Friday, March 29, 2013

Esoteric Symbolism of the Cross

Today is Good Friday, when the Christian community commemorates the crucifixion of Christ, an event that took place two millennia in the past. The concept of Christ sacrifice on the cross as a culmination of a redemptive process has been discussed by me in past articles and also by many scholars and theologians.

The crucifixion of Jesus is a historical fact which has been hardly mentioned outside the Gospels, especially by the then contemporary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who wrote a twenty volume composition of the happenings of the time “Antiquity of the Jews”.
What is important for any one seeking to grasp the significance of the redemptive process and the role of the crucifixion is to step outside the physical event and look for deeper meaning.

One of the earliest cruciform symbols used by Christians was the Chi Rho, as you can see in the image attached to this article. It is formed by superimposing the first two letters of the word "Christ" in Greek (Χριστός, Χ = chi and ρ = rho). Although not technically a cross, the Chi Rho invokes the crucifixion of Jesus as well as symbolizing his status as the Christ. The earliest evidence of the Chi Rho symbol is Constantine's use of it on the labarum, the imperial standard, in the early 4th century CE.

Whoever thought of this symbol understood the relation between Yeshua which was the Hebrew name of Jesus the person and his spiritual status as the ‘Christos’. In his book “Inner Christianity – A Guide to Esoteric Tradition” Richard Smoley writes that symbol X can be seen as two intersecting lines signifying the representation space and the other as time, both of these dimensions being perceived in a linear form. This is exactly what we see in the theory of Einstein as the inseparable nature of Space-time. If space is represented on one line, the intersecting line represents time with infinite number of points through which space progresses at different points of its existence. The intersecting point is the present moment in space time in which our consciousness operates giving meaning to our existence in a given form as humans. The vertical line through the intersection indicates the path of progress of the soul or our consciousness which can be both above or below our current level of consciousness in this manifestation. The purpose of current existence is to rise to the very top which represents Divine consciousness as symbolized by closed loop of the vertical line in a semi circle.

The closed loop is the Ouroboros. The Ouroboros in early mythical symbolism and in Jungian archetypes often represents the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. This is very much the same as the pre-existent Logos or Christ consciousness which was made flesh or given a form through Yeshua.
A more appropriate form on the top of the vertical line would be the Egyptian symbol of the Ankh  as shown below. This figures in the Coptic cross which is one of the earliest Christian
Communities in Christendom.
The pagan Egyptian ankh was a symbol of eternal life. Specifically, it was the eternal life granted by the gods. In images the ankh is commonly held by a god, sometimes offering it to the nose and mouth of the deceased to grant the breath of life. Other images have streams of ankhs poured over pharaohs. Thus, it is not an unlikely symbol of resurrection for early Egyptian Christians.

Summarizing, the crucifixion and resurrection are integral part of every soul and Christ’s redemptive act, in death and resurrection, is in establishing a powerful symbolism of how each one of us has to be crucified in our current existence to this space-time domain yet through our spiritually empowered life, through prayer and love of all creation, ascend to the eternal which is our true nature.

Love to you all. 


  1. Thank you Tib for this wonderful reflection on the symbolism of the cross.To attempt to reach divine consciousness is the goal of my life. Yes but often it is the darkness which frightens me, though i know that light is around me too! But I would like to know what it means to be crucified in our current existence. Is it self-renunciation, self-inflicted suffering or leading life without self-interest, detached? Already our lives are filled with conflicts, sufferings and pain. Is it the acceptance of this daily cross you are talking about? Deep down I know I have to change and do I need to crucify the resistance to change?

  2. Deeply-thought and wonderfully put forth, Annan... renders an excellent theme for Good Friday to contemplate on. Lovely to ponder for hours on end!

  3. Thank you Charles for your appreciation and sharing your innermost feelings.

    First of all the meaning of being crucified to the Cross means to be manifest in this creation which entails both the horizontal dimension of space-time and the vertical dimension of spiritual ascendance.
    This is amply demonstrated in the Old Testament book of Numbers Chapter 21. The serpent is the consciousness through which knowledge enters the human and when it is rooted to the lowest ground level (the poisonous vipers on the ground)it results in death but when it is hoisted up in ascendancy there is life.

    At every moment we are existing in Space-time with a certain level of consciousness and our endeavour is to elevate this level in the vertical dimension . All the sadhana or spiritual practices are aimed at this. It is not only self-renunciation, self-inflicted suffering or leading life without self-interest but the most important is the intentions behind our every act. This is the reason that I have been talking to religious that our concept of prayers have to change. Every work we do can be turned into prayer (This in Baghavad-Gita is called Nishkamakarma - Action without any desire)

    If we live our lives in the simplest form,with all the limitations we have, always focused on purifying the body and spirit through proper nourishing of the body and elevated intention of loving all creation, we are in the path of ascendance while still crucified to our current existence.

    Change is the only thing that is permanent in creation. Resistance to change is a very limited perception of our existence.

  4. Thank you Rex for your appreciation.
    There is such an amount of wealth in the sacred scriptures and symbolism.
    It is unfortunate that we have lost this treasure in the ritualistic escapism.
    Wish you and Divya all the blessings of the risen Christ consciousness which always resides in you.