2nd Sunday After Epiphany: Sincerity

When the pearl is cast down into the mud it does not become dishonored the more, nor if its anointed with balsam oil will it become more precious. But it has its worth in the eyes of its owner at all times. So with the Sons of God wherever they may be. For they have the value in the eyes of their Father.

Gospel of Philip

This gospel talks about the pearl, and the pearl has a long history in Christian and Gnostic thought. The Gospel of Matthew has the Parable of the Pearl:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45–46

In Matthew, the pearl is likened to the Kingdom of Heaven, and implies that the pearl can only be had when you sell all that you have, and purchase it with the proceeds of that. It’s commonly interpreted to mean that the Kingdom of Heaven requires diligent seeking, with the merchant being the listener. Some interpret the merchant to be Jesus, who sought the Christian Church by giving all he had to found it.

The Gospel of Thomas also contains a version of the Parable of the Pearl:

Jesus said, “The Father’s kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys.”

Gospel of Thomas 76, Patterson/Meyer translation

Thomas puts a greater emphasis on the incorruptibility and value of the Kingdom of the Father (one assumes this is also the Kingdom of Heaven). And in this, it is the Kingdom of the father who is the merchant, and who is purchasing the pearl at great price, disposing of that which will fade; the fallen divine sparks of the Gnostics, perhaps?

The listener in Thomas is encouraged to also seek that divine spark, the unfailing treasure, the pearl. The pearl of the soul, and the gnosis that leads to it, are the unfailing, incorruptible treasures which gnostics are to seek out.

Philip’s gospel talks about those who’ve made this purchase, and paid the price. The pearl, he says, does not get less valuable for having been dropped in the mud, nor more valuable when anointed by oil. In our situation, the divine spark is not lessened for being encased in flesh, nor more valuable for temporal honors heaped upon that flesh. It is that spark that the Divine seeks to reunite with, as the merchant in Thomas. And it should be our goal to sincerely reunite with that same Divine.

Although we are here behind the illusion of separation, we are treasures in the eyes of Our Father. We are the Children of God, and loved like those children, and always welcomed home. Try to remember this as you go about your day. When you feel inadequate or unworthy, remember you are a treasure in the eyes of God, then go forth to Love and serve the Lord.

The Sunday after Epiphany: Desire for Liberation

Jesus said: The old man will not hesitate to ask a little child of seven days about the place of Life, and he will live. For many who are first shall become last, and they shall become a single one. Jesus said: Know what is in thy sight, and what is hidden from thee will be revealed to thee. For there is nothing hidden which will not be manifest. His disciples asked him, they said to him: Wouldst thou that we fast and how should we pray and should we give alms and what diet should we observe? Jesus said: Do not lie; and do not do what you hate, for all things are manifest before Heaven. For there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed and there is nothing covered that shall remain without being uncovered.

Gospel of Thomas

This is one of my favorite quotes from the Gospel of Thomas: Do not lie; and do not do what you hate, for all things are manifest before heaven.

This admonishment not to lie is especially important, as gnosis, the knowledge of oneself and of others and of the Divine, cannot be gained if there is falsehood. It is incredibly important to be honest with oneself first and foremost. If you’re honest with yourself, chances are you’ll be honest with others as a consequence.

This does not require so called ‘brutal honesty’; it does not require that one be cruel or destroy another’s hopes or perspective. It simply requires one to not shy away from those things that might be disturbing in one’s own mental landscape.

One must be especially careful to not lie about one’s actions, and to make those actions things of which you can be proud. All things will become manifest before heaven, the truth will come out in the end. The best policy is to make sure that whatever you do in the dark, you’re fine with it being found out in the light. There is nothing hidden, which will not be revealed.

When one acts this way, with their mind and their actions aligned, with the truth on your side, then you are free. Nothing can be held against you, and no lies will stand against you.

We walk in light, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Epiphany: Divine Guidance

Therefore he who is Gnostic is truly a being from above. When he is called he hears; he answers; he directs himself to Him who calls him and returns to Him; he apprehends how he is called. By possessing Gnosis, he carries out the will of Him who called him and seeks to do what pleases Him. He receives the repose. He who thus possesses knowledge knows whence he comes and whither he goes. He understands as someone who makes himself free and awakens from the drunkenness wherein he lived and returns to himself.

Gospel of Truth

Our Gospel reading for the Sunday of Epiphany deals with what being a Gnostic means: the hearing, the answering, the returning, the method of being called, by carrying out the will of the One Who Calls, and what the Gnostic receives: knowledge and understanding, awareness of what this life can be, and what the return means.

That’s all well and good. How does the Gnostic obtain this knowledge? In the cacophony of voices we hear: our parents, our teachers, our preachers, our leaders, the media, and the voices in our own heads – whether made up of divine inspiration or biological defect or messages absorbed before we developed filters – how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?

There is a topic being discussed among modern mystics which has been given the title Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG). It is sort of a catch all for any spiritual revelation that is not contained in any existing lore. It is an interesting topic, for one of the main methods I use to verify my own gnostic experiences is to turn to tradition and scripture to see if they have been experienced before, and perhaps written down.

The AJC as a general rule, makes space for Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG): If you receive something that enhances your spiritual life, then that is all to the good, and you’re welcomed and encouraged to practice it. The place where the AJC, as an institution, has to draw the line is when the gnosis received cannot be supported by scripture or tradition. The Church rightly sets down very few doctrines, and our access to both scripture and tradition is much wider than previous generations. Because of this, the doctrines set down by the Church are not changed without a great deal of consideration and research.

A good method for determining what is gnosis is to look at the traditions of the Church, the scriptures, and our own reason, and see what is revealed that can sit on all three legs of that stool: Is it supported by tradition? Can it be found in scripture? Is it reasonable? If it meets all three of these criteria, it has a good chance of being gnosis.

For more information on Divine Guidance, see my talk about Divine Guidance and Divination.