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Q & A With Robert Rosenthal, MD Author of "From Plagues To Miracles"



1. There have been so many books about the Bible and its secret meanings. In what way is your book different?

Instead of looking for patterns hidden in the word order, or any other sort of code, FROM PLAGUES TO MIRACLES deals with the story itself, specifically, the familiar story of Exodus. It treats Exodus as a parable—a teaching tale, the same kind that Jesus used. And the secret to understanding the parable of Exodus is relatively straightforward. Pharaoh and Moses represent opposing aspects of the human mind. So the story is not just about the Hebrew people escaping from slavery; it’s about freeing our minds from bondage too.

2. You’re saying the characters of Moses and Pharaoh symbolize parts of the mind. But weren’t they real people?

They may have been. Or not. Either way, the parable stands on its own. When we understand Pharaoh as the embodiment of the ego-mind and Moses as our eternal connection to Spirit, then the Hebrews’ journey becomes a model for our own spiritual journey back to God. We are the Hebrews—all of us, regardless of religious background—and if we follow the lead of our Moses-mind, we can escape the ego’s tyranny and reach the Promised Land: a state of deep, abiding peacefulness in which the mind remains in constant harmony with God and Spirit.

3. According to the parable of Exodus then, we are all enslaved, is that right? Can you explain?

The Roman philosopher Seneca explained it well when he wrote, “Show me a man who is not a slave; one is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition; all are slaves to fear.” In my book, I give a host of other examples as well: bondage to possessions, money, time, the physical body, relationships, belief structures, and roles. But the root cause of all of these forms of slavery is the ego-mind. The ego is driven by its pervasive fear of loss, adversity, and death; and by its desire for pleasure and conquest (to offset the fear of death). The problem is, we’ve identified with the ego. We actually believe that it is us. As a result, we’ve allowed it to run our lives and in the process cut us off from our true self, which is timeless, limitless, and in need of nothing. We’ve become the ego’s slaves, building its bulwarks of futile plans, chasing after illusory dreams and wishes, but somehow never managing to find lasting peace or happiness.

4. You mentioned earlier the idea of a spiritual journey. Could you say more about that, particularly as it relates to Exodus?

Exodus maps the path from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. In the parable, this becomes the spiritual journey from the ego’s dominance to a trusting relationship with Spirit. Exodus clearly illustrates the different stages of this journey: the birth of Moses and the Moses-mind; the dangers of impulsive, misguided action when Moses kills the Egyptian; the miracle of the burning bush, which reawakens us to God and the journey; the ten plagues that force the hand of Pharaoh (ego); the transformative miracle of the Red Sea crossing; the desert wilderness that winnows away all the old habits of ego; the fearful encounter with God at Mt. Sinai, which necessitates the giving of the law; and the pitfalls of the law, exemplified by the worship of the golden calf and by Moses’s own murderous rage.

5. In Exodus, God strikes Pharaoh with ten plagues. How can plagues be part of the spiritual journey?

The plagues represent the hardships that afflict us when we continue to identify with the ego. But they’re not punishments; they’re teaching tools that provide necessary feedback. In fact, from the perspective of our true self, they’re miracles. The plagues only strike at Pharaoh—that is, the ego. Their purpose is to separate us from our identification with ego and force it to release its hold on our minds.

6. What about miracles? What role do they play on the spiritual journey?

The fearful ego frets and plans. It frantically tries to control events before they happen. With Spirit, events simply flow toward the outcome that will most benefit everyone involved. Our part is to get out of the way: to “let go and let God.” The result? Miracles. These can appear to be quite ordinary or truly extraordinary, but either way, we recognize them as coming from God, not us. Miracles are the way we travel on the spiritual journey once we’re aligned with Spirit. To quote A Course in Miracles: “Miracles are natural. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong.”

7. You mention A Course in Miracles, a work well-known to many spiritual seekers. What’s your experience with the Course?

As a college student I wound up living in the New York apartment that was command central for the Course’s first publication in June of 1976. I knew its scribes, Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford. Bill became a good friend and mentor. Also, I’ve served on the board of the Foundation for Inner Peace, publisher of the Course, for almost 20 years now. Although I’ve studied many different metaphysical systems, the Course has always been the bedrock of my spiritual worldview. Without it, I would never have been able to see Exodus as a road map for escaping the ego’s slavery and finding the Promised Land of God and Spirit.

8. What were some of the other influences that led you to the ideas in your book?

Buddhism certainly played a big part. The Buddha’s first noble truth—that all life is suffering, dukkha—is essentially another way of saying that we’re all enslaved. But the biggest influence has to be my psychotherapy practice. I’ve worked with many people on their spiritual journeys, whether or not they consciously saw themselves as seekers. It’s been inspiring to watch their paths unfold and to witness the truly transformational changes they’ve made in their lives. I’ve drawn on their examples throughout the book.

9. Does psychotherapy play a role in the spiritual journey?

Yes, because psychotherapy helps us become aware of our fears and the severe limitations of our egos. And no, because obviously you don’t have to enter psychotherapy to find God.

Think of it this way: The spiritual journey moves forward when you free yourself from any form of ego bondage, even though you may remain enslaved in other areas. Quit drinking, leave an abusive marriage, overcome fears about love or health, and you’ve advanced. If you genuinely and meaningfully change one area of your life, then you’ve changed everything. You’re no longer the same person.

10. If you had one piece of advice to offer fellow travelers making the Exodus journey, what would it be?

We all think that we know what we want from life, whether that’s wealth, fame, love, power, beauty, good health, or what have you. We believe that these things exist outside ourselves and that only through determined effort and action can we win them. We’ve got it exactly backwards. What we really want lies within us. What we really want, what will truly make us happy, is to remember who and what we are. Children of God. Nothing else will satisfy us. When we get that piece right, the rest takes care of itself. Things just line up and we’re given whatever we need—not always in the form we expect, because from our limited human perspective we can’t always know the best outcome—but in ways guaranteed to surprise and delight us. And that’s the miracle.

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