Which religion is all about ‘discovering who I really am’?
Following my post the other day on the New Gnosticism, I thought I’d try to find out a bit more about the old Gnosticism. So I was delighted to find in the back-catalogue for the marvellous GodPod podcast an episode on this very issue. The year is 2007, the ‘occasional guest’ is Tom Wright, and the subject is his 2006 book about the Gnostic Gospel of Judas: Judas and the Gospel of Jesus.
About 6 minutes in, Tom Wright unpacks the message of second-century Gnosticism, which tells us that:
The world we live in of space, time, and matter is basically a bad place, and it was made by a bad or incompetent or malevolent god. And we are trapped within this bad world. And we (or at least some of us) are actually sparks of light, or somewhere within our nasty mortal body there is a spark of light, which has got trapped there, and which is longing to escape and go off into the world of pure spirit, where it’ll be free and happy and whole again, set free from this nasty mortal world.
And that the way to get that freedom is through acquiring this knowledge, this gnosis, which is a knowledge about the true God, who is the high God, who didn’t really have anything much to do with the making of the world, because that was a silly, secondary, shabby thing to do. And this true God, who really doesn’t like materiality at all – physicality – wants to get in touch with this divinity which is already inside you.
And so the knowledge is the knowledge of God, the knowledge of how this wicked world was made (that it was a shabby bad place), and the knowledge of who you really are. And this is the key thing, fitting in exactly with so many elements in contemporary culture, where, in half the movies that are made, it’s all about ‘discovering who I really am’, rather than the Christian message, which is discovering that the God who made the world is the true God, and he loves you to bits, and wants to rescue you, not from materiality, but from the corruption of that materiality, which we call rebellion or idolatry or sin or wickedness.
Familiar, isn’t it? Be true to who you really are! Be free and escape from the confines of your body!
The discussion goes on to consider the revival of Gnostic-like beliefs in the modern secular world, and the ways in which the modern church has been influenced by Gnostic forms of thinking.