The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up…. Paul Valery
I’m going to try an experiment in Transformative Learning: Habitual vs. Non Habitual ways of knowing.
Take your hands and interlace your fingers. Bring consciousness to them. Now notice if your right finger is on the bottom or is it your left. Reverse your fingers like this. Bring consciousness to them now. Freely exchange your fingers back and forth and ask your hands these questions:
What is more comfortable?
What is easier?
With which one do you lose wonder?
Which way is more awkward?
Which way evokes more awareness?
Which way feels more alive?
Which way is freer?
Which way is safer?
Habitually we exist in our daily lives acting from our places of what we know. Each of us goes about our daily lives going through the motions of doing the things we need to do to get done what needs to be done. We live in a habitual manner.
Today, I invite you to explore with me a non habitual way of thinking. I am going to explore the story of Christianity through the lens of Gnosticism rather than through the lens of orthodoxy. Gnosticism is the teaching based on gnosis – the knowledge of transcendence through intuitive or interior means. Stephen Hoeller, the ranking Gnostic priest in the USA was here in Salt Lake city a little over a month ago, he describes it this way, “this form of knowing is expressed not in theology or philosophy but expresses itself through the form of myths. The term “myth” should not here be taken to mean “stories that are not true”, but rather, that the truths embodied in these myths are of a different order from the dogmas of theology or the statements of philosophy.”
A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence. Myths are our way of finding meaning and significance. Myths are like the frame of a house, not exposed to the outside view, however they are the structure which holds the house together and allow people to live in it.
Imagine with me if you will that you are looking at the structure of your mind. Picture your mind as a building. How tall is it? What are its dimensions and its features? Who built this structure? What is its function or purpose? This building or structure in your mind is the vehicle through which you process information. Its structure affects the information that comes through it. This is the lens, through which you see and make sense of your experience in the world. Why is your lens different than mine, or your parents, or your partners? This structure is created by the myths that you have been given by your family, your parents, your culture, your religion, your community. Within this structure you will find the joints and nails that hold it together. These joints and nails are your values, your assumptions, your core beliefs. These things create the lens or the structure of your mind’s eye – the way you perceive and make meaning of the world.
Let’s now turn that habitual lens and explore the world of Christianity through the lens of Gnosticism. In John 9: 1 – 5 we read:
"As he went on his way Jesus saw a man blind from his birth. His disciples put the question, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents? Why was he born blind?' 'It is not that this man or his parents sinned', Jesus answered; 'he was born blind so that God's power might be displayed in curing him. While daylight lasts we must carry on the work of him who sent me; night comes, when no one can work. While I am in the world I am the light of the world."
Listen carefully to this story. Jesus says, "it is not that this man sinned or his parents" – his blindness is related not to the fact of a sin, but to the nature of his birth. Life is that way, Jesus is saying. We are all born into blindness. We are not born into sin, but to a kind of unseeing captivity - not because we have caused it by our sinful nature, but because that is the nature of things. But precisely because it is the nature of this world to have caused a man to be blind for no other account than his birth alone, Jesus seems to be saying, it can also reveal the power and distinction between the God who loves and cares and is about truth and freedom, and the natural course of the world that because of its material force causes us to be blinded to something higher and deeper about ourselves.
This story, like most, is a metaphor. A metaphor for what it means to live in this world, for if we take the story as a metaphor we see that to be born at all is to be blinded into a kind of unconsciousness that narrows our reality, and chokes our spirit. It is not sin that we must be redeemed from, but rather from our unconsciousness. That is Jesus' message.
Now, the orthodox Christian belief is that we are born into sin. Adam and Eve sinned and therefore we have the Fall of human kind born into sin. This metaphor of a Fall requires a savior or salvation from that fall. Hence the salvific story of Jesus of Nazareth. The God become man raised up to save us from the original sin or Fall of human kind. What are the consequences of such a mythology? What are the values and core beliefs about who and what we are embedded in such a story?
How then, did this message of liberation from unconsciousness into a higher and deeper knowledge about one's self and the world, become the kind of Christianity we see and hear today. How did a message of liberation become a message about obedience; from a message about being found and awakened to a message about being corrected and being brought back into line. That, it seems to me, is a good question for our time. A time when much re-thinking must be done. A time when the old time ways do nothing but lock us into the same old patterns, and keep people blind and unconscious, just as they always have since the days of Jesus. Jesus himself was not an orthodox thinker. He criticized the religious thinking of his day, calling them "blind guides" who set up barriers to people to keep them unconscious and under the spell, if you will, of religious and political authority. Jesus was about revealing people to themselves - being light to people who live in darkness, as the scriptures put it.
But somewhere the Gnostic interpretation of Jesus' message got lost. He died to awaken people, claiming that God does not need a sacrifice, and then some of his followers sometime later re-placed Jesus' message of the struggle for freedom and awareness, into a religious system of atonement for sin, a kind of business as usual that had been around long before Jesus, that describes God as angry and jealous about human behavior, and requires not enlightened thinking and mindfulness, but obedience to the will of God - always, of course, defined by the prevailing authorities. This Fall-Sin-Savior mythology predated the birth of Jesus.
How did this non habitual story of Jesus become marginalized rather than embraced by the early Christian church? Nearly all Christianity since the second century has shared three basic core ideas:
They accept the cannon of the New Testament, second they confess the apostolic creed; and third, they affirm specific forms of church institution. All these forms emerged toward the end of the second century.
Before the end of the second century, numerous gospels circulated among various Christian groups. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John in the NT scripture to the writings of Thomas, the gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Truth in the Nag Hammadi and many other secret writings, myths, and teachings attributed to Jesus (pagels, introduction).
The creation of modern day orthodoxy and the concretization of what is known as Christianity among the majority of Christian denominations began after 200 AD with the institutionalization of the gospels and the creation of hierarchical authority known as the guardians of the true gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps Christianity transformed the day that it became the religion of the Empire under Constantine. Freedom from the terrorism and oppression of this world became obedience to the Emperor, and adherence to the laws of the state. Perhaps it was Augustine, who had turned away from his Manichaean beginnings, who framed the new emphasis on human sin and argued that human beings were not capable of ruling themselves.
It is, of course, understandable that Augustine would argue that human beings are slaves to sin – especially sexual desire, because, after all, evil and immorality abound, and we seem such willing partners to all such actions. But perhaps the answer is not that humans are slaves to sin, but merely slaves, and in that slavery we begin to feel and act as self destructively as the captivity itself teaches.
With the rise of orthodoxy (which means straight thinking), Bishop Irenaaeus called for the unification of beliefs into one “true faith” which of course was orthodoxy and the salvific model. All other forms of Christian teaching, like Gnosticism were considered heretical, becoming marginalized and cut off from orthodoxy. Efforts were successful to destroy virtually every trace of non-orthodox mythology and writings – excepting those discovered in upper Egypt 56 years ago known as the Nag Hammadi texts.
Bringing someone out of denial and unconscious living is much more difficult than merely correcting behavior and keeping a conformed mold of belief and ritual. One might behave and conform, and yet still be unaware and ignorant. In our world, we can see the result, it seems to me, of having chosen a religious path that does not emphasize awareness, knowledge and freedom. Having chosen as a kind of orthodoxy a faith that substitutes thinking and authentic consciousness with dogmatic and rigid belief systems that literalize and make stiff dynamic expression of the spirit, as fundamentalism has done with the Bible, has led to even greater suffering, and not been the answer that those who have believed in this path have thought. We remain blind, because we are not pushed to open our eyes and our minds. What happens is that people want, having bought into a system that requires such action, simple and direct answers, in essence, to be told what to do and how to act to please God and the authorities, without having to do the hard inner work require by authentic, conscious living. Just be good, act according to the laws, and have good "traditional values". Believe in God, and you will be fine. But we aren't fine, because we are just as ignorant as before, and not only that, afraid of a searching kind of religious seeking because it might up-set the apple cart of our comfort.
Elaine Pagels, in her wonderful book titled: The Gnostic Gospels, quotes the Gnostic Gospel of Valentinus, The Gospel of Truth, as saying: "...ignorance...brought about anguish and terror. And the anguish grew solid like a fog, so that no one was able to see. For this reason error is powerful..." She writes, "Most people live, then, in oblivion - or, in contemporary terms, in unconsciousness. Remaining unaware of their true selves, they have 'no root'. The gnostic Gospel of Truth describes such existence as a nightmare." She continues, "Those who live in it experience 'terror and confusion and instability and doubt and division', being caught in 'many illusions'.
This is the way many have acted, as though asleep at the time when he was ignorant. And this is the way he has come to knowledge, as if he had awakened.
"Whoever remains ignorant, a 'creature of oblivion', cannot experience fulfillment. Gnostics said that such a person 'dwells in deficiency' (the opposite of fulfillment). For deficiency consists of ignorance:
...As with someone's ignorance, when he comes to have knowledge, his ignorance vanishes by itself; as the darkness vanishes when light appears, so also the deficiency vanishes in the fulfillment." (p.150 -151)
This "Nightmare Parable" of the Gospel of Truth, describes perfectly the people of our time - living in a kind of sleep, and believing in the terrible reality being created over and over again by our own darkness. And, ironically, it is knowledge and consciousness that has become suspect. People fear, in a way, the educated, enlightened and knowledgeable, because the nightmare becomes the norm, and anyone who challenges that reality is called a heretic or radical.
What seems to me to be the central issue, is the idea that we are people living in a false reality; a reality that is secured in place by religions and institutions whose job it is the maintain the status quo. Christianity, I think, took a wrong turn when it placed as central in its doctrines and rituals,
sin and atonement rather than awakening and knowledge. Faith is only good as long as it seeks knowledge and truth, for faith in and of itself, is just a blind acceptance to an external authority that demands strict obedience. After all, as it has been pointed out countless times, much destruction has been committed in the name of God - by people with lots of faith who never awakened to truth, and thereby became instruments of darkness.
How easy it is to stop seeking and become a passive pawn. How easy it is to stay asleep, and not seek awareness and freedom, but desire to lay back and have another's will replace the hard inner work of spirituality.
For these and other reasons, obedience to God is always secondary to the wisdom of God, and the freedom to discover that wisdom with conscious awareness. The great mistake that orthodox Christianity has made is to have placed the "cart before the horse". To have placed doctrine and self-recrimination as more important than the search for truth and freedom. The proof of this is in the fact that after almost 1800 years of that kind of Christianity little has changed for humanity, and we remain blind and ignorant.
Within this context of Christianity, lies the Gnostic vision of seeds of an ancient and new reformation, one that yearns to replace self re-crimination with self-awareness and knowledge. One that defines the context of human nature as unconscious ignorance rather than sinful and immoral. This is nothing new in the tradition of Christianity, even though it might appear so to those who have been kept from it by a church afraid to explore its own darkness. Gnostic Christianity holds within its flow such greatness and beauty - enlightenment and knowledge.
True, there is much about orthodox Christianity that is foul and ugly, but is that Christianity or a pretender to the real stuff that has always been underneath waiting for its time to be born? It appears that Gnostic Christianity is not a religion, it is a spirituality; a kind of context in which to journey through life. Gnosticism is metaphor and story, like all great religious expressions. Its truths are seen through the windows of its stories, not the stories themselves.
In the end, I feel that the stories of Christianity and the religion itself must be saved. Saved from the on-slaught of ignorance and error that is the real nature of sin. The ignorance and error seen within all religious traditions is but an expression of the ignorance and error we live in about ourselves. Christianity is a spirituality about making the unconscious - conscious. It is a spirituality that is about freeing people from slavery and oppression. It is a spirituality about recovery of self, and finding a new sense of being in the world. That, it seems to me, is a worthy religion. A worthy cause for us to recover, so that no one may live in darkness.
Religion of Dissatisfaction
It's important to remember that Christianity began among the outcast of society - the one's who had not fared well with the rules and mores of society. It took root not among the rich and powerful - who it threatened greatly - but among slaves, who would with great courage carve the name Jesus Christo on the back of their slave medallions as an act of disobedience to their earthly masters, and in reverence to their heavenly one.
Christianity was an outlaw religion; an outlaw spiritual sense of the world. People died because they claimed it, and yet claim it they did. Defiantly, and yet with love, they went to their deaths because they would not concede to the social, political and economic order. Christianity is a religion of dissatisfaction with the world. It is a religion of inner anxiousness about the reality that is created by our social systems. In fact, wherever there is a spirit of maintaining the status quo, and talk of returning to sometime that has gone before, whether through "traditional family values" or political reactionarism - gnostic Christianity always stands in opposition. Because gnostic Christianity is a religion that must always be lived on the edge, it is never a comfortable religion.
Christianity requires the hard inner work of seeing the "oblivion" or unconsciousness of our living. It requires us to strip away denial and illusion, and find our true self. Complacency is antithetical to the spirit of the Christ. You cannot serve two masters, money and God, and you cannot "gain the world" without losing yourself. You cannot hang on to abuse, hurt and the poverty of "business as usual" and enter a different kind of reality, called in antiquity: "The Kingdom of God."
This, then, is a gnostic Christianity. It is not a "let's all be good little boys and girls" religion, and it is not a simplistic set of rules and regulations to follow. It is not really about recriminations over a perceived sinful nature, nor about getting an angry God off our backs. It is about liberation and self-knowledge. It relates to the interior of human beings, and it impacts the exterior of our political, social and economic realities. It is always a dynamic force pushing us toward new and deeper understandings of self and the world, and it always is a terror to the one's who regard the "present world" as satisfactory, for it cannot rest until a new reality comes within us, and gets spread upon the earth.
The Real Fundamentals of Christianity
Christian Fundamentalism is neither Christian nor fundamental. In actuality it is a kind of rigidity of thought that is akin to mental illness. But there are some fundamentals to Christianity that are far more existentially relevant than any biblical literalism. They drive to the heart of what it means to be a human being and how we feel and think about ourselves here in this world. Here are a few:
We Feel Trapped
John is a man who gone into therapy. He is miserable by his own account. He feels a slave to his wife, his job and his responsibilities. He says of himself, "I have done everything right in my life. I've always been the good guy - the one who was so dependable; stable. I always thought that if I did what I was told, and did all the right things, my life would be happy, and here I am miserable."
John is told that his misery is not his enemy that he supposes it to be, that in reality it is his friend, for behind his misery is a great truth, one that he needs to hear. He does not need to be "cured" from his misery and depression, he needs to walk through it, and discover the truth of it. John squirms in his chair when their is talk about re-claiming his life. He knows that it will cost him the comfort of his complacency. At 50 years old John is no longer asleep. Not awake yet to who he is or what his life means, but no longer a willing slave to the kind of sleep and intoxication that conformity to convention brings. John wants out. No one is persecuting John, but inside John feels persecuted; trapped and enslaved. He has "things", lots and lots of things; everything he could think of to fill the void of his soul.
John's misery is his greatest friend. It does not feel good, but truth rarely does. He is sitting amongst his lostness, and now he has no energy left to run. When I look out at the world I see it filled with people like John. John is Kierkegaard's philistine - one who "tranquilizes itself with the
trivial". He, like the masses of people, are "shut-up". John now has to dispel the inner lie that his whole character has clung to throughout his life. "There must be more than this", John laments, and somewhere the dim spark of his soul knows that there is.
John's salvation lies in his awakening to a new way to know something different about himself, and through that new knowledge to find a sense of freedom both internally and externally. His intuitive self-knowledge has begun the process - as the ancient Gnostics said it would, and through the therapeutic connection walks toward a deeper sense of his real being. It is initiation into the inner regions, and one's true home.
Last week, I was given a gift of a retreat in the mountains near Sundance. While there, I met a lovely, intelligent, warm woman who was leading the retreat into discovering how to LIVE. In her book I will not die an unlived life, Dawna Markova writes:
“Like John so many of us are afraid of meeting ourselves, alone, without distraction. We have been taught to fashion an image of who we think we are supposed to be and show that to the community. Through fear of knowing who we really are we sidestep our own destiny, which leaves us hungry in a famine of our own making. Each of us is here to give something that only we can offer, and when we avoid knowing ourselves, we end up living numb, passionless lives, disconnected from our soul’s purpose.” “But when you have the courage to shape your life from the essence of who you are, you ignite, becoming truly alive. This requires letting go of everything that is inauthentic.”
In verse 69 of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: "blessed are they who have been persecuted within themselves. It is they who have truly come to know God." Those of us who have come to know this inner persecution discover that it is the true God of the reality behind the world of shadows that calls to us, and until we listen we never discover our true selves or real freedom. Salvation is always worked out within the context of "fear and trembling", because it is about listening to that voice of truth that finally tells us that this world has lied to us, and that all the promises of culture, family and money have nothing whatsoever to do with the real stuff that is us. As the Gnostics learned, the world is not all that good, and we are not all that free. But - there is purposefulness within the darkness of the world, and the darkness reveals our own sense of self; our true soul which has it's reality beyond the hurtfulness of this life.
Some of the ancient Christian traditions spoke of the predicament of humanity as ignorance, sleep or intoxication, even as forgetfulness. Trapped in ignorance is the true "fallen" character of being human - it is the "sin" we live out in our lives. And, it is this ignorance or intoxication from which we must awaken if we are to discover our real self and a pathway out of the unconscious sleep we have slipped into. As a metaphor, this unconsciousness of our true being is like the medallion hanging around the necks of the ancient slaves who literally wore the name of their masters. Consciousness of true self requires a kind of radical disobedience to the old master, a revolution that occurs first within, and then reveals itself as rebellion.
The Gospel of Thomas warns that self-discovery invites turmoil:
“Jesus said, Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over all things.”
The source of the turmoil is the awareness of the gap. The gap that is between how one is living their life based on the “shoulds” they’ve internalized versus their new understanding of who they are and the life they must live.
Like the slaves of old, to scratch the name of the redeemer on the flip side of the slave disc was a statement of profound significance - one that often cost the slave his earthly life. But, for the slave, it was worth it - no longer a slave to the old self, the former slave finds freedom and cannot be threatened by death, as the slave has passed over from the death of unconsciousness into the life of knowledge about his true self.
We feel trapped. That is the first fundamental of real Christianity. To be a human is to be lost in a kind of unconsciousness that requires an awakening, and thus our inner disturbances are inner stirrings of that soul that longs for freedom and a voice.
Freedom Scares Us
Addiction, in whatever form - alcoholism, drug addiction, consumerism, rage, sex or romance, is response to our inner sense of being trapped. Addiction is meant to alleviate the anxiety of our intuition by narrowing the focus of life into a small, manageable event or practice. It is a way we try to cope with our slavery, not of course by freeing ourselves, but by changing the nature of the slavery into something else. A kind of rebellion without a jail break.
Not only are we trapped in ignorance, we fear the knowledge that might set us free, and we most certainly fear any movement toward that freedom. Addiction or obsession is the way we maintain our slavery, but deny it is there. Our primary obsession is the economic systems in which all of us live. It is our collective obsession. We hate it, yet we fear being without it. We become slaves to the marketplace, and the more effective we are at manipulating this obsession, the more we can deny our ignorance of self, and simply praise ourselves for our so-called riches. Jesus pegged it when he said, "you cannot worship two masters - God and money." Our society has created the collective obsession as a way to divorce ourselves from the reality of the suffering and pain of our false self. We make ourselves comfortable, and our comfort keeps us afraid of our freedom. The poor are blessed, not because it feels good to be poor, or that poverty has virtue, but because our being poor reveals how shallow the obsession is, and how it taints our soul with intoxicating sleep concerning the starkness of real life in the material world. To be rich in this world is to be poor in the world of the spirit, and to be poor in this world is to be rich in the spirit. That was the message of Jesus with regard to the obsession of the economic order. To strip away comfort was the work of the redeemer, because it laid bare the obsession and jarred people awake.
But being awakened, as freedom itself, scares us. Freedom and consciousness of self are uncomfortable, and makes us aware of how oppressive and alien the world is. It's easier to stay asleep and a slave. We don't have to make decisions, and can easily blame others for anything bad that happens to us, because, after all, we aren't in charge. So freedom scares us, and we flee it by convincing ourselves that we can't leave our obsession or our "situation". The jail keeper is an idea, with invisible chains strong and seemingly invincible.
The modern American form of this is: "I can't leave this job I hate because I'll lose my benefits." Or, "I can't leave this abusive marriage because I can't make it on my own." This is a form of slavery, and yet we have a kind of perverse comfort with it. We get to "play" the martyr, and our martyrdom enables us to avoid the anxiety of freedom and authenticity.
Gnostic Christianity always takes a contra-position to this kind of self-imposed martyrdom and ritual self abuse. That is why gnosticism is so difficult to live with, it requires us to be free, and walk through our fear of being genuine. It requires us to wake up!
ITI: Isn’t that interesting
Going through the process of redefining my own belief system, I felt a bit disconcerted with my own deconstruction of who Jesus was. It was uncomfortable to explore new interpretations of Jesus. Could I do that? What did the Gnostics teach? In orthodox Christianity, Jesus’s role is very well defined by the preexistence of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the apparent need for a savior. Jesus became the answer to the question “What to do with the Fall of human kind.” In orthodox Christianity, Jesus comes to save us. Save us from what? Save us from our sins. Jesus is perfect and therefore is the only possible “sacrificial lamb” to cover correct our fallenness.
Well what if that lens is shifted to a map that says humans are not fallen. Humans don’t need to be saved from their sins. Then Jesus becomes a paragon or model of excellence. A model for what? The Gnostic idea is not that we should all become like Jesus, doing what Jesus did, living as Jesus did, but rather that we follow the pattern of Jesus’s own awakening of who he was and what he was about. Apparently Jesus had some level of self knowledge about his identity when he was twelve years old and his parents took him to Jerusalem to the temple where he got himself separated from his parents and conversed with the people in the area.
What is the pattern of Jesus that the Gnostics take as the meaningful message? The message is that Jesus did the inner work necessary to know himself, to know and see the lens that was his to know. Ours isn’t to live Jesus’s life – though many ascribe to such a feat, but to first discover our own nature, our own gifts and talents, the identity that only we can live and then live it.
Christ means annointed one…. To have self knowledge and to live from the center of that knowledge. Jesus became the Christ because he lived the life that was his to live. The gnostic message is that we too should live that pattern of knowing.
First the discovery of your inner reality, and then secondly aligning your inner and outer life, thereby allowing you to be authentic.
In the Dialogue of the Savior, the teacher says:
“Bring in your guide and your teacher. The mind is the guide, but reason is the teacher…..Live according to your mind…. Aquire strength, for the mind is strong…. Enlighten your mind…. Light the lamp that is within you.”
To do this he continues,
“Knock on yourself as upon a door and walk upon yourself as on a straight road. For if you walk on the road, it is impossible for you to go astray… Open the door for yourself that you may know what is… Whatever you will open for yourself, you will open.”
Salvation is basically the willingness to know something different about ourselves and the world other than what we are programmed with. The "Kingdom of God" that Jesus speaks of has a foot in two sphere's - the world of the soul and the world of the spirit.
The soul sphere is the stuff of our contact with this world and its meaning for us. Our soul stuff is the world of our heart, and our longing to literally touch the material around us and form something of it. In a real sense we create our soul. We build it and nurture it, or we deny it and destroy it. It is the inner seed that either grows into the strong inner life that it longs to be, or gets no fertilizer and just sits there. Soul stuff is always heavy stuff. It literally weighs upon us, and our times of soul making are always very difficult times.
Growth of soul has to push its way through the dirt and mud to reach light and water. Our soul is at home here in this world, because it is of this world. It does its work here. The sphere of the spirit is different. It does not come from this material. It's real existence, if one can speak of it as having "an existence", is from beyond the conscious ego world, and lives in the realm behind, above and even under all things. It cannot be touched, nor seen, and cannot be spoken of directly as one might speak of an object. The spirit "visits" the material. It is light, as the ancients called it. It is this sphere, this world of the spirit, that we are most blind. Our birth into the world of matter and concrete existence makes this world of spirit only a dream; a shadow dance from the backdrop of light. To sense it one dives deep into the unconscious life of our very being. We begin to honor dreams and visions, and in a profound kind of way, begin the process of turning reality on its end. We begin to see that our identification with our conscious self is a kind of obsession which only detracts and even denies the deeper reality of a world underneath and above all things.
Unlike soul-making, which concerns itself with issues of meaning, the world of the spirit has as its concern experience itself - which, as in most things - has a kind of strength and weakness to it. Obsession becomes possible through the concern of experience, and hence the character of being a lost spirit comes with a spirit being trapped by its own concern for experience. Release, as the ancient Gnostics thought, comes when our self-knowledge begins to transcend our obsessions.
Our obsessions are overcome through our soul-making, which is why the two sphere's are so linked together. Our soul-making creates a thirst for meaning and purpose, and as it touches upon our obsessions with our over identified conscious existence, it begins the process of seeking the world of the spirit, and as the two unite, a kind of gnosis occurs that can only be called an awakening.
The cornerstone of gnostic Christianity is awakening from the blindness of our addictions, and the finding of a true sense to ourselves that releases us from the bondage of our captivity to the one dimensional life that plagues us in our existence as earthly beings. If gnostic Christianity is to be re-discovered, it will be discovered in that area of discipline between psychology and religion- where the sphere of soul meets the sphere of the spirit; where meaning collides with experience, and where obsession is turned into self-knowledge. It will find discovery by those who are not so firmly rooted in the socio-economic structures that are our primary obsessions. Those who will be the real Christians will, in some sense, always be those who will not be recognized as being such, much as Jesus was outcast by the prevailing authorities of his time.
I spent much of my first thirty years building the kingdom of God…some place out there….external to the reality of my own interiority. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus talks about the kingdom of God as a state of transformed consciousness.
“rather the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will realize that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty."
So the gnostic myth of christianity is radically different than the orthodox Christian myth. Two worldviews…one is official and global, the other marginalized, buried and hid from the world for nearly 1800 years. Different structures, different mental maps… different meaning making.
I’ll close with a Gnostic-like quote from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:
"It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we are alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a façade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are."
So be it.