THE FOG – Christian Gnosticism
When my grandmother was a young girl she travelled by horse and wagon. I remember the first time she saw an airplane fly she asked, “how does it stay in the sky”? Before she died she watched a human being walk on the surface of the moon on a television set in her parlor. WOW! So much progress in just one life time. Today the wheel of progress is turning faster and faster. New frontiers of human endeavor are opening up everywhere we look. As strange as it sounds the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had to create the Office of Planetary Protection. REALLY! The position is currently held by Dr. Catharine A. Conley. And believe it or not they have a Prime Directive, and here it is:
The mission of the Office of Planetary Protection is to promote the responsible exploration of the solar system by implementing and developing efforts that protect the science, explored environments, and Earth. The objectives of planetary protection are several-fold and include:
- Preserving our ability to study other worlds as they exist in their natural states;
- Avoiding the biological contamination of explored environments that may obscure our ability to find life elsewhere; and
- To ensure that we take prudent precautions to protect Earth’s biosphere in case life does exist elsewhere.
My point is that change happens whether we like it or not. New growth must occur and the frontiers of our religious institutions must keep up. To quote Galileo Galilei who himself was oppressed by the religious institution of the day, “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself”. Universal truth existed before the Creator gave birth to the cosmos and the cosmos holds the building blocks of truth. This truth also exists in each and every one of us. Truth is constant, trusting and faithful. This is what it means to live in faith. To live honestly and truthfully. This is the gift from the Creator, the One. To try and change this is to defile life and God’s gift of grace. Truth will never alter its path and as much as we try to alter it we will only defile ourselves. We may resist truth and try to change it but eventually we will only hurt ourselves. It may happen quickly like trying to hold our breath as we attempt to swim across the Atlantic Ocean underwater. Or it may happen slowly as it has with the suppression of Gnosticism. But at some point in our existence we will be forced to wake up. Hopefully before we depart this physical body.
So what is the Prime Directive of Gnosticism? Let me briefly shed light on this question by responding to some of the misperceptions endorsed by its ill-informed antagonists. I will do so by addressing some of the dangerous fictions which have been fabricated over the years. These fictions have resulted in tremendous loss of life for thousands of innocent human beings. This kind of demonization continues to this day in many places in the world simply because we fail to accept the diversity of the human spirit. These accusations are always made out of fear and a lack Gnostic hermeneutics.
Fiction One – Gnostics are not Christian
The truth is Christianity took root and grew from the soil of earlier religions. Many of their customs, rituals and feast were adopted by Christians. As a result early Christianity was a very open and tolerant religion which was inclusive and accepting of the diversity of spirit.
Christianity is not a single religion over 2,000 years of age. It is a homogeneous religion, flowing from one tradition to another, all calling themselves “Christian”. Beliefs and forms have changed so much throughout history that it is more accurate to describe Christianity as a series of religions and the word “Christianity” to be an umbrella term for multiple faiths. Modern archaeology has uncovered many of these early forms of Christianity, and no longer can we say that modern-day Christianity in its various forms represents early Christianity
As Christianity became more narrow in its theology it began to deny its ancestral roots and has thus been responsible for the extermination of many of their fellow human beings. To understand this violence you don’t have to become a scholar of ancient history. You only have to read about the persecution of the Cathar’s during the inquisition. Ancestors of the Cathar’s are still alive and the site of their massacre can still be visited at Montsegur, France. A legend actually exist that after the massacre a few surviving Cathar’s were able to escape to Canada with the help of either the Knights Templar or Knights Hospitaller. So yes Gnostic’s are Christian. We have a shared family history. Even though at times it may be a dark history.
Myth Two – Gnostic’s boasts having secret knowledge and consider themselves superior to others
Gnosticism does not keep secrets. It does not have secret knowledge. The knowledge Gnostic’s have is free to anyone who wants it. It is called self-knowledge or self-awareness. This knowledge can be received by anyone who is open to it. In therapeutic communities it is called “doing the work”. It is a willingness to do the personal work required to grow as individuals and communities as we share in the human journey towards Christ Consciousness.
Even the Buddha stated “I can share what I know. But I cannot change another person unless they are open to it”. Therefore those who refuse to look at themselves tend to project this myth in very dangerous ways. This type of ignorance is fear based and shuts the door to any significant direct personal experience of the Divine. So from this perspective you can see why spiritually insecure people feel inferior. The problem is not with those who have self-awareness. The problem is with people who lack it. This lack of gnosis is described in the Gospel of Philip. “An ass which turns a millstone did a hundred miles walking. When it was loosed, it found that it was still at the same place. There are men who make many journeys, but make no progress towards a destination” Those who deny their ancestors also deny their own humanity and become capable of any and all types of projections and persecutions.
Myth Three – Gnostics and Christians have no shared history
We can dispel this myth in many ways. However to do so once and for all we only have to turn to St Paul. In the New Testament, Paul’s conversion experience is discussed in both his letters and in the Acts of the Apostles. According to both sources, Paul was not a follower of Jesus and did not know him before the crucifixion. Paul’s conversion occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion so he never met him in the flesh. The accounts of Paul’s conversion experience describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus.
His conversion on the road to Damascus was the result of a direct inner experience of the risen Christ. This is what Gnosis is. A direct inner experience which does not need to be mediated by any priest, guru or religious official. In fact due to this direct inner experience Paul who was himself a Pharisee turned his back on the priesthood.
Paul certainly received gnosis on the road to Damascus. He described some of the attributes of gnosis such as the Gifts of the Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:7-13 and some of the resulting behaviours in Galatians 5:22-23. These Gifts of the Spirit are available to everyone. He experienced gnosis and told everyone. He wrote about it to everyone. He taught how to receive it and what our behavior should be once we received it. Paul is a major figure in the development of Christianity. As a result all his Gnostic teachings and beliefs could not be ignored. So Paul, a Gnostic, had to be let into the bible because he could not be ignored. The early Christians had no problem with Paul, his direct experience of the risen Christ which in turn led directly to his teachings. This was true then and it is true now. Since Paul wrote exactly like a Gnostic, Greek authors forged seven epistles with a strong literalist slant, which they then included in the Christian Bible. Problem solved.
When Constantine sired his variety of Christianity a new class system was born. Once Christianity became the official religion of the state a plethora of people suddenly wanted to become Christian. Some for safety reasons, some for citizenship, and many for the power. Oh yes, and even some who sincerely cared about gnosis and Christ Consciousness. Paul was firmly established as both Christian and Gnostic. So as you can see if Paul was not accepted by the established church they ran the risk of losing many followers. So his Gnostic qualities had to be overlooked. As a pillar of Christianity Paul radiates Gnostic qualities .The proof of the shared history of Gnosticism and Christianity is over whelming.
Myth Four – The Christian view of Jesus is different than the Gnostic view of Jesus
Christianity as we know it is a version of Gnosticism which has mistaken symbolic stories for real ones, whereas many academics find that the historical and archaeological evidence is unclear. Christianity and Gnosticism are related, but, which one came first, it seems that early Christianity was much more Gnostic than it is now, and perhaps the gnostic/literalist divide simply didn’t exist for the first two centuries of Christian history. By the 7th century, literalist Christians had overwhelmed Gnosticism and related forms of Christianity, leaving us with modern Trinitarian Christianity.
When the Roman-backed Christianity went in search of the ancient centres of Christianity, they discovered to their horror that the Ebionites and Gnostics pre-dated them. Their un-Christian answer was to edit verses, burn books, invent doctrines such as the Trinity, arrest and harass the other poverty-stricken Christians until no opposition was left. The form of Christianity that we have inherited from the Roman Empire is far from what Christianity originally was, yet most modern denominations took Cappadocian-Nicene Pauline Christianity as their starting point (and few have moved far from it). Such a shame that this colourful history is not only abandoned, but is also mostly forgotten!
Jesus is constant. His archetypical image and spiritual essence is present to all Christians. Our relationship with this essence can be just as diverse as the modern relationships between all Christians. How we experience this essence and how we live our life is up to us. This is called free will. Gnostic’s and main stream Christians are of one father and mother. Our relationship with Jesus may be different just as any child is special in the eyes of a parent. Therefore our views and interpretations can be mutually supportive and should not be a source of conflict. It is time for us to get along and support one another as children of God
Myth Five – There is no source of truth outside of the Bible
I can keep this short and if you are realistic about believing in a loving God then you can to. Truth came before the written word so it must have existed first. Therefore truth does exist outside the Bible. It always has and it always will. Since the written word was scribed by humans it is subject to human error whether divinely inspired or not. Therefore we must always be open to the living word within which is Gnosis. This Gnosis will help us evolve as the scriptures evolve with us.
Myth Six – There is no salvation for Gnostic’s
Literalist, nastier forms of Christianity survived the first few hundred years of Christian history, because it held power in Rome and it is no coincidence that it happened to preach a strict hierarchy. This form of Christianity, was oppressive, combative and organized, wiping out its nearest competitors, which was other forms of Christianity.
The Gnostic view of salvation is obviously through the divine knowledge of gnosis. While many believe that simply acquiring this gnosis will bring about salvation, there are specific reasons as to why the Gnostics believe this way. The Gnostics hold that evolutionary forces alone are insufficient to bring about spiritual freedom, thus, the individual must free themselves from attachments.
Gnostics believe that Jesus was the savior, they look to salvation from ignorance – the ignorance of spiritual realities. This ignorance will only be relieved through gnosis. It was through Christ’s life and his teachings that humanity will be saved. The Gnostics view is merely a different interpretation of Christ’s life and message. This expands and enriches the salvific message of Christ. So yes there is salvation, not only for Gnostic’s but for all people regardless of their religion, race, creed, colour, specialties, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Myth Seven – There is no compatibility between Christianity and Gnosticism
Traditional Christianity evolved as a religion for the masses, while Gnosticism was an esoteric philosophical branch that dealt with the Christian mysteries. So the Gnostic philosophy actually sheds light on some of the basic tenets of the classic Christian faith and should be explored for the nuances it imparts for those who want to go deeper.
Since Gnosticism advocates direct experience it suggests that a need for a priesthood is not necessary. The church will of course argue that the clergy is necessary to provide services which people cannot provide for themselves. At least that is the justification. However, when looking from an outside perspective, what do they provide? They interpret the bible, administer sacraments and remind people how to successfully get into heaven. Worshippers can do just fine without a place to worship. A place to worship, however, cannot survive without worshippers. And that is the fear of the church. That is why to this day they still use old thought reforms to keep the sheeple close to the steeple. Gnostic’s suggest that individuals can administer to themselves and one another. People are people and the church is made of people just like cleric’s. So yes we are compatible. Unfortunately old fashion pride keeps us divided through our attachments.
Myth Eight – Gnosticism is a heresy and threat to the church
Gnosticism is not very interested in organization, doctrine, proselytizing, or traditional eschatology. It is more concerned with direct experience. They are not as concerned with the rewards of Heaven or the terrible punishments of Hell as they are with relieving ignorance through introspection. For this reason main stream Christianity to this day still holds an uncompromising stance towards Gnosticism.
The Inquisitions of the past existed to eliminate heretical doctrine and heretic’s themselves. Today the Inquisition has been renamed by the Roman Catholic Church as The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Gnostics are no longer burned and referred to as heretics But they are demonized and referred to as deviants, dissidents or unorthodox. I guess this can be considered progress.
I understand that we are viewed as a threat but that is not what we are. We are simply human beings within the same tribe with variations on how we live our faith. That’s all. We do not fight sin in traditional ways. We fight ignorance which is the host of sin. By facing our ignorance we can open our eyes to what others in our tribe call sin. When we develop tolerance we can let go of our attachments and we can learn from one another. Then we will be a step closer to shepherding in the second coming of Christ. Gnosticism is not a threat. It is only perceived a threat because of a lack of universal gnosis.
So let’s shift gears a little and get back to the Prime Directive. I am not what you could call a Trekkie, but here is the Prime Directive of Star Fleet.
As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes the introduction of superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this was not just science fiction? It is said that whatever people can dream, they can achieve. Let us continue to dream of the day when we can reflect back to one another the truest essence of what it means to be both a human and a divine inspiration of God.