Easter should actually be celebrated around the spring equi- nox. Between 21 and 23 March, the light of the day is exact- ly in balance with the darkness of the night. But because the de-termination of the exact day of this festival is based on the lunar calendar of the pre-Christian Jewish tradition – the first Sunday on or after the equinox on which it is full moon – Easter is often celebrated many days after the equinox. Nevertheless, its spiritual meaning is closely linked to the symbolism of this balance between day and night. The night symbolizes our daily life: as long as the light of our soul has not yet dawned in us, we live as an out- wardly focused human being - the personality - in a deep, spiritual darkness. Unfortunately, most people do not notice this darkness; they believe that the natural light of the human mind has already dissipated all darkness. The subtle light that shines through the world of the soul can therefore not penetrate into the personality. What is light for the personality is darkness for the soul and what is light for the soul remains darkness for the personality.
Because of the fact that during the spring and autumn equinox light and darkness are in balance with each other, symbolically speaking heaven and earth - the world of the soul and the world of personality - touch each other at that occasion. The gate that connects both worlds is opened wide during this period of equi- librium. From the personality’s perspective it is then possible to enter the kingdom of Heaven, provided it is willing to leave all earthly things behind.
The personality must gradually diminish ; he must become less so that the soul can become the center of life instead of all ego aspects that usually determine life. This requires a fundamental reversal from an egocentric man into a human being who allows his or her soul to guide him through the darkness into the Light. This is one of the meanings of the Paschal mystery.
In the Jewish tradition, Easter is associated with the exodus from Egypt where the chosen people live in slavery. Symbolically speaking, everyone in whom there is something from the light of the soul belongs to this chosen people. Egypt represents the world of darkness in which the outer man is enslaved to all earthly pleasures, so that the soul cannot develop. Only a god can bring salvation here. Thanks to the influence of angels and prophets, many people awaken from their deep sleep and begin to realize how deep the darkness they are in. Finally, they are willing to follow the inner voice of their soul that yearns after liberation from slavery. And eventually a separation between those who stay behind in Egypt and those who are willing to go the difficult and dangerous way of death (the desert) and resurrection (the promised land) comes about. Again we see a reversal between a life in which the personality is central and a life that is dedicated to the birth and the development of the soul.
Moreover, this story shows a second important meaning of the Paschal mystery: we cannot be redeemed from this darkness on our own strength, based on our personality’s features. We need help from the world of the soul. But this help can only save us if we are willing to die with regard to the world of Egypt, that is, if we allow ourselves to no longer be led by our daily thoughts, feelings and desires. Yes, this means that we have to be prepared to go through a process of ‘dying daily’ because only that process allows the light of the world of the soul to penetrate more and imbue us with light and spirit. In other words, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the life of the soul.
That this is almost an impossible task, becomes evident from the fear of death that overtakes Jesus in the Court of Gethsemane:
“Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: neverthe- less not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”
Luke 22: 42–44 King James Bible
These words clearly reveal that Jesus is not able to accomplish this path of ‘dying daily’ from his own personal strength and that he also receives heavenly help that gives him the strength to make the greatest sacrifice of all: the sacrifice of the self.
According to the Christian-theosophical tradition which is ex- pressed, among other things, by the works of Jacob Boehme and the Rosicrucians, this sacrifice of the Son has made it possi- ble for the gate between this world of darkness and the world of the soul, to be existentially and permanently opened to us, pro- vided we are prepared to go this path. The Paschal mystery is not bound to a specific time in the year; ‘transgressing the border’ is an event which is taking place in the eternal now. Nevertheless, it is essential that the outer man is reminded of this possibility by means of the annually recurring Easter festival.
During the “dark night of the soul,” an angel appears to Jesus to bestowed upon him the inner power to endure this ordeal. An angel is a theophany, that is, a special manifestation of the divine that manifests itself in the mirror of our heart. The way and form in which that divine power can unfold itself to us depends on various factors. Firstly, the decisive factor is the extent to which our hearts are susceptible to influences of the world of the soul. During our life our heart has developed a certain qual- ity, whether we are conscious or not. If our heart is usually fed by that what is good, beautiful and true, the divine can appear to us in one of the many forms of an angel. However, if the quality of our hearts is determined primarily by negative qualities, rigorous or even demonic forms will manifest themselves to us.
Secondly, the culture in which we grew up also determines the form in which the divine can appear. A convinced Catholic will rather see the Virgin Mary appear and the Buddhist will see Kwan Yin, although both are expressions of more or less the same divine qualities. Female mystics often saw Jesus as their beloved in their visions, while with many of the Boehme pupils it was usually Sophia who came to them.
Everyone’s relationship with the divine is unique and thus the divine will appear to each of us in a unique way to guide us on our inner path. This is emphasized in virtually all esoteric traditions and also in early Christianity we find numerous testimonies.
In the Acts of Peter, an “apocryphal” – that is, esoteric - writing from the beginning of our era, the following is written:
'And behold certain widows, of the aged, unknown to Peter, which sat there, being blind and not believing, cried out, saying unto Peter: We sit together here, O Peter, hoping and believing in Christ Jesus: as therefore thou hast made one of us to see, we entreat thee, lord Peter, grant unto us also his mercy and pity. But Peter said to them: If there be in you the faith that is in Christ, if it be firm in you, then perceive in your mind that which ye see not with your eyes, and though your ears are closed, yet let them be open in your mind within you. These eyes shall again be shut, seeing nought but men and oxen and dumb beasts and stones and sticks; but not every eye seeth Jesus Christ. Yet now, Lord, let thy sweet and holy name succour these persons; do thou touch their eyes; for thou art able -that these may see with their eyes.
And when all had prayed, the hall wherein they were shone as when it lighteneth, even with such a light as cometh in the clouds, yet not such a light as that of the daytime, but unspeakable, invisible, such as no man can describe, even such that we were beside ourselves with bewil- derment, calling on the Lord and saying: Have mercy, Lord, upon us thy servants: what we are able to bear, that, Lord, give thou us; for this we can neither see nor endure. And as we lay there, only those wid- ows stood up which were blind; and the bright light which appeared unto us entered into their eyes and made them to see. Unto whom Peter said: Tell us what ye saw. And they said: We saw an old man of such comeliness as we are not able to declare to thee; but others said: We saw a young man; and others: We saw a boy touching our eyes delicately, and so were our eyes opened.'
Acts of Peter, 20–21
The also apocryphal Acts of John tells us:
For when he had chosen Peter and Andrew, which were brethren, he cometh unto me and James my brother, saying: I have need of you, come unto me. And my brother hearing that, said: John, what would this child have that is upon the sea-shore and called us? And I said: What child? And he said to me again: That which beckoneth to us. And I answered: Because of our long watch we have kept at sea, thou seest not aright, my brother James; but seest thou not the man that standeth there, comely and fair and of a cheerful countenance? But he said to me: Him I see not, brother; but let us go forth and we shall see what he would have.
Acts of John 88
And when he was crucified on the Friday, at the sixth hour of the day, darkness came upon all the earth. And my Lord standing in the midst of the cave and enlightening it, said: John, unto the multitude below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given me to drink. But unto thee I speak, and what I speak hear thou. I put it into thy mind to come up into this mountain, that thou mightest hear those things which it behoveth a disciple to learn from his teacher and a man from his God. And having thus spoken, he showed me a cross of light fixed and about the cross a great mul- titude, not having one form: and in it was one form and one likeness. And the Lord himself I beheld above the cross, not having any shape, but only a voice: and a voice not such as was familiar to us, but one sweet and kind and truly of God, saying unto me: John, it is needful that one should hear these things from me, for I have need of one that will hear. This cross of light is sometimes called the word by me for your sakes, sometimes mind, sometimes Jesus, sometimes Christ, sometimes door, sometimes a way, sometimes bread, sometimes seed, sometimes resurrection, sometimes Son, sometimes Father, sometimes Spirit, sometimes life, sometimes truth, sometimes faith, sometimes grace.
And by these names it is called as toward men: but that which it is in truth, as conceived of in itself and as spoken of unto you, it is the marking-off of all things, and the firm uplifting of things fixed out of things unstable, and the harmony of wisdom, and indeed wisdom in harmony. There are of the right hand and the left, powers also, author- ities, lordships and demons, workings, threatenings, wraths, devils, Satan, and the lower root whence the nature of the things that come into being proceeded.
This cross, then, is that which joined all things unto itself by the word, and separates off the things from birth and things below it, and then also, being one, streamed forth into all things. But this is not the cross of wood which thou wilt see when thou goest down hence: neither am I he that is on the cross, whom now thou seest not, but only hearest his voice.
Acts of John 97-99
This Cross of Light is the gateway between darkness and light, between this world and the world of the soul. As soon as the perishable personality is willing to let him- or herself be attached to this cross, the immortal soul within us will resurrect in the light of the heavenly realm. The condition of our heart deter- mines how the port will make itself known to us and how the angel that will guide us on the path of the ‘dying-daily’ and the resurrection can take shape before our inner eye.
Time after time the Easter festival confronts us with the necessi- ty of the purification of our heart. Only purification enables the heart to become the place in which the crucifixion of the person- ality and the resurrection of the soul can take place.
And they, who preceded us on this path, are awaiting us and stand there to accompany us on our way through this Easter Mystery. Each one of us has such a guiding force that beckons us to head for the spiritual Easter.
Daniël van Egmond