The Cross and the Crown (Video Script)
If God is good, why is there evil and suffering in the world? This question is particularly troublesome in situations involving apparent innocent suffering, as frequently occurs when multitudes are killed or injured in natural disasters.
If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, how can this be allowed to happen? If God is NOT all-knowing and all-powerful, what kind of God is that, anyway? This dilemma poses a great challenge, not only to theologians and philosophers, but for every soul in search of God.
The standard religious answer is that God indeed is good, all knowing, and all powerful, but has reasons for allowing evil and suffering to exist that are beyond human understanding. Thus ultimately, it becomes a matter of faith and acceptance.
Faith not withstanding, there are other ways of contemplating why bad things happen to good people – and that is principally the issue here. If people who do bad things suffer, we might see it as justice – sad but deserved. Thus the problem of evil can be distinguished, to a certain extent, from suffering, especially suffering of the innocent. For it is apparent undeserved suffering that touches us most deeply and makes us doubt.
Let’s back up for a moment and try to take in the big picture once again. Within the broader context of soul development, human experience on planet earth is part of a cosmic education program. The lessons of life are intended to assist souls in the process of growing up to be fit companions with the Creator.
In our classroom of earthly life, the question really becomes, what is the optimal environment for soul development? To be sure, it is NOT an easy curriculum.
The Problem of Evil
As stated previously, one can take the position that humans cannot understand God, and just have to accept the presence of evil in the world as God’s will. Another explanation, which does not necessarily contradict the first, is that free will cannot exist without the possibility of evil. Since humans have choice, some choose to be self-centered and hurtful to others. Having given the gift of free will, God allows evil to exist but provides a universe with laws that eventually school souls to learn love. That such lessons in love may require many lifetimes, in reincarnational terms, exemplifies the patience of God. The Cayce readings even make reference to God winking at the evil of men, for a time.
In terms of the creation story we have been working with, the gift of will and subsequent rebellion in spirit prior to the creation of the physical universe is the ultimate source of evil in the world. Thus evil is selfishness, at least in terms of human relationships.
Keep in mind that in Cayce’s cosmology, the plan for soul development did not include encasement in flesh bodies on planet earth. Souls were to be companions and co-creators with the Source, but not enter into the creation itself. But souls could make that choice and did become entangled or encased in flesh bodies in this system.
As such, they became subject to the laws of materiality, and the vulnerabilities associated with this realm. Which brings us to the problem of suffering.
Why Is There Suffering?
If evil is the result of misdirected will or selfishness, then suffering can be viewed as the reward of sin, in theological terms. So long as it is only the evil that suffer for their sins, we are usually content with such a just universe. But what about suffering that appears unrelated, in any causal sense, from evil?
Keep in mind that we live in a lawful universe – and not just the laws of physics either. There are metaphysical laws that are just as real and unavoidable.
For example, just as science has identified the law of cause and effect at a physical level, it also applies in the mental and spiritual dimensions of earthly life. In other words, we reap what we sow.
In the traditional Hindu approach to spirituality, the law of cause and effect carried over from one lifetime to another through reincarnation is called karma. Karma can be thought of as a wheel – what goes around comes around. Thus we are constantly meeting ourselves in the mirror of life.
In terms of evil and suffering, karma can help explain why children are sometimes born with terrible afflictions or suffer awful accidents. If the effect of a misdeed in a past life is carried over as a birth defect or childhood illness or injury, the question of innocent suffering of children can be seen as part of the broader educational process of soul development.
The Cayce readings contain numerous cases of such karmic suffering. Lest we become too simplistic in our comprehension of these delicate matters, sometimes the karmic patterns can become quite convoluted. For instance in one case involving a severe birth defect, the parents were told that their child had chosen to incarnate into the deformed body as a gift to the parents – as an opportunity for THEIR soul development. It was THEIR karma to be worked out. They were encouraged to raise the child themselves rather than put it in an institution.
We are reminded of the biblical story of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. (John 9:1-18) The question of cause and effect arose when his disciples asked whether the blindness was caused by sin of the man or his parents. For the man to have sinned prior to his birth indicates an awareness of reincarnation, which was an accepted doctrine of some of the Jewish sects of that time. For the affliction to have been caused by the sins of the parents indicates some prenatal indiscretion – improper care curing pregnancy or such, perhaps. Or possibly a past life entanglement working itself out.
Jesus replied that it wasn’t a matter of sin at all, but rather that the works of God could be revealed. In this case the apparent suffering wasn’t a matter of cause and effect, as the disciples had assumed, but rather a gift of that unique soul to us all. Now that is something to think about!
Sometimes evil and suffering take on a larger scale than these personal examples. When hundreds or thousands are killed or injured in a natural disaster, is this just another instance of karma – karma writ large? Perhaps. Some metaphysical traditions assert that in all such cases, the individuals involved do choose to be part of the process at some level.
Another way of thinking about such suffering in terms of cause and effect – is that each soul that has incarnated into a flesh body – has made the choice to become a participant in physical reality under the laws of the physical universe. Within the creation story, this is the phase where some souls varied from the plan and entered into their own creation; like a screenwriter creating a part for himself in his own movie script.
By entering into materiality in a flesh body on planet earth, we have chosen to be subject to the laws of this realm. Laws are impersonal. If we choose to live on the side of a volcano, or in an earthquake prone area, we may meet the laws of nature in those ways.
The point is not to try to explain away suffering or give the impression that it is purely a rational matter of calculating cause and effect. It is usually not that simple.
To the extent that we don’t fully understand the reason for our suffering in every case, there is a place for faith in dealing with suffering. We can have faith in the unseen forces of the universe – that the universe itself is set up for our optimal benefit, even if we don’t fully realize it at the moment.
We are each constantly meeting ourselves and what we have created. To learn our lessons, we must take responsibility for our choices – even when we are not fully conscious of the entire process.
The Symbol of the Cross
The cross is one of the most ancient and widely used human symbols, ranging from the Egyptian ankh to the stone circles of native Americans. As a practical matter, the cross can represent the division of the world into four directions or cardinal points. As a metaphysical symbol, the vertical and horizontal members of the cross symbolize where heaven meets earth.
As a Roman torture device used to shame and crucify criminals, the cross became a powerful religious symbol in European history. Certainly, the execution of Jesus on such a cross, as documented in the New Testament, is the most potent symbolic representation of the cross in western culture, even to this day.
As a pattern of soul development, the way of the cross, as exemplified by the life and death of Jesus, provides a practical means for dealing with evil and suffering in the world. The Cayce readings provide some fascinating information about the soul entity that incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth. This soul had numerous past lives in the earth plane with its own special karma to resolve. By living the exemplary life, Jesus met his karma and provided a model for those who would emulate his example.
Even in a worst-case scenario, subjected to a humiliating and painful death, Jesus followed the way of love and thus embodied the pattern of universal consciousness that lies dormant within each soul. The man Jesus became Christ – having attained Christ consciousness by way of the cross.
Thus, in terms of soul development, the cross symbolizes that which must be borne and overcome by each individual in the midst of life. We each have our own personal cross to bear. The way of the cross is universal.
So just what is a cross, in practical terms? The cross could be a destructive habit or addiction. The cross could be suffering related to a physical or mental illness. The cross could be a troubled relationship. The cross could be any number of psychological issues that arise as we navigate life.
If the universe functions as a school and the earth is a classroom, the crosses are lessons to be learned. We must meet what we have created – that is cause and effect – that is karma. Our selfishness is to be sacrificed – symbolically crucified. That there is pain involved, and even suffering if that is our consciousness, is part of the process of transformation.
Jesus set the example but it is up to each of us to meet ourselves – to meet our own karma in love and grace. Ultimately, the lesson of the cross is to meet every circumstance of life through our spiritual ideal. Then stumbling blocks become stepping stones. In patience we transcend the obstacles set before us.
When things go badly, we can choose to make the best of the situation – to keep on keeping on by living our ideal, even if that should lead to a painful and socially shameful end. Even in the worst-case scenario of life, Jesus made the best of it. It is an example to strive toward. That’s the meaning of a spiritual ideal.
In relation to the symbol of the cross, the crown can represent at least two options in our decision-making process. Jesus wore a crown of thorns as part of his crucifixion. Thus initially the crown is part of the suffering. One could even draw parallels to the mental nature of the suffering if the symbol is interpreted with regard to anatomy and physiology.
The other symbolism of the crown in this context is the halo – the aura of light surrounding the head – the Crown of Glory that is commonly shown in the images of Jesus after the resurrection. The halo is also known as the Crown of Righteousness and Crown of Life. With this halo comes the joy, happiness, harmony, and peace of a soul closer to its Maker.