Sarah and Tobit - Part 1

back to home pdf share

There is an unusual story in the Old Testament that is like a fairy tale or could serve as a script for a modern film about love.[1] Here in one moment, in two different places on Earth, two people are praying to God for death: an older, blind man named Tobit and a young woman, Sarah.

Tobit is a righteous believer living in exile in Nineveh. He conscientiously fulfills the obligations imposed on him by religion: he shares food and clothing with the poor, gives them alms and secretly buries the bodies of Israel's descendants, murdered by the then authorities, for which he is persecuted. To make matters worse, due to the bird droppings that land in front of his eyes, he loses his sight. This makes him financially dependent on his relative and his wife Anna, who is engaged in spinning. One day, when Anna sends the yarn back to her employers, they give her a goat in addition to the usual payment. Tobit suspects that the goat is stolen and orders his wife to return it. She taunts him, which makes the goblet of bitterness overflow and Tobias begins to beg God for death.

And Sarah prays for death because she is suffering just as badly. She had married seven times, but all her husbands were killed by the evil spirit of Asmodeus on their wedding night. Suspicion falls on Sarah.

God, hearing these fervent prayers, sends his messenger Archangel Raphael to help.

Anyone who is introduced to the mysteries of the original gnostic Christianity will find in this story a mine of juicy symbols that nourish his inner life and inspire them on the Path. This narrative is a "parable" in which everything that is apparently happening in the outside world belongs to our inner being: its aspects and stages of the spiritual path. All the heroes of the story would, therefore, be elements of our psyche, and their names help us to identify them.

Tobit in our parable has a son, Tobias, about whom we'll write more later in this article. The name Tobias is derived from the name Tobit, which shows us that the character of a son is an ennobled aspect of the father's qualities. The name Tobit means "My Good," while “Tobias” means "God is my wealth" in Aramaic. The gender of the characters and their names indicate to us the aspect of will present in each of us. It is the will of the man who realized that the only wealth worth striving for in this world is God. To the contemporary reader, this attitude may seem highly anachronistic, fanciful, and maybe even fanatical. We live in the material world; we have to meet the many needs of our physicality. We also need to find ourselves in a space full of competition, where the value of a person is measured by the number of zeros on the bank account. In this situation, the inner attitude of many of us would rather express the words "money is my wealth" or "my resourcefulness and talents are my wealth". And there is nothing strange or blameworthy in it, because it belongs to our earthly humanity.

It can be said, however, that Tobias is that aspect of the will in us that has moved up to a higher level of the development spiral; or to put it another way: Tobias awakens in us when our soul, after gathering a huge amount of experience in this world, reaches a certain level of maturity. We then begin to realize that no material goods or achievements that bring us splendor give us a real sense of meaning and fulfillment. Secondly, we begin to see that the good that we share, the talents, and the wealth we think we possess are not really our property or merit. We get everything for a while, every situation in this world can change into its opposite at any moment. Talents can pass away as well. Besides, is it really by our own contribution that we have any good qualities? Don't they come from a Treasury far greater than our mortal personalities? If that were the case, we ourselves would be the source of our own existence, and that sounds like nonsense.

This is what Tobias in us thinks. But his wife, Anna, seems to be his shadow. She symbolizes the yet uncleaned aspects of our soul, firmly attached to matter. We are told about this by the goat she gets in return for her work. In biblical symbolism, the goat is identified with Satan, greed, a materialistic and self-centered attitude. Tobias worries that this bonus comes from theft. When we read this passage literally, a man's behavior may seem strange and unfair to us. Only the knowledge of the symbolism reveals the true message. Theft can be defined as any act (thought, emotion) that does not serve unity, which does not coincide with the will of the divine principal present within us.

Today, much is said about the fact that we are all one. It can be said that these words have become one of the main slogans of the New Age movement. And there is probably no man on the spiritual path who would not identify with it or disagree with it. Nevertheless, very often we do not see that our daily perceptions of ourselves and others contradict it very much. We accept the fact that we are all one on an intellectual level. Perhaps, therefore, we have greater ecological awareness, we become vegetarians or vegans, we try to be nice and good to others. Nevertheless, we feel like separate beings. There are many contradictions in our psyche: we feel superior or inferior and, for sure, different than everyone else. We like those who are similar to us; those who differ we treat with reluctance. We cannot tolerate views that are opposite to ours; we tend to discriminate against and offend one another. Today, for example, society is divided into supporters of masks and vaccines on the one hand and opponents on the other. These two groups very often do not have any understanding of each other. When it comes to fear, it is very easy to divide us. And no one remembers anymore about the high ideals that "we are all one."

Sometimes our ego clings to this last slogan because it feels sublime and spiritual, but before we really grow up to it, before we really feel as one, it takes a long process. The process by which the Word, the ideal of Divine Unity, becomes Flesh in us is a process in which we internally integrate all the contradictory aspects present in us, opposite behaviors, incomprehensible, low, animal instincts, egocentric impulses, etc.

The path that leads to this is the path of inner Christianity. The path we are looking for in Eastern religions, leading to freedom from illusion, maya, ego, suffering, falsehood, emotions, attachment, habits, etc., exists also in our Western Christianity. It is given to us in the Bible in a beautiful, rich, deep mystery language, which we often do not understand because no one has taught us to understand it. Because the message was distorted.

As we begin to explore Gnosis, it becomes clear to us why Tobit and Sarah prayed for death. They did not want to literally leave this world, but to annihilate their own ideas, drives, automatic reactions, darkness, and erroneous beliefs that make up the illusory "I". For in man there is a natural soul and its innate egocentric awareness. And there is also a seed, a seed of divine soul, heavenly consciousness, called the lotus, rose, spirit spark atom, mustard seed, etc. It is located in our heart and its development is synonymous with "enlightenment", "spiritual realization". This seed can only grow when our natural consciousness fades.

This other, divine soul is that consciousness that feels one with everything, with everyone, with the whole existence. She does not distinguish between "me" and "you". Everything she wishes for herself she wishes for others too. She can literally love her neighbor as herself, on the most subtle inner levels. Related to this is the inner meaning of giving "alms", which we see, among others in the behavior of Tobit in our parable. It consists in a true inner wish for the highest good for every human being, love, bliss, and spiritual realization. The new soul is such a love; she doesn't have to learn it, train in it, or practice it. This love is her very essence.

(To be continued in Part 2)

[1] The Book of Tobit, chapters 1-12

back to home pdf share