A friend today sent me a quotation from the Book of Daniel, and asked me what my thoughts on its meaning were. As I started to unravel it and its meaning I realised that within this piece lay both prophetic and apocalyptic meanings that have a direct relevance to life today; and that in this it can be seen as a message for all people and all times. So I have decided to expound on this piece to do it more justice. The same can be done with many great writings from many religious traditions.
Here is the relevant section: The Ram and the Goat – Daniel 8:1-8
“ . . .Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great. And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand. Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. . .”
Whenever we look at a piece of writing analytically we must always look first to when it was written, to get the context of what is going on around the writer in his daily life and times, who the writer may be and who the audience is that he is writing it for. In this way we may see the first layer of meaning. Many people stop here; and a piece of writing is skipped over because it is not understood, or it is simply understand literally. Some branches of Christianity for example, take a literal understanding of what is said in the Bible, failing to see its allegorical and metaphorical and esoteric meanings at all. They are then seeing, only a fraction of what is actually being said.
By reading the book as a whole; or in the round, we see where the passage that interests us sits within the whole. Are there earlier references to it? Does this passage stand out as in someway unique within it, or is it one of many ongoing references to a subject in different ways? We may gauge a second layer of meaning here.
The third layer of meaning involves understanding the symbolism chosen in the writing, what it meant then and whether this differs from what may be understood now. Is the writer trying to be clear in his message or is he protecting what he is saying by using terminology and symbolism that only a few people would understand? In spiritual writing this second reality is very often the case. Writers will write things that ensure their safety from easy understanding if they fall into “unknowing and dangerous” hands, and try to ensure that their work and message endures for those who will understand, as well as for those in the future who will benefit from what is being said, hopefully living in times more settled, or more understanding and enlightened. We see this for example in the writings of St Theresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich amongst others.
A piece of spiritual writing is often multi-layered with obvious meaning that relates precisely to events at the time, subtle meanings which are partially hidden yet accessible to readers “in the know”, and thirdly completely symbolic and analogous understanding which actually is the clearest of all to those who are of a similar level of understanding but remain mysterious to those who as yet do not share the same level of understanding. The same is true and is found in art, and music. This describes 3 layers of meaning, yet there may also be many, many more layers, hidden, cross referencing and interwoven within a single piece of crafted spiritual writing. This is often intentional on the writer’s part, and when the piece is Divinely Inspired, then we have a situation where often the writer will him/herself understand parts of it and not others, and may be at a complete loss to understand it themselves as a whole. This is why, often, Divinely Inspired writing endures through time and continues to be unpacked as the years go on; because it holds these different meanings for different times, yet the all is contained within the one same sentence.
One of the reasons I am choosing to expound on this piece in particular and suggest ways of reading that open these layers up, is that over the next few days I will follow a methodology in this blog which shows how these layers of this piece can be pried open as a nut from its shell; and then intend to publish on the blog the complete manuscript of my own which was a Divinely Inspired piece given to me over ten days last year, also entitled Revelation. Blogging the methodology of analysis will thus give readers the nutcracker to pry open my own manuscript and delve into its multi layered levels of meaning; as well as revisit previous posts and may then help them revisit books such as Revelations in the Bible and many unique passages in other writings elsewhere, that they come across or choose to revisit as a result of following this method.
So the first layer we shall be looking at in the next post is the literal meaning, the obvious…the taking at its face value. And I would add that this piece came through just at the right time. For about two weeks now I have been quiet, because I knew that the next step was to blog the manuscript. My concern was that many may misinterpret the very first Revelation and go no deeper and further; so I have been seeking real guidance on this one in prayer. When this arrived today, I knew it was my answer, as through these posts on Daniel’s vision; I am able to give you the tools to ensure you all get the relevance and meaning that is intended and not just the superficial surface understanding.