Hazrat Inayat: The Story of Lot’s Wife

We continue with our occasional series by Hazrat Inayat Khan of explorations of religious symbols, visiting this time the story of Lot and his wife.  In the Book of Genesis, as well as in the Quran, where he is regarded as a prophet, Lot was the nephew of the prophet Abram, later Abraham.  They travelled together from Sumeria to Canaan, and Lot settled with his wife in the city of Sodom.  When God decided to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as a punishment for the immorality of their people, Lot was warned to flee; his wife, looking back, was turned to a pillar of salt.  Lot subsequently took refuge in a cave with his daughters, who, according to the Book of Genesis, gave their father wine and induced him to be intimate with them.  This story has given rise to a great deal of moral perplexity and debate, but the symbolic and metaphysical rather than historical view offered here by Hazrat Inayat avoids such questions completely, and provides a profound insight into the inner world.  

The Story of Lot’s Wife

The ancient method of giving the mystery of life was to give it in the form of a legend. The legend of Lot’s wife is that it was to Abraham that Lot was related, and it was by the love and help of Abraham that the two angels were sent to Lot, to warn him of the coming destruction of two cities and to advise him to go to the mountains. And Lot was not willing to leave the cities, but in the end he agreed to. His sons-in-law failed him by not accompanying him, but his wife and his two daughters accompanied him on the journey to the mountains. And they were told that his wife must not look back; and when she did, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters remained, and they reached the cave of the mountain, which was Lot’s destination.

The two towns that were to be destroyed represent the North Pole and the South Pole, the two poles of the world. For all the treasure of the earth, all possessions and power and fame that belong to the earth, are subject to destruction. And that was taught to Lot, the human soul, who was the relation of Abraham, the divine soul, which is from Brahma, the Creator. The relationship of Lot with Abraham represents the relation of the human soul to the Creator. The two angels were the angels of light and of reason. When the light comes to man, its first teaching is to warn the soul of the disaster that awaits all that is subject to death and destruction. It is this lesson that is called in Sanskrit the lesson of Vairagya–when man’s eyes open to see that all that he loves and likes and wishes to hold and possess is subject to destruction and death.

There are five bodies considered by the Mystics of old to be the vehicles of the soul, which are called: Anandarnayakosh, body of joy; Vignanamayakosh, body of wisdom; Manamayakosh, body of mind; Pranamayakosh, body of ether; Annamayakosh, body of earth. This last is the receptacle of food. It lives on earthly food, and if it is starved of that, it dies. For it is made of earth; it lives on earth. The other is the receptacle of ether, which is called Pranamayakosh. That part of man’s being lives by breath and by taking in the air, and if it is starved of air, it cannot live. These two bodies form the material part, the physical part, of man’s being. And it is these two receptacles which are referred to in the legend as the two sons-in-law.

The principal nature of mind is doubt–
whether one is doing right or wrong.
And doubt and faith are enemies.

Then there is Manamayakosh, which is mind, and the mental body. And this body has its action and reaction on both sides; it acts and reacts on the earthly bodies, and it acts and reacts upon the soul. Therefore when Lot left the two cities, which represent the physical plane, to journey toward the goal of Immortality, his wife was still with him. For it is not necessary for the mental body to stay behind when the journey towards illumination is begun. It is capable of going with the soul towards Eternity. And yet its attachment to earth and the physical plane is great, because it is made, it is built, of physical impressions, of all impressions that come from the physical world; and of necessity it wants to turn to see if the physical being or the spiritual being is leading it aright. The principal nature of mind is doubt–whether one is doing right or wrong. And doubt and faith are enemies. While faith leads to the destination, doubt pulls back. When the mind was so pulled back, attracted by all the impressions of earthly life, it could neither take hold of the earth nor journey with the spirit, and remained neither earth nor water, but salt.

The only two bodies which are close to the soul followed the soul. Naturally they would follow, for they are closely related to the soul, Vignanamayakosh, the body of wisdom, and Anandamayakosh, the body of joy. The soul bound towards the Eternal Goal–as it is called, the top of the mountains–then proceeded towards the mountains. And before they reached the top of the mountains, there was the cave, which is called Heaven–in metaphysics, capacity; in Sanskrit, Akasha –which has the power of holding the soul from going to the top and using the soul for some purpose. And the soul which was bound for the Eternal Goal remained, intoxicated by the ecstasy that it received from the plane of joy and the plane of wisdom. And as everything that happens has its purpose, so this joy resulted in a great purpose, in the birth of the Messenger, which in Sanskrit is called Bodhisattva. The Messenger was born of the souls’ experience, the knowledge and the happiness, to bring good tidings to the world.

A question may arise, why Manarnayakosh must be the mother, and Anandamayakosh and Vignanamayakosh must be the daughters. And the answer is that they are born of mind, born of mind and soul. If there were only the soul, there would be neither joy nor wisdom. Mind and soul both produce joy and wisdom. Therefore the latter are the daughters, because mind is the mother. The two lower planes are represented by the sons-in-law, because they were not directly born of mind and soul; it was a separate substance mind and soul have taken into their life. By this story the process is taught how the soul can journey from mortality to immortality, and what experiences the soul possibly has to have on its way. But when the Messenger is so created, then the Father–the Soul–rests in peace. It is therefore that the Messenger was called the Son, and the Original Soul the Father.

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