Death and Resurrection

The Earliest fresco of the Virgin Mary, in the...
The Earliest fresco of the Virgin Mary, in the Catacomb of Priscilla from the middle of the 2nd century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Countless scholars, depth psychologists and writers point out that the motif of death and resurrection is found throughout world religion, mythology, literature and the arts.

The death may be symbolic, involving a hero who undergoes a psychological or societal ‘death’ by leaving everyday life for the underworld. He or she typically encounters unusual friends, foes, adventures and battles, only to return utterly transformed.

This kind of symbolic death and resurrection is championed by the depth psychiatrist C. G. Jung and also by the mythographer Joseph Campbell. But it need not be a single, big event. As a friend of mine said quite a few years ago, she’s been through several symbolic deaths and resurrections.

At the time I thought my friend just didn’t get it because I’d been through a pretty big change, which my ego told me was way more significant than what she was talking about. But I came to see that she was right. At least, she was right in that we can all go through many symbolic deaths and resurrections according to who we are and what we need so as to grow in life.

As Sonia Neale beautifully puts it from a Buddhist perspective, and in the context of leaving her therapist:

It is normal to grieve and mourn. This non-attachment is difficult because every breath of warm wind, every flower and tree, in fact almost everything reminds me of someone I love dearly and have to let go.  Even being alive reminds me of what I have lost.  But I now believe that when you lose something, it is replaced with something of equal value or better.¹

The mythic theme of death and resurrection also takes the form of an actual death, as we find in sacred accounts of the Hindu Siva and Kali, the Egyptian Isis and Osiris, the Greek Persephone and Demeter, as well as in the story of Jesus and The Virgin Mary.

We also find many accounts where archaic societies sacrificed human beings to appease their gods or spirits. And it was generally believed that the sacrificial victims were generously rewarded in the afterlife. Such practices were found in Greece, Rome, India, China, Celtic and Viking Europe as well as Mesoamerica.

¹ Neale, S. (2011). Death and Resurrection Through Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 28, 2012, from


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