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
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
“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.