Gnostic View of Conversation With Nicodemus
The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is the single most important conversation in the New Testament. And now, here is why.
Nicodemus is described as a ruler of the Hebrews. He was a senior member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Judaism. Nicodemus represents the organized religion and the outer interpretation of scripture. Jesus is the representative of the Gnostic system and the inner interpretation of scripture.n These differences are critical.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, which metaphorically means in ignorance/unkowingness. Nicodemus wants to understand what Jesus is teaching and what he means by his words.
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered him:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus then said to him:
“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew (from above).’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the spirit.”
“How can this be?”
Here is the conflict between the inner (esoteric) and the outer (exoteric) interpretation. Nicodemus is asking about the outer conditions because it is all he has known. He was born of his mother. Without being reincarnated, how can he be born again?
Jesus is explaining that we live in two distinct sections: flesh and Spirit. While the Spirit may inhabit the flesh, it is NOT flesh. The Spirit is entirely different. Notice that the first Spirit is capitalized. This refers to God. This Spirit is the substance of God. The second spirit is not capitalized. This spirit is also the substance of God, but it is only a very small amount of this substance. What is born of Spirit is spirit. Such as a drop of water in the ocean. Part of the entirety, but not the entirety.
The ways of the spirit within are different from the ways of the world. This is one of the reasons that a spiritual teacher is so often misunderstood. When we look at spiritual teachings from the perspective of the world, we will almost always miss the meaning of the teaching.
Spirit has its own way, its own point of view, its own inner meaning. This is why Jesus compares the working of spirit to the wind. The fact that the Greek word used in the original manuscript means both spirit and wind simply adds to the comparison. If we are to understand the spiritual, a basic change in perception is necessary and required.
We can compare this change to polarized sunglasses. Natural sunlight is produced in all different polarity of waves. When sunlight is reflected off a surface, the majority of waves matching, or close to, the angle of the surface are the ones most strongly reflected.
Light reflecting off a horizontal surface, such as water, snow, a car window, is primarily horizontally polarized. By constructing polarized sunglasses to pass vertically polarized light, thus effectively blocking horizontally polarized light, the glare of reflected light is significantly reduced or eliminated.
The perspective of the world is like horizontally polarized light. It is glaringly obvious. When we change our perspective to "vertically polarized thinking" - the spiritual perspective, we do not see the world so much as we see the spiritual. What we see is very much a matter of how we see. Perspective determines perception.
Jesus answered him:
“Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
This is the heart of the conflict between the two - the inner and outer interpretations. The Gnostics know and speak of what they know, and bear witness to what they have seen. Spirituality is a reality to the Gnostic; they know it from direct experience and direct contact with God. There can be no doubt.
The Gnostic has been transformed from within; nothing is as it was, everything has been born anew. The person of the world, like Nicodemus, learns intellectually what the words are and is left to believe what the words mean. All this talk of spirit must be reserved for a time after this life, for it cannot be here, it cannot be now. These must be magical events and divine characters.
This is the most important sentence, and the key to understanding the teachings of Jesus:
“No one has ascended into heaven but he who has descended from heaven, the Son of man.”
In the "outer interpretation," here is the set up and how it goes: the Son of man is Jesus. Jesus came down from heaven, was born into a human body, and only he can ascend back up into heaven. Jesus is a divine being, not like the rest of us mere mortals. We certainly cannot do what Jesus has done. In some of the outer interpretations, Jesus is actually God, not just the Son of God. We are lowly sinners and can never be what Jesus is.
But then, in the "inner interpretation," the Son of man is the spirit within, specifically, the awakened spirit within. In the Gnostic tradition, there are two aspects of God; a masculine and a feminine.
The feminine aspect is referred to as Sophia, meaning Wisdom, also referring to the emotional aspect of God, which is unconditional love.
The masculine aspect refers to knowledge and knowing.
When the feminine and masculine aspect of God combine, a third component is created; the pure white light of Christhood. This pure white light of Christhood is the living light of spirit, the very same spirit within each living thing.
This living light of spirit is the source of our personal life. What is born of Spirit is spirit. We are born of God. The spirit within us is the substance of God, and as such, cannot die or be destroyed. We have eternal life because the spirit within us is the substance of God, which also has eternal life. It is a function of what we are.
In the scriptures, Jesus asked us to follow him, not worship him. He expected us to do the things he did, and to become like him.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.”
The "outer interpretation" is that Jesus must be lifted up on the cross. The "inner interpretation" means that the awakened spirit within must be raised up in knowledge, Wisdom and power, the aspects of God resident in the spirit within each and every one of us.
Lifting up the serpent in the wilderness is also a strong reference to the ancient mystery school system, which was raised to a position of importance in the time of Moses. The personal relationship with God and the teaching of one unseen spiritual God are the cornerstones of the tradition of Moses.
In the outer interpretation, one must believe in Jesus in order to obtain eternal life.
In the inner interpretation, we must believe in the presence of the spirit within, which already has eternal life.
If we do not believe we possess this spirit within, how can we awaken and empower it? We must come to believe we have this spirit within before anything else can take place. If we do not believe in the presence of the spirit within, there is only the ego upon which to base our consciousness, and when the ego fades and ceases to be, so does any consciousness based on the ego. This is the second death: the death of consciousness.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
The church has taken liberties in this part of scripture. The obvious intent is to strengthen the outer interpretation. And yet, the inner interpretation is still appropriate.
God gave the pure white light of Christhood, placed into everyone, that whoever believes in the spirit within, awakens that spirit and makes it grow, and empowers it, should not perish, but have eternal life.
The purpose of the spirit within each and every one of us is not to condemn the world, but that we might save the world by transforming ourselves, and in turn transform the world.
Only our ego seeks to condemn the world, just as it condemns others, and ultimately engages in self-condemnation. This is how people can come to believe that they are hopeless sinners, living in need of rescue and salvation from someone else.
“He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Name means nature. In the inner interpretation this means to believe in the nature of the spirit within. The term Son of God refers to the fully enlightened and empowered spirit within, completely aligned and connected to the consciousness of God. This is the level Jesus attained.
The statement “I and the Father are one” is the recognition of that state of perfect alignment with God. Jesus, presented as a human being, just as you and I are, is an example of having attained this level of conscious connection and alignment with God.
Anyone can do so through dedication and persistence. If one human, as Jesus was, can attain this level of perfection, others can as well. What is possible for one is ultimately possible for all. Whether it be Jesus, Apollonius, Attis, Serapis, Mithras, or any other ancient sage, hierophant, or shaman.
“And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes into the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.”
In the outer interpretation, Jesus, and only Jesus, is the light, which has come into the world. If that were actually true, why, in the Sermon on the Mount, did Jesus say "you are the light of the world?"
In the inner interpretation, each and every one of us has the light, the living light of spirit within us, making each of us the light of the world, just as Jesus said it.
The light is the spirit and the darkness is the ego. People love the ego and the evil things it does rather than the spirit and the light within. To awaken and empower the spirit within means to take responsibility for all of our actions and inactions in life. It means making amends, where doing so will not hurt or injure another. It means coming into the light of day where our actions may be clearly seen, and all may know that our actions are consistent with the love that comes from God.
The empowered spirit within is loving, considerate, compassionate, respectful, kind and gentle. You were born of God, not in sin. You are the light of the world, not a poor helpless sinner. You have the substance of God within you, and you have the power and ability to transform your life, and in doing so, you obtain the power to transform the world, just as it has always been done: one person at a time.
God created the pure white light of Christhood and placed it deep within you, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved, by you, and through you. You really are the light of the world. Every one of us are the Sons and Daughters of God. It can be no other way.
The Bible has two main elements: commentary, describing where people went and what was done; and dialog, what people said. The above section is dialog – including John 3:16. In order to understand clearly what is being said, we need to know who is speaking.
In John 3:16, Jesus is speaking. The sentence structure is in third person, which means Jesus is referring to something, or someone other than himself.
In the outer interpretation, Jesus, as the only Son of God, is the only light that has come into the world. Could it be that Jesus is referring to the light that is in all of us as the light that has come, not to condemn the world, but to save it? Could each one of us be the Son that God sent into the world?
We can certainly see that the ego is the darkness and the spirit within is the light, and that the ego is all too willing to condemn the world. Ultimately the spirit within will save us individually, and once each of us experiences our true salvation, wouldn’t the world also be saved?
Just a deep thought ...
~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.
My thanks to David F. Capps.