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The Lost Art of Resurrection

The Lost Art of Resurrection

Let me begin with a legend of a child, born in cave, saved from death in infancy, who grows up to teach a new religion to the masses then removes himself to a wilderness for a prescribed period, and upon his return is killed and fixed to a wooden structure, only to resurrect three days later and deified as a god. The description, from c.1800 BC, is of a god-man called Krishna. Were you expecting someone else?

There are 346 analogies between the story of Krishna and Jesus alone, just as there are other avatars around the world who answer to above description. And what’s more, they all precede Christianity by 500 to 2000 years: Thammuz of Sumeria, Atys of Phrygia, Indra of Tibet, Iao of Nepal, and Wittoba of Java — a god-man nailed to a tree and symbolized by a crucifix. And not forgetting, of course, the god-man savior of the Maya, Quetzcoatl, born of a virgin, indulged in a forty-day fast on a sacred mountain, atoned, rode an ass, was purified in a temple with water and anointed with oil, is nailed to a cross on a sacred hill, rests in the Otherworld for three days before resurrecting. From Phoenicia to China the pagan world celebrated the hero who crosses into the Otherworld as a ‘dead’ man on the winter solstice, only to rise as a god three days later. But by the 4th century, fundamental Christians were eradicating evidence of earlier atoning god-men in order to exalt singular status upon the new hero Jesus, but alas, the idea had long been in vogue.

So why was the Church promoting Christ as a unique case? Part of the answer lies in the subterranean passage tomb of Thutmosis III, a pharaoh c.1470 BC. Written upon its walls is a text called Treatise of the Hidden Chamber, which provides instruction on how to proceed into the Otherworld, a parallel place that interpenetrates the world of the living. The Egyptians called it Amdwat. It is the place from where all physical forms manifest and to where they return. It is an integral component of birth, death and rebirth. Only through a direct experience of the Amdwat can a person grasp the operative forces of nature, the knowledge of which was said to transform an individual into an akh — a being radiant with ‘inner spiritual Illumination’. All these instructions cover Thutmosis’ resting place. There’s just one problem: the instructions are meant for the living: “It is good for the dead to have this knowledge, but also for the person on Earth…whoever understands these mysterious images is a well provided light being. Always this person can enter and leave the Otherworld. Always speaking to the living ones. Proven to be true a million times.”

Thuthmosis’ tomb is anomalous: it features a well, a redundant feature for a dead person; its main chamber is aligned northeast, the traditional direction associated with enlightenment and wisdom; its oval sarcophagus is of superlative craftsmanship, and yet Thutmosis was buried in the temple of Hatshepsut.

There are 346 analogies between the story of Krishna and Jesus alone, just as there are other avatars around the world who answer to above description. And what’s more, they all precede Christianity by 500 to 2000 years: Thammuz of Sumeria, Atys of Phrygia, Indra of Tibet, Iao of Nepal, and Wittoba of Java — a god-man nailed to a tree and symbolized by a crucifix.

Thutmosis wasn’t the only case of absent burial. When the step pyramid of Sekhemkhet was excavated, its entrance and chambers were still sealed, including its alabaster sarcophagus, and when opened it was found to contain nothing but air; the same situation occurred at the pyramid of Zawiyet el-Aryan. Two Old Kingdom pyramids, un-burglarized, with no body inside: evidence that not all funerary buildings were intended as final resting places but served some other, possibly ritual purpose.

To ancient Egyptians, a tomb was considered a place of rest but not necessarily a pharaoh’s final resting place, just as experiencing the Otherworld did not require a person to be dead. Rather, evidence shows that following a secret rite of initiation, the candidate was roused from a womb-like experience and proclaimed ‘risen from the dead’.

Sekhemkhet’s pyramid lies in Saqqara, a sprawling ceremonial temple complex named for Seker, falcon god of rebirth. The name arises from sy-k-ri, the cry made by the god of resurrection Osiris as he wanders through the darkness of the Otherworld, and indeed it is here where the earliest surviving works of sacred literature offering a unique ritual experience connecting a living person with the Otherworld are found — in the subterranean tomb of Sekhemkhet’s neighbour, the pharaoh Unas.

The Pyramid Texts contain the most detailed instructions of the Amdwat, how to get there, and the correct use of incantations essential for the soul to maintain focus throughout the journey. Its influence resonates throughout all ancient Mysteries schools. But above all, the Pyramid Texts imply they were intended as a ritual where the initiate was expected to return to the living body.

The texts cover the innermost chambers of Unas’ 2350 BC pyramid, and like Thutmosis III’s chamber, Unas’ necropolis contains a sarcophagus but no evidence of his burial. Indeed the site resembles a ritual complex, originally accessed from the east bank of the Nile by a boat ferrying an initiate who disembarked in the west into a valley temple, and proceeded along a covered causeway leading into the subterranean temple under the pyramid. After residing in the womb-like chamber for a prescribed period, the candidate reappeared at dawn at the summit of this man-made hill. Thus the candidate followed the figurative path of the Sun into the Otherworld.

Even Unas’ black granite sarcophagus lies symbolically in the western section of the complex. Granite was the material of choice because, as an igneous rock emanating from within the earth in a molten state, it effortlessly mimics the soul’s immersion in the void, changing from liquid to solid form as it reenters the physical world following a transfiguration. The choice of black carries a further significance in that it was the color associated with spiritual resurrection.

Far from being mere funerary beliefs, the Pyramid Texts represent a mystical experience akin to that described in shamanism, such as the ascent of the soul and the spiritual rebirth of the individual. What defines them as an instruction meant for a person undergoing a figurative rather than a literal death is encompassed in Utterance 213: “O Unas, you have not departed dead, you have departed alive to sit upon the throne of Osiris, your aba scepter in your hand that you may give orders to the living.” Clearly the pharaoh has ascended into the Amdwat alive and is capable of communicating with the living and the discarnate alike.

To ancient Egyptians, a tomb was considered a place of rest but not necessarily a pharaoh’s final resting place, just as experiencing the Otherworld did not require a person to be dead. Rather, evidence shows that following a secret rite of initiation, the candidate was roused from a womb-like experience and proclaimed ‘risen from the dead’.

A second clue is the section where Unas undergoes spiritual purification and rebirth to a chorus of “Unas is not dead, Unas is not dead, Unas is not dead,” and the return of his spirit back into his living body. No other utterance so encapsulates the central theme common to all Mysteries traditions: that the soul is capable of disengaging from the living, physical body, journeying independently into the spirit world and returning.

At Saqqara there is a theme associated with living resurrection, where members of pharaoh Teti I’s household join a privileged inner circle. One inscription describes the surprise by one individual upon being admitted to “master secret things of the king.” Teti built his pyramid beside that of Unas and contains part of the latter’s Pyramid Texts. The humbled servant continues, “Today in the presence of the son of Ra, Teti…more honoured by the king than any servant, as master of secret things…. When his majesty favoured me, he caused that I enter the chamber of restricted access.” At the end of his ritual experience, this individual proclaims, “I found The Way.”

The Way was a ritual of self-realization practiced by Mysteries schools of ancient Japan and China in 2600 BC, as well as in Persia, Ireland and Native America, and later adopted by the Mandeans and the Essenes, with whom Jesus was involved. While the popular version of the legend has Jesus hailing from Nazareth, nothing could be further from the truth, for Nazareth consisted of little more than a few hovels and caves. However, the title nasoraiyi was awarded to members of the inner brotherhood of the Mandeans who possessed secret knowledge (the term derives from the Babylonian nasiru, meaning ‘preservers of divine secrets’), someone who’d achieved the highest grade of initiation following a ritual in a secret “bridal chamber” whereupon the successful candidate was declared ‘raised from the dead’. Only they were officially qualified to administer that most secret of rites, the living resurrection. Later, when Jesus formed his own sect, his nasoraiyi were based in the town of Cochaba.

When a new religion was brought to Rome, with Yeshua ben Yosef occupying the role of resurrected hero, the story didn’t fare well with a populace accustomed to deifying its heroes. Nor did it wash with the Gnostics of Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt who considered this man Jesus to be a mere mortal, and never crucified much less reincarnated from a physical death. The proponents of such ‘heresises’ were bishop Marcion of Sinope, Valentinus of Alexandria, and the scholar Basilides, who claimed the crucifixion was a fraud — that a substitute named Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ place. Manuscripts written within a century after Jesus’ time and rediscovered at Nag Hammadi claim as much. One of them, Second Treatise of the Great Seth, is particularly damning because it quotes Jesus in the first person describing the crucifixion: “I did not die in reality but in appearance, lest I be put to shame by them…. For my death which they think happened, happened to them in their error and blind- ness, since they nailed their man unto the death…. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I…it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns…. And I was laughing at their ignorance.”

Even as late as the 7th century the Quran upheld the same argument: “And their false allegation that they slew the Messiah, Isa, the son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah, when in fact they never killed him nor did they crucify him.” Most damning of all is Pope Leo X’s admitting that the story of Jesus was a myth: “All ages can testifie enough how profitable that fable of Christ hath ben to us and our companie.” Nevertheless a literal view of the resurrection was leveraged by the Church, whose authority relied on the experience by a closed group of apostles of Jesus’ miraculous regeneration, and the position of incontestable authority the event bestowed upon them. Since Peter was the first witness, and the Pope came to derive his authority from him, it was in the Church’s best interests to promote a literal spin on resurrection. The position was helped by the apostle Paul’s misunderstanding of Jesus making dead people return to life, and the First Epistle to the Corinthians nearly lets the cat out of the bag when it notes that Paul was “determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified,” in other words, that Paul sought to deny the existence of earlier, established myths of risen god-men. Thus a whole population was brainwashed into accepting Jesus’ resurrection as a one-off miracle, contrary to the laws of nature, even contrary to Jesus’ personal views! But for the new cult of Jesus the God to supplant the old gods, he needed to be made acceptable to people of the Roman world and beyond, he had to be seen to possess similar supernatural powers, and so, like the rejuvenating gods of the Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians and Greeks, Jesus too was made to cross into the Otherworld on the winter solstice and re-emerge as a resurrected god.

Unlike orthodox religion, the Gnostics recognized God as an internal experience, thanks to centuries of secretly acquired knowledge. They could claim the experience, and therefore, an authority that surpassed that of the apostles and their successors, a point made by Jesus in another banned gospel — Apocalypse of Peter — in which he explains to Peter: “those who name themselves bishop or deacon and act as if they had received their authority from God are in reality waterless canals. Although they do not understand the Mystery they boast that the Mystery of truth belongs to them alone. They have misinterpreted that apostle’s teaching and have set up an imitation church in place of the true Christian brotherhood.”

Everyone outside the Church shared the understanding that resurrection was to be achieved while still living, a point stressed in the suppressed Gospel of Philip: “Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.” In other words, those who believe in a literal interpretation of resurrection are confusing a spiritual truth with an actual event.

From ancient Egypt and India and right into the classical Greek era, the Mysteries teachings were open to those who passed tests of moral aptitude during a one-year probation, when they were taught the Lesser Mysteries; successful candidates were taught the Greater Mysteries and its secret truths. Philosophers such as Plato — himself an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries — describe the final rite of passage as a voluntary near-death experience involving an immersion in a sarcophagus or similar vessel inside a secret chamber, when the initiate’s consciousness was directed out of body, followed by a return into the living body whereupon initiates were declared “risen from the dead.” Upon discovering the true place and nature of his soul, the initiate returned to face the perceived tyranny of physical death without fear because he’d already experienced paradise and was therefore free.

Whilst it was forbidden to reveal the information gleaned from the Otherworld, each person unanimously describes the experience as the pinnacle of spiritual development that revealed the true nature of the soul and the celestial mechanics that move the universe.

Thus a whole population was brainwashed into accepting Jesus’ resurrection as a one-off miracle, contrary to the laws of nature, even contrary to Jesus’ personal views! But for the new cult of Jesus the God to supplant the old gods, he needed to be made acceptable to people of the Roman world and beyond, he had to be seen to possess similar supernatural powers, and so, like the rejuvenating gods of the Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians and Greeks, Jesus too was made to cross into the Otherworld on the winter solstice and re-emerge as a resurrected god.

The ritual survived the Inquisition, thanks in part to the Knights Templar who followed the prescription laid down by the Essenes, after the knights rediscovered instructions hidden under Temple Mount, where it was said the elders of Jerusalem “engaged in secret mysteries…of Egyptian provenance, in darkness beneath the Temple of Solomon,” in a secret chamber referred to as “the bridal chamber.”

These rituals, handed down from the time of pharaoh Seqnenre Taa (meaning ‘The Way’) in Luxor, were already in existence a further fifteen hundred years prior, at which time there appears the concept of an inner group of initiates defined as ‘the living’ who separate themselves from ordinary people, ‘the dead’. Today it is commemorated in the Third Degree of Freemasonry, where the candidate is lifted from a figurative grave and pronounced ‘risen’.

Plato reminds us that the point of initiation into the Mysteries is to restore the soul to that state of perfection in which it entered the world, but from whose aim it becomes deflected whilst in the physical body. The Gnostic gospels describe this pursuit as the antidote to the forces of darkness whose primary aim is to frustrate self-empowerment by making people “drink of the waters of forgetfulness…in order that they might not know from whence they came.” Every political system founded on deception has always promoted the pursuit of “mind blindness.” Esoteric cults liberated humans from this ensnarement through initiation into the cult of Knowledge, from whence they might discover the truth via a shamanic journey. No wonder the banned Gospel of Philip advises “while we are in the world we must acquire resurrection.”

The benefit of living resurrection is to assist people transcend their perceived helplessness by revealing their active role in the process of conscious manifestation. As such, they become masters of their own reality rather than being victims of it, and far from being passive observers, they can make reality respond to their will. Ultimately the gift is freedom of conscience, precisely as the Gospel of Thomas reminds us: “Whoever finds himself is superior to the world.”

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