Unitive/Nondual Gnosticism (the good)
In a related piece entitled, To Know OR Not to Know? (published concurrently), I explain the occasion for this essay and provide a number of links to the Yeshua21 Blog where the unitive/nondual Christian vision (which evoked the accusation of gnosticism in the first place) is articulated. I also share elements of that vision in an essay, here, on Nonduality. It should be apparent by now, that if this were really what my critics had in mind when they bandied about the words gnostic and gnosticism, I would have happily pled guilty as charged. Unfortunately, it seems to me that they were just reacting to one thing which they don’t understand (i.e. my references to nondual awareness or seeing) by attempting to paint me with the broad brush of something else they don’t understand (i.e. gnosticism as historically condemned). When it comes to the historical controversy, it seems unlikely to me that the Gnostics of antiquity would have been condemned for the nondual elements of their teaching considered in isolation from their alternative metaphysics and lifestyle. The question remains whether or not that element can stand on its own as a part of the orthodox faith.
In fact, when it comes to that which I refer to (loosely) as nonduality, I have little doubt that (in sharp contrast to it’s attitude toward the early Christian heresy of gnosticism, per se) the institutional church will eventually realize that a unitive or nondual interpretation of the gospel will, on balance, provide the best point of entry into the teaching of both Jesus and St. Paul–both in the 21st century and beyond (see for example these Seven Themes explored by Fr. Richard Rohr). For while both Jesus and Paul may have had good reason to believe (2000 years ago) that an apocalyptic conclusion to world history was shortly forthcoming– and while they may also have had good reason to believe in any number of particulars about the resurrection of the body and and our life in the world to come, as well –the real key to their message (insofar as it truly timeless and universal) is the possibility of being reconciled to God NOW (being atOne with the Father) through the Mind of Christ (“I Am”) and the power of the Spirit (“[who] will guide [us] into all the truth“). NOTE: None of the foregoing is meant to suggest that there is no resurrection or that there is no life in the world to come–just that we need not necessarily understand those terms in precisely the same way that they have been traditionally imagined any more than we are inclined to understand the Genesis account of creation or the apocalypse of St. John in the same way that the early or medieval church did.
From this standpoint, then, preoccupation with historical and prophetic narratives become somewhat academic. To be sure, we need to teach those narratives as coherently and consistently as possible insofar as they remain an integral part of the exoteric tradition which is, indeed, preparatory and, as such, very important (N.T. Wright, among others, seems to be making some important contributions in this regard, but without acknowledging the importance of Christian gnosis). Nevertheless, from the point of view of the good gnosticism (i.e. the inner or esoteric truth that comes through unitive insight or nondual awareness), it is clearly seen that we are ultimately reconciled to God through the mind of Christ and the Power of the Spirit– NOW –rather than through our understanding of the events of antiquity or through our anticipation of an apocalyptic future, as ordinarily understood or imagined.
Moreover, it can hardly be overemphasized that this Mind and this Spirit involves a seeing and a knowing that transcends our egoic minds and personal stories (including those historical and metaphysical constructs– gnostic or orthodox –which, while being significant and preparatory, are nevertheless tailor-made for the strictly limited and dualistic point of view of “the separate self” ).
In contrast, the kind of unitive insight which is characteristic of the mind of Christ— rather than being something the ego does or achieves –involves a nondual realization of the very seeing and knowing in which and by virtue of which the ego is able to appear to itself as a separate entity in the first place — a realization of that apart from which our egos would not and could not appear at all. Indeed, walking in this light, it is seen that our egos shine in and by virtue of the light of the world— in and by virtue of the light in which we see light –just as certainly as the moon shines in and by virtue of the (borrowed) light of the Sun. The problem is that prior to this realization, the ego tends to imagines itself as self-contained and self-sufficient when nothing could be further from the truth. Consequently, it is by taking up our cross and by recognizing and honoring the the light of the World, as such– the cutting edge of unconditioned consciousness –that we are truly raised with Christ in newness of life (however the end of the age actually unfolds–and whatever may actually obtain in the wake of our apparent physical demise). Concurrent with this realization, the ego seems to step down from the throne of our hearts and, so, is sometimes described as having been regenerated or as a having submitted to the Lordship of Christ. From this standpoint we can truly say, glory be to God for all things!
Unfortunately, conventional Christian teaching tends to conceal as much (if not more) of all this than it reveals–especially from the standpoint of modern skepticism/criticism. And even those who have a measure of insight into the light of the world based on conventional Christian teachings alone may still associate this seeing and this knowing with a particular interpretation of scripture and/or particular aspects of the tradition which, as such, are held to in a rather dogmatic, sectarian fashion. As a result, such believers are still at great risk of falling into unnecessary divisions and disputations.
What is needed– both for the benefit of the sincere skeptic and honest critic; and for the benefit of those who find it difficult to imagine that anyone else can know God without believing and behaving precisely as they do –is a clearer distinction between the carnal mind (aka the egoic mind) and the mind of Christ (aka unitive or nondual awareness), together with an understanding of a correlate distinction between the outer (exoteric) narrative and the inner (esoteric) truth of the tradition. When the latter distinction is fully appreciated, we can begin to give due diligence to the quazi-historical, quazi-metaphysical narratives of Christian orthodoxy without missing out on the cutting insight which is the narrow gate that leads to life (referred to in Matthew 7:14). Heretofore, the alternative myth, metaphysics, and lifestyles of the bad and the ugly gnosticism may have given it some advantage in this regard (inasmuch as it tended to shake its adherents out of their entrenched habits of thought and enabled them to see the world differently), but increasingly, in our post-modern age, there is an almost universal appreciation for the relativity of all such myths and teachings. As such, there is less and less need for anyone to take refuge in the bad and the ugly gnosticsm which has been consistently condemned by the church.
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