My Life as a Perpetual Student, Thoughts on reading the Gospel of Thomas, Vol 2, #8
If you are searching, you must not stop until you find. When you find, however, you will become troubled. Trouble will give place to Wonder, and then you will reign over all things (the All). Your sovereignty will become your Rest. logion 2, Gospel of Thomas
Why do I capitalize the word Rest, in the saying above? Because it really is the final resolution. Your ‘trouble’ will at last be ended; you’ll be home at last. You’ll know when you get there. There is a Rest for the people of God… ‘God’ created the ‘Earth’ in six ‘days,’ and then He Rested. And no, he wasn’t tired, all you literalists out there. Maybe He too is a perpetual student. Life is a school, and didn't the Cosmic Lady tell us so? (Cf. the video on my Home Page). The cosmos is a Work in Progress. We perpetual students don’t really claim to know it all---it’s just that there comes a point where we get on to ourselves, as did Yeshua himself, as have countless other Teachers of Wisdom, distributed for us through the centuries. It’s ever been thus: the treasure is not out there somewhere, hidden in some ancient text or under a rural rock in upstate New York, or to be found at the end of a prolonged program of spiritual exercises. No, it’s right here, in us and around us.
Peace at last.
A Rest is a Rest.
But first, that promised trouble. It will come, it must come, before the Rest. Do not underestimate this. After you get a good look inside, come to realize who you really are, the world around you just might be revealed to be a bigger mess than you ever dreamed it could be. There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed. The blinders will fall from your eyes. You may come to question much you once took for granted, stuff you thought you understood, things you learned in some of those grand institutions you formerly may have so proudly attended… Or heard in those churches you trusted so much, or yes, read in that ‘holy’ book you were wont to call the Word of God.
Troubling, deeply troubling.
But you will survive. The coming Rest is worth it all. And you won’t have to wait for after you die, in ‘heaven.’
It’s for Now, this Rest.
Yeshua said, I shall give you what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no hand has yet touched, and that which has never occurred to the human mind! logion 17, Gospel of Thomas.
Now keep in mind that our a priori assumption in these pages, based upon and supported by the latest and best scholarship, is that these words from the GT text may well be earlier than any of our four canonical Gospels, earlier even or at best contemporaneous with the early Pauline epistles… that the Thomas Christians, echoed by the early Jerusalem Gathering of James the “Lord’s brother” produced these recollected purported sayings of the pristine Jesus—before Paul and his obsession with the Jewish idea of ‘sin’ had a chance to re-invest their meaning, to re-enlist these sayings in the service of a yet-to be-invented institution that would come to dominate the next twenty centuries as the Roman Catholic Church and its myriad bastard offspring, the children of the Protestant Reformation... And then to the circulation of the ‘Bible,’ following the invention of the printing press and the world-wide distribution of Martin Luther's newly translated scriptures.
It’s a long way from Yeshua the Wisdom Teacher and his original dim-witted students to the Bible thumpers (forgive me, God) of modern Tennessee.
Now see, already you’re troubled…
What Yeshua promised to give his original hearers was nothing less than the ‘Kingdom,’ his version (not a Kingdom of this world) an idea he granted ‘had never even OCCURRED to the human mind,’ a Kingdom for Now, a new state of mind, yes a mega-mind, unified and whole, a new existence of joy and yes, Rest, a Kingdom to be found inside them and all around them, a Kingdom that could be seen, heard, felt—yes, a resurrection of the body. A state of mind in which you will not know the taste of death. What's that mean?
The problem in getting this down is our ever-present tendency to read or hear it from the perspective of our deeply-ingrained assumption that the ‘Bible’ came first, the ‘Christians’ were there at the beginning, and all this ‘gnosticism’ was a later perversion, was in fact ‘heresy,’ second-thinking by weird and twisted minds, inspired perhaps by Satan…
It’s certainly troubling to think we’ve gotten Jesus wrong, for all these years. It just can’t be, we say, with unwavering conviction. It doesn’t make sense; God would surely not allow His Son, His Church, His Bible to be so misrepresented, for so long a time.
I was browsing the Net the other evening, and I became (mildly) troubled. There before my eyes on a YouTube video was a last tour of my old aboriginal alma mater, Garfield High School in Akron, Ohio! Yes, it was 2017; they were tearing it down after all these years, to make way for a new combined school district, new building. They didn’t even consult me! I dug out an old picture of myself standing before as a student, complete with cool Ohio topcoat and hat near one of its sacred stairways, reproduced above, if dimly. There before my hallowed eyes was the old trophy case, where just a few years ago my very own photo looked out at me, Class of 1948, as part of a display tagged as primitive beginnings of Garfield… Imagine that, if you can. And now it is all gone. My past is being burned behind me, buried just as nearly every one of my former classmates has been. And yet I continue as a perpetual student, having since matriculated (love that womanly word) at many other schools, some nondescript, some infamous, some famous, many of which, like Garfield, no longer exist, or are in the throes of the death-rattle, even as I write this. A wag called me ‘an aging student.’ Others have laughed, told me I have wasted too much time in school. I had to do it, it’s in my DNA. But now I’ve come to question all I’ve ever learned, in or out of all those schools. Or almost all. We perpetual students know the greatest lesson of all: at bottom we know nothing. We need another 88 years to matriculate, but that’s another mystery. Why is life so short?
The Gospel of Thomas is not for everybody. I do not present this in the spirit of Hey I’m right and everyone else is wrong… That would be the old familiar ego trip. A dear friend, back in the sixties had a saying he stuck by , rather humorously: "nobody's trip is viable," he loved to repeat. I would like to suggest that maybe the opposite is true, namely that everybody's trip is viable. You're stuck with yours, and good luck. You'll have to work it through, or change it, or whatever. Even if you say you have no trip, that's your trip. Life is a school, and you just flunked out.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
It is not my opinion that matters. I’m hoping to shed light on what this GT thing is really all about, as a piece of ancient literature, what it’s trying to say to us. For me Jesus is the most important, the most fascinating of all history’s figures, and the idea, the very real possibility, that here is to be encountered his authentic voice, the core of it all, is compelling, to say the least. What you do with it is up to you.
"Like William Blake, like Jacob Bohme, this Jesus is looking for the face he had before the world was made... If such is your quest, then the Gospel of Thomas calls out to you." (Harold Bloom, Where shall Wisdom be Found? )