Thomas, Sayings 52 through 54

Monday, June 24, 2019

6:25 a.m. Saying 52.

They said to him: Twenty-four prophets spoke to Israel, and they all spoke of you. He responded to them: You have deserted the living one who is with you, and you spoke about the dead.

Again seems obvious, but Saying 51 turned out to be not so obvious. To me it compares reality with hearsay, or in-person with tradition or reputation. In short, two ways of approaching life. But Saying 51 seemed to say something similar, reality v. expectations.

And wasn’t that the problem Jesus had to deal with? He was trying to give people the key to living more fully, more abundantly, which means living in the moment, wide awake, seeing what is, rather than seeing through a veil of illusions and filters.

Yes, I see that.

Knowing that, you really know all there is in this Saying and the previous one, even if you do not understand every reference or nuance. There is always more to be learned, but there is no need to learn everything about anything in particular; it’s a question of what you want. Let’s proceed.

All right. Saying 53.

His disciples asked him: Is circumcision useful or not. He replied: If it were useful, then they would be born already circumcised. On the other hand, true circumcision in the spirit is entirely beneficial.

Sounds like, “This is a symbolic custom that symbolizes something real, but should not be taken literally.” Only, what is it, being symbolized?

“Circumcision in the spirit.” Well, I just looked up circumcision online and tried to read the religious idea that it represents purity of the spirit, but I don’t have a lot of patience with such discussions. Probably I should, but it’s like so many logical arguments, if you get the premise wrong, how can you get accurate results? Still, what they said seems to be what Jesus may have meant here.

Sex is a loaded topic, and the interconnection of sex and love – the line where they meet, perhaps we should say – is highly charged from both ends. This is why so many religious impulses tend to be puritanical, and why so many sexual impulses tend to be almost in rebellion against any strictures.

That isn’t quite clear to me. I know what you said, but I don’t see the mechanism you seem to be describing.

Sex and religion are both about transcendence and are both about self rather than community when they move in the opposite direction from each other.

Boy, you – or I?—one of us is having trouble with clarity this morning.

You phrase it, then.

I get that you mean, sex may be the pursuit of sensation alone or sensation and transcendence of the individual, and religion may be about – what shall we call it? – emotional transcendence?

What’s wrong with self-transcendence? That is, going beyond one’s usual experience of oneself, to connect with unsuspected depths and extent?

Say that, then. Religion may be about that, or it may be about that and (or even, I suppose, via) connection with others.

Still not clear to others, I suspect.

But a start. Keep trying.

It is the fashion these days to say “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual,” and by it people mean, I think, they are drawn to transcend mundane 3D reality, but they do not accept any social component to the quest.

Autistic spirituality, perhaps, thinking oneself alone in the universe.

Interesting way to look at it.

Also thinking oneself devoid of responsibility for others in 3D reality. But continue.

Well, I don’t quite know where I was going before you said that, but I am thinking both religion and sex are on a scale that has only the person on one end and on the other end is the person absolutely involved with someone else (in the case of sex) or with a community (in the case of religion). So, you can have sex while thinking about your own reactions and desires (at one end of the scale) or you can be concerned entirely with not you as one but with you as two. The one is more like autistic sensation-seeking, I suppose, and the other like seeking, maybe experiencing, transcendence. And if you look at religion, same way. On one end, concern for my soul, my salvation, my righteousness (or however one defines the core of the religious necessity) or else concern for our souls, salvation together, righteousness, etc. But I have the feeling that I’m losing sight of something here. Whenever I’m drawn to construct these tidy parallelisms, I get suspicious.

Not so bad. And I’d say you got the point of the Saying – which, remember, was intended to be shared among the community and discussed and explained, not hoarded and read in private. The early community understood this point. It was only when legalism and hierarchy began to take over from the spirit – the very thing Jesus had warned against – that the Christian communities began to resemble their Jewish ancestor communities in subservience to legalism and worship of the entombed (and misread) word over the living spirit.

This is precisely what Emerson object to in his day.

Human nature doesn’t change; the circumstances around it do, but they don’t really touch the core.

Is there more here specifically about sex?

You have to realize that although sex is always a matter of absorbing interest, theirs was not the supercharged atmosphere you live in. It was important, particularly to the burning young, but there are many things in life, and it was not exaggerated.

It wasn’t seen as the answer to everything.

No, nor was romance. Everything about life is matter-of-fact until illusions, filters, screens, inhibitions, prohibitions, repetitions endow it with numinous qualities – even sex, even religion.

Shall we go on to Saying 54?

Jesus said: Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Well remembered. Everyone has heard it from the narrative gospels.

Yes, heard it. Understood it? Look at it in context, as usual.

I notice it doesn’t say “poor in spirit,” just poor. What are we missing?

About all of it!

We’re here to be enlightened, if you can provide the light.

After you.

I’d say it means, possessions tether us to concerns that may distract us from reality.

As we said, almost all of it.

Well you do it then.

You have to define terms. What is “poor.” What is “the Kingdom of Heaven”?

I took poor to mean what it says.

Can it be about possessions, or rather lack of them? Do you really think scrambling for a living every day makes people more able to attain the Kingdom?

The poor are proverbially more generous to those in need than the rich.

You might find that as usual what is proverbial is – call it capricious. That is, better not count on it. But to answer the question, more directly?

I still think it has to do with lack of binding attachments.

Perhaps this is why the saying became modified to “poor in spirit,” to make that distinction?

Are you asking rhetorically as a way of telling?

Look at the Saying. It is short and unhedged. So who are the poor, what is the kingdom? And notice, as phrased it doesn’t say “yours will be the kingdom, “but states it in present tense: “your is the kingdom.”

Taking the kingdom to be our true birthright – the wider, deeper reality we belong to and emerged from – I’d say “the poor” represents a quality of being, rather than external circumstances.

Especially given that there is no real “external.”

In which case it ought to mean, those not encumbered by possessions.

Now, since that doesn’t mean “if you don’t own anything, or don’t own much, you are a better person,” what does it mean?

I keep repeating myself, seems to me: It means, those who live in the world with Beginner’s Mind. That way of putting it hadn’t come to me until now, but maybe this is about knowing we are poor and therefore knowing that we need filling, not thinking we already know it all and have it all.

And that will do for the moment.

Our thanks as always.


One thought on “Thomas, Sayings 52 through 54

  1. “Everything about life is matter-of-fact until illusions, filters, screens, inhibitions, prohibitions, repetitions endow it with numinous qualities – even sex, even religion.”

    Being poor in these numinous qualities? Filters, screns, inhibitions etc. Numinous from Wikipedia: “The literal meaning is simply “a nod”, or more accurately, for it is a passive formation, “that which is produced by nodding”, just as flamen is “that which is produced by blowing”, i.e., a gust of wind. It came to mean “the product or expression of power” — not, be it noted, power itself”

    So we give a whiff of power to certain things. They become our inner riches that we jealously guard (My love story, My insurmountable obstacle, My habit, My preciousss…). And the etymology is so funny: this power is given just by nodding.

    So, poor in stories. Poor in preferences. Poor in obstacles to what the larger life suggests us to have as experiences. Humility is a word that has always irked me, bacause it is so easy to use against others. But humility is a good inner attitude towards the large life. What do I really know?

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