The metaphysics of Talent
An occult investigation of Talent; whence it comes, its right and wrong use, and where it leads
Guest article by John Temple
In the ninth of his articles on the Search for Truth, John Temple continues his investigation of the hidden wisdom in the Bible by examining the Parable of the Talents in the New Testament
This further investigation of the hidden wisdom in the Bible will examine the metaphysical meaning of the Parable of the Talents. This can be found in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14 to 30 and Luke chapter 19, verses 12 to 28. If you have not read my previous articles on this subject, you should do so, to familiarise yourself with the basic principles of occult symbolism, allegory and mythology discussed and explained in them. As with my previous investigations, I would like to assure any devout Christians who may have stumbled upon this article that they will lose nothing of value by reading it and may gain more than they imagine. I tender the same assurance to mystics and 'pagans', many of whom have told me over the years that they "don't read the Bible." This is an opportunity for both sorts of readers to amend their oversight. It is the purpose of this article to discover what talent really is, whence it comes and how we may best use and develop our gifts for the greatest good of humanity as well as ourselves. In my customary afterword I discuss the right and wrong use of talent and where such usage may lead us.
What Talent really is and where it comes from
It has been said by many great philosophers that talents constitute our very essence, but what is the inner meaning of this saying? Wikipedia tells us that "a talent (or gift, or aptitude) is the skill that someone naturally has to do something that is hard. It is an ability that someone is born with." This is our first clue to what talent really is: something we are born with. The Oxford English Dictionary defines talent as "power or ability of mind or body viewed as something divinely entrusted to a person for use and improvement." This is our second clue: talent is a Divine Power, given to us to use and improve. Being Divine it must come from God, however we may regard that Holy Being, First Principle, Cosmic Law, or Universal Essence, for all the great philosophers agree that every thing that exists has arisen from One, Divine Source and all that we can Know and Be is contained within it.
We have now answered our first two questions. Talent is a gift given to us by God to help us to improve our Selves; to benefit us and others. But what of the word itself? The dictionary also tells us that the figurative use of the word 'talent' is derived from the Parable of the Talents in Matthew and Luke whilst the primary and ancient meaning is balance, weight, sum of money, etc., from the Greek and Roman roots 'tal' and 'tala' meaning to bear or carry. All these definitions are significant and replete with hidden meaning, as we shall see as I develop my theme.
As I said in my introduction, the Parable of the Talents appears in two gospels in the Bible: Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-28. There is also a third variant in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which is thought to have been composed between 80-150 A.D. This text was lost some time during the seventh century, probably during the Muslim invasions of Egypt, and all that remains of it are a few fragments preserved in the writings of the early Church Fathers. Consequently, I have chosen to study Matthew's version of the parable because it preserves the esoteric sense better than Luke, which in many places displays all the grubby finger marks of priestly interpolation and distortion. But before we do so, it is necessary to consider what the word 'talent' generally means today, the better to understand the hidden meaning of the parable itself.
Misconceptions about Talent
Nowadays we hear the word talent bandied about in a variety of contexts. It's used constantly in reference to celebrities. In show business, performers are often referred to as "talent"; sports analysts talk about an outstanding athlete's "raw talent." Children impress audiences of proud parents at talent shows, while the existence of talent agencies and talent scouts implies that talent is simply a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit! This process has culminated in TV shows such as Britain's got talent which capitalise on the hunger for fame and celebrity. All this debases the esoteric meaning of the word and has made it into a synonym for mere competency, style, or in some cases, eccentricity and exhibitionism. Psychologists tell us that talent is a bundle of personal characteristics that accelerates the acquisition of expertise in one or more areas, or enhances performance in such areas. This is true, but it is not all the truth, nor is it complete, as we shall see.
In its common or superficial meaning talent is now used to describe anything that allows a person to acquire some material benefit or other, such as enhanced status, wealth or fame, and provide a jolly good income for those who exploit their gifts. It has become a synonym for the useless dross which impresses the foolish but leaves the wise man or woman unmoved. Such know that the pursuit of fame, status and wealth as ends in themselves do not lead to enlightenment and freedom from rebirth but further servitude on earth. Not that there is anything wrong with worldly fame or wealth, provided we use them wisely, which alas, very few do. Moreover, earthly fame must fade in the end, and riches, as we learned in my previous investigation of the Book of Proverbs, "make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven" (Proverbs 23:4-5). Better to be poor and unknown on earth and rich and famous in Heaven, for then we shall acquire lasting wealth and renown that neither God nor man can take away from us! This is one of the truths concealed in the Parable of the Talents, but there are many others, which neither scholar, cleric nor lay reader has ever discovered before. To save you looking it up in your Bible (KJV, as usual!), I quote it in full below. Please pay careful attention, for we shall need to refer to these verses later and even parts of them to extract their full meaning.
The Parable of the Talents
- For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
- And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
- Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
- And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
- But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money.
- After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
- And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
- His Lord said unto him, well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
- He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
- His Lord said unto him, well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
- Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
- And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
- His Lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
- Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
- Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
- For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
- And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
John Morgan — The parable of the talents — oil on canvas — ca. 1823-1886
The first thing we note is the mention of 'the kingdom of heaven' which is described as a 'far country', whose 'goods' are delivered unto men. This affirms the dictionary definition quoted earlier, that talent is something divinely entrusted to use or misuse according to our will and desire. In verse 27 money is mentioned which might lead us to suppose that the 'goods' in question are material and not spiritual. Well, they may be, for the same Occult Laws apply to both. As we saw earlier, it is unfortunate that the word 'talent' now means something quite different from what it meant when the parable was composed. In those times a talent was a measurement of weight, whose value varied with the substance of which it was made. A talent of gold was worth more than a talent of silver or bronze. I have emphasised the words 'weight' and 'substance' deliberately, for talents are not equal, either in their origin or their use. Oratory is a very great talent, but the substance of the rantings of a dictator are inspired from below, whereas the substance of the teachings of a great Master like Jesus, are inspired from Above. In either case, their talent moves multitudes, but for different purposes that lead to very different ends. Nor are all orators equal in the weight their words carry to their listeners. The self-appointed 'expert' who holds forth in the pub on a Saturday night also possesses talent, be it only the talent of boring his audience into somnolence! This affirms that talents are distributed "to every man according to his several ability," as verse 15 tells us, for no two individuals are exactly alike, physically, mentally or spiritually, and all are at different stages in their evolution.
We should also bear in mind that money is first and foremost a medium of exchange, so bringing it into line with the 'exchangers' mentioned in verse 27. By putting our talents into circulation as it were, we not only increase their worth, but exchange them for other 'goods', such as the pleasure an audience derives from listening to great music, or the benefits of good health and prosperity which arise from the talents of the physician and the businessman when such employ them wisely and well. So we have now learned that talents come from two opposite sources—Above or below, or we might say God and the Devil, though it is only fair to say that many talents are of a mixed nature, partaking of good and evil in varying degrees. We have also learned that talents vary in their weight or value, and that they can be exchanged for other good (and evil) things according to the ability and intention of the person who possesses them, and the use or misuse they make of them.
Talent may be material, such as the superior physique that allows an athlete to excel in some area or other, or it may be spiritual, such as we find among the great teachers, messengers and philosophers who have contributed so much to the enlightenment and liberation of mankind. Quite often great talent manifests as a combination of these two principles, such as the material skills and spiritual inspiration exhibited by great artists and musicians. In short, there is no end to the possible combinations of talent nor the ways in which it may express itself. But whatever form our talents take, the technical facility to realise them has to be acquired anew in each incarnation through rigorous training and long practise. Mozart was born a musical genius, having perfected his great gift over many lifetimes, but even he had to learn how to play music all over again, just like the young lady next door who may drive us mad with her piano practice! In short, great gifts follow us from life to life but the means to express them have to be learned anew each time we are reborn in a new body. And how could it be otherwise, for our body is different in each new incarnation and it takes time and effort to bend it to our will. Now you know why some people are capable of fully appreciating and understanding science, art, music or religion, despite having studied none of these things in their present incarnation. This is also the reason why some people fail to express their innate talents or make a complete hash of them. These gifts are within them all right, but they lack the stamina, courage, opportunities or will to realise and fully develop them. And this is the hidden meaning of verse 25, in which the servant complains: "I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth. . ." There any many such persons and they are greatly to be pitied.
Not only was the foolish servant afraid, he was bone idle too. For it is not the talent that does the work, whether it be some special ability or simply money, but the worker himself. When we set aside all the foolish servant's excuses, it is self-evident that he is too lazy to do any work. He reminds us of the miserable misers in The Golden Star who hid their talents in bags under the floorboards, whereas if they had put them in the hands of bankers their wealth would have increased. Some of you may object that a banker's grubby paws are the last place anyone with any sense would wish to place their assets, but remember we are discussing a parable set in times long ago when there may have been honest bankers. Perhaps there are today too, but as I have no 'assets' worth investing, whether in a hedge or anywhere else, I would not like to say!
You will have noted that one man receives five talents, another two, and the last, only one. Is this significant? Very probably. Five is the number of the senses of man, and each is capable of attuning to the Light or the darkness, and of expressing the best or worst qualities associated with it. We might, for instance, associate the sense of sight with the visual arts and artists, hearing with music and musicians, smell with perfumers or gardeners, taste with wise discrimination and constructive criticism, and touch with healing and healers. You will be easily able to extend and develop these correspondences yourself. Another, equally valid interpretation is that some people possess more than one talent. Leonardo da Vinci springs to mind in this connection, and it is not uncommon for great writers to be accomplished artists or musicians and vice versa. An actor can even become a President!
It is also noteworthy that the servants who received five and two talents both increased their wealth, or as we might say nowadays, obtained an excellent return on their investment! This too is significant, for if we have perfected one or more talents wisely in previous lives, the likelihood is that we shall be given the opportunity to develop others in future lives. And this is what is meant in verse 21 and repeated in verse 23, in which it is said: "I will make thee ruler over many things." The authors of this website discuss this in their occult studies course article on Evolution in which we may read: "when an individual has learnt all there is to learn about a subject and has become what we call a genius, or an adept, or a master of that subject, is it not possible that in their next cycle of incarnations they will have to follow another path? In that way, the reincarnating Ego or Higher Self would gather all knowledge gradually, instead of developing in a one-sided manner." This seems very reasonable to me. Once we have fully perfected one gift others are given to us, or we become aware of them, which amounts to the same thing. Such are the polymaths and child prodigies we read about who astonish the world with their many talents.
Another important truth and Occult Law is concealed in verse 16: "Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents." This is recapitulated in verses 29 and 30. "For unto every one that hath shall be given. . .but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This Law is mentioned in the afterword to the story about Meditation; or the way of escape, written by the authors of this website. On the surface this Law appears very unfair and seems to justify the oppression of the poor and needy. But if we look a little deeper we find that this is not the case at all. Even material science acknowledges that all bodies attract in proportion to their magnitude and power, the smaller or weaker submitting to the larger or stronger. The rich literally draw riches toward them like a magnet draws iron. Whereas the poor, having nothing, are in a state of repulsion, and lose even the little they have. Unpalatable as this truth may be to some of my readers, it is a Law that applies to any thing, material or spiritual, such as health, strength, wisdom, truth or knowledge. Like attracts like in the mental and spiritual sphere, whilst the unlike repels, thus contradicting the material law that opposites attract. Actually both laws are correct but work out in different ways, depending upon the principles they apply to and the plane of their activity. To say any more would take us beyond the scope of this article.
The foolish servant was afraid, so he hedged his bets as we would say today, and hid his single talent in the earth as a miser hides his gold, thinking in that way to preserve it and appease his Master. But the Bible also tells that "moth and rust doth corrupt" (Matthew 6:19), and so his plan backfired, and his talent was taken away and given to the servant who had doubled his assets. His excuse was that he believed that the 'Lord' was a "hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed," as verse 24 tells us. Now, what do these and the subsequent verses really mean? The word 'hard' is something of a blind, implying that the 'Lord' is both harsh, cruel and wicked. I suspect that in the original teaching from which this parable has been taken, the word now rendered 'hard' was 'just', by derivation from the ancient Egyptian 'Maat', meaning justice, right, truth, etc. For this parable bears all the hallmarks of the Wisdom literature of ancient Egypt I discussed in the seventh of these articles. Justice, if it be worthy of the name, and oftimes even when it is not, such as in our courts of law, puts the fear of God into the minds of the guilty. Such know deep within that they have done wrong, but will not admit it even to themselves, preferring, like our foolish servant, to regard the law as 'unfair' and the judge who administers it, as a 'hard man.' If our servant were alive today, he might well excuse his idleness and cowardice with the words "I knew you were an unreasonable, hard-hearted tyrant, and that there was no way I was ever going to please you, so I didn't even bother trying."
Despite appearances to the contrary and the follies of men, the Universe IS ruled by strict justice. Although every thing that comes up must have been sown at some time in some way, not every thing that is sown comes up. Some things fail to germinate, whether in the soil or in the mental and moral spheres. The 'Lord' of the parable, whom we should regard as a personification of Divine Providence rather than an individual agent of it, harvests good deeds and thoughts wherever and whenever they may arise, regardless of who sowed them. The foolish servant thought it was sufficient to return unto God what is God's, not realising in his blindness that God dispenses His gifts to men that they might be multiplied and bear much fruit. Hence, he is cast into the "outer darkness" where "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." That is the proper place for those who, for whatever reason, fail to make use of the talents their Creator has endowed them with. In the degree that we use the gifts of God wisely for the greatest good, so shall we be given even greater gifts and rise to even greater heights, and this is what is meant by entering into "the joy of thy Lord" in verses 21 and 23. For that 'Lord' is our very own Soul, who gives unto us the gifts it has received from God. These are great truths, which will be unpalatable to the lazy and inept who in their unwisdom think they can outwit God, but they will be as a spur to the wise who know that it is by the right use we make of our talents that we rise or fall in our evolution.
Thus do I read the hidden meaning of this parable. Now you have a try, for there is much more concealed within it than Time and Space—those two great illusions—allow me to discuss further. But before I conclude this investigation—which you will remember is about the Metaphysics of Talent—I would like to say a few more words in my afterword for the benefit of my talented readers. That is to say, ALL of you! For no one is without talent of some kind and let none persuade you otherwise. If it were not so, we would not be made in the image of our Father in Heaven, who is all-talented. Even the man who sweeps the streets or collects our rubbish, if he enjoys the work and is truly fitted for it, possesses a gift, for without such talented men and women conditions in this world would be a great deal worse than they are. Let all remember this at all times and not sneer at those who are employed in seemingly humble occupations lest the Lords of Destiny hear their foolish words and place THEM in still lower positions in their next incarnation. For the Gods find no difficulty in placing each one of us in the situation which provides that experience we have shown ourselves to be lacking!
About the author
John Temple is the pen-name of a writer who has studied and practised the occult sciences for more than 60 years. He graduated from Cambridge University with a first in Theology and Religious Studies and has lectured to students around the world on a wide variety of occult, religious and mystical subjects.
He is now retired and lives quietly in London with his wife, two Yorkshire terriers and a talkative African Grey Parrot called 'John' (no relation).
Read more articles by this author on the Search for Truth
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© Copyright John Temple & occult-mysteries.org. Article added 24 November 2017.