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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Knowing vs Following

In the 1st century, there were various groups with divergent assessments of what it meant to follow The Way. The teachings of Jesus had quite a wide range of interpretations. There were 2 primary groups, however. These were Gnostics and Orthodox. As we know, the Orthodox "won." The Gnostics hung on for about 300 years, but did not totally vanish, for their ideas began to surface in the mystics of the Middle Ages, the Reformation and more recently in the teachings arising again such as Lectio Divina, journaling and Centering Prayer.

Although there were various groups of Gnostics (from the Greek for knowing), they had some common ideas. They believed that the kingdom was within, and silence was a door to it. They believed that each person needed to have direct relationship with the Divine, and not be subject to outside authorities. They believed that rituals and rites did not create actual change within a person. They believed that all who enter the Presence, find the same Oneness. They shunned the quest for worldly wealth and status in favor of living a Divinely led life.

In part, they lost because such a teaching defies organization. The Orthodox, on the other hand, had creeds and rituals and things to follow that were understood easily. They organized, gained power and then merged with the political rulers. The Orthodox then called all others heretics, burning their books (even the early ones from before the 4 Gospels), punished their heretics and seized all power. They did their best to stamp them out forever. But they did not succeed entirely. As I mentioned, for example, the mystics were quite Gnostic without probably knowing it.  Fragments, scrolls, books, etc. keep turning up in what are called, "finds." The most famous finds I think are the Nag Hammadi find in 1945 in Egypt and the Dead Scrolls a few years later at Qumran in the caves. They begin to give us a peek into the early history that had been suppressed and supposedly destroyed.

I guess I could say that my heart leans toward knowing and against being subject to outside opinions and controls. Orthodoxy kept a version of Christianity alive for 2,000 years, but it tried to destroy the wonderful and unique inner knowing. We could debate whether or not Christianity would have survived at all without the strict theology of Orthodoxy, but it seems clear to me by the extremes to which it went, it also damaged the journey into the kingdom within. By distorting and taking away the mystery, many today are leaving the fold or are struggling to believe myth as reality. The science of today discredits much of theology, if it is held to be actual reality. But, as we see in the emergence of Perennial Philosophy across time and space, truth can be hidden within stories, stories that in themselves are not true but hint at and point to Truth.

Do we dare to walk The Way of Knowing? I can do no other.

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