Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gnosis Pure and Simple

One of the more confusing things about the Book of Thomas is that it has been associated with the gnostic religions of the 2nd century, simply because the book was found in a collection of fairly gnostic texts, and maybe because of certain themes that seemed "gnostic" to some. I have written about this issue in Closing the Circle, noting that even the word itself was at first a plain old word, indicating "knowing" versus "unknowing," with knowing signifying the kind of deep intuitive knowledge that provides total certainty, whereas the knowledge of things can only make one somewhat better informed, but provides no wisdom and no true knowledge, because theirs is inherently a partial, piecemeal view.

With A Course in Miracles as a guide,  this element of Jesus' teaching, and of perennial wisdom, really, becomes much clearer. And by going back to basics, we can untangle the Book of Thomas, and much else that Jesus said, from the colorful gnostic theologies of the second and third centuries CE, which often times go well beyond the intentions of the original teachings, and accordingly we can read it in its original sense.

What becomes clear is that to quote a Biblical tradition, "to those outside the Kingdom" it all comes in parables--we who are identified with duality, who think we are separated individuals, and outside Heaven, the Kingdom, or the Oneness of the Mind, of necessity perceive the world in those terms, and perceive individual identities around us. That is the state of unknowing, where we see others as we see ourselves, because we project the separation thought, and the realm of perception is merely designed to confirm that projection and make it real. It is when our false self sees naught but false selves, and deems that reality.

The state of knowing (knowledge in the Course) means to know ourselves to be as indeed God created us, as spirit and one with Him, which goes hand in hand with seeing the face of Christ in all our brothers, for now we recognize our true Self in everyone we meet and we operate in Love and from Love. This is the state of knowing, knowledge, gnosis.

In short, all the theological explanations of the word gnosis in the end go back to a very simple and basic concept that Jesus taught from the beginning. It is the core of a non-dualistic thought system for only in complete oneness does the concept of total certainty exist, that certainty is gnosis. The knowledge of the world deals in degrees of "certainty," but never in total certainty, and therein lies the rub. More information can reduce uncertainty, but this is a limiting function, and "certainty" can never be reached, because it is not in the perceptual domain by definition. It is not of this this time/space continuum. That is why Jesus said: My Kingdom is not of this world. Some of the Thomas Logia may now be clearer:

J said, "If your teachers say to you, 'Look, God's Divine Rule is in the sky,' then the birds will precede you, 'It's in the sea,'then the fish will precede you. Rather, God's Divine Rule is within you and you are everywhere. When you know yourself, you will be known, and you will understand that we are one. But if you don't know yourself, you live in poverty, and you are the poverty." (Logion 3)
I stood in the world and found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. They came into the world empty, and they seek to leave the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, they will open their eyes. (Logion 28)
J said, "Let one who has found the world, and has become wealthy, renounce the world." (Logion 110) 
The disciples said to him, "When will the Kingdom come?" He said, "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Behold here,' or 'Behold there.' Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it." (Logion 113) 
Each one of these expresses the contrast between the world of ten thousand things, and the oneness of the Kingdom, the contrast between knowing many things, or pure knowing, gnosis. To be drunk on the knowledge of a great many things would prevent you from knowing yourself, and thus having gnosis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ACIMExplained Interview by Ken Bok

This was a very nice interviewing experience, it flowed naturally like a dialog, and hopefully this gives people another way of looking at the book, Closing the Circle: Pursah's Gospel of Thomas and A Course in Miracles and helps clarify the position of the book of Thomas in the overall scheme of things a bit further.

If there was anything I would have liked to have added, that might be the consideration that whereas Thomas Jefferson (and many others) certainly had a point historically in fingering Paul as having distorted the teachings of Jesus, Jesus does not take any issue with Paul, just as much as he does not take issue with Judas, because his teaching is forgiveness, not judgment. In the Course, Jesus corrects many Christian theological terms and notions and clarify what the original meaning of his teachings was, and at times he even quotes from Paul's work where he does offer more right-minded statements.

Meanwhile you can order the book here:

Meanwhile, you can find more of Ken Bok's wonderful stuff here: and/or you can find his various video interviews on YouTube here he is building up quite an awesome collection of materials on A Course in Miracles.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saul, Paul, and how Jesus survived Christianity

How can you who are so holy suffer? All your past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing. I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified them of the errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect radiance. They are beyond destruction and beyond guilt. They came from the Holy Spirit within you, and we know what God creates is eternal. You can indeed depart in peace because I have loved you as I loved myself. You go with my blessing and for my blessing. Hold it and share it, that it may always be ours. I place the peace of God in your heart and in your hands, to hold and share. The heart is pure to hold it, and the hands are strong to give it. We cannot lose. My judgment is as strong as the wisdom of God, in Whose Heart and Hands we have our being. His quiet children are His blessed Sons. The Thoughts of God are with you. (ACIM:T-5.IV.8)
In Closing the Circle: Pursah's Gospel of Thomas and A Course in Miracles, I paid quite a bit of attention to the issue of the transition that takes place in the traditions about Jesus, between the teachings of Jesus, of which the Thomas gospel seems to be the most authentic record, and Chrisitianity, named after him, but never 'founded' by him in any meaningful sense of the word, but merely ascribed to him by others and given his name, after his death. Because of the profound intertwining of the Jesus tradition with the orthodoxy of Chrisitianity as it solidified in the next 300 years, for a long time it was the "canonical" books of the New Testament that appeared authoritative.
Only with the re-discovery of the Thomas Gospel, once one understands the timeline of how and why it emerged before the gospels of the New Testament collection, does it become insightful where the break occurs - with the introduction of the theological foundations of Christianity, including the exceptionalism about Jesus as God's only son, to the exclusion of the rest of the sonship as 'adopted sons,' the interpretation of the crucifixion, resurrection (bodily, as Paul assures us), the second coming (the puzzling idea of his returning to the world he claimed to have overcome), the Eucharist etc. All of these concepts were features of Pauline Christianity, and there were many other schools of would-be Christian thought which did not have them, or had entirely different notions. Among other things there were many vocal debates about the idea that the moment of the resurrection was really the moment of the Heavens opening up in the story of the baptism in the River Jordan, under John the Baptist. That particular story would be closer to what is reflected in the Course today. The fact is Pauline Christianity won, because it rendered itself palatable to Caesar, and as a result eventually what we now regard as Roman Catholicism. The fact that it was most successful in stamping out other views, and gained the upper hand politically is no recommendation.

After those original debates died down, Christianity went through a consolidation phase, and then a splintering again. With Vatican II the most obvious attempts at mind control were starting to be relinquished, allowing such an oxymoron as Catholic Bible Scholars, or in general Catholic Bible Studies to exist, just when the first serious translations of the Thomas Gospel began to gain currency, while at another place on the planet the dictation of A Course in Miracles got under way.
Since the time of the enlightenment, thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson in the US had become suspicious of the Pauline material, and smelled a rat. Jefferson likened his efforts to cull Jesus' teachings out of the Biblical materials to salvaging 'pearls' from a pile of 'manure.' Paul he called a 'dupe' and a 'fraud.' This was all very perceptive, but name calling does not solve anything. Jefferson's positive contribution, which was only published posthumously as the 'Jefferson Bible' -- he had called it The Life and Morals of Jezus of Nazareth -- however is a powerful turning point and came very close to anticipating the re-discovery of the Thomas Gospel almost 125 years later.

The interesting thing about A Course in Miracles no doubt is that in it Jesus quotes some of Paul's inspired writing on numerous occasions, while at the same time forcefully correcting the fundamental constructs of the Christian theology of which Paul was the principal architect. In other words, the Course shows also in that regard, what forgiveness means -- the mistakes and the messes are cleaned up and corrected, and only the inspired, 'loving' thoughts are remembered. To that extent then it is never useful to pursue this type of critical scholarship of the tradition, unless it also helps us to see how we all make the mistakes Paul made, and forgive him and ourselves in the same breath. Here, the text of the Course is our guide, as the opening quote shows.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

TJ and Thomas, and Jesus: Deja vu all over again

With the publication this year of the facsimile of the so-called Jefferson Bible, there has been new attention to his very personal awareness of his relationship with Jesus, which is evidenced in his personal legacy by his lifelong attempts to rescue the pearls of Jesus' real teachings from among the 'manure' that surrounded it. Now the story has gone mainstream, with coverage in Newsweek:

Meanwhile, Gary Renard has acknowledged on the DU list that he agreed that this event, the new publication of the facsimile edition of the Jefferson Bible, is in fact the fulfillment of the words of Arten on page 218 of The Disappearance of the Universe,  where he reports that it was not published by Jefferson during his lifetime, but that "it will be made available soon for those who want to see it." At the time when DU was published in 2003, this particular statement seemed confusing since of course the text of the Jefferson Bible had been available in book form for quite a long time already. In retrospect, this particular statement referred to the original that was about to be restored, and become available for public viewing again. It had been too fragile to be able to be viewed. Thankfully, the Smithsonian published a facsimile edition at the same time, so that now anyone can have access to this material in its original form.

The conclusions of Andrew Sullivan in his article are interesting also, that Jefferson's point was simply to leave Christianity aside, and to go back to the teachings of Jesus as best as he could cull them out from among the rubble. The rediscovery of the Thomas gospel in and of itself represents the same opportunity, in as much as it gives us back some of the original teachings, not the embellished literary versions of the later synoptics, which all suffer from editorial influences that trace back to Paul. No wonder then that Jefferson's selections should have close correspondence to the Thomas material, because the later evangelists were likely quoting from Thomas at least in part. He saw Paul's influence as a major distortion, and based on what we know today that was a very accurate way of viewing things.

Given the title I chose for my book, Closing the Circle, I have a certain sympathy for this closing of yet another circle. In terms of the national dialogue it seems to certainly put paid to the repeated attempts by the Christian right to hijack the US constitution and the country on behalf of later forms of evangelical Christianity, which evidently would be completely antithetical to everything Jefferson stood for, even if he wisely kept it to himself at the time. Now it is out in the open.

I myself had been contemplating for a long time to start rewriting my book at first in Dutch, and somehow these developments give me a good basis for a revised and updated new edition. Later, in a few years time, it will then hopefully also see a new edition in English, that will be based on the upcoming rewrite in Dutch. Certainly the 'event' of the publication of the facsimile of the Jefferson Bible, and the sort of public attention it seems to be getting is a development that I am going to incorporate in an updated version. At the same time I feel that both my personal work with ACIM, as well as my work on the translation of the work of Margot Krikhaar, whose first book is soon to appear in English as Awakening in Love, would lead to a substantially new and improved version of the book eventually.

Meanwhile Annelies Ekeler in Holland, who runs Inner Peace Publications, and wants to publish the book in Dutch, and has suggested a new title, which I will adopt at least in Dutch: How Jesus Survived Christianity. That is a remarkable story indeed, given the massive effort that is known as Christianity, which clearly did everything in its power to make sure these original sayings would be lost, including book burning on a fairly significant scale. That story is only par for the course of how the ego deals with challenges, including 'if you can't beat them, join them,' which is in the end how it dealt with the teachings of Jesus: co-opting him, all the while making sure that it would be its version of events that would survive, and that its theology would supplant the original taching. That story is now increasingly coming in the open. Our thanks should go to the monks at Nag Hammadi who buried a collection from their library and helped it escape the destruction.

Our job remains to forgive all the images our ego made of Jesus, for they all get in the way of our real relationship with him. In other words, to accept that living relationship in our lives simply requires the abandonment of all of our own misconceptions about how it is supposed to work and what it is supposed to look like.
Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you. His little life on earth was not enough to teach the mighty lesson that he learned for all of you. He will remain with you to lead you from the hell you made to God. And when you join your will with his, your sight will be his vision, for the eyes of Christ are shared. Walking with him is just as natural as walking with a brother whom you knew since you were born, for such indeed he is. Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you. For he will set your mind at rest at last and carry it with you unto your God. (ACIM:C-5.5)