© 2000 - 2003 by Ann K Elliott
This physical body of ours can die and disintegrate, and yet a part of us continues on and can rise in a new form.
The resurrection speaks to the essential unity of the physical and spiritual in our universe. Morton Kelsey(1)
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.(2)
Nor is Christianity alone in promising an afterlife. What about the other paths to the one God?—some that “flesh out” an afterlife in greater detail than found in either Judaism or Christianity. What have they to say about immortality and eternality? Are we all moving towards the same goal? What, two thousand years later, is to be made of Paul’s vision of the collective, universal coming of the sons and daughters of God? Or of Teilhard’s twentieth century vision of the Cosmic Christ at the head of the evolutionary vanguard? Or Jung’s anticipation of “the Christification of many”? To examine these and other questions, Eastern as well as Western teachings on immortality and eternality need consideration and comparison.
Paul gets right to the point in asking and answering: How are the dead raised? And with what kind of a body are they raised?
There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon . . . . So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, [what] is raised [is] imperishable. [What is] sown a physical body, [is] raised a spiritual body.(3)
Paul compares the
difference between the physical and spiritual bodies to that of the moon and
the sun. His symbolism suggests a transformation from an earthly to a
heavenly form that is comparable to what occurs when the ego is superseded
by the Self as the new center of the total psyche, its glory now
illuminating the total being. Does the radiance of the celestial obscure
what had been a terrestrial form? If so, how in the “afterlife” are persons
to recognize one another? This last question goes right to the heart of the
desire to survive: the desire for there to be a continuity of those
relationships that have “warmed our hearts” and instilled our lives with
meaning and purpose. In answer, the Gospels present a number of
post-Resurrection vignettes in which Jesus appears to family, friends and
disciples. In each case the purpose seems to be to reassure those who have
known and loved him that he still lives. Moreover, he seems to be
demonstrating the circumstances under which his presence will continue to be
known through inner vision and heart-felt experiences.
Noli Me Tangere
The first encounter is with Mary Magdalene on Resurrection morning. She has gone to the tomb, and, upon finding it empty, is distraught. Seeing a person she takes for the gardener, she entreats, “Where have they taken my Lord?” Only when the man speaks her name—”Mary”—does she realize who it is. “Rabboni!” She reaches out to touch him but he cautions her against doing so, saying, “I am not yet ascended."(4)
Angelica’s Touch Me Not
This first Resurrection scene suggests that at the point Mary recognizes Jesus and reaches out to him, his body is undergoing some kind of transformation, and that the process that is underway is not yet complete. He says to her, “I am not yet ascended,” and then instructs her to give his disciples the message: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."(5)
Important to note is the point that only when
Jesus speaks her name does she recognizes him. This suggests there is
something in the vibratory quality and manner of his voice that reveals his
presence. Her heart does a flip-flop, and from her lips burst the
“Rabboni”—the title by which she had been accustomed to addressing him.
Thus it is not the outer but the inner person each addresses; not the
somatic body but the spiritual soul that invokes recognition, not the mind
but the heart in an overwhelming feeling response. And so in each of the
post-Resurrection appearances, there is some personal interchange that is
characteristic of the relationship that enables recognition and
Quantum Physics and the Resurrection
It might be that the process of “ascending” to which Mary was witness was one in which the elements of the physical body, rather than being slowly reduced back to carbon atoms, were instead undergoing a molecular reordering into another kind of body. In The Man Born To Be King, Dorothy Sayers addresses the “Mechanics of the Resurrection.” Kelsey points out that Sayers was writing before there was a general understanding of quantum physics and of how energy and mass are interchangeable.
. . . suppose that the physical body [of Jesus] was, as it were, dissolved into its molecular elements, drawn out through the graveclothes and through the stone and reassembled outside—this phenomenon being (not surprisingly) accompanied by a violent “electrical” disturbance, perceptible as a kind of earthquake.(6)
Kelsey then elaborates on what science is bringing to light concerning “the immaterial quality of matter,” and how scientists like Fritjof Capra are drawing parallels between modern physics and the mysticism of both East and West.
try to picture what matter is really like, we are faced with fully as many
problems as understanding the resurrected body of Jesus.
On closer examination, the Gospels may be describing three successive “bodies”: (1) the Good Friday one that was crucified and placed in the tomb; (2) the Holy Saturday one that descended into an inhabited “lower” world; and (3) the Resurrection Sunday one Mary observed as not yet “ascended,” or perhaps “not yet vibrationally attuned and stabilized” for Jesus’ return to higher realms
Supper at Emmaus
Later in the afternoon of that first Easter, two who had known Jesus were walking towards their home in Emmaus. They were discussing the events surrounding the Crucifixion when a stranger came along and joined them. On arriving home they invited the stranger to join them for supper. Only when “he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” were “their eyes opened” as to who the stranger really was. Reflecting back, “they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked to us on the road . . . "(8) Again it was neither through their eyes nor their intellects that recognition dawned. Rather, it was through an inner sense of knowing that they intuited the stranger’s true identity.
Later Easter evening the disciples were gathered in a room behind closed doors when Jesus appeared among them and showed them the marks in his hands and side. Thomas, however, was not present, and when he was told about the appearance he replied that unless he could see and put his finger in the holes, and his hand in his side, he would not believe.
days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them.
The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. “Peace be
with you” he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, “Put your finger here; look,
here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer
but believe.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!"(9)
Thomas’ need for the verification of his sense of sight and touch was as valid for him as Mary’s feeling response had been for her, and as the intuited recognition had been for those on the walk to Emmaus. Primarily a thinking person, Thomas’ senses informed his mind that indeed Jesus was alive and standing right there before him. On the strength of this conviction he, too, would be willing to die.
Breakfast on the Lake Shore
In yet another
post-Resurrection appearance, seven of the disciples had been fishing all
one night but without any luck. It was getting light when they saw a man on
the shore who called out: “Have you caught anything, friends?” When they
answered they had not, the man told them to throw out their nets on the
other side. And when they did the catch was more than they could haul in.
As they were attempting to do so, “the disciple Jesus loved” said to Peter:
“It is the Lord.” At this, the impulsive Peter jumped into the water and
made for the shore while the others brought in the catch. When they were
altogether on the shore, Jesus served them bread and fish.
Here again Jesus was recognized by his disciples within the familiarity of their relationship to one another. And in our lives, too, Jesus meets us on the level of who we are, and in relationship to the daily lives we are living.
The Importance of Images of the “Hereafter”
The question of the survival of consciousness is one Jung takes up in Memories, Dreams and Reflections. In his chapter titled “On Life after Death,” he advises on the importance to psychological health of creating mental images of what life after death might be like. He adds that “Not to have done so is a vital loss,” regardless of whether the images turn out to be right or wrong. This is because
. . . the man who despairs [out of lack of a vision] marches toward nothingness, [while] the one who has placed his faith in the archetype follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death.(10)
On the same subject of the importance of having positive images of the “hereafter,” the revered Quaker, Rufus Jones, writes:
It seems strange that St. Paul’s great spiritual conception [of the eternal body] has never quite got into man’s consciousness. . . . It fits our new world outlook better than any other suggestion that has been made. St. Paul holds that we are all weaving a permanent soul-structure while we live and think and act here in the body. It is an inside self, not composed of atoms, of molecules, or corporeal stuff. It is an immortal, eternal, spiritual heavenly sheath which gives form and covering to our spirits so that they are not naked when they lose their outside tent. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tent were dissolved we have”—not shall have—”a building God-made, not constructed by hands, eternal and heavenly.”(11)
And although the tenants of microphysics might have caused Jones to reconsider the possibility that the “heavenly sheath” is also composed of “stuff,” it nevertheless would be of a different sort that would vibrate at a rate different from “bodies” in “this world.” Moreover, his point that “we are all weaving a permanent soul-structure while we live and think and act here in the body” is comparable to what in the East is viewed as the “diamond body.”
Spirit and Matter / Consciousness and Life
From the perspective of quantum physics, a sufficient body of evidence is emerging to support a view of the universe as multidimensional, and in which consciousness may turn out to be the mode of transport between worlds, as well as how the soul “sheathes” itself according to laws governing different dimensions of reality.
Ancient Eastern wisdom refers to a “body,” the creation of which is facilitated by what is described as a reversal of “the circulation of light” from “downward and outward” to “upward and inward.” Paradoxically, the achievement is not realized by seeking to escape from physical existence, but rather by embracing life in its fullness, and thus transforming instead of expending life’s energies, so that a portion of the life force afforded each physical being becomes its doorway into eternal life. These precepts are contained in the Chinese text called The Secret of the Golden Flower. This ancient work teaches that “life”—as we know it in the physical world—and “consciousness”—as it transcends the material world—are, in reality, two halves of a whole. To be able to unite the two as one is to be “in the Tao.” Jung notes:
It is characteristic of the Western mind that it has no concept for Tao. The Chinese character is made up of the character for “head,” and that for “going.” . . . .”Head” can be taken as consciousness, and “to go” as travelling a way, thus the idea would be: to go consciously, or the conscious way.[i]
In the East the Tao is conceived as an interchanging flow or circulation between what is revealed and what is hidden, between active and passive principles, yang and yin, light and dark, heaven and earth, or, as explained in the text under examination, a process that involves “consciousness” and “life.” Jung notes that light is the symbolic equivalent of consciousness, and that the nature of consciousness is expressed by analogies of light. “Life,” he explains, is “hidden in the unconscious” and guided by the “unconscious laws of being.” When in balance, ”light” and “life” serve the whole—i. e., the Tao—or what Jesus calls the “kingdom,” or active rule of heaven. This union of “light” and “life” is what the Chinese text calls conscious life.
In the process of the two becoming one, “life” is infused with “light” and becomes the soul’s eternal or “diamond body.” The sacred text advises how this is achieved:
If thou wouldst complete the diamond body . .
Jung evaluates the text as “a sort of alchemistic instruction” for the creation of enduring consciousness. “Heating,” he explains, is an “intensification of consciousness.”
only consciousness, life itself must be intensified. The union of these two
produces “conscious life.” According to the Hui Ming Ching, the
ancient sages knew how to bridge the gap between consciousness and life
because they cultivated both. . . . in this way “the great Tao is
The Art of Letting Things Happen
The Secret of the Golden Flower reads:
The most important things in the great Tao are the words: action through non-action. Non-action prevents a man from becoming entangled in form and image (materiality). Action in non-action prevents a man from sinking into numbing emptiness and dead nothingness.(15)
The Tao, then, is neither “something” nor “nothing,” but a union of the two, and although couched in Eastern terms, the concept of “action through non-action” is known also to Western mysticism. It provided Jung with the “key” to the “way”:
The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Meister Eckhart, became for me the key opening the door to the way. We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us [in the West,] this actually is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace.(16)
Our need in the West, then, is not for a more active interfering consciousness, but rather for a more passive, allowing approach to consciousness, one that yields and “lets things happen.” Again, it is the “Let it be” of Mary’s response to the angel. In this way the divine seed is implanted in the dark recesses of the soul where it is nurtured until, of its own accord, it comes to fruition. Meister Eckhart teaches that it is “Here,” in this hidden place, that “the soul is pregnant without form or image.”
When the soul resigns herself to God . . . God undertakes her work, she is merely receptive and leaves God to act.(17)
As the Eastern sage likens preparation for eternal life to a diamond, so Jesus compares the realm or rule of heaven to a pearl:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.(18)
Pearls and Diamonds
Both diamond and pearl are symbolic of an enduring spiritual consciousness. Thus entrance into the heavenly city of Revelations is through twelve portals: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl."(19) Layer upon layer a pearl is formed around a grain of sand—an irritant—which serves as an attracting, coalescing center. In the same manner, “life” provides the “heat” by which “consciousness” is built, and by which the conscious life of the Self—the true Self—is achieved.
In the case of
a diamond, it builds durability through its capacity to withstand the weight
of constant pressures bearing in upon it from every conceivable direction.
Its adamancy is created through a process in which its carbon atoms undergo
a molecular rearrangement that results in the obscurity of a piece of coal
attaining the clarity and light-reflecting qualities of a diamond.
Similarly physical existence, with the difficulties to be withstood and the
pressures that weigh heavily upon it, provides the ground that prepares the
soul for eternity Also interesting to note, the organic substance of a
diamond is carbon—the basis of all organic life on planet earth—and to which
the physical body, when life has left it, returns. Thus the carbon cycle of
the physical body—from ashes to ashes and dust to dust—is reducible to the
same carbon atoms as the diamond, and which in the East is symbolic of the
eternal or “light” body.
The Shift from Outer to Inner Awareness
To “Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand” is another way of saying “turn your focus from without to within.” This is accomplished through the discipline of self-observation, and is how the “true self” is revealed. However, the diligent self-observation this calls for is very costly to the self bent on preserving its temporal life at the cost of its eternal life. Jung acknowledges the difficulty:
Everything good is costly, and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It is a question of yea-saying to oneself, of taking one’s self as the most serious of tasks, of being conscious of everything one does, and keeping it constantly before one’s eyes in all its dubious aspects—truly a task that taxes us to the utmost.(20)
The teachings of Gurdjieff similarly call for diligence in making the shift from outer to inner awareness:
Our life is not action as we imagine, but reaction; and we react to things in the same mechanical way over and over again. . . . It is only by conscious effort that one can realize one’s mechanicalness, and this effort must be made towards a definite thing, a definite reaction, something practical and clear and distinct. To take it as a theory is worse than useless. When one realizes one is mechanical in some definite respect, it gives a shock . . . a moment of self-remembering.(21)
To diligently “heat the
roots of consciousness” requires an intensity of focus which leads to
insight into those unconscious responses we unthinkingly and repeatedly
make, not only to others but to life as ingrained attitudes and unexamined
assumptions. It is the habitual way we unconsciously and mechanically sleep
walk through life. This, Gurdjieff constantly harps, is what dissipates the
energies of life, and causes consciousness to move downward and outward so
as to disengage itself from its higher function of leading the soul along
the inward and upward path.
Noah’s Three Sons
The idea of different bodies occupying the same space also exists in both Judaism and Christianity.
Ancient Jewish mysticism teaches that what one thinks of as body, mind, and soul are three separate entities or “bodies.” As noted before, these three, together with the spiritual “world,” make up the “four worlds” of the Tree of Life. The Zohar, or “Book of Splendor,” corresponds these three aspects to the three levels of Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s three sons to “the three aspects of the soul,” namely nefesh, the vital soul, ruah, the spirit, and neshamah, the innermost or super-soul. The object of this teaching is to animate neshamah, the “super” or eternal aspect of the soul, the spiritual Self.
Rabbi Judah said: Nefesh [vital soul] and ruah [spirit] are conjoined, while neshamah [eternal soul or Self] has its abode in the character of a man . . . . If a man strive to a pure life, he is therein assisted by holy neshamah . . . . But if he does not strive to be righteous and pure of life, there does not animate him holy neshamah, but only the two grades nefesh and ruah. More than that, he who enters into impurity is led further into it, and he is deprived of heavenly aid. Thus, each is moved forward upon the way which he takes.(22)
Similarly, the Eastern Book of Consciousness speaks cryptically of “three fires.” These appear to correlate to the above Zohar text.
Within the germinal vesicle is the fire of the ruler; at the entrance of the germinal vesicle is the fire of the minister; in the whole body, the fire of the people. When the [first] fire of the ruler expresses itself, it is received by the [second] fire of the minister. When the fire of the minister moves, the [third] fire of the people follows him. When the three fires express themselves in this order a man develops. But when the three fires return in reverse order the Tao develops.(23)
How is the above relevant to the self-realization process? First of all, the symbolism of social, hierarchical authority is one commonly employed in the East. In this case, there is the ruler, the minister and the people. These correspond to the superconscious mind (Aurobindo’s supramental); to the conscious mind; and to the unconscious mind, including its collective level of “the people.” In the text, the “fire” or light of higher consciousness descends from the highest to the lowest level—from ruler, to minister, to the people: “in this order a man [the personality] develops.” But when the “fires return in reverse order the Tao [the divine Self] develops.” It is in the ascent of the soul from its “dark night” or “hell” that the diamond or eternal Self becomes sheathed in its glorified body.
In commenting on this text, Jung corresponds the return to the “germinal” state to “re-enter[ing] the womb,”(24) or as he advises Nicodemus: you have to be born again as a spiritual being. As The Secret of the Golden Flower discloses, when the life force is redirected from outward to inward this causes a circulation around the “germinal” or original divine spark at the center of the soul. This in turn builds up an individualized center of enduring consciousness, a divine center which when complete manifests in what is variously symbolized as Dante’s white rose, a golden flower, a thousand petaled lotus, or a diamond body. In Aurobindo’s words:
Evolution is the eternal blossoming of a flower which was a flower from all eternity.(25)
Who or What is Left to Enjoy Eternity?
From his East Indian view, Aurobindo also conceived of a trinity of physical, mental, and emotional “bodies,” each composed of different forms of energy and each reducible, on dissolution, to universal elements. If we accept the thinking and feeling selves as subject to change in the same way as the physical body, then they too are temporal in nature. What or who of us does this leave to enjoy eternity?
Visions and other paranormal events are not limited to biblical times or to the mystics and saints. As previously mentioned, in Civilization in Transition Jung refers to “the silent ones of the land” as the untold millions of ordinary people who have had spiritual experiences and who would seek deeper understanding except for their fear of appearing foolish.(26) Their experiences, nevertheless, cause them to wonder about ultimate matters.
The Death of Snowflake
A personal experience that made a lasting impression on me occurred during a time when I found myself the keeper of a small herd of goats. I had assisted the birth of a little doe—snow white and as dear a creature as ever I had known—but who contracted tetanus when she was about ten days old and who, in spite of treatment, died in my arms. With my hand on her back, I distinctly felt a vibratory force move down her spine and out of her body. In that instant she was gone. And although there may be a rational, physiological explanation for what I experienced, the death of “Snowflake” was for me an unforgettable mystical experience. The sensation was similar to what I once had experienced when I inadvertently served as a ground for a faulty electrical appliance. In the death of Snowflake I similarly served as a conduit, this time for the animating spirit which one moment made her alive and the next dead. My sense was of having witnessed one of life’s mysteries—the coming and going of the spirit by which matter comes to life—is enlivened—and then dies. In the case of the electrical current, the sensation was unusual enough to recall, but its recollection is devoid of emotion. The memory of Snowflake, however, is different. In my memory she is still alive. With indelible clarity I still delight in how, before she was stricken, she would bounce down hill sideways, and as only a little kid can.
Paul, too, gave considerable thought to such questions as: What happens when the life force leaves a body? Is anything in creation expendable? He is fairly detailed and specific in his First Letter to the Corinthians, which he concludes by saying:
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.(27)
Although science is getting closer, it still does not know how memory works or what its purpose is, let alone what consciousness is. It may turn out that the sum total of what survives is made up of all the sufficiently spirit-and-emotion-infused experiences a person has had, all of the experiences that have made a permanent imprint on the soul: a vision of Jesus, the birth of a child; the death of a doe; but probably not the weighty thoughts one has had, or beliefs held to, or even good works done. Rather, the essence of being that remains when all else passes away may turn out to be those times when the veil has fallen away and one has been consciously present to and emotionally impacted by the truly memorable moments that rise to the level of the transpersonal.
Chapter Six Credits
VI-1 - Touch Me Not, by Fra Angelica, 1400-1455, Museo di San Marco, Florence
VI-2 - Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio
1573-1610, Pinacoteca de Brera version
VI-3 - Doubting Thomas, by Duccio, Siena
VI-4 - Appearance on Lake Tiberias, by Duccio, Siena
Notes Chapter Six
1. Morton Kelsey, Resurrection, Paulist Press, NY, 1985, p129
2. John 14:2-3
3. 1Corinthians 15:40-45
4. John 20: 16, Jerusalem Bible
5. Ibid, v.17
6. Dorothy Sayers, The Man Born To B King, London, Victor Gollancz, 1949, p317, Quoted in Morton Kelsey’s Resurrection, op cit, p101
7. Ibid, Kelsey, pp 102-103
8. Luke 24:13-32
9. John 20:26-29
10. C G Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Pantheon Books, NY, 1961, pp 302-306
11.Rufus Jones, quoted in INWARD LIGHT, Vol XXVI, No. 64, Winter-Spring, 1963, in an article titled “Jung on Survival of Consciousness,” by Elined Prys Kotschnig, p 10
12.Richard Wilhelm, Translator, Commentary by C G Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower, Harvest Book, Harcourt, Brace, NY, 1962 (revised), p 98
17.The Soul Afire, op cit, Meridian Books, NY, 1960, p 226
19. Revelations 21:12
20.Wilhelm, Op cit, p95
21.Maurice Nicol, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky, Vol 1, Shambhala, Boston, 1984, p 98
22.Gershom Scholem, Editor, Zohar, “The Book of Splendor, “Basic Readings from the Kabbalah,” Schocken Books, NY, 1949, p 69
23.Wilhelm, op cit. p 71
24.Ibid, p 71
25.Satprem, Op cit, p 169
26.Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, para 494