Esoteric meaning of Easter
An investigation of the true significance and esoteric meaning of Easter
Guest article by John Temple
In the sixth of his articles on the Search for Truth, occult writer and theologian, John Temple, continues his investigations of the hidden meaning in the Bible.
In this investigation I propose to examine the origins and esoteric meaning of Easter. Firstly, from a historical perspective and secondly, as it relates to the death and resurrection of Jesus according to the Gospels. Should you wish to follow my narrative, you should use the King James version of the Bible, and not the various modern editions which have substantially altered both the text and its meaning. If you have not read my previous articles on the hidden wisdom in the Bible or the Nativity, you should do so now, to familiarise yourself with the keys which unlock the hidden meaning in the book.
As in my previous investigations, I would like to reassure any Christians who may be reading this article that they will lose nothing of value by doing so. On the contrary they may gain a deeper insight into their faith and its mysteries. I tender the same assurance to occultists, many of whom have told me over the years that they "don't do Jesus" because they were put off by Sunday School classes or compulsive attendance at Church. In ignoring the Bible, both types of readers are depriving themselves of the opportunity to greatly expand their awareness and increase their knowledge. Finally, please bear in mind throughout this article that the Easter story consists primarily of allegories and symbols, not historical facts.
Chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies
If you enjoy a chocolate egg (or bunny!) this year, you may not realise just how old the association of eggs and hares with Easter is, both predating the Christian observance by many millennia.
Easter is a universal festival of great antiquity. The ancients celebrated the Vernal Equinox (which falls between 19 to 21 March each year in our calendar) as the renewal of Nature. It was only in the fourth century that the Church fixed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox as the date of their celebration of Easter. This was done to discourage the Pagan festivities that took place at this time of the year, during which coloured eggs were exchanged in commemoration of the Scandinavian goddess Eostre, or Ostara, which is where we get our word 'Easter' from. As many of you will know, Easter does not fall on a fixed date each year, but on one determined by the first full moon that occurs on or after the Vernal Equinox. Easter is therefore a lunar festival, and this at once connects it with the egg and the hare, both which are pre-eminently lunar emblems.
The Egg was an important emblem in the sacred iconography of many peoples from the very earliest times which was revered both on account of its form and its hidden mystery. The gradual development of the imperceptible germ within the closed shell in complete darkness, without any apparent outward interference, which from a latent nothing produced an active something, aided only by heat; and which, having gradually evolved into a concrete, living creature, broke its own shell, to emerge as an apparently self-generated being, was rightly regarded as a profound mystery from the beginning.
The ancient Greeks, Indians and Egyptians all adopted the egg as a symbol of the first manifestation of the cosmos. In the ancient Egyptian mythos, Geb, the god of the Earth, is spoken of as having laid an egg, or the Universe. In India, Brahma was depicted like the Egyptian god Ra, gestating in the Egg of the Universe. With the ancient Greeks the Orphic Egg is described by Aristophanes in his dissertation on the Greek Mysteries, during which the Mundane Egg was consecrated and its sacred significance explained to the initiated. You can read more about the symbolism of the egg in the excellent article written by the authors of this website on the perennial paradox of the Chicken and the Egg; which came first?
What of the 'Easter Bunny'? Although of comparatively recent German origin as a most unlikely candidate for the bringer of eggs, the association of the hare with Easter goes back a very long way. As we have seen, the name Easter comes to us from the Saxon Eostre, who was a form of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, herself a copy of the Egyptian Isis, and these were all deities associated with the moon. Now, the pre-eminent emblem of the moon among many ancient peoples was the hare. Even today, some Nations, such as the Chinese, do not recognise a 'man' on the face of the moon, but a hare. The reasons for this are not far to seek. The hare is a nocturnal animal that feeds by night. Its gestation period is exactly one and one half lunar cycles, or 42 days, and its prodigious fecundity is too well known to require further comment! Thus the hare became associated with the moon and its phases—and as the 'opener' of the new year at Easter—a symbol of fertility and the resurrection of life after the 'death' of winter.
We have now seen that far from being a secular attempt to adulterate the sacred message of Easter, as some fanatical Christians believe, the symbolism of the egg and the hare shed a clearer light upon it.
Crucifixion and resurrection
The cross, as a Christian symbol, is supposed to date from the time of Jesus' crucifixion. Yet, when we look into the history of Christian iconography we find that the figure of a man upon the Cross is entirely absent from Christian art until the 7th century! The earliest known form of the human figure on the cross is the crucifix presented by Pope Gregory to Queen Theodolinde of Lombardy, now in the Cathedral of Monza, in Italy, whilst no image of Christ crucified is found in the Catacombs at Rome earlier than the 7th or 8th centuries.
The original idea of the crucifixion belongs to the ancient Egyptians and its esoteric symbolism can easily be seen in the wounds supposedly inflicted upon Jesus. The four wounds or stigmata in the extremities represent the square of the material world. The 3 nails together with the three wounds add up to 6, which denotes the 6 faces of a cube. When the cube is unfolded it forms a cross, the middle face of which is common to both the vertical stem and horizontal bar (*see Note in sidebar: "the wounds of Jesus").
The middle face is the point of the union of the male and female principles, or of Spirit and Matter. The numbers three and four, thus combined in the cross, give harmony to both and are the symbol of Nature's creative forces, and the central point is Love Sublime, Love in its highest aspect, equal to the Love of God Himself, when that Love is purified in Service, Sacrifice and Devotion. Thus, one of the esoteric meanings of the crucifixion is discovered in the numerological and geometrical symbols that expound the history of the evolution of man. It was for this reason that the cross was adopted as the emblem of immortality in Egypt, in Chaldea, Britain, India and America. But with the ancients, as with the Initiates, this was the cross of Life, not of death.
We have now seen that the cross was not derived from an historical crucifixion, but from the Mystery Teachings of ancient Egypt, Greece, India and other lands. Nor is there any historical evidence that Jesus was ever nailed to a cross. This article of faith was borrowed from the initiation rites of the Egyptian Mysteries. But whereas in these rites, the candidate was bound (not nailed) to a cross, to symbolise his bondage to the body and the material world, the Church converted the allegory of Initiation into historical fact to bolster its doctrine of vicarious atonement by an historic saviour who had to be sacrificed for our supposed 'sins'.
This answers the question that troubles many Christians, and has been hurled as a reproach against the Easter story, namely: how is it possible for Jesus to be tortured and slain by the rabble of Jerusalem? No one who truly believes in a loving and merciful God can possibly believe that He would condemn His beloved Son to such a terrible fate. It was this doctrine more than any other, which seemed to me so utterly blasphemous and impossible, that made me leave the Church and begin my own personal search for Truth. The real message of the crucifixion has been carefully concealed by the Church in its long battle to suppress the hated mysteries of Greece and Egypt, because they alone could expose its impostures and false dogmas.
All the details of the supposed historical crucifixion of Jesus are symbols, carefully designed to paint a vivid allegorical picture of the tests and trials of Initiation and the life and work of the True Teacher. It is the Higher Self of the Initiate—the Christ-principle in us all—who is the ever crucified and suffering Messiah; crucified on the cross of wooden ignorance and intolerance of the unevolved masses. His meat is still gall, his drink vinegar, and the wreath of thorns crowns his everlasting and evercoming brow; wet with the sweat of unappreciated Service. He is still bound hand and foot, his garments, spiritual and material, are parted for evermore amongst His despoilers, who may cast lots or merely grab them if they can. His words and deeds are made a mock of by His everlasting enemies, the mean in heart, the low in spirituality, the jealous and spiteful, apt sons of their jealous and spiteful god of Hell.
What of the resurrection? In the Gospels we may read:
"Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
(John 11: 23-24).
In interpolating its dogma of "the last day" into these verses—when we are led to believe the dead shall rise from their coffins much like zombies in the best traditions of Hollywood movies—the Church has done its best to bury the hidden meaning of Jesus' words. Yet, those of us familiar with the teachings of St Paul will know what Jesus meant, for in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle tells us that: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." This, of course, is the physical body and the astral body. Paul goes on to say: "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven." Here we have the lower and Higher Selves of man, such as we find discussed in many articles on this website. So the first important message of Easter is that we shall all "rise again" as Jesus tells Martha, but not on some indeterminate "last day" as the Church teaches, but at the end of this life, just as we did at the end of all our previous lives on earth.
In the next two verses, Jesus tells us that:
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
(John 11: 24-26)
This is interpreted by the Church as an exhortation to faith in Jesus as the sole saviour of Man. This is wrong. We are all saviours of ourselves in the form of our own Higher Selves. This is the Christ principle in all of us. Nor does this refer to eternal life on earth, as some imagine, though quite why anyone would want to live forever on earth I leave you to answer!
No, the real, eternal life for all of us commences when we turn our face to Heaven, and leaving behind the illusions of this world, attune in thought and deed with the spiritual realms of Light. It is in this way that we truly live the life eternal, even whilst we are still on earth and imprisoned in the bonds of the flesh. The truly "dead" are those in whom any spark of spirituality is utterly lacking, who in material things find their only delight. They neither believe in, nor seek anything higher, and when they die, there is no resurrection for them, for there is nothing in them that can be born again in the spirit they denied whilst on earth.
This is the true meaning of Jesus' words. Nor is this a new teaching. More than 5000 years ago in Egypt, Horus uttered the same words to his disciples and carried the twin symbols of resurrection and life eternal in his hands: the hare-headed sceptre of re-birth and reincarnation, and the ankh-key of life everlasting. You can read more about this in my afterword, in which I show the many parallels that exist between the Egyptian and Christian story of the resurrection.
The esoteric Easter story
Let us examine a few verses from the Gospels to see what else we can discover about the true meaning of Easter. Please bear in mind as we proceed that we are considering allegories and symbols, not historical facts. I shall confine myself mainly to the Gospels of Matthew and John. Not because they are the most complete accounts of the Easter story or the earliest, for that honour goes to Mark, but because time and space do not permit me to include more. I will begin with Matthew, who describes Jesus' entry into Jerusalem as follows:
"Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."
This verse, and those immediately preceding and following it have been the cause of much debate among Biblical scholars and remain a puzzle to most Christians. Some dispute whether there was one animal or two, despite the fact that two animals are clearly mentioned in verse 2: "Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her." Let me say at once that the choice of this particular animal and its foal, have nothing to do with Abraham's sacrifice of a ram in place of Isaac to his god, nor is it intended to recapitulate the many instances of Old Testament worthies and Kings, such as Solomon, riding on asses.
If you have not realised it before, this is the time to make it clear to you that the Church's pernicious doctrine of atonement—which insists that human beings can only be 'saved' through the propitiatory sacrifice of a son to appease the wrath of a jealous and spiteful father, is of purely Semitic origin. It forms no part of the true message of Easter, nor might I add, of the true teachings of Jesus. Should you doubt that the God of Jesus is not the same god as that of the Jews, which would be an eminently sensible attitude to take, for I want my readers to think for themselves and take nothing on trust, I commend to you the words of Jesus himself:
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
THIS is the 'angry', 'jealous' god of the Old Testament, as you can read in the fourth of my articles on the search for Truth. Borrowed from Jewish theology by way of Babylonian demonolatry, it is the utterly cruel creed of this monstrous abomination that has done so much to turn people away from the Bible. Taking root in the mind of the zealot, the fanatic and the bigot, it has brought darkness, strife and hatred into the world and the hearts of mankind, instead of the compassion, mercy, peace and love of God. It is important to bear this in mind if you wish to understand the symbolism of the ass and its foal, rather than the superstitious fictions of the Church. These two animals, one adult, the other a child, represent the two characters of Jesus, or Jesus in the two phases of his ministry. In the first he is the human son of his Father, the 'young lamb', the innocent babe who suffers at the hands of his enemies. In the second he is the super-human (but not supernatural) Prince of Peace who comes with a sword to slay ignorance and to wage spiritual war upon the powers of darkness.
As I discussed in my investigation of the Bible story of the birth of Jesus, astrology is one of the keys that unlocks the hidden meaning of the Bible. Using this key we see that the ancient Egyptians associated the ass with the zodiacal sign of Aries in which the youthful Solar God is born in his character of warrior on behalf of his Father. Now the sign of the ram falls between the preceding sign of Pisces (the fishes) and the following sign of Taurus (the bull). These stellar zootypes each symbolise different spiritual qualities as well as certain phases in the life of Jesus. As a fisher of men, Jesus is the Messiah, who embodies the Piscean qualities of mysticism, service and self-sacrifice astrologers associate with this sign. As the Ram, he is the courageous pioneer and warrior fighting ignorance and superstition. So it is not surprising that we find him seated on an animal that has much in common with the ram—an ass—for both were symbols of the Sun-God in the ancient Egyptian mythos. You may ask why not simply make Jesus' ride upon a ram? Because this would not only make the account implausible (as rams are not beasts of burden), but undermine the allegory it conceals as we shall see in a moment.
Later Jesus storms the temple and overturns the tables of the moneychangers, actions in perfect keeping with the qualities of Taurus, the irresistible bull who tramples down all opposition in his magnificent strength.
The ass was also known as a type of the Sun-god in ancient Egypt, where the "Eater of the Ass" is another name for Apep or the Devil, who wages constant war against the god and his followers. In an illustration from the Egyptian Book of the Dead the "Eater of the Ass" is seen biting the back of an ass, which is being delivered by the scribe Nekht in his character of Osiris. Now Osiris, as we shall see in my afterword, shared many of the characteristics of Jesus, so the symbolism of the God-animal of an ass and the messenger of God riding upon it who is soon to be betrayed, becomes clear.
In verse 8 we read that: "And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way." The spreading of 'garments' before Jesus symbolises the shedding of the mental encumbrances which prevent us from perceiving the true Teacher and the true Teachings. 'Branches' are also significant, for as Jesus was the 'True Vine' (of Truth), "every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit", as we may read in John 15:2. In other words, the strewing of Jesus' path with branches symbolises the willingness of the people to have their wrong ideas 'purged', without which previous preparation, Jesus' teachings could not come to fruition in their minds.
We next find Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the temple. As there is no greater temple than the human body which houses the spirit of God, casting out the moneychangers means cleansing ourselves of all impurities, of which ignorance is the greatest. That this is the correct interpretation we find confirmed in Matthew 21:13: "My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." What worse theft can there be than to use the spiritual gifts of God for our own selfish gain and material pleasure?
I will now turn to Mark, chapter 16, verses 3-4, to conclude this investigation, in which we find the disciples standing outside Jesus' tomb, asking: "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great." At first glance this does not make much sense. It is almost as if someone had removed a verse or verses that explained who rolled the 'great' stone away from the door of the tomb. To solve the puzzle we must turn to that tireless revealer of the secrets, Madame Blavatsky. In one of her articles she says:
"He who strives to resurrect the Spirit crucified in him by his own terrestrial passions, and buried deep in the 'sepulchre' of his sinful flesh; he who has the strength to roll back the stone of matter from the door of his own inner sanctuary, he has the risen Christ in him."
(Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. VIII p173).
We have now seen that in the process of transmogrifying the allegories of initiation, illumination and liberation taught in the Mystery Schools of Greece and Egypt into historical events, the Church has stripped the story of Easter of much of its inner meaning and distorted the spiritual truths it was intended to convey. Why this was done, and by whom, is a subject I may explore in future articles. Meanwhile, in restoring something of the true message of Easter, I hope that I have encouraged you to do your own research to uncover the treasures of Wisdom concealed in the Bible and other sacred texts.
As I mentioned earlier, the candidate for Initiation was tied (not nailed) to a couch in the form of a tau, or cross. He left his body for three days and three nights, during which time his Higher Self communed with the gods and descended into Hades, or the lower, astral world. In ancient Egypt, his body was placed in the Sarcophagus in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, and carried during the night of the approaching third day to the entrance of a gallery, where at a certain hour the beams of the rising Sun struck full on the face of the candidate, who awoke to be initiated by the Hierophant.
This then, is the true meaning of Easter, of the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is a message of Light, Peace and Love, and the promise of eternal life in the spirit, whether we are Christians or not. It is a teaching as old as Man, demonstrating in no uncertain manner that the path to the Light which Jesus walked is open to us all. Accept then, once again, from my hands, His holy message. May it bring you comfort and hope when the cares of this world seem too heavy to bear and renew your faith in our Heavenly Father, who so longs to gather his lost and lonely children into his loving arms.
About the author
John Temple is the pen-name of a writer who has studied and practised the occult sciences for more than 60 years. He graduated from Cambridge University with a first in Theology and Religious Studies and has lectured to students around the world on a wide variety of occult, religious and mystical subjects.
He is now retired and lives quietly in London with his wife, two Yorkshire terriers and a talkative African Grey Parrot called 'John' (no relation).
Read more articles by this author on the Search for Truth
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Hidden meaning in the Book of Proverbs
An investigation of the origins of the Book of Proverbs and the hidden meaning in it.
Hidden Wisdom in the Bible. An investigation of the hidden wisdom in the Bible, why and how it was concealed, and the tools the sincere seeker needs to dig it out.
If God is good why does he allow evil? A metaphysical investigation of the problem of Good and Evil.
Esotericism in the Nativity. An occult investigation of the Bible story of the birth of Jesus, revealing the many layers of hidden meaning it contains.
Who are the REAL illuminati? An evil conspiracy or something quite different? His answers may surprise you!
Searching for Truth.
The true story of one seeker's personal journey of spiritual discovery.
© Copyright John Temple & occult-mysteries.org.
Article added 9 March 2016. Updated 30 March 2018.