The Inner Resurrection
Easter is the major moveable feast of the liturgical year. It may fall
on any sunday between March 22nd and April 23rd. The date of Easter accords
with the date of the Jewish festival of the Passover which is based upon
the old lunar calendar. By this method of calculation the date of Easter
is the Sunday nearest the first full moon following the spring equinox.
The spring season in which Easter occurs, with its renewal of life following
winter, bears out a synchronous relationship with the resurrection theme
in the mythic story of Jesus death and resurrection. We find at this great
Christian festival a conjunction between the the cycles of nature and the
mythic cycle of the liturgical year, a conjunction between microcosm and
macrocosm, a conjunction between the interior, mythic dimension of reality
and the outer dimension of the cycles of life. Because of this, many of
the symbols that we associate with Easter, such as chicks, Easter eggs
and rabbits, are fertility symbols representing the renewal and proliferation
of life in spring.
The name of this festival derives from an Anglo-Saxon fertility Goddess
named Oestara. Other related Goddesses are Isis of the Egyptians, Ishtar
of the Assyrians, Astarte of the Babylonians and Tara of the Irish. All
of these Goddesses have province over the night sky, the moon and the earth.
They have both a celestial and starry aspect as well as an earthly aspect.
Sophia also has a celestial, transcendent aspect and an earthly, immanent
aspect. The earthly aspect of Sophia relates to the Holy Spirit which remains
here on earth to guide and care for us. She is the Spirit that gives life
and sustains the life of all creatures on earth unto their redemption.
Sophia also has a celestial, starry and transcendent aspect. She represents
the light beyond the stars. In this mode of symbolism, the ancients imagined
the night sky to be like a bowl full of holes through which the sea of
light beyond shone through as the stars. Sophia as the Light of the Stars
becomes the Star-Kindler, the Queen of the Stars, the Queen of Heaven.
The Queen of Heaven is a title not only for the aspect of Sophia represented
in the Blessed Virgin Mary but also for the historic figures of Isis, Astarte
and Ishtar. She is both Earths Mother and Heavens Queen.
In the same fashion we must approach the mythic event of the resurrection
of Jesus on more than one level. We must not succumb to the easy conclusion
that the symbolism of the death and resurrection of Christ, the dying and
renewing God, is nothing more than an image of earthly fertility and cyclical
life. Because the story of the resurrection comes from the mythic dimension
of reality, it transcends in great measure the limitations of earthly cycles
and nature; there is indeed a great deal more to it. The cyclical rise
and fall of vegetation through the cycle of the seasons, the death and
resurrection of Christ, does not have tremendous meaning as the fertility
of the earth but has its deeper and more profound meaning in the fertility
and creativity of the human spirit.
Although many of the Gnostic scriptures abound in agricultural allegories,
particularly in the Gospel of Philip, Gnostics are not so much concerned
with the outer and ongoing cycles of death and renewal in nature but with
the inner resurrection of the human spirit, the liberation and rising up
of that immortal spark of the divine light within us. However, this inner
resurrection is not entirely restricted to the human sphere; like the Buddhists,
with their compassion for all forms of sentient life, we, as Gnostics,
also look to the liberation and gathering of the sparks of light among
all sentient beings, whatever their place on the spiral of manifest life.
Yet before we can assist in the liberation of other forms of life, we must
ourselves seek liberation and the resurrection while in this flesh. As
the Gospel of Philip states in regard to the Resurrection, If you
do not receive it while in this place, you will not receive it in the other
place. The inner resurrection is the gnosis of the immortal light-spark
within us, a conscious recollection of ones own divine heritage and immortal
Like the other mystery religions, such as those of Eleusis and Sais,
the Gnostics had a method for achieving this inner resurrection. As in
the mysteries of old, the Gnostic practice of the mysteries gave a conscious
realization of ones immortality. In the mysteries of Eleusis this realization
came forth in the vision of the Goddess Kore, in Egypt the vision of the
Saitic Isis. Among the Alexandrian Gnostics it accompanied a vision of
Sophia and a communion with the Resurrected One.
Easter represents a mystical experience of death and resurrection, not
the celebration of an historical event. Something mysterious and miraculous
happened; the disciples and early Gnostic writers experienced something,
and yet the actual nature of the outward and historical event is not important
to the Gnostic. There has never been, even in the gospel accounts, any
agreement as to exactly what happened. We must approach these themes as
interior and mystical events that can have meaning and reality for us today.
We must ourselves experience this mystical death and resurrection as an
interior and timeless reality. The Acts of St John record the mystical
words of Jesus, Understand me then as the slaying of a Word, wound of
a Word, hanging of a Word, suffering of a Word, fastening of a Word, death
of a Word, resurrection of a Word, and defining this Word, I mean every
We do not celebrate the death and miraculous animation of the physical
body of one man in history but our own apotheosis and resurrection as a
reality in this life. Belief in an historical event is not going to change
anything in us. The mysteries of Gnosis are not of this world; they are
in the world but not of the world. This is nowhere more true than in the
mystery of the Resurrection.
The Gnostics and disciples experienced not a dead Jesus but a Living
Jesus, a spiritual not a physical being. The gospel accounts give ample
evidence that the resurrected body was not the same as the physical body.
In the Gospel of Philip we read, The Lord rose from the dead. He
became as he used to be, but now his body was perfect. He did indeed possess
flesh, but this is true flesh. Our flesh is not true, but we possess only
an image of the true. The canonical gospels indicate that the resurrected
Jesus was not recognized as the physical resemblance he bore during his
incarnation. In the Gospel of St John Mary Magdalen does not recognize
him until he speaks her name. In the Gospel of St Luke the father
of James and Jude and another disciple do not recognize Jesus until he
breaks bread with them.
We are dealing here with an interior experience of a transcendent reality.
The resurrection story from the Gospel of St Matthew describes two
angels at the open tomb. The presence of angels indicates that the teller
of the story is recounting a visionary experience, an experience of an
alternative reality. The angels say to the women at the tomb, Why seek
ye the living among the dead. He is not here; He has risen, as He said.
The words of the angels suggest that the Living Jesus is not in an history
that is dead and gone. If we look for the resurrection in an historical
event we are still seeking the living among the dead.
The Jewish mystical writings of the Zohar describe the resurrection
as a spiritual phenomena, the resurrection of bodies of light nourished
by the milk of the Holy Spirit.
The complete resurrection will begin in Galilee. The resurrection
of bodies will be as the uprising of flowers. There will be no more need
of eating and drinking, for we shall all be nourished by the Glory of the
The Gnostic resurrection is something that can happen while one is in this
world. In the Egyptian mysteries Horus, as the initiate into the mysteries,
describes the resurrection as being filled with light: My whole body is
filled with light; there is no part of me that is not a god; I am divine
in every part.
St Paul sums up the inner resurrection in this portion of his First
Epistle to the Corinthians.
But some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what
body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened,
and thou sowest not that body that shall be, but God giveth it a body as
it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. So when this corruptible
shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed
up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
At Easter our life and our perception of the world is given the opportunity
to change. All things are made new. We arise from a world of periodical
death and decay into a timeless and immortal realm of spirit. The permanent
and indelible effect of the inner resurrection is that it forever delivers
the human consciousness from the fear of bodily death. When you see your
soul with your own eyes, when you know who you are and from whence you
have come, when you see your star shining immortal in the heavens, then
death is surely swallowed up in victory, and we can say with all the Gnostics
and knowers of the truth before us, O death, where is thy sting? O grave,
where is thy victory?
-- Rev. Steven Marshall