nag hammadi

Nag Hammadi Library and the Return of Gnosticism

If the Nag Hammadi texts had not been discovered, it is more than probable that the correct renewal of interest in Gnosticism would not have taken place. There will always be those who do not see eye to eye with mainstream ideas, so it is highly unlikely that Gnostic thought would have died out altogether. However, the texts that were found give new impetus to research into the early Gnostics. …

“The perennial questions of life needed answering. ‘How can a good God ________? What if for instance an A-bomb does destroy” Where do you go when you are dead?’ When this is added to the existence of a new freedom, both financial and moral, there was a need for a different way of thinking. … One of the core beliefs of Gnosticism became more prevalent. The only hope for humanity was to acquire the information it needed so that it could perfect itself and evolve out of its current physical state. … People began to realize that we had let the knowledge of our own Christ Consciousness pass us by.” ~Bernard Simon

Nag Hammadi Library

Almost everyone who has the slightest interest in spiritual matters has heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but before the discovery of those scrolls, another important library of ancient Gnostic writings was found: the Nag Hammadi Library. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi books were found in Egypt in 1945. Some of the books include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip. These and other books found were thought to have been completely destroyed by the orthodox Christian church. They are controversial because they contradict many things commonly believed by Christians at that time, and even today despite this finding. They include, for example, a statement that the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was a virgin.

The library is a collection of Coptic translations written about 1,500 years ago of even older documents. This puts them among the oldest copies of these gospels and other scriptural writings. But as Mr. Simon notes, their importance may be that they help reawaken interest in Gnostic teachings which help answer so many of the common questions of Christians and others that are not answered in the Bible. Of course, just as with the Dead Sea Scrolls, you need to understand the allegory used or much of the meaning will be lost.

How Can God

Mr. Simon says that the Nag Hammadi library and other Gnostic literature can answer the common question asked by Christians and others: “How can God ________?”. For example, “How can God allow evil in the world?” and “Why does God create death and disease?”. Those questions, and similar ones, are usually answered in the traditional Christian churches with the vague non-answers, “Who are we to understand God?” or “Who are we to question what God does?” While those answers do make a valid point, they don’t satisfy the curious and leave them disappointed. Gnostic scripture does have an answer, and it isn’t vague. The Gnostic answer is that the True God, the God of Spirit, did not create the physical world of matter. The realm of matter was created by the fallen angels known in Gnostic literature as the Demiurge. While there is some difference between various Gnostic sects and schools, they generally do not talk about the Demiurge as a truly evil being or group of beings, but simply beings who made a bad choice, an egotistical choice. Continue reading “Nag Hammadi Library and the Return of Gnosticism”

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dying god

Dying God Myth and Symbolism

“The myth of Tammuz and Ishtar is one of the earliest examples of the dying god allegory, probably antedating 4000 B.C. … Tammuz did not occupy a position among the the first deities venerated by the Babylonians, who for lack of deeper knowledge looked upon him as a god of agriculture or a vegetation spirit. … Like many other savior gods, he is referred to as a ‘shepherd’. … Tammuz occupies the remarkable position of son and husband of Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian Mother goddess. Ishtar was the most widely venerated deity of the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon. … The story of her descent into the underworld in search presumably for the sacred elixir which alone could restore Tammuz to life is the key to the ritual of her mysteries. … Enraged upon beholding Ishtar, the Mistress of Hades inflicts upon her all manner of disease and imprisons her in the underworld.

“As Ishtar represents the spirit of fertility, her loss prevents the ripening of the crops and the maturing of all life upon the earth. …

“The myth of Ishtar symbolizes the descent of the human spirit through the seven worlds, or spheres of the sacred planets, until finally, derived of its spiritual adornments, it incarnates in a physical body—Hades—where the mistress of that body heaps every form of sorrow and misery upon the imprisoned consciousness. The waters of Life—the secret doctrine—cure the disease of ignorance, and the spirit, ascending again to its divine source, regains its God given adornments” ~Manly P. Hall

Dying God Allegory

Why would anyone create a god that does? And how can anyone think that a being is a god if that being can die? The answer seems to be that that among the ancients who worshiped a pantheon of gods, they generally had a hierarchy for them. Some gods were more powerful than others, and there was usually a chief god or father god who was the true God who was eternal and all-powerful. Tammuz was not considered that chief god. He was, we could say, a few levels down on the pyramid of gods. As such, it was possible for him to die, though it would take some supernatural being or force to do it.

More importantly, it seems that Tammuz was not a true god at all, but simply an allegory or metaphor for the forces of nature. The primitive people say the cycles of nature where plants seem to die in the fall and magically return in the spring. We know now that this happens in one of two ways. Some plants really do die, but leave seeds that sprout in the spring. Other plants only die above the ground leaving bulbs or roots below ground that do come back in the spring. So with the first type, they really do die, but their offspring are born to replace them. In the second case, they only appear to die, but part of them remains alive. So in no case do they truly die and get reborn. Nonetheless, a dying god generally represents this cycle of nature. As such, we can probably assume that to some degree, and on some level, Tammuz was a solar deity. Other dying gods can be found in other cultures, many of them copies of Tammuz who came earlier. Jesus could be put into this category, although he never claimed to be God or a god, but only Messiah. But there are many who believe Jesus was God, yet he was put to death. Continue reading “Dying God Myth and Symbolism”

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antique mysteries

Antique Mysteries, Schools and Magical Initiations

“The mysteries of the antique world appear to have been attempts –often by way of a merely magical initiation—to ‘open the immortal eyes of man inwards’: exalt his powers of perception until they could receive the messages of a higher degree of reality. In spite of much eager theorizing, it is impossible to tell how far they succeeded in this task. To those who had a natural genius for the infinite, symbols and rituals which were doubtless charged with ecstatic suggestions, and often dramatized the actual course of the Mystic Way, may well have brought some enhancement of consciousness: though hardly that complete arrangement of character which is essential of the mystic’s entrance on the true Illuminated State. Hence Plato only claims that ‘he whose initiation is recent’ can see Immortal Beauty under mortal veils’

“’O blessed he in all wise,
Who hath drank the Living Fountain
Whose life no folly staineth
And whose soul is near to God:
Whose sins are lifted pall-wise
As he worships on the mountain.’

“Thus sang the initiates of Dionysus; that mystery cult to which the Greeks seem to have expressed all they knew of the possible movement of consciousness through rites of purification to the ecstasy of the Illuminated Life.” ~Evelyn Underhill

Antique Mysteries

I prefer to call them “ancient mysteries” rather than “antique mysteries”. I think many young people today interpret antique as meaning outdated, stodgy, and superseded by new methods and technologies. Some feel the same way about “ancient mysteries,” but I think that phrase has fewer problems than “antique mysteries”.

Many who call themselves spiritual these days don’t object to either term, but to the fact that these mystery schools had students who spent years studying and gradually awakening their spiritual faculties. In this age of computers and nearly-instant gratification, they seek overnight solutions. Sadly, there are popular authors of books who give it to them—sort of. But these happy books with instant solutions are the McDonald’s of spiritual growth. They are to real spirituality what McDonald’s is to a healthy gourmet meal. The Antique Mysteries were real, not pretend. Continue reading “Antique Mysteries, Schools and Magical Initiations”

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Indian thought

Indian Thought in Greek and Roman Schools

“Any direct influence of Indian thought on the conceptions and practices of some of these religious communities and philosophic schools of the Græco-Roman Empire, and although in any particular case similarity of ideas need not necessarily be assigned to direct physical transmission, nevertheless the highest probability, if not the greatest assurance, remains that even prior to the days of Apollonius there was some private knowledge in Greece of the general ideas of the Vedānta and Dharma; while in the case of Apollonius himself, even if we discount nine-tenths of what is related of him, his one idea seems to have been to spread abroad among the religious brotherhoods and institutions of the Empire some portion of the wisdom which he brought back with him from India. When, then, we find at the end of the first and during the first half of the second century, among such mystic associations as the Hermetic and Gnostic schools, ideas which strongly remind us of the theosophy of the Upaniṣhads or the reasoned ethics of the Suttas, we have always to take into consideration not only the high probability of Apollonius having visited such schools, but also the possibility of his having discoursed at length therein on the Indian wisdom.” ~George Robert Stowe Mead

Indian Thought Shared

It is a common assumption that since the Ancient Greek and Roman spiritual teachings were very similar to those found in India, they must have been learned by Greeks or Romans who studied in India. While that is a possibility, it is also possible that something else accounts for the similarity.

Mr. Stowe also seems to left another important country to two out of his equation: Egypt and Babylon. Most experts say that a definite trail can be found between the mystery schools of Egypt and those of Greece. The Romans definitely learned Greek and studied in Greek schools, including the mystery schools and schools of philosophy. The Egyptian schools probably were descendants of those in Babylon. But did the Egyptians or the Babylonians learn from India? Probably, in some cases. There were undoubtedly a few individuals who traveled to India and brought some Indian thought back with them. But that is not the only way these things could have been learned. Continue reading “Indian Thought in Greek and Roman Schools”

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