When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they were at the end of their rope. There was no resistance to its presence, because they had surrendered their lives already. There was no place to go but up.
As the repository of truth, the Holy Spririt opens us into understanding that may make our prior lives seem shallow and vain. That was certainly true for the disciples, but it was an experience that they received joyfully for suffering had been their prior occupation. To have revealed the purpose of that struggle was to discover the extent of their own strength.
To understand the mechanisms whereby Christ arranged this transformation, we have to understand the nature of Death. Not “death”, which is the end of our physical existence, but “death” as revealed in Revelation: one of the six forms of selfishness that- approximately three billion years ago – were released upon the world when the seals of the scroll were broken.
Death is not the destroyer, but a divider. When we die, we pass through a door that human love can rarely penetrate. In moments of intense psychic focus – when our lives are threatened, for example – messages may pierce the veil, but the grieving that survivors suffer reflects the loss of a relationship with the departed soul. Death is the personality that manages that barrier.
Sometimes there is value in separation. It allows us to shed associations that are harmful to us. As suggested in the parables of Hades and the Inferno, that process may continue even after dying, as we surrender to Death the destructive energies we accumulated during our lives. Consider the pride of the pathetic Sisyphus, mindlessly pushing a rock up against the pressure of Death’s will, like a galley slave pulling an oar. This is why the evil fear to die – they know intuitively that their spirits will be broken and repurposed in the afterlife.
So why did Christ struggle for us against Death? Because Death serves no purpose but the spread of its influence. It is a greedy spirit, and loathes to surrender its captives. Indeed, it held sway in the world for a long, long time. The drives of Darwinian evolution are simply an impotent exploration of biological strategies for avoiding Death’s grasp.
This is why the innocent Adam was told “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree [of the Knowledge of Good and Evil], for surely you will die.” The pull of death on our physiology is manifested by a deep winding of its influence within our DNA. When God “breathed life” into Adam, it was to dispel that presence. When the fruit was eaten, we opened our hearts once again to death.
We are nearing the end of the long road of pain and suffering that was set before us. The key is to embrace the Prince of Peace. Looking at the degree to which human history is defined by our wars, we need to step back and consider why that has been so difficult.
The short answer is because it is like dying.
You see, when Jesus took up his cross, he did not conquer death. He confronted it, let it work its will on him, and suffused it with love. Jesus tamed death, chaining its hunger to the service of love. There are things in the world that do not work well together. The tension between Hitler and Stalin is an illustration, as is the tension between freedom and government. To prevent those tensions from flaring into destruction, sometimes things need to be separated. They need to “go to their rooms,” not as punishment, but to give them time to relax and envision a resolution of their differences.
This is the authority that Christ gained on the cross: To turn the talents of Death to the purposes of healing and creation.
The challenge that we must confront is our investment in the psychological practices of death avoidance. For many of us, they define our existence. We create conflict around ourselves as a means of protecting ourselves from loss of life. In a sense, the strong still eat the weak, it’s just that they do it indirectly, using the police to impose the Sisyphean burden on our underclasses. Having acquired that power, we console ourselves with the construction of a facade of elegance and civility, a facade now being torn away most notably by Donald Trump.
So to accept the Prince of Peace is to become aware of that social vampirism. It is to become aware that there are others that need his attention more. It is to become aware that we are the cause of our own pain.
That is why those that have the power to elaborate it instead run from the Truth that transforms the world.
Pity poor Christ in his suffering for the oppressed. Calling out with love to the powerful is the only method allowed to him.