“Ostara” (Eostre) by Johannes Gehrts/Courtesy of Wikipedia
Hello and welcome to an Easter message from Animism International.
As we gather this spring to celebrate this joyous festival, let us remember exactly what it is we are commemorating.
For millennia, the Easter season has been celebrated by people all over the world as a time of rebirth and renewal. It is a celebration of the coming of Spring, as the word Easter itself reminds us.
The name is a derivation of the name Eostre or Ostre, the ancient Germanic goddess of the dawn and springtime. She symbolized the return of the light that brings life back to the world after the cold, darkness and symbolic death of winter.
Over time, as Christianity spread across Europe, church leaders co-opted the festival and associated its rights and rituals with the death and rebirth of Jesus. They even borrowed the name of the Goddess, which had become associated with the month now known as April.
Indeed, the symbolism contained in the story of the crucifixion is identical with the symbolism of earlier pagan festivals. The figure of the Year God who sacrifices his life for the sake of the world is a familiar one. Whether he goes by the name Jesus, Attis, Mithras, Dionysus, Krishna or any of a hundred others, it is his willing sacrifice that renews the world for another year.
In many stories, this figure is literally torn to pieces and his body parts are scattered to the corners of the world, only for him to be resurrected again after a period of descent into the underworld.
As Joseph Campbell, the famous professor of mythology, made clear in his groundbreaking book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” the message we are to take away from all this is both a psychological and a metaphysical one.
Psychologically, the death and rebirth of the Christ figure is a metaphor for the destruction and re-creation of the self, as represented by the ego. In order for a person to become whole and actualized as a being, that is to say, for us to reach our full potential and become everything that we are capable of becoming, it is essential to do away with the ego-self that limits our understanding of the Oneness of all creation.
To quote Campbell:
“Jesus, for example, can be regarded as a man who by dint of austerities and meditation attained wisdom; or on the other hand, one may believe that a god descended and took upon himself the enactment of a human career.
“The first view would lead one to imitate the master literally, in order to break through, in the same way as he, to the transcendent, redemptive experience. But the second states that the hero is rather a symbol to be contemplated than an example to be literally followed.
“The divine being is a revelation of the omnipotent Self, which dwells within us all. The contemplation of the life thus should be undertaken as a meditation on one’s own immanent divinity, not as a prelude to precise imitation, the lesson being, not ‘Do thus and be good,’ but ‘Know this and be God.’” (pp. 319)
Following this avenue of thought, it becomes clear that the sacrifice represented in the death and rebirth of Jesus, Attis or any of the others, is the sacrifice of the personal self for the cosmic self.
The great sages and mystics of history are renowned for their willingness to put aside the usual distractions of money, property and material success in order to transcend the limitations of ego-consciousness and assume the mantle of cosmic consciousness.
As Richard Bucke wrote in his landmark volume of that name:
“[Cosmic] consciousness shows the cosmos to consist not of dead matter governed by unconscious, rigid and unintending law; it shows it on the contrary as entirely immaterial, entirely spiritual and entirely alive; It shows that death is an absurdity, that everyone and everything has eternal life; It shows that the universe is God and God is the universe, and that no evil ever did or ever will enter into it; a great deal of this is, of course, from the point of view of self consciousness, absurd; It is nevertheless undoubtedly true.” — Cosmic Consciousness
And so, this Easter as you contemplate the coming of Spring and watch life burst forth from the Earth, remember that it is an outward expression of the same eternal energy that animates and dwells within you.
Through gratitude, reflection and meditation, we can all transcend the boundaries of the physical self and become aware of the interconnectedness of the universe.
To do so we must “die” to our former understanding of ourselves as limited beings, and be reborn with an understanding that divinity dwells both within and without. The fruits of this understanding are joy beyond bounds, peace that surpasses understanding and compassion for all beings.
And it is with those things in mind that we wish all of you a very Happy Easter.