1.       Margaret Gayfer and Richard Stingle’s Notes for Frye’s Religious Knowledge Course, 1947–48

Course notes for twenty‑four lectures compiled by Margaret Gayfer from her class notes, incorporating some notes by Richard Stingle.  The notes are repetitive in places because they are assembled from two sets.  They also include some of Frye’s answers to questions, and his review of the previous week’s lecture.

Magraret Gayfer and Richard Stingle were members of what Frye said was the “most brilliant” class he ever taught (1947–48).  Gayfer became an editor for the International Council for Adult Education.  She is the author of The Multi-grade Classroom––Myth and Reality: A Canadian Study (1991), An Overview of Canadian Education (1991), and numerous other publications on adult education.  Richard Stingle, who did his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, taught English at the University of Western Ontario.

Lecture 1.  30 September 1947

The Bible is the grammar of Western civilization; it brings down an entire culture and civilization to us.  Christianity and Judaism represent the only religions which have a sacred scripture; both have tried to achieve a single, definitive scripture.

The Bible is unique in its symmetry.  It represents a vision of the whole of human life.  Its aesthetic beauties are accidental.  It contains transcendental genius and ridiculous genealogies side by side.  It is crude, shocking, funny.  The Bible has a beginning, middle, and an end.  In telling a single narrative from Creation to the Last Judgment, it takes an epic survey of time.  The Bible sees the whole of time as a category of time and as a thing separate from itself.  Time is seen in the perspective of eternity.  Jesus is the centre of the Bible.  Jesus and the Bible are identical.

The traditional approach to the Bible is synthetic, to see it as one work.  The modern approach is analytical and scholarly.  For Frye, the synthetic approach is the real approach to the Bible, to see it as a unity.  Several theological systems are based on the Bible and all claim to be equally correct.  All religions are on a level as far as moral doctrines are concerned; the moral loftiness of the Bible is accidental, like its aesthetic beauty.

The synthetic approach sees certain recurrent symbols in the Bible that form a single pattern of symbols.  The structure of the Bible is complicated and must be studied.  The original authorship is a very minor point.  The literary person can see lyrics, parables, letters, memoirs, and so on—literary forms that have been smothered by repeated editings.  The Bible is as much an edited book and its editorial processes must be regarded as inspired, too.  The whole Bible is the history of man’s loss of freedom and organization and how he got it back.

There are two kinds of symmetry.  One is chronological, seeing the Bible story of creation, etc., as a legendary and mythical story of the fortunes of the Jewish people from 2000 B.C. to 100 A.D. and the spread of the Christian Church.  (Some books are out of order.  John should be the opening book of the New Testament since it is the Christian statement of the opening of the Old Testament.)

The second is a kind of symmetry that does not correspond to the chronological pattern exactly.  The difference between time and false history doesn’t arise in the Bible.  The whole conception of true and false as we think of it is not dealt with in the Bible.  The fall of man and the apocalypse have nothing to do with history.  The Bible is not a straight line of chronology; its time is a circle.  The beginning and end are the same point.  You can’t “jimmy” Adam and Eve into ancient history.  The whole question of causation, order, purpose, etc., is not dealt with by the Bible.

Christianity clings to revelation, and the only practical way to do this is in a book.  All we know about God is in the Bible; there is no God in nature or “up there” in the sky.  The association of God and Man is the basis of Christianity.


Time and space are the categories of experience.  Historical studies deal with Time, and science with Space.

The primitive mind arrives at the religious experience early and a place is assigned to religious myths, so that God resides in various places.  In this way, religion reflects the society of the people.  Foresters and farmers have a particular god, for example.  The dying and revising god of the farmer reflects the pattern of the farming life.

When you get a Federal God, he is placed “up,” that is, in the sky, like Jehovah who is a mountain god.  All gods fall under the monarch of the sky, a god who is “up” on a mountain, either Sinai or Olympus.  This conception is seen in the theology of the Middle Ages in which God is “outside” the primum mobile.  In Dante, one goes through spheres “up” to God.  Although since Copernicus there is no “up” and “down” in the universe, the idea persists. However, in religion, space is vanished.  Heaven and Hell are not places.  Even after Copernicus, God is still enmeshed in time; He started it and it will end.  With Darwin, the lid blew off time; it has no beginning and no end.  To go back in time gets you no nearer to God, since God is banished from time.  The 19th‑ century deist position of the universe running according to a God who started things was blasted by Darwin.  Evolution showed that nature can create itself; there is no need for bringing in an outside God.

Time and space are indefinite and shapeless, and in that indefinite universe there is no God.  Time and space are categories of reality, and yet they are grotesquely unreal.  Time has three phases—past, present and future—all of which never exist.  The same is true of space.  Man has an “up” and a “down” category of experience and yet there is sometime in indefinite space which eliminates the idea of “up” and “down”.

Man operates with points of reference—time and space—which he calls real.  Time makes a distinction between Now and Then, even though neither of them can be proved as real.  Our conception of space turns on Here and There, which also do not exist.  “Here” in space and “Now” in time are the central points of man’s reference.  One of the functions of religion is a perspective of reality concerning these worlds.

Religion does not deal with time and space but with eternity and the infinite.  Eternity seems to be indefinite time; infinity seems to be indefinite space.  But this is not so; we are just confusing categories.  Eternity and infinity are concerned with the real Here and Now.  The religious perspective gets us clear of time and space to the point where you look down on both.

The Bible presents reality in eternal and infinite terms: time begins and ends as a circle.  The Last Judgment re-establishes the world as it was before Creation.  Time has a shape.  Space has a shape too, a beginning and end which are the same place.

The Creation myth shows the tendency in the human mind to look at the world as not being subject to time and space.  For most of us, Creation involves time.  Actually, Creation never happened in time.  Man’s mind is hunting for something central to hang on to.  The real Creation myth is one which defines the present and continuous relation of God to Man.  It happens in the real Here and Now.

“In the beginning” is right now.  God creates.  The Gospel story is not the biography of Jesus.  It doesn’t tell how Christ came but how he comes.  This is what always happens; this is the way redemption comes.  The apocalypse never happens in the future; it happens now within the individual soul.  The nature of religion is that it reveals something; it does not threaten man with something he cannot see.

“Metanioa” is the word for repentance, and it means “a leap of the mind.”  The Bible responds to the child’s request, “Tell me a story.”  The sophisticated mind wants an answer and will not relax and listen to the wisdom of simplicity.  Simplicity comes from a relaxation of the mind which enables you to say, “Well, why not?”  The parables are stories because the mind cannot take in abstract ideas.


The historical Jesus is not the basis of Christianity; the present Jesus is.  Historical legends are in the Bible because they represent something which is timeless.  There are no facts on the Bible, only truths.  God defined by man is but a shadow of the human mind.  It is like putting a corset on a finite thing; it won’t do.  The naive man thinks of two realities, subject and object.  The Wisdom Literature shows that both subject and object are unreal.  Reality is in the contrast between the two.

The usual primitive process is that natural forces become symbols.  This is a conception of personal gods which appear as natural objects although they are not identified with them.  To see God as the epiphany of nature is all through 19th‑century poetry.  But the quest for a God outside of man breaks down.  We must look for him inside. But, where is “inside”?

What it breaks down to is God versus nature, and yet, there is something called human nature.  Man is a natural being, and in the human mind there seems to be no eternal object or subject.  The usual notion of the soul is of a spirit, breath.  This is nonsense.  The Bible talks of a spiritual body.  Leviathan in the Bible is organized monstrosity.  He is surrounded by water.  The activity of salvation is drawing a fish out of water into the higher sphere of air.  In the New Testament, light and fire are presented as higher elements.

People talk of the tyranny of the past.  The Christian is delivered from time, but he is still involved in an irrevocable causation which makes every free moment done and accomplished without recall.  How much of man can be redeemed from that?  What about the Leviathan within us?

First, we must separate human nature and humanity.  In Adam all die; human nature always falls.  Christ becomes Man, but not human nature.  Not one person is with Jesus when he dies.  With Pilate, we all deny the possibility of the union of Christ and Man.  We either condemn Jesus or condone him.  Every man is Caiaphas and Pilate, who would not see God in Man.

“My river is my own” is the key to the Book of Job.  Leviathan is the king of “all the children of pride.”  He rules the world of humanity as well as of tyranny.  Every tyranny is the epiphany of Leviathan.

The fact of death is the fact of time.  The world of death is the world of human nature which proceeds in time to death.  There is no end to life for man but death; for natural man, that is.  To see the end of life as life means you are not talking about human nature but humanity.


The Word of God is in the Bible, the person of Christ, God’s power of creation.  In Genesis, it is the words God speaks that create; they are what Blake calls “the originals of creation.”  In the Gospel of John, “in the beginning was the Word,” which restates Creation.

If the central figure of Christianity is the God-Man, why isn’t the Bible merely the Gospels?  How can we make the same phrase apply to the Bible and to Christ?  The Bible is the revealed form of Christ.  The present Christ appears in the form of a book.  A real God must be anthropomorphic.  It is an anthropomorphic universe he created for Man.  God doesn’t create Man and then think up a job for him.  Man is born into a pattern of what he shows forth.

Milton’s individuality is his poetry.  He is a man born to write poetry.  The part of Milton that survives is his book, as for all creative people.  The men themselves have disappeared into the unreality of the past.  Their ego has gone.  The book is not something salvaged from the life of the dead man.  It is something alive, not dead.  The revealed form of Milton is his book; nothing else in Milton’s life ever did exist.

The life of the Bible is in its contact with the reader.  It must be chewed and digested, an organic process.  After you have got to that point, then it doesn’t matter about the editing, the censorship.  The vision of the Bible in which you operate is your justification of faith.  The fulfillment of man’s being is an eternal progression open at the top.  The Protestant revolution affirmed the autonomy of the Word of God.  The church should never interfere with the contact of man with the Bible.  The variety of readers is not important, but the reading is; there is unity there.  The church is one Man, one unity; yet there are individuals within it.

Christianity adopts the Jewish idea of redemption but places it in the eternal present.

In the Bible, Egypt symbolizes the state of bondage into which man is born, while the Promised Land is the paradisal state of man.  The forty days in the wilderness ends the “legal” phase of Jesus’ life.  The law of Mount Sinai is the climax of the Hebrews’ forty years of wanderings.  The Sermon on the Mount is the climax of Jesus’ time in the wilderness and re-interprets the Ten Commandments.

During their wanderings in the desert, the Israelites were rebellious and God sent a serpent to bite them.  Moses intercedes, and puts up the Serpent of Brass on a pole and tells them look at it and be healed of the serpent’s bite.  The brazen serpent is the imprisoned sun on a dead tree.  This is the Crucifixion.

The New Testament tells us what the Old Testament means.  It is the consolidation of everything the Old Testament says about Jesus.  In the prophetic mind, the recognition of God-Man, the epiphany, is always present.  The apperception of this pattern is there in the Old Testament prophets.  The articulation comes in the New Testament with the Word of God.

The whole effort of education is to discover the simplicity that is always there.  First we must wander through the wilderness of sophistication, which is really the commonplace.  The child lives in a universe in which all things are possible; that is, God’s universe.  The child doesn’t leap over nature to get the transcendent but stays within his own experience.  Leap over yourself and get to God.  The simple transcends the commonplace.  Some fairy stories search the centre of experience and are myth, that is, they are true.  Once the myth is in your mind it matures and is never lost.

Lecture 2.  October 7, 1947

The writers of the Gospels were writing about Jesus, but they are not writing a biography.  The events are there because they fit the pattern of what the writer was trying to present.  The life of Jesus is the drama of spiritual Israel.  When we study the Bible we see that the Book of Isaiah are fragments pasted together and that a lot of editing has been done.  We cannot accept the Bible as the work of one man, but we can look at it as a complete book, a unity.  It has editorial unity, and this is true of the whole Bible.

The first part of the Bible is arranged by people influenced by the Prophets.  The opening books are later, written by men impressed by the earliest Prophets, such as Amos, in the 8th century.  The Exile took place around 586 B.C.  Before that, there were attempts to reform the early religion, such as taking old traditional laws and reforming religion according to the teaching of the Prophets.  Then you’d have the Law and the Prophets.

The Book of Laws is an attempt to reform religion according to the spirit of the Prophets that there is no God but our God.  The Prophets taught a historical dialectic and Genesis to Kings is written in this light.  The sanctity of the Law and the truth of the prophetic interpretation is their dialectic of history.  The Torah is the Law, the first five books.  The former prophets were historians, the latter were like Isaiah.

The Torah is the Jewish kernel of their Bible, and the Christian Gospels are the commentary on the Law.  The Law in the first five books has an elaborate ritual and ceremonial code, as well as the moral duties of the law and punishments, as in the Ten Commandments.

In a primitive society there is little distinction between moral and ceremonial law.  The framework of the narrative tells the story of the Hebrew people from the Creation to the entry into Canaan.  The kernel is the descent into Egypt and the deliverance into the Promised Land.  The narrative focuses on a different level: Abraham is the Hebrew tribe; Jacob is Israel.  Here we are dealing on a plane in which the nation is conceived as a single person.  The story of Jacob’s descent into Egypt is the story of the people.  It is based on historical reminiscence, but we don’t know what.  However, we needn’t worry about it as history, but look at it as a single pattern.

The Israelites go down into bondage, a kingdom of darkness, another fall, of Israel.  The plague of darkness is the most deeply symbolic.  The dream of the Promised Land is the Garden from which man fell.  The leader, Moses (Son), leads them through the wilderness to the boundary of the Promised Land. But Moses does not conquer it; that is reserved for Joshua, whose name means Jesus.  Israel was guided through the wilderness of the dead world by the power of the Law and a man names Jesus began the assault on the Promised Land.

The Exodus is the central story of Israel.  Here you get Joseph, one of the twelve brothers who goes to Egypt. There is a cruel king, a massacre of the firstborn.  Then comes deliverance by Moses (son), the Exodus, the crossing of the water, the Red Sea, the forty years in the wilderness.  The New Testament parallel is Jesus, Egypt, a cruel king, leaves Egypt, twelve followers, baptism in Jordan, forty days in the wilderness.  Moses is the law, so he can’t enter the Promised Land, but Joshua (Jesus) does.  The Annunciation in the New Testament is the annunciation that the assault on the Promised Land has begun.  Egypt is the fallen world, the Promised Land is the Kingdom of God.

The symbol and allegory of the Old Testament become reality in the New Testament.

Old Testament New Testament

Manna                           Bread of life

Water out of the rock    Water of life

Serpent of brass                        Crucifixion

Promised Land              Resurrection

(Joshua)                         (Jesus)

The Gospels are indifferent to proof, historical proof.  The people who saw Jesus’ life are a mixed bunch.  They are not concerned with how He came but with how He comes. This is what always happens.

Lecture 3.  October 14, 1947

There is a historical background to the Bible, but what is important is the imaginative ordering of the events.

Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 715 B.C.  David and Solomon illustrate a brief interval of prosperity.  The Kingdom of Judea struggled on longer because Assyria (Nineveh) was destroyed.  The Chaldeans come into prominence with the Babylonian captivity.  The Jews in Babylon kept their own religion, literature, pedigree.  The fall of Jerusalem consolidated them spiritually and nationally.

Then came the Medes and Persians, especially the latter, which took over.  The Persian Empire was organized under Cyrus, who became the pattern of the Great King.  He had a different policy and let the Jews keep their religious traditions and allowed them to return.  Nehemiah describes the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Cyrus cleaned up on Croesus and got all of Asia Minor.  Darius I was the great organizer and Xerxes carried on the conquest of Greece.  The Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander in the 4th century B.C.  The Greeks enter oriental history in migratory droves.  The Philistines were Aryan and closely related to the Greeks.  For example, Goliath is described as “gigantic.”

At the time of Alexander’s empire, Palestine was ruled by Selecus and Egypt by Ptolemy.  These dynasties became absorbed into the country; Selcia became Syria.  The tolerant policy was succeeded by attempts to force the Jews to abandon their religion.

At the time of the Maccabean rebellion, the third brother, Julius, was the field commander, and his success was consolidated by Simon.  This independence gave them a small period of prosperity because the Romans had not penetrated that far.  The rebellion lived on; people looked for a Messiah to deliver them.  This was not very long before Jesus’ time.  The Maccabean period saw the consolidation of Jewish literature, and the patriotic party of the Pharisees was formed.

The Romans expanded under Pompey.  Octavius became the first emperor and Jesus was born during his reign.  The Romans became more intolerant; they couldn’t stand the Jews and, therefore, the Christians.  In 71 A.D. Titus wiped out Jerusalem and Hadrian completed the process that made the Jews a wandering people.  They embarked on a new Babylonian captivity in which Babylon is the whole world.

We must see that the history of the Bible is a mental life, like a child’s memory.  Other events become superimposed upon another.  For example, for the Hebrews, the Egyptian and the Babylonia captivity become one.  Jerusalem is a squalid little town; its magnificence is in the mind.

History is not important, but the imaginative pattern is.  The Jews are an oppressed people; therefore their imaginative pattern is greater.  The Celtic imagination, for example, creates gigantic heroes, magic, enchantment, a super-nation idea to compensate for being oppressed.  This leads to imaginative literature.  In the USA, you get a historical sense of fact.  What persists are not tall tales, like Paul Bunyan stories, but stories about Washington and Lincoln.  America is a successful nation and therefore needs no compensating imaginative history.

Lectures 4 and 5.  October 21 and 28, 1947

In dealing with mental truth we must detach “truth” from the Bible as it is known in history and science.  The first fact we are aware of is that we live on a flat surface and the sun rises and sets.  Then, by explanation, we know it is an illusion.  But the fact of experience is still real.  The truth as it appears in the Bible is like the truth of that fact of experience.  The accuracy of history in the Bible is in inverse proportion to its spiritual value.

In the Old Testament we see a chasm opening between two types of minds.  One type sees experience in historical terms, and the other, the prophetic mind, transforms human reminiscence into drama.  The shape and form of that story becomes a parable.  A cleavage emerges between the literal and the spiritual comprehension.  The literal acceptance survives in Judaism and represents a type of attitude that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees.  The Gospels bring the spiritual approach.


Ritual is the act, the thing done.  Myth is the Word, the revelation, the scripture, the story of how this came to be; that is, what is said in the Bible.  Ritual comes earlier because the act must precede its explanation.  Myth is the explanation of the ritual. The Bible is a gigantic myth, a mythic account of human life. It is definitive myth which gets everything in and consolidates all mythic tales of any significance.

What ritual is the myth explaining?  The ritual of human sacrifice.  This must be dug out of the Bible because it is clear only in myth.  Much editing has covered up this human sacrifice ritual and it survives only in odd and lurid passages in Judges, etc.

All myths do not explain a ritual.  The explanation of customs of various tribes have mythical explanations.  The anthropologist is looking for different explanations because a different conception of myth is necessary to him.  Myths deal with gods.

God is the God of Christians; god is a supernatural being.

All products of human civilization are products of myths; they are attempts to reflect on life.  Man doesn’t evolve; he resists evolution.  The development of consciousness is an evolution of mental form.  Evolution takes place in time, while consciousness looks back at time.  Myth is word, idea.

Natural              Human

Ritual                Myth

Act                    Word

Will                   Idea

Monoloty is the stage of religious statement in which the Hebrews say “Jehovah is our God.”  It is not polytheistic nor monotheism, but a kind of halfway house.  Other people have gods and each god chosen is a war-god––“my god can lick your god,” which means no tolerance of someone else’s god.

Monotheism is when our god becomes the only true god, the only possible God.  This represents the advance of civilization.

Polytheism: Man never assumes he is the greatest thing in the world.  He is a natural being among nature.  God here is seen as unknown, which means we separate him from the known, that is, from nature.  To make god knowable, he must combine subject and object, human nature and the forces of nature. There becomes a god for each natural phenomenon; the god humanizes the natural force of the storm, for example.

Man never forgets the circumscribed nature of his power.  He can use his intelligence to harness natural animals but he never forgets the power in nature.  He knows it is nonetheless powerful for being stupid.  Man creates God in his own image because he exists in a split world of weak intelligence versus powerful natura.  Therefore, God has intelligence and power.


subject             object

known               unknown

man                   nature

intelligence        power

creator               creation

myth                  ritual

word                  act

We must approach God through the left side . . . .  To look for God in nature, you stupefy God, you get a brutal God.  There is a kind of stupefied sense of justice in nature, one of natural consequences.  In nature you see an order and a form, cause and effect.  Science tries to see how cause follows effect, to make nature predictable.  Once power is predictable, intelligence subdues it.  The ultimate aim of science (which is the application of intelligence to nature) is prophetic: science judges truth by predictability.  It is true because it will work.  Science stops before mystery before what it cannot predict.

The prophet in the Bible is dealing with human life which is unpredictable.  He doesn’t tell the future of man’s behaviour and life.  If that is true, science can reach it.  When you look for God in man you see lack of power, the babe in the manger.  Intelligence is vital, alive, but weak.  Intelligence makes form out of chaos, but it is not a thing that is measurable.  We also use the term “intelligence” in the sense of knowledge, which is the accumulation of comparative judgments.

The true God is the creator God.  The deepest intuition of religion is that God must come out of the human side, not the natural side.  You can’t approach God as a creator of nature, although He did create it.  The God of creation, of unknowable power, is a god of superstition.  God as creator, as Son of Man, is true Christianity.  Ritual comes from man in nature. Myth is concerned with stories of God.  The Bible works along the line of myth, creator, intelligence.  There is value in understanding that God is a person, has a sense of humor, loves children, prefers mildness to cruelty, and in understanding that there is an evil in nature that God loathes.  He is not a lazy pantheistic god who has his own way.  He has enemies to fight.

(Example of ritual act and myth.  Judges II, Chap. 30, the rash vow which is followed by the ritual act; the four-day feast of lament is a mythical explanation.  The ritual is growing out of human sacrifice.  The God to whom Jephthah sacrifices is a much cruder God.)

Faith is not the uncritical acceptance of what is rationally absurd.  Faith is associated with doubt.  There are no limits to human comprehension.  The sceptics set limits to the possibilities of knowledge.  The same is true of a religion that says the Will of God is already completely known.  Myth does not limit; it suggests infinite meanings.


Primitive man contrasts himself with what is outside him.  He knows he is inferior to nature.  The contrast between the human world and the world “out there” is the beginning of religious experience.  The more conscious man is of himself, the more marked the contrast is.  The original impulse to postulate god or gods is to complement man’s weakness.  But the farther we go from man the more stupid nature is.

Freedom                        Death, hell, bondage

Intelligence                   Stupidity

Consciousness               Unconsciousness

Morality (conscious       Indifference

fabrication of a

social unit)

Weakness                      Power

Form                             Monstrousness

Conventional Christianity begins with strength—God the Father, etc.  Christianity starts with intelligent consciousness and moral weakness—the child in the manger.  God the Almighty has been annexed to Christianity.  The Christian instinct is that one finds God in Man, not in nature.  Religion then becomes polarized between a monster and the tamer of the dragon—Leviathan and the Messiah.  The Messiah is the God-Man who grows in power and kills the dragon.  He is also the tamer of chaos.

Man seeks a state of freedom.  As long as he is in the natural world, he in bondage to its power.  The Messiah then, frees man.  The fight between the giants and the gods in the Elder Edda saga, for example, suddenly ends and you wake up and find yourself in a garden.  The human mind can wake up from the nightmare.  The original sin is the fact that man is born into a stupid, unconscious world.  The natural within man drags him down to the level of nature.  The human deliverer is to overcome the stupidity of nature.

Nature has an order, a cyclic movement of natural law, repetitive and predictable.  Science predicts what nature will do.  The arts are divided into the arts of rhythm and pattern.  The basis of human effort is the conception of predictable pattern of energy.  In the cyclic movement, light and life conquer death.  The sun fights the powers of darkness, the young, divine hero battles the dragon of death and darkness; he is swallowed but coughed up again.

The religious experience is crystallized in the dragon-killing myth.  The Saviour withdraws man from the dragon so that he can see that the dragon is not alive after all.  The rhythm of the seasons shows that life goes underground in winter, as in the Greek myth of Persephone.  The power of the seed, of life, is imprisoned for half the year and returns in a cyclic victory.  Human life has its analogy.  Beyond man are civilizations that rise and collapse.  The Israelites see the Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians come and go.  The cyclic movement of history is strong.

The divine deliverer is like the sun, the spring, and the national hero.  A definitive myth about such a man will include these symbols.  He is born at the solstice when the sun is weak; he is swallowed and coughed up; dies and revives in the spring.  He has the same qualities of the national hero and will deliver the Israelites from Rome.  He will suffer and die and his triumph is not simply killing the dragon, but his death will defeat the dragon.  When you focus on the defeated deliverer, you get the dead sun pinned to a dead tree, mocked as a national hero.  Yet this is the reverse of the real situation.  The image of the dead hero is turned inside out—the physical defeat is eternal victory.

This intuition of the divine deliverer is seen in the prophets.  Amos teaches of a God who has human qualities, plus more: justice and spiritual balance.  Hosea tells of a God who is concerned with man (Israel), a God who is willing to help Israel indefinitely, no matter if the people do go wrong.  The exile supplies the key to this problem.  The exile is the dawning of the conception that the deliverer cannot come from somewhere else; he must be Israel and go through the same suffering.

Lecture 6.  November 14, 1947

There are three periods to the Hebrew religion:  Pre-prophetic, prophetic, post-prophetic or priestly.

The pre-prophetic is a mixed cult.  The pre-exilic prophets—Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah—represent a spiritual awakening in history.  It might be part of the general movement of Zoroaster whose teaching affected the life of the Hebrews.  The prophetic follows the worship of Jehovah.  The post-prophetic (priestly) is the legalizing of Jehovah.  This period is Judaism, the founding of the second temple, the synagogue, the Pharisees, and an organized cult.

*       *     *

Amos is one of the earliest prophets.  Genesis and Kings II have four or five main documents showing the people affected by prophetic teaching.  There is no “pure” pre-prophetic phase.  First there was YHVH (Yahveh) which became Jehovah, the tribal, ancestral God of the Hebrews.  This is what the prophets preached.  The pre-prophetic religion which the prophets attacked as not “pure”: that is, it had a mixture of other gods.  The mixing of cults was wrong, and the wrongness hinged on the ritual and the ceremony.


One Leader                          Tyranny                                 Human                  Community                   One human body

Serpent                                  Beasts of prey                       Animal                   Domestication              One lamb

(flock of sheep)

Dead tree                              Wilderness                            Vegetable              Cultivation (garden)     One tree

Stone                                      Ruin                                       Organization        City                                   One stone                                                                                                                                                                             (cornerstone)

The prophets emphasized doctrine and teaching.  Judaism, or the priestly period, was the synthesis of religious doctrine with the prophetic teaching.  The prophets were actuated by a feeling of moral evil on the part of any mixed cult.


Palestine is an agricultural country, a land flowing with milk and honey.  Its chief products are grain, wine, oil.  Before that, the people were nomads with their herds.  The tradition is that the Hebrews were not always farmers.  They learned it from the surrounding people.  For the nomads, the sun is a destroyer and the moon is a friend.  The word for moon is halle = hallelujah.  The nomads were not interested in rain and nature.  Abel is the idealized shepherd but the real shepherd is descended from Cain, whose name means smith, artificer.  Cain founded the first city.

Reflected in this nomad-farmer background we see the steady expansion of civilization from farm to city.  Every time this happens, the land of the nomads has been cut off—by barbarians, Tartars, Huns, and so on, which inspires panic.  We see it in American western stories of the ranger menaced by the city slicker.

Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, but the bloodless one of Cain was not accepted.  There is the paradox of the killing of Abel.  It is the death of humankind and marks war as a state of existence, springing from Cain, the artificer of the ploughshare and the sword.

In the story of Isaac and Abraham (Chapter 22), we see God accepting animal sacrifice still, but he doesn’t like human sacrifice.  The Canaanites practised it, and the characteristic of the Kings Who Went Wrong is that they practised the rites of the kings about them, human sacrifice.  Ahaz was influenced by the Israelites in this respect.

Connected with sacrifice is the idea of transference of power.  The king is the reservoir of force, like a charge of electricity.  The more he is a reservoir of power the more fragile he becomes, the more enmeshed he is in taboos.  When he is killed you’ll feel something pretty terrific.  This electric energy must go into the tribe, so they drink his blood and eat his flesh.

Human sacrifice is also a communion.  The body of the king becomes the body of the tribe; the social body is the incarnate leader.  The king’s successor gets his share; he is smeared with fat, the anointed one.  In the art form of tragedy, the king is killed on stage and his body and blood pass into the audience.  That is catharsis.

However, a society so organized is not that stable.  Some modifications came in with the idea of substitution, his own son or his wife.  The king must die at the height of his power, about age thirty.  The substitute king can be a captive from another tribe who may be made mock king for a while.  It varies in tribes; he can be the buffoon or like the king.  Christ has both the triumphal ride and the mockery.  Sometimes it was the sacrifice of the king’s son or mock-son.  For the Canaanites, it was the son.

To a farming community, the king is solidarity.  This is different from the solidarity of a nomad tribe.  The centre of gravity in the farming community is in the land and its fertility, the harvest.  Their king would be the harvest and the vintage, the bread and the wine.  The God of farmland incorporates the forces of nature and the fertility of the crops.  He sums up literally the social solidarity which is the wine and grain as his blood and body.  It is not symbolic here.  The tribe still has the leader who is their blood and body.

Human sacrifice is not a bribe in this sense, but a communion with a god incarnate in a man.  The original victim was a god-man; then came a substitute.  The victim of the sacrifice would have more than human quality as the son of the god.  There are rituals that are bribery to some demon in the sky.  But the true religious impulse doesn’t think of God as separate but as incarnate in a man.

Lecture 7.  November 18, 1947

For farming people the sacrifice was concerned with the cycle of crops.  First it was the pastoral, hunting age of existence, the Stone Age.  It was followed by farming, the new Stone Age. To tell this story, the Bible gives us Cain and Abel, the pastoralist and the farmer.  The Bible deals symbolically with what we have dealt with historically.  From the tillers of the soil come the village, the city—the move from stone to bronze to iron.

Out of the unity of social interests comes the unity of religion.  Judaism and Christianity evolve out of a Mediterranean culture and religion.  Palestine would be less independent than any other country because it is at the crossroads of the world.  To expect a unique experience in Palestine would be like expecting New York to be invaded by wild Indians.

Much of the pre-prophetic religion is obliterated because the Old Testament is founded on prophetic writings.  Solomon’s temple shows a generous mixing up of religious influences.  His successors show that every king who Does Right keeps to Jehovah and every king who Does Wrong mixes cults, which include Moloch.  There are hints of pre-prophetic religion in the story of Jephthah’s daughter, and at the end of Judges are queer stories of an abominated religion.

Samuel Book II, Chap. 21, describes an oracle system. When the famine comes one consults the oracle.  David inquires because he is the king and therefore responsible for the famine as the principle of fertility in the society.  It is a private prayer, but really an oracle.  There is a feeling of divine vengeance for some crime, as in Greek tragedy.  Because crime is unnatural, nature must right herself.  It is the act of treachery of Saul that causes the sin that caused the famine.  However, Jonathon’s son is spared.

Ideas persist of a human sacrifice at harvest to right the famine.  The sacrifice originally is the tribe in communion as one man––through the one man who symbolizes the unity of the tribe.   They enter into communion as one body.  For the farmer, the blood becomes the vintage and the flesh the harvest. The man sacrificed becomes the regular recurrence of the cycle of nature as well as the unity of the tribe.  There is no symbolism here; they are the body and the blood.


The Israelite kings take on the symbolic attributes.  The Israelites do not have kings for a long time; there is a distrust of state religion.  The choosing of Saul is told twice in Samuel I, from the side of supporters and from the opposition side.  The Israelites are aware of the lurking danger in the conception of a divine man, of the idolatry which is associated with the king.  Saul is the biggest man in Israel.  He is a great tragic figure, like Achilles sulking in his tent.

David is the symbol of what a king is.  The Judaic phase of the Pharisees and Maccabean rebellion is the time when the Psalms were gathered.  The Psalms concentrate on the king, like King Arthur.  Solomon is the king of a united nation.  He and David are the Great Kings.  They represent a man of peace and a man of war, the wise and the valiant kingship.  There is a primitive idea in kingship that the king must humble himself and that any wrong to society must be his fault.  David must humble himself; the wrong is his fault.  In the Psalms, the cult of the king is so symbolic that the historical David has little to do with it.  Psalms 2 and 110 show the cult of the divine king.

There are two interpretations of kingship and therefore there must be a showdown between the spiritual and the physical king.  In a monarchy, the literary king takes on qualities of a divine king, which will be interpreted in historical terms, e.g., the king will have the power to beat the Babylonians, etc.  The issue must be forced between the divine and the physical king. As long as you have the King, the Temple, and a symbolic God, you will have a King to whom all of these qualities are attached.

The showdown comes when a foreign enemy triumphs. (In the Aeneid, the defeat of the people means the defeat of the god that protects those people.)  To get past the idea of your God to the only possible God, the chosen Son and the Chosen People, you have to take a big step.

The Book of Lamentations is an elegiac poem on the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Chap. 19: the king is captured; he is their God and he’s done for and so are they.  From Jeremiah on, the issue is forced more and more between symbol and the realization that the king must be a universal spiritual force.

Trying to rebuild the Temple and the Monarchy in physical form is Judaism.  That was the atmosphere when Jesus began his work.  People were hanging on to the visible symbol and did not know what Jesus meant.  All their hopes were bound up with the Temple.  Jesus said, I will restore it in three days, meaning the temple of his body.  He is the man whose body is the whole people.  The real temple, therefore, is the body of God’s people.  The people are in the form of one man’s body.

This is the Old Testament idea of the doctrine of the divine man, the Son of God who is all his people in bodily form.  He is responsible for the calamities of the people.  The king takes upon himself the miseries of the people.  The idea of suffering is attached to the idea of the king; he is also put to death when his powers fail.

Lecture 8.  November 25, 1947

David and Solomon represent the focalizing of the symbolism of the king, the consolidation of religious and secular authority.  These men are important not so much as rulers as for the consolidating of religion.  David captures Jerusalem, the focus of political and religious aspiration.  But it is the same centralizing of something far more primitive.  It shows up in the Middle Ages in the person of the consolidating figure of the priest-king, the head of religion and state,

Samuel II, Chap. 6: David brings the ark to Jerusalem, the City of David.  Before Jerusalem was taken and the temple was established, the Israelites had a wandering temple, the Ark of God.  This Ark would be the thing that represents the protection of the Israelites by God.  When the Philistines captured the Ark of God, the Israelites knew they were licked.  Then they got it back.  A temple is built for the Ark.  The return of the Ark is told in Samuel, in which it is regarded as a sacred thing, as a reservoir of electric force.  David leads the dancing procession (verses 20-22).

The king who leads the service is also exposed to humiliation.  David is willing to accept this as part of kingship.  Verses 18-19: the entry of the Ark is signalled by a communion feast distributed by the king.  This is repeated in the feeding of the 5000, which is the prelude to the communion feast itself.  The conception of communion is still there.  True honour comes from the act of suffering and humiliation.  David is intimate with God, the chosen Son of God.  It doesn’t make him divine, though.  Psalm 45 shows the symbol of the king.

The city and the temple are seen as the only place were religion is.  God is only there.  The distinction between city and temple is dissolved until there is no distinction.  The king represents the people in a single human form as the elected Son of God.  David is the Son of God and, at the same time, all the Israelites are in the body of David.

The Songs of Solomon show the king in a real sense as the fertility of the land.  They have three meanings:

1.  A love song between two people of whom the man becomes Solomon; the male represents the king;

2.  The marriage of sun and earth, the awakening of fertility. Chap. 4: the king speaks. The woman is the land that comes awake with spring; she is black because she is the fruitful soil.  The male is Solomon who is all the people in one form; the woman becomes the man;

3. An allegory of the love of Christ for his Church.

Zechariah himself describes the rebuilding of the temple.  Verse 16 shows that the fertility of the land is bound up with observance of the cult.  This marks the passing of the farmers’ religion into the nomadic Israelite cult.  But with the king as the male and the land as the female, this allegory holds only as long as you believe in sympathetic magic.  All magic is founded on the fact that you can bring out an effect by imitating it.

The Israelites outgrew that stage.  They realize that God sends rain on the just and unjust alike.  They see that the laws of nature cannot be run that way.  This involves a shift of symbolism.  First you have the king and the people as one body (male) and the land as female.  This shifts to God as the male principle and the people and the land as female.  The people and the land are subordinate to God who is the real or active principle.  The king and the people do not produce the fertility; God does.

In the prophets, it is the people of Israel who are the bride, the faithful.  The unfaithful is the harlot.  In Christianity, God is Christ.  Later on, the people are not associated with the land anymore; they are the church; the body of God’s church are the people.

Among the prophets, you get Amos in the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century, then Hosea, first Isaiah, Micah.  This is the first of many attempts to reform the pre-prophetic religion, the law of God. They want to reform the cult.  This teaching continues to the fall of Jerusalem and Jeremiah.  In the 8th century they prophesied before the fall of the Northern Kingdom.  When Jerusalem fell, then the pre-exilic prophecy ended.  In the exilic period comes the hope of rebuilding, in Ezekiel and Isaiah II.  This is followed by the post-exilic prophets.

Lecture 9.  December 2, 1947

The king is regarded as the archetypal man in whom all the people who follow him find their own being.  This is based on the idea that man is part of a larger human being.  To see society as a larger self we must move from atomic individualism to some kind of abstract idea.  Man sees in society only himself and others like him, but knows there is more than must a mere aggregate of individuals.

“Body” and “being” are vague terms.  The essential thing is that society is seen as a human form, larger than the person. That’s what man expresses in the king—the larger body of society.  He picks out a concrete symbol to express that idea.  The king is an individual and. at the same time, the larger human being.  Cannibals express literally that they are members of a single human body.  There is a certain distrust of the king in the story of Saul; he is seen as something of an idol.

The Israelites saw in Egyptian culture the idolizing of the king.  Thus, deliverance from Egypt meant deliverance from the divine man, Pharaoh.  When the Israelites pick a king, it develops from the genuineness of kingship.  Instead of a physical idol, they saw the spiritual reality that the king symbolizes and that all subjects are united in a common human body.  David rejoices, repents of his sins, etc., because he is the King.  The individual worshipper says that David is myself, my larger human body in which I find myself.  David is the typical man; therefore, each worshipper goes through his emotions when he says his Psalms.

The idea of kingship carried with it one important factor: the King in the Old Testament is not divine. And yet, there is danger in an idol and a danger in making the spiritual abstract. The danger of idolatry must be faced.  The concrete symbol must be the king representing the larger human body; the concrete stands for the symbol and has to be the flesh incarnate.

The king is society incarnate in a man.  He is Israel incarnate because Israel is the larger human body of society.  The Bible doesn’t use abstract ideas.  It doesn’t use the term “society,” but Israel, or Jacob.  The king, therefore, is the Son of Israel, the incarnate form of Israel, the Son of Man.  Accepting the divine king in spiritual form is the consolidation of the symbol.  We see that the most primitive is often the form of the most highly developed.  The most crude form of the cannibal feast is the real form of the highest development at the other end.


Three ideas emerge, that of the King, Prophet and Priest.  In the pre-prophetic religion the Israelites took on the characteristics of other religions, namely the farming religion.  The common ancestral tradition was the nomad tribe with its own tribal God, Jehovah.  The prophets want to get rid of the agricultural accretions and go back to the pure religion of one God, the only God.  They idealize the nomadic stage of Israelite life, the patriarchal life, the pastoral life, the wandering free life, as opposed to that of the farmer.  Abel becomes the prototype of the original god, while Cain moves on to found cities.

The idealization of the pastoral life is one of the reign of peace.  But Abel was murdered.  Therefore, we must return to the shepherd’s life––the Lord is my Shepherd.  Farming is a curse—Adam had to till the ground.  The pastoral life is the only one of peace.  But man has gone on to the city stage.  If he gets back to the pastoral life, the experience he has gone through will still remain.  He will live in a city state, possess the tools of civilization, and not let them possess him.  This harks back to the old myth of the Golden Age.

It is important to remember that the prophets do not speak with their own words.  They speak with the voice of the current God.  The prophets become mediums.  This is most fully dealt with in Saul, which describes the whirling dervish stage.  Those qualities are not confined to the Israelites; Greek oracles spoke with the voice of the god.  The theory is that God has taken hold of the medium.

The prophets are oracles.  The oracle form is still there in the older prophets and this is particularly true of Isaiah.  It is easy to trace the Hebrew religion to the days when the king had prophets around him as oracles, such as at Ahab’s court.  But the oracle is no longer a man in a trance.  The Lord has taken possession of the whole man, his intelligence and his consciousness. Before Amos and Hosea, the prophet was a kind of magician.  Ezekiel is taken as the typical prophet in the Old Testament.  This is part of a pre-literary stage.  We are told stories about them; these early prophets are imbedded in history and religion.

Amos and Hosea are collected sayings of the king that make up the bedrock of Hebrew literature.  “Thus saith the Lord”––the meaning may be conscious or the prophet may be unconscious of a great deal of the meaning.  The prophet is like the artist: what he communicates is reserves of meaning of which he is completely unconscious.  It is impossible for the prophets to know fully the meaning of what they are saying.  The life of Jesus tells us what the prophets meant.

God takes possession of the prophet’s creative power. The prophet does not abandon his mind; he is in the fullest possession of his powers when inspired by God.  In the same way, the artist conceives of his work as something requiring all his faculties.  Yet he is not the source of his own energy.  The growth take place and yet it is in you.  The prophet wants his mind to be clear.  God doesn’t want to drink out of a dirty glass.  Milton thinks of himself as a spiritual athlete.  The Nazarites abstain because they have a job to do.

Lecture 10.  December 9, 1947

The key ideas are ritual and myth. The active side of religion is ritual, the ceremony, the religious act.  The myth side is the explanation of a ritual, the religious Word.

Ritual               Act                  Ceremony                    King

Myth                Word               Doctrine                      Prophet

The basis of ritual is sacrifice, and this goes back to the idea of the substitute for the human sacrifice.  The prophets come along with teaching so that the doctrine aspect is connected with the prophet.  The pre-prophetic is ritual dependent upon the king. Now, the symbol becomes interpreted in mythic terms through the prophet.


The Psalms are the doctrine of the king in prophetic language.  The prophets are concerned with the meaning of the ritual, an attempt to explain the true nature of the king.  The king is the visible symbol of the larger human body, “society.”  He is the social body united in one man.  At certain points, the prophets have a special authority to appoint kings or heirs apparent.

The original motive for sacrifice is that the king’s energy is that of the tribe.  In pre-exilic prophets you get the feeling that the old king is not good enough.  Isaiah is one prophet who has got beyond that mental tailspin.  For him the source of inspiration is consciousness; he is the trusted adviser of the king.  Mixed up with what he says is a criticism of what is going on in history.

Isaiah Chap. 6, v. 8:  “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?  Then said I, Here I am; send me.”  But no one wants to be a prophet.  Isaiah asks, How long will it be? It’s no fun.  In the same way, says Frye, the artist is wholly possessed by what he wants to say.  Genius has nothing to do with sanctity or with whether or not the artist is good or bad.  When he has genius, it possesses the whole of him and gives him the power to shape words as he wills.  Yet the work of art itself is taking form; the artist releases what is being created.  The sculptor sees the statue in the block of marble; it is not an act of will.  There are always times when the artist, the prophet, is saying more than he knows.

Isaiah 7: 10–12: Ahaz represents conventional piety. “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.”  This is the right answer, up to a point.  But Isaiah takes up the idea of the “great sign of the Lord thy God.”

Isaiah speaks of the arrival of some new form of life, Immanuel, God with us.  He speaks as if this is going to happen at once.  In Chapter 8, Isaiah begets a child, and in the next chapter the arrival of this new life inspires him to say what is over Ahaz’s head, and over the whole situation, too.  He talks of a new king on the throne of David.  He is talking about the real king here.  In Chap. 2 he talks of the “last days” and the spiritual king who will restore the age of paradise.  Still, there is not any doctrine here yet, which you could not match outside the Christian religion.

Micah makes the famous statement of the prophetic position against the sacrificial cult. Chap. 6, 6–8: the utter uselessness of ceremony in itself.  Even human sacrifice will not attract God’s attention.  There is the conception of the blood of a child as a redeeming scapegoat.

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  What does the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

In Chap. 6, Hosea speaks a message of forgiveness, of the restoration of Israel through the love of God. “Come, let us return to the Lord.”

The pre-exilic prophets have the inspiration of the prophet and speak with consciousness.  They condemn the moral evils of their community, the superstition, the mental attitude towards magic.  But Amos is concerned with the paradox of the relation of God to his people.  God has chosen one nation, and yet he is no respecter of persons.  Amos denounces the neighbouring nations, and the audience loves it.  He denounces Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and they still love it.  Then, he turns and denounces the Israelites with the same voice.  He acknowledges the uniformity of men, and yet retains the peculiar relation of God and Israel.  To begin with, Israel means the larger human body, the concrete symbol of which is the King of Israel.

The prophets are led from the contemporary situation and the feeling that their own country is exceptional to the conception of the King of Israel as the source of authority in Israel and of its health and improvement.  The prophets, therefore, become frank advisers of the king and will not flatter.  The feeling merges that only the king is authority and God works through him.  The pre-exilic prophets idealized the King of Israel as the Prince of Peace.

The paradox of a monotheistic state is seen in Amos where the hangover remains that God is concerned with the nation of Israel.  This creates a difficulty that is not cleared up until the later prophets.

Lecture 11.  December 16, 1947

After the Babylonian Captivity, prophecy is modulated to the themes of the invisible king, since the Jews could no longer have a visible symbol for a spiritual reality.  The ideal king may be eternal or an ideal to be re-established in the future. Two directions appear here.  The distinction is already present in the exilic prophets and is finally expressed in the conflict of Judaism, which stopped at the exilic age, and Christianity.

With the destruction of Jerusalem, Judaism had to become a permanent exile, completing the idea of the coming Messiah as established in the Captivity.  They rebuilt Jerusalem and staggered on, accepting the future Messiah bound up in time.  The second exile under the Romans completed the pattern of the coming Messiah.

The breakaway started as early as Jeremiah, the first of the exilic prophets, and is carried on in the prophets.  There is ambiguity in Isaiah II and in Ezekiel: they are read by both Christian and Jew.  The prophets speak of a deliverer who is to vanish and return, which could be interpreted as an eternally present fact or one in time.  The Jew and Christian both see it in the future, but it is the difference between resurrection and revival.  The Jews speak of a rebuilt Jerusalem, which the prophets did speak about, and perhaps that is all they thought they were talking about.  However, the conception of hope and confidence is connected with something that is symbolized in the future.

The pattern of exilic prophecy emphasizes that the city and the king have disappeared and must come again, symbolized by the future.  It is important to remember that the Hebrew language has no future tense.  It can differentiate between a complete and a progressive action, but not between the past, present and future. It is an admirable language for expressing a God in an eternally present existence; everything is complete in God’s mind at once,


From the exile on, we can separate two strands of thought.  We see this same split in Buddhism.  The Great Way: the Saviour of all time (China, Tibet, Japan), and the Lesser Way: the Messiah yet to come (Burma, Ceylon, Siam).

The Judaistic idea is one of a temporal deliverer, and this is still in the modern world, bound up with the future, anchored in time.  Hope in the future deliverer is a fascist belief in the divinely inspired leader.

The enrichment of the symbolism of the King brings out the latent qualities of the divine‑king superstition.  The symbolism includes suffering as an inevitable part of the king’s duty.  Their own last king was blinded and led into captivity.  The King must suffer even as the people suffer: this is a new feeling, that humiliation belongs to glory and kingship.  The idea that the king must die and revive comes out of the feeling that the Israelite kingdom has been sent into exile and will return to the rebuilt Jerusalem.

In speaking of the Messiah, the prophets enrich the meaning from the pre-exilic Prince of Peace to the Suffering King.  The heroic suffering of the Messiah is described in Isaiah 53: 6.

The King must exist on two levels.  He is the King of light and splendor who descends into the valley of the shadow of death and of lost directions.  Then he rises into his former state.  He must descend into the fallen world of nature in order to re-emerge as King again.  He is King of majesty, light, jewels, crowned with the Lord’s anointed, but he must also descend into the order of nature and follow its pattern of death and rebirth.

The Messiah is the visible embodiment of Israel.  He is the spiritual Israel, the larger human being in whom all the people find their existence.  When historians of the Bible go to work on the traditional legends, they see the drama of the descent and resurrection of Israel.

There are two leaders of the Exodus, Moses and Joshua.  One dies, the other carries on.  God commanded all Israel to leave Egypt, and the people die in the desert, but a new generation carries on.

All the prophets are concerned with the focus on one God, but not someone different from Jehovah.  The Messiah must be, in some strange way, Jehovah.  The prophets see the early history of Israel and thus mirror that pastoral state.  They see the traditional God when they were a wandering tribe when they worshipped only Jehovah.  They idealize that nomadic existence and the life of the patriarch and the paradisal state of Adam and Eve.

But revival is something different from a mere to return to pastoral simplicity.  There is something irrevocable about development: you can’t reverse time.  The real crisis of the Promised Land is the setting of the Ark in a settled place.  This marks a change from a pastoral state to a civilized one.  From then on, Israel is bound up with the idea of the city, as seen in David recapturing Jerusalem.  The Golden Age of the past is the garden.  The future is the city.  The pastoral element is there, but it will always be a city.  The Book of Job is the exception in that Job is merely restored to his former pastoral life.  In the story of Adam and Eve we are told that they lost the Tree of Life and the Water of Life.  The whole of the progression from darkness to light is found in all the prophets.

Psalm 23 is the idealization of the pastoral life, and then comes the valley of death.  God will descend from Eden with man to the valley of death.  Isaiah II: 54; the prophecy of the Messiah is associated with the return of life in the spring.  Verse 2 brings a new image of resurrection, the promise of the founding of a great building full of precious stones.

Chap. 54: 12: “And I will make thy windows of agate and thy gates of carbuncles and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”  Chap. 41: the rebuilt temple is accompanied by the release of the waters of life.  There is no more dead sea; the sea becomes a river.  Verse 18:  “I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

The last eight chapters of Ezekiel are about the restoration of the new city, the garden and the temple.  The symbol of restoration is the city (a collection of buildings) and a temple (a single building) merged into one building that is yet a group of buildings––a house of many mansions.  “Society” is also a collection of men and yet, somehow, one man.  The King is a collection of men, and yet one man.

Around this city is a garden, a river and the Tree of Life. The river is a circulation of water, but not a sea, the same as the bloodstream it’s a circulatory system.  The prophets are showing the city as the home of man and the temple as the home of God. The city and the temple are the same thing.  The home of man is his own body.  The home of God is God’s body.  The city is the body of God who is Man.  Our home is in the body of God who is Man, the God-Man. We live inside the body and the blood of God-Man. This theme is worked out fully in the Book of Revelation.

Lecture 12.  January 6, 1948


A distinction exists between two types of human beings: the hero and the prophet, and the relationship between them is of primacy importance.  In the hero, humanity has projected a symbol of physical man fighting the forces of the power of darkness.

The Bible contains all literary forms.  It is the super-epic and it deals with the act of the hero.  One of the key ideas is the struggle, with nature or with other men who symbolize the forces of nature.  The development is the great archetype of the hero’s struggle with darkness, such as the dragon, and the victory of light over darkness at every sunrise.  The solar symbolism here is exhaustive.

The Bible centres on a single heroic act: the struggle with darkness and the resultant victory.  In medieval sculpture Jesus is pictured as dragon killer.

The hero, or king, is not fully conscious of what he is doing.  The hero is illusive, inscrutable, and therefore commands loyalty.  Christ as the suffering hero has that illusive quality.  There is a feeling of the distant hero who proceeds to inevitable fate and triumph in the “heroic” Christ who says “touch me not.”  The hero is too preoccupied with his action to know what he is doing, like Achilles brooding in his tent.  The heroes are figures moving in a ritual, not in the myth, and they move with a silent and unconscious quality.

The other type is the prophet who, in a sense, is the opposite.  He has the disinterested view of humanity, and yet is articulate.  He is not known for physical perfectibility and is likely to be stunted or deformed.  He is the observer, the watcher, which the king is not.  The man who is both hero and prophet is such a schizophrenic that he can’t do anything.

The hero and the prophet are different.  The hero is the actor, the prophet is the articulate person who explains the myth.  The poet, then, is the prophet.

The hero is the centre of activity; the prophet is the circumference of activity—the whole range of experience is in his mind.  The hero is always “somebody else,” while the prophet is identical with ourselves because we have to go into his mind and make contact.  All through humanity, in practise the hero and the prophet are separate.  But ideally they are the same.  The hero’s inscrutability is because he knows what is going on.  The prophet must be able to practice what he preaches.

The priest is the intermediary, neither prophet nor hero.  He stands at the point at which the ritual and myth converge. The hero still triumphs but he will be killed.  The prophet will become articulate but never causes.  The poet who enters the social causal sequence contaminates himself.  It is the priest who understands the myth and who performs the ritual.  The thing done and the reason for it are understood by the priest.

The function of the hero is to die for his crusade, but it is not the function of the prophet to die unless he becomes the hero.  Christ takes on aspects of prophet and king, and also priest, in the sense that he is the intermediary between man who suffers and a Father God who does not cause, although He has total comprehension.

Man begins his life in this world as weak; intelligence is weak and power is stupid.  He tries to assign intelligence to the power around him.  He thinks that lightning must be the power of a god with man’s intelligence but with more power.

The function of art is to sharpen human imaginative conception of the world.  It is sharpened in epic, ballad forms which show the powers of darkness as dismal and stupid.  The epic deals with the heroic act, human versus nature; that is, the physical world which presents itself to man as something to be overcome.  Man tries to develop the garden out of the wilderness, a city out of rock and desert, a river out of the sea, form out of chaos.

Human                                    Natural

Garden                                    Wilderness

City                              Desert

River                            Sea

Intelligence                  Brutal power

Form                            Chaos

“Normal,” the norm    Monstrous: power and chaos

of existence, what

is true of oneself

In Exodus, the two great heroes, Moses and Joshua, are concerned with a heroic act. Moses is true to the epic hero who struggles against the wilderness and dies at the summit of his achievement.  The Promised Land is both city and garden.  The story behind this is that of Israel (a single man) versus a wilderness which can become the Promised Land.  When the prophets foretell of a prophet-king, they talk in terms of killing a dragon, Leviathan.  Isaiah 51: 9–10: the conquest of the sea is something which Isaiah takes us to.

Awake, awake, put on strength O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.

Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon? Art  thou not  it which hath dried the sea, and the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?

The dragon is a sea monster connected with the power of God which defeats the sea; he dries it up.  Jesus’ ability to command the sea and still the tempest is part of this.  Chap. 27: 1: “even Leviathan the crooked serpent . . . .”  On the day of crisis, God will kill the dragon.

Lecture 13.  January 13, 1948

Ritual embodies the ceremonial aspects of the law.  The teaching of Jesus is a commentary on the law. He transforms the action to the understanding of the action; that is, myth explains the ritual.  In the conception of ritual you act according to the law.  In this aspect, sin is a positive act of breaking the law.  But for the Gospel, law is the foundation of the human act, not the super–structure.  Sin is the failure to transmute the law into human life.  All theories of law, justice and judgment are expressed by Jesus in spiritual terms.  The Gospel is not a new law.

The law supposes a judge and a person as prisoner.  The Last Judgment is usually seen as God “up there” with the people below as sheep and goats.  But the sheep and goats are not human, and Jesus does not judge; he casts out devils, and the swine go over the cliff into the “deep,” which is the Hebrew word “tome,” meaning nothingness.  The arena of the Last Judgment is the human soul.  God enters into the human soul and with His help we cast out the goats, the devils within us,

The apocalypse of personality is God’s descent into the human soul.  The Gospel does not bring peace, but a sword.  It discriminates and divides.  It brings the principle of absolute separation of good and bad in the world.  The sheep are the pure, those who have used their talents.  The bad are those who have not used their talents, but have buried them.

The myth of the Gospel is the explanation of ceremonial cleanliness.  The white sheep are separated from the black goats, the light from the dark, the human from the monstrous.  The image

to sum up Jesus is the act of casting out devils, the forgiveness of sin.  The power of God descending into the human soul to cast out evil even as Jesus descended into the human and fallen world to cast out devils.  It happens in man.  It is the descent of divine power into man.  You cannot make a sheep out of a goat.  The sheep is a sheep no matter if it has strayed and been lost. Jesus will find the lost sheep.

Sin is the negative act which fundamentally does not exist since all action is positive and good.  The driving out of goats is driving “nothing” out to achieve the complete reality of unfallen man.  I know this sounds like a riddle, but play with it for a while . . . .

If casting out devils is the symbol of Jesus’ activity, then we see the relation between prophet and hero more clearly.  The prophet is the observer, the watcher, the interpreter of the hero’s action.  For the hero or king, what is the heroic act?

Fundamentally, it is the destruction of the powers of darkness.  The Gospel tells you the spiritual aspect of the physical act.  The religious experience is crystallized in the dragon-killing myth.

The Saviour withdraws man from the dragon so that he can see it is not alive after all.  The fairy tale of St. George and the dragon, or the Perseus and Andromache legend, are not just “stories.”  St. George is the symbol of the sun, of life, hence his colour is red.  The dragon and the old man are the same; winter, waste, sterility.  In medieval drama the old king is dressed up inside the dragon.  In most variations of this story there is a sinister old woman to balance off the young daughter.  In the same way, Perseus has to kill Medusa before he can get cracking on the dragon.


The power of darkness in the Bible is Leviathan, the dragon.  The Messiah is the dragon-killer.  The pure “nature” force in the dragon isn’t enough; the dragon is also an enemy.  In Ezekiel he is associated with the King of Tyre, a tyrant.  The hero’s army is of another tribe or nation or social group.  It can be an unrighteous nation of a city like Babylon or Tyre.  In Psalms 87 and 89, Leviathan is also called Rahab––“thou has broken Rahab in pieces.”

The dragon of folklore means the powers of chaos and waste.  The parable of “a certain young man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho” means he went down from the unfallen state to the fallen state because Rahab lives at Jericho.  Leviathan or Rahab means tyranny in some form.  The hero is fighting for liberty against tyranny.  It sounds phony, but it is something like that.  The activity of Jesus becomes the true form of the hero’s act; casting out devils equals the killing of the enemy of man.

Ezekiel 29: 3–4:

I am against thee, Pharaoh, King of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, my river is mine own and I have made it for myself.

But I have put hooks into thy jaws and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales and I will bring thee out of the midst of they rivers and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.

Chap. 32: 2 (of Pharaoh): “thou art as a whale in the sea.”

Psalm 74: 13–4:

Thou did not divide the sea by thy strength; thou brakest the heads of the dragon in the waters.

Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

Isaiah 27: 1:

In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent; even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.

In the Gospels, leviathan is the sea monster; but God can control the sea.  The hauling of leviathan out of the sea is important to the fishing symbolism in the Gospel.  Jesus is the fisher or men.  The fish are not in the sea by accident.  Leviathan is the sea. When he is drawn out, the sea no longer exists, only rivers circulating freely.

Lecture 14.  January 20, 1948

The word ritual begins to expand its meaning.  It begins to focus on certain symbols, for example, the killing of the dragon by the hero.  This is the essential theme of the epic.  It is given symbolic expression in the life of Jesus who embodies the character of hero and king.  The theme of the epic takes place in the individual soul.  The antagonists must be interpreted in a certain ways as chaos, sterility, wasteland, sea; that is, the unorganized aspect of nature.  Leviathan in the Bible takes the form of cosmological and political enemy.

The so-called “laws of nature” are sub-human; they are indifferent to the human and the conscious.  God is not in nature.  The order and precision of the stars is still sub-human; there is no conscious purpose of human qualities.  Man’s religious impulse is that he cannot worship a god who is no better than he is.  God in nature is subconscious and sub-human.  In human society, as man lives in nature, human civilization is in the grip of nature.

Psalm 87 contrasts the heavenly city with the earthly one.  Revelation 11 has the symbolism of two cities, and of the city or the temple, as well as the emphasis upon accurate measurements.  The city of God has shape; it is bounded and finite.  There is emphasis upon the indefiniteness of the “outer court” which is our world.  The two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophet.  Verse 7: “the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit.”  Verse 8: the great city is the fallen city of Jerusalem, also called Sodom and Egypt.  (“And their bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”)

Leviathan is that which binds man in the fallen state.  The earthly city is part of the body of Leviathan.  The doctrine of the two cities is the subject of St. Augustine’s book, and it also shows in the opposition of light and the power of darkness.  There is also the following contrast, in which the right‑hand side is the physical reflection of the spiritual side, as a type of parody.

Fertility                                                            Sterility

Form                                                    Amorphousness

Light                                                    Dark

Human body(individual or social)       Monster

Hero (Christ)                                       Dragon

Freedom                                              Tyranny

Human                                                            Nature

Hero (dragon-killer)                             Leviathan

Heavenly City                                      Earthly City

Water of Life                                       Water of death

Tree of Life                                         Tree of death

Temple of God                                    Heathen temple

Only in a state of nature is the power of darkness seen as continuous and fertile.  In the natural cycle the serpent symbol has its tail in its mouth—the circular or cyclic vision.  Jesus lifts light out of darkness, not just for one turn of the wheel of fate and nature, but eternally.

Resurrection                Renewal

Regeneration               Generation

The aim of the Bible is to sharpen the antithesis between these two sides.  Eternally there is a gulf between them; that is, between the state of heaven and of hell.  In the natural world we tend to think of ourselves as individuals locked up in ourselves.  With the co-operative act we are aware that there is something in humanity that is connectable.  Man is either part of the body of Christ or he is swallowed up in Leviathan; that is, a complete individualist.  Each of us is involved in dragon-killing; we kill the dragon or we are swallowed by him.


Jonah is swallowed and coughed up in three days.  This is like Jesus’ descent into hell for three days.  In the drama of the Middle Ages, hell is Leviathan, and Jesus walks into the monster and then comes out.  In doing that he repeats the rhythm of the human soul.  We are all born within Leviathan, within the order of nature.  One sees it in the North American legend of the sun being swallowed up by a monster every night.

The Book of Jonah is a grim business; it just misses being sardonic.  Jonah goes through an archetypal experience that is like The Tempest, which takes place under the sea.  Jonah has gone into a world of chaos and comes out of it.  But the experience of a thing does not give you knowledge of it.  Jonah is not changed when he comes out.  (Israel went through the same experience without knowing what it was about: Egypt is the monster and Israel escapes through the dry land in the Red Sea.)

Jonah comes out still an agent of the Law.  He denounced Nineveh and is annoyed when the people repent.  He wanted the wrath of God to destroy the city.  He believed in prophecy as foretelling the future.  It failed in that, but it filled the other prophetic role.  Jonah gets coughed out of the whale as soon as he realizes he is in there.  Once you realize you are in hell you are no longer wholly there.

Jonah talks back to God. The humour of Jonah and the pattern is repeated in Job, which is also one of the greatest comedies of the world.  The suggestion is there of suffering, doubt, despair, but no tragedy.  It belongs to Shakespeare’s maturer comedies like The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale, not to King Lear or Macbeth. The mature comedies have a sardonic bite that is lacking in the earlier ones.  He has gone through the tragic phase of death and emerges with a comedy which takes tragedy in its stride.  There is tragedy within comedy.  Tragedy deals with the tragedy of suffering and death, while comedy hinges on the comedy of life, which includes death.

Lecture 15.  January 27, 1948


The whole meaning of this book is complicated.  It is completely a work of literary art, and affords the guarantee that, for the Bible, the use of the poetic imagination is legitimate and essential.  It is akin to literary forms we meet elsewhere.  The original of epics and sagas are all there in the Bible, but they have been incorporated into something else.  Only the forms that are on the more remote side, such as letters, memoirs, have continued as definite forms.

Job seems unconnected with anything else in the Bible, except in tone.  It was probably subject to an editing process.  But the editing, as well as the writing, is inspired.  It is a fairly late book.

Shakespeare’s comedies start out as light, urbane, sophisticated romance, like Twelfth Night, which has a lilt to it, and we enter into a carnival world where frustrations have disappeared.  The later comedies have elements which disrupt the feeling of pleasantness.  The Merchant of Venice is practically a tragedy.  Shylock disturbs us, and the metallic quality of the imagery effects the whole tone.  Then his comedy digs more deeply into the tragedy of life.  The sense of escape, of the fairy world, fades out.  All’s Well That Ends Well has an ironic title.  Falstaff is an ambiguous character; he is not a figure of fun; the tragic and the comic are rooted in him.  The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest have serenity and repose.

Job is a tough piece of work.  The last chapter has the feeling of comic resolution—he has got everything back.  Yet it isn’t resolution.  If you lose something, you don’t get it back.  The nation that Job could be restored doesn’t work.


The heart of the book is a discussion as why the innocent suffer. T he three comforters are not fools; they are trying to help, to bring balance and reason into his mind through Jewish law.  They are people of human sympathy, conventional people as in Greek tragic chorus, the voice of common sense.  Job doesn’t make a much better show than they do.  The sense that Job is a tragedy is because of the dialogue concerning the suffering of the innocent, which is the theme of all tragedy.

It is tormenting to anyone but the reader who has read the prologue. We cannot forget that “way up in the gods” are God and Satan betting on Job.  The one argument that newer occurs to the comforters is that God wants to settle a bet.  They assume that Job is suffering because he has done wrong.  We know it is because he has done right.  Job is happy and prosperous because he is attached to God.  Man fell because he detached himself from God.  Here, God withdraws from Man, a paradox.

Job and his friends take part in a dialogue.  The author is trying to fish something out of tragedy, to establish the point of tragedy.  The point of Job is “why do the innocent suffer?”  This is the same question as in Lear in Cordelia’s death.  The tragic flaw as a moral judgment is not a tragic flaw at all.  In Milton, the flaw in Adam is that he is a creature of free will.  But Adam’s flaw does not infer a moral judgment on God.

Job says, I have done nothing to deserve this.  The flaw is that he exists.  The flaw, therefore, seems to be in the God that made him.  Yet, a moral judgment on God is irrelevant.

Lecture 16.  February 3, 1948


Aristotle’s catharsis means that the audience is not to have pity or fear.  The correct response is: the hero is a man suffering from the tragic flaw; how very like things are. The Greek idea of fate was not external; it is the way things always happen.  The law of human life is not moral, but a law nevertheless.

Tragedy is a kind of implicit comedy.  It is the full statement of which comedy gives only a part.  The complete story of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is a comedy.  The implicit resurrection gives balance and serenity.  Tragedy completes itself as comedy. The story of Christ has no ultimate tragedy.  Death is a tragedy, but there is resurrection here.

In other tragedies the hero dies on stage and he revives in the mind of the audience.  Tragedy is the development of the ritual of sacrifice.  The typical act is the death of the central figure, the king or prince in whose death the people find life.  Aristotle’s catharsis is not a moral quality.  It casts out pity and fear, which are moral good and moral evil.

To say that Macbeth is a bad man is the reaction of terror, of moral evil.  Sympathy with him on the grounds of fate, his wife’s influence, etc., is pity: moral sympathy with the hero.  The real function of tragedy gets beyond moral reaction.  The point is not whether Macbeth was good or bad.  Tragedy goes beyond that.  The catharsis in the audience is that the dead man on the stage is alive in them.  The audience is united in the death of the hero.  Modern tragedies are moral in that they stimulate sympathy or condemnation.  Shaw’s St. Joan is moral.  In King Lear, though,  his death is a release. He attempted to find divinity in his kingship and failed. He found it in suffering humanity.

From the spectator’s point of view, Job is funny.  The watcher is released from the action and his perspective, therefore, is one of comedy.  Tragedy has the reversal of perspective.  Tragedy is a work of art seen from the spectator’s point of view as entertainment.  Hamlet asks to be written up: Othello, the same. Tragedy has a point when limited in art form and seen by an audience.

The audience’s perspective is comic because they are the watchers.  The tragic hero is unaware of the humiliation of being watched.  Lear is mercifully unaware of this when scampering around the stage mad.  Hamlet feels that all eyes are upon him.  He feels this to such a point that he takes it out on Ophelia.  He kills Polonius because he is being watched.  In Aeschylus’ Prometheus, he is stretched out on a rock.  He speaks first so that people won’t stare at him.  He says, “Behold the spectacle.”

Job sees God as an inscrutable watcher.  In Chapter 7. he describes his fallen state––no sense in what happens––if there is a God who doesn’t interfere, then he is merely the watcher, and this is unbearable to Job.  Verse 11: “Am I a sea or a whale that thou settest a watch over me?”  Verse 8: “The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more; thine eyes are upon me and I am not.”  A sense of loneliness, but of being watched.

Othello’s black skin means that all eyes are drawn to him.  Here, it is subtler.  The comforters are not making fun of Job.  But sympathy is harder to put up with then ridicule.  Job knows God acts — but why this way?  It worries Job.


The audience is imaginatively detached from the tragedy: this isn’t happening to me.  This enables the audience to get rid of pity and terror.  When you are detached, you let the whole stream go before you.  Comedy is inherent in tragedy because the hero is separate from the people who are watching him.  Shakespeare has some grotesque, horrible comedy.  The Fool and Edgar and the madness in Lear contribute to a horrible comedy.  In Othello, there is the sense of a comical situation that twists the neck of tragedy.  Yet, they are a part of the fact that comedy binds up the wounds of tragedy.

Job is not a tragic hero in the Shakespearean sense.  The hero always has an aura of divinity, a man marked for this.  Job’s point is that he is not a special figure, but an ordinary observer of the law.  Lear must go through more than Job because he has to fight his way out of kingship.  Hamlet won’t compromise and follows through the pattern of not submitting to the powers of darkness even when they are disguised as his own father.

The tension in Job is that of a Platonic dialogue rather than tragedy on the stage.  Tragedy presents a sense of lost direction; the hero never knows why he suffers.  Job finds out.  In Greek tragedy there is the deus ex machina.  In Jewish law, it is the deus in machina, the machine of rites and ceremonies.  From the fulfillment of the law comes the highest good of man, but the progression of ceremony and rites can mechanize life.

God operates this “machinery” of the world.  In Job, God withdraws the machinery from the world.  It is because Job refuses to let God withdraw that something eventually happens to him.

The effect of the prologue is to detach God from the moral and natural law.  He is the watcher, not the ordaining, God.  Job is thrown into a desert world where the law doesn’t operate.  The Jewish idea of deus in machina means “do this and you get your apple”: bribe and reward, happiness is the inevitable result of virtue, and so on, because God is the First Cause, etcetera, etcetera. Then God withdraws and the rain falls on the just and the unjust––the evil prosper and the good man gets it in the neck.  Job is forced to outgrow a God that causes things.  Job knows that, and therefore he won’t listen to the comforters.

We feel that God has played Job a dirty trick, and Job feels it, too.  He doesn’t defy God; he curses the day he was born.  Job is not given a chance to strike a pose or to look dignified; he is too busy scratching himself.  Greek heroes suffer in dignity.  The thing that permits dignity is the act of dying.  But God spares Job’s life.

You can never work out a consoling formula about the Book of Job.  Tragedy ignores moral order.  The feeling exists that Job is in the Bible and therefore must be reassuring and respectable.  The same idea is in A.C. Bradley’s critical work on Shakespeare: in spite of all the horrid tragedies, Shakespeare was a good guy at heart and believes in a moral force governing the world.  All you have to do is to read the plays to see how completely that theory is blasted.

Here is God creating hell, and letting it happen in a way that creates the least sympathy for him.  It resolves into the fact that there is no point in moral arguments at all.

Lecture 17.  February 10, 1948

To understand Job, you must see that the book is a blend of tragic, comic and satiric.  All great drama is a blend of these three.  The satiric tone is a blend of the moral and the humorous.  Pure humor is not satire; pure denunciation is not satire.

Satire is a detachment from evil; it brings out its wrongness and ridiculousness.  You can’t find anything more detached from evil than God; therefore, there are some aspects of the sardonic in God, or the gods.  This is inescapable in any serious religion.  Wrath is the reaction of good when confronted with evil, and wrath is the opposite of irritation.  God is incapable of irritation, which is a personal egocentric thing which desires to triumph over and score off someone.  Wrath is impersonal, detached.

God speaks in the tones of the wrath of the sardonic.  Yet these tones are different from Job’s friends who approach him with elaborate friendliness and politeness.  They talk in vague, general terms about the goodness of good and the badness of evil.

Then their approach sharpens; the reproaches come clearer to a point of open antagonism.  They are trying to hint that Job had better “‘get right” with God.  They are trying to interpret their own sense of the wrath of God, of man in an evil state.  But Job insists that he’s done nothing wrong.  The friends become irritated; they want to score him off.  Job tries to score them off, too.  All agree there must be some justice somewhere.  Only Job’s wife suggests something else: curse God and die.  At the end, God curiously enough seems of the same opinion.  Man searches for a God equal to him.  God feels the same way; he wants a man equal to him.

The dialogue breaks down into a deadlock.  If Job has done nothing wrong, then nothing makes sense.  His friends are pious Jews thinking in terms of the Hebrew law, the best of the Pharisaic mind that Jesus condemns.  They try to interpret God’s design in terms of the law.  Job comes to the discovery that rain falls on the just and unjust alike; the sun shines upon evil and good alike.

Job, his three friends, and Elihu are all under the same cloud.  The breakdown point is that there is no revelation of God to Man.  All seems to be mystery. The collapse is tragedy and satire, not comedy.

Tragedy and satire are inseparable.  There is an ironic kernel in all Shakespeare tragedies.  Hamlet’s death is a tragedy, yet it takes place after a muddled attempt at revenge.  Horatio must tell that Hamlet has been a damn fool.  In Othello’s last speech he is trying to cheer himself up and rescue some fragment of dignity.  It is not that he realized what a fool he has been, but what a fool he is.  In Antony and Cleopatra, the Antony who held the stage in Julius Caesar, the demagogue, in this play is crowded right off the stage by Cleo.  She has him killed off in Act IV and has the fifth act to herself.  She puts on a good show, but the irony is that it is a good show.  Octavius comes in at the end of her show and says, “Oh yes, I heard she was doing some research on a painless way to die.”   The hanging of Cordelia, in Lear, blasts any theory that there is a moral order in tragedy.

The point of tragedy is not punishment, but that the hero fell, whether he deserved it or not. That is the irony.

The author of the Book of Job is not trying to clear God’s name, as Milton was.  There is no self-defensive, aggressive tone as in Milton’s God.  At the end, God speaks with what seems colossal impudence. He feels he has a right to condemn Job, in a sense, for feeling that he is righteous in his own eyes.  The reader has the curious feeling that God has done something wrong, in view of the prologue.


Why do the innocent suffer is the problem of the Book of Job.  What is the meaning of the term “innocent”?  If we look at the people in the Bible who claim to be innocent, we come up against Pontius Pilate.  For Job, comes the dawning that there is no such thing as innocence.  There is no reason for Job’s troubles other than that of his own existence.  He was quite right in cursing the day of his birth.  Both good and evil men are caught in the same rat-trap.  The “innocent” person is not only free from sin, but free from the consequences of everybody else’s sin.  There is no such person but God himself.  So, there is some stain on Job’s birth which the goodness of his life cannot remove.

Two things limit the rewards of virtue, if it can be said there are rewards:

1.      You can’t escape the sin of other people.  You cannot be a good man in a Nazi state.

You’ll be polluted by it even if you become a victim.

2.      There are diseases and disasters in the world that man cannot control.  You cannot

discover any divine benevolence in nature or in other men.  Nature is indifferent to

moral values.  There is no guarantee that lightning will strike the drunk and not the saint.

Job is led to the fact that there is a fatality in being born which the goodness of your life will not remove.

Now we can see what Satan is and why he entered into the pact. Satan is the agent of all these disasters which fall on Job.  He is bound up with this world that limits and conditions us.  Satan actually is this evil world.  He is called the Prince of this world, Prince of the powers of the air, of tempests, floods––and boils.  When man is born there are two powers which control and watch him.  There is God himself, but a certain amount of autonomous power is given to Satan.  What finally unrolls is a picture of man born into a Satanic world, with God permitting Satan to have a certain amount of leeway.

Job has observed the laws of God, not for self-interest, but because he is good and because God is God.  There are a lot of people who will follow God only so long as things are pleasant.   Satan bets on this.  The bet is to test the holy-willys of this world.  Liberty is given to Satan because it is the only adult conception of God above that of a God who says “do this or else.”  The immature idea is of reward and punishment for behaviour.  If there was a law like this it would be a kindergarten world; there would be a visible and clearly operating moral law in this world.

Lecture 18.  February 17, 1948

In tragedy, something comes through directly, a vision beyond that of the social and the moral.  Iago is a figure in a tragedy but he is not heroic.  Macbeth is an experiment in a tragedy where the hero and the villain are the same person.  Emotions of pity for the hero through the reproach of the audience somewhere; for example, they blame Iago.  In a social tragedy, such as the lynching of a negro, the audience is morally condemned for tolerating such cruelty.  A tragedy in which man is innocent and blames God for the scheme of things is not a real tragedy.  Even Henley’s Invictus—“I am captain of my soul”—is still handing out a high moral line.

Job gets past this morality stage.  He will not condemn himself, and therefore his three friends have nothing more to say.  At this point, Job leaves the moral aspect and goes on to the tragic.  Elihu has an organic role because he brings the tragedy to a focus.

The arguments with the friends are based on law.  Wisdom means following the tried and tested ways––the fool is he who breaks away, etc.  Yet, the law has not brought Job the wisdom he wants.

Elihu is the Old Testament conception of the prophet.  He has no personal authority––I must speak; therefore it is God talking to you.  The three friends are the old men of Job’s generation.  Elihu is the young spirit of prophecy.  He condemns Job on grounds that are implicit rather than implicit.  He places the condemnation on a broader basis and comes closer to the doctrine of original sin: Job is condemned because he exists.  Elihu deals with the “otherness” of God from man.  This is the first step in religious feeling, the sense of the opposition of the divine and the human; the feeling that man cannot reach God through the human means of reason, etc.

God himself breaks in on Elihu’s speech and pushes him aside.  It sounds as if God was merely continuing his speech, but he turns it upside down.  The same thing is being said, but from a different quarter.  Elihu has found the scent somehow or other.  The voice which is outside Job is Elihu, but when the voice is inside Job, it is God.  The Lord answers Job out of a whirlwind, the symbol of confusion.  It is confusion in terms of what is going on around him.  That is, out of Elihu’s words without knowledge and the confusion they create in Job, comes God’s voice.

Elijah is the typical prophet, and Elihu’s name is close to his.  Kings 1:19:  Elijah repeats Jesus’ period in the wilderness and also Moses’ exile, so that he is the Law and the Prophet.  Verse 9:  the word of the Lord is represented by the pronoun “he.”  And he said unto him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?”  The action turns inside Elijah.  He goes through the wind, earthquake, fire and doesn’t find God in any of them.  But it is after the fire that there comes “a still small voice.”

Job’s religious experience starts with God separate from man, up in the sky.  Then Job realizes that God can’t be up in the sky; he is inside Job.  The speech of Elihu rounds off the tragedy and brings it to a tragic resolution.   Elihu says Job’s sin is in getting born; it is not a moral sin.  He is driving sin into the involuntary; it is not moral.  The tragic resolution is on the point of evil attendant at birth.  Evil things just happen.  It is not moral but natural.  Nature is majestically indifferent.  Morals are sticks and stones, a barricade against nature.

Elihu takes you to the bedrock of natural man: you are not different from that world that knocks you around.  This is “fate” in tragedy.  What Oedipus did wrong, he did unconsciously.  The moral sin is one of choice; in tragedy, it is involuntary and inevitable; it is the co-incidence of nature with the involuntary ignorance of man.  Tragedy is the identification of nature with man.

Job is unwilling to surrender his conscious identity.  Elihu says there’s nothing in man over which he can call himself king.  What has man got that is better than the natural forces which swallow him up?  Law and morality won’t help him.  Job won’t find God in “the foundations of the world.”  The point is that God can’t be found in the sky, in space or time as the First Cause.  He is not outside the limits of time and space because there are no limits to time and space.

Job, instead of being the centre of what is happening to him, is the circumference of an entirely new vision.  He finds himself wholly removed from the things which he thought were outside him.  Nothing exists outside him.  What use is a God at the beginning of time when man is Here and Now in the middle of time?  Law is founded on causality, a God who starts things in time and space and is therefore enmeshed in the natural cycle.  Even knowledge itself is different from what we thought of it as getting hold of this and that: these are terms we use when panicky.

The wisdom of Job is not grasping but letting go of something. It is the same as an experienced guide and an inexperienced man getting lost in the forest.  The inexperienced man gets panicky; all he can see is the thereness of the forest all around him.  He feels helpless, fated; thinks about how he will starve to death, but at least then the forest won’t be there.  The experienced guide accepts the conditions under which he finds himself, but he is no longer imprisoned in the forest.  He is not aware of the thereness of the forest; it neither exists nor does not exist.

In the same way, Hamlet and Falstaff are both real and unreal, just as a point in mathematics is (a) a point and (b) not a point.

The growth of knowledge is a growth of freedom, a detachment, a letting go of the world around.  The man who gains knowledge comes back to saying that “something” is the master of his fate and the captain of his soul—but the word “I”  means something else.  It is no longer the ego of the suffering man job but the universal voice within him, which is God-Man.

Lecture 19.  February 24, 1948


There are concentric spheres in the Book of Job. The inner sphere is a morality play with virtue and vice in argument with friends. From the deadlock of the argument to the end of Elihu’s speech is another sphere. The still-wider concentric sphere is that of a divine comedy—God watching Job and then restores him.  There are ironic overtones to the “tragic” story.

The same concentric pattern is in the life of Jesus.  The active Jesus, the teacher and healer, is the kernel of the story.  His tragedy is another sphere.  Then comes the divine comedy of redemption.  King Lear is a morality play at heart with the good people against the bad.  Outside that is tragedy which is not moral because Cordelia dies.  Around that is the adumbration of the comedy, of a man who attempted to find divinity in kingship but finds it only in suffering humanity.

In the last chapter, verse 8, Job becomes the redeemer of his friends.  “And my servant Job will pray for you.”  But Job has suffered too much for the restoration of his flocks and children to be the answer to his problem.   Job’s is a personal search for wisdom.

What the restoration of his children represent are the symbols of that new wisdom.

In the Old Testament, the histories focus on a king.  In the prophecies, they focus on the watcher as opposed to the doer of the New Testament.  Job is the third division of the Old Testament, the Wisdom books, like Solomon, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  What takes place is a personal form of wisdom.

Comedy will not come with restoration.  Too much has happened.  God is too responsible.  Job is not hankering after his goods and children but the reality of which they are symbols; this he identifies with wisdom.  He begins the search for wisdom with “why did God do this to me?”  This expands into “what is God?”  The search for God is the search for wisdom.  And God is inside Job.

In Chapter 10, God describes Behemoth and in Chapter 14, Leviathan.  The chief point is this description is the phrase “he is king over all the children of pride.”  Why is this so significant? Why does it enlighten Job so that he says “now my eye sees thee.”  We would expect God to lead him to Satan, but he leads him to Leviathan.  Satan and Leviathan are the same person.  Satan stands for the tyranny of nature and man.  Job sees the form of his tragedy as a monster, that is, now he can see it because he has been coughed out of the belly of Leviathan.

Job is detached from a world of the tyranny of man and nature.  He has found a new centre of balance in a spiritual world where God is, which is inside himself.  He no longer lives in the moral world of the conflict of good and evil.  The world he is in has only heaven and hell, a personal God who is human against a monster which is evil, that is, Satan.

Man has two alternatives.  He can be caught up in the body of God or swallowed by Leviathan.  What you see of Job in this world no longer matters, whether he is restored to prosperity or sitting on a dunghill like Ezekiel.  Ezekiel 28:14:

Thou art the appointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so; thou wast on the holy mountain of God; thou walkest up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Ezekiel 29: 3-4:

Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.

But I will put a hook in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.

There is a link with Genesis 3:24, describing the Covering Cherub who guards paradise, and who is also associated with the King of Trye.  They both prevent man from returning to paradise.  Job can see these monsters because he’s pushing them aside on his way to the unfallen state of man.

God’s description of Leviathan is full of humor and zest, as if he was the biggest pet in God’s zoo.  God asks Job, where were you when the world was created.  Job’s answer is to see, not to make the world but to get free of it.

The advance of knowledge is a letting go of the world.  The panicky desire to come to grips with knowledge is like fighting a dragon too big for yourself.  You must find the centre of reality in yourself, not of yourself, so you can relax.  Detach yourself from the pursuit of knowledge and you’ll find it.  The true philosophic gesture is to throw your head back to get your brains free; remove yourself from the problem order to see it, like climbing a tree in order to see the landscape.

When I say that God is in Job and therefore wisdom is in Job, I don’t mean the egocentric Self because the ego never understands anything; it only uses.  When you understand something you are surrounded by it.  It is in you but at the same time it is the circumference.  Something you understand takes a shape of its own although it is in your mind.  The study of mathematics shows you the pattern and shape of science but you still contain that in your mind.

Lecture 20.  March, 2, 1948


The Book of Job is like a Platonic dialogue in that out of it emerges a form; out of the conflict of ideas arises something like a dialectic.  Job’s task is to find wisdom. His story is an intellectualized romance, a quest which is realized in human form.

The conception of wisdom in the Old Testament is Egyptian as much as anything else because the Hebrews took from it their idea of practical wisdom.  The Egyptians have little literature but what we have of it is the practical kind of wisdom of making your own way in the world.  The Jews regarded the Egyptians much as Christians regard Judaism: we have escaped from its bondage but we can still see its spiritual form.

The Jewish wisdom books at first were like the Egyptian: little sayings about the wisdom of following tried and tested ways. The Book of Proverbs has many of these ancestral sayings.  Under the influence of the prophets the emphasis upon pagan wisdom changed.  Job and Ecclesiastes are full-fledged wisdom literature.

The Apocrypha contains the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiastica, and the Book of Esdras.  It says something for the ecstatic stupidity of the Protestant canon that it excluded these books because they were not written in Hebrew, but in Greek and Latin.  It is impossible to understand the Bible without the Apocrypha.  Its books are of central importance, as Job is, both to the Bible and to literature.  St. Jerome followed the Hebrew tradition, but he got it in the Bible.

Ecclesiastes is somewhat obscure and easily misunderstood.  The author is a Hebrew Montaigne and like him easily typed, inaccurately.  Like Montaigne, he is labelled a sceptic, wrongly, because both Montaigne and the author of Ecclesiastes were showing the limits of sceptism.  In the 19th century when pessimism was fashionable, Ecclesiastes was quoted as a pioneer of scepticism. Schopenhauer was read widely then, too; or, rather, was quoted widely.  Both pessimism and optimism are attempts to find a formula, and the author of Ecclesiastes is too shrewd to fall into the trap of a formula.

The problem here, in many ways, is subtler than Job’s.  The author is a good man, too, etc. etc.  Then comes a sudden breakdown in motivation.  In medieval times the word for it is accidia; in Elizabethan, melancholy; for Baudelaire, ennui; and for Blake, the Selfhood.  It is the feeling: what is the use of it all?

The sudden collapse of one’s sense of motive is very contemporary.  Existentialism is a commentary on Ecclesiastes, a search for the unmotivated act; to act in such a way as to eliminate choice between this action and that.  In Ecclesiastes, there is this sense of collapse of moral values.  What is the value of doing this rather than that?

The basis of existence is, naturally, man himself.  A philosopher is always assigning undue place to man’s reason and consciousness.  For the poet, man is imaginative; for the statesman and economist, man is active man, attaching much importance to the voluntary, to the will.  There is a tendency to interpret man in terms of one thing that he is.  Descartes said that man exists because he is thinking man.  But how many people are consciously thinking?  A great philosopher may spend about four percent of his time thinking.

The focus must narrow fundamentally to the fact that man is. That is what oppresses the writer of Ecclesiastes.  It doesn’t matter if the fool isn’t being a real man; he exists, as does the wise man.  What is implied in the fact of existence is life and death.  Existence is not life but a life.  The basis of all philosophy, poetry, religion and economics is man squeezed between the barrow limit of birth and death.

The feeling here is one of dread.  It is not fear, for that implies fear of something.  This is the fundamental character of human existence.  Dread may turn into fear, fear of death, for example.  This is the basis of the existentialist movement today, which is crawling over the pages of every magazine you pick up. It is the Americans who have taken up this movement.  The rise of Nazism had convinced people that we know absolutely nothing about the human mind.  Reasonable ideas about the mind and American middle-class bourgeois psychology aren’t going to help, either.


Ecclesiastes isn’t a tired book.  There is terrific energy in it.  The point: Man is, therefore he dreads.  This breakdown of motivation, loss of usefulness in life, is a paralysis of activity by the uselessness of it all.  This is the manifestation of dread of life which is always there.  You are unable to focus your mind because there’s no place on which to focus it.  In that state, we see the world as the writer of Ecclesiastes sees it, as vanity and vexation of spirit.  Dread, when pursued long enough, is dread of death.  You see how close Montaigne is to existentialist philosophy in his statement:  The aim of philosophy is to know how to die.

You all know the feeling when you have a completely free evening and you don’t do anything but wander around.  You feel trapped in limitless expansion; you have a persistent sense of dread.  It can be channelled into work but the force of dread is always there.  Nothing can remove it.  The sudden feeling of tears for no reason; you make yourself miserable, oppressed, by the fact of your own existence.  Dread excites the panic which prompts the search for distraction, novelty.  People who are free can relax and sit by themselves, even though the dread is still there.  Those who let dread haunt them can’t be alone.

Dread is above religious or atheistic feelings because it is inherent in the fact of existence.  Anyone with atheistic tendencies can channel it into a revolutionary belief and into a force against something, like society, the bourgeois, etc.  A person with religious tendencies, when aware of dread, may have the feeling of fear of God.  If dread if a fear of something it may be removed, like fear of economic security, of parents, etc.  But the dread is still there.

For the existentialist, man lives; therefore he dreads.  The ability to distract oneself is still motivated by dread.  A hobby is a pernicious thing if only taken up to pass time.  Man is the only being who can have dread because he is conscious of it.  Yet I am sure it is in animals, too.  This dread could also be a dread of life, which is just as common as dread of death.  The Nazi state focused dread into a concrete form—fear of life is more concrete than fear of death.  The Nazis weren’t afraid to die.

The sense of dread results in a feeling of discontent; the sense of finiteness.  It is not so much a fear of life or death but the ticking of the clock reminding one of the finiteness of life.  Whenever we start studying or doing something worthwhile, we know we are tackling a job that will outlast our lifetime.  This is the state of mind which psychology cannot reach.  This is what the theologians mean by sin and guilt: man’s sense of finiteness.  It goes beyond the moral sense of “I have done wrong” to “I have not done much.”

Religion heightens the feeling of dread.  To see finite life in relation to eternal life is appalling, like an eternity of evenings at home with nothing to do.  We can’t relax in that state.  Religion has an answer—we’re coming to that!  Any respectable religion worthy of the name has within it the awareness of this inherent sense of dread.  But the dread exists whether one is religious or not.

Kierkegaard, the existentialist philosopher, was a deeply religious man; yet existentialism has used his philosophy.  The author of Ecclesiastes is a religious man, yet Hardy uses him to express deepest feelings of Nihilism.

Lecture 21.  March 9, 1948

The sense of dread is not religious melancholy.  It might appear in a religious or atheistic person’s experience.  Ecclesiastes is not a religious book, some feel.  Without this feeling of dread there is no realistic or wise life.  This is the basis of intelligence and of consciousness.  If the book was not in a biblical context it could be looked upon as non-religious.

The book belongs to the Wisdom Literature.  The author knows there are two solutions, neither of which are good.  Do not be overly righteous (Pharisee) or overly sceptical (Sadducee).  He is not a sceptic, but a realist.  There is something “oriental” in this book, like Buddhism.  Oriental literature is saying the same thing, and it requires a mental discipline to read it.

The Preacher’s “vanity” is emptiness, or “void” as in Buddhism.  It doesn’t mean things aren’t there.  The Buddhist attitude is that there are two forms of illusion, attraction and repulsion, to good and away from evil.  But this doesn’t work because both good and evil are degraded knowledge and therefore aren’t knowledge at all.  To find reality, we must avoid illusions of moral varnishing.  Life is not a moral doctrine.  Knowledge of good and evil is fallen knowledge.  One should become detached from all things, good and evil.  In this detachment, all things are empty or moral content.

Job discovers his problem is not a moral one.  There is something illusory about the life in which he thought he was allied with the power of good.  The first step of detachment is that things don’t make moral sense. You have a vision of the senselessness, the emptiness, of all the things you see around you.  The starting point of consciousness is the consciousness of dread; existence is the narrow limit between birth and death.

The problem is also cosmological.  You feel there is an objective mattress “out there” for consciousness to sleep on.  The feeling that there is something objective and beyond us.  You don’t feel a mystical confidence in the world “out there.”  Wisdom doesn’t trust itself to anything outside itself.  Wisdom is not external, mysterious, and unknown.  The pursuit of reality outside oneself ends in mystery.  Are we to assume that nothing exists outside yourself?  You must avoid the sceptical attitude that you are the only real subject matter, alone and an individual.  That leads to the “I am captain of my soul” bilge.  You must also avoid an objective belief in “out there.”

Ecclesiastes points out that there is something the matter with the religious life which seeks validity outside itself, like people who try to buoy up their religious faith by taking vows. There are converts who must attach themselves to something.  You don’t run around and find external compulsion.  Wisdom isn’t in any place.  As you grow, you catch the rhythm of existence.  You can’t reduce life to a formula.  “There is a time for life, a time for hate . . . .”


If you look outside yourself, you see neither flux nor permanence.  You see a combination of being and becoming.  The law of recurrence shows that things go away and return.  This doctrine of recurrence enables you to see the rhythm.  This brings you close to the datum of experience; man is a moving point between birth and death.  Dread itself is a recurrence,

“Man is, therefore he dreads” equals the symbol of the wheel.  Consciousness of renewal is the starting point of wisdom.  The vision of formlessness takes on a concrete form.  Once you see that you are part of the unconscious machinery you are trying to fight, you give up trying to fight.

But to learn how to die is the see yourself in the eternal recurrence which is neither being nor becoming.  The wise man has got to a point where he can look down and see his own life going through the pattern of life and death.  The fallacy of withdrawing from life—this is the giving in to the illusion of the non-reality of things.  The hermit attempts to order things on the assumption that all things are an illusion, which is in itself an illusion.

We must live in a world of good and evil and remain spiritually detached.  The whole perspective is that of choice.  Frye is contemptuous of those who chase an external reality—“someday we’ll understand” and “let’s wait and see and it will all be cleared up when we are dead.”  If you postpone the consciousness of eternity until you are dead you’ll never get it.  You carry your own solitude with you.  Eternity is not in the future, but is the reality of the Here and Now.  It is not something seen in terms of progress but recurrence.

Lecture 22.  March 16, 1948


In Wisdom literature there is the figure of the monster who must be overcome.  Job is presented with them.  There are two planes of reality: one makes sense and one doesn’t—that’s the one we are living in.  The world we are in is associated with the monster, a world without conscious intelligence and purpose.

For the 18th century, the intricacy of the natural law argued a conscious creator.  The 19th century blew it up.  The law of nature is a subtle affair, but consciousness or morality of purpose is not there.  A God inferred from nature is a pretty stupid God.  You can’t postulate intelligence from the world we see.  The Bible discourages us from trying to advance arguments which make God a logical inference from chaotic nature.  Man is conscious of the world’s size and indifference to human values.  Man is conscious of being imprisoned within a monstrous body.

The other plane of reality, which makes more sense, uses symbols derived from man’s fight against nature––man in nature, in the wilderness, in the forest, the desert, the prairie.  Man evolves there the farm, the garden, the park.  That sort of symbol is used.  A world humanly ordered makes sense.  Paradise means park.  The symbol of the city is a human palisade of conscious and intelligent ideas in a world of man against nature.

The higher plane of existence is not a mental or spectral order, but is portrayed by certain symbols. Also, the sea, which is associated with Leviathan.  The river is the necessity of human existence, live water circulating within a body like the bloodstream.  The other plane of existence is life inside a body, as this world is life inside the body of Leviathan.  The former is a conscious, purposeful human body.  The other is a stupid, monstrous body.

The two forms of reality show us a human, universal body and a monstrous and chaotic body.  Reality is not a place but a state of existence.  Job eventually discovered the natural world in terms of Leviathan.  He started off within the monster.  His story is like that of Jonah.

There are two forms of existence:

1) Inside the human body (which is our own) and which ends up as the universal form of the

city and the garden;

2) Perpetual imprisonment of the monstrous body of nature.

Natural law is the development of mental and spiritual values.  Man’s development from this is to human law, building up from an ordered and predictable nature his own law.  Scientific knowledge is a phase in the evolution of the human spirit.  It is not the knowledge of God.  God is not at the end of wisdom.  The progress of science will not bring the world nearer to God, although it might bring an individual nearer to him.

In a flight from the body into the spiritual you are betraying reality.  Man constantly tries to realize in bodily form the body of his spiritual values.  The Word becomes Flesh and dwells among us.  The New Testament presents enlightenment in terms of the future.  Christianity does not give light, but it presents a crisis by which you can see the light, the potential infinite in man.

Death is potential evolution.  Death is a means of adjusting one’s body to a different state of affairs.  Physical death is part of the evolution of the spirit.  In death you get a more sensible idea of time and space.  The time-and-space world is bewildering and unreal, a world of indefiniteness.  Yet, all of our conscious life is concerned with form and limiting.  You can’t find a Here and Now in this world in which the present is a continual moving point.  The way to visualize the real Here and Now is as infinity and eternity.

This is what is revealed in the Bible: two planes of existence.  The reality that dawns upon us is a familiar one, the home, the human body.  For Jesus, no one goes to heaven; you are already there if you are aware of it, and you work from there.          You don’t have to die to get from one plane of existence to another.  If you do wait, you’ll never get there.

The people who look for revelation are those who knock at the door, and it will be opened to them.  The child has this simplicity of mind; she is content to listen to stories, to take in symbols, has an active and alert mind, not the glossed-over mind of the sophisticate.

Revelation goes beyond good and evil.  There is a form of knowledge which is forbidden knowledge because it is degraded. The part of the artist that survives is the body of his work and is his eternal body.

Lecture 23.  March 23, 1948


Apocalyptic literature is very late and is contemporary with Jesus.  The Book of Daniel and Revelation are the most important.  The others are Second Esdras and Enoch.  These are pseudo-biographia, ascribed to people tho could not possibly have written them.  Apocalyptic literature is often written to evade the censors.  This is true of the Revelation of St. John the Divine, in the sense that it attacks Caesar.

The Apocalypse grew out of literature that is suspect and therefore represents free and uncontrolled vision. The impetus to apocalyptical literature is given by two contradictory things:

1.  The rise to prosperity of the Jewish people under the Maccabees, and the imminent

coming of the Kingdom of God. Many Messiahs tried to rebel against the Romans.  In 70 A.D. the Romans razed Jerusalem.  The conception of the rebuilt temple, the coming glory of Israel haunts a great deal of the Old Testament, some of the Psalms and Daniel.  The 100th Psalm hints at the “last days.”

2. The spiritualizing of the conception of the temple and of the king.  In origin, this was

attached to physical things.  Around the time of Christ, there was a tendency to spiritualize things.  The Nativity in Luke, and the Magnificat, etc., are stories that crystallize from the popular consciousness.

In the New Testament, the apocalyptic tone is there in the whispered hush, the waiting for the complete clarification of vision––“the time is at hand.”  Jesus is born into a period in which certain conceptions are made mental and spiritual realities.  Jesus annihilates the physical counterparts.  He brings the reality of the idea, not the physical.  The physical temple will be destroyed; the real temple of Jesus’ body takes its place.

The author of Revelation is working along the same line.  His central figure seems to have no relation to the Jesus of the Gospels.  It is worked out with immense care, everything taken from the early prophecies and welded into a unity.  The four beasts are from Ezekiel; Babylon and the broken cup from Jeremiah and Daniel.

The book is called Revelation.  What is revealed is the unfallen world of mental and spiritual reality which has a human form, not a monstrous one.  The Holy Scripture of this world is almost wild allegory, you don’t get a clear impression of what’s going on.  It is a curious example of the type of writing like Finnegans Wake—we see the point of such as experiment—to clarify vision. Gertrude Stein does it to break down the customary association of words.

This New Testament book is overpoweringly child-like; a child trying to tell a story about the purple elephant in the backyard and the great big gleaming city full of precious stones, with a big witch in the middle of it.  The book has elements of the child‑like vision: the simple mind of the child who will listen to a story.

The book seems deliberately written to baffle those who want a logical story.  The villain is the Whore of Babylon—Mystery—and yet most people regard it as one of the most mysterious books in the Bible.  Chapter 7 is like a child’s map of the four angels holding the winds of the earth.  The children of Israel are one body.  Israel is Jacob and the twelve children are the twelve tribes.  Jesus is a spiritual Israel, with twelve apostles united in one body.  The number 144 means the allegory is based in twelve.  A thousand merely means a great many.  It is pre-American; now he would have used millions!

In Chapter 2, the real temple is the God-Man.  The cleansing of the temple is the casting out of the devils from the human soul, the temporary triumph of the power of evil.  The real meaning of this is the fallen city of this world—Sodom, Egypt, Jerusalem, Babylon, Rome, Tyre, etc.  Verse 6: Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophet, the past and the future in the eternal present of the body of God.  The tree is the real thing of which the three corpses are the parody.  Zechariah 4 is the origin of the two witnesses, Moses and Elijah, the two olive trees, candlestick with seven lamps, etc. (Rev. 11:3-4.)

Lecture 24.  March 30, 1948


The symbols of the fallen world are scattered, but the unfallen one makes up one form.  Man must impose a human pattern on the natural world.  Out of the mineral world he builds a house; the city is the human form of the mineral world.  Out of the vegetable world

he makes a garden, etc.

Divine             God’s body

Human            Human body                            Spiritual body: one man, human and divine. . j

Animal             Domesticated animals             the Lamb

Mineral            City & temple                          made of living stones

The unfallen existence is a continuous dwelling of fire.  This is not the fire of hell, but it is light and fire.  Hell is heat without light imprisoned within the furnace of the body of Leviathan.   Christians are spoken of as stones of the church, the “living stones who cry out.”  Jesus is the cornerstone of the temple.  The stones of the New Jerusalem shine with their own light.

The tree of life is a body, the water of life is the circulatory system, blood and water, which flowed from Jesus’ side. The tree is the erect vertebrae of this body.  It is the burning tree, a burning bush which is not consumed.  Dante’s red tree is the mystic rose, the culmination of his vision, and it is cross-shaped.  The tree is the living form of which the cross is the dead form.  The Lamb is the innocence of the unfallen world.  Daniel 3: the fiery furnace, and yet the men in it are not consumed.

Our categories in this world are time and space, which are indefinite.  The un‑commonsense of the unfallen world demands that you become the circumference of vision, not the egotistical centre. The religious perspective of reality is that there is only one human being, one human body.  When two people are together they feel they are beating against prison bars because there is really only one human body.

We must achieve annihilation of Self.  Rimbaud says, “Je, c’est un autre.”  There are two people inside us.  One is the kicking, squalling ego; the other one has the sense of objectivity.  The lunatic is the man who has looked inside himself: he becomes the circumference, but he loses the opening; something is sealed up.  We must control the imaginative vision.  The genius has everything in common with the neurotic, except his neurosis.  He may have it, but it is controlled and directed.

The fallen vision of the world, the commonsense one, becomes a vision of eternal recurrence, wheels and wheels.  The doctrine of eternal recurrence is that of being imprisoned within time and space.  Christian immortality is the real Here and Now.  It is not a place in time.  You can only grasp the nature of it by seeing things in nature as a single human form.  This recurrence produces the inverted religion which is the first opposite to Christ-—the dead lamb on a dead tree and a dead stone against his tomb.

The enemies of religion feel that the death of the man is the death of the god.  The dying and reviving god of winter and spring is Christ in time, Christ imprisoned in the body of death, the Adonais of cyclic nature who demanded animal sacrifice.

The man of action without vision is caught in a squirrel cage; what he does only contributes to the cycle.  Caiaphas says “one man must die for the people,” that is, the wheel of sacrifice must be kept going.   Christ on the cross is the most obvious form of the cyclic sacrifice: the flogged, naked, crucified Jewish wretch.  The more anti-Christian a society becomes, it seizes on this as a symbol.  The Nazis selected the anti-Christ as a symbol and quite rightly chose the twisted wheel.

The dead God is what man does to God.  The dead Christ represents the complete form of Caliphs and Pilate, which is commonsense religion.  Jesus assumes this character in order to consolidate error, to show what the opposite of Christianity is.  There are symbolic patterns in the Bible, and it doesn’t matter if they are conscious or not.

The Nazi life was one of sleepwalking in which the dream is life in terms of unconscious habits and rituals.  Hitler knew he was one form of anti-Christ; he accepted that role deliberately. People of goodwill cannot understand what a lost soul is.  They cannot understand that the Nazis knew what they were doing and liked it.

The martyr is the watcher whose vision is focused on another vision of reality.  The real martyr sees the divine in the human body.  It all depends on what you see.  You do not lose individuality in the larger spiritual body; you merely lose the Ego.  Rebecca West, in her book on the Nuremberg trials, The Meaning of Treason, describes the lost soul.  A dead man is not terrifying, but a man who casts his vote for eternal death is terrifying.  The opposing principle cannot be wiped out by the death principle.

The Nazis were terrified of winning.  They wouldn’t know what to do with victory because they were organized for death.  That is what made them dizzy, the dizziness of the temptation upon the pinnacle in Paradise Regained.  There is a balance, a permanent reality of the spiritual body.

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