Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Ritual Mystery of the Resurrection

by Dr. Jean Houston
Since we are getting close to Easter I thought that the essential ritual drama of the West would be an evocative way to explore ritual in its mythic and profoundly psychological dimension.
In the story of Jesus the resurrection is the essential miracle, the deepest mystery, and the greatest stumbling block. For us, it actually has more validity, greater personal meaning and power. How dare I make so blasphemous a statement? Easy. Consider it's history.
The miracle of the godded one who dies or is killed and comes back to life has a long and extraordinary history in the myths and ritual patterns of many cultures, most familiarly those of ancient Greece and the ancient Near East. Isis searches for the scattered parts of her husband, Osiris, binds them together and animates him to produce new life; Demeter calls forth her daughter, Persephone, from her dwelling place in the Kingdom of the Dead; Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysius all are destroyed and all are remade.
In the Greco-Roman world these acts of resurrection were celebrated in the Mystery Religions. These ecstatic forms of piety involved dramatic, highly ritualized inward journeys of anguish, grief, loss, resurrection, redemption, joy, and ecstasy. The Mystery Religions provided the alienated individual lost in the nameless masses of the Roman Empire with an intimate environment and community of the saved, in which he counted as a real person and in which he found a deeper identity. Identifying with the God-man or the Goddess-woman of the mystery cult, the initiate died to the old self and was resurrected to personal transfiguration and eternal life.
We know that in Egypt, Chaldea, Greece, and India the Mysteries sometimes involved initiation rites in which sufficiently trained neophytes were put into a three day death-like sleep by a hierophant or priest. In the esoteric schools it was thought that in these states the subtle body received the training it needed to impress upon the physical body a new order of being. This process involved the temporary surrender of the life spirit. There are even those who believe that Lazarus was in a state of death-like sleep when Christ called him forth.
The resurrection story of Jesus differs radically from that of the traditional mystery cult figures. By being historical, by living a human existence in space and time, Jesus brought a new dimension, that of human experience, to the trans personal and archetypal dimension of God-Identity. Read More