I have always loved Easter. Not because of the gorgeous painted eggs or the 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 these natural cycles is what we fear greatly. Not only is this fear unfounded; it greatly limits our inner growth. It also prevents us from experiencing the most valuable process in life during which we can discover who, at the deepest level of our being, we really are. I invite you, this Easter, to explore the magnificent gifts available to you when you embrace death/rebirth experiences 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 which Jesus himself is said to have experienced between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The origins of Easter also have even more ancient roots in pagan death/rebirth festivals 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. Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, even the cells of our body undergo a death/rebirth cycle so we can go on living.
WHY I LOVE EASTER
Easter Season is a fine time to lay aside fears of death and darkness, and give thanks for rebirth and renewal which continues to be offered us. The thing I love most about Easter is 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 in our own lives so we can bring light and expanded consciousness into our lives. Of course this can be a challenge for us humans. We so love to cling to what is most familiar even if doing so prevents us from experiencing new realities.
The dark realms are transcendent domains about which our materialistic culture remains naïve. Darkness is a place where seeds lie dormant, a realm of incubation, the womb in a woman’s body where a new being is nurtured so that it can be born. In dark spaces what is old and outdated becomes compost to feed tiny seed of new life. When they open, husks fall away, freeing new plants to grow towards the sun. Within our own psyche, a thousand such seeds lie waiting to break open and grow. They urge us to nurture them, to trust them, so they too can come forth. If we are riddled with fear we 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 the physical body. They are nature’s renewal transformations in service of new life. After all, the old, decayed leaves of the forest must die to fertilize its 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 shappens to us again and again throughout the whole of our lives. They also happen as the moon dies and is renewed every month. And you can see them in the way a snake sheds a skin when it needs to grow.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces talks a lot about coming to terms with the experience of these 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 at times of important biological change 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 dying to the old role 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. There death and rebirth represent the membrane or interface in the psyche between the domain of the personal and the vast spiritual realms of the universal. Death 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 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 that arises from within us.
GATEWAY TO NEW LIFE
Our own culture 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, even the unexpected release of intense emotion and the spontaneous entrance into altered states of consciousness which challenges every notion about what is real and what is unreal.
We approach any kind of death or crisis with anxiety, embarrassment and denial. Thankfully this is beginning to change. The work 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 we experience can introduce us to new realities. It 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 in your life when you have to face the abandonment at the end of a marriage or the disruption in your ordinary life that accompanies the loss of a job. For many it comes 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 some kind of spontaneous eruption—often labeled a psychotic break—through which the volatile world of expanded consciousness emerges, full-blown, to shake the very 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 which 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