Our Nag Hammadi Predicament

How can we achieve the sense of cosmic multidimensionality expressed in the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi in 1945? For each of us in our 21st century world this is our predicament.

What is expressed in that lost gospel goes far back in time, in fact as far back as the Upanishads and the Eastern thought that grew out of it. It may have extended even further back as is seen in the caves in southern France and in Spain.

Jesus was born into a world strongly influenced by this cosmic multidimensional thought. There was town near his home with the name Sepphoris. It was a model Roman city/town. He may even have experienced Greek theater there. There is conjecture that his father was not a cabinet maker but a scaffold builder. The father and son may have been applying their trade in that city. This of course is all conjecture as the evidence is scarce and what evidence there is distorted by the vagaries of Aramaic and Greek translation. Another influence on Jesus should be mentioned, and we do have evidence of this. During the short period of his ministry, Qumran Essene thought existed throughout his geographic area. It may have had an influence on him. It was strongly anti-Temple and in some respects esoteric. It could have served as the foundation for his popularity. The order of the Essenes with its monastic headquarters by the Dead Sea, but extending all over Judea and in all likelihood into Egypt, Rome and Asia Minor, would have served as a ready-made matrix on which new Christian communities were being formed.

So, however one frames the mindset of those in and around Jerusalem at that time, there is no question that an undercurrent of thought with its esoteric multidimensionality had taken hold and that it set the foundation for the spread of the word of Jesus of Nazareth.

This same multidimensionality of thought is now beginning to dominate our present age. We have the physical sciences joining in with essentially the same understanding of an all-inclusive cosmic inner/outer dimensionality to the universe. We also have the Jungians moving in the same direction with their deeply psychological synchronistic interpretations. All of this is being defined by the physical sciences with the words; “Implicate Order.” This expression implies the same cosmic determinative consciousness as early historical movements such as Gnosticism and Essene thought. (There is even some speculation that out of Essene thought came the esoteric elements of Jewish Kabbalah we see being practiced today.)

We can therefore conclude that the English translation of “The Kingdom of God” as Jesus used the term in the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi expressed a view contrary to that held by today’s Christian Catholic and Protestant Orthodoxy and more in line with modern thought. Herein lies our problem—and our predicament.

Jesus spoke in conditional terms of our finding this Kingdom of God. He used the words; “When you come to know yourselves.” He said that actualization calls for self-realization. He was calling for a metamorphosis of human thought in order for The Kingdom of God on this Earth to be revealed. Here are his words from the Gospel of Thomas (English translation from ancient Coptic):

The Gospel of Thomas

(77) I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there

(3) The Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize who you are.

Allow me to offer my translation into modern English:

There is a cosmic consciousness in everything material and immaterial. Within it is an Implicate Order. This cosmic consciousness and Implicate Order is inside of you and it is outside of you. The sole purpose of your life from your birth to your death is to find it. How can you find it? First you must come to know yourself. Then and only then will your thoughts, your actions, your being; all of you become integral to this cosmic consciousness and Implicate Order. Then and only then will your life will be changed. Then and only then will you know that you have always been known by it.

Can we all change the way we think? Can we escape from the rigidity of the thought that encapsulates us? Are we capable of being what Plato said we were capable of? (He was the first to use the term ‘gnostikoi’, meaning those capable of knowing.)

I repeat again: For each of us in our 21st century world this is our predicament.

8 Points: Point 5: Non-Dogmatic Searchers. Ages: Adult and Young Adult. Texts: Thomas. Resource Types: Articles and Read.

Review & Commentary

  • JenellYB

    Are you familiar with the 1901 book, “Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of The Human Mind,” by Richard Maurice Bucke?
    There are other works that delve into the same areas, but this is a classic, and good starting place. A More modern, “Spiritual Emergency,” by Stanislov Goff, is insightful.

    Both explore similar phenomenon, and have in common a number of things other works touch upon. One of the most frustrating to those making a conscious determination to seek such experiences of a “shifting of consciousness” is that it cannot be ‘found’ by intentional, deliberate efforts at seeking it. Many, perhaps most, that experience the remarkable shift of consciousness have never even heard of such a thing, let alone ever studied or sought into. It comes upon those unawares, people that are generally of a certain maturity, and is quite a startling experience.

    As it is written, “I am convinced there is nothing new under the sun.” That anything we might experience, others have experienced it before.