Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No Christmas in the Thomas Gospel

There is no Christmas in the Thomas gospel, because it only has the teachings, and none of the stories about him, which as a literary form naturally only developed after his death, when his life was being mythologized. The Thomas materials, as much as the hypothetical (but now reconstructed) Q Gospel, which Gary Renard refers to as The Words of the Master, were simply his words, his teachings, with little or no ambiance and storyline, at most some very sketchy situational details, which simply serve as reminders for the practical context in which they occurred. For as he also says in A Course in Miracles, "You have surely begun to realize that this is a very practical course, and one that means exactly what it says." (ACIM:T-8.IX.8:1) This is very crucial to realize, that J presented a very concrete and practical teaching, which just became muddled later, as the stories of others about him began to become more important than what he actually taught. The Course restores that balance, by presenting Jesus's teachings in modern form in an unprecedented way, and Gary Renard's work with its connection to the Thomas gospel lay the bridge to recognizing that very simple and straightforward message again. The only thing to do is to follow him, which means to practice what he taught, more so than to repeat it. The world of course merrily went about repeating it, and for the most part not practicing it, and to the extent it was repeated without understanding, the message got buried under the mythology, though some of that mythology could, if properly understood, be very helpful indeed.

The symbolism of the birth as an inner event, born from the recognition of our true spiritual source, is very powerful. A Course in Miracles, helps us see it in this way, in that the Christ indeed is born to us as and when we choose "another way," in the form of the path for forgiveness, and the implied invitation is that we can turn to him, and he grows within us as we increase in faith in him. Here is how the Course reinterprets the story:

    What danger can assail the wholly innocent? What can attack the guiltless? What fear can enter and disturb the peace of sinlessness? What has been given you, even in its infancy, is in full communication with God and you. In its tiny hands it holds, in perfect safety, every miracle you will perform, held out to you. The miracle of life is ageless, born in time but nourished in eternity. Behold this infant, to whom you gave a resting place by your forgiveness of your brother, and see in it the Will of God. Here is the babe of Bethlehem reborn. And everyone who gives him shelter will follow him, not to the cross, but to the resurrection and the life.
  When anything seems to you to be a source of fear, when any situation strikes you with terror and makes your body tremble and the cold sweat of fear comes over it, remember it is always for one
reason; the ego has perceived it as a symbol of fear, a sign of sin and death. Remember, then, that neither sign nor symbol should be confused with source, for they must stand for something other than themselves. Their meaning cannot lie in them, but must be sought in what they represent. And they may thus mean everything or nothing, according to the truth or falsity of the idea which they reflect. Confronted with such seeming uncertainty of meaning, judge it not.  Remember the holy Presence of the One given to you to be the Source of judgment. Give it to Him to judge for you, and say:

Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me.
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death, nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make of it an obstacle to peace, but let You use it for me, to facilitate its coming.

Seen this way the whole story is that Jesus is a presence for which we need to make place, if only just barely (the manger), for the ego, the world really do not have place for him, but because in the end that is not who we are in truth there always still is a place within us, where he is welcomed. And what he represents is the hope and promise that as we withdraw our investment in the world of duality with all its challenges, of up and down, etc., which offers no hope at all in the end, because it offers only division and darkness, we will remember him, make space for him, and with him, by practicing what he teaches, we will learn to remember who we are in truth, for with him we learn to invest in wholeness, not in division (separation). In the Thomas Gospel he expresses this beautifully in Logion 61:

I am the one who comes from what is whole. I was given from the things of my Father. Therefore, I say that if one is whole, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness.

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