Sunday, April 12, 2009

Embracing Hell

Embracing Hell

In the Western Christian tradition the period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is dead time. That sounds like a pun but it is pretty much the case in terms what is perceived to be going on with the crucified Jesus. He is presumed to be lying stone dead, twiddling spiritual thumbs perhaps, and waiting until the angels come to roll away the stone and get him out of the tomb.

In the Eastern Christian tradition those “three days” in the tomb are filled with purposeful doing. Though the details remain mysterious, Scriptures indicate that Jesus descended into hell itself, defeated death and rescued those that had been incarcerated in Hades since the beginning of time.

The Orthodox iconography of this is very striking: Christ pulls Adam and Eve from their graves as lightly as tapestries, while the conquered Satan writhes beneath, doomed to be “bound for a thousand years.”

This sacred story with its symbolism suggests also the path of the individual soul as it unfolds. The crucifixion, when it occurs, breaks the mask of self and ego. Then one descends into what was formerly impassable, that supposedly “dead” realm where hideous and ghastly forms of “evil” have bound the father and mother of humanity.

Satan then is exposed and seen. Fear made him a monster, but now the light comes and hell loses its power to frighten and control.

There is some similarity in this depiction to the Palden Lhamo. To consider this Buddhist iconography superficially is to be appalled by its glorified images of death and destruction – which are very similar in theme to the Christian hell.

But the point of the “dark goddess,” as the Lhamo is called, is to suppress nothing and make EVERYTHING conscious, even that which appears awful.

To the awakened, enlightened and “saved,” there is no place in the entire universe where light and truth are not present.

The Resurrection of Christ is a most wondrous thing – a joyful celebration so very far from what the world has to offer. Whether today one’s experience of it remains close or distant, at some point it will become absolutely real . . . to all.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. go into dead at the middle
    cast an 'e' over,.. than a 'd'
    and we have "aded" which i am pretty sure
    is Druid for , "into the light, now",
    beautiful children of the Earth and Sky.

  3. YEAH!
    Nesia- You are burnin' it UP!
    Thank you!

  4. Did Jesus defeat death or did he simply overcome it?

    Seems to me that the idea that you can fight a battle against death and defeat it like an enemy is the product of a mind which sees everything as an enemy to be defeated. Death being the ultimate "thing" to be vanquished.

    By surrendering to death on the cross, by giving up all attachment to the body, death no longer has any hold or power or control ...

  5. Phil, like surrendering and walking 'through'... cool.