Re: [GTh] The division of the soul
- Note - if you received an earlier garbled version of this post please ignore
it - I pressed send prematurely!
> Again, as with Thomas 22 and the except from Philip, the two becoming oneI found this a fascinating post but I would like to offer a simpler
> refers to the absorption of the soul by the spirit, turning the two into a
> one of pure spirit.
> In any event, that's my current read on these three passages.
> Frank McCoy
perspective. The authors of Thomas had a two part model of the human
being - the 'body', which included the conscious 'ego' mind, and the
soul/spirit. The soul/spirit is one entity with two states - the soul state
variously represented as being as dead or sleeping and the spirit state
which is 'living'. The soul/spirit dwells in the heaven immediately above
the earth and is in perilous danger of corruption at the hands of the other
inhabitants of this heaven - the fallen shepherd angels who have been
appointed to rule over mankind. The soul is sometimes represented as being
a harlot because it has been seduced by these demons. When it is reborn as
a spirit the soul becomes a chaste bride, 'the pearl'.
The reason for the female imagery is that the soul/spirit was also regarded
as being contra-sexual - a man had a female soul/spirit whereas a woman had
a male soul/spirit. It would seem that this contra-sexual nature of the
soul was based upon Gnostic mystical experiences rather than any rational
argument. The whole Wisdom movement can best be understood in terms of the
devotees of Wisdom (who were of course men) experiencing a mystic female
something that Paul might later have called the spirit. (Whether we
interpret these experiences as being in some way spiritually valid or as
just an interesting psychological phenomenon is irrelevant to the argument.)
Being Jewish they still had to justify their beliefs from scripture which
they did by a Midrash on Genesis. Man was separated from woman in the
garden of Eden. It is this separation, and the resultant ignorance of the
soul/spirit that brings death. The relevant passage in Genesis is mentioned
in Mark 10:6-9 -
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For
this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And the two shall be one flesh: so that they are no more two but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Note how this echoes the 'make the two one' theme of 22 in particular the
'so that they are no more two but one flesh' which is an addition to what is
found in Genesis and which may have been taken from a proto-Thomas version
of 22. The same theme occurs in 1 Corinthians 11:11 -
but neither [is] a man apart from a woman, nor a woman apart from a man, in
This statement is apparently inexplicable in terms of Paul's philosophy
since in the same letter he advises against marriage! But again we can see
a connection with 'when you make the male and the female into a single one,
that the male be not male and the female female'.
In 1 Corinthians 9:5 is a cryptic reference to a sister, a wife -
Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles,
and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
This is normally translated in the sense of 'have authority' but could
equally mean 'have ability'. Also Paul appears to give this as part of his
'defence' for being an apostle - 'Am I not an apostle? Am I not free?' he
asks. The first item Paul gives in his defence concerns the power to eat
and to drink, and eating and drinking are used elsewhere by Paul in a
spiritual sense. Is the wife and sister meant to refer to the accompaniment
of a spiritual wife and sister which is a necessary qualification for being
an apostle and for being 'free'? The rest of the section seems to make
clear a literal interpretation is intended but Paul in his own words is 'all
things to all men'. He may be giving a literal message to 'those under the
law' and 'the weak' and a spiritual message to those 'without the law' who
like Paul are free.
If the idea of walking with a spiritual sister and wife seems crazy we can
see a similar metaphor in The Shepherd of Hermas. At one point the narrator
is left to spend the night chastely with a group of virgins.
"You will sleep with us," they replied, "as a brother, and not as a husband:
for you are our brother, and for the time to come we intend to abide with
you, for we love you exceedingly!"
Later he asks about the identity of the virgins -
And these virgins, who are they?" "They are holy spirits, and men cannot
otherwise be found in the kingdom of God unless these have put their
clothing upon them: for if you receive the name only, and do not receive
from them the clothing, they are of no advantage to you.
The connection with the Gnostic 'garment' is obvious. The narrator later
asks about 'stones' which represent the prophets and apostles -
"Why, then, sir," I asked, "did the virgins carry these stones also through
the gate, and give them for the building of the tower?" "Because," he
answered, "these were the first who bore these spirits, and they never
departed from each other, neither the spirits from the men nor the men from
the spirits, but the spirits remained with them until their falling asleep.
And unless they had had these spirits with them, they would not have been of
use for the building of this tower."
We can see how this would have emerged from the idea that a spiritual wife
and sister is a requirement to be a prophet or apostle.
Coming back to the Gospel of Thomas we can see the instruction in saying 2
about seeking, finding, being troubled, being amazed and ruling as the quest
for making contact with the soul/spirit. The initial contact is with the
dead or harlot soul, the consort of demons, which results in 'being
To be saved a Christian needs to be reborn and before they are reborn Paul
tells us that they must die with Christ. By dieing with Christ the soul is
resurrected into its spirit state. The stories in the gospels of
resurrections, such as that of Lazarus, would seem to relate to this change
of state from the dead soul to the living spirit.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 6:17 AM
Subject: Re: [GTh] The division of the soul
<SNIP Very Interesting Stuff I basically agree with>
> I think that this satisfactorily explains "upper/lower" (at least in
> terms), but what about "inside/outside"? At its most obvious level, I
> that "the outside" must have been that part of a person or object that
> normally be visible - e.g., the body or flesh. Would the "inside" be the
> light hidden within - i.e., the spirit? But the soul is inside as well, so
> perhaps the second mention of inside/outside was intended to suggest that
> "the inside" also itself had an inside and an outside (rather like a large
> ball having a medium ball inside of it, and that medium ball in turn
> a small ball inside it.) Frank McCoy has developed some thoughts along
> line, and so I'll leave it at that, except to address the gender question:
> IF upper and lower were considered gender-related, then it seems that "the
> upper" must have been thought to be masculine (conceptually, not
> grammatically), and IF "the inside" and "the outside" were considered
> gender-related, then I'd venture to say that "the inside" (being the
> must have been thought to be masculine. This would be consistent with the
> saying that "the Kingdom is inside of you, and outside of you" - i.e.,
> both hidden and visible in some sense, i.e., it's androgynous.
There are various erferences eg Clement's Excerpta ex Theodoto
and in Valentinianism more generally to masculine angels (above)
compared to feminine human spirits (below) so I'm quite happy
with upper being masculine and lower feminine.
I'm less certain about inside and outside. I suspect you're right
that inside represents the superior right hand masculine side and
outside the inferior left hand feminine side but I find it hard to be
One possible argument is that inside and outside refers to Luke
17 20-21 (kingdom of heaven inside you) but I'm not sure
whether the parallels in GTh 3 and 113 support an emphasis in
Thomas on the inwardness of the kingdom.
A better 'gnostic' parallel may be Gospel of Mary page 8 'The Son of
Man is within you'
On the whole I think your basic interpretation of inside and outside
is probably sound but I can't find conclusive evidence.
> Afterword: In the Greek version of saying 2, the sequence of events ends
> with the person being "at rest" - which according to the above is a
> masculine state. But the Coptic version of saying 2 doesn't have that
> clause - it ends with "rule over everything", which doesn't appear to be a
> restful state. Is that because the Copts saw that the clause referring to
> rest would suggest that the ultimate goal was a masculine state, whereas
> they wanted the ultimate goal to be an androgynous state - as in "What is
> the sign of the Father within you?" answered by "Motion and rest " - a
> combination of masc and fem elements? This may be a case of Coptic
> to make GTh more gnostic - more consistent with ApocJn.
Later (neo)-Platonism refers to a spiritual realm which simultaneously
possesses opposing pairs of qualities. This is the realm of Nous
immediately below the ultimate One to whom no qualities can be
ascribed. Whether these ideas could have influenced Thomas I'm not
sure. Such ideas seem to develop first in the Pythagorean tradition (eg
Moderatus of Gades) which may support the idea of the influence of
Pythagorean categories on Thomas.
- Hi Andrew,
> I suspect you're right that inside represents the superior right handFirstly, I haven't claimed that there's "an emphasis in Thomas on the
> masculine side and outside the inferior left hand feminine side
> but I find it hard to be sure.
> One possible argument is that inside and outside refers to Luke
> 17 20-21 (kingdom of heaven inside you) but I'm not sure
> whether the parallels in GTh 3 and 113 support an emphasis in
> Thomas on the inwardness of the kingdom.
inwardness of the kingdom". Although it does seem clear that "the inside" of
an individual was regarded as superior to the outer flesh/body, it doesn't
follow that the Kingdom was thought to be "mostly inside" (which is another
way of saying "emphasize inwardness"). In line with what I believe to be its
"third way" posture, GTh presents "the Kingdom" as being both inside and
outside, so that to embrace it was to become in some sense androgynous. I
wouldn't say that GTh "refers to" GLk, because that wording presupposes a
textual dependence that I believe to be questionable, but Lk 17:20-21 does
capture the same two distinct thoughts as Th3 and 113, namely that (1) the
Kingdom isn't *geographically* distant, and (2) the Kingdom isn't
*temporally* distant, from the contemporary earth and its inhabitants. In
other words, it's here and then-now. So why don't (uninitiated) men see it?
Presumably, because it exists within folks who believe in it. Uninitiated
folks do see the people of the kingdom, but they don't *know* that they're
people of the kingdom, so "the kingdom" is both visible and hidden, as it
were. (I think this reconstruction of the thinking behind 113 is consistent
with other parts of the text.)
> On the whole I think your basic interpretation of inside and outsideIt seems that the mind of a person is presented as being torn between the
> is probably sound but I can't find conclusive evidence.
physical desires of the external body and the spiritual desires of the inner
spirit. The "light" within a person is hidden from normal sight. Again, it
doesn't follow that GTh recommends an exclusively-inward turn toward
self-contemplation and isolation. I think that the Thomaines' "third way"
was to act in such a way as to become "light to the world", i.e., to make
one's "inner light" manifest to others. The decision of which "master" to
follow, i.e., how to act in the world, seems clearly to be inner-directed,
which is to say that "the inside" of a person is the active, "live" (read
'male') force. The outer flesh/body is part of the "corpse" of the material
One thing that's been nagging me about this whole picture is that certain
sayings don't seem to conform to it, and methodologically, no analysis can
be considered complete if it fails to confront and explain textual evidence
which appear to place it in doubt. . To take one example, Jesus is made to
recommend that the disciples find a place of rest or repose for themselves
so that "the world" wouldn't "kill" and "eat" them. Given that we've
stipulated that the concept of "rest" was generally a feminine concept, what
sense does it make to suggest that all disciples seek a feminine element?
Did the author of this saying assume that the disciples were male, and thus
that this "repose" constituted a female component needed for them to become
androgynous? (Whereas the passive female would need to be led to action, as
in 114, to androgynize her inherent female passivity?) OK, but what about
the notion of unity (oneness)? The author thinks that that's desirable, but
we've labelled it a masculine element, so how does that fit with the ideal
of androgyny? It may be that "the one" that "the two" were to become was
thought to be an androgynous unity (reflective of "the realm of the Nous"
you mentioned?), somewhat different than the ideal oneness of God or the
Monad, but I confess to being somewhat confused on this issue.
Mt. Clemens, MI