The Treatise on Resurrection (Letter to Rheginos)
Some there are, Rheginos my son, who want to become men of knowledge; that is their goal when they occupy themselves with difficult problems. If they are successful, they have an exalted opinion of themselves. I do not think that they have stood within the Word of Truth. They seek rather their own rest, which we have received from our Savior, our Lord Christ. We received it when we came to know Truth and rested on it.
Since you politely ask us what is proper concerning the resurrection, I am writing to you that it is essential. Many do not believe in it and few find it, so let us discuss it in our treatise.
How did the Lord proclaim things while he existed in flesh and after he had revealed himself as Son of God? He lived in this world where you remain and spoke about the law of nature, which I call death. Now the Son of God, Rheginos, was a Son of Man. He embraced them both, possessing the humanity and the divinity, so that being a Son of God he might vanquish death, and being a Son of Man, [humanity’s] restoration to the Pleroma might occur. For he was originally from above, a seed of Truth, before this structure, with its many dominions and divinities, came into being.
I know that I am presenting the solution in difficult terms, but there is nothing difficult in the Word of Truth. The solution appeared not to leave anything hidden, but to reveal all things clearly about coming into being, the destruction of evil, and the revelation of the elect. This is the emanation of Truth and Spirit, and Grace belongs to Truth.
The Savior swallowed up death—(of this) you are not assumed to be ignorant. He cast aside the world, which is perishing. He transformed into an imperishable Aeon. He rose up, the visible having been swallowed by the invisible, and he gave us the way to our immortality. As the Apostle said, “We suffered with him, and we rose with him, and we went to heaven with him.”
We are manifest in this world wearing it. We are beams of the One, and we are embraced by it until our setting, our death in this life. We are drawn upward by it, like beams drawn by the sun, being restrained by nothing. This is the resurrection of the spirit, which swallows up the psychic just as it does the fleshly.
“If you want to be free to be born or die, to go or stay as one would put on or take off a robe, then you must understand right now that the person here listening to the Dharma has no form, no characteristics, no root, no beginning, no dwelling place, yet he is vibrantly alive.”
“Fellow believers, because of mental processes, thoughts are formed, but all of these are just robes. If you take the robe that a person is wearing to be the person’s true identity, then though endless eons may pass, you will become proficient only in robes and will remain forever circling round in the threefold world, transmigrating in the realm of birth and death. An old master states:
I meet him yet know him not
I converse with him yet I know not his name” – Lin-chi
But if one does not believe, he cannot be persuaded. My son, the affirmation that the dead will rise belongs to the realm of faith, not persuasion. Among all of the philosophers in this world, perhaps one believes. Certainly that one will rise. Let not that philosopher have cause to believe that he returns on his own, because of our faith. We have known the Son of Man, and we have believed that he rose from among the dead. He it is of whom we say, “He became the destroyer of death.”
The object of belief is great and the believers are also great. The thought of those who are saved shall not perish; the mind of those who know it shall not perish. We are elected to salvation and redemption, since from the beginning it was determined that we would not fall into the folly of the ignorant, but would enter into the understanding of those who know Truth.
The Truth that is held cannot be lost, nor will it be. “Strong is the system of the Pleroma; small is that which broke loose (and) became (the) world. But the All is what it encompasses. It has not come into being. It was.”
Therefore never doubt [in your] resurrection, Rheginos my son. Once you did not exist in flesh; you assumed flesh when you entered this world. Why is it that you will not have flesh when you ascend into the Aeon? Better than the flesh is that which is the cause of its life. That which came into being because of you, is it not yours? If it is yours, does it not exist with you? While you are in this world, what is it that you lack? This is what you have been making every effort to learn.
“Followers of the Way, as I see it we’re no different from the Buddha. Today in your manifold activities, what is it that you lack? The wonderful light of the six faculties has never for a moment ceased. Who can see it like that is, for the rest of his life, one who has nothing to do.” – Lin-chi
The afterbirth of the body is old age and you exist in corruption. Leaving it behind you will gain, for you will not give up the superior part when you leave. The inferior part will diminish, but there is grace for it. Nothing redeems us from this world, but we being the All, we are saved. We have been saved from beginning to end. Let us think in this way; let us understand in this way.
It’s actually a path of taking on more and more of your natural state of being infinite. You give up limitation, you give up misery, but you never give up anything worthwhile. You never give up anything good. – Lester Levenson (1993, p. 19)
But there are some (who) wish to understand, in the enquiry about those things they are investigating, whether he who is saved, if he leaves his body behind, will be saved immediately. Let no one harbor doubts about this. . . . indeed, the visible members which are dead shall not be saved, for (only) the living ones which exist within them will rise up. What, then, is resurrection? It is always the revelation of those who have risen. For if you remember reading in the Gospel that Elijah appeared and Moses with him (Matt. 17:3), do not think that resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is Truth. Indeed, it is more fitting to say that the world is an illusion, rather than the resurrection, which has come into being through our Lord the Savior, Jesus Christ.
What am I telling you?
The living shall die;
how do they live in illusion?
The rich become poor,
kings are overthrown,
The world is illusion.
Let me not speak excessively of the negative.
Resurrection does not have this nature.
It is Truth.
It stands firm.
It is revelation of what is,
a transformation of things,
a transition into newness.
Incorruptibility flows over corruption,
light flows over darkness, swallowing it up.
The Pleroma fills up the void.
These are symbols and images of resurrection.
It brings goodness.
Rheginos, do not become lost in minutiae, nor live in conformity with this flesh for the sake of harmony. Flee from divisions [of the undivided One] and fetters, and already you have resurrection. If the mortal part knows itself, knows that it will die even though it has lived many years in this life, why not look at yourself and see that you have already risen and have been received in?
You have resurrection; yet you go on as if you are to die, when it is that mortal part that knows it is dead. Why do I overlook your lack of practice? Everyone needs to practice the various ways to be released from this element, in order not to fall into error but instead to recover what one was at the beginning.
Everything you are seeking, you are, and very foolishly saying you are not. That’s part of the enigma: everything everyone is seeking with such intensity, one has, and much more. “It” is you; when you say, “I,” that is the Infinite. Great big joke! Here you are infinite looking for your Self, which you are! – Lester Levenson (1993, p. 19)
These things I have received by the generosity of my Lord, Jesus Christ. [I have] taught you and your [brethren], my sons, concerning them, while I have not omitted any of the things suitable for strengthening you (plural). But if there is one thing written which is obscure in my exposition of the Word, I shall interpret it for you (pl.) when you ask. But now, do not be envious of anyone among you when he is able to help. Many are looking into this which I have written to you. To these I say: peace (be) among them and grace greet you and those who love you (pl.) in brotherly love.
The Treatise on the Resurrection
ontology: The branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.
soteriology: The study of religious doctrines of salvation.
cosmogony: Any model concerning the origin of either the cosmos or universe.
pleroma (πλήρωμα): Lit. fullness; completeness, totality.
Aeon: The source of all being is an Aeon, in which an inner being dwells, known as Ennoea (“thought, intent”), Charis (“grace”), or Sige (“silence”). The split-off perfect being conceives the second Aeon, Nous (“mind”), within itself. Complex hierarchies of Aeons are thus produced, sometimes to the number of thirty. These Aeons belong to a purely ideal, noumenal, intelligible, or supersensible world; they are immaterial, they are hypostatic ideas. Together with the source from which they emanate, they form a Pleroma (“region of light”, Greek πλήρωμα). The lowest regions of Pleroma are closest to darkness—that is, the physical world. (Wikipedia)
Meyer, Marvin (2007). The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-06-162600-5
Robinson, James (1988). The Nag Hammadi Library in English. San Francisco: Harper & Row.