Posted tagged ‘gnosis’

The Radiant Child

August 19, 2009

Mystic teachings are multi-layered.  They tend to transform and take on new meaning as we go through progressive initiations.  “Gnosis” is a Greek word meaning “knowledge”.  There is another layer of meaning, which is “personal knowledge of God.”  (Many early Christians believed, because Christ taught it, that one could know [“gno”] God without the need for intervening clergy.  For this reason they were labeled “Gnostics” and declared heretical by the burgeoning church establishment.)  Below this second level of understanding, lies the knowledge that our knowing is possible because we too are divine.  Below that lies the realization that the universe is one entity – everything is one.  Finally we come to the experience- the gnosis, of being one, in which the mind finally finally dissolves and allows us to feel the oneness that we have heretofore only comprehended.

 Lately, I’ve been reading The Gospel of Judas.  This is yet another Gostic text, discovered almost forty years ago in the Egyptian desert, but only translated and released in this century.  For me the most fascinating line in the text occurs almost at the beginning.  Speaking about Jesus, it says: 

 “Frequently, however, he would not reveal himself to his disciples but you would find him in their midst as a child.”

 You probably remember that in the traditional gospels, Jesus mentions children at least twice; first welcoming them into his presence and then telling  his followers that they must change and become like children to understand him.  The Gnostic gospels from Nag Hammadi also contain many references like this.  Several biblical and apocryphal stories exist about Jesus as a child including the one of his magical birth. 

 The radiant Divine Child is an archetype common to many cultures, stories and myths.  The Child Archetype is a pattern related to the hope and promise of new beginnings.  Fairy tales are full of both children and symbols of the child, such as most flower and circle related images like the golden ring and the golden ball.  Whenever The Child appears in a story, its appearance points to the hidden or unexpected presence of the divine.  The birth of the Christ Child who unites Heaven and Earth, Man and God, is a powerful archetypal event.  Had the life story of Jesus not included this archetype, it would have lost much of its meaning.

 Karl Jung believed that the child archetype represented an inevitable compelling urge in every being toward “self realization.” Ancient Greeks and Romans saw the Divine child as one’s “genius”.  By genius they meant something like, guardian spirit, but the word “genius” also means: “exceptional creative power.”

 In many Tarot decks, the nineteenth card of the Major Arcana called, The Sun, depicts a Radiant Child, arms out flung, riding bareback on a horse.  The horse is a lunar as well as a solar symbol, representing at various times both life and death.  In Buddhist and Hindu texts and in the writings of Greek authors influenced by Plato, the horse above all is a symbol of the senses, harnessed to the chariot of the spirit and controlled by the Self who is the charioteer. 

 However, the Sun Card shows us a divine child so harmonious in aspect that the senses need no bridle to move in the same direction as the child.  Their agreement is born out of trust, love and understanding.

 I mention the Sun today because we have just passed the summer solstice, longest day of the year, when the Sun shows its full glory and splendor.  Springtime– the time of mating and fertility, has preceded us.  Now wombs grow gravid; skins glow; the female gait changes and slows to a statelier pace.  Six months from now the Divine child will be born , on the other side of the year, in the depths of the darkest, longest night. 

So here we have the birth of a sacred child, a result of the coming together of masculine and feminine forces, the fruit of the sacred marriage.  Who is this child? 

Inside ourselves, we experience the child of the sacred marriage as intuitive knowing, spontaneous inspiration, deep insight.  The name of this child, born out of the integration of our differing energies ,is “Gnosis”. It’s playground is the corpus callosum, that amazing bridge which connects the right and left sides of the human brain.  Back and forth it skips turning out plots and poems, salads and stews, quilts, soft-ware, paintings, and pots.

The child is also our core true self, the deepest, most hidden authentic us – there since the beginning.  The Self-generated child of Gnostic myth.  This is the guardian spirit who always wishes us well; who urges us towards health, sanity, and integration.  It sends us teaching dreams.  It sends us healing dreams.  It alerts us to guides, teachers and mentors.  It whispers wake up, wake up, wake up.  It wants to come out of hiding.  It wants us to shine.  It wants to be born. 

The Sacred Marriage calls forth this radiant hidden child, promising it protection, sanctuary and nurture.  Marrying our self to ourselves we open to potential, to the unexpected, to promise, to new beginnings.


Eros as a Path to Gnosis

May 23, 2009

If I could start over, knowing what I know now, I would go back to school and study that endlessly fascinating, miraculous amalgam of bone and flesh, mind and psyche, soul and spirit  – the body.  Not just my body.  I want to know the how’s and wherefores of cellulose, beetle carapace, sharkskin and feathers.  I want to know about granite and obsidian, clay, salt, Sulphur, and mercury. 

  I want to know in the biblical sense – carnally with all the senses of my body.  I want to embody all I know, integrate it into flesh and blood and bone until I become attuned to the voices of my liver, my gut, my sex.  I want them to advise, and complement my every thought.

 This is gnosis– the coming into relationship with the divine through self-knowledge.  This is the bliss Joe Campbell advised us to follow.  What’s stopping us?

What’s stopping me is Self-consciousness, Self-awareness – the sense of being an individual isolated being.  Ironically, paradoxically, the same attribute which allows me to observe, relate to and integrate the wonders of the world is exactly that thing which separates and distances me from all that is.  This dilemma is crazy-making and painful.  Luckily, we humans have been given something to ease and ameliorate our suffering.

Above, below, beside, before, behind, within, without and beyond we have been gifted with beauty…  When our human ability to perceive and appreciate beauty is married to our animal ability to feel pleasure through the senses we arrive at Eros.

Eros moves us to cross the bridge of distance between ourselves and another.  Tempts us out of our existential loneliness into another pair of arms.  Makes it easy for us to stay.  Eros quiets monkey mind, electrifies the body.  Allows us to remember.

Eros is the language of the divine.  When logic fails in the face of the ineffable, the holiest of holy women and men resort to the language of Eros.  Whether they be virgin, mendicant, soldier priest, martyr, pilgrim or recluse, whatever their experience or inexperience with the physical act of making love, when it comes to speaking of union with god, sexual sensuous phrases drip from their lips like honey from a comb.  Hildegard’s1 Earth sweats its green vigor, St. Clare2 sinks to the floor with her beloved, and Sheba’s3 maidens, so restless with desire they can not sleep, go questing for their men on the midnight streets of sleeping cities.

We never loose our connection to the divine.  That loss is Maya – illusion.  Through Eros we recapture, reclaim, reunite with our lost sense of the divine.  This is how we come into Presence – by being completely present to all her manifestations; by reveling in the beauty presented when we fully open eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin to sensation. We sink into god as if she were our lover, our soul mate, our perfect One.  When we invite Eros in, we facilitate sacred marriage; make it easy for Spirit to insinuate and penetrate; slip between fascia, fizz through the blood, and soak the very marrow of our bones with love.

 Christine Irving©2007


Sheba Bilquis    Persian 1593

Sheba Bilquis Persian 1593


  1. This 10thcentury BCE queen has been called a variety of names by different peoples in different times.  Ethiopians revere her as, Makeda, the progenitor of their royal family.  Her epic (the Kebra Nagast) includes a visit to King Solomon of Israel.  She appears in the biblical book of Kings as well as being the subject of Solomon’s sensual erotic love song.  In Islamic tradition she was Balqis. The Roman historian Josephus calls her Nicaule.
  2. Hildegard of Bingen (1098 –1179), also known as Blessed Hildegard, Saint Hildegard, and Sybil of the Rhine, was a  German abbess, author, linguist, naturalist, philosopher, herbalist, composer and visionary. Elected Mother Superior by her fellow nuns in 1136, she became a counselor to kings, popes and emperors.  She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters,  liturgical songs, poems, and the first surviving morality play.  Although she lived a sequestered life from the age of six, her work in every area overflows with the sensuality and vitality of Eros.
  3. Saint Clare of Assisi, born Chiara Offreduccio (1194– 1253) is an Italian saint,  founder of the Order of Poor Clares and one of the first followers of  Saint Francis of Assisi.  She was a poet of great passion and a woman of deep commitment-throughout her life she corresponded at length with Francis offering him courage and consolation. At the end of his life she cared for him in his decline.  Eros infused their spiritual and intellectual engagement as surely as if the had been lovers in the flesh.

The Mass as Metaphor

May 18, 2009

This morning I want to talk about metaphor.  A metaphor is a way of describing a lesser known thing by equating it to something more familiar.  For example if we want to describe a swiftly running man child we could say “the boy runs like a deer”, or we could say. “the boy is a deer”. If we say the boy IS a deer we are using metaphor.

 The Mass of the Sacred Marriage is a metaphor for a spiritual concept the joining of the unique fully integrated human soul with All That Is.

 Gnosis may be described as  revelation that takes place when the conscious soul or self comes face to face with the god.  Already we are inundated with metaphors – consciousness, self, soul and god are all words which cannot be refined down to a specific meaning- they can only be approximated, likened to, guessed at…

 A ritual may be defined as a re-encatment of an act of creation.  In the ritual of the Gnostic mass we reenact a meeting between god and the conscious self or soul. In this ritual, the priest becomes the stand-in- the metaphor, for the conscious self or soul and all the work of the mass is to call the ineffable thing we name Spirit or Goddess or God into the room for this meeting in order that all the actual conscious selves or souls in the room including the priest’s can participate in the encounter.

 If the priest stands for the human element in this story, who or what stands for god?  In this mass the bride and bridegroom stand for god.  Because Spirit is beyond naming and beyond description we fall back on metaphors and say God is two energies – feminine and masculine, then we use another metaphor to name those energies calling them bride and bridegroom, then the bride and bridegroom go even further and compare themselves to bread and wine.  With each metaphor, with each shift  in form, with each change of shape we come a little farther from the original entity but a little closer to what we can grasp, intuit or KNOW.

At first glance this may appear to be an amazing tissues of lies.  However, the only way metaphor works is if it contains within itself a true similarity and resonance with the object being described.  Bread and wine work as a metaphor for union, mingling, coming together because our bodies do in fact change and incorporate the food that enters our mouths into flesh and blood.  Two separate things do indeed come together to make a new third; just as the sperm and ovum of the male and female come together to make a new human being; just as the coming together of  the human self with the larger entity of Spirit results in new thoughts,  ideas, art, devices etc.

 The metaphor rings true because only the shape, the form, the image changes – the spirit or god at the core of the story remains as it is. This particular Gnostic mass is composed of metaphorical building blocks – each in itself comes with a long history of extrapolation which can be traced to an original common human experience.  Breaking bread, for example symbolizes hospitality, which symbolizes the meeting of strangers which includes the idea of sharing abundance as a way to forestall hostility.  But that is only one strand of the story of bread.  By putting bread on the table everything  that bread symbolizes in a hundred thousand years of human history is represented. Every other element here- the table, the blue cloth, the chalice the flame – everything has it own lineage of meaning.

 The story goes on and on weaving and reweaving itself as the mass progresses. and for each of you the story shifts and changes with each word, each time you attend, each time I say the words.  The ceremony comes to life in the moment, it lives in the moment, we create it together as a sacred meeting ground on which we may or may not come into contact with the ineffable. Whether we do or don’t make contact depends in great part on  both our willingness and our ability to think feel and see through the lens of metaphor.  The mass is a story, a magic carpet, a threshold, an opportunity – a metaphor which has the power to carry you beyond what you believe into gnosis.