The Gnostic Jesus
the Institute for Gnostic Studies
fully understand the Gnostic view of Jesus involves a radical reappraisal of how
we see Christianity and Judaism. For the Gnostic, Gnosis is not the knowledge of
the masses, but a secret wisdom - a comprehension only available to those who know.
It is esoteric and results from a direct experience of the divine - exoteric
Christianity is at best, its outer core or form, at worst, it’s corruption.
The major stimulus for the rebirth of the Gnostic worldview was the discovery of
the Nag Hammadi texts, these texts discovered in 1945 comprise a veritable
library of esoteric wisdom, it comprised some fifty two texts in either part or
whole. Their importance cannot be underplayed, for example, Elaine Pagels in the
Gnostic Gospels states “ Now for the first time we have the opportunity to
find out about the earliest Christian heresy, for the first time the heretics
can speak for themselves”.
importance of these Gnostic texts is that they educate us regarding the
teachings of the early Gnostics and from these we can re-construct what could
probably be considered as “the first form of Christianity”. It seems from
available evidence likely that the modern forms of Judaism and Christianity are
the heresies that developed from this early Gnosis, rather than the other way
around. When we begin to consider this paradigm, then the find at Nag Hammadi
becomes of prime importance.
world came about through a mistake. For he who created it wanted to create it
imperishable and immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire.
central myth of the Gnostic tradition is the fact that there is something wrong
with the world.
the same time most modern Gnostic groups have come to realize that the
demonisation of matter is not the answer either. So what we come to appreciate
is that our perceptions are conditioning our experience of the world (maybe even
creating it) and hence since are perceptions are distorted so the world is
distorted. There are various myths given as to how this took place, and man’s
role in the process, but the general drift is that our perceptions have created
a prison and that man’s spiritual essence is locked within this perception.
Liberation comes through the awareness that our wrongful perceptions creates
forms and energies which are locking us in a prison of our own making and hence
man experiences that he is lost and a long way away from his home. The role of
Jesus is not as some legalistic sacrifice to a father God who demands blood, but
as a light being who comes from the higher levels of Light (the Aeons) to reveal
the truth about mans plight. Jesus comes as a revealer, a bringer of Gnosis, he
works at as catalyst for igniting the flame hidden within the heart of fallen
mankind. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas,
now seen as a historically reliable document, gives us a good indication as to
the nature of Salvation. Throughout its many short, cryptic statements there is
an emphasis on enlightenment and salvation through knowledge, rather than
through ethical or devotional means. Even the introduction to the Gospel of
Thomas makes this clear, liberation is through finding the knowledge hidden
within the secret sayings of Jesus and those who experience this knowledge
will not see death. This is a far cry from the modern fundamentalist who screams
“give you heart to Jesus” and you will be born again.
and the Christ
of the major points of agreement between all the early Gnostic movements was a
belief that Jesus and the Christ were not the same thing. Now this is not as
unusual as it first seems, indeed, Rev.Todd Ferrier, founder of The Order of the
Cross, a modern day Gnostic, suggests
that even the name Jesus was a codeword, and that the historical being who took
the names Jesus and Christ was using labels much akin to Sergeant Major or Loyal
Follower. In any event, the term Christ or Christos means anointed one, it is
similar to the Hebrew word Messiah. In Old Testament times there were many
Messiahs. The Essenes, for example, expected two Messiahs to arrive and many
believe that Jesus and his brother James were the two Messiahs so prophesied.
The term Messiah or Christ was an appellation or classification rather than a
name or title. The modern Christian claim that Jesus was the only Christ (or
Messiah) is simply not tenable when we examine the history of the term. The
concept of Messiah, Christ or “Sun King or Priest” can be traced through
ancient Israel to the Essenes, there were many Messiahs along the way leading up
to two specific prophesied roles, those of the Great Priest and King. From
available evidence, Jesus and James had been trained into these roles from birth
and at their respective baptisms became the two Messiahs. After the death of
Jesus, James took over the early Church as the Priest Messiah.
Death and Resurrection of Jesus
divides Jesus quite literally from the Christ, he believes that the Christ force
descended when Jesus was baptised and left prior to the crucifixion. While many
Gnostics wouldn’t quite go that far, they agree with Valentinus that it is
incongruous with the Gnostic tradition to place such emphasis on the crucifixion
of Jesus. Modern Christianity with its focus on Jesus’ suffering and death
seems to border on sado-masochism. For the Gnostic, pain and suffering are part
of the fallen worlds condition, they are the result of our fall into matter,
certainly Jesus suffered perhaps in as much that he had to take a fallen
physical vessel as in the indignities of his crucifixion. However, there is no
grace in suffering. The aim is to transcend matter, not wallow in its more
painful aspects. The suffering and death of Jesus illustrated the reaction of
the ignorant to the Gnosis, while his resurrection illustrated how death and
matter could be overcome. It is irrelevant whether Jesus physically came back
from the dead or not, since the Gnostics and Jesus have such contempt for
matter, it seems highly unlikely that the resurrection had much to do with a
re-enlivened corpse. It was an awakening to light, a Transfiguration rather than
some ghastly re-animation.
The Message of Jesus
message of Jesus needs to be seen in the context of man locked within the prison
of his own creation, to interpret Jesus as some sort of sacrifice demanded by a
deranged homicidal Jehovah says more about the mental state of modern man than
about the real message of Christianity. The role of Jesus is
that of a light being who comes from the Treasury of Light to reveal the
truth about the material plane. Jesus comes
as a revealer, a bringer of Gnosis, an opener of doors, he works to shatter the
prison that locks the true Self into the body and awaken the light which is
hidden within the heart of man. He comes as an emissary from a far away God, not
the false God of creation, the screaming, demanding, arrogant Lord of Matter,
but the true God, the “unrevealable, unmarked, ageless, unproclaimable Father
“ (Gospel of the Egyptians).
for Gnostic Studies, June 2000.
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