As Christendom’s most holy relic, it is indeed a mystery; a mystery made complex by the many varying opinions as to how the image of a crucified man came to be deposited on the cloth. The faithful say the image is that of Jesus and accept the cloth as validation of His resurrection from the dead. Skeptics say it is a forgery, the work of a cunning medieval artist. Both are wrong. It is the actual burial cloth of Jesus but it doesn’t validate resurrection. It denies it.
Skeptics challenge authenticity primarily on the premise that radiocarbon dating tests conducted in 1988 aged the cloth to 1260-1390 AD, indicating it was a forgery. Supporters reject the carbon dating results, arguing, among other things, that the testers sampling procedures were flawed. Except for a few forward thinkers, a very important point has fallen under the radar screen. A linen cloth that has been exposed to atomic radiation cannot be accurately carbon dated. It will always date younger than it actually is. And, that is exactly what happened to the cloth. It was exposed to atomic radiation. Jesus’ body vanished by dematerializing into its atomic parts.
There is much evidence in support of radiation theory and it will not be covered here. A good summary can be found in The Illusion of Death, the Shroud’s web site at shroud.com and several well written books.
The commonly accepted version of Jesus’s so-called resurrection is shaped by the four gospels. The Greek word the gospel writers used for resurrection is egerthe. It means to awaken, to arise and is used throughout the New Testament. Lazarus “egerthed” when Jesus raised him from the dead and he walked out of his tomb wrapped in burial cloths. Peter’s mother-in-law “egerthed” when Jesus cured her of her sickness and she got up out of bed and went about her business. You “egerthed” when you awoke this morning and went from horizontal in your bed to vertical on the floor. But, here is the issue. Jesus didn’t egerthe; His body vanished in a shower of atomic radiation.
The implication between “egerthe” versus “radiation” is huge. The former embeds the notion of direct, life restoring, divine involvement in human affairs. It leads to the Christian Doctrine of Resurrection wherein the bodies of everyone, saint and sinner alike,” will, like Jesus, “egerthe, ” only at some nebulous point in history called the end of time. If Jesus didn’t “egerthe” then neither will the rest of humanity when the time comes. Radiation, on the other hand, reflects the interaction of human consciousness with matter. The continued perpetration of a mistake rooted Doctrine of Resurrection denies the power of human consciousness and results in a tragic misunderstanding of what it means to be human. The flawed doctrine is at the heart of many of the societal problems we face today.
The driving force behind so-called resurrection is selflessness, the cessation of attention to self. We also find it at work in the Eastern mystical death traditions (for example, Rainbow Body, addressed elsewhere on this web site). As preposterous as it seems, when one ceases paying attention to self, the body vanishes. Cessation of attention to self is a near impossible task except for a select few for it requires denial of one’s biological design. We are built to survive. Attention to self takes many forms and they all center around pursuit of pleasure, comfort and security. Jesus, arguably, was the most selfless person to ever exist, proactively forfeiting His life just to prove His teaching; life is eternal, death is an illusion.
Bodies vanishing into nothingness because of withdrawal of intent is a difficult thing to accept although it is well known and scientifically proven that atomic sized matter cannot exist in material form unless a human intends for it to exist in material form. This of course points to the well known double-slit experiment where duality of matter, wave versus particle, is conclusively demonstrated. Somehow we forget that in order for a human body to vanish the things of which the human body is made must first vanish. In this forgetfulness the once loud voices of some of the greatest thinkers in human history become a faint whisper. Einstein, Planck and other Nobel Prize winners told us years ago that reality is but an illusion, that matter is a derivative of consciousness, that the things things are made of cannot be regarded as real, they are just a thought.
So, what does it all mean? When you put all of the evidence and observations in a bag and shake it up, that which emerges is a startling different view of reality. What has become known as resurrection and Rainbow Body are but demonstration of the duality of matter on a human scale. If a body can be made to vanish whenever the owner ceases paying attention to it, then it logically follows that paying attention to it is the increment of activity that causes it to exist in the first place. In other words, we are all here in body because we intend to be here. A person’s essence is not a soul. It is an agency with reasoning and computational skills that include the ability to intend. This agency is mind. The body is the product of that intent. It is a mistake to speak of the mind as something someone owns, as in, for example, “he has lost his mind.” Ownership implies a higher power that is superior to mind because it owns it. This is a mistake. Mind is all there is. The body is self organized into form; a proxy for the human mind.
In that context, life is but a giant video game. Your body is the avatar you created in order to play the game. When it succumbs to the forces of nature, in the interlude called death and afterlife, a temporary time out so to speak, you take stock of how you performed in the game, then create a new avatar and do it all over again. As a guy name Bill once said, “All the world’s a stage and the men and women merely players.” And, he was correct in his assessment.
Far from being a religious relic, the Shroud of Turin speaks volumes to the nature of reality and what it means to be human.