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Among the ancient Gnostic manuscripts rediscovered in modern times, the Secret Book of John is one of the most important. It a sacred reservoir of Gnostic myth and revelation. It breathes with the life of vision that vitalized early Christianity, a life suppressed and then largely forgotten in later ages. A modern reading grants fundamental insights into the lost foundations of Christian tradition.
In the twelfth chapter, John asks God’s messenger a series of six questions about the soul.
“Lord, will every soul be saved and enter the pure light?” asked John.
“You ask an important question, and one it would be impossible to answer for anyone who was not a member of the unmoved race,” the angel replied.
These are the people upon whom the Spirit of Life will descend and its power enable to be saved and to become perfect and worthy of greatness: Those who expunge all evil from themselves and care nothing for wickedness, wanting only that which is not corrupt; Those who achieve freedom from rage, envy, jealousy, desire, and craving.
The physical body will encumber them. They will wear it as they look forward to the time when they will meet with those who will remove it. These people deserve indestructible eternal life. They endure everything, bearing up under everything that happens so that they can earn goodness and inherit life eternal.
“Lord, what about the souls who didn’t do these things even though the Spirit of Life’s power descended on them?” asked John.
If the Spirit descends on a person, they will be transformed and saved. The power of life is given to everyone. Without it, no one can even stand up. After they are born, if the holy spirit of increases in them, power comes to them and their souls are strengthened. Nothing then can lead them astray into wickedness. But if material spirit comes into people, it leads them astray.
“Lord, when souls come out of the flesh where do they go?” asked John.
If the soul is strong it has more of the holy spirit than it has of earthly power, and so it flees from wickedness. With the assistance of the Incorruptible One that soul is saved and it attains eternal rest.
“Lord, what of the souls of the people who do not know who they are? Where do they go?” John asked.
In those people, earthly power has grown strong and they have gone astray. Their souls are burdened, drawn to wickedness, and cast into forgetfulness.
When it comes forth from the body, such a soul is given over to the powers created by the Archons, who bind it in chains and cast into prison again. Around and around it goes until it manages to become free from forgetfulness through knowledge. And so, eventually, it becomes perfect and is saved.
“Lord, how does the soul shrink down so as to be able to enter its mother or a man?” asked John.
“You are truly blessed because you have understood,” said the angel.
The soul is guided within by the holy spirit. Eventually, it will be saved by this means and will not have to enter a body again.
“Lord, what happens to the souls of people who achieved true knowledge, but who turn away from it?” asled John.
Demons of poverty will take them to a place where there is no possibility of repentance. There they will stay until the time when those who blasphemed against the spirit will be tortured and subjected to punishment forever.
Note: I’ve adjusted the terminology used, since it was very confusing. I’ve replaced the phrase “spirit of life” with “holy spirit”, and the term “artificial spirit” with “material spirit”.
What an incredible doctrine. Souls that become empowered by the holy spirit will be saved and made immortal. Souls that do not, for the most part, will be reborn, repeating the cycle until they are saved. Only those souls who achieve understanding and yet still turn away from God are cast into purgatory and, on the day of judgement, will be given eternal damnation. Thus, the author has married early Christian teaching with the Eastern idea of reincarnation.
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