Heroes of the Gnosis

A Homily for the Day of All Saints

by Bishop Steven Marshall

One of the traditions that fell out of favor with the rise of Protestantism was that of prayers to the Saints, and so went the Day of All Saints from the mainstream culture of the USA in favor of Halloween. Halloween or All Hallows Eve is the eve of this feast day and from the Day of All Saints Halloween got its name. In almost every other Christian nation people celebrate the Day of All Saints and the Day of the Dead following, as occasions of great meaning in their spiritual life. This loss of the tradition of Saints has resulted for most of us in a breakdown in one of the intermediary levels of contact with the numinosity of the Divine. The Saints are those souls who have gone before us into the Pleroma, and can therefore provide spiritual guidance and assistance to those who seek the light of Gnosis. Because they were at one time incarnated human beings with all the limitations that such suffer, they are one rung closer to us than other intermediaries.

This all begs the question of why do we need intermediaries? Certainly this was the impulse of Protestantism that believed that the human soul neither possessed nor required any such intermediaries between itself and God. This is one of those statements that may seem true on a purely theoretical level but tends to fall down on the practical and experiential level. A tradition of Saints and other intermediaries is particularly important to the Gnostic, as the Gnostic realizes how very far we are from the Pleroma in this world and how spiritually blinded we are in this embodied existence. For this reason Gnostics have everywhere described vast numbers of intermediary realms and beings to aid humanity to the light of Gnosis. One level of this higher and divine aid is that of the Saints, those human souls who have made it out of the chain of death and rebirth and into the Pure Light of the Pleroma. The paradox is that intermediary beings and sacraments can aid us in achieving a direct and unmediated experience of God that we could not otherwise attain.

A tradition of the Saints provides several factors essential to a workable spiritual and initiatory practice. First it provides a historical connection and a continuity with the past. Even if it is a mythological pseudohistory based on legend rather than fact, it is nonetheless a source of great psychological power and is very real at the soul level. On a psychological level the tradition of the saints provides a bridge between the conscious and the higher unconscious. That which is more ancient has more power in the transformative processes of the unconscious. The continuity with the past, in a sense a connecting of past, present and future, represents a contact with the timeless realm of the unconscious. For the Gnostic, the connection with the past opens up a subtle channel to the Gnostic art of memory. One of the messages throughout the literature of the Gnostics is the injunction to “remember.” The inwardly or outwardly manifested figures of saints who bear this bridge to the backward and forward flowing stream of time can help us to remember our own history as a spiritual being and perhaps even a being who is beyond history. As the place of the Saints is described in the Book of Enoch, “There shall be light interminable, nor shall they enter upon the enumeration of time…”

The figures of the saints are the cultural images through which we can access the archetypal realm. Many of the saints directly relate to the gods and goddesses of pre-Christian religion. St. Barbara corresponds to the Voudon god Legba in Santeria, St. Brigit embodies the archetype of the Celtic goddess Brigid, and St. Michael directly relates to the archangel by that name. The tradition of saints is not a Christian phenomenon only. Indeed, one of the most popularized of the Buddhist saints is Quan Yin. Even Wiccans and Neopagans have saints in their background. Gerald Gardner, the source for all of the popularized movements of Wicca and Neopaganism in America, describes the “mighty dead” as those souls in the Craft who have gone beyond the wheel of death and rebirth and who can provide spiritual assistance and teaching to those in earthly embodiment.

Another role of the Saints is that of the inner and outer teachers of the Gnosis. In this fashion they serve the Logos in bringing into the world the message of the Gnosis. In the Book of the Gnosis of the Light, Mani proclaims, “The Father sent a creative Logos to us. The Logos means “the Word,” and yet it encompasses much more than the written books and letters of the Holy Bible; it includes all the wisdom teachings of all the Messengers of the Light, the spoken and the written. The Logos is the archetypal mediator between the Divine and Humanity, transmitting and interpreting the prophetic effulgence of God; it is the collective hypostasis of mediating influences of which the saints are a part. The Book of Wisdom describes saints as those who “will flash like sparks through the stubble.” This description conjures up images of lights flashing in the darkness, reminding one of the description of the Logos in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, “The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” The holy prophet Mani, almost as if he were recording a vision, describes these lights that are given to the Logos. “Then lights, which are the means of Gnosis were given him, and he was given authority over all the secrets, so that he might distribute them to those who had striven.” The saints are the lights which are the means of the Gnosis. They are those who in life have taught and distributed the secrets of the Gnosis—those who had striven to receive them—who “fled before the evils of the Aeon, putting it behind them, and took the promise of the Father unto them.”

Now the Aeon here refers to the world, so what Mani describes are those who have renounced the world and its rulers, the archons. By renouncing the power of the archons over us, as Valentinus expresses it, “by dissolving the world and not letting the world dissolve us, we are lords of all creation and destruction.” The context in which creation occurs here is the context in which we need to understand the creativity of the “creative Logos” described by Mani. Its meaning far transcends the popularized phrases of “create you own reality,” or references to the creativity of our egos. We must in some way distance ourselves from the world and its attachments before we can experience a creativity that is truly freedom from the limitations of the world. The saints are the deceased among us who have broken these attachments and gained the freedom of Gnosis.

The saints are the heroes who have served the Logos and fought the good fight against the archons of the world. Although we might interpret the Renunciation as a psychological confrontation and repentance of our interior archons, the world created by them is truly alien to our essential being. We are “strangers in a strange land,” as the title of Heinlein’s novel indicates. The world of the archons is not our home. In this fashion the example of the saints reminds us that we must put away our attachments to worldly things and worldly ways of thinking and perceiving, if we are to hear the message of the creative Logos and come closer to the ineffable light. One of the analogies of these worldly limitations in the Gnostic mythology is that each of the planetary archons fashioned a garment with which to limit and enslave the human spirit. We must strip off each of these garments and release them back to the archons who fashioned them. As Jesus responds to Mary’s question: Whom are thy disciples like?

“They are like little children who have installed themselves in a field which is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say, ‘Release unto us our field.’ They take off their clothes before them to release it to them and to give back their field to them.”

The good fight of the saints also reminds us that once we have received the treasure of the Gnosis we must guard against the world, its archons, and its attempts to lull us back into a condition of forgetfulness and ignorance. “Therefore I say: If the lord of the house knows that the thief is coming, he will stay awake before he comes and will not let him dig into the house of his kingdom to carry away his goods. You then must watch for the world, gird up your loins with great strength lest the brigands find a way to come to you, because they will find the advantage which you expect.” On a very deep psychological level this is another injunction to “know thyself.” We must recognize and confront our own archons of vacillation, falsehood, lust, pride, anger, greed and slander, all of which we find manifested in the Gnostic description of the demiurge, before we can be alert to the psychological forces that attempt to keep us in unconsciousness and ignorance.

Lastly, the saints serve as an example of how we can overcome the hold of the archons by releasing the field of the world and becoming laborers in the vineyard of God. Our taking up the work of the saints is aptly described in the familiar parable of the servants and the division of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-29) The inequities in this parable seem very unfair—not everyone is given the same amount—yet this is the way it is in the world and even in the spiritual realms transcending it. The parable describes the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven, not material wealth on earth. The differences in the money allotted to each expresses the differences in consciousness and capacity for Gnosis in different people. The Gnostics recognized different measures of consciousness in different classes of people—the hyletic, the psychic and the pneumatic. Even a casual observance of the human population reveals that not everyone has the same capacity for Gnosis. Some are hardly conscious of a spiritual dimension at all—the hyletics. Others are aware of it but do not know what to make of it, and so formulate it into rules of conduct and dogmas of theology—the psychics. Still others, the pneumatics or Gnostics, consciously perceive a spiritual dimension. Such are capable of knowing the things that are real. We do not need to be psychic or clairvoyant; we simply need to know the things that are real. We need to realize our connection with the greater realities of being.

In the parable, the one who buries his coin in the ground shows the least degree of consciousness. The clue to this is his thinking that “the lord was a hard man.” It seems that the Lord he knew was the old “tooth for a tooth” and “an eye for an eye” Jehovah of the Old Testament who would forbid us to use and increase our consciousness. The point of the parable is “use it of lose it.” We must invest our consciousness in experiences that can augment and increase our consciousness in seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, not hide it in the ground. If we do not show responsibility in a small sphere onsciousness how can we be given charge over the expanded field of consciousness beyond this world.

Sometimes the risk of obtaining greater consciousness is pain or grief, yet if we allow fear of loss and suffering in the world to make us bury our consciousness and freeze our capacity for Gnosis, then we shall lose the greatest treasure, the treasure of increased consciousness and Gnosis. The Gnostic does not fear making a mistake or missing the mark, for every effort towards Gnosis, in the appropriate direction, takes one further to the goal than if no effort had been made at all. This is most possibly the basis for Carpocrate’s doctrine of the need to experience sin (the missing of the mark), as even an arrow that goes wide of the bull’s eye is closer to the goal than the arrow that has never left the bow. The difference between sin and Gnosis in ones experience is whether there is the lack or the inclusion of consciousness in it. We can increase our capacity for Gnosis by using the capacity that we have been given. We must take the opportunities for achieving Gnosis when they come to us. “Let there be among you a man of understanding; when the fruit ripened, he came quickly with his sickle in his hand, he reaped it.” (The Gospel according to Thomas)

Opportunities for Gnosis are opportunities for using our light of consciousness to increase that light. Increasing the light of consciousness within us increases our memory of that Light from which it originated. We remember our way back to the Light.

The saints are those who have made the journey of transcendence and therefore can help us remember the way back to our origin in the Light. Part of this is the difficult struggle of remembering who we are and for what purpose we were sent forth into the world. The example of the saints can serve as awakeners of that memory within us of our individual promise to the Light and the spiritual currency that we have been given from the Light to bring with us into the world. The Community of the Saints reminds us that there is a greater consciousness beyond this world, a community of consciousness that continues to offer us its assistance. When we commune with the saints we find that there is more grace, more forgiveness, more compassion beyond this world than we could have ever imagined. They have made the journey through this world with an understanding of the struggle, and have gone to the Light still beaming forth compassion for all those yet suffering in the world. The joy of the saints truly increases when one of us remembers our divine purpose and puts our God-given currency of consciousness to work in the world for the liberation of souls. In this fashion we become reapers of the harvest and workers in the vineyard of the Logos. “Jesus said: The harvest is indeed great, but the labourers are few; but beg the Lord to send labourers into the harvest.” (The Gospel according to Thomas) In response to such works of consciousness the joy of the saints streams down upon us who have put our hand to the plow and the sickle, who have not buried our currency of consciousness in a hole.

The saints are those men and women who took the opportunities for Gnosis when they were offered, who came with the sickle in their hand and reaped the fruit of Gnosis. Their example for us is that when we have the opportunity for Gnosis, we must take it, it might not come again. Do not put it off by telling ourselves that we are not ready or not worthy, or concern ourselves with what others might think. The opportunity for Gnosis is the opportunity to raise ourselves into the communion of the saints, to raise our souls into the immortal spirit which is beyond time, death and rebirth. If we take the opportunities for Gnosis that come to us, our consciousness is increased, and it is this light of consciousness which can never die, which will not taste death. “The saints shall exist in the light of the sun, and the elect in the light of everlasting life, the days of whose life shall never terminate, nor shall their days be numbered, who seek for the light and obtain righteousness with the Lord of spirits.” (The Book of Enoch the Prophet)

Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

Return to the Light

A Homily for the Feast of the Ascension

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Although not particularly emphasized in mainstream Christendom, the Ascension of the Christ has been of great and central importance to Gnostics throughout history. The importance of the Ascension to the Gnostic rests on two principle points: the first that, according to the Gnostics, Jesus delivered the deepest and most profound mysteries following the Ascension, and secondly that the Ascension of Christ conveys the promise of our own spiritual ascension and return to the Light, a theme central to all Gnostic teachings.

Mainstream tradition teaches that Jesus ascended bodily (in a physical body) into heaven. The Gnostics, along with other heterodox Jewish sects existing at the time of Christ, disagreed with this idea of a resurrection and ascension of the physical body. Based upon the mysteries to which they were heirs, the Gnostics proposed that the ascension took place in a spiritual body. As stated in the Hermetic Scriptures, “Mortal can not draw near immortal, transitory to everlasting, nor corruptible to incorrupt.” It became quite obvious to early Christians that Christians did not physically resurrect and ascend into heaven. Those Christians who had no paradigm beyond the physical for interpreting the promises of Christ, required some way to explain it. The mainstream teaching developed that, as people did not bodily resurrect and ascend into heaven directly after death, then it would happen at the Apocalypse, in the last days. The mainstream substituted an eschatological phenomenon in place of the immanent promises of Christ.

The Gnostics teach that the promises of Jesus concerning the resurrection and ascension of human beings are indeed immanent, but spiritual and interior rather than physical and external in nature. To the Gnostic, ascension is an interior ascent of transcendence into higher states of consciousness, described as realms existing beyond this physical world and yet in some mysterious way shining through it. Historians of philosophy and religion call this form of experience ascensional mysticism, yet all that is called ascensional mysticism does not have the indelibly transformative character of the Gnostic ascension. The salvific nature of the Gnostic experience of ascension has to do with the particular framework and context of the Gnostic mythos and mysteries. The character of the ascension depends entirely upon the direction and goal of the ascension, which for the Gnostic is the return to the Light.

St. Paul describes just such an ascent in his Epistle to the Corinthians:

“I knew of a man in Christ, about fourteen years ago, such was caught up to the third heaven: and I knew such a man, who whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell, how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for a man to utter.”

In the Chaldean Oracles this ascent in consciousness depends on the transcendence of the physical body. “Believe thyself to be out of body and so thou art; for divine things are not accessible to mortals who fix their minds on body; it is for those who strip themselves naked, who speed aloft to the height.” This focus on transcendence of the material body does not mean a despising or self-destructive denial of the flesh. Such denial is really another form of attachment and enslavement, a negative attachment in such a case, on which we are warned in the Gospel of Philip, “Fear not the flesh nor love it. If you fear it, it will gain mastery over you. If you love it, it will swallow and paralyze you.” The connection of ascension with the image of stripping oneself naked is further echoed in the Gospel of Thomas. “Jesus said: When you take off your clothing without being ashamed, and take your clothes and put them under your feet as the little children and tread on them, then shall you behold the Son of the Living One and you shall not fear.” The point here is that the transcendence of the body must be accomplished without being ashamed of the flesh. Jesus makes a metaphor to the image of little children dancing naked and free. Almost everyone has at some time in their childhood taken off their clothes and run around naked in an innocent expression of freedom and joy. For the Gnostics the ascent is not some dour hatred and fear of the flesh but a joyous and ecstatic transcendence of the limitations of bodily consciousness. If we strip ourselves naked, if we relinquish the coverings placed about us by the archons, then, in our ascent, the archons cannot detain us; they cannot even see us. We are caught up in ecstasy, which translated from the Greek means “being outside of oneself.” Ecstasy means to be out of the body and the system of which it is a manifestation. It means freedom.

Yet, the Gnostic experience of ascension is not simply an out of body experience. There are a plethora of accounts of people who have experienced traveling out of the body or journeying on the astral, who have been meditating or journeying for years, but who have not returned to the Light. These are modalities of transcendence through which individuals may experience the Enlightenment of Gnosis, but the modalities in themselves can not guarantee it, nor are they a viable substitute for the genuine experience. The spiritual ascension requires a capacity for Gnosis, an orientation toward the mysteries of the interior life, and the descent of a grace from on high. We must have that within us that can ascend and return to the Light before the light-stream can come to us and take us up. To have this within us requires a fervent desire for transcendence and freedom.

If we sincerely long for the Light the experiences will come in their own time. Yet to have this longing, to truly ascend, we must remember the place from which we have come. To acquire this desire requires a wakefulness to the memory of the higher glories beyond this world. As Mani so beautifully states, “Remember the ascent into the joyful air…” It may not be possible for us to fully return to the Light while we are in this embodied existence, but we can receive a small taste, a whiff of the essence of this ascent, enough for us to remember the place from which we have come and to recognize the way back.

To awaken this memory we must open our spiritual eyes to the First Mystery, the fountainhead and source of all being. “Let the immortal depths of the soul be opened, and open all thine eyes at once to the above…” (The Chaldean Oracles) The Qabbalah describes the highest as the innermost, and so in the Pistis Sophia there is reference to the highest Aeon and the First Mystery as the Inmost of the Inmosts. “Then were all the powers of the height singing hymns to the Inmost of the Inmosts so that whole world heard their ceaseless voices.” To find this memory and this desire we must turn the powers and contemplations of our souls inward; we must recognize that the inmost core of our being is alien to the system of the world, that we are strangers to this material world.

Even then, the desire for Gnosis and the memory of the Place of Light alone is not sufficient; the ascent requires a spiritual assistance as well. The soul requires the wings of spirit to make the “flight into the sun.” The soul cannot get there on her own steam; she requires a helper. In the Apocalypse of Paul, Paul is accompanied by a helper spirit. In the Pistis Sophia, Sophia rises by means of the light-power given her by the Logos. In mainstream tradition, the Virgin Mary is assumed into the heavenly courts by her bridegroom, the Christ. In the story of the Pistis Sophia, even Jesus requires the descent of his own Light-Power to ascend into the Pleroma:

“So it was that when the Light-Power came down on Jesus it gradually surrounded him altogether. Then Jesus ascended on high, shining most exceedingly with an unmeasured light; and the disciples were gazing after him, not one of them speaking until he went up to heaven, but they were all in great silence.”

The Gnostic sources differ from the mainstream in describing the return of Jesus directly following the ascension:

“Then the heavens opened, and they saw Jesus coming down, shining most exceedingly, for he shone more than at the time he had gone up to the Heavens, so that no man of earth can speak of the light that was on him.”

He then teaches and initiates the disciples in the most profound mysteries, which they were not previously able to receive. He describes for them the aeons of light transcending the earthly sphere and gives them the grace to ascend there. The Apocalypse of Paul gives witness to such an ascension in the spirit:

“And then the seventh heaven opened and we went up to the Ogdoad, And I saw the twelve apostles. They greeted me, and we went up to the ninth heaven. I greeted those who were in the ninth heaven, and we went up to the tenth heaven. And I greeted my fellow spirits.”

At the highest heaven he greets his fellow spirits. This too is what we must remember for ourselves; that we have a fellowship of spiritual beings to which we truly belong, who are the company of the Highest Aeon. Through wakefulness to the memory of our origin and the grace from on high we can open our eyes to the above and glimpse that place where we are “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God.” We can remember the house from which we have come and ascend on high and greet our fellow spirits. In this manner we shall speed aloft to the height and join that light such as “no man of earth can speak of the light that was on him.” (The Pistis Sophia) So may that Light keep us and illumine our way back unto the Light from which we have come and unto which we shall ascend when the “consummation of all consummations taketh place,” when we see our star shine forth. Amen.

Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

The Inner Resurrection

A Homily for Easter Sunday

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Easter is the major moveable feast of the liturgical year. It may fall on any Sunday between March 22nd and April 23rd. The date of Easter accords with the date of the Jewish festival of the Passover which is based upon the old lunar calendar. By this method of calculation the date of Easter is the Sunday nearest the first full moon following the spring equinox. The spring season in which Easter occurs, with its renewal of life following winter, bears out a synchronous relationship with the resurrection theme in the mythic story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We find at this great Christian festival a conjunction between the the cycles of nature and the mythic cycle of the liturgical year, a conjunction between microcosm and macrocosm, a conjunction between the interior, mythic dimension of reality and the outer dimension of the cycles of life. Because of this, many of the symbols that we associate with Easter, such as chicks, Easter eggs and rabbits, are fertility symbols representing the renewal and proliferation of life in spring.

The name of this festival derives from an Anglo-Saxon fertility Goddess named Oestara. Other related Goddesses are Isis of the Egyptians, Ishtar of the Assyrians, Astarte of the Babylonians and Tara of the Irish. All of these Goddesses have province over the night sky, the moon and the earth. They have both a celestial and starry aspect as well as an earthly aspect.

Sophia also has a celestial, transcendent aspect and an earthly, immanent aspect. The earthly aspect of Sophia relates to the Holy Spirit which “remains here on earth to guide and care for us.” She is the Spirit that gives life and sustains the life of all creatures on earth unto their redemption. Sophia also has a celestial, starry and transcendent aspect. She represents the light beyond the stars. In this mode of symbolism, the ancients imagined the night sky to be like a bowl full of holes through which the sea of light beyond shone through as the stars. Sophia as the Light of the Stars becomes the Star-Kindler, the Queen of the Stars, the Queen of Heaven. The Queen of Heaven is a title not only for the aspect of Sophia represented in the Blessed Virgin Mary but also for the historic figures of Isis, Astarte and Ishtar. She is both Earth’s Mother and Heaven’s Queen.

In the same fashion we must approach the mythic event of the resurrection of Jesus on more than one level. We must not succumb to the easy conclusion that the symbolism of the death and resurrection of Christ, the dying and renewing God, is nothing more than an image of earthly fertility and cyclical life. Because the story of the resurrection comes from the mythic dimension of reality, it transcends in great measure the limitations of earthly cycles and nature; there is indeed a great deal more to it. The cyclical rise and fall of vegetation through the cycle of the seasons, the death and resurrection of Christ, does not have tremendous meaning as the fertility of the earth but has its deeper and more profound meaning in the fertility and creativity of the human spirit.

Although many of the Gnostic scriptures abound in agricultural allegories, particularly in the Gospel of Philip, Gnostics are not so much concerned with the outer and ongoing cycles of death and renewal in nature but with the inner resurrection of the human spirit, the liberation and rising up of that immortal spark of the divine light within us. However, this inner resurrection is not entirely restricted to the human sphere; like the Buddhists, with their compassion for all forms of sentient life, we, as Gnostics, also look to the liberation and gathering of the sparks of light among all sentient beings, whatever their place on the spiral of manifest life. Yet before we can assist in the liberation of other forms of life, we must ourselves seek liberation and the resurrection while in this flesh. As the Gospel of Philip states in regard to the Resurrection, “If you do not receive it while in this place, you will not receive it in the other place.” The inner resurrection is the gnosis of the immortal light-spark within us, a conscious recollection of one’s own divine heritage and immortal being.

Like the other mystery religions, such as those of Eleusis and Sais, the Gnostics had a method for achieving this inner resurrection. As in the mysteries of old, the Gnostic practice of the mysteries gave a conscious realization of one’s immortality. In the mysteries of Eleusis this realization came forth in the vision of the Goddess Kore, in Egypt the vision of the Saitic Isis. Among the Alexandrian Gnostics it accompanied a vision of Sophia and a communion with the Resurrected One.

Easter represents a mystical experience of death and resurrection, not the celebration of an historical event. Something mysterious and miraculous happened; the disciples and early Gnostic writers experienced something, and yet the actual nature of the outward and historical event is not important to the Gnostic. There has never been, even in the gospel accounts, any agreement as to exactly what happened. We must approach these themes as interior and mystical events that can have meaning and reality for us today. We must ourselves experience this mystical death and resurrection as an interior and timeless reality. The Acts of St John record the mystical words of Jesus, “Understand me then as the slaying of a Word, wound of a Word, hanging of a Word, suffering of a Word, fastening of a Word, death of a Word, resurrection of a Word, and defining this Word, I mean every man!”

We do not celebrate the death and miraculous animation of the physical body of one man in history but our own apotheosis and resurrection as a reality in this life. Belief in an historical event is not going to change anything in us. The mysteries of Gnosis are not of this world; they are in the world but not of the world. This is nowhere more true than in the mystery of the Resurrection.

The Gnostics and disciples experienced not a dead Jesus but a Living Jesus, a spiritual not a physical being. The gospel accounts give ample evidence that the resurrected body was not the same as the physical body. In the Gospel of Philip we read, “The Lord rose from the dead. He became as he used to be, but now his body was perfect. He did indeed possess flesh, but this is true flesh. Our flesh is not true, but we possess only an image of the true.” The canonical gospels indicate that the resurrected Jesus was not recognized as the physical resemblance he bore during his incarnation. In the Gospel of St John Mary Magdalen does not recognize him until he speaks her name. In the Gospel of St Luke the father of James and Jude and another disciple do not recognize Jesus until he breaks bread with them.

We are dealing here with an interior experience of a transcendent reality. The resurrection story from the Gospel of St Matthew describes two angels at the open tomb. The presence of angels indicates that the teller of the story is recounting a visionary experience, an experience of an alternative reality. The angels say to the women at the tomb, “Why seek ye the living among the dead. He is not here; He has risen, as He said.” The words of the angels suggest that the Living Jesus is not in an history that is dead and gone. If we look for the resurrection in an historical event we are still seeking the living among the dead.

The Jewish mystical writings of the Zohar describe the resurrection as a spiritual phenomena, the resurrection of bodies of light nourished by the milk of the Holy Spirit.

“The complete resurrection will begin in Galilee. The resurrection of bodies will be as the uprising of flowers. There will be no more need of eating and drinking, for we shall all be nourished by the Glory of the Shekinah.”

The Gnostic resurrection is something that can happen while one is in this world. In the Egyptian mysteries Horus, as the initiate into the mysteries, describes the resurrection as being filled with light: “My whole body is filled with light; there is no part of me that is not a god; I am divine in every part.”

St Paul sums up the inner resurrection in this portion of his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

“But some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, and thou sowest not that body that shall be, but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

At Easter our life and our perception of the world is given the opportunity to change. All things are made new. We arise from a world of periodical death and decay into a timeless and immortal realm of spirit. The permanent and indelible effect of the inner resurrection is that it forever delivers the human consciousness from the fear of bodily death. When you see your soul with your own eyes, when you know who you are and from whence you have come, when you see your star shining immortal in the heavens, then death is surely swallowed up in victory, and we can say with all the Gnostics and knowers of the truth before us, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.