reported by John-Peter Gernaat
This is a story that is very poorly understood.
I, John-Peter, grew up in a very Calvinistic environment and focus was placed on only two aspects of this story: one of the acts performed on the angels was held up as a mortal sin; and that disobedience towards God would result in one being transformed into a mineral pillar, i.e. into stone – the punishment for a mortal sin.
In contrast the rabbinical writings over many centuries on this story provide a very different understanding of what this story means.
To place the picture again: Lot was the nephew of Abram (possibly better translated as Avram) and left his father’s home to join Avram when Avram set out on his journey westward, as a son-figure to Avram. Lot also experienced the Egyptian initiation (as described in the article above) and then Avram and Lot part ways and Lot goes to live in Sodom.
The Rabbis were less concerned with the sexual nature of the sin that is represented as occurring in Sodom, understanding that it was representative of the true nature of the sin that they understood as the sin of inhospitality. The people of Sodom were not welcoming to strangers and did not let them become part of the city. Instead, they excluded them by shaming and embarrassing them. This was the story of early xenophobia and xenophobic attacks. There is a Rabbinical story in which Lot’s wife is given a name, Edith, and is ascribed as originally being from the city of Sodom. Hence Lot goes to live in the city of his wife’s family when he parts ways with Avram, as still happens in many family situations today. When the angels of YHWH, his messengers, come to tell Lot of the fate of the city of Sodom it is expected of Edith to be hospitable because Lot understands hospitality. (Paul, in his letters, writes that often when welcoming a stranger you have welcomed an angel without knowing it.) The standard for human life was to be hospitable, to incorporate others into the human community of which you were a part. This had been neglected and forgotten in Sodom and instead segregation and bigotry had become the norm. The sign of hospitality was to share salt with the stranger at one’s table. This was often done through salt water into which the bread could be dipped. The value of salt is reiterated in the New Testament in many of the things Jesus says. Edith did not have salt in her house because, as a citizen of Sodom, she did not understand the custom of sharing salt. She goes in search of salt from house to house and cannot find any. So, Edith does not share salt with her guests. As a result of this Edith is the first human to experience the process of salt within her physical nature. This story may not be the full story, but it shows that the Rabbis understood that the story was a metaphor and they wrestled with understanding its metaphorical meaning rather than ascribing a literal meaning as certain Protestant Christian ministers have.
When Lot and his family leave Sodom there is one line in scripture (Gen.19: 26): “Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt”. Our consequential minds read this as meaning that Lot’s wife is punished for disobeying the order given by the angles to not look back. It is not written that YHWH turned her into a pillar of salt but that she became a pillar of salt. She does not disappear from the Rabbinical story after this event thereby clearly identifying that she was not turned to stone.
What is the metaphor for Lot’s wife, Edith, becoming a pillar of salt? One idea that has existed in the Rabbinical writings for over a century, and it is an idea that Emil Bock – one of the founding priests of The Christian Community – mentions, that prior to this event people did not age visibly after reaching adulthood. People died in their youthful appearance. Is it therefore any surprise that this lives as a buried folk-memory in us all, exploited by the beauty industry? When Edith looks back at what was, she begins the process of aging. This is how the Rabbis understood the metaphor. Edith becomes a pillar of salt: dried out without moisture or life blood or water – the substance of blood. This is how the aging process would have appeared to those around her who had no experience of physical aging.
Chemically, salt is the neutral residue of a chemical process that mixes an acid and an alkali – two opposites. If we can therefore look at an acidic - alkaline process happening, then we may gain a sense of what the “becoming a pillar of salt” is about. It is significant that turning to a pillar of salt occurs when she looks back. It is interesting that in the time of Aries (this time was in the beginning of the Platonic month of Aries within the Earth’s general precession: an elliptical conical motion of the Earth’s axis – see also the article on the significance of sacrifice srticle) they are instructed to not turn back. In the ancient world Aries was depicted as the ram with its head turned back – it is an essential element of Aries. In the evolutionary path of plants and animals, when arriving at Aries in the evolutionary sequence, both plants and animals recapitulates the past. The plant associated with the zodiacal plant sequence of evolution for Aries is lichen that combines two different forms of plant life that existed previously but does not take an evolutionary step forward. In our body the skin-bone process is connected with the forces of silica and limestone, and in terms of the zodiac with Aries and with Libra. They are opposite chemical processes. The zodiacal signs of Aries and Libra are opposite each other in the circle of the stars.
In his book The Nature of Substance, Rudolf Hauschka speaks of the organic nature of all matter that has four predominant elements: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. He describes these as being in the atmosphere. (We know that a tree removes carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis to build up its entire massive substance, not carbon from the earth.) Alongside the organic nature of the atmosphere is the geosphere with its mineral nature represented in the elements of phosphorus, silica, aluminium and calcium. Calcium – Libra, and silica – Aries: bone and skin. Reading from The Nature of Substance by Rudolf Hauschka: “Aries the Ram is a wonderfully profound image of the cosmic process that gives rise to silica as its last mineralised stage. So now the activity that proceeds from the Aries region of the heaven is pictured at every level in the ram. For one thing the ram’s twisted, hollow horn formation is a pure example of the characteristic sheath-building, spear-forming activity of silica. These spherical tendencies can be seen also over the whole ram’s body surface in the wool that covers even its head. This soft, bright, silky fleece was from time immemorial a symbol of the high cosmic powers of wisdom that prevails in the realm of archetypes. All genuine early representations of the ram show him looking backwards, emphasising the way in which the silica process rays in from universal space. The earthly substances silica and lime are polar opposites. Their macrocosmic archetypes are similarly polar for the Ram and the Scales confront each other from opposite sides of the zodiacal circle.” In this chapter of the book Hauschka looks carefully at silica in the skin and lime in the bone. “Lime and silica were shown to be polarities. We can see this tendency in rocks where clay is present. Feldspar is a good example, it plays a harmonising role between quartz and mica.” He also refers to their acidic and alkali properties.
Edith is becoming mineralised; she is becoming associated with the earth. She loses the plasticity of being a person of clay, she is becoming sclerotic, she is looking back at what was. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are being taken over in a sulphur process – fire and brimstone – and one could imagine the earth opening up and taking the cities into itself in a statement that inhospitality cannot continue. The earth is the place of hospitality, the place where we meet each other. Edith turns back and now bears an aging process in herself which is part of life on earth. We continue to carry a youthful sense of possibility within ourselves but when we look at our physical body we see our own pillar of salt. Our mineral nature is becoming dry and old.
We need to see far more into these stories of the Old Testament than a literal meaning. The sin of Sodom is the sin of inhospitality. We must become a humanity that is incorporating.
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