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Hidden Meaning Reconsidered

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  • Robert Tessman
    ... What I was saying is that it is vanity to assume that we understand what a text is saying if it tells us explicitly that it is esoteric. I was refering to
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2000
      >>From: Michael Grondin <mgrondin@...>
      >>To: <gthomas@egroups.com>
      >>Subject: RE: [gthomas] Adam Reconsidered (Amy)
      >>Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2000 22:03:40 -0400
      >>At 12:28 PM 04/06/00 -0700, Amy Clark wrote:

      >> >It is vanity for us to ever assume that we can know the
      >> >true implications of Thomas's words.
      >>I'm not sure what you mean here. Is it any more "vanity" for us to "assume"
      >>that we can know the "true implications" of Plato's words - or Paul's? Or
      >>is it because Thomas declares itself to be esoteric?

      What I was saying is that it is vanity to assume that we understand what a
      text is saying if it tells us explicitly that it is esoteric. I was
      refering to Mike's statement that he sees no reason to suppose the 'face
      value' interpretation is not the correct one. My main concern was that of
      a somewhat common 'modern day' prejudice that the ancients were a backward,
      unintelligent people compared to who we are today. As far as technology
      goes, I might agree but not as far as original thought is concerned. We,
      today, have no monopoly on intelligence to be sure.
      Perhaps on a deeper level, one irrelevant to this list, I do agree
      with Amy here that any assumption of knowing the truth, or of believing
      that one CAN know the 'truth', about any given subject matter is driven
      solely by vanity. Of course it would be the vainest of vanities for anyone
      to state such a belief since it is an attempt to make a 'truthful'
      statement, AND MOREOVER, one that makes everyone else look bad for the
      purposes of our own beauty. It is sort of a 'mirror mirror on the wall..'
      idea. Alas, Vanity is somewhat inescapible I suspect.

      >> >I believe the objective is to interpret the words so that we can learn
      >> >them in our own individual ways, as the ascetics did.
      >>Again, I'm not sure what you're saying. Do you mean that GThom was written
      >>with the specific intent of causing folks to puzzle over it? Both Robert
      >>and I would probably agree with you on that. In fact, we had a discussion
      >>of this issue back around Jan 20th. You may want to look it up in the
      >>back-messages at eGroups.

      I would agree that GThomas was written for the purpose of confusing the
      living daylights out of an ascetic-type to the point of sheer,
      unadulterated, humility. In my own opinion, I do not think the meaning can
      be deciphered because it seems to rest on a metaphorical language that was
      transmitted mostly orally.
      The esoteric nature of the text is reminiscent of Hellenistic
      Mystery Religions whereby only an 'initiate' would understand the truer
      meanings behind such written texts as, for example, the Homeric Hymn of
      Demeter and Persephone. This myth was public domain and many people could
      find whatever they wanted to find as far as meaning is concerned within the
      text, but only an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries (wherefrom the text
      was produced) would perhaps understand exactly how the hymn fit into the
      greater puzzle of what they were learning INSIDE the mystery cult. Because
      the mystery religions have become extinct it is irrevokably impossible to
      know just how the hymn would have been interpreted--though anyone can
      speculate. A waste of time then? that is a relative idea.
      This is the way in which I approach the GoT. I am assuming that
      there was a greater puzzle within which the GoT was merely but a piece.
      Every word in the text would therefore be intended to relate with
      everything else that was being learned orally by such ascetics.
      When it says, "Anyone who discovers the interpretations...will not
      taste death" I believe that it is not exaclty speaking to 'anyone', but
      rather those who have decided to join the community of ascetics that
      produced this text. They would have slowly discovered connections in the
      text with their daily ascetic practices--whatever those practices were--and
      come to an understanding of the text based solely upon the fact that they
      were in contact with the community that produced the text. What I believe
      is meant is, "Anyone who discovers the interpretaions will necessarily be
      one of us because only we have the keys to the Kingdom and we have composed
      this text here that makes no sense whatsoever except in relation to what
      you could learn here, with us, if you join." It all seems to be 'bait' for
      recruiting new members. The bait was transmitted by the written word and
      the answers were to be found orally, probably over a period of many years.
      The missing 'key' with which to decipher the text is the, now
      irretreivable, community that produced it--and it is likely that they
      intended it this way to insure their survival as a valuable sect. They put
      their literature out and soon they get a return of puzzled religious types
      comming to them for answers. Voila! New Blood.
      In this way GThomas would be saying that 'anyone who does discover
      the interpretations' will 'not taste death' not BECAUSE they were able, on
      their own, to make everything connect within the text perfectly--as if it
      were itself a complete puzzle--but rather they will not taste death because
      of their ascetic practice and livelihood in a community that would slowly
      reveal the correct exegeses of these sayings: an exegesis wholly dependant
      upon the communal environment of the Thomasine ascetic.
      That is why I am looking for possibilities external to the text, as
      if each saying pertained to a particular aspect of the ascetic's daily life
      and in relation to possible experiences with whatever spiritual mindgames
      took place. For this reason my interpretations don't have the 'common
      sense' premise that reason would require. Because of this my
      interpretations seem quite unfounded and well, speculative, because I am
      basing my reasoning on all of this: a wild card. I do not believe the GoT
      is self contained.

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