Reinterpreting the Resurrection Beyond the Literal

A belief in the Resurrection does not have to include belief in the literal reanimation of Jesus’ body, that his dead human body literally came back to life and walked out of the tomb.

I suggest there are other ways of interpreting the Resurrection myth that are far less unbelievable in our modern age where science informs us that dead human bodies always decompose in their graves and do not ever spontaneously come back to life in their original form.

As Richard Rohr says of scriptural interpretation,

The literal level of meaning doesn’t get to the root and, in fact, is the least helpful to the soul and the most dangerous for history. Deep meaning offers symbolic or allegorical applications… [and] hidden meaning gets at the Mystery itself.

Rohr, “Midrash,” daily meditation, 7 January 2019

What is that “Mystery itself” with regard to the Resurrection? Well, as Rohr says, that is hidden and ineffable, because it is the Mystery itself. But we can do our best with the symbolic pointers of language.

I suggest the Resurrection is referring to the same thing that many other spiritual traditions point to in other terms such as Awakening, Enlightenment, Realization, Liberation, Moksha, etc., or even that Christianity points to with other terms like Salvation, Redemption, Rebirth, Divinization, and Theosis. It is pointing to the deep recognition of our Divine nature, our Oneness in God or the Ultimate Reality, our fundamental Essence that is inseparable from the Whole. When we “resurrect” we come to a direct and unmistakable understanding of our deeper and truer eternal Self, and that we are always already the re-incarnation of that deepest Reality into spaciotemporal form(s).

To use an analogy, the current human body we seem to have is like a wave of the ocean. A wave has a birth, a beginning, a formation, development, temporal existence, shape, uniqueness, and it will have an end when it crashes on the shore or subsides. Resurrection is not the return of that particular wave, as the literal interpretation makes it seem, rather it is the realization that one’s deeper nature is Ocean, and always has been, in whatever forms that takes throughout spacetime. The particular wave does not need to return when the Ocean can simply reform its Self into endless new waves of different forms, shapes, sizes, durations, uniqueness, etc. They are always already incarnations of the Ocean.

A literal belief in resurrection as the reanimation of a particular human body is perhaps, at worst, an egoic attachment to the ego identity, to a particular separate self, a particular human body/brain, believing that to be the extent of our identity. It may be like a wave hanging on to its particular form as the shore approaches, not knowing it is really Ocean.

As is sometimes said, “the ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality.” In traditional Christianity it seems the ego wants to believe that resurrection is the continuation of one’s ego, one’s particular human identity, one’s present human body, forever! Even after the ego dies! Maybe there is a message in why many horror stories are filled with such reanimation revenant myths, including zombies, the undead, Frankenstein, mummies, ghosts, vampires, etc; perhaps the return of the dead is actually revolting and disturbing, and is not what we truly desire.

I suggest that a better interpretation of the Resurrection is not the return of the ego after ego death, or the literal return of a body after bodily death, but the return of one’s true Identity after ego death. Indeed, it is ego death that brings Awakening, it is that crucifixion which brings Resurrection, it is the dissolution of the false identity and the revelation of our true Identity as Christ. It is the recovery of One’s true Self, the One that we have always been and always will be, which we had forgotten under the veil of ego.


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4 thoughts on “Reinterpreting the Resurrection Beyond the Literal

  1. I have long thought that the literal interpretation of most concepts in Christianity are unhelpful and confusing, at best, and downright crazy-making delusional at worst. It seems turning any spiritual insight into a religion is problematic, as it grows in ego as it gains momentum – the very oppositve of any worthwhile spiritual insight.

    1. Yes, I agree, literal interpretations are almost always problematic in many ways. Religion seems to have a tendency to move towards literal interpretations over time, which is why I think it is so important to point back to direct mystical experience, so that we can always stay in touch directly with the ultimate spiritual Reality itself. The best religions know how to guide us back to that direct experience.

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