“If we set out into this darkness, we have to meet these inexorable
forces.  We will have to face fears and doubts.  We will have to call
into question the whole structure of our spiritual life.  We will have
to make a new evaluation of our motives for belief, for love, for
self-commitment to the invisible God.  And at this moment, precisely,
all spiritual light is darkened, all values lose their shape and
reality, and we remain, so to speak, suspended in the void.

The most crucial aspect of this experience is precisely the temptation
to doubt God himself.  We must not minimize the fact that this is a
genuine risk.”

–Thomas Merton (CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER,  page 77)

I know that I am presenting the solution in difficult terms, but there is nothing difficult in the Word of Truth. But since the Solution appeared so as not to leave anything hidden, but to reveal all things openly concerning existence – the destruction of evil on the one hand, the revelation of the elect on the other. This is the emanation of Truth and Spirit, Grace is of the Truth.

The Savior swallowed up death – (of this) you are not reckoned as being ignorant – for he put aside the world which is perishing. He transformed himself into an imperishable Aeon and raised himself up, having swallowed the visible by the invisible, and he gave us the way of our immortality. Then, indeed, as the Apostle said, “We suffered with him, and we arose with him, and we went to heaven with him”. Now if we are manifest in this world wearing him, we are that one`s beams, and we are embraced by him until our setting, that is to say, our death in this life. We are drawn to heaven by him, like beams by the sun, not being restrained by anything. This is the spiritual resurrection which swallows up the psychic in the same way as the fleshly.

But if there is one who does not believe, he does not have the (capacity to be) persuaded. For it is the domain of faith, my son, and not that which belongs to persuasion: the dead shall arise! There is one who believes among the philsophers who are in this world. At least he will arise. And let not the philosopher who is in this world have cause to believe that he is one who returns himself by himself – and (that) because of our faith! For we have known the Son of Man, and we have believed that he rose from among the dead. This is he of whom we say, “He became the destruction of death, as he is a great one in whom they believe.” Great are those who believe.

The thought of those who are saved shall not perish. The mind of those who have known him shall not perish. Therefore, we are elected to salvation and redemption since we are predestined from the beginning not to fall into the foolishness of those who are without knowledge, but we shall enter into the wisdom of those who have known the Truth. Indeed, the Truth which is kept cannot be abandoned, nor has it been. “Strong is the system of the Pleroma; small is that which broke loose (and) became (the) world. But the All is what is encompassed. It has not come into being; it was existing.” So, never doubt concerning the resurrection, my son Rheginos! For if you were not existing in flesh, you received flesh when you entered this world. Why will you not receive flesh when you ascend into the Aeon? That which is better than the flesh is that which is for (the) cause of life. That which came into being on your account, is it not yours? Does not that which is yours exist with you? Yet, while you are in this world, what is it that you lack? This is what you have been making every effort to learn.

–The treatise on the resurrection

Zen mind is the “Natural” state of our beings: No self, no identity, no memes, no beliefs.

Any idea of “what is” takes us away from what is – to be in the moment, all ideas need to be gone. There’s not even an “I” to have the ideas.

The natural being acts as an outcome of the movement of the universe, in the same way that an artist’s brush is moved by its “universe”.

All “teachings”, “spiritual” paths or “sacred” practices actually take us away from the moment, because it needs an “I” to do them, with an agenda of some kind, something to gain. All of which removes our beingness from the identity-free moment.

The only way that “what is” can be experienced is to lose all traces of self, in which case the “what is” can’t be experienced because there is no one there to experience it.

Any description of the state of the natural mind is false, including this one. “It” cannot be described. “It” is always “bigger” than the limiting description.

There is not even an “ultimate” state to gain, because the very idea that there is, takes us away from it.

All there is, is the operation of the universe in its all-ness. There’s no such thing as “enlightened” or “unenlightened”. These are just ideas of what is.

Even “bliss” or “transcendence” is a state of mind that needs an “I” to experience those feelings.

Thoughts are the glue of our belief structures. “I” is the creation of thoughts and beliefs.

What’s happening, when we think we are functioning human beings, is the operating system of the brain, running sophisticated meme/belief structures that create the content of our identities and sense of self.

The only act awareness can “do” is to let go of “self” awareness. Awareness, to be fully there, needs to have no “I” attached to it.

Where there was self, there is now “active” emptiness.

Action, from this place, is an instantaneous, pure response to the call of the moment. It is the moment, the universe acting, not the person.

True peace is an absence of agitation, an absence of self-generated internal activity. So peace cannot be “done”, or created – it’s an absence of doing. This allows unadulterated “what-is” to be.

All action out of this state is completely harmonious and non-conflicting. There is nothing there to conflict with anything else.

A transcended being feels the world cleanly, whereas an “I”, full of beliefs and ideas of self, overlays those unadulterated feelings with external content, imbuing them with emotional “charge”. This charge is reactive to the world around it, continually creating conflict as it attempts to dissipate.

Whatever is actual or real can only be there when all ideas, all thoughts, all belief, all traces of identity are gone – when there is no “I” left to take us out of the moment. If the eternal now moment is all there is, this may be the only way to be in it.

Thought is only necessary, only of any use, when it is called for by the moment, for a particular task. To keep thinking beyond the particular call of the moment is the same as keeping your arm above your head all the time, or hopping on one leg all the time.

What comes out of the moment relates only to that moment. It’s already past and nonexistent as it is experienced. To hold to anything experienced or said in that moment, is to live in the dead past.

If you can’t touch it, show it, taste it, does it have any reality?



In the beginning there are intellectual structures to help us
understand our experiences – then the structures necessarily fall
away as we fall back into the bliss of simple being.

Gershon Winkler

An old Jewish parable: Once there was a dog who heard that there were two weddings going on, one nearby and one a couple miles away. Salivating at the thought of meat-strewn bones and discarded fat, the dog decided to bee-line it first to the distant reception and then later he would head for the one nearby. His logic was simple and sensible: If he were to gorge himself at the nearby party, by the time he would finish gnawing and head all the way out to the distant one, the distant wedding reception would be all done and there would be no leftovers remaining. So best to go first to the distant one.

Extremely proud of his decision, the dog ran first to the far-away wedding reception—but alas, it was so far away that by the time he got there, it was over and everything had been cleaned up. Hungry, he dashed back all the way to the “nearby” reception—but alas, by the time he arrived, it was all over and done and not a scrap remained. Bottom line, he benefited from neither the one nor the other and ended up with nothing (Sefer Ben Melech V’Ha’Nazir).

In hindsight, of course, had the dog simply focused on eating and settled for one of the wedding receptions rather than go for both, he would have had a feast—perhaps not everything that he wanted, or that was available, but definitely a mouthful. Like the ancient rabbis put it: “Grab a lot and you have nothing at all; grab but a little, and you will have something”

(Talmud, Yoma 80a).

So what do we do? What if I want to walk my existence with one foot in this temporary material realm and my other foot in the infinite spirit realm beyond? Can I? Well, the 14th-century Rabbi Bach’ya ibn Yussef Paquda says No. “That,” he writes, “would be akin to trying to fill a bucket with both fire and water!” (Cho’vo’t Hal’va’vo’t, Sha’ar Chesh’bo’n Ha’Nefesh, Ch. 25).

Aha. So what do I do? Must I choose one world over the other? Like the dog in the parable should have done? And if so, which world do I choose to focus my energies on? This one, or the other one? The revealed World of Unfolding, or the unknown World of Mystery?

What a dilemma. And probably a dilemma that lies at the core of everyday human conflict, whether between relationship partners or nations. How much of what we do—or OVERdo—stems from our well-meaning attempts to dance at both weddings simultaneously? Like my teacher of old, Rav Efrayim Zeitchik once wrote: “If you try to equally please both, your impulse for good and your impulse for bad, you will tear yourself in two and benefit neither from the pleasures of this world nor from the pleasures of the next world” (Sefer Torat HaNefesh, p. 173).

So do we choose one impulse over the other? Is that the key? I once asked him. No, he said. The key is to not be impulsive. To not act on impulse, not for good or for bad.

Indeed, the Torah is full of injunctions: do this, don’t do that, ad-infinitum. It is no wonder that many people see the Torah as a compendium of laws. In fact, it is often translated as “The Law,” when actually it means literally: Guidance. Guidance. Moses therefore implored our ancestors to desist from obsessing with the laws to the neglect of “what is right and what is good in the eyes of God” (Deuteronomy 6:18)—that there is a whole other dimension of our life walk that is devoid of religion, culture, injunctions, and laws. It’s simply called “halachah,” Hebrew for “The Walk.” And this Walk is about dealing with every situation, every moment, anew, unrelated to the situation or moment that preceded it. The law for your particular circumstance says such-and-such, but you must not act according to the dictates of the law from a place of impulse. You must rather weigh the law and the situation at hand against the backdrop of “what is good and what is right in the eyes of God”—or, as the 2nd-century Rabbi Akiva clarifies it: “what is good in the eyes of Heaven and what is right in the eyes of fellow humans” (Midrash Sif’ri on Deuteronomy 12:28).

So, walk in this world only, or in the next world only? Neither. Walk rather in the Nether, in the in-between realm, in the chasm betwixt both, in the Grey. “Veil your actions,” the ancient teachers advised, “and reveal your Walk” (Talmud, Derech Eretz Zuta, Ch. 7).

What does this mean? Well, I recently came across the following in the Jerusalem Talmud: “Rabbi Abba bar Kahana taught, ‘It is written “Two acts of evil did my people commit” (Jeremiah 2:13)—What two acts of evil were they? They bowed in worship to the sun and they bowed in worship to the Holy Sanctuary’” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sukah 1:1). On the surface, this teaching of Abba bar Kahana is puzzling. What was so bad about bowing in worship toward the Holy Sanctuary? But if you think about it, it all boils down to the same theme: If you are being fragmented by two differing forces tugging at you, walk in neither. Walk in between. Don’t try to compromise yourself and your principles for one over the other or for both. Go into neutral. Stay centered. The “evil” Jeremiah was referring to, Abba bar Kahana taught, is the wrongness of trying to make something that isn’t good appear to be good by blending it with its antithesis. Bowing to the sun is not more or less wrong than bowing to the Holy Sanctuary (Mishnah, Shekalim 6:3). What IS wrong is bowing to the sun as a primary focus and then appeasing the Holy Sanctuary by bowing in its direction as well. What IS wrong is justifying an action that is intended and preferred by linking it with an action that is neither intended nor preferred in that moment but which might lend credence to the intended action in the eyes of others. Bow to the sun all you want, but don’t use the act of bowing to the Holy Sanctuary to make bowing to the sun appear more “acceptable” to onlookers.

Remember to do “what is good in the eyes of Heaven and what is right in the eyes of fellow humans,” as Rabbi Akiva taught. Not solely what is good in the eyes of people alone, and not solely what is good in the eyes of God alone. The Walk, taught Abbaya, requires us to live in ways that are okay to both: “beloved Above and held precious below” (Talmud, Berachot 17a). One earlier master, Rav, refused to divulge Sacred Incantations to anyone who did not walk in ways “that are beloved Above and held precious below.” Moreover, taught Rav, such an individual belongs to both this world and the world to come; not walks with one foot in one world and the other foot in the other world, but actually belongs to both realms, has both feet in both worlds simultaneously! (Talmud, Kidushin 71a).

What, however, is that missing ingredient, then, without which all of this starts getting confusing?


This is about the most fragile concept the human has been grappling with since the beginning of time. As the 4th-century Abbaya cautioned: “Do not say one thing and intend another in your heart” (Talmud, Baba Metzia 49a). In the ancient Hebrew scriptures, we find an additional concept added to doing what is “right and good in the eyes of God”—Truth: “And Y’Chiz’kiyahu did what was good and right AND TRUTH in the eyes of God” (2nd Chronicles 31:20).

Good impulse, or bad impulse? Neither. No impulse. Just a little dab of truth mixed with weighing our thoughts and actions on the scale of “What is good in the eyes of Heaven and right in the eyes of fellow humans.” That is the huge challenge facing each of us at all times. And all that is expected of us in this struggle is that we do the best that we can within the limitations of our circumstances (Talmud, Berachot 17a). Like the ancient rabbis quote God as saying to us: “Just try; and whatever it is you find you can do, is pleasing to me” (Talmud, B’choro’t 17b).

May we always be up to it. Or at least some of the time.

Visit the website of Rabbi Gershon Winkler at: http://walkingstick.org/

Tiferet, God’s ‘beauty’, is his infinite unity in so far as it is revealed as the plenitude and blissful harmony of all his possibilities. Whereas in Keter these dwell within their supreme identity, in Tiferet they appear as so many particular archetypes, each of which connects with the others by essential fusion and qualitative interpenetration. This is why the Kabbalah says: ‘When the colours (or qualities of the principle) are intermingled, he is called Tiferet.’

The archetypes are at first pure and indistinct lights, which only receive their ‘colours’ or specific qualities in Din, the supreme ‘judgement’; and it is in Tiferet, beauty emanating from judgement, that these divine colours intermingle in perfect harmony. For Tiferet is above all others the mediatory Sefirah, God’s ‘heart’ or ‘compassion’ (Rachamim), which embraces and fuses everything which is ‘above’ and ‘below,’ ‘on the right’ or ‘on the left’ in the world of emanation. It is called the ‘sun’ or the supreme ‘wheel’, their antinomies in its one centre or ‘hub’…..

In…..God’s beauty all his causal possibilites appear as the perfected ‘models’ of created things and these, even under the most contradictory aspects; in it, God ‘carves his (eternal) sculptures’ to the last degree of precision and with a perfect art which brings all the contrasts together into a supreme concordance. In God’s beauty all his aspects are what they are, in all their relationships and in all their reciprocity; in God’s beauty each Sefirah opens up into its own whole fullness and magnificence, penetrating and penetrated by the other Sefirot. For this reason, Tiferet is called Da’at, divine ‘knowing’, the omniscience or total consciousness of God, of which it is written (Proverbs 24:4): ‘and by da’at the rooms (or spiritual “receptivities”) are filled with all precious and pleasant (Sefirotic) riches (which are “precious” in the cognitive aspect and “pleasant” in their harmony’.

Divine beauty is at the same time: more-than-luminous darkness; dazzling plenitude of being; boundless void, pure receptive power; immeasurable grace; the rigorous measure of all things; freedom; the disappearance of all boundaries in the infinite; the act of redemption; majesty. All these aspects, which are simply a description of the ten Sefirot, interpenetrate one another and form the unlimited expressions of the ‘small face’, revealing the mysteries and lights of the ‘great face’ enclosed within it. For Tiferet, by itself, is the whole of the ‘small face’; it is the ‘king’ or the ‘son’ which constitutes the synthesis of all the divine emanations, both of those from which it issues and of those which issue from it: all appear as its own aspects…..

The essential principle of divine beauty is the identity of the absolute (Ain) – which excludes all that is not itself – and of the infinite (Ain Sof) – which includes all that is real; it is the unity of the more than luminous darkness of non-being with the dazzling plenitude of pure being, the supreme and most mysterious of unities, which is revealed in the saying (Song of Songs 1:5): ‘I am black, but comely…..’ This essential principle of divine beauty, from which radiate both the pure truth of the only reality, eclipsing all that is not it, and at the same time unlimited bliss in which each thing swims as though in a shoreless ocean, is nothing other than Keter, which encloses all the polar aspects of God, eternally and without distinction. When Keter reveals itself, its infinite and unitive aspect is expressed by Chochmah and by Chesed, while its absolute or exclusive character is manifested by Binah and Din. These two kinds of antinomic emanations are indispensable in view of creation; we have seen how, in order to create, both rigorous truth and generous bliss are necessary; or, in other words, measure in all things, judgement of their qualities, universal law on the one hand and on the other the unlimitedness of grace, giving rise to all life, joy and freedom. And in order that these two opposites, in which are concentrated, in one way or another, all the divine aspects, may be able to produce the cosmos, there has to be, not only absolute identity ‘above’ between these two, but also their interpenetration and existential fusion ‘below’. This fusion or synthesis of all the revealed antinomies of God, which can be summed up in the two general terms ‘grace’ and ‘rigour’, takes place in Tiferet, ‘beauty’. In Tiferet, the eternal measure of things is as though dissolved in the incommensurability of his redemptive grace. When divine beauty is manifested, grace crystalizes mysteriously in the created ‘measures’ or forms and radiates through them, leaving the imprint of its author on the work of creation.”

– Leo Schaya (The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah)

Is gentle
And not
A path
Of direction
For a destination
Is grand illusion
As pure silence
Is the source
Of home
The true
We measure
Not in distance
Only in the acceptance
That we are never alone



–silent lotus



“Boundlessness is beyond definition, it is beyond the sum of all of its ‘parts.’ That is to say, if we put together all of the possible attributes and characteristics that could possibly exist in this universe, Boundlessness would embrace all of them and still be ‘larger’ beyond all limits – thus ultimately unimaginable, ungraspable, unknowable.

When a God-name is used, we must always keep in mind that it represents only a small fragment of divine Boundlessness. There are may God-names in Hebrew that describe attributes. Still, time and time again the sages caution us to be careful not to confuse the name of an attribute with the source itself.”


David A. Cooper (Ecstatic Kabbalah)



Into blinding darkness enter those who worship the unmanifest and into still greater darkness those who take delight in the manifest.

Different indeed they declare what results from the manifest and distinct they say what comes out of the unmanifest. This is what we heard from the wise who explained these truths to us.

He who understands both the manifest and the unmanifest together, crosses death through the unmanifest and attains immortality through the manifest.

Covered with the golden disc is the face of truth. Uncover it, O Pusan, so that I who love truth may be able to see it.

O Pusan, the one seer, O controller, O sun, offspring of Prajapati, bring out your radiant rays and focus your radiance so that I may be able to see the auspicious form of yours. Who so ever person is there beyond, that also I am.

The Isa Upanishad




I’ve been scattered in pieces,

torn by conflict,

mocked by laughter,

washed down in drink.


In alleyways I sweep myself up

out of garbage and broken glass…


It’s here in all the pieces of my shame

that I now find myself again…

I yearn to be held

in the great hands of your heart —

oh let them take me now.

Into them I place these fragments, my life,

and you, God—spend them however you want.


          Rainer Maria Rilke




The people of the kingdom of Sadik surrounded the palace of their king shouting in rebellion against him. And he came down the steps of the palace carrying his crown in one hand and his sceptre in the other. The majesty of his appearance silenced the multitude, and he stood before them and said, “My friends, who are no longer my subjects, here I yield my crown and sceptre unto you. I would be one of you. I am only one man, but as a man I would work together with you that our lot may be made better. There is no need for king. Let us go therefore to the fields and the vineyards and labour hand with hand. Only you must tell me to what field or vineyard I should go. All of you now are king.”


And the people marvelled, and stillness was upon them, for the king whom they had deemed the source of their discontent now yielding his crown and sceptre to them and became as one of them.


Then each and every one of them went his way, and the king walked with one man to a field.


But the Kingdom of Sadik fared not better without a king, and the mist of discontent was still upon the land. The people cried out in the market places saying that they have a king to rule them. And the elders and the youths said as if with one voice, “We will have our king.”


And they sought the king and found him toiling in the field, and they brought him to his seat, and yielded unto his crown and his sceptre. And they said, “Now rule us, with might and with justice.”


And he said, “I will indeed rule you with might, and may the gods of the heaven and the earth help me that I may also rule with justice.”


Now, there came to his presence men and women and spoke unto him of a baron who mistreated them, and to whom they were but serfs.


And straightway the king brought the baron before him and said, “The life of one man is as weighty in the scales of God as the life of another. And because you know not how to weigh the lives of those who work in your fiends and your vineyards, you are banished, and you shall leave this kingdom forever.”


The following day came another company to the king and spoke of the cruelty of a countess beyond the hills, and how she brought them down to misery. Instantly the countess was brought to court, and the king sentenced her also to banishment, saying, “Those who till our fields and care for our vineyards are nobler than we who eat the bread they prepare and drink the wine of their wine-press. And because you know not this, you shall leave this land and be afar from this kingdom.”


Then came men and women who said that the bishop made them bring stones and hew the stones for the cathedral, yet he gave them naught, though they knew the bishop’s coffer was full of gold and silver while they themselves were empty with hunger.


And the king called for the bishop, and when the bishop came the king spoke and said unto his, “That cross you wear upon your bosom should mean giving life unto life. But you have taken life from life and you have given none. Therefore you shall leave this kingdom never to return.”


Thus each day for a full moon men and women came to the king to tell him of the burdens laid upon them. And each and every day a full moon some oppressor was exiled from the land.


And the people of Sadik were amazed, and there was cheer in their heart.


And upon a day the elders and the youths came and surrounded the tower of the king and called for him. And he came down holding his crown with one hand and his sceptre with the other.


And he spoke unto and said, “Now, what would you do of me? Behold, I yield back to you that which you desired me to hold.”


But they cried. “Nay, nay, you are our rightful king. You have made clean the land of vipers, and you have brought the wolves to naught, and we welcome to sing our thanksgiving unto you. The crown is yours in majesty and the sceptre is yours in glory.”


Then the king said, “Not I, not I. You yourselves are king. When you deemed me weak and a misruler, you yourselves were weak and misruling. And now the land fares well because it is in your will. I am but a thought in the mind of you all, and I exist not save in your actions. There is no such person as governor. Only the governed exist to govern themselves.”


And the king re-entered his tower with his crown and his sceptre. And the elders and the youths went their various ways and they were content.


And each and every one thought of himself as king with a crown in one hand and a sceptre in the other.


–Kahlil Gibran



There is no path that leads to Zen.

How can you follow a path to where you are right now?


Robert Allen


“The name Elohim is an anagram of the two Hebrew words mi and eleh (who, these)….. In the creative sequence of the unfolding of the sefirot, the emanation passes from Binah (Understanding) to Chesed (Mercy), the first of the seven days of creation…..the emanation proceeds from Mi (Binah) to the first of the seven sefirot designated by Eleh (Chesed). To put this idea another way, since the divine name associated with Binah, Elohim, includes the two words mi and eleh, it carries the potential to give rise to the entire array of the remaining sefirot. All the ‘designs’ had been skethced in Chochmah (Wisdom), the concealed thought, but if the emanation had not reached the nurturing impulse from the ‘supernal mother,’ Binah, nothing would have come to fruition.

    Binah may be known through her fruits, the works of creation, and the closest we may come to understanding the nature of creation is to discern that there is a Mi, a Being, who lies behind the fruits. In the creative emanation, the first arising of Binah takes the form of Mi, an arising of the potential for the expression of the divine Being. This potential is realized when the name ‘Elohim‘ is articulated. Grammatically, of course, mi denotes a question. The asking of questions represent the distinctive potential of man; to be sufficiently moved by the beauty and precision of the world to articulate the question ‘Who?’, ‘Who is the one God responsible for all of these?’, represent the pinnacle of human understanding. “


– Brian L. Lancaster (The Essence of Kabbalah)


There lies before us, if we choose, continued
progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom.
Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot
forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings,
to human beings: Remember your humanity
and forget the rest.

—Albert Einstein

You, the one
From whom on different paths
All of us have come.

To whom on different paths
All of us are going,
Make strong in our hearts what unites us;

Build bridges across all that divides us;
United make us rejoice in our diversity,

At one in our witness to your peace,
A rainbow of your glory.
–Br. David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.

We all drink from one water
We all breathe from one air
We rise from one ocean
And we live under one sky

We are one

The newborn  baby cries the same
The laughter of children is universal
Everyone’s blood is red
And our hearts beat the same song

We are one

We are all brothers and sisters
Only one family, only one earth
Together we live
And together we die

We are one

Peace be on you
Brothers and sisters
Peace be on you
–Anwar Fazal (Malaysia)

read it all



Jesus said,
"I have cast fire upon the world,

and see,

I am guarding it until it blazes."

The following quotes are from:
Your Word Is Fire,

The Hasidic Masters

On Contemplative Prayer
Edited and translated by Arthur Green

and Barry W. Holtz, 1977, Schocken Books

"When God is seated upon His throne,
a fire of silence falls upon
the heavenly beings."

When a person says the words of prayer
so that they become a throne for God
an awesome silent fire takes hold of him.
Then he knows not where he is;
he cannot see, he cannot hear.
All this happens in the flash of an instant-
as he ascends beyond the world of time.

Or Ha-Emet 2b.
Merkavah mysticism)

A person at prayer is like a bed of coals,
As long as a single spark remains,
a great fire can again be kindled.
But without that spark there can be no fire.

Always remain attached to God,
even in those times
when you feel unable to ascend to Him.
You must preserve that single spark-
lest the fire of your soul be extinguished.

Liqqutim Yeqarim 15b; Keter Shem Tov 37b-38a.

“Perfection is therefore a question of fidelity and love–fidelity to
duty first of all, then love of God’s will in all its manifestations.
Love implies preference and preference demands sacrifice.”

–Thomas Merton

For the Father is sweet and his will is good. He knows the things that are yours, so that you may rest yourselves in them. For by the fruits one knows the things that are yours, that they are the children of the Father, and one knows his aroma, that you originate from the grace of his countenance. For this reason, the Father loved his aroma; and it manifests itself in every place; and when it is mixed with matter, he gives his aroma to the light; and into his rest he causes it to ascend in every form and in every sound. For there are no nostrils which smell the aroma, but it is the Spirit which possesses the sense of smell and it draws it for itself to itself and sinks into the aroma of the Father. He is, indeed, the place for it, and he takes it to the place from which it has come, in the first aroma which is cold. It is something in a psychic form, resembling cold water which is […] since it is in soil which is not hard, of which those who see it think, “It is earth.” Afterwards, it becomes soft again. If a breath is taken, it is usually hot. The cold aromas, then, are from the division. For this reason, God came and destroyed the division and he brought the hot Pleroma of love, so that the cold may not return, but the unity of the Perfect Thought prevail.

–The Gospel of Truth

The Gnostic Sacraments

by Thomas Saunders

According to the Gospel of Philip, five “mysteries” or sacraments were recognized. They are

1.. baptism
2.. anointing
3.. redemption
4.. eucharist
5.. bridal chamber  http://www.gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Valentinian_Sacramental.htm
By themselves the descriptions of the Chrism, Eucharist, and Baptisms, in the Nag Hammadi, are vague as to the purpose and explanation of the Gnostic rights of each. However the ”Gospel of Philip,” serves to explain quite a bit about these sacraments. Indeed the idea of each is quite different from the Orthodox ceremonies, which has only one of each.

The descriptions below from the ”Gospel of Philip,” are out of context, and arranged to accomodate a thematic explanation. I have always felt that the Philip gospel was composed of ancient notes, possibly made by the Apostle and reassembled by later scribes. Rearranging the text, seems to serve to explain the acts better.  The arrangement is my own attempt to clarify the themes of the Chrism, Eucharist, and Baptisms.

First are the descriptions of the Chrism, then the Eucharist, and Baptisms found in the Nag Hammadi Library (NHL):

On the Anointing: Chrism (NHL)

”[….] according to [….] the type of […] see him. It is fitting for you at this time to send thy Son Jesus Christ and anoint us so we might be able to trample upon the snakes and the heads of the scorpions and all the power of the Devil since he is a shepherd of the seed. Through him we have known thee. And we glorify thee : Glory be to thee, the Father in the Son, the Father in the Son, the Father in the Holy Church and in the holy angels! From now he abides forever in the perpetuity of the Aeons, forever until the untraceable Aeons of the Aeons. Amen.”

Eucharist A: (NHL)

We give thanks to you and we celebrate the eucharist, O Father, remembering for the sake of thy Son, Jesus Christ that they come forth […] invisible […] thy [Son….] his [love…] to [knowledge ……] they are doing thy will through the name of Jesus Christ and will do thy will now and always. They are complete in every spiritual gift and every purity. Glory be to thee through thy Son and they offspring Jesus Christ from now and forever. Amen.

Eucharist B: (NHL)

[…] in the […] the word of the [….the] holy one it is […] food and [drink…] Son, since you […] food of the […] to us the […] in the [life ..] he does [not boast…] that is[…] Church […] you are pure […] thou art the Lord. Whenever you die purely, you will be pure so as to have him […] everyone who will guide him to food and drink. Glory be to thee forever. Amen.

Baptism A: (NHL)

This is the fullness of the summary of knowledge which summary was revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Monogenes. These are the sure and necessary items so that we may walk in them. But they are those of the first baptism [……The First] baptism is the Forgiveness of sins […] said, […] you to the […] your sins the […] is a pattern of the […] of the Christ which is the equal of the [..within] him […]. For the […] of Jesus […]. Moreover, the first baptism is the forgiveness of sins. We are brought from those of the right, that is, into the imperishability which is the Jordan. But that place is of the world. So we have been sent out of the world into the Aeon. For the interpretation of John is the Aeon, while the interpretation of that which is the upward progression, that is, our Exodus from the world into the Aeon.

Baptism B: (NHL)

[….. from the ] world into the Jordan and from the blindness of the world into the sight of God, from the carnal into the spiritual, from the physical into the angelic, from the created into the Pleroma, from the world into the Aeon, from the servitudes into sonship, from entanglements into one another, from the desert into our village, from the cold into the hot, from […] into a […] and we […] into the [….thus] we were brought from seminal bodies into bodies with a perfect form. Indeed I entered by way of example the remnant for which the Christ rescued us in the fellowship of his Spirit. And he brought us forth who are in him, and from now on the souls will become perfect spirits. Now the things granted us by the first baptism [….invisible …which] is his, since […….speak][about…]….

The Chrism, The Eucharist, The Baptism (”Gospel of Philip.”)

The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber. […] he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in the place.” […] here through types […]and images.

Truth did not come into the world naked, but it came in types and images. The world will not receive truth in any other way. There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth. It is certainly necessary to be born again through the image. Which one? Resurrection. The image must rise again through the image. The bridal chamber and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the restoration. Not only must those who produce the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, do so, but have produced them for you. If one does not acquire them, the name (“Christian”) will also be taken from him. But one receives the unction of the […] of the power of the cross. This power the apostles called “the right and the left.” For this person is no longer a Christian but a Christ.

Through the Holy Spirit we are indeed begotten again, but we are begotten through Christ in the two. We are anointed through the Spirit. When we were begotten, we were united. None can see himself either in water or in a mirror without light. Nor again can you see in light without mirror or water. For this reason, it is fitting to baptize in the two, in the light and the water. Now the light is the chrism.

It is from water and fire that the soul and the spirit came into being. It is from water and fire and light that the son of the bridal chamber (came into being). The fire is the chrism, the light is the fire. I am not referring to that fire which has no form, but to the other fire whose form is white, which is bright and beautiful, and which gives beauty.

It is through water and fire that the whole place is purified – the visible by the visible, the hidden by the hidden. There are some things hidden through those visible. There is water in water, there is fire in chrism.

Philip the apostle said, “Joseph the carpenter planted a garden because he needed wood for his trade. It was he who made the cross from the trees which he planted. His own offspring hung on that which he planted. His offspring was Jesus, and the planting was the cross.” But the Tree of Life is in the middle of the Garden. However, it is from the olive tree that we got the chrism, and from the chrism, the resurrection.

The chrism is superior to baptism, for it is from the word “Chrism” that we have been called “Christians,” certainly not because of the word “baptism”. And it is because of the chrism that “the Christ” has his name. For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the bridal chamber; he merely accepted (the gift). The Father was in the Son and the Son in the Father. This is the Kingdom of Heaven.

As long as it is hidden, wickedness is indeed ineffectual, but it has not been removed from the midst of the seed of the Holy Spirit. They are slaves of evil. But when it is revealed, then the perfect light will flow out on every one. And all those who are in it will receive the chrism. Then the slaves will be free and the captives ransomed. “Every plant which my father who is in heaven has not planted will be plucked out.” (Mt 15:13) Those who are separated will unite […] and will be filled. Every one who will enter the bridal chamber will kindle the light, for […] just as in the marriages which are […] happen at night. That fire […] only at night, and is put out. But the mysteries of that marriage are perfected rather in the day and the light. Neither that day nor its light ever sets. If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber, he will receive the light. If anyone does not receive it while he is here, he will not be able to receive it in the other place. He who will receive that light will not be seen, nor can he be detained. And none shall be able to torment a person like this, even while he dwells in the world. And again when he leaves the world, he has already received the truth in the images. The world has become the Aeon (eternal realm), for the Aeon is fullness for him. This is the way it is: it is revealed to him alone, not hidden in the darkness and the night, but hidden in a perfect day and a holy light.
And so he dwells either in this world or in the resurrection or in the middle place. God forbid that I be found in there! In this world, there is good and evil. Its good things are not good, and its evil things not evil. But there is evil after this world which is truly evil – what is called “the middle”. It is death. While we are in this world, it is fitting for us to acquire the resurrection, so that when we strip off the flesh, we may be found in rest and not walk in the middle. For many go astray on the way. For it is good to come forth from the world before one has sinned.

The eucharist is Jesus. For he is called in Syriac “Pharisatha,” which is “the one who is spread out,” for Jesus came to crucify the world. {This is a reference to Jesus and the marriage of the cross}

Those […] go down into the water. […] out (of the water), will consecrate it, […] they who have […] in his name. For he said, “Thus we should fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15)

The cup of prayer contains wine and water, since it is appointed as the type of the blood for which thanks is given. And it is full of the Holy Spirit, and it belongs to the wholly perfect man. When we drink this, we shall receive for ourselves the perfect man. The living water is a body. It is necessary that we put on the living man. Therefore, when he is about to go down into the water, he unclothes himself, in order that he may put on the living man.

If one goes down into the water and comes up without having received anything, and says “I am a Christian,” he has borrowed the name at interest. But if he receives the Holy Spirit, he has the name as a gift. He who has received a gift does not have to give it back, but of him who has borrowed it at interest, payment is demanded. This is the way it happens to one when he experiences a mystery.

By perfecting the water of baptism, Jesus emptied it of death. Thus we do go down into the water, but we do not go down into death, in order that we may not be poured out into the spirit of the world. When that spirit blows, it brings the winter. When the Holy Spirit breathes, the summer comes.

Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing. So also when speaking about baptism they say, “Baptism is a great thing,” because if people receive it they will live.

He who has knowledge of the truth is a free man, but the free man does not sin, for “He who sins is the slave of sin” (Jn 8:34). Truth is the mother, knowledge the father. Those who think that sinning does not apply to them are called “free” by the world. Knowledge of the truth merely makes such people arrogant, which is what the words, “it makes them free” mean. It even gives them a sense of superiority over the whole world. But “Love builds up” (1 Co 8:1). In fact, he who is really free, through knowledge, is a slave, because of love for those who have not yet been able to attain to the freedom of knowledge. Knowledge makes them capable of becoming free. Love never calls something its own, […] it […] possess […]. It never says,”This is yours” or “This is mine,” but “All these are yours”. Spiritual love is wine and fragrance. All those who anoint themselves with it take pleasure in it. While those who are anointed are present, those nearby also profit (from the fragrance). If those anointed with ointment withdraw from them and leave, then those not anointed, who merely stand nearby, still remain in their bad odor. The Samaritan gave nothing but wine and oil to the wounded man. It is nothing other than the ointment. It healed the wounds, for “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 P 4:8).

The Bridal Chamber

One of the most mysterious sacraments is that of the bridal chamber. In effect the act may be the essence of Gnosis, the joining of the soul of man with the Soul of God. The act of entering the bridal chamber is a sacrament followed by the Eucahrist.

In the Gospel of Thomas (75) Jesus said, “Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will enter the bridal chamber.”

Gospel of Thomas (104) They said to Jesus, “Come, let us pray today and let us fast.”
Jesus said, “What is the sin that I have committed, or wherein have I been defeated? But when the bridegroom leaves the bridal chamber, then let them fast and pray.”

According to Valentinians theologians, the divine Fullness (pleroma) corresponds to the Holy of Holies in the Temple (Herakleon Fragment 13). Like the Holy of Holies, the Pleroma is separated from the “outer tent” (i.e. the cosmos) by a boundary or Limit which is often described as a curtain or “veil”. The Gospel of Philip compares the hidden nature of the Pleroma to that of the Holy of Holies: “At the present time we have access to the visible aspects of creation. We say that they are mighty and glorious, but the hidden things are powerless and contemptible. Are the hidden aspects of Truth like this? Are they powerless? Are they contemptible? No, rather it is these hidden aspects that are mighty and glorious. The mysteries of Truth are manifestly representations and images. Thus the bridal chamber (i.e. Pleroma) remains hidden. It stands for the Holy in the Holy.” (Gospel of Philip 105)

Such ideas are linked to speculation about Christ as the High Priest. According to Hebrews, “We have a High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God — Jesus, the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14). He entered for “once and for all into the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 9:12). Similarly, Valentinian theologians claimed that Jesus, “the joint fruit of the Fullness” is the “great High Priest” (Hippolyus 6:27). He is “the confirmation and the hypostatis of the All, the silent veil, the true High Priest, the one who has the authority to enter the Holies of Holies, revealing the glory of the Aeons and bringing forth the abundance to fragrance….He is the one who revealed himself as the primal sanctuary and the treasury of the All” (Valentinian Exposition 25-26).

According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus enables those who are joined to him to enter the Holy of Holies. “We have then, my brothers, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) by means of the death of Jesus. He opened for us a new way, through the curtain – that is through his own body”. (Hebrews 10:19-20). Christ provides an opening through the curtain into the heavenly “Holy of Holies”.

This theme was further developed by Valentinian theologians. According to Herakleon, the Fullness is “the Holy of Holies, into which only the High-Priest enters, into which the spiritual go” (Herakleon Fragment 13). The Gospel of Philip links the opening provided by Christ with the tearing of the veil at the time of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51). According to Philip,

There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The one facing the west was called “The Holy”. Another, facing south, was called “The Holy of the Holy”. The third, facing east, was called “The Holy of the Holies”, the place where only the high priest enters. Baptism is “the Holy” building. Redemption is the “Holy of the Holy”. “The Holy of the Holies” is the bridal chamber. Baptism includes the resurrection and the redemption; the redemption (takes place) in the bridal chamber. But the bridal chamber is in that which is superior to […] you will not find […] are those who pray […] Jerusalem who […] Jerusalem, […] those called the “Holy of the Holies” […] the veil was rent, […] bridal chamber except the image […] above. Because of this, its veil was rent from top to bottom. For it was fitting for some from below to go upward. (”Gospel of Philip.”)

At the present time, we have the manifest things of creation. We say, “The strong who are held in high regard are great people. And the weak who are despised are the obscure.” Contrast the manifest things of truth: they are weak and despised, while the hidden things are strong and held in high regard. The mysteries of truth are revealed, though in type and image. The bridal chamber, however, remains hidden. It is the Holy in the Holy. The veil at first concealed how God controlled the creation, but when the veil is rent and the things inside are revealed, this house will be left desolate, or rather will be destroyed. And the whole (inferior) godhead will flee from here, but not into the holies of the holies, for it will not be able to mix with the unmixed light and the flawless fullness, but will be under the wings of the cross and under its arms. This ark will be their salvation when the flood of water surges over them. If some belong to the order of the priesthood, they will be able to go within the veil with the high priest. For this reason, the veil was not rent at the top only, since it would have been open only to those above; nor was it rent at the bottom only, since it would have been revealed only to those below. But it was rent from the top to bottom. Those above opened to us the things below, in order that we may go in to the secret of the truth. This truly is what is held in high regard, (and) what is strong! But we shall go in there by means of lowly types and forms of weakness. They are lowly indeed when compared with the perfect glory. There is glory which surpasses glory. There is power which surpasses power. Therefore, the perfect things have opened to us, together with the hidden things of truth. The holies of the holies were revealed, and the bridal chamber invited us in. (”Gospel of Philip.”)

”It is thus only fitting that we, as Gnostics, should pick our own Valentinus as the saint for whom this feast day is dedicated. In studying the Valentinian tradition of Gnosticism, particularly in that of his disciples in Ptolemaeus’ Letter to Flora and the Gospel of Philip, we find that this is more than a mere coincidence of the name, but that the Valentinian literature is filled with the imagery and metaphor of spiritual love and the Gnostic sacrament of the Bridal Chamber and marriage. (Valentinian Tradition)

The Valentinians did not deny the physical dimension of love in the world but sought something greater, something that could truly bring wholeness, that could fulfill the desiring of the longing heart for that which truly fills the emptiness of the soul and heals the fragmention and separation of the human condition. They symbolized this consummation of wholeness, of the union of the human and the divine, in the image of marriage and the rite of the Bridal Chamber. “Those who are separated will be united and will be filled. Every one who will enter the bridal chamber will kindle the light, for it burns just as the marriages which are observed at night. That fire burns only at night and is put out. But the mysteries of this marriage are perfected rather in the day and the light.” (The Gospel of Philip) http://www.gnosis.org/ecclesia/homily_Valentinus.htm










In the name of the Great Life
the sublime Light be glorified.
From the Place of Light I have come forth,
from you, everlasting dwelling-place,
From the Place of Light I have come forth,
and an uthra from the House of Life accompanied me.
The uthraa who accompanied me from the House of the Great Life
held a staff of living water in his hand.
The staff which he held in his hand
was completely full of leaves.
He gave me its branches,
of which the ritual books and prayers were full.
Then he gave me more of them,
and then my suffering heart was healed.
My suffering heart was healed
and my world-shy soul found peace.

(Adam`s Deliverance – a mandaean hymn)

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