QUESTION: I am a psychology major as well as a member of Unity. I am writing a research paper on the Prodigal Son. My thesis is that an historical approach to reading a parable must be taken in conjunction with other critical approaches in order to understand the “purpose” of the parable. I would like to get a Unity metaphysical perspective on this topic. There is nothing mentioned in my Metaphysical Bible. I also would like to thank you. I just love this blog. I have used it on a few prior occasions to help me in some other writings, and it is great to be able to get answers that can’t be found anywhere else.
COMMENT: Thank you for the kind words. I’m not going to copy out the entire parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) since it is quite long. I personally think it may be the greatest short story every written, and perhaps the clearest and deepest description of Jesus’ unique understanding of our purpose in life and our relationship to our spiritual Source. There’s so much in the story, it would be impossible to encompass it all in one reply, but let’s at least skim the surface from a metaphysical perspective.
We’re familiar with the details of the first part of the story: the beloved son who takes his inheritance, wanders far from his home, squanders money on life experiences and finds himself alone, impoverished and forced to work at a most debasing job—feeding pigs! Beyond the physical challenges, he feels spiritually bankrupt. He assumes that his Father must be furious at him, that by leaving home he has separated himself from his Father’s love. And “when he came to himself” and realized that he could not spend his life feeding pigs, he carefully rehearses the groveling kind of plea he’ll make, entreating his father to at least let him work as a hired servant.
And here, of course, comes the moment of grace. When his father sees him at a distance, he comes running to greet him. He never really hears the carefully rehearsed speech, but orders that he be robed and jeweled and shod and declares a celebration to honor his son, who “was lost and is found.” Jesus’ understanding of our relationship to the Father is radically different from beliefs that insist God is angry, vengeful and demanding retribution for our “original sin” of leaving our spiritual home to venture into this human experience. God’s grace is not something that we must earn or plead for. It is an infinite energy of love that is never absent, even when we feel most separate from it. It is God’s good pleasure that we move through this human experience, learning valuable lessons so that we return to our Source with a deeper appreciation for the love and abundance available there.
And what of the older brother? Certainly his sense of injustice seems understandable from a human perspective. But it is based on assumptions of limitation, lack and duality. “You love him more than me.” “If you give to him, there won’t be enough (or as much) for me.” But Divine Mind knows nothing of equality, because the very concept of equality implies duality, which is simply not a spiritual truth. Divine Love is infinite; it cannot be limited. Some of us receive it as we follow proscribed paths, stay home and perform the work that is ours to do. Others of us can only achieve our spiritual purpose by wandering freely, learning painful lessons and putting those lessons to positive, loving use. It’s all good! It’s all God!