Monday, February 3, 2020

A Conversation with Elaine Pagels in Parabola Magazine

"Moving Toward Hope: A Conversation with Elaine Pagels" From Parabola Magazine

Elaine Pagel's "The Gnostic Gospels" was transformative for me when I first came upon it, which wasn't long after its first publication in 1979. There were elements in the Christian tradition, of Jesus' teachings, that resonated deeply within me, but that Christian orthodoxy would bar me from accessing—because I was a Jew, because I was gay, but mostly because I was more drawn to what Jesus taught than the deification of him as a person. 

My Christian grandmother embodied those teachings. She always respected my upbringing as a Jew, so I didn’t get any of the Pentecostal dogma; but I spent a lot of time with her as a child and witnessed her good works with the poor and sick, and in her lovely maternal warmth, all of which were plainly connected to her love of the Bible and her frequent church goings. When I was twelve, I met Jesus in a lucid dream a couple of days before my bar-mitzvah, which was shocking and profound and more than a little scary (the dream itself wasn’t frightening, far from it, but the implications of it for me as a good Jewish boy were confusing.) There was such a profound opening of the heart in this dream, a soft, crystalline awareness, and a deep, loving, personal connection to this radiant and gentle man, this teacher… I’ve never forgotten it, it is with me still. Yet the spiritual traditions and communities, Christian and otherwise, I explored later all seemed to require acceptance of things that were absurd or antithetical to my experience, or denial of things I knew in my heart to be good and true; and I never felt welcomed, not as I was. 

So I was on my own—hallelujah and amen. Pagel's book was a part of my introduction to the mystic path: it is good to be "on one's own," in a sense; even in community, truth and the ability to discern it comes from within, not without. The things I came to later, that I work with now, all begin with that. And the communities I eventually did find, of which I am gratefully a part of, begin with that, too. 

Please read this wonderful interview with Ms. Pagels, whose personal story is as moving as her books. And please support Parabola magazine, a great resource and source of inspiration for those on the path.

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