The Gospel of Truth
The Gospel of Truth is the crowning jewel of Gnostic scriptures, serving a similar position and function as the book of Romans in the Holy Bible. Gnostic theology and the path of salvation according to that doctrine is laid open like a treasure map for the second century reader, and all seekers who have come after. The wisdom found in the text influenced later Gnostic writing. So rich, deep, and powerful are the spiritual ideas presented in this gospel that they influenced Carl G. Jung’s concepts of archetypes in modern psychology, thus proving its continuing relevance over a span of eighteen-hundred years. The Gospel of Truth is one of the Gnostic found in the Nag Hammadi codices. There were thirteen manuscripts within the discovered collection. Twelve of them made their way into the Coptic Museum in Cairo and were declared national treasures. It exists in two Coptic translations, a Subakhmimic (a late dialect of Coptic standing between Sahidic and Akhmimic) rendition surviving almost in full in the first codex (the "Jung Codex") and a Sahidic (a Coptic dialect of southern Egypt) in fragments in the twelfth manuscript. A little-known fact is the great father of modern psychology, Carl G. Jung, had great interest in Gnosticism, and went so far as to purchase an ancient codex. Gilles Quispel is a distinguished professor of Early Christianity who was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1916. As a young man he obtained a doctorate in literature and the humanities and went on to research and teach about the early Gnostics. He describes his first meeting with Jung in 1944 in Ascona, Switzerland and how he gained the help of Jung and C.A. Meier to retrieve a valuable Gnostic text from the black market. This text had been part of a larger cache of ancient documents found in 1945 buried in a jar in Egypt near Nag Hammadi. Scholars consider these documents extremely valuable as the texts were from around the first century C.E. and contained unknown sayings of Jesus including a book titled, “The Gospel of Truth”. The lost text was retrieved and named the Jung Codex. It may be of interest to note the connection between the ancient Gnostics and modern psychology. Stephan A. Hoeller wrote, in his article, “C. G. Jung and the Alchemical Renewal,” the following: Jung's "first love" among esoteric systems was Gnosticism. From the earliest days of his scientific career until the time of his death, his dedication to the subject of Gnosticism was relentless. As early as August, 1912, Jung intimated in a letter to Freud that he had an intuition that the essentially feminine-toned archaic wisdom of the Gnostics, symbolically called Sophia, was destined to re-enter modern Western culture by way of depth-psychology. Subsequently, he stated to Barbara Hannah that when he discovered the writings of the ancient Gnostics, "I felt as if I had at last found a circle of friends who understood me." The circle of ancient friends was a fragile one, however. Very little reliable, first-hand information was available to Jung within which he could have found the world and spirit of such past Gnostic luminaries as Valentinus, Basilides, and others. The fragmentary, and possibly mendacious, accounts of Gnostic teachings and practices appearing in the works of such heresy-hunting church fathers as Irenaeus and Hippolytus were a far cry from the wealth of archetypal lore available to us today in the Nag Hammadi collection. Of primary sources, the remarkable Pistis Sophia was one of very few available to Jung in translation, and his appreciation of this work was so great that he made a special effort to seek out the translator, the then aged and impecunious George R. S. Mead, in London to convey to him his great gratitude. Jung continued to explore Gnostic lore with great diligence, and his own personal matrix of inner experience became so affinitized to Gnostic imagery that he wrote the only published document of his great transformational crisis, The Seven Sermons to the Dead, using purely Gnostic terminology and mythologems of the system of Basilides. Throughout all of his devoted study, Jung was disturbed by one principal difficulty: The ancient Gnostic myths and traditions were some seventeen or eighteen hundred years old, and no living link seemed to exist that might join them to Jung's own time. (There is some minimal and obscure evidence indicating that Jung was aware of a few small and secretive Gnostic groups in France and Germany, but their role in constituting such a link did not seem firmly enough established.) As far as Jung could discern, the tradition that might have connected the Gnostics with the present seemed to have been broken. However, his intuition (later justified by painstaking research) disclosed to him that the chief link connecting later ages with the Gnostics was in fact none other than alchemy. While his primary interest at this time was Gnosticism, he was already aware of the relevance of alchemy to his concerns. Referring to his intense inner experiences occurring between 1912 and 1919 he wrote: “First I had to find evidence for the historical prefiguration of my own inner experiences. That is to say, I had to ask myself, "Where have my particular premises already occurred in history?" If I had not succeeded in finding such evidence, I would never have been able to substantiate my ideas. Therefore, my encounter with alchemy was decisive for me, as it provided me with the historical basis which I hitherto lacked.” In 1926 Jung had a remarkable dream. He felt himself transported back into the seventeenth century, and saw himself as an alchemist, engaged in the opus, or great work of alchemy. Prior to this time, Jung, along with other psychoanalysts, was intrigued and taken aback by the tragic fate of Herbert Silberer, a disciple of Freud, who in 1914 published a work dealing largely with the psychoanalytic implications of alchemy. Silberer, who upon proudly presenting his book to his master Freud, was coldly rebuked by him, became despondent and ended his life by suicide, thus becoming what might be called the first martyr to the cause of a psychological view of alchemy. Now it all came together, as it were. The Gnostic Sophia was about to begin her triumphal return to the arena of modern thought, and the psychological link connecting her and her modern devotees would be the long despised, but about to be rehabilitated, symbolic discipline of alchemy. The recognition had come. Heralded by a dream, the role of alchemy as the link connecting ancient Gnosticism with modern psychology, as well as Jung's role in reviving this link, became apparent. As Jung was to recollect later: “[Alchemy] represented the historical link with Gnosticism, and . . . a continuity therefore existed between past and present. Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed the bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other (hand) into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious.” This does not imply that Jung believed one could turn lead into gold, nor did he believe or pursue any other legendary trick of alchemy. To Jung, alchemy seemed to represent the ability to combine the lesser interior elements to produce the gold of the spirit. According to Marsha West, Carl Jung has been called the “Father of the re-birth of Gnosticism also called Neo-Gnosticism. Dr. Satinover comments, "One of the most powerful modern forms of Gnosticism is without question Jungian psychology, both within or without the Church.” End quote. Edward Moore wrote, “Carl Jung, drawing upon Gnostic mythical schemas, identified the objectively oriented consciousness with the material or “fleshly” part of humankind—that is, with the part of the human being that is, according to the Gnostics, bound up in the cosmic cycle of generation and decay, and subject to the bonds of fate and time (cf. Apocryphon of John [Codex II] 28:30). The human being who identifies him/herself with the objectively existing world comes to construct a personality, a sense of self, that is, at base, fully dependent upon the ever-changing structures of temporal existence. The resulting lack of any sense of permanence, of autonomy, leads such an individual to experience anxieties of all kinds, and eventually to shun the mysterious and collectively meaningful patterns of human existence in favor of a private and stifling subjective context, in the confines of which life plays itself out in the absence of any reference to a greater plan or scheme. Hopelessness, atheism, and despair, are the results of such an existence. This is not the natural end of the human being, though; for, according to Jung (and the Gnostics) the temporally constructed self is not the true self. The true self is the supreme consciousness existing and persisting beyond all space and time. Jung calls this the pure consciousness or Self, in contradistinction to the “ego consciousness” which is the temporally constructed and maintained form of a discrete existent (cf. C.G. Jung, “Gnostic Symbols of the Self,” in The Gnostic Jung 1992, pp. 55-92). This latter form of “worldly” consciousness the Gnostics identified with soul (psukhê), while the pure or true Self they identified with spirit (pneuma)—that is, mind relieved of its temporal contacts and context. This distinction had an important career (role) in Gnostic thought, and was adopted by St. Paul, most notably in his doctrine of the spiritual resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:44). The psychological or empirical basis of this view, which soon turns into a metaphysical or onto-theological attitude, is the recognized inability of the human mind to achieve its grandest designs while remaining subject to the rigid law and order of a disinterested and aloof cosmos. The spirit-soul distinction (which of course translates into, or perhaps presupposes, the more fundamental mind-body distinction) marks the beginning of a transcendentalist and soteriological attitude toward the cosmos and temporal existence in general.” End Quote (Author’s Note: onto-theological is the theology of being. The term was used by Kant. Kant had distinguished two general types of theology: that which comes from reason and that which comes from revelation. Within the category of reasoned theology, he distinguished two further types, "natural theology" and "transcendental theology". Within natural theology, Kant differentiated between "physico-theology" and an ethical or moral theology. Transcendental theology or reasoned-based theology, he divided into ontotheology and cosmotheology.) In August 1957, Jung gave a series of filmed interviews for the University of Houston. The following is part of the transcript of the fourth interview with Dr. Richard I. Evans: “I got more and more respectful of archetypes, and now, by Jove, that thing should be taken into account. That is an enormous factor, very important for our further development and for our well-being. It was, of course, difficult to know where to begin, because it is such an enormously extended field. So the next question I asked myself was, “Now where in the world has anybody been busy with that problem?” And I found nobody had, except a peculiar spiritual movement that went together with the beginnings of Christianity, namely Gnosticism. That was the first thing, actually, that I saw, that the Gnostics were concerned with the problem of archetypes. They made a peculiar philosophy of it, as everybody makes a peculiar philosophy of it when he comes across it naïvely and doesn’t know that the archetypes are structural elements of the unconscious psyche.” The study of Gnosticism by Jung contributed enormously to the field of modern psychology. Here, in the Gospel of Truth, we have a central and clarion work of Gnosticism. Here, in this small work, we have a chance to look into the heart of Gnosticism, and into our own hearts, as we explore this ancient and mystical work. The Gospel of Truth is not a gospel at all, but a religious discourse, which may wax poetic in places. A gospel is usually seen as a narrative account of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection. The orthodox view of the gospel, or good news, is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus and how his death redeems the believer from sin and hell. In the common view of the gospel or good news, it is the sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect and sinless man on our behalf, that re-establishes our right-standing with God. The Gospel of Truth is a Gnostic text and according to the standard Gnostic belief, it is not the death of Jesus that frees us. It is the knowledge he brought with him from the realm of Fullness, also called the Pleroma. The Gospel of Truth is written in an elegant, Hellenistic style in which the poetry of parallel statements is used to drive home the meaning of the writer’s ideas. The writing is thought to cite or allude to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and John, as well as 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews, 1 John, the Book of Revelation, John's Gospel, the Gospel of Thomas Chapters 22 and 28). In the text, Error is personified and is seen as a Satan like entity. This entity or Power created a fog, such as a mental or spiritual fog, which is ignorance, which keeps us from the truth of the real God. (Author’s Note: 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.) Jesus was sent down by God to remove this ignorance. But Error grew angry at this, and nailed Jesus to a cross. The text also proceeds to describe ignorance as a nightmare and how it is knowledge of the true Father that grants salvation, which constitutes eternal rest. (Author’s note: Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.) The world is dark and Jesus is the light that illuminates the path to the Father. In the poetic styling of the gospel, God brings 'fullness' for the 'deficient' and 'inexpressible joy' and the peace that passes all understanding, as discussed in the canonical gospels. Even though the awakened souls still live on earth, they find heavenly joy and rest. (Author’s Note: Ephesians 1:18-19 King James Version (KJV) The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power… John 17:14-17 King James Version (KJV) I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.) The theology described above is further taught in the parable of the good shepherd. It describes feeding the spiritually hungry and giving rest to those weary of the material world. Salvation is described as being anointed and becoming perfect or full, lacking nothing and having no deficiency. The text refers to those in ignorance as empty or deficient. The enlightened or saved ones are anointed and they are full jars. Those jars that are empty, the Father fills. The Father sent the son and the son is the image of the Father. This is the meaning of the phrase, “the name of the Father is the Son”. That is to say that the Son is the Logos of the Father (Author’s Note: 1 John 1-2 King James Version (KJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us…) The Gospel of Truth is a Gnostic explanation, elucidating the sum of various other Gnostic gospels that went before. It is one of the earlier writings on the subject of Gnosticism but must have occurred after several of the earliest Gospels were penned and circulated. This puts the dating of the Gospel of Truth around the time of Valentinus, or somewhere around 140-180 C.E. Valentinus may have written this work. To say the least, his influence can be seen in the text. Valentinus is considered by some to be the father of the Christian Gnostic faith. He first taught at Alexandria and then in Rome. He established the largest Gnostic movement around A.D. 160. This movement was founded on an elaborate mythology and a system of sexual duality of male and female interplay, both in its deities and its savior. Tertullian stated that between 135 A.D. and 160 A.D. Valentinus, a prominent Gnostic, had great influence in the Christian church. Valentinus ascended in church hierarchy and became a candidate for the office of bishop of Rome, the office that quickly evolved into that of Pope. He lost the election by a narrow margin. Even though Valentinus was outspoken about his Gnostic slant on Christianity, he was a respected member of the Christian community until his death and was probably a practicing bishop in a church of lesser status than the one in Rome. The main platform of Gnosticism was the ability of its followers to transcend the material world through the possession of privileged and directly imparted knowledge. Following this doctrine, Valentinus claimed to have been instructed by a direct disciple of one of Jesus' apostles, a man by the name of Theodas. G.R.S. Mead considered Valentinus to be the father of modern Gnosticism. His vision of the faith is summarized by G.R.S. Mead in the book “Fragments of a Faith Forgotten.” “The Gnosis in his hands is trying to embrace everything, even the most dogmatic formulation of the traditions of the Master. The great popular movement and its incomprehensibilities were recognized by Valentinus as an integral part of the mighty outpouring; he labored to weave all together, external and internal, into one piece, devoted his life to the task, and doubtless only at his death perceived that for that age he was attempting the impossible. None but the very few could ever appreciate the ideal of the man, much less understand it. “(Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, p. 297) The mainline or orthodox Christian church had sought to eliminate Gnosticism and destroy all Gnostic documents. There were times in early church history that Gnostics were hunted down and killed for heresy, but these texts were saved and sealed by Gnostics as they attempted to preserve some of their most holy books, and thus they came to us with some of the texts still intact. The translation of the Nag Hammadi library was completed in the 1970's and the information contained in the cache’ would turn Christianity on its head by revealing an unknown history of Christianity and a fight for control of doctrine and the faith. Among the Gnostic works are scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and many others. Gnosticism is an undeniable part of the history of Christianity. By both influence and opposition, it has helped shape what we now know as the Christian faith. The text of the Gospel of Truth was first discovered in the last part of the month of December in 1945. It was found among 52 other Gnostic Christian texts contained in 13 codices or scrolls. The discovery was made by two peasant Egyptian brothers as they dug for fertilizer near their home. While digging in the rich soil around the Jabal al-Ṭārif caves near present-day Hamra Dom in Upper Egypt, they found several papyri in a large earthenware vessel. The find of these codices came to be known as the Nag Hammadi library because of their proximity to the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, which was the nearest major settlement. The brothers wanted to make money by selling the manuscripts, but when they brought some of the scrolls home their mother burned several of the manuscripts. One source indicates she burned them as kindling, while another source claims she was superstitious and worried that the writing might be dangerous. News of the discovery appeared gradually as the brothers tried to sell certain scrolls. The full significance of the new find was not immediately apparent until sometime after the initial discovery. As more of the scrolls were examined it was revealed that the find included a large number of primary Gnostic Gospels, some of which had never been seen before. In 1946, the brothers became involved in a feud, and left the manuscripts with a Coptic priest. In October of that year a codex, now called codex III, was sold to the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo. The resident Coptologist and religious historian Jean Doresse realized the significance of the artifact and published the first reference to it in 1948. With the death of Jesus placed around 33 C.E., the Christian church was still very young at the time of the writing of The Gospel of Truth. The church was attempting to fix or codify its doctrines and canon. The author of this manuscript seemed to be acquainted with the New Testament books of Paul, John, and Hebrews, and alludes to them in the text. There are also references to many of the New Testament books and no obvious citations from the Old Testament. This is likely due to the fact that Gnostic believed that the Old Testament God was a false and flawed God and the cause of the existence of pain, suffering, and disease in the world. It was the New Testament God of love and mercy that Jesus came to reveal. In Gnostic Christian theology, God revealed himself to man through his Word/Logos and his Son. These are not the same “entities” but are within the same person. Jesus, the man of flesh, was born to interface with mortal men but the true power from above is the Logos, who is the son of the All, the true God, He Who Is. This makes Jesus the perfect guide, teacher, and example for men. Unlike the belief and doctrine that became orthodox Christianity, to Gnostics it was knowledge that freed us from ignorance and thus the entrapment in the sin or illusion of this world. It was knowledge that brought about understanding and through understanding and applying this knowledge there was faith. Ignorance is sin and error. Knowledge is the good news. Jesus did not come to save us from our sins but to awaken us out of a dream state caused by living in this false world. The error of living in ignorance and the error of believing in the god of this world is our sin. Knowledge takes away this sin. Jesus brought the revelation that enables us to understand the concept of the true God, beyond this realm and our sonship in Him. Jesus came to teach us that we were not created to live in this world, but to be the sons and daughters of God. We are not of this world but simply passers by. Like Jesus himself, the awakened or enlightened ones begin to see themselves as a body, soul, spirit combined but not the same. Our bodies continue to live and function on this material realm, but our spirit reaches higher and higher. Passing out of this realm, seeking unity with the true God. "The Gospel of Truth describes three stages on the way of salvation: first, the stage of receiving divine ideas from the Logos and then applying them to purify our lower nature; second, the stage of acting as if the Logos were in charge of our lives, even though many illusions still remain in us; and third, the stage of rest, in which our lower nature is restful because our illusions are largely absent, permitting the Logos to act through us." (Lansdowne, p41) The idea that Gnosis could come from one’s own correct understanding took the “church” and its leaders out of the equation of salvation. There was no need of a priest or church to bring salvation through its teachings or baptisms. This threatened the emerging church and its hierarchy. As the orthodox or mainstream church grew and took power it would begin to hunt down and kill Gnostics. History is written by the victors. With Gnosticism declared heresy and Gnostics persecuted and killed, the church set about to eliminate all traces of the old faith. They failed. With the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices we have rediscovered the broad and rich history of Gnosticism.