Coming of the Holy Spirit

A Homily for Pentecost

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Pentecost is a very important feast day in our Gnostic liturgical calendar. It commemorates the promised coming of the Holy Spirit to the Disciples, which was predicted by Jesus prior to his mystical death and resurrection. The mythic cycle of the liturgical year seems to come to an end at Pentecost, yet, for the Gnostic, it is the beginning of the true spiritual mission of the Christos. The Pistis Sophia describes twelve years of activity by the Logos among the disciples after the Ascension. It also describes the Apostleship of Mary Magdalen and the mythic cycle of the feminine power represented in the descent, suffering and assumption of Sophia.

Pentecost with the insertion of the Trinity season begins an entire half of the year, representing the mythic cycle of the feminine aspect of God, the season of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, like Advent, is a beginning, the beginning of a new level of spiritual activity in our archetypal life. The Holy Spirit, like a great wind, blows into our spiritual life with something new, unexpected, and, even if somewhat unsettling, yet as a consoler and comforter that is not of this world.

The Gospel of St. Matthew states quite accurately “The Spirit bloweth where it listeth.” We cannot constrain the Holy Spirit into artificially created, ego-designed vessels. It does not matter how politically correct or psychologically comfortable they may be; it just doesn’t work. The wisdom of the Spirit suggests an entirely different value system than that of the material and ordinary world. The 8th Ode of Solomon gives a speech from the Holy Spirit to humanity. “Your flesh may not understand that which I am about to say to you; nor your garment that which I am about to show you.” The Holy Spirit requires a vessel for its manifestation, but it is not a worldly vessel or garment; it is a vessel of consciousness. The Gospel of St. John calls Her “the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Her not, neither knoweth Her; but ye know Her, for she dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” The world cannot receive Her because it cannot see Her, because it is not conscious of Her. In order to know Her indwelling we must acknowledge Her, become conscious of Her, feel Her presence, see Her, and finally hear Her. The Holy Prophet Mani was such a vessel; even his name means “vessel.” Mani received the visit of his Light Twin whom he recognized as the Paraclete, the promised Comforter, three times during his earthly life. In this instance, the coming of the Holy Spirit is a direct mystical experience of a transcendent reality. The inscrutability and timelessness of the Holy is expressed by the holy prophet Mani by comparing the timelessness of the Spirit as even beyond the task of counting all the grains of the dust of the earth:

“Know that the grains of the dust of the earth can be measured, one can count the grains of the dust of the earth year after year; but the length of time the Holy Spirit passed with the Father, that one cannot count.” (Kephalaia of the Paraclete)

The coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles was not something that came and went in History; it is a present and timeless, spiritual reality. Jesus knew of his impending death and told his disciples of the Comforter, who would come after him. He told them to expect the coming of the Holy Spirit which would abide with us forever, who “…shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Our Teacher of Gnosis is still here. Her voice remains to teach, to guide, to care for us, and to comfort us.

The Kephalaia of the Paraclete by the holy prophet Mani describes how the Holy Spirit not only looks after the sparks of light on earth, but all of the aeons of the light:

“He first formed her in his inner chambers in quiet and in silence; but when she was needed, than was she called and came forth from the father of greatness; she looked after all the aeons of the light.”

In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus reiterates to the disciples the timeless and unworldly nature of the Holy Spirit:

“Jesus said unto his disciples: I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, the she may abide with you forever… Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”

To know the event of Pentecost as an immanent and interior reality is the goal towards which the Gnostic’s striving is always directed. If we are to know this other Comforter, we must somehow come to the place in spirit where we can reach out and touch this timelessness and transcendence; we must pass over to a non-ordinary state of consciousness and perception.

Pentecost comes from an Israelite harvest festival called the “feast of weeks,” which occurred 50 days (seven weeks) following the Passover. It was a feast prepared from the first fruits of the grain in the form of leavened bread. The leavened as opposed to unleavened bread is symbolic of the power of the Holy Spirit, for the leavening that fills the dough with air and makes it rise has been long regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Thomas makes such a comparison between leavening and the Holy Spirit. “Jesus said: The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman, who has taken a little leaven and has hidden it in dough and has made large loaves of it.” Here the Holy Spirit is associated with the Kingdom and the feminine task of making bread.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit signifies a recognition, a knowing of the feminine aspect of God. The Holy Prophet Mani also describes the Holy Spirit as a feminine image:

“The fount of every blessing and all the invocations is the mother of life, the first Holy Spirit, the first mother who has come forth from the Father and first appeared, the glorious one who is the beginning of all emanations that have come to this world.” (Kephalaia of the Paraclete)

Jewish Christians known as the Ebionites called the Holy Spirit “The Lady,” and described her as the real Mother of Jesus. They prayed to her as God, but called her an Angel because they experienced her personality so strongly and so personally. The Holy Spirit, as the Mother of Jesus occurs in many places in Gnostic literature. “Even so did my Mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away to Mt. tabor.” (Gospel of the Hebrews) In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, “My mother gave me a body, but my true Mother (the Holy Spirit) gave me life.” As we begin to contact transcendent reality, the feminine image of Deity is almost always the first to be experienced, often as an interior vision and voice.

In the Christian mythos the festival of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the fire of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Two principle symbols appear here. The first is the tongue of flame. Shin, the name of the Hebrew letter corresponding to Fire and Spirit, means tooth and also tongue of flame. The addition of the letter Shin (the Holy Spirit) to the name Jehovah (YHVH) reveals the mystery of the Spirit in the qabbalistic name of Jesus, YHShVH. In this fashion, the name of Jesus represents the healing of the deficient and unregenerate Demiurge Jehovah (YHVH) by the addition of the missing feminine aspect of deity, the Holy Spirit. The second image in this description of Pentecost is the speaking “in tongues.” This is not described as the babbling of jibberish, but as recognizable languages, symbolizing a speech that was miraculously understandable to everyone regardless of their language: symbolically, a healing of the division symbolized by the division of languages in the story of the Tower of Babel. This “speaking in tongues” suggests a phenomenon of communication associated with experiences of an otherworldly and transcendent reality, yet on a mass scale.

This phenomenon comes about also through the coming together of the feminine and masculine potencies of the Trinity. While the Logos is the Word, the Holy Spirit is the breath that gives it its utterance, that gives it a voice. Whereas the Logos (the Word) is symbolic of the masculine polarity, the voice of the Holy Spirit is feminine. In Qabbalah, this voice, like the Holy Spirit, is represented by a dove, and is called Bath Qol, “the Daughter of the Voice.î” In the Song of Solomon she is the “voice of the dove… heard again in our land.” In the Jewish Targum she is called the “Voice of the Holy Spirit of Salvation.”

The recognition of the Holy Spirit is an essential step to the restoration of the Kingdom of Heaven, the descent of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom which is spread out upon the earth but cannot be seen by the eyes of the world. As stated in the Gospel of Thomas, “Jesus said: It (the Kingdom) will not come by expectation; they will not say: ‘See here’, or: ‘See there’. But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.” In late versions of the Gospel of Luke, the portion of the Lord’s Prayer which reads “thy Kingdom come,” is translated as “Thy Holy Spirit come and cleanse us.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the manifestation in a greater consciousness of the Holy Spirit on earth.

In Qabbalah, the Kingdom is referred to the sphere of Malkuth, which is also titled Shekinah, Matrona and Bride, the Kingdom adorned as a Bride as written in the Revelation of St. John the Divine. In Qabbalistic teachings, the Shekinah is a feminine symbol of the immanent presence of God on earth. Followers of Valentinus called the Holy Spirit, “this Holy Earth,” “Mother,” and “Jerusalem.” In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells the disciples of the Holy Spirit that will come in his name and shall bring all things to their remembrance. Remembering the teaching of the Word and the role of the Holy Spirit in giving it a voice gives the Holy Spirit with Her title of “Jerusalem” remarkable meaning. It refers Jerusalem to that spiritual Kingdom of Light, which has been called the New Jerusalem, and which the Gnostics consider their true origin and home. The verse of the 137th Psalm, which is included in our Gnostic Ordination to Cleric reads, “If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember not Jerusalem above my highest Joy.”

Jerusalem is not for us an earthly city but the celestial City, the Kingdom of Light, our true home among the Aeons of the Light. The Holy City is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the coming of the Heavenly City to dwell in our hearts in greater consciousness. Quispel translates Jerusalem as the “Kingdom of Peace.” Such a “Kingdom of Peace” is the Rest, the Repose that the Gnostics used as a metaphor for the Fullness of the Pleroma where all of the warring dualities and opposites are transcended and resolved into a “single one.” Dr Carl Jung, in his treatise on the Trinity, makes a case for the recognition of the feminine aspect of God as the completion and final individuation of the Trinity of God. Therefore, the coming of the Holy Spirit, as an immanent reality in the Gnostic soul, represents not just a beginning but the culmination of Gnosis, both the beginning and the end.

The recognition of the feminine aspect of the Godhead is not a political fancy but a spiritual necessity; our own wholeness as spiritual beings, even the wholeness of God, depends on it. And so we remember this day in honor of the Holy Female Power in every place, who is the Mother of Christ in every heart, and the “wholeness upon which the universe is erected and destroyed.” We, as Gnostics, seek not a political and worldly kingdom on earth but a spiritual kingdom of an interior and transcendent reality that is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit within us. May the Voice of the Holy Spirit guide us on our quest to the Light of the Divine Soul within, comfort us in our travails in the world and restore within us the Kingdom of this Holy Earth within which we “live and move and have our being.” Amen.

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 Wealth of Spirit

A Homily for the First Sunday after Easter (Low Sunday)

by Bishop Steven Marshall

The first Sunday after Easter has been called “Low Sunday”, so as to distinguish it from Easter Sunday, which has been called “High Sunday”. Ecclesiastics facetiously explain the title supposedly because attendance is typically so low on this Sunday in comparison to Easter Sunday. This phenomenon, not always born out in my experience, is in a certain way symbolic of the dichotomy of how the success of a religion, church or person is measured when contrasting a worldly versus a spiritual view of the matter.

The Gnostic point of view expresses this dichotomy most often in the contrasting of material wealth and an exterior, visible growth in the world with spiritual wealth and an interior, invisible growth in the Spirit. One can appreciate this dichotomy in the contrasting of the two parables of the rich man in the Gospel of Thomas:

“Jesus said: There was a rich man who had much money. He said, ‘I shall put my money to use so that I may sow, reap, plant and fill my storehouse with produce so that I lack nothing.’ Such were his intentions, but that same night he died.”

Now, contrast the previous saying with the following parable of the wise merchant:

“Jesus said: The Kingdom of the Father is like a merchant who had a consignment of merchandise and who discovered a pearl. He sold the merchandise and bought the pearl alone for himself. You, too, seek this enduring and unfailing treasure where no moth comes near to devour and no worm destroys.”

The pearl here is symbolic of the priceless treasure of the spirit, the seed of the Light within us, our authentic and immortal Self. Acknowledgment of the value of the pearl by the wise merchant, as opposed to the rich man who thought only of the temporal wealth of the world, signifies a recognition of the true value of knowing our authentic Self, often obscured by the material and psychological obfuscation of the world, but which is a recognition of our authentic Selves as sons and daughters of the Light. The rich man who put his value in the things of this world is contrasted with the wise merchant who gives up all to obtain the single pearl. As stated in the Gospel according to St. Luke, “Likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.”

There is a great treasure of the Light within us of whose nature most of are only temporarily or vaguely conscious, yet it is of a reality that is truly enduring, that is incorruptible and immortal. Such a treasure of the Light is so powerfully obscured by the overvaluing of material things and psychological and social preoccupations that very little of it shines into everyday consciousness and out into the world. The hidden nature of our authentic Self, most tragically occulted even from our own awareness is further amplified by the following passage from the Gospel of Philip:

“No one will hide a large valuable object into something small, but many a time one has tossed countless thousands into a thing worth a penny. Compare the soul. It is a precious thing and it came to be in a worthless body.”

This passage exhorts us to avoid identification with anything that falls short of our authentic spiritual Self, the true treasure of the Light. Do not put our value, our authenticity, into anything less than our true pneumatic Self; do not compromise our spiritual integrity. If we identify ourselves, our value, our wealth, with any of the myriad, worthless things of the world, we become eaten up by that. As stated in the Gospel according to Thomas, “Blessed is the man who eats the lion and the lion shall become man, but cursed is the man whom the lion (world) eats and he will become a lion.” If we identify our value with material things and the body, we are eaten up by that and fall into the snare of the Hyletic. If asked who they are, they answer, ” I am the possessor of such and such in material wealth or status,” or , “I am the possessor of such and such physical attributes of my body.” If we identify with what we think or feel, we are eaten up by that and fall into the prison of the Psychic. If asked who they are, they answer, “I am a believer or unbeliever in such and such,” or, “I am a lover or hater of such and such.” We get stuck in these false identities and become blind to anything greater. In the logion from the Gospel of Thomas recited for this Sunday, Jesus further explains this blindness:

“And my soul was afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see that empty they have come into the world and that empty they seek to go out of the world again.”

Many coming from a secular, socio-economic paradigm of salvation continually complain about the problems of material poverty. Indeed, there is much suffering due to conditions of poverty in the world, and we should help to alleviate it to the extent that opportunities avail themselves to us on a personal level. But material poverty pales in comparison to the spiritual poverty, the spiritual emptiness that afflicts the vast majority of people, both the rich and the poor. As the Gospel of Thomas explains, They do not see that empty they have come into the world and empty they seek to go out of the world again.”

For such dispirited people the phrase, “wealth of the Spirit,” is an oxymoron. They can not acknowledge even the existence of the things of the spirit, let alone assign any value to them. In the portion of the Gospel of Thomas read today, Jesus points out what is truly important to consider in this regard:

Jesus said: If the ?esh has come into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel; but if the spirit has come into existence because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But I marvel at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.
People have not truly come into the world empty, but being unconscious and ignorant of the treasure within them, they are effectively empty. The recognition of that treasure can not come about through an abstract or theoretical speculation on the origin of material or immaterial things but through experience, both a consciousness of the poverty of ignorance as the existential condition of the human being in the world , and the recognition of the true treasure of the Spirit, that fragment of the Divine Light that enlightens the soul and aids her in transcending the material and psychological obscurations of the world.

The Gospel reading for today further explains the process by which these conscious recognitions occur:

“Jesus said: I took my stand in the midst of the world and in flesh I appeared to them; I found them all drunk, I found none among them athirst… But now they are drunk. When they have shaken off their wine, then will they repent.”

This passage indicates two steps in the process. First we must shake off our drunkenness by the things of the world. Then only can we repent and turn the awareness of our soul from external and material things to inner and spiritual things.

The captive and unrepentant soul is drunk on the drink of the world, a world that is made of substitutes for the spirit, that hold the soul captive, a worldly drink that befuddles our awareness, that puts us into a stupor of unconsciousness, and prevents us from becoming conscious of the spiritual treasure within us and of anything beyond the world’s counterfeits of the real. This drink comes in a myriad of masquerading and superficially attractive forms, but they are all unfulfilling and counterfeit creations, they are only replicas of the real, they are the promises and threats of false gods and archons. We become attached to and captured by the ideas of the mind, the emotional affections of the passions, the dressed-up desires of our instinctual drives. But they are false gods; they give false promises of fulfillment, comfort and peace, but they do not deliver it in any enduring fashion. Ultimately, they are empty and they leave us empty.

What we are really seeking behind all of these counterfeits are the enduring things of the Spirit, the wealth of the Spirit, the treasure of the Light within. Being drunk on the drink of the world is an attempt to find wealth, happiness and fulfillment on the horizontal and external dimension of being. Wealth is related to the word “weal,” meaning wellbeing and happiness, but material and psychological things can not really offer this in any lasting way. How often have people found that the achievement of their worldly desires did not bring them the happiness that they sought. How often we say to ourselves, “If only so and so believed in my ideas then I would be well and happy. If only I had such and such a possession or physical characteristic then I would be well and happy. If only I had this like satisfied or that dislike removed then I would be well and happy. But when we have obtained these objects of our desires, we find that we are still not well nor happy and another thing takes its place.

Eventually, we must throw off our wine of worldly attachments; we must come to a point of dissatisfaction and sometimes, even despair with these counterfeits of the real before we can ask for and receive the spiritual drink of another and higher reality, before we can drink of the Living Water of the Spirit, which alone provides a weal that is fulfilling and enduring. We must lose the life oriented to the poverty of ignorance to obtain the life of liberating Gnosis. In some instances, before we can be disappointed with the false wine of the world, we must experience that which truly offers a wellbeing and that endures; we must experience something better and greater, then we can repent.

Repent means to turn back, to reverse our direction. Instead of giving our worship to the shibboleths and false gods of the ego and of the human nature directed toward the external world on the horizontal dimension of being, we must turn back to our authentic Selves and to our beginning, our source in the Fullness. We must turn the womb of the soul inward so that she bears us spiritual children as insights of Gnosis. When the soul becomes directed to the Light within, she bears forth the wealth of the Spirit. The Qabbalists teach that the highest is the innermost. In the Pistis Sophia, the Most High is called the Inmost of the Inmosts. That interior star of our being is the door, the way, the opening to transcendence and freedom. Yet that pearl, that treasure of the Light, is hidden beneath layers and layers of dust and darkness. It is imprisoned and entombed by the rulers of matter and psyche, so thickly obscured that we can barely know where to seek for it. What the Gnostics knew is that we cannot find it outside of ourselves.

The title for this Sunday from early times is Dominica in Albis, meaning “Sunday in White,” as it signifies the day when at the end of the service, the neophytes, those baptized on Easter Eve, stripped off their baptismal garments of white and put on their civilian dress. The white vesture of the Light becomes interiorized and hidden beneath the outward and worldly appearance. As St. Paul the Apostle wrote, “We have this treasure in earthly vessels.”

We must find a way to penetrate these layers of obscuration. We must cleave the wood of outward semblance. We must lift the stone. We must roll the stone away from the tomb of matter, lift it away from the tombs in which our spirits are buried while we live in this flesh.

This work of finding and rescuing the Light within ourselves and in the universe is simple but not easy. The alchemists have said of old, “Nature unaided always fails.” And so it is with our own human natures. We might also say, “Human nature unaided always fails.” The work of freeing the wealth of the Spirit cannot be accomplished by the mental-emotional-instinctual complex of the ego, or by a social organization simply devised and orchestrated by such egos. We require a light from outside of the archonic system of the world and yet lies within us, such a light as that represented by the flame of the Paschal candle, to find our way back to the Light, to give us the spiritual strength and sustenance to lift the stone away from the tombs of our spirits.

So from whence does this aid for us come. As sung by the Psalmist, “From whence shall my salvation come?” It comes in diverse ways through the Messengers of the Light, and for us through the Gnostic sacraments or mysteries, particularly the central one of the Eucharist. The Eucharist does not do the work for us, but it provides the necessary aid; it provides the spiritual nourishment and sustenance that gives us the strength to make the great journey in this life, to search out the hidden tomb of our authentic being and to lift the stone away. The inner light that makes the way clear in the darkness of this world is increased by our participation in the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” It is a thanksgiving for the wealth of the spirit given to us in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of what has been rightly called “the most precious gift.” It is a thanksgiving to the one who came down through all the Aeons of the Light and all the Archons of the Spheres to bring that gift to us. And so we are also thankful for the true and pure bishops, such as our Right Reverend Father Tau Stephanus, who represent the apostles of that Light. For as written by the holy prophet Mani, “For all the earlier religions were true so long as pure leaders were in them,” so has our bishop maintained the purity of our tradition by his leadership and remained true to his calling and his promise to the Light.

He has remained true to the Light from whence he and indeed all of us have come; and there shall he stand in Gnosis and in Truth, so that he and his successors might ever offer the Living Water, the true wine of Gnosis, and the Bread of Life, the Sustenance of the Angels, to the generations now and in the future, to provide the drink and the waybread of heaven to the weary pilgrims in this world who long for return to the Light and who long for the wealth of the spirit in Gnosis.

Delivered on Low Sunday, 2002, in Hollywood.

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