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Parable for the Mind

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Parable for the Mind

Is the Red Sea ever going to part?
Robert  Rosenthal M.D.
Robert Rosenthal M.D. More by this author
Apr 20, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The story of the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible has been preserved and handed down for nearly 3,000 years. Not very many stories can make that claim. Whether or not we accept its historical accuracy, this must be a remarkable tale indeed to survive for so long across so many different eras. It must speak to us in some very powerful ways. It must address the human condition in a manner so fundamental that it rings true for people of all different backgrounds down through the ages.

In the New Testament, much of the wisdom taught by Jesus comes in the form of parables—tales that appear rather simple and straightforward on the surface, but which, when explored more deeply, open up to reveal profound spiritual insights. The beauty of the parable as a teaching device is that it engages us at our current level of understanding, yet beckons us to go deeper. It doesn’t offer pat answers and easy explanations. It tickles our curiosity. It entices us to think and then think some more about the story we’ve just heard. In this way, parables encourage us to become seekers of a deeper, hidden truth.

I believe that the story of Exodus is a parable on a grand scale. Therefore, whether you’re barely familiar with the book of Exodus or can cite it chapter and verse, it will prove well worth your while to revisit Moses, Pharaoh, and the Hebrews and live their journey again. Exodus holds secret wisdom that can be yours. It can transform you at the deepest levels of your being—if you understand how and where to look.

In Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Lost Symbol, one of the main characters states, “When you start to understand the cryptic parables in the Bible . . . you realize it’s a study of the human mind.”1 Exodus is indeed all about the human mind. You may well ask how a story that is so obviously about slavery and redemption could also be about the mind. After all, how do we get from bondage in Egypt to the inner workings of the mind? The story must be written in some kind of code, for which we need the key to unlock its secret meaning.

Fortunately, we have such a key. It’s been available all along, hidden in plain sight. The story of Exodus reveals itself as “a study of the human mind” the moment we realize that its two central characters—Pharaoh and Moses—are not just historical figures, not just characters in a biblical drama. They are archetypes that portray opposing aspects of the human mind in its relationship to Spirit.

Pharaoh represents the part of the mind that sees itself as separate from God and Spirit: the limited ego-mind. Moses represents the part of the mind that is and has always been in full, direct connection with God and Spirit—what I call the Moses-mind. Both are present within us. The plagues brought on by Pharaoh’s stubborn resistance to freeing the Hebrews are our plagues. They afflict us whenever we bow to the Pharaoh-like ego—when we identify with it and accept its goals and worldview as our own. Likewise, the miracles performed by Moses are our miracles. They arrive the moment we make the decision, consciously or unconsciously, to be free from ego and follow instead the guidance of Spirit that comes to us through the Moses-mind.

The Hebrews of Exodus are tossed back and forth between these two powerful, opposing forces. As we will see, they toil in slavery under Pharaoh with no hope of release. When Moses first appears, they reject his help. After the devastation of the tenth plague, he leads them out of Egypt and across the seemingly impassable barrier of the Red Sea. Despite these miracles, however, when confronted with the forbidding desolation of the wilderness, they question his guidance. Yet at Mount Sinai, they cling to Moses, refusing to let him go, retreating from a direct encounter with God, because He seems too fearful.

In their vacillation, the Hebrews offer a compelling portrait of our own spiritual dilemma—a mirror of our own confused wanderings as we seek the Promised Land of inner peace and freedom. To whom do we listen, Moses or Pharaoh? Which voice is stronger in us? Which is the more trustworthy? Their agendas for us are starkly opposite. So which do we choose to follow?

We are the Hebrews—all of us, regardless of religious affiliation—and the journey of Exodus reflects our ongoing struggle as we’re pulled between these two dueling aspects of the mind: ego and Spirit, Pharaoh and Moses. This makes Exodus as relevant today as it was 3,000 years ago, for the human mind has not changed.


  1. Brown, Dan. The Lost Symbol (New York, Doubleday, 2009), 499.
About Author
Robert  Rosenthal M.D.
Robert Rosenthal, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist and psychotherapist in private practice in the Princeton, New Jersey, area. He has been a student and teacher of A Course in Miracles since 1975 and has served on the board of the Foundation Continue reading