THE SOURCE OF GNOSIS


 

WHAT IS GNOSIS?

The author of Psalm 94 describes mortals in their natural state as perceiving "no more of reality than animals." (Psalm 94:8) His reference to reality relates to Jesus' statement, recorded in the Sayings of Jesus, that "The shadows of this world are perceived by mortals, and they think they know Truth, but the Reality which casts the shadows is hidden from them." (Sayings of Jesus 2:2) The Psalmist's solution to mortals' lack of perception is to turn to the Creator. "It is she who knows all things, and she will instruct those who seek her in those principles which lead to gnosis. …if they will turn to her, she will raise their perception to view that which is real." (Psalm 94:10-11)

What is this gnosis, which we sometimes call the "hidden knowledge"? One scholar who has researched gnosis in depth says of it,

Gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge ("He knows mathematics") and knowing through observation or experience ("He knows me") which is gnosis. As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as "insight," for gnosis involves an intuitive process.... (Elaine Pagels, THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS, New York: Random House, 1979.)

Another scholar explains it this way.

On the one hand [gnosis] is closely bound up with revelatory experience, so that reception of the truth either through sacred and secret lore or through inner illumination replaces rational argument and theory (though this extra-rational basis may then provide scope for independent speculation); on the other hand, being concerned with the secrets of salvation, "knowledge" is not just theoretical information about certain things but is itself, as a modification of the human condition, charged with performing a function in the bringing about of salvation." (Hans Jonas, THE GNOSTIC RELIGION: THE MESSAGE OF THE ALIEN GOD AND THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIANITY, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963)

Essentially, the Gnostic way is not to teach you a lot of answers to your questions, but to help you rechannel your brain so that it will be able to perceive Truth, which is already hidden within you. When Jesus' disciples questioned him concerning the proper mode of fasting, praying, giving alms, and eating, he didn't answer them directly, but said,

"You must put off your love of the lie, the false way of life followed by the children of this plane of existence, and be converted, changed so that you hate that which you have previously loved, and love that which you have previously hated. Then I will be able to show you all things, for there is nothing hidden which will not be manifested when you have put on the mind of Truth." (Sayings of Jesus 1:11)

Gnostics seek Truth in three different ways. The first is through studying the written word, especially that which the Body of gnostics has accepted as illuminating the principles revealed by the Eloheim, but also all other good books which they personally feel enhance their perception of Truth. Those books that Gnostics accept as scripture come through the Holy Spirit. When we say that a gnostic master has translated a book of ancient scripture, we mean that he has translated it from a spiritual record written on the Holy Spirit into a physical form that can be written in a book.

Irenaeus, a second century orthodox opponent of gnosticism, criticized the gnostic concept of scripture because its authenticity is not claimed on the basis of its being handed down in unbroken succession from some authority figure, but on the basis of its having been revealed through the Holy Spirit. (Irenaeus, Libros Quinque Adversus Haereses 2.15.3) Gnostics would say that their scriptures are true because they open the mind of the reader to "the Reality which is God." (Sayings of Jesus 2:2) They would suggest that the value of a book lies not in its age, but in its Light.

The second source of information about Truth is the oral mysteries. These are not written, but must be learned from those who have mastered them. When his disciple Matthew said to Jesus, "Lord, I wish to see that Place of Life where all is pure Light and darkness cannot come," Jesus replied, "Brother Matthew, you cannot see it as long as you are centered in the physical body." Matthew exclaimed, "Lord, I cannot see it alone; help me to gain this hidden knowledge." (Teachings of the Master 4:3-5) Matthew realized that he needed the help of a master if he was going to be able to make the transition from being centered in the physical body to being centered in the Light. Like Matthew, we cannot see the Place of Life without help.

When Matthew asked him, "How can we throw off the dominion of the dark powers and walk in Light?" Jesus replied,

Remain steady in your search for Truth. Know that Truth is not to be found outside yourself, but find a Master who can lead you through your heart to find the secrets locked within it. Then you will prevail over the dark powers; you will be able to deny your ego, change your manner of life and, taking up your cross, follow me. When once you know that the hidden knowledge is within you, you must seek the keys from the Master of Assemblies, so that you can find them and rejoice in Light. (Teachings of the Master 3:9-10)

During the discussion recorded in The Teachings of the Master, Jesus went into the relationship of master and disciple, and its role in opening the mind to the perception of Truth, in some depth.

Then the Master said to them, "When you are masters, and disciples come to you seeking Light, strive to lead them to salvation. Speak to them the keys of gnosis until their minds are opened to perceive the hidden Truth. Then they will be of one mind with you, for their minds will be directed by the Inner Light. I tell you truly, the Living Gods dwell in you, and you dwell in them."

Judas said to him, "Truly I desire to be a master so that I can lead souls to Light."

The Lord replied, "Since the Living Gods exist in you, their power will flow out of you at the proper time, and disciples will be drawn to your Light. You need not seek disciples, for if you let your Light shine and share the word of Life, disciples will sit at your feet to learn the hidden knowledge."

* * *

As they sat on the hillside, some seekers approached Mary Magdaline to question her about Jesus' teachings. They asked the meaning of his sayings, "The problems of each day can be met that day," "The laborer earns what he eats," and "The disciple will resemble his Master." Mary discoursed on these topics, leading them toward the hidden knowledge. When the seekers had departed, the Master said, "You see Light ministering through Mary, drawing souls to itself. That is how it will be with each of you when your time has come." (Teachings of the Master 4:14-16; 6:1)

Again, a gnostic master is not one who will provide you with all the answers. He or she will not be willing to take responsibility for your life by telling you how you should live it, but he will help you expand your mind and rechannel your brain so that it is able to perceive the knowledge of Truth which is hidden within you, and you will learn the principles which will enable you to walk in Light.

The third way of learning gnosis is directly from the Inner Light, the Holy Spirit which exists as a spark in every human being and as a flame in those who have received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Heracleon, a second century gnostic teacher, said, "At first, people believe because of the testimony of others, but then they come to believe from Truth itself." (Heracleon, Frag. 39, in Origen, Commentarium in Johannes) One gnostic master described this process in this way.

The Eloheim will give you, their saints, knowledge through their Holy Spirit, yes, through the indescribable Gift of the Holy Spirit, in a manner in which it has not been revealed during the existence of this mortal plane. *** Whether there is One God or many Gods, they were all to be manifested at this time. All sources of power, authority, government, and strength will be revealed through gnosis descending on everyone who has endured valiantly for the good news of Jesus Christ. * * * This is according to what was decreed during the Council of the Eternal God of All Other Gods before this world existed. (Book of Covenants 1839-1:26, 28-29, 32)

Each of these processes reveals a different portion of gnosis, and taken together they will lead you back into the presence of the Eloheim.

THE ELOHEIM

Gnosis reaches us through the written scriptures, through enlightened masters, and directly through the Inner Light, but the source of all these is the Eloheim. This is a Hebrew term which is translated "God" in most Bibles, but it is actually a plural form (plural in Hebrew is indicated by im) which is sometimes more properly translated "Gods." However, this term too may be misleading because of our preconceptions of what it means, so gnostics often leave "Eloheim" untranslated.

False concepts of deity result from the belief, which most people have, that "god" or "the gods" are something totally unrelated to mankind. The gnostic, however, conceives of Deity as Exalted Mortal. "On the Origin of the World," an ancient gnostic text, speaks of the Deity (pl.) as "an enlightened, immortal humanity." Irenaeus explained that gnostics taught that "the Primal Father of the Whole, the Primal Beginning, and the Primal Incomprehensible, is called Anthropos [Man]...and that this is the great and abstruse mystery, namely, that the power which is above all others and contains all others in its embrace is called Anthropos [Man]. (Irenaeus, Libros Quinque Adversus Haereses 1.11.1) The Deity revealed itself to Enoch in these words, "I am one of the Eloheim. Man of Holiness is my name. Man of Counsel is my name." (History of Ezra 3:14) Gnostics believe that Jesus called himself the Son of Man because he is the Son of the Man of Holiness.

This means that the Eloheim were once mortals as we are, but through the application of the principles hidden in gnosis, they became enlightened and immortal. If we follow the same process they did, we can become like them; we can join the Eloheim in the celestial realm. Jesus said to his disciples,

I have come to open the Way of Life to all mankind. I will teach you the passageway through which the elect will pass into the presence of the Eloheim, that same passage through which each of the Eloheim has passed before you. (Teachings of the Master 1:2)

THE DIVINE MOTHER

Since both men and women may follow gnosis and become members of the Eloheim, the Deity is revealed to us as both Male and Female, Father and Mother. Jesus said, " You are the sons of the Eloheim. Should the son not be like his Father? You are the daughters of the Eloheim. Should the daughter not be like her Mother?" (Sayings of Jesus 2:10) Of those who unite with the Eloheim he said, " These will sit on the seat of power of the Eloheim, using instruments of power, and they will be the Fathers and Mothers of worlds through all generations." (Testimony of Mary 2:7) He also taught his disciples to pray in this manner "Hear us, our Father and Mother who are on the heavenly plane." (Teachings of the Master 1:5)

The word Eloheim, itself, is a predominantly feminine form.

...female imagery of the divinity persists throughout large portions of the Bible, perhaps starting with the plural form of the name of the divinity in Genesis one, ELOHIM, which is probably derived from the feminine form of the name for divinity, ELOAH.... (Leonard Swidler, WOMEN PRIESTS, p. 169)

It is their failure to acknowledge the Motherhood of Deity which has led many to regard "him" as a fierce, tyrannical, judgmental, vengeful tyrant who is looking for a chance to trip them up and throw them into hell. Only when we understand the Motherhood, as well as the Fatherhood of the Eloheim, can we begin to perceive the meaning of the scriptural assertion that God is Love.

PRIESTHOOD

When Jesus was teaching Mary Magdaline, he said, "Yes, that soul who lives by the revelations and ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood will pass through the gate of the celestial world. *** That soul who lives by the revelations and ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood will pass through the gate of the Mansion of the Gods. *** That soul who lives by the revelations and ordinances of the Patriarchal Priesthood, will pass through the gate of the Mansion of the Parents."

Yes, that soul who lives by the revelations and ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood will pass through the gate of the celestial world. *** That soul who lives by the revelations and ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood will pass through the gate of the Mansion of the Gods. *** That soul who lives by the revelations and ordinances of the Patriarchal Priesthood, will pass through the gate of the Mansion of the Parents. (Testimony of Mary 2:5-7)

Unlike the orthodox, gnostics do not view the Priesthood as an elite body which governs the "laity." Rather, Priesthood is a function of gnosis. We ascend through gnosis step by step, and these steps are divided into levels of Priesthood. Consequently, every follower of gnosis enters the Priesthood Order as part of that pursuit, and progresses from the Aaronic Priesthood, to the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal Priesthood and beyond as he or she advances in the hidden knowledge.

Since every follower of gnosis passes through the levels of the Priesthood, it is not limited to men as it has traditionally been in the orthodox churches. This equality of men and women in the Priesthood was one of the most objectionable features of gnosticism to the orthodox in the first centuries of Christianity. As Tertullian, one of the orthodox spokesmen, exclaimed,

These heretical women--how audacious they are! They have no modesty; they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and, it may be, even to baptize! (Tertullian, De Praescr 41)

Even among Jesus' immediate disciples, the role of women on an equality with men was difficult to accept. Mary Magdaline records that after the resurrection, Peter said of her to the other disciples,

"Would the Savior really reveal these precious things to a woman, and not to the Twelve, whom he called and ordained under his own hands? Are we to have a woman to instruct us? No, I will only believe what I heard from Jesus' lips with my own ears." *** John said to Peter, "Peter, you have always been quick to judge, and your judgment isn't always appropriate. *** It is the satans who lead you to contend against the woman Mary, for if Jesus has raised her above you, who are you, really, to reject her? Surely the Lord knows her and the strength that is in her. That is why the Lord loved her more than all of you. (Testimony of Mary 3:2, 4)

Gnosis, then, comes to us from the Eloheim in three ways, through the written word in the scriptures, through the spoken word of enlightened masters, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Inner Light. The Eloheim are Exalted Mortals, those who have preceded us in following gnosis and, through its power, have become enlightened and immortal. Men and women equally may follow gnosis, and consequently the Eloheim are both male and female, Fathers and Mothers on the Heavenly Plane. The Priesthood is available to all as they advance through gnosis, giving them opportunities to use the knowledge that they have gained in blessing the lives of others.

Jesus said to his disciples,

The time has arrived, Beloved, when you should leave behind the cares of this plane of existence and enter into a state of rest, for the person who enters into rest in this life, will remain in a state of rest forever. I tell you that the heavenly realm must exist within you, before you can enter into it, but I have given you my peace, and if you walk with the Angel of Peace, the heavenly realm will be in you, and you will be in the heavenly realm. (Teachings of the Master 1:1)

As you pursue gnosis, you will commence a walk with the Angel of Peace, and all the other angels, who will lead you back to the presence of the Eloheim. As, Jesus promised,

If you continue to follow my teachings, you are my true disciples, and you will learn Truth, which will free you from the illusions of darkness. Then you will have access to the Father and Mother through your prayers, and you will have power to establish the realm of Light on the mortal plane as it exists in the Mind of the Eloheim. (Teachings of the Master 1:3)


Copyright 1997 Church of the Pearl All Rights Reserved

[Back to Home Page]