THE GNOSTIC

CONCEPT OF SCRIPTURE


Speaking of interpreting the scriptures, one gnostic master suggested,

What is the rule of interpretation? Just no interpretation at all. Understand it precisely as it reads. I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable. *** To ascertain its meaning, we must dig up the root and ascertain what it was that drew the saying out of Jesus.

In other words, we don't approach the scriptures by trying to fit meanings to them. Instead, we use the techniques of meditation to get into the scripture and experience its reality, the situation that caused this story to be included in the sacred books, and how that situation applies to us today. This is approaching scripture as myth. When a gnostic looks at the scriptural accounts of the creation, for example, it soon becomes evident that there are more than one, and they don't agree in their details, or even their broader approach in some cases. These are obviously not historical accounts of the creation, but stories based on the concept of creation, which are given to help us understand important principles relating to ourselves. The same is true when we come to other, apparently more historical accounts. Take the myths of the life of Jesus as an example. The different accounts do not agree in their chronology or many of their details. There are even two different genealogies given for him. These conflicts don't mean that the stories aren't true; they mean that the writers told them in a manner that would help us perceive important truths about ourselves and the world of which we are a part.

The scriptures were not compiled to give us a valid historical account of mortals’ relationship to the Gods. In fact, history has no real value except when approached as myth. So what is myth? A myth might be defined as a story which illuminates some important principle, or principles, concerning mortal existence. In this sense, a myth is always true because it reveals some aspect of Truth. This concept of myth is not affected by whether the incidents or conditions described in the story ever actually existed on a time line. The important thing is that they do exist in the Reality we must master to enhance our mortal existence.

Consequently, there is little value in trying to fit the tales found in the scriptures into a historical context. It is sometimes useful to know the mythical historical setting attributed to a particular story, as this may make its meaning clearer. It may also be useful to know the period when an account was produced, for that may illuminate the message it was intended to convey. This approach is limited, however, for a myth may demonstrate one principle at one time, and something quite different in the context of another time. In both cases, the myth would be true, because it speaks to the people of that time, unveiling for them some aspect of Divine Truth or Ultimate Reality.

To discover the meaning hidden in the scriptures, we must approach them as we would an icon. When we look at an icon, we may appreciate it as a work of art. We may critically analyze it, consider to what school it belongs, consider techniques the artist used. We may examine its history, consider when it was produced, and research what others had said about it. While all these avenues of consideration may provide useful background for our exploration of the icon, by themselves they cannot bring us to the point where we can discern the value of the icon in our search for Truth. Only by approaching the icon metaphysically, applying the techniques we have learned in meditation, do we learn the secrets the icon holds for us.

In the same way, when you approach the scriptures, approach them as a basis for meditation. It may be valuable to read commentaries and examine their historical context, but the secrets of the scriptures will remain hidden from you until you get beyond the words to view the Reality which their stories are unfolding. Instead of trying to find an interpretation, discern why the story was included in the canon of scripture. When you know that, you will begin to perceive the aspects of Truth which it can unfold for you.

Approaching scripture in this way unlocks a door to endless learning. My teacher once told me that every scripture has at least seven levels on which it can be understood. Viewed this way, you can go back to the scriptures again and again, finding new meanings as you penetrate more deeply into the metaphysics of these sacred myths.


Copyright 1998 Church of the Pearl -- All rights reserved

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