Special edition including the complete text of the Gospel of Thomas
Elaine Pagels, one of the world's most important writers and thinkers on religion and history, and winner of the National Book Award for her groundbreaking work "The Gnostic Gospels," now reflects on what matters most about spiritual and religious exploration in the twenty-first century. This bold new book explores how Christianity began by tracing its earliest texts, including the secret Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945.
When her infant son was diagnosed with fatal pulmonary hypertension, Elaine Pagels's spiritual and intellectual quest took on a new urgency, leading her to explore historical and archeological sources and to investigate what Jesus and his teachings meant to his followers before the invention of doctrine-and before the invention of Christianity as we know it.
The astonishing discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, along with more than fifty other early Christian texts unknown since antiquity, offers startling clues. Pagels compares such sources as Thomas's gospel (which claims to give Jesus' secret teaching, and finds its closest affinities with kabbalah) with the canonic texts to show how Christian leaders chose to include some gospels and exclude others from the collection we have come to know as the New Testament. To stabilize the emerging Christian church in times of devastating persecution, the church fathers constructed the canon, creed, and hierarchy-and, in the process, suppressed many of its spiritual resources.
Drawing on new scholarship-her own, and that of an international group of scholars-that has come to light since the publication in 1979 of The Gnostic Gospels, Pagels shows that what matters about Christianity involves much more than any one set of beliefs. Traditions embodied in Judaism and Christianity can powerfully affect us in heart, mind, and spirit, inspire visions of a new society based on practicing justice and love, even heal and transform us.
Provocative, beautifully written, and moving, "Beyond Belief," the most personal of Pagels's books to date, shows how "the impulse to seek God overflows the narrow banks of a single tradition." Pagels writes, "What I have come to love in the wealth and diversity of our religious traditions-and the communities that sustain them-is that they offer the testimony of innumerable people to spiritual discovery, encouraging us, in Jesus' words, to 'seek, and you shall find.'"
In December 1945, two Egyptian fellahin, digging for natural fertilizer in the Nile River valley unearthed a sealed storage jar. The jar proved to hold treasure of an unexpected sort: a collection of some fifty-two ancient manuscripts, most of which reflect the teachings of a mystical religious movement we call Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis, "knowledge"). The texts are also, with few exceptions, Christian documents, and thus they provide us with valuable new information about the character of the early church, and about the Gnostic Christians within the church.In this volume, Marvin W. Meyer has produced a new English translation for general readers of four of the most important and revealing of these early Christian texts -- the Secret Book of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thomas, and the Secret Book of John.
A tale of initiation, adventure, and romance set within the medieval Crusades- Shares in novel form the mystical rituals and techniques of the Nizari Ismailis (the legendary Assassins) communicated to selected Knights Templar during the Crusades - Shows how the Gnostic traditions of the Cathars and Nizaris were blended to become the core of the "heretical" doctrines for which the Templars were later condemned - Sheds light on the contemporary conflict between Islam and the West and offers a natural path of reconciliation between these disparate cultures Set within the dramatic tableau of the medieval Crusades, this story of initiation, adventure, and romance follows members of the Knights Templar and Assassins as they discover a mystical tradition with the potential to unify, protect, and liberate humankind--the very heresy for which the Knights Templar were later condemned. The tale begins with a young Persian student, Sinan, as he witnesses his teacher deliver the heretical Qiyama proclamation, seeking to abolish Islamic religious law in favor of a more mystical approach to spirituality. After completing his initiation into the revolutionary doctrines and practices of the Assassins--also known as the Nizari Ismailis or Hashishim--Sinan is appointed head of the Nizaris in Syria. Years later, after Sinan has become a wise and respected leader, he encounters Roland de Provence, a young member of the Knights Templar. Impressed by his courage and intelligence, Sinan selects him for initiation into the Nizari tradition. As readers follow Sinan and Roland through the process, they experience firsthand the transmission of these secret teachings and the paranormal, even magical powers of the Assassin adepts. Roland braves hashish journeys, mystical rituals, and divine epiphanies, as well as sexual awakening at the hands of Sinan's beautiful consort Aisha. When Roland completes his education with Sinan, he vows to share the Nizari teachings with his fellow Templars. However, he is met with strong opposition from his Templar commander, and factions within the Order quickly arise. As we follow Roland to southern France, we witness how he blends the Cathar and Nizari traditions to form the core of the "heresy" for which the Templars were later arrested and condemned. Now an outlaw, hunted by his Templar brethren, Roland is forced to choose between the beliefs with which he was raised and the realizations of his own personal truths. Bringing to life the historical truths of his expertly researched bestseller The Templars and the Assassins, James Wasserman artfully traces the evolution of the Western Esoteric Tradition during the fertile cultural interactions of the Crusades. His story also sheds light on the modern conflict between Islam and the West--which began a thousand years ago--and offers a natural path of reconciliation between our disparate cultures.
An examination of how the teachings of Jesus reveal the essential role of sexuality in spiritual growth and transformation- Shows that Jesus did not come to redeem humanity from the life of the flesh, but to honor it as a spiritual path - Uses Hebrew, gnostic, and early Christian source texts to reveal the true context of the words attributed to Jesus - Explores the spiritual and physical relationship shared by Jesus and Mary Magdalene Of all the major religions, Christianity is the only one that has utterly rejected sexuality as one of the many paths that can lead to enlightenment and salvation. But if Jesus was indeed "the Word made flesh" and serious consideration is given to the mystery of his Incarnation, is it reasonable that physical love would have been prohibited to him? Drawing from the canonical and apocryphal gospels, the Hebrew esoteric tradition, and gnosticism, Jean-Yves Leloup shows that Jesus did not come to save humanity from the life of the flesh but to save the life of the flesh so that it would truly transfigure all people. Leloup explains that when Saint Paul said it was good to be without women, he did not cite any words of Jesus in support of this contention. In fact, Paul's statement utterly contradicts the words of God in Genesis: "It is not good that man should be alone." Leloup argues that the elimination of the divine feminine and sacred sexuality set in motion by Paul's words does not reflect the true teachings of Christ, and that the transformation of Jesus into a celibate is the true heresy. His research restores Christ's true human sexuality and shows it to be a vital part of humanity's spirituality. Leloup contends that by understanding the sacred nature of the embrace shared by man and woman as a true reflection of humanity made in God's image, Christianity can again become the powerful path of transfiguration Christ intended.
In Beyond Belief, renowned religion scholar Elaine Pagels continues her groundbreaking examination of the earliest Christian texts, arguing for an ongoing assessment of faith and a questioning of religious orthodoxy.Spurred on by personal tragedy and new scholarship from an international group of researchers, Pagels returns to her investigation of the "secret" Gospel of Thomas, and breathes new life into writings once thought heretical. As she arrives at an ever-deeper conviction in her own faith, Pagels reveals how faith allows for a diversity of interpretations, and that the "rogue" voices of Christianity encourage and sustain "the recognition of the light within us all."
A study of the Gnostic texts, which describe the same people and events portrayed in the New Testament but from a different perspective, reveals why their suppression was essential to the development of the Christian church