Salvation History or the Phenomenology of Spirit?

Part of the confusion we run into when discussing the sometimes conflicting claims of scripture and theology, on the one hand, and science and history, on the other, has to do with what (if anything) God intends to accomplish in and through natural and historical processes!?  Why would almighty God place so many souls at risk by introducing them into such a life–the outcome of which (for many of them, at least) would seem to be anything but good?  Not only do human beings undergo great suffering in this world–we are also told that our eternal well-being is somehow at stake; our immortal souls somehow hanging in the balance!  Is this not (simply on the face of it) incredible!?

Telos-600x445Is it really plausible (for example), that God is using the process of natural selection (in biology) to achieve some spatiotemporal end?  While this idea is defended by some advocates of “theistic evolution” (aka creation by natural selection), how seriously should we take such claims?

Would it not make more sense to say that God is (in a manner of speaking) creating the whole universe– in its entirety –at every instant and that every instant is, as such, an end in itself?  This is implicitly affirmed by Descartes, when he writes:

“…this is certain, and an opinion commonly received among theologians, that the action by which [God] now sustains [the world] is the same with that by which he originally created it…” (Discourse on Method, Part V)

But what was merely implicit in Descartes, was said very graphically and explicitly a few hundred years earlier, by Meister Eckhart:

“What does God do all day long? He gives birth. From the beginning of eternity, God lies on a maternity bed giving birth to all. God is creating this whole universe full and entire in this present moment.” ~ Meister Eckhart

“If anyone went on for a thousand years asking of life: ‘Why are you living?’ life, if it could answer, would only say, ‘I live so that I may live.’ That is because life lives out of its own ground and springs from its own source, and so it lives without asking why it is itself living. ”  ~ Meister Eckhart

Indeed, why should we not think of the flow of appearances as a kind of kaleidoscopic manifestation of an eternal Reality which IS as it IS?  That would account for the apparently “intelligent design” of the phenomenal world while, at the same time, making every moment of our lives an end it itself.  There would be no necessary ‘telos’ to phenomenal processes (as such) beyond that of motivating us to transcend the bonds that such limited (merely physical or historical) perspectives tends to impose upon us in the first place.

squared kaeidoscope cropped.pngFrom this standpoint, our most problematic experiences as empirical subjects become intelligible NOT ONLY IF (or insofar as) they are understood as the means to some biological or historical end, but also insofar as they encourage us to realize that we are not merely empirical subjects– that we are not merely biological entities with a natural history or genealogy; and that we are not merely socially conditioned members of society, either –but that we are in some sense “incarnations of God” who are (so to speak) “born of the Spirit” (or “born from above”) whether or not we fully realize it.

To be sure, Jesus exhorts Nicodemus to remember who he is by saying, “ye must be born again”–suggesting a fundamental transformation of sorts (John 3:7).  But is it not also said that we are chosen– indeed, createdin Christ . . . in and from the beginning? (cf. Ephesians 1:4; 2:10)   As such, are we not destined (by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit) to experience a moment of clarity in which we, like the prodigal son, remember our Father’s house and the very fundamental and irreversible relationship which that implies? (see Luke 15:11-32 and also The Hymn of the Pearl)

It is also worth noting that a corollary of this kind of realization (or remembrance) is that our lives, so lived (primarily oriented toward the very different center of gravity that is our Father’s house), also function to reflect the aforementioned “eternal Reality” (or heavenly kingdom) into this world– i.e. into our sphere of influence —if and insofar as we willingly participate in the life and passion of Christ with all that that entails.  Thus Jesus– while often suggesting that the kingdom of heaven is, in some sense, within and above us –also counsels us to pray to the Father:

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..” (Matthew 6:10).

So, as I see it, the revelation of God and the good news of the gospel is that we are not merely biological organisms (nor are we merely members of society), but we are, at the most fundamental level, spiritual beings who, created in the image of God, are Christlike; born of the Spirit– heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ —and that, as such, we not only share in the One Life, Divine, but we also participate in its ongoing revelation (if and insofar as we remember who we are).

But, alas, more often than not this good news seems to fall on deaf ears (human beings are so easily persuaded that they are merely discrete, physical entities — mere specks of dust, floating around in time and space — existing by sheer happen-stance).  Indeed–  reminiscent of Narcissus in Greek mythology  –we become inordinately enamored with our own reflections (our most superficial, physical appearance) and are thus in danger of living and dying (on that level) without knowing who we really are.


So given the superficiality of our “self-knowledge” and the deceptive nature of the “self-love” to which we are at first inclined, it is perhaps understandable that what is more accurately described as a kind of gnosis– e.g. a knowledge of the union that exists between the mind and the whole of nature, as Spinoza put it –has been more traditionally described (in mytho-poetic terms) as “a new creation” (conceived of as the end product of “salvation history” which is understood, in turn, to be an ongoing process in the wake of “Adam’s sin”).  As such, in light of this plan of salvation, the natural world and human history are understood as important elements of a much larger work that is imagined to be in progress.  Indeed, we, ourselves, are also understood as being in the process of becoming that which God desires for us:

  • atOne with our heavenly Father…
  • members one of another in the unity of the Spirit…
  • integrally related to the whole of creation which is, by extension, the body of Christ

In this way, that which we already are is portrayed (in an imaginal way) as something entirely new–something that is somehow being accomplished  (metaphysically and historically) through the virgin birth of Jesus, his physical death on the cross, and his subsequent (bodily) resurrection and ascension (together with his anticipated return).

salvation history creation ministries

And, indeed, it is undeniable that the life and passion of Jesus (as traditionally understood) has been the central revelation of God in the western world for nearly 2000 years.  But the essentially mytho-poetic character of this narrative (if not immediately obvious) is undeniably confirmed by the problem of evil–since, if we construe the traditional narrative(s) to be “literally” true (in any ordinary sense of the word), it results in a conception of God that falls far short of our theological ideal(s) of omniscience, omnipotence, and omni-benevolence and leaves us, instead, with a picture of God as a being who is rather limited, reactive, and subject to change (one, indeed, whose sense of goodness and justice is left very much in doubt).

The contours of this problem are reflected in a wide variety of less than satisfying (not quite coherent) teachings throughout the long history of quasi-mythical, quasi-metaphysical religious discourse.  We see it, for example, in:

  • gfbfgThe teaching of a fundamental dualism between good and evil that somehow becomes imbalanced (as taught by Zoroaster, Mani, et al )
  • The idea of an emergent breach that somehow came to mar the unalloyed light of Divine goodness and resulted, finally, in the creation of the so-called demiurge and other archons, together with all the horrors perpetrated by them (as taught by the so-called “Syrian” Gnostics)

But we see it just as clearly in:

  • God’s apparent inability to accomplish his ultimate ends apart from the collateral damage involving the sin, death, and ultimate damnation of a significant number of human and celestial beings (as taught by Christian orthodoxy).

Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that all such accounts are just so stories — particular, culturally conditioned modes of discourse that are tailor-made for our “fallen” (dualistic) minds; modes of discourse, in other words, which at their best function to wake us up (pointing beyond themselves– to the inscrutable, nondual truth of who we really are –while keeping our egos out of trouble in the meantime); but also modes of discourse which at their worst become just another ideology that conceals rather than reveals the truth–since they do not offer any ultimately coherent worldview or metaphysical system (as they so often purport to) but constitute, instead, just another  mental position to which the egoic mind can cling as it pursues its perpetual project of self-preservation (competing with other egos for a wide variety of limited resources; standing over-against the various inhospitable forces of nature; and laboring under the inexorable shadow of death which continuously dogs its trail).

Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that while the Reality of the Way, the Truth, and the Life can be realized in a unitive (intuitive) way, it cannot be grasp conceptually — at least not in a way that carries the force of demonstration for an egoic mind which is hyper-analytic and wholly self-absorbed.  Those who realize this Reality are those who take up their cross and (dying before they die) become like little children and who, as such, enter the kingdom of heaven NOW

pearl t.s.eliot

–>  Recognizing and Honoring the Light of Awareness

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Love Me Tender

In my Sympathetic Critique of Fundamentalism, I point out two doctrines that, as I see it, do much more harm than good.  After fully acknowledging the positive experiences and relationships that are to be found in conservative fundamentalist and evangelical communities, I also write as follows:

love me tender love me sweet“I must also admit that there are times when it is still a challenge to interact with that world–especially when I hear the positions of those outside the church (i.e. those who stand  outside the worldview promulgated in that particular congregation) misrepresented and/or ridiculed in an attempt to reinforce their particular teachings in the hearts and minds of those on the insideShame and fear play a big role in what can only be described as indoctrination.  While such rhetorical techniques are employed to some degree in most any human culture or subculture– see also group think and confirmation bias –they play a particularly prominent role in conservative evangelical and fundamentalist churches and seem particularly coercive in conjunction with the threats of hell and hopes of paradise that are also held over one’s head–often, as in my case, from a very young and impressionable age.  In addition to this modus operandi of indoctrination, there are two doctrines in particular that I find especially problematic:

1) Biblical Inerrancy (and the related “young earth creationism” — YEC for short).

2) The Eternal Torment of non-Christians in Hell (even those who have lived and died without ever hearing the gospel).

“In my opinion, it is primarily these two doctrines that force those Christians who hold them into defending untenable positions and, after painting themselves into various love me or i will roast your ass - jesuspractical and theoretical corners by reason of these beliefs, prevent them from effectively communicating with people outside (or on the margins) of their communities.  Not only does this tend to isolate them and keep them tied to a very narrow view of both the grace of God and their own creative potential, under God, it also makes them fair game for demagogues of various kinds.  Once again– in my opinion –the two aforementioned keys suggest a two-pronged approach that would go a long way toward resolving these problems:

1) we need not be concerned with the possibility of errors in the written word— as regards science or history, for example –as long as it is functioning effectively to point us to the living Word (and, IMO, idealizing the written word as “inerrant” actually detracts from its effectiveness in this regard).

2) the living Word speaks within the heart of every human being, whether or not they’ve heard the name of Jesus (i.e. the story of Jesus is one way of communicating the universal truth that we are reconciled to God, that the Way is One, and that all who are on the Way are One –whatever story or stories may be functioning as their particular on-ramp(s) to the Way).

my sheep hear my voice“Thus, the living Word (or logos) is seen, indeed, to be the light of the world–the light that lights everyone who comes into the world (and not just those who are fortunate enough to have been born within earshot of the Christian gospel).  What each one does with that light– and why –is a mystery which is sometimes spoken of in terms of human freedom and at other times in terms of God’s love and grace.  While I am rather inclined to speak of it in both ways, I know that God is good and that to err on the side of love and grace is probably closer to the truth.”

Read the entire essay here

–>  A Sympathetic Critique of Fundamentalism

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“The Path With A Heart” and more!

The following article has just been added to The Four Precepts archives which can be found under the Period Pieces menu:

path with a heartThe Path with a Heart
by Wayne Ferguson 23.02.2006

To follow your bliss is, in the words of Don Juan, to follow the path with a heart.  Such a path will be experienced as an end itself and not merely as a means to some more or less desirable goal.

For me there is only traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly.
~ Don Juan

–> Read entire article…

TheFourPrecepts.Com was a website that I started in 2003  devoted– as the name suggests –to The Four Precepts which had guided my life during the previous  decade:

  1. Remember your Divine essence.
  2. Say Yes to Life unconditionally.
  3. Overcome the Spirit of Revenge.
  4. Follow your Bliss.

–> The Origin of the Four Precepts

Additional Archived Articles:
The Jesus Prayer +

Duty and Accomplishment
The Call of Conscience
Intelligent Design
Collecting and Dividing


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Getting to Know Gnosticism

yeshua21Note:  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–which  is, in part, a response to those who from time to time have suggested that the Yeshua21 Blog is promoting a gnostic message.  While I initially intended to go into some detail about the history of that blog and the teachings shared therein, I found that by doing so, the piece grew exceedingly long and rather top-heavy.  As such, it has seemed best to make it into two separate posts–this one, on gnosticism proper; and then, a separate piece– entitled To Know OR Not to Know?which provides a bit of the back-story.  This piece picks up where that one leaves off.

Accusations of “gnosticism” yield more heat than light . . .

To begin with, it is worth noting that many people– following the lead of Michael Allen Williams, perhaps, and Karen King –are beginning to argue that the terms gnostic and gnosticism are so broad as to be almost meaningless.   A case in point is this suggestion by Cynthia Bourgeault:

“First of all, I would call for a moratorium on the use of the term
‘Gnosticism.’  It carries so many connotations, most of them negative and hugely inaccurate, that it sheds far more heat than light. . . . Second, we need to deprogram the negative imprinting and begin to encounter these texts again on their own terms, with accurate translations and empathetic understanding. . . . Finally, we need to stop thinking about these texts as uniform — as if they all espouse a single philosophy or “Gnostic” point of view.  They span several centuries, and like the canonical gospels themselves, they reflect a variety of viewpoints and levels of spiritual understanding” (Lecture on Gnosis and Gnosticism, April 2010 — See also The Meaning of Mary Magdalene).

And Karen King writes:

“Why is it so hard to define Gnosticism? The problem, I argue, is that a rhetorical term has been confused with a historical entity.” —Karen L. King,  “What Is Gnosticism?”

That rings true, insofar as my critics were playing the gnostic card in a purely rhetorical way which allowed them to dismiss my point of view (with extreme prejudice, as it were), but without any real, serious discussion–much less any real meeting of the minds.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that since both Christian and non-Christian authors of antiquity wrote treatises in opposition to “the Gnostics” (e.g. Irenaeus, Plotinus, et al) — and since, moreover, there are no shortage of modern folk who continue to identify themselves as gnostic or Gnostics (see Gnosticism in modern times) — it looks as though Cynthia Bourgeault’s call for a moratorium is hardly realistic.  As such, it seems to me that we would all do well to do a modicum of research on the topic and to begin using these terms with considerably more care.  Below are some of the fruits of my own research in this regard.

Gnosticism:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

For my part– and without claiming any significant expertise of a scholarly sort  –I seem to discern three types of gnosticism (or better, perhaps, three aspects or facets of gnostic life and thought) which I will personally and provisionally designate as follows:

  1. Unitive/Nondual Insight (the good)
  2. Mythical/Metaphysical Beliefs (the bad)
  3. Unconventional/Licentious Lifestyles (the ugly)

good bad ugly 3

These are not by any means mutually exclusive– quite the contrary –but seem to be found in a variety of combinations which may emphasize any one or two of these facets to the exclusion or marginalization of the other(s).  Nevertheless, it seems to me that the primary reason for the push-back against gnosticism in the early church– and the primary reason for viewing it with suspicion today –has more to do with numbers 2 and 3 (beliefs and lifestyles) rather than the unitive or nondual element which is, in many respects, merely implicit in the (so-called) gnostic texts (as it is in our canonical scriptures, as well, only more so).  Thus, rank and file Gnostics may be (or may have been) very enthusiastic about 2 and 3 without really experiencing the cutting insight of number 1 (just as fundamentalist Christians may be very enthusiastic in a purely egocentric way about their “Christian worldview” and “Christian values” without, in fact, knowing the mind of Christ and the power of the Spirit).

In light of this, if my Christian vision is to be accurately designated as gnostic, it can only be by virtue of its emphasis on unitive insight or nondual awareness (since it bears no relationship whatsoever to numbers 2 and 3).  Nevertheless, by characterizing my mode of discourse as gnostic, these aforementioned critics– who seem hardly to have a clue about any of this –managed (intentionally or unintentionally)  to associate what I have to say with a whole history anti-gnostic thought and sentiment that was not at all directed to the kind of seeing and knowing that I am attempting to share, but rather (or at least primarily) toward those metaphysical teachings and licentious sexual practices of the so-called Gnostics of antiquity that clearly conflicted with the dominant Christian culture of that era and continue to do so today.  As such– in order to clarify all the issues at stake and lay the ground work for fair and honest discussion in which we can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges –I want to present a brief overview of all three facets of gnostic thought and culture, but in a slightly different order–beginning with the bad, continuing with the ugly, and concluding with, as I see it, the good

NOTE:  As indicated above, these value judgments reflect, in part, what I take to be the perspective of the dominant Christian culture from the beginning.  I do not mean to suggest that anyone who is honestly convinced that the truth is to be found in what I am referring to as bad or ugly gnosticism should not pursue these, but I do want to distance myself from both those positions and create a safe-space for what I take to be the good gnosticism of unitive or nondual awareness.  This, in my opinion, offers a viable way forward for those who are sincerely seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the 21st century–a way forward in which traditional Christian teachings become, again, both living and intelligible.

–>  Bad Gnosticism

the bad

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Bad Gnosticism

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

As indicated in the opening section of the original article, these value judgments– good, bad, and ugly –reflect, in part, what I take to be the perspective of the dominant Christian culture from the beginning.  I do not mean to suggest that anyone who is honestly convinced that the truth is to be found in what I am referring to as bad or ugly gnosticism should not pursue them, but I do want to distance myself from both those positions and create a safe-space for what I take to be the good gnosticism of unitive or nondual awareness.  This, in my opinion, offers a viable way forward for those who are sincerely seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the 21st century–a way forward in which traditional Christian teachings become, again, both living and intelligible.

Mythical/Metaphysical Gnosticism (the bad)

the badBart Erhman (who, by the way, probably would not understand or acknowledge what I am referring to as nondual gnosticism) offers a good beginning overview of that which I am referring to as metaphysical gnosticism and licentious gnosticism in his YouTube lectures on The Gospel of Judas.   In the first of two YouTube videos on this topic, he devotes about 7 minutes to the very general– quasi-mythical, quasi-metaphysical –framework that I am referring to as the bad gnosticism.  Here is that segment cued to begin at the 21:41 minute mark:

This is offers a pretty standard view of mythical/metaphysical gnosticism.   For those who don’t have time to listen to the segment indicated, here is his power-point outline:

ehrman - gnosticism
the gnosticsMore detailed and/or alternative presentations are widely available on the Internet.  I also recommend reading the first two chapters of Jaques Lacarriere’s The Gnostics — from which I will share two brief summaries from chapter three:

“So, to have done with this problem and give an exact definition of Gnostic thought – as I understand it, at least – all institutions, laws, religions, churches and powers are nothing but a sham and a trap, the perpetuation of an age-old deception.

“Let us sum up: we are exploited on a cosmic scale, we are the proletariat of the demiurge-executioner, slaves exiled into a world that is viscerally subjected to violence; we are the dregs and sediment of a lost heaven, strangers on our own planet.
“The point is that the history of man reproduces very closely the initial drama – and the farce – of the cosmos. Man, like the universe, is a failed creation, a lamentable imitation, the mere semblance of a man, a counterfeit man, or, in anthropological terms, a pseudanthrope. In man, the forgery is more immediately apparent than it is in the universe, for the human body is better known, and more accessible to us, than the light of the distant stars. Let us therefore summarize, as simply as possible, the precise reason for our being what we are, that is to say, trespassers in a body which is ill-suited to us.

“In the beginning, in the world of possibilities and virtualities, an image of man was born in the intelligible brain of the true God of the highest circle: a potential man, the mental matrix of he whom the true God might one day have made real. This image was perceived by the demiurges, the archons or angels of the lower circles. How? Why? A mystery. But perceive it they did and were dazzled, as if by the light, the force, the beauty, the coherence which emanated from this mentally conceived Anthropos. They therefore decided to imitate and reproduce him” (The Gnostics 29, 31 —see PDF, pages 20, 22).

All of this is sufficiently alien to orthodox Christian interpretations of the Judeo-Christian scriptures as to suggest the first reason for the early churches entrenched opposition to Gnosticism.  While such mythical and metaphysical speculation is fascinating, to say the least (and can be instructive as a kind of philosophical exercise or thought experiment), if taken literally, they clearly conflict with more traditional readings of Genesis (i.e. more conventional readings which also seem to be expressed or implied in the dominant strains of New Testament thought).  Moreover, if we attend closely to the Lacarriere quotation, above– which suggests that the cosmic deception extends to “all institutions, laws, religions, churches and powers” –we can begin to understand the way in which mythical / metaphysical gnosticism morphs (or might tend to morph) into unconventional / licentious gnosticism, as well.   For if the dominant culture is deceptive, one way to to find deliverance from the prison of this world– one way to find out who you really are –might be to intentionally live in a way that runs very much counter and contrary to the dominant culture.

NOTE:  Be forewarned, this can get rather ugly, at times, and is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart…

–>  Bumping Ugly Gnosticism

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Bumping Ugly Gnosticism

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

If we attend closely to the Jacques Lacarriere quotation [in the longer essay] — which suggests that a cosmic deception extends to “all institutions, laws, religions, churches and powers” –we can begin to understand the way in which mythical / metaphysical gnosticism morphs (or might tend to morph) into unconventional / licentious gnosticism, as well.   For if the dominant culture is deceptive, the way to to find deliverance from the prison of this world– the way to find out who you really are –might be to intentionally live in a way that runs very much counter and contrary to the dominant culture.

NOTE:  Be forewarned, this can get rather ugly, at times, and is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart…

Unconventional/Licentious Gnosticism (the ugly)

the uglyEhrman devotes about 4 minutes of the second YouTube video on The Gospel of Judas to that which I am referring to as the ugly gnosticism.  Fielding a question on the possibility of a romantic or sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, he relates Epiphanius‘ account of the Phibionites in a 4 minute segment which I have cued to begin at the 24:45 minute point:

Jacques Lacarriere also appeals to Epiphanius‘ account as he, too, documents in some detail their very unconventional lifestyles (including the putatively licentious sexual practices attributed the 4th century  Carpocratians and the Phibionites — see chapters 7 and 8 of The Gnostics).  Note:  As Lacarriere indicates, it is also worth comparing and contrasting those groups to the Cathar communities which thrived in southern Europe about 10 centuries later.  It seems clear that if their alternative mythology and metaphysics was not enough, the alternative social and sexual practices of these groups almost guaranteed that they would be marginalized and ultimately condemned by the institutional church.  It is also worth noting, however, that The Gospel of Judas characterizes the mainstream church as similarly immoral (albeit, one assumes, in a metaphorical way — see segment 35:15 – 36:55).

In any event (whatever the details), just as we may learn from bad gnosticism, construed as a philosophical exercise or thought experiment, so per chance we may also learn from ugly gnosticism–i.e. by immersing ourselves in a very unconventional, counter-culture lifestyle, for a time (not unlike the prodigal son, perhaps, who does seem to have ended up wiser than his elder brother).  Nevertheless, it is hardly surprising that the main-stream, institutional church condemned and continues to condemn such seemingly far-out, unconventional beliefs and behaviors.

What both Bart Ehrman and his more conservative colleagues (seemingly) fail to understand, however– something that, no doubt, has been overlooked many self-described Gnostics over the centuries, as well –is that one does not necessarily come to know who or what they really are (much less really find deliverance from the human predicament) simply by adopting an alternative metaphysics, mythology, and/or lifestyle.  Indeed, so doing, one may merely exchange one egoic delusion for another.  What is needed, instead, is an altogether different kind of vision.  An alternative metaphysics, mythology, and lifestyle are, at best, preparatory, whereas the seeing itself is unitive or nondual.

–> Unitive or Nodual Insight

the good2

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Unitive/Nondual Gnosticism

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

Unitive/Nondual Gnosticism (the good)

the good2In 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).  220px-RichardRohrOFMFor 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 NTWright(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.  moon and sunThe 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).  essoteric exoteric3.1Heretofore, 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.

–> Christian Gnosis

Or read the article in its entirety:

–> Gnosticism:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

good bad ugly 3

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