In The Hero With a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell describes the original Gnostic image of Christ on the cross as Jesus looking straight ahead, eyes penetrating as they peer out unwavering. This is in direct contrast to the images of Christ more often seen in traditional churches, where Jesus is represented as hanging limply, staring down in defeated agony. That image is one of disempowerment, that we, like Jesus himself, are at the mercy of a judging God, that Jesus had to suffer for our sins, and that redemption can only come through proving oneself worthy to God's authority, often through punishment. But the Gnostic image turns this mythology back to the original point - that by saying "yes" to life and all of its pains, dangers, defeats, joys and triumphs we are able to attain Christhood ourselves. Jesus hangs on the cross willingly, not because the cross is a burden of suffering but because it represents the salvation and resurrection of Spirit. It is the cross of space and time, of Spirit projected into matter, and Jesus is representing, as Campbell says: "the umbilical point through which the energies of eternity break into time," which is the central point within (and point of) each of us.
The cross, or tree, of redemption is analogous to the tree of enlightenment under which we find the Buddha. It is the Christian version of the Tree of Life symbolized in many other mystery schools. And redemption itself is achieved not when we have "paid for our sins" but when we have wholeheartedly embraced every circumstance of life.
Astrologically, Christ is often associated with the sign of Pisces, the sign of the fish, as Christ was the "fisher of men." The central theme of Pisces is unity, achieved through willing surrender to life as it is. For this surrender to operate correctly we must activate Pisces's opposite, Virgo, and commit ourselves to doing work in service to others. Through this integration of action with surrender we find peace, unity and the kingdom of God within.
"I tell you the truth. The person that believes in me will do the same things I have done. Yes! He will do even greater things than I have done."
- John 14:12
The kingdoms of Heaven and Hell are separated by merely a simple switch of perception: unity or separation. Taking for oneself without regard for others creates Hell. Giving to others in love brings about Heaven. Thus whether God is empowering or disempowering lies in where we turn our eyes. By looking down in painful dejection we are looking away from the light, pretending that God is outside us and that we are removed and isolated. But when we realize and acknowledge that God is within us, our eyes turn straight forward, our spirits held upright in the security of God's love, which can never leave us since it is the very essence of our nature.
Love thy neighbor, love thy God, love thyself — when you, can see them as all the same being then you will know the kingdom of Heaven.
A very merry, joyous and loving Christmas to you and yours.