Note: This “post” is part of a longer essay which has been posted as a separate “page” under the Nonduality menu: Gnosticism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Some So-Called Gnostic Texts
It is my contention that these texts are best understood as pointing to the kind of unitive insight or nondual awareness referred to [in the longer article referred to] above. There are three texts, in particular, that I find of interest in this regard:
- The Gospel of Thomas
- The Gospel of Truth
- The Hymn of the Pearl
Extended excerpts from each of these have been posted at Yeshua21.Com (under Gnostic Accents) together with links to the complete texts and other documentation elsewhere on the web. In addition, I will conclude this piece with several key verses from each–that is, with selected texts that strike me as especially suggestive of the kind of unitive insight or nondual awarness which I have characterized as the good gnosticism.
It will be tempting to understand these texts metaphysically (and possibly, at times, even historically). Unfortunately, to understand them that way is, as I see it, to misunderstand them. In a sense, these texts, too– like their canonical counterparts [mentioned earlier] –are puzzles which conceal as much as they reveal. In order to “solve” these puzzles — in order to “find the interpretation” — it is necessary first to solve the puzzle of the Self — i.e. to recognize and honor the light of awareness as our eternal life (NOW). For walking in that light— and resting in that life —the Truth is known and we are, thereby, set free (a la John 8:32). And finding the interpretation in this way, the texts may then be read with understanding. In the meantime, it certainly doesn’t hurt (and may very well help) to puzzle over them–so go ahead, knock yourself out! As always, take what you find helpful and leave the rest…
Let us begin with The Gospel of Thomas:
(1) And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of these words shall not taste of death.
(3) …the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.
(15) Jesus said: When you see him who was not born of woman, fall down upon your faces and worship him; that one is your Father.
(19) Jesus said: Blessed is he who was before he came into being. If you become disciples to me (and) listen to my words, these stones will minister to you. For you have five trees in Paradise which do not change, either in summer or in winter, and their leaves do not fall. He who knows them shall not taste of death.
(24) His disciples said: Teach us about the place where you are, for it is necessary for us to seek it. He said to them: He who has ears, let him hear! There is light within a man of light, and he lights the whole world. If he does not shine, there is darkness.
(51) His disciples said to him: On what day will the rest of the dead come into being, and on what day will the new world come? He said to them: What you await has come, but you do not know it.
(66) Jesus said: Show me the stone which the builders rejected; it is the cornerstone.
(67) Jesus said: He who knows the all, (but) fails (to know) himself, misses everything.
(76) Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a merchant who had a load (of goods) and found a pearl. That merchant was wise. He sold the load and bought for himself the pearl alone. You also, seek after his treasure which does not fail (but) endures, where moth does not come near to devour nor worm to destroy.
(77) Jesus said: I am the light that is above them all. I am the all; the all came forth from me, and the all attained to me. Cleave a (piece of) wood; I am there. Raise up a stone, and you will find me there.
(83) Jesus said: The images are revealed to man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He will reveal himself, and his image is hidden by his light.
(84) Jesus said: When you see your likeness, you rejoice. But when you see your images which came into existence before you, which neither die nor are made manifest, how much will you bear?
(90) Jesus said: Come to me, for my yoke is easy and my lordship is gentle, and you will find rest for yourselves.
(107) Jesus said: The kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep; one of them, the biggest, went astray; he left (the) ninety-nine (and) sought after the one until he found it. After he had laboured, he said to the sheep: I love you more than the ninety-nine.
(113) His disciples said to him: On what day will the kingdom come? It will not come while people watch for it; they will not say: Look, here it is, or: Look, there it is; but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it.
(Find additional selections at Yeshua21.Com)
Let us continue with The Gospel of Truth:
2. Now the Gospel is the revelation of the hopeful, it is the finding of those who seek him. For since the totality were searching for him from whom they came forth—and the totality were within him, the incomprehensible inconceivable, he who exists beyond all thought— hence unacquaintance with the Father caused anxiety and fear. Then the anxiety condensed like a fog so that no one could see.
3. Wherefore confusion grew strong, contriving its matter in emptiness and unacquaintance with the truth, preparing to substitute potent and alluring fabrication for truthfulness. But this was no humiliation for him, the incomprehensible inconceivable. For the anxiety and the amnesia and the deceitful fabrication were nothing— whereas the established truth is immutable, imperturbable and of unadornable beauty. Therefore despise confusion! It has no roots and was in a fog concerning the Father, preparing labors and amnesia and fear in order thereby to entice those of the transition and take them captive.
4. The amnesia of confusion was not made as a revelation, it is not the handiwork of the Father. Forgetfulness does not occur under his directive, although it does happen because of him. But rather what exists within him is acquaintanceship—this being revealed so that forgetfulness might dissolve and the Father be recognized. Since amnesia occurred because the Father was not recognized, thereafter when the Father is recognized there will be no more forgetting.
5. This is the Gospel of him who is sought, which he has revealed to those perfected thru the mercies of the Father as the secret mystery:
Y’shua the Christ!
He enlightened those who were in darkness because of forgetfulness. He illumined them. He gave them a path, and that path is the truth which he proclaimed.
6. Therefore confusion was enraged at him and pursued him in order to suppress and eliminate him. He was nailed to a tree, he became the fruit of recognizing the Father. Yet it did not cause those who consumed it to perish, but rather to those who consumed it he bestowed a rejoicing at such a discovery. For he found them in himself and they found him in themselves— the incomprehensible inconceivable, the Father, this perfect-one who created the totality, within whom the totality exists and of whom the totality has need. For he had withheld within himself their perfection, which he had not yet conferred upon them all.
10. He was nailed to a tree in order to publish the edict of the Father on the cross. Oh sublime teaching, such that he humbled himself unto death while clad in eternal life! He stripped off the rags of mortality in order to don this imperishability which none has the power to take from him. Entering into the empty spaces of the terrors, he brought forth those who had been divested by amnesia. Acting with recognition and perfection, he proclaimed what is in the heart of the Father, in order to make wise those who are to receive the teaching. Yet those who are instructed are the living, inscribed in this book of life, who are taught about themselves and who receive themselves from the Father in again returning to him.
11. Because the perfection of the totality is in the Father, it is requisite that they all ascend unto him. When someone recognizes, he receives the things that are his own and gathers them to himself. For he who is unacquainted has a lack— and what he lacks is great, since what he lacks is Him who will make him perfect. Because the perfection of the totality is in the Father, it is requisite that they all ascend unto him. Thus each and every one receives himself.
19. Each one shall receive himself in the unification and shall be purified from multiplicity into unity in acquaintanceship— consuming matter in himself like a flame, darkness with light, and death with life. Since these things have thus happened to each one of us, it is appropriate that we think of the totality so that the household be holy and silent for the unity.
23. For who is the existent-one, except for the Father alone? All dimensions are his emanations, recognized in coming forth from his heart like sons from a mature person who knows them. Each one whom the Father begets had previously received neither form nor name. Then they were formed thru his self-awareness. Although indeed they had been in his mind, they had not recognized him. The Father however is perfectly acquainted with all the dimensions, which are within him.
25. Whoever lacks root also lacks fruit, but still he thinks to himself: ‘I have become, so I shall decease— for everything that earlier did not yet exist, later shall no longer exist.’ What therefore does the Father desire that such a person think about himself?: ‘I have been like the shadows and the phantoms of the night!’ When the dawn shines upon him, this person ascertains that the terror which had seized him was nothing. They were thus unacquainted with the Father because they did not behold him. Hence there occurred terror and turmoil and weakness and doubt and division, with many deceptions and empty fictions at work thru these.
27. Then the moment comes when those who have endured all this awaken, no longer to see all those troubles— for they are naught. Such is the way of those who have cast off ignorance like sleep and consider it to be nothing, neither considering its various events as real, but rather leaving it behind like a dream of the night. Recognizing the Father brings the dawn! This is what each one has done, sleeping in the time when he was unacquainted. And this is how, thus awakened, he comes to recognition.
28. How good for the person who returns to himself and awakens, and blest is he whose blind eyes have been opened! And the Spirit ran after him, resurrecting him swiftly. Extending her hand to him who was prostrate on the ground, she lifted him up on his feet who had not yet arisen. Now the recognition which gives understanding is thru the Father and the revelation of his Son. Once they have seen him and heard him, he grants them to taste and to smell and to touch the beloved Son.
(Find additional selections at Yeshua21.Com)
And, finally, let us conclude with The Hymn of the Pearl:
because I was come from abroad in order to take the pearl,
and arouse the serpent against me.
But in some way other or another
they found out that I was not their countryman,
and they dealt with me treacherously,
and gave their food to eat.
I forget that I was a son of kings,
and I served their king;
and I forgot the pearl,
for which my parents had sent me,
and because of the burden of their oppressions
I lay in a deep sleep.
But all this things that befell me
my parents perceived, and were grieved for me;
And they wove a plan on my behalf,
that I might not be left in Egypt;
and they wrote to me a letter,
Call to mind that thou art a son of kings!
See the slavery,–whom thou servest!
Remember the pearl,
for which thou was sent to Egypt!
Think of thy robe,
and remember thy splendid toga,
which thou shalt wear and (with which) thou shalt be adorned,
when thy name hath been read out in the list of the valiant,
and thy brother, our viceroy,
thou shalt be in our kingdom.”
My letter is a letter,
which the king sealed with his own right hand,
…flew in the likeness of an eagle,
the king of all birds;
it flew and alight beside me,
and became all speech.
At its voice and the sound of its rustling,
I started and arose from my sleep.
I took it up and kissed it,
and I began (and) read it;
and according to what was traced on my heart
were the words of my letter.
I remembered that I was a son of royal parents,
and my noble birth asserted itself.
I remembered the pearl,
for which I had been sent to Egypt,
and I began to charm him,
the terrible loud breathing serpent.
I hushed him asleep and lulled him into slumber,
for my father’s name I named over him…
And I snatched away the pearl,
and turned to go back to my father’s house.
And their filthy and unclean dress I stripped off,
and left it in their country;
and I took my way straight to come
to the light of our home in the East.
And my bright robe, which I had stripped off,
and the toga that was wrapped with it,
…my parents had sent thither
by the hand of their treasures,
who in their truth could be trusted therewith.
And because I remembered not its fashion,–
for in my childhood I had left it in my father’s house,–
on a sudden, when I received it,
the garment seemed to me to become like a mirror of myself.
I saw it all in all,
and I to received all in it,
for we were two in distinction
and yet gain one in one likeness.
and the image of the king of kings
was embroidered and depicted in full all over it,
and like the stone of the sapphire too
its hues were varied.
And love urged me too run
to meet it and receive it;
and I stretched forth and took it.
With the beauty of its colors I adorned myself,
and I wrapped myself wholly in my toga
of brilliant hues.
I clothed myself with it, and went up to the gate
of salutation and prostration;
I bowed my head and worshipped the majesty
of my father who sent me,–
(Find additional selections at Yeshua21.Com)