Christians today celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Christos, the Annointed One. Hail and welcome back, Christos, Sacrificed and Resurrected One!
Like all the dying and reborn Gods, the Christos rises in the spring (or whenever life renews in the land where He is worshipped). We shouldn’t be surprised to find connections between the Christos and Osiris, the Beloved God, husband of Isis, as well as with Sarapis, a syncretic Greco-Roman form of Osiris. It is not my intent to catalog those correspondences—many others have done so, some with a rather cacophonous grinding of axes.
Nevertheless, the myths of the Christos and Osiris are harmonious. Both suffer a cruel death and are revived. Jesus is returned to life by His Divine father, Osiris by His Divine wife. The human part of Jesus may be said to die on the cross while the Divine part continues to have affect in both the earthly and spiritual worlds. Osiris never had a human part (though the euhemerism of a later time claimed all the Pagan Deities were human beings who had been deified, Osiris on account of His great goodness). When Osiris dies, He is revived by Isis, but He does not simply continue on as He had been. Instead, He becomes the Judge of the Dead and remains in the Otherworld. Yet He, too, continues to affect both the earthly and spiritual planes.
In the Hymn to Osiris, Osiris is called the Lord of Eternity, Many of Names, Holy of Forms, Beloved by Those Who See Him. He is the Creator God Who made all things on the earth and He is likened to Re, the Sun God. It it through His benevolence that the waters of the Nile rise and the fields become green.
The followers of both Jesus and Osiris seek to be identified with Them. Christians try to emulate the Christ and see themselves being one day raised from the dead like Him. Deceased Egyptians were identified with Osiris, even to being called “the Osiris [insert earthly name here],” and hoped for a resurrection in the spiritual world so that they would live among the Deities forever.
Some authors have explored the idea that the early Christians just adapted their God from a Pagan prototype (see The Jesus Mysteries, Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God?, by Freke & Gandy, for an example). While early Christians were no doubt heavily influenced by the Pagan mystery religions, Pagan philosophy, and Pagan religious practice around them (other than Judaism, these were the only models they had available) it is not necessary for them to have merely adopted their God from a Pagan model.
Simply put, Divine archetypes. As some of you may know, I have a background in Hermetic Qabalah, which I find very useful in trying to understand this sort of thing. According to Hermetic Qabalah, the Divine has its source in the Unmanifest (the trifold Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur), which first manifests (but is not material) in Kether, the unifed Divine sphere of the Crown. In Kether, All is One; all the Deities are one Deity. As the Tree of Life begins to grow down toward the sphere where we human beings live our earthly lives, it begins to branch.
Each of the major branches can be envisioned as the archetypal source for a particular category of Divinity; the branch of the Living and Dying God, the branch of the Mother Goddess, the branch of the Lady of the Beasts. The individual twigs or leaves of these branches are the specific manifestations of the God or Goddess in the various pantheons of the world. The more major the Deity, the more of the Tree of Life She or He naturally encompasses; thus we have the Great Goddess Isis showing Herself to be a Mother Goddess and a Green Goddess and a Lady of Magic and the Goddess of Women and a Mystery Goddess, and much more, too.
Both the ancient Egyptian devotees of Osiris and the early Christians were working from the same branch of the Divine Tree, but chose different leaves for their specific devotions. As time went on, they influenced each other. Just as early Christian material shows clear influences from the religion and myth of both Osiris and Dionysos (to name just two), so did the Pagan philosophical texts, such as the Hermetica (to name just one), show influence from early Christian thought.
This model of a unified root with diverging branches seems a simple and obvious concept to me, but clearly it is not. We continue to argue and fight over our particular expression of the Divine, our particular leaf and twig. Some cling so fiercely to their twig that I fear it will break away from the Divine Tree, losing its connection with the Wholeness. Yet, if we could find a way to all become aware of and honor the Divine wholeness that exists—while still being devoted to our chosen Deity—I like to think that we could at least reduce the religious strife in the world.
In our house today, we will be celebrating this spring holy-day of resurrection with the ceremonial playing of Jesus Christ Superstar and the ceremonial eating of the Feast of the Lamb (including, of course, the colored eggs of the Great Bunny of Fertility). I wish you all a very blessed and happy Easter.