asking for help. But when they arrived, they no longer recognized Joseph, although he recognized them. And after some spirited trickery, Joseph revealed his identity to his family and they all settled in Egypt, effectively locating Israel in Egypt.
And finally, in what would become the core narrative of the Jewish tradition, Moses is a Hebrew born in Egypt. And simply by being born, he was condemned to death as were all Hebrew baby boys. And yes, there are many such parallels between the Moses narratives and the later Jesus narratives. So, doing what any parent would do, his mother sought to save him by placing him in a basket and floating him into the reeds along the river bank where he was rescued by the daughter of Pharaoh himself. Unknowingly, the princess enrolled the birth mother to help with her new baby. You couldn’t find better content in a soap opera.
As an adult, Moses witnessed an Egyptian soldier beating a Hebrew slave, and he was so incensed that he killed the soldier and he fled to Midian where he married the daughter of a wealthy herdsman. Later in life, our shepherd found himself at the proverbial burning bush from which God first revealed God’s name as the calling card Moses was to use in returning to Egypt to free his people from their enslavement. Following tense negotiations, a few plagues, numerous angels of death and some blood on door posts – his people were freed, only to be pursued by the Egyptian military. Ultimately, they found themselves stranded between an army and an ocean.
So, what we have, you see, is something of a promise that seems to have been denied; a divine inspiration, if you will, that has reached an impasse of earthly impossibility.
The Hebrews were stuck.
And yet, the Red Sea parted, allowing the emancipated slaves to pass and closing in over the pursuing Egyptians.
Now, I love our teaching. Our teaching would certainly say that you have some creative authority in the experience of your earthly incarnation. I believe this is far more in keeping with first-century Christianity and the centuries of wisdom teachings and philosophies which preceded it than with present-day Christianity. It seems that our western ancestors somehow lost this idea, and we inherited a belief that we are the hapless victims of a precocious, fickle male deity on a distant cloud who rewards some, punishes others and who could generally benefit from a good mood stabilizer.
Teachings such as ours have encouraged an evolution beyond this self-inflicted victimhood through a century or two of experimenting with matters such as spiritual healing and parking spaces. And I believe we continue in that evolution - into even sweeter realms of mystical authority (or into the awareness that Wisdom can use us, too).
So, first: None of these characters presumed to know the answer.
Abraham certainly didn’t look at his 91-year-old wife and say, “Yeah, I know you’re gonna have a baby.”
And Joseph certainly didn’t peer through his prison door and say, “Yeah, I’m gonna become the Pharaoh’s right-hand man.”
And Moses certainly didn’t look into the sea and say, “Yeah, we’re gonna move that water.”
None of these characters presumed to know the answer. And yet all of these characters displayed a remarkable loyalty to the next answer. Abraham bore a child with his handmaid. Joseph interpreted dreams for his captor. Moses waved his staff at the water.
All of these characters followed their next best ideas, you see, and it was from such a following that jaw-dropping results and mind-blowing opportunities and logic-bending solutions arose..
So yes, I believe we continue in that evolution - beyond matters such as spiritual healing and parking spaces (or beyond the awareness that we can use Wisdom) into even sweeter realms of mystical authority (or into the awareness that Wisdom can use us, too).
And like our characters, the seeming cost we have to pay is our egoic attachment to the form that higher possibility might take. The seeming cost we have to pay is our egoic attachment to bank accounts that have to grow a certain way and people who have to behave a certain way and things that have to happen a certain way.
But what we get for that seeming cost is jaw-dropping results and mind-blowing opportunities and logic-bending solutions. What you get for that seeming cost is a life of wonder that seems to happen more for you, than by you. What you get is a life of surprise and delight.
And second, let’s not overlook that it would have been tempting, given the statistics, for Abraham to give up. And it would have been tempting, given the circumstances, for Joseph to give up. And it would have been tempting, given the fears, for Moses to give up. It would have been tempting for these characters to have abandoned their next best ideas in despair.
The strategy offered by these stories is to reach beyond the temptations of statistics (of diagnosis and dollars and probabilities), and to give rise to your next best idea anyway; to reach beyond the temptations of circumstances (of crisis and injustices and inequities), and to give rise to your next best idea anyway; to reach beyond the temptations of the countless fears of today’s world and to give rise to your next best idea anyway.
The strategy offered by these stories is reach beyond all temptations of stagnation and to accept what your handmaid offers, to befriend your captor and to wave your staff. The strategy offered by these stories is to follow your next best idea, for it is only from such a following that jaw-dropping results and mind-blowing opportunities and logic-bending solutions can arise.
The strategy offered by these stories is for to you to reach beyond the temptations of stagnation and to stand in the energies of higher possibility where higher possibility can find you.