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Mysticism - Christian & Buddhist


tariki
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I thought I would try running a thread here on some of the affinities between Christian and Buddhist mysticism.

 

For me it is a re-run of the same thing on a Christian Forum, where unfortunately virtually all participation was from those seeking to argue that any similarity was superficial, and making the distinction between the "Word" (Eternal Logos) as "Person" (Christian), and that of an "Impersonal Force" (Buddhism), and therefore that any "fruits of the spirit" manifested would inevitably be affected by such.

 

Nevertheless, I am not looking for agreement with my own point of view ( :)), just hoping for any contribution; also, given that my own knowledge of the Christian mystics is limited to St John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart (and this only in a relatively superficial sense), hopefully anyone here who has a wider knowledge can offer a few quotes and opinions.

 

So basically, I shall cut and paste from my previous thread, and also perhaps give a summary of the various opinions received on that thread that were contributed by others.

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So, the mystics, those who often value - and seek - actual experience of the Divine/Reality-as-is, rather than doctrine in and of itself.

 

To begin, an excerpt from Eckhart's "Talks of Instruction", this on "True Obedience."

 

In true obedience there should be no "I want this or that to happen" or "I want this or that thing" but only a pure going out of what is our own. And therefore in the very best kind of prayer that we can pray there should be no "give me this particular virtue or way of devotion" or "yes, Lord, give me yourself or eternal life", but rather "Lord, give me only what you will and do, Lord, only what you will and in the way that you will." This kind of prayer is as far above the former as heaven is above earth. And when we have prayed in this way, then we have prayed well, having gone out of ourselves and entered God in true obedience. But just as true obedience should have no "I want this", neither should it ever hear "I don't want", for "I don't want" is pure poison for all true obedience. As St Augustine says: "The true servant of God does not desire to be told or to be given what they would like to hear or see, for their prime and highest wish is to hear what is most pleasing to God."

 

I would just say that from the perspective of the Non-Theistic Faiths, such words of Eckhart can be seen to correspond to the "choiceless awareness" spoken of in much "zen" literature. Again, that the implication of the words point in part towards the possible movement - spoken of by the Catholic monk Thomas Merton - from the "I-Thou" relationship between the believer and God to that of a "unitive" wisdom where the sense of self is absent.

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From my admittedly limited information about the mystical traditions in any wide range of different cultural and religious tradtions, from Christianity, Judism, Islam, Eastern traditions, and even aboriginal cultures, the most striking and significant realization to emerge has been the amazingly consistency between them all, to such an extent there seems more consistency and similarity between mystics of any and all cultural/religious tradtions than between most (any?) and the 'parent' religion with with they are affiliated, and out of which they supposedly arose. Once you get past the cultural/religious language differences, they all seem to be talking about pretty much the same things, same shared human experiences. To me, that says something very, very important about both the common nature of human thought, and human relationship with reality and God.

 

Jenell

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Whatever I have read from the mystical traditions seems to express one universal Truth, the Philosophia Perennis. To me it seems the basis of all religion. In words attributed to Jesus, “the Kingdom of God is within you”: something we take quite literally in the Unity movement. “Going to the silence”, in the language of Unity, is no different (in essence) from other meditation practices of which I have had a little bit of experience: Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Centering Prayer. These meditative practices are fundamental to all mysticism that I know of, so it is no surprise that the writings of the mystics of all traditions have so much in common. I find meaning and Truth in the Cloud of Unknowing, the writings of Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, Jalal'ud'din Rumi; in the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita and the Qur'an (a book recording the mystical experiences of the Prophet Mohammed) as well as the Bible. The differences in expression appear to be culturally based.

 

Jim

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I would just say that from the perspective of the Non-Theistic Faiths, such words of Eckhart can be seen to correspond to the "choiceless awareness" spoken of in much "zen" literature. Again, that the implication of the words point in part towards the possible movement - spoken of by the Catholic monk Thomas Merton - from the "I-Thou" relationship between the believer and God to that of a "unitive" wisdom where the sense of self is absent.

 

Derek,

Great way of expressing it.

I think what has been said here is key to the mystical experience. At which point there seems to be no separation between oneself and God. Acting out of no sense of self or personal preference whether in an answer to a question or course of action. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when it is recorded he said.. "the works that i do (and words that i speak) are not my own works but the works of the Father that sent me". True awareness to me seems to be out of stillness and without preference by which true wisdom finds its foundation.

 

Joseph

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Many thanks for the positive comments.

 

Just to move on, on the previous thread I mentioned, the argument was made that much mysticism was "gnostic" and therefore "unchristian". To be honest, I am no authority on gnosticism, so not able to say one way or the other, or even if such would be a "bad" thing anyway. (I have read that there is a certain "gnostic" tendency/influence in St John's Gospel)

 

Anyway, covering my ignorance with "waffle" ( :P ) I rambled on, just referring to what little of actual gnosticism I may or may not understand about it.

 

So more cut and paste........

 

As far as Gnosticism is concerned, my own gripe is that it is "dualistic", which - seeking in large part to explain by "knowledge" - misses the paradox's (paradoxii....smile.gif ?) at the heart of reality; such paradox's point - at least for me - to the reality that ultimately life can be lived but not thought, that there is a fundamental conflict in reason and therefore there is the need to "rise to a higher standpoint". A standpoint that is never a final speculative answer, but a freedom from all theories, a third position not lying between two extremes but a "no-position" that supercedes them both. (See Merton in his Journal "The Other Side of the Mountain")

 

Or, as the Christians would say, God can be known by love but by thought never.

 

Which brings us back to mysticism, Christian or not, genuine or not.

 

"Nothing that knowledge can grasp or desire can want is God. Where knowledge and desire end, there is darkness, and there God shines."

 

Meister Eckhart

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from Karen Armstrong's History of God

[myth, mystery, mysticism] All three words are derived from the Greek verb musteion: to close the eyes or mouth. All three words, therefore, are rooted in the experience of darkness and silence.

Mysticism is a personal religious experience, a personal union with the Divine. Those aspects of mysticism that seem gnostic are ways to reach a communion without description. Common among mystics is the concept that

God was discovered to be mysteriously identified with the inmost self.The systematic destruction of the ego to a sense of absorption in a larger ineffable reality.

This destruction of ego is what I think of when I hear about mysticism.

 

Many traditions see that only few should take the path of mysticism. These should be intelligent and mentally stable. If the goal of mysticism is communion I think there are forms of meditation today more accessible than this.

 

To the extent that mysticism is a practice that leads to communion with ineffable reality it would seem to be found in both Buddhism and Christianity but I am ignorant of Buddhism.

 

dutch

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Dutch,

 

It is my view that the word mysticism does not imply destruction of the ego. While it seems to me it reaches beyond ego, it does not seek to destroy but rather to re-identify with that which is greater which in time results in more of a falling away of the ego rather than its destruction. There is a significant difference to me in experience as It seems to me that trying to destroy the ego only makes it stronger by reinforcing it. In a sense to me, from a Mystic point of view, ego is not an enemy to conquer or destroy but rather something we as humans must pass through in our evolution.

 

Just my own point of view,

Joseph

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Just a very quick first thought on ego and its "destruction".

 

The Buddhist anatta (not-self) teaching - at least as I have come to understand it - has NOTHING to do with getting rid of anything, in as much as there is NOTHING TO GET RID OF. Buddhism concerns itself with seeing into the heart of reality, the unshakable deliverance of mind that is the heartwood of the dharma (per the Pali Theravada Canonical Texts)

 

As Suzuki says, "we are empty from the beginning", we do not become or attain emptiness. Which Merton, in dialogue with him (Suzuki), says equates to the "more affective terms" of St Augustine and St Bernard, that a human being then "loves with a pure love".

 

That is to say, "they love with a purity and freedom that spring spontaneously and directly from the fact that thaey have fully recovered the divine likeness, and are now fully their true self because they are lost in God"

 

Merton then quotes St Bernard directly...."He who loves thus, simply loves, and knows nothing else but love."

 

(Dialogue between Merton and Suzuki, from Wisdom in Emptiness, Part Two of "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")

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Making any comparison of anything "gnostic" to mysticism or anything else is greatly hampered by a great deal of misinformation and lack of information about what "gnostism" as it existed in the early Christian world, really was and was about. From my relatively brief overview of gnostisim in the era and how it related to early Christianity, in context of my Religiopus Studies courses pertaining to world religions and history of Christian thought and doctrine, I must say it's hard for me to see how many that claim to embrace gnostic principles and traditions really have much in common with that. I would have equal difficulty trying to relate that gnosticism to any mystical tradition I know of as well.

 

I'm tempted to call the gnosticism of early centuries more a "pseudo-mysticism", in the sense that the focus seemed more on "divine revelation" about the nature of the cosmos, creation, god, gods, demi-gods, miscellaneous beings and entities, levels of emmanations of God into material reality, etc, than about personal spirituality and mystic union with God, the ground of being, or self and others. In early gnositism, for example, sex was evil, and women were the temptresses to evil, because every conception of a new human "trapped" another divine soul into this miserable material realm.

 

We had a gentleman participate for a little while here several months ago, promoting a group whose beleifs are structured around a book of supposed revelations, "recieved knowledge" of recent origin, that was much focused on that kind of thing, which most of us here never really figured out how could relate to anything useful in our personal lives or spritual growth. Several here expressed that frustration, just what does "knowing' about supposed other realms and pantheons of celestial beings arranged in some cosmic heirarchy have to do with anything in our human experience...and how would any ascribe "authority" to such "teachings" as to submit to them in our lives? To me, all that sounded so very "gnostic" in the sense of what I encountered about gnostism that surrounded the early church.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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And i agree, mysticism does not imply destruction of the Ego, but bringing Ego into submission to and manifestation of the soul, or perhaps in Jungian terms, The Self. A metaphor from Jewish Kabbalah, I think it was, was of the Ego a horse, the soul the rider, that sought to bring Ego under control so as to be directed toward positive progress. the horse was not to be destroyed, or even broken, but brought into submission to the rider's will.

 

Jenell

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If we define "western mysticism" as the practice of mystics in the west, then their would seem to be little connection with Gnosticism.

 

In Friends in High Places, Tom Shepherd traces the mysticism in the Unity Movement back to Philo Judaeus through Origen, Pelagius, Hypatia, Pseudo-Dionyius, Meister Eckhardt and the American Transcendentalists right up to Paul Tillich and Teilhard de Chardin. The common thread he identifies is neo-platonism from Plato's theory of forms.

 

There is no evil: evil is the absence of God, just as there is no dark: darkness is the absence of light. Thus the system is non-dualistic. The shadows on Plato's wall are not the Truth.

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"Destruction of the ego" seems harsh but it is Armstrong's description. In her accounts mystics put themselves through very strenuous physical and/or mental practices to achieve communion. Occasionally "destruction" would seem an appropriate word. Whatever the event it is a challenge to our ego. My wife's experience at satsang would never be described in such harsh terms.

 

How one describes mysticism seems to depend on how narrow or broad one's definition is and through which door one entered into the experience. For instance here everyone is included in a statement on Creation Spirituality:

  • Everyone is a mystic, born full of wonder and capable of recovering it at any age
  • We experience the Divine in all things and all things are in the Divine. This mystical experience supplants the experience of the Divine as separate and unattainable.

In this conversation the definition is perhaps more narrow.

 

Andrew Newberg has studied the meditations of Catholic nuns, Buddhists monks, and atheists. The practices succeed when they reduce activity in the brain circuitry which maintains a sense of self leading to an unitive experience. This is a very healthy event which leads to better brain functioning over time - but you knew that.

 

I will bow out of the conversation at this point because I looked back at the OP - I really can't contribute to the original purpose: on some of the affinities between Christian and Buddhist mysticism.

 

Dutch

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Hi Dutch, you can hang around as long as you like, irrespective of thread headings. Seriously, I no longer know what "Buddhism" is, nor "Christianity". Maybe thinking we "know" creates anticipations of where the path may lead, and we then adapt ourselves to the anticipations, and lose the true guidance, the path that is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising it - which is just what Merton said to a young child.

 

Which reminds me of the guy sitting in the lotus position who said....."I read so much about it before hand that now I'm actually enlightened I'm a little bit disappointed."

 

Anyway, just to throw in a few more words concerning ego's and what not.....this from Joseph Bobrow....."I think it takes a distinctive, personal self to fully embody our essential no-self nature. And as one unravels, experiences, and realises the empty, multicentered nature of all beings and of consciousness itself, the particular, personal self and its unique qualities are potentiated, brought to life and fruition."

 

And this from the reknowned ( :) ) Ch'an master Pai-chang.....which throws the apples up in the air somewhat......What are called desire and aversion when one is not yet enlightened or liberated are called enlightened wisdom after enlightenment. That is why it is said, "One is not different from who one used to be; only one's course of action is different from before."

 

All the best

Derek

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Anyway, I shall continue with another "cut and paste" from the other thread. (There is a little repetition from the past post, but just gives slightly more detail of the context of Merton's words.)

 

 

Here are a few lines from St John of the Cross. I have posted them before on a Buddhist Forum, and many "zen" people have commented favorably, and see them as expressing insight that they are able to share.

 

To reach satisfaction in all

desire its possession in nothing.

To come to possess all

desire the possession of nothing.

To arrive at being all

desire to be nothing.

To come to the knowledge of all

desire the knowledge of nothing.

To come to the pleasure you have not

you must go by the way you enjoy not.

To come to the knowledge you have not

you must go by a way in which you know not.

to come to the possession you have not

you must go by a way in which you possess not.

To come to be what you are not

you must go by a way in which you are not.

When you turn toward something

you cease to cast yourself upon the all.

For to go from all to the all

you must deny yourself of all in all.

And when you come to the possession of the all

you must possess it without wanting anything.

Because if you desire to have something in all

your treasure in God is not purely your all.

 

 

Well, whatever anyone makes of that, please share. At my own level I relate it to some further words of the same man, "If we wish to be sure of the road we tread on, we should close our eyes and walk in the dark." Which again are illuminated by Thomas Merton, in a couple of letters he wrote to a young girl who had sent him a picture of a house. Merton responded by saying that he thought the house was beautiful, yet felt sorry that there was no path to it. The youngster then sent him a further picture, this time with a road leading to the house, and Merton wrote in appreciation, adding that it depicted "the road to joy, which is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising it."

 

For me, this relates to any "progress" we may or may not make on our own particular path. If we see ourselves as a "self" to be made fit for "glory", we can seek to wrap ourselves with "experiences" and "knowledge", telling ourselves how much we "grow" each day........yet who is finally in charge?

 

It seems to me more a case of just seeking to remain receptive, and not look for a particular method or technique designed to assault the kingdom of heaven! More the cultivation of faith, trust, expectation....Merton speaks also of "openness, attention, reverence and supplication."

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Well, seeking to move on. The sticking point on the other thread was mainly to do with the contrast between "Impersonal" and "personal", the supposed contrast between the Word as Person, and the "impersonal force" of Buddhism. (The word "force" was actually used)

 

As far as the "force" of Buddhism, an initial response was.....

 

Suzuki himself wrote a deep study of the Mahayana "Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism" (published in 1907) In it he speaks of the Dharmakaya, the heart of Reality-as-is. He speaks of it as the "object of religious consciousness", as "a soul", as a "knowing being", one that is "will and intelligence, thought and action." It is not an abstract metaphysical principle like "suchness", but is a "living spirit" that manifests in nature as well as in thought. "The universe as an expression of this spirit is not a meaningless display of blind forces........"

 

Again, in a very well known declaration of faith by a Pure Land Buddhist, Kiyozawa Manshi, he declares the nature of his faith. That he believes in the Tathagata (He who who has thus come) who "quickens this helpless self", that is Infinite Compassion, Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Potential.

 

Anyway, I sought to stress that much of "western" knowledge/understanding of Buddhism was in fact restricted to the Theravada, which indeed, being monastic based, has been far more "austere" in its teachings.

 

As far as speaking of the "Word" as "Person", I had this to say......

 

What I would claim is that one needs to recognise that the word "person" and just what constitutes a "person" would need to be the subject of dialogue between people of goodwill. Merton distinguishes between the ego-self and person, between the "ego as working hypothesis in psychology, and the metaphysical person who alone is capable of transcendent union with the Ground of Being." And the Anglican Theologian John Keenan has argued eloquently for a "Mahayana Christology" , a Christology built more upon the lines of Buddhist teachings with regard to the "person" and exactly what is meant.

 

Again Merton, and many Christian mystics like him, speak of the need to go beyond the "I-Thou" relationship (though "there is a definite place for it") and move towards a state where we release our grasp on a self that seeks a goal, and our ideas of just who it is that will "attain" such a goal. "To cling too tenaciously to a "self" and its own fulfilment would guarantee that there would be no fulfilment at all.................hence the paradox that as soon as there is someone there to have a transcendent experience, the experience is falsified and indeed becomes impossible." (Merton, in "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")

 

 

Anyway, I summed up by quoting from the book "Understanding Buddhism" by the Catholic scholar Heinrich Dumoulin........

 

 

Whether, on its deepest ground, being is personal or impersonal, is something that humans will never be able to plumb by their rational powers. Here we face a decision which one makes according to one's own tradition and upbringing, and still more according to one's faith and experience. The Christian sees ultimate reality revealed in the personal love of God as shown on Christ, the Buddhist in the silence of the Buddha. Yet they agree on two things: that the ultimate mystery is ineffable, and that it should be manifest to human beings. The inscription on a Chinese stone figure of the Buddha, dated 746, reads......

 

"The Highest truth is without image.

If there were no image at all, however, there would be no way for truth to be manifested.

The highest principle is without words.

But if there were not words at all, how could principle possibly be revealed?"

 

Well, perhaps a bit too much all at once! Perhaps others could comment, or even put forward exactly what they mean themselves when they speak of a "person", as actuality, or as potential.

 

Thank you.

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Tariki wrote: Well, whatever anyone makes of that, please share.

 

Lol, St John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, and the Cloud of Unknowing were the very first of the mystic classic I ever read, and my suspicion that I might be quite "different" from most people was solidly confirmed when I read such as these lines you quote here, and they all made perfect sense to me!

 

But I don't know how well I can explain. It really a very simple idea, to become what we are not, we must be what we are not...how else can you become what you are not unless by being what you are not? If you already are something, you can't become it, because you are already it. To come into the knowledge of something, you must enter by way of not knowing, or rather, acknowledging you don't know...this btw the underlying theme of The Cloud of Unknowing. Knowing is the end of learning, for once we know we are no longer open to the possiblity that we don't know, and therefore cannot learn, or come to know. It is only in returning to being unknowing that we can come to know. Overall, if we would be something we are not, or obtain something we have not, we can only do so from the position of not being, or not having, otherwise were already are and already have.

 

Or, if we want to become thin, we must begin by being fat....else we cannot become thin, we already are thin, and cannot become what we already are. Likewise, if we would want to become patient, we can only do so through being, experiencing, impatience. That goes right into being careful what you ask for....when cranky kids are driving you nuts, to ask the Lord to please give you patience is just asking for more and more of the same out of the bratty kids...you can only be given patience through overcoming impatience, and that takes having to experience a LOT of situations that try your patience!

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Btw, I really think what makes understanding mystic thought hard for most people that find it so, is that they make it hard, they expect it to be hard, to be complicated and occult, when the exact oppostive is true..it is most often the very simple and child-like quality of mystic thought that throws people.

 

Jenell

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Just to jog this thread along a bit, more cut and paste. The previous thread was getting bogged down a bit in the "impersonal" v "personal" argument, with a certain insistence that if one sought "Christ" - a person - then the fruits would be distinctly different from any "fruit" that other forms of mysticism would bring forth.

A "self-emptying" was alluded to.

Anyway, for what it is worth, my two cents worth was as follows....

 

 

I'd say that if it is allowed, our current conceptions of reality can act as a blockage to what "eye has not seen, nor ear heard."

 

You allude to the idea of kenosis, the self-emptying of ones own will (maybe it would be apt for anyone interested to reread the opening Eckarts words on "true obedience" - see post 2 on THIS thread - seem very apt for reflection) For Christians such is born from the words given in Philippians 2 concerning Christ emptying Himself.

 

There has been mention made of our "motivation" being the determining factor in exactly what we may or may not become. The Buddhist texts have the following.....

 

So this holy life.......does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood, and its end.

 

Christianity speaks of a "peace that passes understanding".

 

Again, some would argue that if ones motivation is to "know Christ" then the eventually liberation of the heart would be of a different order ("salvational") to that of another human being who has no such knowledge/acknowledgement of Christ in any particular Christian orthodox/Biblical sense.

 

For me, we have come full cricle - as far as this post is concerned......I'd say that if it is allowed, our current conceptions of reality can act as a blockage to what "eye has not seen, nor ear heard."

 

And if it be said that such a promise is made only to those who "love God", then I can only add again that our own current conceptions of just what it may or may not be to "love God" should not lead us to question the flavour of the fruits unquestionably seen in other lives, in people of all Faiths.

 

My own experience in all this - and my guide - is much as Ajahn Chan has said.....Do not worry about enlightenment. When growing a tree, you plant it, water it, fertilize it, keep the bugs away; and if these things are done properly, the tree will naturally grow. How quickly it grows, however, is something you cannot control.

 

Which for me relates to the lovely little Parable of the Kingdom found in St Marks Gospel, of the growing seed. Which is planted, which we seek perhaps to cultivate, yet grows "we know not how", and when harvest time comes it always seems to come with a touch of grace, for the true "effort" has not really been of our own, for the earth brings forth fruits of herself.

End of cut and paste

 

Anyway, perhaps others here could offer any thoughts they have born of their own experience.

Thank you

 

__________________

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To continue - then I will give it a rest.......

 

One small phrase of Merton's that has been a constant companion for many years, is "The contact of two liberties".

 

He used it in a letter to Aldous Huxley, when he (Merton) entered into dialogue over Huxley's advocating the use of drugs to induce "mystical" experience.

 

Merton went on to explain........that true mystical experience must needs have all that Huxley spoke of, plus something more which I can only describe as personal, in which God is known not as an object or as Him up there or "Him in everything" nor as "the All" but as I AM, or simply AM............and that such depends upon the liberty of that Person.

 

I remember at the time of first reading, also picking up a few phrases of Eckhart, where he spoke of "when the self withdraws God must needs enter in" and being taken aback somewhat. The "must needs" bit, as if "liberty/choice" was being denied to the Divine.

 

Well, as with all things, life moves on, and Merton himself seems to have done so as far as his own opening to the Divine is concerned.

 

I've often had reason to quote the following lines by the Pure Land "saint" Saichi......

 

O! Saichi, will you tell us of Other Power?

Yes, but there is neither self power nor Other Power.

What is, is the Graceful Acceptance only.

 

And lo and behold, from the words of Merton, a quote from his book "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"

 

In our being there is a primordial YES that is not our own; it is not at our own disposal; it is not accessible to our inspection and understanding; we do not even fully experience it as real.......Basically......my being is not an affirmation of a limited self, but the YES of Being itself, irrespective of my own choices. Where do "I" come in? Simply in uniting the YES of my own freedom with the YES of Being that already IS before I have a chance to choose. This is not "adjustment". There is nothing to adjust. There is reality, and there is free consent. There is the actuality of one YES. In this actuality no question of "adjustment" remains and the ego vanishes.

 

It would seem to be that the divine as the Ground of Being, as the Hidden Ground of Love, has no need to "enter in" (by choice or not), but is already "there".

 

So it is in our own "uniting", our "free consent" that liberty consists. Which some might well argue sails close to the wind of the "free will" defence of "hell". Yet as I see it, and this based on my own experience, the words of a Pure Land writer Unno are pertinent. That it is "a necessary stage on the path where self-power is also appreciated, in reflection, as the working of Other Power." Thus "salvation" is taken away from the machinations/techniques/strivings of the "ego-self" - however much we experienced such at the time - and put into the hands of Reality-as-is. Grace as PURE gift, and realised by ourselves as having always lived within it. NOT attained by any act of ourselves, even the presumed act of "acceptance".

 

An act, as I see it, that in presuming it of ourselves, and trusting in it, we risk dividing ourselves from others, in judgement, and by "doctrine", and by our allegiances.

 

Anyway, and now to rest.

 

:)

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  • 2 months later...

I have just read a book called Jesus and the Godess by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy in which the early Christian movement is discussed as being predominantly gnostic. The book itself seems well referenced but I haven't sought to verify the veracity of their sources, which seem in the main to be either directly from the biblical gospels or from non canonistic gospels.

 

They seem to argue quite convincingly (to me in any case) that Jesus the character is an archetyipical gnostic character portrayed in a mmystical allegory that is a reflection of intiation, realisation and then enlightenment - my intepretation of their words so sorry if that sounds a little clunky. The used terms such as initiate, pneumatic and something else that slips my mind! Anyway, the various stories within the gospels are symbols of important gnostic messages and stories, which relate very much to the stages experienced on the way to disassociating with the ego. The death of Jesus symbolises the death of the self, the resurrection is the top of the staircase if you will, enlightenment.

 

It was very interesting to read and started me thinking that our ego is the real matrix, the ultimate illusion, which makes sense to me.

 

Paul

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