With every dawning spring, nature gives her message to all alike, setting forth in flower-symbols the lesson of rebirth, the awakening to new life and activity of the inner abiding soul. It is when we realize that sunlight and showers are shared by all, irrespective of the barriers that have arisen between man and man, that a deeper sense of the meaning of Easter, a fuller grasp of the truth it holds for the whole of humanity, can come to us and deepen our joy in the springtime.
As we study the religions of the peoples of earth, we find that each of them attaches great significance to certain symbols and truths. The crucifixion, the entombment, the resurrection, and the Christ glorified are found in one form or another in the traditional teachings or myths from which the Christian religion has descended. We are irresistibly drawn into a worldwide company to whom inspiration and light have come from the universal source of wisdom by means of many teachers of humanity.
Duality is the first idea we must grasp in the application of these symbols -- the duality of spirit and matter; the aim of world-manifestation being to inform the world-matter with spirit, to lift it to knowledge of its divine essence. Everything in the great cycle of experience shares this duality. Each of us is a divine spirit which has chosen to assume body after body of matter in order gradually to awaken in the entities of the body the fire of higher consciousness. Life is an entombment of the spirit in matter until the divinity of the spirit conquers its dark surroundings and finds its way to the light again, bearing the fruit of earthly experience.
The crucifixion, according to the wisdom-teaching of all time, is not the death agony of only one of humanity's helpers named Jesus the Christ. It is the struggle for conquest between spirit and matter in all mankind: the age-long striving by which the desires and appetites of the lower nature are gradually purified and directed toward the higher life, to what makes for spiritual mastery. The Christ crucified typifies this; and the penitent thief to whom Christ says "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise," represents the part of the lower nature that has welcomed the divine influence and become one with it; while the thief on the other side is the unconquered passion and desire that no longer cling to the soul that has freed itself from the body. The tomb symbolizes the bondage in which the soul imprisoned in bodily desires suffers. The resurrection is the rising of the soul triumphant over the longings of the flesh; it is the symbol of the inner god triumphant over the animal. The crucifixion then applies to every member of the human family, and not only to those elder brothers of the race who come as teachers at certain periods.
In the lives of these teachers may be found the same sacred Mystery events: death, descent into Hades, entombment, and the rising again. Each one has pointed to our divine origin, the duality of human nature, the struggle with the qualities of matter in which divinity has clothed itself. Earth and man are closely linked, and even in those cycles when the secrets of being have been of necessity veiled, nature gives her yearly reminder of the great truths concerning man's ultimate victory.
The resurrection symbolizes the culmination of cycles of effort on the part of the higher forces in the universe. It applies to the end of the world-period when human beings will live in full consciousness of their innate divinity and with full mastery over all that has warred against the free expression of their noblest ideals. It also applies to the triumph of the Christos principle in an individual whenever the divine nature wins over the flesh while in the flesh. There have always been teachers to inspire those of pure motive and strong will to conquer the lower passions, to actualize their spiritual potentialities, and then to devote the whole life to service.
During the Christian era the universal truths have been much obscured, for the limitation of crucifixion to an actual death-struggle of one teacher has hindered the understanding of man's true relation to the universe and to his own divine nature. Long ago, in a brighter age, there were divine institutions of Mysteries, the rites of which marked successive stages in the purification of individuals until the soul was unhampered by its lower impulses and the candidate was "born again." In the Greek Mysteries, for example, the sacred teaching that makes of man a god on earth was imparted at certain times of the year: early in the spring, those who were prepared were shown, clear and unveiled, the great drama of the soul's growth, and the truth concerning the mysteries of life and death that enables the aspirant henceforth to keep unbroken the thread of spiritual consciousness. Such was the day of resurrection for the enlightened ones, the rising from the dead of the Christ-spirit, the higher self -- taught by Jesus and by the sages and initiates of every age. As H. P. Blavatsky wrote:
We may learn from the Gospel according to Luke, that the "worthy" were those who had been initiated into the mysteries of the Gnosis, and who were "accounted worthy" to attain that "resurrection from the dead" in this life, . . . and the words apply to all those who, without being Initiates, strive and succeed, through personal efforts to live the life and to attain the naturally ensuing spiritual illumination in blending their personality -- the "Son" with the "Father," their individual divine Spirit, the God within them. -- "Esoteric Character of the Gospels" -- I, originally published in Lucifer, 1:3, November 1887; cf. Studies in Occultism, p. 145
To liberate the soul -- not to remove it from the body, but so to live that the divinity of the soul may find expression in the acts we perform with body and mind! To live in a body as a god would; to stamp upon it the divine nature and rise, glorified, to right performance of necessary deeds! This is the resurrection that must be accomplished by the human race.
The message of hope, the promise of attainment, is the message of nature at Eastertide -- the assurance of rebirth. Rebirth of the soul in a succession of lives on earth until the work of crucifixion is complete; rebirth of spiritual impulses to persevere in the flowering of the race -- a perennial rising from and a returning to the work on earth with the consciousness of a thread that runs through all unbroken, through sleep and waking, through what we call birth and death, on, on to the final triumph of the soul made divine.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1982. Copyright © 1982 by Theosophical University Press)
World Spiritual Traditions Menu