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The Prophet Slain by a Lion

According to the story as presented in I Kings 13:1-32, a prophet was sent by the Lord to decry the abominations that Jeroboam the King of Israel had committed to maintain his power. The prophet was told to make pronouncement against the idolatrous altar that Jeroboam had set up. (1 Kg. 13:8-9) The prophet was bold and made a clear statement as to the evil of what the king had done. The king was angry and gestured to his guards to seize the prophet but his gesturing arm shriveled up into a stump. In a panic, the king begged the prophet to heal his arm and the prophet did. The prophet was faithful in that he refused an offer by Jeroboam himself to stay and eat bread and be rewarded for healing his arm. The king was just another corrupt politician seeking validation from a real prophet that would have given him approval for his abominations. Contemporary literalist fundamentalists have sold out to corrupt politicians but this prophet refused to sell out to the current ruling corrupt king. The prophet left immediately and went back a different way as he had been directed by the Lord. So far so good but then a really strange thing happened.

There was an old prophet in the area that heard from his sons about the other prophet’s denunciation of the corrupt kings idolatry and self-seeking. (1 Kg. 13:11-13) The old prophet told his sons to saddle up his ass and he went out to find the other prophet. He found the other prophet and said, “Hey come on back and have a sandwich!” The faithful prophet said to the old prophet, “I cannot stay or eat bread and must get on back as directed by the Lord.” The old prophet said he was a prophet too and then said (somewhat paraphrased), “It’s cool. An angel told me it’s okay if you come back and chill out. You have done your duty as required.” (1 Kg. 13:18) Unfortunately, the old prophet lied but the other prophet thought the old prophet must be okay so he stayed.

Half way through their tea and crackers the old prophet had a vision and blurted out that the other prophet had totally messed up and will be a dead in a very short time because he disobeyed his original orders from God. (1 Kg. 13:20-22) Sure enough, the prophet went back to where he cane from and was slain by a lion along the way. (1 Kg. 13:23-24) Interestingly, the lion did not eat the prophet or the ass he rode in on but stood there next to the body which was referred to as a carcase. The spelling in the King James Version is “carcase” was an old spelling of “carcass” and is the dead body of an animal or contemptuously referred to a dead human body.

People walked by and marveled at the situation of the lion and the ass standing together by the dead prophet. The old prophet heard that the prophet was slain by a lion and with much regret and remorse went to find him and brought him back and buried him in the old prophets own grave. (1 Kg. 13: 31-32)

Wow! What a story! What can one make of it? Like all Bible stories the real meaning can only be found by understanding it in a metaphorical way. If interpreted literally one can only conclude that “the Lord” is sketchy, unreliable, and very unpredictable. Frankly, God is the psycho one if the story is interpreted as a literal story. Someone does a good job in a dangerous situation but makes one little mistake and gets destroyed and is considered to be a stinking carcass? It doesn’t sound like being a servant of a psycho God is much fun. Yet, I don’t agree with this diagnosis of God as being psycho and I lay the whole thing on our own weak mind and its projections and sublimations. It’s all in the metaphor but it does explain why literalist interpretations leads to psycho religionists.

If one digs deeper, the obvious paradox is that the two characters in the story were both prophets! How can there be such miscommunication between two prophets? If this can happen between two prophets what’s the hope for the rest of us?

Even though the old prophet lied about what an angel told him, he definitely heard the word of the Lord when he told the visiting prophet that he was doomed for disobeying his original orders. But then, if the old prophet was a real prophet why didn’t God tell him not to invite the other prophet back? Why didn’t the lion eat the old prophet for lying when he came to get the carcass of the dead prophet? Why did the old prophet invite the prophet back in the first place and why did he lie to do it? Being a real prophet himself, didn’t the old prophet know one should not disobey the orders when they are given? Was the lion punishment for the disobedient prophet or did God know the lion was going to be there and that is why the prophet was told to go back a different way and not stop for anybody so he would avoid the lion? Who did what to whom and whom did what to what?

Paradox upon paradox! The paradox of predestination and free will yet again! This is the real story that needs to be understood. I think these kind of stories are like haikus or koans that are meant to shake us up with paradox and make us realize and/or remember that words are very limiting and they cannot convey the multidimensional complex reality we live in.

The real problem was that neither of the prophets consistently listened to their “Higher Self”. Anybody ever ignore their intuitional nudges and end up in a complete mess or worse? Guess what? We’re all prophets! At least if we pay attention. In my opinion, this story is all about our ontology, our structure of mind and state of being. We create our own life by our beliefs and those beliefs can influence how well we can hear our own higher self or not.

The real message of Jesus was not that he was the only divine one and that we are a bunch of garbage and are going to be destroyed if don’t do certain things because God is mad at us and will beat us with a stick while burning us. This is what the formalized church has taught for the last two thousand years. This is why, as I understand it, that Dr. Spong has written that Christianity must change or die. (Spong) Literalist Fundamentalism, the so called Gospel of Prosperity, the belief that we can destroy nature and that will force Jesus to come back, and many other errors are the net result of Christianity not understanding its own teaching.

In my interpretation, the real message of Jesus is that we are all divine and we should start acting like it! Jesus said we should love our neighbor as our self. This is the crux of the problem–we don’t love our self! Narcissism is not self-love. It is overcompensation for self-hate.

The more self-hate, the more extreme the narcissism. We have been programmed for self-hate by negative family situations and further repressed by social expectations. We are taught by various capitalistic forces that if we don’t have this or that then we’re unacceptable and socially bankrupt. Losers! The foundation of exploitive capitalism is generating as much self-hate and other kinds of hate as possible. Our current corrupt government of king wannabes are using hate as their primary reelection strategy.

Money in itself is not evil and being wealthy does not mean one is a sell-out and being poor does not lead to inherent righteousness. Nevertheless, those with the big money and the power are usually filled with self-hate and project and sublimate their self-hate to all the other people that they exploit and murder. In extreme cases these are the people that no matter how much money they have, it is never enough. This psychoses of self-hate is also why they throw children into cages, start wars for profit, and give major tax breaks to those that need them the least. They are recreating their own pathetic childhood experience by being destroyers of other lives. Such was Jeroboam, the corrupt king of Israel. As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccles.1:14) This stuff has been gaining on for the last ten thousand, hundred thousand, and even fourteen billion years but we need to evolve.

The other source of self-hate is because we really did something stupid or bad and we can’t forgive ourselves. Forgiveness is based on confession and repentance but the exoteric church has turned these concepts into astounding nonsense. Confession means self- realizations and self-awareness. We must discern our own intentions and develop compassion. The old prophet in the story needed to do a lot more work on that. I suspect he learned something along that line when he saw the result of his own deceit. Peter didn’t think he was capable of denying Christ but he found out he was. These are hard and painful lessons and many people can’t admit they are wrong and so the repression leads downward to the fractals of darkness resulting in psychopathic neurosis. This is the real sin that leads to death.

Repentance is not about beating ourselves with a stick so God will feel sorry for us and he/she won’t beat us with a stick later. Repentance is about changing our behavior so we don’t cause pain to other people and try to figure out what it is that causes pain to other people. Most importantly, repentance is about not causing pain to one’s self. The mental dialogues that go through our mind of self-accusation and condemnation. This is the worm that dies not and yet it is what the church has said we must do. We should hate our self and beat our self with a stick! How often does that go on?

All the negative social influences that gets thrown at us we replay in our mind. I can’t even imagine growing up in the social media environment and all the meanness and cruelty that permeates that medium. Analog bullying is bad enough but cyber bullying must be hell! Is it any wonder so many people are committing suicide? I also totally agree that the plague of mass shootings is the result of mental illness. This mental illness comes from a society based on predatory unregulated capitalism. This should be pretty obvious. All the more reason to restrict the access to weapons of mass destruction in the first place! Duh! But unregulated predatory capitalism has so far won out on the mass sale and availability of these weapons of mass murder.

I surmise that the prophet slain by the lion was fairly young. It was emphasized in the story that the other prophet was old. The young prophet was probably inexperienced and this was why he was told to deliver the message and get the heck out of there. Anybody think that a deranged power mad king can be told that he is full of “it” and there not be repercussions? They’re going to come after you! The king already had told his guards to grab the prophet but his arm shriveled up as discussed above. The prophet was not to mess around and get involved in something over his head but, unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

The old prophet probably just wanted to see what the young generations of prophets were up to. He had no malicious intuitions in my opinion. He was probably retired and that was why he wasn’t sent to tell the king he was nuts even though he was close to the location. Maybe the old prophet just wanted to give the young prophet some advice or maybe he just wanted impress the young prophet with his great wisdom and experience.

Undoubtedly, the young prophet was impressed, or intimidated, by the old prophet because he was inexperienced. He was brave enough to tell the corrupt king he was nuts and honest enough not to be bribed or suck up to the king for power. Yet, he could not turn down a peer’s request because he felt self-conscious and inferior. He did not have enough experience to be able to discern the difference between truth and lies. This has always been a very difficult skill to learn! He also should have loved himself more and given himself more credit. His mental self-demeaning chatter turned way up and he couldn’t hear God yelling, “Hey, what are you doing? Get out of there!” It’s easy to drown out the voice of our intuition, which is the voice coming from our “Higher Self”.

McGilchrist has written a book on neurobiology explaining how the left hemisphere of our brain is verbally dominated and the right hemisphere is where we have the most neural connections to our holistic thinking and feeling self. (McGilchrist) The left hemisphere can, and does, dominate our right hemisphere. When that happens we become more and more obsessed with external things like money and legalism. Society becomes more and more narcissistic, chaotic, and violent.

The reason the left hemisphere does this is the result of evolution. For anything to survive it must catch food. We have to be able to focus and concentrate. We also must be able to grasp and hold the prey. This is what the left hemisphere specializes in. At the same time, however, we must think holistically and be in big picture mode so we do not become food for something bigger. We must be alert for danger. This is the specialty of the right hemisphere.

It is the over indulging in the grasping mode that makes people greedy. The young prophet was grasped by the old prophet who only thought about his ego. The young prophet got distracted, forgot to think holistically, be alert for predators, and he was slain by a lion.

Jill B. Taylor found her higher self when she had a stroke in her left hemisphere. (Taylor) Her right hemisphere worked fine and she experienced unity with the universe and the reality that we are all connected as one whole mind. It is this awareness of unity and connection that is the true love we must have to love our neighbor as our self, because they are part of our self. The corollary to this is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind because everything in nature is connected as one intelligence. God is also part of our human self. We should also love nature in the form of planet Earth and its ecosystems because it is also our self. The point is, all this is already hard wired into our brain. The kingdom of heaven is within us, indeed, just as Jesus said. (Lk. 17:21)

So, what does this story of the prophet and the lion really tell us? Where is the deep metaphor in all this? If we look at the context in the book of First Kings we see corrupt kings and demented people of all kinds. The context also tells how people become demented and psychologically repressed and full of (unconscious) self-hate. What is the remedy to all of this? How can we avoid going there ourselves? This is exactly what the story of the slain prophet tells us as a metaphor.

The real protagonist in the story, interpreted metaphorically, is the old prophet! He was a real prophet yet he still had things to learn. We all still have things to learn. All of the self-hate that is lurking in our unconscious is the real battle of good against evil. The process that leads to mad power mongering kings and all other greedy politicians happens because they will not be honest with themselves and they will always deny all wrong doing.

The old prophet didn’t do that. Granted, he messed up and lied and caused someone to die but, if we see the young prophet as a metaphor for the repressed unconscious of the old prophet, it will make perfect sense. The old prophet recognized his fault (confession) and he went to remedy the situation as best he could (repentance).

As discussed above, the young prophet was persuaded by the old prophet to stay because he was intimidated by the old prophet but this is like a dream. Everything in our dreams are about us, the dreamer. This is also why we are so interconnected so as to be one mind with so many other people. Yet, the ego can be very subtle. If we try really hard, we could be the most humble person in the universe! So much for that.

The old prophet still had secret ego and he acted on it but that is the only way we can see things that are in our unconscious that we repress. All the repressed aspects of ourselves that we deny still show themselves and fly around the house like bats in a social setting. This is the importance of being social and interacting and not being afraid because that is the only way we can see things about our self we repress. Freudian slips anyone!

This is what the evil demented kings and corrupt politicians don’t understand. All of their selfish, brutal mass murder and greed is the acting out of their repressed unconscious which consists of self-hatred as the result of trauma and abuse. Yet, they deny all wrong doing and refuse to face it.

In contrast to the evil kings, the old prophet did not deny his faults. He felt remorse, guilt, and regret but faced it and made amends. This is the path of enlightenment and salvation right there in the middle of the old testament!

Who was the lion in the story? The lion represents the heart and having a heart. At least that’s what the lion in Wizard of Oz was looking for. As Buhner expounds, the heart is where our soul really resides and it is the heart that gets shackled by our repressed neuroses. (Buhner) The lion in the story allegorically represents the heart of the old prophet that slew an age old long standing habit that the old prophet had been repressing. Note in the story that the lion did not eat the young prophet that allegorically represented a repression of the old prophet. Note also that the lion “stood”. It did not sit down or fall asleep and neither did the ass. It is all emphasized in the story. People walked by and wondered at all this and that is how it got back to the old prophet. This is allegorical for “having a conscience”. Everything we do comes back to us at some level.

The lion stood to protect the slain prophet and did so until the old prophet showed up to deal with the situation. When our heart “convicts” us it is not the same as guilt tripping or religiously induced guilt. When we repress the lion’s conviction, the body of our repression will rot in the sun but it wont go away and begins to stink. The lion was the driver of Martin Luther to protest the regulations of the current church establishment and Martin Luther King Jr. to protest the current economic/cultural establishment of racial discrimination. The old prophet understood all this and put the body of the slain prophet in his own grave. Not only that, he told his sons to put his bones in the same grave when he died. (1 Kg. 13:31-32)

What does this represent? This represents nothing less than the old prophets recognition of a part of his own soul that he had finally reconnected with. He sobbed, “Alas, My brother!” He recognized his relationship to a repressed aspect of his own self that he finally found. This idea is consistent with what Jesus said, “With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged.” (Mt 7:2). Paul summed it up by saying, “If we would judge ourselves we would not be judged.” (1 Cor. 11:31).

Unfortunately, both of these sayings are stigmatized with the vision of God standing over us with a bashing hammer. Such an idea is not God, but it is the image of the psychopathically greedy oligarchs and their complicit religious fundamentalists. Nevertheless, we shall overcome them the same way we overcame anaerobic bacteria living in darkness. The same way we have survived several extinction events at many times and many scales. This is the power of life to resurrect itself after being persecuted, destroyed, and killed. Life will again arise even after all the current death and darkness.

Buhner, Stephen Harrod; The Secret Teachings of Plants–The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature; Bear & Company; 2004.

McGilchrist, Iain; The Master and His Emissary–The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World; Yale University Press; 2009.

Spong, John Shelby; Why Christianity Must Change or Die; HarperSanFrancisco; 1998.

Taylor, Jill B.: My Stroke of Insight–A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey; Penguin Books; 2006.

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