Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?
We are about one hour's drive from Jerusalem and it is clear that this city was forged out of a desert. Abrahamic religions i.e. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all connected to this desert surrounding the pilgrimage centre. Though there may only be sand and rock, from within this bare simplicity of environment, literally Earth shaking events have occurred. So if we really want to know what is going on in the world today, a world still dominated by these Abrahamic religions whether you like it or not, it behooves us to inspect that desert with a little more than casual interest. And we must not forget that this desert stretches all the way to Egypt. The desert is borderless. Long before we had these three faiths there was the god of the sky looking over the Earth and the Earth was a desert. In front of us stretches the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea. It is impossible to sink in its salt rich waters and the extraction of highly mineral rich water from it to make cosmetics has had serious ecological ramifications as I was later to see at sinkholes around its edge. The controversial book about prophecy being encoded in our scriptures entitled The Bible Code had predicted that the tip of a metal cylinder, one that had been left there containing the secrets of our DNA , would be visible in the future as the surface level of the Dead Sea fell. Christine mentioned how even in her lifetime the beaches used to be far nearer the road than they are now. The Dead Sea is dying. I doubt stories like those portrayed in the Bible Code but I am also seriously intrigued at the same time.
Amnon, Christine and myself arrive at the Qumran archaeological site at ten a.m. We hope to get some filming done before the tourists arrive. On my first trip here the year previously a disaster had occurred. Just one day before that fateful Qumran visit in 2007 I had been in El Karim, just outside Jerusalem, and had witnessed the worst sudden rainstorm of my life. The coffee shop we were in was well protected but the amount of rain we saw fall in a couple of hours was staggering. From that area the water forms torrents that then flow towards the Dead Sea and end up tumbling over a cliff. That cliff is right where an historic discovery was made just as Israel was being born as a new state. It was also where sudden death descended on youth. I remember being astonished the following day when we visited, to see parts of the road next to Qumran had been washed away by the force of that torrent. But it had not only been the road that suffered. The Jerusalem Post carried the following headlines:
May 12, 2007 17:53 | Updated May 13, 2007 0:03
Torrential rains kill four young hikers
Four young rappelers were swept away and drowned Saturday afternoon after ignoring warnings that a flash flood was rushing toward them through the narrow walls of Nahal Qumran. The bodies of Dror Koren, Noa Shapira, Tal Alon, and Amit Gottlieb, were only recovered hours after the floodwaters slammed into them while their horrified friends looked on. Police said that the group of 11 rappelers had set out on a hike in the hills near Qumran above the northern Dead Sea early Saturday morning. The adventurers told police that when they had set out, the weather was pleasant, but changed dramatically around noon. Meteorologists had forecast rain for the weekend.
These people were repeatedly warned by rangers to evacuate but ignored them. Israelis are a people who have got used to not listening to a world that constantly tells them they should not be in Palestine. I can understand that. It is part of their defiant national character and has kept them where they are for over half a century. These young people unfortunately assumed the rangers were overreacting. But they themselves were under-reacting. The result was death by deluge.
The desert is harsh. Right there, as I stood within the archaeological site at Qumran being filmed by Amnon I could still see a pool of water in the gully below from that fateful day before. Above it was a cliff face where there was obviously a large cave entrance.(see above photo) This is where the dead sea scrolls were discovered. We managed to film a few sequences before having to deal with bureaucracy and the inevitable request for money that a large camera invokes wherever you go. So what was this cave that had been the scene of deaths?
The desert and the cave discoveries
Just before my doubts about religion were forming in the early nineteen fifties two peasants were going to make history in two separate desert locations. One was in this desert near Qumran where I now found myself and the other was at a place called Nag Hammadi in Egypt. That would at first appear to be a stunning coincidence given what we now know about the ancient relationship of these two countries, now separated because of Allah and Abraham. The peasants both discovered something very powerful and thus very dangerous too. They discovered information that the dominator system would have, and still does have, a hard time dealing with. They both discovered information that was the data equivalent of the two bombs that had been dropped around the same time in Japan. Nothing would be the same after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and so too in the world of Jews and Christians nothing will ever be the way it was before the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.
Since the Israeli scrolls are better known than the less known, but I believe even more important Egyptian discovery, let’s briefly take a look at what happened in that cave in the desert by the Dead Sea. In doing so we will get a much clearer picture of the real lives of Jesus and his closest disciple Mary Magdalene, lives that went beyond the allegorical and mythic lives that have been given to them by centuries of religious domination. They were real people just like you and me. Our modern world has closely come to resemble the Imperial Roman empire which had a dream of a world empire based on its own superior political system. And now, for those with eyes to see what is really going on behind the Pax Americana ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ propaganda of today, we need to re-examine the incredible intelligence and spiritual vitality of men and women who had no fear of the enormous forces around them. Though it seems at first that the Roman empire’s force won and their message was lost, this is not the case. It was not yet the right time or the right place for that message to be understood. Humanity would need two thousand years of history under its collective belt, and a massive environmental emergency to finally get the point. That brings us back to the cave near Qumran.
The Dead Sea scrolls consist of roughly 850 documents including texts from the Hebrew Bible (Talmud), discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves. These caves were in the area I now gazed around called the Wadi Qumran, near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran . The texts are of great religious and historical significance since they are practically the only known surviving Biblical documents written before AD 100. Read that again and try to put it in a Japanese cultural perspective. Imagine a document being found today that is two thousand years old. What it says will forever change the way you look at the ‘history’ you were taught in school-most of which is based on oral transmission from earlier sources. When I took a group of Japanese up the Amazon on a canoe in 2005 it was unexpectedly very cold. Remember that was at the time Hurricane Katrina struck the USA and the weather was very bizarre, very chilly indeed. We decided to play a game onboard the open boat to cheer us all up. One person would start the game and whisper a message to the next person and then we continued around the boat until all twenty or so had whispered the message. We then compared the original message that the first person had whispered with the last message. It was hilarious! The message got completely and utterly changed despite the fact that the rule was to exactly repeat the same message. Now multiply that factor of information ‘infection’ by thousands and you will understand why finding an actual written document from two thousand years ago is so very important. It means what it says rather than what people have been saying about it for millennia. It is a frozen section of time containing understandable and clear information written by intelligent people who were the ancient equivalent of our modern blog writers. They wrote about real life.
The Wolf’s Discovery
It is now generally accepted that a Bedouin sheep-herder by the name of Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed (nicknamed “the wolf”) made the first discovery of the scrolls toward the beginning of 1947. The shepherd threw a rock into a cave to drive out a missing animal under his care. The shattering sound of pottery drew him into the cave, where he found several ancient jars containing scrolls wrapped in linen. The scrolls were first brought to a Bethlehem antiquities dealer named Ibrahim ‘Ijha, who returned them after being warned that they may have been stolen from a synagogue and so they fell into the hands of Khalil Eskander Shahin. He was nicknamed “Kando”, and he was a cobbler and antiques dealer. The Bedouin ‘wolf’ removed only three scrolls at first but, later he revisited the site to gather more. That was because he was apparently encouraged by Kando who himself possessed at least four scrolls. Arrangements were then made with the Bedouins so that the scrolls would remain in the hands of a third party until a sale of them could be negotiated. That third party was named George Isha’ya. He was a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, who soon contacted the nearby St. Mark’s Monastery in the hope of getting an appraisal of the texts. News of the find then reached a man by the name of Mar Samuel. The wheels were now set in motion for the scrolls discovery to reach beyond the sleepy little world of Bedouins.
At least one document has a carbon date range of from 21 BC–61 AD. That is exactly the period that Christ was alive during. The Nash Papyrus from Egypt containing a copy of the Ten Commandments is the only other Hebrew document of comparable antiquity. Similar written materials have been recovered from nearby sites, including the fortress of Masada where the Jews made a valiant last stand against the Roman army and where we went to film after this stop at Qumran. While some of the scrolls were written on papyrus, many were written on a brown animal hide .The scrolls were written with feathers from a bird and the ink used was made from carbon black and white pigments. One scroll however, appropriately named the Copper Scroll, consisted of thin copper sheets that were inscribed with text. It was later analysed at Manchester University and incredibly it contained information about treasure from the temple in Jerusalem that had been hidden before its destruction. That led to many treasure hunts which in general failed to lead to actual discovery. By leaving information inscribed on copper the writers obviously wanted to make sure the message would not be lost in time as even leather, or papyrus will eventually wear out. Copper will not-so the message must have been extremely important. It was, being a way of making sure that the temple treasure would never be forgotten. Laurence Gardner, a British researcher tells us that the Copper Scroll , “gives an inventory and the locations for the treasures of Jerusalem and the Kedron valley cemetery” in his excellent analysis of this period in his masterful book The Magdalene Legacy . The single most important aspect of these diverse writings that I consider to be central to the story of Jesus and John, and thus the only aspect I will comment on, is their connection with this mysterious group called the Essenes. It is my strong suspicion that Jesus was a member of their very elite, yet simplicity loving society. After much research I see that their influence stretched far back into history and was connected geographically to, yes of course Egypt again. If he was a member then his baptiser most certainly was too. When you realize that The Lord’s Prayer, now used by Christians all over the world, was found to be very similar to a much older Essene prayer then it would seem likely that Jesus would have used it growing up among them. And so would John the Baptist. They learned that prayer from earlier Egyptian sources. Once again we are squarely faced with the enormous presence of Egypt, far beyond the superficial archaeology the Tv shows us. It is superficial because it in no way gives the Egyptians the huge credit they deserve for having created human spiritual systems that later took on multiple forms. The Essenes would later be followed by the templars for example.
According to a belief almost universally held until the 1990s, the Dead Sea scrolls were written by a sect known as the Essenes who lived here at Kirbet Qumran. They hid the scrolls in these nearby caves during the Jewish Revolt in C.E. 66 before being massacred by the Roman troops it is thought. Water cisterns were discovered which may have been used for ritual bathing. This would have been an important part of Jewish (and Essene) religious life. A description by Pliny the Elder (a geographer who was writing after the fall of Jerusalem in C.E. 70) of a group of Essenes living in a desert community close to the ruined town of Ein Gedi was seen by some scholars as evidence that Kirbet Qumran was in fact an Essene settlement. Although many scholars are now somehow doubtful even about the existence of the Essenes and appear to have good reasons from an archaeological point of view my feeling is that the Essenes and their role in the creation of the Dead Sea scrolls is a big embarrassment to the church. Archaeologists do splendid work at deducing certain things based on what is left behind but we must never forget that what is left is only a tiny percentage of what was there originally. Stephen Pfann as I mentioned earlier in another essay, has been steeped in the Dead Sea scrolls lore for decades.
The Essenes were definitely a Jewish ascetic sect, about which there is a lot of historical controversy because they are linked to the scrolls. This sect which was originally based upon sun-worshipping of Persian anchorites eventually developed into a sect based mainly in Palestine claiming to be able to perform miracles by living separately from the world and practicing extreme self-denial. One large Essenic community was here in the Qumran region from 110 BC to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It was vacant during the reign of Herod, 31 - 4 BC and especially after a large earthquake in 31 BC.
It is believed among their prominent members were John the Baptist, Jesus and Simon Magus the founder of Gnosticism. One indication that Christ may have been an Essene was that He criticized the Scribes and Pharisees, but never the Essenes. It is also speculated that those following Christ were called Essenes before they were known as Christians. Now for Japanese readers this may be a great surprise but it would be an even greater shock to contemporary American fundamentalists of course who still believe the Earth was created a few thousand years ago.
The Essenes possessed a hierarchy. The chief priest was known as Christos (Anointed One), "head of the whole Congregation of israel." The ordinary priests were called "sons of Aaron," and there was another functionary known as the Messiah of Israel. He also was known as the Teacher of Righteousness and was to undergo and suffer physical abuse in atonement for the sins of the whole community, enduring "vindictive sentences of scourging and the terrors of painful sicknesses, and vengeance on his fleshly body." This is precisely what happened to Jesus was it not?
The Essenic view of the world seemed to be one of predeterminism. Their eternal and omnipotent God not only knew everything that would occur in the world but also arranged for it to happen. Within this predestined arrangement there were two ways that involve a macrocosm and a microcosm. In God's plan the two ways are the ways of light and darkness, or the ways of good and evilness. Quantities of light and darkness exist in the entire universe, angels and men. The opposite quantities are in constant battle. This battle between the two is macrocosmic, universal, as well as microcosmic, in men. God holds the duality in constant control and knows the eventual outcome. Here we have one of the clear origins of what is now called duality.
Much of the matrix movie theme was based on this ancient world view.
It was believed that after the final battle in this war of light against darkness that each angel and man would be judged according to his actions. The preferred explanation as to how sin entered the world for the Essenes at Qumran seemed not to be the sin of Adam (see Gen. 6:1- 4) but the acts of the fallen angels as recorded in the Book of Enoch. Heavenly angels saw daughters of men and mated with them. They and their offspring, the giants, introduced a superhuman quality of evil into human society. This, the Watcher, myth seemed to be more important in Qumran thought because it presupposes that evil existed in the heavenly realm before hand. I have commented on these watchers in my long introduction to the Japanese translation of Zecharia Sitchin's Lost book of Enki. The watchers were the nefilim, or otherwise as they were known in Sumeria, the Annunaki.
Descriptions of Essenic life come from very credible ancient writers such as Josephus, Pliny and others. They described how the Essenes viewed pleasures as evil, and saw continence and conquest of passions to be virtuous. Their writings have led to confusion concerning marriage, sex and children within the communities. They implied the Essenes abstained from marriage and sex but in many of the excavations of the Dead Sea Scrolls skeletons of women and children have been founds at almost all of the communities, even Qumran, leading investigators to speculate that the communities were not devoid of women and sex. The Qumran documents, the Rule of Congregation and Manual of Discipline, refer to women and children as part of the group. The Damascus Document specifies how children of members should be admitted by training them in the ways of the sect. Other theories are there were married members when the communities were formed, but marriage was abandoned when either partner died. Or, the women and children might have been visiting relatives in the communities and/or were travelers who died in the arid region.
The Essenes called themselves Therapeutae, "healers," claiming that their austere lifestyle gave them the power to cast out demons of sickness and even to restore life of the dead. Considering this, Christ raising Lazarus from the dead seems a typical Essenic miracle. Others have wondered if such an event could not have occurred after Christ was lain in the tomb following his crucifixion. Essenes might have been waiting in the tomb to revive him. Due to the various spellings of "Essene" the word could also mean "pious one," or "doers," or "doers of the Torah" All of these meanings seem to have been derived from the word. It seems that Christ used the Essenic method of exorcism when driving out demons, especially in the Gadarene swine. Christ like the Essenes demanded the leading demon tell his name. Knowing the name had magical significance and gave control over the demons. Christ gave his sacred name only to his apostles by which they practiced exorcism, meaning only a few of the early Christians were given this power.
Perhaps this shocks many Christians that claim their religion is the true religion and the Bible is the word of God. But when examining the Essenic teachings one sees established the foundation of Christianity. Within these teachings are the identical concepts of sin, the evilness of wordily and fleshly pleasures, the denial of self and sex, the war between the forces of good and evil, the powers of healing and exorcism, and finally the sacrifice of one in atonement for the sins of many. In brief, the entire Christian religion was laid out or foreshadowed within the doctrines of the Essenes, men who saw nature and life as inherently evil and thus there being a great need for a saviour.
The Egyptian God named by who I believe was the the original Essene Ahkenaton, was Aton and the Jewish God was Adonai. Both these mid-east cultures stressed a monotheistic system=only one God. The famous Ark of the Covenant of the Jews bears a striking similarity to the Ark of Tutankhamen. In my discussions with Graham Hancock on this theme we basically concluded that the ark was of Egyptian origin. Wearing earrings was common in Egypt and in a Royal family this meant the wearer was a prince who was not in the bloodline. He could not become pharaoh. Many Israelites also wore earrings and were told not to wear them when they reached Jerusalem. In other words earrings had a rather negative meaning in both cultures. Egyptian priests, just like their Jewish counterparts, had very strict dietary rules about what they could not eat. They also had shaved heads. The high priest of Heliopolis in Egypt had long, curled side locks of hair just like orthodox Jews do today. The heresy of Jewish, Egyptian and Celtic connection is of course hotly denied by historians who thrive on the core idea that we were all so primitive and separate in the past NO connections could possibly have existed between these disparate cultures. But as a word of warning to such reductionists: it is now very clear for example that all Polynesians were in connection with each other over vast areas of the Pacific, spread over thousands of islands, simply because they had a method of navigation it has taken us this long to discover.
A recent voyage by a boat (The Halakula?) built according to their ancient ways and piloted by modern men who can still discriminate scores of different sea currents by placing their testicles on the floor of the lower deck has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the ancient Polynesians were not island bound primitives who could only sail close to shore. An entire historical fallacy has thus been exposed. Until now we were confounded by the simple opinion that they could not do what they actually did. Likewise the Egyptians sailed the world undoubtedly.
The symbol of the Celtic cross comes from the Ankh which was promoted by Ahkenaton (Moses?) to mean resurrection or life. Ireland and Scotland are now thus full of slightly altered ankhs. Celtic churches face the East as do those of Akenaton’s historical period called the Amarna dynasty. Jewish tabernacles also face East. Circumcision is an Egyptian custom originally and was certainly as we all know Jewish, much later. Even in established religion the modern custom of the Pope appearing at his window in front of thousands at St. Peter’s square (where there is a giant Egyptian obelisk!) goes back to Ahkenaton and Nefertiti doing the same in front of their subjects. It was also a custom among the Israelites at the time of Queen Jezebel for example. Naturally the eggheads being produced at universities will all scream at you this is pure fantasy. But remember the ultimate scientific tool? Occam's Razor states that all things being equal the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Ancient man was super interconnected and not at all separated. All these different empires and rulers we were taught about at school all went to the same two schools. One was in Mesopotamian Sumeria, the other in Egypt. The rest, as they say, is history.
This very strange community of people, the Essenes, for example appeared to be a lot like a group that formed more than a thousand years later in Europe called the Cathars. The Cathars were treated as heretics by the Church, naturally, and many were burned to death. All of this connects to those scrolls. There has always been a ‘conspiracy theory’ around the Dead Sea scrolls because it has taken far too long for them to be released to the public. I find it very interesting that only a few days after the 9/11 events in New York detailed information was available about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and yet it takes 20 years for a potentially enormous story about the Essenes to be revealed, and only because a few key people thought it important. It then takes 50 years for the dead sea scrolls to really make it to our attention-as if we are not clever enough, or not interested enough in ‘old’ things which by the way might totally upset our religious beliefs. Personally I do think there is a strong case for the idea that the release of information about the scrolls was deliberately delayed. It is easy to see why as we will find out that once you can figure out the Essenes then you can figure out the gnostics. Think of these two discoveries as being ‘The Essenes and the Gnostics’ and remember that they are relatives from the same family-one we are not really supposed to be so interested in. Remember they are the ones who the church really does not like because they were always clear about one thing: ‘Know Thyself’. It was their motto whereas the church dogma was and always will be, ‘We know you better than you do yourself’. Hundreds of years of Church authority naturally leads the Church to think that it knows best because we are, after all is said and done, poor sinners!
Allegations that the Vatican suppressed the publication of the scrolls were published in the 1990s. Notably, Michael Baigent's and Richard Leigh's book ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception’ claims that several key scrolls were deliberately kept under wraps for decades to suppress unwelcome theories about the early history of Christianity; in particular, Eisenman's speculation that the life of Jesus was deliberately mythicized by Paul. Upon publication of most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of these concerns have been resolved however, there are still large portions of the scrolls which have not been allowed outside Jordan, or have been allowed only for rare displays or research at the Brigham Young University museum , due to their "sensitive nature." This museum is of course a mormon museum in Utah.
We shall simply say at this point that the scrolls show us a world that is very much more complex than we Westerners were taught about concerning the Holy Land. There were many sects. There were all kinds of Jewish sects in fact and one of them was later to be called Christianity. In school we basically learned that the Jews and the Christians were totally different in their beliefs, that the Jews were pretty much all the same and the Christians were a whole new and different breed. The scrolls show us more than anything else perhaps that this idea is clearly false. The early Christians were of course Jews who were influenced totally by Egyptians and only later did the Greek speaking and Latin speaking believers appear on the scene. One of the things that the scrolls did was to show us how solid dogma had become. Theologians do not like it when you get new evidence about old Gods. Theologians like to think that the Christians were unique to Christ and his disciples. In short, Christ was not the first Christian!
The Gnostic world of Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Philip
The first essential characteristic of Gnosticism is that "direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings," and that the attainment of such knowledge is the supreme achievement of human life. Gnosis is not a rational, or logical understanding, but a knowing acquired by experience. This is entirely different from Christian dogma, or Islamic dogma or Jewish dogma because these religious systems all rely upon scriptures which are the foundation of a life in faith. Your experience really is secondary and in fact is seen to be suspicious. Since the devil is so clever he can trick people into having experiences which may seem really spiritual but which are in fact all illusions! For people who have no wish to explore their own lives a life of simple faith in scriptures can be undoubtedly very satisfying-of that I have no doubt. But we must remember that challenges to the scriptures such faith is built upon simply did not exist in the past to any degree like they do now. Knowing acquired by experience is seen as being very irreligious since especially in Christian belief we are all seen as sinners. How could a born sinner have an experience of reality, of God without the supernatural help of the church? It simply cannot be done, therefore we need the church. Of course for many modern atheists this entire discussion is simply meaningless. Or is it? If you could really know yourself, who you really are beyond all the masks of your conscious personality (persona=mask) and know that you are a powerful spiritual being would that not be the greatest knowledge of all? But who can believe they are spiritual when there is no evidence? Who can imagine that they are food for machines and not really living a daily life as the movie the Matrix suggested?
Gnostics have existed in every age and in every culture because there will always be people who simply cannot be governed by anybody’s rules. There will always be doubters. There was a famous doubter in the Bible called Thomas who wanted to see the holes in the resurrected Christ’s body remember? Even today in the English language we can say that there are generally three categories of people when it comes to belief:
Religious people who adhere to the faith of their religion=believers in God. People who do not believe in God are called atheists in English. People who do not believe in any one specific religion but who are open minded are called agnostic. By separating the ‘a’ from the ‘g’ this reads: a Gnostic showing us today the importance of the term. Very few native speakers of English know about this connection with the Gnostics when they use that term by the way and it was only recently that the lights went on in my head!
So much has been forgotten about the Gnostics that finding a good definition is always hard. However in the past decade a huge amount of interest has been reborn and shows us that people like William Blake the great English poet and the Italian genius Da Vinci were themselves most definitely Gnostics. The Gnostics were not much interested in dogma or rational theology, a fact that makes the study of Gnosticism particularly difficult for individuals with logical mentalities. Carl Gustav Jung, the great Swiss psychologist and a life-long student of Gnosticism in its various historical appearances said, “We find in Gnosticism what was lacking in the centuries that followed: a belief in the efficacy of individual revelation and individual knowledge. This belief was rooted in the proud feeling of man's affinity with the gods”. Well said, Mr. Jung!
The eminent scholar of Gnosticism, Elaine Pagels also comments, "to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God: this is the secret of gnosis. Self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the real self and the divine are identical." That is I believe a very succinct definition of the world that Jesus and Mary came from and was never intended to become a systemized world of religion but rather a community of ‘knowers’ who respected each other’s right to find themselves in their own way at their own time and at their own speed. Yet there was a ‘tradition’ that supported all of this and that tradition had its roots in Egypt, spread to Israel and became the Essenes. Of this I have little doubt yet the scholars will no doubt keep arguing for centuries. The organized world of religion thrives on separation, on what makes each religion unique but the bare truth is that the three major religions of the middle East all sprang out of the same source in Egypt and later conveniently forgot their benefactor lest it become known that they lacked originality!
The Gospel of Thomas was one of the Gnostic texts found preserved in the Nag Hammadi Library and is really much more like a zen mondo than a religious text. It gives us these words of the living Jesus, in his own words:
Jesus said, I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out. He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.
This clearly means that once you realize who you are, as I have, then you will be just like me and we will realize that we are both part of a great mystery. But we can find out. We can know. It is possible. This says nothing about belief. Drink means to actually take the knowledge into your body, to experience it. It is a metaphor for ‘getting’ the message. Even today friends who want to get close and share experiences go have a ‘drink’ together! Where is the saviour God here? He was never interested in being a master though he obviously was one. This is the mark of a true master. He has so much power that he needs no status, no ego bolstering. He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am! What a totally heretical image! The Gospel of Thomas in its entirety is an extraordinary scripture I have read with great delight as it reminds me of so many Sufi stories and zen riddles. Professor Helmut Koester of Harvard University notes that though ultimately this Gospel was condemned and destroyed by the evolving orthodox church, it may be as old or older than the four canonical gospels preserved, and even have served as a source document to them. That information alone shows us that Magdalene's world and the world of the four gospels is almost like a parallel world. We shall find out that it was and that was all part of an amazing series of synchronicities that would result in the Gnostic Mary and Jesus going underground and the gospel saviour going out to the world as a state religion. No blame here at all. But to only know one part of this story deprives modern people who might rightly have a strong distaste for religion of a very powerful source of knowledge and support in these difficult times. Most importantly without knowing the Gnostic story we are in fact deprived of a message that I consider to be tremendously fresh, unique and realistic. It is the message of hope in a world beyond this one-a real world which modern science does not call a world but a dimension. Jesus and Mary were very possibly the two most powerful communicators from a spiritual point of view that understood life beyond the material realm. In modern day movie terms they were Neo and Trinity in the Matrix. They fought for truth. They died for love. They lived for freedom.
What about the answer to Mary Magdalen's question quoted at the start of this essay? here it is:
He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision
This is surely the reply of a master. If we use our computer analogy where the laptop unit is the body, the software systems are the soul and the internet is the spirit then what can the mind be? Surely it is the keyboard without which we cannot connect the software to the internet. The conscious use of those keys is what allows us to ‘see’ the visions coming from other times and places, from other dimensions. Thus consciousness is what sees the vision. This relationship then between Mary and Jesus shows us via their dialogue a sophisticated understanding of reality that most of us, like those disciples are still far from seeing. We need to ask better questions and to do so we need better information. We need to know more about the heretical message of this male and female team that the above quote has hinted at. If it seems to you that the world is involved in a real battle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, and it appears to you therefore that duality is not something easy to fully comprehend at all, then the Essenes, the Gnostics, The Cathars and the Templars might have a lot to teach you. If you however feel that simple faith is enough and that such questions are irrelevant then there is no question that established religion with its belief in a monotheistic God might work for you. As an atheist you would basically be denying a spiritual dimension to humanity outright. Eat, drink and be merry would be your religion perhaps. Oh, and lots of sex. Though Japan undoubtedly did possess a vibrant shamanistic culture before the great philosophy of Buddhism arrived here and to some extent still has these influences popular Japanese culture has an extremely adolescent understanding of spirituality, as does my own culture in the Uk. It is my hope in reviving these profound messages in a bottle found in a cave that we will as Earth Pilgrims reconnect with the great tradition of Know Thyself and actually make the great efforts required of us to become sons and daughters of the most high.
We escaped having to pay an exorbitant price for filming with a big camera at Qumran. Myself and Amnon then took the footpath up the massive cliff at Masada. Most people that day sailed over our heads in the cablecar to the mountain top palace of Herod where 900 or so Jewish patriots holed up when the Romans came to destroy the last vestiges of rebellion against their rule. Some were zealots. Some may have been Essenes who had hidden the scrolls knowing their time was up. One thing is for sure. You would have to have a very strong belief in another world, a world of spiritual light beyond this one, to do what they did. I would like to imagine a group of atheists confronted by an encroaching Roman army of eight thousand, camped below near where we started our climb up. For many months the Jews held out but the sheer organizational power and will of the Roman empire was against their tiny community. I sat in the remains of their synagogue up there and listened to a Jewish tour guide explain that their leader, one Elazar ben Ya'ir had told the people to prepare to die by drawing lots. They were in fact choosing lots to decide who would kill whom in a mass murder of each other. Not suicide. They killed each other!
Rather than be enslaved and raped they chose another way, one that only a monumental faith would allow. It is for this reason that even today all army recruits are taken here to show them what it means to be a Jew, and what sacrifice is sometimes required.
After filming sink holes by the shores of the Dead Sea, massive cave ins of the floor of the Earth that had almost swallowed a bus a few years earlier we drove back into Jerusalem. I felt the weight of history on me but at the same time the pure magic of this desert , an ancient sacred place.