Easter and the World Egg
The World Egg
The World Egg symbolizes the germ, the embryonic state of the Cosmos, preceding its full development. The Egg develops equally in all directions; it represents also the Centre of the Cosmos. As the germ occupying a central position, the World Egg contains all the manifestation possibilities in a potential state.
The way the Egg comes to the world differs according to various traditions. In the Celtic traditions, it is represented by the “fossil Sea-Urchin”. In ancient Egypt, it comes from Kneph's mouth taking the appearance of a snake, image of the importance of the Word in the manifestation production. In other traditions, the Egg rises to the primeval water surface where it is incubated before being separated into two halves and giving birth to Heaven and Earth. The yin-yang symbol of the Chinese tradition gives a good example of this differentiation with its both white and black halves. See the double spiral for more details.
Any differentiation, any polarization proper to the manifested world is potentially contained in the World Egg and can only be solved within the unity that it is symbolizing. When the scholars asked which came first the chicken or the egg, Angelus Silesius, the 17th century poet, answered: “the chicken was in the egg and the egg in the chicken”. No term of a duality can be reduced to the other, hence that nostalgia feeling of the lost unity (for more details about this point see the Androgyne).
Mentioning the unity and the hidden Centre inside is probably at the source of the egg quest around Easter and the custom to dissimulate them in the garden for the greatest children joy. During the night preceding Easter Sunday, the eggs are dropped by the bells in most parts of France; the stork in Thuringia; the hen in Tyrol; the cuckoo in Switzerland; the hare or the rabbit in Alsace, in several German regions and the United-States 1; the fox in Westphalia etc.
This search for the unity is represented in most traditions by the cosmic cave, symbol of Jesus tomb where he was left after his crucifixion.
The cosmic cave
Left in the tomb, the Christ resuscitated in the silence of the
night, without any witness. The cave, image of the underground voyage of the being wandering in the darkness, is also the discovery place of the (spiritual) Knowledge. Following the example of the Cosmic Egg, the cave constitutes the matrix where manifestation possibilities are revealed and resorbed, where its cosmic qualification is coming from. Indeed, it is the place of three births:
- The first birth of physical order corresponds to the entry into the Cosmos. Then the cave is synonym of a cave, of a crib.
- Following the death in the profane world, the second birth consists in a complete re-generation of the being transformed into an individual (from “individuum”, meaning indivisible or one). It is a question of psychical order re-birth inside the cave which
becomes a sepulchre place for the ordinary being.
- After the death in the cosmic world, the third birth transforms
the individual into a supra-individual, supra-cosmic being, a One. It is only question here of a birth of spiritual order, of a resurrection out of the cave, out of the Cosmos.
The last two births correspond to both successive phases of the full initiation of the being to the “little mysteries” that make a real human being out of him as well as to the “great mysteries” which transform him into a total being. Such a metamorphosis can only become effective when rising along the vertical axis of the cave. It follows that if the cave entry lies at the ground level (terrestrial), the way out goes through an opening located in the (celestial) vault of the cave, which means at the top of the mountain where it is confined.
For the ordinary being, the cosmic cave is bathed in darkness. When he has reached the human state, the being is only lit about himself and nobody else. This light is however only a pale reflection of the supra-cosmic Light coming from the cave vault opening. It is only revealing shadows on the walls as long as the individual has not achieved the state of total being. Only the upper way out can liberate the beings from the prison of their human condition. Then they really see the day light and can contemplate the blissful reality. Plato's cave undeniably has a metaphysical meaning.
When he comes out of the cave, the being has reached the state of fullness, unifying human and divine aspects often represented by the cross symbol.
The horizontal branch represents all the extension of the human possibilities associated with some state of being. The “Middle” of each of them corresponds to the state of the being centred in himself, who has re-integrated all the human possibilities related to this. He stands then in a point of the vertical branch, from where he may perceive the centres of the multiple states of the being between Earth and Heaven. The vertical branch symbolizes the communication axis between celestial and terrestrial influences. Consequently, the two horizontal and vertical branches testify the double human and divine nature of the Christ. Standing at the branch crossing, he is mediator
par excellence between Heaven and Earth. For more details, see the cross.
The Centre of the cross represents at the same time the primal origin and the ultimate end of all beings, the state preceding the “fall” and following the “redemption”. It is a resting balance state between the diverse directions, of total presence beyond the succession of life and death cycles, of inner Peace compared to the outer nervousness. The being who has reached the Centre stands motionless against the move of the “cosmic wheel” dragged by the spokes stemming from the Centre like branches. It is the place where everything merges into unity, bliss.
The branch crossing depicts the “divine presence” in the being's centre, symbolized by the heart in diverse traditions. Also, why looking far away, up there for what is here below, within ourselves ? Has Jesus not said: “The Kingdom of God is in you”.
- René Guénon:
- “Symbols of Sacred Science”, Sophia Perennis Publisher 2004;
- Notably, chapter 33 on the Cave and World Egg.
- “The symbolism of the cross”, Sophia Perennis Et Universalis Published;
- Particularly, chapters 3 on the metaphysic symbolism of the cross and 7 on the resolution of oppositions.
- Jean-Marie Pelt:
- “Flowers, feasts and seasons”, Fayard Publisher, 1988;
- Particularly, chapters on “the wood of the Cross” and the “gardens of Easter”.
1 back The late introduction of animals and, in particular, of the hare in the 17th century has probably a protestant origin to overshadow the catholic reference to the bells going to and coming back from Rome.