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Feeding the Five Thousand

By:Andrew Hain
Date: Fri,14 Apr 2023
Submitter:Andrew Hain

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The feeding of the five thousand – a spiritual interpretation.

The feeding of the five thousand is the only ‘miracle’ to feature in all four Gospels of the New Testament. The fact that John reports it indicates to me that there is more to this incident than just a literal acceptance that Jesus, from five tiny loaves and two small fish, fed upwards of five thousand people, with plenty to spare. As the most mystical of the Gospels, is there an esoteric undertone to this story, imitating the parables?

Certainly, the Bible is not for reading literally from start to finish: to do so is to miss out on the spiritual knowledge being that is being imparted. ?“Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6 KJV)

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria teaches that, “Should we understand sacred writ according to the letter, we should fall into the most enormous blasphemies”.

Origen Adamantius, founder of the Christian School of Caesarea, was of a similar opinion. “The Scriptures were of little use to those who understood them literally, as they are written”.

Moses Maimonides, the Jewish theologian and historian states, “Every time you find in our books a tale, the reality of which seems impossible, a story which is repugnant to both reason and common sense, then be sure that the tale contains a profound allegory veiling a deeply mysterious truth; and the greater the absurdity?of?the letter, the deeper the wisdom of the spirit.”

The feeding of the five thousand certainly fits in with this description, so what is the deeper spiritual wisdom that is being imparted?

There are some who advocate an esoteric astrological interpretation. Matt Elliott, on his website,, suggests that the story needs to be interpreted using the bread (of life) to relate to Virgo (who is portrayed holding a shaft of wheat) and the fish (spiritual nourishment) to the sign of Pisces. Virgo and Pisces are opposite signs of the zodiac.

I find the linking to Virgo a bit too convenient since the bread in the story is made from barley, not wheat. (It has been speculated that Jesus was really born in September, under the sign of Virgo. Isaiah 7:14: ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’ The virgin in question could be interpreted as the celestial virgin, not Mary. However, that is another story, and I will not be telling it!)

Joshua Tilghman (website: asks us to remember that Jesus was moved to go into the desert, a word that has special meaning. Johannes Tauler, the German Mystic of the 14th?century and personal disciple of the Meister Eckhart himself, once stated: “The hidden God is far above every outward thing and every thought, and is found only where thou hidest thyself in the secret place of thy heart, in the quiet solitude where no word is spoken, where is neither creature nor image nor fancy. This is the quiet?desert?of the Godhead, the Divine Darkness…”

In other words, the desert symbolizes that place of solitude where the lower mind (ego) can be disinclined from concentrating on the material realities of physical life (the world) and all it contains. The 5,000, who represent each and every one of us, need to stop the lower mind concentrating on the things of the material world in order to unite it with the higher mind and nature. (see also Matthew 6:6, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”)

Let's look at the elements in this allegory.

The bread is Jesus' body of teaching: he breaks his message down into bite sized chunks so that it can be more easily digested. (Cf: 1 Corinthians 11:24, “and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.’”)

The five loaves represent the 5 physical senses which need to be elevated to a spiritual consciousness, and which are purified through meditation. The loaves are symbolic of the non-purified state of our senses. Barley is a low form of nourishment and so these loaves indicate the potential for enlightenment.

Metaphysically, fish are symbols of rebirth, fertility, the unconscious or higher self, luck, change, health, and feelings. Fish are also commonly associated with the water element, which signifies stability, balance, and tranquillity.

Fish can also represent ideas in which there is great possibility of increase. Eating fish should be read spiritually and not literally. Statements in which Jesus features and is engaged in fish eating are symbolical of the metaphysical side of eating, which is the accumulation of ideas, fish representing ideas.

Water is a metaphor for our spiritual nature, and the two fishes should be seen as our body and Soul swimming through the ocean of consciousness. The spiritual meaning of water mainly represents emotions, new beginnings and purification. As our emotions are ever changing, so is water. From an astrological perspective the sign of Pisces, a Water sign, is depicted by two fish connected by a cord: this cord is the “silver cord” and reminds us that we are never separated but connected by the thread of life.

The young boy depicts the non-mature / unawakened aspect of the Soul or Higher Self, and he is offering himself for awakening.

The Disciples are our spiritual capacities, higher qualities of the Soul that intervene to help us raise our vibrations. They are our innately present spiritual aspects which are totally committed to the Soul’s evolution and maturation into the Christ consciousness. These aspects are the twelve baskets which become spiritually filled. (Twelve is considered to be the number of perfection.)

When Jesus instructs the Disciples to get everyone to sit down this is an invitation to get prepared for meditation. Once in the meditative state the spiritual feeding begins when the Disciples “serve” the bread and the fish, suitably broken down so that maximum understanding is achieved.

To sum up, in meditation, when you elevate yourself to virgin consciousness (Virgo), above the five senses (five loaves of bread / spiritual nourishment) and consume the two fish (Pisces / spiritual nourishment), you will achieve spiritual perfection (twelve baskets). The 5 senses are sacrificed in the nothingness of meditation.

Thus this “story” is truly a parable / allegory. Those not on the spiritual path would interpret it as a, perhaps unlikely, ‘miracle’, whilst those pursuing enlightenment would understand the spiritual teaching being imparted.

So what should we really take away from this story? Mainly that when we use the five senses for the highest of purposes, we honour our true selves, and raise the Lower Self to new heights of spiritual transformation. Thus, even our five senses, which are so often taught to be the root cause of reinforcing the Lower Self, can be part of the blessing from above that helps raise us. When the five senses are used for evil, we regress. But when used as a blessing, we move forward, especially developing the Soul and assisting it in its journey back to Source.

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