Friday, March 30, 2007

The Fragility Of Memory

I wrote the following in my personal journal, but I felt I should share it here, as the subject matter is important:

It's been a good year or two since I watched the movie Memento, but I bought it recently and watched it again tonight. Without a doubt, it's one of the best movies made - a slow film (i.e. no real action), but such an intriguing film, so well-crafted and acted, and it leaves you with lots to think about.

The idea of having no short-term memory is terrifying. Think about it - you'd never know who you are, and you'd never be able to create a new life for yourself, because you simply wouldn't remember it. In esoteric terms, this is why so many people fear Unity with God, because they fear losing their identity, their self, their essence, their being, to this amalgamation of Spirit - losing "Me" to "the All".

As human beings, identity is such an intrinsic and important subject for us, and it is one of the key things you'll find in Gnostic teaching: Who are we? Do we even know who we really are? What if this is just a dream, a fabrication of someone else's mind, of our own mind, a new life we just created because we cannot truly remember the one we had before? If we think about it in terms of reincarnation, of being stuck in the cycle of samsara, these questions are actually more valid than we might care to admit. Short-term memory in the case of a single human life might be something like 5 or 30 minutes - but what is short-term memory in the case of the life of the soul? How many lives has a soul lived? Would 100 years of one life even make up 5 minutes of the 24 hours of the soul? Is this really just part of the equation, one little number in a galaxy of numbers? We get so caught up in our existence here and now that we fail to remember who we were before, who we will be in the tomorrow of our soul. This might make some people wonder: What's the point? Is it really worth it?

But let's face it, it's a safety valve, like all types of memory disorders. If I fail to remember my childhood, part of that is because it's safer for my consciousness to survive without those memories. If I have a severe accident and trauma (like the main character in Memento), I lose my memory so I can survive and live a life not plagued by the memories of events I simply cannot take. And if I die and am reborn in a new body, I lose the memory of my old life because the human mind (in its undeveloped and untapped form) simply cannot take the concept of multiple lives - it starts to mix it all up, remembering people here and now who actually lived several hundred years ago. Losing those memories is a safety valve, to help us cope with the sheer volume of information that the soul can process (in its infinite and transcendent form), but the human mind cannot.

One of the things that Plato teaches (and Philip K. Dick, the Gnostic science-fiction writer, firmly latches onto) is the concept of anamnesis: remembrance, or the removal of amnesis. Effectively, we know everything - we simply have to remember it. And it makes sense. We have this Divine Spark in us, part of the True Source and Origin of All, and this is accessed through our Gnosis of ourselves (Gnothi Seauton - "Know Thyself"), because when we come to know ourself, our True Self, we begin to remember - we begin to awake from the belief that this is all there is, that this is the extent of life, that we merely exist as ecological beings as part of some coincidence of nature. And I know those beliefs aren't true, because I remember more than that, and what I do remember is liberating.

But what is it like to suddenly remember things that you never knew before, things you have forgotten? In many cases, it is strongly advised that past life regression not be attempted, as it opens a new "can of worms" that most of us just simply would not be able to deal with. I mean, let's face it, if you found out you were a murderer in one life, chances are that it will affect you in some negative way, depending on your emotional and spiritual maturity. On the spiritual ladder, many of us do begin to remember our past lives, some more than others. Often times they have no real use to us - I can waste 5 minutes of my current life, and my soul can waste an entire life of its eternal existence. Other lives are more important. Some of them hold missing keys. But these lives are really not what matters - it's your eternal life, the one that puts all the pieces together, that ultimate and transcendent self, that is the final gatekeeper, the one who is the key and is the lock and is the door you must past through - to find You.

But again, I have to ask: what is it like to suddenly remember things you forgot? I suppose it depends on the memory. Sometimes I'll remember the name of a film or a song or something simple like that, and it will just all of a sudden "ring a bell", whereas I couldn't remember it before. I'm sure many of you are familiar with that feeling when you're trying to get the name of a song (or similar), and it's at the tip of your tongue (or, more correctly, at the edge of your mind), seemingly toying with you, dangling just out of reach, an elusive phantom. And then there are other things, things you've buried, things that are only unearthed when something triggers it. You might have had an accident in a car, so your muscle memory kicks in when you come near a car, showering you with fear and anxiety. And what if you got in? Depending on how strong your mental barriers are, being in the car might trigger the memory into surfacing. Or it might not.

Many people live without their memories, or, at least, live without memories that are often considered important - such as childhood. In truth, we can say that everyone lives without their memories - that everyone thinks they're living when they're really just in a cosmic coma, waiting for the weather to change. And it will change.

I guess part of the reason of this topic is that I am beginning (well, this is a process that has been happening over a period of many months) to remember some things I haven't remembered before - both in a physical and spiritual sense. Without a doubt, this is not a thing to be considered lightly, and I would advise caution if someone were considering regression of lost memories or unremembered past lives - even remembering that there is more to this world than meets the eye can be a terrifying experience ("ignorance is bliss"), but ultimately it's a door that many of us will have to unlock.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gospel Of Judas Version 2?

Okay, so I guess the title of this post is vague and a little misleading. However, I'll try to explain:

Today I found out there was to be a topic about the Gospel of Judas on the main chat show here tonight called "The Late Late Show" (which has been running for around half a century), so I decided to watch the show. When it came to it, however, I found out rather quickly that they were not referring to the recently revealed Gnostic text of the same name (dating from before 180 CE, if I remember my dates correctly), but a newly written gospel (a paraphrase of what a gospel is, according to one of the guests [and authors of this new work], Fr. Francis J. Maloney, is: the story of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, told as "good news" [from the Old English "god-spell"]), written by Jeffrey Archer with the scholarly backing of the aforementioned priest (who is, supposedly, one of the most respected biblical scholars of this time).

So, a new Gospel of Judas. Since many people have the inaccurate assessment of the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as being the "word of god" (like the rest of the Bible), rather than that of us mere mortals, this new text probably won't be received as much more than an interesting novel or scholarly work (depending on whether you're concentrating on Archer's storytelling or Maloney's biblical scholarship). That said, however, it is interesting to note that since it takes the story of Jesus from Judas' point of view (without any reference to the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, which is obviously because of the Catholic Church's disapproval of it), it portrays him in a much more positive light than we are used to (bar the Gnostic text which totally inverted our common-held beliefs about this "betrayer"), removing elements like his suicide and also what the two guests described as the "nature miracles" of Jesus (walking on water, parting of the waves, turning water to wine, etc.), which they found they be untrue, and merely elements of storytelling that were used to "drive home" the point that Jesus is the continuation of the Divine from the Old Testament, "proving" this by giving these miraculous signs that the God of Israel also gave (same goes for the story of Lazarus).

So, for the average Christian, that's quite a blow to them. Many of these epic moments didn't happen? For the average Gnostic, it's old news, and doesn't go nearly as far as what the Gnostic Gospel of Judas suggests (I'm a little annoyed that they called it the same name, as this can lead to a lot of confusion, and, let's face it, the Gnostic one deserves to keep its title, being older by nearly two thousand years). In some ways, I feel this might be an attempt to "meet halfway", as it were, with the Gnostic portrayal, in order to discredit what might be seen as a more "fanciful" view with a much more toned-down version that allows Judas to be exonerated enough to pacify anyone who might want to "look deeper" into the alternate views to the Canon. Indeed, while the Pope has not formally approved of the text, Archbishop Tutu described it as "riveting and plausible", which is quite high words from a high and powerful man in the church, which lends to the view that it has received a certain amount of "Church backing", as it were.

Speaking of the show itself, at one stage a journalist in the audience (who was invited on to give an alternate view to that of Archer and Maloney) dismissed it as the "Gospel of Jeffrey, not the Gospel of Judas", that it is as a "gimmick" with no sound "biblical erudition", saying the authors were trying to suggest it had Church approval, and said something along the lines of "we all know who is to benefit from this". Maloney explained that the initial funds raised from the sale of the book would go towards building a secondary school in a poor country (the name of which currently evades me), and anything earned after that is free to go to Archer if he so wishes (if, indeed, anything more is raised, though I would hazard a guess it will earn more than the required amount for the school). However, the journalist then went on to dismiss the work as "boring" and gave a personal attack to Archer himself, saying he is a "second-rate author" (which ruined his argument for me, as personal attacks tend to do), which may or may not be true (I have not read Archer's work). What is interesting, however, is Archer's response to this. He quickly got fired up, raising his voice and assuming aggressive posture (and it looked as though Maloney did not approve of Archer's angry response), culminating with him coming back (on several occasions) to the dismissal of him as a second-rate author (even though he initially said he does not respond to personal attacks), to say something along the lines of: tell that to the two point something million people who have bought my books. This defensive attitude ruined his own position in the show tonight, I feel, just as the personal attack did for the position of the journalist (I mean, come on, journalists are paid for this sort of thing - surely he had to expect some amount of criticism about his work, especially work of this nature). Another element which irritated me about Archer was his behaviour at the end of the discussion, where he whispered something to Maloney while Pat Kenny (the host) was giving the final words about the piece, culminating in him shaking hands with Maloney rather than, as I felt it should have been, Pat Kenny himself (afterall, Archer and Maloney came on the show together).

I haven't read the text in question yet myself, though I am intrigued by it (particularly in context of comparing it to the Gnostic Gospel of Judas [see how I've been forced to "rename" it, as if it were a heretical byproduct of this "orthodox" Gospel of Judas?]). You can find it here:

Gospel According To Judas

P.S. I just noted that this book does indeed have a different (albeit slightly) name than the "Gospel of Judas" (the Gnostic one), but it was constantly referred to as the "Gospel of Judas" throughout the show, and will undoubtedly lead to a certain amount of confusion regarding these two texts.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Odes of Solomon - 4

Ode 4

1. No man can pervert Your holy place, O my God; nor can he change it, and put it in another place.
2. Because he has no power over it; for Your sanctuary You designed before You made special places.
3. The ancient one shall not be perverted by those which are inferior to it. You have given Your heart, O Lord, to Your believers.
4. Never will You be idle, nor will You be without fruits;
5. For one hour of Your faith is more excellent than all days and years.
6. For who shall put on Your grace and be rejected?
7. Because Your seal is known; and Your creatures are known to it.
8. And Your hosts possess it, and the elect archangels are clothed with it.
9. You have given to us Your fellowship, not that You were in need of us, but that we are always in need of You.
10. Shower upon us Your gentle rain, and open Your bountiful springs which abundantly supply us with milk and honey.
11. For there is no regret with You; that You should regret anything which You have promised;
12. Since the result was manifest to You.
13. For that which You gave, You gave freely, so that no longer will You draw back and take them again.
14. For all was manifest to You as God, and was set in order from the beginning before You.
15. And You, O Lord, have made all.

This Ode seems to discuss the location or "place" of God as He fits into the Universe. However, I think the first line is suggestive of the reality that God is immovable (He is the "Prime Mover"), and likewise is He incorruptible (these "negative descriptions" [i.e. in-, im-, un-, etc.] are typical of the Gnostic view of God the Father, showing the inability to describe what God is, but helping to understand God through describing what He is not). This immovable nature of God lies partly in the fact that He is everywhere - the Universe lies within Him, and yet He lies above the Universe. This is called panentheism, being immanent and transcendent simultaneously, and can be seen in many Gnostic texts. So God's place cannot be changed, for God simply is everywhere, and simply is ("I Am", Eheieh, etc.).

The "special places" of line two may refer to the Sephiroth, which are the spheres of the manifest. God the Father, in his truest guise, lies beyond this manifest world, beyond the Three Negative Veils (I find these "negative" veils tie in quite well with the "negative descriptions" typical of the Gnostic view of the Father), which would be His "Sanctuary" that He designed before the making of the "special places" (or Sephiroth). Man, being manifest, has some power over the Sephiroth but not over this "Sanctuary" beyond them, for he is (in a sense, described in the next line) "inferior" to the Father (only in so far as he is man and not the Divine Man which he also latently is).

Verse three strongly suggests this "inferiority", and then goes on to state that God has given His "Heart" to his followers ("believers"), which, if we look at it Qabalistically, would relate to Tiphareth, which is none other than Christ Himself, who, indeed, God gave to His people.

God will not be "idle", for He is the "Prime Mover", the Great Giver of Life (in maternal form), and idleness is Death. God, being the Fountain that all springs from, will not "be without fruits", both in the sense of the life that all partake from (or "eat" of) and in the sense of the Sephiroth being the "fruits" on the Tree of Life, which sprang forth from that great Fountain that never rests (for God is Potential).

The next few lines give a definite feeling of "clothing", and I would continue the idea of the Fountain of Light flowing down and over a person, so that they are immersed and now wear a garment of Light. This is the Grace ("Charis") of God offered to the Faithful (or, in in the Gnostic school, to Those Who Know, or have Knowledge). One hour of this "clothing of grace" is more excellent than a lifetime without, for it is the true guise of Man, and when you embrace Truth, there is no Time (Time is a Cage of Illusion), and those who are thus adorned cannot be rejected, for it is their True Form - "Do what thou wilt ... and no other shall say nay".

I see the "seal" as being Gnosis ("Your seal is known" hiding a blatant truth). This is the only real mark of importance - the rest is designed to attain, stimulate, or elongate the experience of Gnosis.

The next few lines suggest the fellowship of Man and God, and then go on to continue the idea of God being a Fountain, showering his children with "milk and honey" (a familiar phrase used in similar texts, I believe, though I cannot state examples offhand... "milk and honey", the nectar of the Gods).

There is no "regret" with God. Even though the Cosmos ("the System") has become corrupted to act as a cage for God's children (by that potent force, the Demiurge, and all who answer to him - likewise, think of the breaking of the vessels of the Sephiroth in Qabalistic lore), God does not regret His creation. Why? Because ultimately all must move in accordance with His will. Right here and now God penetrates all and works in subtle ways to bend things to His will (think "everything happens for a reason"). "The result was manifest" to God, for it was God who manifested it.

The giving forth, and giving freely, suggests to me the outpouring of Light from Kether (and above) to the Sephiroth, and the idea of God not drawing back or taking the Light from there suggests to me that God will not remove Light from this world, that we might all stray in Darkness, but will let the Light that He has shone forth illuminate all, that all might walk in the Dawn.

The next line is unusual in that it states that "all was manifest to You as God, and was set in order from the beginning before You". It is possible we could look at "God" there being the Creator God (or Demiurge in a less negative light), and that all was "set in order from the beginning" before this "God" by what is actually the True God, or the Father, who is much more difficult to comprehend and describe (with the term "God" being useful, but somewhat inaccurate). This ties in quite well with how we can look at Kether as "God" and yet know that there is more beyond it.