The Inner Resurrection

A Homily for Easter Sunday

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Easter is the major moveable feast of the liturgical year. It may fall on any Sunday between March 22nd and April 23rd. The date of Easter accords with the date of the Jewish festival of the Passover which is based upon the old lunar calendar. By this method of calculation the date of Easter is the Sunday nearest the first full moon following the spring equinox. The spring season in which Easter occurs, with its renewal of life following winter, bears out a synchronous relationship with the resurrection theme in the mythic story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We find at this great Christian festival a conjunction between the the cycles of nature and the mythic cycle of the liturgical year, a conjunction between microcosm and macrocosm, a conjunction between the interior, mythic dimension of reality and the outer dimension of the cycles of life. Because of this, many of the symbols that we associate with Easter, such as chicks, Easter eggs and rabbits, are fertility symbols representing the renewal and proliferation of life in spring.

The name of this festival derives from an Anglo-Saxon fertility Goddess named Oestara. Other related Goddesses are Isis of the Egyptians, Ishtar of the Assyrians, Astarte of the Babylonians and Tara of the Irish. All of these Goddesses have province over the night sky, the moon and the earth. They have both a celestial and starry aspect as well as an earthly aspect.

Sophia also has a celestial, transcendent aspect and an earthly, immanent aspect. The earthly aspect of Sophia relates to the Holy Spirit which “remains here on earth to guide and care for us.” She is the Spirit that gives life and sustains the life of all creatures on earth unto their redemption. Sophia also has a celestial, starry and transcendent aspect. She represents the light beyond the stars. In this mode of symbolism, the ancients imagined the night sky to be like a bowl full of holes through which the sea of light beyond shone through as the stars. Sophia as the Light of the Stars becomes the Star-Kindler, the Queen of the Stars, the Queen of Heaven. The Queen of Heaven is a title not only for the aspect of Sophia represented in the Blessed Virgin Mary but also for the historic figures of Isis, Astarte and Ishtar. She is both Earth’s Mother and Heaven’s Queen.

In the same fashion we must approach the mythic event of the resurrection of Jesus on more than one level. We must not succumb to the easy conclusion that the symbolism of the death and resurrection of Christ, the dying and renewing God, is nothing more than an image of earthly fertility and cyclical life. Because the story of the resurrection comes from the mythic dimension of reality, it transcends in great measure the limitations of earthly cycles and nature; there is indeed a great deal more to it. The cyclical rise and fall of vegetation through the cycle of the seasons, the death and resurrection of Christ, does not have tremendous meaning as the fertility of the earth but has its deeper and more profound meaning in the fertility and creativity of the human spirit.

Although many of the Gnostic scriptures abound in agricultural allegories, particularly in the Gospel of Philip, Gnostics are not so much concerned with the outer and ongoing cycles of death and renewal in nature but with the inner resurrection of the human spirit, the liberation and rising up of that immortal spark of the divine light within us. However, this inner resurrection is not entirely restricted to the human sphere; like the Buddhists, with their compassion for all forms of sentient life, we, as Gnostics, also look to the liberation and gathering of the sparks of light among all sentient beings, whatever their place on the spiral of manifest life. Yet before we can assist in the liberation of other forms of life, we must ourselves seek liberation and the resurrection while in this flesh. As the Gospel of Philip states in regard to the Resurrection, “If you do not receive it while in this place, you will not receive it in the other place.” The inner resurrection is the gnosis of the immortal light-spark within us, a conscious recollection of one’s own divine heritage and immortal being.

Like the other mystery religions, such as those of Eleusis and Sais, the Gnostics had a method for achieving this inner resurrection. As in the mysteries of old, the Gnostic practice of the mysteries gave a conscious realization of one’s immortality. In the mysteries of Eleusis this realization came forth in the vision of the Goddess Kore, in Egypt the vision of the Saitic Isis. Among the Alexandrian Gnostics it accompanied a vision of Sophia and a communion with the Resurrected One.

Easter represents a mystical experience of death and resurrection, not the celebration of an historical event. Something mysterious and miraculous happened; the disciples and early Gnostic writers experienced something, and yet the actual nature of the outward and historical event is not important to the Gnostic. There has never been, even in the gospel accounts, any agreement as to exactly what happened. We must approach these themes as interior and mystical events that can have meaning and reality for us today. We must ourselves experience this mystical death and resurrection as an interior and timeless reality. The Acts of St John record the mystical words of Jesus, “Understand me then as the slaying of a Word, wound of a Word, hanging of a Word, suffering of a Word, fastening of a Word, death of a Word, resurrection of a Word, and defining this Word, I mean every man!”

We do not celebrate the death and miraculous animation of the physical body of one man in history but our own apotheosis and resurrection as a reality in this life. Belief in an historical event is not going to change anything in us. The mysteries of Gnosis are not of this world; they are in the world but not of the world. This is nowhere more true than in the mystery of the Resurrection.

The Gnostics and disciples experienced not a dead Jesus but a Living Jesus, a spiritual not a physical being. The gospel accounts give ample evidence that the resurrected body was not the same as the physical body. In the Gospel of Philip we read, “The Lord rose from the dead. He became as he used to be, but now his body was perfect. He did indeed possess flesh, but this is true flesh. Our flesh is not true, but we possess only an image of the true.” The canonical gospels indicate that the resurrected Jesus was not recognized as the physical resemblance he bore during his incarnation. In the Gospel of St John Mary Magdalen does not recognize him until he speaks her name. In the Gospel of St Luke the father of James and Jude and another disciple do not recognize Jesus until he breaks bread with them.

We are dealing here with an interior experience of a transcendent reality. The resurrection story from the Gospel of St Matthew describes two angels at the open tomb. The presence of angels indicates that the teller of the story is recounting a visionary experience, an experience of an alternative reality. The angels say to the women at the tomb, “Why seek ye the living among the dead. He is not here; He has risen, as He said.” The words of the angels suggest that the Living Jesus is not in an history that is dead and gone. If we look for the resurrection in an historical event we are still seeking the living among the dead.

The Jewish mystical writings of the Zohar describe the resurrection as a spiritual phenomena, the resurrection of bodies of light nourished by the milk of the Holy Spirit.

“The complete resurrection will begin in Galilee. The resurrection of bodies will be as the uprising of flowers. There will be no more need of eating and drinking, for we shall all be nourished by the Glory of the Shekinah.”

The Gnostic resurrection is something that can happen while one is in this world. In the Egyptian mysteries Horus, as the initiate into the mysteries, describes the resurrection as being filled with light: “My whole body is filled with light; there is no part of me that is not a god; I am divine in every part.”

St Paul sums up the inner resurrection in this portion of his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

“But some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, and thou sowest not that body that shall be, but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

At Easter our life and our perception of the world is given the opportunity to change. All things are made new. We arise from a world of periodical death and decay into a timeless and immortal realm of spirit. The permanent and indelible effect of the inner resurrection is that it forever delivers the human consciousness from the fear of bodily death. When you see your soul with your own eyes, when you know who you are and from whence you have come, when you see your star shining immortal in the heavens, then death is surely swallowed up in victory, and we can say with all the Gnostics and knowers of the truth before us, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

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

The Message of Gnosis

A Homily for The Annunciation to Our Lady

by Bishop Steven Marshall

The Annunciation to our Lady has been an important feast day in the calendar of the Church for a very long time. Annunciation is a synonym for “announcement,” and refers to the announcement of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary concerning her role in the advent of Christ. The traditional date of the Annunciation is March 25, which signifies the mystical conception of Christ, occurring as it does exactly 9 months before the date of Christmas when we celebrate the Christ’s birth. The popularity of this feast day in the traditional Church is most likely due to the emphasis on the divine feminine in the image of Mary to which many people related as the familiar mythological image of the woman or goddess who gives birth to the Divine Child. If the image of Mary embodies such a potent archetype, why is so little importance given to her in the Gnostic writings, and why then have we, as modern Gnostics, begun to honor her festivals?

The early Gnostics are not particularly interested in the physical or even metaphysical mechanisms of Jesus’ conception and birth for two basic reasons. 1) The Jesus of the Gnostics is a post-resurrectional mystery figure, the living Jesus, and is primarily a spirit, a pneuma. The Gnostic Jesus was not a person who died and disappeared, never to be heard of again, but an ever present reality in the inner life of his Gnostic followers, the ever coming and redeeming Logos. Therefore historical descriptions or theological speculations regarding any physical phenomena of conception and birth are of little consequence to the religious experience of the Gnostics. 2) In contrast to the dominant paradigm about women in early times the Gnostics do not view maternity as the principle value of the feminine. By the importance given to Mary Magdalene in the Gnostic writings, we can see that women signify the conceivers and birth givers of a deeply spiritual process in the life of the Gnostic, a role far transcending their biological role of conceiving and bearing children. Also, the Gnostics tend to view conception and birth as more of a tragedy than a joyful event. Many Gnostic writings identify incarnation with death and ignorance, as opposed to life and consciousness. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus says, “…for my mother gave me death, but my true Mother gave me the Life.”

Many of these Gnostic insights concerning conception and birth into the world seem to run counter to the values of life that many of us hold dear. They are paradoxically poised in reversal of our usual way of viewing our earthly life. The greatest paradox for the Gnostic is that of earthly incarnation. On the one hand it is a tragedy that anything should be born into this cruel world of misery and sorrow, and yet it is only through the incarnation of holy souls and the striving of humanity for greater consciousness in this life that the situation may be redeemed. When we approach these insights of Gnosis, we must remember that they are based on a view of the human existential condition through the lens of spiritual experiences and from the vantage point of an alternate and transcendent reality. What the Gnostics communicate is not so much a denial of earthly life as an affirmation of that which transcends it, the spiritual life that we knew at the beginning before our incarnation. Their intent is not to dishonor those who suffered and sacrificed to bring us into the world but to make us more conscious of a greater mystery.

To the Gnostic the conception of Jesus is a mystery, the same mystery that forms the background of our own existence. The evidence of this mystery, indeed, any mystery, is that a mystery can never be limited to one reality, and so we must approach this mystery of the Annunciation and the conception of Christ as multi-layered and multifaceted.

One of the models that the Gnostics used extensively is the classification of the universe into three levels of reality: the hyletic (physical), the psychic (mental) and the pneumatic (spiritual). Rather than denying either of these as illusory or false, the Gnostics accepted the reality of all three on their own level.

Applying the hyletic level of reality to the mystery of the Annunciation, we are dealing with a reconstructed history of earthly events. The Gospel of Philip seems to profess the position that Mary was a real woman who had sexual intercourse with a real man in the process of conceiving and giving birth to Jesus. “The Lord would not have said, ‘My father in heaven,’ if he had not had another father, but he would have said simply my father.” (The Gospel of Philip) Although the various Gnostic sects differed in their emphasis concerning the physical versus the spiritual reality of Jesus, the virgin conception and virgin birth were viewed as spiritual rather than physical realities by most of them.

The psychic level of interpretation would comprise the ideas, belief structures and mental constructs derived from the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. This category would include the theology and soteriology of the Christ in the form of creeds designed to integrate the mythology and the history of the Christ into a cohesive belief system. We might also add to this the many explanations of the Annunciation to Mary and the conception of Christ that rely on metaphysics of one kind or another. The main distinction of the psychic level of reality is that it is second or third hand, being one level removed from any historical reality and one level removed from any direct personal experience.

The pneumatic reality of the Annunciation comes from a direct experience of a spiritual power, the Gnosis of the Christ Within, the revelation of the Holy Spirit that flesh and blood hath not revealed. The pneumatic level of the Mystery communicates an alternate reality of story, myth, ritual and mystical experience. On this level of reality Jesus has a spiritual mother and a spiritual father. As Jesus speaks of his Father in heaven, so he also has another mother, a spiritual Mother. Among the early Jewish Christian communities the Holy Spirit was called the mother of Christ. In the Gospel of the Hebrews Jesus says, “My mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by one of my hairs and carried me away to Mount Tabor.”

To further point us in the direction for discovering the pneumatic reality, the Gospel of Philip intimates that something is missing from the conventional creed of the mainstream Church about the conception of Christ: “Some said Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit. They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive of a woman.” Not only does this passage affirm that the Holy Spirit is a female power but it also acknowledges that a masculine polarity is necessary for the conception to occur. In the announcement of Gabriel, the angel describes two spiritual powers rather than one. “The Holy Spirit (the Mother) shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest (the Father) shall overshadow thee.” Jesus had a mother and father according to matter—the hyletic reality. He also had a mother and father according to spirit—the pneumatic reality. What distinguishes this from the theological explanations of psychic Christianity is that it comes from the Gnostics’ direct experience of their own spiritual mother and spiritual father. Unless we also have this experience, then it remains merely another belief.

The Gnostics tend to disregard and minimize the hyletic and psychic aspects of the Mystery in their writings, not because they disavowed them, but because they knew that ultimately only the pneumatic experience of the Mystery is transformative. Concern over historical facts, pseudohistorical details, or theological explanations are not going to transform us or help us grow spiritually. They are not going to change us or increase our consciousness. Talk and discussion of the metaphysics involved in a virgin’s conceiving, propounding theories and ideas ad infinitum, is not going to change the existential condition of the human soul. An intellectual conception or interpretation, no matter how appealing to our minds, is still only a mental construct—only experience can transform us.

It is because of experiences of the Virgin Mary and insights into her spiritual role in the present that we, as modern Gnostics, have added this festival to our liturgical year. From the very beginning, Gnostics have had an especially close kinship with and regard for the feminine image of deity. Even if the early Gnostics did not write much concerning the spiritual role of the Virgin Mary, the Gnostic throughout history has been open to new and evolving images of the divine feminine as they have expressed themselves in direct experience. As a culture, we are currently experiencing a growing recognition of the importance of the divine feminine. The appearances of the Virgin at Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje in recent times points to an increased activity of the divine feminine in the collective psyche. When in 1950 the Pope proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin, it was not just an exercise in ecclesiastical authority but predicated upon the personal visions and experiences of himself and others.

Another reason that the Annunciation is important to the Gnostic is the model of Mary’s response to the announcement of the angel. The presence of an angel in this story gives evidence of communication from the alternate, spiritual reality of our inner lives. The feminist interpretation views this story as a traditional model of female submission and obedience. Yet this announcement need not be seen as something ordained and commanded from on high but as a revelation and a choice for Mary to make. In the Lurianic Kabbalah, each human soul has a specific and unique redemptive task to bring about the restoration of the Light, wherein the fragmented sparks of the primordial Adam, the Human of Light, might be gathered together into the original whole. Each of us at some point in our lives may be brought a message of our redemptive task from the inner angelic voice of our higher divine self. We have the free will to choose to follow the revelation or not. Mary responds to the announcement of the angel not out of resigned obedience but in an affirmation of her own true will and divine purpose. “Be it unto me according to thy word.” Her choice brings it about, the fulfillment of the promise given in the aeons before her ever coming into the world. Mary hears the voice of her angelic and divine soul; she follows the Light which is above every power of the Father. In the story of Sophia, Sophia errs in following the false light of the Arrogant One. Leaving her consort, she brings forth the Demiurge, an imperfect god who is responsible for all of the tragedy of the human condition. She strives to redeem her mistake and correct her error through the sowing of a portion of her light power as sparks of light into the race of humanity.

In the story of the Annunciation, Mary chooses to bring forth a messenger of the Light, the Savior and Redeemer, by following not the false light but the true Light above the Aeons. In the Pistis Sophia, Mary conceives spiritually through the accepting of the Redeemer as the soul of the child in her womb. The Living Jesus tells the story thus: “It came to pass then thereafter, that at the command of the First Mystery I looked down on the world of mankind and found Mary, who is called my mother according to the body of matter. I spake with her in the guise of Gabriel, and when she had turned herself to the height towards me, I cast thence into her the first power which I had received from Barbelo—that is the body which I have borne in the height. And for the soul I cast into her the power which I have received from the great Sabaoth the Good, who is in the region of the Right.” In this fashion Mary takes on the culmination and embodiment of the redemptive role and destiny of the Holy Sophia.

Sophia is very important to us. Everything we do in this Church can be viewed as a cover for her acknowledgment and recognition in a culture where in times past the right to do so was paid for with our lives. Witches were not the only ones who were burned in the inquisition. Before them the last remaining Gnostics of European culture, the Cathars, were hunted down and burned as heretics. We are the hidden Children of Sophia. We are the protectors and guardians of her secret Gnosis. We acknowledge the darkness of this world and that, even in this more enlightened age, we could be imperiled and persecuted for her sake. And yet, in this place of darkness we have known her light. As in the prophetic verse of Isaiah, “They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

These mysteries are within us. We can experience the conception of Christ within our own souls. We can receive the annunciation and hear the hail of Gabriel. We are all, regardless of our gender, the handmaids of the Indwelling Lord. When we receive the message of the promise we have made before the Aeons of the Light, even as Mary heard the announcement of Gabriel, we can affirm the light of who we are and reply, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”

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

Liturgical Calendar

A general reference for the Liturgical Year

For specific events and times, please consult the Calendar of Events.

Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec

December 2021

The Second Sunday in Advent

Sunday, December 5

Day of the Holy Nicholas, Bishop

Monday, December 6

The Third Sunday in Advent

Sunday, December 12

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Sunday, December 19

Day of the Holy Apostle Thomas

Tuesday, December 21

Day of the Holy Archangel Raphael

Wednesday, December 22

Christmas Day

Saturday, December 25

Holy Sophia readings for December


January 2022

New Year’s Day

Saturday, January 1

Sunday after New Year’s Day

Sunday, January 2

The Epiphany

Thursday, January 6

Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday, January 9

The Second Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday, January 16

The Third Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday, January 23

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday, January 30

Holy Sophia readings for January


February 2022

Candlemas Day

Wednesday, February 2

The Sunday after Candlemas

Sunday, February 6

Septuagesima: The Third Sunday before Lent

Sunday, February 13

Day of Holy Valentinus

Monday, February 14

Sexagesima: The Second Sunday before Lent

Sunday, February 20

Quinquagesima: The Sunday Next before Lent

Sunday, February 27

Holy Sophia readings for February


March 2022

The First Day of Lent: Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, March 2

The First Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 6

The Second Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 13

Montségur Day

Wednesday, March 16

The Third Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 20

Day of the Martyrdom of Tau Harmonius

Tuesday, March 22

Day of the Holy Archangel Gabriel

Thursday, March 24

The Annunciation of Our Lady

Friday, March 25

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 27

Holy Sophia readings for March


April 2022

Passion Sunday: The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Sunday, April 3

The Sunday Next before Easter: Palm Sunday

Sunday, April 10

Maundy Thursday

Thursday, April 14

Holy Saturday

Saturday, April 16

The Festival of the Risen Light: Easter Day

Sunday, April 17

Divine Mercy Sunday (Low Sunday)

Sunday, April 24

Day of the Holy Mani, Martyr and Prophet

Monday, April 25

Holy Sophia readings for April


May 2022

Day of the Holy Apostles, Philip and James

Sunday, May 1

The Second Sunday after Easter

Sunday, May 1

The Third Sunday after Easter

Sunday, May 8

The Fourth Sunday after Easter

Sunday, May 15

The Fifth Sunday after Easter

Sunday, May 22

Ascension Day

Thursday, May 26

Sunday after Ascension

Sunday, May 29

Holy Sophia readings for May


June 2022

Pentecost or Whitsunday

Sunday, June 5

Commemoration of the Death of Carl Gustav Jung

Monday, June 6

Trinity Sunday

Sunday, June 12

Corpus Christi

Thursday, June 16

The First Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, June 19

Day of the Holy Archangel Uriel

Wednesday, June 22

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Friday, June 24

The Second Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, June 26

Day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Wednesday, June 29

Holy Sophia readings for June


July 2022

The Third Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, July 3

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, July 10

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, July 17

The Feast of Holy Mary of Magdala

Friday, July 22

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, July 24

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, July 31

Holy Sophia readings for July


August 2022

Commemoration of Phillipe de Lyon

Tuesday, August 2

The Festival of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Saturday, August 6

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, August 7

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, August 14

The Assumption of the Holy Sophia

Monday, August 15

Feast of St Stephan

Saturday, August 20

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, August 21

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, August 28

The Beheading of John the Baptist

Monday, August 29

Holy Sophia readings for August


September 2022

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, September 4

The Descent of the Holy Sophia

Thursday, September 8

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, September 11

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, September 18

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, September 25

Day of the Holy Archangel Michael

Thursday, September 29

Holy Sophia readings for September


October 2022

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, October 2

Day of the Holy Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, October 4

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, October 9

Day of the Martyrdom of the Holy Templars

Thursday, October 13

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, October 16

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, October 23

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, October 30

Holy Sophia readings for October


November 2022

Day of All Saints

Tuesday, November 1

Day of All Souls

Wednesday, November 2

The Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, November 6

The Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity

Sunday, November 13

Day of All Gnostic Saints

Sunday, November 20

The Sunday Next before Advent

Sunday, November 20

Advent Sunday

Sunday, November 27

Holy Sophia readings for November