To the believer, the gospels are far more than historical documents. They act as a catalyst that transforms a person, like water into wine. Software engineers have a term for a secret code written in a piece of software; they call it an “Easter Egg”. When a certain sequence of keystrokes is entered, the program will suddenly reveal a function that until then has been hidden. We can think of the human mind as also having, buried deep within it, an Easter Egg. The brain, in its normal operation, is a biological survival machine optimised to pass on the individual’s genes to future generations. But when the Egg is triggered, it activates a quite different function, access to a different, spiritually experienced world.
We can regard the Easter Egg in two ways. To the atheist, it is a bug in the code, an irrational deviation from the proper purpose of the brain. To them, religion is like a computer virus to which the human mind is susceptible, and the spiritual is a type of delusion to which their own intellect is impervious. But another explanation is possible, although it requires a belief in a more complex reality than the normal scientific viewpoint would admit. Perhaps the purpose of humanity is to carry the virus, and the survival coding of the brain is the vehicle that transmits, preserves, and propagates the Easter Egg.
If this were the case, then the Easter Egg would be buried beneath biological survival code because we have to live in the real world, the universe of space and time. We have to eat, survive, find mates, protect the next generation. And so for most people, most of the time, the Easter Egg must be inoperative. In the physical world, we are subject to the iron laws of evolution. Only those who can compete in the brutal game of survival will pass on their genes, and the hidden code, to the next generation. We may have to fight and kill, to safeguard our own resources and take those of others. And if our generation does not have to do these things it is only because our ancestors did the dirty work for us. The modern Western world seems to offer a comfortable reprieve from the forces of evolution but, alas, our reprieve is only temporary. The law of Malthus has not been repealed but is operating today in most of the world. Evolution selects for a high birth rate and eliminates those who limit their breeding. The world’s resources are finite so, with an expanding population, conflict between nations and individuals is inevitable.
The spiritual is not just a distraction from the evolutionary struggle, but it operates perversely in the opposite direction. Instead of competition, we have love, instead of taking, giving, instead of war, pacifism. In the spiritual there is no “us” and “them”; all people are equal, each potentially the receptacle of God’s spirit. The spiritual can never win, can never control the world because evolution will inevitably force people against one another. It was a truth understood by the Jesus movement that the world is under the control of evil forces. But neither can the spiritual ever be eliminated.
The Christian Easter Egg is triggered by the central mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection. For the Easter Egg to work, Jesus must not be just man, but man and God. The crucifixion of a mere man would have no meaning beyond pity. This myth of the God-man dying to be reborn into a new spiritual life recurs again and again across human civilisations. We shall see that it was prevalent in the cultures around the Jews and present among the Jews. The spiritual machinery of the Jesus movement was not created from scratch but evolved from earlier forms. It is effective because these previous forms of the myth were effective, and because the shaman improved further upon them.
Those who are not Christians will give many reasons why Christian belief is irrational. It makes no sense that God should demand a sacrifice, that he should kill an innocent and perfect man. If God is all powerful why does he not just forgive people? Also, how is it possible that Jesus can be both man and God? The Jew or Muslim will point out that this very notion is blasphemous, a deviation from the pure monotheism of their own faith. This is all true, yet misses the point. Rationality is a superficial accretion to the human mind. Computer software will only work if it is written in the operating language of the machine on which it is run. The human brain has its own “operating language” which is buried deep within us and which developed from our animal life. It is not the language of abstractions and rational thoughts. It is emotional and sensory, involving concepts such as male and female, fire and water, heaven and earth. In this operating language the crucifixion and resurrection are valid, powerful, operators.
It should be emphasised that Easter Egg can be understood in atheistic terms as purely a psychological change applying to the individual. The existence of religious transformation does not imply the existence of God. But if we were to take a religious perspective, we would see the Easter Egg as upgrading the connection to God to higher bandwidth. The first Christians called this high bandwidth state “life” as opposed to the natural low bandwidth state which they called “death”.
For a computer code to operate it must be run. We may download a program, but while it just sits on the storage disk of a computer, it is inactive. To “run” the Easter Egg, an individual must experience the crucifixion and resurrection. For most of Christian history, this has been achieved through the gospels. The gospels took the myth and turned it into a story presented as history. It is not sufficient to just read this gospel story; you must believe that it is true. If we read or hear the story, and believe in it, we run the code in our minds, and if we are capable we will unlock the Egg. It is not for nothing that the Christian religion attaches so much importance to belief.
If we interpret and question the gospels, we destroy their potency. In much of the developed world, people have stopped believing in the gospels and so the Easter Egg lies dormant and un-triggered. Christianity becomes nothing more than a tradition, at which point its further decline is inevitable. The result of the loss of the spiritual is that people live lives of unrelenting triviality (what atheists call “enjoying themselves”). This process has already happened in Europe and is now happening in America.
So we have a dilemma. It is possible that the transformation of the Easter Egg is perfectly valid, yet to trigger it we have to believe in something, the gospel account, that is clearly untrue. There is nothing inconsistent in this; the trigger is just a code, and there is no reason that a code should correspond to anything real in the universe of space and time. Yet we have to believe in the code to run it.
The dilemma is not insoluble. The shaman did not have the gospels, nor did Paul, nor did any other Christian in the first decades of the movement. Neither did these first Christians lack anything spiritually compared to those inducted through the gospel story. In the beginning, the transmission of the experience of Jesus was spiritual and personal. We shall see how the first transformations were effected by the shaman, who acted as “mother” in the rebirth of the individual from death into life. Later this role was delegated to others, starting with the apostles, who were many in number and not just twelve. The process was powerful yet cumbersome. At each step away from the founder something was lost. What the gospels did was to encode the mystery in a literalistic story and make it available for mass consumption. A written document did not lose its effectiveness through transmission and enabled Christianity to expand on an industrial scale.
Although much was gained, much also was lost. The original spiritual beliefs were buried among the literalisations of the gospels. The original transcendent Jesus became a physical man who lived and died in the recent past. There was no central authority to contradict this belief; by the time the gospels were written the shaman and most of the apostles were dead at the hands of the Roman and Jewish persecutors of the movement.
The above is taken from Chapter 1 of The Rock and the Tower.