At heart I am a Gnostic.
In simplified form, Gnostics believe that from the beginning there was the One, the All, the Everything. There was neither anyone nor anything else. And for that reason, unable to get outside itself—there being no outside to go to—the One sought self-awareness. So it created the World as a place to achieve that. And into this world it sent shards of itself, ignorant of their origin, yet capable in time of discovering who they were and from whence they had come. You and I are some of those shards.
The pleroma (πλήρωμα) separates us from the One. New Testament books written in Greek include this word at least a dozen times, but it is consistently translated as “fullness,” as “in the fullness of time.” Gnostics understand the pleroma as the barrier—a sort of spiritual hymen—between us and our origin. It is the horizontal bar on the ankh symbol tattooed on my back, a reminder of my goal. It may be out of sight, but it is never out of mind.
Look at the ankh: the bifurcated world of good and evil, right and wrong below the pleroma; the unified Oneness we seek, above.
In addition to the World, there were also created a number of demi-gods, fallen angels and others (according to ancient Gnostic wisdom) put in charge of this place (below the bar or pleroma). Forgetting their relationship with The One, however, their consequent mismanagement of this place may account for the plethora of present day Faiths. Details of Gnostic theology are curiously interesting, arcane and convoluted. Gnostic Heaven and Hell, for example, are not separate and distinct places of reward and punishment after the fact. They exist right here, right now. This life can be heavenly or hellacious; the choice is ours.
I take from the Gnostics this simple notion: The task here in this life is to discover my origin and eventually return home. When this life is over, I will present myself for examination and receive one of three judgments: 1) I will have lived well and fully and be permitted home to rejoin The One; 2) I will have lived badly, drink the draught of forgetfulness and be sent back to do it again until it is done right; or 3) I will have made mistakes but be allowed to return and build upon my previous existence. Number 3 is my heartfelt desire. Complaints to the contrary, I’m beginning to like this place.
There is a Gnostic church; Google it. It has bishops and clergy and liturgy and all the trappings of “religion.” I want nothing to do with it, nor with any other organized religion, since those institutions only confirm my equally heartfelt belief that in the syzygetic pairing of religion and spirituality, it is the latter which concerns each of us; the former is a cloud of misdirection. Yet clerics abound, spouting more nonsense than wisdom. “Sky Pilots” my father called them; folks who wear their shirts backwards or in some other way self-identify among the masses as keepers of special knowledge and absolution. I used to scurry from their presence, but no more.
My spiritual advisors are, more often than not, unaware they are fulfilling that role. You see them every day, as I do: glimpses, glimmers and glints of The One seen in lives lived well and fully. Exemplars of what it means to be both completely human and humane. Too often, it is their opposites we see in full force and flourish; the Marcus Bachman’s of this life. Bachman’s head is situated so far and so firmly up his ass that he and his ilk are become more Möbius than Men. Maurits Escher would be hard-pressed to paint his portrait; an eye-wrenching image of insides and out conjoined from some spiritual car crash.
So, if and when this thought occurs—”I cannot live”—please allow yourself to compete that sentence: “I cannot live this life this way.” Correct your course; seek the good and true. Keep an eye out for those glimpses, glimmers and glints.
See you on the other side of the Pleroma.