Inside the Gospel of Thomas

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We have included five samples from the book The Gospel of Thomas — a Blueprint for Spiritual Growth.

Those five sections are:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. About the Author
  3. Forward
  4. Introduction
  5. the first 10 sayings

Please take a look at these sections by clicking on the links above.

Table of Contents

About the Author
Introduction
The Sayings
The Exercises
The process of Self Discovery
Observation
Traumas
Issues
Programming
Imprinting
Recognizing the Different Voices Within
The Process of Inner Unification
Forgiveness and Non–judgment
The Forgiveness Exercise
The Transformation of Emotions
Resolving Inner Traumas
Resolving Inner Issues
Becoming Your True Self
Functioning From Love
Recognizing the Christ

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About the Author

David began his spiritual quest in 1970 at the age of 23. He had become disenchanted with the Christian approach to religion and embarked on a study of Eastern religions. David’s quest, like that of so many other people, was really a search for truth. The vast array of information available quickly leaves the searcher dazed and confused, hoping to find something which “feels right” and “makes sense”.

David spent several months considering what the truth might look like so it could be recognized when it was seen. He decided the truth was something which remained largely unchanged by the passage of time, the effect of different cultures, and the great distances separating the people and religious systems around the globe. By comparing spiritual principles from different religious systems and sorting out the differences, a core set of basic “truths” emerged. This allowed a focusing of effort on a simple set of spiritual principles and practices.

This focused practice resulted in his having a classical mystical experience in February of 1985, where David found himself standing in the presence of God. Everything physical had disappeared. Only he and God remained. During this time David experienced the overwhelming unconditional love which comes from God. The revelations regarding life, death and the true nature of spirit quickly followed.

The intensity of this experience slowly faded over a three month period. By early summer he was asking, “Is this it? You bring me into Your presence and Your light and in three months it fades and goes away?” He was shown that if he continued with the spiritual practices he had learned he would permanently re-enter this state of grace he experienced during his mystical experience.

That took place seven years later, in 1992. David now lives completely within the presence of God and has been sharing his insights with all those who take the time to listen.

David has been teaching spiritual growth to a weekly class since 1987 and is demonstrating the depth of understanding present in a true spiritual master. This book is a result of that level of insight and understanding.

David lives in North Central Idaho and can be contacted through the publisher, The Gnostic Wisdom Foundation.

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Forward

More than half a million ancient texts have been recovered from the Middle East. Approximately 20 percent of those deal with religious issues, providing over 100,000 new religious texts from the ancient world. As these texts are being translated a radically new understanding of our religious past is emerging. Among those discoveries are The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Scrolls which are providing exciting new insights into the New Testament and the beginning years of the Christian faith. Other ancient texts are providing insights into the Old Testament and filling in many of the gaps in our own history and the development of the human race.

Because of the difficulty in reading the cuneiform text and recovering the writing on ancient scrolls, the task facing the scholars in translating the ancient knowledge is daunting, to say the least. While many of the scholars have religious training and backgrounds, this training sometimes makes it more difficult to perceive the exact meaning of these ancient texts because the tendency is to try to translate, or create an expression in our modern language that is not at odds with the religious beliefs of the scholar. As a result, some translations fail to make much sense and seem at odds with everything else.

Most scholars agree that the ancient texts are enigmatic at best, and border on “unexplainable”, based on our modern understanding of the world. As more and more of the ancient texts are translated and the information in them becomes more accepted, some, if not many, of the translations will need to be revised to reflect the newly emerging wealth of details and depth of understanding which is just now beginning to unfold.

We are indebted to the scholars for their dedication, knowledge and expertise in a difficult and demanding field. Their personal integrity and the integrity of their work is constantly being challenged by those who would have their own political or religious agenda supported and strengthened by ancient sources. The reality is, many of our modern beliefs and religious foundations are not being borne out by the recovered texts. While a number of attempts have been, and are being, made to explain away the glaring differences between the ancient texts and our modern beliefs, we must, in the near future, come to terms with the veracity and integrity of the information being recovered.

The ancient world being revealed is surprisingly different from what we imagined it to be. A stunningly clear record of life in the ancient cities is emerging which portrays a civilization rivaling today’s standards, encompassing an impressive educational system, legal tradition, and governmental organization not seen until the last two centuries of our modern history. And yet, the evidence, as disturbing as it is to the traditional view of history, documents in minute detail the workings of a thoroughly modern and refined civilization and social structure in existence for thousands of years before the Greek and Roman empires.

As disturbing as the discovery of a “modern” civilization in the time frame of 6,000 to 12,000 years ago may be, the impact of the ancient religious documents and texts upon the accepted doctrine of the modern church, mosque, or synagogue is no less than devastating. A new spiritual paradigm is emerging which encompasses both the ancient and modern texts in what is actually a very old spiritual perspective. Far from being ignorant pagans, our distant ancestors had a very impressive grasp and understanding of spiritual principles. This tradition has been passed down through the ages in the esoteric sayings and teachings of spiritual masters like Krishna, Buddha and Jesus.

The truth held in common among these diverse spiritual leaders is brought to life by a living spiritual master. Once we begin to grasp the hidden wisdom embedded in every religious system, we begin to understand they were all talking about the same thing. This universal spiritual truth forms the foundation of every religion and has been with us from the very beginning. Through the new spiritual paradigm the unification, not only of the self, but of mankind is possible. We stand now on the threshold of a new age of understanding and enlightenment. The secret knowledge of the past is not only revealed, but explained in modern terms and simple language so everyone can learn and experience the truth for themselves.

There is no mystery we cannot understand. We are dedicated to bringing the inner wisdom to all who will open their mind and heart and take their first real step into a larger world of awareness, perception, and consciousness. We hold to the principle that everyone is a divine child of God, created and constantly held in perfect equality, perfect love and perfect wholeness (holiness) in the mind of God. As such we are very pleased to bring you an example of this new spiritual paradigm in the form of an explanation of the sayings of Jesus in The Gospel of Thomas.

We hope you enjoy the work and insights of this author.

The Gnostic Wisdom Foundation

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INTRODUCTION

The struggle for power and authority is basic to our human nature. Indeed, the history of the world is the story of that very quest: the conquering hero, the vanquished foe, and the resulting legends that feed the imagination of young and old alike. Especially in religion is the conflict glorified, the classic epic of good versus evil on a cosmic scale — eternal God and the rebellious Satan contending for the souls of mankind. How easily we get swept up in the rhetoric, pledging ourselves, believing, professing our faith, and drawing the battle lines here on Earth for the conflict that must surely come.

Only the bystander, the passer–by, dares to ask, “Are we the pawns, the prize, or the players in this contest?” Many are convinced that we are the prize of this cosmic conflict, always trying to do right and maintain our faith while constantly being seduced by Satan. Only those who truly believe and hold to their faith will be saved from eternal punishment. Others believe that we are pawns in this same conflict, the foot soldiers of God in an evil world, ever fighting for the souls of our fellow men. Still others believe that we are the players in the conflict, and while both good and evil things take place in the world, it is individual people that create the effect of good or evil by their own choices and actions.

Whatever our position, there is another issue that divides us even more. It slices through all other positions like Alexander the Great cleaving the Gordian knot with his sword. It cuts to the very heart of faith and religion. Framed as a question, it is this: Is the power of God something that is forever outside of us, or is it, as some claim, to be manifested within us? The question is not new; it has been with us from the beginning of time. Is power and authority ultimately to be vested within each individual, or must it always be placed in the hands of others? While this question is more readily answered in society based on levels of skills and resources, it becomes above all else a haunting and compelling spiritual question.

We have been well trained by modern religion to see God as an outside force — something to be worshipped, feared, and appealed to in times of trouble and distress. But it hasn’t always been that way. Two millennia ago the landscape of religion was significantly different. Following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, two cities contended for domination of the known civilized world: Rome, the seat of political power represented by Octavian, and Alexandria in Egypt, the center of culture and religion, represented by Mark Antony. The military aspect of the conflict was brought to a close in 31 BC at the port of Actium on the western shore of Greece with Octavian’s defeat of Mark Antony. Rome became the supreme center of political and military power.

While political power flowed from Rome, the cultural center of the known world was Alexandria in Egypt. Here the philosophers, religious, scientists, and artists of the world came to share their knowledge and wisdom with all who would listen and learn. The epicenter of this quest for spiritual and cultural enlightenment was the library, attached to the temple of Serapis, in the southern section of the city. Here, tens of thousands of documents recorded the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of mankind since the time of the Biblical flood. And it was here that the Gnostics reigned supreme. The ancient wisdom and tradition of the Egyptian mystery schools enjoyed prominent scholarly support, and the inner expression of Divinity was the standard of the day.

One hundred fifty to 200 years would pass before the rise of Christianity challenged the Gnostic system of religion. Early leaders of the Christian Church recognized that Rome was the center of political power and chose to align themselves with that power and authority. The marriage between the Christian Church and political power was formalized at the council of Nicea in 325 AD. Under the direction of the Emperor Constantine, bishops in the Christian Church ascended to the position of judges, with the military power of Rome at their disposal. Anything that differed from the approved Christian doctrine was deemed a heresy, and was to be destroyed.

Gnosticism (direct knowledge of God) was deemed a heresy by the Church and an aggressive program followed to rid the world of heretical documents. The final conflict between Rome and Alexandria came to a head in 391 AD , when Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria, under the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, led an angry mob of Christians across the city to the Temple of Serapis, destroying the statues, tapestries, artwork and icons in the temple and then focusing their rage on the library in the main wing of the temple, and in a day’s time, destroyed the collected knowledge and wisdom of thousands of years. They burned all writings that did not agree with the doctrine of the Roman Christian Church. So it was that the center of religion was changed from Alexandria and its Gnostics to the Christians in Rome. God and divinity was relegated to outer, rather than inner expression.

The persecution of the Gnostics continued while foresighted individuals secreted copies of their sacred scriptures away, sealed in earthen jars, buried in eastern central Egypt, praying for the day when the ancient wisdom would once again be shared openly. Through this persecution and the deliberate destruction of sacred documents the Gospel of Thomas was “lost”.

During the excavation of ruins in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, in 1897 and 1903, over 5,000 fragments of ancient Greek texts were recovered from another ancient library. Among them were partial sections of what was believed to be the Gospel of Thomas. Due to a lack of other comparable documents, the discovery languished in the halls of academia through two world wars, remaining a curiosity and source of varied speculation.

In 1945, with the discovery of the buried earthen jars some 30 miles north of the Valley of the Kings near the town of Nag Hammadi, the world of the Gnostics sprang back to life as dozens of ancient Gnostic sacred scriptures were recovered. What became known as the “Nag Hammadi Scrolls” opened the door, releasing the “lost” ancient knowledge and wisdom again into the world.

The two primary tasks were first to translate the ancient texts, and secondly to interpret the writings in modern terms so the people of our world could have access to the knowledge and wisdom that led to the presence of God — that which Jesus called “the Kingdom of Heaven” or “the Kingdom of God”.

Once again the inner practice of divinity and spiritual growth is taking hold in the world, and once again the conflict between the inner expression of God and the belief in an outer being, separate from us, is being thrust upon the world of religion. In reading this explanation of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas, you will get an essentially Gnostic perception of Jesus, one contemporary with his life and experience in the first century. With this knowledge and understanding, you can determine which path, inner or outer, is right for you.

Unless otherwise indicated, we will be using the translation by Thomas O. Lambdin. Scholars generally agree the Gospel of Thomas is an esoteric text. In the traditional sense this means the understanding of the text is restricted to a very few. But the word “esoteric” also refers to inner, that which takes place within the mind and heart. This also makes esoteric teaching a system of inner transformation, which is how we will view the text. Following the sayings is a section explaining the exercises, which will allow you to begin the process of transformation described in the sayings. Let us now take the gift of the scholars, the translation, and see what the inner path means to us today.

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THE SAYINGS

These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.

(1) And he said, “Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.”

Jesus said a number of unusual things. In Matthew 8:21, 22 (RSV) “Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” Obviously, Jesus is referring to something other than corpses burying other corpses. So the concept of death he is using is dealing with something other than physical death.
In the ancient Gnostic and mystery school tradition, this kind of death had to do with the spirit within and with its consciousness. We are really dealing with two separate and distinct things: the spirit within us, and the ego or outer personality. One of the most important conversations in the New Testament is in John, Chapter 3 (RSV), between two top leaders of the prime religious movements of the time, the Pharisees and the Gnostics. Here traditional Judaism meets and questions mystical Gnosticism.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, comes to Jesus by night (the darkness represents ignorance), saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (or from above), he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Here Jesus clearly defines two separate and distinct things. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Our ego, or outer personality, is born of the flesh. It is called the false self or corrupted nature in the Gnostic system. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. This is the true self, incorruptible and eternal. Notice that the first use of Spirit is capitalized, while the second spirit is not. The capitalized Spirit refers to God, the Creator, while the other spirit refers to that which is in each of us, our personal spirit. We are created in the image of God. On a practical level, this means that God created us out of God substance (spirit); just as a woman brings forth a child from her own substance, so too has God brought forth each of us from His own substance. The source of all life is Spirit (God), and everything that lives has some of that substance of God in it. The spirit within each of us is an individualized expression of the Spirit that is God.

In the Gnostic system a person was considered spiritually dead until their spirit was awakened. The awakening and empowerment of the spirit was referred to as resurrection, or being raised up from the dead, and applied only to the spirit within, not the physical body. This is why Jesus says, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” As long as the consciousness is attached to the ego, or outer personality, it is temporary; it has no real life of its own. It is only when consciousness is attached to the spirit that it gains permanent status, for only the spirit remains alive after physical death. When people die do we not say, “They are gone”? Clearly the body is still there. We can see it. We can touch it. So what is gone? The spirit, the God substance, our personal source of life is gone, not the body.

So, “whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death” describes the result of the process of moving the attachment of consciousness from the ego over to the spirit. In this process the spirit becomes awakened from its deep sleep, grows, matures, and takes its place as a mature spiritual being operating fully and completely in the presence of God (which Jesus often calls “the Kingdom”).

(2) Jesus said, “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the all.”

Here the Greek version differs somewhat from the Coptic, so we will consider it as well.

(2) [Jesus said,] “Let the one seek[ing] not stop [seeking until] he finds. And when he find[s he will marvel, and mar]veling he will reign, an[d reigning] he will [rest.]”

This is the essence of the Gnostic experience. It is a quest, a journey without distance. The point is that it is not about believing; it is about an ongoing process, a search for truth, a search for answers about our true nature, our true origins, and our Creator. The ultimate goal of the search is to find God. As is the case in all true spiritual journeys, the answers we find are not what we expect, or desire. The truth is rarely wanted, or really desired, and yet, as Jesus has told us, the truth will set us free.

Most of us do not really want to know the truth, what we want is to have what we already believe to become the truth, or to be confirmed as truth. Either way, as we seek, and continue to seek, we will discover things about God, ourselves, and the world in which we live that are contrary to what we have been taught and have come to believe. A true spiritual path will take us to the depths of our inner being, our belief system, our assumptions and conclusions, and will shine the light of truth on every facet of who we think we are. The answers we receive as a result of our continuing search will shake the foundations of every belief we have. This is at first very disturbing, but through our willingness to change, a greater truth and a resulting blessing will become manifest in our lives.

The Gnostic process is one of creating direct experiences with the presence of God. Those experiences bring an in–depth understanding, step by step, about the nature of God, our creation, our true nature, and the exotic process we have begun. What we learn from this direct experience is often counter to the traditional teachings of religion. For example, religion teaches that God is jealous and vengeful and that God will judge us (usually harshly) for any and all transgressions during our lives. And yet one of the experiences we have along the way in our spiritual growth is of the unconditional love that comes directly from God. In this experience we discover that this is not an intellectual revelation, as we might expect, but rather a profound, deeply moving, emotional experience. I have yet to meet someone who has experienced this love that comes directly from God that has not been moved completely to tears. It is one of the most intense experiences in life. What we realize after this experience is that there was no judgment from God at all. Of all the condemnations we have received from others, and of particular importance, from our own ego, none of them materialize in this intense experience of God’s love for us.

Have we not done things that are improper, demanding judgment in some form, if not from the world then certainly from God? How can it be that we receive unconditional love in place of punishment? This contradicts what we have been taught about God. This experience of unconditional love, especially an experience this intense, shakes our belief in judgment and punishment from God to the very core of our being. Once this realization sinks into our consciousness, our very concept of God is challenged. We find ourselves asking the same question that Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?”

Were this experience of unconditional love an isolated incidence, we could dismiss it as an aberration. But it is not the only experience we encounter; other experiences bring us a deep abiding sense of peace, an inner joy, serenity, and a connectedness with God on a very personal level. These other experiences are consistent with the unconditional love that we receive from God. Totally absent is any form of judgment, criticism or punishment. The disturbing shock to our belief in a God of judgment gradually gives way to the reality of a loving, gentle God of Spirit, hope, and eternal life. In time we find ourselves becoming an integral part of the oneness that is God and creation together, a vibrant individual in an interactive universe — one conscious element in an ocean of consciousness, a mature spiritual being functioning fully and completely in the presence of God. We find ourselves not only living in the presence of God, but functioning as an active, directive force with the complete resources of God at our disposal.

This direct experience of the presence of God is the central core of the Gnostic experience and the transformational power of the teachings of Jesus. It is not a factor of belief or faith. It is the result of an intimate, repeated inner experience that leaves no room for doubt. We do not have to believe, for we have experienced the presence of God for ourselves. We do not have to have faith, for we are living the experience day after day. It is not what we think; it is what we know as a result of our direct experience with God.

The Coptic version adds; “an[d reigning] he will [rest.]” Our own ego perceives “reigning” and “ruling” as the ultimate power and authority over others. Yet as we become one with God and creation, we find that it is not others that need to be ruled over, it is our own lower nature, the domain of the ego itself. In oneness we see that others are not in need of being ruled as much as they are in need of being educated and enlightened. We as a species need help, not judgment or punishment. The “rest” spoken of here is the deep abiding peace of God, the serenity that comes with the presence of God in our lives. It is not a withdrawal from life and society, but an understanding of the basic human need for God that fills us with compassion, gentleness, kindness and respect for each and every creature in creation. We become more connected, more integrated into the fabric of humanity, and more determined to teach and help. Our desire and commitment rests in the certainty of God’s presence and unconditional love. There is no greater peace. There is no greater power.

(3) Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.”

Many of us have been taught that God’s Kingdom is a place we go when we die. A quick survey of conditions here on earth certainly tends to support the notion that heaven must be somewhere else. This can’t be it. So if it isn’t here, where is it? Heaven is traditionally placed high in the sky, but Jesus is telling us that is not correct. First of all Jesus is telling us it is not a place. So if the Kingdom is not a place, then what is it?

As we will see as we continue through the Gospel of Thomas, the Kingdom is actually a state of consciousness. As such, it will not come of its own accord. It is not a collective experience that will happen to everyone at some point in time; it is an individual experience that must be entered into. Jesus told us in the traditional gospels that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, meaning close by, within reach, something that can be grasped. If the Kingdom really was a place or a time, it should have been found or have arrived long ago. But if the Kingdom is a state of consciousness, we can begin to understand how it can be so close, and yet so far away. A state of consciousness can be close by, within reach, and can be grasped, but only through the effort of the individual. A person can be placed in a room where everyone else in the room shares a specific consciousness, and yet that individual may not have a clue.

Jesus is telling us that the specific effort required to enter into this Kingdom is in learning to know ourselves. If we are unwilling, or unable, to know ourselves, then we can progress no further; the Kingdom will be denied to us. There is also another element being expressed, that of being found, which we will explore more in the parable of the lost sheep (saying #107). It is our search, and more importantly, our dedication to the search, that brings us to the attention of God. We do not enter into the Kingdom solely on our own efforts, for it is a co–operative process with God. We embark on a specific path of learning, experiencing, and realizing that gradually transforms us, raising our level of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, until our mind, heart and spirit have been raised up, entering into higher and higher levels of consciousness, until we find ourselves in a state of oneness with God and all of creation. This is the Kingdom, this state of oneness, this condition of 100 percent full conscious contact with God, a condition we now call the ‘Christ Consciousness’. In this consciousness we take our rightful place as mature children of God — “sons” of the living father, spirit created out of Spirit, true spiritual beings, forever living in the presence of God.

Consciousness is not something that is simply in our head or mind. It is more than just “inside” us. In some spiritual systems, once a person has progressed to a certain level, there is no longer an oral or written form of instruction. The student simply spends a number of hours each day sitting and meditating in the presence of the master. There develops a shared consciousness and in that process the student enters into, and experiences, higher states of consciousness accessible only by the spiritual master. The resulting shared experience educates the student in a way unattainable by any other means.

The other interesting facet is that when people have the experience of this higher state of consciousness they share so many common elements with others that have experienced the same state, that it is usually expressed as the one or highest truth. It doesn’t seem to matter which spiritual system is used; the end result is remarkably similar. The experience provides us with a deep and unshakable knowledge that life goes on. After this experience, it is common for people to lose their fear of death. Calmness takes the place of fear. It is not a matter of believing; it is a knowing, a certainty, a fact already proven. It becomes the cornerstone of their life, transforming the mundane into the sublime.

But if we will not put forth the effort and learn these inner things about ourselves and for ourselves, we remain in ignorance. We become prey to fantasies, lies and superstition. Our only hope is to believe and blindly follow someone else, trusting that they know something we do not, having faith that they will not betray us. In the end we are always disappointed, for it really is a case of the blind leading the blind. Only through our own personal experiences in the presence of God can we truly come to know the truth, and it is only through knowing the truth that we can set ourselves free.

(4) Jesus said, “The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven days old about the place in life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same.”

We must remember that this is an inner (esoteric) teaching and process. The inner experience of the presence of God is not very common, so the primary way we have of explaining these inner things is to use outer examples which people have in common. Anyone that has been around a seven day old infant knows this saying cannot be taken literally. So what is Jesus saying?

If we look at the experience of being “born again” as a true inner awakening of the spirit, we find a number of things taking place. Our perception of the world changes radically. Everything seems “new”, as if we were seeing it clearly for the first time. Colors are much more intense, the senses of touch and hearing are enhanced, as are taste and smell. It is like waking from a deep sleep, and seeing the world for the first time. As you experience this spiritual awakening you really get “a feel” for why it is called “being born again”. It is an exciting, exhilarating experience. You feel truly alive for the first time in your life. There is a clarity of perception that comes with being born again.

The purpose and nature of life are clear; everything has fallen into place. The man old in days is the ego, and the small child, seven days old is the newly awakened spirit within. The revelations of this experience come rapidly. Some comments this author has received from people going through this awakening experience are: “This is the only game in town. I don’t see why everybody isn’t doing it” and “This is wonderful. We have to tell everyone about this.”

This is the time that the ego gets caught up in the excitement and wants to be part of what is happening. The ego wants to know its place in the process. This is also a challenging time for the ego, for it soon discovers that it will not be the star, receiving the glory and power of spiritual empowerment. This is where John, chapter 3 continues (3:28 RSV), “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Here is the final realization of the ego: it is not the spirit. It is what has come before, and it must decrease so that the spirit may grow, mature, and become empowered. The ego now hears the voice of the spirit within and begins to see its role clearly. The ego now recognizes its purpose and the ultimate sacrifice it must perform. John 3:31, “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all.” The ego now recognizes that it is temporal, part of the physical body (of the earth), and really knows only about physical life. But the spirit is of God (comes from above) and is eternal. John 3:35, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.” It is the spirit within us that is the Son, and receives the things of God.

The ego comes first and must become last. In the end the ego surrenders completely and is merged into the spirit. The two become one and the same. The separation of the spirit and the ego is experienced as the separation of us from God. It is why God initially appears as an entity outside of us. It is only when the separation within is healed, and the ego and spirit become one that we also become one with God. Separation is separation from everything: each other, God, nature, eternal life. Oneness is the result of inner healing, and it is oneness with everything. We cannot be “one with God” and still perceive other people as being separate. Nor can we be “one with God” and still perceive anything in nature as being separate. Oneness is oneness, it is total and complete or it is not real oneness.

(5) Jesus said, “Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.”

The inner teaching begins with the recognition that there is more to us than we have perceived. A spiritual path is often referred to as a journey without distance because it is the journey of self discovery. As we grow from childhood into adulthood, the ego grows along with us. We come to assume that the ego is us, and we are it. The ego presents itself as whole, complete; there is nothing else. And yet a simple exercise opens an inner door and reveals the existence of something more than the ego and its thoughts.

Pause for a few moments and close your eyes. Observe the thoughts that pass through your mind. Many times we will begin to recognize how thoughts are connected, one to the next. Some element of one thought acts as a string to the next thought, and on and on it goes. You may even have a thought about how all this works, even as the thoughts being observed continue on uninterrupted.

The question is this. If the thoughts being observed are the activities of my mind, what is doing the observing? Is the mind observing itself or is something else going on? The classic question in this example is, “Who is the observer?”

While some people see this as utter nonsense, others see an opening into another level of perception, a new area of exploration and experience. Those who follow this new lead sometimes feel like they have followed Alice through the rabbit hole into a strange new world where nothing really is as it seems to be. Everything we have come to know and trust is now called into question.

In this journey of self discovery we come to see ourselves as fractured pieces, held together by invisible buffers. Programming and imprinting from parents, relatives, friends, teachers, authority figures and mentors are all there, each in its own little world, like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. The task of self discovery is to explore each of these pieces, determine the value each presents, and discard the valueless. In this way the individual pieces can be joined and the inner separation can be healed. This leads to wholeness, holiness, and oneness.

With a little education about the mind and consciousness, we gradually begin to recognize what has been in front of us all along. We see the fractured nature of the ego’s world and how it pulls and pushes us through the everyday experiences of life. We discover why we are stressed by a situation where someone else doesn’t seem to even notice that it exists. We come to see that we really are individuals, that no two of us are exactly alike. Our thoughts, feelings and perceptions are all different, even given the same external circumstances.

As we come to recognize the various parts of our personality, we gradually uncover the inner nature of the spirit within. This is the part that was hidden, and through the process of self discovery, becomes revealed. As we learn more about the spirit within, we see in it the answer to life’s question, “Is this all there is?” The body and the ego that results are limited and temporal. The spirit within is unlimited and eternal. But until we actually begin the process of self discovery, the inner world remains hidden. The ego tells us, “Go out into the world and find the answer — seek and you will find!” But the answer is not “out there”, it is within.

(6) His disciples questioned Him and said to Him, “Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet shall we observe?” Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of Heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered.”

The questions on fasting, prayer, alms and diet are partially answered in saying #14 below, so we will split the explanation, addressing different facets in each case.

Fasting, the form and time of prayer, the giving of alms, and specific dietary restrictions are all part of the religious system in which the disciples were raised and well trained. Jesus is constantly being questioned about these things. If we look at a little history, we can begin to grasp why the questions were being asked, and what impact the answers might have had.

Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East area around 327 BC and left a number of local “kings” in charge to keep the peace and to collect taxes (tribute). These were the Seleucid kings. By the late third century BC, the Maccabee rebellion was taking place. The Maccabees were a fundamentalist Judeo faction dedicated to the use of military force to restore freedom in Judea. A splinter group, disenchanted with the use of military force, left the Maccabees around 200 BC, going off into the desert to seek God. This group floundered for about 20 years until the arrival of an individual from the mystery school system. This individual became known as “the teacher of righteousness” and the group is now known as the Essenes.

The Essene community was located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, and the Essenes are the authors of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’. The Dead Sea Scrolls are an eclectic mixture of fundamentalist Judaism and concepts from the mystery school tradition. It is this mixture, blended with some Gnostic features that form the early foundation for Christianity.

Also emanating from Egypt were the Gnostics, a direct outreach program of the mystery school system. So there were three main religious factions working the area of Judea at the time of Jesus (the Pharisees and Sadducees being branches of Judaism). The questions being asked were designed to clarify which of these religious factions were being represented. The differences may not be as clear as we might think, for the three systems are inter–related. The Torah, for example, was used by all three systems. Strict rules for fasting, prayer, alms and diet are part of the Judaic religion, being slightly relaxed with the Essenes, and significantly different with the Gnostics. The answers given by Jesus in saying #14 clearly identify his teachings with the Gnostics.

Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of heaven.” The ego seeks all the advantages it can find in the world. It learns early on in childhood that there are some advantages to lying and doing things that you really don’t want to do. Women especially are encouraged by the images and expectations of modern society to do things that they would rather not do, and present themselves in ways they are really not comfortable with for the sake of appearances and relationships. These things have a costly internal toll on our self image and self respect. The cost is already too high if we consider only the ego or personality, but as we factor in the emerging spirit, the inner conflict can become severe.

The process of spiritual growth not only requires, but also demands honesty and truthfulness within. Indeed, no true spiritual growth can take place when it is based on any kind of falsehood. A true spiritual path is, above all else, a quest for truth. In continuing lies for the advancement in financial or social and political conditions, we are undermining and destroying the spirit within. We are sacrificing the eternal for the temporal.

We think that how we feel on the inside, or what we privately believe about ourselves or others, does not, and will not, show on the outside. Watch the eyes and facial features of people around you. With a little practice you will see what is going on in their lives. It has been said that people live lives of quiet desperation. You will discover that this is true; you can see it in their faces. Once you recognize the quiet desperation in others, the day will come when you see it in your own face in the mirror. This is our legacy in the world of the ego; none will escape. All of the hidden feelings, beliefs, guilt and pain are painted on our faces for all to see.

The only workable answer is to abandon the ego and its ways in favor of the spirit. Methodically replacing each falsehood with truth, each condemnation with forgiveness, each injury with kindness, each hate with compassion, and each fear with love transforms the inner experience from desperation to joy. This too becomes painted on our face. Peace, love and joy are the hallmarks of real spiritual growth and there is no way to hide them from others.

Spiritual truths will also begin coming to us. There is no spiritual mystery which we cannot know. The closer we come to God, the more of the spiritual mysteries and principles we will encounter. All the Father has is given to the Son. There is no spiritual truth which will not be revealed to us. Piece by piece, step by step, the whole will be revealed. Once we reach this 100 percent full conscious contact with God we will have access to every spiritual truth and principle. Nothing will remain hidden.

(7) Jesus said, “Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man, and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man.”

Life is a process of transformation. Nothing really remains the same. The seed sprouts, becomes a seedling, a small tree, a large tree, and in time succumbs to disease, fire or cutting and becomes something else. People change. Time changes us, and if nothing else, life itself will change us; but into what? Are we grist for the mill, unable to alter the end result, or are we active selectors of the outcome? In terms of religion, are we poor helpless sinners, dependant on God’s grace for salvation, or are we free and independent spiritual children here to work out our own growth and ultimate salvation?

In spiritual terms, generally we have two options: to be spirit guided or ego guided. In being guided by the ego, as we all are as we grow up in the world, the body and the ego are dominant factors in our life. This is the essentially carnal life, the dark side of which is unrestrained lust, greed and violence. The lighter side appears more civilized on the surface, with the finer trappings of wealth, high society and social graces. Yet under the surface the same basic driving forces of the ego are at work, the hidden animal nature that establishes territory and pecking orders, domination, submission and control. This is the lion, the beast, the hidden controller of our lives.

As we examine the actual performance of our society we can come to the conclusion that we are still a barbaric people with a thin veneer of civility. The crimes we commit against each other, the injustices we allow, the adoration of the predators among us, and the disgust for the poor and downtrodden are all primary indicators of the ego at work. Competition, the survival of the fittest — these are the rally cries of the ego. War is the ultimate competition, where we really do bury the opposition.

We need to ask. Is there another way, a better way? And if there is, what needs to be done to accomplish it? This is what the spiritual path ostensibly offers: the higher path of cooperation in place of competition, respect in place of control, and compassion in place of condemnation and conflict. So how do we change the world into that kinder, gentler place? The answer is that we must begin by changing ourself first. We can change nothing else until we have become transformed, and then, by teaching the same process of transformation to others, we can extend our experience out into the world, changing it at the most fundamental level, one person at a time.

Transformation will happen to us, either through the ego by default, or through the spirit by choice and dedication. Knowing that choices need to be made, and knowing what the outcomes of those choices are, become the essential factors for making informed decisions. Many times we cannot know these factors, but, here, we are more fortunate; these choices have been made before by many people, and the results are available for us to examine.

If we allow the ego and its animal nature to rule our lives we will be consumed by its desires and obsessions, ultimately left empty because the fires of the ego consume the soul as fire consumes its fuel. Being consumed by this lion is the curse of mankind.

Yet there are those, like Jesus, who have taken a different path, and in doing so, have experienced something extraordinary, and they have tried to share that experience with others. They have told us that they have found eternal life, and have come into the full and complete presence of God. We marvel at the things they tell us and wonder if it could really be true. We have been deceived before and are now wary of such claims. Do we believe them or not?

In the outer form of religion the person having this extraordinary experience is transformed into a savior, and believing in this savior brings salvation. But in the inner form we become transformed, and that transformation becomes our salvation. Belief is not required, just hard work and dedication. The real question becomes, do we believe the teacher and understand the teaching enough to actually begin the process of transformation? Do we dare follow Jesus and become like him, or do we take the path of little or no risk and just believe?

The problem in simply believing is that the ego is still in control of our lives. We are still consumed by the lion. Only by going through the transformational process is the animal nature within removed from empowerment, taken apart, and consumed. This transformation that Jesus teaches dissolves the ego and empowers the spirit, bringing us into the same extraordinary experience He is having. Do we dare live in the presence of God? Do we really want to be blessed, or are we more comfortable being cursed? These are difficult questions, but it is necessary to answer them before the transformational process can begin.

(8) And He said, “The man is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish. Among them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish. He threw all the small fish back into the sea and chose the large fish without difficulty. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Fish represent ideas or concepts. The world, like the sea full of fish, is full of ideas, the vast majority of which are small. The trick is to find the fine large fish or idea, and discard the small ones. With fish, this is easy; we can see the difference. But with ideas it is difficult to “see” the difference. The problem is, the ego has perception only in the world; it is of the world, and in the world it must remain. Therefore, spiritual ideals appear as small ideas of questionable value. Money, power, position, appear as big ideas to the ego, and as we are beginning to understand, these ideas will ultimately consume us.

But this is a wise fisherman, and it is his wisdom which allows him to perceive the really great idea among the rest. With wisdom we can select the great idea without difficulty. So how do we get wisdom? There was a comment about this making its way around the internet. It said, “Wisdom comes on the arm of age, but sometimes age comes alone.” In many cultures the elders are considered wise. So does this mean that we have to wait until we are old? As we can discern for ourselves, age alone is not a grantor of wisdom. So what is?

Wisdom is a function of understanding tempered by experience. In life we have come to see the value of education, and the knowledge that can be gained through learning. Once we “complete” our education we begin our career and put our knowledge to work for us. It is through the application of knowledge that we gain understanding, and the re–evaluation of our understandings based on new insights brings experience. Wisdom, like spiritual growth, is the result of a process. But processes are like ideas; the world is full of them. Again, how do we know?

The subject of wisdom and how to acquire it is a repetitive theme in the Gospel of Thomas. We will explore it in more depth in sayings 21, 28, 34, 43, and 45.

(9) Jesus said, “Now the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered them. Some fell on the road; the birds came and gathered them up. Others fell on rock, did not take root in the soil, and did not produce ears. And others fell on thorns; they choked the seed(s) and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil and produced good fruit; it bore sixty per measure and a hundred and twenty per measure.”

Seeds also represent ideas. In spiritual work a person must have an open mind and be willing to learn and examine new ideas. Spiritual growth is a step-by-step process where information, concepts and understanding are built one piece at a time. We test to see if a person is ready for this process by providing a small piece of information, or a small concept and observing how the person handles it. We call this process “planting a seed”.

People process this new information or concept in several ways, depending on “where they are coming from” in their attitude, belief system or general consciousness. Most people are committed to the mainstream consensus of thought. This is represented by the “road”, which is well traveled. In some versions of the sower parable this is a path instead of a road. The connotation is essentially the same; it is where most of the people travel: mainstream thought. If the seeds, the information or concept presented, are not “mainstream” then there is no place for the idea to take root, to be accepted. The defense mechanisms of the mind are represented by the birds. Anything not conforming to the mainstream point of view is attacked and removed from the mind and consciousness. The established order must be maintained.

Some of the seeds fell on rocks. Rocks are firmly held beliefs. This is common in strictly religious people. The new idea is in conflict with the established doctrine, and because of the firmly held beliefs, there is no room for the new idea or information to take root — to be accepted.

Some seeds fell on thorns. Thorns are competing ideas. The ego, being of the earth cannot tell the difference between a false idea and a true one. They all appear to have at least equal value, or in many cases, the false ideas are structured to be more attractive to the ego than is the truth. The true path requires work and dedication and persistent effort to produce results. False paths generally require only acceptance of the ideas, or professed belief in the doctrine presented.

Each of us has had at least some experience with this. Who among us, when faced with something which is perceived as a lot of work, has not asked “isn’t there an easier way; a shortcut?” Each false path is presented as a “shortcut”, a quick easy way of accomplishing the same thing. In our experience of the way things work in the world, “if it sounds too good to be true”, then there is cause to be more than a little suspicious. Many people spend their lives looking for the “shortcut” in everything. In the end they have nothing. The wise among us realize that real success comes from hard work and dedication to our goals, not shortcuts. The “easy” way is to do it right the first time, so you don’t have to do it over and over again. The competing ideas, the shortcuts, consume all of the time and energy, leaving nothing for working the true path. The seeds are thus choked out, and the “worms”, disparaging thoughts and comments, consume the new idea.

Some people have an open mind and are willing to consider new information and new concepts. Here the seeds fall on good soil and take root. The ideas are accepted and become the foundation of a new action plan to produce results. In the path of spiritual growth this is the beginning of the work of self discovery and the transformation that will follow. The mature spiritual individual and the effect that individual has on others around them is represented by the good fruit. The transformed individual becomes love–based, treating everyone with respect, gentleness, and kindness. The loving nature of this individual touches the minds and hearts of others, and in their quest to be of service to others, the overall quality of life in the community is improved. This individual enters into the extraordinary experience of living in the presence of God and everything around them responds in kind.

(10) Jesus said, “I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes.”

In the 1960’s, Zen was becoming popular. Many people didn’t understand how an eastern religion could become so attractive to people and how it could generate so much interest. The answer resided not in the religion, but in the monks and priests who came here and shared their experiences. Mainstream Christianity is an outer form of religion based on believing. The focus is on the dogma of the church and the conformity to doctrine as presented by the clergy. Zen is more of an inner form of religion, and those who have progressed well into the transformational process were the representatives of Zen with whom the people of America came into contact.

For the first time in many people’s lives, they came into direct contact with someone transformed through this extraordinary inner experience. The peace, love and joy of the presence of God within was so obvious that people very quickly recognized Zen as a living religion — not just something to be believed, but a living, breathing experience of the presence of God. Many eastern religions talk about the divine spark or flame within. This appears in both inner and outer forms of religion. The difference with the inner form is that one not only believes in this inner flame, but actually experiences it and is involved in the process of making it grow.

We have become familiar, at least to a degree, with the “fire in the belly” from some motivational speakers. It is a phrase descriptive of a burning desire to accomplish a specific goal. This burning desire is a function of the ego and is instrumental in creating success in business, politics and other endeavors in the world. There is a spiritual counterpart: the awakened spirit within. It, too, burns within, but its attention is not on accomplishing the things of the world; rather it is focused on becoming one with God and everything else. As the transformational experience progresses, the spirit within becomes stronger and the light of the divine flame expands. This inner light of living in the presence of God is exceptionally moving to people when they come into contact with it and it was the attraction of Zen.

Christianity also has an inner teaching and tradition, and the effect is identical. The teachings of Jesus, when understood from the inner perspective, lead us on that inner journey of self–discovery and spiritual growth. Awakening the spirit, feeding it from the love–based emotions that we can all generate, and raising it up to a position of power and authority in our lives expands the inner light, embeds us in the Kingdom of Heaven, and places us firmly in the presence of God. The light of spirit and the love which comes from God, flowing through us out into the world, is the fire Jesus has cast upon the world.

This fire of spiritual light and love does not come overnight. It is the result of the inner journey of self–discovery and spiritual growth. It is the outer sign of the transformational process within, a process that takes time, effort and dedication. This is why the fire must by guarded until it blazes. It does not happen on its own; it is the result of a great deal of inner work, guided by a true spiritual teacher who can nurture and guide the mind and heart as they come together with the spirit to form an inner trinity. Once a person has progressed to a higher level of understanding in the transformational process, the world can no longer trample the inner flame. Then, it is safe to let the light shine. That person becomes a guiding light for others, spreading the fire which Jesus cast upon the world so many years ago.

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