In past days I have been reading the book, “Forbidden Faith” by Richard Smoley. Richard Smoley is an author I discovered in recent months through recommendation of a friend. With gifted mind and writing ability, he has written and continues to write books and articles on “esoteric” religion or mysticism. I expect to meet him later this week at the Theosophical Society Meeting in Wheaton, IL.
In the book, “Forbidden Faith,” subtitled The Gnostic Legacy from the Gospels to The Da Vinci Code (HarperCollins, 2009, Kindle Edition), Smoley seeks to outline the inner faith which the church (4th Century and since) has sought to limit in the minds and experience of people. Smoley summarizes this forbidden faith as an overreaction by the church to the early freedom of the church which included a strong Gnostic central theme. Each time and place where groups or leaders were discovered teaching and encouraging a vision beyond the body or the narrow creeds of the 4th Century, the orthodox/catholic church has sought to shut it down by declaring such heretical. It also took action to oust teachers and followers of an inward awareness by banishment or death. What then was the essence of these heretical teachings?
I summarized it as containing two elements; 1) the purpose of the Jesus’ ministry was to teach that all humanity is One with God the Creator in Spirit as Son or Daughter, and NOT that only he, Jesus, was the “special son.” 2) the Trinity includes God the Creator/Father, The Holy Spirit, and all humanity as part of the Sonship. In the early church Origen, a brilliant thinker and teacher taught this and finally declared a heretic some 200 years after his death. In the so-call “Middle Ages” beginning with the 12th Century, lifelong devoted teachers of the church such as Meister Eckhart came to a similar conclusion. In the early 1300’s, he was arrested, his teachings ruled “devilish” and never heard or seen since. Fortunately, many of his writings survived.
Why the huge emotional reaction of anger to such teachings? Many reasons could and have been given, but they could be summarized as a deep threat to the structure, form, and ego of authorities who believe their mandate is to control people in the name of the Divine. Elaine Pagels, in writing of the Nag Hammadi discovery in 1945 of ancient Gnostic scrolls, states that the form and authority of the ecclesiastical structures were radically threatened by these documents and so such writings and teachers had to be eliminated.
As I read these stories and accounts of such thinkers and writers as Origen and Eckhart, I found myself pondering my own recent criticisms as a minister and teacher in the church. Unlike these two authors, I do not have the academic acumen or background of language and writing capabilities. However, like these authors, over my career as a community pastor, I came to the similar conclusions that we are all the Sons and Daughters of God. Jesus’ message was not to have himself placed on a special pedestal as the “only Son of God” but to teach we all have access to this same awareness and consciousness. Further, as I have written and spoken, we are all part of the Holy Trinity with many different appearances in this plane, but yet always of One Spirit. As these authors, it was later in my career and life that I grew much stronger in my conviction of these principles. And now in my retirement years, I have tried to write and speak more directly of these convictions.
Such conclusions have led me to emphasize our Inner World more than the outer one. I see the church so caught up in the external world, seeking to do its best to improve itself and the world in obedience to the mandates of the Savior. We attend worship services to adore and express our unworthiness of the Divine God and Savior rather than being nurtured as being part of it ourselves. In contrast, in services I conduct, I am seeking to incorporate this new, yet eternally old awareness, with use of meditational times of silence, creating a more mystical atmosphere with singings bowls, bells, incense and anointing.
I have enjoyed Richard Smoley’s sharing a historical perspective on what has been the journey of my own life. I encourage others to read his easy to read and understand books. Perhaps soon we can enjoy discussing one in our groups together.
God’s peace and Wisdom as you continue the journey, ever desiring to find the Truth and Freedom of our Creation. May such a journey be encouraged wherever you are and may you feel Divine Permission to accept your own Divinity and integral part of the Godhead!