Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Jesus as the Archetype Shaman (Part 4c): extended journey and communication with spirits

The story of the the death and resurrection of Jesus covers a three day period.  In this three day period tradition and Biblical narrative relate to a soul journey by the man in the tomb of Gethsemane: a journey which would take him on a visit to the souls of other departed individuals and a return to life in triumph over death itself.

This journey into death, which appeared to be a hopeless end to a powerfully lived life would become the ultimate statement of his power.  Like the initiatory trances, sicknesses, and journeys by many Shamans in many cultures, the journey of Jesus into death is a crisis, which necessitated a return as proof of his power.

This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.  When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.'

"Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first."

Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how."  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

This three day period is reflected upon by the Apostle Peter who gives insight to the soul travels of Jesus with these words, >I>"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient...."

The journeys of Shamans in a variety of folk traditions from Siberia to South America relate of dangerous trance journeys into the underworld.  Communication with spirits is a regular aspect of these travels.  We find this motif being reiterated in the death and resurrection of Christ.

For three days Jesus is faced with humanity's greatest enemy - death itself, and according to narrative laid out in Christian tradition, Jesus communicates with the dead, and returns from the grave.  In this we see once again that Christ could easily be seen as an archetype Shaman.  His communication with spirits of the dead, and his return to life from death become a literal fulfillment of that which is experienced only in traces by Shamans of tribes across the world.

This is a continuation of thoughts on Jesus as the archetype Shaman.  Previous posts relating to this topic can be found below:

Part 1 of the series
Part 2 of the series
Part 3 (thoughts on shamanism and glossalalia as it relates to Christians)
Part 4a of the series
Part 4b Descent by crisis or struggle

Passages above come from these Biblical passages and are from the New King James version:
descent for days/ extended journey (Mt. 27:62-28:6)
descent and communication with spirits (1 Peter 3:18-19)


cern said...

1 Peter 3:18-20 seems to be the bit that suggests some kind of 'preaching to the spirits of the dead'. That extra bit in 20 adds the context a bit (had to look it up in the contemporary English version rather than NIV to get some idea of what it was going on about though).

I'd suggest that this was a single journey... and one where Jesus was already headed in that direction. In order to get there Jesus had to undergo a 'death of the flesh' in, so we're told in the bible, a literal sense. That's a little different to the 'little death' that some shamanic traditions describe as an initiatory experience (and sometimes as a regular feature of journeying to the underworld).

Certainly it might be a way of looking at the crucifixion and resurrection in a way that might be recognised by a shamanic practitioner. But to suggest that as evidence of Jesus as an archetype shaman might be missing something of the shamanic understanding of the various reasons why one might journey to the lower world (underworld). The psychopomp aspect works in the story. But I'm not sure journeying to seek guidance from ones ancestors would fit so well. :)



Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike,

This was still unfinished thought, and I hit publish instead of save - oh well. You will see it change.

The psychopomp dynamic of Jesus' death is pert of the communication with spirits, but not the whole of the aspect I think. Although he does not descend into the underworld to learn from the spirits, he does speak with them, and rather than being a learner we find that he is the teacher of them. This would seem to imply a higher level of authority, and therefore in spirit communication would put him in a archetypal position if his role is viewed as having shamanic similarities. Not just a communicator with the spirits, but a ruling elder of them. This is not unlike some of Eliade's identifications of an archetype shaman from the supposed ancient stories of certain cultures.

James Eddy said...

Isn't there also a verse in the bible where Jesus says that "the least among you can do what I have done and more"...?
If this is so, then perhaps the Shamans themselves have the devine stamp of approval?