The Order of the Grail was not the only branch of Esoteric Christianity. Gnostics claim that they too, were bequeathed the secret teachings of Jesus, with a "Doctrine of the Heart," transmitted to them via lesser known apostles such as Thomas and Mark. In the mind of Gnostics, Peter always represented the exoteric side of Christianity. Some Gnostics affirm that Simon Magus was the founder of Gnosticism. Nothing much is known about this mysterious personality except that in Acts in the New Testament he clashed with Peter in a psychic battle and was vanquished. Many believe that this story was fabricated by the priests of exoteric Christianity to discredit Gnosticism as a whole.
Gnosis, from which the word Gnosticism is derived, comes from the Greek word ?Gnostikos," which means one who has knowledge. It is defined by Bishop John Bricaud in his book Esoteric Christian Doctrine as,
"The supreme religious science, that is the true knowledge of the three worlds, divine, spiritual, material, as well as their relationships."
Gnosticism presents to students secret methods of inquiry and entry into the soul's inner depth. Beliefs and mere faith were not advocated in the teachings of the Gnostic Masters.
St. Iraneus, as mentioned earlier, attacked Gnostics for their mystical notions. He declared their spiritual literary works, their gospels, as being full of blasphemy. It is easy to discern why Iraneus was opposed to their doctrines. Gnosticism offered seekers direct access to Omneity, and this very condition undermined the position of the priesthood as the supposed intermediaries, as the only so-called valid way for seekers to approach God. Gnostics on their side, opposed the three-fold system established within orthodox Christianity: doctrine, ritual, and the church hierarchy. The ancient Gnostics were individuals who sought knowledge and wisdom, pragmatically, through personal experience. From their standpoint, the doctrines taught by Jesus were more important than the man himself. The historical reality of Jesus was not a matter of any great import. The mystical and mythical Christ were their sole concern, their only guides and ideal. The laws of God, our relation to Truth and Reality--to Gnostics were more important than the personality of the exponent of those revelations. To them, the second coming of Christ takes place mystically, within the consciousness of one's being. Basilides, Valentinus, Marcus, and Marcion were some of the eminent Gnostics that shaped Gnostic thought.
Gnosticism, like many other cults and societies, ended in many schisms, caused by differences in the interpretation of Truth. Absolute Truth is inapprehendable by human intellect. Relative truths have this strange characteristic of presenting various facets of Absolute Truth that from one perspective appear true, from another appear false, and yet from another, makes no difference at all.
In 1945, in Egypt, at Nag Hamaddi, certain gnostic manuscripts were discovered, among which was the Gospel of Thomas. This work consists of a collection of sayings of Jesus, and is regarded by some scholars as the primary source of Jesus' sayings to be found in the four canonical gospels. We will discuss briefly some of the sayings to be found in the Gospel.
"Blessed is the lion which a man eats so that the lion becomes a man. But cursed is the man whom a lion eats so that the man becomes a lion." (Gospel of Thomas Saying No.7)
The meaning of this saying is similar to saying No.116:
"Cursed is the flesh that depends on the soul, and cursed is the soul that depends on the flesh!" (Ibid. Saying No.116)
The carnal self, or the bestial nature within man is often portrayed as a lion. Alchemical writers of the past made use of this symbolism profusely. To consume a lion is the process of transmuting and sublimating man's lower impulses. This is in accord with the evolutionary urge which is prompted by the higher impulses of man's spiritual nature. Conversely, to allow animal instincts to rule and tyrannize the higher aspects of our being is to figuratively, be consumed by the lion by allowing its persona to be superimposed upon our Real Self. This in a sense is worshipping an idol, a false god, that misleads man's senses and consciousness within the labyrinth of Maya. Man should identify himself with his Atma, his spiritual nature, and not conclude that his lower principles with their desires are his Reality. Attachment to the flesh results in suffering and sorrow, and man is cursed by such conditions that binds his soul to the wheel of birth and rebirth, as graciously pointed out to us by Gautama, the Buddha. This divine messenger of God gave us the eight-fold path as a way of escape from the turmoil within the soul. The Christ gave us the prime commandment to love, which if lived and applied within our thoughts and feelings, would yoke the Fragment to the Whole.
"Blessed is the man who has laboured; he has found life!" (Ibid. Saying No.63)
Man's objective consciousness is in a state of death--spiritual death. He moves, and thinks within God's being like a zombie. Blind to spiritual realities and verities, and to his divine potential, man relies excessively upon an irreligious science and an unscientific religion that dulls as well as stimulate his mind and emotions with an artificial, mechanized living that degrades the soul. Life is Reality, and those who seek the greater life must labour in the vineyard of the soul to awaken the consciousness of the Kingdom of God. All that is temporal, transient, is unreal. Nothing in this three-dimensional world is Real in the absolute sense of the word, for everything is in a state of fluctuation, of becoming. The Real does not change. The dependency on conditions, relations, and objects in this unreal world for one's mental and emotional well-being and security eventually upsets the equilibrium of body, mind, and soul, and results in inharmony, in sickness, and in suffering. Illness is an absence of the bountiful force of Life. God is Life, and Life in the physical vehicle of man is to be found in the blood. The denial of God's existence within and without us is to deny the very foundation of our existence, the very life-force within our being. According to one school of thought, disintegration occurs on a spiritual level to all the principles or components comprising man should this denial be a constant state incarnation after incarnation. The closest proximity that such an unfortunate being could get to the life-essence, hence God, to survive spiritually, is by blood-shed. This explains the acts of depravity of those who indulge in blood-sacrifices, vampirism, and murder.
Matter provides a great challenge to the Ego. It offers resistance to its etherealization, the accomplishment and mastery of which awards man with the unfoldment of his Christhood. No other being can accomplish this for us by proxy. We precipitated this condition for ourselves by our demand of free-will in the higher states of existence. It is the mission and prerogative of man to save his soul and thus acquire a greater life, a greater consciousness, a greater state of being, and to secure for himself a permanent place in the Kingdom of God as a pillar of perfection.
"He who is near me is near the fire, and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom." (Ibid. Saying No.86)
The fire referred to here is the spark of God within man's heart. This spark is the divine aspect of man entombed within matter. It corresponds to the sun in the solar system and is the source of life within the body. Hindu mystics describe this flame as a divine being meditating in the heart of the anahata chakra. They call this divine spark "Dahara," which means "minuscule," with "overtones of radiance." (Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga, by Georg Feuerstein)
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