A guest post from Michael Maciel
I learned a new word today: eisegesis. It means “reading into the text.” It’s the opposite of “exegesis,” which is the careful interpretation of a text by placing it in its context and by considering what can be known about the author’s intention.
But this raises some questions for me:
How can exegesis be reliable when the original speaker “read into” his own words? I mean, don’t we all do this? Especially in mysticism, which is experiential by definition. Two people looking at the same sunset might say “Wow!” and both know exactly what the other means.
How can Moses be understood without knowing the Egyptian Mystery Tradition? How can Newton be understood without taking into account that he was also an astrologist and studied Gematria? How can Jesus be understood, or especially Paul, without knowing the Pagan environment in which they taught?
Maybe exegetes do this. I don’t know. But most Biblical exegesis I have seen ignores the broader contexts as though Christianity’s roots extend no further than Moses.
But more importantly (getting back to the “Wow” factor), how can mystical texts be properly interpreted by someone who has not had a mystical experience? And how can a mystic not be “guilty” of eisegesis when he reads about a mystical experience in an ancient text and identifies it as his own?
I call this the “Hawaii Syndrome.” I’ve never been to Hawaii, and whenever I’m around people who have, I feel hopelessly cut out of the conversation. People who have been to Hawaii have a kind of secret code, a certain knowing glance, a common understanding that produces its own kind of shorthand. They can say things that make no sense, and yet they all seem to know exactly what the other person is talking about.
Are they “reading into the text”?
Mystics are the same way. They can read something like “Before Abraham was, I am” and totally get it. But the non-mystic can only guess at what it means.
Or, take “I and the Father are one.” The non-mystic reads that and comes up with Jesus saying, “I am God,” which is what the Pharisees thought. Mystics know better.
Some texts simply cannot be understood unless you first raise your consciousness to the level at which they were written. I know that sounds like an impossible task, but it’s not as hard as many would have you think.
Just reading the text, however, cannot raise your consciousness. It can only point the way, like a finger pointing at the moon. It’s only by slaying your concepts, like the Jews when they moved into new territories in the Old Testament stories, killing everyone who lived there (if you take them in their non-literal, metaphysical meaning—the higher mind moving into the lower, replacing ordinary concepts with cosmic consciousness).
Exegesis cannot help but fail if it approaches mystical texts with a non-mystical mind.
Read more by Michael Maciel here: http://mysticalchrist.org
Picture attribution: Comfreak @ pixabay.com