Paul the Gnostic Initiate

The central human figure in the founding of Christianity is Jesus' prophet.


Christ Crucified not literal

Paul writes of Christ crucified in ways which cannot be literal, and cannot refer to a recent crucified person.

He is 'buried with Christ in baptism' :

Col. 2:12 "...having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, "

He is united with Christ by the 'likeness of his death' :

Rom. 6:5 "For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. "

He describes himself as 'crucified', but Christ as now 'living in' him :

Gal. 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. "


Paul an Initiate of mysteries

Paul's great speech to the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:1-16) is all about his spiritual credentials, knowing "Jesus Christ" as an initiate of the mysteries of Christ crucified :

"When I came to you, brothers, I didn't come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. "

Paul describes a personal mystic experience which his hearers knew :

"I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, "

Paul belongs to a mystery school :

"We speak wisdom, however, among the initiates "

And this wisdom is of a higher kind :

"...yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nothing. "

This mystery wisdom was previously hidden :

2:7But we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory, which none of the rulers of this world has known. For had they known it, they wouldn't have crucified the Lord of glory.

hidden, even from the 'rulers of this world' who did not realise they had crucified the 'Lord of Glory'.

Paul insists he is a Pneumatic (a 'spiritual man') and sees above the natural world :

2:10But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. ... 2:12But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, ... 2:15But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one.

In fact, Paul even has Christ's mind :

2:16"For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?" But we have Christ's mind."

Consider also the esoteric poem in Ephesians (probably not by Paul)  - it seems to be a climactic prayer from the initiation ritual in the Mysteries of Christos (ch.5:14) :

"Therefore it is said:
    Awake O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead
    and the Christos will shine on you"

This sounds exactly like an initiatory ritual - the initiate, called 'dead' in the physical body, is enticed to 'rise' above the physical so the Christos may shine on him.


Paul's Personal Experience

Paul boasts  (2 Cor 12), of personal experiences - he describes a spiritual rising :

  1. "I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord

  2. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.

  3. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.

  4. and he heard things that cannot told, which man may not utter... ''

The context has Paul boasting of his exploits (e.g. the escape from Damascus), here he establishes his spiritual credentials - literally Spiritual - the Spiritual Plane being the the 3rd Heaven. Elsewhere, Paul describes a personal vision of Christ, amplified into several versions and incidents in Acts.


Paul the Gnostic

Most interesting indeed is the picture which emerges from the Gnostics - many of whom regard Paul as the founding Gnostic. Indeed, the first book from the Jung Codex is called The Prayer of the Apostle Paul, and Paul is cited often as a key founding Gnostic Father. These Gnostic books are full of Pauline exegesis, and also have much in common with the major pagan mystical work of the times, the Corpus Hermeticum.

Tertullian and Irenaeus, and the recently revealed Nag Hammadi Library, are the main sources of the Gnostic's viewpoint, which shows:

  1. The Valentinians claim their secret tradition is based on Paul's own Gnostic teaching '' they say that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas... a disciple of Paul ''- noting Paul's key phrase '' we speak wisdom among the telioi ''

  2. The Naassenes and Valentinians revere Paul as the Apostle who was a Gnostic Initiate. The Gnostic Library of Nag Hammadi contains key works attributed to Paul (e.g. Prayer of the Apostle Paul), many citing or alluding to him ( The Epistle to Rheginos, Tripartite Tractate, Gospel of Philip, The Interpretation of the Gnosis)

  3. Ptolemy, Heracleon and Theodotus revere Paul as '' the apostle ''

  4. The Gnostics accuse the Anti-Gnostics of being unaware of the secret tradition, and of using the sources un-critically (i.e. not testing as Paul enjoined).

  5. Furthermore the Gnostics claim their opponents read the surface literal meaning of the teachings, without understanding the deeper meaning, which they understand through Paul's Gnosis and their initiation there-in.

  6. And they say they are following Paul's example when they offer gnosis to the initiates ''

  7. they also defend their libertarian approach by pointing to Paul's freedom from the law as expressed by 1 Cor 6:12e.g.

So, the Gnostics make a clear argument for a Gnostic Paul, and for the literalist Christians having missed the whole point - and the Gnostics were right at the centre of the Christian movement, only later are they seen as outsiders, e.g. Valentinus, (who claimed to have been personally initiated by one Theudas, an initiate of the Apostle Paul), was perhaps considered for Pope - many Christians followed Valentinus in his time.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Gnostics say:

i.e. the Anti-Gnostics themselves confirm some of the Gnostic ideas.

This interesting essay from Joseph P. Macchio discusses the Christos as Archetypal Man or Adam Kadmon


Paul's Dual language

Paul is said to '' teach two ways at once ''(Theodotus, from Pagels).

Paul contrasts two types of man (e.g. 1 Cor. 2:14) '' the psychic human does not receive the gifts of the pneumatic '', Greeks vs  barbarians, wise vs foolish.( Rom. 1:14), Jew vs uncircumcised ( Rom.2:28)

The Psychic (or sarkic) are the lesser order. '' But I could not address you as Pneumatics, but as sarkic, as children in Christos ''( 1 Cor 3)

Paul describes this dichotomy (here Jew vs uncircumcised) as spiritual, not literal: '' a Jew is not outwardly.. circumcision is not physical.. a Jew is inwardly... circumcision is of the heart - pneumatic, not literal ''( Rom 2:28)

Paul is an initiate, a pneumatic, a spiritual, '' I worship in my spirit (pneumati) .. I long .. to share with you a certain spiritual (pneumatic) charisma to establish you ''( Rom 1:9,11). He means to pass on Initiation be word of mouth '' We speak the Gnosis among the Initiates ''( 1 Cor. 2:16)

Paul describes his two ways of teaching ( Rom.1):

'' the Gospel of God concerning his son,
who came into existence of the Seed of David physically (the Psychic Jesus)
the one designated Son of God in power spiritually (the Pneumatic Christ) ''

David is the Demi-urge, the lower power of creation of form - the King who creates form in the Kingdom of the physical world through the medium of the ether, the seed of Yesod.

Paul warns against the materialistic and describes the elect '' look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christos Jesus. ''( Phil.)

Paul talks about Christ's death and life - in THAT order. '' for if [we were earlier re-conciled] by the death of his Son, much more, now shall we saved by his life ''( Rom. 5)



Humans have two bodies : '' if there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body ''( 1 Cor.)

These two bodies are lower and higher bodies : '' if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from god, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, here indeed we groan and long to put on our heavenly dwelling ''( 2 Cor.)

An esoteric poem Col. 1:15-20, refers to Jesus as the Image of the hidden God, the first emanation :

the Image of the invisible God,
the first -born of Heaven,
for in him all things were created,
in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions,
principalities or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him
he is before all things,
and in him all things hold together,
he is the Head of the Body, the church,
he is the beginning,
the first born from the dead,
that in all he might be first,
for in him was the Pleroma,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross .

The Christos doctrine is that Christ is in us:

'' God made known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory( Col.).

'' Do you not realize that Jesus Christos is within you?( 1 Cor.).

Ephesians (probably not by Paul) has the little poem in a section about being of the light :

But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that is revealed is light. Therefore he says,

"Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christos will shine on you." ( Eph. 5:13 )

When had the writer heard this said? I sound like the climactic moment from a Christian initiation.


The 2nd Century Dichotomy

The picture that emerges from the 2nd century is startling:

Two totally opposing schools of thought claim Paul as their founder and base their beliefs on his writings, each claiming to be the real heirs of Paul -

The Anti-Gnostics eventually won, and became orthodox Christianity, in what Kuhn calls the Shadow of the Third Century- most certainly worth a read - its online. His Who is This King of Gloryis also apposite to this discussion and perhaps his best work.

Gnosticism lost and went underground, (even literally) as the Gnostic books were buried, to surface again 16 centuries later, to make a birthday present for one of the great Gnostics of recent times - Jung - fascinating story.

In sum:

Much evidence from the 2nd century supports a Gnostic Paul who was inspired by a spiritual Christ, but who wrote ambiguously and whose message was later mis-interpreted only literally.


by Kapyong


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