By: Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
These two authors are at the top of my Favorites list. I seriously doubt if any other other authors have ever offered such a conversational and practical piece of literature on ancient gnostic wisdom as this book.
If you're looking for a way to dive right in and have someone point out the differences between literalist religious dogma and ancient gnostic wisdom- this is your book. I highly recommend you run out and find it. If you like 'lighter' reading it will end up being the bread and butter of the religious section on your bookshelf. The authors have created a book which is a frank discussion on the butchery of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the first half. The second half speaks conversationally about exactly why Gnostics were(and are) persecuted so heavily. The answer is simple: Gnostics didn't see a need for clergy. Gnosis is found through experience with the divine through direction conversations, not by developing a level of blind faith or performing good deeds. Learning how to live lucidly is the key.
I hope the authors would forgive this little blogster for quoting a few of my favorite passages from their book. Hopefully they will whet your appetite for more.
Excerpt from Chapter 9
"If you can stand back far enough from your cultural conditioning, the Literalist Christian message looks absurd and grotesque. You were born in sin and deserve to be punished. So God sent his own son, Jesus, to planet Earth to suffer horribly on the cross to pay for your sins. Jesus died for you and then resurrected and went to Heaven. And, if you believe that this really happened, you will also go to Heaven when you die, where you will have a very nice time forever. But if you don't believe that the resurrection really happened, when you die you will go to Hell and be subjected to really horrible tortures for all eternity. By a God of love!
It's a gruesome doctrine and inherently flawed. Surely, for any compassionate person, the existence of Hell must make the enjoyment of Heaven impossible. How could anyone with an ounce of kindness enjoy Heaven knowing that others languished in Hell, simply for not believing in an historical event for which there is no evidence anyway! It seems somewhat harsh. If there really is a God running this post-mortem apartheid, then he's a monster and we need to indict him for crimes against humanity.
We are extremely glad to tell you, however, that this grim Literalist version of the Christian message has nothing to do with the teachings of the original Gnostic Christians. They did not teach that believing in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus would save us from Hell when we die. That would be impossible because, according to the Gnostics, we are already dead and living in Hell right now!"
Excerpt from Chapter 7
"Gnostic philosophy is extreme sports for the mind. It is for those who relish the rush of exhilaration as they free-fall into uncertainty. The buzz of alert concentration as they scale the mountain of imagination, seeking out a higher view. The thrill of anticipation as they wait to ride a swell of insight as it surges up from the depths. Always hoping for the big one. Gnostic philosophy isn't safely theoretical. It is live and dangerous. It is a profound exploration of the great mysteries of life and death. An heroic adventure to excite the soul. Some people dismiss all philosophy as abstract and irrelevant. But Gnostic philosophy can utterly transform our understanding of who we are and what it is to be alive. What could be more concrete and relevant than that?
At the heart of Gnostic philosophy is the outrageous claim that if we experience the state of gnosis we will recognize that life is a dream. This idea challenges our most fundamental assumptions about who we are and what life is. At first it may seem even madder than the maddest of Literalist claptrap. The Christian Gnostic Theodosius acknowledges:
"I know that the teachings of gnosis are a laughing-stock to most people. Some are startled by them, as when a light suddenly illuminates the darkness of a drinking party. But the truly blessed are those who rouse themselves from sleep and raise their eyes to the truth."Is gnosis just another mad ancient theory? No. Gnosis isn't a theory at all. It's an experience. The Gnostics aren't trying to persuade us to adopt their opinion that life is a dream. They want to use philosophical ideas to wake us up, so we see for ourselves the true nature of reality."