Moses and Ourselves
The Path of the Law
The Essene Book of Creation
By Edmond Szekely
Moses did not enter the land of Canaan with his people. This fact is one of the mysteries of the Old Testament and has puzzled many historians and Bible scholars. Moses organized the Exodus, gave forth the Law on Mount Sinai and welded a group of people into a nation. He created the monotheistic religion which has influenced all of western civilization, and with the Ten Commandments he regulated every activity of life in accordance with the Law. When all this was accomplished and the tree he planted was ready to bring forth fruit, he ended his work; he did not harvest the fruit. He went up into Mount Nebo and disappeared from history.
No adequate explanation of this act has been given to the world at large. But in the Essene traditions, as recorded in certain apocrypha, the whole life, work and teaching of Moses is ascribed to the dictation of two great intuitions which came to him. One was the intuition inspired by the ancient legend of Jacob and the angels, which was responsible for Moses’ philosophy of life lived in harmony with the angels – that is, with the forces of nature and the powers of consciousness. His intuitive purpose in organizing his people of Israel was the creation of a nation which would live in harmony with the Law, as this was later enunciated at Mount Sinai.
This intuition of Moses marked a turning point in the history of mankind, being a new interpretation of universal values which gave to man his title to nobility. When Moses had accomplished his task of leading his people to a realization of the Law and had brought them to the threshold of nationhood founded on the Law, his exoteric work was finished. For this one intuition did not comprise the whole of his life’s purpose.
Moses’ second great intuition was based on the tradition concerning the patriarch, Enoch. He wrote only a few words about him, but these few are perhaps the most magnificent in the Old Testament: “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him.” The idea behind this story is of incomparable grandeur. Few have ever comprehended it, even to this day.
The utmost of human endeavor might seem to have been attained at Mount Sinai when the Cosmic Consciousness filled the individual consciousness of Moses and brought forth the Law for its incarnation in an entire nation. But at Mount Nebo there was an even more tremendous accomplishment, for the consciousness of this greatest of the prophets was united with the Cosmic Consciousness and dissolved into it. The realization of this state has been the supreme ideal of the most profound metaphysical and mystical systems throughout man’s upward climb.
There is a connection between the event at Mount Sinai and that of Mount Nebo. One represented the exoteric mission of Moses and the other was the esoteric goal which he projected for humanity. This linking of the exoteric and esoteric was the dominant motif throughout his life and teaching. He considered both equally necessary and important. He knew that one could not be accomplished without the other. In Moses’ teaching there were always the two aspects – the temporal and the eternal. The nation of twelve tribes, monotheistic religion, the code of ethics, the priesthood and the ritual he created were all temporal achievements, perfectly adequate for the age and attuned to mankind’s degree of evolution at that time. Moses’ great genius lay in his ability to adapt the eternal values of his intuitions and revelations to the needs of his age.
But his greatest work was his esoteric teaching. And the leading idea in this was the image of Enoch.
If the quintessence of Moses’ teaching is analyzed, it will be found that his real followers were the prophets of Israel, the Essenes of the desert and the Cabalists of the Middle Ages rather than the priesthood of Aaron with the rituals practiced in the tabernacle. Those who carried on the eternal aspect of his teaching were much closer to his original intuition than those who preserved the temporal and formal side of his work.
The Patriarch, Jacob, offers a similar instance of combined temporal and eternal values. Jacob had twelve sons, eleven of whom carried on the practical work of the patriarch and were the foundation of the migrating group which carried with it the embryonic idea of monotheism and of the later Mosaic traditions. Jacob loved all twelve of his sons, but the one he loved above all was Joseph, the dreamer, who accomplished less than any of his brothers in a material way. But his father felt him to be nearer to his heart and loved the youth because he had deep intuitions like his own and could perceive the invisible behind the visible; the eternal beyond the temporal.
In the same sense the prophets of Israel had more affinity with the philosophy of Moses than had the priesthood of Aaron which concentrated on the preservation of traditions which inevitably became static in the course of the ages. The prophets, the Essenes and the Cabalists lived in a dynamic consciousness, in permanent communion with the Eternal; they had an insatiable thirst to understand man’s relation to the universe and to those realities without formal aspect that are forever manifested in the laws of nature and the higher consciousness. They alone could understand the fulfillment of the esoterical conception and goal of Moses attained at Mount Nebo.
Interpreting this goal still more broadly, one may compare Moses’ achievement with the highest ideal ever created – the Brahmanic conception of the final objective of human life.
According to the Brahmanic tradition, a complete life on earth consists of four periods of accomplishment. The first three were periods of preparation and training for the supreme achievement of the fourth. The first period of youth was devoted to education and study in order to acquire the quintessence of all the knowledge gained by previous generations. This period was regarded as the precondition of a complete life. In Moses’ life it was represented by the period in Egypt when he acquired the knowledge of all Egyptian traditions and culture – at that time the highest civilization in the world. This constituted the first Brahmanic period of his life.
The second cycle, according to the Brahmanic conception, was that of family life, the raising of a family in harmonious fulfillment. This was the period in Moses’ life when he dwelt with his family in the desert as a shepherd.
The third cycle in the Brahmanic way of life was active and creative participation in the affairs of human society, contributing to the advancement of justice and improvement in the quality of human institutions. This period corresponded to Moses’ forty years after the Exodus in which he led the children of Israel and created a new nation. He served not only as its head and supreme commander but also as the law-giver and the founder of a new religion and ethic. Moses complied with the requirements of the third Brahmanic cycle more fully than any other of the great leaders of mankind.
Finally, in the forth cycle of a complete human life the individual came to the highest duty of all, having duly acquired the available traditional knowledge, having done his duty towards a harmonious family life and having helped mankind in social, ethical and economic spheres. According to Brahmanic conception, this duty was his unity with the Law which governs the universe, his unity with all the forces of nature, and the unity of his human consciousness with the Cosmic Consciousness. In ancient India this ideal for the last cycle of human life was manifested by retirement to the forest. And in the life of Moses it was similarly manifested when he gained his life’s fulfillment with his disappearance upon Mount Nebo.
This event marked the final realization of the basic intuition which had lived in his heart throughout his life. To him it was a higher ideal than the creation of a nation or ritual or traditions, however important these might be. It was the timeless ideal of all great geniuses of every age – this mystic fulfillment of a great life which led Moses to retire to Mount Nebo.
Many Bible critics have become lost in the details of the Old Testament. They have concentrated on the temporal teachings and missed those that are eternal. They have been concerned over the formal instructions which seem inadequate or even ridiculous for life today. Thus they have neglected or rejected the most important content of the Old Testament – its eternal values. Theirs is the type of criticism which says, “There walks a moustache, and to this moustache a man is attached, and the moustache is ridiculous.” But of the man himself not a word is said, for he is considered as a mere incidental appendage to the moustache. This is the attitude of those whose chief concern is with the anachronistic elements in Moses’ teaching.
But there is in his teaching that which has eternal validity and great value for man today. Moreover, this will continue to be of supreme importance as long as men live on this planet. Moses, the philosopher of a dynamic universe, believed in the eternal effluvium of vital forces both in nature and in man. He considered man and the universe not as units of matter, but as units of energy. Some three thousand years later another philosopher, Bergson, called this energy “élan vital.” He considered that harmony appeared whenever this vital effluvium, present everywhere in the universe, was unhampered.
Egypt, in the philosophy of a dynamic universe, is the aspect of man when the free flow of this vital energy is obstructed. From the moment of his birth until death there is always some obstruction. But there is also an exodus, a way out from this chain of Egypts. Man’s Egypts begin in his early childhood when the wonderful receptive apparatus of his nervous system feels the impact of all the inharmonious influences in his environment. These inharmonies create for the child various kinds of limitations, which in all probability will accompany him the remainder of his life. These limitations constitute the first Egypt or bondage in human life.
A second Egypt is entered in the cycle of education when the child receives a pseudo-guidance in school, where he is stuffed with all manner of static, petrified traditions and principles. Later in life, these come into perpetual conflict with the realities of existence outside school and with the inner tendencies which the child finds developing within himself. Here is the cause of another limitation which is likely to accompany him throughout his life.
With the coming of adolescence and the awakening of the sexual energies further limitations are imposed upon the growing child, and when these cause repressions they become sources of neuroses that may influence his acts permanently. All of the various complexes which interfere with his happiness or even with his usefulness and normal development arise under the pressure of wrong education and faulty environment, possessiveness, egoism, and other wrong attitudes. These and other forms of inferior guidance of the adolescent constitute the third aspect of the individual’s Egypt.
Later in life come the pressures exerted by the economic sphere, which may condemn a man to spend years in a monotonous routine, or to work in a spirit of aggressiveness and competition instead of in one of harmonious cooperation which is the law of nature. Thus man finds himself in another bondage in Egypt which hinders the free flow of the élan vital so sacred in the philosophy of Moses.
Another Egypt appears in the shape of ill health and the different diseases to which man is prone. Vital organs slow down or cease to function properly, and the vitality of the body enters into a new bondage. The Egypt of old age and solitude leads a man into yet another bondage, and finally the fear of death enslaves him, since the individual who has been unable to live a free life cannot face death harmoniously.
These seven Egypts, these seven bondages, chain every individual. But at the same time there is always the light – the Eternal Light – showing the way to the exodus. There is always a way to free the élan vital – a way to keep it from petrifying. For each of us there is always an exodus.
Man can free himself from the bondage of his static pseudo-education by observing nature and by penetrating his own consciousness. All men receive two kinds of education: that given by others and the one they give themselves. The latter is the more important, as it is the exodus from the wrong education of his youth.
The exodus from the emotional chaos of adolescence and early adult life is found through the harmonious deployment of the individual’s natural tendencies or the sublimation of those which his environment forbids him to express. Modern psychology offers contemporary man help in the utilization of his unharnessed forces and in creating harmony from disharmony.
From the Egypt of economic limitations there is the exodus of the simple life, of learning to recognize true values in place of false, of living accordingly, freed from the bondage of possessions and material things. The only freedom consists in the minimum of needs.
The exodus from the bondage of disease lies in living a natural life in harmony with all the laws of nature, so that all physical impairment is avoided and ill health banished. Moderation in living, the avoidance of all harmful habits, enjoyment of fresh air and sunshine, exercise, relaxation and a harmonious balance of work make possible an escape from the Egypt of disease.
From the bondage of old age there is a similar exodus – the conservation of vitality. When man keeps his health and strength late into his life, old age loses the handicaps, weakness and disease which are generally associated with it. By living a creative life man also increases his longevity and at the same time finds an exodus from the fear of death. For creativeness brings knowledge of the laws of life, of nature and of the human consciousness, which results in harmonious living and equal harmony in death. The understanding of this great truth was shown by Saint Augustine when he said, “The pomp of death is more terrifying than death itself.” It is the morbidness of the ritual, superstitions and imaginary ideas associated with death which make this phenomenon seem terrifying to some. But to those who understand that it is a natural and rhythmic transformation of certain energies into other forms of power and that each individual is an inseparable part of an infinite universe and a part of eternity, there is an exodus from the seventh Egypt. Such people know that there is no punishment of a theological order after death and that the only hell is that created by man within himself when he deviates from the Law. Few are those who accomplish their exodus in all its different aspects. We realize a partial exodus from the limitations placed upon our élan vital when we listen to a beautiful symphony, enjoy a magnificent book or contemplate a great piece of painting or sculpture. We win a temporary exodus from the monotonous rhythm of our Egypt when we become absorbed in the beauties of nature and unite our consciousness with all that is beautiful, profound and of true value. According to the intuition of Moses such moments constitute man’s real life; not his apparent daily life but these rare intervals form his exodus; not his Egypt but his exodus in his true life.
Mankind’s Egypt consists of the totality of his deviations from the Law. The symptoms of this Egypt in which the majority of people live today, have lived in the past and will live for a long time to come are ignorance, violence, intolerance, persecution and destruction. Mankind has not yet learned to transform his inherent atavistic instincts and impulses into creative powers. Mankind has not yet reached any appreciable degree of emotional maturity. The vast majority of of human beings have not yet penetrated the inner meaning of those great thinkers who in all ages have taught the same truths. As a consequence, these higher teachings have been disregarded. There has not been one year in universal history without wars, violence and destruction. There will not be until man himself takes a further step forward in his individual evolution.
Mankind in his bondage in Egypt has not yet perceived the law of life which is manifested in his own organism, where every organ cooperates harmoniously with its fellows and works ceaselessly to preserve and perpetuate the life of the whole body. Man’s organs do not fight with one another. They do not destroy each other. The world in which man lives now is no better than the temporal Egypt of three thousand years ago. Perhaps it is even worse, for after two wars involving most of the nations on the planet, man seems to be expecting a third world war. And millions are starving, more than a third of them children. This is the Egypt in which man now lives; and not much of a beginning has been made with the exodus from it.
Many attempts have been made. There have been great teachers and great philosophical schools which have tried to set man upon the path of partial, temporary exodus from his plight. But in all the various renaissances and movements of literature, the élan vital has sooner or later slowed down and in the course of centuries has become petrified into hopelessly static dogma.
The milestones in these attempted exoduses for mankind have been marked by such great teachers as Zarathustra, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Socrates, St. Francis of Assisi, and many other thinkers, dreamers, utopians and realists. All of them did what they could to help mankind make an exodus. But, exodus does not mean a short cut. No theory or philosophical system can change human beings overnight. They cannot suddenly become perfected beings and transform the world’s chaos into paradise. It has to be remembered that the generation which began the Exodus lasted forty years, but it was only the beginning on the path of learning to live in harmony with the laws of life, of nature and of the cosmos. Only through the cumulative influence of many people over many generations can a real exodus for humanity be accomplished.
But it can be accomplished and it will be accomplished. Man’s Egypt of bondage is not eternal. When man will analyze the quintessence of his existence, he will know that the mysterious effluvia of vitality which continually create generations, cultures and civilizations through the ages are ever existent and everywhere present for man to utilize. Canaan is not some mythical utopia; it is a reality. The exodus is the pathway that leads toward Canaan.
If man considers the triumphal march of life on this planet from the microcosmic, gelatinous amoeba to Socrates, a Leonardo Da Vinci, a Newton, an Einstein or a Beethoven, then he will realize that the effluvium of vitality is indeed inexhaustible and eternal. The quintessence of life is more life, and there is no limit to the eternal source of élan vital possessed by man. Mankind will continue on his triumphal march and will reach the land of Canaan. It will achieve all-sided harmony – both for the individual and for the race – and reach the supreme goal of Moses, the greatest of the prophets. Observance of his dynamic and every-sided philosophy of life, of the eternal principle of his teaching, will bring man, not in the present era but at length, to this universal Canaan.
This is the categorical imperative which shall lead man on the path trodden by this titan of humanity who, like Enoch, “walked with God; and he was not; for God took him.”