The Side-Piercing Spear, also known as the Spear of Destiny and the Lance of Longinus, is the name given to the spear that pierced the side of the Christ as Jesus as he hung on the cross, according to the Gospel of John. You hear a lot about it, particularly during the Easter season. But what is the MetaSpiritual meaning of this powerful archetype and how can understanding it offer spiritual enrichment for us?
First, Some Historical Context
Why do we call this an archetype? You may be interested to know about other ‘spear-piercings in the side of world saviors’ myths and their possible connections to the Christian Christ myth.
Even though the traditional crucifixion story from a Christian viewpoint always includes a Roman centurion using a spear to pierce Jesus’ side, which resulted in water and blood pouring out, three of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) neglect to mention it. Why did they omit this important incident?
Interestingly, the ‘spear piercing the side’ incident seems to have been added for a specific purpose. It is clear that in some of the ancient cultures in the era of and before the Roman Empire, there were sacrificial victims who were portrayed as having been ‘wounded in the side.’
The Scandinavian god Odin and Marsyas of Mindanao were said to be hung on a tree and stabbed with a spear, just as the Christ as Jesus was said to have been crucified and stabbed by Longinus’ spear. Vishnu, Wittoba, and Adonis were all crucified saviors stabbed in the side as well.
Our conclusion is that ‘side-wounding and spear-piercing’ are universal archetypes. They point to something fundamental in the human condition! The spear piercing may even point to humankind’s dynamic divinity represented by the ‘first couple’- Adam and Eve! We’ll explain later.
For example, in an archetypical motif, the Norse God Odin was hung on a tree and wounded with a spear. Much like the Christian God who was incarnated as Jesus, in the Norse mythology Odin is depicted as hanging on the ‘world-tree’ in an act of sacrifice and wounded with a spear.
In the ancient Norse text the Havamal, one of the Norse eddas, contains a poem called the Runatal (stanza 138), which quotes Odin as saying:
“I know that I hung, on a windy tree,
for all of nine nights, wounded with a spear,
and given to Óðinn, myself to myself,
on that tree, which no man knows from what roots it runs.”
What’s even more interesting is that, Odin’s beloved son, Balder, is pierced with a spear of mistletoe. Balder dies, as did the Christ as Jesus, and like Jesus in Revelation, Balder will be reborn or resurrected in the time of the Ragnarok or the Norse ‘apocalypse’ to destroy evil once and for all.
Moreover, as Jesus is the ‘Light of the World, so Balder is the ‘god of light.’ So, like Jesus, Balder is the savior of the world who brings peace. And, similar to Jesus who had 12 apostles, Balder is depicted as having 12 knights.
The Christ motif is universal. Christ means ‘the anointed one’ and is a term applied to Attis, Adonis, Tammuz, Osiris, Krishna and many other pre-Christian gods. Even the name ‘Christ’ is a variation on KRST (Horus, the Anointed One) and Krishna (Christna or Christos in Bengali) thousands of years before the Christ as Jesus walked the Earth.
In his book the Bible Fraud, author Tony Bushby reminds us: “The word Kristo and its derivations, Krst, Krist, Kristo, Khyst, and Krish-na, all appeared in every ancient religious system. The original Kristo concept was believed to be the personal and invisible mediator and guide between God and everything spiritual in man. The Krist concept has been an ancient religious tradition continually suppressed by the Catholic church through the centuries.”
Some Spear-Piercing Facts (This may get too medically technical for you! If so, just skip on to the next section, where the MetaSpiritual Interpretation Occurs)
Here are some interesting facts that would describe a spear piercing someone’s side, whether that person was the Christ as Jesus or any other of the world saviors who suffered the same fate. We’ll use the Jesus event as the archetypical example of the universal metaphysical meaning of having one’s side pierced with a spear or lance. We believe you’ll find this information interesting indeed – even life-changing.
Two aspects of Jesus’ death are sources of great controversy, even to this day. They are:
- the nature of the wound in his side and
- the cause of his death after only several hours on the cross.
Some scholars attribute the flow of water to be ascites or urine, from an abdominal midline perforation of the bladder. However, the Greek word plvra (or pleura) used in John’s Gospel clearly suggests laterality and implies the rib area being involved. It seems probable to us, given that scenario, that the wound was in the rib cavity behind the breastbone and adjacent to the thoracic vertebra, and well away from the abdominal midline.
Although the side of the body in which he was wounded was not specified by John, it traditionally has been depicted on the right side. It was probably the right side because a large flow of blood would be more likely with a perforation of the distended and thin-walled right atrium than the thick-walled and contracted left ventricle. Although the location of the wound may never be known with certainty, the right side seems more probable than the left for the reasons we outlined above.
In all due respect, some of the skepticism in accepting John’s account stems from the difficulty in explaining, with medical accuracy, the flow of both the blood and water. Part of this difficulty is based on the assumption that blood appeared first, and then the water. However, in the ancient Greek texts, it seems likely that the writer of John’s Gospel was emphasizing the prominence of blood and not its appearance preceding the water.
If you’ll allow us a few more ‘side ways’ comments: The water probably was serous pleural effusion (the fluid-filled space that surrounds the lungs) and amber-colored pericardial fluid. That means it would have preceded the flow of blood and would have been smaller in volume than the blood. What’s more, because of his impending acute heart failure, pleural and pericardial effusions may have developed and would have added to the volume of the apparent loss of water. Also, the blood, may have come from the right atrium, the right ventricle, or perhaps from hemoperieardium (blood in the pericardial sac of the heart).
Many scholars believe that Jesus died of cardiac rupture. Clearly, the weight of historical and medical conjecture indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted. And that seems to support the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart, which would have ensured his death.
A MetaSpiritual Interpretation
We’d like to cover one more point before we conclude this spear-piercing snapshot. From a purely pragmatic and mechanical standpoint, the centurion used his spear to pierce the side of the itinerate preacher to make sure Jesus would die sooner. However, from a deeply spiritually and allegorical perspective, we’re going to elaborate on the promise we mentioned earlier about the ‘first couple’ which we believe ties the spear-piercing myth to the Adam and Eve myth.
According to Jewish tradition, Eve was produced from Adam’s rib. However, allegorically speaking, we believe it means that all creation occurs when the Cosmic Life Force (Spirit’s vertical dimension) descends into matter (the horizontal dimension) and forms a right angle at the point where the two meet.
The result of this cosmic penetration is symbolized by the human skeleton, which features the spinal column and the ribs that are at right angles at their juncture. (When you stand straight with your legs together and your arms extended shoulder level high, your body is in the shape of a cross). Eve, representing universal feminine energy, is formed (set free) when the horizontal arm (rib) of the allegorical cross meets the descending energy of Spirit.
We can extend this allegory by suggesting that the spear represents a second horizontal influence, which is the product of a self-aggrandizing ego that wants to ensure its temporal rulership. It wants to make sure that not only our spiritual dimension dies but the dynamic dimension of the eternal feminine energies will be prevented from being released as they were at the ‘birth’ of Eve.
Since we first arrived on the planet, our extremely paranoid egocentric nature has sought to silence both our divine impulses and our highly intuitive Eve qualities which epitomize the heart-centered awareness that symbolize the highly nurturing, wisdom-centered, keenly subjective, unconditional love-oriented, right-brained, social and emotive nature of our make-up.
Our unenlightened ego, which is the product of our descent into matter, wants to repress our Divine Nature and keep our heart energies subordinate to our intellect. The spear (the piercing nature of our self-aggrandizement) in our side is the recalcitrant ego’s weapon of choice to ensure its dominance over our human personality. However, the same story surfaces in every faith tradition – the transforming power of our Heart Center and the resurrecting power of our Divine Nature will prevail!
We affirm you truly can overcome the metaphorical spear which tries to deny your Divinity! You have the power of choice, along with your dominion over the world of appearance, to transform your experience and resurrect your Divine Nature as you achieve Enlightenment! This is the message of Easter, and our call to action — as we walk the spiritual path on practical feet!
© 2016 Bil and Cher Holton, YourSpiritualPractice.com
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