Shall we finish the discussion of Thomas?
It is a shame in a way, to become side-tracked by the added-on final saying, when the emphasis should be on the consistent and additive message of the other sayings. But a few words on spirit and soul are not out of place, and a few words on men and women as alternative expressions are not, either. Only, keep it in proportion. Jesus was not a chauvinist; the gospel was not an advocate nor an opponent of women’s liberation, but was concentrated on human liberation, and that is the point needing and rewarding attention.
I was noticing that in re-reading my novel Dark Fire. When you turn the focus from 3D life as if it were an end in itself to 3D life as preparation for the next phase of life beyond it, everything changes. It is like Nietzsche’s revaluation of all values.
Yes. Why would Jesus advocate or oppose revolution, say? Why would he assent to be seen as the Messiah who was going to free the Jews as a people, as a nation, from domination by Rome? Why would he pay any attention – or advocate paying any attention – to the things of this 3D world in and of themselves, as opposed to those things insofar as they did or did not conduce to prepare one for the expanded consciousness in the life to come? Why, that is, would he pay any attention to buying or advocating buying baubles, as opposed to buying the pearl of great price?
If you remember that Jesus was teaching, by word and example, in order that people might have life more abundantly, things will fall more easily into their proper relative importance. Politics, ideology, social movements, reform, resistance to reform, all look different depending if you see 3D life as an end in itself or as part of a larger process. If you see 3D life as an end in itself – a dead-end in itself, we would say – you will concern yourself with many ephemeral things that will seem of great importance to you. It was to help you escape from the 3D trance that Jesus taught, and it is the effect of his teaching then and subsequently that is his importance.
Yes, Christianity and Buddhism and Islam have had great historical importance as social systems – as pillars of civilizations. But their influence came as side effect of their transformative effect on individuals, not as social systems per se. This is why the decay of religions into rote and social-control systems marks their decline in actual influence. The dead hand of the past has great weight, but it is not a creative weight.
I think of the last gasp of Christian idealism and belief in the late 1800s, the movement for “the evangelization of the world in this generation.”
Yes, they were trying in all good faith to fulfill the conditions as they understood them that would be necessary in order for the return of the risen Christ and the end of conventional history. That you do not share their ideal nor their belief nor their understanding of the scripture that told them that spreading the gospel to the entire world would make this possible must not prevent you from recognizing the sincerity and self-sacrificing effort that went into that movement. It was not merely political, nor cultural imperialism, nor disguised racism.
Now you ask, what is the relevance to the question of men v. women, that reveals itself in saying 114 particularly? The answer is, when you understand the assumptions behind an action or a belief, then you can weigh it accurately; otherwise, not. Condemnation is not discernment.
I’d say the immediate question is what we are to make of the disciples’ view of men and women as essentially different.
You mean – though you don’t always recognize it – what you are to make of your idea of what their view was. For you are guessing, inferring from written words not always understood, and – worse – arguing from silence, which is a prime error of logic, as you know.
Yes, I do know. We can’t validly argue that someone’s silence on a subject – any subject – means anything particular. Common error, though. “He didn’t dissent, so he must agree.” Or, “If he had thought that, he wouldn’t have remained silent.” It is often emotionally convincing, but it remains a logical error, as there is no knowing which of many possible reasons motivates someone to silence. Maybe agreement, maybe fear, maybe indifference, maybe despair of being understood, maybe inability to clarify one’s thoughts or articulate them: Could be a thousand reasons, all mistaken for evidence of something that may not exist.
So let us say these few things.
Spirit is the vast impersonal forces as they blow through the structure that is the human soul. Soul is the temporary structure that holds various elements together as a unit in specific moments of time/space. What else they are is not relevant at the moment.
Men were seen to be the expression of spirit, aimed at something other than this time and place. Women were seen to be the expression of soul, rooted very much in a time/space. Where spirit was intellectual and abstract, soul was emotional and rooted. It was a natural analogy, though an incomplete and ultimately misleading one, to think that spirit = masculine = male, and soul = feminine = female. If the analogy had not been extended (unconsciously, in that pre-psychological era) to equate masculine and male, and feminine and female, it would have been accurate enough for good use. The soul is essentially feminine, as tradition, poetry and literature attest – and as Jung’s psychology does, as well. It was Jesus’ insight that female does not equal feminine, nor male masculine. This is what he understood, and this is why he treated women differently (scandalously differently, to his contemporaries) than was the custom. And bear in mind, this saying and the understanding behind it were included in this gospel to be used as talking-points for discussion to bring future disciples to understand.
Jesus would not make foolish arguments. How could he or anyone help (lead) a woman to make herself male? But he could help a woman to recognize and develop masculine attributes! And the whole record of his brief career shows him doing the converse, no less, teaching men to recognize and develop their feminine attributes. The goal was not to make either into the other but to make both whole.
Even in terms of reincarnation, you surely don’t fantasize that all your incarnations were male, or all female. How lopsided would that be? The idea discredits itself. Similarly, psychologically, you cannot imagine that you comprise only masculine or only feminine attributes or that it would be a good thing if you did.
So perhaps this clears up the misconceptions that accrue when one allows oneself to look at transcendent things in light of the merely mundane.
I agree, and we thank you for three months’ work in helping illustrate the meaning of this gospel.
“And now,” we hear, “on to other things at last!” We’re smiling. But perhaps it is a bigger thing than may at first be realized, to reincorporate the human spiritual quest that is religion into the larger spiritual quest that is an attempt to understand and to integrate. We are not – to put it mildly – interested in creating new adherents to this or that religion, including the religion of materialism. We intend, instead, to try to waken you to the larger fabric of reality.
To help us have life more abundantly.
You could put it that way, yes. If the job were done that Jesus undertook, you would be living your daily lives very differently. And you may yet. Our best wishes to all of you.
And ours to you, and, again, thank you for all of this.
In these conversations, I and “the guys upstairs” have done our best to tease out the hidden meanings of some very puzzling sayings. I don’t for a moment imagine that every conclusion we came to is correct. Even if by some miracle everything we said was right on the mark, it would not profit you to assume so: The whole point of this work is that each person should do his or her own exploring, weighing what seems true and then testing it. Neither blind acceptance nor blind rejection would bring you an inch toward greater understanding.
Churches and social reformers have, in effect, privatized Jesus, defining him as only-begotten son of God, or social reformer, or political rebel, or would-be Jewish messiah. That isn’t the message of the Gospel of Thomas.
Instead, it records Jesus as saying that he had come that we might have life more abundantly; that the Kingdom of God is within us; that we can enter it at any time; that this world and this life are not what they appear to be.
Maybe we should listen?
The promise is plain: Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will open. What more can we ask? What more do we need?