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The Gospel of Thomas
The Gnostic Wisdom of Jesus
Table of Contents
About The Book
A new translation and analysis of the gospel that records the actual words of Jesus
• Explores the gnostic significance of Jesus's teachings recorded in this gospel
• Explains the true nature of the new man whose coming Jesus envisioned
• Translated and interpreted by the author of the bestselling The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and The Gospel of Philip
One of the cache of codices and manuscripts discovered in Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Thomas, unlike the canonical gospels, does not contain a narrative recording Christ's life and prophecies. Instead it is a collection of his teachings--what he actually said. These 114 logia, or sayings, were collected by Judas Didymus Thomas, whom some claim to be Jesus's closest disciple. No sooner was this gospel uncovered from the sands of Upper Egypt than scholars and theologians began to bury it anew in a host of conflicting interpretations and polemics. While some say it is a hodgepodge from the canonical gospels, for others it is the source text from which all the gospel writers drew their material and inspiration.
In this new translation of the Gospel of Thomas, Jean-Yves Leloup shows that the Jesus recorded by the "infinitely skeptical and infinitely believing" Thomas has much in common with gnostics of non-dualistic schools. Like them, Jesus preaches the coming of a new man, the genesis of the man of knowledge. In this gospel, Jesus describes a journey from limited to unlimited consciousness. The Jesus of Thomas invites us to drink deeply from the well of knowledge that lies within, not so that we may become good Christians but so we may attain the self-knowledge that will make each of us, too, a Christ.
must continue to search
until they find.
When they find,
they will be disturbed;
and being disturbed, they will marvel
and will reign over All.
(Cf. Matt 7:7–8; Luke 11:9–10.)
This logion describes the major stages in gnosis, which constitute a true initiatory process.
The first stage is the quest; the second is the discovery; the third is the shock and disturbance of this discovery; the fourth is wonder and amazement; and the fifth is the presence and reign over All.
The last of these stages is spoken of in the Oxyrhynchus manuscript (654, no. 1), where this reign over the All is further described as the great Repose. This is also echoed in the Gospel of Philip and in Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, Book II).
Some further elaboration on each of these stages may be useful.
The seeker must always be on the quest. The truth is hidden so as to be found. As the prophet said, it is a “hidden God” who invites us to participate in this great game of the quest.
An old rabbi explained it to his grandson in this way: “When you play hide-and-seek with your friend, imagine his disappointment and pain if he hides, and you simply stop looking for him.”
When we stop looking for the hidden God, we resign from the divine game. Yet this game, this quest, is what gives our life meaning.
Is not the whole history of Israel that of a game of hide-and-seek between a people and their God?
Thus the first stage on the path of initiation consists of rediscovering the thirst and taste for the game, the quest. It consists of becoming a seeker and remaining a seeker even after we have found, so as to experience the new and endless depths in what we have discovered.
In a sense, to seek is already to find. Otherwise, how could we ever have the idea to search, how could we be propelled by this desire, unless it were for something which we somehow already know? Surely we have all had moments in our lives that testify to this, moments of discovering the light (if only from a distant star), that had always been there, in the darkest of nights.
“You would not seek me if you had not already found me.” So the essential movement of the quest is a greater opening to what is already here. But we do not know it enough: “In your very center, there is someone you do not recognize,” said John the Baptist to his disciples. In our very core there is a Presence that needs to be recognized and affirmed. Seeking/finding means being more and more open to the gift that has always been ours.
3. Being Troubled and Upset
The recognition of Being troubles us and upsets us, for awakening to this dimension forces us to question our ordinary, so-called normal view of the world. The experience of Being is a radical questioning of our view of reality, a view conditioned by the conceptual means with which we think we understand reality. This discovery that our habitual ways of conceiving the world are no more than that--habits--cannot occur without trouble and upset. The more we accept this trouble as a necessary stage in the evolution of our consciousness, however, the more we are led, little by little, toward wonder and marveling.
In the fourth century C.E. Gregory of Nyssa said: “Concepts create idols of God of whom only wonder can tell us anything.”
The Greek philosophical tradition also saw wonder and astonishment as the beginning of wisdom. In our own time, Einstein remarked that only idiots are incapable of wonder--and we might define idiots as those who forsake their quest, thinking that they know.
The more we discover, the more we marvel and wonder. But these two are not some kind of romantic imagination or fantasy. For Einstein wonder lay in the fact that at certain moments the world becomes intelligible, that there is a possibility of resonance between our intelligence and the Cosmos, as if they were both animated by the same consciousness. Only after experiencing this wonder can we enter into the mystery of that which reigns over All.
5. Reigning over All
At this stage we no longer perceive ourselves as separate from the world, but instead as a space where it is possible for the Universe to become conscious of itself. I am One with that which reigns over All. The same Spirit, the same Breath, the same Energy that moves mountains and stars, moves me. Here, I see myself only as a particular expression among others of the same All that is One. Here, in the living interconnectedness of all things, I know the immensity of Repose.
6. In Repose
To Jews the meaning of the Sabbath is extremely important. After the time of work, of doing, of possessing, we must take the time to sit before God, to simply be.
The theme of repose is just as important to gnostics. At last, thinking and feeling are united in this consciousness that animates all things, and we can find true repose. What previously appeared as contradictory or in opposition now appears complementary, for a passage beyond duality has opened up. In the myriad reflections scattered upon all the ponds of the world, we discover a single moon.
This living nonduality is the peace and repose that is endlessly sought during all stages of the initiatory path. But the spiritual path requires us to live the quest fully and not to harbor fear or aversion toward trouble and upset, so that we find our home in this wonder and repose.
- Publisher: Inner Traditions (February 16, 2005)
- Length: 240 pages
- ISBN13: 9781594776397
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Raves and Reviews
"Among all the astonishing documents unearthed in 1945 near the desert village of Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Thomas has made the greatest impact on our understanding of Christianity. . . . The words in this text have the power to touch an unknown part of ourselves that brings with it an undeniable recognition of truth and hope."
– Jacob Needleman, author of Lost Christianity and The American Soul
"In this remarkable book, scholar-mystic Jean-Yves Leloup invites us to meditate on the ‘eternal jewel,’ the revelation of Jesus, and on the reign of God spread all around us, within and without. May these logia of Jesus translated from the Gospel of Thomas fall on good soil and yield a bountiful harvest of peace, justice, and enlightenment."
– Margaret Starbird, author of The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail
"Leloup (The Gospel of Mary Magdalene; The Gospel of Philip), founder of the Institute of Other Civilization Studies and the International College of Therapists, reminds readers early in his introduction that 'whether we like it or not, Yeshua of Nazareth was not a writer. It is therefore impossible to speak of 'the authentic words of Jesus'.' Because spoken words, later recorded, bear the indelible imprint of the listener, Leloup emphasizes that they represent only part of the truth; he invites us to consider the Gospels as a whole as '[d]ifferent points of view that exist both within us and outside of us, in historical and meta-historical dimensions.' Thus he humbly offers his translation as one among many. Following the complete text of the Gospel of Thomas, presented in both Coptic and an elegantly translated English (by Joseph Rowe, from the French) Leloup delicately unfolds its petals of meaning, logion (saying) by logion. Simultaneously inspiring and enlightening, his interpretation far surpasses mere exegesis, instead intricately melding the now with the then, the self with the Christ. Paraphrases from Meister Eckhart intermingle with quotations from Kafka and Dostoyevski, which coincide with wide-ranging religious references--from Judaism and Greek Orthodoxy to Krishnamurti and Shankara. If ever a translation of Thomas's gospel merited a place in a reader's back pocket, this is it."
– Publisher's Weekly, March 14, 2005
"I'm very impressed with this new book on the Gospel of Thomas, and even the Forward offers much insight and depth. In his Forward, Jacob Needleman suggests that the proper work of the mind is to function at two levels: the level of silence and the level of expression, with the former being superior to the latter, and that the wisdom borne out of the depths of contemplative silence is what's dangerously lacking in the world today, what he calls 'the tragedy of our modern era.' 'What our modern world has suffered from most of all is runaway ideology, the agitated attachment to ideas that thereby become the playthings of infrahuman energies. This is the great danger of all ideologies, whether political, religious, or academic.' He observes that the energy that must guide us can only come from another, higher level within the human psyche, 'a level that is experienced as silence.'
"The Format: The first section of Jean-Yves Leloup's latest book presents the text of the Gospel of Thomas in the Coptic language on the left-hand pages, and the English translations on the pages to the right. Even if you have other versions of Thomas, it would be quite useful to also have this one, as there are some important differences. The rest of the book consists of the commentary on each of the one hundred fourteen proverbs and parables of 'Yeshua the Living One,' many of which seem as terse and enigmatic as Zen koans, the mystic-wisdom of an Eastern Sage. The collection begins with this mysterious statement: 'Whoever lives the interpretation of these words will no longer taste death.'
"At last! someone who is a contemplative soul has published some valuable reflections on this Gnostic Gospel found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. In The Gospel of Thomas, Jean-Yves Leloup presents not so much a commentary on these ancient sayings of Yeshua, but a meditation 'that arises from the tilled earth of our silence.' He says that 'it is from this ground of inner silence, rather than from mental agitation, that these words of Yeshua can bear their fruit of Light.' He writes, 'Pope Gregory I said that only a prophet could understand the prophets. And it is said that only a poet can understand a poet. Who, then, must we be in order to understand Yeshua?' Perhaps only a lover of Gnosis can truly appreciate the wisdom of a Gnostic Gospel. Leloup is the founder of the Institute of Other Civilization Studies and the International College of Therapists. His other books include the bestselling, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and The Gospel of Philip."
– James Bean, Spiritual Awakening Radio Productions
"If you're looking for a coherent translation and commentary of The Gospel of Thomas I think this is it."
– Blue Flame Magick Blog at Word Press, October 2010
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