Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting all proto-Gnostic.

I came across this line from the Gospel of Thomas while reading the other day:

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."  
I'd seen it before when I read The Gnostic Gospels (Elaine Pagels) about the Coptic texts discovered at Nag Hammadi which had been suppressed by the early church leaders as heretical. But that saying struck me this time, and I've been turning it around in my head like a koan.

The Gospel of Thomas is apparently a collections of sayings attributed to Jesus, rather than a narrative of Jesus's life, which were written prior to the other Gnostic works.  Gnosis is self-knowledge or insight. Well, what shrink doesn't like that? The idea, as I understand it, is that rather than accepting the Church as the authority about spirituality, you look within yourself. Which fits for me, given my own nontheistic Buddhist-Quaker approach to spirituality. (And yes, you can be all that at once - the practice of mindfulness can be employed in any framework and there is a substantial minority of liberal Quakers who do not believe in a god.) Anyway, the individualized insight-driven revelation of the Gnostics, the true self encountered in mindfulness meditation, the light within experienced when the Quaker engages in centering prayer, the self-awareness sought in the relationship that is psychotherapy - all place a primary emphasis on the importance of knowing one's own self.
As we enter in Spring and the flowers in my yard start opening to the sun, that saying feels especially meaningful and seems to me to be about authenticity and growth. About not suppressing who you really are, not allowing others to decide what is appropriate for you, being your own guide and following your path in the way that feels right. And, actually, I should sub in "I" for every "you." Because what it means to you? Well, look within - you get to be the authority on that.

26 comments:

  1. what you do not bring forth will destroy you...a lot of truth in that...
    def important not to let others dictate your life...

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    1. And there are always plenty of folks around wanting to dictate your life!

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  2. Gnosis sounds pretty interesting. It always seemed to me that the preachers who most animatedly insisted you had to follow the guidance of an official in their church were the ones who had the most to gain by it.

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    1. It was definitely a power issue back when those Gospels were suppressed. They weren't about to cede their authority!

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  3. LOVE this post and LOVE that saying because it's sooooo TRUE! Especially the last part.

    I so agree with you...

    "....not suppressing who you really are, not allowing others to decide what is appropriate for you, being your own guide and following your path in the way that feels right."

    Exactly.

    And also (for me anyway) it also means embracing my darkness in fear that it will destroy me. When in fact, embracing it...gives it LIGHT.

    Beeeautiful photographs of your flowers!

    X

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    1. I do think that is important - so many people want to ignore that they even have a dark side. What you refuse to know about yourself, good AND bad, can only cause damage.

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  4. This is an interesting post - I hadn't known St Thomas' gospel was supposed to be about the sayings of Jesus. I have been watching some interesting programmes on early Biblical texts but these mainly relate to the Bible we have accepted. A lot of the story seems to be about which orthodoxy won. I've never got into it too deeply because it's always seemed to be more complicated than I want to get to grips with, but I do want to read St Thomas now. Lovely daffodil pics.

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    1. In a way it doesn't matte to me, since I don't accept any orthodoxy. But I do think it's interesting in terms of the political nature of what is accepted and what isn't.

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  5. I think that saying is absolutely right. Bottle things up, try to deny them, and they'll come back to bite you.

    I would say self-knowledge is absolutely essential. If you don't know yourself, how can you possibly know or help other people, or even deal with them intelligently? And I think you're right that knowing yourself doesn't mean following some religious authority.

    Incidentally, there was an English court ruling a little while ago that a belief system can constitute a religion even if it doesn't refer to a supreme being.

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    1. In Obama;s first inauguration, he spoke about the US being a nation of many beliefs, including no beliefs at all. It was the first time a President acknowledge the legitimate place of citizens who are not religious, and I was thrilled to hear it.

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  6. Do you really have daffodils? We are supposed to get 8 to 10 inches today and as I told my spouse, I only like that in a man. There's my introspection for the day.

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    1. Yes, they started blooming a couple of days ago!

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  7. You're a couple of weeks ahead of me in the daffodil race, but I'm still very excited to be in the game. Daffodils are one of my absolutely favourites. I love the fact that we continue to grow and become more introspective (if we choose it) throughout our lives, and that we do not reach a place where we're all done growing up. I have much to learn, and learning to accept myself in totality is one of them.

    PS: You've added a new word to my vocabulary today: koan. Thanks for that!

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    1. Daffodils are such a nice reminder of Spring on the way.

      I hope to keep learning until the day I die. And you're welcome!

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  8. Daffodils are such friendly flowers, I'll greet mine in June.

    My dark side has been a buddy for years, we've had a lot of fun. I just don't bring him along when niceness is required.

    Enjoy your spring.

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  9. That is a powerful quote and I agree. I am guilty of letting things destroy me!

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  10. This is beautiful and very, very wise.

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  11. Just as another reader mentioned, your post offered me a new word, koan.
    I think it's human nature to contemplate those questions that religions appear (promise?) to answer. The dark side of religion is when we use it to gain power over others. Good post.

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    1. It hadn't occurred to me that it wasn't a common word - I should probably have defined it.

      And thanks.

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  12. Love the pretty flowers, certainly spring like!

    betty

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    1. It felt like it a couple of days ago, that's for sure.

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  13. Profound and rings with truth. I had studied the Gnostic Gospels many moons ago. Enlightenment wasn't organized religions' thang. I wonder why :)

    I, too am getting into décor mode. Necessity, haven't touched anything since I moved, needs to be done.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. Mm... power?

      It's remarkable how much gets accumulated.

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