Reconciling Paradox

22) Jesus saw some infants at the breast. He said to his disciples: These little ones at the breast are like those who enter into the kingdom. They said to him: If we then be children, shall we enter the kingdom? Jesus said to them: When you make the two one , and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper side as the lower; and when you make the male and the female into a single one , that the male be not male and the female female; when you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter[the kingdom].

There is something about the rhythm of this scripture that sings to me. On the surface, I haven’t a clue what it means, but it sounds beautiful. As I look in more closely, I find threads of much deeper meaning, though it seems to me, possibly through translation, the verse doesn’t completely gel in English. For example, it begins with obvious opposites, make two one, make the outside as the inside, the upper as the lower, the male and the female, the eyes in place of an eye…but then a foot in place of a foot, a hand in place of a hand, and an image in place of an image…the opposite notion is a bit lost – or is it?

Basically I see this scripture refers to the paradoxes, and the dualistic way we usually view the world. Jesus is suggesting that these paradoxes and dualistic notions must be reconciled in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. He is also suggesting that we must be innocent, and perhaps ego-less, just as the little ones are. One enters the kingdom by recovering one’s original self, undivided by the differences between male and female, physical and spiritual. This presents the theme of unifying opposites.

This verse holds out our tendency to view dualistically and asks us to seek and find a different, fresh view of the world – just as Jesus did. The kingdom in this sense is a primordial place, of a time and a place that is all time, all place, neither beginning nor ending yet persisting in the present. Can we actualize Light, for example, that is within us as well as outside of us? Can we envision the kingdom that is not only above us, but below us? Can we move past our sexuality and our other differences, and simply be who we are originally? Can we see through the eyes, not our singular eye, but through the eye through which God sees? Can we touch with hands and walk with feet beyond our own? When we are able to reconcile these opposites, this scripture suggests that we will return to the kingdom, yet remain standing on the earth, but with a broadly altered construct of it.

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5 responses

  1. Dualism is an interesting subject. I think (but I could be wrong) that gnosticism is usually thought of a s being dualistic … th created world = the bad stuff. the spiritual = the good stuff. But this saying seems to ask us to put aside that duality.

  2. I like your way of examining this saying. I especially like the last paragraph, where you speak about us moving beyond ourselves to see with God’s eyes and move in step with God.I know almost nothing about the gnostics, but I remember someone (Larry?) saying that this is the least ‘gnosticy’ of those. Of course, he said it much smarter than that! 🙂

  3. Making the two one is becoming whole, like the little child is who has not yet learned to differentiate the world from himself.Making the inside as the outside, like Thomas Merton’s contemplative/active and Elizabeth O’Connor’s book named Journey in, Journey out. The import of both writers was that our actions should suit our words, and our thoughts.Psychology has come to understand (as wise people did for centuries) that the male and female are present in each of us and that individuation involves giving due time and/or recognition to each, rather than emulating John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe (pardon my dated archetypes).He’s talking about a new image- a new self-image, a new image of the world, or reality, of God; the other gospels talked about being reborn.

  4. make the inside as the outside and the outside as the inside…to me, I hear a call to authenticity. There is a lot of falsity in the world — the image we show others and who we actually are, whether we do this on purpose or not.Authenticity intrigues me — a friend once told me that I’m very real to her. I think about that sometimes. I’m always searching for the real me — I think that is where I find God and maybe God finds me.

  5. Crystal, gnosticism may be very dualistic, but I’m not sure Thomas was that much of a gnostic, more like a Christian imo. Meredith, the real me. Oh yes. I recall many, many years ago, when I was ‘on fire for God’, and two valued friends affirmed and confirmed me. I felt so young; I felt like a child, although I was 30. In my imagination at least, at that moment I was able to ‘take off me clothes and stomp on them” (Thomas 37). Pity I couldn’t remain like that forevermore (or at least I couldn’t seem to).

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