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.
And you are torn, thinking maybe this one is too deep for an end-of-session examination, yet seeing half an hour at least available. Cold feet?
Yes, maybe. For a summation, it is pretty tangled with what seem like unexplained new ideas.
List the elements; you will find it easier to examine that way.
Simon Peter; Mary; women not worthy of the life; “make her male”; “can become a living spirit as you males are”; women who make themselves male.
Surely you don’t think this is as simple as biology, or else Jesus is advocating a biological impossibility. And it isn’t a matter of reincarnation, as in saying women must first come into a male life before they can enter the kingdom. You see that. So what does it mean?
It hinges on what it means to make oneself male, and I haven’t a clue. I wonder if this didn’t mean something to that time that would have been obvious to them and is lost to us now.
So that, of all the sayings, the Gospel of Thomas happens to end on the only one that cannot be explained?
I know, but it could conceivably be meant to remind us that there’s still plenty more we don’t know.
You are making it harder than it is. What is it to be male? Biologically.
Males impregnate; women gestate.
In terms of reproduction, that is right. So, the analogy here?
There is a way of experiencing the world that is essentially male?
Let’s say – oh, we’ll say it for you, and you can decide if you agree. Males seek new worlds to conquer; females seek to encompass the world they find.
Of course any such generalization is going to meet objection. It’s way too general. Too one-size-fits-all.
But that is only because you are confusing male with masculine; female with feminine.
So clarify it for us.
It is several layers of confusion. First, biological. As you know, everyone contains both masculine and feminine traits and characteristics. Psychology has learned that much, anyway. Jung’s anima and animus are concepts derived to explain what he had observed in a lifetime of being a doctor caring for patients.
Second, social. Every society prescribes rules and behaviors for each sex, pretending, of necessity, that male equals masculine and female equals feminine, but then acknowledging explicitly or tacitly that these simple divisions are too simple. Thus in one way or another each society will acknowledge that there are males who are predominantly feminine and females who are predominantly masculine. This is a form of legislation by default, or let’s say almost legislation by pretense, by convenient fiction.
Third, there is psychology itself, or let’s say definition by experience. You all know yourselves to be somewhere on a sliding scale, and you may experience yourselves moving or seeming to move along that scale, depending upon what you unearth as you explore your being. Just as you cannot be all feminine or all masculine, so you cannot see or expect to see only from one point of view and be whole.
But surely this is about more than point of view.
Is it? Re-read the saying.
If it meant simply that, why wouldn’t it say, as well, that the men had to be led to make themselves female, for the same reason?
Go back to the listing you made and re-read it. what does it mean, “a living spirit as you males are”?
I don’t know.
What do males exemplify that females do not, but might?
You’re going to have to tell us.
Look at the words! Living spirit. As opposed to what? Dead spirit?
No, I see it. Is this what you mean?
Try it on.
If men represent living spirit, the compliment would be women representing living souls. Men more abstract, women more concrete. Men more far-ranging, women more centered.
A perfectly valid distinction, provided that you not confuse men, males, and masculine (as the society Jesus lived in did, perhaps), nor female, women, feminine. No either/or ever adequately represents reality, although dualism strongly inclines you to see things that way.
I can see that we’re going to have to discuss this further.
We’re smiling. Just because a closer look lands you in hot water because of your society’s hot-buttons does not mean it’s wrong. But yes, one more discussion at least, and you will be able to lay down this task.
Several others have profited by it. You have their thanks as well. I look forward to next time, and perhaps closure on Thomas.
There are always other scriptures to revisit. However, we don’t insist. In the past ten weeks, we have given anyone who wishes it all the clues needed to understand the hidden meanings. For that matter, remembering Jesus’ intent is itself enough, if applied.
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 spirit 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.
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 nor 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.