But did you know that there are similar stories of death and resurrection in cultures all over the world? There is a Sumarian story of the goddess Inanna, the Egyptian story of Osiris, Asclepius and Achilles are raised from the dead in Greek mythology, Baldr is raised from Hel in the Norse myth, and there are other resurrection myths throughout the world. Even fairy tales include this theme. Snow White is returned from a “sleeping death”, and in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the Wizard Gandalf the Grey is resurrected as Gandalf the White.
Since these stories appear in so many forms and places, one has to ask, “What is this story trying to tell us?” Jewish tradition teaches that it is always important to find ourselves in Biblical stories, so, where do we find ourselves in the story of the Resurrection?
I believe that people did see or encounter Jesus in some way after his death and burial, but those who encountered him, experienced him in a very different way. Jesus had been transformed. According to the gospel stories, Jesus could pass through locked doors. He appeared and disappeared at will. Some people didn’t recognize him, not even his closest companion, Mary Magdalene until he allowed it. Somehow Jesus was transformed.
But Easter is not just about Jesus, it is about each one of us dying in some metaphorical manner and being transformed - awakened. Maybe it’s about dying to what the Celtic Christians teachers called our false self and awakening our True Self. By false self, I don’t mean bad self. The False Self is more like the self that we show to others, and to ourself. It is what Carl Jung called our persona. The False Self looks at things with the ego as its reference point and changes to meet the various situations in our life. The True Self is the part of you that sees truthfully through divine eyes, the you and the me that is made in the image of God.
The false self needs to metaphorically die for the True Self to be awakened and rise up. Carl Jung would agree with this idea. He wrote: “What happened in the life of Christ happens always and everywhere. The Risen Christ represents the final perspective of every True Self.” Jesus’ disciple, John the Beloved, wrote in a letter to his followers, referring to Christ: “My dear people, we are already the children of God. But what we are in the future is not yet fully revealed. All we know, is that we shall all be like him” (1 John 3:2). But this is not an easy task.
Jung also wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” As in many of the resurrection myths, we must go into hell before we can rise to new life.
Ninth century Celtic Christian teacher, John Scotus Eriugena, taught that we suffer from the “soul’s forgetfulness,” and that Christ came to reawaken us to our true nature or True Self. He came to show us the face of God and he comes now to show us our own true face. But our True Face or Self is well hidden behind the mask of our false self. In the 1991 movie Hook, with Robin Williams plays the now grown up forty year old Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman plays a wonderfully evil but conflicted Captain Hook. In one scene, one of the Lost Boys is examining the grown up Peter and after carefully looking deep into his eyes and touching his face, says, “Oh, there you are Peter.”
So how do we allow our True Self to burst forth from where it is hidden inside of us ? Let me suggest two ways: FIRST: Through Prayer. Far too many Christians however, myself included, have been taught to think of prayer as a transaction. We believe and worship God, so we can pray: “Help me, save me, grant my wishes.” But what if prayer is not transactional but transformative? What if prayer is something which opens us up, connects us, transforms us. Franciscan priest, Fr. Richard Rohr, suggests that we can do this when we make prayer a communion. Whatever we do in a state of communion - connection - love - is prayer. Whatever we do outside of communion is not prayer.
In the Christian scriptures, we are told, “Pray always.” This would be impossible if they were talking about verbal prayer. So these instructions cannot be referring to verbal prayer. They are referring to a state of consciousness We can do anything in a state of conscious union, or mindfully: Wash the dishes, drive the car, walk in the woods, sit and talk with someone, making love, and they can all be prayer. Prayer as communion opens us to living in intimate relationship with creation, with family, friends and all people, and even loving relationship with our own shadows. When we do this, we are open to the voice of the True Self.
SECOND: Be open to the lures and nudges from the True Self. In the book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the king tells the young pilgrim, “There is a language in the world that everyone understands, but has forgotten; a language without words..... about oneness.” The Divine language is primordial, and as old as time. Holy Wisdom, Hochma speaks most often through this language of images and symbols, not through spoken language. Nature, signs, synchronicity, and dreams feed the heart and the unconscious.
A few days ago, I was very discouraged with my progress on the book I am writing. I was telling myself that I was fooling myself if I thought I could write a book. So I stopped writing and opened FaceBook. I immediately saw a meme from author Anne LaMott that stated: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.” In my undergraduate years, a long time ago, I doubted that any kind of God existed. I was riding in a car with a friend who was arguing the case for God’s existence. I said, “If there is a God, then why don’t I get some kind of a sign?” I turned the corner, and on a big billboard was on the side of the road that said, “God loves you.” These are two examples of the symbolic way in which the Divine can work with the True Self to reveal itself. Of course we can just laugh these things off as coincidence, but then perhaps we will miss something important.
In the Book of Job we read: “Why do you complain to God that none of your words are answered? For God does speak, now one way, now another, though we may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people, as they slumber in their beds,
God may speak in their ears” (Job 33:14). Dreams are another powerful way through which the True Self speaks to us. I suggest keeping a dream journal and reviewing the entries a few time a year and you will become aware of the themes and repeated messages.
The Easter Mystery is part of our human lives.. We all have our dyings and risings: a loved one dies and a baby is born; through the death of our wellness from injury or illness and our recovery into a new appreciation for life and health. Psychologist Abraham Maslow told about his experience of this in an interview in Psychology Today. He said, “After my heart attack my attitude toward life changed. One very important aspect of the postmortem life is that everything gets double precious, gets piercingly important. You get stabbed by things, by flowers, and by babies and by beautiful things - the very act of living, of walking and breathing and eatings and having friends and chatting. Everything seems to look more beautiful rather than less, and one gets the much-intensified sense of miracles.”
The Resurrection is not just about whether Jesus physically walked out of his tomb, two millennia ago. It is about Jesus somehow becoming who and what he was always meant to be. It is also about our hope of becoming who we are meant to be - our True Self. The Resurrection gives us hope to proclaim: Christ is risen! Christ’s Spirit lives in me! Life is good! It is indeed a Happy Easter!