The image of a man dying the cruel and tortured death of a criminal is not an inspiring one, yet for millions it is a focus not only for their own personal faith and relationship with divinity, but a token of sacrifice made with love. Some Christian movements prefer a bare cross, perhaps to emphasise the resurrection, others choose to replace the central figure with a rose or dove…a more abstract symbol… and that word itself may be a key to understanding.
Even the most ardent and orthodox believer does not worship the crucifix itself; their love and faith are directed at what is depicted by the crucifix; for many this is the ultimate sacrifice for redemption through love. The crucifix, therefore, is a symbol and a potent one.
For others the interpretation of the symbol is less dependent upon orthodox religious doctrine, but applies the essence of that spiritual symbolism to the journey of the human soul. The awakening of the ‘Christ within’ and ‘Christ-consciousness’ have become familiar terms in spiritual circles, whilst other systems seek the same illumination and awareness under other names.
We react differently to how a thing is named; when we are said to have ‘ego’ or ‘personality’, for example, the terms elicit different reactions, yet both describe the vehicle in which we move through the world, garnering the experience from which a soul may grow. Whilst in many contexts the two terms are interchangeable, it could be argued that the conscious personality should be an expression of the inner state of awareness, whilst the ego, certainly within popular terms, is built from our reactions and fears and becomes a formidable master. In most religious and spiritual systems we are required to take a solitary journey of self-examination in order to establish how we allow the ego to control our actions and reactions and how we can dissolve the chains of its enslavement.
If we can look dispassionately at the symbolism of the crucified form on the cross, we might interpret it in these terms as the sacrifice of self to Self… earthly ego to higher consciousness. The controlling hold of the ego that must be ‘assassinated’ in order to free the inner spark of light. In terms of esoteric psychology, the ego must be made to relinquish its hold through understanding … making it as transparent as a ghost; insubstantial, though still present and able to move between the levels of consciousness as a phantom moves between the worlds. Such transparency leaves us with no less ‘personality’… in fact quite the opposite… yet a freedom from destructive desire is attained, encapsulated in the esoteric adage that the adept owns nothing but has the use of everything.
In this way, the ‘assassination of self’ may be seen as a path to transcendence, where the choice is made to assassinate the ego or allow it to grow and become entrenched, effectively aiming a bullet at the heart of the Christ within.
Unlike most things, the ego diminishes at it matures, in a process that pays little heed to age. The immature ego may be characterised as the childishness of the hand that grasps and seeks to possess; the maturing ego grows towards a childlike awareness that takes on a part of the wonder and where the hand that grasps becomes the open hand that gives of itself. The final days of Jesus’ life and the crucifixion are known as the Passion. In both the Christian and personal interpretations of this symbol, the crux of the matter is love. Not a romantic ideal, but the passion to give all with a love unconditional.
The symbol of the crucifix, in orthodox terms, shows the suffering, death and resurrection of the Christ and His sacrifice as an act of atonement for humanity, reconciling the relationship between God and Man through love. The analogy with the spiritual journey is not hard to find; few live their lives without suffering of some kind and in such times we may find the opportunity for inner growth. As the maturing ego diminishes, it allows a rebirth into a world irrevocably changed by a growing awareness that can lead to a feeling of being ‘at one’ with the divine, the inner and outer nature reconciled and a relationship established. At a recent meeting of the Silent Eye, we discussed the nature of that relationship, starting from its inception as coming to an ‘understanding with’ rather than an ‘understanding of’, a crucial but subtle difference that opens a new perspective. It makes it personal… and reciprocal.
We can study for a lifetime, acquiring knowledge from every source; we can engage the intellect and apply logic to every doctrine or theory… no school of thought can teach us as much about our own lives as our own experience, nor can they give us all the answers to those half-formulated questions we may bear. They can only point the way, giving us a map to guide us or the key with which we may unlock our inner doors. Intellect alone can only take us so far. To enter into a relationship of understanding with both ourselves and the divine, however we conceive of It, must come from within ourselves and begins with ‘a loosening of all the knots of the heart’ and the opening of the hands outstretched to give… and receive…a love unconditional.