Christ, the Light of the World

May you experience the presence of Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere, in everyone, so that hope will abound in your life and the world you live in. There is no corner of the planet where Christ is not. And may you share the light of Christ that is within you with everyone you meet, wherever you are, everyday.

Wilfredo Juan Baez

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gospel of Thomas, coda 24

24. His disciples said, "Show us the place where you are, for we must seek it."
He said to them, "Anyone here with two ears had better listen! There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark."

Gospel of Thomas, Coda 24.

“His disciples said, ‘Show us the place where you are, for we must seek it.’ He said to them, ‘Anyone here with two ears had better listen! There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark.’"

The disciples ask Jesus to show them “the place” where he is.  Where is this place?  What is this place?  It is not a geographic place.  It is not a place at all, whether located within Jesus or outside Jesus.  It is not associated with his body.  Rather this place is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God being Self or Consciousness, not a personal self or state of consciousness.  They are asking Jesus for direction about how to realize this Self or Consciousness.  This is not something Jesus can give them.  He can reveal it to them, but they need to seek it and find it.  They need to pursue it and realize it.  Their true individual self or consciousness must connect with this true, essential Self or Consciousness.  We can say that this Self or Consciousness is God, so we can say that what the disciple is seeking is God-realization or Self-realization.

A person of light is one in who exists divine light, the light of Consciousness or Self or God or the reality of the Kingdom of God.  As this light is uncovered, it shines upon the world.  It is possible for a person to not be a person of light.  At this point in the person’s evolution or development there is neither light nor semblance of light.  Therefore it doesn’t shine and is dark.   The light can be discovered after it is revealed to the disciple and the disciple pursues the practices that lead to its realization.

Self-realization or God-realization involves both grace and works.  Grace comes into a disciple’s life through the presence of the teacher.  The teacher initiates the disciple into knowledge of the reality of the “place that he is in,” the Self that is God or the Consciousness that is God.  The teacher is one who knows what he initiates the disciple into.  The disciple then must seek or pursue the knowledge, or experience, that has been realized to him.  An external teacher is helpful, even important, but essentially the teacher is within, the Christ or Light that is within.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 23

Gospel of Thomas, coda 23.

 “Jesus said, ‘I shall choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand, and they will stand as a single one.’”

We do not choose Jesus.  Jesus chooses us.  The disciple does not choose the Master.  The Master chooses the disciple.  Jesus, as Master, chooses his disciples from among those who are spiritually ripe or mature.  He chooses only those who are ready.  But, “ready for what,” you may ask?  He chooses those ready to stand spiritually alone with Jesus, in unity with him, and unity with the God. 

Jesus spoke to various size groups of people.  He taught the crowds.  To these Jesus presented very important teachings.  These are people he ministered in a variety of ways; teaching, blessing, healing, driving out demons, and feeding for instance.  Then there were his disciples.  These carried out much of the work of preaching, healing, driving out demons, and feeding.  This was a smaller group.  His instruction of them was more exacting.  And then there were the Apostles.  There were only twelve of them.  They were given the responsibility to lead and teach in addition to the other responsibilities given to the disciples.  His instruction to them was at a deeper level according to their further understanding.  And there was even a smaller, inner circle.  Different scriptures suggest that different apostles were in his inner circle.  In the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, it appears it was Peter, James and John.  Other non-canonical gospels suggest Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Philip, and Judas.  John suggests the “Beloved disciple.” 

In the Gospel of Thomas, Thomas is such a one, spiritual twin to Jesus, in consciousness.  He is no longer Jesus’ disciple but equal.  He has been chosen by Jesus and received from Jesus the knowledge of Self or God and understood it.

Thomas has attained to what he has as the result on his relationship with his Master Jesus.  But, according to certain Gnostic schools, he has arrived at that relationship as the result of many lifetimes.  He is a mature soul.  Anyone who has come this far in this study of Thomas is a mature enough soul, not necessarily to achieve in this lifetime what Thomas has, but is moving towards that.  They are likely one of the thousands chosen or one of the two of ten thousand.  Others will attain to this as well, but perhaps they are not ready to be part of this number.  They have additional incarnations to go through.

As of 2010, the world’s population was 6,840,507,000.  There are 2,300,000,000 Christians.  1,100,000,000 consider themselves to be non-religious or atheist.  84% of the world population is religious, 33% Christian.  Of these, religious and Christian, likely only 20% consider themselves religious in the sense that they seriously seek spiritual development.  The level of spiritual development referred to in Thomas is likely of a subset of this 20%.  Among Christians, 1 in 1000 equals 2,300,000, small, but significant and 2 in 10,000 equals 460,000.

Jesus’ point is that only a few will have the preparation and commitment to realize the fruit of discipleship at this level.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 21

Gospel of Thomas, coda 21.

“Mary said to Jesus, ‘What are your disciples like?’"

It is not clear who the Mary is who asks this question.  There are a number of known Maries, of course.  Perhaps it is not necessary to know who this Mary is.  What is more important is to know what Jesus’ disciples are like.  The following statement answers the question.

“He said, ‘They are like little children living in a field that is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say, 'Give us back our field.' They take off their clothes in front of them in order to give it back to them, and they return their field to them.’”

The disciples are like little children living in a field that is not theirs.  They lack ownership of the field that they live in.  Really they are living in a world that belongs to someone else.  What is this field?  Perhaps it is the material world.  When the owners of the material world come they ask for the field back.  And the children remove their clothes in order to return the field to them.  The clothing the little children wear are their bodies, the necessary vehicles for living in the material world.  The children return to their original nature when they remove their clothing, an original nature that is spiritual.

“For this reason I say, if the owners of a house know that a thief is coming, they will be on guard before the thief arrives and will not let the thief break into their house (their domain) and steal their possessions. As for you, then, be on guard against the world. Prepare yourselves with great strength, so the robbers can't find a way to get to you, for the trouble you expect will come.”

Who is Jesus speaking to here?  If this coda is to be counted as one, then he is speaking to Mary.  Does Mary want to be a disciple, is she a disciple, or is she merely inquisitive about being one of his disciples.  It appears that she may be a disciple herself.  In this case, the house Jesus refers to is the spiritual self, the domain of the spiritual.  Jesus is saying that the owner of the house, the disciple, must be awake, aware and on-guard against the thief.  The thief is the world.  The thief could take away his spiritual unity and peace.  The disciple in this case is an adept who as attained enlightenment but not as a permanent state, and thus is in danger of losing it.  The disciple needs to practice diligently to maintain that connection or spiritual oneness.

Let there be among you a person who understands.

The person among you who understands may be one in the group of disciples or adepts.  Or it can be that part of one that knows; that is awake and aware; that part is the Christ within.  When one falls asleep or becomes unaware or ignorant it is like one is living a dream that perpetuates itself and keeps one from waking.  It is like the dream is real, but it isn’t.  It is an illusion, but it is difficult to return to one’s spiritual reality.

When the crop ripened, he came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!"

Who is that will come to harvest the ripened crop?  And what is the ripened crop.  There is no real harvest in the material world.  Everything there is dead; temporal.  The harvest is of a spiritual crop.  It is a gathering into the spiritual domain of those who have attained that original state of spirit, akin to that of the first spiritual creation alluded to in the first creation story in Genesis, before the second.  When one (crop) develops spiritually (ripens) one is leaves the physical world and enters into the spiritual (is harvested).  At this time there is no one who harvests as the harvest and harvester are one.

Gospel of Thomas - coda 22

Gospel of Thomas, coda 22

 “Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, ‘These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom.’

Jesus is referring to infants, the youngest of children, suckling children, innocent and dependent for their life on the mother.  It may be, and likely is, that Jesus is referring to the state of being that existed as the result of the first creation story, creation of the spiritual human and before the creation of the physical and mental human.

They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?"

It may be tempting to interpret this passage in physical terms.  Jesus is not saying that it is necessary to be a baby, but to be aware spiritually, in that consciousness that is not physically and mentally based, where there is not dependence upon physical nurture but spiritually nurture.

The state that Jesus describes is one in which there is unity of opposites; inner and outer, upper and lower, male and female.

Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 20

Gospel of Thomas, coda 20.

The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us what Heaven's kingdom is like."He said to them, "It's like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky."

In the synoptic gospels the mustard refers to faith and to the kingdom of God.  Davies offers that mustard seed refers to faith, the church or the kingdom of God.  In the context provided by Thomas it appears likely that the reference here is to the kingdom of God.   Davies states that the mustard seed is a weed and not a crop.  It is a colonizing plant that takes over newly broken ground.  It rises up without any human effort.

However, it seems that Thomas is making a different point here.  Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God is present in the world, but it is in potential form.  After it falls into worked ground it takes root and sprouts a large stem.  It then develops branches upon which all the ideas and inspiration of heaven can come to roost. 

Could it be that the ground is the spiritual seeker?  She cultivates her spiritual ground through relationship with her spiritual teacher, spiritual practice, and spiritual study.  The seed comes from outside herself, an act of divine providence or grace, and falls into her spiritual ground, her heart, and works itself into her life, establishing itself in her like a stem, thick and strong, and then branching up and out so that the birds of the sky, ideas and inspiration born of heaven find shelter and expression in her branches.

The ground, too, from another perspective, be humanity.  Humankind cultivates its spiritual ground through relationship with the divine and development of its corporate consciousness.  This seed of the kingdom of God enters in to it and works itself into it, and it establishes itself in human consciousness which expanded is now open to all of the ideas, ideals and inspiration of heaven, even taking on the character of heaven as the result.

Do You Care?

Do You Care

I was reflecting the other day about what a church is?  What is a church to you? I’m assuming to that the church is important to you.  Why is the church important to you?

Certainly a church is many things, but if I was to define a church I would define it this way.  A Church is a community of people who care like Christ cares; cares about other people . . . cares about the world.   The Church of Jesus Christ cares.  The United Methodist Church of North Chili cares.  Indeed, this church is a center of Christ’s caring . . . God’s love of the world. 

You are the Church . . . a community of people that cares about other people and the world in the way Christ cares about people and the world.  You are in the Church because others in the Church have cared about you.  You mattered to the people of the Church.  So many people feel that nobody cares . . . that they don’t matter.  That’s a problem many people experience about the world.

Isn’t that the witness we received last week from Ileana, Alberto, and Jose . . . They are overwhelmed by your care for them.  No questions asked, after they were referred to you, the Body of Christ here in North Chili, you embraced them and were extravagant in your care.   They hardly understood a word you said them and they felt like they mattered . . . that they were important.

It matters that you care . . . it matters to God . . . it matters to others and to the world . . . and it matters to you . . .

Why do you care?  Why, it’s a matter of salvation; your salvation; others’ salvation; the salvation of the world.    Indeed we’re saved because God cared enough to send his son into the world to save it.  We’re saved because God thought about us enough to save us rather than condemn us.  John Wesley says it this way, “Saved even me, undeserving as I am.”  God treat us like we’re deserving even when we believe we are undeserving.  And we all go through times when we think that we are undeserving of God's grace! 

What do you do when you reject or condemn something?  You abandon it.  You leave it like it is worthless to be destroyed.   What do you do when you accept or save something?  You invest in it.  You treat it like it is worthwhile to be renewed.

God has invested in you through Christ!  God has chosen to build you up rather than tear you down!  And God has not said “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or “here are some resources, save yourself.”  Hardly!  Here is my Son!  Here is my Spirit!  You are part of my family now!  You are part of me!  You matter!  You are so important to me that I have sacrificed the life of my son for you!  That’s our story!

Do you care Church?  Let me hear how much you care.  “I care!”  When you care you make a difference to God, to others, to the world and get this, you matter! 

That is why it is important for you to pledge your financial suport for your church.  You care.  You care that the church is able to fulfill its mission or not . . . to install its core values in its members and in the community.  You care.  And you know that it is consequentia that you care. . . to give . . . to serve in Jesus’ name.

Herman Cain has been accused of four counts of sexual harassment.  Does it matter?  He’s running for President of the United States!  Did he do it?  He claims not.  Some like his business acumen and ideas.  They say he would be an excellent President. They want him elected.  They say Cain is being set up, not because they believe he is innocent, but because they don’t want to know whether he harassed those women at all.  They don’t care!

Some don’t like his ideas at all.  They don’t think he has what it takes to be President.  They don’t want him in the White House.  They don’t care if the allegations are true or not.  They just want the allegations to stick.   What matters to them is not whether Cain is guilty of sexual harassment or not.  They just want him to lose.  Really, they don’t care!

But did Cain harass those four women?  Does it matter? Do you care? 

Do you know that as many as 70 percent of women and 45 percent of men report experiences of being sexually harassed in their workplaces?  Does it matter? Do you care?

Graham Spanier, President of Penn State University and Joe Paterno Head Coach of the Penn State Football Team, and a few other prominent persons with the University and football program have been fired over covering up the sexual assault of a boy by an assistant coach in the team locker room, a coach that assaulted 8 boys over a 15 year period.  The number of reports has grown as the investigation presses forward.  This cover up lasted ten years.   Does it matter?  Do you care? 

29% of women and 14% of men report being sexually abused as children.  78,000 cases of sexual abuse were reported and substantiated in 2006.  It is estimated that only 12-30% of cases are reported to authorities, so as many as 260-000-650,000 cases of child sexual abuse occur in the United States per year.  Does it matter?  Do you care?  That sexual abuse has occurred in homes, in schools, in day care centers, and in churches.  Does it matter? Do you care?

Sexual harassment . . . Sexual abuse . . . poverty . . . hunger . . . homelessness . . . immigration issues . . . racial profiling . . . the high rates of incarceration among Blacks, Hispanics, Native-Americans and poor whites . . . the lack of educational advancement among Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans and poor whites . . . domestic violence . . . lack of access to healthcare and jobs . . . Does it matter? Do you care?  What is the consequence of not caring for the victims, ourselves, our communities, and our nation?

There are obviously a lot of people in our country that don’t care.  Leave Herman Cain alone.  You’re only on his case because he’s a black man.  But did he do it?  And does it matter that he did, if he did?  Do you care?  And how about all those other women . . . and men . . . who say were sexually harassed?  Do they matter?  Do you care? What is the consequence of not caring?

Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno at Penn State . . . Leave these men alone.  Look at what they’ve done for Penn State all these years. They were doing their jobs; looking out for the interests of Penn State . . . Did they do what they could do?  Does it matter?  Did they care?  What is the consequence of their not caring?

So the time has come, the Son of Man, the Christ comes in glory, all his angels with him, and he takes his place on his throne.  And he looks at everyone gathered before him; people from every nation and every age.  

And he separates the people, like a Shepherd separates sheep from goats.  And he places those who are like sheep to his right, and those who are like goats to his left. 

And he sees to those seated at this right, “Come into eternal life with me!  You are blessed by God!  Receive your inheritance, the Kingdom of God.  It has been prepared for you from the beginning, because you cared about me.  You fed me when I was hungry, you gave me drink when I was thirsty, you welcomed me when I was a stranger, you gave me clothing when I had none, you cared for me when I was sick, and you visited me when I was incarcerated.”

And those, pleased as can be with his words wondered, but “when was it . . . where . . . how . . .?  And they searched their minds . . . when did we feed you . . . when did we give you drink . . . when did we welcome you . . . when did we clothe you . . . when did we comfort you . . . and when did we visit you in prison?”  And he answered . . . “as you did to for one of the least of these who are members of my family you have done to and for me.  You cared about me.  I mattered to you.  You made a difference!

Then, he turned to those at his left and he said, “Get away from me.  You are cursed by God! There is no inheritance for you! You will have no part of me and the Kingdom of God.  Yours will be the kingdom prepared for the devil and his angels. For when you saw me hungry, you sent me away with nothing, I was thirsty and you didn’t even offer me a glass of water, I was a stranger and you wouldn’t talk to me or let me in, I was cold and needed cover and you didn’t offer me any clothing, I was sick and you let me suffer, and when I was in prison you left me there alone to rot.  You didn’t care about me.  I didn’t matter to you.”

And those, agitated by his words demanded, “But Lord, we didn’t know it was you!  If we had we certainly would have helped!”  And Jesus responded, “Just as you did not do to and for one of the least of these, you did not do to or for me.  You didn’t care.  I didn’t matter.  And now, you expect me to care about you?  Now that you haven’t made a difference with your lives, you want to matter?  I do care.  That’s why I’m sorry.  By failing to help these others you have neglected and denied yourself.  Do you care?  And now you know the consequences of caring and not caring.  Does it really Matter?

And the righteous shall go to eternal life, and the ignorant to eternal torment.

Herman Cain, if he is innocent, will rise above the accusations made of him.  And if he’s not will be vilified.  There are consequences to his actions.  And for those who look the other way and vote for him, if indeed he has harassed women, because there are consequences for not caring.  Does it matter? Do you care?

Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno and others at Penn State are paying the price for not caring or not caring enough for the boys who were victimized and their families.  Penn State is paying the price.  The Catholic Church is paying the price. Our schools are paying the price.  Our society is paying the price.  Does it matter? Do you care?

Do you care that so many of women and men in our society are being sexually harassed?  Those are our daughters and son, being brought up in a culture that says “Hush now.  Don’t tell.  And boys will be boys.”  A culture that teaches them that sexual harassment is okay.

Do you care that so many people in our society, boys and girls, are sexually abused by people they love and trust and have power over them? Does it matter to you that are ashamed of themselves for what has been done to them, and grow up in a culture that says “Quiet now.  Don’t make problems for your abuser.  They are good men.  (Does that mean the children are bad?) You let it happen and no one is going to believe you?” Does it matter that they grow up wanting to feel powerful in an area where they have been made to feel weak, and so become abusers themselves or feel so guilty that they let their spouses abuse them?

Do you care that so many in our country, Black, Hispanic, Native American and White, are poor, hungry, are failing academically, lack access to health care and jobs, and end up in prison rather than college dorms, and living hand to mouth rather than prospering? 

Here it is in a nutshell:  You make a difference by your caring and by your not caring.  You make a difference by what you do and say and by what you don’t do or don’t say.  You make a difference because you do matter!  Do you care like Jesus says he cares?  Does it matter, like Jesus says it matters?  Because there are rewards for caring and consequences for not . . . Does it matter? Do you care?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Three Congregations (Based upon Parable of Talents)

It happened one day that Jesus approached the members of three of his congregations and said, “I must go away on a journey, for I have other congregations I need to help.  I’m going to be away for a long time, but I expect you to make an accounting of what you have accomplished when I return. You are in a good situation to help yourselves. 

This is your mission statement: to welcome, to love, and to accept ALL People as God, loves, welcomes and accepts all people!  By our participation in the life of the Church, Christ’s body, we grow spiritually and are empowered to live our faith.

Jesus went away and the three churches went about their business of being faithful to Jesus’ instructions.

The first group decided to play it safe.  They wanted to make sure that when Jesus returned everyone who was a current member was happy and still attending the church.  They realized that change was hard and that by going out and bringing in new members the church would have to change. And they knew change is risky.

Oh, they would welcome people, but only people who fit the current demographic of the church or who wouldn’t demand that the church change to suit needs other than what already happened to be needs of current church members.  They didn’t want to risk resources that the church needed to continue to do the things it long had been doing for its members.

The second group decided to take a few chances to help grow the church.  They wanted to make sure that when Jesus returned that there would be a more diverse congregation than when he left.  The community around the church, one to five miles away was growing more diverse.  There were Asians, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans living within this radius of the church.   There were people who demonstrated a wide variety of lifestyles.  There were couples living out of wedlock, some with children, there were people who were Gay and Lesbian, there were people receiving public assistance, and there were some who were struggling with alcohol and other drugs and illnesses like HIV illness. They decided, of course, that they would welcome everyone who came to their door, but they would not go out of their way to invite people who were obviously ignoring God’s law, living in sin, not pulling their own weight, or had chosen lifestyles and activities not pleasing to God.  They knew that change was risky and they would manage the change by being careful about those they invited to participate in their church.

The third church decided that they would extend radical hospitality to all of the people living within a ten mile radius of the church.  They would cast a wide net and value every person caught within their net as a person of infinite worth made in the image of God.  They would love everyone and seek to engage each person in a relationship with God and a life that led to wholeness, focusing on the worth of the person to God, rather than the flaws of that person. 
They knew that they would lose people by their radical embrace of all God’s children including the lost, but they thought that it was worth the risk that more of God’s children would be saved by their approach.  They concluded that it would be risky to not invite and welcome everyone.

When Jesus was returned he stopped in all three churches.
He was pleased to see everyone in the church that sought to stay the same.  It had lost some members to death and relocation because of age, sickness, graduation, and economic realities.  It had gained some members that had moved into the community and fit well into the demographic profile of the congregation and the community living within one mile of the church.  This certainly was a good group of people and Jesus appreciated every one of them.
He was also pleased to see everyone in the church that sought reach out to the racial-ethnic groups that lived both in their immediate community and out five miles from their church.  This church had grown much more diverse, adding people of various Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native American cultures.  It had lost a few people who felt more comfortable in a church that was more homogeneous. Jesus appreciated how the church had celebrated the cultural and language differences these new people brought to them and how the life of the church was enriched by this newfound diversity. He applauded them saying that the congregation now approximated better the diversity in heaven.

And he was pleased to see everyone in the church that sought to reach out radically and unconditionally to both the racial-ethnic groups that the second church reached out to and to the groups of people whose lifestyles were dissimilar with most everyone who had grown up or been long-term members of the church.  He was sad to see that some had left this church over the differences, some the cultural differences, some the lifestyle and sin issues. He had been to many churches but he had not seen so many unmarried couples and parents, Gays and Lesbians, people on public assistance, recovering and struggling alcoholics and addicts, persons with piercings and tattoos, and people with  HIV-illness.  He was amazed at how the congregation united despite differences in culture, language and lifestyle. And all these people, saints and sinners were engaged together in a process of relationship, forgiveness, love and transformation.

Jesus called all three congregations together and said “I love you all.  You are all children of God, brothers and sisters with the same Parent.  I appreciate all of your faithfulness in striving to do what I have asked of you.  I know that it is not easy.  I know that you have fears that you will do the wrong thing.  Anything you do, including doing nothing is a risk. 

I want each one of you to love one another just like you love me and to struggle, if necessary, to grow.  I want you to love your neighbors as yourself, and that includes those in other churches, and no church at all, or in other faiths.  And in the end people will know that you are my disciples by your love. 

Gospel of Thomas - coda 19

Gospel of Thomas, coda 19.

Jesus said, "Congratulations to the one who came into being before coming into being.  If you become my disciples and pay attention to my sayings, these stones will serve you.  For there are five trees in Paradise for you; they do not change, summer or winter, and their leaves do not fall. Whoever knows them will not taste death."

Stevan Davies explains that Thomas has as its background the two creation stories in Genesis.  The first creation story spans Genesis 1:1-2:3.  The second creation story begins at 2:4 and continues indefinitely.   The first creation is perfect.  God declares it good seven times.  The first creation includes the origin of light and primordial humanity made in the image of God.  The second creation starts as if the first creation story never took place.  In this story man is made out of dirt and woman out of the man’s rib.

The first creation is not superseded by the second.  Rather, it continues coexistent with the second.  The first creation is perfect and the primordial human perfect, unmarred by the “Fall” or “Original Sin.”  The first human is a spiritual creation not a physical one, the second is a physical condition.  So, any human being is both a spiritual being and a physical being.

Thomas spirituality is a path of return of human beings to their original condition from the first creation.  This initial condition continues to exist in reality, although the second condition is what people ordinarily experience as real.  The first hidden creation is the “Kingdom of God.”  The human condition of any person can be that of the original image of God or that of Adam of the second condition.  One can identify with Spirit or body and mind.  When identified with the first creation one exists as one who exists before coming into being in the manner of the image of God which existed before the form of Adam came into being.  Both the first, and second creation, coexist, but the later and inferior physical reality masks the former and perfect primordial form.

The first creation, the Kingdom of God is already present on the earth.  It always has been and always will be.  When someone is a disciple of Jesus and identifies himself as the self made in the first creation, everything that is on earth serves that disciple.  That’s what it means that, “the very stones” of the earth will serve those who know their true nature and the true nature of the world.  One with such knowledge of his nature will be a master of his own reality.

The five trees in paradise are evergreen.  They are eternal.  They do not change season to season.  These are trees of knowledge.  To know these trees is to know one’s original nature or condition, the condition prior to the second creation.  One who knows this doesn’t die because the original spiritual creation and human is eternal.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 18

Gospel of Thomas, coda18

The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us, how will our end come?" Jesus said, "Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is. Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death."

There are a couple of Buddhist terms that I find useful here.  One is “beginner’s mind.”  The other is “original nature.”  “Beginner’s mind” is awakened mind.  “Original nature” is the original state of being and similar to, if not the same as “image of God.”.  It is that state of mind or being characterized by emptiness but pregnant with potential.  The search for an end is futile, particularly a future end, because in this beginning state there is only now, eternally present.  In this sense beginning and end are the same.  To wake up in this timeless state is to “know the end” and “not taste death.”

There is a need for a right effort here.  It is not a striving after an end, but a ceasing of striving.  Until one stops striving after the end and enters into the ocean of consciousness that is the consciousness of being one will not know that which is being discussed here.  Can you just be? 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 17

Gospel of Thomas, coda 17

Jesus said, "I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart."

What is it that “no eye has seen,” “no ear has heard,” “no hand has touched,” and “has not arisen in the human heart?”  What is it than is real and given that cannot be perceived through the senses of sight, hearing, or touch or the extrasensory perception of intuition?  It is nothing that can be described but it can be transmitted from Jesus to his disciples.  It is the knowledge or experience of God, of Self, or the Kingdom of God.  I keep coming back to the terms God, Self, and Kingdom of God.  In a Gnostic sense God I One, the only One there is, but manifest in many ways.  The reality of the One is not seen in the face of multiplicity but it is the frame in which multiplicity is knowable.  Thus, the One is knowable through multiplicity but there is way to describe this Oneness that captures its wholeness.  It is beyond the comprehension of any point of multiplicity or the sum total of all multiplicities.  This Oneness is both empty, a fertile void out of which multiplicity emerges and it is full, full in the sense of presence and spaciousness, although immaterial.  The Self that I am referring to here is not the self that you and I conceive of ourselves as being as individual and culturally related persons, but is that point of reference that transcends individual and corporate identity and finds its unity in Oneness with God and relatedness with others which likewise finds its unity in Oneness with God.  Ultimately, Self and Other collapse or expand into an essential unity with the Divine Oneness.  The Kingdom of God is not a place that you enter into at a time, although it exists.  It exists eternally as an invisible realm, domain, state, reality, or consciousness of God.  It is this Oneness, Self, and Kingdom of God realization that Jesus conveys by his presence and expression to his disciples.  What Jesus transmits and initiates his disciples into is the same mind that exists within him and he exists within.  This reality is secret or hidden but realizable.  This begs the question, “how?” but the question is an expression of finite mind and individuality or cultural bias and limitation.  But from the perspective of God and Self the question is already answered only awaiting realization by the removal of veils of ignorance or remembrance of that which “I AM” is and what “I AM” has been always and always will be.  Jesus is inviting his disciples to proceed beyond belief into the reality that surpasses all other realities and which is the basis of those realities.  He is pointing beyond materiality and beyond psychology to spirituality, and even beyond that and saying that it is right here, now, everywhere, forever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 16

Gospel of Thomas, coda 16

Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war.
For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone."

From an ancient Gnostic perspective, the world is an evil place.  Matter is evil.  The values of the world are material.  The God who created the world is not the true God of Jesus Christ.  There is good in the world, and it is of the true God, but that good does not belong to the world and must be freed from the world.  This good is a spiritual good.  Jesus came into this world, sent by the one True God, to rescue this good.  So, according to Thomas, Jesus doesn’t come to bring about agreement with this evil world or even to redeem it, but to destroy it, and replace it with a new world, a world that is a divine one, where the one True God reigns or rules.  The world Jesus comes to is one that is already conflict ridden.   Jesus hasn’t come to redeem or fix it, but to restore what was lost to God.  But the world as it exists does not have as its basis goodness, but ignorance of that goodness.

In reading 16a, I wonder how literally we should take these words “fire, sword, and war.”  Is it possible to read this fire Jesus brings as the fire he baptizes with, that truth that is kindled and bursts into flame and spreads destroying the world, but purifying it as well?   Is it possible that the sword Jesus wields is a sword of truth that cuts through illusion and falsehood and brings about transformation?  Is it possible the war Jesus brings is a war against evil and ignorance and falsehood?  Jesus does not agree with the world as it is and confronts it rather than accept it.  Perhaps Jesus is saying, “Let there be truth on earth and let it begin with me,” rather than “Let there be peace on earth.”  And “let there be justice on earth.”

How is this even possible?  Jesus leads people out of the world and their world conditioned existence.  He leads them out of their identity with their bodies and families and cultures into identity with himself, the Spirit and God.  This places them at odds with their families and culture and so they stand alone in the direct presence of God and the Kingdom of Heaven.  This means that they are playing by a completely different set of rules and values than the world is living by.  By living by this spiritual rule rather than worldly rules they are free in the world, living as such in a spiritual world within the physical world, but not being of the physical world or subject to it.  Of course, family members, community members don’t understand and don’t approve and may even seek to bring them back to their senses.  But the Kingdom of God and life in it takes precedent over all other things for them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 15

Gospel of Thomas, coda 15

“Jesus said, ‘When you see someone not born of a woman, prostrate yourselves and worship him.  He is your Father.’”

To be born of a woman is to be born of flesh and live according the law of the flesh, the instincts, drives, needs and desires of the body.  It is to live according to one’s physical nature and the system of rewards and conditioning build into the material world.  To be born again, from above (heaven), or in the spirit is to live according to the higher law of spirit, God, and freedom, freedom from conditioning, and freedom to love Self as you find self in and around you.  When someone is alive in the spirit in this way, they are one with God.  It’s rare to see this in a person.  Jesus was an example of such a person.  Jesus told his disciples in the Gospel of John that in him his disciples had seen “the Father” and that he was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and that “no one comes to ‘the Father’” except through him.   The true spiritual master is one that is not a child of his biological parent any longer, but of God.  Such a person is free of the effects, related to life in the body, that result in living a continuous cycle of death and rebirth.  Born of God in the spirit of God one is free of what the Buddhists call “the law of dependent origination.  Rather one is free to do the “will of ‘the Father.’”  What is being prostrated to here and worshiped is none other than God realized in the presence of the Master.  Imagine what it would be like to realize a world where there is only God, expressed in many forms, but essentially God.  The Indian sage Sri Aurobindo was known to have said, “Whenever I meet a person, I bow to the God within him, and pay for his personality.”  Is it possible to live in such concordance with God “one’s True-Self” that one recognizes God (that True-Self) in everyone and everything and everywhere and are always prostrating oneself and worshiping God.  This would be an egoless state of Self-God Realization where one loves God and loves neighbor as oneself.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 14

Gospel of Thomas, coda 14

“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.
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.

For what goes into your mouth will not defile you, but what comes out of your mouth will defile you.”
These statements attributed to Jesus go against everything that I have learned in my religious upbringing and training.  No matter what religious perspective I have been part of Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, and Sufi none have spoken of fasting, prayer, and charity in this way.  When Jesus attacks the fasting, prayer and giving of the Pharisees in the New Testament canon, he is not attacking fasting, prayer, and charity as such, but the attitudes and reasons behind them.   These outer disciplines are not connected with inner holiness, but with appearance, with ego.  If I do these things I would look better in the eyes of my community.  Or, if I do these things I will receive a heavenly reward or even an earthly one.  You’ve probably heard it said in Church Stewardship campaigns, if you give your whole tithe you financial house will come into order.  And not only that, you will prosper.  Some speak of the tithe as a seed.  The more you give to ministry in this way, the more you will prosper.

But can you imagine fasting without fasting, praying without praying, and giving without giving; your fasting, praying, and giving being egoless, without desire of recognition or reward; your entire motivation being love.  You love God completely and love your neighbor as yourself.  Your fast is an expression of your compassion for the other.  You see somebody hungrier than you and you give that person your sandwich or share it if both of you are hungry.  Your listening to somebody in need is an act of prayer.  Every one of your thoughts and actions is an offering to God without expectation or desire for anything from God.  You buy somebody a coat as easily as you would buy yourself or a family member a coat.  In this case there is no you that is fasting, praying, or giving and no other that you are fasting, praying or giving in regard of.  You are not taking on the karma of the object of your fast, prayer or giving.

Stevan Davies suggests that the fasting, prayer, and charity referred to in coda 14a relate to the three things Jesus said to Thomas in coda 13 because coda 14a follows right upon coda 13.  But then, Davies is begging an internal organization to the Gospel of Thomas that may not be there.  Certainly there is a certain internal consistency in the Gospel of Thomas as there appears to be a singular authorship and voice, but the sayings are not organized in such a way to say that one coda is referring directly to or following directly on another.  I disagree that Jesus’ reference to fasting, prayer, and charity as radical as these statements may be in opposition to traditional teachings about these practices, rises to a level of blasphemy that the apostles will stone Thomas for revealing Jesus said these things to him. Rather, I believe the kind of blasphemy Thomas would be charged with is claiming an equality of consciousness (twin) with Jesus. 

The spiritual discipline suggested by Thomas, are not the external disciplines Thomas warns against, but an internal and behavioral seeking after the Kingdom of God.  Having sought and found the condition of sinless consciousness that existed prior to creation, the pursuit of the disciplines of fasting, prayer and charity are irrelevant, and may even take one away from the experience of Oneness or unity with God.

During my time in Buddhism I spend time with Buddhist monks and nuns who while they could prepare food for others, could not prepare food for themselves, and had to accept whatever food was offered to them.    Inherent to this was an acceptance of the hospitality of others and the transcendence of personal desire.  They ate what was given to them not what they wanted.  The monks would go about their daily practices and work and just before noon would receive food that was prepared for them by the people of their community. 
I have not lived as a Christian monastic, but I have served as an itinerant pastor and missionary.  In both cases I moved to live and serve in a particular community and culture.  Part of receiving me was the acceptance of housing and food.  In the case of the housing I needed to accept what was offered.  In the case of food it really was expected that I would eat what the people provided for my family and me as they welcomed us and eat the kinds of food they prepared at church dinners.  This was complicated by my not eating certain foods as if the foods they prepared were somehow unclean.  But in this passage in Thomas and in the New Testament canon no food was considered unclean.   By living among people and abiding by their customs including their eating customs you join with them.  And once you have been welcomed and become one with them as they share with you, they are open to receiving from you what you have to offer, including the gift of spiritual healing that you have brought.

Jesus in Thomas dismisses the belief that something that you eat can defile you as a person.   Perhaps this applies to other aspects of the cleanliness laws as well.  It’s what you say and what you do that defiles you.  It’s what you think and believe that defiles you and leads you to say and do evil.  It’s not what you eat or whether you wash your hands.  What matters that you are pure of heart and mind.

This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t eat healthy food and clean water and that one shouldn’t wash and bathe.  One does these things for health and sanitation reasons, not for moral and spiritual issues.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 13

Gospel of Thomas, coda13

 Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like." Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a righteous angel." Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher." Thomas said to him, "Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like." Jesus said, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out." And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up."

This is a crucial passage in Thomas as it is the only one that mentions Thomas at all.  It is on this basis that the text was named after Thomas and was given the introductory statement it was given.  Thomas answers Jesus’ question about who Jesus is by saying that what Jesus is cannot be described or explained by words.

Jesus’ response to Thomas that he (Jesus) is not his (Thomas’) master because Thomas has received from Jesus a transmission of Knowledge that Thomas completely understands indicates that Thomas has received all that Jesus can teach him and has integrated it and has become like the master himself, a master.  Jesus and Thomas are no longer in a Master-Disciple relationship but masters.  Both are Sons of the Living Father; fully realized Sons. 

The responses of Simon Peter and Matthew are not wrong in that at their level of spiritual consciousness that is what they can understand.  Both of their responses are of the mind, whereas Thomas’ response is of the spirit.  Thomas was at a higher level of spiritual development.  He is able to be of the same mind, and may I suggest, same person as Jesus, both realizing the Christ in their person.  This is not to say that Peter and Matthew are not highly developed spiritually, just that Thomas was at a higher level, a level equal to the Master, the Messiah.  He was experiencing the Messianic Consciousness like Jesus was.  Their consciousness was twin.

Jesus took Thomas away to be alone with him to convey to him a further teaching.  He tells Thomas three things.  These are likely things only Thomas could understand as only Thomas was prepared to receive them.  Perhaps what Jesus told Thomas pertained to Thomas’ own status in relationship to God, a relationship that was equal to Jesus’ relationship with God.  Whatever it was, was intended to be kept secret and there would be consequences for doing so. 

Were Thomas to reveal what Jesus said to him, the others would stone him, a punishment prescribed for blasphemy. Recall that in the New Testament gospels Jesus himself was accused and judged to be guilty of blasphemy.  It’s what the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus executed for.

Recall, too, how in the Old Testament, the Hebrew people could not utter the name of God, nor create an image of God, and that they feared that if they came face to face with God that they would die.  God was unapproachable and unmentionable, so powerful was God’s presence and God’s name.  Thomas was seeing Jesus in his nature as God’s Son and God’s Word made flesh, as the pure light of God and Heaven fully ablaze and he was totally consumed by that presence he experienced in Jesus.  No word can possibly suffice to describe this experience.  Thomas was prepared to have this experience of God.  He could handle the same power that Jesus did.  But the other disciples couldn’t.  What Thomas would tell them if he would, they couldn’t handle.  It would overwhelm them, even destroy them.

The disciples could accept these claims about Jesus, although they didn’t understand them, like Thomas, but to accept them about Thomas, one of them, not THE Son of God, but a son or child of God.

Thomas is the model of one who has attained to the full likeness of Jesus who as attained in the flesh to the full likeness of God, and going back to the start of this scripture we see that one who comes to understand these sayings correctly will enter into eternal life, this same deathless consciousness that was in Christ Jesus.  Thomas is the first of the disciples to enter into this Messianic Consciousness, perhaps other than Mary Magdalene (But that’s another story).  And it is possible that others will as well.  And it is possible that’s the whole reason for being Jesus’ disciple.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 12

Gospel of Thomas, coda 12

“His disciples said to Jesus, ‘We will know will leave us.  Who will be our leader then?’  Jesus responded, ‘Wherever you are, turn to Jacob (James) the Just, for his sake the sky and the earth came into being.’”
This is a very practical coda that concerns who will succeed Jesus as leader of his community or group.  Jesus designates Jacob who is James, his brother.  James has a reputation for righteousness, thus his name “the just” and is deserving of leading the community or group in his own right.

Other sources will speak of Peter and James sharing leadership of the Jerusalem Church and being responsible for the outer circle and teaching of the community, of John and Mary the Mother being responsible for the inner circle and teaching, and Mary Magdalene of the secret knowledge.  To say that this was how the church at the time of Jesus’ passing as being so organized seems to me an effort to conflate these sources in such a way that is not suggested by Thomas.

But why were the sky and the earth created for James?  The heavens and earth exist as a matrix through which human kind can be illuminated, that divine light passing from the highest heaven to earth to transform human beings and human society so that it is infused with divine light and is, as such, enlightened.  The veils of darkness and ignorance are thus removed and the light that exists within human beings and human society in revealed.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gospel of Thomas - coda 11

Gospel of Thomas coda 11

11. Jesus said, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. During the days when you ate what is dead, you made it come alive. When you are in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?"

Tau Malachi discusses the nature of God, reality and change.  Change is inherent to reality.  In fact it is in the nature of reality to change.  The nature of God is to create.  The activity of creation is change or transformation.  The nature of God is ceaseless change.  Certainly, God is that which was, is, and always be.  From the perspective of eternity there is no such thing as past, present, and future.  There is only now, always.  From this perspective nothing changes; everything is the same.  Everything in one with the One of Being.  Yet this timeless eternity generates time eternity.  Being generates becoming.  God is infinite and eternal Being, and at the same time God is becoming of what always was, is and is becoming.  So, God is constantly changing.  God is always coming into being, without beginning or end.  The heavens shall pass away.  Indeed the heaven above heaven will pass away.  Everything else in creation will pass away.  Everything is in flux, in the process of change, even heaven and even higher states of awareness and consciousness.  This is how the universe evolves; how consciousness and reality evolves.  The former heaven and earth and levels of consciousness and awareness transform into new heavens, new earth, and new levels of awareness and consciousness.  Change is happening, passing out of form and into new form, and this change is a matter of growth or development.  Even after the realization of Messianic Consciousness or Gnostic Being, there are higher, more refined states of consciousness and reality.  This growth never ends.  Although God is, and human perfection, and the perfection of creation, always was, is, and will be!  We’ll discuss one becoming two, and two becoming one later, but this is an instance where while there is Being there is also Becoming and multiple manifestations which ultimately become one again with the One Being.

Jesus says, in Thomas, “the dead are not alive, and the living will not die.”  Tau Malachi explains that in the innermost part of our being, it is possible to realize the bornless nature of our Spirit.   The essence of our being is the One True Being.  What we call death, whether it is death of the body or ego death is a shift of consciousness to another state of existence.  When aware of our bornless eternal nature we realize that death is an illusion.  Yet, if we aren’t awake or aware and have not developed a conscious continuity of self-awareness throughout all states of existence, waking, dream, sleep, death, and afterlife we aren’t alive.  We are alive when we awaken in the Spirit of the Messiah.  Until then it is like we are dead in life.  Once awakened and aware we are alive.  This bornless one within us, who we really are, is Christ.

Stevan Davies explains that when Jesus speaks of making alive the dead that you consumed that you are transforming what is dead into you who are alive.  He goes on to explain that when you are in the light you will only eat living things.  He suggests that this means that you will become vegetarian.  Eating only living thing, taken to its logical conclusion means eating raw foods and fruit and nuts as processing even vegetables kills them. 

Tau Malachi is less literal than Davies in his interpretation.  He states that when you are alive in the Spirit of the Messiah, you uplift and bring into life whatever you consume.  You do this as your prepare to eat the foot by way of pre-meal blessings and thanksgivings.  Blessed, purified and consumed the holy sparks contained in the food are restored to the body of Adam Kadmon and redeemed in the body of the Messiah and attached to you through Christ.

The task of the disciple of Jesus (Yeshua) is to uplift the sparks in all we do.

When we participate in the Eucharist we are eating what is alive (Christ), the dead (us) are brought to life.  In the supper, we rehearse Christ’s death (and ours) and receive the realization of the resurrection (Christ’s and ours), and receiving and realizing it, we are empowered in the Spirit of the Messiah to share and give this same eternal life, so others may realize it as well (until all the world does).  This is our very life mission as Christians!

Tau Malachi says of the question, “What will you do when you dwell in the Light?” that it is a trick question.  You will do nothing.  Once you come to abide in the Light, it is the Lord and the Holy Spirit that will through or as your Self will do and accomplish everything.  You will have the propensity to extend and share what you have received and realized but it will be the Spirit of Christ within you which is your True Self which will drive you to do this.  There will be no ego motivation or gratification in doing this.

Tau Malachi doesn’t answer Jesus’ question about what you will do when you are one you will become two, saying that answer must come from within.  There is quite a mystery here.  It is the ego that creates separation.  There is no such separation in the Self.  But as soon as I think about the Self I am separate from the Self.  Yet, I can live from that Self.  Living from that Self, that Spirit of the Messiah within, I enter a state that J. Krishnamurti called “choiceless awareness.”  I simply respond to life or do in life without responding or doing.  I know what to say and what to do.  I am responsive.  This kind of life is effortless although it appears to involve effort.  That essential unity with God or the One is never lost even as you live your life in the world.