Thomas, Saying 55

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Gentlemen, shall we resume with Thomas? Saying 55:

Jesus said: He who does not hate his father and mother cannot be a disciple of mine. He who doesn’t hate his brothers and sisters and bear his cross as I do will not be worthy of me.

Obviously the Saying turns on the question of what is meant by “hate.” Given that this is from the one who admonished people to “love one another,” presumably it doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.

And I have no doubt that commentators have tap-danced around it. So what is your take on it?

You can see clearly that Jesus is saying that there must be a distancing between the ties to the previous life and discipleship. But he wouldn’t have to have said “hate” to get that across. So what did he mean? Perhaps we should take him at his word, instead of assuming we know better.

Say we do [take him at his word]. What do we come up with? Notice the close connection between hating their relatives and bearing their cross.

For the first time, I wonder if this could be an interpolation from after the fact. But I don’t see how that’s possible. Any interpolation would have to be added to an already well understood, perhaps memorized, gospel of Sayings. It couldn’t have been just sneaked in. and this is not a late copy of a gospel that could have been tampered with over the centuries. It is as nearly contemporary as we are going to find. So I’d say we have to take the text as uncorrupted. And I would presume that the communities that discussed it wouldn’t miss the contradiction between the gospel of love and advice to hate. So what’s up?

The previous Saying was to what effect?

“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

So then why does this Saying follow that one?

Damn good question. I don’t know, and I don’t see how to reconcile the words with the presumed meaning.

And that presumed meaning was?

Well, that Jesus is calling them to an entirely new life that will cut away their previous ties.

Have you noticed that the first sentence is present tense, and the second, future?

I hadn’t. What does that say to you?

Hating one’s parents is a pre-condition of discipleship. Hating one’s siblings and bearing one’s cross is a result of a decision to be taken.

I admit, I am still at sea. That word “hate” gets me.

Yes, it isn’t pretty. Or – is it?

I really have nothing to offer here. I wish you’d get on with it or would say, “Beats me.”

Can anyone reshape his life if he is happy with where he is? Can anyone abjure his past if he is satisfied with it? More to the point, can anyone realize at the same time (a) that he is substantively different from his background and (b) that he is nonetheless a product of that background?

If your parents – meaning in the largest sense the environment that shaped you – are qualitatively different from you, what is your proper relation to them? On the human 3D level you still owe them respect and caring: Jesus did not repeal the commandment to honor your father and mother, nor could he have repealed the reasons behind the commandment.

However, to honor is not necessarily to obey or conform. Once one has reached the age of independence – once one has become a functioning adult in one’s society – continued deference to the parents’ wishes is not always appropriate. You have all seen people who were kept –who kept themselves – in a prolonged state of adolescence for lack of making their own way in the world. It is a matter of boundaries: No one has the right to fetter his children. you are there to shelter and raise them, not bind them to your will forever.

Nor is this the nub of it.

If your parents are immersed in 3D reality and cannot see as you see, or yearn as you yearn, or experience and grow as you can, you have a responsibility to set aside their limitations and live the life you have been given stewardship over. No one – least of all yourself – has the right to relieve you of that responsibility.

So this says, hate what their limitations are? That sounds a little slippery.

And so it would be. No, it means, you need to reject what they are and what they mean to you, yet that does not necessarily mean what may come to mind. On a purely 3D level, yes, care for your parents, cherish them for their care of you, meet your responsibilities. But this is external, even though it deals with feelings and so may seem internal. Internally you must go your own way. If you do not, if you allow any external considerations to interpose between you and what your life should be, you cannot be a disciple; that is, you cannot really go where Jesus goes, nor do as he does, nor attain what is there for you on condition of your choosing it.

All right, I can go with that. But what of the mention of carrying your cross? Isn’t that either a case of Jesus’ precognition or a slip of the gospel recorder?

Perhaps. Does it matter/

Seems to me it would. If this gospel is not recording accurately, it throws it all into doubt. If Jesus did say it, it seems odd, that’s all. I can see him saying something to that effect – that you’re going to have burdens, face obstacles, experience suffering – but I can’t see that expression of bearing one’s cross being extant ahead of time.

He warned them repeatedly that they were not in for a bed of roses. This was far from the only such warning.

Okay, I see that. It’s just the specificity of it bothers me. People were getting crucified, sure. That would be a common experience, maybe a common metaphor. But before Jesus, who carried a cross? I can’t see how it could have become a saying.

It is of course possible that his words were paraphrased as time went on. Even this gospel was oral tradition before it was inscribed and fixed. But bear in mind, the contemporaries and near-contemporaries who heard it read to them were not bothered by it. It would be a pretty minor anachronism, given that this same message could have been delivered in many different formulations.

Okay, I can buy that. So what does the second sentence mean? Why is it in future tense?

It is a warning, plain and simple: If you want X, you have to live Y. No shortcuts.

I can see that.

And that’s enough for the moment.

Our thanks, as always. Till next time.

 

2 thoughts on “Thomas, Saying 55

  1. I’ve been reading a book about Hilma af Klint, the first abstract painter. She never showed her abstract work in public, and ordered her paintings to be hidden for 20 years after her death. She interacted with Rudolf Steiner, who did not appreciate her abstract artwork. In her work she was channeling spiritual beings outside the material world. Her living she made by painting conventional portraits. She certainly carried her cross and did not make a drama out of it. Some artwork and a video clip of her https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/hilma-af-klint
    Her life looks to me an example of living the fullness of life, humbly offering it to the world, and being rejected, just knowing the time will come. That is inner stamina.

  2. I love this session. So clear, powerful and complete. I felt as if I knew where it was going, as it went. And of course I’m old enough to have seen it at work in my own life. Thanks so much.

    Kristiina–I learned of Hilma of Klint at that site, too, and love her work and her beliefs of how to go about it. A great example for this session, and life.

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