religious teachers explain the Bible - wholly or in part
in a literal
Now a literal translation of the Old Testament destroys all the wisdom and beauty of the book.
~ Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
The Christian Explanation of the TestamentsMarch 1862
All religious teachers explain the Bible, wholly or in part, in a literal sense. Now a literal translation of the Old Testament destroys all the wisdom and beauty of the book. The books of Moses, for instance, are founded on the progression of the intelligence of the masses. They are illustrated by facts at different periods of the world; and in order to do this, literal illustrations had to be used to typify the intellectual progression.
The writer commences with man and carries him up, step-by-step, to the commencement of civilization and shows his progress, through the process of error, to the land of truth (or Canaan) - and here is where the writer ends his history. It was never intended to be understood that he had no higher motive than to state certain facts about the children of Israel passing through the wilderness. He took literal facts and habits of the people and used them as illustrations of what he wished to teach. So when he tells what God did in six days, it is not to be explained literally - for no intelligent person can believe it; but heathen superstition had handed down these fables, and Moses uses them to explain the great science he was to communicate to the people.
His teaching was like travelers in wilderness, and he used the fables of certain tribes who had traveled to illustrate his truth. When a body of men migrate to a new country, they carry with them all their ideas of right and wrong and their religious principles. After Moses had remained in Egypt as a teacher, his teachings become a part of the people's belief, and his ideas of civilization and religion were not liked by the religious people of Egypt. So like all persecuted people, they sought a home in a far country. Like all emigrants, they must have laws to govern the people, as well as science to teach them; and as they traveled, Moses instructed them in the wisdom of this great truth of science and happiness. This truth is the science of health; and as their diseases all arose from the Egyptian religion, Moses acted as a teacher and a priest.
Moses was the natural man; and Aaron, the science (or truth) that teaches man how to take care of himself. I have no idea that the word “Moses” meant any particular man, but signified the natural man (or error and disease); and Aaron, the science - or the wisdom of God, made manifest in the progression of man's development. The people's ideas were represented by Moses. The science was also made manifest through the same man, called Aaron. The history of the world was the ideas of the heathen theology, and Moses exposes their absurdity by parables.
The history of Pharaoh and Aaron was a test of their powers (or wisdom). The rod was his truth (or arguments), and the magicians' words were also their wisdom (or truth). The subject (or idea) was the errors, and they were like frogs and lizards, etc. They had - like the medical opinions of our days - got into their food and drink.
Ever since the world began, there have been two principles - one based on science and the other, on ignorance and superstition. One is called religion; the other, infidelity. These two principles keep together and run through every act of man's life, and each man is a part of them. Ignorance has always led, but science has passed it along. All religion is based on the superstition of man. You will find it in every revolution fighting against freedom.
Wisdom is science; superstition and error is slavery. So the superstition of every man wants to suppress the wisdom of science. These two powers are at war with each other, and all writers are impressed with one or the other, and they have had as many names as political parties. One is always changing and does not know it; the other is progressing and knows it. The former is made up of those who profess to be true Christians (or the democracy). They are like a man in the fog, who sees no one but himself; so he thinks everyone is in the dark, while he is in the light.
The scientific man and poet pictures to himself man's progression, and in his poetic strain illustrates his ideas by living facts or fiction. These little fables are handed down from one generation to another, till the ignorant believe them as literal truth. Progression is the power that moves the whole machinery, and ignorance is afraid of it - so it looks upon it as a mystery and tries to make peace with it. In this way religious creeds are started, and combinations of men form into parties and clubs to contend against this. So they undertake to explain it to the people, to keep them in subjection; for their lives depend on their ignorance. For as the light of science bursts in upon them, they are annihilated; and so wars and strikes are kept up, in hope of holding the power.
Just go with me into Egypt and see how the people are governed by the priests (or error), fighting progression. Listen now, and hear men in squads, talking about religious tyranny; working themselves up to the highest pitch of nervous excitement. They form themselves into bands (or parties), spouting and arguing with each other. At last leaders are chosen and some form of government adopted, and someone wiser is instructing the masses - so at last a sort of covenant (or beginning) is introduced to account for all phenomena. As truth or error is the starting point, each claims the right to judge. As all things are admitted to have an existence, there must be a cause, and someone commences with the creation of matter and uses the solar system as a figure of the creation of man. So he gives his ideas of man; not the shadow, for man contains truth and error.
When God said, “Let us create man in our own image,” it meant, “Wisdom creates man in the image of truth.” When he formed man (or matter), that was the medium for the image to have and control, like all other living things that were made out of matter.
But man was of the dust (or error) of the world of ideas. So when he dissolved, his idea mingled with the dust (or ideas) of the world; but the image of God lives in its father, wisdom. All will admit that God has all the attributes that man has, and no one will say that God is matter; neither will anyone say that he has not power over it - so it is not necessary for man to have a shadow, in order to exist. Man exists outside of matter.
To illustrate the ideas “man of science” and “man of opinions,” I will suppose a case. Take a lamp and call it the body; the oil; the life; the light; the reason (or mind). The soul is something these know nothing of. It is outside them all, comprehends each particular part, and uses the combination for a purpose which no part - nor the light itself - can conceive of.