Authoritative Teaching

With this post, I wanted to bring attention to a Gnostic text that does not get mentioned much, at least from what I have seen.  That text is titled the “Authoritative Teaching” from Codex VI of the Nag Hammadi Library.  It is a text that speaks of the soul.  The text is not complete as it is fragmented in the beginning.  It may be kind of hard to read starting out but once the fragmented parts go by and the text that is mostly complete continues on, you start to get the picture.  It speaks of the soul needing to know the Father and to be aware of the evils of the material world.  I like to quote some lines for this post.

Secretly her bridegroom fetched it. He presented it to her mouth to make her eat it like food, and he applied the word to her eyes as a medicine to make her see with her mind and perceive her kinsmen and learn about her root, in order that she might cling to her branch from which she had first come forth, in order that she might receive what is hers and renounce matter.

I love the allegorical phrasing of this paragraph, which is just the second paragraph in the text.  The first paragraph is very fragmented.  

And (as for) those who contend with us, being adversaries who contend against us, we are to be victorious over their ignorance through our knowledge, since we have already known the Inscrutable One from whom we have come forth.

The text has various examples of this conflict between those with gnosis and those without.  It has a very heavy emphasis on avoiding ignorance and those who have decided to live in the material world without having any desire to know the Father.

We have also become ashamed of the worlds, though we take no interest in them when they malign us. And we ignore them when they curse us. When they cast shame in our face, we look at them and do not speak.

Another example of avoiding the ignorant.  Now you may say “Should we try to help these people?”  Of course, but if a person is not willing to even entertain the idea of such a concept of a higher power, will you ever get through to them?  I believe everyone will awaken when it is their time and it may not be during this particular life cycle.  The text does address this issue and I will quote it later.

Our soul indeed is ill because she dwells in a house of poverty, while matter strikes blows at her eyes, wishing to make her blind. For this reason she pursues the word and applies it to her eyes as a medicine <opening> them, casting away […] thought of a […] blindness in […] afterwards, when that one is again in ignorance, he is completely darkened and is material.

Despite the fragmentary nature of this paragraph, it is pretty easy to see what is being said.  Notice the re-use of the allegory of applying the word as medicine to one’s eyes to see the truth.  

Now these are the foods with which the devil lies in wait for us. First he injects a pain into your heart until you have heartache on account of a small thing of this life, and he seizes (you) with his poisons. And afterward (he injects) the desire of a tunic, so that you will pride yourself in it, and love of money, pride, vanity, envy that rivals another envy, beauty of body, fraudulence. The greatest of all these are ignorance and ease.

This is just one paragraph that goes on to state on how the world constantly tempts the soul to fall into ignorance.  During this section of the text, it reminds me of the “Hymn of the Pearl” in that it is a cautionary tale and how one needs to stay vigilant of falling asleep in the material world.

She gave the body to those who had given it to her, and they were ashamed, while the dealers in bodies sat down and wept because they were not able to do any business with that body, nor did they find any (other) merchandise except it. They endured great labors until they had shaped the body of this soul, wishing to strike down the invisible soul. They were therefore ashamed of their work; they suffered the loss of the one for whom they had endured labors. They did not realize that she has an invisible spiritual body, thinking, “We are her shepherd who feeds her.” But they did not realize that she knows another way, which is hidden from them. This her true shepherd taught her in knowledge.

This paragraph is about the soul leaving the physical body to the archons of the physical world and how those forces are not aware of the true path for one who has obtained gnosis.

The next three paragraphs, that I did not quote, go on to speak of those who do not have any desire to know the Father and the error of their ways.  The text is very forceful in it’s damning of such individuals.  The main theme of this text is of avoiding ignorance and the obtaining of gnosis, thus the strong wording that comes from these paragraphs.

But the rational soul who (also) wearied herself in seeking – she learned about God. She labored with inquiring, enduring distress in the body, wearing out her feet after the evangelists, learning about the Inscrutable One. She found her rising. She came to rest in him who is at rest. She reclined in the bride-chamber. She ate of the banquet for which she had hungered. She partook of the immortal food. She found what she had sought after. She received rest from her labors, while the light that shines forth upon her does not sink. To it belongs the glory and the power and the revelation for ever and ever. Amen.

The final paragraph of the text beautifully portrays the soul finally at rest in the pleroma with the Father.  

I HIGHLY recommend everyone read the full text at http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/autho.html  

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