Though Gnosticism long preceded Christianity, the Gnostics were the first Christians; they accepted Christ in the full realization of the word; his life, not his death, was the keynote of their doctrine and their practice. Thousands of years before the Egyptian Seers prognosticated the spiritual evolution of the soul in the seven stages of probation in the life beyond the grave. They conceived of a mystical Christos, a divine type of character that could only be attained through the soul’s conflict with evil in the spiritual spheres of nebulous idealism. The Gnostics welded the ancient mythos into mundane practicability. They recognized the divine nature of the Universe, the eternal progression of all things, and of the human in particular.
Therefore, it is easily conceivable that they were misunderstood, maligned and discredited by the crude primitive minds of the Goth, the Vandal and the Hun, who had drunk too deeply of the draught of oblivion to remember their former phases of existence.
“...Swiney has much in common with modern scholars like Elaine Pagels or Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, who attempt to restore the lost voices of the women of early Christianity… The Esoteric Teachings of the Gnostics is an important book.” ~ by Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History, Baylor University.
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THE ESOTERIC TEACHING OF THE GNOSTICS
IT is said by the occultists that the present spiritual evolution - of man will proceed, not through a new inspiration or a new gospel, but by a more thorough knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the ancient and forgotten wisdom of past ages, uniting it in harmony with the scientific truths gained by modern research. This renaissance of the religious literature of archaic faiths will come as a revelation to all who are moved by the spirit to discern the deep esoteric realities underlying the symbolism and phraseology of the seers and mystics of old times. The modern nations have up to now been fed spiritually upon the milk for babes; the sublimist truths have been hid from their eyes; they have been as children, knowing little, but guessing much. Full of hopes and fears, of surmises, theories, make-believes and illusions.
Possibly, as Mead remarks in Alexandria, in the first century A.D. the Wisdom-lovers, the various sects of Gnostics, tried to discover a world-religion, to create a theosophy which would appeal to all minds; but the new race, then springing up, was incapable of comprehending the abstract principles, the abstruse reasoning, the sublime idealisation of the matured Eastern mind; matured by centuries of experience, by aeons of suffering, learning and contemplation. The European peoples, composed mostly of strong, virile barbarians, could not comprehend the subtle arguments, the fine distinctions of the Eastern philosophers. They lost touch with the pristine truths of the higher soul-life, because their consciousness was not sufficiently evolved so as to be able to seize their significance and importance. Like children they put by for a more convenient season the problems of life, which ever demand a solution.
Thus the Gnostics invariably taught the doctrine of re-incarnation; they insisted upon the Karmic Law, the inexorable working out of cause and effect; they taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is to be sought for within a man, it is the “blessed nature of all things, which were and are still to be. That the real human is male-female, devoid of differentiated sexuality; the duality of manifestation now existing being a transitory phase of experience; therefore whoever would progress must strive to abandon the dual nature and return to the oneness of the eternal essence, where there is neither male nor female, as now, but a new and complete creature, ” the woman perfected,” the super-man who comprises and surmounts man.
They believed in the Forgiveness of Sins, but in no vicarious sacrifice for sin. That monstrous doctrine was formulated by men who shrank from living Christ in themselves. Though Gnosticism long preceded Christianity, the Gnostics were the first Christians; they accepted Christ in the full realisation of the word; his life, not his death, was the key-note of their doctrine and their practice. Thousands of years before the Egyptian Seers prognosticated the spiritual evolution of the soul in the seven stages of probation, in the life beyond the grave. They conceived of a mystical Christos, a divine type of character that could only be attained through the soul’s conflict with evil in the spiritual spheres of nebulous idealism. The Gnostics welded the ancient mythos into mundane practicability. They recognised the divine nature of the Universe, the eternal progression of all things, and of the human in particular. Therefore, it is easily conceivable that they were misunderstood, maligned and discredited by the crude primitive minds of the Goth, the Vandal and the Hun, who had drunk too deeply of the draught, of oblivion to remember their former phases of existence. The Gnostics cast their pearls before swine, who straightway turned and rent them.
“The greatest sin of the Gnostics was,” says Mead, ” that they were centuries before their time;” for ” the Gnostic genius, like a mighty eagle, left the world behind it, and soared in wider and ever wider circles towards the pure light, towards pure knowledge, in which it lost itself in ecstasy.” But the world-race was not yet ready to receive a full revelation of that highly evolved soul-wisdom. It required a simpler faith adapted to its needs; the higher mysteries had perforce to be withheld from the majority of the early Christians, for they laughed them to scorn, or hated what they could not understand, as ignorance has ever done. Thus, by the uninformed, narrow-minded fathers of the primitive Church, the Gnostic heresy or philosophy was suppressed, its followers unrelentingly persecuted and its literature destroyed.
It may truly be said “that the bloodiest and blackest records that history can show us” are the attacks of the Orthodox Church upon the Gnostic mystics, the guardians of the most sacred truths of existence, and the teachers of the higher life of the soul. For we must remember that the normal undeveloped man weighs and judges by his senses, by the things he feels: the reflex action of environment governs and controls his consciousness. For environment is moulding him, not he environment.
We may call it material consciousness of the things seen, the response of the denser grades of matter to outside excitation, the call of life from without in the lower scale of cosmic vibrations as regards their relation to the simpler and obvious phenomena of nature.
But as man develops through sense-experience to the higher consciousness of things unseen, he approximately makes his environment, for knowledge brings relative conquest over conditions. Beyond is wisdom, i.e., harmony with the Universal Consciousness, wherein the unit is perfected. Hence the Gnostics, as the fast decreasing exponents of the old-world knowledge, were imbued with the imperishable memories of the past; from the things seen, felt, and handled they drew the analogy of the things that are invisible, and discovered, to a certain degree, the underlying unity in the Cosmic Procession, through the various stages of manifestation and transmutation.
Gnosticism therefore aimed at the unity of religions, the unity of men in the supreme abstract principles of justice, truth, purity and love, in a universal harmony between the faith and the works; and this at a time when the most irreconcilable theories were in vogue, and men, restless and unsatisfied, hated each other for the love of their Gods. No wonder then that the Gnostics were regarded with suspicion as dreamers of idle dreams, as madmen whose ravings would disturb the smug hypocrisy of the irreligious world, devoted to the letter and not to the spirit; and whose logical reasoning would question the arbitrary dicta of the so-called orthodox Hierarchy which anathematised all orthodoxies but its own. Let them be suppressed. They were an incongrous element in a Church pledged to self-advancement and material gain, whose adherents fought among themselves for supremacy, who should be the greatest. For a man, whether Christian or otherwise, must have his passions, his natural desires, his love of wealth, conquest and power. And thus, for close upon two thousand years, the Gnostics have been under a ban, and their voices silenced. But now another day has dawned.
A day that heralds a clearer, purer light, a day which has sent its rays farther and wider than any day before, and has brought before our eyes much of the ancient wisdom, and many of the long-forgotten gospels of these despised Gnostic philosophers, possibly the greatest mystics who ever lived, and also the men who saw deepest into the truth of things. They spoke of that which they knew, of spiritual experience in sublime realities.
In the century before Christ, and in the first and second centuries A.D., there was a strange resemblance to the temper of the last three centuries of our own time. Religion of form and dogma had lost its hold on the educated and the thinkers; “skepticism” and “science” and “misunderstood Aristotelian philosophy were alone worthy the man of genius.” There were “emancipated women” also, early pioneers of the liberation movement of their sex; “dialectical daughters,” questioning the truth and authority of received opinions; earnest intellectual women, who, joining the leading schools of thought, devoted themselves to the numerous mystic communities established in various parts of the Mediterranean shores; and who, under a perpetual vow of virginity, gave themselves up of their own free will, to the exclusive study of Wisdom’s laws. Their longing was not for mortal children, after the flesh, but for a deathless offspring, ” which the soul which is in love with the Divine can alone bring forth,” not in time but in eternity, born of immortal mind. These spiritual children are now being reborn into the world of manifestation.
Now it is well known that the earliest casuistical writings can only be traced to the second century AD., while the Pauline epistles were never spoken of as sacred inspired Scriptures before A.D. 138, but the earliest prescribed Gnostic gospels can be identified with writers who lived in the latter part of the first century and in the beginning of the second A.D. ‘We, therefore, have, in the few mutilated relics that remain of these writings, the most valuable evidence of what primitive Christianity really was, and what was the contemporary opinion of Christ and His teaching. Of these fragments the Coptic translation from the Greek of the Gospel of
Pistis Sophia, or the “Faithful Wisdom,” is the most remarkable and the most full of valuable instruction to us in these days of dense materialism.
For the theme of Pistis Sophia is the history of the Soul’s descent into the grosser forms of matter, and its redemption through the Christos, the Divine Life. Christ, the Risen Lord, Himself relates this cosmic allegory to His disciples for according to the Gnostics, Jesus remained eleven years on earth after the Resurrection, instructing His disciples and the faithful hand of women in many of the mysteries of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven, and revealing to them the sublimest truths as they were able to bear them. And many they understood not, for their spiritual eyes had not been fully opened, therefore they erred in the interpretation of the mysteries. Moreover, philosophies, theories, hypotheses, tradition and prejudice had darkened and overlaid the supreme truth of monism, the oneness of cause and effect, of spirit and matter.
Men had to a great extent travelled far from first principles and single purposes. They had lost in the maze of their own imagination the golden thread of continuity in the Eternal Procession. First, therefore, Christ emphasised the mystery of the Divine Feminine, “the mystery within the veil,” which is before all mysteries, ‘‘even the Father in the likeness of a Dove,” the Eternal Mother. For in the apotheosis of the masculine phase of soul-consciousness the fundamental truth of the Divine Motherhood was almost obliterated from the existing cults. The exaltation of the Father and the God had infringed on the supreme prerogatives of the Mother and the Creatrix, the self-existent one. The Dove was in all archaic faiths the symbol of the Immaculate Virgin, who of Herself, produced the male, the Father, the Son and the God. The Oneness of the sublime cause was in danger of being forgotten, also the supreme truth that the “Father” shall also attain to the likeness of “the Mother,” the supernal Ogdoad, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. “I am come” says the Christ, “from that first mystery, which is also the last mystery;” and he goes on to explain that all emanations are from that mystery of the Divine Mother, and must return to it, because of it all mysteries exist, and all their regions, or phases of consciousness, for it is their life and substance. Even as science reveals that all life has a feminine origin. By mystery is meant the hidden meaning, the substance and the truth of things manifest; the reality of things unseen, that are only revealed to the Spirit in Man. For matter in all forms is the objective manifestation of Spirit, both being One.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Size: 229 x 152 mm