Passover by Harley L. Fisher

Passover is a time when the soul leaves the bondage of an old state of awareness and is elevated to a new, higher state.
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Passover is a symbol of the process of redemption and a celebration of spiritual rebirth and renewal.

by Harley L. Fisher
April 11, 1998

Symbology and Passover

Passover is a symbol of the process of redemption wherein the partly disciplined qualities of an individual, symbolized by the Israelites, by partaking of the Divine Nature (the lamb), are nourished by the Divine Life as they triumph over the things of darkness and pass over from a lower stage of spiritual development (Egypt) to a higher state (Canaan). Israel is the Promised Land, the land of God. Land always symbolizes an established state of personal growth that is grounded, rooted, or founded in Spirituality or God Himself. Passover is a time when the soul leaves the bondage of an old state of awareness and is elevated to a new, higher state. The blood of the lamb on the doorposts represents the tribulations of the soul and the change that has taken place within. Any change in awareness or personal development can only occur after the seeker for higher development desires it to occur and has prepared for it.

The blood of the lamb may also symbolize outpouring of the Divine life or spirit. We all know the lamb is generally considered a very peaceful and docile animal; similarly, the state of being one with God is a state of intense peace in which no disturbances exist. To spill the blood of a lamb on the doorposts is to say that the Spirit of God, which we normally think of as being an internal experience, is now so evident as to be seen at the entrance to our homes. Now where is our home? It is in our hearts and minds.

So, the peace of God has come down and is showered upon us, from the portals of our own physical nature (the top of our heads), to our most inner natures (our hearts). So, the Angel of Death, of mortality, passes over the houses where Spirituality has been awakened. A house, a physical structure, implies or symbolizes the physical bodies of the Jews, which is to say all those who are infused with Spirituality need not die for they achieved eternal life in Spirituality by having been awakened to Spirituality. Death passes over these forms (houses) in which spiritual souls already abide. One could also say that the lower nature has died and one's higher nature has been awakened; one has already gained spiritual redemption and death need not revisit. This exemplifies our “twice-born” spirit; we are born first in ignorance of our higher spiritual nature and then are born once again into our higher nature, or Spirituality. This archetypical theme is common and often repeated throughout many seemingly opposing spiritual theologies.

The Egyptians, on the other hand, represent the mass of humanity, which was un-awakened and ignorant of their higher, spiritual nature. The first-born male is symbolic as well. The male is symbol of the lower mind which is affected by the desires and affections of the lower nature. The “first-born” refers to our beginnings which were more emotional and lower mental, meaning we thought more of concrete, material things than abstract things as God. The smiting of the first-born means that we must first control or overcome our lower natures, smite our lower natures, before we can fully appreciate and enjoy our higher, spiritual natures or at least begin to allow our spiritual nature blossom.

The Lord God, who is compassion and love Itself, is not, in truth, a bloodthirsty tribal deity inciting His followers to slaughter lambs, eat the flesh, and sprinkle their houses with blood; nor is He a ruthless murderer. The Almighty Father or God can now be seen as a personification of law and such deeds depicted as allegories illustrate the individual and societal growth toward higher spiritual ends. The first-born were also smitten at midnight: at the peak or depth of darkness and then a new day is born; the light begins to dawn.

Egypt was the house of bondage, or slavery, and Israel is the long destined promised home. This is to say that just as the Israelites of old symbolically crossed over the Red Sea from slavery to freedom so must all spiritual & religious aspirants move from being a slave to their emotions and bondage to material life alone, which is death, to eternal life, which is the promised land of God.

Spiritual Teachings

The legend of Passover has it that the Jews were building the pyramids, supposedly the houses of the dead, the dead pharaohs. This is another way of saying in symbolism that the Jews, truly symbolic of all people, were immersed in dedicating themselves or enslaving themselves to building their lives to death, mortality, materiality, which serves no Divine purpose. One must become emotionally and intellectually free, full of love for God while free from the emotional and mental constraints of false beliefs, whether worldly or Divine, and free from the tempest sway of our emotions so we are rock steady, rational in our actions, full of love for God and to really do what is right and what may serve His Will, free from the irrational impulses and moods which wish to swing us left and right as a leaf in the wind and away from right action, action that serves the Divine and Cosmic purpose.

The hurried departure from Egypt necessitated the making of unleavened bread. Unleavened bread is a symbol of purification through goodness and truth. “Leaven” in this case standing for desire and lower emotion or our lower nature. One is in a hurry to gain a spiritual life and not allow passions, petty desires, and the lower emotions arise to hinder our progress. The old leaven had to be purged and something new created. What was leaven was considered false and what was unleavened signifies what is pure or without falsity.

Passover is also a celebration of spiritual freedom, which implies moral and ethical responsibilities; hence did Moses give the law to the Jews from Mount Sinai after seeing the burning bush. Moses is a servant of God and symbol of the rational and ethical nature of man which formulates the laws of conduct under penalties of nonobservance and disobedience. The moral nature is the lawgiver and the conserver of the higher, spiritual nature (or God) that maintains constant during a period of change or spiritual growth. However, when our conduct is governed by ethical considerations only, without love, then the lower, the baser nature of a man precludes or hides the view of the spiritual nature within us. But when a mind turns to the omnipresent God within us all the veil of the lower nature is removed and Divine Love of the omnipresent Spirit of God is perceived or seen as an ideal and where the heart is tender and the love of right and truth is active, there is liberty; for conduct is no longer coerced by moral laws but follows gladly the Spiritual teaching for the betterment of the individual and of all, family and society.

The Nile, the Red Sea and the Desert

Both Egypt and Israel are each endowed with spiritual significance in that each has a river running through it; the Nile in Egypt and the Jordan in Israel. Countries symbolize the universe in miniature and the river is the stream of Divine Life perpetually flowing through it. The person who is spiritually aware and is united with God is aware of this life stream and has become united with it, having “entered the stream of life”. As one becomes more familiar with it and eventually knows oneself to be identical with this stream of life, with the God force without and within, one is said to have “crossed the stream.” The Nile or Red Sea are used as symbols of the timeless, spaceless, inexhaustible life of God; having become one with it and having crossed it one is said to have achieved spiritual immortality. For the Israelites to have crossed the Red Sea dry-shod is an allegorical method of describing one's own growth toward the Divine while always established on solid ground, or spirituality.

Holding back the waters of the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross dry-shod is to say that eternal truths and wisdom are normally concealed beneath the living substance of which they are composed. The unspiritual mind cannot see beneath the “flood.” The spiritually illumined individual pierces the veil, symbolically holds back the waters and perceives or sees the truth and forever after knows the truths upon which humanity is built.

The horses of Pharaoh represent the intelligent life force which is the driving-power behind and within the activities of the mind, emotions and body. When this life force is spiritually directed the mental energies elevate one toward spirituality. When unrestrained, the mind-impelled force can lead to the indulgence of the lower nature with all its passions and desires. The uncontrolled activity or speed of the Pharaoh to chase the Israelites symbolizes how such uncontrolled actions lead to undesirable actions and excesses in self-expression and their dire consequences. The chariots represent the whole personality -- the Pharaoh was totally out of control of his passions in his wild pursuit of the Israelites which is to say that one can not be a true king if he cannot master his own nature. To be a true king we must master ourselves; to become fully spiritual we must fully gain self-mastery.

Such is the royal road to divine life. For forty years the Jews wandered the desert. This is to say that it was with faith that the Jews had to follow their leader to the Promised Land. Conditions were hard but did they not receive manna from heaven? The desert provides little nourishment. One hungers and thirsts for nourishment. This period symbolizes the absence of spiritual understanding. After some time, when the unsatisfactory character of mere externals as food for mind and heart are realized, manna as the “bread of heaven” or truth directly perceived, becomes an urgent necessity.


The number 40 is used commonly: 40 years in the desert, Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai. It is symbolic of completion of a process; 4 symbolizes our four aspects: physical body, lower & higher mind, and emotions. Ten signifies accomplishment: 10 x 4 = 40. It also a number of preparation, testing.

There were also 10 plagues, which was the number considered to be complete. Plagues are symbols of the pairs of opposites and a condition where the lower qualities are afflicted and destroyed. Turning the river to blood is an example where the life giving waters flowed with Divine Life, destroying falseness. Frogs are amphibious, living in and out of the water. To live in and out of the water may also symbolize living in out of one's emotions, which one must control; they also symbolize re-birth due to their life cycle: a re-birth into spirituality. Vermin, lice and fleas, afflict, as does our pettiness. Flies, with their constant buzzing indicate ceaseless wandering of the unsatisfied mind. Murrain or pestilence: the affliction causing death of cattle symbolizes the operations of the Highest Power destroying our beastly natures. Boils are skin eruptions due to the impurities of the blood, the inner and outer elements of man must be cleansed of impurities to gain union with God; Hail destroying crops is symbolic of erroneous opinions and doctrines destroying the germs of truth of goodness; Locusts destroying crops are symbolic of destroying that food which those false ideas foster - nua false sustenance; Darkness: the elimination of all spiritual illumination which is followed by the light of day or spiritual illumination.

The Celebration of Passover

Passover is a celebration of spiritual rebirth and renewal, a time to fortify our moral code through the commandments that dictate proper conduct and our spirituality. While our holiday's story is unique in its particular cast of characters, geography and plot, it is an ancient archetype repeatedly seen in other religions and cultures. While celebrating our uniqueness as a people let us remember our great commonality with mankind whose quest remains the same as ours: union with the same God who created us all and service to our fellow man.

1. Gaskell, G. A. Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths. New York: Julian Press, 1960.
2. Hodson, Geoffrey. Hidden Wisdom in the Holy Bible, Volumes I & II. Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1993.
3. Chevalier, Jean and Alain Gheerbrant. Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

May the light and love of God prevail. Please let us know how we can help.

Tags: spiritual traditions

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