Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

By G.R.S. Mead

From The Travels of Peter

To the above may be added the final speech put into the mouth of Peter, in the romance of his Travels, or Circuits (Tours). It is found in the fragment of the Linus-collection, called The Martyrdom of Peter. The legend says that Peter insisted on being crucified head downwards, and the reasons for this strange proceeding are given as follows in the faulty Latin translation.

The Descent of Man."Fitly wert Thou alone stretched on the cross with head on high, O Lord, who hast redeemed all of the world from sin. I have desired to imitate Thee in Thy passion too; yet would I not take on myself to be hanged upright. For we, pure men and sinners, are born from Adam, but Thou art God of God, Light of true Light, before all æons and after them; thought worthy to become for men Man without stain of man, Thou hast stood forth man's glorious Saviour. Thou ever upright, ever raised on high, eternally above! We, men according to the flesh, are sons of the first man (Adam), who sunk his being in the earth, whose fall in human generation is shown forth. For we are brought to birth in such a way, that we do seem to be poured into earth, so that the right is left, the left doth right become; in that our state is changed in those who are the authors of this life. For this world down below doth think the right what is the left; this world in which Thou, Lord, hast found us like the Ninevites, and by Thy holy preaching hast Thou rescued those about to die."

"The authors of this life" presumably refer to the powers that bring the man to birth. The Jonah-myth was a type of the initiate, who, after being three days and three nights in the "belly of Sheol" or Hades, preached to those in Nineveh, the Jerusalem Below, that is to say, this world.

But for the brethren there was a still further instruction as to the meaning of the Mystic Cross.

"But ye, my brothers, who have the right to hear, lend me the ears of your heart, and understand what The Mystic Redemption of the must be revealed to you--the hidden mystery of every nature and the secret spring. of every thing composed. For the first man, whose race I represent by my position, with head reversed, doth symbolize his birth into destruction; for that his birth was death and lacked the life-stream. But of His own compassion the Power Above came down into the world, by means of corporal substance, to him who by a just decree had been cast down into the earth, and hanged upon the Cross, and by the means of this most holy calling [the Cross], He did restore us and did make for us these present things (which had till then remained unchanged by men's unrighteous error) into the Left, and those that men had taken for the Left into eternal things. In exaltation of the Right He hath changed all the signs into their proper nature, considering as good those thought not good, and those men thought malefic most benign. Whence in a mystery the Lord hath said: 'If ye make not the Right like as the Left, the Left like as the Right, Above as the Below, Before as the Behind, ye shall not know God's kingdom.' This saying have I made manifest in me, my brothers; this is the way in which your eyes of flesh behold me hanging. It figures forth the way of the first man.

"But ye, beloved, hearing these words and by conversion of your nature and changing of your life perfecting them, even as ye have turned you from that way of error where ye trod, unto the most sure state of faith, so keep ye running and strive towards the peace of that which calls you from above, living the holy life. For that the way on which ye travel there is Christ. Therefore with Jesus, Christ, true God, ascend the Cross; He hath been made for us the one and only Word. Whence also doth the Spirit say: 'Christ is the Word and Voice of God.' The Word in truth is symbolized by that straight stem on which I hang. [As for the Voice--] since that voice is a thing of flesh, with features not to be ascribed unto God's nature, the cross-piece of the cross is thought to figure forth that human nature which suffered the fault of change in the first man, but by the help of God-and-man, received again its real mind. Right in the centre, joining twain in one, is set the nail of discipline, conversion and repentance."

The Latin translation is very faulty and often obscures the Greek original, but enough of the meaning has been preserved to show the general drift of the thought. The first quotation is one of the sayings from The Gospel according to the Egyptians; the source of the second is not known. Compare also the changing of the Right and Left with the conversion of the spheres in the opening pages of the Pistis Sophia treatise.

Other speeches and innumerable isolated phrases, which still preserve traces of the Gnosis, could be Afterword.cited from the existing remains of the uncanonical Acts, but sufficient has been written to give the reader an idea of the extensive popular literature of this kind which emanated from Gnostic circles in the early years, and to show him that very different ideas prevailed among those who were in touch with the inner tradition, from those of that exclusively historical view which eventually gained the upper hand.

Whether or not these ideas throw light on the Christ's teaching, each must decide for himself. That, however, they were ideas put forward by men vastly nearer the time of the origins than ourselves--by men whose whole lives were devoted to the Christ, striving by every means to purify themselves, and to experience in themselves the truths of the unseen world and realize the teachings of the Master--is amply manifest.



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