(Index A for links.)
This mythical mythology found among the Gnostics is thus a rather unique phenomenon. Rooted as it is in highly charged personal experience of deeper states of consciousness, it possesses qualities seldom found in traditional folklore and culturally conditioned mythologems. Unlike the latter, it is capable of conveying a considerable measure of its original quality, to which Jung and others have applied the term "numinous," carrying the power of a numen, or deity. Gnostic myths belong in a special category, and as such they possess a force capable of making an impact of unusual quality on the psyches of individuals. That most efficient popularizer of mythology, Joseph Campbell, has pointed out (largely by way of utilizing a preexisting analysis by Immanuel Kant) that the a priori realm of transcendence can relate itself to the temporal field of phenomenal appearances only by analogy, and that the instrument whereby this kind of analogy is expressed is the metaphor. This agency, which Campbell defined as "a psychologically affective image transparent to transcendence," most also be regarded as the true cornerstone of Gnostic myth. Gnosis, myth, and metaphor thus constitute the trinity of conscious instrumentalities whereby the realities glimpsed by the Gnostic seers were made available to mortals still aspiring to such seership. (pp. 104f)
Action and risk are essential to the Gnostic enterprise. Those who know run great risks, including the run of plunging into the abyss of loneliness and alienation. The Gnostic risk opens up the individual psyche to many adventures and may lead to opportunities for the precise of the kind of compassion that only wisdom is capable of manifesting. Despite the ever-recurring naive notions of many to right all the wrongs of existence by way of extraverted collective solutions alone (an effort worthy of demiurgic arrogance!), the crucible wherein compassion weds wisdom is erected in individuals one by one. Collective solutions are in reality no solutions at all, for the true vehicle of life, the offspring of Our Lady Wisdom, is the individual. Those favored by the grace of Sophia may devote their lives to offering active service in the public arena, or, again, they may simply bring the compassionate light of Sophia to bear upon the private human tasks of their daily lives. In all instances, however, they might consider the concluding words written by Miguel de Unamuno in his Tragic Sense of Life: "And may God deny you peace but give you glory." (pp. 115f)
The task of the messianic messenger was to help human beings discover who they truly are, and to assist them in overcoming the inimical cosmic powers and rejoin the fullness of the true light. "Salvation" thus becomes synonymous with "liberation," and the way to this state was envisioned not as consisting of faith but of interior liberating experience facilitated by the teachings of the Liberator and by the sacramental mysteries he entrusted to his followers. (p. 119)
... This means that the life of Christ viewed psychologically represents the process of individuation. Jung had repeatedly alluded to the fact that persons who are contained in a collective myth are carried along unconsciously, or semiconsciously, by this process, whereas those who for various reasons have left this containment become candidates for a personal experience of Gnosis, which ultimately makes them into individual psychic beings. (The word "individual" is derived from the Latin individuum, signifying an indivisible unity.) Thus the story of Christ, when accepted as a matter of faith, often acts as a substitute or vicarious symbol for individuation. When the myth, on the other hand, is recognized as a metaphor open to transcendence, it becomes both a symbolic description of and a guide to the personal experience of individuation. (p. 130)
The Last Supper celebrated by Jesus and his disciples assumes a double aspect in the Gnostic account. The first is the mystery of the Eucharist, still widely practiced in Christendom. .... The second portion of the story of the Last Super as present in the Gnostic myth, is of a different order. After one consumes with the higher life, one must experience the transport of ecstasy, and this element is embodied in the dance that Jesus bids (c.f. p. 125ff) his disciples to execute after they partake of the sacramental meal. Moreover, it is significant that he states that the true character of his suffering is manifest in the dance, rather than in the dark tragedy of the Crucifixion.
Here is an important event in the drama of the Savior that has been suppressed and ignored in the official accounts endorsed as canonical by the Church. Why? The chorea mystica (ecstatic cult dance) was not unknown in antiquity. In one Greek magical papyrus we read: "Come to me, Thou who art greatest in heaven, to whom heaven was given as a dancing ground." Thus, the high divinities are often envisioned as dancers who dance the world into existence. Similarly, the religious dance has the capacity to so enrapture the devotees that they joyously dance through the gates of initiation into the supernal aeons. The dance as an instrumentality of establishing contact with Divinity was still known in the Middle Ages where German mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg (1212-1277) ....
Thus, we are faced with the second portion of the myth of the Last Supper; the ecstatic dance is revealed as the other or second Eucharist in which the emphasis is not on the shed of blood and the broken body of the crucified one, but rather on the event of the dance, which is not confined to the earthly dancers but is joined in by Charis (Grace), one of the high feminine aeons of the fullness, as well as by the eight (the seven planets along with their sphere of transcendence) and the zodiacal twelve powers. The dance is thus revealed as a cosmic and transcosmic movement in which all of creation participates and which is also blessed with the presence of representatives of the spiritual fullness.
And, as Jesus reveals to John, the true secret of his suffering is not to be found in the Crucifixion but in the dance. It may be useful to remember at this point that "to suffer" comes from the Latin sub-ferre, to undergo. What has the Savior thus truly undergone? The Crucifixion of his corporeal selfhood? No, for unlike the hyletic portion of humanity, he possessed the capacity to detach himself from the body of flesh. He underwent, however, the limitation in order to enter the region where the lost sparks of light dwell and from whence they must be liberated.
The psychological significance of the Crucifixio #8212; and even more of the cosmic one described here than of the physical one on the wooden cross--is well stated by C.G. Jung:
The reality of evil and its incompatibility with good, cleave the opposites asunder and lead inexorably to the crucifixion and suspension of everything that lives. Since "the soul is by nature Christian" this result is bound to come as infallibly as it did in the life of Christ, ie, suspended in a moral suffering equivalent to veritable crucifixion.
The cross and the dance are two interrelated and interchangeable symbols. The dance reveals the true cross, which is not the mere cross of wood but the cross of light upon which the true life and salvation of the cosmos are suspended. It is in the ecstatic dance that this secret is revealed: The Logus declares that he is indeed the one who has danced all things and who teaches us what is the nature of suffering and of redemption. Jung has stated that,from a psychological point of view, the drama of Christ represents the vicissitudes of the Self as it undergoes embodiment in an individual ego and of the human ego as it participates in the salvific drama of individuation.
The myth of the Gnostic Christ is eminently compatible with this understanding, although it must be recognized that the interpretation of the myth transcends psychological categories and possesses numerous aspects that we could not elucidate here. The Dancing Savior is nevertheless a unique Gnostic image in which ecstasy and suffering, the cosmic process and its transcendence, embodiment and liberation are united in a peculiarly Gnostic conjunction of the opposites. In it we may also find indications of an often overlooked phenomenon:The role of ecstatic, altered states of consciousness in the process of Gnosis. The intensity of the transport of mind and emotions is aptly portrayed in the image here observed and the Dancing Savior declares to us his amazing etiquette of ecstasy when he admonishes us:
All whose nature is to dance; dance. Amen! Those who dance not, know not what cometh to pass. Amen! (pp. 132-135)(Index A)
...The spiritual freedom brought by Jesus only prevailed for a brief period of history, and the tyrant angels began to corrupt the messenger of the Good News once more. The battle of the forces of light against the tyrant angels continues, but the outcome is not a question. The forces of redemption are destined to prevail, bringing Gnosis and liberation to the sparks of light hidden in humanity. Defeat will come to the blind and foolish tyrant angels who have for so long ruled in the kingdom where, like usurpers, they established their illegitimate dominion. (P. 147)
Gnostic mythologems tend to contrast the old dispensation of Moses with its rigid concern with the law with the new law proclaimed by Jesus. The former decrees obedience and, flowing from such obedience, a collective redemptive victory of the people of Israel. The latter implies an existential dignity brought about by conscious choice and personal responsibility. (That may subsequent developments led to the neglect of this existential element in the Christian ethic does not mitigate against its historic existence and cannot diminish its usefulness when recognized and implemented.)
The old law is the law of collective psychology influenced by the dark unconscious tyranny of humanity's guilt-ridden unconscious. The new law recognized by the Gnostic, but often obscured by later so-called orthodoxy, is the law of individuation with its attendant freedoms and responsibilities, its existential terrors and transcendental joys. Well did the great American mythologist Joseph Campbell state in his work The Hero With A Thousand Faces:
It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse.
And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal--carries the cross of the redeemer--not in the bright moments of his tribe's great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair. Sooner or later we all must come to the kind of Gnosis that inspires us to turn from the blandishments and threats, the carrot and the stick of the tyrant angels. Masquerading as religious law, customs of society, political and economic ideology, and many other manifestations, the designs of the tyrant angels keep us unmeshed in a condition of collective thralldom, lacking choice and individuation. The tyrant ego acts in many ways and at many levels. Some of his cunning deeds are collective, whereas others are intensely personal.
Externally imposed dogma thus meets and conspires with guilt, anger, and greed arising from the shadow side of the personality. ... we must avert our gaze from the intimidating spectacle presented to us by tyranny and wickedness residing in high places. In The Gospel of Thomas, Jesus employs the word monachoi, usually translated as "solitary ones" but also meaning "those who have become unified." This is the name whereby one might describe the individuated psyche, the soul of the knower, who having become a unity now can stand alone without the burdensome collectivity of society, as well as without the tyranny of the alienated ego. These are the men and women who have succeeded in freeing themselves from the dominion of the tyrant angels, and of them the Gnostic Christ says: "Blessed are the solitary and the elect, for they will discover the kingdom! ... Many stand outside the door, but is only the solitary ones who will enter into the bridal chamber." (pp. 152f)
My splendid robe of glory, which in their love they had made for me, they new removed from my shoulders, and also the purple mantle that was made to fit me perfectly. And they made an agreement with me, which they wrote on my heart, so that I might never forget it. It read as follows: "If thou shouldst go down into Egypt, and bring the One Pearl to us, which reposes in the middle of the sea, guarded by a roaring serpent, then, upon they return though shalt resume thy robe of glory and thy royal mantle, and together with thy brother, our viceroy, thou shalt be the heir of our kingdom."
I left the East and accompanied by two royal envoys, who were ordered to assist me since I was young and needed help on such a dangerous journey, I passed over several lands that lay between the East and the land of Egypt. As I arrived at the border of Egypt, my guardians took their leave from me.
Having arrived in Egypt, I traveled to a place that was near to the sea where I knew that the serpent lived. I established myself in an inn, there to await the time when the serpent should sleep, so that I might take the pearl from him.I was a stranger to the others who dwelt in the inn. Still, I met a person there who was of my own kind, fair and familiar and a descendant of royalty.I received a warning from him to guard myself against the Egyptians, for they were unclean. I thus disguised myself, wearing the garb of the Egyptians, so that they might not discover that I was an outsider intent upon taking the pearl, and that they might not therefore arouse the serpent against me. Nevertheless, they soon recognized that I was not their compatriot. They feigned friendship for me and persuaded me to drink of the drink they mixed for me and of the sood they prepared for me.
To have thus yielded to the blandishments of the Egyptians became a great calamity for me. I fell into a swoon of forgetfulness, and I no longer know that I was the child of a king and I served their king instead. I forgot about the pearl for which my parents had sent me.
My parents in their kingdom were aware of what had befallen me and they grieved for me. They issued a proclamation and summoned all the great ones of their kingdom for a meeting, at which a plan was devised not to allow me to languish in Egypt. They wrote a letter to me, and each of the great ones signed it:
From thy father the King of Kings, and from they mother, the ruler of the East, and from thy brother, our viceroy, to thee, our child in Egypt, greeting. Awake and arise out of they deep sleep, and be alert to the message of our letter. Remember who thou art: The offspring of a king. And see whom thou hast served in dark bondage. Remember also the pearl, for whose sake thou hast journeyed into Egypt. Remember thy robe of glory and thy splendid mantle, so that the time may come when these may rest again upon thy shoulders, and, arrayed in them, thy name may be read in the book of the heroes, and thou shalt become, with thy brother, our viceroy, heir in our realm.
This letter was a magic messenger unto me. My father had so sealed it that it would be protected against the dreadful denizens of the regions that it would have to traverse before arriving at my habitation. The letter rose up in the shape of an eagle, the king of all birds, and it flew until it arrived beside me, where I heard its speech. Upon hearing the message I awoke from my sleep and arose, took the letter, kissed it, broke its seal, and read its contents. The letter read like the words inscribed once upon my heart. I remembered everything: I know that I was the offspring of kings and that my soul, born to freedom, was desirous of being with its own kind.
I also remembered the pearl, which I had come to Egypt to fetch. Thus I proceeded to enchant the roaring serpent by signing over it the name of my father, my brother, and my mother, the ruler of the East. I then seized the pearl and turned about to go to my parents. I cast off the impure garment of the dwellers in this land, and I directed my way so as to go toward the light of homeland, the East. As I proceeded on my way, I was guided by the letter that had awakened me, and as it once aroused me with its voice, so it now guided me with its light, which shone before me. Its voice encouraged me against my fear, while its love drew me on. So I went forth and passed through the regions and cities that lie between the land of Egypt and my homeland, the kingdom of the East.
Then the treasurers sent by my parents, who for their faithfulness were entrusted with it, brought to me my splendid robe that I had taken off and also my royal mantle. Indeed, I no longer remembered its magnificence, for it was long ago that I had relinquished it in my father's house. But all of a sudden, when I saw it over against me, the splendid robe of glory looked more and more like my own reflection; I saw it as it were my own self, and the distinction between it any myself melted away, so that we were two in differentiation but one in single union. Even the two treasurers who brought my robe to me appeared as a single person, impressed with the one seal of my father's majesty.
I thus came to observe further the robe in its splendor. It was adorned in glorious colors; upon it were gold and many diverse jewels, and its seams were fastened with adamant. The image of the King of Kings was depicted all over the robe, and I saw move over it the rippling movements of the holy Gnosis. I also perceived that the robe was about to speak to me, and the sound of great hymns resounded in my ears as it fell down on me: "I am the one that acted in the actions of the one for whom I was brought up in my Father's house, and I perceived in myself how my stature grew in accordance with his works." And the robe poured itself entirely down upon me with regal movements, and it leaped out of the hands of those who held it, so that it might come to rest upon me. And I loved it so greatly that I ran towards it to receive it. I reached up towards it and enveloped myself in its glorious colors, having clad myself entirely in this royal robe of glory.
Clothed in my robe, I now ascended to the gate of salutation and adoration. I bowed my head and adored the splendor of my father who had sent the robe to me, whose commands I had fulfilled, and who had done with me as he promised. And at the gates of his nobles I met the great ones of the kingdom. And my parents were jubilant as they received me, for now at last I was with them in their kingdom. And with a mighty voice of music did all their servants praise them, and they exclaimed that they had promised that I should journey to the court of the King of Kings so that, having brought the pearl, I might appear together with them. (pp. 155-159)
As Jung never ceased to affirm, Christ is the supreme symbol in our culture of the Self, and redemption is the religious formulation of individuation. The robe of glory of individuated selfhood is intimately related to the aspect of that robe in its ultimate metaphysical meaning. As always, the spiritual and the psychological are not mutually exclusive. Far from it, they are but two sides of the same great coin of wholeness.
One more important keynote needs to be reiterated in conclusion of this interpretation. It is evident to anyone who reads the "Song of the Pearl" in its unabridged form that the writer was not so much motivated by didactic intentions, such as one may find among writers of allegories, as he was inspired by vivid personal feelings rooted in experience. Particularly, the description of the robe when it is restored to its original owner bears all the hallmarks of an altered and/or mystical state of consciousness with its accompanying visionary transports. The symbolic meaning radiating from this splendid poem is perhaps the greatest proof of the efficacy of the Gnostic function of myth. It is almost impossible not to experience a measure of the original insight, and even rapture, experienced by the writer once one has read and assimilated this wondrous mythic poem. Today, as long ago, we may still perceive in this work, as on the robe of glory depicted in it, "the rippling movements of the holy Gnosis." (pp. 164f)
Jung's Gnostic myth reminds us if the imperative tasks of our lives as contemporary persons: to strive with all our might for more consciousness while not abandoning our roots in the spiritual traditions of Western culture and, most significantly, without succumbing to the perils attendant upon transformation, among which may be found the demonic pride of the inflated ego. Jung's individuated person does not "create his own reality," does not take credit for the operations of transcendence within this realm of immanence. As he states in his conclusion to Answer to Job: "...the enlightened person remains what he is, and is more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells within him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abyss of the earth and vast as the sky." Jung's myth with its iconoclasm, insight, and ever-fearless Gnosis must thus be reckoned as a vital contribution to insightful living in our troubled times and world. (pp. 174f)
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