Gnosis: A Return to Our Roots
(Preface: As much as I’ve tried to shorten this post, no part of it could be omitted without a loss to its impact and meaning, as well as the spirit of the authors of the excerpts. I think you will agree after reading it.)
GNOSIS is the experience and knowledge of spiritual truths. In essence and in practice during the Early Christian era, it was the experience of knowing God within. The experience of Spirit. Of Divinity.
According to the Gnostic Gospels, which included the gospels of Thomas and Philip, Jesus had given “secret knowledge” to some of his apostles of the way to ascend the “Tree of Life” and come to know Spirit as one’s Self. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, in which she describes her personal ascension up to the “crown” of this tree that Jesus said had its roots in her body, does not belong to the collection of thirteen Gnostic Gospels that were discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. The Gospel of Mary was discovered earlier in 1896, also in upper Egypt. It stands alone as a testament to the true experience of Gnosis.
The Son of Humanity
I will conclude this series with a passage from The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Jean-Yves Leloup, followed by the author’s commentary. It begins with a question posed by the apostle Peter about the nature of matter:
[ . . . ]What is matter? Will it last forever?
The Teacher answered: “All that is born, all that is created, all the elements of nature are interwoven and united with each other. All that is composed shall be decomposed; everything returns to its roots; matter returns to the origins of matter. Those who have ears, let them hear.”
Peter said to him: “Since you have become the interpreter of the elements and the events of the world, tell us: What is the sin of the world?”
The Teacher answered: “There is no sin. It is you who make sin exist, when you act according to the habits of your corrupted nature; this is where sin lies. This is why the Good has come into your midst. It acts together with the elements of your nature so as to reunite it with its roots.”
Then he continued: “This is why you become sick, and why you die: it is the result of your actions; what you do takes you further away. Those who have ears, let them hear.
I will let the author give his commentary on this passage first, because he offers such profound insight into the dishonest human condition and into the path the “Son of Humanity”set before us for our return to our “roots” in Source.
Lack calls for fullness. Thirst calls for the Source. The Good has come into our midst because the nature of matter involves lack. Humans as we know them are beings who feel a lack of Being. The process of corruption begins with their own identification with this lack. They then confuse themselves with the matter of which their bodies are composed, which ultimately leads to an experience of their own vanity and emptiness. Thus they may finally become open to that which can fill them.
The Original Sin of Adam was a fall from identity with Spirit to identity with form that left us with a feeling of profound lack which gave rise to a deep desire and longing for redemption, ironically creating a void for a Savior to fill. “Blessed fault of Adam, that gave us such a Redeemer,” the traditional chant for the Easter Vigil says. “What is it that transforms matter, adama, a lump of clay, into Adam, the true human being capable of this essence of desire,” the author asks. What can we do now to make room in our hearts for Spirit to come and fill the emptiness there?
Meister Eckhart, a Christian whose metaphysics was very close to the Gospel of Mary, said it more simply: “If you do nothing, truly nothing, God cannot help but come into you.” Unfortunately, in those who are full of themselves, there is no place for the Other. This is why he added, “If you leave, God can enter.”
This means that we must leave the illusion of taking ourselves to be something, some thing, an object that exists in time. We must return to our true being as Subject, living in wonder at its manifestation in those transient objects that it calls its world, its body, its emotions, its personality.
When we leave behind the illusion of belief in a permanent thing, the Good can then come into our midst. In the heart of this finally accepted impermanence shines the presence of this unborn, unmade, uncreated “Nothing that can be found in the All of which It is the cause.” This is the clear light unimpeded by the opacity of all the things with which we are identified. In the midst of the heavy, the light is revealed.
According to the Gospel of Mary, the Teacher came in order to help free us from the ignorance that is identification (corruption). For he is the very countenance, the incarnation, and the practice of this Good.
The Good is the manifestation of the famous triad of the ancient philosophers: goodness, truth, and beauty. The Good in this sense does not have evil as its opposite, for it means the unity of these three, the One that embraces the multiplicity of all qualities through which it is expressed.
What does goodness become when separated from light, consciousness, and truth? A softness that is the gateway to hypocrisy and compromise.
What does truth become when separated from goodness, love, and beauty? A hardness that is the gateway to fanaticism and persecution.
What does beauty become when separated from truth and goodness? Art for art’s sake, an aestheticism that is the gateway to a brilliance that clarifies nothing.
Beyond the realm of opposites, the Good is the One, the doorway to Being. This Being can only manifest in a heart, body, and mind that have been emptied of all illusion, meaning all inflation and presumption; for it cannot fit into the straitjacket that they offer.
“This is why the Good has come into your midst. It acts together with the elements of your nature so as to reunite it with its roots. “
The radiance of Presence has come to us, and “we have seen its glory,” or its kavod, as the Hebrews called it — the glory of the Son, “full of grace and truth,” which is also that of the Father, or Source.” [The author’s footnote: “The Metaphor of Mother could just as well be used for the Source.”]
By planting the seeds of his knowledge (the sperma Theou, in Greek) in the elements of our nature, the Teacher restores us to our own true heritage and ushers us back to endless resonance with our uncreated Source, the “Father whom none has ever seen, and none can know,” but who is revealed to us through the monogenetic Son, the Good that unites the ancient philosopher’s triad. This invites us to live a life of glory, a life of love and consciousness, just as he did.
This reunion with our roots is not a mere event in time, but an ever-renewed relation with the Source engendering us in every instant. It is our ignorance that creates our distance from it, and this distance involves all sorts of sickness and suffering. By an ever-new act of knowledge that is both metanoia (in Greek, passing beyond the known, beyond the mind and memories of which we are composed) and teshuva (Hebrew for the act of return, a turning about of our consciousness from our externalized, objectified being toward our inner Being), [the literal meaning of the word “repent”] we act from the deepest heart of our lack, from the intimate space of our desire of desires. This is the space where we receive the inspiration of the Teacher and his teaching.
Then he continued:
“This is why you become sick, and why you die: it is the result of your actions; what you do takes you further away. Those who have ears, let them hear.”
Having spoken of matter and its impermanence, and of attachment and identification with this impermanence, the Teacher now shows the consequences of ignorance and attachment.
Sickness, suffering, and death are the consequences of our acts. There is no one to blame for this, and it is vain to complain and expostulate about the evil nature of matter, the world, and humanity. There is no room here for hatred of the world, for it has been clearly stated that there is no sin, no evil. Evil and sin arise from the blamer in ourselves.
(The “blamer” in Hebrew is the shatan, which means “obstacle.” In Greek the word is diabolos, which means “divider.” I find this most interesting and revealing of what is actually happening in ourselves as we point a finger of blame away from ourselves.
Attunement with Source
In a word, the Teacher came to offer attunement to the Body of Humanity through the open hearts and resonant substance of his disciples in order to reunite the flesh Body of Humanity with its roots in Source by drawing forth the Spirit of Love, the Father, from within them. His own incarnation as the “Son of Humanity” set a precedent for the whole of Mankind.
But he didn’t do it alone. Mary Magdalene, who brought the Divine Feminine into their shared mission of redemption, was his companion. Together they restored the sacred union between Man and Woman and their union with the Father. They shared the ultimate Attunement with Love.
The revelation of Love, the Father within, through Humanity was his expressed purpose for incarnating. He was on fire with this purpose, as was his companion. It is our purpose as well. This excerpt from a talk given by Lord Martin Exeter, who was my spiritual mentor for twenty years, speaks passionately to this purpose:
Until God’s Love comes into the individual and sets the individual on fire, the physical substance of his body, the substance of his whole outer being, remains subject to the destructive burning of the fire. It is only as he is actually set on fire, while he is living here on earth, that there may be a purification and transmutation into a state of being in attunement with the core of Being – which is God’s Love – so that the form is not destroyed. We can recognize these basic principles. Only as there is lust, so that the individual lets himself be set on fire by God’s Love, can he be consumed by God’s Love instead of destroyed by God’s Love. Being consumed by God’s Love there is no loss, because every level of Being is supposed to be the means by which there may be a manifest revelation of God’s Love, and this level where we are was so designed by God not to be destroyed by God’s Love but, being consumed by God’s Love, to reveal it….
…The body of Truth is lust, that all-consuming hunger and thirst, that depth of feeling, that longing, that which springs from the intensity of aloneness, an opening of the heart to God without reservation, without holding back anything, in a surge, a constant surge of passionate lust. And until we do open ourselves so, we cannot know the reality of God’s Love as it is; we can only know it as a painful fire, whereas in fact God’s Love, received into the true body, is the resurrection and the life of the body.
I think this well encapsulates who Mary Magdalene was and the pivotal role she played with her Beloved Lord that made Jesus’ mission on earth at all possible. She gave him her all, an open heart through which he could enter and plant the seed of Love in the Body of Humanity. She was the true founder of Christianity — “The Woman at the Heart of Christianity,” as Cynthia Bourgeault identifies her in the subtitle of her profound book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene.
There is much more that I could share from the pages of these three books. However, I feel complete in this series. If you feel inspired, and in the least bit inclined, to obtain copies of these thought-provoking books, I certainly encourage you to do so. Until my next post,
Be love. Be loved.
All of the books and many more are available at Amazon.com/books