37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
I am reading a book entitle “Religious Refugees” by Mark Karris. He said many of his clients who are deconstructing have been ruled by a narrative crafted by the Father of Lies, and shame has been their main story in their life. Many of them, and I include myself with this, have a difficult time loving ourselves. If we cannot receive God’s unconditional love, love ourselves as He loves us, how can I love others? Many of us have difficulty showing ourselves self-compassion. He writes:
Champions of self-compassion and self-love want people not just to love themselves as an end in itself, but to treat themselves the way God would treat them. As a result of this self-love, their fear and shame starts to dissipate, and they become freer to love God and others.
Karris, Mark Gregory. Religious Refugees (p. 190). Quoir. Kindle Edition.
The method of practicing self-compassion is through mindfulness. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the Holy Spirit is present in mindfulness. Mindfulness is a spiritual practice through meditation, and other means to become totally aware of what is happening in the present moment. At my job, one of our slogans is “Be Here Now” which is about mindfulness. My Pastor calls it “nowness.” The Bible encourages us to be mindful of what is going on outside of us and inside of us.
Mindfulness, the last component of self-compassion, is an awareness and acceptance of the present moment. It’s the ability of a person to experience and observe thoughts and feelings in a way that makes them external. In other words, when you practice mindfulness, you understand that thoughts and feelings are not you; instead, it is you who are having thoughts. The opposite is overidentification in which people identify and fuse themselves together with negative thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness, however, allows people to view negative emotions and experiences realistically while cultivating an open and flexible perspective.
(Karris, page 193)
Mindfulness allows myself to view the negative emotions and experiences realistically. They are not who I am and do not define me. Mindfulness allows space where I can observe the thoughts and make a choice whether they come from God or come from the Accuser. Part of the process is when I experience negative thoughts, I can hand them over to my loving Father and release them to him who “throws them as far as the east is from the west.” (Ps. 103:12)
To experience truth-based awareness, we need the light of God’s Spirit to expose what is hidden in the dark recesses of our hearts. Then, we can then hear God’s loving, compassionate truth spoken into our inner most being, reminding us of our true identity that we are forgiven and unconditionally loved.
(Karris, page 196)
Ephesians 5:13–14 (CEB): 13 But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. 14 Everything that is revealed by the light is light
My wife calls this transmuting. After I have transmuted the negative thoughts and emotions, I am free to live in my true identity as someone who is fully loved, and fully forgiven. Karris calls this “letting go and letting God.” Alcoholics Anonymous calls this “dropping the rock.”
Karris’ book was appropriate after having an intense discussion with a trusted friend. We were at a standstill in our relationship, and after lunch, this book popped up on my radar. It spoke to me things that I needed to hear about self-love, self-compassion, and self-kindness.
Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.
A sophiological Christianity focuses on the path. It emphasizes how Jesus is like us, how what he did in himself is something we are also called to do in ourselves. By contrast, soteriology tends to emphasize how Jesus is different from us—“begotten, not made,” belonging to a higher order of being—and hence uniquely positioned as our mediator.
(Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Wisdom Jesus (p. 21). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.)
“Sophia is the mercy of God in us. She is the tenderness with which the infinitely mysterious power of pardon turns the darkness of our sins into the light of grace (Thomas Merton Quote). . .
Having in our last triad (on the Law of Three) become intimately familiar with Spirit’s lineage and with the nuptial union that has sealed its identity forever, we can thus boldly proclaim that the illuminating, active principle now in the role of holy affirming is none other than Christosophia, the fully androgynous Christ-Spirit, bearing within it the realized potential of both male and female: Wisdom, Word, Mercy. Those two streams of yin and yang, pure explosion and pure awareness, which we saw separating in the second triad, are now fully reunited as they flow back into the ocean carrying with them all that has grown along their banks.
Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (pgs. 153, 184). Shambhala. Kindle Edition
So I am in a class on Ancient Gnostic Christianity with my friend Matthew Reeves-Korpman. The class is more than just discussing and analyzing the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi, it is also questioning some of the traditions that we were taught. One of the things that I was taught in my Evangelical circles is that Jesus, is God’s only begotten son. Due to the sin of Adam, we are all separated from God and are not God’s children. Because of what Jesus had done in his conception, incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, he is the bridge between the God-head and ourselves. I disagree with this. Everyone is made in the image of God (Gen.1:27), and because of God being in us, we are all part of God and God is part of us (panentheism). I believe the “church” has been on a power trip for the past 1800 years (since Constantine), and has always tried to be the mediator between humanity and God. All of this was finalized at an ecumenical council in Nicea overseen by Constantine where the Nicene Creed was crafted. It was creed of affirmations of what Orthodoxy became without any wiggle room. We were never empowered to think for ourselves. Sacraments, priests, pastors, seminarians (like myself) were the ones with the knowledge, and then there was everyone else. The Greek word that the Gospel writers use is monogenes which literally means unique. Yes the Christ was present during the creation of the world, and has a special place in the fullness of God which Trinitarian theologians call the immanence of God, yet we are like God.
Yet God descended and dwelt among us to reveal the light of the Godself in all of us. There is no bridge, just a revealing of our true nature. Salvation like what Cynthia says above is more of journey of ascent through theosis and transformation. Richard Rohr being a collegue of Cynthia at the Center of Action and Contemplation says that recovery is transformation which leads to salvation. The Apostle Peter says that we might be “partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4) In English, this is called divinization, in Eastern Orthodox tradition it is called theosis, and in Evangelicalism it is called sanctification or transformation. An early church Father Athanasius has been quoted to say:
Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373): “The Son of God became man that we might become god. . . . [It is] becoming by grace what God is by nature.”  Athanasius is almost directly quoting St. Irenaeus (125–203) who taught the same. (Richard Rohr – Daily Meditations – September 12, 2018)
The Gnostics also taught this co-participation with God or what they called the “fullness” or the “Entirety”. In the Apocryphon of John Barbelo/Sophia descended three times to reveal Gnosis to humankind to awaken them from their ignorance. This is also true within the Gnostic Text Trimorphic Protennoia as well. According to his text:
I am the life of my Epinoia that dwells within every Power and every eternal movement 15 and (in) invisible Lights and within the Archons and Angels and Demons and every soul dwelling in [Tartaros] and (in) every material soul. I dwell in those who came to be. I move in 20 everyone and I delve into them all. I walk uprightly, and those who sleep I [awaken]. And I am the sight of those who dwell in sleep. I am the Invisible One within the All. 25 It is I who counsel those who are hidden, since I know the All that exists in it. I am numberless beyond everyone. I am immeasurable, ineffable, yet whenever I [wish, I shall] reveal myself 30 of my own accord. I [am the head of] the All. I exist before the [All, and] I am the All, since I [exist in] everyone. (Three Forms of First Thought)
So, the question is what does this have to do with the above? Epinoia (Insight is a reflection of Forethought and is later indentified as Sophia). She dwells within every living soul, moves in everyone, awakens those that are asleep, is the head of the All (the Godhead), and is within everyone. I believe she is the Godspark or God-seed that is within all of us. This is what Jesus calls the Kingdom of God. According to Nicola Denzey Lewis, “repeatedly, we read that Protennoia indwells every single sentient being in the cosmos, including all human beings (Protennoia 35:12). We ourselves contain Protennoia, the divine First Thought.” (page 201). This is different from the prologue from John’s Gospel where the Word is unique “only begotten” and the darkness is still dark since his own did not recognize him. (John 1:10). What is striking about this text is that the God-seed that is within all of us is lying dorment ready to be awakened and filled with light. Lewis explains this as “it makes it clear that everyone has a “seed” (or spark) of the divine within, and that the divine voice can call out from within all people. Furthermore, this indwelling of the light explains why people are drawn to God in the first place: we all recognize, instinctively (or through Gnosis/intuition), we carry the seed of divinity that enables our enlightenment.” (ibid)
[I] am the real Voice. 15 I cry out in everyone, and they recognize it (the voice], since a seed indwells [them].
This is exactly the type of Sophia-ology that Cynthia discusses above. There is no bridge. Christ is already within all of us. There is no middle man. No bridge either being the church, apostolic succession of the bishops, no bible, just the God-spark within. This is the good news that the world needs to hear. We are not screw ups, enslaved by original sin/trauma, we are deeply loved, children of God, not because of a confession, but because of who we are and who already dwells within us. We are co-partners with the Divine in helping those that are asleep awaken and ascend. We are all one, no one is unique or different than anyone else. Union with God is what the mystics have always pursued. We are all one. This is radical.
Jesus replied, “It is he to whom I dip the piece of bread and give it to him.” Then after dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. And after the piece of bread, then Satan entered into him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you are doing, do quickly!” (Joh 13:26-27 LEB)
They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas. (Ireneaus – Against Heresies 1.31.1)
22Judas said to him, “I know who you are and which place you came from—23you came from the realm of the immortal Barbelo—24but I am not worthy to proclaim the name of the one who sent you.” (Judas 2:22-24) Pagels, Elaine. Reading Judas . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
3But when Jesus heard, he laughed. 4He said to him, “Why are you getting all worked up, thirteenth god? 5But you too speak, and I will hold you up.” (Judas 9:1-3) (Ibid)
I remember, my first association with Neo-Gnostics was a church called Rays of Light in Columbus, Ohio. This is a Christian Spiritualist Denomination following the teachings of a Spirit Teacher named “White Lily.” Like many Spiritualist churches, divine revelation comes from the “other side” by channelers. Bible passages that are taught come from inspiration from the spirit realm. Anyway, I asked the pastor if he believed Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. He said to me an emphatic “no.” The Gospel by which most Orthodox (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Charismatic) is the Gospel preached by Paul and is absent in the synoptic Gospels. The Gospel according to Paul is contained in 1 Corinthians 15:3, which says “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” This Gospel is denied or ignored by most Gnostic writings. Jesus death and resurrection was inconsequential to the writer of the Gospel of Judas. True enlightenment is perceived, “by seeking the spirit within themselves, they can overcome the rulers of chaos and oblivion, see God, and enter the heavenly house of God above. And they can do this even as they live in this world.” (Pagels and King, Kindle Location 1282)
The Gospel of Judas was discovered in Egypt in the late 1970’s near El-Minya, and had it’s coming out party in 2006 after years of acquiring the texts from antiquities dealers. The Gospel of Judas which is part of the Tchacos collection was dated to 280 CE. Like many of the ancient texts that didn’t make it into the New Testament Canon, there is a sense of mystery and controversy that surrounds it. Scholars were able to confirm the content of the text from what Irenaeus alluded to in his huge book entitled, “Against Heresies” one of the first books to be an apologetic against Gnostism by proto-orthodox. According to Pagels and King, the main questions that the author of the Gospel of Judas asks, is “who is God, and how are we to react to who God is.” (King and Pagels, page – Kindle Location 902)
There are many reasons why the text is controversial. First and foremost this Gnostic text turns Judas Iscariot into an anti-hero which makes Hollywood movies famous. Second, it is a Gnostic text probably attributed to the Sethian form of Gnosticism since it mentions Seth (Judas 11:5), Barbelo, the great mother (2:22-24), and has elements of the Gnostic Myth and cosmology (Judas 10-14). Third, it is controversial because it is an indictment against organized religion and apostolic succession which was promoted by the bishops of the proto-orthodox tradition. Lastly, it was controversial because it condemned the cult of the martyrs perpetuated by early Christian Fathers like Tertullian, Ireneaus, and Justin Martyr.
Organized religion centered around sacrifice whether it was the animal sacrifices of Second Temple Judaism, or the belief in Christ’s sacrifice was condemned by the author. They write:
51Jesus said to them, “You are the ones you saw receiving offerings at the altar. 2That is the ‘God’ you serve. 3And you are the twelve men whom you saw. 4And the domestic animals you saw being brought for sacrifice are the multitude you are leading astray upon that al[t]ar. 5[The ruler of chaos will es]tablish himself, 6and this is how he will make use of my name. 7And the race of the pious will adhere tenaciously to him. 8After this, another man will take the side of the for[n]ic[ators], 9and another one will stand with those who murder children, 10and yet another with those who lie with men, 11and those who fast, 12and all the rest of impurity and lawlessness and error, 13and those who say, ‘We are equal to angels’—14and they are the stars which bring everything to completion. 15For it has been said to the races of humans, ‘Behold God received your sacrifice from the hands of a priest’—that is to say, from the minister of error. 16But it is the Lord—the one who is the Lord over the entire universe—who commands that they will be put to shame at the end of days.” 17Jesus said [to them], “Cease sac[rificing…………]. 18Itis upon the alt[a]r that yo[u………] [for they are] over your stars and your angels, having already been completed there. 19Let them become [….] again right in front of you, and let them… (Judas 5 – Pagels, Elaine. Reading Judas . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
The twelve priests that the disciples saw receiving sacrifices were themselves. They were the ones that led many astray. Jesus said they minister in error, and the god they praise is a false god, whom the writer calls Saklas, or the creator god from Genesis which is a clear sign that this text is Gnostic. Again, the writer is pointng out the false beliefs, rituals, and doctrine of proto-orthodoxy which will eventionally become the Roman Catholic Church and Greek Orthodox Church. Also, the sacrifices that the writer is indicting are not only the animal sacrifices of Second Temple Judaism, but also the martyrs of those Christians who give themselves up for the allegiance of Christ against the pagan Roman state. Martyrdom was put on a pedestal by the proto-orthodox and highly prized form of worship. Yet, both Gnostic Christians, and Proto-Orthodox Christians were indeed persecuted by the Roman State. According to Eusebius about Justin Martyr’s martyrdom:
1 About this time93 Justin, who was mentioned by us just above,94 after he had addressed a second work in behalf of our doctrines to the rulers already named,95 was crowned with divine martyrdom,96 in consequence of a plot laid against him by Crescens,97 a philosopher who emulated the life and manners of the Cynics, whose name he bore. After Justin had frequently refuted him in public discussions he won by his martyrdom the prize of victory, dying in behalf of the truth which he preached. 2 And he himself, a man most learned in the truth, in his Apology already referred to98 clearly predicts how this was about to happen to him, although it had not yet occurred. (Eusebius – Church History – E-Sword)
According to Elaine Pagels and Karen King, in their book entitled, Reading Judas,
So the problem for the author of the Gospel of Judas is not simply resistance to martyrdom. He does not criticize the martyrs themselves, nor does he say that dying as a martyr is a bad thing. Rather, he is angry at the meaning other Christians give to the deaths of Jesus and his followers, targeting those who claim that God desired Jesus’s death as a sacrifice that God not only wills but commands…And yet we now know that some Christians reacted with anger, vociferously objecting when others glorified martyrdom. The stakes were high, and the arguments intense. What we hear in the Gospel of Judas is a sharp, dissenting voice.
The Gospel of Judas criticizes organized religion, primarily proto-orthodoxy as a false religion. It claims that the followers of Jesus descended from the disciples worship the false god, Saklas, and are bent upon sacrifice which is also a criticism of martyrdom. During the time that this gospel was written, it was dangerous to be a Christian, whether proto-orthodox or Gnostic. Also since this is a Gnostic text salvation is not found in the work of Jesus death and resurrection, but within wisdom of Jesus revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom, the knowledge of the universe, and the orders of the cosmos. (Judas 2:25-32).
The character of Judas within this Gnostic text is that of the anti-hero. Per Jesus instruction, he would hand Jesus over to be betrayed (Meyer 58, 9-29). He will be vindicated because he is the “thirteenth daimon (spirit, demon, god) and like Sophia in the Wisdom of Sophia will return to the “13th realm.” (Meyer, page 757). Judas is vindicated through grief and suffering, and will rule within his realm. Death is only the beginning of stepping into the infinite, not the end.
I was sent out from power I came to those pondering me And I was found among those seeking me 2 Look at me, all you who contemplate me Audience, hear me Those expecting me, receive me 3 Don’t chase me from your sight Don’t let your voice or your hearing hate me 4 Don’t ignore me any place, any time Be careful. Do not ignore me 5 I am the first and the last I am she who is honored and she who is mocked I am the whore and the holy woman 6 I am the wife and the virgin I am he the mother and the daughter I am the limbs of my mother 7 I am a sterile woman and she has many children I am she whose wedding is extravagant and I didn’t have a husband 8 I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth I am the comfort of my labor pains 9 I am the bride and the bridegroom And it is my husband who gave birth to me I am my father’s mother, My husband’s sister, and he is my child
The above is an excerpt from the Gnostic text, Thunder: Perfect Mind. This translation comes from the New New Testament edited by Hal Taussig. According to Elaine Pagels, “the author of Thunder: Perfect Mind saw Sophia/Eve/Isis as the divine energy underlying all existence, human and divine.” (Elaine Pagels – Adam, Eve and the Serpent). She represents balance as we celebrate the fall equinox during this season. It is one of the texts that we will be discussing this week in my Gnostic texts. It is very similar to the Hymn of Isis and Sophia from the Wisdom of Solomon. It is a text that is full of life, full of complexity and opposites. Yet within the opposites, one can find the perfect balance in the tension of the in-between. Similar to the yin/yang of the Tao.
In the book of Sirach writes about Sophia being with God during creation – “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and I covered the earth like a mist. I lived in the heights and my throne was in pillar of cloud. I alone encircled the vault of heaven and walked in the depths of abysses. In the waves of the sea and in every land and among every people and nation, I led the way. “ (Sirach 24:3-7 CEB)
According to Sergius Bulgakov’s book entitle “Unfading Light,” Sophia is Divine Love. Since the world brought into being from nonbeing by Divine Love and in Divine Love, and since Sophia is Divine Love, creation is said to be accomplished through Sophia. Sophia is the boundary occupying the place between God and the world. Sophia is first of all the Holy Wisdom of Scripture; she is the Eternal Feminine of Goethe and Romanticism; she is absolute and relative, eternal and temporal, divine and creaturely. ‘With her face turned towards God, she is his Image, Idea, Name. Turned towards nothing, she is the eternal foundation of the world, Heavenly Aphrodite, as Plato and Plotinus called her in a true presentiment.” (Bulgakov’s Journey towards the Unfading Light -Kindle Loc. 628)
The person writing this piece represents the feminine both in the world that it embodied back in the third century, and also is an archetype of the Divine Feminine represented by every woman throughout the world. She is what Bulgakov called the “Eternal Feminine, the ideal, intelligible world, the all-one.” This is exactly what is characterized by the beautiful poetic writing of the Coptic-Gnostic text, Thunder: Perfect Mind.
She asks those that hear her, not to ignore her, not to chase her away, but to listen to her wisdom and receive her.
She mentions opposites:
1. The first and last;
2. One who is honored and mocked;
3. The mother and the daughter;
According to Richard Rohr in his book, the Wisdom Pattern, he writes:
Jesus – He is the archetype of what it means to be a full human being. He holds together heaven and earth, divine and human, a male body with a female soul. He is a living example of full consciousness, which is precisely to accept the usually rejected unconscious, fear-filled, and shadowy parts of reality. He’s the son of God and the son of Adam. (Richard Rohr – Wisdom Pattern)
Like Jesus, we also hold the tension within us of both light and shadow, heaven and earth (Spirit and Matter), sons and daughters of the Divine, and fully human, both masculine and feminine.
I am the mind and the rest I am the learning from my search And the discovery of those seeking me 11 The command of those who ask about me And the power of powers In my understanding of the angels Who were sent on my word 12 And the Gods in God, according to my design And spirits of all men who exist with me And the women who live in me 13 I am she who is revered and adored And she who is reviled with contempt 14 I am peace and war exists because of me I am a foreigner and a citizen of the city 15 I am being I am she who is nothing 16 Those who do not participate in my presence, don’t know me Those who share in my being know me 17 Those who are close to me, did not know me Those who are far from me, knew me
We find our sense of being in those opposites, within the yin and yang of life. This being who wrote this embodies all that there is, true wisdom, true knowing and being known.
In the Nag Hammadi text known as The Thunder: Perfect Mind an unnamed figure who is clearly Sophia proclaims, “I am knowledge and ignorance.” The primordial consciousness thus contains at the same time the impulse toward its own downfall and toward its own liberation. Its dual motion—inward, toward unity, and outward, toward manifestation—furnishes and propels the lifeblood of the cosmos. (Richard Smoley – Inner Christianity: an Esoteric Guide)
I love this quote from Richard Smoley, this polarity is the lifeblood of the cosmos. Just as Sophia says we need to hear her voice, and not turn her away from her call. We need to embrace the polarity of the opposites and find freedom within the tension of the liminal space. This is where we find balance. We cannot reject the masculine and the feminine that resides within us. Within the tension of the polarity there is oneness as unity is contained within the diverse opposites.
To end, quoting Richard Rohr:
When the opposing energies of any type collide within us, we suffer. If we agree to hold them creatively until they transform us, it becomes redemptive suffering.