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Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension: Three Simple Steps

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At first glance this may seem like an intense topic, even religious in nature, but don’t be fooled by appearances. All is not as it seems. There may be something here for everyone of every religion or no religion at all. Like many of my articles this one is designed to raise questions about deeply held beliefs and also to tear down the retaining walls in the mind. A fresh look at something never hurts and in some cases can reveal much greater truths underneath.

Perhaps no words have been more misrepresented and as a result so misunderstood, than these critical three words, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Let us just say they are so loaded with heavy baggage that their actual suggested meaning is hopelessly lost and yet they are still decodable should we desire to understand how they apply to each and every person on the planet.

Crucifixion obviously refers to an old method of executing people by hanging their bodies’ up on a cross and letting them die. If we believe that is the meaning of crucifixion then it prevents us from understanding that it can have many other meanings leading to understandings about the nature of life and how to gain freedom.

If there is anything that we should understand from historical documents about the life of Jesus it is that he taught by example. So what was he doing hanging from a cross? Was he teaching everyone to do likewise? Was he suggesting that each person should be crucified for being a sinner? Was he taking on all the sins of the world and suffering horribly in the process so that everyone else would be free? Should we feel guilty and ashamed that he suffered like that for us ungrateful people? Should we feel grateful that he suffered for us to make us free and if so is everyone now free or not? These notions are somewhat confusing and are a mix of what many have been taught but there are some problems with these ideas.

Jesus was a trained shaman, an adept, a master teacher who had overcome his own ego and became an awakened enlightened being. If we understand what an adept is it is someone who is no longer identified with his body. As an adept he was no longer subject to death. He was as the Taoists call them, an immortal. You could try to kill him all you wanted but he could regenerate his body infinitely as long as he wanted to. In addition, as Jesus himself said many times, “a guiltless mind does not suffer” and as an adept he had conquered all guilt. Therefore he was no longer capable of suffering. This leaves us with a big set of contradictions. Did he suffer and die on the cross or did he not suffer and did he not actually die? What actually was being crucified on that cross? The man, God, or what? With a little understanding perhaps we can answer some of these questions.

If Jesus taught by example then what was his message? Do as I do? Get slammed onto a cross by mean people, suffer and then die as a martyr? Clearly that was not what he had in mind because it does not teach anything of any consequence. Perhaps we ought to look a little closer at the powerful symbolism of his experience remembering he taught by example. One way to help us out of the muddle of words is to look at an alternative meaning of the word crucifixion, ordeal. A crucifixion is a supreme ordeal, an extreme challenge or initiation. Jesus was no stranger to initiations that were very difficult. Every shaman knows the power of initiation.

Every lifetime we are all crucified by the lives that we lead. We suffer horribly on our very own crosses. We can be vengeful, assaultive, selfish, greedy, vicious, arrogant, and destructive. We have all been there and if we have learned anything in the course of our lives it is that all this nasty behavior boomerangs on us via instant or delayed forms of karma. In short we live in an echo chamber. We allow ourselves to be crucified by our very own egos over and over again and we pay and we pay and we pay. For many lifetimes the false personality has its way with us, crucifies us, puts us through terrible ordeals, and tries to make us feel separate and alone.

Yet if we are to mature and become enlightened beings we must learn not to let ourselves be crucified by the ego. Instead we must ourselves crucify the parasitical ego, the false personality and this is best done through initiations, sometimes very difficult ordeals that require much self-observation. This is exactly what Siddartha Gautama did under the Bodhi tree. This is exactly what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and then on the cross. This is what all enlightened beings do when they face down the ego for the last time. They crucify it and it is a hard process, no exceptions. The ordeal of facing down the ego is an initiation process that requires starving it of its usual food and instead giving it vinegar to drink. In other words not giving it what it wants. To everyone else it looks the person they know is dying yet to the initiate it is not they that are dying but their false personality. The cross is a metaphor for this process.

Now Jesus was aware enough to know that he was one with everything and that there was and is no separation no matter what the appearances of his ego’s projections to the contrary. Yes, like all people. Jesus had an ego, a false personality he struggled with. He did have quite a temper and he lost patience at times. Like all enlightened masters he took full responsibility for his experiences. Nothing could happen to him that he did not allow or orchestrate. He knew he was the one in the drivers seat at all times. He knew that the Romans and the Pharisees and all the characters of his play were projections of his own psyche, illusions of separation that bore no separate reality. Likewise he knew that all the generations of people following his teachings centuries hence were also projections of his mind. Ultimately he knew they were all parts of himself, all aspects of the one Spirit. He knew he was part of a cooperative drama scripted for teaching purposes for all the other parts of himself that did not yet believe they were enlightened. In other words he knew he was teaching only himself. So he allowed the whole drama to unfold proving to himself and everyone else that the only thing that gets crucified is ego, that’s it. He could not die and he proved that he did not die by showing up in his body afterwards to many, many people.

The Resurrection

This all brings us to the next powerful word, the resurrection, and what does this word refer to? Some of the accepted meanings of the word resurrection are revival, renaissance, rebirth, reappearance, restoration, renewal, and revitalization. What is it that is being resurrected, revitalized, renewed, and restored. Everybody assumes that it was Jesus’ body but remember that Jesus was not identified with his body. He knew that his body was merely his vehicle, his horse, his mammal transportation to navigate around the planet. For Jesus resurrection actually referred to his essence, his being, his I Am-ness that was being restored to its rightful place of importance. It was as if he were saying, “Look folks, get past being attached to the body and how it looks, it’s not who we are. We are Spirit. Spirit does not die, cannot be harmed. We are all one being and I want to show you what is true and important. Let us resurrect that idea. So the resurrection is actually the remembering of who we really are. It is not new, just uncovered, liberated, brought to light. It is as if the truth were being given new life, revitalized for everyone’s edification. That is the true meaning of being born again, not some wimpy idea of being reprocessed into the doctrines of a religion that lost its way a long time ago.

Ascension

This brings us to our last powerful word, ascension. This is perhaps the most misunderstood word of all, absurdly thought of as somehow hurdling upward with flapping robes into a heaven thought to be in the sky somewhere. This must be the place where all the helium balloons go as they escape the grip of children’s hands. This is a child’s understanding of ascension, going up someplace physically. No it is not that at all. Some accepted synonyms of ascension are to rise, to climb, to scale, to move up. We can say that ascension refers to rising, climbing, soaring in frequency, refinement, capability, dimensionality. As a person matures they achieve a broader perspective, a greater understanding, more sophistication. Yes, metaphorically speaking it is as if they climb like a bird into the sky where they can see so much more yet they do not do this physically. They do it mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When they have properly put spirituality back into the higher perspective and have resurrected their own essence, then they are ready to ascend even further in their understanding of who they are in relation to Spirit.

Now some might say, “but what about the saints who are known to have levitated up into the air and so on. I will not deny that this is so. There are many accounts of enlightened human beings from all religious perspectives who levitated off the ground or so it appeared. We have to remember that to an enlightened being what we call reality is but a dream. In dreams people can do anything and they often do break the normal rules of science. We assume this means that miracles do happen but the question is, do we call them miracles if they happen in a dream state? No, we call it normal behavior for a dream. People dream about flying all the time and no one thinks it at all strange. It is only considered strange if we draw a distinction between waking states and dreaming states. Enlightened folks like Jesus knew there was actually no difference. Flying in dreams or in waking states simply means that the person is free of all the constraints that usually run them. They are free to move three dimensionally. That’s nice but it doesn’t mean that heaven is up. What if two saints were both levitating on opposite sides of the planet? They would be going in opposite directions? Are they both headed for heaven? That is a little silly. As many great beings have said, heaven is right here, right now, any time you want to access it. So is so-called hell.

We now have our simple three steps to enlightenment that are to be found universally throughout the world.

  1. First is the crucifixion of the personality by the parasitical ego and all the attendant suffering that goes with that. With maturity we turn the tables and now the ego-false personality is the one to be crucified or sacrificed on the altar of truth.
  2. Next comes the resurrection, the remembering and restoring of essence to its rightful place of importance.
  3. Finally comes Ascension. When essence is remembered and restored the I Am presence ascends to its rightful place and a whole new perspective opens up. Heaven on Earth becomes possible. We can call that a high state, not up in the clouds but right here on the ground.

The Jesus story like other stories that came before (The Egyptian story of Osiris) are about this three step process leading us to awakening. It is a simple map to the terrain of how we grow up, how we graduate from ignorance, how we escape what seems to be the trap of the circle of samsara, the endless wheel of suffering we seem to be stuck on as human beings. It is all a passion play, a real seeming game that involves obstacles to set us back and a goal that can be scored. In their originally conceived form, games are designed to be fun and interesting. However in the midst of hard play, like football, as you are picking yourself out of the mud with a broken arm, you may temporarily forget that it is really just a game. The game has steps and stages like quarters, first downs, and kick offs that allow one to advance or not. At first you lose a lot and then you gain in skill and strategy and eventually you start winning. That is how all games are. That is how the human being game is, three long steps.

We make it complicated with many distractions but if you keep your eye on the proverbial ball, it is not so complicated anymore. There are some parts that are still hard no matter how well you play the game. These are the initiations, the ordeals, the crucifixions. Something has to go in order to advance: your forgetfulness, laziness, comfort zone, complacency, inertia, ignorance, stubbornness, recalcitrance and so on. The harder you hold onto these things the harder the crucifixion. When you finally let go of that big ball and chain you’ve been carrying around, the proper response is AAAAAAAHHHHHHH what a relief. Why was I holding onto that?

Saints and avatars are not serious, stressed out people. In fact they are deeply relaxed, prone to laughing and looking joyfully around themselves. They are deeply sensuous people who savor the beauty all around them. They do not worry but are happy. Perhaps our greatest tragedy in misunderstanding Jesus’ teachings is that we never see pictures or statues of him laughing outrageously or being deliriously happy. The most popular statues and depictions are of him demonstrating horrible pain and misery and we are left with all the attendant misunderstanding about what it all meant. We all project our own crucifixion horrors on him instead of understanding that he was showing us how to be victorious over the false personality.

So remember, ultimately it is the ego that is crucified. Then what is resurrected is essence. Then identifying with essence we soar, we ascend the mountain trail to the great overlook where the view is fine, but notice, we are still on the ground. Three big steps await us. See you on the ground.

 

 

José Stevens

José Stevens PhD is an international lecturer, corporate team builder and organizational coach, consultant and trainer. A psychologist, licensed clinical social worker and author of more than twenty books and numerous articles, he is also co-editor for the Journal of Shamanic Practitioners and a board member. He is the founder, with his wife Lena, of the Power Path School of Shamanism and The Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in indigenous cultures. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years.