Many modern thinking people are being turned off by organized religion. So many people in religion believe theirs is the right and correct one, they are saved in some way and try to convert people to believing in their path. We must remember that every religion started with a founder that has some sort of spiritual experience, and then tried to communicate it and help others understand it, then followers tried to codify it, and sometimes over time the essence the spiritual experience itself has been lost.
I always think it funny to see different religions with their own graveyard, as if Jewish people go to one heaven, and protestants go to another, as if our puny belief systems carry over into the eternal afterlife.
But most religions are exoteric systems, outer beliefs and rituals. But every religion has an esoteric or inner core or mystical path. A path that leads one to have the selfsame spiritual experience that the founder originally had. This direct experience is with the Spirit or Reality itself, and no matter what the religion, the one reality that is sought in direct experience is ultimately the same.
Let us speak of an inner mystical path of Christianity that almost nobody has ever heard of, as it has been deliberately suppressed. I’m speaking of an inner path of Chistianity called Gnosticism.
Gnosis refers to knowledge based on personal experience or perception. In a religious context, gnosis is mystical or esoteric knowledge based on direct participation with the divine. In most Gnostic systems, the sufficient cause of salvation is this “knowledge of” “acquaintance with, the divine. It is an inward “knowing”, and differs from Christian orthodox views. Gnostics are “those who are oriented toward knowledge and understanding – or perception and learning – as a particular modality for living”.
The Gnostic belief was widespread within Christianity until Christianity expelled the group in the second and third centuries . Gnosticism became the first group to be declared heresy. Perhaps it was because of their belief in reincarnation, and the opposition to tithe to the church, and having female priests.God was understood as equally masculine and feminine, there was the rejection of ritualistic behavior and there was the belief that salvation depended on one’s spiritual development and help from spiritual beings and not belief in Jesus, although he was recognized as being the Spirit or Logos descended into form on earth, and they gave little importance to the crucifixion but more emphasis on his wisdom teachings.
You probably never heard of the Albigensian or Cathar crusade unless you read my book, The Soul’s Journey. It started in 1022 and 1163, the Cathars were condemned by eight local church councils, the last of which declared that all Albigenses should be put into prison and have their property confiscated. In the early 1200’s the French rulers and the Catholic church waged an all out persecution, promising the nobles who fought, titles to the Cathars land. Entire communities of men, women and children were murdered. This was the beginning of the Inquisition. Not much of the Gnostic teachings were left after these attacks, which it must be said were not very Christian.
The teachings of gnosticism were varied and it was not until the fourth century that orthodox Christianity became solidified. There were many scriptures that were rejected, like the Gospel of Thomas, where there are mystical quotes like the one where Jesus said, “I am not your Master, for you have drunk and become intoxicated from the bubbling wellspring that I have personally measured out.” There is also a gospel of Mary Magdalene, where she is not depicted as a converted whore but as the bride of Christ and his chief apostle. And it shows how Peter and others were jealous that Jesus taught Mary in private what he did not teach the disciples in public. Modern Catholicism is based on certain approved books, and the denial of many Apochryphal mystical texts, most only recently discovered hidden in jars in Nag Hammadi Egypt in 1945, yet very few have examined these early scriptures of early Christianity before it became fossilized.
In Gnosticism there was an idea that the ultimate spiritual God at the Highest level was perfect, but beings who were created as emanations, were lesser imperfect gods or Archons who created an imperfect world, which we can see as the fact that all beings need to kill and eat other beings to survive and natural calamities as being evidence. The sparks of the ultimate divine are in our souls, but got trapped in the husks of the material world and that it is through gnosis or self knowledge that the sparks may be liberated and make it back to God.
I don’t want to knock the Bible. It has turned more lives to God and kindness than perhaps any other book.Some of these gnostic texts can show how our modern Bible has been tampered with by editors over the centuries. In one of these buried texts it said that Jesus was casting out illness of demonic origin and said “Jesus, moved with anger, said “be healed.” But in the new Bible it says “Jesus, moved with compassion, says “be healed.” So some editor decided that Jesus can’t be angry, so he changed the word and the meaning. In a similar way references to reincarnation or the role of women has also been changed or eliminated to be in alignment with limited beliefs. It becomes like the game of telephone, where after whispering a sentence around a large circle of people, the end result is hardly related to the original statement.
Much of the Bible must be interpreted symbolically and not literally. Do you think a literal snake offered a couple in a garden a physical apple? These are mysteries to be contemplated, not stories to be taken at face value.
Why were the gnostics so attacked, hated and destroyed. Why have the mystical paths of all the worlds religions like Kabbalah in Judaism and Sufism in Islam been relegated to the sidelines and barely noticed, when it has the kernel of truth or the pearl of great price, which is direct contact with the Divine. This is the true purpose of religion, from the Latin Religion which means the tie that binds, which reminds us of the word yoga which means to yoke together. Why are religions opposed to direct mystical contact with God? Many so called heretics are creative geniuses that have downloaded some new progressive revelation that could not have been understood earlier. Maybe Gnosticism and self knowledge through gnosis deserves our openminded consideration.