87 QUESTION: In a previous lecture you briefly touched on the subject of myth, which you defined as universal truth in picture form. Most people, and even most mythologists, including Frazer, regard all myths as stories of events that never happened. There are a few contemporary scholars, however, such as Bellamy and Hoerbiger, who state that there is a new scientific vindication of the cosmogonic myths in the Book of Genesis. There are many myths in Genesis, but there is one in particular that I would like to interpret. It is the one about the Tower of Babel, especially now when we are living in an age of confusion of tongues.
I quote now from Genesis XI/1-9:
1: Originally the whole earth was of one language…2: And…as they journeyed from the East…they found a plain…and they dwelt there. 3: And they said…Let us build a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven…lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 4: And the Lord came…to see the city and the tower which the children of men had builded. 5: And…said…This they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do…
6: Let us…confound their language that they may not understand one another…7: So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city and the tower: 8:…because the Lord did… confound the language of all the earth.
ANSWER: In order to explain fully only the passage you have just read, books could be written about philosophy, psychology and religion. There is so much contained in it. However, I will briefly give you some clarification on it, from the viewpoint that is now of most interest to you. Mind you, I will discuss just one aspect now. There are many more that I cannot possibly go into at this time.
As you know, at one time the human entity was a whole being, completely integrated and in harmony, without conflict and without contradictions. This is the meaning “of one language.” The expression of the spirit was focused to one point and not scattered, as is now the case with humanity, where so many contradictory aims and attitudes exist. After all, you who are on this Path now know how many contradictory attitudes exist in you.
Because of these contradictions, which can be symbolized as “different languages,” you do not understand yourself. Chaos comes into your life. The outer confusions and problems, conditioned by the inner ones, are enigmatic to you because you ignore the reason for them. Likewise, you ignore the contradictory aims, attitudes, and desires within yourself. You can no longer link cause and effect and therefore you will not clear up this “Babel” until you explore the meaning of your previously unconscious emotions.
Since this Tower of Babel exists within your own soul, it must also exist outwardly in the world. World conditions are the sum total of all of humanity’s inner conditions. Lack of understanding, confusion, unawareness of cause and effect, contradictory aims, and wrong conclusions make up the inner and outer world of humanity. This is the Tower of Babel.
If you cannot understand yourself, how can you understand others? The more distortions and confusions exist within you, the less you will be able to communicate with others. You cannot understand them, reach them, or make them understand you. This too is the Tower of Babel. It symbolizes your inner world and the result of it in the outer world: difficulty of communication.
The East, whence you came, symbolizes one point of eternity, if I may express myself in such a very paradoxical way. The West is the goal. The East was the perfection you once had. The West is the perfection you will have regained. Yet in reality they are one; only in your eyes do they appear as two different directions. Evolution is always the movement of a circle closing.
This applies to the huge overall picture of cosmic evolution that starts with an outward movement and ends in a return to perfection. It applies also to the work on the Path. There are many closing circles.
Tonight I mentioned commencing with spiritual emphasis, and then going away from it, only to return to it later but with new understanding gained while having been away from the spiritual point of view. You return to the same point, not to a different one. Only it is not quite the same point because you have become richer and wiser. It is the same with the perfection that you once had and the one you will regain after you have explored the depths, having in the interim been away from perfection.
Humanity is stationed at the point on the curve where the symbols of your inner problems exist in different groups, nations, religions and languages. All of them are symbolic of the inner world. The world of reality, the world that determines your life, is the inner world. That is always the cause. The world of matter is always the effect.
Whether you examine nations, languages and religions, or atmospheric conditions, it makes no difference. All express the harmony or disharmony of the soul. If you look at your earth life from any conceivable point of view, you will see and learn and sense that it truly is the opposite of what you always thought.
You are deeply convinced despite occasional appearances to the contrary, that the outer world is the cause and the inner world is the effect. No! It is just the opposite, and as you advance in your own growth and development, you will perceive cause and effect in truth.
For instance, what you see in a landscape is the expression of all souls: the beauty on one hand, or pollution, dirt and barrenness on the other. Significantly, nature and atmospheric conditions express a purer picture of the sum total of humanity’s soul life than world conditions and relations among nations. This is not hard to figure out.
The greatest problem is how to get along with others despite so much immature egocentricity. Alone, you are now advanced enough, generally speaking, more or less to get along with yourself. Nature and atmosphere represent that part of the soul in which you think, meditate, contemplate, and raise your thoughts to higher things. That is much easier than truly getting along with others, than putting one’s ego out of the picture.
Nature symbolizes certain aspects of the human soul, art and artificiality symbolize others. You will learn to perceive anything in material existence as a symbol of the soul forces or inner attitudes.
You all know that the true barrier among peoples is not the difference of languages. You can see that the difference of languages on earth is indeed a symbol of something more profound. As the inner barriers to one’s real self are removed, the outer barriers will gradually disappear.
Much of this can already be observed. In spite of so much that is wanting, humanity as a whole has come a long way. The very technical means – often invented for the purpose of destruction – which symbolize your inner pseudo-defenses that are so destructive for the individual, have nevertheless contributed to remove the barriers among peoples.
What you can contribute to better world conditions in every respect is the removal of your own inner barriers – your own Tower of Babel – and the dismantling of your own defense mechanisms, which are so damaging to yourself and others.
In the passage my friend just read, it also says that these people tried to build the tower so high that it would reach the heavens. Of course, they did not and could not succeed. Does not the attempt to reach the heavens clearly symbolize your idealized self-image [Lecture #83 The Idealized Self-Image]? While you struggle within yourself, being at war with yourself, you nevertheless wish to attain heights of perfection and superiority quite incongruous with your present inner state.
The people in the story attempted this venture out of pride. They wanted to reach the heights by the wrong method and out of the wrong motives. The same is true of the idealized self-image, which cannot succeed and is bound to crumble. When you realize that you cannot live up to these goals and demands, your pride collapses. You are crushed and feel defeated.
To reach perfection – the heavens – in a hurry and by shortcuts through material means, is a venture bound to end in failure, for it is unrealistic. It is just as illusory as building a tower that reaches the heavens. It cannot be done. Attaining development and growth requires much less pretentious and ostentatious means than constructing the idealized self-image or the Tower of Babel.
It is your idealized self-image – your Tower of Babel – that divides you within and estranges you from yourself. The estrangement symbolizes the foreign language you do not understand. You cannot understand yourself since you are estranged from your real self.
Consciously you have one desire. You act upon it, but without realizing how an undercurrent flows into the very opposite direction and produces just the reverse of your conscious aim. Again, this is symbolized in the story of the Tower of Babel. Here you have just a few symbols of this important myth.