Why the Genre of the Old Testament is Visionary Fiction – guest post by Stefan Emunds

This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. – Ha’aretz Magazine, October 1999.

Old Testament stories are spiritual allegories, Visionary Fiction that is. These allegories recount the struggles of men and women who met God face to face. Visionary Fiction has the same goal. It is a literary form that illustrates the process of growth in human consciousness and contains an all-inclusive spiritual component (Wikipedia).

Why do we read the Hebrew Testament like a history and law book? Because we take its stories at face value. Moreover, our minds are wired differently than those who wrote the Torah. In his essay The Philosophy of the Hebrew Language, Jeff Benner, an expert in ancient Hebrew, draws attention to an unrecognized issue: Throughout the world, past and present, there are two major divisions of thought or philosophy; Western and Eastern. Eastern philosophy has its roots in the ancient past and was the predominant form of philosophy throughout the ancient world. The beginning of Western philosophy arose in the ancient Greek culture from such philosophers as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. As the Greek culture spread, so did Western philosophy, to the point that it has become the predominant philosophy throughout the world. The Hebrews wrote the Old Testament from the perspective of Eastern philosophy, but Christians have interpreted it with a Western philosophical mindset, the results being misinterpretations and mistranslations of the text.

It may be too late to save the Torah for a modern, spiritual audience, but Visionary Fiction can fill the void. It is easier for Visionary Fiction authors to make (ancient) spiritual and esoteric wisdom relevant for our modern life, because they can weave philosophical terms into their allegories. They can please both – the left and right side of the brain. They can create fusions of Eastern and Western ways of storytelling.

Why did the authors of the Old Testament risk confusing their readers with allegories? Because they had no choice. They were prophets, not priests or scribes. Prophets aren’t fortune tellers, they are men and women who access other (divine) realities and return to tell the tale. The Greek word prophetes means exactly this: witness. The problem: other realities are somewhat ineffable. It’s difficult to describe them since there are no layman terms available. Hence, the need for stories, a medium that allows the reader to get a feeling of other realities and expanded awareness. It is a means of atonement, like mantras (vibratory), meditation (mental), and Tarot (visual). In fact, stories are the most ancient form of mental atonement and our subconsciousness readily responds to them. What works better, giving a five-year old Webster’s definition of empathy or telling it a tragic story?

Have you ever heard of ackee? It’s a fruit. How could someone describe its taste to you? He could explain that it has a buttery taste that resembles palm hearts or eggs if cooked, but that’s about it. You gotta taste it yourself if you want to know. Ezekiel and other prophets faced an even greater challenge. They had to put on paper states of mind that transcend common sense, logic, and concepts of space and time. They had to defy language. Ezekiel dared to describe a multi-dimensional vehicle with wheels within wheels that could move without turning and, as it seems, in four directions at the same time. Ezekiel had no choice but to resort to symbols, poetry, and the prophet’s code to illustrate it. For example, he wrote that the wheels’ rims had eyes all over because he lacked the term consciousness. Visionary Fiction authors have an edge here, since they can use philosophical terms and ease the reading.

Why do allegories work? Because of the Hermetic Principle of Correspondence: There are planes beyond our knowing, but when we apply the Principle of Correspondence to them we are able to understand much that would otherwise be unknowable to us. This Principle is of universal application and manifestation, on the various planes of the material, mental, and spiritual universe–it is an Universal Law. The ancient Hermetists considered this Principle as one of the most important mental instruments by which man was able to pry aside the obstacles which hid from view the Unknown. Its use even tore aside the Veil of Isis to the extent that a glimpse of the face of the goddess might be caught. Just as a knowledge of the Principles of Geometry enables man to measure distant suns and their movements, while seated in his observatory, so a knowledge of the Principle of Correspondence enables Man to reason intelligently from the Known to the Unknown. Studying the monad, he understands the archangel. – The Kybalion, The Principle of Correspondence

What does Moses’ story allegorize? Moses freed his personality (Israel’s nation) from the tyrannical pharaoh (ego), and ended his materialistic lifestyle (slavery in Egypt). He performed the great work (miracles in the wilderness) and sanctified his body and mind (lead his nation into the promised land⁠). The Book of Moses doesn’t list religious rules or spiritual facts, but elaborates the expansion of consciousness into the divine, (Gurian’s distinction between Visionary and Spiritual Fiction). Doubts? The Old Testament patriarchs weren’t saints, they had issues like you and me. And let’s not forget Job, whose story is a cryptic psychological manual of how to deal with adversity.

Don’t be disappointed that Biblical stories are just allegories. You can still apply them to your daily grind. You don’t lose common sense, instead you gain a new sense – the visual sense. And when you put both to work together, miracles happen, or, if you are a Visionary Fiction writer, great stories happen.

BIO:

Stefan Emunds loves to write visionary fiction, but also non-fiction, screenplays, and poems when time allows. Stefan was born in Germany and enjoyed two years backpacking in Australia, New Zealand, and South-East Asia in his early twenties. For almost three decades, Stefan has pursued a spiritual career at B.O.T.A., a modern mystery school teaching the arcana of Tarot, Qabalah, Gematria, esoteric Astrology, and Alchemy. After getting married, Stefan chose a necessity-career in the telecommunication industry. Since then, he has worked as a business development manager in Europe, Middle East, and in Asia. 2012 Stefan kick-started a hobby career as a writer. So far he wrote a novel about the possibility of prophecy in modern times, Feng Shui, a short story and short essay about the Second Coming of Christ, a remake of the Medieval romance Gawain and the Green Knight, and a contemporary-mystical rendering of the first three chapters of the Genesis. Besides writing books, Stefan also maintains the spiritual blog www.nuchrist.com and the inspirational blog www.dailyinspirer.com.

 

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5 Responses to Why the Genre of the Old Testament is Visionary Fiction – guest post by Stefan Emunds

  1. reanolanmartin says:

    There are so many realities hidden from view that affect our 3-D reality. Our job (our passion) is to visit those realities and interpret them in storytelling form in order (as I see it) to ultimately make them manifest. This is what I believe is meant by “the coming of the Kingdom of God”– the ability to live fully and freely in more dimensional ways. First comes the telling, then the awakening, then the fulfillment. Wonderful blog, Stefan, and aperture to another important conversation for our genre!

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  2. Literalism is what has gotten us in so much trouble over and over. These stories often illustrate spiritual processes that are abstract and can’t be easily talked about in concrete terms.

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  3. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, Stefan. I love the analogy of the ackee.

    My favorite version of the bible (so far) is Lamsa’s English translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta. It is only one-step removed from the original language. You are right, allegory is necessary to visionaries: artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers. “Feed them milk,” Jesus said.

    Fascinating bio. What a life you have been living! Thank you!

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  4. Victor Smith says:

    Score again, Stephan. Thank you. So many threads to follow. One is the difference between Eastern and Western thought in the interpretation of the Bible. I am currently working on a novel that features the Hellenic-Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus, who taught the Bible as allegory. From there I explore/expose how the New Testament was consciously composed at that time (by Mark, also in Alexandria) as allegory, not history. The Alexandrians, as Egyptians, were very familiar with the Hermetic Code and the Principle of Correspondence.

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  5. Thank you, Stephan, for a post that helps make sense of the reason for and purpose behind Bible stories (“They had to put on paper states of mind that transcend common sense, logic, and concepts of space and time. They had to defy language.”), while, at the same time, doing the same for Visionary Fiction. “It is easier for Visionary Fiction authors to make (ancient) spiritual and esoteric wisdom relevant for our modern life, because they can weave philosophical terms into their allegories. They can please both – the left and right side of the brain. They can create fusions of Eastern and Western ways of storytelling.” As Victor said above, “Score again.”

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