image: Wikimedia commons (link).
When we begin to realize that virtually every single story in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is built upon celestial allegory -- especially if we have taken them literally for years, even decades -- it can at first feel like this knowledge "ruins" the great annual festivals that we once understood as commemorations of literal-historical events.
Especially the holidays of Christmas and Easter can suddenly feel strangely alien to us, because their celebration has been for so long promoted and controlled almost exclusively by those who insist upon celebrating these holidays as literal and historical, to the point that we "concede ownership" and unconsciously adopt the mindset that the primary meaning of these annual events belongs to those who take them literally.
The unspoken assumption, if we were to put it into words or conscious thought (which we rarely ever do) is that these holidays have the most meaning for the literalists, and the idea that neither Christmas nor Easter has anything to do with literal, historical events which took place on planet Earth (although they can be shown to have taken place in the circling stars of the sky, and in fact are still taking place there, over and over each year) would be an unwelcome intrusion best kept quiet lest it "diminish" the meaning and sacredness of these special days.
But what if, in fact, it is the literalist-historicist approach which is actually intruding upon the meaning of holidays such as Christmas and Easter?
What if the insistence upon seeing these stories as episodes in the life of someone else, no matter how revered and holy that one is, and no matter how well-intentioned we are in this insistence, actually ends up subverting their original meaning -- to the point that they are assumed to teach something that is almost "180-degrees out" from what they were originally intended to teach?
Just such a radical assertion is argued by Alvin Boyd Kuhn in an essay entitled Easter: the Birthday of the Gods, and backed up by some of the clearest explanation found in any of Kuhn's thousands of pages of writing regarding the meaning and the purpose of the esoteric allegorical system which underlies the sacred scriptures and mythologies of the human race.
This blog has previously presented literally dozens of examples from the Old and New Testament scriptures which point very strongly to the conclusion that these stories, in common with other myths from all around the world, are esoteric in nature and that they are all united by a shared system of celestial metaphor as well as by a shared "shamanic-holographic" vision of this universe and our human experience within this earthly existence.
This shared esoteric, shamanic, and celestial foundation actually unites all of the world's sacred traditions, even as those who insist upon literalistic and historical interpretations of the scriptures almost invariably use their literalistic approach to divide humanity (generally into the two groups of "those who also interpret our scriptures our way" and "everyone else"). This fact in-and-of-itself gives us a hint that the literalistic approach tends to completely invert the conclusions reached by the esoteric approach and that it tends to wind up with conclusions that are "upside down" from the esoteric understanding.
It thus becomes very important to understand whether or not the world's ancient texts are actually literal, or if they are esoteric, and the two different approaches will lead to two very different understandings of the meanings of the stories themselves, and the meanings of the annual days associated with the different parts of the stories.
In Easter: the Birthday of the Gods (which can be read online in slightly less-than-complete form here and here, but which is so clearly and succinctly argued that everyone interested in these subjects might want to consider obtaining an actual physical copy for his or her own collection), Alvin Boyd Kuhn powerfully explains his view that all the world's scriptures and sacred stories are in fact esoteric, and his belief regarding the reason that the ancients chose to use metaphors from the natural world (to include the majestic cycles of the heavenly spheres) in order to convey their esoteric teachings.
On page 27 out of 31 in the second of the two online versions of Kuhn's Easter essay linked in the preceding paragraph, he writes -- speaking of those who gave the world their various ancient sacred traditions (whom he generally refers to as "the Sages" in all of his books and analysis) --
[. . .] those venerable Sages never wrote religious books in the form of veridical personal or national history. What they essayed to write was embalmed in forms of suggestive typist, such as myth, allegory, drama, number graphs and astrological pictography. By these methods they put forth the great truths of life and consciousness in forms of representation that would eternally adumbrate their reality to the human mind, however dull. Knowing that the essence of spiritual experience and the mind's realization of high truth are things that can not be expressed or conveyed by words alone, in fact never are fully communicable by language, they resorted to the only method that can impress true meaning even unconsciously on the brain. Every natural object and phenomenon in the living world is an objective pictograph of an elemental truth. Every object in nature mirrors a cosmic or spiritual truth. Man needs but to gaze at and reflect upon outer nature to find glyphs of the basic principles of knowledge appertaining to a higher world and level of consciousness. The laws and ordinances of spirit are adumbrated in nature's operations and spectacles.
The word "adumbrated" comes from the Latin word for "shadows" -- umbra -- along with the prefix "ad-" which means "toward" or "ahead of" and thus literally "foreshadowing" or "pre-shadowing" or (more expansively) "conveying ideas to us through shadows or representations or 'magic-lantern shows' so that we will grasp them through the 'fore-shadowing,' rather than trying to explain them to the mind in words, which does not work for some types of deep spiritual truths or concepts."
In other words, Alvin Boyd Kuhn is here expressing an idea which was also put forth in the writings of the esoteric scholar R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who asserted that the ancients did not use "esoterism" in order to hide truths, but rather in order to convey them! In a short but extremely helpful little book entitled Esoterism and Symbol (first published in French in 1960 as Propos sur Esoterisme et Symbole and translated into a first US edition in 1985), Schwaller begins his discussion with the proclamation:
Esoterism has no common measure with deliberate concealment of the truth, that is, with secrecy in the conventional sense of the term. [page 1; italics in the original].
Having told us what it is not for, Schwaller does not, however, proceed to tell us exactly what esoterism is for, in so many words . . . but as we follow his discussion throughout the rest of the book we realize that Schwaller is showing us that esoterism is designed to convey something he calls "intelligence-of-the-heart," which cannot be conveyed through the methods normally used for the purposes of "cerebral intelligence." The entire category of spiritual truths, Schwaller argues, were seen by the ancients as of a nature that is qualitatively different from anything that "cerebral intelligence" is able to grasp -- and that the esoteric was employed in order to impress these great truths upon the "intelligence-of-the-heart," bypassing the mechanism of the cerebral intelligence, which has its own proper sphere for which it is very useful but which becomes an actual obstacle when it comes to matters of spirit.
Spirit is found only with spirit, and esoterism is the spiritual aspect of the world, inaccessible to cerebral intelligence. 3.
This is what Alvin Boyd Kuhn is also saying in the passage quoted above, in which he says that the ancient Sages used "myth, allegory, drama, number graphs and astrological pictography" in order to "eternally adumbrate their reality to the human mind, however dull." He is not, I believe, talking about some human minds being more or less dull than others, but rather saying that there is an aspect of human mind, in all of us, which is inherently dull when it comes to matters of spiritual understanding -- the aspect of our mind which Schwaller de Lubicz calls our "cerebral intelligence."
The cerebral intelligence has its place -- it is, indeed, an essential tool that we need every day of our lives -- but it "chokes" on certain types of learning.
This is exactly why, for example, Mr. Miyagi in the original Karate Kid chooses to teach Daniel-San through the unforgettable "wax-on, wax-off" method, in what may well be the best cinematic representation of the concept of "the esoteric" ever put into a movie -- and why martial arts are traditionally passed on through exactly this type of "esoteric" methodology. If Mr. Miyagi had instead tried to teach Daniel by sitting him down and explaining the angles of the arm and elbow and shoulder and body needed in order to stop a charging opponent's punch, Daniel-san's "cerebral intelligence" would have "choked" on the explanation, and spit it back out, and started firing off all kinds of questions about "what if this" and "what if that" and "will this really work" and "what about this other?"
Alvin Boyd Kuhn says that "the essence of spiritual experience and the mind's realization of high truth are things that can not be expressed or conveyed by words alone, in fact never are fully communicable by language." Instead, the esoteric is in fact "the only method that can impress true meaning even unconsciously on the brain."
And here we begin to perceive the reason that taking stories and rituals which are intended to be understood esoterically and instead turning our intelligence loose on them as if they are supposed to be understood as literal and historical events for us to analyze can lead us to do more than just "miss the point" of their esoteric significance: it can lead us to come up with a completely different conclusion altogether, and one which in fact undermines and even totally reverses the message that the stories are trying to convey.
And this, says Alvin Boyd Kuhn, appears to be exactly what has happened with the sacred myths collected in the books which make up what we call today "the Bible," and in particular with the Easter story.
And that terrible misinterpretation, Kuhn argues, is made infinitely more serious when we consider the wonderful truths which the Easter story is intended to convey -- for Kuhn has an extremely "high view" of the spiritual meaning of the Easter story, to the point that he says that when we grasp what it is telling us, words fall short and "the one remaining mode of expressing the profundity and the majesty of our uplift is song" (from page 2 of the version linked previously).
For, the Easter story as found in the stories of the so-called "New Testament" (which themselves are but a "re-casting" of the same themes found in slightly different form in the sacred mythology of ancient Egypt, and found in many other forms in the other sacred scriptures and myths of other cultures literally across the globe) expresses a very specific point in the cycles experienced by each and every human soul.
According to Alvin Boyd Kuhn's analysis:
Easter is the ceremonial that crowns all the other religious festivals of the year with its springtime halo of resurrected life. It is to dramatize the final end in the victory of man's long struggle through the inferior kingdoms of matter and bodily incarnation in grades of fleshly existence. Other festivals around the year memorialize the various stages of this slow progress through the recurring round of the cycles of manifestation. Easter commemorates the end in triumph, all lower obstacles overcome, all "enemies" conquered, all darkness of ignorance vanquished, all fruits and the golden harvest of developed powers garnered in the eternal barn of an inner holy of holies of consciousness, all battles won, peace with aeonal victory assured at last. 3.
In other words, he argues, it refers to a point towards which we all are working in our successive visits into this realm of incarnation, this realm in which our spirit-nature is "planted in" our physical nature as a seed is planted in the earth, in order to grow: it "adumbrates" that point when the work of such cycles of incarnation is complete, and the soul triumphantly soars into an entirely new realm of consciousness.
If all that seems just a little too much to swallow (if, in other words, the "cerebral intelligence" chokes upon encountering such assertions), Kuhn in this essay Easter: the Birthday of the Gods provides what may be the best, succinct explanation found anywhere in his extensive writings of the way that the esoteric celestial allegories found throughout the world's mythologies (and operating quite clearly in the Easter story, as discussed in the previous post about the zodiacal symbolism in the gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot).
As you read through the extended quotation reproduced below from pages 4 and 5 of Kuhn's essay on Easter, you can follow along on the now-familiar zodiac wheel discussed in countless previous posts (see for instance here, here, here and here), which is arranged such that the June solstice (summer solstice for the northern hemisphere) is at the top or "twelve o'clock" position on the wheel (in between the signs of Gemini and Cancer, in the Age of Aries used in so many surviving ancient mythologies including those in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible), and the fall equinox is at "three o'clock" (between Virgo and Libra), the winter solstice is at "six o'clock" (between Sagittarius and Capricorn), and the glorious spring equinox after which Easter is celebrated (as is Passover from the Old Testament, both commemorations representing the successful crossing of the lower half of the year, which symbolized the physical incarnation here in this body of earth and water).
Both of the important equinoxes are marked with a red "X," because at the equinoxes the sun's ecliptic (along with the sun and also -- generally speaking -- all of the visible planets appear to travel) crosses over the celestial equator, and as it crosses either "down below" this line or back "up above" this line, the days either change over to being shorter than the nights (on the way "down" to the winter solstice) or to being longer (on the way back "up" towards the top of the year):
And here now is Alvin Boyd Kuhn's explanation of the esoteric or spiritual use to which the "venerable Sages" who gave the sacred stories to the various cultures of humanity employed the above awe-inspiring annual cycle:
Using solar symbolism and analogues in depicting the divine soul's peregrinations round the cycles of existence, the little sun of radiant spirit in man being the perfect parallel of the sun in the heavens, and exactly copying its movements, the ancient Sages marked the four cardinal "turns" of its progress round the zodiacal year as epochal stages in soul evolution. As all life starts with conception in mind, later to be extruded into physical manifestation, so the soul that is to be the god of a human being is conceived in the divine mind at the station in the zodiac marking the date of June 21. This is at the "top" of the celestial arc, where mind is most completely detached from matter, meditating in all its "purity."
Then the swing of the movement begins to draw it "downward" to give it the satisfaction of its inherent yearning for the Maya of experience which alone can bring its latent capabilities for the evolution of consciousness to manifestation. Descending the from June it reaches September 21, the point where its direction becomes straight downward and it here crosses the line of separation between spirit and matter, the great Egyptian symbolic line of the "horizon," and becomes incarnated in material body. Conceived in the aura of Infinite Mind in June, it enters the realm of mortal flesh in September. It is born then as the soul of a human; but at first and for a long period it lies like a seed in the ground before germination, inert, unawakened, dormant, in the relative sense of the word, "dead." This is the young god lying in the manger, asleep in his cradle of the body, or as in the Jonah-fish allegory and the story of Jesus in the boat in the storm on the lake, asleep in the "hold" of the "ship" of life, with the tempest of the body's elemental passions raging all about him. He must be awakened, arise, exert himself and use his divine powers to still the storm, for the elements in the end will obey his mighty will.
Once in the body, the soul power is weighed in the scales of the balance, for the line of the border of the sign of Libra, the Scales, runs across the September equinoctial station. For soul is now equilibrated with body and out of this balance come all the manifestations of the powers of consciousness. It is soul's immersion in body and its equilibration with it that brings consciousness to function.
Then on past September, like any seed sown in the soil, the soul entity sinks its roots deeper and deeper into matter, for at its later stages of growth it must be able to utilize the energy of matter's atomic force to effectuate its ends for its own spiritual aggrandizement. It is itself to be lifted up to heights of cosmic consciousness, but no more than an oak can exalt its majestic form to highest reaches without the dynamic energization received from the dart at its feet can soul rise up above body without drawing forth the strength of the body's dynamo of power. Down, down it descends then through the October, November, and December path of the sun, until it stands at the nadir of its descent on December 21.
Here it has reached the turning-point, at which the energies that were stored potentially in it in seed form will feel the first touch of quickening power and will begin to stir into activity. At the winter solstice of the cycle the process of involution of spirit into matter comes to a stand-still -- just what the solstice means in relation to the sun -- and while apparently stationary in its deep lodgment in matter, like moving water locked up in winter's ice, it is slowly making the turn as on a pivot from outward and downward direction to movement at first tangential, then more directly upward to its high point in spirit home. So the winter solstice signalizes the end of "death" and the rebirth of life in a new generation. It therefore was inevitably named as the time of the "birth of the Divine Sun" in man; the Christ-mas, the birthday of the Messianic child of spirit. The incipient resurgence of the new growth, now based on and fructified by roots struck deep in matter, begins at this "turn of the year," as the Old Testament phrases it, and goes on with increasing vigor as, like the lengthening days of late winter, the sun-power of the spiritual light bestirs into activity the latent capabilities of life and consciousness, and the hidden beauty of the spirit breaks through the confining soil of body and stands out in fulness of its divine expression on the morn of March 21. This brings the soul in a burst of glorious light out of the tomb of fleshly "death," giving it verily its "resurrection from the dead." It then has consummated its cycle's work by bursting through the gates of death and hell, and marches in triumph upward to become a lord of life in higher spheres of the cosmos. No longer is it to be a denizen of lower worlds, a prisoner chained in body's dungeon pit, a soul nailed to matter's cross. It has conquered mortal decay and rises on wings of ecstasy into the freedom of eternal life. Its trysting with earthly clay is forever ended, as aloft it sweeps like a lark storming heaven's gate, with "hymns of victory" pouring from its exuberant throat. From mortality it has passed the bright portals into immortality. From man it has become god. No more shall it enter the grim underworld of "death." 4-5.
These are incredible concepts, but there is little doubt that Kuhn's analysis as outlined above must be considered a very defendable explanation of the insistent personification of the "stations" of the great zodiac wheel, found in virtually every single ancient sacred tradition of the human race, on every continent of our planet and indeed on all the scattered islands of the great Pacific and other oceans as well, and that it may in fact be the reason why those unknown ancient Sages chose to employ it, and what they intended us to understand from these stories.
And, although Kuhn himself does not go this far, I can show you to my complete satisfaction (and I believe to yours as well) that it is equally evident that the events depicted in the Easter week contain this very cycle in its entirety, from the
- Triumphal Entry at the beginning of the week, replete with imagery of the top of the zodiac wheel, to the
- Agony of Christ and the Crucifixion "outside the gates" of the city -- that is, at the point of the fall equinox, which is one of the two "gates" of the year through which the sun and all the visible planets must pass as they "cross over" the line of the celestial equator and descend down into the lower half of the year (or back up, at the other equinox), and which represents the throwing down of the soul into the "grave" of the incarnate body, to cross through this incarnate life in which we are all struggling on this earthly surface, and finally turning back upwards to the
- Resurrection and the "rising up" out of the lower realm, which takes place on the other side of the year at the spring equinox, which is replete with imagery that has to do with both the fish of Pisces and the lambs and ram of Aries, and which represents the ultimate triumph of the soul, after the lessons and necessary consciousness-raising that take place during the cycles of incarnation in the "underworld" of this material realm.
Obviously, in the Easter week series of stories, the one point of the wheel which is not really emphasized is the point of the "birth of the Christ-consciousness," which is emphasized at a different special celebration on the annual calendar: at the sun's turning-point back upwards after the winter solstice, which is celebrated as Christmas. But the starting point of the summer solstice (in the Triumphal Entry and the "Upper Room"), followed by the "casting down" point of the fall equinox (with the Crucifixion) and the "raising up" point of the spring equinox (Resurrection) are all very clearly depicted and emphasized.
Now, in the above extended quotation of the passage found on pages 4 and 5 of Alvin Boyd Kuhn's Easter thesis, when he speaks of "the divine soul" or "the soul entity" or even "the soul power," he is referring to the individual soul of each and every person. He is not referring to something outside of any one of us: an examination of the bulk of Kuhn's work makes it abundantly clear that he believes that those who gave us the sacred stories intended for us to understand that they are not about ancient men, women, heroes or demigods, but that they are about each and every reader or hearer of the story: the "star" of every story is in fact your own soul.
In a different passage from a different essay by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, quoted at the end of this post from the time of the winter solstice, he writes:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. As such they would have little significance for mankind. They would be the experience of people not ourselves, and would not bear a relation to life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring in the reality of the present in all lives. They mean nothing as outward events; but they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul.
Therefore, Kuhn asserts, we will necessarily go astray if we "externalize" or literalize the sacred myths: they must be grasped by, and applied to, each and every person for himself or herself.
And this again is where, according to Kuhn in the essay Easter: the Birthday of the Gods (and according to quotations which Kuhn brings in to his essay from psychologist and scholar of mythology Carl Jung, who says the very same thing), the externalization of the Bible stories, and their use to encourage the veneration of a supposed external and historical-literal figure -- even a figure so admirable as the figure of Jesus in the gospels -- can lead us seriously astray, to the point where we not only miss the actual message of the story but end up with a message that is directly opposite from the original esoteric message.
Because, as Kuhn discusses in the extended quotation cited above, during the discussion of the September equinox and the "casting down" into the Balance of Libra and the reawakening of divine consciousness at the nadir-point of winter solstice, our sojourn in the incarnate body is a time of our own soul's passing through the "Scales" between the horizons, and of our own need to awaken the higher divine spark of consciousness within: not a time to look at the external stories and conclude that someone else has passed through the balance for us and awakened consciousness so that we don't have to!
And yet, that is exactly how the stories are interpreted by the majority of the literalist-historicist camp, lo these past seventeen centuries: the one in the stories has done those things, so that we don't have to.
It is exactly, if I might bring in some films which did not appear until long after Kuhn wrote this essay, someone were to watch the movie The Matrix(1999) or The Truman Show (1998), and conclude: "I'm sure glad that Neo took that Red Pill -- so that I don't have to!" or "I'm so happy for Truman, that he finally 'woke up' and walked out of that 'dome of illusion' -- now I don't have to!"
Such a response would undoubtedly confuse the creators of those films -- because the whole point of the movie is that you, the viewer, need to consider waking up like Truman to the illusionists manipulating the world within the dome, or waking up like Neo to the illusion of the Matrix.
The point is not to curl up inside your "pod" in the Matrix -- or inside your little house in the dome -- and say, "I'm sure glad Truman, or Neo, woke up for me!" And the makers of those movies would probably be both surprised and dismayed if everyone interpreted their films that way.
According to Alvin Boyd Kuhn, we are not at the point described by the Easter symbolism just yet: we are still on the Scales of the Balance, down here in this mortal existence: and what we do here has an enormous impact on the progress of our invisible soul. As he says elsewhere, everything we are doing "down here" in the body is making its mark upon the record of the mighty Scales, as depicted in many "vignettes" or scenes in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, whose correct name as Kuhn notes in the Easter essay is in fact the Book of Going Forth by Day, envisaging the future point of Easter and the soul's "Day-Break" of triumph (scene from the Book of the Dead of the scribe-priest Ani is depicted below).
The danger of the literalist misinterpretation, in Kuhn's opinion, can be seen in the "dismal" record of literalist Christianity down through the centuries since it took hold, and since the tragic triumph of literalism over esoterism during the second and third centuries "A.D.": seventeen centuries of "bigotry, superstition, persecution, hatred, war and the most fiendish inhumanity ever to be entered into the world's annals" (Easter, 16).
Ultimately, Kuhn argues in this essay, the question of whether Easter is about what the literalists say it is about, or whether it is meant to depict one of the most glorious parts of the esoteric teaching outlined above thus becomes an incredibly important question. He says, as he draws towards his conclusion,
Easter meaning and Easter ecstasy will forever elude us if we can not understand it as the drama, not of one man's history long passed [. . .] but of our own life history, the scenario of our transfiguration yet to come. [. . .] if we for a moment permit it to lure us into the belief that another man's alleged conquest of death in the long past in any degree relieves us of the evolutionary task of achieving our own resurrection, the myth becomes the source of a tragic psychological calamity for us. For to the extent we look to a man, or a miracle, or any power outside ourselves, to that extent we will let the sleeping divinity within us lie unawakened. 28-29.
And thus, it may well be that -- far from being those with an esoteric understanding of Easter (or Christmas) who are intruding upon holy ground that "belongs to" those who take these stories literally -- it is the literalist-historicist approach that has in fact intruded upon, and thrown over, the ancient sacred meaning of these significant annual days of commemoration.
To the extent that this overthrow has led to the teaching of something entirely the opposite of what the sacred stories were actually intended to teach, this is a tragic mistake that calls out to be remedied. It is very similar to the way that the stories of Adam and Eve or of Shem, Ham and Japheth
have both been used to divide humanity and pit men and women against one another, even though if these are understood as the esoteric celestial allegories which I believe they can be shown to be, they actually teach a message that should unite men and women instead of dividing them.
And, to the extent that this overthrow has led to "persecution, hatred, war and the most fiendish inhumanity," the question of which understanding of Easter is a twisting of the message to mean the opposite of what it was intended becomes a very important question, and not a "merely academic" question at all.
If the esoteric understanding outlined above is closer to the intention of the "ancient Sages" who gave these sacred treasures to humanity so many millennia ago, as I believe that it is, then it is a very dangerous thing for the majority of the people to conclude that they can just "curl up in their pod in the Matrix," because Neo already woke up and achieved consciousness so that I don't have to.
Alvin Boyd Kuhn argues that Easter is one of the most beautiful symbols in all of the New Testament version of the esoteric myths. I believe that when we understand it esoterically, it actually becomes even more beautiful, and more meaningful for our lives, than ever.
image: Wikimedia commons (link).