PRINCIPLES OF THE GOOD NEWS
SEEKERS OF GNOSIS
Copyright © 1991, 1999
Church of the New Covenant in Christ
All Rights Reserved
GNOSTICISM AND ORTHODOXY
To understand the nature of gnostic thought, it is useful to explore the distinctions between gnosis and orthodoxy. The word "orthodox," which was first applied by the orthodox to themselves in contradistinction to those they did not approve of or considered heretics, essentially means "right thinking." Interestingly, modern gnostics have little problem applying the title "right thinking" or "orthodox" to those of the other persuasion because "right thinking" has taken on the meaning of "rigid, not flexible, not growing and developing" as in "right wing politicians." Right wing church people, right wing religionists, and right wing philosophers share this condition; they are not flexible, and they are not growing. They tend to be set in their views. They tend to be past oriented. They are not part of a growing, developing system of faith, power, and internal growth.
The followers of gnosis fall in the opposite camp. They believe in constant development, constant flux and growth. If there is anything that characterizes Gnosticism, it is continual development, which means continual change. You cannot be a gnostic and dig in your heels because, both as individuals and as a body, gnostics are continually moving forward. New forms are developing. New scriptures are coming forth. New ways of doing things are characteristic of gnostic life.
Individual gnostics are involved in a system that is set up to promote constant development. They go from step to step in the development of themselves as followers of gnosis. One of the charges leveled against gnostics by the heresiologists of the past was that they had heavens set up like an apartment house, a whole series of heavens, each with its own gods, through which we pass in the course of our development. Essentially this is true. In our myths and in our means of development, we do go through numerous steps. We move, if you will, from one apartment to another, from one heaven to another. We do have a constantly expanding view of God, and we do have the realization that God, the Great God of All Other Gods, is revealed to us through many levels of Divinity, so that we grow into a knowledge of him. [In using the word "him" here, I do not mean to imply gender. "It" might be a better pronoun in terms of implied sexuality, but tends to be a denial of personality, so I will use the masculine pronoun as a means of convention, asking for your understanding of my purpose.]
We recognize that our masters of gnosis are manifestations of the Divine and, therefore, are "Gods." We recognize the Testator as "God." We recognize the Savior and Redeemer, Jesus, as "God." We recognize the Virgin Mary as "God." We recognize the saints as "Gods." We recognize the angels as "Gods." We see all these as manifestations of the One God, the Great God of All Other Gods. We also recognize the Light, which is in each of us, as a manifestation of that God and, therefore, it is possible to worship the Light, relate to the Light, relate to Deity, in anyone, so that we see God all about us in everything. We find God within ourselves. We see God in the many myths that have been given to open our minds. Our growth as followers of gnosis is a continual growth from one level of knowledge to another, each opening up that Eternal Godhead a little more to our view so that we, from one perspective, come into a relationship with another God on each level, although we know that it is with another aspect of the One God.
This is the secret to understanding gnostic teaching, a secret that the orthodox have failed to tune into. It is not that we are worshipping a proliferation of Gods so much as that we are worshipping one God continually opening up to us in a greater and greater revelation. We are recognizing that that one God is so great that it encompasses many things, while our minds are so finite that we cannot focus on all of that at once. Consequently, we focus on a part of it that brings to light the things we are concerned with focussing in on at the time.
So one of the great differences between orthodoxy and gnosis is that gnosis recognizes the infinity of the Divine but focuses down to where we can deal with it, and then continues growing into a greater vision of it, a greater perception of it, whereas in orthodoxy, they place a gulf, a chasm, between humanity and God, placing humanity so far below that they do not really relate to God. They try to relate to God in different ways, but they fail to come to the realization that we can find God in all things, and that by experiencing God in may manifestations we can come to know the Divine piece by piece. Thats the way our finite minds have to work.
The big difference between orthodoxy and gnosis is that in gnosis we are continually growing in our perceptions. The gnostic system is set up to promote that growth. Study with gnostic masters and teachers, experiencing gnostic temple rites, growth in Priesthood and knowledge, is all germane to the process of development in gnosis.
In orthodoxy, unless you are one of the few, you remain part of what is referred to as the laity. You are simply a believer in Christ, but you are not on the level of the ministry or the priesthood. In gnosis, that would be impossible. As a gnostic, you cannot just be something and stay in that condition. You have to be growing, moving forward. A person who chooses not to grow in gnosis is soon no longer a part of gnosis, because gnosis is a growing, expanding thing. Gnostic scriptures tell us that if we plant the word of the Eloheim within us, [the Eloheim are those who have been deified through the internalization of gnosis] we will know its truth, its reality, by the fact that it will begin to grow and expand in us. It makes our hearts expand. If it doesnt, it isnt the word of the Eloheim.
So we cannot settle down in gnosis. We have to keep going and growing. This is the characteristic of what those who enter the pursuit of gnosis have undertaken. Throughout this text, were going to continue to explore various aspects of the differences between gnosis and orthodoxy, but whatever we examine, this is the bottom line. Gnosis is there to expand you, to open you up, to help you keep growing and developing, whereas the very nature of orthodoxy tends to be to keep you down, to keep you from going too far, to make sure that you are under the thumb of the system and the individuals representing the system, and that you dont expand beyond that. It is a contracting system. Gnosis is an expanding system.
If you want to be gnostic, you have to be willing to keep growing. If you are going to keep growing, you have to expect that your skin is going to keep splitting, and you are going to step out into a new being. Thats germane to the message of Christ. He says, through St. Paul, that we put off our old personality. We put on a new personality in Christ. That is exactly what we keep doing.
Immersion is the gate through which you enter into your relationship with Christ as a gnostic disciple, but you are not immersed just once. You will be immersed a number of times. I cant give you an exact number because you, yourself, may choose to be reimmersed on certain occasions if you feel that you need a new beginning in the Way, i.e., a recommitment. There will also be certain points in your path where it will be necessary to go through the gate of immersion into a new order of life and development as a gnostic disciple. That process goes on and on. There are many other steps in the process. In fact, it is an infinite and eternal process.
The Eloheim, themselves, continue to receive endowments of Light and power. The Eloheim have the mind of Christ, which gives them access to all Truth, but you receive this same gift if you enter the pursuit of gnosis. Each gnostic disciple receives the Gift of the Holy Spirit through which we have access to all Truth. That does not mean you have all Truth consciously in you, or in you in any form for that matter. What you have within you after receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit is the Accessor, the Divine Light that can access that Truth for you, but you go through a continual process of opening up your mind, rechanneling your brain so it can absorb more and more of that Truth. That process never ends. The Eloheim are continuing that same process. It goes on and on forever. If you are a gnostic, you believe in that concept. We sometimes call it Eternal progression, i.e., gnostics continue to progress, moving forward eternally, forever.
The word "Eternal" is a key word in Gnosticism because were told that Eternal is a name of Deity. Consequently, when a circumstance or condition is referred to as Eternal, it refers not only to its Endless nature, although it does specifically include that as an attribute because it pertains to the Eternal Gods, the Endless Gods. If we say that a circumstance or condition is Eternal, it implies that, while you may not stay in that circumstance or condition forever, its nature is Eternal. In the case of Eternal progression, not only is it endless, but it is the progression of the Gods, the progression of the Eloheim, the Gods of Light. As a follower of gnosis, your first commitment is to Eternal progression, to never stopping, never digging in your heels where you are, not saying, "This is what I believe, so Im not changing my belief," not saying, "This is the way its been done, so Im not changing how its done." You are not a gnostic if that is your attitude; youre othrodox.
If you are gnostic, you are willing to grow, change, and develop. This does not mean you throw away concepts and beliefs hastily, but it does mean that you recognize that they may be continually opening up so that eventually what you believed before becomes meaningless to you. This does not mean that it is invalid, but that you have risen to a higher plane of existence where it no longer has meaning. It may still be valid for someone else. You should not trample on it if you encounter it in someone else. A gnostic who ascends knows to nourish others who may not have the same level of perception yet. He doesnt trample on their perceptions thinking that will raise them to a higher one. He nurtures them until they rise naturally to the higher perception, but for him the earlier perception has become dead. The scriptures say that the old Law becomes dead to us when we put on the mind of Christ. The perceptions we might have had on a lower level become dead to us because we have greater perceptions thorough the mind of Christ, but they may still be valid for others. We respect that and nourish those others where they are, speaking in their language and helping them rise up to where they can have greater perceptions.
This is what distinguishes a gnostic teacher or master from an orthodox teacher. An orthodox teacher tries to hold you down and make you fit into the box of belief and practice that has become accepted as orthodox. A gnostic teacher or master tries to help you continually grow and expand. He or she nurtures you where you are, knowing that in that way you will grow, develop, and pass into a higher plane of existence. This is gnosis. Gnosis is growth and development eternally. Orthodoxy is fitting into a box and being kept there.
The gnostic concept of resurrection is very different than the orthodox concept. While the gnostic acknowledges a physical resurrection, a resurrection of the physical body, as being a part of our Eternal progression, we do not spend a lot of time centering in that concept because it is not of prime importance to us in our development at this time. Eventually, if we do the things we need to do now, we know that the physical resurrection will fall into its appropriate place in our development. In fact, we know that everyone who has had a physical body will be resurrected physically, so we dont really have to do anything about that. That is something that was worked out in the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. He conquered death. Everyone who has lived will live again. Death will be no more, and all who have died will be saved from it by the power generated on the cross. Its an automatic thing. We dont have to spend any time worrying about that. Theres nothing we have to do about it. Theres nothing we can do about it. Its beyond our power, and thats a good place for it to stay. It can be helpful and hopeful to us to be aware of that, although in a totally emotional sense it doesnt much matter whether theres a physical resurrection or not. We go on one way or another. It happens that the physical resurrection is a part of that ongoing, but it is not that fact that matters as much as the ongoing itself. The fact that we cannot cease to be unless we choose that for ourselves, and very few will make that choice, is what is important.
So we dont spend a lot of time centering in this physical aspect of the resurrection. We dont need to get involved in the mechanics of it. Basically, we generally have the concept that there is some part of us, which is our essential self, that can regenerate the whole. In ways we dont really know about, nor need to know about at this stage of our existence, that will take place and our physical portions will be regenerated from that essential part of ourselves. Actually, thats enough to know about whatevers involved. St. Paul said you plant a seed, and a new plant grows up like the original. That is basically how he explained the resurrection, and its a good enough explanation. What were more concerned about is the metaphysical resurrection, a resurrection to take place right now in our existence.
St. Paul said that if we go down into the waters of immersion and die with Christ, then just as Christ was resurrected, we are resurrected with Christ when we come up out of the water. He used that example to explain some of what goes on in immersion, but it also explains a lot about the resurrection. If we are willing to be crucified with Christ, if we allow the ego, the dominating part of the old personality, to be crucified with Christ, and we put on a new psyche in which the ego takes its appropriate place in relation to the divine part of us, its a resurrected ego. Its part of a divine psyche. It is raised to a higher plane of existence. Thats something that can happen right now, while we are still surrounded by this mortal condition. The object of the gnostic is to rise to a new life, not in some ethereal future, but right now. To be crucified with Christ, putting off the old personality which is centered in selfishness, which is centered in darkness, which is centered in the physical things of this world, and putting on a new personality which is Christ-centered, which is Truth-centered, which is living on a higher plane than we were before when we were strictly caught up in the mortal condition. Thats the resurrection were concerned about.
If that resurrection takes place, we dont have to worry about any other because in the physical resurrection, we will come up, as we are told in the Book of Covenants, to that plane of life representing the Light with which we are filled. So if we go through our mortal lives gaining more and more Light, we will be resurrected full of that Light. That will take care of any issues about where we should be or what should be our condition, our state of life, our plane of existence. So the object is to be resurrected now metaphysically, to come to a higher plane of existence, to live on that higher plane and continue to increase. If we do that, while there is a point where resurrection commences for us, its an ongoing phenomenon because we rise from life to life, we rise from one plane of existence to another. We continue to grow and increase so that in the Time of Resurrection, the time when we come into a higher plane outside this mortal condition, we will already be where we want to be, so it will be of no real significance.
You see, if we come into the place where we are living in Christ, death becomes an illusion. The physical body may lie down, but we are still living on that same plane of existence we were in the physical state. The physical resurrection has no real significance either in terms of our level of existence, because if we are physically resurrected, we still are living in that place which we have found for ourselves. There are some purposes in the physical resurrection relating to giving us power and control over the Light that we have. It gives us certain abilities in terms of increasing and perpetuating Light. When we are resurrected physically, we will be very different than we are now. We will still be spiritual beings, even if we have a physical aspect. The plane of existence which we are in will already have been accomplished. It is a metaphysical condition, and were there whether we are physical or we are not physical, because the part of us that determines our plane of existence, the part of us that is actually living within this mortal body, goes right on where it is. It can rise up. It can go down, but it has nothing to do with whether the body lives or dies.
So when we talk about resurrection, our real concern is to rise up from this living death, if you will, from this death which we call mortal life or mortal existence, to a place of real Life, regardless of what the body may be doing. Jesus came to bring Life, abundant Life. It is ours, and it raises us up from the death of the mortal condition to a state of living wherever we may be, whatever condition physically we might be in. Thats what resurrection means to us.
I recommend that you study intently the "Mystery of the Resurrection," the gnostic scripture which deals specifically with this. It was written by St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, to his disciple Rheginos. It tells us the very concept I have been getting at: while the physical resurrection is fine, what we are concerned about is the metaphysical resurrection, which will take care of everything else, and which allows us to be resurrected now, not in some ethereal future.
Copyright © 1997 Church of the Pearl -- All rights reserved
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