What's the Point of the Three Kings?


Hans_Baldung_-_Three_Kings_Altarpiece_(open)_-_WGA01199[1]Those of us raised as Christians know this holiday is about a lot more than rushing about, partying, shopping, eating, decorating, and giving gifts, and many of us enjoy warm memories and nostalgic feelings this time of year. But why does it sometimes feel that our gifts are not enough, both the ones we give and those received? Why do we sometimes feel we’ve missed the point of Christmas? What is the point, and how can we celebrate it?

To understand what’s missing we need to discover the true meaning of Christmas for ourselves, and to do that we need to look at the Christ story and our own lives through the symbolic language of mythos. This is not the left-brained language of fact and logic, but the language of myth and symbol, the language of the Soul.

The Christmas story takes place in a stable filled with animals at the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of year. Throughout the world, common associations for the symbol of darkness include the unconsciousness of our instinctual animal nature and all the ignorance, chaos, death, and moral irresponsibility that goes with it. Psychologically, this setting is a reference to unconsciousness, the state in which we all begin our lives and often end them as well.

The plot centers around a virgin who gives birth to a baby boy. Virgins and babies symbolize innocence and the abundance of undeveloped possibilities, like the pure state of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life with its potential for growth into greater maturity and wisdom.

And is there significance in the fact that the baby is a boy? Yes. Mary, like the Hindu goddess Durga, symbolizes the feminine source of all energy, and Jesus represents an extraordinarily hopeful new masculine form of ego-life that has manifested from the maternal matrix. From our soul’s perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Middle-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for an inner birth of a deeply personal, intimate experience of Spirit. This experience is characterized not just by believing in the ideal of love or having a strong desire to love others, but by actually feeling and living with love.

At the end of the story three (the number of forward movement that overcomes the conflicts of duality) kings (the masculine principle, sovereignty, and worldly power) arrive after a long and arduous trek from the Far East with rare and precious gifts for the tiny baby. The kings symbolize the wisdom and individuated, religious outlook of a mature and unified consciousness that is born through self-reflection and self-acceptance. Having endured the hard work of this inner journey and assumed our own sovereignty, we are finally able to see the sacredness in everything and revere every form of life down to the smallest and seemingly least important.  Knowing the preciousness of this gift of new life, we want to give it to others.

And finally, the kings are guided by a star.  Stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven.  They represent spiritual inspiration, the highest attainment, and the presence of divinity, hope and light in our lives. A star is also a symbol of creative imagination, our uniquely human capacity for combining outer facts with the soul’s meaningful inner truths and expressing them with life-changing symbols and images.

Like the myths of every religion, this story combines historical events with psychological truths. Christ mass celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap forward in ego consciousness from a primitive, ignorant, and self-serving survival mentality into an advanced self-awareness capable of bringing wisdom, love, and authentic being and living.

The point of Christmas is that you and I can take this leap into Christ-awareness and experience for ourselves the life-enhancing, soul-satisfying love, hope and wonder that come with it.  Giving material gifts is certainly one way to show and share our love during the holiday season, but giving the gift of our growing psychological and spiritual maturity to our loved ones is far more rewarding and lasting.

May a more mature psychological consciousness and spiritual enlightenment be quickened worldwide during this holiday season, and may the love in our hearts be abundant and overflowing.  Thank you for stopping by in this most blessed season.

P.S. I hope you won’t mind a little shameless self-promotional hint:  If you or someone you love is on the inner journey, one of my books might be a good holiday gift. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Art Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Three Kings Altarpiece (open)

1507 Linden panel, 121 x 70 cm (central), 121 x 28 cm (each wing) Staatliche Museen, Berlin

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0 Responses

  1. This is just perfect Jeanie ~ thanks so much for writing and posting this beautiful and deeply insightful Christmas message!!

  2. Thank you Jeanie, This is a quite fascinating insight about many key players and themes in the Christmas story. To zero in on one I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘Three Wise Men’ (even loving the song ‘We Three Kings’ as a youth) and to think of them as representing or being ‘forward motion’ moving beyond conflicts of duality is absolutely something that will occupy my thoughts this season! In terms of synchronicity earlier today somebody spent quite a long time explaining to me the ‘fat’ in a camel’s hump and biological evolution designing the perfect system. Now I’m cross referencing the ‘mechanics’ of these beasts of burden with your symbolic interpretations, stars, and forward motion.

    1. Thank you Steven. I’m delighted to know the parts of this post which you found meaningful and will carry forward throughout the season. You’ve aroused my curiosity about camel symbolism. So what would camels mean? I just looked it up and here’s what one commentator says: http://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbolic-camel-meaning.html Four themes she stresses are the arduous journey, persevering through the long haul, protective qualities, and conserving energy. Yes, these are all qualities we need for both journeys: the outer and the inner!

  3. Thank you Jean for this profound post. I’ve shared on social media .. I think on Christmas Day I will read your post aloud to my family – they are sure to appreciate it.
    Thank you also for the elaboration of the camel symbolism. Lovely!
    All best wishes to you and your family over this festive season.

    1. Many thanks, Susan. I’m very honored to think of you sharing this with your family on Christmas Day. I so love examining the symbols from myths, legends and fairy tales because they tell the understory of every Soul, regardless of religion. Wishing you and your family a joyous, love-filled holiday season!

  4. Fascinating take on the story. What is curious though is that the texts themselves (the Gospels) do not ever say there were 3 kings/wise men. They just say “wise men from the east” brought 3 gifts. Scholars contend that there could have been anywhere from 2 to 20-30 kings involved. In any event, I believe the story to be 100% myth and not history, so pulling deeper truths out of the significance of three works for me!

    1. Hi robosg. Many thanks for your visit and helpful comment! I’m not concerned about the physical factuality of the story’s details either. For me, it’s all about the psycho-spiritual truths they address. So since the texts don’t mention how many kings/wise men there were, then from Soul’s perspective, this number is unimportant. The relevant detail would be the three gifts. Nonetheless, for a religious myth to wield as much power as this one has, there must be an historical connection. For me this would be that something profound happened to the human psyche in that part of the world around that time, something so wondrous, indeed, “miraculous,” that it still resonates deeply in us 2,000 years later and has been affecting not just humanity’s spirituality, but the historical/physical lives of millions of human beings worldwide—for good or for ill—ever since. This is an historical fact no one can deny! 🙂

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