Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge. 
  --Kahlil Gibran 
Only crime and the criminal, it is true, 
confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; 
but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.
--Hannah Arendt



"Jesus said, `Blessed are those alone and chosen, for you will find

the kingdom. For you are from it, and to it you will return'" (Gos.

Thom. 49).


In our Yahoo chat room the other day, someone asked me about this

verse, and generally what it means to talk about "the chosen"

or "the elect" in a Gnostic context. This concept has been another

of the many subjects through which Christianity has attempted to

denigrate Gnosticism, in this case by suggesting that we Gnostics

believe that only a certain (small) class of people are capable of

gnosis, creating a kind of fundamental soteriological hierarchy. In

other words, this would mean that being "chosen" would be a kind of

volitional and constitutive act, presumably by God, without which

one cannot enter through the gate of knowledge.


There may indeed have been some Gnostics in the past who believed

this, and who suggested that initiates into their religious groups

could only be drawn from a very small "gnosis-capable" part of the

human population, so to speak. However, the earliest articulations

of Gnosticism, and pre-Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of Thomas,

suggest in contrast a radically inclusive version of "the chosen," a

version that is flowering again today in our neo-classical Gnostic

Renaissance. I would like to take a few minutes here to suggest the

outlines of this understanding, which I hope may be helpful for you

in considering the history and theology of Gnosticism, and your own

personal spiritual outlook.


While the limited, exclusive theory of "the chosen" is attributed to

Gnostics by mainstream Christians, it actually is far more clearly a

part of THEIR religious traditions. The notion of predestination,

in particular, has made this idea of "divine election" profoundly

volitional in its metaphysical origins and constitutive in its

metaphysical effects on human beings. What many do not realize is

that a fairly robust form of predestination continues to be

theologically present in the belief systems of many denominations

that no longer emphasize it publicly, such as the Catholic Church –

in the case of Catholicism, as recently as the Council of Trent that

followed the Protestant Reformation, a Catholic doctrine of

predestination was solemnly affirmed. I say this only in passing to

provide you another example of the many inconsistencies in Christian

denunciations of Gnosticism – although, as I have said before, we

should not expect to find any consistency, because Christian polemic

against Gnosticism is not fundamentally concerned with being either

rational or coherent, but rather with foisting off on Gnosticism all

the difficulties, repressions, and forms of guilt that have

accumulated over the centuries in the massive social and cultural

edifice that calls itself the Christian church.


Now, on to the contrasting INCLUSIVE theory of "the chosen." What

in fact does it mean to be chosen or set apart? Is this setting

apart purely self-referential, or does it have an object? In other

words, are we just chosen, or are we chosen FOR something? This is

the key distinction that allows us to make sense of the whole

concept. When we embark on the path of gnosis, we are responding to

the basic call of the spirit within us, and the spirit beyond us

that ultimately is God. Because of this response, we are chosen by

God and set apart to be as it were the avatars of the spirit in the

world. As we move forward toward enlightenment, we have more and

more responsibility for the actualization of our own spirits but

also for true spiritual compassion of those all around us. We

are "the chosen" not indeed as if those around us are incapable of

gnosis, but in fact to be the instruments by which their gnosis can

come about as well! This is, of course, not at all the same as the

mainstream Christian notion of conversion, because that is about

dominating the other, about forcing the other into your own

prefabricated "truth." Being called and chosen, we are to form a

kind of sacred river, flowing through the world with what looks to

those outside to be passivity and even surrender, but gently picking

up the salt of the spirit as it were on our way to the sea.


So, the idea of a certain "chosen" group does not necessarily mean

in any way that other individuals are incapable of gnosis, for it

seems certain that other human beings, who share the basic

experiences of life with us, must have those experiences rooted in

the same kind of spiritual nature. Rather, being chosen, or

constituting an "elect," is in many ways a practical description,

since most of the people around us, fully capable of gnosis as they

are, are held back by many painful and frightening things from

taking those first steps that set us apart at the very beginning.

This point is made clear by another saying from the Gospel of

Thomas, which is included in the canonical New Testament as

well: "Jesus said, `The harvest is great but the laborers are few.

Beseech the Lord, therefore, to send out laborers to the harvest'"



Look around you: how great is this harvest, how ripe the fruit of

human beings standing just on the front porch of enlightenment,

ready to take that first step through the door! How late the time

is, my dear friends, and how quickly the sands of time are falling;

look at the darkness descending and the blood-red sun sinking low on

the horizon, as our world is weighed down ever more by the pain of

violence and hatred. How many sit in the lingering twilight,

yearning for the night to come – for the pain of living in this

world without joining in the life of the spirit has become

unbearable without drugs, and distractions, and addictions that ease

the pain.


We have been called to be those laborers, to be those shepherds, to

live not only for ourselves, but for all. To be chosen is to be set

apart as a gift to others, not to be elevated above others. Pride

is extinguished in love, and the ultimate love leads us to the

sacrifice of the bodhisattva, to the sacrifice of Christ. While the

light is still with us, before the clock strikes the closing of the

day, let us seek love and the fruits of love. For truly "there is

light within a person of light, and that person lights up the whole

world" (Gos Thom. 24).


In Christ and Sophia,




In Christ we die to the letter of the law so that our conscience can no
longer see things in the dead light of formalism and exterior
observance.  Our hearts refuse the dry husks of literal abstraction and
hunger for the living bread and the eternal waters of the spirit which
spring up to life everlasting

–Thomas Merton

“And these tow kinds of natures are mingled with each other in the course of rebirths, like wheat and chaff that are mixed with each other. Then the farmers separate those things from one another with the mighty power of the wind and the flail, and lay them and bring them.

Thus this man is also similar to that wheat, and my children are similar to the farmers…My mind and my true Word are similar to the wind, and the just Law is similar to the flail. And when the elect preach my Word, then those that come to paradise become manifest.”

–Iranian Manichaean parable

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent
because the massman will mock it right way.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten.
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with the darkness
and a desire for higher lovemaking
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you fare gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this, to die and so to grow.
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

–Goethe (The Holy Longing)

“The theology of love must seek to deal realistically with the evil and
injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them.  Such a
theology will have to take note of the ambiguous realities of politics,
without embracing the specious myth of a  ‘realism’ that merely
justifies force in the service of established power. Theology does not
exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the
powerful and the established.  A theology of love may also conceivably
turn out to be a theology of revolution.  In any case, it is a theology
of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal

–Thomas Merton

Don’t forget to vote.


Hinduism and Mystic Judaism
(posted Monday, September 24th, 2007 on

First of all let me say that this is a huge subject, of which I have only just scratched the surface. It would be possible to spend years studying Judaism, it has many subtleties and complexes that my brief study will have missed.

At first glance the key concept of the unity of God may appear as a direct opposite to the Hindu idea of one God with many manifestations. If we look at the Zohar, a collection of works on Kabbbalah (Jewish Mysticism) we can see that there is a concept of different aspects of God in the Jewish tree of life.

The Jewish Tree of LifeThis tree is made up of Sephiroth or aspects of God. The idea is that God can manifest in different ways. These have descriptions such as Binah, represtenting Understanding/ repentance/ reason, but also associated with �the higher mother�. Similarly relationships such as �bride� and �son� are represented in the tree of life. David R. Blumenthal, Professor of Judaic Studies, Emory University, Georgia, USA writes:

The historical interlude of the Christian reception of the Zohar in counterreformation Italy aside, it seems to me that a more profound theological question has arisen: If God can, indeed, have personalist dimensions as part of God�s own inner being, why should there be only three such dimensions? If God can, indeed, encompass different levels of being, all of which are equal within God�s inner-ness, why should there not be as many such levels as necessary? To put it clearly: If God�s being is plural, why only Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Why not Ineffability, Knowability (Father), Intuition (Mother), Grace (male), Judgment (female), Compassion (Husband), Eternity, Awe, Fecundity (male), and Providence (Bride, Mother) � all of which are equally integral to the divine whole? To put it in declarative form: The zoharic dialogue with the trinity leads to the statement: Three is not enough! God, in God�s fullness, is more than three. God, in Whose Image humanity is created, has more than three dimensions. The awesome complexity of the human personality � in which Image humanity is created � suggests that there are many more than three basic dimensions to God�s personhood. Indeed, if we, humans, are more than trinitarian, certainly God is more than three. (From Three is Not Enough).

This view certainly coincides with very closely with Hindu views of God. I think that the Judaic tree of life is described in abstract terms because of the biblical dictates against making images of God. This prevented Jewish mystics from using straightforward images as Hindus do.

This aspect of the Kabbala corresponds closely with the Hindu Jnana Yoga. Judaism also has equivalent ideas to Bhakti Yoga. The founder of Hassidic Judaism Baal Shem Tov saw prayer and devotion as more important than the study of the Talmud and the tree of life. He also saw great importance on purity. He declared the whole universe, mind and matter, to be a manifestation of the Divine Being; that this manifestation is not an emanation from God, as is the conception of the Kabbalah by Mitnagdim (religious Jews who opposed Chasidism), for nothing can be separated from God, echoing Advaita Vedanta.

There have also been attempts to show that the tree of life reflect the Yogic chakras. Altogether, there are striking parallels between Judaism and Hinduism. Some of these certainly emerged as mystical revelation. It is also possible that some of these concepts were within Judaism from the beginning, echoing the original true world religion.

“Growth in experience implies a serious self-doubt and self-questioning
in which values previously held seem to be completely exploded and no
other tangible values come to take their place.  This may even take the
form of a crisis of religious faith in which our whole conception of God
and of our relationship to him may be tuned upside down.  There may seem
to be ‘no God’ at all, or else our relationship to him may seem so
desperate that we feel as though we are damned, in our moments of

–Thomas Merton

“To be a Buddhist
You must not be a Buddhist


When we search endlessly for something, a label often we never find. As you say, the “work” is there
and carries on being there regardless.

Labels are Labels…. it is too easy to follow vain pride and proclaim I am this, and thus I am not that.

“Religion is club, hence the beatings
Spirituality is a path, hence the journey”

–Sis. Artemisias

What is Sister Artemisias saying?

It is too easy to fit a round peg in a round hole. Some people approach their spiritual/religious journey that way. They run out, buy books, nice hats with fluffy bits on and a picture of a pink moose. Once the books are read, the nice fluffy hat can be worn; we can devote decades to saying mantra to the pink moose….

What have we achieved?

We have achieved a nice devotion to a path, a religion, a mantra, a pink moose.

The alternative is to be dynamic. To change…to BE…
To literally follow a journey, to GROW, to become
sure we can have a devotion to a path or a pink moose mantra along the way
but we need to not join clubs….we need to be on a journey. So once you have painted a wall with a brush you can learn to use a roller. it is too easy to get stuck saying magic words to pink moose and thinking that’s where its at….

So dont be afraid to feel you arent part of a club…
as in my opinion, that is a good thing…

I identify with the Holy Grail personally, as I grew up in the shadow of Glastonbury, England
However… as some say, I think LOVE is the only true universal religion….
Of course discerning what love IS…is another story….

“I gained nothing from supreme enlightenment
It is for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment.”


If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.

Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1958): 56.


and counting every sound,


and seeing every stone,


and letting in the wind,


and not having to be somebody.”

– 11 year old Peter Rosegarden

(spoken on his death bed)

“For someone who has not yet found the way to enter within himself, pilgrimages to holy places are a help. But for him who has found it they are a dissipation of energy, for they force him to come out from the innermost part of himself. It is time for you now to learn more perfectly how to remain within. You should abandon your external plans.”

–Theophan the Recluse

If there is no silence beyond and within the words of doctrine, there is no religion, only religious ideology. For religion goes beyond words and actions, and attains to the ultimate truth in silence. When this silence is lacking, where there are only the “many words” and not the One Word, then there is much bustle and activity, but no peace, no deep thought, no understanding, no inner quiet. Where there is no peace, there is no light. The mind that is hyper-active seems to itself to be awake and productive, but it is dreaming. Only in silence and solitude, in the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God, only in these “activities” which are “non-actions” does the spirit truly awake from the dream of a multifarious and confused existence.

Thomas Merton. Honorable Reader: Reflections on My Work.
Edited by Robert E. Daggy (New York: Crossroad, 1989): 115.


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