With the recovery of ancient Gnostic scrolls from the desert sands of Nag Hammadi, Egypt, the esoteric version of the teachings of Jesus are emerging into the public’s awareness. The traditional Christian interpretation of the sayings and teachings of Jesus are now being challenged, not by a new system of thought, but by the system of thought and practice that were in place before the rise of Christianity. While early Christians were dedicated to destroying all vestiges of competing religions during their rise to dominance in the fourth through the sixth centuries, some remnants of the earlier foundation, upon which Christianity was ultimately based, have now surfaced.
Christianity has focused primarily on the teachings of Paul. This is understandable. The teachings of Paul are clear and unambiguous, stated in plain language, un-obscured by parable and hidden meanings. While Jesus is raised to the position of God, Redeemer and Messiah, the actual sayings and teachings of Jesus have languished in the halls of religious academia, their actual meaning relegated to polite debate between scholars of different faiths, but of common Christian heritage. The people of the Christian faith have learned little of the actual teachings of Jesus and even less about the life changing impact the teachings of Jesus portend for the average individual.
For over 400 years Gnosticism was the pinnacle of spiritual teaching available to the public. People traveled from all over the known world to study the teaching and practice of Gnosticism, centered in the world capital of culture, science and the arts, Alexandria, Egypt. This center of philosophy and enlightenment came to a violent end with the destruction of the library containing hundreds of thousands of scrolls and parchments in 391 AD, by an angry mob of Christians. Records of our true history, science, math, language and culture dating back to before the Biblical flood were destroyed. Only through the careful packaging, sealing and burial of sacred scriptures near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, is the wisdom of the Gnostics being returned to us.
What we are learning is that the teachings of Jesus were Gnostic from the very beginning. Only by viewing and experiencing His teachings from the Gnostic perspective do we breathe the life and spirit of Jesus back into His words. The word Gnostic comes from the Greek term gnosis meaning to know, referring in Gnosticism to the direct knowledge of God. By raising Jesus to the status of God, the Christian church has isolated Jesus from the very people he dedicated His life to serving and teaching. If Jesus is God, we have no hope of spiritual redemption and salvation in this life, other than a belief in a life after death in Heaven. This defies the direct teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven being at hand in the here and now. In the Gospel of Thomas the disciples asked, “When will the Kingdom come?” Jesus responded, “What you seek has already come but men do not see it.”
No one can doubt that Jesus was having an extraordinary experience. By seeing Jesus as God, we are certain we cannot experience anything like what Jesus was experiencing. But by changing our perspective and viewing Jesus as a real person having an extraordinary experience, we can also perceive ourselves entering into this experience Jesus described as the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus never promised we would enter into Heaven after we died. What he told us is that we can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and by doing so we would not experience death.
The death Jesus is talking about is not the death of the body, but the death of consciousness. In our normal life we associate our real self with the ego, which has developed within us. Because the ego is a manifestation of the body, our attention and perception becomes body centered. We find it difficult to imagine ourselves as anything other than a body. When the body experiences pain or pleasure, we also experience the same thing, so it is only natural that we would perceive the two as one and the same. But the entire premise of religious teaching is to get us to see that we are more than the body, more than the ego, and that it is this other part of us that is so important.
This is the essence of the teaching of Jesus. Recognize this other part within which is more than the body and more than the ego. Associate our mind and our consciousness with this other part, identified as spirit, and our whole life changes. With this shift in perception and consciousness, from body centered to spirit centered, the whole of the Kingdom of Heaven opens to us. Death is overcome and we ascend into eternal life and eternal consciousness. We become one with God and God becomes one with us. This is also the essence of the Gnostic experience. Recognize the spirit within, center our consciousness on that spirit, raise up the spirit and our consciousness together and become one with God. Knowing God by direct experience is gnosis, the heart of Gnosticism.
All religions of the world appear in two forms; the outer form where practitioners believe in a savior who, through their professed belief, will redeem them through grace at some future time, and the inner form where practitioners work with their mind and emotions to cleanse and purify themselves, raise their consciousness and enter into a state of grace where they experience their salvation in this lifetime. Christianity is the outer form and Gnosticism is the inner form. They are essentially the same religion encompassing the same terms, parables, sayings and figurehead, but which are approached from two opposite directions. The Christian seeks to believe in Jesus and worship Him. The Gnostic seeks to follow His teaching and become like Jesus.
The Christian position has been well published and commented on for the last 2,000 years. During the vast majority of this time the Gnostic position has remained buried in the sands of Egypt, only now re-emerging into the light of human awareness. Let us re-examine the teaching of Jesus in its original Gnostic character and see if we can sample and taste what the disciples of Jesus learned and experienced nearly two millennia ago.