UNDISCOVERED GENIUS

A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

18-Gospel of Thomas Act 2-3

18-Gospel of Thomas Act 2-3


Last week we were introduced to Thomas, the apostle Jesus sent on an evangelical mission to India. In the first two acts, we saw miracles of prophecy, and the storing up of treasures in heaven, in this case treasures of heavenly real estate, created in heaven for King Gundaphorus, and his brother Gad. It will be noted, I believe, that the primary interest, of the 1st and 2nd Acts of Thomas, is in the symbolic significance of the narrative activity, whereas the primary interest of this Third Act of Thomas is in the doctrinal principles and the pure sacraments of praise expressed in the long prayers offered by the apostle. This 3rd Act is filled with prayers and poetry, which present principles and images very like the wisdom of the Vedas.

Now, going on from where we left off:

After Thomas gains the sympathy of the King and his brother, who acknowledge that a mansion in heaven is better than a mansion on earth, they go out into the forest, to get away from everybody. The following speech occurs at the end of a very magical scene in which Thomas, Gundaphorus, and Gad all enter a bath in order to be baptized. The scene appears in conjunction with a Eucharistic ceremony; at this ceremony Thomas prays a beautiful prayer over them:

"26  . . . .  And the apostle said unto them: I also rejoice and entreat you to receive this seal, and to partake with me in this eucharist and blessing of the Lord, and to be made perfect therein. For this is the Lord and God of all, even Jesus Christ whom I preach, and he is the father of truth, in whom I have taught you to believe. And he commanded them to bring oil, that they might receive the seal by the oil. They brought the oil therefore, and lighted many lamps; for it was night: and the king gave orders that the bath should be closed for seven days, and that no man should bathe in it: and when the seven days were done, on the eighth day they three entered into the bath by night that Judas might baptize them. And many lamps were lighted in the bath.

27 And the apostle arose and sealed them. And the Lord was revealed unto them by a voice, saying: Peace be unto you brethren. And they heard his voice only, but his likeness they saw not, for they had not yet been baptized. And Judas went up and stood upon the edge of the cistern and poured oil upon their heads and said:

"Come, thou holy name of the Christ that is above every name.

Come, thou power of the Most High, and the compassion that is perfect.

Come, gift of the Most High.

Come, compassionate mother.

Come, communion of the male.

Come, she that revealeth the hidden mysteries.

Come, mother of the seven houses, that thy rest may be in the eighth house."

[Sidebar: Note that several passages in this gospel have an Old Testament resonance with pre-Christian Gnosticism, which makes, fairly consistently,  reference to a mother God.

Also, the presence of numerology, as witnessed by the catalog of "seven houses", "the eighth house", and "the five members" (below) etc., literally reeks of pre-Christian cosmology. Now, one gateway to appreciating biblical arithmetic, which abounds with mathematical metaphors, must be the theories of Pythagoras--Pythagoras (500 B.C.) who not only divided the universe into coherent proportions, but found precise personal analogs in mathematical relationships, which are, after all, very abstract, highly mental forms of consciousness.


Going on:]


"Come, elder of the five members, mind, thought, reflection, consideration, reason; communicate with these young men.

Come, holy spirit, and cleanse their reins and their heart, and give them the added seal, in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost."

[Sidebar: This speech of Thomas has some interesting sidelights. There's clearly the Gnostic tendency toward God in everything, and there is also this remnant of the Buddha age, which divides the universe into discrete blocks and divisions and levels. Once again the type of enumeration presented above,

("Come, elder of the five members, mind, thought, reflection, consideration, reason;"),

is a very Old Testament Way of talking about truth, and it affirms and reinforces the interpretation Rudolf Steiner has placed on this period of history. I don't mind reiterating a Steiner quote I offered last week:


"In our period of evolution two streams of spiritual life are at work. One of them is the stream of wisdom, or the Buddha stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ stream itself that will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality."

It is interesting that the Christ impulse is characterized, by Steiner, as leading to RIGHT ACTION by way of aesthetic feeling and insight. I, myself, would tend to summarize the aesthetic response as:

a response to order and sense--to the divine intelligence manifested in divine forms.

To be sure the word God, (omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, limitless, unfathomable) is slightly at odds with the idea of "form", a concept which necessarily refers to the limitations, restrictions, and boundaries of an articulate, fathomable, defined, material reality.  In the pantheistic world, God is in everything, the earth the sky, the stars; but now, through the incarnated Christ impulse, the omnipresent God has a personality which He extends to us as a model and a mold. Moreover, as the two historical eras pass each other in the night, the ancient karmic law of pantheism is supplanted by a new age of GRACE.

This Note by Professor F. C. Burliitt, D.D. appears as a footnote in the Gospel of Thomas:

"In the Acts of Thomas, 27, the apostle, being about to baptize Gundaphorus the king of India with his brother Gad, invokes the holy name of the Christ, and among other invocations says:

'Come, O elder of the five members, mind, idea, thoughtfulness, consideration, reasoning, communicate with these youths.'

What is the essential distinction of these five words for 'mind', and what is meant by the 'elder'? We turn to the Syriac, as the original language in which our tale was composed though our present text, which rests here on two manuscripts, has now and then been bowdlerized in the direction of more conventional phraseology, a process that the Greek has often escaped. Here in the Syriac we find:

'Come, Messenger of reconciliation, and communicate with the minds of these youths.'

The word for 'Come' is feminine, while 'Messenger'  is masculine. This is because the whole prayer is an invocation of the Holy Spirit, which in old Syriac is invariably treated as feminine. The word for Messenger is that used in the Manichaean cosmogony for a heavenly Spirit sent from the Divine Light: this Spirit appeared as androgynous, so that the use of the word here with the feminine verb is not inappropriate. It further leads us to look out for other indications of Manichaean phraseology in the passage. But first it suggests to us that [presbuteros, elder] in our passage is a corruption of, or is used for, [presbeutes], 'an ambassador'.

As for the five words for 'mind', they are clearly the equivalents of [hauna, mad'a, re'yana, mahshebhatha, tar'itha], named by Theodore bar Khoni as the Five Shekhinas, or Dwellings, or Manifestations, of the Father of Greatness, the title by which the Manichaeans spoke of the ultimate Source of Light."

A brief review of Mancheism seems appropriate at this point, generously supplied by Wikipedia:

"Manichaeism was a major Gnostic religion that was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani (c. 216–276 AD) in the Sasanian Empire.

Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light whence it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian gnostic and religious movements.

Manichaeism was quickly successful and spread far through the Aramaic-Syriac speaking regions. It thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity in the competition to replace classical paganism.

Manichaeism survived longer in the East than in the West, and it appears to have finally faded away after the 14th century in southern China, contemporary to the decline in China of the Church of the East – see Ming Dynasty. While most of Mani's original writings have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived.

An adherent of Manichaeism is called, especially in older sources, a Manichee, or more recently Manichaean. By extension, the term "manichean" is widely applied (often disparagingly) as an adjective to a philosophy or attitude of moral dualism, according to which a moral course of action involves a clear (or simplistic) choice between good and evil, or as a noun to people who hold such a view."

Going on with Thomas:

"And when they were sealed, there appeared unto them a youth holding a lighted torch, so that their lamps became dim at the approach of the light thereof. And he went forth and was no more seen of them. And the apostle said unto the Lord:

"Thy light, O Lord, is not to be contained by us, and we are not able to bear it, for it is too great for our sight."

And when the dawn came and it was morning, he brake bread and made them partakers of the eucharist of the Christ. And they were glad and rejoiced.

And many others also, believing, were added to them, and came into the refuge of the Saviour. . . .

"Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Remember also that word of him of whom I spake: Look at the ravens and see the fowls of the heaven, that they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and God dispenseth unto them; how much more unto you, O ye of little faith?"

[Sidebar: notice that the image here, of the ravens, is almost identical to parallel speeches appearing in Matthew and Luke, to whit:

Matthew 6: 25-30
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

Luke 12:27-28
"27 “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 28 If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith?"

This is not the only story in Thomas or, indeed, some of the other Gnostic Gospels, which is precisely analogous to passages in the accepted Gospels.

Going on:]

"But look ye for his coming and have your hope in him and believe on his name. For he is the judge of quick and dead, and he giveth to every one according to their deeds, and at his coming and his latter appearing no man hath any word of excuse when he is to be judged by him, as though he had not heard. For his heralds do proclaim in the four quarters of the world."

[Sidebar: We, at the Basin Bible Church, have proclaimed this principle more than once--that IGNORANCE IS NOT AN EXCUSE! Jesus often said, "ye with ears to hear", as an invitation to look around and get a load of what's going on! This warning: "at his coming and his latter appearing no man hath any word of excuse when he is to be judged by him" is worth heeding in any philosophy. And if the trumpets play as loud in heaven as they do on earth it is going to be hard to miss that message.

Going on:]

"Repent ye, therefore, and believe the promise and receive the yoke of meekness and the light burden, that ye may live and not die. These things get, these keep. Come forth of the darkness that the light may receive you! Come unto him that is indeed good, that ye may receive grace of him and implant his sign in your souls."

I believe that too much emphasis is placed on the authenticity of these ancient texts, on EXACTLY WHO wrote WHAT. It is easy to imagine that a speech as memorable and pithy as the "lilies of the field speech" might be sustained in pristine form, for some length of time, by oral tradition--certainly long enough to be written down by some Gnostic author, 200 years after the fact. Therefore, if analogous passages to the accepted Gospels appear in the Gnostic gospels, why should we doubt the legitimacy of other more obscure and difficult passages, if they ring true? For me, the question was never "were these words written and spoken by the people we are told wrote and spoke them, but : "do the words ring true?"

I have a truth meter inside me which I turn on when I'm assessing the quality of a piece of music. The meter turns itself on automatically, and I keep the instrument focused down to a very fine sensitivity resolution. I can tell the truth of a piece of music pretty reliably. So too, can we all learn to turn our own philosophical truth meters on, to assess the truth of the words we read in whatever language, from whatever culture. The super intelligence of Jesus is an umbrella over-arching all these cultural and linguistic differences, merging them all into a single essence of truth, a truth whose light radiates outward from whatever source it comes from; moreover, since it comes from all sources, we can experience the truth radiating abundantly all around us and through us, if we only pay attention.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The 3rd Act of Thomas is the story of The Young Man and the Demon. The story begins with Thomas sleeping among his followers, at the camp that was chosen for the King's baptism. In a dream, Thomas is directed to go to a certain other spot, some distance away. He does this, and discovers the body of a young man lying dead in the road. Immediately he prays this prayer:

"O Lord, the judge of quick and dead, of the quick that stand by and the dead that lie here, and master and father of all things; and father not only of the souls that are in bodies but of them that have gone forth of them, for of the souls also that are in bodies thou art lord and judge; come thou at this hour wherein I call upon thee and show forth thy glory upon him that lieth here. And he turned himself unto them that followed him and said: This thing is not come to pass without cause, but the enemy hath effected it and brought it about that he may assault us thereby; and see ye that he hath not made use of another sort, nor wrought through any other creature save that which is his subject."

Here Thomas refers to "the enemy", whom we immediately identify as Satan; but he also sort of implies some ground rules for the following encounter--by saying the enemy has not done this "through any other creature save that which is his subject," he is saying that Satan has dominion over a certain kind of entity. The implication, realized momentarily, is that Thomas also comes armed with the weapons of HIS master, Jesus Christ.

As Thomas considers the various options available to him, out of the bushes comes an ugly stinky Dragon. Thomas questions the dragon, and, at first the dragon attempts to justify his murderous deed with karmic logic:

"I will tell before thee the cause wherefore I slew this man, since thou art come hither for that end, to reprove my works. And the apostle said: Yea, say on. And the serpent: There is a certain beautiful woman in this village over against us; and as she passed by me (or my place) I saw her and was enamoured of her, and I followed her and kept watch upon her; and I found this youth kissing her, and he did other shameful acts with her: and for me it was easy to declare them before thee, for I know that thou art the twin brother of the Christ and always abolishest our nature (Syr. easy for me to say, but to thee I do not dare to utter them because I know that the ocean-flood of the Messiah will destroy our nature): but because I would not affright her, I slew him not at that time, but waited for him till he passed by in the evening and smote and slew him, and especially because he adventured to do this upon the Lord's day."

[Sidebar: It's interesting that the demon, even with the fruits of his labor lying dead in the road, attempts to justify his murderous act with Old Testament logic. Remember that the most brilliant of all intelligences is that of Satan--he maintains,

"it is only fair that wrong is answered with wrong, that an eye is given for an eye, and the death is the just consequence of an insult."

These are all trains of logic which Satan is very familiar with, and with which he will attempt to ensnare us every time.

The next section of the dragon's speech is highly dramatic and highly rhetorical, and looks forward to the famous speech of Satan, in Paradise Lost by John Milton. Notice, at the beginning of this long, involved, violent Satanic monologue, the spirit first speaks of himself as the son of Satan, (he never uses the name Satan but we infer it from the narrative bits that follow); but about halfway down, we begin to hear Satan himself speaking through the demon, now a mouthpiece for the greatest deceiver. It is not precisely accurate to say that the voice of the demon is replaced by the voice of Satan, because it clearly says that it was sent by his father--however, it does say he speaks with his father's voice. This is clearly an example of how demons may actually possess each other. We saw an example of this in C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, where the body of the evil scientist carries the intelligence of Satan, incarnate, to a distant planet.

Going on:]


"And the apostle inquired of him, saying: Tell me of what seed and of what race thou art."

32 And he said unto him:

I am a reptile of the reptile nature and noxious son of the noxious father: of him that hurt and smote the four brethren which stood upright, the fours elements. I am son to him that sitteth on a throne over all the earth that receiveth back his own from them that borrow: I am son to him that girdeth about the sphere: and I am kin to him that is outside the ocean, whose tail is set in his own mouth:"

[Sidebar: This is where the transition from minion to Satan himself is effected:]

"I am he that entered through the barrier (fence) into paradise and spake with Eve the things which my father bade me speak unto her:

I am he that kindled and inflamed Cain to kill his own brother, and on mine account did thorns and thistles grow up in the earth:

I am he that cast down the angels from above and bound them in lusts after women, that children born of earth might come of them and I might work my will in them:"

[Sidebar: I'm sure that Al Rothfuss will appreciate the foregoing comment about women, because it clearly suggests a picture of fallen angels mating with earthly females and producing infernal offspring.

Going on:]

"I am he that hardened Pharaoh's heart that he should slay the children of Israel and enslave them with the yoke of cruelty:

I am he that caused the multitude to err in the wilderness when they made the calf:

I am he that inflamed Herod and enkindled Caiaphas unto false accusation of a lie before Pilate; for this was fitting to me:

I am he that stirred up Judas and bribed him to deliver up the Christ:"

[Sidebar: Notice that this detail, contrary to the Gospel of Judas, upholds the conventional wisdom that Judas was a traitor. So many versions of the story--which to choose? which to choose?

Going on:]


"I am he that inhabiteth and holdeth the deep of hell,

but the Son of God hath wronged me, against my will, and taken them that were his own from me: I am kin to him that is to come from the east, unto whom also power is given to do what he will upon the earth."


After listening to this speech Thomas pulls out the Jesus card, and commands the Dragon to put its teeth back in the poor boy and withdraw the poison that he injected into the boy to kill him. At first the demon refuses, but somehow Thomas gets him to do it, and, when he does, the boy comes back to life and the demon explodes like a burst bladder.

"33 And when that serpent had spoken these things in the hearing of all the people, the apostle lifted up his voice on high and said: Cease thou henceforth, O most shameless one, and be put to confusion and die wholly, for the end of thy destruction is come, and dare not to tell of what thou hast done by them that have become subject unto thee. And I charge thee in the name of that Jesus who until now contendeth with you for the men that are his own, that thou suck out thy venom which thou hast put into this man, and draw it forth and take it from him.

But the serpent said: Not yet is the end of our time come as thou hast said. Wherefore compellest thou me to take back that which I have put into this man, and to die before my time? for mine own father, when he shall draw forth and suck out that which he hath cast into the creation, then shall his end come.

And the apostle said unto him:

"Show, then, now the nature of thy father."

And the serpent came near and set his mouth upon the wound of the young man and sucked forth the gall out of it. And by little and little the colour of the young man which was as purple, became white, but the serpent swelled up.

And when the serpent had drawn up all the gall into himself, the young man leapt up and stood, and ran and fell at the apostle's feet: but the serpent being swelled up, burst and died, and his venom and gall were shed forth; and in the place where his venom was shed there came a great gulf, and that serpent was swallowed up therein.

And the apostle said unto the king and his brother:

"Take workmen and fill up that place, and lay foundations and build houses upon them, that it may be a dwelling-place for strangers."

I love this picture of Thomas ordering the demon to suck out the poison from his victim, which then causes the demon to explode. It goes back to the principle of the Armor of God. The Armor of God has not only the power to protect us from demonic influence, but it can become a sword of God, to attack and defeat the minions of Satan who always crowd around us whenever we do anything good. Remember also that Thomas is not Jesus--Thomas is not the Messiah, but he does share in the Christ consciousness and therefore is able to share in the Christ power to defeat evil. The demon's weapons are infernal, and wield the power of the fallen angel, but Thomas' power comes from God, clearly the stronger power. It just goes to show that, in the battle of good against evil, it does not pay to join up with the weaker side.

In conclusion, it can readily be seen that this act of Thomas is laced with nuggets of insight and comfort. We have the beautiful prayer of baptism, elevating the ceremonial resonance of that event to a very high level by invoking the Divine Presence:

"Come, thou holy name of the Christ that is above every name.
Come, thou power of the Most High, and the compassion that is perfect.
Come, gift of the Most High."

(In this prayer we encounter a worthy model for all prayer, equivalent to the Lord's Prayer); we have the reiteration of the "lilies of the field speech", which, historically, has demonstrated such magnificent staying power over the minds of Christian initiates; and we have insight by way of a comparison between Infernal Power and the Armor of God, or, in the case of the apostle's power over the demon, the SWORD of God. 

I find these insights, and these fresh stories of Apostolic Miracles, to be energizing. I love what I perceive to be a kind of internal innocence in these texts. The joy of discovery seems to radiate great beams of wonder onto my mind; and my heart is warmed and reassured as I receive this spiritual food, and, in Holy Communion, join in this sacrament of praise.

Let us pray: Jesus, we are blessed by these stories of the Christ impulse surging through the world of then and the world of now. We thank you for the blessings which come from You, only You, and kiss the Face, the articulated Face of God. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

17-Introduction to Thomas - Act 1, Act 2

17-Introduction to Thomas - Act 1, Act 2


I was made aware that there would be visitors here this morning, so I felt it necessary to do a little catch-up review. In my recent sermons I have presented certain principles, in long chains of logical sequences, creating a certain point of reference; therefore, an understanding of some of the things I will be saying today, depends on a familiarity with some of these previously presented concepts. To whit:

About two months ago, having gone through some major philosophical digressions about ecstasy and death, I had just decided to get back to the Bible, and embark on a survey of the Acts of the Apostles; however in the very first chapter, I noticed a discrepancy: in Acts, Judas' death is described as taking place in a field, where his guts burst open. Of course, we know that, in the Synoptic Gospels, Judas hangs himself. Whassup wit dat? So, I got curious about Judas. Then I stumbled onto this whole big a library of so-called Gnostic Gospels, not all of which are actually Gnostic, but all of which are texts which were either rejected by the 4th century Nicene Authority, or that were discovered within the last 150 years most of them in the 20th century and some of them as recently as 2007.

As I familiarize myself with the Gnostic Gospels, and the principles of Gnosticism, I have come more and more to realize what we are actually talking about: we are talking about an intersection between the Historical Jesus and the Mythologized Jesus. Although it is well understood that the very moment in which Jesus shed His blood upon the ground for all mankind--that very instant--was a turning point in history; a moment too short to name, but which, nevertheless, changed the flow of events down the river of time forever. The pantheism of primitive man became doomed to extinction, and a God with a Human face was born. The ancient wisdom, which deplored earthly life and looked forward to the life everlasting as the ultimate spiritual goal, was replaced with a new idea--the idea of heaven on Earth. Jesus inaugurated this idea, here nicely expressed by Rudolf Steiner:

"When the apparently worthless in our existence is taken hold of by the spiritual, it is resurrected in a degree more perfect than before and is spiritually embodied. Nothing in existence is really worthless because it rises again if the spirit has entered into it aright."

Indeed, God is in everything, the earth the sky, the stars, but now the God has a personality which He extends to us as a model and a mold. As to the passing by of two historical eras, Steiner says this:

"In our period of evolution two streams of spiritual life are at work. One of them is the stream of wisdom, or the Buddha stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ stream itself that will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality."

Thus, the Christ Consciousness, experienced as a MORAL impulse, is the power that can transform Hell into Heaven. Now, even though the essential change was instantaneous, it took several centuries for this change to gather momentum, in the minds of the people, and influence the culture to a degree to which an appreciably different quality could be discerned in the collective unconscious. During this time of growth, those two to three hundred years, many things happened to translate the History of what happened into the Myth of what happened, and, hence, into a Literature of culturally held Philosophic/Religious principles.

As we know, history never happens in stepwise motion, it always evolves in gradual, slowly morphing, circular transitions, from one state to another. So, the charm of the Gnostic gospels, and of Gnosticism in general, especially Christian Gnosticism, is in its paradox: the apparent contradictions between certain dogmatic items in the two philosophies. At first glance, these contradictions threaten to cancel each other out, but, on closer inspection, we find that the disagreements are not fundamental, they are incidental--furthermore they are disagreements in transit. By this I mean: the Christian Gnostics represent an historical blending of two philosophies as the older, primitive, pantheistic philosophy morphs into the newly enlightened Christian age, in which the incarnation of God, as the Christ, becomes available to us, to enrich our lives, and to help us along a path toward ever more defined person-ness, and higher, ever higher, levels of consciousness.

As we study the Gnostic Gospels we witness the primitive, pantheistic, inarticulate Gnostic God, infusing Himself with the newly transformed personality of the Christ. Indeed it is fair to say that during the 200 years after Jesus' death (sic), there was a kind of a passing of the torch from the old to the new. Several general characteristics of the Gnostic Gospels consistently exemplify this idea, for instance: many of the things in the Gnostic Gospels, certainly in the Judas gospel, include Genesis-like descriptions of the beginning of the universe, and so on, which are not precisely in sync with our normal Old Testament readings. Heavenly hierarchies are described in majorly Old Testament language, which clearly look backwards, toward an older, more primitive world view.

Additionally, the Gnostic Gospels tend to portray the character of Jesus in unprecedented ways; the Gnostic portrayals of Jesus are mostly consistent with the synoptic Gospels, but they also contain reports of occasional outlandishly-eccentric behaviors, the like of which do not appear in any of the accepted gospels. Examples of Jesus' outlandish behavior include His laughter,  (nowhere in the accepted Bible does Jesus laugh--He weeps, but He doesn't laugh), His disapparition, (He comes and goes mysteriously, disappearing sometimes in the middle of a conversation), and, (the most outlandish action of all), at one point, He actually sells Thomas into slavery. These, if not shocking, are certainly surprising behaviors, which parallel some of the actions of Krishna, in the Mahabarata.

Thus, as the ancient idea of earthly life as a veil of tears from which we gladly escape, morphs into something new, with Jesus' message of Heaven on Earth, we witness, throughout Gnostic Gospels the growth of an idea, planted and watered by Jesus, (as mentioned in Judas), flowering into an era of hope, discovery, and worldly celebration.

A scene illustrating the passing of one era into another, appears in  C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. In this scene a temple is described in which are situated two statues, representations of a lower and a higher goddess. The lower goddess, Ungit, is a great, round stone, of no particular shape; as the blood offerings trickle down its sides, the observer may see a face, or faces, or no face in the uninflected gray. The higher goddess is a white marble Grecian statue, beautiful, articulate, focused. A peasant woman has just come in and said prayers to Ungit, the lower goddess, and, as she is leaving, the the onlooking queen stops her:

    "Has Ungit comforted you, child" I asked.
    "Oh yes, Queen" said the woman, her face almost brightening, "Oh yes. Ungit has given me great comfort. There's no goddess like Ungit."
    "Do you always pray to that Ungit," said I (nodding toward the shapeless stone), "and not to that?" here I nodded towards our new image, standing tall and straight in her robes and (whatever the Fox might say of it) the loveliest thing our land has ever seen.
    "Oh, always this, Queen," said she. "That other, the Greek Ungit, she wouldn't understand my speech. She's only for nobles and learned men. There's no comfort in her."

The representations in this temple are very different faces of a single goddess, different phases (note the word "phases")--I say, the representations in this temple are very different faces of a single goddess, different phases of a single identity. Although the outer forms of these two opposing representations are quite unlike each other, they both tend toward the same spiritual essence, even though it must be emphasized that the ARTICULATED form is the one that is finally accessible to all who embrace the new age. Some people need the old gods for comfort; they don't know what they are missing.

So, with these words, let us now proceed to the Gospel of Thomas.

This is the most popular, and longest of the Gnostic Gospels. It is also more like the Synoptic Gospels than the other Gnostic Gospels, with some significant differences. This is taken from an internet article, Where did the Gospel of Thomas come from?

"The spirituality in the Gospel of Thomas is a form of early Christian mysticism. It was a contemplative type of Christianity that grew in Syria as well as Alexandria. The idea was that each person had the choice to grow into God's Image or to remain stunted due to Adam's decision. If the person chose to grow, then the divinization process was gradual and included not only ritual activities like baptism and eucharist, but also instructional and contemplative activities. Part of the process then was living as Jesus lived - it was imitative. The other part was contemplating who and where Jesus was. This contemplative life led to heavenly (or interiorized) journeys and visions of God. Eventually the faithful would become like Jesus, replacing their fallen image with the image of God. This contemplative Christianity is not heretical, but an early form of eastern orthodoxy! . . .

This gospel understands Jesus to be a charismatic figure.  By this I mean, Jesus continues to live in their community even after he has died.  His spirit continues to speak to this community of faithful, and they continue to record his teachings.  They do not appear to have made any distinction between the "historical" Jesus before death and the "spirit" Jesus after death, at least in terms of authority or historicity of his words.  The Jesus that emerges in the Gospel of Thomas is not entirely foreign to the New Testament portrayals, particularly as we see him emerge in the Gospel of John - but also, as we see him in Mark, teaching publicly to the crowds and privately his mysteries to a few close followers." 

[Sidebar: In the accepted Gospels, Jesus is OCCASIONALLY depicted with a single disciple, off to the side, giving personal, exclusive, advice and insight. In the Gnostic Gospels Jesus is nearly ALWAYS depicted that way. Each Gnostic Gospel's author seems to have been singled out by Jesus for some distinct quality or other, and given an anomalous, personal message. This action may violate our democratic sense of fair play and equality, however, it is not untrue that all men are UNequal. The hierarchical division of the cosmos into levels, in the Gnostic Gospels, is paralleled by the idea that every created soul inhabits an absolutely unique place in the cosmic hierarchy.

Back to Where did the Gospel of Thomas come from?:

"His message is either similar to the New Testament Jesus, or contiguous with him.  He teaches against carnality and succumbing to bodily desire.  He's an advocate for celibacy.  He preaches that the Kingdom of God is here, that people must make a choice whether to enter it or not, that this choice requires an exclusive commitment to him and God, that the going is tough and few will be able to make it.  He demands a lifestyle of righteous living, promises rewards including personal transformation and revelation."

 So, the book is called the Gospel of Thomas, though it is sometimes called the Acts of Thomas, or The Acts of Judas Thomas. The Acts of Judas Thomas, are a group of tales--each act is a discrete story, which may have one or two miracles involved in it. Today we will explore the first two acts.

The first act is a two-part story, so beautifully told, in the book, I really hate to vulgarize it with a prosaic summary; but I just can't read out the whole thing, it would take too long, so, in order to focus on the more spiritually meaningful sections, we must sacrifice some of the elegant, narrative details.

The thing begins with Jesus: the Jesus who hung around after His resurrection to give the Apostles some final instructions before sending them out into the world with the Good News. There are many people who think that Jesus remained physically incarnated and physically active for some time after his resurrection, and continued to teach and direct the disciples into their various missionary objectives. In just such a missionary assignment, Thomas was chosen to go to India. Thomas didn't want to go, he refused to go, so Jesus simply sold Thomas, as a slave, to this merchant who was in the market for a carpenter capable of building a palace for his master, a king of India. So Thomas, kind of like Jonah, found himself on a boat bound for someplace he didn't really want to go.

So, the ship travels around the horn, through the gulf of Aden, into the Arabian Sea, and lands in a coastal city of India. The King of that city has just proclaimed that there will be a great marriage feast, because his daughter is getting married. Everybody in town is expected to attend this big party, and Thomas and his new master, the Merchant, decide to go to the feast, so that the King will not be offended.

At the wedding feast Thomas is just sitting there, stoically, not doing anything, when this busboy comes up and slaps him in the face, because he is not doing anything, eating, or drinking, or celebrating. Thomas takes this the slap in the face, then he says,

"My God will forgive thee in the life to come this iniquity, but in this world thou shalt show forth his wonders and even now shall I behold this hand that hath smitten me dragged by dogs."

Of course, he was speaking the Hebrew language, and nobody there understood what he was saying, except this flute player. There was this girl flute player, entertaining at the party, going from group to group, playing for them; she happened to be standing next to Thomas when the cup-bearer struck him. Since she was also Jewish, she understood the Hebrew that Thomas spoke, so she understood what happened later. The plot thickens:

Presently, this cup-bearer goes outside to the well, to get more water, and there he encounters a lion; the lion tears him to pieces and leaves him lying on the ground, where the town dogs fight over his flesh. One of the dogs picks up a severed hand in his teeth, and walks into the marriage ceremony, like dogs do, saying, "Look at me! Look at the prize I've got in my mouth! Yummy!"

So when the flute player sees this, she announces to the party at hand that Thomas has performed a miracle of prophecy. Some of them believe that he has, and some don't. But, in any case, word of this reaches the King, and the King sends for this doer of miracles to pronounce a blessing on his daughter on her wedding night. Thomas follows, it says, unwillingly.

I'm interested in the detail that mentions that Thomas goes to see the king unwillingly. One wonders why he was unwilling. Perhaps he just didn't want to be told what to do, and thus be diverted from his mission to go with the merchant to build a palace for this OTHER King; or it may have been something like when Jesus turned water into wine--remember He chastises His mother for making Him do what it wasn't quite time to do, ("Woman My hour is not yet come."); perhaps Thomas was unwilling because he knew that the truth of what he had to say might change the children's lives, and cause the father to take revenge on him, or detain him, which almost happened.

How many of us are unwilling witnesses? How often do we allow ourselves stick out, in a society in which spirituality is not openly spoken of, in which spirituality is not part of normal daily conversation? How many times have we made reference to it, in informal conversation, and watched the conversation freeze in embarrassment, or in a paroxysm of complex of emotional responses. Certainly, in the academic world, mention of anything spiritual, or even nonscientific, is expressly taboo. It is the rare person who is willing to take the risk of speaking out, in a social context in which the word "religion" may ignite a tinder box of preset prejudicial reactions. So, an unwilling witness is really a hero, because nobody wants to stick his neck out, but we know we must be willing to do it anyway. Let us not forget that the unwilling witness is the most effective proselytizer of them all, because he witnesses only when the Spirit is present and decrees, through divine intervention, that an act of primordial significance must be performed.

Going on.

When Thomas meets the bride and groom at their home, he speaks the following prayer; the prayer is a song of praise to God in His manifold manifestations, and it has a structure and poetic feel similar to that of the Rig Vedas:

"'My Lord and MY God, that travellest with thy servants, that guidest and correctest them that believe in thee, the refuge and rest of the oppressed, the hope of the poor and ransomer of captives, the physician of the souls that lie sick and saviour of all creation, that givest life unto the world and strengthenest souls; thou knowest things to come, and by our means accomplishest them: thou Lord art he that revealeth hidden mysteries and maketh manifest words that are secret: thou Lord art the planter of the good tree, and of thine hands are all good works engendered: thou Lord art he that art in all things and passest through all, and art set in all thy works and manifested in the working of them all. Jesus Christ, Son of compassion and perfect saviour, Christ, Son of the living God, the undaunted power that hast overthrown the enemy, and the voice that was heard of the rulers, and made all their powers to quake, the ambassador that wast sent from the height and camest down even unto hell, who didst open the doors and bring up thence them that for many ages were shut up in the treasury of darkness, and showedst them the way that leadeth up unto the height: l beseech thee, Lord Jesu, and offer unto thee supplication for these young persons, that thou wouldest do for them the things that shall help them and be expedient and profitable for them.'

And he laid his hands on them and said: The Lord shall be with you, and left them in that place and departed."

The story goes on:

"And the king desired the groomsmen to depart out of the bride-chamber; and when all were gone out and the doors were shut, the bridegroom lifted up the curtain of the bride-chamber to fetch the bride unto him. And he saw the Lord Jesus bearing the likeness of Judas Thomas and speaking with the bride; even of him that but now had blessed them and gone out from them, the apostle; and he saith unto him: Wentest thou not out in the sight of all? how then art thou found here? But the Lord said to him: I am not Judas which is also called Thomas but I am his brother. And the Lord sat down upon the bed and bade them also sit upon chairs, and began to say unto them:

"Remember, my children, what my brother spake unto you and what he delivered before you: and know this, that if ye abstain from this foul intercourse, ye become holy temples, pure, being quit of impulses and pains, seen and unseen, . . ."

[At this point there is a long diatribe against carnal knowledge, and the many disastrous consequences of having children.

Going on:]

"But if ye be persuaded and keep your souls chaste before God, there will come unto you living children whom these carnal blemishes touch not, and ye shall be without care, leading a tranquil life without grief or anxiety, looking to receive that incorruptible and true marriage, and ye shall be therein groomsmen entering into that bride-chamber which is full of immortality and light."

And when the young people heard these things, they believed the Lord and gave themselves up unto him, and abstained from foul desire and continued so, passing the night in that place. And the Lord departed from before them, saying thus: The grace of the Lord shall be with you."

After this, the bride and the groom are so moved by Thomas' sermon, and the first-hand experience of Jesus the Christ, that they decide not to get married and to remain celibate. They both make speeches to the king:

 "And the bride answered and said: Verily, father, I am in great love, and I pray my Lord that the love which I have perceived this night may abide with me, and I will ask for that husband of whom I have learned to-day: and therefore I will no more veil myself, because the mirror (veil) of shame is removed from me; and therefore am I no more ashamed or abashed, because the deed of shame and confusion is departed far from me; and that I am not confounded, it is because my astonishment hath not continued with me; and that I am in cheerfulness and joy, it is because the day of my joy hath not been troubled; and that I have set at nought this husband and this marriage that passeth away from before mine eyes, it is because I am joined in another marriage; and that I have had no intercourse with a husband that is temporal, whereof the end is with lasciviousness and bitterness of soul, it is because I am yoked unto a true husband."

[Sidebar: Reflection on celibacy:

Celibacy affirms a basic principle of Gnosticism, in its favoring of the spiritual body over the physical body. In the speech to the bride and bridegroom Jesus makes reference to "foul desires". Foul desires can only mean what Freud called primitive consciousness, and what the Hindus would called lower chakra consciousness. So celibacy is one more article in the Gnostic doctrine which denies the reality of a Heaven on Earth; it says Heaven is not possible if earthly desire is part of the package, even though earthly desires occupy most of us most of the time.

Many religious disciplines promote celibacy, for instance the Catholic Church; notice that the comments of the bride sound a lot like the type of vows that a nun might make on entering a convent. Catholic priests, nuns, and monks are supposed to be celibate, (although of course many of them aren't); the purpose of celibacy is to enable the devotee to give him-her-self totally, mind and body, to God.

In kundalini yoga, celibacy is demanded, because the life force of kundalini is intimately related to sexual impulses, or, that is to say, primal energy. It is thought that wasting this precious life force on sex, when you could be directing it toward achieving enlightenment, is a sin against your own spiritual progress. Remember that boxers don't have sex before a fight, because sex drains them of the power to go the distance. The total celibacy so uncompromisingly  spoken of here, is not a new recommendation; indeed, it must be remembered that this recommendation is for the special Elect of God, and not necessarily for the layman, whose responsibility it is to replenish the earth.

In the preceding paragraph I made reference to the "Elect of God". Is there such a thing, or is this a choice we all make--whether to be included in the Elect of God or not, to go the distance or not? Can it really be said that any one of us is not the Elect of God, or would choose NOT to become the Elect of God. Can there actually be levels of religious devotion acceptable in the sight of God? As we have seen, in ALL the gospels, Jesus' ministry to His disciples was very personalized--each disciple received his own special insights, and his own special blessings. Can it possibly be that Jesus accepts each one of us, each of us having ever, ever, ever so slightly different graduated niches in the hierarchy of the cosmos? We must admit that upward and downward mobility in this hierarchy is a feature of its construction, but the idea, that each one of us might be on a different plane, is somewhat mind-boggling, but also somewhat clarifying.

Jesus' commentary on celibacy sounds a lot like Shakespeare. As such, it is not only suggesting a strongly Gnostic perspective, it is also very rhetorical. This rhetorical aspect is one of the things that weakens the impact of the message here, in terms of making us believe that Jesus would actually say this. To me, this section does not sound as much like Jesus, as lots of the other places in the Gnostic Gospels. That may be because I'm not especially in favor of celibacy, but it also might be because this section, more than other sections in the Gospels, seems to be preaching a dogmatic principle, an action which is at odds with the typically free-and-unfettered-through-grace philosophy of Jesus. If He were a teacher of Kundalini yoga, as many people think He was, then he might be preaching absolute celibacy for all worthy travelers on the spiritual path. Nevertheless, as I was saying, the rhetorical aspect makes Him seem more like a character in a play, especially if we think of the character participating in the "Play of the Prince and the Princess". Also, once again perhaps this whole speech should be thought of as a personal message to those two kids, a message which may not be intended to be universally applicable. At least that's what I would like to think.

This speech of the bride to her father is of interest, not only because it expounds the many virtues of celibacy and the deplores evils of carnal reproduction, (to say the least), but because it also includes a rhapsodic love song to God. Perhaps this humble bride is a good example for all of us; perhaps there is a lesson here about where we all should be placing our most high affections.

The bridegroom has this to say:]

"And while the bride was saying yet more than this, the bridegroom answered and said: I give thee thanks, O Lord, that hast been proclaimed by the stranger, and found in us; who hast removed me far from corruption and sown life in me; who hast rid me of this disease that is hard to be healed and cured and abideth for ever, and hast implanted sober health in me; who hast shown me thyself and revealed unto me all my state wherein I am; who hast redeemed me from falling and led me to that which is better, and set me free from temporal things and made me worthy of those that are immortal and everlasting; that hast made thyself lowly even down to me and my littleness, that thou mayest present me unto thy greatness and unite me unto thyself; who hast not withheld thine own bowels from me that was ready to perish, but hast shown me how to seek myself and know who I was, and who and in what manner I now am, that I may again become that which I was: whom I knew not, but thyself didst seek me out: of whom I was not aware, but thyself hast taken me to thee: whom I have perceived, and now am not able to be unmindful of him: whose love burneth within me, and I cannot speak it as is fit, but that which I am able to say of it is little and scanty, and not fitly proportioned unto his glory: yet he blameth me not that presume to say unto him even that which I know not: for it is because of his love that I say even this much."

These speeches of the bride and the bridegroom are a manifesto of dissatisfaction with earthly relationships, and set up a very high spiritual goal for the soul. Now, it must be admitted that there is, lurking in the background of this speech, a very Gnostic idea: the bride and the bridegroom both appear to be affirming the superiority of spiritual existence, and degrading earthly experience. This would be a typical Gnostic interpretation of life, and, although we, as Christians, want to place our highest value on eternal things, we still, I reiterate one more time-- we still strive to experience and realize the eternal within the confines of the earthly realm.

When all this comes down, the King sends out a group of soldiers to bring Thomas back to the city, to receive the thanks of the King; but Thomas has already set sail for India.

The concluding scene in the first in the first act is very touching, because we find the flute girl (the girl who introduced Thomas to the men at the party, and through them the King), we find the flute girl lamenting. She is very sad because Thomas did not take her with him to India, but she goes to see the bride and the bridegroom, and they speak together of the message of Thomas, and through Thomas, Jesus, and they sort of begin the first Christian community in India. They successively bring in the father King, and then the rest of the town.

It's a lovely story in the about the power of the mission, and it shows that you that an idea is like a virus--that the truth can be catching, and can spread through the minds of men like a wave. the message for us is one of witnessing. We should learn that, by standing our ground in social situations, where it might be embarrassing to proclaim our Christianity, we should, instead, stick to our convictions, and hold forth on some point or other which might bring the mediator ship of Jesus to the forefront. This might turn out to be an aggressive action pregnant with possible good ramifications.

The second act of Thomas is a very charming story indeed.

Thomas and the merchant arrive at the city of the employer of the merchant, The King who needs a palace built. Thomas goes to the King, and the King interviews him for the job--asks him about his qualifications. Thomas says, "Out of wood I can make pulleys, and plows, and yokes, etc., and I can make columns and palaces out of stone."  The king hires Thomas for the job.

So they go out in the country to this beautiful place where the palace should be built, and the King leaves Thomas there, and goes back to the city to wait for Thomas to build the palace.

While Thomas is at it, he prays this elegant prayer:

"I thank thee O Lord in all things, that thou didst die for a little space that I might live for ever in thee, and that thou hast sold me that by me thou mightest set free many. And he ceased not to teach and to refresh the afflicted, saying: This hath the Lord dispensed unto you, and he giveth unto every man his food: for he is the nourisher of orphans and steward of the widows, and unto all that are afflicted he is relief and rest."

So the King gives him a huge pile of cash for building the palace, for workers and materials, and such, and Thomas goes out into the countryside, performing miracles and distributing the money among the poor. The King sends again, "How's it going on the palace?" and Thomas says, "Almost done, just have to put on the roof." So the King sends more money, and it is once again distributed among the poor. When the King finally comes to the place, to see the palace there is nothing there. The King questions Thomas thus:

"Hast thou built me the palace?
And he said: Yea.
And the king said: When, then, shall we go and see it? but he answered him and said: Thou canst not see it now, but when thou departest this life, then thou shalt see it. And the king was exceeding wroth, and commanded both the merchant and Judas which is called Thomas to be put in bonds and cast into prison until he should inquire and learn unto whom the king's money had been given, and so destroy both him and the merchant."

So the king is getting ready to flay Thomas and the Merchant alive when this subplot sneaks in:
At the same time all this palace-building is happening, the King's brother falls ill, and on the very same night that Thomas and the Merchant are locked up, the sick brother dies. He goes to heaven and the angels show him around looking for a place to live. During this tour of heaven, the brother comes upon the magnificent house that Thomas has built for the King and, immediately, he desires it. The angels say he can't have it, because it belongs to the King. Thomas has built the palace the King asked for, but he has built it in Heaven not on Earth.

The brother instantly becomes enchanted with his house and wants it for himself, so, instead of dying  he goes back, his body wakes up,  says to his brother, "I want to buy this house that Thomas has built for you." When the King gets the idea, he refuses the brother's request:

"Then the king considering the matter, understood it of those eternal benefits which should come to him and which concerned him, and said: That palace I cannot sell thee, but I pray to enter into it and dwell therein and to be accounted worthy of the inhabiters of it, but if thou indeed desirest to buy such a palace, lo, the man liveth and shall build thee one better than it."

At the end of the episode, Thomas prays this prayer:

"And the apostle, filled with joy, said: I praise thee, O Lord Jesu, that thou hast revealed thy truth in these men; for thou only art the God of truth, and none other, and thou art he that knoweth all things that are unknown to the most; thou, Lord, art he that in all things showest compassion and sparest men. For men by reason of the error that is in them have overlooked thee but thou hast not overlooked them. And now at mv supplication and request do thou receive the king and his brother and join them unto thy fold, cleansing them with thy washing and anointing them with thine oil from the error that encompasseth them: and keep them also from the wolves, bearing them into thy meadows. And give them drink out of thine immortal fountain which is neither fouled nor drieth up; for they entreat and supplicate thee and desire to become thy servants and ministers, and for this they are content even to be persecuted of thine enemies, and for thy sake to be hated of them and to be mocked and to die, like as thou for our sake didst suffer all these things, that thou mightest preserve us, thou that art Lord and verily the good shepherd. And do thou grant them to have confidence in thee alone, and the succour that cometh of thee and the hope of their salvation which they look for from thee alone; and that they may be grounded in thy mysteries and receive the perfect good of thy graces and gifts, and flourish in thy ministry and come to perfection in thy Father."

In conclusion, these two acts of Thomas convey truths which are important for us to remember today, and which are consistent with any traditional interpretation of Christian doctrine. The idea of the unwilling witness is important; the responsibility of the initiated to witness, constitutes the brunt of the weight of the cross each one of us must bear. But, by far the most important point to remember is made in both of these first two Acts of Thomas: the story of the celibate devotee, saving his/her sexual energy for transport to God, and story of the palace built in Heaven for the life to come, are both glorifications of the spiritual, and remind us of the sentiments exposed this morning's call to worship:

Matthew 6:19-21
"19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

So once again, as we speak of the Gnostic Gospels bridging the gap between the historical Jesus and the mythologized Jesus, we are reminded of an eternal principle which surely has dominated man's spiritual strivings since time immemorial, then and now, principles which are very consistent with every principle taught by the accepted Gospels: we must put God first. Now, there's a thought.

Let us pray. Jesus thank you for this testament to universal values. Thank you for appearing to us and yet more magnificent character portrayals, and thanks especially for passing on your knowledge and your power into the hearts and bodies of those who put their faith in you and rely on you for guidance and strength. Amen.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

16 Intro to the Gospel of Judas - 3

 16 Intro to the Gospel of Judas - 3


As I familiarize myself with the Gnostic Gospels, and the principles of Gnosticism, I have come more and more to realize what we are actually talking about: we are talking about an intersection between the Historical Jesus and the Mythologized Jesus. Although it is well understood by all Christians, and especially by me, (via the Theosophy of Rudolf Steiner), that the very moment in which Jesus shed His blood upon the ground for all mankind--that very instant was a turning point in history; a moment too short to name, but which, nevertheless, changed the flow of events down the river of time forever. The essential change was instantaneous, and yet it took several centuries for this change to gather momentum, in the minds of the people, and influence the culture, to the degree to which an appreciably different quality could be discerned in the collective unconscious. During this time of growth, those two hundred years, many things happened to translate the History of what happened into a Literature of culturally held Philosophic/Religious principles.

As we know, history never happens in stepwise motion, it always evolves in gradual, slowly morphing, circular transitions, from one state to another. So, the charm of the Gnostic gospels, and of Gnosticism in general, especially Christian Gnosticism, is in its paradox: the apparent contradictions between certain dogmatic items in the two philosophies. At first glance, these contradictions threaten to cancel out one another, but, on closer inspection, we find that the disagreements are not fundamental, they are incidental--furthermore they are disagreements in transit. By this I mean: the Christian Gnostics represent an historical blending of two philosophies as the older, primitive, pantheistic philosophy morphs into the newly enlightened Christian age, in which the incarnation of God, as the Christ, becomes available to us, to enrich our lives, and to help us along a path toward ever more defined person-ness, and higher, ever higher, levels of consciousness. Levels of consciousness, indeed, will turn out to  be the ultimate theme of this sermon, although we will touch on many other side-issues along the way.


Now, the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus articulated an  historical turning point, does not necessarily mean that, before the crucifixion, God was unavailable to, or invisible to, primitive man; (I say it does not NECESSARILY mean that); but it does appear to affirm a certain scenario, which I have encountered in a lot of new age philosophy--it has to do with the idea of spiritual identity:

Consider the question of whether or not dogs have souls--Aristotle says, no--so does C.S.Lewis. Some say animals are reincarnated, and are graduated up the spiritual path, just like humans. But, some say that, although the spirit of a dog has no specific individual personal stamp, it does have an essential identity, i.e. "dog": hence, when the dog dies, the spirit of the dog goes back to this kind of pool of dog consciousness, all mixed up into one, big, undifferentiated vat of DOG.

We human beings deplore the idea that we have no personal consciousness; indeed, it is a frightening, but not-impossible- to-believe thought, that I, myself, might some day disappear into an inarticulate vat of MAN GOO. Jesus has assured us that this will NOT happen, if we believe on Him. How so? Perhaps it is this: that Jesus' ceremonial sacrifice created the possibility that human beings might become individuated-- that Jesus' sponsorship of the world, made it so that all the followers who shared in His Christ-Consciousness, could, vicariously, (and eventually), come to share in His God-Consciousness: thus, making it possible for them to live out their future spiritual lives, on Earth and in Heaven, with the same static identity, the same personal quality, the same memories, the same distinctly articulated essence. This MIGHT be the precise meaning of the word "salvation": that, through Grace, we are allowed to continue to exist as a discrete focus of God-Consciousness, instead of returning to the fiery pit of chaos. To imagine that, before Jesus, all human souls disappeared, at their end, into an indiscriminate void, is the most frightening image of death I can think of; the thought of losing my individuality sends waves of panic down through my entire frame. And yet, with this terror looming before them, we suspect that nonbelievers, the people who choose not  to call on Jesus, are condemning themselves to an eternal anonymity. Perhaps His sponsorship is the only passport to Eternity? Something of this is touched on in the passage taken from the Gospel of Judas, below:


"The next morning, after this happened, Jesus appeared to his disciples again. They said to him,

“Master, where did you go and what did you do when you left us?”

Jesus said to them,

“I went to another great and holy generation.”

His disciples said to him,

“Lord, what is the great generation that is superior to us and holier than us, that is not now in these realms?”

When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to them,

“Why are you thinking in your hearts about the strong and holy generation? Truly I say to you, no one born of this aeon will see that generation, and no host of angels of the stars will rule over that generation, and no person of mortal birth can associate with it.”

When his disciples heard this, they each were troubled in spirit. They could not say a word.

Another day Jesus came up to them. They said to him,

“Master, we have seen you in a vision, for we have had great dreams in the night. We have seen a great house with a large altar in it, and twelve men—they are the priests, we would say—and a name; and a crowd of people is waiting at that altar, until the priests receive the offerings. But we kept waiting.”

[Sidebar: The dream goes on to describe a group of men committing obscene and immoral acts, killing their own children and wives and whatnot. Jesus tells the disciples that this group of men in the dream represent the lower minds in themselves; this upsets the disciples, but then He refers to the appearance of the generation of stars, finally saying:

“Stop struggling with me. Each of you has his own star."

We are heading toward a most important point: as mentioned above:

"To imagine that, before Jesus, all human souls disappeared, at their end, into an indiscriminate void, is the most frightening image of death I can think of; the thought of losing my individuality sends waves of panic down through my entire frame. And yet, with this terror looming before them, it may be that the nonbelievers, the ones who do not call on the aid of Jesus, are condemning themselves to an eternal anonymity."

We must accept the possibility that, as unfair as it sounds, before the coming of Jesus, generations of men walked the earth and then simply ceased to exist when their bodies died. Even Moses. Is there any other interpretation? Is there a Pre-Jesus/Post-Jesus quality of soul? Perhaps our definition of "existence" is too narrow? As we will read below, an important component of Jesus' Cosmography is "hierarchy". Jesus flatly states that some of these disciples will not be permitted to enter the House of God which they have seen in their vision,  (apparently, Judas will), but that doesn't mean they will not be accepted SOMEWHERE ELSE. The final sentences of Jesus' interpretation of the dream are a very strong indicator of the idea that there is a celestial hierarchy. It also begins with an affirmation of Grace over GoodWorks:]

“Stop sacrificing over the altar, since they are over, your stars and your angels, and have already come to their conclusion there."

[Sidebar: that sounds like pre-destination to me.]

"So let them be ensnared before you, and let them go. A baker cannot feed all creation under heaven."

Jesus said to them,

“Stop struggling with me. Each of you has his own star, and everybody who has sprung from the tree of this aeon. The Son of Man is here for a short time: He has come to water God’s paradise, and the generation that will last."

[Sidebar: Let me read that again, it is such a happy thought that Jesus has come to tend the Garden, and plant the seeds of OUR immortality:]

"The Son of Man is here for a short time: He has come to water God’s paradise, and the generation that will last, because He will not defile the walk of life of that generation, but will live for all eternity.”

[Sidebar: I have spoken many times about the many different levels of consciousness in which God and Man may manifest; in this regard, Jesus' interpretation of the disciples' dream, about seeing but not being allowed to enter the ultimate house of God, means that, because of their various sins, they fall short of attaining entry, but they might possibly attain this consciousness level later down the road of spiritual evolution. Thus, rather than the idea that Judas is, exclusively, made privy to an ultimate state of consciousness while the other disciples are not, I rather think it is more likely that the text means this: certain spiritual levels attract certain spiritual identities and not others, such that, far from being the single saved disciple of the twelve, Judas simply happens to be the first to ascend to a higher level in the hierarchy, (of which there are many more levels), while the other eleven disciples temporarily remain below, harboring the hope that they may someday rise to some of those higher levels--that is to say the generation of stars.

Now on to another passage, from the Gospel of Judas, which clearly represents a blending of the pantheism of Gnosticism with true Christianity:



THE SPIRIT AND THE SELF -GENERATED

"Jesus said, “Come, that I may teach you about secrets no person has ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, in which there is a great invisible Spirit, which no eye of an angel has ever seen, no thought of the heart has ever comprehended, and it was never called by any name.

“And a luminous cloud appeared there. He said, ‘Let an angel come into being as my attendant.’

“A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud. Because of him, four other angels came into being from another cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated. The Self-Generated said, ‘Let him come into being,’ and he came into being."

[Sidebar: I find the numerous ramifications of the term "self-generated" to be quite tantalizing. Clearly, in a pantheistic world, God-in-everything would certainly manifest in a self-generated entity. However, there are two parts to this expression: the "generated" part, and the "self" part. SELF-GENERATED. Again, for the past few weeks, I have been making a distinction between purely Jesus-based Christianity, and the Gnostic Christianity: this distinction concerns the issue of the Person of God. The pantheistic aspect of Gnostic philosophy attributes a God-Consciousness to all things--but Christianity brings to humanity the Personality of God, through Jesus the Christ. To be sure, only a bogus quality of God-consciousness can possibly manifest in the physical, because this focus of consciousness MUST be compromised by physical limitations; and yet, the miracle of the Christ consciousness, the Word Incarnate, is that, so limited by carnal illusion, it is still imbued with an infinite range of dynamic and spiritually transforming possibilities. The Person of the Christ is the dimension of God-Consciousness which is able to become human, address the human, and transform the human. Again, Jesus has always been seen as a mediator: a mediator between the unfathomable Person of God and the fathomable Person of God.

Back to Judas:]

"And he created the first luminary to reign over him. He said, ‘Let angels come into being to serve him,’ and myriads without number came into being. He said, ‘Let an enlightened aeon come into being,’ and he came into being. He created the second luminary to reign over him, together with myriads of angels without number, to offer service."

[Sidebar: It is of some interest that: several times in this section the expression "without number" is used. This expression calls to mind the distinction we have previously made between the terms "everlasting" and "eternal". Remember that "everlasting" refers to a sequence of time moments which are numberless, and which must therefore be considered to be infinite, whereas, the "eternal" moment is an infinity outside time.  It is interesting to me how many subtle shades, gradations, and modes of time there are.

Indeed, of central importance, when comparing the Gnostic gospels with the Synoptic Gospels, is the cosmic view of the Primitive Universe compared to the somehow CIVILIZED view of the Christian Universe. As we know, the Nicene priests exerted their own prejudices in choosing the gospels that they chose to accept, and rejecting the gospels they chose to reject. But the fact that the early church fathers had a problem with magic, doesn't mean there is no longer any magic in the world. The Gnostic Gospels remind us that there is a mystery out there beyond all mysteries, and this mystery has many faces.

Back to Judas:]

"ADAMAS AND THE LUMINARIES
“Adamas was in the first luminous cloud that no angel has ever seen among all those called ‘God.’ He created the image of Man after the likeness of this angel. He made the incorruptible generation of Seth appear."

[Sidebar: I have always been curious about this mention of Seth. I looked it up in Wikipedia, and found a connection between Seth and the Gnostics:

"The Sethians were a Christian Gnostic sect who may date their existence to before Christianity. Their influence spread throughout the Mediterranean into the later systems of the Basilideans and the Valentinians. Their thinking, though it is predominantly Judaic in foundation, is arguably strongly influenced by Platonism. Sethians are so called for their veneration of the biblical Seth, who is depicted in their myths of creation as a divine incarnation; consequently, the offspring or 'posterity' of Seth are held to comprise a superior elect within human society."

I mention this because, in the Gospel of Judas, Jesus clearly indicates that certain races of human beings are superior to other races; the Sethians considered themselves to be direct descendants of the third, most righteous Son of Adam, and therefore the most viable candidates for celestial ascendancy.

Back to Judas on the subject of hierarchy:]

"He made seventy-two luminaries appear in the incorruptible generation, in accordance with the will of the Spirit. The seventy-two luminaries themselves made three hundred sixty luminaries appear in the incorruptible generation, in accordance with the will of the Spirit, that their number should be five for each.

“The twelve aeons of the twelve luminaries constitute their father, with six heavens for each aeon, so that there are seventy-two heavens for the seventy-two luminaries, and for each of them five firmaments, for a total of three hundred sixty firmaments. They were given authority and a great host of angels without number, for glory and adoration, and after that also virgin spirits, for glory and adoration of all the aeons and the heavens and their firmaments."

This section is very biblical, in its use of all sorts of numbers in groups of hierarchical orders, and its use of numerical proportions; it's like the "begats", or the dimensions, in cubits, of an Arc, for instance. It sounds like a rewrite of an earlier Old Testament text. Again, with the Gnostic Gospels, we encounter of phase of history where an old tradition is meeting a new tradition, and, there, morphing into a new consciousness. Knowing, as we do, that the Gospel of Judas is written by a Gnostic author, (certainly not by Judas himself), it is very reasonable to suggest that this Gnostic writer might be quoting some earlier theology from an earlier book; in fact, he might possibly be quoting an Old Testament writer whose work would have been retained only by oral tradition--written down for the first time in the Gospel of Judas. It's just a thought.

My Favorite part is Judas' vision of his own martyrdom:

3: Judas recounts a vision and Jesus responds:

"Judas said,

“Master, as you have listened to all of them, now also listen to me. For I have seen a great vision.”

When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him,

“You thirteenth spirit, why do you
try so hard? But speak up, and I shall bear with you.”

Judas said to him,

“In the vision I saw myself as the twelve disciples were stoning me and persecuting me severely. And I also came to the place where following after you. I saw a house, and my eyes could not comprehend its size. Great people were surrounding it, and that house had a roof of greenery, and in the middle of the house was a crowd of men, and I turned to you saying,

‘Master, take me in along with these
people.’”

Jesus answered and said,

“Judas, your star has led you astray.”

He continued,

“No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen, for that place is reserved for the holy. Neither the sun nor the moon will rule there, nor the day, but the holy will abide there always, in the eternal realm with the holy angels. Look, I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom and I have taught you about the error of the stars; and of the twelve aeons.”

[Sidebar: It is charming how we get the feeling that Judas has merely followed along behind his master into Heaven, and then Jesus turns around and sees him standing there. Nevertheless, Jesus must reiterate to Judas what He had previously told the other eleven: that entry into that great heavenly house is forbidden (even though, later, it turns out that Judas actually does end up entering  that great house). Also of interest is Jesus' curious remark about "the error of the stars". It is tempting to get involved in the various possible interpretations of this, but I think I will go with the idea that spiritual evolution is outside time, and is therefore unaffected by the "sun nor the moon". This, then, leaves the door wide open to all sorts of developments in spiritual time which have no precedent in physical time. Thus, the possibility of upward or downward mobility on the spiritual ladder is introduced, in mythological time, well ahead of Jacob and his vision at Bethel.

I'm not sure what interests me more, the idea of Judas being stoned by the Eleven, or his vision of the heavenly house. Many of the abstrusely sinister remarks Jesus makes in all the Gospels, (about how it would be better if Judas had never been born, for instance), are made bright as day when the ultimate fate of Judas is factored into the narrative. On the other hand, the description of the heavenly house, so similar to the house in the dream of the Eleven, (possibly on the same night?), has much to say about the role of Jesus as savior, meanwhile offering a possible description of the spiritual structure of the Universe. The next section brings these two issues together when Judas asks about his own future:

JUDAS ASKS ABOUT HIS OWN FATE
"Judas said,
“Master, could it be that my seed is under the control of the rulers?”

[Sidebar: The "rulers" mentioned earlier in the text, to whit:

THE RULERS AND ANGELS
“The twelve rulers spoke with the twelve angels: ‘Let each of you bring forth a new generation of angels’:
The first is Seth, who is called Christ.
The second is Harmathoth.
The third is Galila.
The fourth is Yobel.
The fifth is Adonaios.
These are the five who ruled over the underworld, and first of all over chaos."

So, by inquiring about the "rulers" Judas is, in a way, asking about his fate, and ultimately about his subjection to the rule, not only of a choir of angels, but of the stars:

Back to Judas:

"Jesus answered and said to him,

“You will grieve much when you see the kingdom and all its generation.”

When he heard this, Judas said to him,

“What good is it that I have received it? For
you have set me apart for that generation.”

Jesus answered and said,

“You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy generation.”

In this last sentence, Jesus is clearly prophesying the ascent of Judas into the ranks of the "holy generation". It is worth noting that, in spite of the simple message of "love thy neighbor", there is a mind-boggling complexity of cosmic structure described by Jesus in this gospel. There is nothing democratic about this heavenly hierarchy. Grace and Karma battle for supremacy as the prime mover of all things, and the Jesus of the Gospel of Judas does not give us any simple answers. Nevertheless, there is one absolute truth we MUST glean from this book: that spiritual progress is a process that takes place on many levels of consciousness, and in many modes of time. With this in mind, I will close with this insight that came to me while I was studying this gospel:

I have always defined love as "the connection between people". I have recently come to the realization that Love is not the connection between people, it is the process of discovering the connection between people. And without Jesus in our corner, we could never participate in that process.

Let us pray: Jesus thank you for the knowledge that passionate people have passed down to us. Thank you for the knowledge that has been gathered from the truth of history, and thank you for the truth of the heart, which transforms the greatest history into myth. Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

15 Introduction to the Gospel of Judas - 2

15 Introduction to the Gospel of Judas - 2


Last week we began a review of the Gospel of Judas. We discussed gnosticism in general,  and I mentioned that I had begun to suspect that the study of the Gnostic Gospels was not mostly about the content of the material, but, rather, about enjoying a collection of spiritual allegories and poetic inventions, stylistically characteristic Jesus' time and place. I specifically and repeatedly emphasized the idea that the Gnostic view of the physical as a prison, (from which the spirit must enthusiastically escape), is not particularly harmonious with the idea that Jesus proclaimed about the possibility of a Heaven on Earth. To be sure, Jesus taught us to focus our perception of identity on the spiritual component; He taught us not to feel bound to the body, and to look forward to an ultimate destiny free of the body. But He did NOT say that the body is total dross, and ought not to be glorified. Indeed, Jesus taught us that the experience of spirit in the physical  is, in some ways, just as legitimate and necessary for the evolution of the soul, as its entry and reentry into and out of etheric dimensions. He taught us to see Heaven on Earth, to see God in everything. And remember that this is not pantheism, because our God reveals Himself Personally, through Jesus Christ, and that has made all the difference.


The more I get to know about the Gnostic Gospels, the more I begin to suspect that the Gospel of Judas is a work of fiction. Now, that does not mean that the Gospel of Judas does not have something important to say, and true to say. The historical details, such as whether Judas really betrayed Jesus or not, are not of primary interest to me. It's like whether the world was created in six days or not: I don't really care. I don't care if Judas did or didn't betray Jesus; I don't care if Judas escaped to India; I don't care if he was stoned to death by the other disciples. I don't know these people, and I don't really have anything to do with what exactly happened. I am a Christian Ex Post Facto--AFTER THE FACT. That Jesus is available  to me, in spirit, is the most important ramification of the historical Jesus. Something happened, Jesus became a personal savior, and how He got there, is less important to me than that HE IS. Furthermore, remember that most of the Gospels, most of these sacred texts inspired by God, both the accepted and the unaccepted ones, are compositions created by mere by men, who may not even have had direct experience of the events they are reporting; thus it becomes easier to endorse the sacredness of the Gospel of Judas.

Now, we will re-enter a scene we left mid-way last week;

the disciples are gathered over a meal, and have been praying a blessing over the food. Jesus walks in on them and begins to laugh. The disciples get all offended, because they think He is making fun of  them. Jesus comforts their bruised egos, but then goes on to challenge them:

"When Jesus observed their lack of understanding, he said to them,

“Why has this agitation led you to anger? Your god is within you and yet these outward signs have provoked you to anger within your souls.
Let any one of you who is strong enough among human beings bring out the perfect human and stand before my face.”

They all said,

“We have the strength.”

But their spirits did not dare to stand before Him, except for Judas Iscariot. He was able to stand before him, but he could not look him in the eyes, and he turned his face away.

Judas said to him,

“I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.”

[Sidebar (from Wikipedia):

"The Gnostic term "Barbēlō" (Greek: Βαρβηλώ) refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as 'Mother-Father' (hinting at her apparent androgyny), 'First Human Being', 'The Triple Androgynous Name', or 'Eternal Aeon'."]


Now, in this story from Judas there are many features of Jesus' personality and Jesus' wisdom that are consistent with the portrait of Jesus drawn in the synoptic gospels; one of the big differences, is that, in this story, Jesus laughs. Jesus is never depicted as laughing in any of the other gospels. This is particularly resonant with me, because I have always known, intuitively, the Jesus had a smile on His face all the time. Being One with the Spirit is so powerful, and so positive, and so full of joy, that He must have smiled all the time, and I bet He was a jokester too. I just have this feeling, and I don't have anything to back it up with except an intuitive impression acquired from what He says, and from the kind of answers to prayer I get.

Another archetypal element of this story is the "Competition-for-the-Place-of-Best-of-the-Best" scenario. This is a theme that is echoed in a number of other places in the Bible and elsewhere--The first story that springs to mind is from Mark:

Mark 9:33-35:
"33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them,
“What were you arguing about on the road?”
34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

The Jews, in particular, were very Place/Face conscious, and it was important to them to establish, among themselves, who was worthy to claim authority. This passage, where Judas steps forward to meet the infinite gaze of Jesus, contributes to the perception, suggested by the gospel, of Judas as "the only disciple with true understanding of Jesus' teaching".

A similar scene occurs in the Gospel of Thomas--in this case Thomas is the cool dude:
"(13) Jesus said to his disciples,
"Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like."
Simon Peter said to him,
"You are like a righteous angel."
Matthew said to him,
"You are like a wise philosopher."
 Thomas said to him,
"Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like."

In King Lear, Shakespeare begins the play with the old prideful King posing this question to his three daughters:
“Who loves me best?”
The first two daughters sing out their love to the heavens, in rhapsodies accompanied by angels voices and harps, their vain tunes signifying nothing--while the most truly loving daughter gives this answer to the audience in an aside:

"CORDELIA:
(to herself) What will I say? I can only love and be silent."

Thus, the battle to be the best of the best must always be defeated by the pronouncement,

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

I find the portrait of Jesus, in the Gospel of Judas, to be beautifully literate; it really helps to hear Jesus at His most eloquent and mystical, even if the intrusion of the demiurge associates him with the most primitive aspects of gnosticism.

Another interesting scene is when Jesus takes Judas aside, and honors him by telling him that he, among all the disciples, understands best the teaching of the Messiah:

"JESUS SPEAKS TO JUDAS PRIVATELY

Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him,
“Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal. For someone else will replace you, in order that the twelve [disciples] may again come to completion with their god.”
Judas said to him,
“When will you tell me these things, and [when] will the great day of light dawn for the generation?”
But when he said this, Jesus left him."

There is more than one place in the gospel that merely states, "Jesus left." Very abrupt, very final. We recall, from the episode of Jesus at Nazareth, where the prophet goes unrecognized in His own country, and from several other scenes where Jesus has had to escape from a crowd--we recall that He just "disappears". The way that Jesus mysteriously comes and goes, in this gospel, is consistent with the rumor that Jesus could disapparate and reappear at will--definitely a Gnostic idea, but not unheard-of in the annals of the great saints.

Interestingly, this passage from Judas is very like a passage in the Gospel of Thomas:

"And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, 
"What did Jesus say to you?"
Thomas said to them, 
"If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up."

The same scenario occurs in the Gospel of Mary; apparently Jesus, was able to give highly personal insights to his disciples, thereby making them each feel that they had personally been given the unique keys to the Kingdom. Nothing has changed--Jesus still gives us all exactly what we need.

The passage from Thomas, concerning the disciples stoning someone, along with the idea that the victim will be vindicated, anticipates similar developments in Judas. We will get there.

Now, we know that any discussion of the Gospel of Judas must eventually work its way around to the question of whether or not Judas was working FOR or AGAINST Jesus--was Judas following or NOT following Jesus' specific instructions in the matter of the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane? This is the most difficult controversy in the book, and it is a central idea around which all the other material revolves. So let us take a look at that portion of the text for a moment.


"JESUS SPEAKS OF THOSE WHO ARE BAPTIZED, AND JUDAS’S BETRAYAL

Judas said to Jesus,

“Look, what will those who have been baptized in your name do?”

Jesus said,

“Truly I say to you, this baptism is done in my name. Truly I say to you, Judas, those who offer sacrifices to Saklas make a righteous sacrifice to God.
But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me."

[Sidebar: Interesting expression, "the man that clothes me." With this sentence, Jesus is denying identification with His physical body--His body is just a suit of clothes He wears to walk around in, on Earth. This expression helps Judas realize that he is not betraying anything permanent, but is merely helping Jesus in staging His extravaganza!

Again:]

"For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.

Already your horn has been raised,
your wrath has been kindled,
your star has shown brightly,
and your heart has been hardened"

[Sidebar: It is interesting how, when Jesus sends Judas off to betray Him, the text mentions that Judas must harden his heart. I think this means that Judas really loves Jesus very much, and, even though he can see the big picture, he still regrets turning Jesus over to the Pharisees, thus insuring Jesus' execution. Jesus is saying, here, "Buck up man, and do your duty. How else am I ever going to get crucified on Passover?!" My point is that: if Judas were truly betraying Jesus, his heart would be hardened already.

Back to Judas:]

“Truly your last place will become first, so do not grieve. And then the image of the great generation of Adam will be exalted, for prior to heaven, earth, and the angels, that generation, which is from the eternal realms, exists. Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.”

Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud, and he entered it.
Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud.

CONCLUSION: JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS
Their high priests murmured because He had gone into the guest room for his prayer."

[Sidebar: This bit is interesting, too: it is not illogical that Jesus might have been apprehended in a room of the same house where He had His Last Supper; but this version does away with some of our favorite Jesus portraits--the whole Garden of Gethsamane story, and the Peter cutting-off-the-ear story--bummer:]

"But some scribes were there watching carefully in order to arrest him during the prayer, for they were afraid of the people, since he was regarded by all as a prophet. They approached Judas and said to him, “What are you doing here? You are Jesus’ disciple.” Judas answered them as they wished. And he received some money and handed him over to them."

Many points in this text deserve comment. Let's begin with the mention of Saklas. As we learned last week, Saklas is a name associated with one of the founding angels of the universe, perhaps the Creator God Him(Her)Self:

"And the aeon that appeared with his generation, the aeon in whom are the cloud of knowledge and the angel, is called. And Saklas said, ‘Let twelve angels come into being to rule over chaos and the underworld.’ And look, from the cloud there appeared an angel whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood.

Another angel, Saklas, also came from the cloud.

“Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.’ They fashioned Adam and his wife Eve, who is called, in the cloud, Zoe. For by this name all the generations seek the man, and each of them calls the woman by these names. And the [ruler] said to Adam, ‘You shall live long, with your children.’”

This concept is clearly in agreement with the fundamentals of Gnostic philosophy, but it is not clear whether it is in agreement with Christian philosophy. However you slice it, this theology is Old testament stuff, and does not bear crucially on the role of Jesus in our lives here and now.

Here, let me remind you of the sidebar above, about Barbelo, taken from Wikipedia):

"The Gnostic term "Barbēlō" (Greek: Βαρβηλώ) refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as 'Mother-Father' (hinting at her apparent androgyny), 'First Human Being', 'The Triple Androgynous Name', or 'Eternal Aeon'."]

The idea of the MOTHER-CREATOR, (Saklas or Barbelo, it is not clear which) is an item included in many primitive, aboriginal mythologies; it is not unfamiliar to C.S, Lewis, who has much to say on the subject; he speaks, always, of the Father-Creator in preference to the Mother-Creator, especially in light of the sacrifice on Calvary, which changed the relationship of God to Man. For instance, at the climax of Till We Face Faces, the primordial Mother-God, Ungit, is contrasted with the newly articulated sculpture of the Goddess, Psyche; Ungit has no face--Psyche does. It will be apparent from this historical comparison of God's relationship to Man, before and after the crucifixion, (Ungit the Old God, Psyche the New God), that Lewis is in agreement with many statements, we quoted from Rudolf Steiner, emphasizing the significance of the Historical Jesus.

On the subject of masculine versus feminine, there is this illuminating principle set forth in his so-called "science fiction" novel, That Hideous Strength. In this excerpt we encounter the PERSON of God, not as a mothering birth-giver, nor as a pantheistic non-entity, but as a supra-masculine Identity:

"But she had been conceiving this world as "spiritual" in the negative sense--as some neutral, or democratic, vacuum where differences disappeared, where sex and sense were not transcended but simply taken away. Now the suspicion dawned upon her that there might be differences and contrasts all the way up, richer, sharper, even fiercer, at every rung of the ascent. How if this invasion of her own being in marriage from which she had recoiled, often in the very teeth of instincts, were not, as she had supposed, merely a relic of animal life or patriarchal barbarism, but rather the lowest, the first, and the easiest form of some shocking contact with reality which would have to be repeated-- but in ever larger and more disturbing modes-- on the highest levels of all?

"Yes," said the Director. "There is no escape. If it were a virginal rejection of the male, He would allow it. Such souls could bypass the male and go on to meet something far more masculine, higher up, to which they must make a yet deeper surrender. But your trouble has been what old poets called daungier. We call it Pride. You are offended by the masculine itself: the loud irruptive, possessive thing-- the Gold lion, the bearded bull-- which breaks through hedges and scatters the little kingdom of your primness as the dwarfs scattered the carefully made bed. The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it."
. . .

[Sidebar: Skipping ahead, C.S. Lewis gives this vivid report of a heroine's DIRECT ENCOUNTER with this supra-masculine, PERSONAL IDENTITY:]

"What awaited her there was serious to the degree of sorrow and beyond. There was no form nor sound. The mould under the bushes, the moss on the path, and the little brick border, were not visibly changed. But they were changed. A boundary had been crossed. She had come into a world, or into a Person, or into the presence of a Person. Something expectant, patient, and inexorable, met her with no veil or protection between. In the closeness of that contact she perceived at once that the Director's words had been entirely misleading. This demand which now pressed upon her was not, even by analogy, like any other demand. It was the origin of all right demands and contained them. In its light you could understand them; but from them you could know nothing of it. There was nothing, and never had been anything, like this. And now there was nothing except this. Yet also, everything had been like this; only by being like this had anything existed. In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself she had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished, unfluttering, into bottomless distance, like a bird in a space without air. The name me was the name of a being whose existence she had never suspected, a being that did not yet fully exist but which was demanded. It was a person (not the person she had thought), yet also a thing, a made thing, made to please Another and in Him to please all others, a thing being made at this very moment, without its choice, in a shape it has never dreamed of. And the making went on amidst a kind of splendor or sorrow or both, whereof she could not tell whether it was in the moulding hands or in the kneaded lump.

Words take too long. To be aware of all this and to know that it had already gone made one single experience. It was revealed only in its departure. The largest thing that had ever happened to her had, apparently, found room for itself in a moment of time too short to be called time at all. Her hand closed on nothing but a memory. And as it closed, without an instant's pause, the voices of those who have not joy rose howling and shattering from every corner of her being."

I would love reading that, in any context, but its relevance, to the subject of Judas, is this: whereas, in the section from Judas we clearly recognize obvious Gnostic authorship, with its attendant Heathen vision of the Mother-God, in the Lewis section presents, we see, in no uncertain terms, a clear refutation of that primitive theological concept. Too bad. But we knew this--we knew that the author of the Gospel of Judas was a gnostic, so why be surprised when information we believe in gets mixed up with information we don't believe in?

Much more pertinent (and much LESS dependent on the gnostic prejudices of the author) is the question of whether Judas' betrayal was truly a betrayal, or merely an element in a conspiracy, led by Jesus Himself. The idea of Judas being in on the plot to get Jesus crucified is not a new idea. I thought of it myself many, many years ago, and I believe it appears in several New Age authors of the mid-20th-century. There are even plays and movie scripts that delight in casting Judas in a murky light. Did he, or didn't he? Judas has always been a complicated guy.

Now, if you accept this premise, you can play an interesting kind of word game: take all of the pertinent passages from the Synoptic Gospels, and interpret them from the perspective of Judas as villain. Then, re-interpret--perform a switcheroo, and run through all the pertinent lines from the perspective of Judas as saint. I, myself, am not personally involved in the history, so I don't have any trouble re-interpreting the story from the saint point of view. For instance, if Judas were, indeed, working to set up Jesus, we have to look at the various lines in the synoptic Gospels that appear to blame Judas and accuse Judas. The thing is that: if you think of Jesus instructing Judas to betray him, then none of the instructions he gives Judas at the Last Supper seem out of character. For instance, "Go and do what you need to do quickly," etc. These instructions are perfectly consistent with the idea of a conspiracy, rather than an actual betrayal.

[Sidebar: On the subject of "Go do what you must do quickly," it is fun to imagine Jesus in a spy movie, privately leaning over the table to Judas' ear, looking at his watch, saying, "Synchronize watches, sixteen hundred in 5-4-3-2-1. Now, go you quickly and do what must be done--and stay on schedule."]

Now, what about when Jesus says to the other disciples, "One of you is about to betray me. One of you is a bad dude, and it would be better if you had never been born."? That quote is consistent with the next portion of the Judas gospel, my favorite part, where Judas comes to Jesus and reports that he's had a vision of himself being stoned--but then sees himself going up to a heavenly mansion in upper Heaven. (We will dwell on that next week.)

One of the ramifications of the idea that Judas was working with Jesus to arrange the spectacle of His own execution, is that it turns the whole crucifixion into a kind of performance art piece. It seems sort of crass to think of the crucifixion as a dramatic show, (with Jesus as the star, kind of like a gladiator), and yet we've said many times that Jesus was sent to sacrifice Himself; he was sent as the Lamb of God to be slaughtered; so when? It had be sometime--Jesus showed Himself often to be able to evade crowds and authorities when He wanted to, so I find it hard to believe that He just fell into the clutches of the Pharisees against His will. He even says so to Pilate.

John18:36-37:
"36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."

(Again, we will develop this idea next week.)

So Jesus admits that He is CHOOSING to submit to the power of Pilate--that Pilate has no power over Him that is not freely given to him by the Messiah in accordance with the Divine Plan. Thus, it makes much more sense, to me, for Jesus to have choreographed this entire event, planned it out, and executed it (ha ha) by Himself, possibly assisted by an organization, possibly the Essenes working with Jesus at their head.

Remember that Jesus often called upon the authority of prophecy to prove His claims to the Christ-hood. Perhaps the precise date and time of the crucifixion were chosen on the basis of some sort of prophetic timetable that they were attempting to adhere to--or had no choice but to adhere to. Jesus often mentions that He's fulfilling prophecy. This cannot be accidental. And remember that we have often spoken of prophecy, hope, sehnsucht, and pre-destination--all as choices that are made outside time, choices made before the world began. Indeed, sometimes Jesus goes out of his way to fulfill prophecy, and sometimes you can see that he is riding on a tide which nothing could ever interrupt; so, the idea that Jesus engineered his own death, using Judas as one of the instruments to fulfill His plan, is not inconsistent with the idea of God sending his own son to be sacrificed.

What, truly, was the significance of the crucifixion? Perhaps the entire event was symbolic! Perhaps Jesus was working as the Father's press agent--announcing to the world this attention- grabbing headline:

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Death no longer has any power over the spirit. Video at Sundown! Come and see! Bring the kids!"

Perhaps the whole thing was a grand ritual, designed to interrupt the inertia of history, and divert the flow of time into new paths!

We have spoken, on many occasions, about the significance of ritual--going through our little motions, here at the empty Basin Bible Church, every week, we enact these precious little ceremonies, which somehow solemnize our lives. I just participated in a wedding in which a bundle of sage was set on fire and pointed in the four directions of the compass, as if that meant anything! What purpose did that serve other than as a ritual which solemnized the moment?

Jesus announced to the world, from the cross, in the most flamboyantly dramatic object lesson in history, that there is no death, and that there can be Heaven on Earth. Death is not our final condition, so the eternal moment of NOW ought to be celebrated with every breath we take in this physical plane. Remember that Jesus chose the time of his execution--he chose Passover, the most solemn feast of the Jewish year, and the time when the Big Apple, Jerusalem, was most densely populated with penitents and pilgrims. At Passover, more than any other time of the year, Jerusalem was packed with people, that is to say, WITNESSES.

In terms of sheer showmanship, He did a very similar thing on the occasion of the death of Lazarus; you will remember that He could have come to Lazarus immediately, but He chose to tarry a few days to pump up public interest; this, so when He brought Lazarus back from the dead, more people would hear about it, more people would be affected by it. If He could orchestrate the "Raising-Lazarus-from-the-Dead Show" why couldn't He do the same with his own execution?

Again, I am not proposing an ironclad belief in any of the scenarios I'm suggesting, here. I have an open mind, but I don't have a hidden agenda, so I have nothing to lose by any admission, one way or the other. But you must admit that, logically speaking, dramaturgically speaking, these scenarios are well within the realm of possibility. Indeed, it is not the actuality but the POSSIBILITY that transforms history into myth, such that, in spiritual terms, the history may lie, but the myth always tells the truth--the spiritual truth.

As I mentioned earlier, I intend to review several more of the Gnostic Gospels, over the next few weeks, and search them for nuggets of meaning. Next week we will review two more stories from the Gospel of Judas. I do not expect we will be in universal agreement about the significance of these texts, but there can be no doubt that they should be considered; it remains to be seen whether I will remain as interested in the subject as I now am, but it will be a ride.

Next week we will consider Judas' prophetic dream of his own martyrdom.

For now, let us pray: Jesus, we thank you for the opportunity to test our spiritual acuity with texts which pose as many problems as they offer solutions. We praise the power of your Magnificent Personality to enlighten our minds with images of Truth, which transcend the literal and evoke the eternal. Amen.