Easter’s Death And Rebirth
I have always loved Easter. Not because of gorgeous painted eggs and magic bunnies delivering them, or even the marvelous laughter of children on treasure hunts. I love Easter because it is a time of death and rebirth for all life, including each and every one of us. Of course, the death part of natural cycles is what all of us fear most. Not only is our fear unfounded—it also greatly limits our inner growth. It prevents us from experiencing the most valuable process in life during which we can come closer to discovering who, at the deepest level of our being, we really are. I invite you, this Easter, to explore the magnificent gifts available to you as you allow yourself to embrace death/rebirth in your own life.
Death/rebirth cycles are fundamental to all living things—plants and trees, animals, our own bodies and minds, even the stars in the heavens. Easter holidays are a celebration of these cycles that Jesus himself is believed to have experienced between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But the origins of Easter have far more ancient roots in pagan death/rebirth festivals that were celebrated long before the Christian era. In Sumerian mythology, the goddess Inanna was hung naked on a stake, killed, and resurrected as she ascended from darkness into light. The Easter Bunny, whom we all so love, is a modern day manifestation of another pagan festival of death and rebirth involving Eostre, the great Northern Goddess whose symbol was a rabbit. On a purely practical level, moment by moment, day by day, year by year, even the cells of your body undergo a death/rebirth cycle so you are able to go on living.
WHY I ADORE EASTER
Easter Season is a perfect time to lay aside your fears of death and darkness. Give thanks for the rebirth and renewal that is being offered to you. The thing I love most about Easter is that it reminds me that if we want to live a life true to our essential nature, each of us must be willing to experience death and rebirth—to leave what is old and no longer useful so we can bring light and expanded consciousness into our lives. Of course this almost always feels like a huge challenge to us humans. We love to cling to what is most familiar, even if doing so prevents us from experiencing new realities.
GIFTS FROM THE DARK
The dark realms are transcendent domains about which our materialistic culture remains naïve. Darkness is the place where seeds lie dormant. It’s the realm of incubation—a womb in the body where a new being can be nurtured and brought to birth. In such a place, what is old and outdated can become compost to feed the tiny seeds of a new life for you. When they open, husks fall away, freeing new plants to reach out towards the sun. Within your own psyche, a thousand such seeds lie waiting to grow. They call to you to nurture them, to trust them, so they are free to come forth. If we you are riddled with fear, you can remain deaf to their call.
Of course our greatest fear is invariably the fear of our own death. Yet the death/rebirth cycles I’m speaking are not involved in destroying your physical body. They are nature’s renewal transformations in service of new life for you. After all, the decaying leaves in the forest have to die in order to fertilize new saplings. And whatever we still carry about, which no longer serves us, must be allowed to die to make way for new ways of being. Death/rebirth initiation invites us again and again throughout the whole of our lives to grow, to learn to expand our awareness, and celebrate change along with Nature itself. This happens as the moon dies and is renewed every month. You can see it in the way a snake must shed its skin to grow. Easter is a time of skin shedding for you and me and all of us. Make use of it and you can reach whole new levels of clarity, joy, and being.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces talks a lot about coming to terms with the experience of deaths and the rebirths. They are central to the growth and spiritual development of human beings in every culture of the world, he says. Throughout history, tribal societies have created rites of passage to celebrate the death/rebirth cycle, especially at times of important biological changes like puberty. Initiates are put through rituals involving non-ordinary states of consciousness during which they can connect with the energies of numinous realms in order to experience the power and the meaning of the process. Such rituals celebrate the dying of the old role that one has been playing in their society—that of a dependent child—and being born into a new one as a powerful and independent adult. A boy dies. A man is born. From that moment onward, nobody in the tribe treats the initiate as a child anymore.
For most of us, the death we fear is not death of the body (although we often think it is). It is the death of outmoded beliefs and ways of living our lives that no longer serve us. And, in order to allow an influx of our deeper soul energies to emerge from the darkness and recreate our life anew, we need to become aware of them and welcome change. It is this experience that Campbell describes so well in his mythological hero’s journey. At such times, death and rebirth represent the membrane or interface within the psyche between the domain of the personal and the vast spiritual realms of the universal. Death then becomes a frontier to a new way of being. Once we realize this, the whole death/rebirth process becomes a friend. In truth, this is a sacred experience with rewards so great that it is not possible to put them into words. By the way, one of the most exhilarating gifts that comes with welcoming any death/rebirth process is an experience of authentic freedom to live your personal truth in everything you do and say.
OPEN TO NEW LIFE
Our own culture has all but lost touch with death/rebirth transformations. This is why we fear them. Sooner later death/rebirth comes to each of us. It can be triggered by the ending of a love affair, the recognition that one is addicted to alcohol, drugs or work, a dawning awareness that what you have always worked for and what you have achieved no longer holds meaning for you, the loss of a job or reputation. It can even be the unexpected release of intense emotion and the spontaneous entrance into altered states of consciousness, which can challenge your every notion that you have long held about what is real and what is not.
We approach any kind of death or crisis with anxiety, embarrassment, and denial. Thankfully this is beginning to change. The works of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Stephen Levine, and Ram Dass—all of whom have written wisely about death—is gradually altering our attitude. So is the in-depth research into near-death experiences, where people consistently report the survival of consciousness as well as spontaneous experiences of illumination when the soul separates, even temporarily, from the body.
The confrontation with birth and death you experience at Easter can introduce you to exciting new realities. This can happen in a literal sense to a woman in the act of giving birth or a man sitting at the bedside of his wife who is dying of cancer. It can also happen to you if you have to face abandonment at the end of a marriage or when disruption in your life accompanies the loss of a job. For many, it arises in a life-threatening situation; for instance, in a car crash, when you find yourself standing outside your body looking down on what, until then, you assumed to be the only reality there was. It can even occur in in the form of a spontaneous eruption—often labeled a psychotic breakthrough—in which the volatile world of expanded consciousness emerges, full-blown, to shake the foundations of your life. Such events lead people into the transpersonal realms experienced by mystics, great artists, and other visionary beings. They are invitations to new ways of thinking and new ways of experiencing reality, not through the mind but through the heart. So much for fearing the magnificent darkness that brings forth life.
When I tuned into the nature of the death/rebirth cycles in operation this Easter Season, with all the cosmic energies now bombarding our earth, here are the words that came to me. I’d like to share them with you:
“I move in velvet silence within forgotten spaces of your being. Fear me not. For when you fear me, you fear your own beauty and your own creative power. In the light all is separate. Within my darkness, all is One. Whenever your soul calls, I am here to wrap my silent wings of transformation around you. Enter me in friendship. I will introduce you to the magic of angels and archetypes, deities, and your own profound essential being. Look carefully at each of these things, no matter how fearsome its face may feel to you. You will find each and every one is a window to the divine truth unique to you alone.”
— I AM THE SPIRIT OF THE DARK