Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 30, 2007

Gnosis’ Many Faces

Looking into one’s own nature, as here understood, is not an introspective effort at examining one’s, mental processes; still less does it require us to submit to the ministrations of a psychoanalyst. An inner task is certainly involved before we can experience what has been called the “opening of the third eye”; but this again, is no psychological miracle. It is the gift, so simple yet so rarely possessed, of looking directly at reality, so that we see it as it is, in its “suchness.” It is the capacity to bring all our powers of perception to bear on what is before us – including, be it noted, our own actions and experiences – without any subjective admixture of personal feelings, prejudices, alien thoughts, wishes, attractions, aversions, memories, hopes, fears, and, in general, that complex amalgam of emotions which habitually prevents us from observing what we are looking at, clear and unclouded. The result of such “enlightenment” is to remove the sense of alienation from the natural world, from other people, from our selves, and consequently from God, which lies at the root of our distress. Once a harmony has been established, on the basis of that nature “which makes the whole world kin,” there is a sense in which the Christian also can make his own the tat tvam asi (That art thou), and, in enlightened compassion, find relief from an at times seemingly unbearable weight of suffering.  – Dom Aelred Graham, Zen Catholicism (1962)

Without trying particularly hard, one can easily see that what he is talking about is gnosis. This is extremely important to understand, that gnosis is NOT something to be obtained, realized or found. It is a way of seeing, it is knowledge of the Heart. I know I might be sounding like a bit of a broken record here, but I believe this cannot be under stressed. Gnosis does not belong to Gnosticism. Gnosticism is simply a tradition that focuses on the process of living in gnosis, but it does not hold a monopoly on it. Another mistake is to limit oneself to the term, for there are a plethora of traditions and religions that all focus on living within an ideal state of being, and they all reflect gnosis to some degree. They are all speaking of and working towards their own facet of the same jewel. Gnosis is an eternal and timeless mode of understanding the reality of reality and our place in it.

This is an important thing to realize. When we limit our understanding or limit our scope of searching for understanding, we limit not only ourselves, but the where we can go and who we can become. When we declare that the fifth step of the ladder we are on is very high, the likelihood of us taking the sixth step becomes less. Many find their way to Gnosticism through a discontent with the “establishment”, but this is a childish thing and should be cast off as soon as it is convenient. It is limiting and unworthy, to be blunt. The discontent, when looked at truthfully, is not with the administration or the perceived constrictions of that administration but ultimately reside at times within our own limited understanding of our own perceptions and projections. When one dines in a restaurant, does one look with resentment upon the waiter who tells you where to sit, makes sure you dine with a certain level of decorum, and insists you pay for your food before exiting the building? Of course not, so why then do so many resent a tradition or religion for having “rules”?

There is truth everywhere, all religions hold a sacred carriage. As Gnostics, we attempt to be consummate “universalists”. All knowledge is worth having, all ideas are worth exploring and we do not deign to limit ourselves to terms or appearances. Gnosis is truth. Truth is within. If this is the maxim, there can be no borders.


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