A Gnostic Reflection on the Easter Season

I hope everyone has had a pleasant season, regardless of what you celebrate!

For me it has been wonderfully restorative.  As many complaints as I have about the way meds make me feel, I’m actually writing again!  Here’s a little something I composed today.

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The Passion of Christ, to the gnostic, is not meant to be a literal event. Whether or not there was a historical Jesus who died on the cross and rose again is not what the gnostic theologian strives to know; that argument has been going on for 2017 years or more and has borne no fruit.

Rather, we seek the branch that bears fruit, namely the symbolic significance of the Passion and Resurrection and seek in our own lives to follow this example to the light of Gnosis.

The crucifixion is the crisis that brings the seeker to the path. It is the call to awakening upon reckoning our own condition as debased beings who are more than flesh. It is a time for contemplating the earthly death and its true significance, and the false hope of the earthly resurrection which will only take us back to where we started. It is the recognition of the cruelty and sorrow of this flawed plane of existence, such that by its very nature, it fought to destroy the Logos just as any self-consistent system tries to destroy a foreign body. But it is also the failure of this plane of illusions to destroy anything but an illusion; the pure thoughtform represented in the Logos is not what is crucified, but a fleshly decoy that was never divine.

As it is written in the acts of John:

Nothing, therefore, of the things which they will say of me have I suffered: nay, that suffering also which I showed unto thee and the rest in the dance, I will that it be called a mystery. For what thou art, thou seest, for I showed it thee; but what I am I alone know, and no man else. Suffer me then to keep that which is mine, and that which is thine behold thou through me, and behold me in truth, that I am, not what I said, but what thou art able to know, because thou art akin thereto. Thou hearest that I suffered, yet did I not suffer; that I suffered not, yet did I suffer; that I was pierced, yet I was not smitten; hanged, and I was not hanged; that blood flowed from me, and it flowed not; and, in a word, what they say of me, that befell me not, but what they say not, that did I suffer. Now what those things are I signify unto thee, for I know that thou wilt understand. Perceive thou therefore in me the slaying of a Word (Logos), the piercing of a Word, the blood of a Word, the wound of a Word, the hanging of a Word, the suffering of a Word, the nailing of a Word, the death of a Word. And so speak I, separating off the manhood. Perceive thou therefore in the first place of the Word; then shalt thou perceive the Lord, and in the third place the man, and what he hath suffered.

Notice this phrase “The death of a word.” It’s worth noting that you cannot understand the gnostic texts unless you have a firm grasp of irony. A word cannot “die” because a word, as such, is an abstract noun. By that same token it cannot be hanged, or nailed, or pierced, or otherwise put to any sort of violence; you can write words on paper and do whatever you want with them, but it isn’t the words you destroy, it is the paper. The physical Christ here is no more the Word than a paper with words written on it is those words!

Going further, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth has this to say:

For my death, which they think happened, happened to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death. Their thoughts did not see me, for they were deaf and blind. But in doing these things, they condemn themselves. Yes, they saw me; they punished me. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height over all the wealth of the rulers and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance.

Here the Logos is standing over the whole spectacle of the execution of the paper, the facsimile, the decoy, and He is laughing. What a remarkable image! And so the gnostic too can laugh at both the literal death of the body and at the mortification of ego, which is neither ourselves nor our true nature.

Then comes the Harrowing of Hell. This isn’t really part of any canon, or from any of the gnostic texts, but is alluded to in various places in the New Testament and is only articulated clearly in the New Testament Apochrypha, in the Gospel of Nicodemus:

Now when we were set together with all our fathers in the deep, in obscurity of darkness, on a sudden there came a golden heat of the sun and a purple and royal light shining upon us. And immediately the father of the whole race of men, together with all the patriarchs and prophets, rejoiced, saying: This light is the beginning (author) of everlasting light which did promise to send unto us his co-eternal light. And Esaias cried out and said: This is the light of the Father, even the Son of God, according as I prophesied when I lived upon the earth…

The journey of the gnostic is to descend into the hell of reckoning, the purifying trial, the Vision of Sorrow of the Sephiroth Binah. In some ways it’s like one of those fun houses where balls seem to roll uphill inasmuch as we only seem to be descending, when we are, in truth, ascending.

It’s rather interesting, my own Vision of Sorrow (stumbled upon at the point where my ego had been thoroughly mortified at the hands of wicked people who wished me destroyed), where I reckoned with the true pathos of this plane of existence, came in the form of anamnesis of a past life lost on the battlefields of the First World War. And when I described it to a friend, the word I used was “harrowing.” Not “harrowing” in the sense of digging deep and rooting out what is buried, but harrowing in the sense of something that digs deep into the darkest recesses of one’s being. But really, isn’t that the same thing?

The Vision of Sorrow prompts us to continue our ascent. It shows us that we have been chained to a realm of cruelty, and that the resurrection of the flesh (be it reanimation or reincarnation) is to the true resurrection what pyrite is to gold; only a fool would mistake the lesser resurrection for the greater resurrection!

So it is in the resurrection of Christ. If it were simply the literal resurrection of the dead flesh, returned to the world to suffer again, what miracle would that be? I’ve spoken before about how easy a miracle is to fake, and how the gnostic has no need of them; a miracle is a cheap show that only impresses the lowest common denominator. The real miracle is the ignition of those guttering sparks of the divine into the roaring fire of gnosis, the gathering of the Light into the whole which was broken, the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth to be reborn in higher realms where there is no death.

This is the true hope of Easter. This is the true hope of the journey into gnosis. And so long as we live and continue to walk this path, we return to that renewal, to kindle the flame again, to remember our true natures again, to be delivered from this realm of death into everlasting life and light.

For further reading please check out:

The Acts of John:

The Second Treatise of the Great Seth:

The Gospel of Nicodemus:

Binah, Chokmah, and Kether:


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