The Mystery of Transformation: The Invitations of Easter and Passover
“Drink my wine
and you will become me, and all that is hidden
you will see with your own eyes”
~ Gospel of Thomas
There is great richness in the teaching stories within the world’s wisdom traditions, even if we have moved beyond the need for conventional religion. Since our unconscious mind is not linear and unfolds like good wine with a great tale, there is much to meditate on in the stories of Passover and Easter. Both speak to the process of spiritual transformation, of liberation from bondage. How we open beyond our familiar ego identity and it’s contracted, fearful, controlling habits that can so easily run our life. They shimmer ancient secrets on how to land deeper in Grace.
Looking at the Passover story through a gestalt lens, in which every character in the story is an aspect of yourself, the characters of Moses and Pharaoh reflect the two primary drives of our humanity. Pharaoh represents the raw ego drive within us all that wants what it wants and is not concerned on its impact on the whole. He manifests a crude, brutish self-centeredness that is pride-full and controlling, defending his position by holding others in slavery. His hidden insecurity needs constant shoring up by false expressions of power to avoid being usurped. He cleaves to the familiar status quo by any means possible.
Pharaoh reflects our raw ego drive – the more primitive parts of ourselves that are asleep to what we truly are, and act instinctively from a ground of fear. It is quite a disaster when our ego is on the throne within our consciousness. It creates and perpetrates suffering not only for ourselves but for everyone around us. Open any newspaper and Pharaohs’ running amuck is what we see on every page. It is the primary problem in our mind and on our planet.
Moses represents a mature human soul. He manifests all of the virtues and divine qualities that make up the “Pillars of Awakening” in my map of spiritual realization. These provide support for both spiritual surrender and for living a true human life. Moses demonstrates profound TRUST in the guidance. This gives him the courage and the genuine confidence to do what needs to be done. He LOVES the TRUTH for its own sake, giving him the strength to stand up to the fake authority, say ‘let my people go’ and walk them out of slavery. He is CURIOUS and open-minded even when the guidance speaks of things that do not seem possible. He heart is kind, empathic to his people, and even to Pharaoh – full of COMPASSION. He is HUMBLE, not posturing or prideful, which makes him receptive to the mystery and able to hear its guidance precisely. He is profoundly WILLING, not pushing for his personal will but instead leaning into what is asked, even though his mind does not understand how this can happen. He is PATIENT, and thereby responsive to act with right timing in accordance with Grace.
On the journey out of slavery, he leads his people to a seeming impasse of the sea; which represents the unconscious emotional forces that can erupt out of us and so often blight the way. Many collapsed in reactive fear and doubt, but Moses’ spiritual maturity allows him to put down his staff, let the seas be parted, opening the way to freedom. Moses shows it is natural and possible to live our lives in partnership with Grace Itself: A grace that transforms us from one dimension of consciousness to another; a Grace that parts the seas of our consciousness, ushering us to a new land.
The teachings of Easter build upon these themes. If we suspend for a moment the conventional doctrine about Jesus dying for your “sins”, there is so much to see in the story of Christ’s passion of how deep spiritual transformation happens through surrender.
Jesus represents a profoundly pure being embodying the teachings of his Jewish lineage, yet seemed to be bringing forth a new transmission. He demonstrated the transforming power of love, forgiveness and the brother/sisterhood of humanity. He healed the sick, fed and ministered to all who wanted it beyond the class barriers of the day. Like Moses before him, he challenged the hierarchy of the day. I think it is fair to say that Jesus expresses the selflessness, simplicity, power, light, beauty, and highest potential for a human being. This does not make him immune from journeying through a very difficult initiation.
A beloved disciple betrays him to the authorities. He is denied and deserted by almost all of the other disciples. He is condemned, brutally tortured, humiliated, and murdered. It is completely unjust, seemingly tragic. Christ’s crucifixion represents the very worst that can happen to a human being. The outlook seems hopeless and it does not seem to make any sense. What does Jesus do? He surrenders INTO the experience!
Our ordinary mind has such a hard time with this. Perhaps that is why collectively we have turned Christ’s passion into a strange ideology about how Jesus “died for our sins” – anything to avoid the real invitation which is to surrender into and through our human experience! To completely let go into the mystery. There is no human being who will not go through at least one great trial in the course of their life. It can feel like literally crucifying and it takes great spiritual capacity to OPEN into everything – even the most painful of situations.
All transformation calls for some kind of death, otherwise it is just a re-shuffling of the same old deck. Jesus does not try to jump over suffering with some spiritual platitude or bypass, but opens into and through it. He demonstrates so beautifully how in our humanity we all come to our edges: “why has though forsaken me Father”. Yet Jesus continues opening in and through this, uttering words of forgiveness for the ignorance of the human ego “forgive them Father for they know not what they do” and then finally, the full surrender “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit”.
For most of the disciples, their love of the truth, trust and awakening virtues were not yet total. Some hoped that Jesus’ presence and the teachings would bring about a certain outcome – would overturn the political rule. They did not fully understand. There two that stayed by him throughout the whole process were the two Mary’s – his mother and Mary Magdalene. This represents the feminine principle that lives within both men and women, that demonstrates a particular kind of spiritual power. Hers is the strength of heart that IS unconditional love and non-abandoning compassion: The power of presence that will not leave even when the situation cannot be changed.
The spiritually mature understand that true compassion is not about fixing pain, it is the willingness to MEET pain with love, with kindness and just BE there. Sometimes watching someone you love dearly suffering or dying can feel like torture, but the one power we always have is the power to not leave, not abandon our self into some strategy, not leave our heart. The two Mary’s were capable and willing to do what they could do – be just present with love. This is true compassion. It deepens our heart, and brings forth the healing balm that enables us to just keep opening, softening, allowing the Mystery to unfold us.
The day afterwards it seems like the light has gone out, hope is lost. It seems as though things have gone terribly wrong and the disciples don’t know what to trust. For true transformation, we have to ALLOW not knowing. Befriend the mystery. Rest there. Not presume anything. Not try to direct with our familiar thinking. When we just let everything be completely as it is, we are spontaneously available to Grace. Only when we fully empty, can Grace can come alive afresh as boundless love, joy, blessings, peace, renewal in the exact way that we truly need.
Mary Magdalene who was able to stay with Christ for his whole crucifixion process and who did not close to the pain nor succumb to fear and doubt, is the first to receive Christ in his risen form in the garden of Gethsemane. It reflects her depth of spiritual realization, yet she is at first taken aback by the appearance of the resurrected Christ. Whenever our familiar sense of reality is pierced, even it if is miraculous at first we can experience disorientation. Mary can tolerate this too.
Resurrection happens by opening into everything that arises. Staying present and compassionate with ourselves and one another as we go through the various stages of life’s initiations. The real message of this story is that as we surrender, as we allow even death, loss of everything we thought should happen
NOTHING REAL CAN BE THREATENED.
What dies are our self-images, our spiritual concepts, our out-worn ways of being.
Allowing death of the familiar is how miracles occur.
Yet this happens by grace.
What most blocks the way of the transformation process?
Our ego’s HOPE that if we just tweak things here and there, we will get what we want. We won’t have to feel pain, loss or fear. Often we hope that if we just try a bit harder, others will mirror back to us that we are lovable, good enough, worth-while. If we just get the success we hope for we won’t have to feel insecure. If we just get our relationships right we won’t have to feel lonely. Often we have endless strategies to avoid facing the inevitable – that our ego is very limited. It can only repeat the past. When we are identified with our personality, we find ourselves very attached to our patterns, even the more painful ones. To let go often feels like “I will die”.
Notice how your hope for something different or better arises out of a rejection of what is……not wanting things to be as they are. The key to spiritual transformation is Opening into what IS.This begins by giving up hope of something better. Only then can we relax the manipulation that is actually actively blocking the grace for revealing itself – liberating you to a more authentic way of being.
Here are some inquiry questions you may want to journal with –
What strategy do you still HOPE will one day work?
What does this strategy help you avoid?
(a fearful self-image, certain feelings, facing the unknown, not knowing who you are anymore?)
What’s alive, right now, when you surrender into the mystery of Being?