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This neo-gnostic work is being hailed on various Christian web sites as the "real deal."

quote:
Through the teachings provided in the Gospel of the Holy Twelve, Jesus speaks of the more esoteric aspects of the spiritual growth process. The Gospel of the Holy Twelve is one of the most ancient and complete of early Christian fragments, preserved in one of the Monasteries of the Buddhist monks in Tibet, where it was hidden by some of the Essene community for safety from the hands of corrupters.

. . .

Through the Essene writings, we learn that Jesus did indeed teach about reincarnation, karma, vegetarianism, the chakra system and meditation. In The Gospel of the Holy Twelve, we not only find the outline of the life of Jesus, including His familiar teachings, but we also find important areas expanded on as well as additional information which brings a broader understanding of the process He went through as He came to embody The Christ.
- http://www.livingspiritfoundation.org/gospel.htm and many other web sites. (BTW, I see that Salomae Sananda now offers "Ministerial Ordination" through her site.)

Notice that "He came to embody the Christ." That's Arianism, friend -- a heresy condemned by the Church in the 4th century.

Anyway . . .this would really be a terrific document if it were authentic, but, alas, it takes much more faith to believe the paragraph above than it does to believe that toasters can fly (I have a tie that shows them doing so . . . and a screensaver as well, somewhere).

To find out more about the true origin of this work, click here.

quote:
The evidence for authenticity, I need not tell you, is dismal: We are told that it is derived from "one of the most ancient and complete of early Christian fragments, preserved by one of the monasteries of the Buddhist monks in Thibet, where it was hidden by some of the Essene community for safety from the hands of corrupters..." But don't plan that trip to Tibet just yet for a look, or for the purpose of verification such as carbon dating: The editors (among them, Emmanuel Swedenborg) didn't actually see this document -- it was given to them "By the Divine Spirit of the Gospel" as a revelation of "a higher Christianity." By next week sixty different groups could make a claim just as verifiable, promulgating a Jesus supporting the political venture of your choice. But it is clear from comments about this "Gospel" on the Internet that some have accepted it as a genuine record.

Which proves, once again, that critical thinking skills are at an all time low; that hearts are ruling heads from horizon to horizon. I need say little more about the "Gospel of the Holy Twelve" -- the sensible will know better than to accept it as genuine; those who do accept such works as genuine are beyond help of the sort that Tekton can offer them. Water your camel if it's thirsty, but don't do it for the sake of this con-artist contrivance.
What we learn is that this is the contrivance of Rev. Gideon Jasper Richard Ouseley of the U.K. in the late 19th C. Ousely was a vegetarian, staunch animal rights activist, and deeply involved in theosophical teachings.

Read on . . .

There's a good review on Amazon.com as well.

We might broaden this discussion to examine what some are calling "esoteric Christianity," which I consider to be little more than gnosticism with a new face. Let's see how it goes.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Oh, man . . . . . . .
 
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Phil, my understanding was that most Gnostic scriptures were destroyed. This being done by the early church.

I can't remember the name of it exactly. It was a list of heretical material written up. The funny part being that the list actually had the Gnostic references in it. So by a weird coincidence, this ended up being the only real verifiable reference to true Gnostic scripture.

You may know what I am talking about. My memory is shaky. I will try to find more of what I am talking about. I read it in Neil Lightfoot�s book, �How We Got the Bible�.

My point is that all this modern Gnostic stuff usually comes about by "bottles found in the sand" or "Hidden scrolls in a cave". That sort of thing.
 
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What is your feeling about the early Gnostic Christians?

Did they just get it wrong or was there maybe a little bit of something good in it?

Were they really, "The First Christians" or not?

I do believe there was a verse, where Paul was talking about them. Do you remember what it was?

It seems that they must have been grouping- around the time Paul was ministering.
 
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Phil, it is good that you raise this issue. The first time I heared about this book was when you mentioned it in Kundalini thread somewhere last year. Then I read what Solomae wrote about it. This is one of the points I disagree with her. From the beggining I was very sceptic. Something inside me took distance from this book. I take seriously the inner voice or what we call intution.

Good topic.
 
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Eric, there were all sorts of Christian groups early on (as today), which is to be expected as the Christian message found its way into a wide range of cultures. Additionally, what we call the "gnostics" encompassed a wide variety of positions, some of which came to be considered incompatible with Christian faith. The primary stumbling blocks seemed to be:
A. their view that matter is evil;
B. therefore, Christ could not really have come in the flesh;
C. the surest sign that one "has Christ" is a certain quality of spiritual experience (or knowledge: "gnosis");
D. if you don't have this gnosis, then you can't really say you belong to Christ.
E. the formulation of an occult-like spiritual practice designed to free one from the bonds of evil matter and lead one to the true Christian gnosis;
F. the view that those who did not have this gnosis were still mired in the realm of evil.

Against these views, the communities under Apostolic guidance asserted:
A. that matter is not bad; it is part of creation, and so it good;
B. that Christ really did come in the flesh (John's Gospel and Epistles really stresses this)
C. that repentence, faith and Baptism put one right with God, and that we do not need any kind of "experience" to validate that this is so; rather we trust in God's promise that it is so.
D. that determining Christian truth and the leadings of the Spirit is not merely a private affair, but a communal discernment as well.

- - -

There aren't many fragments of early Christian writings (gnostic or otherwise), mostly because the material they used was quite fragile. The idea expressed in The Da Vinci Code and similar works that early gnostic writings were destroyed seems to have little basis. It's doubtful that many were highly regarded, at any rate.

- - -

What's important to realize, here, is that Christianity was, first and foremost, a religion of the people, not of "the book." The Gospel was propagated by word of mouth, with oral tradition preceding written by decades, in some cases. So even assuming the circulation of a variety of gnostic works, this in itself had little significance in terms of what the early communities valued. Then, as now, anyone could write anything about Jesus and his teaching, but that didn't mean the early Church "bought it."

The writings that came to be accepted in the canon of Scripture share these three features:
1. Connection with an Apostolic authority (either written by an Apostle or a close associate thereof).
2. Written before 110 A.D., which is about the time of the death of the last Apostle, John.
3. Acceptance and use by the Christian community in its worship and catechesis (education).

So you need at least these three criteria to "make the cut," and even then, some writings within this framework were valued more than others.

Most gnostic "gospels" were written after 110 A.D., and even those that claimed apostolic authority (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip), weren't widely accepted. That doesn't mean there's nothing good in them, nor that they didn't have a following. It may even be that some of them include authentic material not found in the New Testament. It's hard to say "what's what," here, however, as even the best of scholars can't agree on these matters.

- - -

Re. "Gospel of the Holy Twelve," then, even granting the far-fetched premise (which I do not) of a manuscript kept for ages, then recently discovered, one would have to inquire:
A. Why this teaching -- supposedly articulated by the "Holy Twelve" -- doesn't show up in early Christian writings? And, no, I don't grant the explanation that Constantine had all these materials destroyed and references to it stricken from the N.T. That conspiratorial notion doesn't even begin to take seriously the role of oral tradition in preserving the teaching.
B. Why this teaching should have needed to "go underground" if it was based on Apostolic authority? It was, after all, Apostolic Christianity that emerged from three centuries of persecution and troubles to carry the standard of Christian teaching into the future.
C. Why no evidence of the existence of the Aramaic manuscript from which this "Gospel" was supposedly translated?

Etc. Lots of problems with the premises underlying the supposed authenticity and importance of this work. Basing one's teaching and ministry upon it is a huge mistake, imo, and is sure to lead to the same kinds of errors made by the early gnostics, especially with regard to emphasizing a highly guarded "purity of experience" as the telling criterion for salvation.
 
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That's a very helpful summary, Phil. You'd never get that impression from reading Elaine Pagels, or others like her that contrive the idea that there was some other vital artery of early faith experience that was cut off by the Apostolic community. New Agers love to plant their flags around such ideas as hers!
 
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Here's a web link and a review of Pagel's work which I find somewhat interesting, as the author of the review seems to embrace the notion that simply following one's own internal lights is adequate for an authentic Christian spirituality, or at least insofar as this serves his own deconstructions of church tradition, which appears to be the purpose of his website; however, he takes some exception to Pagels in her caustic portrayal of the early church's response to heretics:

http://disseminary.org/


"Pagels�s book does present an appealing case for a spirituality that prescinds from assessing truth-claims other than its own reliance on a universal inner light, a theology that dovetails with the felt needs of many in contemporary Western culture. This spiritual path offers solace and affirmation, indeed; a seeker risks misplaced faith only when she or he neglects the authoritative guide that abides within her or him.

On the other hand, as much as the contemporary cultural moment favors comfort over criticism, everyone benefits when sharp minds lend themselves to the task of assessing the stakes in matters spiritual. If the dissenters in the early church were wiser than their orthodox rivals, Pagels could help readers by citing specific reasons for such a judgment and promulgating some criteria by which one might recognize sound (and mistaken) faith."
 
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That was a good review of Pagel's book, w.c.

Orthodox Christianity has no quarrel with "following one's own internal lights" or praying for direction from the Holy Spirit. The problems begin when people move beyond the focus of personal guidance to making claims about Jesus or his teaching that seem to conflict with what Scripture and Tradition affirms.

In the case of the Gospel of Thomas (Pagel's reference), there doesn't seem to be too much to give offense. It's mostly sayings of Jesus, and many of them resonate with Gospel passages. What's missing is the historical groundings that one finds in the Gospels, not to mention the emphasis on the humanity of Jesus one finds there. So Thomas' Jesus fits quite well with the crowd that would make of Jesus a widsom teacher emphasizing some kind of personal enlightenment without any reference to Christian community. See this wiki section for more contrasts with the Gospels and you'll see why the New Age crowd would like it so much.

Looking over the three points I shared above, one can see that, for whatever reason, Thomas didn't catch on in the early Church. It may be that this writing post-dated 110 A.D., for one thing, and that "Thomas" wasn't really the "doubting Apostle" we read about, but someone else using his name to give credibility to the text. But what's certain is that the early communities didn't make much use of this text. My own sense is that Essene Christians compiled the work and made use of it in their monastic lifestyle, but that's just a guess.
 
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Thank you, Phil. For taking the time to type all of that. I found that to be very informative.

Did Saint Irenaeus have any mention of "Gospel of the Holy Twelve" in the Adversus Haereses?

I wasn't aware of all of the different theologies surrounding Gnosticism. Especially of the non-bodily existence of Jesus.

Was Saint Irenaeus trying to eliminate Gnostic writings? If so, why did he record so much of their material?
 
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I really have trouble with any group/organization that speaks of enlightenment or salvation in such a secretive and elusive way.

The biggest problem I see with Gnosticism, up against Orthodox Christianity, is the power of grace.
 
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Eric, there's no doubt that Irenaeus was a "bulldog" when it came to sniffing out and shredding gnostic teachings. He and a few others from that time might have benefited from a Dale Carnegie course or two. Wink But I think what moved them most deeply was the perception that, ultimately, the integrity of Christian faith was at stake, and I agree with them. As you note, gnosticism shifts the attention from confidence in God's grace and promises to a focus on self and "purity of experience." Read around some of the web sites that build their teaching on GoHT and other gnostic-like works and you'll see what I mean. Even when they mention grace, it is in reference to their experience rather than God's goodness.

Ireneaeus would not have been dealing with GoHT as the work didn't exist until the 19th C. It would have been one thing if the author had published it as his own understanding of how theosophy and Christian spirituality might intereact, but that was not the case. So one might additionally question the merits of a work that uses deception to perpetuate itself.
 
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I have studied Gnosticism and have recently acquired the major scriptures in Bentley Layton's excellent translations.

Gnostics made a big deal out of getting special 'Gnosis' or knowledge of God by essentially private revelation. Some scholars (i.e. Elaine Pagels) and writers of popular books (Timothy Freke) have made a lot out of Gnosticism and its positive bits, which seem to resound a lot with disillusioned spiritual seekers.

It certainly is true the Gnostics can be called the first Christian Theologians. The 'Secret Book of John', a key Gnostic text (probably of Sethian origin) uses apophatic terms for the highest divinity well before others like Gregory of Nyssa or Dionyius the Aeropagite did.

However, the Gnostics also faced the puzzle of how reality came from this primal 'One' and multiplied into our world. This problem was common with Greek Philosophy (especially the Neo-Platonic school) and the Gnostics proposed that the formation of the material world and material bodies occured due to a catastrophe in the spiritual world, in particular by the unauthorised attempt at one spirit-being (Sophia) to create something out of herself. This failure resulted in the creation of the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, who the Gnostics always referred to with great hatred and contempt. In the book of John he is called 'Iadabloth' and has the face of a lion and Sophia hides him in a cloud to cover up her mistake. He then proceeds to make other beings (archons) and then he traps the spirit of the first man (Adam) in a shell of matter.

Gnostic redemption occurs from freeing the body from this imperfect and rather evil world. Gnostic scriptures basically always affirm this world is a mistake of some kind and redemption occurs only when you transcend it. In many Gnostic scriptures (including the recently uncovered 'Gospel of Judas) the Gnostic's soul has to outwit Iadabloth and his archons (often beings associated with Astrological signs or planets) to ascend to the realm of light or the pleorama. In many cases Jesus or Jesus combined with other spirit beings helps the escape.

There are some spiritual teachings of Gnosticism which in my view are relevant. The exhortation of the Gospel of Thomas to 'know yourself' and if you don't, then 'you are the poverty' is a very fruitful lesson other Christian mystics would agree with. But for me the most distasteful Gnostic teaching is the evil of the material universe and the idea that who created it was also evil or ignorant. On this case the Gnostics were rightly and very strongly criticised both by mainstream Christians and also non-Christian Philosophers (especially Plotinus, who found it absurd the Good and the world it made was evil).

Who can look at the beautiful images of spiral galaxies from the Hubble Telescope or at the setting Sun and believe this claim?
 
Posts: 32 | Location: Perth, Australia | Registered: 09 March 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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But for me the most distasteful Gnostic teaching is the evil of the material universe and the idea that who created it was also evil or ignorant. On this case the Gnostics were rightly and very strongly criticised both by mainstream Christians and also non-Christian Philosophers (especially Plotinus, who found it absurd the Good and the world it made was evil).

To me, Gregory, that�s just the flip sign of the coin that says that there is an all-good god and also a devil and demons and Original Sin to account for the bad stuff. To me it�s just another attempt to explain the pain of living in the world. I find neither explanation to be convincing or satisfying and I suppose that is one reason that Gnostics often get pounded on. Not only are some of their ideas rather strange, if not downright silly, but by rejecting their ideas then another set of ideas may seem even sounder by comparison. But I wonder if that ever really works or convinces us because we often still come back time and again to deal with this other conflicting or different ideas. Whatever the case may be, I find that both sets of ideas sound somewhat man-made. I tend to find any explanation to be less convincing the more detailed the scenario is. I don�t think we�re in any sort of position to know with that kind of precision.

Who can look at the beautiful images of spiral galaxies from the Hubble Telescope or at the setting Sun and believe this claim?

Well, aim the telescope at some real ugly and horrible scenes of death and destruction, as in a war zone, and it�s not hard at all to believe that the world and/or Creator of the world isn�t all-good.

But Christianity, as far as I can tell, is not just an acceptance of suffering but it is the glorification of suffering. This may be the world�s biggest and most obvious rationalization for this often painful and violent world we live in, but even if it�s not true, it�s pragmatic. To stay stuck in our pain, in grief, or in resentment and to consider it all meaningless is to lose our lives. To accept pain, accept grief (as well as joy, of course), and to let go of resentment, and to find meaning in it, is to find new life. This is not something about which one has to rely on someone else�s expert knowledge or authority. It�s very much an experiential thing. And when a Christian experiences it they may call that "living in Christ." The original question of the existence of pain and suffering in this world supposedly created by an all-good god perhaps doesn�t go away. It may never go away, in my opinion. Some things just don�t seem to make sense and, at least for me, I find the explanation to be worse than just leaving it an open question. But it�s a question that, at least in my mind, becomes somewhat beside the point.

quote:
If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents--the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else's. But if their thoughts--i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy--are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It's like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset." - C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
 
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But I will add from a purely intellectual standpoint that things such as love become impossible to conceive of as the product of either a random universe or a universe created by a somewhat callous and uncaring bastard.

And I will add from an experiential standpoint that, try as I might, I can�t shake the notion of something that is Good out there. He or She, for whatever reason, won�t let me. And I am someone who takes rationality and clear thinking seriously and who absolutely disdains superstition of any kind.
 
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Good post, Gregory. I think you put your finger on the kinds of beliefs that the early (and even recent) Christians objected to in gnosticism.

But Brad . . . Wink To me, Gregory, that�s just the flip sign of the coin that says that there is an all-good god and also a devil and demons and Original Sin to account for the bad stuff. To me it�s just another attempt to explain the pain of living in the world.

We've been around the mulberry bush so many times about all this. The teaching is not that "devils and demons and Original Sin" account for the bad stuff, but that the misuse of freedom accounts for devils and demons and Original Sin. "Natural evil" is a whole other matter. So the teaching is actually much better nuanced than you're suggesting, here.

But Christianity, as far as I can tell, is not just an acceptance of suffering but it is the glorification of suffering. . .

No indeed! Suffering is not considered a good thing at all. That suffering can serve God's good purposes and bring forth new life is more to the point, here. But suffering per se -- not a good thing . . . a consequence of the Fall, to a large extent.

And I will add from an experiential standpoint that, try as I might, I can�t shake the notion of something that is Good out there. He or She, for whatever reason, won�t let me. And I am someone who takes rationality and clear thinking seriously and who absolutely disdains superstition of any kind.

You've explored the interface of the philosophic and theistic perspectives considerably, and it seems you're recognizing, here, that there are questions, issues, insights, etc. that simply cannot be satisfactorily dealt with in the philsophic perspective (the use of human reason/intelligence)--even when submitted to the most rigorous standards. Authentic theism begins with this recognition, and a willingness to consider that that "notion of something Good" you mention might be more than a compensatory projection of the psyche. Indeed, given the universality of the theistic perspective throughout history, it seems the kind of intuition you mention is one of the most natural and normal of human experiences.
 
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The teaching is not that "devils and demons and Original Sin" account for the bad stuff, but that the misuse of freedom accounts for devils and demons and Original Sin. "Natural evil" is a whole other matter. So the teaching is actually much better nuanced than you're suggesting, here.

Perhaps we should distinguish between the Catholic conception of evil and the Protestant one. We print tracts for several Protestant churches and they give me the willies just to read them. Too fundamentalist for my taste and my beliefs. But I�ll grant you, Phil, that it sure sounds like perhaps Catholics (at least some, such as you) have a better handle on this. Keep espousing your view of things because I like it a whole lot better than many other things that I hear.

No indeed! Suffering is not considered a good thing at all. That suffering can serve God's good purposes and bring forth new life is more to the point, here.

Well, I certainly don�t mean that we should go around walking on broken glass in order to intentionally suffer, but isn�t that what a great many great people (such as saints) have done? They have intentionally suffered? And isn�t it then just a quibble to say that suffering is not then considered a good thing?
 
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Yes, there have been Saints who inflicted pain on themselves as "penances." There is also the Jansenistic heresy, which emphasized human depravity and suffering -- heresy, please note: formally condemned. When I make a point of this kind, however, I'm usually referring to doctrinal and Scriptural teachings, which clearly do not support the idea of suffering as a good thing. It can be a redemptive/transformative experience, however, and that's a good thing. See http://www.beliefnet.com/story/92/story_9274_1.html for a good article on how Catholicism views suffering.

We print tracts for several Protestant churches . . .

What? Eeker And you call yourself a friend? Razzer
 
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