SYMBOLS, MEANING, AND THE SACRED QUEST: Spiritual Awakening in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Stories

Posted by & filed under Adam and Eve, Andrew Cort, Bible, Bible Symbolism, blood, circumcision, Garden of Eden, Moses, Purpose of Religion, serpent, Zipporah.

by Andrew Cort (Today’s PRIZE GIVEAWAY is a signed copy of another of Andrew’s books, LOVE, WISDOM AND GOD: The Longing of the Western Soul, which is about Greek Mythology, Philosophy, and the Mysteries. Simply leave a COMMENT to enter. See details below)


Andrew Cort’s Mini-Preview:

I can’t very well review my own book (though I would be most appreciative if some of you would!), but I would like to take a moment to Preview it. The REAL purpose of religion is not to present a questionable account of history, a series of smarmy lessons in morality, or a demand that followers believe a lot of fantastic claims that defy all scientific logic. The real purpose is to present a great Wisdom Teaching — through allegory, symbol and metaphor — that teaches our souls the inner psychological and spiritual steps that must be taken to achieve spiritual awakening and communion with Divinity.
The “Return to the Promised Land”, for example, is a symbolic elucidation of the soul’s return from inner material slavery (called “Egypt”) to spiritual freedom and enlightenment (called “Canaan”). 

Along the path there are many steps, many adventures, many trials, and many joys. The different ways that the story is shared by different religions and different cultures is a testament to the magnificent human imagination. But the underlying commonality of meaning and purpose that unites the stories, the cultures, and us, is even more striking.
My book reveals the interpretive ‘key’ to the ancient symbolism (which has fortunately been preserved in Plato and other ancient writers). You will read these wonderful stories with new eyes and a new heart.
The excerpt I want to share today is about some of that symbolism.


After forty years of tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, in Midian, Moses was confirmed by God at the Burning Bush and was at last ready to take on his task. So he said goodbye to Jethro, took his wife Zipporah and their children, and set out on the journey back to Egypt to fulfill his destiny. Thus begins, in the inner story, the next stage of his Initiation.

Out of the blue, the Bible then tells us this remarkable and often-overlooked story:


At a night encampment on the way, the Lord encountered him and sought to kill him. So Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched his legs with it, saying, “You are truly a bridegroom of blood to me!” And when He let him alone, she added, “A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision.



A commentary in the Talmud suggests that it was not God Himself who tried to kill Moses in this startling episode, but two Angels of Punishment and Destruction who came disguised as snakes. They took Moses and swallowed his whole body down to his feet, and only gave him up after Zipporah circumcised her son and touched Moses’ feet with the blood.

Here is the customary interpretation: Moses had circumcised one of his sons, but not the other. This was because he was honoring an agreement he had made with his uncircumcised father-in-law, Jethro: Moses had consented to circumcise one child as an Israelite, but the other would remain an uncircumcised Egyptian. But now Moses had passed beyond the level of Jethro, and this ‘agreement’ was not acceptable to the Lord.    

Others say that God belatedly wished to punish Moses for killing the Egyptian outside the palace, or that God was still resentful at all the objections Moses had raised at the Burning Bush.

But none of these interpretations have a satisfactory ring to them when compared to the extraordinary bloodiness and eeriness of the story. There has to be more.

God’s attempt to kill Moses means that something in Moses, something in the Initiate, has to ‘die’.


The Talmud adds that there were snakes involved. And snakes, or serpents, symbolize many things, including ‘rebirth.” The Serpent has been given many meanings in the world’s mythology. It has been the symbol of wisdom and the symbol of evil, the symbol of God and the symbol of sin.

In its ability to shed its skin and be ‘reborn’, it has been a symbol of resurrection and, hence, a symbol of Christ. Corresponding to this association with birth and rebirth, it has been the symbol of sexuality and the symbol of healing. It has referred to the world of the senses and the world of the spirit. It rises to the heavens as a phallic symbol, an emblem of power, potency and enlightenment. It encircles reality and swallows itself, indicating wholeness and completeness and Oneness. It dives into the earth, eating dust and signifying death.

Here, two vicious serpents try to swallow Moses, trying thereby to bring his soul back down to the level of earth and mortality, preventing him from crossing the Threshold and escaping to the heavenly level (remember, in its inner meaning, this is the story of Moses’ – and potentially our own – Initiation).

Crossing this Threshold requires a profound inner change – that is, a death and a rebirth.

So God comes to kill him! The ‘uncircumcised son’ is the Egyptian (earthly) aspect of Moses [‘Egypt’, in Biblical symbolism, represents the material level of life]. Zipporah, the inner Feminine aspect, the Heart, must reconcile the lower level of the ‘Egyptian’ with the higher level of the ‘Israelite’ (Moses), thus sealing the three parts of the soul into a newly reborn human being.

According to Judaic tradition, when a boy is first born he is a child of Adam. Only after circumcision does he become a child of Abraham, and thus a participant in God’s covenant. In other words, circumcision symbolizes a death and a rebirth – a child of Adam dies and is reborn as an Israelite. The death of the child of Adam is symbolized by the drops of blood – for blood is Life, and the loss of blood is Death. Like a serpent shedding its skin, the foreskin is cut away and there is rebirth as a child of Abraham.

Later, in Deuteronomy, God will speak of the ‘circumcision of the heart’, and we will see that this symbolism of rebirth refers on a deeper level to the cutting away of the stubborn emotional shell that covers the divine spirit within us and separates us from God. This is the higher meaning of the covenant. 
It is said in the Kabbalah that circumcision is the way to Heaven, which signifies that spiritual death and rebirth is the way to Heaven. Before leaving Zipporah, we should acknowledge the problem of this Biblical symbolism: literal physical circumcision only relates to males!
One explanation for this is that females offer a similar blood

sacrifice every month, without any need for an act such as circumcision, giving them a natural and exquisite comprehension of these things which men can only seek to obtain through the performance of imitative rituals.
A further explanation is that all the scriptural lessons for ‘men’ and all the scriptural lessons for ‘women’ are really directed at the male and female aspects that exist inside each one of us regardless of gender. Moses and Zipporah represent two poles of the soul within each of us, and their story takes place within the psyche of both men and women. During the process of spiritual rebirth, this inner act of sacrifice must always be played out. The need for ‘cutting away the emotional shell that separates us from God’ relates to all of us.

The symbolism of this story is magnificent in its symmetry. Consider the implications! Moses (representing – as male characters always do in the ancient symbolism – the Mind, and therefore a new ‘Adam)
has returned to the level of Being of the Garden of Eden. Now, once again, a Serpent (the Body) tries to draw him down, which would once again invert the soul and turn it away from God. This time, however, his wife Zipporah (the Heart, a new ‘Eve’) realizes the appropriate internal relationship, and acknowledges that the Mind, not the Body, is the Heart’s true ‘bridegroom’.

Thus it is that on the return journey home to Divinity, Eve (as Zipporah) is the reconciling power that saves the soul from a ‘Fall’! If we insist on carrying on a 5000-year-long hissy fit, blaming woman for the ‘Fall’ in Eden, it’s high time we gave her full credit for saving the soul from a ‘Fall’ here in Midian.


Andrew Cort is an author, speaker, teacher, attorney, and doctor of chiropractic. His work incorporates spirituality, religion, mythology, history, science, education and healing, and how these all relate to contemporary culture.


Andrew is offering a Free Signed Copy of Love, Wisdom and God to today’s lucky winner
Today’s Prize Giveaway has the same rules as the other giveaways:

   1.To enter to win, simply COMMENT ON THIS BLOG, leaving an email address so we can contact you if you win. All names of commenters go into the ‘hat’.

2.The giveaway period runs for ONE WEEK from posting. The winner will then be chosen by random drawing and contacted.

3. Only one entry per giveaway. (But you can enter as many different Daily Giveaway Contests as you want!)

If you don’t win this one, be sure to order a copy of Andrew’s book from Amazon:


Andrew Cort says:

Thank you for your kind words Elizabeth.

Anonymous says:

In this time of world conflict and not dismissing personal inner conflict, I find your words on the preview give me hope and comfort! Iam truly looking forward to reading your first book, andeven if I am not picked I will buy it!My email address is

Andrew Cort says:

Thank you Tracy! Does my heart good!
If you win this contest, how do I contact you?

I find this writing to be perfectly synchronized to what I’m feeling and a mass amount of the population is experiencing at this time.I’m excited to read both of your works. I shall wait and see if you pull me out of the hat first, and then order the other one… in peace, and sweet.