Everyone is familiar with Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech.” But less familiar are some of his other brilliant sermons. One of which includes his sermon, “Questions that Easter Answers.” Whether you celebrate Easter or Ostara, the theme of the holiday is rebirth. Spring emerging from winter. Life restored after death. Or the transition from life into death, which is not an end, but the gateway to a new and more powerful reality.
The mythos of Jesus dying and returning from the dead is an archetype found in many ancient religions that preceded Christianity. Most similar is the Egyptian God Osiris who did the very same thing.
So in his speech, Martin Luther King addresses some of the questions raised by this holiday. Is there anything after death? Do we just die and cease to exist, or is there a greater reality? And then that brings up another question, is there an invisible spiritual reality that is even greater than this one. So great in fact that our current reality is but the shadow of an unseen, powerful, spiritual world.
Quote From MLK’s Easter Sermon:
You walk out at night, and you look up at the beautiful stars as they bedeck the heavens like swinging lanterns of eternity, and somehow you think you see all. But oh no, you can never see the law of gravitation that holds them there. You look at this building, and you look at its beautiful architecture, and you think you see all. You look out and you walk out this morning, and you look over at the beautiful capitol building and all of the surrounding buildings, and you think you see all.
The materialist would say that’s about all. But oh no, you don’t see. all You can never see the mind of the architect who drew the blueprint You can never see the faith and the hope and the love of the individuals who made this church possible. You can see the external bricks, you can see the building, but you cannot see the internal forces that brought it into being.
You look up here this morning and hear somebody talking and you cry out, “Yes,
I see you, M L King.” But I’m here to tell you this morning that you don’t see me.
(No) You look here, and you see my body. You see my external being. You see something
that’s merely a manifestation of something else. But the real me, you can
never see (Amen). You can never see that something that the psychologists call my
personality. ( Yeah) You can never see my mind. You can never see my ideas. You can
only see my body, and my body can’t think. My body can’t reason. My body only
moves at the dictates of my mind. And so this morning, Easter tells us that everything
that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see. The visible IS a
shadow cast by the invisible. Easter cries out to us that the idealists are right, that it
is ultimately mind, personality, spiritual forces that are eternal and not merely these
material things that we look about and see.
For, one day, the gigantic mountains will pass away. One day, even the stars that bedeck the heavens will move out of their course. One day, the beautiful building of Dexter will not stand here. But there is something that will stand. There is faith, there is love, there is hope, there is something beyond the external that will stand through the ages.
One source of debate in the pagan community is whether people should mix and match Gods.
Some feel that this is disrespectful to the Gods invoked.
My personal view is that the most important thing is to have a strong relationship and respect for whatever God it is that you are working with. Even if you invoke two Gods from the same pantheon, it is still highly disrespectful if you’re just treating them like errand boys for the sake of some spell you want to complete, as if they are nothing but ingredients called for in a recipe.
So the first most important thing is respect.
Secondly, it’s import to let the Gods come to you. Sometimes people will get approached by Gods from different pantheons. In my own meditations I have had different Gods appear to me, such as Brigid, Odin, and Krishna. All from different pantheons.
My own opinion is that the pagan traditions from different parts of the world shouldn’t be treated the same way that people have come to treat monotheistic religions. Before monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam became the dominant religions in the globe, spiritual practice was more organic. People simply worshiped the Gods that were revered among their local area and folk.
But sometimes different populations migrated and merged. And so you even had mixing and matching of Gods in the ancient world. When more Gauls started living in the Roman Empire, and serving in the Roman Army, you had Roman soldiers praying to the Gallic Goddess of horses, Epona.
And during the reign of Augustus Caesar, worship of Near-Eastern Goddesses like Isis became so popular that the Emperor himself couldn’t even stop it. Augustus was known to call the worship of the Near-Eastern Gods pornographic. This is probably because of his antagonistic relations with Antony in Egypt at the time. However, the later emperor Caligula embraced the religion. Temples to Isis were permitted and Isiac festivals became a part of the public and civil calendar. (The Original Trinity Brought To You By Egypt).
So if people in the ancient world mixed and matched, I don’t see why it should be an issue today. Many people treat pagan-traditions from a certain part of the world as a complete package. The thinking is, “Well if the Norse only worshiped the Norse Gods, then there is some prohibition on me working with any other type of deities.” We must remember that people probably only worshiped a select group of deities because these were the deities revered in their area and by their ancestors. And also to counter this point, there is a lot of evidence that the Norse Gods themselves are actually a mixture of two different groups that merged together. (The original Scandinavians and the Germanic peoples who migrated to their lands). Some people say this is why the Norse Gods are referred to by multiple names, and why you have the Vanir and the Aesir (two different groups of Gods).
Then there is the Folkish argument that people should only work with the Gods in their bloodline. If this type of thinking is true, then what about a mixed person? Even many people in America who simply think of themselves as “white” have ancestors from a large number of different European countries. When I did one of those Ancestry.com DNA tests, I found out that I had ancestors from (going from largest percentage to least) Ireland, France, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Iran. So if we’re using the Folkish argument, that actually encourages mixing and matching Gods among lots of folk.
In today’s world we are very diverse. We have access to the internet. We have access to many different types of thinking. So it is probably even more likely that polytheists may end up working with Gods of different traditions. Is that a bad thing? Personally, I don’t think so. Just be respectful and thoughtful in your approach.