TGU and Thomas: Saying 14

Saying 14

14 a Jesus said to them: If you fast you will bring sin to yourselves, and if you pray you will be condemned, and if you give to charity you will damage your spirits.

14 b When you go into a region and walk around in the rural areas, whenever people receive you, eat whatever they provide for you, and heal their sick.

14 c For what goes into your mouth will not defile you, but what comes out of your mouth can defile you.

 

All right, friends. Shall we tackle Saying 14? Parts b and c are familiar from other gospels. Perhaps they were cryptic or secret for a while. But their relation to part a escapes me, or rather, the definitiveness rather than the potential of part a escapes me. I could easily see it if the saying said, “you might” rather than “you will,” but the translator seems to have been careful even if he didn’t always understand the meaning of what he was translating, so I work from the assumption that the saying does mean “will” and not “may.” So, clarification, please? Why would performing righteous actions lead to sin, condemnation, and damage to one’s spirit?

Your assumption is that the intended meaning is, “External actions do not guarantee righteousness,” more or less. So, you are bothered that the saying seems to say that righteousness will lead one astray. What if one is required by life to do one’s share of good and evil, and that to attempt to be wholly good, to do nothing but good, would be one-sided rather than admirable, fanatical rather than whole?

I’d have a difficult time believing that Jesus, say, knowingly did evil, chose to do evil.

And there you are, you see.

I do not see.

Here is a saying you would revolt against. It would not be impossible to conceive of others. In another corner of your mind you remember the saying of Carl Jung that it is better to be whole than to be good.

I hadn’t thought of it for a while, but yes, I do. Something like when a man realizes that it is better to be whole than to be good, then his path really becomes difficult, something like that.

Why should it be different for the most complete, whole man who ever existed?

Meaning, I take it, that we still don’t understand good and evil very well.

Meaning that you have forgotten or put into a closet what you have been told and did at one time understand about the difference between reality and the 3D assumption of duality, the “perception of things as good and evil” that was the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.

It’s true, I wasn’t thinking in those terms. It’s hard sometimes to associate sets of ideas when they seem to cut against each other.

And that is when it is most useful to do so.

So, then, a possible meaning is, what? Don’t think you can be entirely good? That we can’t be good merely by following rules, I understand. But that we can’t be good not due to human frailty but due to the nature of things, that’s harsh. Is it also true?

Look at it another way, and much will come clear. Why should you – any of you – expect to be a thing apart from everyone else? To strive for perfection (whatever one’s definition of perfection) is one thing. To attain it is not possible, nor even desirable.

Not even desirable.

It would reinforce too limited an ideal. We keep reminding you, an ideal that can be lived is not an ideal but a goal. An ideal is sufficiently high that it can only be lived toward.

So maybe Jesus told Thomas a couple of advanced truths about the way the world really is, and Thomas rightly told the others they were in no way ready to hear it.

Surely that is obvious.

Well then, what are we to do? How is this to help us, beyond opening our eyes to the way things are rather than the way we would like them to be, or the way we think they are?

That in itself is the help. It is always better to see through the illusions one has been taking for real, only one must be ready for the newer truth.

Okay, so now we are reminded that it is better to be whole than to be good, however that plays out, how are we to live the saying?

Continue on the examination of the book. That wasn’t the culmination, by a long shot. It wasn’t even the end of the beginning.

And I remember – belatedly – that these sayings were not secret from the early community, only from the world. So they would have been familiar with this one too, and at least some of them would have been led through its implications.

Yes, and the implications are not that it doesn’t matter what you do and, in fact, doesn’t matter what you value, good or evil. It is a more subtle point, easily lost (and therefore such sayings are hidden, lest just that kind of misunderstanding seem to get endorsement) which is that good and evil themselves are not what they seem. There would have been talks about that, no less.

So, don’t expect actions to overcome essence; don’t observe taboos as if they were in and of themselves valid; remember that it is not what you are but what you do that changes you.

I sort of see where you get that last, but I don’t think many people will say that’s what 14 c means.

No, they may stop at the obvious, that one should be careful of one’s actions and need not avoid certain taboos. But it is also deeper than that. You are good and evil; you express good and evil, in that you act as conduits for vast impersonal forces that are beyond good and evil, and you are also conduits – generators, almost – of vast personal forces arising from your particular makeup.

And – I seem to see you saying – there’s nothing wrong with it.

You may not like it, you may wish it were otherwise, but that is the truth, and nothing beats the truth.

Difficult to see how to live this. Should we choose to do evil? Surely not.

Now you are into difficult territory. We return to situational ethics, as we discussed a while ago. Do not do what is wrong to you. That [i.e., not doing what is wrong to you] will satisfy your nature. You are not created to represent the [whole] world; you are created to represent one thin sliver of the world. Whatever you do that is true to that sliver will be accepted. Trying to be something else may itself be of the nature of your sliver, or how could the urge arise? But, you see, there is no one pattern that could be right for one and all. Live your nature and that is the best you can do. If your nature calls you to become more than you are, so much the better, but it has to be in your nature or you will never feel so called.

A lot to chew on, here.

That’s the idea. Discussion among you will lead you farther, as it did in the time of the first disciples, and as it does here and there to this day.

Enough for the moment. And, do take a day off.

If you say so. Okay, thanks as always.

[In typing this up, I thought perhaps I could find that Jung quotation in my quotation files. Didn’t find it, but found a wealth of others (many from his Memories, Dreams, Reflections), very appropriate to this topic. Here is one. A. I. Allenby visited Carl Jung soon after World War II. This excerpt from his description of his visit is from the book C. G. Jung Speaking, page 158.

[Another time Jung reverted to the problem of self-doubt, using a further example by way of illustration. “Our needs and desires are always active,” he said. “Trouble occurs only if they are active in the unconscious, if we do not take them consciously in hand so as to give them a definite form and direction. If we refuse to do this we are dragged along by them to become their victim. Then they are like a sledge rushing downhill snow, with no one at the steering-ropes. You must place yourself firmly at the steering-ropes, not hang on at the back or, worse, be unwilling to take the ride at all – that only lands you in panic. Our unconscious energies give momentum to our journey through life and, if we direct our course, our actions will have strength; we may even sense that God is behind us.”]

 

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