Through our brief contemplation of the name Yeshua and the name Yahweh, we have come into contact with "esoteric knowledge'' or gnosis, which would be called "outer knowledge" among Gnostics. If a - -r-son were to meditate upon the teachings given, look deeper into the names of Yeshua and Yahweh and have a direct and personal spiritual experience of the mystery symbolized by these names, he or she would acquire what Gnostics call inner knowledge. Outer knowledge and inner knowledge among Gnostics is esoteric in the sense that it is not common knowledge among the masses of humanity, and only a relative few are in possession of it. In our example, few know the true meaning of the name Yeshua and the name Yahweh from which it is derived. Secret knowledge among Gnostics would mean something more—it would not only be a deeper insight into the mystery of the names, but also would be a direct and personal experience of the divine illumination or enlightenment they symbolize. It is through inner and secret knowledge as defined by Gnosticism that a truth-seeker actually becomes a Gnostic— one who knows the Spirit of truth.
The willingness to seek direct and personal experience of the truth and light is the foundation of all mystical traditions and is at the very heart of Gnosticism. Essentially, a mystic is born from the recognition that he or she is an outsider to the experience of enlightenment or God and the realization that it is possible to have direct and personal experience of divine being in whatever form it might be conceived. Thus, the mystical aspirant seeks out direct spiritual experience of truth, and as the truth and light unfolds in his or her own experience, the mystic becomes an insider. If we look closely into the Gospels that appear in the Bible, as well as into the sacred Scriptures of the Nag iammadi library, we will find that Yeshua himself spoke of "outsiders" and "insiders." and we will find hints at different levels of teachings— outer, inner, and secret.
There is a striking passage in the Gospel of St. Mark that directly spe;i's of the idea of outsiders and insiders:
When he was alone, those who were around him along \vith the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything occurs in parables; in order that 'they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"2
Here Yeshua clearly speaks of insiders and outsiders, those to whom the "secret of the kingdom of Cod" is given, and those from whom the secret knowledge is hidden. We find a very i i.nilar passage in the Gospel of St. f '.atthew also:
Then the disciples came and asked him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance,- but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.'"5
In this passage Yeshua also speaks of outsiders and insiders, and he indicates the distinction between the insider and outsider. The insider is a person who already has some degree of gnosis or direct spiritual experience of the truth and light, while the outsider lacks any real gnosis or spiritual experience of the truth, it also implies that the insider is chosen or elect, in the sense that he or she has a certain degree of spiritual maturity and soul-evolution which others do not have.
The Gospel of St. Mark, perhaps more than any other, makes it clear that the status of an insider is based on spiritual experience that gives inner or secret knowledge. Frequently throughout the Gospel, when healing has been performed or a mystery is rev.aled, Yeshua in posts a solemn charge of silence and secrecy on his disciples, those who have been healed, and even upon demons he casts out. Because of this, the Gospel of St. Mark is often called the Gospel of "secret epiphanies" and is said to bear a strong Gnostic quality, because an inner and secret knowledge is continually being implied.
The idea of esoteric knowledge was not isolated to Yeshua and his circle, however, but was common in the rabbinical Judaic tradition of
the tirr ■. Jewish rabbis were empowered to openly sp :ak '.cachings on the Scriptures, but certain "secret teachings' were forbidden to be spoken in pi t>lic. Esoteric teachings on Genesis, the mysteries of creation Ezekiel's vision of the merkavah,4 and mysteries of prophecy were not allowed to be communicated except under special conditions and in private. In the Mishnah Hadigalr it is written, "It is forbidden to discourse ... on the Creation of the World in the presence of two, and on the Merkavah in the presence of one, unless he is wise and able to understand of himself.1'
According to masters of Christian Gnosticism, these mystical teachings on creation and merkavah are the "secrets of the kingdom of God" that Yeshua entrusted to the "insiders" who were his disciples, but in the context of the supreme mysteries of the Messiah—the One anointed with the supernal light of God. We get a hint of this from the writings oi St. Paul. The basis of merkavah mysticism is teachings on the attainment of prophetic consciousness and heavenly visions. St. Paul writes of such an experience in 2 Corinthians: "I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven'—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know,- God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body 1 do not know,-God knows—was caught up into paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat."'
Elsewhere St. Paul writes: "Yet among the mature.we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory "s
Through c assages like these we see that not only Yeshua but later the apost es also make a distinction between the outsider and insider, the
4. Literally throne-chariot
5. Mishnah Hagigah 2 1
i>. Which is called Sheiiakim in Kabbalnh. meaning Clouds of grace" or
"Sky-like" 7 2 Corinthians 12:2—4
profane' and the initiate, and that outer, inner, and secret teachings existed. Thanks to St. Paul's brief comment regarding his own merkavah experience, we even have a hint as to the nature of the inner and secret teachings, at least in part. In teachings on the merkavah, seven heavens are mentioned, and St. Paul speaks of his experience of the third Ik :ven, noting thn.t experiences of higher states of consciousness are po^>i:;Ie, which alludes to various gradations of consciousness and gnosis even among insiders or initiates. Thus, while there are outsiders and insiders—the profane and initiates—among initiates there are various grades corresponding to outer, inner, and secret levels of esoteric teachings. This is reflected in the canonized Gospels, for example, in the Transfiguration, when Yeshua only took a couple of his disciples up the mountain to experience the revelation of the light-presence, or when Yeslvia first appears to St. Mary Magdalene alone as the Risen Christ.
In the Gospel of St. Thomas from the Nag Hammadi, which :tself claims to represent "secret sayings" of the teacher, we find a: t cel-lent example:
Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell me who I am like." Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a righteous angel." Matthew said to him, "You are iike a wise philosopher." Thomas said to him, "Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying who you are like." Jesus said, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out." And he took him and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me,- a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up."'0
9. Literally, "the uninitiated"
10 G^ipel of St. Thomas, saying I 3
Here, Thomas is clearly given secret teachings in private by Yeshua that other disciples were not privy to, and it is directly said that Thomas not allowed to repeat these special teachings even to others among Yeshua's disciples. Thus, while all disciples received inner teachings that were not given to outsiders, there was also a distinction made between outer inner, and secret teachings within the circle of disciples itself, so that there were inner and secret teachings which were only given to a select few among the disciples of Yeshua. The way in which Thomas was chosen suggests that he had a more direct experience of the Chris-tos and a greater spiritual maturity, and it was on account of this that he was selected. Essentially, the connotation is that Thomas was nearer to the indwelling Christ in himself and therefore would be able to hear and understand deeper levels of the teachings. Always, it is a question of what a given person will be able to look and see for him- or herself, and what a person can hear and understand in the context of his or her own experience.
You will recall in the last chapter, in our description of original Christianity, that in the first three hundred years of the Yeshua movement there were many and diverse views and teachings of what Yeshua said and did. When we examine the Scriptures and source works closely, we find that this was true in the circle of Yeshua's immediate disciples, as well. Yeshua taught and initiated each disciple according to his or her own capacity, and what he taught any gK-en disciple was based upon the degree to which he or she was able to enter into the experience of Christ consciousness and the Spirit of truth. Thus, there was a diversity of teachings—outer, inner, and secret—among the original disciples of Yeshua, and to some of his disciples he imparted special teachings of esoteric wisdom. Christian Gnosticism is essentially founded upon these inner and secret teachings—hence the gnosis <v' >ter Yeshua imparted to his clo^ . iisciples
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