The final problem of the Gospel of Thomas

Friday, July 26, 2019

3:10 a.m. So let’s see if we can’t wrap up our examination of the Gospel of Thomas. I believe we were going to look a little more at the final saying, which looks to have been added on at some time after the initial compilation.

We remind you of the difference between spirt and soul. Spirit is eternal, unchangeable, not essentially human. It is the electricity that powers the system, so to speak. Soul is very much rooted in time, very much malleable by circumstances and one’s reaction to circumstance, and is absolutely human. Soul is the specific human character(istic).

I started to write “characteristic,” which wasn’t right, but I’m not sure “character” is right either.

In any case, the two words, so carelessly confounded in your time, are different aspects of the compound being that is a human.

Yes. Peter Novak’s book The Division of Consciousness, that I published long ago, that I said may have been the most important book we published. That’s where I first learned the difference between soul and spirit.

The peril here is that in Jesus’ time, the distinction was known, and there was a question as to whether women had a soul. This wasn’t asking if they were human, as ignorance of the difference between spirit and soul would suggest. It was saying that spirit and soul manifested differently in men and women, or so it was thought.

I or you – one of us is muddling this.

No, it is that you are trying to keep it straight – in essence, trying to keep us from making mistakes – and so you not only get lost, you get worried, and the connection wavers.

An old, old problem.

Not “old, old” from our point of view: You’ve only been doing this a little while; it is natural for you to still wobble as you ride the bicycle.

A little while, in this case, means since 2005 if you count one way, since 1989 if you count another way. But 14 or 30 years doesn’t amount to much in your eyes, I understand. In any case, I’ll try to stop wobbling. Go ahead; I’ll put my caveat right out in front: I don’t know if it is you or me and don’t know if this is true or false or a little of each.

That might be said of anything and everything, and all the better for you to remember it. Nothing human deals in infallibility.

[As a reminder, Saying 114: Simon Peter said to them: Mary should leave us because women are not worthy of the life. Jesus responded: Look, I’ll lead her in order to make her male so that she can become a living spirit as you males are. For each woman who makes herself male will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.]

The question is, what did Saying 114 mean? When Simon Peter said “women are not worthy of the life,” Jesus did not correct him and say, “Oh yes they are.” He said, I will show her how to make herself male “so that she can become a living spirit as you males are.” That is an important statement that would clarify something if you and your time and your prejudices would let it.

Our prejudices? It looks to us like their prejudices.

Prejudice always looks like someone else’s blindness to the obvious.

Well, that’s a different slant on it.

You think, “They didn’t see that men and women are of equal worth,” and that’s true enough. But perhaps they would reply that you don’t see that equal worth does not mean identical in nature. There is hardly a culture on earth, now or ever, including most in yours, that would fail to recognize that men and women are different.

When I was in college a thousand years ago, one of the college officials was mocked for saying just that, in exactly those five words. It was taken as a simple-minded statement.

Perhaps in his case it was, or perhaps college students are not inclined to judge fairly. In any case, hear us now: Men and women are different.

Not that each sex does not include characteristics of the opposite sex, in degrees that vary according to the individual. Not that male equals masculine or female equals feminine, else sexual orientation would be a simple binary division, which of course it is not. Nevertheless – and it is striking that so simple a point should need stating and even defending – men and women are different from each other. And everybody knows it except when they are defending a theory or are entangled in a political or ideological struggle that requires them to pretend otherwise lest they concede or seem to concede a vital point. That is, the fight for equality of rights, equality of opportunity, equality of regard, one might say, brings in its wake the need (or rather the perceived need) to pretend that the essential differences between men and women are not essential but accidental or socially induced or – in extreme arguments – non-existent. Yet every moment of your lives reminds you otherwise.

This won’t be a popular argument, I imagine, but you won’t get disagreement from me. I’ve been saying it for years. You see that same thing in questions of color or culture or religion or anything, really: The attempt to say “Different is not inferior’ leads to “Different is non-existent, it doesn’t exist.”

This is more time than we would prefer to spend on a political point, but it has become necessary just because of this point about men and women. But we had better make plain our position.

Any society that values men above women – or women above men, for that matter – is in error, and demonstrates that it is over-identified with only one point on a polarity. But any society or part of a society that declines to recognize essential differences for fear of reinforcing those who do value one over the other is sacrificing perception and truth to tactical advantage; in short, to propaganda, which is always to greater or lesser extent lies.

But, conceding the difference exists, what is the difference? You can feel it (or some of it) but you cannot define it. so which should you believe, your feelings and perceptions or your thoughts and categories?

Rhetorical question again.

The fact that you take it as rhetorical shows that for you it is self-evident, but we assure you, many people feel quite differently. You know that many people choose to believe their ideas and categories over their knowings. They call it being rational.

And I call it being half-blind, I guess. But I can see that they might think I’m reacting irrationally in listening to my feelings.

Not ir-rationally, but non-rationally, and there’s a big difference between the two!

We’re burning minutes, here. Nearly an hour.

We aren’t delaying not straying, and if we don’t finish today we can finish another time. but we see your impatience. So let’s leave it at this for the moment Men in Jesus’ time were considered to be of a nature essentially different from women, and (erroneously, but naturally) they considered men to be superior rather than merely differing. Your productive line of inquiry ought to be, not, “How far wrong were they?” but “What were they seeing that we are missing or denying?”

And I get that you could tell us that fairly easily, if not for my resistance.

It isn’t your fault and it isn’t within your control (two ways of saying the same thing), but yes, that is the problem. If you didn’t have your own opinion, we would have smoother sailing. It isn’t just that you don’t wish us (or you) to be misunderstood. You still prefer that we stay safely within the bounds of received opinion.

I don’t know how to loosen up any more than I have done.

Return to your feelings mid-session when you did loosen – beginning, say, at “Any society that values men above women” – and perhaps you can recapture the loosening. But meanwhile it is our hour, so perhaps we will need to continue another time. This is actually a more important point than first appears, worthy of yet another approach.

If you say so, okay, till next time. And our thanks as always.


10 thoughts on “The final problem of the Gospel of Thomas

  1. OH! This is making my brain hurt! And aspirin and caffeine aren’t helping! We are so close to an answer!

    Okay, so I reread 7.25 and 7.26 together and mapped out some salient points. Maybe the spark will fly and someone will go, “Oh, snap!”

    The hinge point seems to be, “Men in Jesus’ time were considered to be of a nature essentially different from women. . .What were they seeing that we are missing or denying?”

    Peter says Mary should leave the group (which implies Mary has been part of the disciples all along and privy to all of Jesus’ teachings.) He argues that the teachings are wasted on her because she doesn’t have the ability [she is not worthy] to enjoy the [abundant] life. She doesn’t have a living spirit. This also implies that Peter may have believed that men would live beyond death of the body, because of this living spirit, and women would not. Men are living spirit, abstract, far reaching. Women are living soul, more concrete, local. That soul would return to the earth with the body. [Not my opinion. Just trying to tease out what Peter may have believed.]

    Jesus said, “I will lead her in order to make her male,” with TGU saying, “I will show her how to make herself male.” That’s an interesting change, as the former infers that Jesus will be making Mary male, and the later implies Mary will be making herself male. I got that a better phrasing would be, “I will lead her so that her understanding becomes male, so that she may become a living spirit like you males.” How that change in understanding makes one capable of appreciating the abundant life (and maybe capable of experiencing eternal life?) isn’t yet apparent to me.

  2. A small rant:
    So this is from a woman who taught Gender & Communication; Gender, Race & Class; the Feminist Movement; and classes on primary feminists. A woman who has marched for women’s rights, especially women as victims and their children (just the other day). A woman who has winced at the constant use of “he,” “him,” or “his” in your blog entries, along with other references to the constructs of gender, and wondered if Frank would ever include much about women in his perusals of American history.

    But here I am, hot off the sayings of Thomas, which reek of the male-as-superior stuff, watching as TGU unravels this base duality we come into the world with. And what they say becomes obvious immediately. We came in with this difference as our primary assignment. Yes, we get family on our plates so that we don’t avoid essential lessons, but our male and female equipment is something we are in necessary contact with daily, because, interestingly, our process of elimination passes right through there. We were meant to have that equipment and to look at it and work our way through what it means–the transcending of the duality always being the goal.

    Both men and women play a part in maintaining an imbalance of consideration of differences–for example, some women in wanting to be taken care of or have the attention of victim/sex object, to not have to be responsible for thinking and doing and being; some men for just wanting being men to be about being louder and meaner and stronger (one young man repeatedly dumped the black diesel smoke from his truck on our small group of mostly older people protesting current immigration policy).

    As we define differences, we lose our ability to appreciate those differences and what each side can learn from them. I’ve been as guilty as anybody, over the years. So I’m grateful for TGU in removing some of the smoke of burning propaganda so that perception can clear and the truth we know as well as we know ourselves can emerge again. I remain always somewhat amazed at what I learn here, Frank, and always grateful that you do the work you do.

    1. @ Jane P’s “We came in with this difference as our primary assignment.” Yes, I got that loud and clear this AM too. What stuck with me is that the soul, the results of life as a compound being, retains the marks of duality even after it transitions to the unity of the greater being. One of those marks is gender, and that seems to be highly valued by the unity.

      As I mulled that over, I recalled a memory from before this lifetime. I was gathered with several other beings, some of whom were from other lives. We were deciding to do a lifetime as a pilot. One in the group had been a WWII bomber pilot, but his flying career was cut short when he was shot down on his return from a mission. As we were bantering back and forth, someone said, “We ought to do this as a woman. Now that would be a challenge!” I immediately volunteered, as it looked like great fun, and they all said, “All right! We’ll support you!”

      I’ve been a pilot for 40 years, both in military and civilian aviation. I’d say we accomplished that major theme in this life, and thankfully, several others along the way. One I am still working on is living a life knowing my connection to others and acting from that connection — awareness. That one is taking just as much concentration and practice as it took to become a good pilot.

      1. Jane C–reading about your memory was wonderful. I like when we share how we allow our higher self/spirit to manifest in our lives as this kind of information. I bet most of us have a lot of these stories.
        Also, your comment, that the soul “retains the mark of duality even after it transitions…One of those marks is gender, and that seems to be highly valued by the unity,” reminded me of Frank’s mention of our “final contribution” when we die. It makes so much sense to me that gender would be a significant part of that, as it’s something no one really escapes, no matter where they are on the continuum.
        I’m glad we can discuss this issue with so little tension. (I’m remembering a couple of summers ago when I had 18 university interns to ‘help’ me with a public health project in several poor, marginalized communities. The girls would show up in shorts, flip-flops and halter tops, to wear into groups of all kinds–post-prison; hat-wearing, church-going women; Muslim; Asian; etc. When I told them to go home and change, they’d say, “But it’s J. Crew!” Lol. I got used to not arguing, just providing a dress code and repeating and re-directing. Never an issue with the boys, because they don’t see/sell themselves in the same way. I had more than one father tell me he sent his daughter to college to find a husband.)

        Maybe I should have said “ramble” rather than “rant”!

        I look forward to your deeply thoughtful comments. I often feel our higher selves are communicating, too. Thanks for sharing.

    2. In general, I don’t want to reply to comments on these entries, as I don’t want to slide into a false position as if i were an “authority” whose word was the last word.

      But Jane, I want to say here how proud of you I am. All your social prejudices (don’t be offended) would have pushed you in one direction, and instead you actually heard. That’s wonderful.

      And, just to be clear on two things, (1) neither TGU nor I are under the delusion that one sex is superior to the other. That idea is just silly, rooted in insecurity; (2) My use of he, him, his etc. is rooted in traditional English stylistic usage, and has no tacit or ulterior sexist agenda. I personally shy away from any form of political correctness, believing not only that censorship, even self-censorship, is always a mistake that leads to group-think, but also that it leads to a vitriolic reaction from others who feel they are being stifled. That’s one root of Trump’s support, I think, resentment against PC and other versions of attempted social coercion of thought (as opposed to the versions of social coercion of thought they they themselves believe in).

      Anyway, congratulations on your comment, which hardly qualifies as a rant!

      1. Frank,
        I try to stay as close to guidance as I possibly can when I comment, often surprising myself with what I say, but always feeling the truth of it to me. Thanks for your appreciation of that.

        FWIW, your number 2 wouldn’t hold up two minutes in a class on gender and language–hard to argue language holds meaning, except for pronouns. Also, it’s about being accurate, thereby fair, as much as anything. A common exercise was to have students try to use “she” for everything for a week and report back. Most of us couldn’t do it for a day because the effect on us and the response we got was so disturbing.

        It says a lot about you, not just the guidance you receive, that you’ve created a forum here that’s open to and safe for all discussion. And I’m so glad to be a part of it.

        1. Jane, re “FWIW, your number 2 wouldn’t hold up two minutes in a class on gender and language–hard to argue language holds meaning, except for pronouns.” That’s why I stay away from academia! 🙂

  3. This discussion is much more meaningful and clear for me when I structure it around:
    – the loose (and changing) set of characteristics we call feminine and the set we call masculine are different.
    – the humans we meet/interact with/judge (however they or we label their gender) ‘contain’ a mixture of characteristics from both sets.
    – the composition/balance of that mixture is (sometimes with a great deal of work) a personal choice.
    – us humans have come a long way since Jesus’ time … and (to paraphrase Robert) there are “miles to go before [we] sleep.”
    Realistically, probably no sleeping: Elias points out that the purpose of our particular ‘focus’ is to explore/experience gender, sex, and emotion … lucky us. 🙂

    I suspect the (obvious) tensions around this set-of-human-characteristics issue is a manifestation of one or more vast impersonal force … interesting perhaps, but much less important than our working with them in daily life

  4. I enjoyed this one. The initial “zinger” that soul is essentially only a human thing caught my attention (e.g., never heard it stated so plainly).

    With TGU’s added attention and careful handling of the missing historical detail and eventual contextual clue, It does make me more curious for their eventual answer (and how and why their setting it up this way). That kind of perked me up. Looking forward to where the conversation goes next.

  5. I find this an interesting discussion which is similar to that which I have followed for over 30 some years and heard different opinions/ideas from different sources. However, there is a point I have not seen in this discussion here, and that is in looking at the difference in male or female from a spiritual and or soul sense. And that is the functional difference between a male or female from the spiritual/soul perspective (or a metaphysical sense).. And this may be that the female must be developed so as to allow another spirit/soul to enter into it. That is, when pregnant, at some point (highly contested in society as to exactly when) a spirit/soul enters into the new being. How? Some may say that it must enter in through the crown chakra of the mother and into the new body. And if the body is within the soul, and the soul within the spirit (as some models state) then the new spirit is entering into and through the spirit soul of the female. And somehow the structure female spirit/soul must enable this. The male spirit/soul does not need to be able to do this. So perhaps there is a fundamental difference between the male spirit/soul and the female spirit/soul during an incarnation. And some people deep in the spirit/metaphysical journey may say that the male spirit soul is thereby more attuned to the journey of spiritual/soul development & evolution than the female. And perhaps this is what was meant by: “(Simon Peter said to them: Mary should leave us because women are not worthy of the life).” “The life” perhaps meaning the life of spiritual development. As in only males 2000 years ago, if I remember correctly, could be Rabbis.
    So if this is the case, then: “Look, I’ll lead her in order to make her male so that she can become a living spirit as you males are. For each woman who makes herself male will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.]” the living sprit is one that does not need to allow another sprit into it. While (some other word then living – in Aramaic) spirit is the spirit of the female.
    Just some ideas

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