Archives for the month of: October, 2021

Many Christians today are accustomed to thinking in certain ways about their faith which is based on a narrative that the Orthodox church put forward over centuries. It has been a way of thinking that I have come to call “orthocentric” thinking. It has resulted in conclusions that range from defining the divinity of Jesus, his nature, and the composition of the trinity.

Today, most Christians take these beliefs for granted as if they were always known. In the early days of the Christian movement, there was a broad range of ideas and interpretations about what a number of central themes meant. What hasn’t been clear to today’s Christians were the broad range of beliefs or ideas that existed back then. This often comes as a surprise to many of the Christian faithful. Wasn’t it all perfectly clear from the beginning what the life of Christ was all about?

What the Christian Orthodox movement did was to make it seem as though there was only ever one right way to understand or interpret the life of Jesus. In large part due to discoveries of documents that were suppressed by the orthocentric view, most people didn’t know that there were as many differing ideas about Jesus Christ as there were. What happened was with 1600 years of Orthodoxy able to define and frame the belief system so completely, that would seem like a very strong indication that Orthodoxy was right….right? The story isn’t that simple.

Orthoxy fought and won a war of ideas and the winner was the one who then got to write the history. The history that was written was what agreed with their view. Why this matters is that for Christians who might want to know the deeper story, a lot of it isn’t available anymore. That isn’t just Dan Brown sensationalism about a hidden truth at the core of the church, it is part of what happened if you are willing to discover what we know now about the lost Christianities that existed early on. There was more there, and it showed a broad and deep understanding about the mechanisms within consciousness that made union with the divine possible.

Most believers know little to nothing about these movements because even understanding it required a new or more advanced level of awareness, and here we are with a 1600 year entrenched belief that has been handed down through the generations. The refrain has often been “If there was more to all of this we would know about it.” The problem here is that no, the point apears to have kept these ideas from mainstream Christianity, and of course the church did this very well. Pastors don’t tell their parishioners about it either, even though most are schooled in the ideas that constituted “wings” within the church.

It was easy to push this more advanced understanding off the stage because those in the know about these different ideas were a minority once the tide of Orthodoxy came along. It surprises many people to discover that Orthodoxy was a late-comer to the belief in the beginning. This would be in the time period of the first two centuries after the death of Christ.

Enlightenment has always been a rare bud that blooms ocassionally and few see it for what it is. Why do you think so many visionaries have met their end with such violence? The conspiracy to keep people in the dark about a deeper more esoteric tradition, was one of ignorance. Orthodoxy does not know what it does not know and is not aware of the riches that it took from humanity. It may also be true that the people forming Orthodoxy knew and just didn’t care.

The other strands within Christianity at the time were quickly driven from the stage by the tide of Orthodox thinking, and these movements or groups in the faith that differed from the Orthodox one were both reviled and criticized by early church fathers within the that wing of the church. The orthocentric view won out so that there existed for centuries no other accepted way of understanding what the Christ drama was about. If you wanted to know about Jesus and Christ, your go-to books were the ones that were sanctioned by the Orthodox wing of the church.

The orthocentric view has created the impression that there was only ever one acceptable way of approaching Christianity, and that group went to great lengths to make sure that their view was the one that would be accepted. Part of this orthocentric view includes the idea that heresy was a kind of later outgrowth, a distortion of the original “truth” of Christianity. Origen, an early church father and Christian historian, characterized heresy as that action which took place after the “truth” was known, a “veering” away as he put it, from what we all know is the one accepted group of central truths that animate Christianity and give it it’s life. While Origen in his day struck out against what he believed was heresy, he was later was deemed a heretic himself, an act that was performed after he had died. Still, the idea stuck and his characterization would be taken up by new generations of heresy hunters.

This, though, isn’t true. In 1935 Walter Bauer wrote a book entitled Orthodoxy & Heresy In Earliest Christianity. In it, he poured over numerous letters and other writings from earliest Christianity and found that instead of heresy being a late-comer to the faith, it was instead present even before Orthodox thinking got a foothold in the early Christ movement. The upshot of his work was that Orthodoxy was the late-comer, not heresy. The suggestion here was that maybe heresy wasn’t quite what we thought it was or that we were told it was. But how could that be?

Over and over, as Bauer conducted his detailed survey, he found the language of heresy was preexistant over Orthodox language and thinking. He found many examples that heresy, as the later church would describe it, was more robust and established from the very beginning, which is contrary to the writings of Orthodox writers and historians from the first three to four centuries. Now a believer in the Orthodox view might well ask, “Doesn’t this just prove only that there were heretics from the very beginning?” Not if what these “heretics” knew and believed in was something more substantive than the Orthodox strand understood. Orthodoxy, based on what Bauer dug up, was the late-comer.

It should be noted that “heresy” was itself not a unified or monolithic body of thought but was composed of many different groups with different thoughts on a range of ideas such as the divinity of Jesus, and whether Jesus was a man who became God, or that was a man who was later adopted by God when he was baptised by John, for example. There were the earliest converts to Christianity, for example, who were Jews that Jesus had inspired called the Ebionites. These earliest of followers were branded as heretics by the church. We are told that if we want to get to heaven you better believe in the right things instead of what the heretics believed, or else hell waits for you. It was a compelling strategy because with the fires of hell hanging over your head, people wouldn’t want to chance it. There were groups who claimed knowledge about the makeup of the trinity that differs from the one that Christians know today, which involved a feminine aspect involved in Christhood. This was a more egalitarian movement that saw how important women were in the cosmology of the Christian faith. In the earliest churches women were in top leadership roles as bishops, for example. There are letters of Orthodox leaders complaining about women’s prominent roles in the early church, and wall paintings in Italy clearly show a woman installed as a bishop to her congregation.

Bauer’s work sent shock-waves through the Christian community when it was first published. His work was criticized as going too far and making too many assumptions about what the many documents that he examined meant. However, in 1945, a giant discovery was made in Egypt with the unearthing of a treasure trove of early Christian writings, some of which historians had written about in early Christianity and others no one even knew had existed. While some scholars suggested that these books were not part of a significant tradition, a possible “one-off ” a later discovery of a second fragment of one of the books found in 1945 (Thomas) helped to support the contention that the books had been circulated and used by early Christians and lent support to the idea that the books were more widely circulated than thought.

This find came to be known as the Nag Hammadi Library (NHL), and while they were found in Egypt, the chief reason for their discovery was due to how dry the environment has been there for many thousands of years, which helps to preserve documents just like it does with mummies.

Bauer received considerable vindication once the NHL was unearthed because it showed that there were different understandings in circulation about central tenets in Christianity. In the Gospel of Philip, which was included in the find, it clearly points out that many early Christians considered the Holy Ghost to be female. How this could change dogma was significant. In the concept of the “Bridal Chamber” mentioned both in the Gospel of Philip as well as the synoptic gospels, the bridal chamber becomes a sacred act of union that generates the Christ. Philip also points out thatt Jesus wasn’t just the Christ, but thst he was showing people the way to be Christs themselves. The implications for this idea alone are huge.

This line of thinking also links Christian thought to concepts tied to enlightenment that had existed for centuries in the East…not because Christianity borrowed from them, but because the spiritual acumen of the group that produced the books which described or put forward these concepts was so formidable. What’s more, many of the books in the collection claimed ties to Jesus and his teaching in private.

The books which were part of the find were bound in fine kid leather with tooling on them with both Christian and Egyptian symbols. These books showed every sign of having been important to the monks who hid them. While Bart Ehrman suggests that the books were likely buried where they were to free up space in one of several nearby monestaries, there is perhaps a more accurate theory which suggests that by the time of their burial (around 400 A.D.), the writing was on the wall where books like these were concerned: anyone found holding books that were not accepted by the church were to be consigned “to the flames.” It is much more likely, then, that the NHL exists today because a monk could not bear seeing them destroyed and hid them away for later discovery.

One compelling piece of possible proof that may have prompted monks to hide the documents where they were found in 1945 is found in a letter written by Anathanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who was the first to spell out what books were acceptible and which ones were not: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the letters of Paul. Those books would later form the early corpus of Orthodox belief, with others added later. Anyone found to have books other than these would come up on the wrong end of church doctrine and its burgeoning authority as the “right” way to believe.

In the centuries that followed, Christians were anathematized or excommunicated from the church for heresy. In still later years, some heretics would even be executed in horrific ways. See: 39th festal letter of Athanasius written in 367 A.D. and found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org)

Instead of being a movement on the very fringes of Christianity, the books in the NHL show how developed and incredibly sophisticated the esoteric wing’s teachings were. The problem is how their meaning escapes most Orthodox Christians and its descendant Protestantism. I will quote one comment made by a reader online who was referring to the gospel of Thomas recently as “gobbledygook.” It is hard to crack the code of these books and theur meaning when you yourself have not entered into the “light” of the knowledge that a state like enlightenment confers.

Today, though, Christians aren’t used to referring to the Gospel of Thomas to glean from it teachings which, the author who wrote the gospel contends, are the private or secret teachings of Jesus. No Christian is used to reading the Gospel of Philip and pointing out how its descriptions of the Christ are incredibly similar to ideas in Hindu, Tibetan, and Chinese writings. That’s not to suggest that the Christians writing these books had been to India, but that they had uncovered the Christ as a potential that exists within every person on the planet, and as such was not subject to belief in the same ways many beliefs put forward by the Orthodoxy depend on those beliefs. Additionally, the Christ was only ever found within, not without, something that Jesus was known to teach even in the Orthodox sanctioned Gospels.

Paul says he was shown the Christ within himself. This is a critically important point. If you are exhorted to seek him, then the seeking must be done within. How many can say that they seek inwardly to find the Christ hidden within themselves? What methods were laid out on how to do this in the mainstream view? It amounts to accepting Jesus as your savior. You must look to and believe in the cross. Did Paul believe? Not at all, not in the beginning. He was busy persecuting Christians. Belief was not what brought Paul into the tent, nor did it bring me either. He was converted when he found the Christ within himself. He said so.

Being able to see how the Nag Hammadi Library offered a substantive and sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms at work in regards to enlightenment was made possible for me because of an awakening process that began in 2006 and “completed” with a full initiatory process that culminated in early 2007 with a full kundalini awakening. With little more than the symptoms and phenomenon in hand in my direct experience, with no teacher or guide to help me, I discovered the NHL and saw that they were describing my condition. You should understand, though, that when I use a word like “kundalini” to describe or to place my experience, I didn’t know about it at the time. Further, kundalini is NOT a spirit or even a religious belief held by the Hindus. Instead, it is an observed phenomenon which experiencers sought to describe and explain. At the time my symptoms were so startling that I considered that it was possible that I could have a brain tumor! I soon realized that whatever had happened to me as the result of a very simple meditation practice, was not only benign, it was transformative. What I did was to inquire within to find the Christ within. I didn’t know that this was what I was doing since much of the effects found in awakening lay buried under layers of beluef and programming.

I did not find a person, I found a level of consciousness that upended my life, began setting it aright, and instituted a regime of inner transformation. I can see, though, how some might attach this to the man Jesus. Jesus himself makes it seem like he is the Way by stating that no one comes to the father but by him. In the esoteric wing of early Christianity this was true because Jesus was the only one who attained to this new level of consciousness, so yes, he was the only game in town. I will also point out that while he was thought to say he was God in the synoptic gospels, what he said in one important case was “Does your scripture not say ‘ye are gods’?” The implication here is that the state Jesus was referring to was one that anyone could attain to. It is also something supported in Philip as well. We can do even greater things than Jesus because each of us can learn how to reach this place within.

The problem, though, is this type if teaching doesn’t appear to be well fleshed out in the synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. There are many hints of something deeper but what they are we barely know. Jesus did say that to know you had to inquire within (by “knocking”). While some might want to interpret this differently than I have, I would ask you to consider where else would a Christian inquire? Jesus explained over and over that the kingdom was found within. You don’t knock on a real door, you knock on what seems to be a door within where this new world exists.

It may be that we don’t have the details because Jesus didn’t teach to just anyone. He hid his teachings inside parables so that those who were “without” would not be able to understand. Here we find in Mark and Luke a startling example of a private teaching at work where, teaching by the lake, he explains to his followers how he hides his teachings from all but those who has been “given” to know the secrets (of the kingdom). It’s really quite remarkable.

When I awakened I found myself encountering an intelligence which I knew was the Source of all life and existence. It was only possible with this new level of consciousness, that I could sense directly and vividly an intelligence which was a part of everything and that tied all things together in a way that felt like family. What I found was that what I had experienced was in harmony with what the gospel of Thomas and Philip (as well as others in the NHL) had to say, which was that Jesus was making his followers into Christs. I decided to read further into the NHL and this in turn led to a 15 year research project where I scrutinized the books that were found along with the books that are a part of mainstream Christian thought, mist notably the New Testament. This has led me to letters and accounts going back to the earliest days of the movement.

I came across the NHL for the first time a few months after my awakening and saw for the first time someone describing what had happened to me. These weren’t Sanscrit texts but the Gospel of Thomas, Philip, and many others. Hard to understand without the inner knowing or “gnosis” that awakening brings, I am convinced that the authors deliberately sought to keep hidden the direct meanings contained in the documents in order to protect the uninitiated. Still, their meaning was consistent with awakening in both Thomas and Philip as well as in the other documents which modern Christian scholars have dubbed as Gnostic in character.

The more I looked, the more evidence I tended to uncover that supported my thesis. Yes, this work is hampered by a kind of information black-out in some ways but in other ways there are important clues that I have found that makes a case for not just an alternate or deeper understanding of Christ, but also that it was possible that Jesus did have a private teaching, something that the Gospel of Thomas proclaims at its beginning.

One of the suspected authors of Thomas and Philip according to scholars is Valentinus who lived in the second century. Valentinus wrote how he had a vision of the risen Christ. At that time, he knew about Paul’s own vision of the risen Christ.

Valentinus explains how he had gone to a direct disciple of Paul, a man who had learned directly from Paul who was named Theodas. When Valentinus spoke with this disciple he learned from him that Paul had a private teaching which he reserved for his closest followers. Valentinus goes on to say that he was taught in this private way by the disciple.

The elephant in the room, for me at least, is if Valentinus was the author of Thomas or Philip, was it the result of having received a more esoteric teaching which he himself was ready for? Did Valentinus go on in his own way to produce writings perhaps based partly on the teachings of the disciples and with his own inner knowledge about the “body of Christ”? Did Valentinus have access to other Christians that were sharing privately these teachings? Did he just make them up as some Orthodox apologists contend?

While some might point out that this would amount to forgery, let me put this activity in perspective. At this time in history it was not uncommon at all for books or letters to be forged. Back then, a student or disciple would sometimes write after the teacher had died as though the teacher had written the document. Christianity has many of these forged documents as examples. Many are not included in the New Testament, but there are documents that are known forgeries that are still in the NT today. How do we know this? Because the content in some cases deals with issues that belong to a later date, after the death of the teacher. Take for example some of the letters of Paul. In Timothy and Titus there is content in them that simply did not exist during Paul’s life, so we know that someone else other than Paul wrote them. Someone forged the documents and in the process achieved a way to drive how the church might later be organized, for example. Additionally, in the case of Timothy, the writer makes Paul into a mysogynist, something that does not appear in any other of his other letters (not even once). If keeping women out of the church leadership was so important to Paul, it would have been repeated a number of times to the churches in other areas that he was known to write to. Today scholars tend to agree that five, possibly six, of Paul’s letters were written by someone other than Paul.

To loop back around to heresy once more, an important fact has remained throughout the last two hundred years since new documents from early Christianity have emerged (thanks in part to archeological digs and efforts searching libraries and monestaries). If heresy was the unimportant movement that the orthocentrics would have us believe, why are ALL the newly discovered documents always heretical documents and not Orthodox ones? I contend that the narrative or picture we have been given to believe is in fact not the true one, not completely, not by a long shot.

Additionally, Orthodoxy represents a more literalist and authoritarian take on Christianity. The heretics proposed that you didn’t need a priest to get you there, you need only to discover the Christ which is in you, something that would have eroded the power that the Orthodoxy went on to seek to increase over time. What did the church do in its earliest days? It grew and gained the attention of Emperor Constantine who made it the state religion. The heretics, as they were called, were driven from the stage despite how closely aligned many of their teachings were to the documents the Orthodoxy championed: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7) It has ever been thus!

We often think suffering is a noble cause. It isn’t. The ground of our being is love.

Image Source: Seth International, Facebook group

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