I think that Christianity may have conflated Jesus’s mystical experience of an ego death, perhaps at the time of his baptism when the “heavens opened,” in which his individual psychological self “died” and he was was “reborn” of Spirit, or “raised up” (resurrected) to his identity in Christ consciousness (a consciousness of nondual union in God/Reality), with his biological death on the cross. These two deaths seem to have been conflated at some point, resulting in a supernatural conception of the resurrection.
I think Jesus realized his “resurrected” Christ nature at the start of his ministry, not at the end, or after the end of his life. This is the very thing that likely compelled him into his ministry, and gave him the deep understanding and insight to teach and guide others to Love and to God. Biblical scholar Margaret Barker seems to share this view.
Although there is a similar pattern that is shared in both ego death and biological death, they are not the same deaths, and the subsequent “resurrections” are not identical either. There are differences.
After ego death one returns to human life, but with a “new name,” a new identity, knowing that one is a part of Christ, that the Life living within one’s finite body-mind is essentially Christ, One in God (see Paul in Galatians 2:20). One doesn’t suddenly become Christ, or have Christ enter them, but rather they awake to the ever-present reality of their true Self which has always been and always will be Christ. They have realized their true nature, their true eternal Self in God, that they are a manifestation or incarnation of God/Father/Source/Reality/Cosmos. They continue to live human life, but from the consciousness and perspective of the divine Christ, from this nondual unitive consciousness, which Jesus also called the “Kingdom,” which sees God in all beings and in all things, everything is seen as a manifestation of the One Divine Being of the Cosmos. This realization and embodiment of their true nature in this Christic oneness might be said to be their resurrection during life. It is an intimate knowledge of the eternal deep nondual union between spirit (mind) and matter (body), of the eternal quality of the Life-energy within them, and timeless identification in the Godhead which pours its Self out into all creation.
After biological death, this divine energy and matter that were flowing through one’s finite body-mind returns to Nature, to the Cosmos, to the “Father,” to be taken up again in all new forms of life throughout creation. This is also the Christ. This is how the Christ was originally taken up in their own individual finite body when they were born, but of which they did not know for many years until their rebirth/resurrection into Christ consciousness. This is the Self of God resurrecting or re-incarnating in diverse new forms throughout all creation, everywhere Life and Love incarnate. Christ continues to live in all of Life and Creation, including newborn humans. The Spirit of God takes on many new incarnations, new manifestations, new emanations, eternally throughout the Cosmos, every time that eternal Spirit manifests in a new form, which is all the time, every moment, the eternal Now. The biological death of the individual finite body-mind of the person is not the end of Christ, but rather Christ continues to Live and re-incarnate/resurrect in a multiplicity of diverse forms. The individual ego doesn’t live on, but rather the true Self, the Christ, lives on.
In the years following Jesus’ ministry and death, I think these two deaths may have been conflated and confused with one another. This may be why some began to think that the resurrection of Christ after biological death would be the reanimation of Jesus’ finite body. They misunderstood that the finite Jesus would live again, instead of realizing that it was Christ who was and is reborn/resurrected and lives eternally, not Jesus. This conflation seems to have led to much misunderstanding in Christianity, where many think that Jesus still lives somewhere and will return again to Earth. No, I don’t think that is the case. It seems to me that it is Christ who is realized again and again and again, who “comes” to those who awaken to the Christ nature living within their own selves, which is their true Self, this nondual at-one Christ consciousness, this realization of unity in God/Reality/Nature/Cosmos, even as Paul seems to attest throughout his writings. I also attest to it.
Understanding the difference between these two deaths, I think, will help us understand Christianity better, as well as many other religious traditions where we currently think they contradict one another. The best way to understand the first death, of ego, is to experience it yourself through contemplative practices such as meditation or centering prayer which allow the ego-self to fall away from consciousness. As many spiritual teachers have said, you “die before you die,” in order to know this rebirth/resurrection, to know your true identity. The “I” that you thought you were passes away from consciousness, and the true Self is unveiled, the Self you really are. This is known to Christians as the Christ. In other traditions I think it is quite similar to the Atman, the Buddha-nature (Tathagata), the al-Insān al-Kāmil, the Messiah, the Great Spirit, the Tao. It is a deep recognition that you are not separate from the Cosmos, but are One with It.
(If you enjoy this writing and content, please consider giving a Gift as a token of your appreciation and support. I am deeply grateful to you. -Bryce)
Does considering these two different types of death help you understand Christianity better, and the nature of the resurrection? Please share your thoughts in the comments.