On Friday, May 13th, I'm publishing my second novel, The Awakening. The novel (the first book in the supernatural suspense Rebirth trilogy about the end of the world) is one of the many stories to come out of my quest to find the divine, a journey that has covered more than two decades and deeply explored more than a dozen of the world's religions. Rather than present the events from a single perspective, there are characters from all races, religions, and creeds populating the series. The perspective embraces the common ground found between all of those characters - from religion to science - and explains where and how many of our cultural biases and human prejudices originate.
One of the key themes of the series is that what we've been taught is not an accurate reflection of reality.
For instance, in researching Christianity, I discovered that much of what the modern Church teaches is, at best, only part of the story.
Take, for instance, the crucifixion.
Think about what you know of the story. Chances are that all of us have read, heard, or seen some variation of the tale. If we take the event as historical fact, there are at least three key points that were either lost along the way or are unintentionally misrepresented today.
One of the most egregious?
The crucifixion wasn't a method of execution.
It was a way to symbolically erase a person from existence.
We look at the events leading up to Jesus's death and think, "Wow... that must have really sucked. Could I have gone through with it had I known I was going to have spikes driven through my body and hung up to die in public?" I can guarantee you that was not the source of the anguish Jesus felt as he prayed in the garden.
In our modern culture, everything is pretty cut and dry. Symbolism still speaks to us, but it isn't a large part of our conscious lives. For instance, the images of the lone Chinese person stepping in front of a tank during 1989's Tiananmen Square protests weren't simply an individual standing in the way of a vehicle. They spoke volumes on a symbolic level.
The act of crucifixion carried a similar message.
What we often forget is the area that Jesus lived in was occupied by a foreign military. To understand that perspective, think of your country's enemy - someone that you would fear if you faced them in a war. Now imagine that they have conquered you, that they are sitting in your city, state, and national seats of power, making the rules and you live according to their laws. Their mere presence is a constant reminder that you lost. This immediately makes you a second class citizen in your own country.
Crucifixion was not a Jewish method of execution; they typically relied on stoning a person to death. The Romans brought crucifixion with them and implemented the laws related to the act.
(And yes, there is a world of back story about Pharisees bringing a fellow Jew to the occupying army to have him executed.)
One of the reason why the Romans were accommodating of many Jewish beliefs and traditions was because the Romans were pantheistic. Rather than believing in one god, as the Jews did, they believed that there were many gods. From this perspective, by accommodating Jewish beliefs and allowing them to practice their own religion, Romans were honoring the greater concept of the divine as they saw the Jewish God as simply another member of the extended divine family. What most people don't realize is that in practice, monotheism essentially says, "There is only one manifestation of the divine," while pantheism says, "There are endless expressions of the divine." The Pharisees enforced Jewish law and the structure of the "one" way; the Romans, on the other hand, honored the greater weave of the divine by accommodating Jewish beliefs as much as was realistic for an occupying military force to accommodate.
What's more is that this acceptance of gods other than their own resulted in an adoption of beliefs from other cultures. The cross is meant to represent the Egyptian ankh - the symbol of life. And this is where things get interesting.
We look at crucifixion as being nailed to a cross and left there until you died. In reality, crucifixion was brining death through the symbol of life. In a symbolic sense, the two cancelled each other out in much the same way that combining a +1 and a -1 result in zero. Crucifixion wasn't a method of execution, it was a way to symbolically erase the person from reality. It said, in a very public way, "This person's entire existence was a mistake. We are publicly declaring that they should have never been born. When they die, they won't simply be dead - they will have never existed."
Imagine what it would be like to know that your path led to that moment, that you would be displayed to the masses and they would agree that every moment you'd lived, every breath, every sacrifice, every heartache was a mistake because you should have never lived. Imagine what the disciples felt, faced with the life of the man they followed and believed in being erased before their eyes. Imagine being a man named Simon, being seized by soldiers and forced to carry the cross behind Jesus, as the crowd jeered you both.
With just this single piece of the puzzle in place, we understand the depth of anguish Jesus felt as he prayed in the garden. We can understand why Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. We can understand why, after betraying Jesus, Judas committed suicide when he realized that he had led a man he had followed to the cross.
And this is one of the smallest pieces of this one story that we've lost along the way.
The Awakening is the first book in a trilogy called Rebirth. By the end of the series, we'll have explored everything from modern Christianity to indigenous beliefs, from prophecy to quantum physics in the same depth, watching as the individuals threads are woven into a single pattern.
Starting Monday, I'll be offering insight into the secrets behind The Awakening as we countdown to Friday the 13th. Each day we'll explore another facet of the story, framing the larger tale without giving away any of the novel. The first three chapters are online if you'd like a free preview and the autographed paperback edition can be purchased for $15 (which includes shipping to addresses in the continental United States). Ebook editions will be available through Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com on the 13th for $0.99.
If you're interested in pieces of the story of Jesus that we've lost along the way, I'll be publishing my first non-fiction book, Word and Deed: A New Perspective On Jesus, in about a month. It will be followed by Unfolding Reality: Waking Up, a book on the lessons and insight that I've learned as a traditionally trained shaman.