There are many myths in the book of Genesis, including the one about the Tower of Babel. To recap, from Genesis 11:1-9:
1: Originally the whole earth was of one language…2: And…as they journeyed from the East…they found a plain…and they dwelt there. 3: And they said…Let us build a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven…lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 4: And the Lord came…to see the city and the tower which the children of men had builded. 5: And…said…This they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do…
6: Let us…confound their language that they may not understand one another…7: So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city and the tower: 8:…because the Lord did… confound the language of all the earth.
In fact, entire books could be written just to explain this passage, that’s how much is contained in it. For now, we’ll consider just one aspect of it, starting with the reference to “of one language.” Long, long ago, human beings were whole beings that were fully integrated and living in harmony within themselves—no conflicts and no contradictions. Our spirits weren’t these fragmented, scattered beings, like we are now. To say our current version of ourselves lacks single-pointed focus is an understatement, given the abundance of contradictory forces inside each of us.
These contradictions can be thought of as “different languages,” a symbol that represents how we don’t understand ourselves. Since this is what exists inside our souls, this Tower of Babel, it’s going to also exist outwardly in the world. It has to. Enter chaos, stage left. World conditions are the sum total of what’s going on under the hood, and our engines are a jumble of confusion, blindness, wrong conclusions and contradictory aims.
Then the outer confusions and problems confound us, because we ignore how they are being conditioned by our inner ones. As a result, we can’t link up cause and effect, so we can’t make sense of all this “Babel.” The way to clear all this up is to explore the meaning of our emotions, which up until now we have largely not understood.
Further, if we can’t comprehend our own selves, how can we possibly understand others? Our confusions contribute to our poor ability to communicate, so we can’t make them understand us, to boot. So difficulty communicating, that too is the Tower of Babel.
The movement of evolution is one of perpetually closing circles. It applies equally to the whole evolution of the cosmos as it does to our individual spiritual paths. We start out with an outward movement and then move in, in a return to perfection.
For humankind, we start in the East, which symbolizes one point of eternity—although this a rather paradoxical way to say this. The West, then, is the goal. Go West, young man. So the East was the perfection we started out with and the West is the perfection we will one day have regained. Yet they are really one. It’s a loop. Only through our human eyes do we see two different directions.
When we strike out on a spiritual journey, we begin with a spiritual emphasis, which we then drift away from. Later, we return to it but with a new understanding gained during our time away. We are right back where we started from, but it’s different now. We’ve become richer and wiser. It’s like that with perfection too. We’re coming back to it and when we get there, we’ll be more perfect than ever. Which of course is a fun oxymoron.
We are surrounded by symbols that reflect inner problems. This is true for nations, religions, languages—even atmospheric conditions. They are all symbolic of the inner world of the individuals involved. They all express both harmony and disharmony in the souls. So the world that determines our reality is our inner world. That’s the cause of it all. The world we see with our eyes is the effect. For the most part, we humans have this so totally backwards.
We think that happenings in the world are what make us crazy. Nope. We’re the crazy, mixed-up ones. As we go along our journeys of growth and healing, we’ll see that this is true. We can actually even see this in our surrounding landscapes. They are an expression of all the souls collectively: magnificence on one hand, pollution, grunge and bleakness on the other. This isn’t that much of a mystery, when we stop and think about it.
Nature and weather, in fact, paint a purer picture of the state of our souls than do relations among nations. Our natural environment represents our thinking, meditating and contemplating aspects, where we raise our thoughts to higher things. At this point in time, we are able to be alone and get along with ourselves. The problem happens when other people come into the picture. Now we have to get along despite all the egocentric immaturity that shows up. So much easier to just be alone in nature.
In addition to looking at how nature symbolizes certain aspects of our souls, we can look at art and artificiality as other out-picturings. Everything in the material world can be seen as a symbol of inner attitudes, if we just look through this lens. It’s not really languages that are a barrier between people. These are a symbol of something more profound. If we knock down the inner barriers, the outer ones will come down on their own.
Yes, we have a long way to go. But hey, we’ve also come a long way. Walls have come down. This reflects the way that some of our inner defenses, which are so destructive for us, have been removed. Outer destruction of walls in the world has supported the destruction of our walls within, as well. And the more we continue to dismantle these inner defense mechanisms—which cause so darn much damage to a person—the more we contribute to better world conditions in every possible way.
In the passage on the Tower of Babel, there is a reference to people trying to build the tower so high it would reach heaven. Of course, no such luck. But isn’t that just what we’re doing when we try to be so perfect? Our insides are like battlefields but nonetheless, we think it would be a good idea to try to appear as though we are perfect. Such superiority is a complete mismatch for our present inner state.
In the myth, the people attempt this misguided venture out of pride. They want to reach great heights but their methods and motives are wrong. It’s interesting how much that’s like us and our idealized self-image where we attempt to fashion a perfect façade to cover our far-from-perfect selves. This can never succeed. The thing is bound to crumble—just like our pride when we realize we can’t possibly live up to this ridiculous version of ourselves. The unrealistic goals and demands crush us and we end up feeling defeated.
Trying to get to heaven—to reach perfection—by taking a shortcut through material means is doomed to fail. It’s not realistic. It’s just as nuts as building a tower that reaches the heavens. It can’t be done. Growth and self-development require a more down-to-earth approach.
It is this perfect version of ourselves—our own personal Tower of Babel— that splits us up inside. The resulting estrangement is a symbol of the inner foreign language we can’t understand. We don’t know why we do what we do, or why we react the way we react. We are a stranger to ourselves. To top this off, we have a conscious desire to go in one direction. We act on this but don’t realize there are deeper currents flowing in the very opposite direction and they throw everything into reverse. This too shows up in the story of the Tower of Babel. So much truth is contained in this fantastic myth.
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