A statement by Ursula N. Gestefeld
THE primal requisite for the more accurate understanding of the Bible is its translation from the past to the present tense.
It has been studied as history, as the record of a remote past whose truth it has been well-nigh impossible to verify. It should be studied as a record of the present, the present experience of the individual and the race which is to ultimate in the perfect actualization of generic possibilities.
Like the tables of stone the Bible is written on both sides; or it has a letter which is its exterior and an interior spirit or meaning. The history which constitutes its letter illustrates those principles which constitute its meaning.
The formless must be put into form to be apprehended. Mistaking the form for that substance which has been brought to the level of human apprehension by its means, is the error which constitutes the basis of dogmatic theology. Error in a premise compels error in conclusions. It is no wonder that woman's true relation to man and just position in the social fabric has remained unknown.
A Moses on Pisgah's height is needed today to see and declare this promised land; and he must be revelator, first, to women themselves, for they especially need enlightenment upon the true nature of the Bible.
So long as they mistake superstition for religious revelation, they will be content with the position and opportunities assigned them by scholastic theology. They will remember and "keep their place" as thus defined. Their religious nature is warped and twisted through generations of denominational conservatism; which fact, by the way, is the greatest stumbling block in the path of equal suffrage today, and one to which the leaders of that movement have seemed unaccountably blind.
Thus woman's strongest foes have been of her own sex; and because her sense of duty and religious sentiment have been operative according to a false ideal, unintentionally women have been and will continue to be bigoted until they allow a higher ideal to penetrate their minds; until they see with the eye of reason and logic, as well as with the sentiment which has so long kept them the dependent class.
The Bible from beginning to end teaches the equality ofman and woman, their relation as the two halves of the unit, but also their distinctiveness in office.
One cannot take the place of the other because of the fundamental nature of each. The work of each half in its own place is necessary to the perfect whole. The man has more prominence than the woman in the Bible because the masculine characters in their succession represent man as a whole generic man.
The exterior or male half is outermost, the interior or female half is covered by the outer. One is seen, the other has to be discerned, and can be discerned by following the harmonious relativity between the two halves of the unit. There is a straight line of ascent from the Adam to the Christ, within which is the straight line of ascent from the Eve to the Mary.
The book of Genesis is the substance of the whole Bible, its meaning is the key to the meaning of the whole; it is the skeleton around which the rest is builded. If the remainder of the Old Testament were destroyed its substance could be reconstructed from Genesis.
As the bony structure of the physical body is the framework which is filled in and rounded to symmetrical proportions by the muscular tissue, so Genesis is the framework which is symmetrically rounded and filled by the other books, which supply the necessary detail involved in basic principles.
The first chapter of Genesis is not the record of the creation of the world. It is a symbolical description of the composite nature of man, that being which is male and female in one. The personal pronoun "He" belongs to his exterior nature; and the characters which illustrate this nature and the order of its development are men. The pronoun "She" belongs to the interior nature, and all characters fewer in number which illlustrate it, are women.
"Male and female created he them." The second chapter describes the nature and origin of the visible world, the nature and origin of the soul, their relation to each other and to this dual being.
With the third chapter begins the symbolical illus tration ofthe soul's existence of its continuity of existence which is unbroken till its highest possi bilities are actualized, till all the inherent capabili ties of the dual being are fully manifested.
The leading characters of Genesis - Adam, Enos, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph - seven in number, represent the seven chief stages of the soul's existence which follow each other like the notes in the musical scale. It is our own experience that is there portrayed, both present and prospective. What we as individuals, and nations are now going through in our efforts for betterment, is told in the story of Gene sis. More than this, the clue to assured betterment is found there also. This experience is on two lines which are always distinct but never separate - the male and the female. These are indissolubly bound together "from the beginning," the same principles, necessitating the same moral standards and spiritual ideals, and governing both.
The largest measure of our individual and national perplexities and sufferings has come from the ignorant straining apart of that which "God hath joined together" and which we can not successfully and permanently "put asunder."
The remaining four books of the Pentateuch, supply the detail beginning between the Adam and Noah of Genesis, rounding out that part of the skeleton. The Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, represents the soul's growth out of purely sense-consciousness by the help of spiritual perception. Moses is the personification of this faculty inherent in and operative from the eternal ego, the dual being, which is "the Lord" of the Bible.
The Old Testament nature of this "Lord" as the Jehovah. The New Testament presents the inner or feminine nature as the Virgin. The children of Israel according to their tribes, represent the ranging characteristics or parts which wake up the soul of self consciousness. They are the "chosen people" because when the soul sees with its spiritual insight as well as with its sensuous outsight, it can, if it will, choose between the two as guides. Their experiences in the wilderness are what we are passing through today; for there is now a people who have made this choice and are following the higher leader in their work for the human race, which is the only satisfactory way of working for themselves. But this leader - spiritual perception - cannot put the soul in possession of its promised land - a higher state of existence or quality of self-consciousness. It sees the higher and leads in its direction; but understanding of fundamental, therefore unvarying and always applicable, principles is necessary for that realization which fs the attainment of the higher, or its possession.
Moses' death before crossing Jordan illustrates this limitation, which is also the limitation of earnest reformers today. They can see for us and point out that which awaits them; but they can never take those others "into the land." They must travel on their own feet. Joshua, as the leader after Moses, is the personification of this understanding. He is Moses' sepulchre for Moses is buried in him.
Spiritual insight develops understanding which is its continuity. Hence the continuation of experiences under Joshua the " Saviour" through whom the soul takes " possession" of its higher state. In the " wilderness" of transition from the old to the new, mistakes occur which mar their consequences. In this illustration of the Pentateuch, Miriam "speaks against " Moses, is stricken with leprosy and "set without the camp," and the people cannot journey till all is "brought in again."
Woman's intellectual development after ages of repression, has resulted with many of the sex, in an agnosticism which, at first liberal, has grown to be a dogmatic materialism. She "speaks against" spiritual insight and its revelations. In forsaking her dogmas and creeds she has forsaken religion. She is to be "brought in again " brought to see that religion is of the soul and is individual; while dogma and doctrine are from the sensuous outside alone.
The one tends to true freedom, the other generates bondage.
Broadly, women of today are of two classes; those who are still held by the conservatism of creeds, and those who have gone to the other extreme through the exhilaration of intellectual activity.
Both classes must meet upon a common ground, recognition of fundamental principles and effort to apply them - before the New Testament can become the practical ethical standard.
An outline of a subject so vast and profound as the nature and meaning of the Pentateuch, must necessarily be more or less unsatisfactory. It cannot be detached from the rest of the Bible which is a complete organic body. Its meaning is consecutive and harmonious with first premises, from beginning to end. The obvious inconsistencies and absurdities involve only its letter, which may or may not be true as history without affecting the truth of the book itself which lies in its meaning.
The projectors of The Woman's Bible must not avoid the whirlpool of a masculine Bible only, to split upon the rock of a feminine Bible alone. This would be an attempt to separate what is intensely joined together and defeat the end desired.
The book is the soul's guide in the fulfilling of its destiny that destiny which is involved in its origin; and the soul, in sleep, is sexless. Its faculties and powers are differentiated are masculine and feminine.
If the question is asked "What is your authority for this view of the Bible?" the answer is "I have none but the internal evidence of the book itself. When joined it is self-evident truth, requiring no external authority to give it support." -- Ursula N. Gestefeld
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