I just finished reading "The Gnostic
Gospels" by Elaine Pagels. It's a wonderful book discussing
the origins of Christianity based on the discoveries of
ancient texts at Nag Hammadi. These Gnostic writings offer
a new perspective to the Christianity many of us are most
familiar with. I recommend the book to you.
The book tells the story of the
Gnostics, and their rival Christians, those who started
the Catholic Church. The Catholics eventually persecuted
the Gnostics to the point of extinction. Gnostic texts were
burned, and until the discovery at Nag Hammadi, little was
known about their beliefs. What really stood out to me were
the different perspectives of the two groups. While the
future Catholics extolled an organizational hierarchy and
outward ordinances, the Gnostics focused on internal spirituality
and a personal relationship with God. The foundation for
either approach can be constructed based on New Testament
The same conflicting perspectives
have appeared in various different religions. Christianity,
Judaism and Islam are the examples I'm most familiar with.
A variety of mystic or spiritual movements have contended
with the orthodox. These contentions have existed over thousands
of years, and continue in our day.
Today, how many times do we hear
a particular religious group boast of their membership figures,
or the numbers of new churches or temples they've constructed?
What about the hearts of their members? Are they still filled
with prejudice and disdain for those holding different beliefs?
Do they look down on those who worship differently, or do
not share the same moral rigidity? Do they accept people
with different colored skin, or sexual preferences?
The world has had enough of intolerance,
close-mindedness, and authoritarian structures. In the past
decade we've seen the end of many of the last vestiges of
authoritarian political control, as the Communist regimes
of Russia and Eastern Europe disappeared seemingly overnight.
Over the past weekend, Slobodan Milosevic, a man who stirred
up religious and ethnic hatred throughout the Balkans, was
finally ousted by his Serbian subjects.
China continues to face a growing
threat of rebellion both in Tibet and throughout China.
The Falun Gong, a loose-knit spiritual group active over
the past several years, recently organized (using email
and the internet) a large protest in Beijing against Communist
tyranny and thought-control. Although it was ruthlessly
suppressed, the elements of rebellion are growing and will
not stop until personal and religious freedoms are granted.
Although the term has fallen out
of favor somewhat, I believe we've entered a "new age".
Or as the Theosophists believe, we have re-entered a period
of great spiritual development and power, leading to our
evolution and eventual reunion with God. Take a look at
the books available today, where the same basic spiritual
beliefs are currently espoused by psychologists, rabbis,
monks, scientists, psychics, and educators. Clearly, something
is going on. People everywhere are beginning to awaken to
the potential that lies within them. This time, personal
spirituality will not be extinguished as it was during the
early Christian years. There are too many books to burn,
too many ways for like-minded individuals to share beliefs.
This new age will lead to a World
Beyond the one we now know. A world where loving-kindness,
not hatred, dominates. One where many paths are tolerated,
where others' opinions are respected, where each individual
may grow spiritually, according to the dictates of their
hearts. I hope we can all find the strength of purpose to
do whatever it takes to further our spiritual growth and
further the creation of this World Beyond.