Monday, November 8, 2010

(9) Two Camps

"If one go down into the water and comes up without having
received anything and says, 'I am a Christian,' he has borrowed
the name at interest. But if he receives the Holy Spirit, he has '
the name of him who' has borrowed it at interest, payment is
demanded. This is the way [it happens to one] when one
experiences 'a mystery."
[THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY, The Gospel of Philip (H.3),
p. 139. ]

Comment: The introduction of this gospel notes that it was
probably written in Syria, in the second half of the third century
C.E. The collection of material in this gospel was named for
Philip the apostle, probably by Christian gnostics who were
eventually deemed heretics by the orthodox camp of

So for centuries the gnostics were maligned, and information
about them became steadily lost--until the discovery of an
ancient monastic collection in Egypt called the Nag Hammadi

When one sifts through these writings that go back centuries
and centuries, it seems so different from what we have become
accustomed when it comes to what we think of as a "gospel."
Gnostic writers were far more mystical, declaring much that
they pondered as "mystery." Sometimes it takes some effort to
dig down into what they might really be talking about. We
have become accustomed to straightforward talk, easy to
grasp at least on a surface level, when it comes to the more
orthodox gospels--except, perhaps the Gospel of John, which
is different and far more mystical in style and content.

But what might the above quote really mean? I cannot presume
to unlock this mystery as perhaps the ancient gnostics did,
yet this quote touches my understanding in a fairly direct way.
It's blunt in its meaning, at least for me.

In today's world, people are born into a religious fold for the
most part. They more than often don't choose their particular
faith system. Their parents usually bring them into such.
For example, they are "Cradle Christians." And along the
way, through adolescence unto adulthood, they may or may
not receive direction as to what it means for them as a member
of a particular faith.

More recently research studies are discovering what some have
already known, that "Christians" don't really know much about
their religion. Churches have been remiss, providing little depth
information about the Faith. Perhaps there's an assumption that
skin-deep suffices.

And what of the Spirit. Does it touch us? If one really believes,
well yes!

What can happen, however, is then after one is "called," there can
be a flurry of activity trying to immerse one's self quickly and
perhaps superficially into their faith system, believing that they
have "got it." Perhaps a more correct course is to look into one's
own heart, into one's own soul, meditating ever deeper into what
might be happening. Perhaps then some sort of meaning will come
forth for that person, for his/her life and the expression of such.

Trying to institutionalize "mystery" can lead down some unsteady
paths. That isn't to say that fellow travelers in a given faith system
cannot help one along the way, but it's maybe better not to be too
stern or rigid working through.

Mystics and Monastics oft represent the other end of the spectrum
of our faith systems. They run deep and wide, never superficial.
The possibilities they discover pondering the Mystery can be
astounding--and sometimes seem alien to those at other or
different levels of their faith system.

In the end one has to wonder whether there will always be these
two camps when it comes to our given faith systems, no matter
the labels we employ towards one over the other. Eventually
it might be that our minds are more prone towards one over the
other; and, thus, how we view the world and the life we live can
color how we interpret our particular faith systems.

Thinking in these terms, it's interesting pondering these differing
perspectives. Could be that this situation is "natural." Perhaps
it's all in the Design of things that we have yet to realize and
accept. If eventually we do come to such a realization, then we
might seriously happen upon some really wild discoveries!