7) Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by
man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes
In Marvin Meyer's book on the Gospel of Thomas, he notes that #7 may
be ultimately based upon statements in Plato's Republic (588E-589B),
comparing the soul to a creature having three parts: a many-headed
beast, a lion, and a human being. In this model, the approver of
injustice, or the one who believes that injustice is profitable, would
be quite correct to feed and nourish both the many-headed beast and the
lion. The inner man then would be starved and weakened and dominated by
the other two natures. The supporter of justice, on the other hand,
would "ever so speak and act as to give the man within him in some way
or other the most complete mastery over the entire human creature".
Plato says of the baser natures, that while the "wild ones" should be
prevented from growing, the lion should be made an ally, to be tamed and
harmonized into the whole.
Now, whether or not you believe that the author of #7 ever read or
even had access to Plato's Republic, this was obviously a very
influential work in ancient times and in the time period we are looking
at. The idea of inner struggles, of competing forces pitted against
each other within the mind, did not originate with Freud. The idea was
in the air as early as in Plato's day. Nevertheless, people being what
they are, inner forces were often believed by some to be external
forces. The battle for control of our minds is waged with external
forces. We struggle < literally> with our demons. This view, very
early on, became the prominent one in the early church. However in
Thomas, I see an emphasis on nurturing, as Plato suggested, the good
within (i.e. the light or the seed sown in good soil) while "consuming"
or dominating the lower natures or impulses. I really don't see solid
evidence for assuming the belief in some external enemy here. The
symbolism in these sayings seems to lend itself to an interpretation
that stresses the triumph of the divine or higher nature of man over the
lower. This struggle is an inner struggle that is ultimately won when
the "two becomes one," that is, when the seeming duality within becomes
unified and purified.
In #7, we might think of the "lion" as something akin to an ego. I
prefer not to identify the lion as "passion" as some have. It seems to
me that something more encompassing than passion is suggested here.
Rather, the common understanding of the word, ego, strikes me as more
appropriate. That meaning would be: the me against the world idea of
ourselves, the divider within - see #72, the loud, yet insecure bully,
the earth bound and limited side of our perceived natures. As for the
"man", I identify him as the higher self or, as in #3b, the son of the
living father. The lion then, is blessed when consumed by man. This is
so, because in becoming man he lays down his considerable defenses,
loses his sense of limitation, and merges with something much greater.
However, when the man is consumed by the lion, he is cursed. The lion
(ego) dominates the higher nature, as ego always does when given a
chance, and the "light" of the man can't penetrate the darkness. He's
lost and he probably doesn't remember that he ever was a man. So the
"man becomes lion." I agree with Davies that this last phrase must
have been reversed. So I see #7 as an allegory of man's eternal and
internal struggle of the higher self with the ego, light with darkness.