“Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long
but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so,
I will let down the nets.”
When they had done this they had caught so many fish
that their nets were beginning to break. (Luke.5.4-6)
They signaled the other boat to come and help them, and soon both boats were filled with so many fish that they began to sink. Simon [‘he that obeys’], who was also called Peter [a ‘rock’ or ‘stone’], “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee [‘abundance‘], who were partners with Simon.” They were afraid the boats would sink under the weight of all the fish, but Jesus said: “Do not be afraid; from now on, you will be catching people.”
Psychologically, the ‘sea’ represents the vast unconscious, from which all our ideas and notions arise: these, in turn, can be symbolized as ‘fish’. Spiritually, the sea represents the primeval ‘waters’ from which all created things arise, so human beings can also be symbolized as ‘fish’.
Simon has been fishing in the sea all ‘night’: that is, he has been seeking in darkness and has found nothing. Now Jesus enters his boat: symbolically, the ‘light’ of consciousness awakens in the deep waters of the unconscious. Simon recognizes the ‘master’ of his soul, and as his name implies he obeys it. “Master,” he says, “we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
He then finds so many ‘fish’, so much abundance, that he cannot contain it all. His friends arrive with an extra boat, and still they cannot contain it all. The enormity of Creation was far more than his consciousness could assimilate once the sea began to pour forth its secrets, and Simon Peter and his friends were frightened. All these fish would have to be sorted, which is what fishermen do – the good ones are kept, the unusable ones are thrown back. But there were too many, the boats were sinking, and Simon Peter was overcome by the sense of his own limitations and did not feel up to the job. He was unprepared, he was sinking spiritually. ‘Leave me,’ he said to his Master, ‘I cannot do this, I am a sinful man.’ But Jesus reassured them. ‘Do not be afraid,’ he said. ‘Come with me, and I will make you fishers of people.’
Many symbolic levels are at work here, and we only scratch the surface.
The fish has always been a symbol of Christ and his followers. Saint Augustine would write that Jesus was “a fish who lives in the midst of the waters,” and Tertullian would write, “So many fishes bred in the water, and saved by one great fish.” (Similarly, Joshua, whose name is the same as ‘Jesus’ and means ‘savior’, was the son of Nun – a Hebrew word that means ‘fish’).
The letters that spell the Greek word for ‘fish’ (pronounced ichthys) are also the initials for the phrase “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior”, and for this reason ichthys was used as a secret password among early Christians.
The word can still be found as an emblem in many examples of Christian art, where it is often written within a symbolic drawing of a fish known as the Vesica Piscis.
The Vesica Piscis is a geometrical symbol made from the interpenetration of two perfect circles, one representing the ‘Above’ and the other representing the ‘Below’. When the circles are drawn in a vertical alignment, their intersection, which has the basic form of a fish, is a symbol of Christ – i.e., a combination of Human and Divine. Taken internally, the figure symbolizes the Christ within, the human soul which exists in the Threshold between Worlds – partly of the Material world and partly of the Divine.
On the other hand, when the circles are viewed in a horizontal alignment, their intersection can be seen as a vaginal symbol, representing the passageway into life. This symbol, surrounded by the crescents of the waxing and waning moon, now represents the Sacred Feminine, the Divine Mother through whom the soul enters the material world – e.g., Mary.
This form of the symbol can also be seen in various examples of religious art, including many depictions of the Madonna and Child surrounded by a vesica-shaped halo, and in constructions of sacred architecture, including the Gothic Cathedrals.
In Astrology, we find that the two thousand year period known as the Age of Pisces (the sign of the fish) began at the time of the birth of Christ. The Piscean Age is characterized esoterically as a time period in which the Spirit penetrates more deeply into Matter: in other words, the Word becomes Flesh.
In fact, the entire story of Christ’s journey, like all initiatory legends, has many correspondences with astrological symbolism. Jesus is said to have been born at the time of the Winter Solstice, December 25th, precisely when the new Sun is ‘born’ each year. Thirty degrees later in its annual journey through the zodiac, the Sun enters Aquarius, the sign of the water-bearer: thirty years after his birth, Jesus came to John who baptized him with water. The Sun then leaves Aquarius a few weeks later, and Aquarius descends below the horizon: shortly after Jesus left him, John descended into prison. After leaving Aquarius, the Sun then enters Pisces, the constellation that is symbolized by two fish. This brings us back to our story, right when Jesus came upon two boats belonging to fishermen, the disciples he is gathering together.
Jesus tells the disciples to ‘follow’ him – to align themselves hierarchically beneath his noetic authority – and he will prepare them to be ‘fishers of people’. Fishermen gather together all the fish they can with their nets, and then they sort: they separate the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff. The disciples are going to be charged with bringing men and women to Christ, and then sorting them – not everyone is ready for the journey of initiation.
This is a harsh and difficult lesson. Not everyone is able to successfully complete a spiritual initiation, and even those who are capable are rarely willing to make the effort. There has to be a process of selection. Most of us will remain ‘sinners’ – that is, we will miss the mark and descend. Only a few will be chosen.
He explains all of this a short while later, according to Matthew, when he speaks privately to his disciples about the ‘end of the age’. Symbolically, on a physical level, this refers to the end of one’s life. On a spiritual level, it refers to the completion of a stage of inner evolution.
An eclectic kind of guy, I'm a prolific Writer, a Speaker, Attorney, Teacher, a Doctor of Chiropractic, and an Interfaith Minister. I am available for Weddings, Funerals, Ceremonies, Speaking Engagements and Workshops (you can find out morehere). My books encompass Spirituality and Religion, Science, Mythology, Education, Healing, and issues of Tolerance, Compassion, and the restoration of Meaning in contemporary life. You can contact me at Andrew@AndrewCort.com
If you would like to post a GUEST BLOG on the themes of "Interfaith", "Religious Unity" , "The Inner Wisdom of a Particular Tradition", "Spiritual Awakening", "Spiritual Books", "New Age", "Inspirational", "Spiritual Growth", "Personal Growth", etc., contact: Andrew@AndrewCort.com