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#7 and Internal Forces

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  • W George Duffy
    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 man. In
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 27, 2001
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      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
      man."

      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.

      Thank you,

      George Duffy
    • smithand44@hotmail.com
      ... consumed by ... becomes ... #7 may ... In general I m quite sympathetic to an interpretation like this, and I have no problem with the knowledge of Plato,
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 29, 2001
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        --- In gthomas@y..., W George Duffy <gduffy@a...> wrote:
        > 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
        > man."
        >
        > 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 general I'm quite sympathetic to an interpretation like this, and
        I have no problem with the knowledge of Plato, but...

        we have many different examples of the lion as a symbol, the Plato
        one, the lion of the tetramorph (which has some resemblance to
        Plato's perhaps),the devil of 2 Peter, Ialdabaoth, the Lion of Judah,
        perhaps the lions of Daniel or the lion of Samson... Against the lion
        being Platonic is the absence of the many-headed beast.
        <interpretation snipped>

        > 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.
        >
        > Thank you,
        >
        > George Duffy

        As far as I can see, the only reason to suggest that the final phrase
        is a scribal error is that we don't understand the saying. I'm not
        very sure of my interpretation of the saying, but I do think that my
        Pauline examples show that we don't really have a reason to suggest
        scribal error.

        Best Wishes

        Andrew
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