and which Didymos Jude Thomas wrote down. And he said,
“whoever finds the meaning of these sayings will not experience death.”
~ Opening lines of the Gospel of Thomas
We are told that these are teachings which were written down and saved for us to read. They are not church tradition or talk about Jesus, but direct sayings of Jesus as he lived. Perhaps there was a concern even during Jesus’ life that the essential message would be forgotten and mere talk of personalities would become the central concern.
Thomas makes this bold statement at the very beghing so that no one will be confused as to the focus of this document. Also, Thomas is telling us that these teachings are different than the ones publicly uttered. He obviously is aware that although the public teachings are important, they are not on the same level as these, which are meant fort he earnest seeker, not the casual listener or the spiritually immature.
Spirituality has as its essence the unseen, invisible and abstract reality of our being. Because it is hidden — that is, veiled from the obvious material matrix of things — it requires a kind of disciplined way of looking that is different from the everyday pattern of experiencing and interacting with the world.
It is, as this insight suggests, hidden. And because it has a fundamentally different kind of reality to it than does the obvious material process, the person who begins understand this other reality experiences a kind of conscious suspension of the ordinary world.
When Jesus says “he who finds the meaning of these sayings will not experience death” he does not mean that material death will not occur, but rather that a person begins to identify themselves as beyond the domination of the physical process where death is the ruling power. In this way, one ceases to “experience death” as an event to their identity, because their identity itself has altered.
This collection of sayings or insights reveal this hidden reality and a transformed consciousness that is required to perceive the Spirit. As such, they are whispers of a reality that cannot be spoken of directly, but only pointed to. This pointing to is the intention of Jesus’ private teachings, and Thomas’ reason for compiling them.
After twenty years in the ministry I had reached a dead end. I could no longer believe the core of orthodox Christianity regardless of how liberal I was with the Biblical text. The basic idea that God had sent his Son to die for me seemed like just one more item to feel guilty about and even reinforced the material matrix of the death process of a hurtful and unjust world. I was falling apart, even though on the outside, publicly, I appeared serene and confident.
I had always had a sense that life itself was rather meaningless, but I was well defended from it. My head kept me aloft, and I stayed well distracted — busy. But my pain was becoming intolerable. I decided to look elsewhere. I studied everything. I learned to meditate, was initiated as a Shaman, and got a graduate degree in clinical psychology. It helped some, but something else was bugging me.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but that something else that was bugging me was a Spiritual presence that would change everything in my life, and dissolve my living death. Later, as I read the opening saying of the Gospel of Thomas, I understood the phrase “Whoever finds the mearting of these sayings will not experience death.”
Did Jesus think that these sayings, in and of themselves, would begin an inner change in the individual that would ultimately lead to an awakening that would liberate him from the bondage of suffering that this world is? Well, whatever Jesus thought about them, they certainly have a power. One carmot live with these insights for a period of time and not have them radically affect the way that you feel, think and move in the world.
I have read this Gospel many times now, and have focused on each insight to give it time to sink in and touch my deepest part. What occurred has been nothing short of incredible, for truly I feel a sense of my own change, and a sense that I will never be the same again.
Somehow they moved me from identifying with an “I” that I thought I was, to an “I” that I now understand to be who I truly am. Within this new understanding, death is no longer a factor, since it stands outside of the truth of my essential being. Not by faith, nor belief in a doctrine or historical event, but through simply knowing who I am has caused this change, exactly as Jesus said it would.
~ From: Insights from the Secret Teachings of Jesus by Christan Amundsen