recognize that there may be more than one way to look at things,
try to offer other points of view on our Food For Thought page.
We go to church
services, to weddings, funerals, to all the familiar religious
rituals. We sit, we hear the words, but how often do we
really listen? We’ve heard the words so often we’ve
stopped thinking about them. Acted out the ritual so many
times we act without understanding why.
We take for granted
that the all-too-human individual speaking those words is
getting it right. Few of us will ever read Scripture in the
original Greek, but we can all become scholars in our own way.
We can learn which of the interpretations we’ve heard for years
are clean and true, and which are based in human bias. We can
say: “Show me where it says so”. And then, we can decide for
ourselves, in our own hearts, what it means to us. Jesus was a
Too many of our religious leaders preach rather
than teach. They want us to believe what they believe,
think the way they think—or worse, to think not at all -- when
we should be searching out the Word of God for ourselves. All
religious leaders, present company included, are human and
therefore prone to error, however well-meaning their words and
deeds. Only God is Perfect. When challenged, most
religious leaders will assure you they are God’s voice on
Earth, or something to that effect.
If that were true,
wouldn’t they all be saying the same thing? In the same way, our
“official” religious texts were written by human beings—but more
importantly, these texts, the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, were
assembled by human beings. Human beings with specific
personal, political, social agendas decided at various times
what should be included in these great books—and what should be
left out. Again, if each of these texts were indeed the Word of
God, wouldn’t they be identical?
So, what do we have?
Writings by human beings, assembled by human beings, interpreted
by human beings, heard by human beings. Where does that leave
us? With the knowledge that we each of us needs to seek God in
our own way. Have the courage to break free from the bonds
of unthinking tradition.
Learn to question, to read, to
think for yourself. Be guided by the principles that ring true.
Set aside quiet time each day to open yourself to God. We are
each of us, as is everything on Earth, God’s own creation, a
part of God who created us and everything in our experience.
Does it seem to you that God needs a middleman or woman to speak
to you? You are a child of the Creator. Spend time alone
with your Creator. Speak your thanks, your needs, your
worries. God will respond, perhaps not in your time, but surely
in God’s. God may not provide everything you want – but God will
always provide what you need.
The true Teachers among us
are not afraid of questions, or challenges. Like Jesus,
they welcome questions because it means the person asking the
questions wants to know, to understand. They welcome
challenges, because it allows them to educate.
"You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will
indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart
has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they
have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their
eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their
heart and turn – and I would heal them."
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be
seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Creator.
And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they
love to stand and pray in the synagogues and the street corners
so that they may be seen by others.
But whenever you pray,
go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Creator who
is in secret; and your Creator who sees in secret will reward
The Circle and the Cross
In spiritual systems, the Circle represents God, whose center
is everywhere, a perfection surpassing human understanding
To the Platonists, the Circle was the ultimate, perfect
beginning, end or direction
In Zen Buddhism the Circle stands for enlightenment, the
of humanity in unity with the primal principle
Other examples of The Circle are:
* The canopy of Heaven; The sun, the moon and the planets
* The Ancient Egyptian symbol of eternity, a string tied to form a
* The Ancient Greek symbol of eternity, a snake biting its own tail
* Concentric circles arising from tossing something in the water
* Concentric circles representing God’s original Creation
* Protection against evil spirits
* The Halo
* Native American camps and dances
* Chinese yin and yang enclosing duality in a Circle
The most universal of the simple
symbolic figures, the Cross is not a Christian property.
In fact, in the earliest Christian era, it was accepted only
with reluctance, because of its association with a cruel and
humiliating form of execution
The cross represents spatial
orientation, intersection of vertical – above/below – and
horizontal – right/left
The cross represents the human form
with the arms extended
The cross is suggestive of a
quaternity ( Four ); or a quincunx or pentad
( Five ) when
the point of intersection is included
Like the circle, the
cross is part of the structure of many mandalas, as well as many
temples and churches
The Cross is prominent in the
cosmological representations of many cultures:
of the Bible with four rivers flowing from it
circle, in addition to cosmological associations, it stands for
the division of the year into four seasons
*The Cross divides
a square into quadrants – the plan for the ideal Roman city
*Symbolic of crossroads of life – change
*The intersection of
the path of life and death, of the living and the dead, as in
many African traditions
*The Ankh, Egyptian cross of life
*The world tree of the Cosmos of the ancient Maya
The Greek word gnosis (pronounced "no-sis") is commonly
translated as "knowledge", but the Greeks made a distinction
between the knowledge of the mind and the knowledge of
intuition, or insight. As used by gnostics, gnosis means
the latter. In fact, the secret at the core of gnostic
Christianity is that to truly know oneself is to know God.
Unlike orthodox Christians who believe the Truth is handed down
by the church from the apostles (hence the Apostles’ Creed) and
who accept only the four gospels of the New Testament as the
canon (guideline), for doctrine and practice, gnostic Christians
believe that whoever receives the spirit communicates directly
with the divine, and that they have matured beyond the original
teachings of the apostles.
The fifty-some surviving texts of the ancient gnostic writings
discovered at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945 didn’t become
part of the public domain until the late 1970’s.
But why were they buried in the first place?
The Nag Hammadi texts date back to the earliest beginnings of
Christianity. Although modern Christians would recognize many of
the key players, much of what they say and do in the Gnostic
Gospels is not what they say and do in the New Testament
assembled by the leadership of the orthodox church. The
differences, some of them radical, give us a real sense of the
struggle between various factions as the cult of Christianity
attempted over time to define itself as an organized religion.
By the middle of the second century, gnostic writings were being
denounced as heresy by those who called themselves "orthodox"
Christians. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, for one, wrote a
five-volume diatribe against the "wicked heretics", i.e. anyone,
including gnostic Christians, who was not of the "one true,
catholic (universal) church."
Once the Emperor Constantine made Christianity an official
religion in the fourth century, the self-declared orthodox
version of Christianity gained military support, with the result
that the orthodox catholic church became a rich and powerful
bureaucracy, while gnostic Christians, branded as heretics,
faded into the background.
The following poem, a revelation spoken by a feminine power, is
among the most startling of the gnostic writings translated to
Thunder, Perfect Mind
"For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore, and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin…
I am the barren one,
and many are her sons…
I am the silence that is incomprehensible…
I am the utterance of my name."
If you would like to learn more about
gnostic Christianity, we recommend
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
as an excellent place to start.
Opinion -------Commentary by readers
The real threat of gnostic Christianity was that, by offering
its believers the opportunity through ritual to receive the
charismatic gift of direct inspiration through the Holy Spirit,
the middlemen – bishops and priests – were eliminated, along
with their increasing personal wealth, power and comfort.
And, then, of course, there was the "female thing" – many
gnostic groups allowed women to teach, to engage in learned
discussion, to heal, even (!) to baptize...