Last Updated September 5, 2023.
This text is a retelling of events after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that follows the disillusioned savior on a solitary journey of self-discovery.
Rather than fulfilling the prophecy of ascension as he does in the Bible, Jesus feels trapped within the confines of his destiny and yearns for an independent life. After experiencing the world and its earthly pleasures, Jesus concludes that it is more divine than heaven. One could assert that Lawrence is furthering a message of humanity’s inherent goodness and fundamental right to freedom. With this is mind, the following quotes from the text are significant in the development of this theme.
He resented already the fact of the strange, incalculable moving that had already taken place in him: the moving back into consciousness. He had not wished it. He had wanted to stay outside, in the place where even memory is stone dead.
This quote describes Jesus’ thoughts as he awakens from death in the tomb. This quote is significant because it shows that Jesus did not want to be resurrected because he found life meaningless and forgettable. Because his proscribed life never allowed him any freedom to make his own choices, it was unfulfilling. Therefore, upon feeling himself slide back into consciousness, Jesus dreads reentering the world of the living.
“But now I am glad it is over, and the day of my interference is done. The teacher and the saviour are dead in me; now I can go about my business, into my own single life.”
Jesus speaks these words to Madeline after she asks if he will return to his followers after the resurrection. Jesus is asserting his independence and resolves to live his second life for himself only. He feels that his former self is now gone never to return, and he believes that he should be free to pursue a life of his own choosing, rather than reliving his old one.
For men and women alike were mad with the egoistic fear of their own nothingness. And he thought of his own mission, how he had tried to lay the compulsion of love on all men. And the old nausea came back on him. For there was no contact without a subtle attempt to inflict a compulsion.
This quote comes at the end of Part I as Jesus departs on a solitary journey. He realizes that most people are desperate in their search for meaning because they feel, deep within their souls, that life is meaningless. Because they are afraid to accept this reality, they try to control others and the world in a futile attempt to cling to their empty hope. This cynical viewpoint is what causes Jesus to seek isolation from society, since he believes all people will only seek to use him for their own purpose. Furthermore, he realizes that his mission was itself an attempt at controlling people, and he regrets this fact.
And she was a woman to herself, she would not give herself for a surface glow, nor marry for reasons. She would wait for the lotus to stir.
This quote describes the priestess is Isis in Search, whose experiences with men had left her wanting and unfulfilled. The metaphor of the lotus represents how she will not allow any man to access her womanhood, but will rather wait for a spiritual connection unlike any other before consummating a relationship. The priestess, of course, finds this connection in Jesus, whom she believes is Osiris, the god whom her goddess yearns to find.
Suddenly it dawned on him: I asked them all to serve me with the...
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corpse of their love. And in the end I offered them only the corpse of my love. This is my body — take and eat — my corpse —
This quote describes Jesus’ epiphany he has as the priestess chafes his scars with oil. Jesus realizes that his feelings of unhappiness at the completion of his mission stemmed from his hollow dedication to it in the first place. Perhaps if Jesus had loved with the same selflessness and purity as the priestess serves Isis, he would have felt more fulfilled.
How full it is, and great beyond all gods. How it leans around me, and I am part of it, the great rose of Space. I am like a grain of its perfume, and the woman is a grain of its beauty. Now the world is one flower of many petalled darknesses, and I am in its perfume as in a touch.
These are Jesus’ thoughts as her exits the temple after having had sexual relations with the priestess. In the twilight, Jesus marvels at the beauty and boundlessness of the world, and he now sees it with fresh eyes. Rather than mistrusting its intentions toward him, Jesus now understands that he is as much a part of the world as it is of him. The connectedness he feels soothes him and makes him feel new in a way that his resurrection at the beginning of the story did not.