Some Easter Ruminations
by Mark Stavish
Originally posted in Voxhermes in 2013.
Easter is an interesting holiday deeply rooted, we are routinely reminded, in pagan cults and their attendant practices. While such recognition is important for our understanding, it often does little in terms of our actual practice, and it is from practice that we derive the experiences that provide us with the experiences of illumination. Holy week in particular was once a special time for those interested in the Rosicrucian mysteries. Meditation, using the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, provided a means of tying in this strange and wonderful tale into the Christian liturgical calendar. During my early days in alchemy I was often told of how the crucifixion provided an alchemical allegory. The cross, being the symbol of Saturn, as well as death, formed the focal point of the Work for unlocking the inner Christ, or Light, through its ‘death’. The offering of the sponge soaked in vinegar hinted as the medium to be used in the extraction – an acid – and through it, the ‘blood’ or red oil of lead could be obtained. Hanz Nintzel told this story on several occasions, and I understand that it had its origins in Frater Albertus’s alchemical classes, held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
During a recent class held in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, of which recordings are available, I recounted a story I was told as a child. Herein, the death of Christ was in part the process of death itself, in its ideal form. That is, the thieves represent the side channels or Pillars of the psychic anatomy. It is through these channels that our consciousness experiences different phenomena. While this phenomena is natural, it is often overwhelming to us, and is the source of our suffering as we get trapped in the sensations of life and fail to understand their meaning. Chasing these physical and psychic sensations robs us of our lives, and we die, without experience or faith in anything other than our limited notions of self. In life, just as in the Gospel story, the side channels or thieves die or collapse first, sending their energy into the central channel or Middle Pillar.
The thief who confesses at the end, tells us that despite however we live our lives, there is always the opportunity to redeem ourselves at any moment. This is not the same as a ‘death bed confession’ wherein one seeks to cheat justice, but a true realization and insight into the nature of life. It is a true conversion experience, for conversion comes from the root, ‘to turn around’. In turning our back on ignorance, sin, and death, we enter into wisdom, joy, and life – the fruits of salvation, itself which means to be protected from harm and suffering – “The Lord is my refuge, the Most High my habitation.”
Just as Christ dies, he says, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit!” It is this way, we are told we should die. Without fear, and with confidence in what is to come – the same way we are told to live. Christ is crucified on Golgotha or the Place of the Skull. Here again, it is said, that when we die, we should imagine the heavenly realm before us, or have as the Catholics do, a Cross, image of Christ, or Mary before us where it can easily be seen. The ideal here is that when we die, our consciousness will exit through the top of our skulls, through the central column, the location of the Christ’s Cross, and we will enter into the heavenly realms easily. This is nearly identical to the practice of phowa practiced within Tibetan Buddhism.
The descent into hell, ascent into heaven, and resurrection are the after life experiences we will have. The encounter of our inner demons and their redemption, the bliss of the heavenly realms, and the inevitable rebirth to finish our Work. This rebirth will be either in physical form, through normal biological means, or in the Body of Light, the Resurrection Body of perfected Illumination.
Mary Magdalene, herself cleansed of seven demons by Jesus, is said to have presented a red egg to Tiberius Caesar. The red egg is given as the reason we dye eggs at Easter, and its symbolism for rebirth, as well as the in alchemy and the Philosopher’s Stone is well known. Magdalene has a special place, as she is the source of awakening in this world, hence making her the Bride of Christ.
While there is more to the story, that is all for now. I hope that you will find this of use for your weekend meditation. Happy Easter.
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