Monthly Archives: September, 2005

Verses 27, 28 and 56

I’m sorry I missed the discussion about the scriptures that referred to Light. I’ve been ill, plus I had “hurricane company”. I’m trying to get caught up.

Verses 27, 28 and 56 all seemed to tie in together very well. They spoke to me deeply.

In verse 27 Jesus speaks about fasting from the world and keeping the Sabbath. He warns that neither the Kingdom nor the Father will be found or known unless we hearken to this need in us.

And it IS a need. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and dry out spiritually, becoming dull and apathetic. We lose our ability to discern the Presence.

I see Meredith is going on retreat. How appropriate. We NEED those times of retreat, of refreshing away from the concerns and demands of the world. Scheduling in retreat time, whether it is at a center for a week or to the park for the day, is necessary to retain our spiritual vitality. We need those set-apart times to clear our minds and cleanse our hearts. To reconnect with our Beloved.

I like how the Sabbath is mentioned. Many don’t take a regular, weekly break from the routine. They don’t have a time each week set apart to remember God. This does real harm. I like the idea of taking Mini-Sabbaths, as well. Moments stolen throughout the day where we stop for a moment, breathe, remember God and recapture that which so easily slides away. To keep a fire burning requires attention.

That’s why verse 28 ties in so well. Jesus is mourning the state of the world — all of these people who are FULL of so much stuff — So full that there is no room for him. It is easy to live our lives half-asleep, being lulled by all of the entertainment and distractions that are thrown at us daily. It takes real determination and perseverance to stay awake and sober. This is a good reminder of how easily we become drunk on things that don’t matter a whit, becoming blinded to the things that do.

Verse 56 just caps it off with its assertion that a life lived half-awake, drunk with meaningless things and blinded by a lack of Light is death. It is a corpse walking. But if we see this and rise to open the door for our Beloved, we become saturated with Light and the darkness flees. True life – abundant and vigorous, devoted to God and blessed beyond measure – is described well in these three verses.

Another Set of Sayings – The World

Here’s a group to work on when you are through working on ‘Light’:
(The N.T. has a very special meaning for ‘world’: it generally refers to the ‘fallen world’, which the devil offered to Jesus when he was tempted in the wilderness.)

27 Jesus said: If you fast not from the world , you will not find the kingdom; if you keep not the Sabbath as Sabbath, you will not see the Father.
(Leloup directs us to Matthew 5:8-20, which gives us some idea of what this saying may have meant to him.)

28 Jesus said: I stood in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found them all drunk, I found none among them thirsting; and my soul was afflicted for the sons of men, for they are blind in their heart and they do not see. For empty came they into the world, seeking also to depart empty from the world. But now they are drunk. When they have thrown off their wine, then will they repent.
(Notice the multiple meanings of the metaphor ‘drunk’ as opposed here to Saying 13. One of Leloup’s suggestions is John 6:35.)

56 Jesus said: He who has known the world has found corpse, and he who has found a corpse, the world is not worthy of him.
(which seems almost identical with the next one. Look at John 1:10)
80 Jesus said: He who has known the world has found the body, and he who has found the body, the world is not worthy of him.

110 Jesus said: He who has found the world and become rich, let him deny the world. (Matthew 16:24-26)

Thomas and the Light

Got your emails of concern (Larry and Meredith). Thank you but Thomas is not my problem. My issue is the reading strategies. Thomas is not my scripture. So I cannot read it like I would Mark or John or Luke. I need different reading tools. There are passages in Thomas that speak to me deeply and others that excite my intellectual curiosity. I’m okay with reading Thomas and discussing it. But I do so in the same way I read the Epic of Gilgamesh or Patanjali or the Analects. As somebody else’s scripture.

So our passages of concern all feature a reference to light. So my opening is light as metaphor. When reading the Tao Te Ching I realized that the metaphor of light/darkness may not mean the same in differing cultures and in differing spiritualities. It was a long time ago and I’m not sure of the passage. But on the face it looked very much like the opening of John’s gospel. But it said something very different. For the message was the Tao (the Way — the do in Bushido and Kendo) transcends light and darkness. But also, darkness was not bad. The metaphor was not light overcoming darkness the way the dawn dispels the night. Darkness was fertile and rich like black soil.

The Thomas passages:

Logoi 11: This starts very much like the canonical Jesus saying about heaven and earth passing away. But it takes us someplace else I have no notion about where. Intellectually I think it may relate to certain Gnostic myths — that our souls divide upon entering the earth — one half becomes male and the other female. But I’m uncertain about this or what the implications may be for me or anyone else if this is true.

(11) Jesus said: This heaven shall pass away, and that which above it shall pass away; and they that are dead are not alive and they that live shall not die. In the days when you were eating that which is dead, you were making it alive. When you come in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?

Logoi 24:I feel more on familiar territory here. It sounds like the canonical Jesus and his “you are the light of the world” and also the Quaker approach to the inward Christ. If you have an inward Light but it does not give light to the world it is not really an inward light. Mysticism without consequences for how we live is a false mysticism.

(24) His disciples said: Teach us concerning the place where thou art, for it is necessary for us to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man of light, and it gives light to the whole world. If it does not give light, there is darkness.

Logoi 61: This passage gives me trouble — again it echoes certain sayings of Jesus but seems to be saying something different. I seems to me to relate more to what James said than Jesus — if you pray with a wavering mind (two minds) do not expect to receive anything from the Lord. There is a very black/white either/or thing going on here which I don’t like — but that’s in the bible too. For me, and I trust for many others here, spirituality is more about grey journeying a path towards light rather than — you’re either pure light or plunged into darkness with nothing in between.

(61) Jesus said: Two shall rest upon a bed; one shall die, the other live. Salome said: Who art thou; O man? And whose son? Thou hast mounted my bed, and eaten from my table. Jesus said to her I am he who is from that which is equal; to me was given of the things of my Father. Salome said I am thy disciple. Jesus said to her Therefore I say, when it is equal it will be filled with light, but when it is divided it will be filled with darkness

Logoi 77: A clear unequivocal witness to the Cosmic Christ. This is Orthodox christology. It is also the christology of — for example, Teilhard de Chardin. This is then (finally) familiar territory for me. The key question, the same one we brought to John, is this. When Jesus says things like this — is it because he is the One sent? The incarnation of the One True God? Or is it because he has so deeply connected to God’s spirit in meditation, prayer and obedience that he has become transparent and the spirit speaks through him? I tend towards a high christology — I embrace the traditional doctrine of Incarnation. Others here see Jesus as a mystic and take the other approach. Maybe both are true.

(77) Jesus said: I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there.

Logoi 83:This is another that escapes me but it it also draws me. It is something maybe I will work with. I take it to mean, that God is accessible only through images (symbols). Light itself is an image/symbol. The symbols in some sense hide the light which they carry to us. There is also a promise that God (the “Father”) will reveal himself to us — and then the images will be hidden in the light (rather than the other way round).

(83) Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

This is a longish posting. And I am to an extent frustrated with it. I may have a reputation for approaching matters of spirit intellectually but I hope I journey thought the intellect towards the Spirit. Here I’m stuck trying to parse out the grammar. To tease out the implications for me for faith or spirituality or holy obedience will require much more searching than this space allows.

Thomas (and an apology)

Sorry for my apparent absence. Its been a hairy week — but one which has been fruitful. I have begun two evening classes this week — actually one started last week — and the one that started last week is actually in another city. I commute Thursday evenings — get home after 11PM and my alarm goes off at 10 to 5 the next morning. The workload — especially the paperwork part seems to be escalating at work. And my wife finally found a job — she started this week — it is looking very good — but it is throwing the routines around the place a bit off — like bedtimes and who gets in the shower first and such.

I have been reading folks postings — but not from home — from work –w when I should be doing other things.

For the most part I have enjoyed reading what folks had to say more than Thomas himself. Part of this is my energy levels — its simply easier to listen to friends talk amongst themselves then to read ancient scriptures of a long dead community when yer living butter tarts coffee and 5 hours of sleep.

The fact is I rely heavily on two reading strategies — my (hopefully) spirit-led intuitive sense of things and the narrative flow. They are related. Narrative flow triggers a niggle in the intuitive faculties.

Well. No narrative. Not even a vestigial narrative to get my hooks into. And of course — intuition really starts from healthful place as well.

So. My first impressions of the passages under consideration is — gaak! Followed shortly thereafter by eh? and er? and um.

My battle plan is to sleep in tomorrow and try again. If you have found my uncharacteristic lack of voice disturbing — I apologize. I’ve nearly fallen asleep on the commuter train trying to read a college textbook. And they don’t have much narrative flow either.

Saying 24 The Light L

24 His disciples said: Teach us concerning the place where thou art, for it is necessary for us to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man of light, and it gives light to the whole world. If it does not give light, there is darkness.

Light fills the Bible; I mean the word as well as the reality.
Look at Genesis 1, God’s first act of creation. This tells us something about the Bible and about the judeo/christian faith. It’s about light (and darkness). Fox was just describing the Bible when he said “there’s an ocean of light and an ocean of darkness”.

Or look at the N.T. at John 1:14. Sounds like a reproduction of Genesis 1.

Thomas, like the whole Bible, puts great emphasis on the metaphor of light. In this verse (22) he’s saying that there’s light in us and our light fills the whole world, unless it’s darkness.

Four metaphors: light and darkness: replacing good and evil. A duality that is supposed to become a unity.

5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Using a somewhat different metaphor it seems to me that Matthew is saying the very same thing.

Like Matthew and Thomas we each have our own vernacular, our own way of thinking, but joined together, our light comes together into a profound radiance. PTL

Thomas 83: Image and Light

83 Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

Main Point: This verse points out the difference between the way we recognize light and image, or form. We see a form or an image, whether it is a person, a stone, a mountain, or tree, but the light within form is not always so visible to us. We may just see an ordinary stone, or an ordinary person and think nothing more about it. However, it seems that once we recognize the marvel that is in front of us, we recognize the light within the form; in this moment it feels as though this grace has been revealed by God, and indeed is of God. Conversely, we recognize God’s light in the kind words of a friend, in little synchronicities, or in the vast beauty of a sunset, but we do not ever see a singular particular form that can be called God’s image. God’s image is everywhere and nowhere to be found.

New Light: This light within form is always present, but we must be awake to see this light. To me it is as though we first see a shape, or physical qualities that identify for us what we are looking at. And as we take a small journey into the form, we realize what a miracle this form is, but it is not only the form that is so awesome, it is the spirit within that gives it a radiance, a sparkle that literally brings it to life. I believe that it sometimes it takes something bold to happen in our lives to help us awaken, to see this radiance in all things. God’s light is often revealed in moments when we are not expecting it – such as during times of great stress, emotional turmoil, or profound love, but what is uniquely revealed is always the light or grace inherent in the form, not particular form itself.

Implications: One implication that comes readily to mind is that teaching story about helping a bedraggled stranger only to find out later that the stranger was actually a holy person, Jesus perhaps. We cannot always see or know holiness by our customary outward view of a person, which is just a form housing an inward light. We must look with fresh eyes through the outward form, with the same eyes with which God sees. A good question might be, “Who are we beyond our form?”

Problems: The traditional non-inclusive language is noticeable in these phrases relating to God as “Father” and “He.” Actually this doesn’t bother me too much, but it seems to me that this phraseology leads to misconceptions about God as being particular forms, or an image such as a patriarchic figure.

Thomas saying #77 / C

77 – Jesus said: I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there.

I must admit that I’m having a hard time understanding the sayings. I chose this one because I remember hearing it quoted in, of all places, the movie, Stigmata :-).

The story behind the movie is taken, in part, from the book, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield … an ancient Aramaic manuscript is found in some Mayan ruins deep in the jungle of Peru, and is suppressed by the Catholic Church. In the movie, Stigmata, the maunscript is found instead in Brazil and is, apparently, the gospel of Thomas. The church tries to suppress its message, which is quoted as … “The Kingdom of God is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me.” … it was feared everyone would go seriously Gnostic upon its revelation, and leave the church :-). In reality, of course, the Catholic Church hasn’t tried to supress the gospel of Thomas, though it hasn’t been added to the canon.

Does saying #77 mean what the movie-makers inplied … that Jesus meant we have no need of a church to be able to “find” him? I take it to not be so specifically anti-institution but instead to be about finding God in all things …

THE world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

– God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Light

Light is very big in Quaker circles; some people used it almost like a synonym for God. Fox considered light as God’s revelation to us day by day. He said that we’re surrounded by an ocean of light and an ocean of darkness.

Jesus said, of course “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 KJV). Here are six Thomas sayings about light (although in some of these the light may not be the primary interest):

11 Jesus said: This heaven shall pass away, and that which is above it shall pass away; and they that are dead are not alive and they that live shall not die. In the days when you were eating that which is dead, you were making it alive. When you come in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?

24 His disciples said: Teach us concerning the place where thou art, for it is necessary for us to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man of light, and it gives light to the whole world. If it does not give light, there is darkness.

50 Jesus said: If they say to you: Whence have you come?, tell them: We have come from the light, the place where the light came into being through itself alone. It [stood], and it revealed itself in their image. If they say to you: Who are you?, say: We are his sons, and we are the elect of the living Father. If they ask you: What is the sign of your Father in you?, tell them: It is a movement and a rest.

61 Jesus said: Two shall rest upon a bed; one shall die, the other live.
Salome said: Who art thou; O man? And whose son? Thou hast mounted my bed, and eaten from my table. Jesus said to her I am he who is from that which is equal (I come from the one who is Openness – Leloup); to me was given of the things of my Father. Salome said I am thy disciple. Jesus said to her Therefore I say, when it is equal it will be filled with light, but when it is divided it will be filled with darkness.
(Leloup says: “when the disciples are open,
they’re filled with light,
when they’re divided,
they are filled with darkness.”)

77 Jesus said: I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there.

83 Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

Report on research

49 of the sayings appear to be comparable to similar verses in one of the four gospels: 2, 9, 14a, 21, 26, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 52, 54, 58, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68,69, 71, 72, 73, 76, 78, 79, 86, 89, 90, 93, 94, 95, 96, 102, 103, 104, 107, 109,

I tagged 21 sayings as ‘strange’, perhaps without strong associations with the other gospels and sort of like riddles (to me at least):
7,8, 11, 13, 15, 18, 19, 28, 42, 43, 53, 60, 74, 81, 84, 87, 88, 92, 98, 101, 108,

I tagged 10 sayings that seem to bear on the kingdom of heaven: 3, 20, 49, 54, 57, 96, 97, 98, 107, 113

The remaining 34 were placed in these categories:

light: 11, 24, 50, 61, 77, 83

the world: 27, 28, 56, 80, 110

flesh and spirit: 14, 29, 53, 112 114

family: 25, 55, 99, 101, 105,

God: 3, 59, 60, 83, 111

two/one male/female 22, 23, 30, 61, 106, 114

Death: 1, 11, 18, 19, 85, 111

the child: 4, 21, 22, 37, 46

I suggest approaching the study initially with these 8 categories in succession.

There will then remain a number of smaller categories, and perhaps afterward we might tackle the 3 large categories. A few sayings were placed in more than one category. (I welcome any questions, correction, objections, or whatever.)

fire: 10, 16, 82

fast and pray: 6, 14, 27, 17, 104,

fire: 16, 82,

eye hath not seen: 17

end and beginning: 18, 51

All: 2, 67, 77,

within: 3, 24, 60, 70, 91,

Saying 1 – L

(I’ve read the comments in the ‘discussion’ and will try to carry out faithfully your wishes as best I can. Hopefully the next slice of the text will come on on Tuesday.)

And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of the words shall not taste of death.

A lot could be said about this statement. First we can say that it seems to agree completely with John, who said in 8:51: Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

The important thing is to try to get some grasp of what he means by death— not necessarily what we think of when we hear the word. There are many kinds of death, and what do Thomas and John mean with the word, or Paul for that matter?

IMO they aren’t referring primarily to physical death, but what Paul called “dead in your sins” (Ephesians 2:1-6). The dichotomy of life/death means being spiritually one or the other.

The N.T. has a great deal to say about life and death, almost always referring to spiritual rather than physical processes. Paul often talked about being dead to sin and alive with Christ. It seems likely that the writer of Thomas knew people who had “found the interpretation of the words” and then had died physically.

Thomas forces us to think of the two realms, the realm of matter and of spirit. Of course Eastern religions have made us aware that the two are not separate, but Thomas, and the N.T. writers as well, seem to have keen sense of the difference.

As we go through life physical death means less to us than the joy of spiritual life.