Response to jesusblogger: early trinity beliefs

My comment to a post by jesusblogger:

http://jesusblogger.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/did-the-majority-of-christians-believe-in-the-trinity-before-ad-325/

I’m sure my view of Christianity is different than yours, but I appreciate you pointing out this discrepancy between early and later Christian doctrine. And it certainly isn’t the only example. One thing that I found interesting is how later Christians often judged the views of Christians prior to them as heretical. The earliest Christian church held many diverse views including those of Valentinus and Marcion. Then the heresiologists took over the church and declared heretical these early church views of Christianity.

I find it odd that all of the earliest commentators of the New Testament were later banned and burned. For instance, the first NT commentary ever written (by Basilides) was entirely destroyed by other Christians later on and the first commentators of Paul and John were labelled as not being Christian (i.e., Gnostic). The funny thing is that many of the third century Christians who judged heretical the views of some of the first and second century Christians were themselves deemed heretical (in part or whole) by fourth and fifth century Christians.

The heresiologists only came into power a century or more after Jesus and so why should we give them priority over the Christians that actually knew Christianity as it was first forming? This is a very important question considering that scholarship has shown how much the New Testament was altered (intentionally and accidentally) in the centuries after the life of Jesus. What we now consider the canonical New Testament took centuries to form and the idea of a Christian canon was originated by a Gnostic (i.e., Marcion).

It’s difficult uncovering what was original to the earliest Christians, but it’s worth the effort even if it means doubting what has become doctrine in what is called “traditional” Christianity.  What seems obvious to me is that there was no single monolithic view of Jesus from the beginning.  Even accepting the canonical New Testament as it is, there are very important differences between the gospels: differing details (some quite significant), different ideas and words emphasized, etc.  And the differences between the gospel writers and Paul are even more interesting. 

The challenge is that, if the ealiest Christians weren’t even of a single agreement about every issue, how are we to decide what is authentic almost two thousand years later?  If the heresiologists from the second century on were seemingly so misunderstanding of the earlier Christians, then how are we to come to a better understanding now?  It takes immense amounts of study along with soul searching doubts and questions to even begin to grasp an inkling of the common threads to early Christianity.

39 thoughts on “Response to jesusblogger: early trinity beliefs

  1. Great post. I was astonished when, at the age of 47 (and after a Catholic upbringing), I learned that all of the things that I’d always taken for granted about Jesus’ teachings and life, and the resultant doctrines of the church, were far from being the only possibilities and interpretations, and that there were many other sides to the story. I don’t take all of the non-canonical texts as “gospel”, either, but when I finally got a chance to take a look at some of them I found that much of what they said about Jesus’ teachings struck a chord that the “orthodox” teachings never had.

    Perhaps (aside from basic historical facts, which certainly should have a bearing on how our beliefs about Jesus are shaped) it’s not so much a question of “right” and “wrong” (except when people use Jesus and religion as battering rams against others). But allowing ourselves the freedom to creatively explore what Jesus was trying to teach us about the divine and about ourselves, and to apply what we learn in the most loving ways in our own lives, seems to me to be more productive (and probably more what Jesus had in mind) than creating theological boxes around ourselves and allowing grace to be replaced by dogma.

    Sara
    http://saradode.wordpress.com

    • Nice to meet you, Sara. Your attitude seems similar to mine. I personally don’t separate orthodox and non-orthodox texts. Christianity of the first century had no canon, and before the heresiologists there were many versions of what later became orthodox.

      However, as the Valentinian Gnostics claimed their lineage from Paul and as they were the first commentors of Paul, I give their opinion of Paul higher value in terms of being closer to the original meaning. And as Gnostic Marcion was the one who first canonized the New Testament, I give his opinion higher value than the canonizers of later centuries. As the gospels weren’t written in Jesus’ lifetime and as there is no evidence they were written by the people whose names were given to them, I give them no more authority than any of the other scriptures existing at the time.

      But I’m open to all viewpoints. Even later writings can give useful insight. I’m not concerned with arguing that my Christianity is more true than anyone elses or that the earliest Christians had somehow figured everything out perfectly. Humans of the first century were no different than humans now. We’re all just looking for some understanding and insight. So, I figure it’s best to study as many texts as are available and read a wide variety of commentators (from the earliest Christians to modern scholars).

      As for some of the non-orthodox scriptures, they can be quite beautiful and inspiring. I personally favor the Gnostic view that heaven is within us and all around us in the world. And they ignorantly lumped all of the Gnostics together as world-haters. Ha! 🙂

  2. You presented a lucid, well structured argument. Thanks for taking time out to write. However, I was not convinced. The New Testament remains the Word of God IMO.

    Shalom!

    • I’m glad that you can at least appreciate the argument I made. It’s fine if we disagree. I assumed you wouldn’t be convinced and I wasn’t seeking to convince you…. just expressing my understanding, limited as it may be.

      It is interesting that you bring up the Word of God. That was a very popular idea in the ancient world.

      The Greeks used this idea first (about 5 centuries before the Christians). Then the Alexandrian Jews (Alexandria, the center of ancient knowledge, had a population that was half Semitic) learned Hellenistic ideas (combination of Greek philosophy and Egyptian religion) in the centuries before Christianity and in the centuries as Christianity formed.

      The most famous and influential of the Alexandrian Jews was Philo who was alive when Jesus supposedly was alive. Philo’s writings used Neo-Platonic philosophy (such as the idea of the Logos/Word of God) to allegorically interpret the Jewish scriptures. The early Christians were heavily influenced by Philo’s writings and many chose to allegorize the Old Testament by using his example. It’s most likely that the early Christians inherited the idea of the Logos from Philo and the other Alexandrian Jews.

      Of course, The Greeks and the Alexandrians Jews obviously didn’t have Jesus and Christianity in mind when they were formulating their conception of the Word of God. So, it’s tricky for a Christian to claim authority by use of a borrowed concept. Anyways, many Christians who disagree with eachother would all make the same claim. The Gnostics would claim their beliefs and scripture are the Word of God. The later Heresiologists would make the same claim. The Catholicizing Christians of the fourth and fifth centuries would do so and the later Protestants would do so.

      My understanding is that it’s obviously not helpful to make a claim that anybody can make to support almost any view. The value of the Christian Logos is a spiritual truth that can only be understood by understanding how the idea developed over centuries. It is a very important idea, but no single person or group has authoritative claim to it’s meaning. If we must assert authority, then I’ll give authority to God… by which I mean authority belongs to the highest source of insight that is available to any person in any culture living at any time. The Logos (philosophically and spiritually) existed before the New Testament and so isn’t limited to the New Testament. Any scripture can only act as a guide.

  3. I understand that you mean the Christians had specific interpretaions of the Word of God that was different in certain ways than the previous Hellenistic interpretations. Still, in some ways the interpretations were linked as there is a direct lineage of the development of the idea from Hellenism to Christianity. Also, early Christians were well aware of Hellenism as they were surrounded by it and the most influential early Christians were educated in Greek philosophy.

    Furthermore, the idea of Logos came to prominence in Christianity through the prologue of John. The gospel of John is the latest and so probably is a response to the earlier Christian texts and teachings. The idea of Logos was floating around Christian circles early on, but it took centuries for Christians to formulate it as a truly unique Christian idea. The Alexandrian Jews began this process and they mixed their Logos theologizing with earlier Jewish Sophia theologizing. The Gnostics, in particular, took up this tradition. The idea of the Logos seems to have been the most popular with the early Gnostics.

    Your basic point is correct. However, there were diverse understandings of Logos in early Christianity. It’s important to understand the larger context of the time because it’s easy for us to project backwards our own modern interpretations of Christianity.

  4. Thanks for the response, Benjamin.

    I guess I was a born “Gnostic”, as the term is defined. Although I see the value of theological debate, my sense is that the Divine is something best approached (in my case, at least) from a less intellectual, and more personal, immediate, and (I hate to use these terms, but for the sake of convenience–please don’t go running off in horror!) “mystical” stance. My own recent spiritual experiences were unsought-after, unexpected, and beyond anything I’d be able to describe in intellectual terms. They’ve induced a sense of awe and peace that I’d never have been able to imagine on my own before they began (had I even bothered to TRY to imagine them!). I feel as if I’ve been invited into a close relationship with God, and with everything around me, that has nothing to do with any doctrine other than what I now believe that Jesus was really trying to teach. I guess I could describe it as similar to one of those instances in which a student of Zen (not that I know much at all about Zen, either), after years of plodding along trying to “understand”, is suddenly slapped into “enlightenment” by the Master.

    That makes me no better or worse than anyone else entering into a relationship with the Divine; it’s just the way that it happened for me. I’m definitely becoming a better, more patient, more loving person than I was before (although I still have a long way to go). But I know that a person who has patiently studied and meditated upon the teaching of Jesus (or any of the other sincere wisdom-teachers), and does everything in his or her power to incorporate that teaching into the way he or she lives in the world and relates to others, is also on a valid path. The petty divisions imposed for the most part by the very human need to be “right” are what cause us to stumble, as I see it.

    I hope that made some sense… I’d love to hear more about your understanding of “Logos”, by the way. It’s something that’s come up for me quite a bit, but not something I’ve quite grasped.

    Sara

    • So, you’re a Gnostic, Sara? I often apply that label to myself, and sometimes I call myself an Agnostic Gnostic (which I stole from the NT scholar Robert M. Price). The Gnostic for my spiritual/mystical side and the Agnostic for my intellectual/seeking side. Both sides must be satisfied and neither can be submitted beneath the other. Faith and doubt, awe and curioisty must balance eachother.

      I sometimes wish I could choose one side and deny the other, but apparently it isn’t in my nature. It’s rather difficult trying to stay true to both. However, I’m not inherently an intellectual in the normal sense. I’m really just a spiritual person whose insatiable curiosity and wonder leads to incessant contemplation and questioning, but it’s my spiritual nature that is at my core. If you’re familiar with MBTI, I’m an INFP which means my intellect is more my way of relating to the world rather than my inner sense of self.

      My intellect is but a tool, useful in some ways and limited in other ways. I’ve learned to be an intellectual, but I’d be relieved if Rumi’s Shams came along and threw all my books into the fountain. lol

      I’ve too had my spiritual experiences. I suppose I value them more than any knowledge I’ve accumulated as that knowledge would be empty without the substance of experience, but then again those experiences would’ve left me lost in mystery without knowledge to give it grounding and context.

      The person who is most similar to me probably would be Philip K. Dick. He was an intellectual but not of the typical variety. PKD had spiritual experiences that defied his understanding and yet he was obsessed with trying to understand them. I mention him partly because I happened to be re-reading a book about his ideas (Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter by Gabriel Mckee).

      I’m fascinated by PKD’s understanding of the Logos which he often speaks of in Science Fiction terms (as he was primarily an SF writer). PKD read deeply and broadly in the Christian/Gnostic tradition which included the writings of Philo and Augustine.

      From Augustine, PKD took the idea that scripture is true (but not in the simplistic sense of fundamentalists). Logos is in scripture… or rather is scripture itself, is information, is a seed, a plasmate awaiting to be awakened by a receptive reader.

      To step outside of the limits of Augustinian Christianity, PKD also felt the logos was in all language and in the entire world scattered in piecemeal, but often not where we expect it (God in the garbage or Jesus disguised as the stranger). There is no fundamental evil as everything can be used for the good. This latter interpretation contrary to Augustine’s theology which denied the Gnostic belief that everyone contained a spark of God.

      The science fiction sounding notion of the logos as a living language reminds me of William S. Burroughs notion of the word as virus or Terrence McKenna’s notion of language as an alien symbiote. PKD liked the idea of logos acting in symbiosis with the human to enact a transformation of self.

      PKD’s understanding comes from Augustine (i.e., being made and remade through the Word). But it was inspired by a mystical vision he had which he described as St. Elmo’s Fire in his novel The Divine Invasion. He described it as the world transformed into language which is a living blood, a fire that moves and where it pools it forms something like words. It’s a divine language, an ordering principle that creates out of seeming chaos the original plan in the mind of God.

      Basically, PKD believed the logos served two functions: continual creation and personal transformation.

      • I found it very interesting what you said about language. I was writing stream of thought one day and this is what came out. To me it’s a very similar idea to what you were saying.

        Siren Song

        There was once a time where the written word evoked a spiritual awakening. In every letter and in every word there was harmony as each evoked the divine. Then came a time where the written word became used as an everyday tool, used to convey thoughts and messages. Somewhere along the line we forgot that the written word was a gift meant to sing the divine song. The spoken language was much the same. Every breath and every sound was meant to evoke a spiritual awakening. And with each word, and with each sentence the divine song was to be sung, but something happened.

        We lost sight of the divine. In our pursuit to express ourselves and to differentiate ourselves, we forgot from where we came. We began to cling on to our individuality and to the societal and cultural ties that sometimes bind us, but all too often divide us. We struggle for words, and we struggle for thoughts, but yet none make any sense.

        We create rules, from where there was only one. We strive for goals, from where there is only one. We separate and we organize according to our dictates, from which there is truly only one. We claim an understanding from which there is only one.

        Silence? There is no silence. If there is no silence, must there then be chaos? There is no chaos. There is only the one siren song.

        • I was reading something about the origin of language. It might’ve been in the book I was reading about PKD”s theology or else it was in an essay by William S. Burroughs.

          Anyways, the author had mentioned Julian Jayne’s theory of how early humans heard voices as external. These were the first thoughts that took the specific form of deities and divine kings. Primitive humans didn’t think their thoughts but were thought by their thoughts.

          Along with this idea is the notion that language at first served a religious purpose rather than a practical one (well, to the extent one considers religion impractical). The religious purpose, I suppose, is also a social purpose. Language was original about one’s group identity… along with the more general sense of one’s place in the world. Language is still used in this way, of course, which is made obvious with how cults use language (not really any different than how any other group uses language).

          To put this in the context of your comment, early humans actually heard their gods speak. The dialogue god’s had with humans in ancient myths wasn’t a literary device. It was a description of how humans used to experience reality. The world wasn’t silenced but rather filled with voices. The world was an endless conversation of animals and mountains, of water and clouds, of humans and gods. The world was alive with language.

          • “To put this in the context of your comment, early humans actually heard their gods speak. The dialogue god’s had with humans in ancient myths wasn’t a literary device. It was a description of how humans used to experience reality. The world wasn’t silenced but rather filled with voices. The world was an endless conversation of animals and mountains, of water and clouds, of humans and gods. The world was alive with language.”

            Bingo!

            By silence I meant that we no longer listen, but it is still there. God still speaks through our hearts and through others, if we only listened with an open mind and heart.

  5. I don’t know that I’d call myself a Gnostic, or anything else–I guess I meant that that’s what others would most likely call me if they needed to find a name for me!

    I absolutely agree that direct experiences can be balanced well with questioning and exploring through reading, debate, etc., as long as one’s mind can remain open and nimble enough not to get bogged down in one thing or another. I have read some Campbell (need to read more–he fascinates me), but lately–because it’s really all completely new to me–I’ve been reading Pagels, King, Crossan…next on the list is Borg. But the things I’ve been reading lately serve more to reinforce, or sometimes conflict with, the things I’ve been told through direct experience. Each way helps to fill in the others’ blanks. Anyway, I’m having the time of my life, although most people who look at me must think that there’s not a damn thing going on in my life! 🙂

    Clearly, you’ve done a lot more reading than I have. I’ve got to get my son ready for school now, but I’ll look into your suggestions, and also respond to your comment on my blog, a little later. (I also want to read what you wrote about Logos more carefully.)

    Thanks.

    Sara

    • Yeah, labels don’t really matter… but they can be fun to try on for a while.

      You seem to be reading authors that are in the general realm of the kinds of authors I often read. All of those are big names in the Christian section of the bookstore. Of those, I’ve only read Pagels but I can’t now recall what I read by her. Did you come across those authors randomly or is there an order to your reading? As long as your having fun…

      I don’t know that I’ve read more than you, but I suppose I’ve read a decent amount of books related to religion and Christianity in particular. I don’t have children for one thing, and my cats are quite conducive to my studies.

      About what I wrote about Logos, I was mostly just sharing PKDs ideas which often happen to resonate with my general sense of life. I do sense that there is a principle that patterns our existence. That is why I’m curious about comparative mythology and its relation to archetypes.

      I sometimes lean towards the notion of Platonic ideals but I’m not sure I’d go that far. I sorta like the Buddhist view of emptiness in which no ultimate need to be posited. In a sense, the patterns that make up reality are empty. I suspect that what we see as objects are simply where patterns cross eachother (something like PKDs notion of St. Elmo’s Fire pooling to form words). Also, these patterns may very well simply be perceptual artifacts… meaning reality is real in the experiencing of it.

      Or something like that. The world does seem alive to me, but I don’t know what it all means.

  6. P.S. I guess I should add that, in those instances in which what I read or learn from other sources conflicts with what I’ve encountered on my own, I tend to defer to the latter (although I’m also well aware that I can misunderstand things on occasion). It’s what I’m comfortable with, and what tends to lead to insights and new directions more reliably. But that’s just me…

    • Experience trumps all. One’s interpretation of one’s experience may be misleading or even outright wrong, but still the experience itself is true on its own terms. Anyone who betrays their own experience (whether for dogma, social expectations, or for the experience of another) betrays their own truth. This is the danger of religion, but it’s also simply the danger of being human.

      The opposite danger, of course, is projecting one’s subjectivity onto everything. As with everything in life, balance is important. But balance be damned if it gets in the way of my desire for truth… truth of knowledge, of experience.

  7. http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/websermons/skiwri.htm

    And again the Kerygma of John preserves this implicit docetic version: the Beloved Disciple attempts to touch Jesus and cannot!

    Thus the gospel of John presents us with a strong yet strangely paradoxical statement on Docetism: the gospel seems to be presenting a truly incarnate Lord Jesus, but in fact, that presentation itself turns out to be “docetic,” i.e., only an appearance! Does the Gospel of John actually teach that Jesus was “made flesh” or does it only appear to teach this? I should say, on the evidence I have just offered, and more besides, that it only appears to teach so.

    And so I come the long way round to the Johannine Prologue again. For it contains the weightiest NT statement of anti-Docetism. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” On this verse hangs the whole catholic, orthodox worldview: that even the spiritual one must not write off the material world as evil, filled to the brim though it may be with temptations to sin. No, since the holy Word of God deigned to metamorphose into flesh, either flesh must already have been considered good by God (as in Genesis One: “And it was good”), or the incarnation itself must have sanctified it. In either case, this saying, “And the Word became flesh” is held to disqualify gnostic neurotic flesh-hating, hyperspiritual pleasure-shunning.

    And yet it is just here where John’s gospel most seriously subverts the traditional, mainstream, “healthy-minded” view. True, this verse refuses to draw a line between the worldly appearance of the Word and the appearance of the world in which it appears. It refuses to make the Word an exception to the general ontological rule. But what we fail to see is that it leaves both the world and the Word together on the wrong side of the great divide! Neither is substantial! Both are alike illusory! The text fosters what Thomas Ligotti calls a hallucinatory view of existence. The world and the Word are alike mere functions of maya, or illusion, or of laya, divine play. The world is as insubstantial as the word, the echoes of the first half of which are sounding unto dissipation even before we have finished pronouncing the latter half!

    [. . . .]

    The reason that our playing of language games is not a matter of talking about the world is that the world is the word! Talk does not cook the rice, perhaps, but then the rice is nothing but talk! Zen masters knew this: when one gets past words for an instant, one sees the true reality beyond, which is nothing! To understand is to stand under, which happens to be the same thing “substance” means: that which stands under, even if that is nothing! There is no ontological ground of Being. No, the earth is fixed upon the void, hung on space.

    Tibetan Buddhists drew a significant inference from this word-game view of existence. They found room in their worldview for sorcery, a way to cheat at their own language game, as we sometimes do at solitaire. Call it creative grammar. Call it a case of characters in a play stealing a look at the script in which they occur, deciding they do not like it and making it up for themselves from there. They realized that if you “understand” the world, i.e., as language, then you are yourself the substance of the world and it might as well be you who pulls the strings.

    In practical terms, this is what you are doing insofar as you understand others and the games they are playing better than they do themselves. As a psychologist or a parent or a gnostic you can see the game someone is playing and show him or her how to win, even if by, and especially by, bending the rules.

  8. http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/websermons/xnihil.htm

    The first is the Priestly account of creation in Genesis One. In it we read that God uttered “Let there be light!” And the light, which did not yet exist, nonetheless did not deem that a sufficient excuse to delay obeying the Almighty voice.

    The second is the introit of the Gospel of John in which all is created by the Word, the Logos, of God, and that Light was the light of reason, that which enlightens everyone who enters the world. In this latter text what we see is that the creative utterance of God in the Genesis passage has been filtered through the Stoicism of Philo and the Hellenistic Judaism of the day. The Word has become a semi-autonomous divine entity alongside God.

    What is a word? It is to speak one’s mind. The Word, or Logos, comes in Hellenistic philosophy to be nearly synonymous with the mind. It is God’s mind, and it enlightens us as well. As St. Augustine would put it, we see all things by the light of the Divine Intelligence.

    But both passages mention not only light but darkness as well. Darkness is the nearly tangible, obtuse bulwark against which the light flares forth in the dawn moment, when utter chaos gives way to the light of reason.

    Behold, I show you a mystery: that darkness which light dispels is the very medium of light, for the light needs the darkness in which to shine. Without darkness to dispel, light would be invisible. It can only be seen for what it is in its difference from the darkness in which it shines.

    Think of it like fire. If there were no air, there would be no fire. It cannot exist in a vacuum. Fire needs oxygen to burn. Even so, darkness is the oxygen of light. Light means nothing, and would be nothing, without its twin and opposite, darkness.

    And in the same way we must admit that darkness is logically prior to light. Darkness is there first, and then light bursts forth. Chaos is prior to order, randomness to meaning. “Thou whose almighty Word / Chaos and darkness heard / and took their flight.” Chaos and darkness were already present when the Word first sounded.

    Tillich put it this way. Being and Nonbeing are opposites. But of the two, Nonbeing is older, because in every moment, Being is an affirmation of itself over against Nonbeing, which hence must be prior to Being, at least logically, if not chronologically.

    • Philosophy can be a dangerous thing if you don’t know where your own two feet land. I can just as easily argue the other side of things, but what use it is it in truth? Thought for the sake of thought and argument for the sake of argument are useless. They just keep a person dancing in circles. I’m speaking specifically to the idea of “logic.” The problem with logic is that it depends on a set of precepts, and if those precepts/assumptions are incorrect then it all goes out the window. Hence, being able to argue both sides of things. That’s where faith comes in. Some will tell you who needs faith when you have experiences. But our experiences are tainted by our previous experiences and future experiences. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on how we decide to take things.

      • True, dangerous it can be. But you can never entirely be sure where you’re going to land before you jump. It’s a risk, whether calculated or blind.

        Read my most recent blog post to see my exploration of this in terms of some writers I enjoy. In that post, one of the authors I mention is Philip K. Dick who came up in the comments here.

        PKD saw God not so much as an answer but as a question or rather a process of questioning. There is no endpoint that is God, no ultimate conclusion. God is infinite and so are the attempts to understand God. PKD enjoyed theorizing one way and then theorizing something altogether different. It was his way of contemplating the divine.

        In this activity, he sensed the divine itself. What inspired his theorizing was, afterall, his own direct experience. Divine revelation was the beginning rather than the end of theological inquiry.

        I’d differ with you on one important point. I suspect that not all experience is tainted by past and future experiences. Certain mystical experinces seem to bring one fully into a present state, even a sense of being outside of time. You can argue whether these experiences are true, but I prefer to take them on their own terms. However, I’d say that most of our experience, meaning those besides satoris and divine revelations, are tainted as you say.

        Then again, maybe it’s more correct to say that it’s our interpretations and understandings of experience that are tainted, but in practical terms experience isn’t easily separated from the mind’s incessant activity. Psychologically understanding our own biases is important and such biases even apply to those more rare mystical experiences. Once an experience has been had, it’s open game for the mind’s processing. This is often the problem of mystics who are forced to articulate their experiences in religious language they were raised in.

        Or maybe no experience is ever free from the taint of precepts and assumptions. I’m willing to accept that as being one possibility. If we’re trapped in psychological realities that can’t be seen outside of, then so be it. It’s still fun to speculate about that which may exist beyond.

        The argument between faith and knowledge is an old one. My personality favors the route of knowledge, but each to their own. Going by my own experience, which is all I can go by, the divine can be known beyond mere blind faith. It’s hard for me to imagine faith without gnosis. My sense of faith is faith in faith by which I mean an intuitive knowing. I’ve had spiritual experiences that make me realize how little I know, but also these experiences reinforce my sense that I know there is something to know.

        • 🙂

          Well said.

          “Certain mystical experiences seem to bring one fully into a present state, even a sense of being outside of time.”

          I completely agree with this. I think I told Sara this story also, but I’ll bring it up once again. There was once a time when I asked God to remove all distractions from my mind, to remove any outside influence from spirits or others, and to remove any of my preconceived thoughts of what it might be like to speak with God. As I asked this, slowly everything began to fade. I could see nothing except black, even though my eyes were open. Normally at this point in my meditation or prayer or whatever you want to call it, I would start to see swirls of colors, but none of that happened. All thoughts faded from my mind. I could not hear nor see nor smell anything. What I felt was a sense of peace. Time did not exist. As I continued along I began to see a sliver of light and some green. I still to this day don’t really understand what that sliver of light meant but what I gathered from that experience was that nothing existed at that moment except for me and God. To me btw, God is everything. You are part of God, just as all of existence is part of God. ANyway, that is what you comment reminded me of – a peaceful moment.

          “This is often the problem of mystics who are forced to articulate their experiences in religious language they were raised in.”

          I completely agree with this whole paragraph. I don’t consider myself a mystic btw or anything else. I like you, just base my thoughts on my experiences. What I’ve found has been that in the beginning when I fist began to open up/seeing things I would see things tainted in a Christian/Catholic slant. One of my first experiences when I was asking God for help was seeing an image behind an image. I was in church praying, asking for guidance, and hoping that I Wasn’t crazy. As I stood in front of a replica of the “Lady of Guadalupe” I saw an image behind the painting. It was of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. It looked just like a sculpture. To me I don’t know if that was truly the Virgin Mary or Jesus, but I believe that we see things in ways that will help us understand the divine in our own personal way. So if a person is Muslim, Christian, Jew, Bhuddist or whatever, they will see things in a way that will resonate with them the most. And though you say you do not see spirits, or have had “mystical” experiences (or I think you said that anyway), I believe you see things through words and thoughts, missed by most people. When a lot of people read, they tend to read, they go searching for what they think they already know, where as you; you strike me as someone who does truly read with an open mind, an open heart.

          As for faith and knowledge, I used to think I knew things. Now I try to take a step back from that. I’ve come to the realization (whether this is true or not) that I don’t know anything. I cannot tell you if there is a God or not. I can’t tell you what happens when we die, or what came before us, or will come after us. All I can say is what I feel. That is what I take from each person, or try to do anyway. I try to learn from your experiences and others because your relationship with God is just as valid as mine or anyone elses, no matter how we choose to see the divine. I figure God can guide each of us in multiple directions if He so wished, even ones that seemingly oppose one another.

    • Regarding light and dark and there needing to be dark in order to see light:

      I’m not sure how familiar you are with Einstein’s E=mC^2 or his theories on moving the speed of light. I bring it up because supposedly (I’m not a physicist) if one were to go the speed the light, they would in essence become light, that is to say they would experience existing everywhere. As you approach the speed of light, distance shrinks. Conversely as you approach a velocity of ‘0’, then distance approaches infinity.

      I just thought it was interesting because many equate God to being light (or love or both depending on your view). So I take that as, as we approach an understanding of love, unconditional love, or as we become like ‘light,’ perhaps we gain a better understanding of God.

      As for dark and balance. I don’t really see balance. I see that word to mean flow, meaning there can be any mix of the two, or just one of them. Regardless, I see them as both being of God – faces of God.

      • Well, I’ve read books that talk about such things as Einstein’s theories, but I can’t say that I’m anything more than slightly familiar in terms of actually understanding what any of it means (like you, I’m not a phycist). Such scientific speculations about light are interesting. I wish I could say more. 🙂

        Balance and flow are both words I use sometimes in my attempt to grasp that which is beyond me. In terms of dark and light, balance to me is understood in the context of Taoism. And, of course, flow is an important concept to Taoist philosophy. Balance isn’t static. There is a dynmaic interplay between yin and yang.

        If I was in the mood to write another long comment, I’d explain PKD’s view of light and dark, yin and yang. If you ever get the chance to read some of PKD’s non-fiction or any of his more philosophical novels, then I’d highly recommend it.

  9. http://www.truthbeknown.com/waite.htm

    The Trinity was an essential feature in the religion of many oriental nations. The Holy Ghost was the third member under various appellations. In the Hindu trinity, it was Siva; the other members of the trinity being Brahma and Vishnu.

    Mr. Maurice says, this notion of a third person in the deity, was diffused among all the nations of the earth. Mr. Worsley considers the doctrine one “of very great antiquity, and generally received by the Gothic and Celtic Nations.” In the Hindu system, this third person was the Holy Breath, by which living creatures were made. The Holy Ghost became visible in the form of a dove, a tongue of fire, etc.

    The Holy Ghost was sometimes the agent in immaculate conceptions. In the Mexican trinity, Y Zona was the Father, Bascal the Word, and Echvah the Holy Ghost, by the last of whom Chimalman conceived and brought forth Quexalcote. When Sesostris invoked the oracle, to know who, before him, could subjugate all things, the answer was, “First God, then the Word, and with them the Spirit.” Plutarch, in his “Life of Numa,” shows that the incarnation of the Holy Spirit was known to the ancient Egyptians.

    The doctrine of the Word, as the creative power, is also very ancient. The Chinese Bible states that “God pronounced the primeval Word, and his own eternal and glorious abode sprang into existence.” According to the Zend-Avesta, it was the Word, more ancient than the world, that Ormuzd created the universe. The ancient Greek writer Amelias, speaking of the god Mercury [Hermes], says “And this plainly was the Logos, by whom all things were made.”

    Plato taught a trinity of the soul, in which it is easy to see analogies, pointing to a higher form of the doctrine.

    It is said there was an ancient Greek inscription on the great obelisk at Rome; thus: 1. The Mighty God; 2. The Begotten of God; and 3. Apollo the Spirit.

  10. http://books.google.com/books?id=KnIYRi3upbEC

    Jesus is called the “Word” or, “Logos,” which, although it appears mysterious to the uninitiated, is actually commonplace in Greek parlance, as it has many meanings, including “word,” “speech,” “rumor” and “reason.” The logos is in actuality a primitive concept, reflecting merely the way in which God created the world, i.e., through speech. The Logos concept is not new with Christianity but is applied to a number of older deities in mythologies from the Mediterranean to China.

  11. Probably the oldest known commentary on the idea of logos (divine language) is in the Rig Veda from at least 3500 yrs ago. In it, this idea is given the name Vac/Vak which is a female goddess who later became identified with the river goddess Saraswati. I’ve been attracted to Saraswati for sometime. I’ve used her mantras in meditation before and I have an image of her on a necklace that I never take off.

    Saraswati seems to be similar to the Gnostic Sophia. Philo supposedly wrote that the Logos was the son of Sophia and also identified the two as the same. Maybe it’s basically the same as Saraswati being the daughter and wife of Brahma, two sides to a single creative force. Like the archons lust after Sophia, Brahma lusted after Saraswati. Both stories explain the creation of the world. Brahma, like the demiurge, are creators and rulers of this world… but there is a difference between creation and emanation.

    The question is what is worthy of worship. Is the god of this world evil or simply a lesser spiritual being? Does the creator create himself or does even he not know what came before?

  12. http://www.truthbeknown.com/footnote3.htm#foot62a

    The “Word” is a very ancient concept and does not originate with Christianity. The term “Logos” is Greek, and it is obvious that the Christian copyists adopted the Word concept directly from the Greeks, whether it be from Plato or applicable to the gods Prometheus and Hermes. However, the Greeks in turn had adopted this idea from more ancient traditions, such as the Indian and Egyptian. Graves states, “. . . the Chinese bible, much older than the Christian’s New Testament, likewise declares, ‘God pronounced the primeval Word, and his own eternal and glorious abode sprang into existence.’ Mr. Guizot, in a note on Gibbon’s work, says, ‘According to the Zend-Avesta (the Persian bible, more than three thousand years old), it is by the Word, more ancient than the world, that Ormuzd created the universe.’ . . . And the ancient Greek writer Amelias, speaking of the God Mercury [Hermes] says, ‘And this plainly was the Logos (the Word), by whom all things were made, he being himself eternal, as Heraclitus would say, . . . He assumed to be with God, and to be God, and in him everything that was made, has its life and being, who, descending into body, and putting on flesh, took the appearance of a man, though still retaining the majesty of his nature.’ Here is ‘the Word made flesh,’ set forth in most explicit terms.”

  13. PKD’s Logos scattered piecemeal is similar to both Gnosticism and Kabbalah… the whole spark of God issue. I like the idea of the divine fallen into the world because it gives a different spin to the belief in a fall. Maybe we don’t fall from God but that we are collectively God who has fallen. Sophia who falls into this world and thus gives it life is described as the aeon who suffers. In Lurianic Kabbalah, there is the idea of God emptying himself of himself to make room for creation and the idea of the broken vessels. God sacrifices himself and becomes scattered. However, the aeon who falls also exists simultaneously in the Pleroma eternally unfallen.

  14. Whoa! That’s a lot to take in, and my knowledge of the various traditions you mention is sorely lacking! Funny, though–two things I was told in the course of my spiritual experiences are very similar (in very basic terms) to things you mention–this is one of my posts:

    ***He’s been trying to explain (after telling me that it’s “hard to explain”–I have no doubt of that) to me what “Logos” means, exactly. Since I can usually understand what he’s saying for only a minute or so at a time, it makes it even more difficult for him to explain things, and I get only small pieces of it at a time.

    First he said, “Logos life mind.”

    “Mind of God?” I asked.

    “Yes.”

    Later he said, “Logos hand of God…part of the All.” And then, I think, he said, “Abgos,” which I thought might mean something like, “Father of the dead,” but I’m not sure.

    Later still, he said, “Logos light and dark…Jesus was light; Mary was dark. Light needs dark to be seen.”***

    I’m quite certain that none of this came from my own psyche, as I’d never given the concept of Logos any thought whatsoever.

    I’m sure that it sounds crazy to others, but it’s been happening for so long now, slowly and systematically and with a great deal of consistency, that it makes sense to me (and believe me, I’ve questioned its source many times). Go figure, again.

    In any case, this is where learning from other sources comes in–it helps to “fill in the blanks”. It’s become very clear to me that the “blanks” are there for a reason, and that I’m expected to think them through on my own and come to my own conclusions. It’s fun 🙂 (and what good is a mystical experience if it’s not at least a little fun?).

    Sara

    • I didn’t mean to overwhelm you with info. All of those quotes and comments were mostly for my own benefit. It’s just me taking notes as I’m thinking about the subject.

      My knowledge of these various traditions is limited as well. I’m just a collector of info, often a dilletante… but I do try to understand such things in my own experience.

      I brought up the Kabbalah partly just because of its connection to Gnosticism. However, even my curiosity of such things is limited. The Lurianic Kabbalah idea of God sacrificing himself to create the world interests me for the simple reason that it takes a particular idea to its extreme conclusion. I have a bit of a tragic streak in me and I connect with the idea of divine suffering.

      Along with this, I like the view of a balance between light and dark. The belief that light negates the dark never quite made sense to me. The dark isn’t but an empty void. There are things that move in the dark, things that are easily missed in the glaring light.

      I’ve never experienced any voices as you describe. My “spiritual” experiences have been more emotional and perceptual. In terms of voices, you might appreciate Jung’s experiences. He had very tangible visions where he would walk in his garden with a person that didn’t exist in any normal sense and he would have conversations. His later thinking about the reality of archetypes developed from this period.

      Considering of your “Logos life mind,” I immediately translated the latter two terms into Zoe and Nous. These are Greek terms that I’m sure had many different religious and philosophical meanings, but they also had specific Gnostic and Christian significance.

      The prologue to John uses the terms Logos and Zoe. I was reading that Zoe, in this context, relates to eternal life and divine revelation. In John, the other aspect besides Zoe related to Logos is Phos which is light: Logos as life and light.

      Gnosticism uses the terms Logos, Zoe and Nous. In a Valentinian system, there is one set of successive emanations: Nous (mind) and Aletheia (truth) from which Logos (word) and Zoe (life) emanate and then from those Anthropos (man) and Ecclesia (church). The Sethians used these terms differently. Sophia is the mother of Zoe who in turn is the mother of a snake given the name Nous. The snake Nous is he who teaches Adam and Eve knowledge. I’ve read in some traditions, Christ is identified as a snake.

      I don’t know what any of that means or if its helpful for you. It is interesting for whatever its worth.

  15. (Just to be clear–I don’t “hear voices.” Strange as it sounds, I see things written out in front of me–kind of a “writing on the wall” deal, I guess. When all of these things first started happening, I said something like, “Um, this is all very cool, but I kind of don’t want to hear voices if you start talking to me, for obvious reasons.” It seems to have been a very thoughtful accommodation, although these days I wish I DID hear things rather than trying to read them, which can be damned inconvenient, slow, and occasionally fuzzy–although often astoundingly clear.)

    What you’ve told me here has been VERY helpful–I’m kind of thrilled, in fact. Once again, it’s time to make my son’s lunch (and I’m determined to get outside in the wonderful 85-degree weather today rather than do my usual sitting around the computer because I’m too cold to do anything else), but I’m going to look into it some more. Anything you’d like to add will be greatly appreciated; it may just take some time for me to digest.

    Gotta run–

    Sara

    • Hearing voices or seeing words… it’s all the same to me and doesn’t really matter. I’m not one to judge someone for having “abnormal” experiences. As reality seems rather strange to me, I’d consider abnormal anyone who has never had an “abnormal” experience.

      I hope you enjoyed your day. I got outside today myself. I went to the park with my brother and it was quite enjoyable.

      As for adding anything further, I’ll see. Nothing comes to mind at the moment, but if it does I’ll be sure to share.

  16. P.S. You also mention “light” as related to Logos. That’s another concept that’s been coming up a lot in my “conversations” of late; my understanding so far is that “light” (something along the lines of the divine spark within us) is related to, but not the same thing as, Logos. One thing I was told was that “Logos (is the) ability to love”, so I came to the half-formed conclusion that that “spark” is the part/manifestation of Logos that was given to us, but that can get lost or hidden. Jesus was simply trying to show people how to find it again (a very frustrating endeavor, apparently!).

    I don’t mean to monopolize your blog comments here, but your mention of the snake reminded me of something I “saw” early on in all of this, before I really started to understand it in spiritual terms. I hope you don’t mind, but this is where I describe it:

    ***SNAKE
    This, at first, was a scary one. I was in the dark, just kind of hanging out with Sam (and maybe a few others—it’s hard to tell sometimes). When I turned around to leave, I saw an enormous, undulating, thick red “line” all across the room behind me. In a few seconds I realized that it was a snake, and that I was pretty much surrounded by it, and that its face was approaching me, its little tongue flicking in and out of its mouth. “Um, Sam?…” I said. “This is a little scary.”
    OK, I’m well aware of the symbolism in what happened next. Sam (I thought it was him at the time, anyway) took hold of the snake, and kissed its head, and just let me look at it (I know, I know…What’s in YOUR psyche?). Eventually I realized that it wouldn’t hurt me, or that Sam wouldn’t let it hurt me, and I reached out and touched it. I don’t remember if it was that time, or another shortly after, that Sam put the snake around my neck for a few moments. I’ve seen it since then, and petted it, but never quite as, um, intensely. Again, I felt that it was a kind of protective gift of some sort, but I could be wrong.***

    In light of what you’ve told me, it takes on a bit of a new dimension.

    Glad I “ran into” you!

    Sara (and please let me know if I’m monopolizing…)

    • “Logos (is the) ability to love”

      That more or less makes sense to me. I’ve often thought that compassionate empathy is necessary to know something deeply… such as knowing a person or knowing a point of view. Knowledge isn’t merely about abstrctions and factoids.

      Even seemingly impersonal knowledge is grounded in personal and interpersonal experience. Knowledge is ultimately about connections and relationships. As no person is an island, no piece of information exists isolated. The living world is information. All of these interconnections forms a vast web. Knowledge exists meshed in a context of culture and environment, of history and evolution.

      More importantly, knowledge isn’t outside of us. We are beings of information. To know anything is to know ourselves, is to know our human nature. The mind that knows and what is known are inseparable.

      Don’t worry about monopolizing. I’ve enjoyed our discussion. Obviously, this is a topic we both enjoy.

      Snakes are a very ancient symbol. I can’t say that I’ve personally had much of a connection to snakes as symbols or as animals, but I’m interested in how animals in general play out in archetypal terms whether in mythology or dreams. I’d really like to learn more about the meaning of snakes in ancient religion. They’ve taken on such negative connotations to Christians, but they were at times highly revered.

  17. That’s beautiful. Months ago, when I thought that the things that were happening were indicating that (much to my disappointment, really) all roads really led to Christianity, and that I was “supposed” to go to church, the Rector (a very learned and liberal man who didn’t necessarily toe the party line) said something like, “Hell is the absence of relationships.” It fit in beautifully with much of what I’d learned. And we can’t have relationships without knowing ourselves well enough to really know the nature of others.

    I loved the snake, once I got over my initial fear. I kind of miss him. 🙂

  18. One last note, not last really..just for now. I enjoyed your exchange with Sara. She recommended I have a look. Only concern I had was – it is nice to understand how or why a person or group of people came to their understanding of the world and God as we choose to know Him/it, but one can easily be distracted by so and so’s views versus what God teaches each and every one of us through our hearts/spiritual heart.

    Take care my friend.

    • Hello, sidewalkbends. And welcome to my humble blog.

      I think I understand what you’re getting at. I’m fine with subjective experience and how relationship to the divine is to a degree unique to the individual. Experience is what it is. Each person must make sense of it as best as they can.

      The problem that I have with many dogmatic religious people isn’t that their views are irrational in the subjective sense. Rather, as I see it, the dogmatic religious person would be better off if they spent more time developing their personal experience with God than with trying to fit their experience into ideological boxes. It’s easy to confuse one’s personal truth with the truth of what one was taught.

      This blog was a response to a Christian who was criticizing other Christians on the grounds of an “objective” understanding of New Testament theology. I agreed with the criticisms, but I also know how this critical attitude can be used hypocritically in blinding the believer into thinkng they’ve got the truth where others were deceived. Speaking about the truth of a religious tradition takes a keen intellect of someone who has the ability (or at least desire) to see beyond their own subjective and cultural biases.

  19. Hi, BS & SB,

    I’m a little confused (gasp!)–I received email notifications of some additional comments by Benjamin, but I don’t find them here. But they did get me thinking yet again about the apparent contradiction in the fact that many people for whom their religion is the most important aspect of their lives accept without question what’s in those “ideological boxes”, yet dismiss the kinds of very much outside-the-box, “mystical” (the word still bothers me) experiences and revelations that are the bases for those concepts. People will, for example, quote Paul endlessly and without question, or discuss Moses, yet I believe that if someone were to tell them today that they had met and spoken to Jesus or God somewhere along the road that person would be thought of as a raving lunatic or a fraud.

    Those “voices”, whether their origin is internal or external, should be considered with a GREAT DEAL of discernment and caution, but not necessarily dismissed outright, particularly if one is serious about trying to understand the nature of, or forming a relationship with, the Divine. It’s necessary to strip away all the crusty old layers of dogma and try to get to the heart of the original experience, whether ancient or modern.

    Sara

      • Sorry about your confusion. I’m not sure why you couldn’t see my comments. Maybe you aren’t spiritually developed enough to see the truth I’m speaking. lol Just kidding. I’m not spiritually developed enough to even know what I’m saying half of the time. 🙂

        What you said about people’s lack of discernment is somewhat amusing (or maybe it’s just sad… I get the two mixed up sometimes).

        People often accept without question the claims of someone from thousands of years ago even when there is no clear historical evidence that the person even existed. Yet, they’ll dismiss out of hand the very exact same claims of someone standing right in front of them. Some religious people would even dismiss their own experience if it didn’t fit into the proper ideological boxes.

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