Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale shadows our soul-body journey. But what’s that got to do with needing a resurrection?
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Picture: Tree archway in snow, Edinburgh (Source: pinkpigart.co.uk)
READING TIME: 15-17 MINUTES.
HAVE YOU READ THE FIRST POSTS IN THIS SERIES?
Shakespeare’s plays often navigate spiritual waters. A Winter’s Tale is no exception. The story travels the barrenness, brokenness, and blackened leaves of our wintry lives and touches upon a spiritual, spring-like moment. It’s a light nod to God’s promised latter rain in the Bible. This rainy season—as Judaic scholars call it—is resurrection, where your soul-body enters an everlasting fruitfulness.
But we don’t all have the same resurrection ending. The soul and body are reunited, judged, and then step into one of two places: everlasting life (for the righteous) or everlasting contempt (for the unrighteous), per Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29, among other scriptures.
CUES FROM THE BARD
In Act 1, Scene 2 of A Winter’s Tale, Polixenes—King of Bohemia—describes his childhood relationship with Sicily’s King Leontes as twins, buddy buddies, innocents. That is, until life happens and they’re cast out of their Garden-of-Eden-esque, grace-like existence and into the Sicilian King’s irrational rampage, where he goes all Othello on his wife (Hermiones) and on his longtime buddy, Polixenes.
For the sake of the plot—not unlike our own soul stories—the characters don’t choose the more innocent path.
The tale bulges with jealousies, accusations, misjudgments, malicious lies, for-the-better-good lies, over-the-top emotional reactions, bitterness, relationship splits, disloyalty, paranoia, tyranny, expulsions, broken hearts, death, and more.
Along the way, Shakespeare exposes familiar elements of the soul’s journey—its rise, decline, fall, redemptive resurrection (Queen Hermiones is brought back to life after being dead sixteen years).
He even turns the physical tables of the atmosphere to mirror the inner soul rumblings of his characters‘ interactions—Sicily’s Mediterranean warmth and light are vanished, replaced by a wintry heart of darkness.
Veiled, fractured souls.
Out of sync with God’s ways.
Self-focused. Earthly tethered.
In other words, humanity. The soul adrift . . . the light of Heaven that sparked the soul’s existence is now replaced by a wintry heart of darkness.
Enter the need for an end-of-days resurrection: accountability and a restoration—a reconstruction really—of the earthly soul-body matrix, as I call it. That unique form you live and move in for your physical and spiritual life down here.
Let me explain . . .
EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR
journeying between weight and responsibility
Okay, so you’re not exactly like Shakespeare’s Antigonus, the king’s advisor who was chased off stage by a bear. But bears and their presumed Shakespearean connotation have their place in your soul experience and its aftermath, your future resurrection.
The word bear appears about 12 times in the play, teetering between a person bearing the onus for their actions and their related guilt, with the fierce “bearish” beast appearing in the midst of it all.
Bearing your soul.
Bearing the weight of your actions—good and not so good.
Bearing the scrutiny of others and our internal self.
Bearing the hardships and testings along life’s journey.
Bearing the responsibility for what you’ve said, done, thought, written, shared, taught, imposed, desired, touched, took, gave, blessed, cursed, healed, harmed, lifted up, brought down.
Bearing the yoke of Heaven (surrendered to God, His word, His covenant—your identity is in Him).
Bearing the final outcome of it all—with your soul’s work salted by His holy fire, tested by His holiness, so the work is either reduced to ash and stubble or glorified in Him.
The responsibility for your life journey lies with both the soul and the body, cohorts down here, reunited in a new way at the end of days to face their shared judgment. To righteousness or to punishment.
Their embattled soul-body relationship and fractured state lead to the second reason of why we need a bodily resurrection.
HERE’S THE SHORT VERSION
Your soul—with its various nuances—is knitted (so to speak) to your body while in the womb. Together, your soul and body embark on a journey and specific life work . . . a work that ignites your soul-body refinement.
“The spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
God’s breath of life [in Hebrew, nishmat chayim נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים] first appears in Genesis 2:7 when God breathed into Adam—and His divine breath animated the body, sparking the soul’s dimensions (neshama/breath, ruach/spirit, nefesh/life force). It gave Adam’s body life. Just as God’s breath gave you life.
Yes, God’s breath is in you. How profound and amazing is that? He’s that close to you, day by day, hour by hour, breath by breath.
Those three Hebraic words (neshama, ruach, nefesh) are used interchangeably in scripture for the word soul—revealing the soul’s nuances and umbilical-like connection to God. (You can learn more later about the nuances of the soul in The Combat Zone series.)
Since the soul nuance translated as life force/self (nefesh) is enmeshed with the body, it makes a way for the the soul to join the body in a human experience in this worldly dimension.
The God-breathed soul’s job is upward: Elevating the soul-body relationship from glory to glory, for a spiritually fruitful life. Surrendering to the will of God, accepting the yoke of heaven.
But that presents challenges. Big ones. The body—from dust to dust—is tethered to the things of this world. It came from the earth and is drawn to earthly things.
The push-pull is on. And if the soul follows the body’s earth-minded drives vs. the call upward, the soul-body matrix can become . . .
A wintry heart of darkness.
Compelled by the things of this world.
Strictly a receptor—receiving for self, no capacity for authentic giving.
Defiant, resisting the yoke of heaven.
Dissonant, clashing with God Himself.
In other words, a ravaged, war-scarred vessel whose soul-body partnership is in disrepair. For a resurrection to righteousness, it will need a reconstruction worthy of God’s divine presence.
The corruptible body must return to the dust and be raised in a glorified body not from the dust, not tethered to this earthly realm and ways. It must become a vessel that has the capacity to give and receive, working in tandem with a soul that has been tested and tried, and is in alignment with God.
ARMOR UP: FOR NOW & WHAT’S AHEAD
Per Judaic thought—Maimonides, the renowned 12th century Jewish philosopher—whenever character traits get out of sync, they erect a veil that blocks the flow of divine light to the soul.
Shakespeare tapped into the consequence of that veil, a death-like darkness.
This news is mortal to the queen:
look down and see what death is doing.
—Paulina, Act 3, Scene 2, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale
Let’s see what this veil, this deathly darkness, does to a fractured soul, a soul lacking God’s armor. Walk with me across the Judaic-Messianic bridge for a moment. A New Testament passage goes deeper.
Ephesians 4:17-19 reveals what happens when the soul is darkened. There is a futility of thinking, hardness of heart, causing the soul to become blinded, callous, losing all sensitivity and indulging in every kind of impurity with greediness, even becoming alienated from God.
And for those who once walked with God, that darkening causes an arctic-chill soul tale, and an eventual crisis of faith, where the chasm between the soul and God is palatable. And where the soul feels removed from God—or worse, feels that He is the one who turned away.
Breaking faith can land you in iffy places. Like chasing that waistcoated White Rabbit down, down, down a spiritually empty hole. A trap, really. Eclipsing, compromising, or reinventing what God faithfully has revealed throughout time about Himself and ignoring the raison d’être of your soul journey that’s intrinsically linked to what lies ahead.
When the altar of God is abandoned . . . the soul-body matrix tends to replace it with an amalgamated altar of self-reliance, nature, academia, self-achievement, philosophy, science, religious facades, and just about anything else.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with using your intellect, forging new science, appreciating nature, philosophizing about life, etc.
Far from it.
And it doesn’t mean you can’t question or doubt at times. Questioning is part of the faith-in-action process.
But when pride rises up and you fall in love with the flesh-driven reasonings and vain imaginations of your mind . . . that’s when your soul-body matrix starts to brazenly deconstruct His truths, diminish His ways, reconstruct its own golden calf, build its own Tower of Babel.
The earthly tug-of-war in your soul-body journey may not match Shakespearean drama or some seamy, edgy movie . . . it can be subtle. But just as spiritually derailing—and deadly.
That’s why we need to suit up. Like Adonai did, per Isaiah 59:17, putting on His righteousness for his breastplate, salvation as a helmet—and to stand, per Isaiah 7:9b. “If you don’t stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
The New Testament mirrors Isaiah with an encouraging instruction in Ephesians 6. Here are some excerpts from verses 10-17:
Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.
Put on the full armor of God:
The breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation,
the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit (the word of God),
and feet readied in the Good News of peace (shalom).
Then stand firm in Him.
Now about your having a resurrection to righteousness vs. a resurrection to contempt . . .
WINTER. RAIN. RESURRECTION.
the real meaning of the latter glory being greater than the former
In the winter tale of your soul, you are dormant, still, laid bare. But then . . . .
Hosea 6:2-3. After two days, he will revive us; on the third day, he will raise us up; and we will live in his presence. And let us know, let us strive to know the LORD: like the dawn whose going forth is sure, and He will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain which satisfies the earth.
That’s a picture of the promised resurrection. Rain comes after the barrenness, brokenness, and blackened leaves of winter. It heralds in the spring, hope, vegetation, new beginnings—for those who lived and died in Him.
And those who are in Him—Jew or Gentile—will rejoice in His presence.
On this mountain Adonai-Tzva’ot (Lord God of Hosts)
will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food and superb wines,
delicious, rich food and superb, elegant wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil which covers the face of all peoples,
the veil enshrouding all the nations.
He will swallow up death forever.
Adonai Elohim will wipe away
the tears from every face,
and he will remove from all the earth
the disgrace his people suffer.
For Adonai has spoken.
On that day they will say,
We waited for him to save us.
This is Adonai; we put our hope in him.
We are full of joy, so glad he saved us!”
For on this mountain
the hand of Adonai will rest.
What does it mean to live and die in Him?
God says when you delight in His ways, your soul is like a tree—Psalm 1:3 (firmly planted by streams of water, fruitful, never withering), Psalm 92:13 (flourishing like a palm tree, planted in the house of the Lord), Psalm 52:10 (a green olive tree in the house of God).
Yes, there is a real and serious spiritual battle going on. Within you and around you. But you weren’t created to stay locked in this war-torn state forever.
This present leg of the journey is meant to help your soul-body matrix become something more. Something greater up ahead during the spring, the latter rain of the resurrection to righteousness.
God has already prepared a way . . . for you to be ensured of a resurrection to righteousness—and avoid a resurrection of punishment.
Living, dying, and being resurrected in Him means in His Messiah: Jesus (Yeshua, his Hebrew name.)
He is the only way to God for Jews and Gentiles. The Living Torah, the fulfillment of the Law, the Redeemer, the Holy Lamb of God who died for your sins, mine, and the world’s.
When you have a bodily resurrection in Him, the Messiah . . .
winter and the soul-body war are over.
The receiver-driven body is dead, corrupted, disintegrated.
The resurrected body is glorified, incorruptible.
A giver and a receiver. Harmonious with God.
Donning the yoke of heaven.
It’s reunited with its now-refined soul, made holy in and with Him.
All things are made new.
The body and soul become like a wheel within a wheel.
Existing as one in holy tandem,
giving and receiving in a sanctified way.
Without self-gratification or self-adoration.
Raised in His image.
Mirroring His circular, love-funneled nature.
A soul-body matrix, tested, tried, submerged, empowered
by and through His Truth, Life, Way, Word.
In Him . . .
The latter rain is the greatest glory.
The latter rain is His gift to us, a glorified bodily resurrection.
HAVE YOU READ THESE POSTS IN THE SERIES?
ARMOR PHOTO by NIK SHULIAHIN on UNSPLASH.COM
SPRING TREES PHOTO by BANTERSNAPS on UNSPLASH.COM
Resurrection series created between March 30, 2016 – July 3, 2016
In the shadow of the ladder, Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag
http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Path-of-the-Soul-1-Discovering-Mussar.html (Maimonides character traits)