Purification

A Homily for Ash Wednesday

by Bishop Steven Marshall

The significant rite of the beginning of Lent is the signing with the ashes on Ash Wednesday. The sign of the cross is traced upon the forehead with the words, “Remember Thou, O soul, that thy body is dust and unto dust it shall return.” These words signify a release from the identification of the self with the mortal and corruptible body and personality. A detachment from our conventional identification with our mortal shell can result in an altered state of consciousness where our bodies can communicate to us a spiritual reality and we can develop in actuality a more caring attitude toward it. St. Francis often referred to his mortal frame as his humble and dutiful “donkey” that bore him through this life, like the donkey that bore the blessed Virgin to Bethlehem.

Some modern psychotherapeutic practices that change the nature of our bodily awareness and consciousness may give us a key to this disidentification of our ego with bodily consciousness. In Gendlin’s practice of Focusing, the focusing of our attention on our bodily sensations as autonomous sources of psychological information stimulates spontaneous, imaginative imagery that is autonomous to our ordinary ego consciousness. In the practice of “authentic movement,” the stilling of the senses and relaxation of physical tension, we temporarily lose our usual consciousness of the body, our consciousness becomes a detached observer of involuntary yet deeply meaningful movement and expression. It is in this conscious state of freedom, where the ego personality in identification with the mortal body melts away that we may discover the incorruptible and immortal body of light.

The words, “Remember, O Soul, that thy body is dust and unto dust it shall return,” is a reminder that the body is not immortal, and that we must turn our attention to that within us which truly is immortal. Many scholars accuse Gnostics of not having any eschatology or discussion of the afterlife. The reason for this is that the Gnostic view is very different from the mainstream view. Because the Gnostic afterworlds are not described in terms that mainstream theologians understand, they miss it. The fact of the matter is that the Gnostic writings have more references to an afterlife than the mainstream Bible. For the Gnostic, the afterlife is an alternative spiritual reality of this life as well as any life beyond it. The words accompanying the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday is meant to remind us of that alternative reality.

Yet Gnostics are not escapists. Before we can experience liberation; before we can achieve the freedom and insights of Gnosis concerning our mortal existence, we must first fully experience, know and accept what it is to be in a physical body without fear, guilt or shame. Next, we must remember the freedom and joy of existence in the spiritual body before coming into this world. Only then can we recognize the Gnostic insight of physical incarnation as the limitation and prison that it is.

Existence in a body is as if we were in a penal colony with the only escape being death. However, the Gnostics found another way out—the Resurrection—a transformative increase of spiritual consciousness even while in the flesh. In fact, according to the Gospel of Philip, it must occur in this world: “If you do not receive it in this place, you will not receive it in the other.” This transformation lifts us out of the vortex of the dark, roiling, grasping energy manifest in our obsessive passions and attachments to the world. It purifies the unconscious of the needy, driven, addictive impulses of the lower self, which has its root in a pit of unconscious feelings of want and deficiency. In the Gnostic accounts of Sophia, her abortion, the demiurge, is often referred to as such a deficiency. When giving up something for Lent, we do not abstain from life’s pleasures or the physical needs of our bodies but give up an obsessive attachment that keeps us in thrall, that prevents us from becoming aware of the mysterious other, the Divine Friend, the redeeming Light-Power within us.

The Lenten Purification with the ashes represents the purifying of our connection with this higher and divine Self. To accomplish this purificiation we must first release the guilt and shame that prevents us from feeling worthy of that contact—that is, absolution. Secondly, we must cleanse ourselves of anxious and obsessive attachments to the things of this world. Like stickers on a rose bush, they draw off our spiritual, psychological and emotional energy; they prevent the rose within our hearts from budding forth and blossoming.

“My heart was pruned and its flower appeared, then grace sprang up in it.” (The Odes of Solomon)

The purification of the heart is not something we can do entirely on our own; it requires a self examination and a reaching out on our part, but also the spiritual assistance of our higher Self. The pruning of the heart is not about willful denial of our physical and emotional needs. This can only exacerbate the guilt and shame involved and is merely a reaction to, not a release from our anxious attachments and obsessions; we still remain stuck in the quicksand of that dark, roiling, grasping energy, in that deep pit of want and deficiency.

We can cleanse ourselves of these anxious attachments through self examination and through centering, invocational prayers, not through petitionary prayers for the objects of those attachments. In giving up something for Lent let us:

1) Take inventory of our anxious and obsessive attachments.

2) Pick one to give up for this season.

3) Invoke divine aid in releasing that attachment.

The purification of Lent is not about punishing self-denial, nor wallowing in guilt and shame, but revolves around self-reflection, introspection and invocation of the helpful and spiritual powers that can cleanse our channel of communication with the Divine. In this process we do not punish the body or the animal self but heal it. Our animal needs are not met by addictive behaviors; our bodies are not helped by self-punishment. According to esoteric wisdom, it is the animal soul, often suffering from internalized guilt and shame, which is our connection to the higher, divine Self. The ego, the lesser self, imposing its obsessive attachments upon the animal soul, does not have a direct connection to that higher Self.

The ego often uses the anxiety of the animal soul over the needs, traumas, or deficiencies that were not resolved in childhood, to further its autonomy and power within the psyche. It creates a false self that is emotionally invested in compensatory mechanisms and substitutes for true spiritual fulfillment and happiness. This false self of guilt, shame and anxious attachment is the source of most of our dysfunctional desires, thoughts and behaviors. The false self becomes convinced that more sex, more unconscious highs, more food, more money, more of whatever addiction we choose will fill that pit of internally felt deficiency and lack of wholeness, and the elimination of our soul’s pain. Yet all we really get are paltry substitutes for our soul’s longing. If we can discover the needs, traumas and deficiencies behind our anxious attachments, if we can go through our soul’s pain, the deception is broken; the anxious attachments can be cleared. We can discover the spiritual aspiration that is our true longing for the Divine; we find the immortal spirit within us which is our authentic Self.

The symbol of the ashes has a great deal of significance relating to that immortal fiery spirit within us. In the writings of the Kabbalah, the souls of the saints are called “Ashim,” meaning “fiery ones.” Fasting in sack cloth and ashes is an important Jewish rite of purification, and was practiced by the early Kabbalists as a means of reducing the resistance of the body to the influx of the divine light, and of releasing the human soul from the material bondage that keeps her from ascending to that supernal light. A rite of purification and fasting accompanied by empassioned prayers is common to many shamanic traditions as a preparation for shamanic initiation and the vision quest.

The Mercavah mystics of the earliest Kabbalistic schools required a purification rite with the ashes of the Red heifer in order to make their shamanic flight in the Mercavah, The chariot of God. The ashes could only be obtained from a special sacrifice of a red heifer in the Temple of Jerusalem. When the temple was destroyed and the carefully guarded ashes were used up, the Mercavah mysteries came to an end.

The Gnostic Holy Eucharist reenacts in a more spiritual form the temple sacrifice of old. The ashes of the palm branches blessed on Palm Sunday become our Ashes of the Red Heifer. The signing with the ashes on Ash Wednesday is an important part of a powerful sacramental system. These potent symbols have power in the unconscious and in themselves. In order to have a conscious awareness of this power, we must empower the rite to reveal the meaning that it has for us. The conscious awareness and meaning does not happen automatically. The sacrament does not happen somewhere out there, it happens in here, in the heart.

The signing with the ashes relates as well to the Gnostic baptism of fire described in the Gnostic Book of Jeu. In this account, Jesus builds a fire of vines and incense. From the ashes of the fire He traces the Seal of the Virgin of Light upon the foreheads of the disciples gathered around Him. “…and he sealed them on their foreheads with the seal of the Virgin of Light which would make them to be numbered within the inheritance of the Kingdom of the Light.”

This rite of purification is not a purification focused on the worldly transgression of cultural taboos but purification from darkness and ignorance. The Lenten purification is the purification that prepares us for Self-Knowledge (Gnosis). The purification with the ashes prepares us to confront the archons of our own evil impulses and frees us to ascend to the realms of light. The Gospel of Philip recounts the importance of this self-knowledge to the task of the Gnostic.

“Is it not necessary for all those who possess everything to know themselves? Some, indeed, if they do not know themselves, will not enjoy what they possess. But those who have come to know themselves will enjoy their possessions.”

Not until we know the Self as one can we overcome our addictive attachments to worldly things and truly enjoy what we possess on earth. Those who put on this light of Self-knowledge will pass by the archons while in the world and make their mystical ascent into the light. According to the Gospel of Philip:

“Not only will the archons be unable to detain the perfect ones, but they will not be able to see them, for if they see them, they will detain them. There is no other way for a person to acquire this quality except by putting on the perfect light and becoming perfect oneself. Everyone who has put this on will enter the Kingdom. This is the perfect light, and it is necessary that we by all means become perfect ones before we leave the world.”

In the Lenten purification with the ashes we can take on this perfect light, not in another world after death, but here in this flesh. In this manner, we return our dust to dust, and find beneath it the fiery being and incorruptible light of our true Self—the Christ within.


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

The Nativity of the Divine Light

A Homily for Christmas

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Christmas Eve, sometimes called Holy Night, celebrates the ageless story of the birth of Christ. As the divine light of Christ incarnates in a tiny babe in a lowly manger, to us this story represents the nativity of the divine light within the Gnostic soul, the coming of the royal light into the lowly frame and darkness of this world. When the outer world grows cold and dark it is even more necessary to keep the spark of divine light kindled and bright.

Though the light shines in the darkness, the darkness can not itself give birth to the light. The earth would be naught but cold damp clay without the life coming from the light of the Sun. Even so, the spirit which gives life comes from somewhere else, a mystical dimension beyond time and space. The alchemists assure us that “nature unaided always fails.” Without divine assistance in the Hermetic art the alchemist can not achieve the goal of the Great Work, the Philosopher’s Stone. In the same way, our human natures can not transform our ego personalities without the assistance of that spark of our Divine Self and the birth of that consciousness within us.

It is reported that during delivery, as a baby’s head just breaks through from the birth canal, that for a brief moment an otherworldly light fills the room, like the light of a golden dawn. That light is soon obscured in this world but serves to remind us of the glorious aeon from which we have come and the darkness into which each new life comes. Our task is not to bewail the existential facts of the matter but to aid those who come into this world to keep the memory of that light alive and kindled within them.

Christmas, coming as it does upon the winter solstice, is a time of paradoxes. We see the light shining in the darkest season, the fire blazing in the cold of winter, life stirring in the fallow of the year. We participate in the paradoxes of the season when we acknowledge the infant light at the darkest point of the year. As stated in one translation of the Gospel of John, “The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” Just as the light of the sun is secretly rekindled and reborn, so are we given an opportunity for our divine spark to wax and grow in light. Christmas is a feast of the interior light, a rekindling of the spiritual spark within us, even as we see the fire blazing in the cold of winter.

Fire is the center of all Yule activity: the Christmas lights on trees and houses, the Yule log blazing on the hearth, and candles on the advent wreath. The fire signifies the flame of joy and charity in our hearts and the spiritual fire that has been sown into this earth. As stated in the Gospel of Thomas, “ I have cast fire upon the world, and behold, I guard it until the world is afire.” A line from the Chaldean Oracles echoes, “Behold the formless fire flashing through the hidden depths of the universe.” The life of our planet is a fire sown into the darkness of material creation. The light of Christ is a “fire born of water.” The fire born of water has been a mystery to all peoples from the beginning of time, and it is that light, with a renewed dispensation, which stirs in this season.

Christmas is also a time of sacrifice in that we often participate in the giving of gifts and contributing to charities at this time. The nativity and birth that we celebrate at Christmas Eve is a sacrifice as well. The Logos sacrifices the glory and light vesture of the celestial aeons in order to take on human form and dwell upon the earth. As Gnostics we recognize that the incarnation not the crucifixion was indeed the true sacrifice of the Logos. Certain Gnostics of the past claim that the Perfect One never took on a physical body, yet humbled himself to be born and live in the appearance of humanity all the same. Whether a physical or phantom body, or purely a literary tradition, the birth of the Christ child is a sublime and timeless mystery. There is no book, no scripture, no authority outside of one’s Self that is an authentic source regarding such a mystery. It is a mystery that can only be witnessed individually in each one’s own heart. Then one knows, one knows in a crack between the worlds, what the mystery of Christmas is all about.

Christmas is not about the celebration of an historical birth. Christmas is about becoming conscious of the renewing light that streams into the soul on Holy Night, that kindles into flame, the soul spark witihin us, the birth of the Christ-Light within us. “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, But not within thyself, thy soul shall be forlorn.” (Angelus Silesius) This consciousness is the heart of Gnosis, the Self-knowledge, the recognition of one’s true and royal Self, a magnanimous radiance of inexhaustible beneficence and compassion. As the Gospel of Thomas states, “If you know yourself, you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the Living Father.” This is a Gnosis of the Heart, a certainty beyond faith, as the Hermetic philosophers have said, “the wisdom that is essential for peace profound.” This is the peace of which the angels sang, “Peace on earth; goodwill to all mankind,” a universal blessing poured forth upon the earth.

Christmas belongs not only to a few who call themselves Christians but to the entire earth. The lowly animals, birds, plants and trees all participate in this nativity of the divine light at Christmas. An old French legend tells how all the animals were given the gift of speech on Holy Night; so that they were granted the ability to give outward expression to their consciousness and recognition of the light. Our compassion for our human brothers and sisters is increased when we realize that the animals and trees are also wondrous light-beings in even more humble, limited and unrecognizable form than ourselves.

Corrine Heline describes the universal blessing of Christmas Eve as a descent of the divine energy of the solar logos. The Christ energy shines down and reaches the heart of the planet where it concentrates in the form of a six-rayed star. This is also an inner process within each of us, an inner conjunction of the sun and the earth. As the Logos descends into the earth to bring Light to the world, so we can see in ourselves the light, life, and hope of the world descended into the darkness of matter to redeem the fragmented sparks of divinity scattered throughout the universe.

The ancient Roman festival celebrated near this date is the Saturnalia, involving the ceremonial marriage of Cybele (the earth Goddess) and Attis (the sun-God). The marriage consummated in a cave, even as the Christ child is sometimes said to have been born in a cave, again symbolizes the conjunction of the sun and the earth. The ceremonial emergence of the representatives of the God and Goddess from the cave sanctuary represents the new birth of the Mystae in the sacred bridechamber and the birth of the inner light. In the Egyptian mysteries, the Mystae emerge from the inner shrine chanting, “The Virgin has brought forth! The Light is waxing!”

In the Biblical story, the Christ child is born in a cave or stable used to shelter animals and is laid in a manger— a humble birth for the proclaimed King of kings. We also share that humble existence in this world. We also experience the sacrifice of the glorious light of the aeons and see our light power as a tiny spark of its original flame. The holy birth of Christmas represents the birth of the Christ-Sun within us, an awakening of our consciousness to who we are and the light from whence we came, an awakening from the sleep of forgetfulness.

The manger where the holy babe is laid is a place for keeping grain and fodder. Grain is a symbol of the seed of life that endures through the winter, a symbol also for the birth of the solar God in the Eleusinian mysteries. As the shaft of wheat was presented the Mystae would exclaim, “Brimo has given birth to Brimos!” That shaft of wheat might be represented as well in the host of the Eucharist, “the Heavenly Bread, the Life of the whole world, which is in all places and endureth all things.” The city where the holy child is born is called Bethlehem which means “House of Bread.”

The life represented in the bread and grain was a very important part of the Christmas celebrations of times past. The last sheaf of grain from the harvest represented the life spirit of the entire field. In earlier times the folk custom was to carefully save the last sheaf, both the grain and the straw. The grain was ground and made into Christmas cake, sweet porridge or pudding. The straw was woven into the figure of a tree, a man, a bird or a goat.

The straw goat, which some families still include in their Christmas celebrations, represents the seed of life that endures through the winter and signifies the holy light that still shines through the cold and dark of winter to appear to us on this Holy Night of Christmas Eve. There is a small rent in the veil before the Treasury of the Light. A magical light shines down into the heart of dark winter wherever there are gathered those who have prepared a vessel for it on earth. That vessel is the pure heart, a heart of compassion and forgiveness, a heart made ready after the pattern of our Holy Mother of Compassion and Mercy. Such a heart gives birth to the light of Christ. It shall always remain a virgin birth; for her love remains forever itself, pure, undefiled, unsullied and unadulterated, regardless of its myriad forms of expression on earth. Her love eternally sanctifies itself and all it touches. It is the mystic rose of her love in our hearts that is the immaculate vessel that gives birth to the Christ child within us.

As expressed most beautifully in a poem by Gertrude Farwell:

Soft candle stars the gloom
About a single rose:
Flower and bough of pine perfume
The twilight hour; in flame that throws
A nimbus round the evergreen.
Whilst fragrance breathes the Living Name
Of Love Incarnate yet unseen,
Rising from petal, pine and thorn.
Mary the pure is kneeling fair,
Of Gabriel’s “Ave!” now aware,
Wondering if aright she’s heard
“Blessed art thou”—unsought acclaim,
Immaculate vessel that the Word
Made flesh may shine on Christmas morn.


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

Recognition of the Messenger

A Homily for the Third Sunday in Advent

by Bishop Steven Marshall

In the tradition of the Church calendar, the 3rd Sunday in Advent is often called Rose Sunday, because it represents a lightening of the dark violet of the rest of the penitential season of Advent. This lightening has two points of significance. One is that of a greater light shining through the violet to reveal the rose tint signifying the coming of the Light, the other is a lightening of the mood, for which reason the Church has traditionally ascribed this Sunday to the quality of joy. The rose color expresses the joy of recognition, the recognition of the One who shines from beyond the veil of violet, who is the Messenger of the Light.

The joy of the recognition of the Messenger is described in one of the traditional scriptures for this Sunday in Advent:

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zachariah, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a fulfillment of all those things which were told her from the Lord.” (The Gospel of Luke)

This joy of recognition, the recognition of the holy messenger has in so many ways been trivialized or minimized by mainstream religion and new age thinking that it is difficult, without direct experience, to appreciate the great mystery that it represents to the Gnostic. Understanding the Gnostic experience of the recognition of the messenger and the joy that it brings hinges upon two Gnostic insights. One is that there is an alternative, spiritual reality transcendent to the material world, and second that this reality manifests itself on myriad levels of being which are metaphorically connected but not identical in breadth or depth. For our present purpose we need only concern ourselves with two of these levels of being. The first is the microcosmic, interior, mystical, more individual level, the second is the macrocosmic, more universal level of manifestation. Neither of these levels manifest as merely subjective fantasies of the alternative reality, as both can be objectively perceived by what Jung called the “objective psyche” and have both psychological and metaphysical reality. This objective psyche is closely related to Jung’s “collective unconscious,” as it might be thought of as the psyche that accesses the “collective unconscious” through what Jung called the “transcendent function.” To make a long theory short, when people have an authentic experience of this alternative reality both the individual and universal levels of manifestation are objectively perceived in the language of poetic myth and metaphor; there exists a common “eye of perception.” The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, expressed this in one of my favorite of his verses.

“The waking have one world in common, whereas each sleeper turns away to a private world of his own.”

In this verse the waking refer to those awakened to the alternative reality of myth and metaphor, the sleeping to those in the ordinary state of consciousness and the perception of the everyday. It is through such an awakened and common “eye of perception” that we may recognize the Messenger of the Light on both the individual and the universal levels of manifestation.

One way by which the Messenger is recognized is by the message. The Messengers of Light have always been known by their message, a message of liberation and freedom, the revelation of a way out, the existence of an alternative reality beyond the everyday, something more real and more authentic than the shadows of our mundane lives. Like Plato’s allegory of the people imprisoned in the cave, whose only reality was the puppet-show of shadows thrown against the walls by the torchlight, who had never seen the upper world illumined by the light of the sun, so the recognition of the messenger and the message of another reality is taken by many for only the shadows of things that are real and belief in things that have never been experienced in truth. Some never even believe in an existence beyond the shadows of what they see in the everyday world. Yet the revelations of the Messenger do not lead us into some playground of pseudo-archetypes of our own fanciful imaginings, as such authentic experiences of the numinous, archetypal and interior realities come with an awesome, ego-shattering power, troubling and frightening in their importance and numinosity, and never what might be expected from the shadow-realities with which we are familiar.

This role is that of the Messenger on the universal level of manifestation. In this fashion the Messenger has the role of the Liberator and Saviour, as the Holy Prophet Mani describes in his sacred writings:

“The Messenger of Light, who comes at the right time and assumes the form of the true church and human flesh, and acts as leader within righteousness, chooses the personalities of his disciples and then frees them, both those of the Elect and those of the Hearers; he dives down into the deep oceans of the waters of the world, and draws them out from the jaws of the deep. And they do not stray again, but after other rebirths and toil for the Light, they come to the hands of the Angels; and the Angels carry them to the places where they shall be re?ned as pure gold.”

An extract from The Avatars by A.E. describes in similarly potent imagery this same role of the Saviour:

“In fancy this tireless child thought of leaping from crest to crest of the long blue waves of hills. Why could he not do it? He imagined the run and the mad gathering of power for the leap, and in the very act of imagining he had left the body behind. What had happened? The air in which he floated was vibrant with timeless melody, a sound as beautiful and universal as the light. Where was he? The earth was vanishing, swallowed up in a brightness as fiery as the ecstasy of the fire. A moment more and he would have passed from the illusion of boyhood. He was reaching up to some immeasurable power which was himself when consciousness faded.

‘It is time to waken him. The seer cannot be held to the eyes, the being cannot be held to the body.’

“He looked up. He saw a figure thrice the height of mortals, a body gleaming as if made of gold and silver air. It was winged with flame above the brows. The eyes which looked upon him were still as if they had gazed upon eternities. The boy cried, and knew not why he uttered the words: ‘I know you Shepherd of the Starry Flocks. What soul do you now draw from the Abyss?'”

When compared to the Gnostic conception of the Saviour, the popular views comfortable to the many, take on two extremes both of which prevent our recognition of the Messenger and the Message. The first may be called the “bootstrap” or “do it yourself” approach, which declares that we do not need a saviour or a redeemer outside of the ego personality of our everyday awareness of who we are. This is a very ego-centered approach, likened to the exclamation of the Old Testament Demiurge, “I am the only God, and there are no other gods besides me.” Lifting ourselves out of ignorance by our own bootstraps never seems to work very well. It results in our being limited to a horizontal plane of being, climbing over others to get to the top of the heap. Cut off from our source of divine glory and power, we become enslaved to the ego-personality, its grandiose hopes and its controlling fears.

The second popular view of salvation is the familiar “Sunday school” approach, which assumes that we are all wretched sinners with nothing of divinity within ourselves, wholly dependent on belief in an external and historical saviour for our redemption. This works even less. Again we are limited to a very horizontal plane of being, without a vertical dimension transcendent to everyday society. We end up believing that we must follow the commandments of mainstream religion to merit redemption and find ourselves enslaved to the tyrant super-ego of our psyches.

A third, Gnostic view proposes a conjunction of these two opposites. There is a divine and redeeming power within us, yet it is transcendent to the ego-personality of our usual awareness. It most often manifests as a mysterious, yet personal other within our psyches. This more individual manifestation of the Messenger is called by the Holy Prophet Mani the Light-Twin or Twin-Angel; Jung called it the “Self.”

The Gnostic also recognizes that we are in need of liberation and salvation, not from ourselves or our sins, but from the predicament of worldly existence in which we find ourselves. The predicament, however, is both external in the world and interior in our psyches. Just as the Gnostic psychologist, C.G. Jung, proposed the need for a third function transcendent to the level of psychological conflict, so we require a redeeming and liberating power and consciousness that is transcendent to the predicament that exists within us. It is as if we are all sunk in quicksand; we are no less human for having fallen into the quagmire, yet we cannot lift ourselves out or the others who are caught in it with us; we require someone outside of the quicksand to lift us out. Also, in our predicament of ignorance and forgetfulness, we require one who knows us from our divine origin to remind us of who we are.

The role of the Gnostic saviour is also that of the Messenger who brings the message of remembrance, reminding us of who we are and the heavenly light-world from which we have originated. On the more individual level of manifestation the Messenger comes to remind us of the message to “know thyself.” On this level of manifestation the Messenger and the Self that we are bidden to know are the same. Yet we come to this recognition not by seeking who the mysterious other, this messenger of another reality, is but by seeking the Self who we truly are in the inmost core of our being, the inmost of the inmosts. As Jesus explains to his disciples in the Secret Sayings of Jesus:

“Jesus said: Pay no heed to the multitude; and think little on those outside of the mystery; for know that I am wholly with the Father, and the Father with me. Therefore I have suffered nothing of what they are going to say about me. For what thou seest, this I have shown thee; but what I am, this alone I know, no other. Let me then keep what is mine, and see what is thine through me. But see me truly, not what I said I am, but what thou being akin to me, canst fully realize, and wilt know in the fullness of thy time.”

We cannot rely on the multitude for knowledge of the Messenger. We can only know and recognize the Messenger when we awaken to and know our true and royal Self, the truly real and divine being within, neither flattering nor condemning but voicing the truth, the author of all that is truly good in us. In the Hymn of the Robe of Glory, the Messenger as an eagle and a letter brings to the wayfarer in the world the following message:

“Up and arise from thy sleep and hear the words of our letter! Remember thou art the son of kings; see the slavery and whom thou servest! Recollect the pearl for which thou didst hasten to Egypt! Think of thy brightness, and recall thy glorious mantle, which thou shalt wear as adornment and thy name be read in the list of Heroes; then with thy brother, our viceroy, thou shalt be in our kingdom!”

The call to remembrance reminds us that we are kin to great ones and that we have been enslaved, put to sleep, and have forgotten who we are in our likeness. In the Acts of John, Jesus says “I am a mirror to thee who understandeth me.” We cannot know who the Messenger is on a universal level of manifestation, for that is known alone by that Holy One, but we can perceive that Messenger as a likeness in a mirror, as a reflection of that Self within us that is the perfect reflection of the Holy One. The word Gnosis has been translated by Bentley Layton in The Gnostic Scriptures as “acquaintance”, an intimate acquaintance, likened to knowing in the Biblical sense, a knowing on a deeply interior level akin to the physical intimacy of sexual knowing, yet spiritually transcending it in both closeness and bliss. In the prayers written by the Holy Prophet Mani, he calls unto the Messenger of Light, the Christ, as “our celestial Spouse.”

“O Christ, our Light, come to us and take us unto Thee! We have trusted to the knowledge of Thy hope which called us unto Thee; take us up to Thine abode, O our celestial Spouse! We are trees in the orchard of Thy Light; our Light shines like the sun; for we have lit it with Thy fire, and nourished it with the good oil of purity.”

Such is the intimacy and joy of the acquaintance with the Messenger expressed by the Holy Prophet Mani. The Logos, the Word, the Messenger is already known of himself, and we must let him keep what is his and see what is ours through him; only when we know who we are as akin to him will we know what and who he is. Then shall we recognize the Messenger both individually and universally.

The Message is a call to remembrance. As described in the Hymn of the Robe of Glory, it reminds us not only of who we are and from whence we have come but of the promise made to us and the promise that we made in descending to this world. Our promise is to liberate the pearl from the coils of the world-dragon. That pearl for which we are sent by the command of those who sent us, is no less than our own divine Self. Through recognition of the Messenger we liberate the light which is within us: through the liberation of that light which is within us, we assist in the liberation of the light that has been scattered throughout all creation.

There is a redeeming and liberating power within us, yet it is in the likeness of the universal liberator of all beings. It is not circumscribed by the perceptions of our ego nor limited by cultural stereotypes or the material world in which we live. The Gnosis of the Self, the recognition of the Messenger, the intimate acquaintance with transcendent being is more powerful, liberating, and redeeming than anything offered by this world. The message of the Redeemer awakens us from slumber, clears away our ignorance, and reminds that we are akin to the image of the Holy One, not a redeemer of history and culturally defined form but the Living One who truly is. So shall we recognize the Messenger and see truly, as the Logos said, “But see me truly, not what I said I am, but what thou being akin to me, canst fully realize, and wilt know in the fullness of thy time.”


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