On Not Wanting To Know.

In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, the Master takes Thomas to one side and gives him some secret teaching. Thomas demonstrates his worthiness to receive this knowledge by refusing to be drawn into a comparison between Christ and anyone else.

”Master, my mouth will absolutely not permit me to say you resemble any one.” Then Jesus said, ‘I am not your master. Because you have drunk..from the bubbling spring I have made to gush out, (and so) he took him aside…” logia 13

When the other disciples ask what Christ said to him Thomas refuses to tell them, not out of preciousness but out of fear…

”If I tell you one of the logia that he said to me you will take up stones and throw them against me” ibid

So, we don’t get to find out what these teachings are, nor why they would provoke reasonable and even saintly men to violence, but we might find some meaningful extrapolation in the Apocryphon of John, which was also found at Nag Hammadi, and which also describes a set of secret teachings to the author who likewise demonstrated that he had ‘the ears to hear’..

”I said, “Lord, how does the soul become smaller and return back into the nature of its mother?”

Then he rejoiced when I asked this, and he said to me, “Truly you are blessed, for you have understood! That soul is made to follow another who has the Spirit of Life in it. It is saved by that (other) one. Then it is not cast into another flesh.” Apocryphon of John logia 23.

we are to save one another.

now that’s something you might get stoned for….

John went one further than telling everyone he could find, he wrote the whole thing down. The Gnostics considered what he had to say so significant, so pivotal to spiritual life, that it was the most copied work found at nag Hammadi.

The Apocryphon is not simply non-canonical. It is the Watergate tape of the fourth century. Just having a copy meant instant death.

John pens a very different Genesis and Yahwewh doesn’t feature all that much. In the beginning was the Monad, out of which emerged Barbello, a mother who begat Sophia, another goddess, who only then made….

something imperfect.

..she created it without her partner. And it was not patterned after the likeness of its Mother, for it had a different form… It was dif­ferent, a model of a lion-faced serpent. His eyes were like flashing fires of lightning. She cast him out from her, outside of those places so that none among the immortals might see him, for she had cre­ated him in ignorance.

She surrounded him with a luminous cloud. And she placed a throne in the midst of the cloud in order that no one might see him and named him Yaltabaoth. This is the Chief Ruler, the one who got a great power from his Mother.

And he was stupefied in his Madness… for he said, ‘I am God and no other God exists except me,” logia 12.

sound familiar?

looking about for a hefty rock yet?

Sophia begins to reconsider what she has done as Yaltabaoth/Yahweh severs diplomatic ties with her and she repents ‘with great weeping’.

So she confesses what she has done to the Monad who helps her trick Yaltabaoth into breathing some of his power into Adam and thus depleating himself. Eve is created by Sophia as Yaltabaoth tries to reverse what he has done.

It is she who aids the whole creation by toiling with him, guiding him by cor­rection toward his fullness, and teaching him..logia 19

Thereafter, Yaltabaoth’s purpose is one of revenge and subjugation..

‘let us therefore cast them out lest they eat if the fruit and become as one of us.” Genesis 3;22

His intent is..

”to deceive the human race, keeping them in ignorance of their true nature, and is the primary means by which Yaltabaoth keeps humanity in subjugation. It is the source of all earthly evil and confusion, and causes people to die “not having found truth and without knowing the God of truth”. Derived from Wisse’s translation.

Yaltabaoth is thorough. He doesn’t stop at expulsion. He sends angels down to seduce humanity…

And the angels changed their own likenesses into the likeness of each one’s mate, filling them with the spirit of darkness…

They brought gold, silver, a gift, and copper and… they beguiled the human beings who had followed them into great troubles by leading them astray into much error and thus the whole creation became enslaved forever.” logia 25

So you can see why the Church might want to destroy this book and anyone who read it. But if these secrets shown to a deserving John are in any way similar to the secrets taught to a deserving Thomas, why might they provoke Jesus’ own disciples to stone wielding violence?

The answer has to do with the way Consciousness develops and the impact this has on self-construct.

Generally speaking we think of Consciousness as an incremental thing, increases by successive stages, building upon what has gone before, the gradual addition of more or less compatible information to an already established and solid storehouse of knowledge.

But Consciousness doesn’t work like that.

‘Perhaps men think I have come to cast peace upon the world and they do not realise that I have come to cast divisions upon the earth, fire, sword, strife… Thomas. logia 16.

The reason for this is that Consciousness, rather than comfortingly adding to our storehouse, sometimes burns it down. What we come to know often negates what was before. Our self-constructs can feel threatened in the process because who we are is inextricably bound up with what we know or think we know.

If what you know is turned on its head then who you are will feel profoundly challenged. Rather than supporting received wisdoms, new experiences can  question all our sacred cows, but its an upset without which there is no real consciousness at all.

”Conflict is the birth of consciousness.” Esther Harding.

So Thomas’ concern that the others would stone him if he told them the truth has to do with his recognition that self-preservation sometimes wins over the thirst for knowledge, a tussle he has just had himself.. What is being asked about is not just game changing but paradigm shifting and therefor destructive to the security of Tried and True.

be careful what you wish for…..

A good example was in yesterday’s news. A white police officer in Hastings Police dept, Michigan, took a DNA test and discovered that he was 18% black. He told his white colleagues in the department who began to rag him about it to such an extent that he finally sued the department for racial discrimination.

The officer’s whole self construct, his job, his relationships, his priviledged role in society was overturned all at once. He was forced into the shoes of his dark brother and compelled across a threshold  that would question his core beliefs.

This happens whenever anyone faces their shadow. You don’t just pop it in you knapsack. It displaces you.

Even worse is the second of life’s great transitions. The shift from shiny persona to a complicated and not so marvellous ego is a breeze next to the one of having ego-consciousness become consciousness-of-an-ego; i.e. having a position outside it .. which begs all kinds of questions about our relationship with our Maker.

”I am the vine which he

doth plant and cherish most

the fruit which grows from me

Is God the holy ghost.” Angelus Silesius.

This is very different from being the helpless pawn of an omnipotent God. It is a philosophy of salvation that is a two way street..

” for such a prayer increases the light of the star.” Jung Seven Sermons.

This is symbolically represented in John’s Apocryphon by Yalbadaoth depleating himself by breathing life into Adam.

”As the human ego depends on God for creativity, so God depends on the ego for its nourishment in the form of trust, confidence and the acceptance of archetypal intentionality.” S. Hoeller.

The paradigm shift offered us by John is as radicle as Galileo’s revelation that the earth revolved sun rather than the other way around. And not just for all the differences in the story. Nor even for the mutual dependence inferred. It turns on its head the generally accepted idea amongst ordinary modern people that we contain a soul, that we are partially divine, as though we could omnipotently house that which transcends us.

No, the soul contains the body. It’s the other way around. Which means that eternal life after death can be happily preceeded by eternal life in the meantime….

Kibbles for Schrodinger’s Cat.

Scientist Steven Weinberg says that the corrosion of religious belief by science is a good thing because of what an awful God it is that’s shared by Christians and Muslims alike…

…but while his character analysis may be spot on it does tend to make a neurosis of anything other than ego based psychologies and ignores discoveries in quantum physics that seem to demonstrate that there is something truly mysterious, mystical, about the relationship between Consciousness and Matter, between Time and Eternity.

‘The Self is not so much linked with what happened to its ancestors, it is not so much the product, and merely the product, of all that, but rather, in the strictest sense of the word, the SAME THING as all that.’ ― Erwin Schrödinger.

just as the person who is fifty experiences themselves as the same person as they were at forty no matter what has happened in the interim.

Quantum theory uses an intertesting term, the ‘quantum superposition’ in which an atom can pre-exist in a combination of multiple states corresponding to different possible outcomes. Curiously, this is also true of Consciousness.

”The unborn work in the psyche is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself,” CG Jung

Shrodinger’s cat experiment, in which a cat in a box would be killed if a random particle was detected by a gieger counter and could therefor be considered both alive and dead until you’d checked up on it, was meant as a mockery of the prevailing ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ which supports the idea of quantum superposition and can demonstrate the truth of it with experiments during which light behaves as a wave or as a particle depending on whether the experiment is being observed at the time…. Even if it is being merely monitored by detection equipment…

matter playing peek-a-boo…

Consciousness, too, exists in multiple, contradictory and sequential forms that seem to have very little to do with one another not unlike a recent scientific discovery which has determined that some species of dragonfly shares no DNA with its nymph. At some point in the metamorphosis the organic state of the nymph not only dies to itself, it is reduced to its most basic atomic constituents…..

from which will emerge a three gram jump jet.

For those who have a Newtonian point of veiw, life is like being a dot on a page. It cannot imagine a line any more than a line could imagine a page, or a page a book. Yet what seems particular to all life is this  incomprehensible transition from one kind of life to another.

Something I console myself with when I’ve lost perspective in all the chaos, is that whether science or religion is right in their eternal wrangle about the origin of life, it is an indisputable fact that at some moment, from a ball of millenial flame now cooled sufficiently for rain to fall and support life…

Life did just that, and at 2.34pm one Tuesday..

Life blinked on.

Consciousness too, blinks on from multiple potential states beyond our comprehension and navigates a passage through the world chiefly by virtue of the attitude held towards that quantum superposition from which it emerged..

and whether or not it allows itself to be altered by involvement.

An example of quantum theory at work in fairy tales can be found in the comparable stories of, ”The Devil’s Golden Hairs,” and ‘Brother Lustig,’ both of which involve an encounter with the quantum wave function of Hell.

In the first story a boy is born with a lucky caul and a prophecy that he would marry the daughter of the king who just happened to be around. The king took Lucky Hans and threw him in a river to die but he was saved by a Miller who then raised him as his own.

Years later the king passed by the Mill. By chance he learns of the boy’s identity and sends him to the Queen with a letter saying, ‘kill the bearer of this note.’ But the boy gets lost and wanders into a thieves’ den where he falls asleep. The thieves  read the letter, feel pity for him and secretly change it for one saying, ‘marry this lad to the princess’.

And so it was.

When the king finds out he has been tricked he’s enraged and sends his new son-in-law to fetch three golden hairs from the Devil’s head, thinking he could not possibly return.

On the way the prince encounters three gate keepers. The first asks, ‘why does the spring here not gush with wine as it once did?’

‘I don’t know,’ he says, ‘but I’ll try to find out.”

The next one asks, ‘why does the tree of golden apples no longer give fruit?’

‘I don’t know,’ he says, ‘but I’ll try to find out.’

The next is the ferryman to Hell. ‘Why must I be the eternal ferryman ?’

‘I don’t know’, he says, ‘but I’ll find out’.

When he gets to Hell the Devil is out, but his Grandmother is home. She’s friendly when she finds out that he’s there to save his marriage, when he’s transparent and straight with her. She turns our hero into an ant which she hides in the folds of her skirts having promised to help him get the hairs and the answers to his questions..

Prince as Ant has acheived what the Tao calls action through non-action. He acknowledges the primacy of the quantum superposition to take care of the situation.

The Devil arrives tired and grumpy. He falls asleep on Grandmother’s knee and when he’s snoring she tweaks out a hair. He wakes startled. ‘So sorry,’ she says. ‘I was dreaming of a spring that no longer gushes with wine.’

‘Nor will it,’ replies the Devil, ‘for as long as the toad sits upon the source.”

He drifts off and she tweaks a second hair. ‘So sorry,’ she says as he starts up, ”I was dreaming of a once beautiful tree of  golden apples that now has even lost its leaves…’

”and it will die entirely if the mouse continues to gnaw at the root…’

A third hair and the Devil leaps furiously to his feet. ”Sorry, so sorry, I was dreaming of a ferryman who was imprisoned to his task…

‘so will he always be till he hands the oar to another,’ grumbled the Devil and wandered off to a spot less infested with grandmothers.

And so our hero returns victorious with the three hairs and the secrets of the various afflictions… and bags of gold from the grateful gatekeepers.

‘Can I have some? asks the wicked king.

Sure, says the prince, ‘go ask the ferryman for his oar.’

The kind of consciousness a person has, influences their material fate.

This is not a crude, ‘everything happens for a reason’, nor even that we might make meaning of tragedy. Its more that Fortune favours the brave. Fortune was a Goddess before the church got hold of her and made her an attribute of knights. In our story, the youth who experiences himself as fortunate catches Her attention. In her guise as Grandmother, the quantum superposition, or archetype, enables him to realise a useful outcome because he’s motivated by his heart and by the Principle of Relatedness, which is her thing too.

So all goes well.

Not so for ‘Brother Lustig’, who, like Schrodinger, had a hard time with the Copenhagen Interpretation, that potential states can exist simultaneously on the threshold of the phenomenal world and that what happens next is down to how they are perceived.

Er, so, reality as well as beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

You can see why someone lurking with philosophical intent might have a problem with that.

Brother Lustig can’t co-operate with Saint Peter, his travelling companion, his wave function, who goes to great lengths to make sure Brother Lustig does okay in life but is thwarted by our hero’s own ineptitude and bad grace. The Self, the  combined multiple states of a quantum system, has healing and energising properties. St Peter brings a man back to life with just the right salve and mysterious ability, but Brother Lustig, the self involved ego, is more interested in the reward of a lamb dinner than the miracle he’s witnessed.

Brother Lustig eats the only part of the lamb that Peter wants, the heart, and then lies about what he has done despite ample opportunity and considerable pressure to come clean. To make things worse he then tries to resurrect the Princess of the land who’d just died, by the same means as Saint Peter the day before.

Of course he is just inflated. He hasn’t got the knack for it and fails. Saint Peter has to step in at the last moment and pull him out of trouble. He even gives him a magic knapsack which could contain anything he wished to make sure he should never be hungry before he departs but Brother Lustig is unimpressed.

”I am very glad you have taken yourself off, you strange fellow, I shall certainly not follow you.’ Grimm.

Eventually Brother Lustig dies and comes once more face to face with St Peter at the Pearly Gates who is reluctant to let him in.

‘At least let me return the knapsack,’ he says and passes it through the gate. No sooner has St Peter taken it than Brother Lustig, thinking himself clever, wishes himself into it. St Peter tutts quietly and places the bag in a corner.

‘Tis strange how some want their Eternity. The power was only to wish things into the bag. Now you will have to stay in there.’

”What happens to a man has something to do with him.” CG Jung.

We create our reality.

and do so by refraining from trying to be the author of it all the time.

”One must not wish to leap over everything and penetrate directly.” Lu Yen

Lucky Hans has a way of rolling with life by accepting his dependence on it. He lets himself be lost and need help. He willingly takes a backseat in Grandmother’s folds while she does the work. He has faith in the Universe because he knows it will offer him the face that he shows it.

”The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings.’ CG Jung.

I was once on a train which was bound to my destination but via a different route to the inbound journey. The conductor points out that its the wrong ticket and that I could be liable to a fine and the cost of another ticket.

The situation was entirely absurd and of course I could have protested the unfairness of it all since I was clearly just making a return trip. The route was irrelevant.

But the guy had a job to do.

So I handed him the ticket and crawled into the folds of Grandmother’s skirts.

He looked at me, looked at the ticket, clipped it, and handed it back.

A quantum system, British Rail conductor, remained in his Quantum Super-position until interacted with or observed by the external world, BR passenger, at which time his wave function collapsed into a definite state,

”causing the set of probabilities to reduce to only one of the possible values immediately after the measurement.” from the Copenhagen Interpretation

The situation emerged as a result of how it is measured. I knew he would do the right thing, and he did.

”Consciousness is fundamental. I regard matter as derivative of consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Max Plank.

So we have to stop it already with all the what-is-the-meaning-of-life? What life might mean presupposes that we know what it is…

The followers said to the Master, ‘Tell us in what way our end will be. The Master replied, ‘Have you therefor discerned the beginning in order that you seek after the end? For in the Place where the beginning is, there will be the end. Happy is he who stands boldly at the beginning. He shall know the end, and shall not taste death.  Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. logia 18.

My teacher George Brown used to say, ‘don’t get caught in the (client’s) story’. Its even easier to get caught in our own story and, like Brother Lustig, to get mesmerised by the drama.

Roberto Assagioli, founder of Psychosynthesis, likened the psyche to an orchestra where there was the various facets of personality represented by different instruments, the conductor, the organising ‘I’, and then the Self, the composer.

What he left out was the audience, the all important observers of the experiment, since music is meant to be enjoyed after all. They, by their appreciation, draw the utmost from the performers who in turn forge admiration from envy and abundance from gratitude.