The majority of the Ten Commandments can be summed up by just one sentence: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Even so, there are some unhelpful translations and errors that lead to misinterpretations of quite a few of them — commandment number six, for example, is not ‘Thou shalt not kill.’
For most of us, the first three are the biggest obstacle — all that ‘graven image’ and ‘not blaspheming’ stuff. Well, guess what? to the mystic, that’s not what they mean at all.
Here’s a Kabbalistic inner interpretation of all ten which may help them make more sense to you.
Let’s start at the beginning…
- I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
The first thing to note here is that it doesn’t say that there are no other Gods. That is the whole point of this commandment. There are many other gods, gods without a capital ‘G.’
I’m not talking about Baal, or Zeus, or Ishtar or any of the other pantheon, although those would have been included back in Moses’ day. In the modern world, they aren’t much of a problem.
To worship something is defined as showing reverence and adoration towards it. A god is not necessarily a mythical entity worshipped in a temple; it is anything that rules us to the extent that we do not question it.
The key to this commandment is in the sentence, ‘which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’ Egypt in the mystical teachings is the land of slavery — and at the metaphysical level, this is bondage to the demands of our ego.
It’s the ego that doesn’t like it when we decide to meditate, to study spirituality, to develop our true Self or our Soul — and that’s because doing that means that we are stepping out of the tribe. The ego’s job is to keep us firmly in the tribe as it believes that is the place where we will be safe. As the ego’s sole interest is to keep us alive, it’s going to do all it can to stop us from sticking our heads above the parapet in case we get shot at both physically or emotionally.
However, the ego is fine with all sorts of stuff that we love to do, like shopping, watching football, spending time on Facebook, watching TV. In fact it’s fine with anything as long as it doesn’t involve changing us. It wants everyone else to change instead (after all, they’re the ones who are wrong aren’t they?!). It is particularly happy when we have low self-esteem because that keeps us nicely trapped and tempts us with the blame game.
It’s worth adding here that if you are not physically safe in the tribe of your birth, the ego will allow rebellion — but only to get you to a different tribe. Becoming a Goth, a Reiki healer or joining a commune will still be a tribal movement — you join a different group and live by its rules instead. Wherever we go, unless we grow psychologically we will take our egos and their prejudices with us and the same patterns will occur again.
And rebelling in a way that leads you to end up on your own on the streets is also egoic — no one with good levels of self-esteem ends up down in the gutter. However, sometimes we need to get down to the bottom in order to wake up and realise that it is us who must change in order for life around us to improve.
It’s our true Self that is the awakened part of us — the innovator. The Self steps up to challenges, changes and embraces new beliefs. The Self is excellent at leading, but not so good at the follow-up. That requires discipline.
How often have you been to the talk, the workshop or the event and thought, ‘Yes, this is brilliant! I will do this and my life will change for the better.’ Two weeks (maybe two days) later, you haven’t done it or you’ve only done a little, your family and workmates have been unsupportive or mocking and it all falls by the wayside.
Then you need another workshop … and then it all falls apart again. That’s the ego refusing to embrace the discipline which would make it all change.
So … back to the commandment. When we understand about the ego, we’ll see that it says that reaching for the Divine lifts us out of the bondage of the ego [Egypt]. But to stay free, we have to watch what we worship. And we worship a lot of things that we don’t realise we are worshipping. These include our families, our homes, money, our politics, being right, power, sex, sports, our favourite TV programmes, our pets, criticising, blaming, celebrities, our hobbies, chocolate, our partner. I’m sure you can think of more.
That’s all fine and dandy. But it all falls down when we put those things before the development of our Soul. That’s what the commandment is saying ‘no other gods before Divinity.’ If we seek the Divine – Inspiration, Love – however you perceive Divinity, then our lives will be on course. We will be open to the new and the possible, instead of reverting to the same-old, same old.
The ego requires repeat top-ups of all its old habits and pleasures; the Soul seeks enlightenment and true happiness.
The commandment is saying simply that we need to put our spiritual life first in order to grow and to be happy. It’s not about God needing our worship, it’s about understanding that God is in everything; creation is God and that the whole world turns on Love. If we don’t put Love first then, frankly, our lives will suck.
And this isn’t love for family or partner; this is Divine Love; the willingness to see the Great Truth in all things; that all is well; that love abounds. Being Love. And true love, of course, includes ourselves – and the ability to say ‘no’ to harmful things and people while simultaneously accepting them for being what they are. Blessing dissolves much more anger, pain and tragedy than blame.
It’s about keeping us safe from the backsliding of our ego which will keep us in the same-old same old mould. It’s simple, but nobody ever said it was easy.