For quite some time I have been intending to write articles to deal with the origins and religious significance of Christmas and Easter. Every year like clockwork, out come the articles, videos and memes, some of which give a bad representation of half-truths claiming that Christmas and Easter are both pagan, and the others again giving half of the story in claiming that they are not. At some point I would like to offer my own presentation of the facts on both Christmas and Easter, to try and bring some clarity to the subjects. However, today is not that day.
Rather, today I simply wish to talk about true spirituality and its relationship with the Easter mythos. For Christianity, Easter is a time of both mourning and celebration, for what they believe was the death and resurrection of Jesus. For Christians the death of Jesus was a cosmic sacrifice, God incarnating as a man and taking on the frailty of humanity, suffering and taking on death for the sins of humanity, so that we may be free of sin. Likewise, the resurrection of Jesus is seen by Christians as the ultimate triumph, mankind being given the opportunity to share in eternal life through divine grace, accepted through faith in Christ.
Elsewhere I have already written quite a bit on the fact that there were indeed older pagan precedents for the theme of death and resurrection, celebrated at major seasonal markers (as is Easter – being celebrated immediately following the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere), which also associated the devotee with the deity, in order to give eternal life after death[i]. Unfortunately, this reality is still largely denied and derided by both Christian apologists and many secular religious scholars, bringing the field of religious scholarship into disrepute. Anyways, I will not be dwelling on that today.
Rather, I simply wish to speak briefly on the fact that through the incredible privilege that Christianity has enjoyed throughout the Western world over the past 2,000 odd years, many people have been taught to believe that they require salvation to be reunited with God. That is, we have been taught that we are dependent upon belief in a story, belief in a pseudo-historical myth to be freed from the natural consequences of our mistakes, and to have eternal life.
It is time that humanity at large came back into contact with the greater reality, of which they are part, and which constitutes our true, innermost being. Deep inside, within us all is Spirit, and you do not have to subscribe to a fixed belief system or religion to experience this. All you need to do is find true stillness and inner silence, and indescribable peace and love will reveal itself to you. Whilst followers of all faiths commonly experience self-validating visions and so forth that relate to the specific dogmas and myths of that particular faith, there are universal spiritual experiences that are not dependent upon faith in any conception of deity, scripture or creed. Even those that subscribe to metaphysical naturalism can experience this same inner peace, as it does not require any belief in the objective reality of spirituality.
As individuals, we basically all have issues that we struggle with, and we can all use a bit of grace. Grace however is not something that we have to earn or attempt to deserve, and likewise, it is not something that we cannot deserve and is simply given to us anyways. Rather, grace is part of the natural absolute reality, the substratum of the cosmos, and nothing we can ever do could take away our right to that grace. However, grace can be obscured and we can lose sight of it, as is often the case, and we can feel disconnected and alone in a cruel harsh world.
We do not need to believe in religious myths or stories to gain eternal life. We are eternal life. We can swim in the ocean of bliss, love and infinite creativity through deep meditation, and it is likewise possible to sustain this in everyday life, through the seemingly mundane world. For most of us it requires self-effort, but it is a path that brings true happiness, and peace to the world.
There is room in the world for religious mythology, allegorical stories that help humanity to touch that which is beyond form. It is important for us to remember however not to become attached to these forms, or to mistake them for the goal. The Abrahamic faiths in particular (but not exclusively) have been largely responsible for the idea that one needs to exclusively follow the tenets of one faith in order to find God, and that without perfect adherence to the dogmas of a particular religion one is denied eternal life in the hereafter.
The belief in eternal damnation is certainly the single most abhorrent superstition that has ever corrupted the field of religion, and it is time that it was rejected outright as being immoral, irrational and utterly supported by evidence or reason. Likewise, the idea that eternal peace could only be given to a small group of sentient beings on the basis of rather arbitrary and petty criteria is simply untenable.
Spirit is naturally eternal, and there is nothing we can do to lose eternal life. However, we can be unaware of the existence of Spirit within us and around us, leading to the temporary illusion that we have to struggle and fight in a cold and uncaring cosmos, devoid of meaning and compassion. Suffering befall us all, giving legitimate reasons to doubt the existence of anything beyond cold hard matter. Certainly, the injustices that we perceive in the world are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to harmonize with the idea that all life is created by a transcendent being with a nature of infinite love. And yet, this is the world we inhabit.
Injustice and suffering do abound in the world, and yet somehow, simultaneously, unspeakable, eternal, infinite love, joy and peace is only ever a moment away for any of us. What we seek is not far from us but right here, and with the right instruction, a little practice and some grace we can all experience it, and even live it continuously. I’m still working on it myself, but I have experienced this beyond doubt, from cosmic oneness and unimaginable peace in deep meditation, to a constant inner lightness through presence/mindfulness in daily life. Fluctuation is normal, but our internal state is within our power, as are our responses to the world outside us. We cannot control the actions of others, or the greater environment in which we live, or all the circumstances that we encounter in life. And yet we have great power over our internal state, and through taking responsibility for it we reclaim our own power, and contribute towards a better world.
Human beings have great potential to different extremes. We can be extraordinarily kind, compassionate, forgiving, joyful, brilliant and serene, and yet we can also be unimaginably cruel, unforgiving, vindictive and insane, and can fall into endless spirals of hopelessness and anxiety. We live in a world that has the capacity to sustain us all, or we can deprive ourselves and all other beings of a liveable world.
So, at Easter time I would like to say that we need not believe that Osiris really did drown in the river and was brought back to life by magic and the intervention of the gods, nor do we need to believe that Attis really was castrated by a bull and returned to life as a tree. Nor do we need to believe that Dionysus was really torn apart by the Titans, before later being reborn via the thigh of Zeus, or that Jesus was really crucified and resurrected. None of these are essential for becoming free of our lower nature, becoming reunited with God and attaining eternal life, regardless of whether or not any of these have roots in real historical events.
Grace is always waiting for us, balanced with self-effort that brings great rewards, both immediately and continuously throughout our lives. May we all find peace within us, living joyful lives of passion and creativity, and bless others around us and the world at large through showing the higher potential of humanity. May we forgive others and end the insane cycles of retribution and greed that have held us down for too long.
[i] I haven’t as of yet published anything specifically designed to quickly summarize the evidence and logic behind this conclusion. However, for anyone that is reading this and hasn’t read my previous articles on the topic, please see the following: