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Posts Tagged ‘alchemy’

In my last post, I talked about the Nag Hammadi Library and its apocryphal texts that were hidden away by the ancients for fear that they would be destroyed by the forces and protectors of homogeneity. Once Pauline theology  became the official doctrine of the Church, all other variants were set aside and defined as heterodox; irrelevant, lacking in value, and uninteresting distractions from the “truth.”

How unfortunate, and yet typical. This is the process (still very much alive among us today) by which ruling elites create firewalls designed to end all serious tests of assumptions that might otherwise spark a divergent dialogue. Nonetheless, it is in the nature of such things for buried texts to surface in time, and, when they do,  they often add tremendously to our understanding of the history and evolution of social systems and ideas. In addition, like the Gospel of Thomas and the recently released Gospel of Judas, these meditations from other communities of seekers and adepts give fresh perspective on the drama ( political and spiritual) of the first two centuries of the church. The one thing we do know for certain, is that the range of theological interpretations of the teachings of Jesus were many. It was a time of fertile conceptual and spiritual ferment.

In and among the treasure trove of scrolls discovered at Nag Hammadi was a text entitled, Thunder Perfect Mind, that I also referenced in the earlier post. This poem has long been a staple of my own meditations and a rich source of the same kind of dharma combat material as the logia of Thomas.

Quoting a small translated fragment of it:

“I am the one who has been hated everywhere
and who has been loved everywhere.
I am the one whom they call Life,
and you have called Death.
I am the one whom they call Law,
and you have called Lawlessness.
I am the one whom you have pursued,
and I am the one whom you have seized.
I am the one whom you have scattered,
and you have gathered me together.
I am the one before whom you have been ashamed,
and you have been shameless to me.
I am she who does not keep festival,
and I am she whose festivals are many.
I, I am godless,
and I am the one whose God is great.
I am the one whom you have reflected upon,
and you have scorned me.
I am unlearned,
and they learn from me.
I am the one that you have despised,
and you reflect upon me.
I am the one whom you have hidden from,
and you appear to me.
But whenever you hide yourselves,
I myself will appear.
For whenever you appear,
I myself will hide from you.” –
Translated by George W. MacRae
What I find so striking in this text is the repetitive juxtaposition of opposites (e.g., “I am the One whom they call life, and you call death.”) On the surface, the poem is an exercise in systematic contradiction. We ask: How, in each case, can both things be true? In what sense, as a parallel construction, can day also be night?
Carl Jung, in his major mature work, after years of studying alchemy from a psycho-spiritual and mystical perspective, offers the profound insight that while the dualities are all around us in thinking and in our sensory experiences, they are dissolved in the unus mundus, or the One World that transcends dualities. In effect, the only way beyond dichotomies is to resolve them by uniting the poles. Once opposites are joined, they emerge as new, more energetic, complex and higher order “substance.”
As in the formation of molecules, the chemical reaction from the marriage of elements yields an end product with attributes unlike the elements joined to form it (e.g., two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen and we have the essence of life itself, water). In effect, the alchemical union results in the birth of a higher order substance, i.e., higher consciousness.
Briefly meditating, then, on the koan-like challenges of  Thunder Perfect Mind, I reflect on the short quote excerpted from it above, both from the standpoints of scientific insights and subjective experience, and adding a first thought of my own inspired by the text:
  • Where are night and day One? Night and day are undifferentiated throughout the infinite expanse of the universe. Luminous matter dissolves ultimately into the “dark energy” from which it emerged. Dark energy  is a negative pressure that is responsible for the continuous and accelerating expansion of the universe. It is all one substance. Physicists  attribute the greatest mass of the Cosmos ( 74 % of the mass-energy) to dark energy. Dark matter ( invisible, non-radiating matter inferred by its observed gravitational effects on what we can see), is also far more plentiful than luminous matter. Light emerges from the particle stew that begins in darkness and in time reverts back to it. The one resolves itself into the other.
  • Who is the One hated and loved everywhere? The true and higher Self, the “Christic”, the Buddha-nature. The search for the True Self is our passionate quest yet, along the way, we reject the Call to this grand adventure as we fear the giving up our sense of certainty, and all of that to which we’ve grown attached, including our sense of self. Throughout history, the messengers who spoke of a need to abandon the ideas and things to which we’ve grown accustomed, were often dismissed, trivialized, discounted, marginalized or, worse, assassinated.  The light-barers offer teachings designed to get beyond ego and the ego fights back out of fear and misguided loyalties. The “Pearl of Great Price” or the “Grail” can only be discovered by the penitent heart.
  • How can the One that is Life be called death? I emerged from nothingness, an epiphenomenon of genetic code and synchronicities. I once was not. I once will be no more. Logically, that I am at all means that I was always ” potential being,” a pattern among infinite patterns. In that time of non-being, I was one with all potentialities; part of the fabric of the All. I was not separate from it but wrapped in the forces of space-time. I had no thoughts, no breath. Then, I came into being and took a first breath and the adventure of “life” began. Yet, between every breath I take, there is a pause, a silent space, a remembrance of things past. Between every two thoughts, there is a silent emptiness but that emptiness is full. Between every two heartbeats there is a silence, a pause, but there is energy, intelligence and life in the pause. The Beloved breathes into the silence and the emptiness and fills them with an abundance of possibility and grace. Both life and death resolve into silence.
  • Who is it that appears when I hide? In the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, as translated by Neil Douglas-Klotz in Prayers of the Cosmos, one lovely line reads: “Untangle the knots within, so that we can mend our heart’s simple ties to each other.” There is a crowd inside of us. The “knots” of so many longings, attachments, presentiments, preconceptualizations, assumptions, ideas about what matters. These leave little room for the Beloved. Ego takes up space. When “I” ( the ego self) hide, the One appears. ” The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” Luke 17 (King James version).

In the perfect thunder, there is no storm. In the perfect mind, there is a thunderous stillness. In the center of the storm, there is a still point. Where there are bolts of lightning, there are claps of thunder.

The Light of the World abides in the “Thunder-perfect Mind.”

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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