Jesus


Reading 4 2 14, The Alchemical Tarot Renewed by Robert M Place

Reading 4 2 14, The Alchemical Tarot Renewed by Robert M Place

 

 

Position 1 Hanged Man, air, beginning…

Position 2 The Magus, reversed. Fire. changing. maturing

Position 3, the Queen of Vessels, Water of Water, Goddess as grail bearer of the Ocean

Position 4 9 swords, Air, destruction, cutting, moon, sex, completion not quite complete

Position 5 The High Priestess, Sophia, Lifter of the Veil, Bearer of Gnosis, Shekinah, Her of the heavens.

 

 

Tarot is an interesting thing. It works on many levels and in many ways. Some even view it as the perfect window into the soul. I don’t believe they are that good, personally…One large aspect of modern Tarot is the Hermetic traditions. The Hermetic traditions center around a form of Gnosticism (see the passages of the Corpus Hermeticum in comparison to Sethian for example cosmological beliefs etc.) centering around a divine priest in the Melchizadeck tradition honoring all priests, but from Thoth. Thoth the A Egyptian God, to Thoth the Atlantean. To a more familiar Hermes and Mercury. As an archetype for all priests the Hermetic tradition then is an interesting one. By archetype we mean more Platonic archetype and not Jungian.

One key principle or more accurately axiom of Hermeticism is “As above, So below.” The concept of macro and microcosm. The universe in miniature and in full expanse, the self and the Self. Hermeticism textually goes back around 2000 years, or approx. 1st Cent CE. Of course all text documents, of such nature are often far older than their written equivalents, oral tradition can date things… but that’s an argument for another time.

Tarot then can be seen through this lens of the Hermetic Axiom. We can see the court cards and number cards as the Microcosm, or the self. The trumps then can be seen as the Macrocosm. The Macrocosm of course can be seen as the Nous or divine mind, the mind of the divine.

 

The above reading is interesting in that it is composed of three potent Macrocosmic images and two Microcosmic images.

Nous: “Mind”, The soul, not the same as ‘pneuma’ or spirit. It is the part of
the anima that gives us consciousness. The anima as a whole gives life (or
literally movement.. “animates”) to our bodies. Tatian declares the soul as a
special kind of spirit. (See; Tatian’s “Letter to the Greeks’)

 

Ogdoad: Regarded in some texts as the “eighth kingdom above the hebdomas.” It is the realm of the Demiurgos (or sometimes that is the 7th, with the eighth being that of Sabaoth), as well as usually being the realm of the zodiac
(dodecon). Sometimes it is also seen as the beginning of freedom from the
Archons, and the beginning of connection to the Aeons. Pythagoris says…
“The ogdoad–8–was sacred because it was the number of the first cube, which
form had eight corners, and was the only evenly-even number under 10
(1-2-4-8-4-2-1). Thus, the 8 is divided into two 4’s, each 4 is divided into two
2’s, and each 2 is divided into two 1’s, thereby reestablishing the monad. Among
the keywords of the ogdoad are love, counsel, prudence, law, and convenience.
Among the divinities partaking of its nature were Panarmonia, Rhea, Cibele,
Cadmæa, Dindymene, Orcia, Neptune, Themis, and Euterpe (a Muse).” (Thomas
Taylor’s Theoretic Arithmetic, Thought by one source to be the rarest and most
important compilation of Pythagorean mathematical fragments extant.)

”… the Ogdoad, which is the eighth, and that we might receive that place of
salvation.” (”The Testimony of Truth.” See also; ”A Valentinian
Exposition.”) ) The Sacred ogdoad according to some sources is: Barbelo (deep), Sige (silence), Nous (mind), Veritus (truth), Sermo (word), Vita (life), Homo (man), Ecclesia (church). The last member of the group acts to syncretize the group.

 

Rba , Rabai – elect priest, chief intator and the ordainer of new Mandaean priests. Holds the office known as rabuta. Compare to the Jewish “rabbi”.

Seth: ”From Adam three natures were begotten. The first was the irrational, which was Cain’s, the second the rational and just, which was Abel’s, the third the spiritual, which was Seth’s. Now that which is earthly is “according to the image,” that which is psychical according to the ” likeness ” of God, and that
which is spiritual is according to the real nature; and with refer­ence to these three, without the other children of Adam, it was said, “This is the book of the generation of men.” And because Seth was spiritual he neither tends flocks nor tills the soil but produces a child, as spiritual things do. And him, who “hoped
to call upon the name of the Lord” who looked upward and whose “citizenship is in heaven – him the world does not contain.” (Theodotus, Criddle Collection.)

Sethian: It is a name for a specific sect of Gnostics, but also a category created by scholars to refer to a number of sects that are related to Valentinians. The Sethians as a group were known to Hippolytus who dedicated Book Five in his work, ”The Refutation of All Hereseys,” to denouncing them. (See Gaffney) Seth was a character of Gnosticism who represented a savior figure and third son of Adam, founder of the Gnostic race. Generally Sethian works include, “Pistis Sophia,” “Allogenes,” ”The Gospel of Mary,*” “Sentences of Sextus,” “Marsanes,” “Gospel of The Egyptians,*” ”The Apocalypse of Adam,*”
“Origin of The World,” ”The Gospel of Thomas,*” ”The Gospel of Philip,” “The Three Steles of Seth,” “Melchizidek,” ”The Apocryphon of John,” ”The Gospel of Judas,” Trimorphic Protennoia,” the un-named text in the Bruce Codex, and ”Zostrianos.” (Others) Some Sethian works suggest strong ties with
Jewish Gnosticism, as well as Platonic thought, as well as Zoroasterism. (They maintained three principles; darkness below, light above, and spirit in-between, according to work attributed to Dr. Roy Blizzard, University of Texas. See also; ”Sethian Gnosticism, A Literary History,” Turner) see also;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sethian ( * Indicates works from the Nag Hammadi Lib., with other works by the same name.)

Sethian Monadology: The system of the monad, constructed through the tetraktys
of the decad, which serves as an underlying philosophy in Sethian Gnosticism. It
is developed from the creation myths. The system is like, and based upon that
of Pythagoreans, and resembles the principles of the ancient Chinese philosophy
of the Tai Chi., which is based upon the ogdoad. The system is based upon
working variations of numerical values. Turner states, ”….vigorous
arithmological speculation on the first ten numbers, but especially the first
four numbers, comprising the Pythagorean tetraktys (the {mode} of the first four
numbers). This was carried on by such Pythagoreanizing Platonists as Theon of
Smyrna and Nicomachus of Gerasa, who in turn depend in part on similar
arithmological and mathematical theories produced by such early first century
Platonist figures as Dercyllides, Adrastos of Aphrodisias (a Peripatetic
commentator on Plato’s Timaeus) and Thrasyllos, a court philosopher under the
Emperor Tiberius. The harmonic ratios produced by these first four numbers and
the geometric entities of point, line, surface, and solid had been applied to
the structure and the creation of the world soul long before by Plato and his
successors in the Old Academy, especially Speusippus and Xenocrates. (See;
Turner, See also; ”The History of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 2.,” by Fung
Yu-Lan, Princeton, 1953, See also; ”A Valentinian Exposition.”)

 

….

The Sufi mystic Ibn al-Arabi drew a diagram similar to the one used to develop a pattern around a khatam (see above). However, Al-Arabi’s diagram’s diagram is concerned with spirituality, not ornamentation. He drew it as part of his explanation that “all phenomena are nothing but manifestations of Being, which is one with God.” Conincidentally, Al-Arabi was born in Spain at around the same time the practice of zillij, mosaic design, was starting to flourish. As Sufism had particular appeal to North Africa, his spirtual use of the pattern may explain the prolific use of the eight-point star and and symetries of eight in Moroccan Islamic patterns.

 

The number eight was important among Sufi mystics. “The octagon, with a ninth point in the center, is also central to the mystical symbology of Sufism. It is the seal or design which Ernest Scott says ‘reaches for the innermost secrets of man’. Meaning wholeness, power and perfection, this primary geometrical symbol is one which Sufis associate with Shambhala …”

On his website of natural patterns, Ian Alexander refers to the eight-point star as both the Sufi star and the Moroccan star. He offers the following explanation, as quoted from Friday mosque in Iran “Form is symbolised by the square. Expansion is symbolised by the square with triangles pointing outwards (an 8-pointed star). Contraction is symbolised by the square with triangles pointing inwards (a 4-pointed star). The two star-shapes together symbolise the cycle of creation, ‘the breath of the compassionate.’”

Origins and Meanings of the Eight-Point Star

 

 

 

While romanticized literature describes the Grail as a chalice, this is a much later derivation, extrapolating from Celtic tradition in which the Grail is described as a platter. Many vessels would have passed through the hands of Jesus in his short lifetime…probably humble clay and wooden bowls such as the famous Nanteos Bowl. This medieval relic, long kept sequested in Wales, is thought to be made of olive wood, and was originally revered in Glastonbury Abbey. According to tradition it was secretly carried away to avoid plundering by agents of Henry VIII. The Nanteos relic is a fragment of wooden bowl credited with miraculous healing powers, with well-attested healing effected as recently as the 1950’s. This also is not the Grail, such a humble vessel with proven powers would perhaps be a stronger candidate for having been used by Jesus. Many manifest vessels can hold Grail power, according to human intention, attunement, and practice, but no single one is the Grail itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanteos_Cup

The Hidden Adept & The Inner Vision

Lyrics

A  Parable of the Spirit

http://www.chalicecentre.net/light-of-the-west.html

St Joseph of Arimathea

 

 

(more…)

If this metaphysical space is to be known,

such knowledge can be attained only by faith and grace,

not by ‘entering’ but by ‘being entered’

-this is so because the greater must reveal itself to the lesser.

Put differently, that which is immanently ‘Spirit’ can only be known receptively,

through its own intellective vision, and not any derivative faculty such as reason,

feeling or sensation. Reason can only discern conceptually,

at best reducing reality to a dualism of subject and object

(as in the case of Descartes) or catagorical postulate

(as in the case of Kant) or dialectic process

(as in the case of Hegel) – its ‘telos’ will tend to be utopian(as in the case of Marx),

fundamentalist( as in the cases of religious, political or secular dogmatism)

or anthropocentrically consencual (as in the case of Rousseau’s social contract);

while sensation or feeling even where elevated to

the level of empirical ‘science,’ can only discern reality as matter or as psyche,

quantitatively, thereby cutting it off from its transcendent

and qualitative roots, leading to an emphasis on hypertrophic subjectivism

(as in the case of Nietzsche), Psychologism(as in the case of Freud),

or reductive positivism(as in the cases of philosophical positivism and of scientism).

That which transcends us cannot be known reductively

but only by that transcendent faculty which is immanent in us-which in

Tradition is termed the ‘Intellect’

or the Self-knowing Spirit. To know is to discern BEING.

We must empty ourselves or our ‘self’ in order to know who we ARE.

We must return to the sacred emptiness of the space that is our

ontological core in order to know that which truly IS.

–M Ali Lakhani (the Distance between us, found in Sacred Web issue 31)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chewton_Mendip Church of St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chewton_Mendip
Church of St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip

In the Western world, a strong belief in the objective truths of religion, which are viewed as incontrovertible, demonstrable facts, is regarded as essential to the life of faith. When asking if somebody is religious, peo- ple often inquire: “Does he or she believe?” as though accepting certain credal propositions was the prime religious activity. Indeed, faith is equated with belief, but this equation is of recent provenance. Origi- nally the meaning of the word faith was akin to trust, as when we say that we have faith in a friend or an ideal. Faith was not an intellectual position but a virtue: it was the careful cultivation, by means of the ritu- als and myths of religion, of the conviction that, despite all the dispirit- ing evidence to the contrary, life had some ultimate meaning and value. The Latin word credo (translated now as “I believe”) seems to have de- rived from the phrase cor dare: to give one’s heart. The Middle English word beleven meant to love. When Christians proclaimed: credo in unum Deum , they were not so much affirming their belief in the existence of a single deity as committing their lives to God. When St. Anselm of Can- terbury prayed in the eleventh century: credo ut intellagam (“I have faith in order that I may understand”), he was not blindly submitting to the doctrines of religion in the hope that one day these incredible asser- tions would make sense today, if he abdicated his critical intelligence. His prayer should really be translated: “I commit myself in order that I may understand.” The meaning of dogma would only be revealed when he lived a fully Christian life, embracing its mythology and rituals whole- heartedly. This attitude is foreign to modernity. Today people feel that before they live a religious life, they must first satisfy themselves intel- lectually of its metaphysical claims. This is sound scientific practice: first you must establish a principle before you can apply it. But it is not the way that religion has traditionally worked.

http://www.sacredweb.com/online_articles/sw4_armstrong.pdf
Karen ARmstrong (Faith an Modernity)

 

 

 

Soaring upwards
Can be like reaching down

Pushing forward

Can be like pushing back

Going right

Can be like Going left

Within is within

All things begin

And end at the cross roads

–GraalBaum 2013

 

 

This world-mountain was Nizir to the Chaldeans, Olympus to the Greeks, Hara Berezaiti to the Persians of the Avesta, the later Alborz and Elburz; a transfer, as says Mme. Ragozin, of ‘mythical heavenly geography to the earth.’ This mountain—the solar hill of the Egyptians—we shall again refer to in the next two or three chapters. At its apex springs, the heaven tree on which the solar bird is perched. From its roots spring the waters of life—the celestial sea, which, rushing adown the firmament, supplies the ocean which circumscribes the earth or falls directly in rain. At their fountain these springs are guarded by a goddess. In Egypt Nut, the goddess of the oversea, leans from the branches of the heavenly persea and pours forth the celestial water. In the Vedas, Yama, lord of the waters, sits in the highest heaven in the midst of the heavenly ocean under the tree of life, which drops the nectar Soma, and here, on the ‘navel of the waters,’ matter first took form. In the Norse, the central tree Yggdrasil has at its roots the spring of knowledge guarded by the Norns, the northern Fates; two swans the parents of all those of earth, float there. In Chaldea the mighty tree of Eridu, centre of the world, springs by the waters. The Avesta gives a very complete picture—Iran is at the centre of the seven countries of the world; it was the first created, and so beautiful, that were it not that God has implanted in all men a love for their own land, all nations would crowd into this the loveliest land. To the east somewhere, but still at the centre of the world, rises the ‘Lofty Mountain,’ from which all the mountains of the earth have grown, ‘High Haraiti;’ at its

summit is the gathering place of waters, out of which spring the two trees, the heavenly Haoma (Soma), and another tree which bears all the seeds that germinate on earth. This heavenly mountain is called ‘Navel of Waters,’ for the fountain of all waters springs there, guarded by a majestic and beneficent goddess. In Buddhist accounts, the waters issue in four streams like the

Eden from this reservoir, and flow to the cardinal points, each making one complete circuit in its descent. In the Persian Bundahish there are two of these heavenly rivers flowing east and west. To the Hindus the Ganges is such a heavenly stream. ‘The stream of heaven was called by the Greeks Achelous.’ The Nile in Egypt, the Hoang-Ho in China, and the Jordan to the Jews, seem to have been celestial rivers. This mountain of heaven is often figured in Christian art with the four rivers issuing from under the Throne of God.

Sir John Maundeville gives an account of the earthly Paradise quite perfect in its detailed scheme. It is the highest place on earth, nearly reaching to the circle of the moon (as in Dante), and the flood did not reach it. ‘And in the highest place, exactly in the middle, is a well that casts out the four streams’—Ganges, Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates. ‘And men there beyond say that all the sweet waters of the world above and beneath take their beginning from the well of Paradise, and out of that well all water come and go.

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/earth/amm/amm07.htm

 

http://chasinghermes.com/2009/04/24/08-axis-mundi.aspx

 

It is precisely the challenge involved

in using inadequate words

that drives the mind

beyond all words…

At the borders of speech

we open ourselves

to the positive value of silence….

Literary reading,

through its complexity, its music,

its suggestiveness, points to a fuller realm of being.

–Edward k Kaplan (citing Abraham Joshua Heschel)

Revelation is a cloudburst, a downpour,

yet most of us are like moles, burrowing,

and whatever stream we meet is underground

–Abraham Joshua Heschel

“As men’s Prayers are a Disease of the Will, so are their Creeds a disease of the Intellect.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is the use of gnosis, if it is so forbiddingly elitist? Since the alternatives are diseases of the will and of the intellect, why invoke the criterion of usefulness? Prayers are a more interesting literary form than creeds, but even the most impressive of prayers will not change us, let alone change God. And nearly all prayers are directed anyway to the archons, the angels who made and marred this world, and whom we worship, William Blake warned, as Jesus and Jehovah, Divine Names misapplied to our prison warders. The Accusers who are the gods of this world have won all of the victories, and they will go on triumphing over us. History is always on their side, for they are history. Everyone who would return us to history always performs the work of the Accusers. Most scholars worship history, the Composite God who rewards their labors by granting them their illusion of value. Emerson remarked that there was no history, only biography, which is another Gnostic recognition.

Do not pray, do not believe; only know and be known. Many among us know without knowing that we know; Bentley Layton catches this when he suggests that gnosis should be translated as ‘acquaintance’ rather than as ‘knowing.’ Acquaintance with your own deepest self will not come often or easily, but it is unmistakable when (and if ) it comes. Neither the will nor the intellect spurs such acquaintance, but both come into play once it is achieved. To be acquainted with what is best and oldest in yourself, is to know yourself as you were, before the world was made, before you emerged into time.

–Harold Bloom (from “Alone with the Alone” by Henry Corbin)

 

I praise the Lord, Prince of the realm and King!

His rule extends across the whole wide world.

Gweir was penned beneath the fortress mound,

As tell the tales of Pwyll and Pryderi.

None before him passed into the prison,

With a heavy chain a faithful servant bound.

Bitter before the spoils of Annwn he sang,

And until Doomsday lasts our bardic prayer.

Three companies of warriors we went in —

Seven alone rose up from Elfs-castle.

 

Song rang out, honoring me with praise

In the four-peaked fortress, four its mighty turnings.

My verses from within the cauldron uttered,

By breath of maidens ninefold they were kindled.

The lord of Annwn’s cauldron: how is it made?

A dark ridge on its border, crusted pearls.

Its fate is not to boil the meat of cowards,

The deadly flashing sword is lifted to it,

And in the hand of the Leaper it was left.

Before the doors of hell the lamps were burning.

When we went in with Arthur, blinding trouble —

Seven alone rose up from Meads-castle.

 

 

Song rang out, honoring me with praise

In the four-peaked fortress, isle of the strong door.

Flowing water and shining jet are mingled,

They drink the sparkling wine before their followers.

Three companies of warriors sailed the sea —

Seven alone rose up from Hard-castle.

 

I do not deserve to be put with poetasters:

Beyond the fort they missed the valor of Arthur.

Six thousand men stood on the glass wall,

Their sentinel was difficult to speak with.

Three companies of warriors went with Arthur —

Seven alone rose up from Guts-castle.

 

 

I do not deserve the mean men, slack their shield straps.

They do not know the day of our creation,

Nor what time of day the One was born.

Who made him who strayed far from Defwy meadows?

They do not know the ox, his thick headband,

Full sevenscore links upon his chained collar.

And when we went with Arthur, woeful visit —

Seven alone rose up from Gods-castle.

 

 

I do not deserve these men — slack their will.

They do not know which day the chief was sired,

Nor what hour of day the lord was born,

Nor what beasts are kept, their heads of silver.

When we went in with Arthur, sorrowful strife —

Seven alone rose up from Box-castle.

 

 

Monks are a pack together — a choir of dogs —

They shrink away from meeting the lords who know:

Is there one course of wind? One course of water?

Is there one spark of fire?  Of fierce tumult?

Monks are a pack together, like youngling wolves

They shrink away from meeting the lords who know:

They do not know when night and dawn divide,

Nor wind, what is its course, nor what its onrush,

What place it ravages, nor where it strikes.

The grave of the saint vanishes, grave and ground.

I praise the Lord, great Prince of the whole world,

And so I am not sad, for Christ endows me.

further:

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/annwn.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preiddeu_Annwfn

http://igerne.tripod.com/annwn.htm

http://www.celtic-twilight.com/camelot/poetry/taliesin/spoils_annwfn.htm

 

In the center of the Castle of Brahma, our own body, there is a small shrine,

in the form of a Lotus flower, and within can be found a small space.

We should find who dwells there and want to know him….

for the whole universe is in him and he dwells within our heart.

–Chandoga Upanishad

 

Or, as one might say; In the center of the Castle of the Grail, our own body, there is a shrine,

and within it is to be found the Grail of the Heart.

We should indeed seek to know and understand that inhabitant.

It is the fragment of the divine contained within each one of us- like the sparks of

unfallen creation which the Gnostics saw entrapped within the flesh of the human envelope.

This light shines within each one, and the true quest of the Grail consists in

bringing that light to the surface, nourishing and feeding it until its radiance suffuses the world.

–John Matthews (“Temples of the Grail” found in At The Table of the Grail: No One Who Sets Forth on the Grail Quest Remains Unchanged )

 

 

The Grail Mystery Returned underground, wrapped itself again in its esotericism

and waited for another time toi unfold its inner revelation. Such a point was reached

after the Reformation, when the inner Grail mystery…surfaced again in the Rosicruccian

movement of the early seventeenth century. At this time…the Rosicrucians tried to incarnate

an Esoteric Christianity within the Protestant movement…in order to provide a much needed

resolution of the polarities of Protestantism. Thus we should see the Rosicrucian

movement as being inwardly related to the Grail mystery. The spiritual alchemy that

was the esoteric foundation of Rosicrucianism can be seen as a development of the Grail impulse.

–Adam Maclean (“Alchemical transmutation in history and symbolism” , found in At the Table of the Grail 1982)

 

 

The

intrinsic definition of Limitlessness is that It lacks nothing and can

receive nothing, for It is everything. As It is everything,

theoretictically It is the potential to be an infinite source of giving.

 

The

question arises, however, that there is nothing for It to give to

because It is everything. It would have to give to Itself. This has been

a major creation. conundrum in philosophy and theology for thousands of

years.

 

Kabbalah

suggests one way of dealing with this issue. It says that as long as

the infinite source of giving has no “will” to give, nothing happens.

However, the instant It has the will to give, this will initiates a

“thought.” Kabbalah says, “Will, which is [primordial] thought, is the

beginning of all things, and the expression [of this thought] is the

completion.

 

That is, the entire creation is nothing more than a thought in the “mind” ofEin Sof, so

to speak. Another way to express this idea is that the will to u give

instantly creates a will to receive. The idea that an infinite giver can

create receptivity in Itself is what Kabbalists call tzimtzum (contraction). It has to make an opening within Itself for receiving.

 

That which is given is called light. That which receives is called vessel. Light

and vessel are always in balance, because light comes from an infinite

source and thus will fill a vessel to its capacity. If we put a bucket

under Niagara Falls, it instantly fills. If we put a freight train

there, it also instantly fills. Imagine that the entire universe rests

under a Niagara Falls of light, continuously being filled.

 

According

to Kabbalah, the interaction between vessel and light is what makes the

world go around. Everything in the universe is a vessel that “wills” to

receive the light of theinfinite bestower. Each molecule, plant,

animal, rock, and human is a vessel; each has the “will” to be exactly

what it is.]

 

Human

consciousness is unique in that it has the quality of being “in and the

universe. If we the image of God.” This quality is expressed by what we

call free will, and free will at its core is nothing more than the

ability to bestow light. That is to say, human consciousness has an

inherent will to give. This human capability of acting like God in being a bestower is the fulcrum upon which the entire universe is balanced.

 

The

reason this is so important is that if there were a will only to

receive, as described above, the universe would be completely

predictable. Everything would be predetermined, all receptivity would

find shape in its implicit design, and every aspect of the unfolding of

creation could be anticipated. The wild card introduced here is the

premise that human consciousness is informed by a soul force that gives

it the capacity to emulate the infinite Bestower.

 

 

Thus

human beings have an extraordinary capacity to influence the direction

of creation. Each time we make use of our free will by giving, we are in

copartnership with the infinite Bestower. When this is accomplished,

with clear awareness of what we are doing, we raise the consciousness of

creation.

–David A Cooper (God Is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism)

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'"

(73).

 

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,

 

Matthew

 

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