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Inner and outer meaning

The Journey to the West is an esoteric work, like the Bible, the Koran, Egyptian writings or the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh or the Odyssey by Homer. Every esoteric work has an inner meaning and an outer meaning. The outer meaning is the story of the adventures of the characters. The inner meaning is always related to the cultivation of a spiritual path, the control of the worldly, lower self, and the principles of awakening to the realization of the Divine Present.

Higher esoteric ideas are coded to protect the knowledge from being lost in the tide of time and humanity. They are coded through symbol, sign, idiom, analogy, metaphor, and parable to protect esoteric knowledge from the profane. -- Alexander Horn (20th c. Fourth Way teacher)
When you read Holy Scripture, perceive its hidden meanings, for whatever was written in past times was written for our instruction. -- Mark the Ascetic, The Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)

The hidden meaning of the teachings of all Esoteric Traditions is to instruct the novitiate to achieve Divine presence, a state of awareness in which the Higher Self within one is awake and in a state of unity, in contrast to the state of plurality of the lower self. This state of Divine presence has been given many names throughout history, for example, the Lord; Allah; Jehovah; the Tao; the Beloved in Sufi literature; The Sun God Ra in Egypt; the Buddhist state of Nirvana; Amidha Buddha`s Pure land; the Garden of Eden and the Sabbath of the Judeo-Christian tradition; the Third Eye of Eastern traditions; Brahman in Hinduism; the state of Satori in Japanese Zen Buddhism; and in modern times Real I, as opposed to the many 'I's of worldly, mechanical life.

The name "Allah" means divine presence. -- Ibn Arabi (13th c. Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher )
Behold, the Lord is within this vessel of my body. -- Kabir (15th c. Indian mystic poet)

Reaching divine presence is the art of being aware of oneself in one’s own environment. The effort to reach divine presence is often symbolized as a journey, a path or The Way.

The Dance of Death, The Munster of Bern, Switzerland, 15th C.

Make the divine presence your destination.
-- Al-Ghazali (11th c. Persian Sufi mystic)
As the Heart's Nature Is Cultivated, the Great Way Arises.
-- Journey to the West, chapter 1
One who seeks to purify his heart can scarcely find a path to travel toward that goal, but that his Enemy lies in ambush for him to cut his journey short.
-- Ibn Abbad of Ronda (14th c. sufi)

In the above image, the lower self is trying to kill the effort to be present, which happens many times in Journey to the West. The monk has six fingers on one hand and four on the other, symbolizing tools for being present.

The Four Kinds of Life and Six Paths are all explained. -- Journey to the West, chapter 12

However, the monk is not disturbed by the lower self trying to distract him from the effort to be present. In contrast, the lower left image shows the lower self, who has successfully disturbed the effort to be present.

The Grim Reaper, Tarot card XIII
Monkey on Buddha`s hand
Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. -- The Bible, Psalms 144:1
Show us the hand of God, that hath dismiss'd us from our stewardship.
-- Shakespeare, Richard II
The five fingers perform a single task.
-- Rumi (13th c. Sufi mystic and poet)
Mikkyo (Japanese Esoteric Buddhism) finds several levels of esoteric meaning in mudras. The fingers, for example, represent the symbolic elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space. Together with consciousness, an element pervading them all, they comprise the universal body of the Six Great Elements.
-- Shingon, Japanese Esoteric Buddhism by Yamasaki

A Pharaoh walking through the Narrow Gate, with a Ka on his head, Egyptian museum, Cairo
Guanyin Boddhisattva, China

I will lift up my hands unto thy commandments. -- The Bible, Psalms 119:48
The King has sprung up to heaven on the fingers of the god, lord of the ladder.
-- Egyptian Pyramid Texts
It will seem strange to many people when I say that prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ.
-- Gurdjieff (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)

The Fourth Way and Esoteric Traditions⎟ Living Presence ⎟ The Secret of the Golden Flower ⎟

Japanese symbols of Presence⎟ The taoist I Ching ⎟ Being Presence First