View Full Version : The Gnostic Texts and Reincarnation
13th April 2009, 23:03
The term gnosis comes from Greek and means "knowledge". This "knowledge", according to the gnostics, was achieved by the understanding of oneself, a liberation elaborated in lifetime after lifetime, through reincarnation. Communication with Spirits was also a fundamental instrument used by the early Christians.
The discovery of the Gnostic scrolls has had an impact upon the Christian Churches that is far geater than they wish to demonstrate.
Christianism, at first, was split into two, as though they were two parties, the orthodox, supported by the Roman Emperors, and another, in opposition, called Gnostic Christianism.
The official Christianism chose the books that form the "official" Bible (Vulgata) and imposed it upon all the Christians, because the emperor Teodosius I decreed that only the orthodox Christianism was the legal religion. The choice of biblical books was placed upon St Gerome, in the year 400, by order of Damaso, bishop of Rome.
A priest in Bethlehem and Cesarea, with profound knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, St. Gerome was given the task of translating the Greek version of the Bible into Latin, the language spoken in almost the entire Roman Empire. St. Gerome's task was enormous, because so many were the documents, fragments and copies spread out throughout the world that in his preface of the Vulgata sent to Damascus, he expressed his feelings in this way:
"From the old texts you force me to make a new one. You wish me to, somehow, place myself as a judge between the copies of the Scriptures spread throughout the world, and as they differ among themselves, that I might distinguish those that are in agreement with the original Greek text (...) Which, in truth, wise person or ignorant, who has in his hands the new version, will immediately put himself to exclaim that I am a sacriledge, a fake, because I will be audacious enough to add, substitute or correct something from the ancient books."
In one of the Gnostic scriptures known as the Gospel of Valentine, there is a passage in which Mary Magdalene asks Jesus about the place of souls prior to entering this world, wanting to know how was the spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus, and Jesus replies:
"I took Elijah and sent him in the body of John the Baptist. And I sent others to appropriate bodies, so that they may find the mysteries of the Light, and may elevate themselves to the higher regions, and enter into possession of the Kingdom of Light" (Valentine 60: 5-6).
This passage is perfectly clear in stating that John the Baptist was, indeed, Elijah reincarnated.
Quite certainly, the Gnostic scriptures are a threat to the official Christian churches, in particular when we find passages such as this one found in the Gospel of St. Thomas, in which Jesus says:
"Do not found a church upon my name. We were given the gift of free will. That we may exercise it in its full plennitude..."
13th April 2009, 23:06
It is a fact that some Christian sects and writers accepted reincarnation as an enhancement to the teachings of Christ. Origen, one of the heralded Fathers of the Church and described by Saint Gregory as "the Prince of Christian learning in the third century," wrote: "Every soul comes into this world strengthened by the victories and weakened by the defeats of its previous life."
So if reincarnation was an idea in currency with early Christians, why have all traces of it disappeared from the Christian religion we know today?
By the early fourth century, strong Christian factions were vying with each other for influence and power, while at the same time the Roman Empire was beginning to fall apart. In A.D. 325, in a move to renew the unity of the empire, the absolute dictator Emperor Constantine convened the leaders of the feuding Christian factions at the Council of Nicaea. He offered to throw his imperial power behind the Christians if they would settle their differences and agree on a single creed. Decisions made at this first council set the foundation for the Roman Catholic Church. (Soon after, the books of the Bible were fixed too.) For the sake of unity, all beliefs that conflicted with the new creed were banished; in the process the factions and writings that supported reincarnation were thrown out.
Then, with the applause and support of the Christian leaders, Constantine moved to eliminate competing religions, and to make his personal grip on the Empire even more absolute. The result of the marriage between church and imperial state was a new Church made in the image of the autocratic Roman Empire. This is why, according to some historians, the Church exalts unquestioned central authority, imposes a singular dogmatic creed on its followers, and works so hard to stamp out divergent ideas. This is important, because reincarnation fell outside the official creed.
Apparently some Christians continued to believe in reincarnation even after the Council of Nicaea, because in A.D. 553 the Church found the need to single out reincarnation and condemn it explicitly. At the Second Council of Constantinople the concept of reincarnation, bundled together with other ideas under the term "pre-existence of the soul", was decreed to be a crime worthy of excommunication and damnation ("anathema"):
"If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema."
Why would the Church go to such lengths to discredit reincarnation? The implicit psychology of reincarnation may be the best explanation. A person who believes in reincarnation assumes responsibility for his own spiritual evolution through rebirth. He does not need priests, confessionals, and rituals to ward off damnation (all ideas, incidentally, that were not part of Jesus' teachings). He needs only to heed his own acts to himself and others. A belief in reincarnation eliminates the fear of eternal hell that the Church uses to discipline the flock. In other words, reincarnation directly undermines the authority and power of the dogmatic Church. No wonder reincarnation made the Defenders of the Faith so nervous.
Despite the decree of 553, belief in reincarnation persisted among the rank and file. It took another thousand years and much bloodshed to completely stamp out the idea. In the early thirteenth century, the Cathars, a devout and enlightened sect of Christians who believed in reincarnation, flourished in Italy and southern France. The pope launched a crusade to stop their heresy, a half million people were massacred whole villages at a time, and the Cathars were totally wiped out. This purging set the tone for the brutal Inquisition that began soon after. Not only was a belief in reincarnation cause for persecution, but so was belief in any metaphysical idea that fell outside the bounds of Church dogma.
The murderous efficiency of the Inquisition proved effective. The persecution by the institutional Church has scarred our collective psyche and surrounded us with an invisible fence dividing what is safe from what is dangerous to believe. Since then, people who harbor forbidden ideas have learned to keep their thoughts to themselves. Our cultural memory still carries the fear of reprisal for publicly associating with any occult practices, the use of psychic powers, or a belief in reincarnation.
Here it is, the source of the double standard. No wonder so many people today believe in reincarnation privately but are afraid that if they come out publicly, they will be attacked for being weird——the modern word for heresy. Maybe by understanding where this fear comes from, we can negate its hold on us and turn off the invisible fence. So when our children speak of past lives, we can follow our hearts and not our fears——and believe them.
13th April 2009, 23:16
The Gnostic Christians believed reincarnation to be the true interpretation of "resurrection" based on Jesus' secret teachings, which were handed down to them by the apostles.
The existence of a secret tradition can be found in the New Testament:
"He [Jesus] told them, ' The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (Mark 4:11-12)
"No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." (1 Corinthians 2:7)
The following are some the secret teachings of Jesus from the Gnostic gospels that affirm reincarnation, revealing the secret knowledge:
"Watch and pray that you may not be born in the flesh, but that you may leave the bitter bondage of this life." (Book of Thomas the Contender)
"When you see your likeness, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will bear!" (Gospel of Thomas)
In the Secret Book of John, reincarnation is placed at the heart of its discussion of the salvation of souls. Here is the Secret Book of John's perspective on reincarnation:
All people have drunk the water of forgetfulness and exist in a state of ignorance. Some are able to overcome ignorance through the Spirit of life that descends upon them. These souls "will be saved and will become perfect," that is, escape the round of rebirth. John asks Jesus what will happen to those who do not attain salvation. They are hurled down "into forgetfulness" and thrown into "prison", the Gnostic code word for new body. The only way for these souls to escape, says Jesus, is to emerge from forgetfulness and acquire knowledge. A soul in this situation can do so by finding a teacher or savior who has the strength to lead her home. "This soul needs to follow another soul in whom the Spirit of life dwells, because she is saved through the Spirit. Then she will never be thrust into flesh again." (Secret Book of John)
Another Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia, outlines an elaborate system of reward and punishment that includes reincarnation. The text explains differences in fate as the effects of past-life actions. A "man who curses" is given a body that will be continually "troubled in heart". A "man who slanders" receives a body that will be "oppressed". A thief receives a "lame, crooked and blind body". A "proud" and "scornful" man receives "a lame and ugly body" that "everyone continually despises." Thus earth, as well as hell, becomes the place of punishment.
Pistis Sophia combines the ideas of reincarnation and divine union in a passage that begins with the question: What happens to "a man who has committed no sin, but done good persistently, but has not found the mysteries?" The Pistis Sophia tells us that the soul of the good man who has not found the mysteries will receive "a cup filled with thoughts and wisdom." This will allow the soul to remember its divine origin and so to pursue the "mysteries of the Light" until it finds them and is able to "inherit the Light forever."
The Gnostics claimed their terminology was sprinkled through the Epistles. For example, the author of Ephesians uses the words "awake", "sleep" and "dead" in a Gnostic sense:
"But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:13-14)
This idea of divine union and reincarnation can be found in early Christianity and one can easily conclude that it was the key to the heart of Jesus' message.
13th April 2009, 23:52
"Elijah was one of the prophets mentioned in the Old Testament, who lived in the century IX B.C. He lived in the days of King Acab and Queen Jezabel, with whom he was in constant opposition, because of the cult that was held to the pagan god Baal. Despite his faith in a One God, he was also excessively rigorous and even "made fire descend from the sky and kill a captain together with his fifty soldiers", when these went to fetch him under the orders of King Acab.
The return of the prophet Elijah was predicted in Malaquias: "And I will send you the prophet Elijah, before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come" (4:5)
John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus, the son of Isabel and Zachariah. His return was predicted by the angel Gabriel: "...and the angel said to him: Do not fear, Zachariah, for your prayer was heard; and your wife Isabel will give birth to a son, and you will give him the name John. And he will convert many of the sons of Israel to the Lord thy God; and will go before him with the spirit and the virtue of Elijah, so as to reconduct the hearts of the fathers to the sons" (Luke 1:13)
Another passage that marks the identification of the prophet as being John the Baptist himself is when the apostles Peter, James and John ask Jesus about the return of Elijah: "Why then do they say that Elijah must come first? But Jesus answered: "It is true that Elijah must come first and re-establish all things; but I say unto thee that Elijah has come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall the Son of Man suffer of them. And his disciples understood that he spoke of John the baptist" (Mathew 17:10)
And later: "And, since the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven is acquired by force, and the violent have taken it over. Because all the prophets and the law, until John, have prophesized. And, if you wish to understand, he himself is the Elijah who is to come. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear..." (11:12)
It is interesting that Jesus should have said: "...since the days of John the Baptist until now..." Why use this expression if John the Baptist was then still alive, unless as a reference to "since the days of Elijah"? It is quite clear that he was referring to both as being one and the same.
The violence of the Mosaic law ordered the extermination of the infidels to gain the promised land - the paradise of the Hebrews, and hence this passage: "...the Kingdom of heaven is acquired by force". In the period of Jesus, the new law established that the Kingdom of heaven was to be achieved by charity and sweetness..."
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