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Gospel of Thomas Interpretation

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.christnet,alt.religion.gnostic,alt.religion.christian
From: (nocTifer)
Subject: Gospel of Thomas Interpretation
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 07:23:21 GMT

50000702 Vom

a correspondent wrote:
> Here is the second saying in the Gospel of Thomas:
> 2 Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find.
> When they find, they will be distraught. When they are distraught, they
> will marvel, and will reign over the All.
> What does this mean?  Find what?  

I am not a Gospel of Thomas scholar. I am a mystic. here are my hits
on this text, with which I am only passingly familiar (having read
some reviews by Pagels and a couple of other scholars on the subjects
of Gnosticism and its core texts):

	Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find.

the mystic familiar with text often begins text-absorbed. that is to
say, she seeks intellectual comprehension (whether this is a result
of rational apprehension or some byproduct of mystical experience
and miraculous transcendentalism) and thus hir 'search' usually
seems to include looking through old books (in part because of the
myth of the "forgotten secrets or keys" and the Book of Power which
is said to contain them -- only very copies survive; cf. quite a
few secret societies and their origins in the 'discovery' of some
fabulous manuscript in the dusty corners or stacks of an old
bookseller's shop) and trying to integrate whatever she accepts as
authoritative (using hir criteria) into hir knowledge-system.

at some point the unrest associated with incomplete comprehension 
(because only intellectual and diffracted from experience) provides
the incentive to move from theoretical to practical applications,
grounding the theory into direct experiences which provide deeper
and more 'convincing' data to the mystic. this 'convincing' shift
is the usual roost upon which new converts and those who have had
a modicum of experience will rest in intellectual certitude so as
not to continue to grapple with the anxiety of an incomplete or
jumbled knowledge-system. there are also further stages of
development for the mystic, yet these need not necessarily relate
to either 'seeking' or 'finding'.

the 'seeking' is, therefore, either an intellectual enterprise
trying to form a whole out of disconnected information and
rudimentary experience or a practical application of data and
exploration of discipline in order to inspire or produce an 
experience which brings with it some kind of resolution. 

the 'finding' is (in its most basic, crude, and simplistic
sense) the arrival at a dogma that may be maintained against
new and apparently contradictory data, or (at a later and
more mature, developed stage) the discovery of at least a
configuration of practical application of mystical principles
which satisfies this unrest, at most a secure identification
and facility with intuitive awareness of how to persistently
maintain such a configuration in one's life and the changing
contexts through which one may shift.

a modern scientific parallel would probably be:

	Those who investigate should rest assured until they
	have exhausted the alternative possibilities.

albeit this seeking and finding would probably be interpreted as
in the CONTEXT of the spiritual life, rather than a mere portion
of one's activities (exceptions being for those scientists who
feel a measure of spiritual satisfaction in their activities).

> Why will they be distraught when they find it 

	When they find, they will be distraught. 

given the context of the comment (Thomas), I would suggest
that the contrast between one's new discovery and either 
the spiritual outlook and dogma of one's family, order, or
religious community or what is instructed to the masses will
be seen as a travesty, one having been provided with several
blocks or blinds which proved enslaving rather than liberating.

this discovery ('gnosis'; essentially individualistic -- 
cf. Theravada Buddhism, Lao Tzu's Taoist mysticism alchemical 
or non, and Hermetic expositions on the ascension to Godhead 
which draw from precisely this type of Gnosticism for comparable
perspctives) will be such a revelation to the mystic that she 
will become distraught over the depth of hir ignorance and the 
crime perpetuated by both those who are themselves deluded and 
those who claim to know the Secret yet continue to instruct 
the constraining dogma.

> and why will they begin to marvel?  

	When they are distraught, they will marvel, 

there are several possible interpretations here, but given
that we may be speaking of the 'Doubting Thomas', I would
suspect that the awe and marvelling would be caused by the
revelation that intellectual knowledge alone is not suited
to the mystical enterprise and as one will have hindsight and
self-consciousness one may become fascinated by the very 
process of mysticism itself, how this differs from religion, 
in the main, and as well at the power and affect which the 
conventional authorities have upon the faithful (overly much).

the author of the Gospel of Thomas, being a Gnostic, may 
have presumed that a transcendental experience (Gnosis) was 
available to the individual dedicant, one whose intensity
of knowledge would confuse, upset, and thereafter amaze
hir with its depth, complexity, and beauty.

> How does one reign over the All?
	and will reign over the All.

the interpretations which occur to me are two:

	1) having driven the multiplicity of competing
	   knowledge systems and the unrest of uncertainty
	   from one's mind, the speaker may merely be
	   talking about the security and unassailability 
	   reached through accepted dogmatism (as a kind
	   'reigning lack of opposition' through banishment)

	2) as an emanationist (under the temporary control
	   of an Archon Creator of this world we inhabit),
	   the speaker may be simultaneously using a model
	   of monarchic rulership in order to convey a
	   sense of liberation, as well as speaking about
	   a mystical transcendance of sociopolitical and 
	   even material constraints due to the intense
	   transformation of spirit which this 'finding'
	   supposedly makes possible

> I've been reading a book by Evelyn Underhill called The Mystic Way
> (1913) which contains a quote from the Book of Divine Consolations of
> the Blessed Angela of Foligno which sheds some light on this saying, I
> believe.

generally I like Underhill's work very much (including
"Mysticism", which is a decent introduction to the subject).

> p 13.  "I had comprehension of the whole world, both here and beyond the
> sea, and the Abyss and all things else; and therein I beheld naught save
> the divine power in a manner which is verily indescribable, so that
> through greatness of marvelling the soul cried out with a loud voice,
> saying, 'This whole world is full of God.'"

conversion to monism or at least pantheism in this case. that is one
possible option, though I doubt that, given Thomas' origins, that
this is quite the same perspective on 'this world' which the 
typicial early Christian Gnostic could be said to have had (and thus
placed into a competing myth about Jesus the Christed One).

> They seek for what is beyond ordinary human experience.
> When they find it, it produces terror, because it is beyond 
> ordinary human experience.

it may be beyond ordinary human experience because of conditioning.

> Beyond the terror, one begins to marvel at the divine power
> which is in everything and sustains everything.

again, this is one option. one might also come to perceive the
abject nihility of value in all things, being of the Demiurgos,
and concretizing our slavery in the zoo of our confinement.
realizing a connection with Sophia beyond this plane and in
Jesus Christ knowing the Son of said divinity, we are provided
with a route by which to escape the clutches of our captor (as
through debauch, for example) and thus none of this world's
horrid tendrils (all being evil) can ever touch us again.

> To reign over the All is to see the unity of the One within the Many.

in my alternative, perhaps one might retort:

	To reign over All is see the disunity of the context
	of our birth from the beauty and purity of That from
	which it originated (Sophia, perhaps the One before

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