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So recently I’ve been having a theological discussion about Reincarnation with a coworker and friend kevin Anderson.  I started thinking about this subject a long time ago when I first became a follower of Christ Jesus.  When I first started to have this discussion was with my  friend who I now call the guru Joseph Ferrara who has now died so its appropriate that I dedicate this blog post to my good friend and mentor who I learned many things from.

This section taken from: wikipedia.org

Christianity[edit]

Though the major Christian denominations reject the concept of reincarnation, a large number of Christians profess the belief. In a survey by the Pew Forum in 2009, 24% of American Christians expressed a belief in reincarnation.[140] In a 1981 Survey in Europe 31% of regular churchgoing Catholics expressed a belief in reincarnation.[141] Geddes MacGregor, an Episcopalian priest and professor of Philosophy, makes a case for the compatibility of Christian doctrine and reincarnation.[142] There is evidence[143][144] that the writing of Origen, a Church father in early Christian times, was mistranslated into Latin due to religious bias and that he taught reincarnation in his lifetime. One of the epistles written by St. Jerome, “To Avitus” (Letter 124 ; Ad Avitum. Epistula CXXIV[145]), asserts that Origen’s On First Principles (Latin: De Principiis; Greek: Περὶ Ἀρχῶν[146]) was mistranscribed from Greek into Latin:

About ten years ago that saintly man Pammachius sent me a copy of a certain person’s [ Rufinus‘s[147] ] rendering, or rather misrendering, of Origen’s First Principles; with a request that in a Latin version I should give the true sense of the Greek and should set down the writer’s words for good or for evil without bias in either direction. When I did as he wished and sent him the book, he was shocked to read it and locked it up in his desk lest being circulated it might wound the souls of many.[148]

Under the impression that Origen was a heretic like Arius, St. Jerome criticizes ideas described in On First Principles. Further in “To Avitus” (Letter 124), St. Jerome writes about “convincing proof” that Origen teaches reincarnation in the original version of the book:

The following passage is a convincing proof that he holds the transmigration of the souls and annihilation of bodies. ‘If it can be shown that an incorporeal and reasonable being has life in itself independently of the body and that it is worse off in the body than out of it; then beyond a doubt bodies are only of secondary importance and arise from time to time to meet the varying conditions of reasonable creatures. Those who require bodies are clothed with them, and contrariwise, when fallen souls have lifted themselves up to better things, their bodies are once more annihilated. They are thus ever vanishing and ever reappearing.’[149]

The original text of On First Principles has almost completely disappeared. It remains extant as De Principiis in fragments faithfully translated into Latin by St. Jerome and in “the not very reliable Latin translation of Rufinus.”[146]

This section taken from: http://reluctant-messenger.com/reincarnation-pope.htm History records that the early Christine church believed in Reincarnation and of the souls journey back to oneness with God. This all changed by Imperial decree some 500 plus years after the death of Christ. Emperor Justinian in 545 A.D. was able to apply the full power of Rome and his authority to stop the belief in reincarnation. He forced the ruling cardinals to draft a papal decree stating that anyone who believes that souls come from God and return to God will be punished by death. The actual decree stated: “If anyone asserts the fabulous preexistence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema. (The Anathemas against Origen), attached to the decrees of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, A.D. 545, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d ser., 14: 318).” A prominent theologian named Origen wrote around 250 AD about the pre-existence of the soul. He taught that the soul’s very source was God and that the soul was traveling back to oneness with God via the lessons learned in multiple lives. He taught that Christ came to show us what we can become. For centuries this was the mainstream view of Christianity but 300 years later it became a huge issue and the belief was made illegal because Emperor Constantine believed it was dangerous to the Empire to believe in reincarnation. In the sixth century A.D., Emperor Justinian and Pope Vigilius disagreed on whether or not the teachings of Origen should be condemned as heresy. The Pope supported the teaching as being consistent with the teachings of Jesus the Messiah. The Emperor was determined to eradicate the belief even though the Pope and the church believed in reincarnation. The fact that the doctrine of reincarnation had been a part of Christian theology for over 500 years did not sway the Emperor. Origen’s writings were considered heresy by important cardinals in the sixth century. Origen’s teachings had been considered as profound spiritual wisdom for three centuries. Origen lived around 250 AD and wrote about the pre-existence of the soul and in reincarnation. He taught that the soul’s very source was God and that the soul’s was traveling back to oneness with God via Reincarnation. Emperor Justinian wanted Origen’s writings and teachings to be condemned and destroyed but Pope Vigilius refused to sign a papal decree condemning Origen’s teachings on reincarnation. As a result of his disobedience, the Emperor had the Pope arrested and put into jail. In 543, Justinian convoked the Fifth General Council of the Church and told the Pope he would sign whatever into doctrine whatever the council decided. On the way there, under guard, the Pope escaped to avoid being forced to condemn Origen’s writings. The Emperor commanded the council to continue despite the Pope’s refusal to attend. There was a logical reason why the Emperor was opposed to the concept that all of mankind originally came from God and was returing to God via the cycle of birth and death. Justinian had been convinced by high ranking cardinals that it was not in the interest of the empire to allow Origen’s writings to continue to be copied and distributed. A powerful group of Cardinal’s and Bishop’s explained that if every soul had once pre-existed with God, then Christ wasn’t anything special to have come from God. These Cardinals convinced the Emperor that if people realized they were the children of God they might begin to believe they no longer needed an Emperor, or to pay taxes, or to obey the Holy Church. But since they reasoned that only Christ had come from God but God made brand new souls at the time of conception and only the Holy Church could bring these souls to God. Without the protection of the Empire or the guidance of the church, all people would be doomed to be forever cut off from God in Hell. This doctrine was very acceptabloe to the Emperor. Once Justinian understood the political danger inherent in Origen’s teachings, the rest was simply an Emperor doing what was in his best interest. The council, as instructed by the Emperor, produced fourteen new anathemas and the very first one condemned reincarnation and the concept that souls pre-existed with God. “If anyone asserts the fabulous preexistence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.” Even though these events are in the history books, modern Christianity treats the doctrine of reincarnation today as if Jesus never taught it or that the early church ever believed it. The fact that a soul comes from God and is destined to become God, as Christ is God, is the very reason why Satan rebelled. Reincarnation is one of the Lost Doctrines of Christianity. This section taken from: http://www.near-death.com

1. The Mystery of God in Humanity
2. The Arian Controversy
3. The Council of Nicea
4. The Fifth General Council
5. Conclusion
1. The Mystery of God in Humanity

Early in the fourth century, while Bishop Alexander of Alexandria was expounding on the Trinity to his flock, a theological tsunami was born.

A Libyan priest named Arius stood up and posed the following simple question: “If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence.” In other words, if the Father is the parent of the Son, then didn’t the Son have a beginning?

Apparently, no one had put it this way before. For many bishops, Arius spoke heresy when he said that the Son had a beginning. A debate erupted, led by Arius on the one side and by Alexander and his deacon Athanasius on the other. Athanasius became the Church’s lead fighter in a struggle that lasted his entire life.

In 320 A.D., Alexander held a Council of Alexandria to condemn the errors of Arius. But this did not stop the controversy. The Church had nearly split over the issue when the controversy reached the ears of the Roman emperor Constantine. He decided to resolve it himself in a move that permanently changed the course of Christianity.

The orthodox accused the Arians of attempting to lower the Son by saying he had a beginning. But, in fact, the Arians gave him an exalted position, honoring him as “first among creatures.” Arius described the Son as one who became “perfect God, only begotten and unchangeable,” but also argued that he had an origin.

The Arian controversy was really about the nature of humanity and how we are saved. It involved two pictures of Jesus Christ: Either he was a God who had always been God or he was a human who became God’s Son.

If he was a human who became God’s Son, then that implied that other humans could also become Sons of God. This idea was unacceptable to the orthodox, hence their insistence that Jesus had always been God and was entirely different from all created beings. As we shall see, the Church’s theological position was, in part, dictated by its political needs. The Arian position had the potential to erode the authority of the Church since it implied that the soul did not need the Church to achieve salvation.

The outcome of the Arian controversy was crucial to the Church’s position on both reincarnation and the soul’s opportunity to become one with God. Earlier, the Church decided that the human soul is not now and never has been a part of God. Instead it belongs to the material world and is separated from God by a great chasm.

Rejecting the idea that the soul is immortal and spiritual, which was a part of Christian thought at the time of Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the Fathers developed the concept of “creatio ex nihilo”, creation out of nothing. If the soul were not a part of God, the orthodox theologians reasoned, it could not have been created out of his essence.

The doctrine persists to this day. By denying man’s divine origin and potential, the doctrine of creation out of nothing rules out both preexistence and reincarnation. Once the Church adopted the doctrine, it was only a matter of time before it rejected both Origenism and Arianism. In fact, the Arian controversy was only one salvo in the battle to eradicate the mystical tradition Origen represented.

Origen and his predecessor, Clement of Alexandria, lived in a Platonist world. For them it was a given that there is an invisible spiritual world which is permanent and a visible material world that is changeable. The soul belongs to the spiritual world, while the body belongs to the material world.

In the Platonists’ view, the world and everything in it is not created but emanates from God, the One. Souls come from the Divine Mind, and even when they are encased in bodily form, they retain their link to the Source.

Clement tells us that humanity is “of celestial birth, being a plant of heavenly origin.” Origen taught that man, having been made after the “image and likeness of God,” has “a kind of blood-relationship with God.”

While Clement and Origen were teaching in Alexandria, another group of Fathers was developing a counter-theology. They rejected the Greek concept of the soul in favor of a new and unheard of idea: The soul is not a part of the spiritual world at all; but, like the body, it is part of the mutable material world.

They based their theology on the changeability of the soul. How could the soul be divine and immortal, they asked, if it is capable of changing, falling and sinning? Because it is capable of change, they reasoned, it cannot be like God, who is unchangeable.

Origen took up the problem of the soul’s changeability but came up with a different solution. He suggested that the soul was created immortal and that even though it fell (for which he suggests various reasons), it still has the power to restore itself to its original state.

For him the soul is poised between spirit and matter and can choose union with either: “The will of this soul is something intermediate between the flesh and the spirit, undoubtedly serving and obeying one of the two, whichever it has chosen to obey.” If the soul chooses to join with spirit, Origen wrote, “the spirit will become one with it.”

This new theology, which linked the soul with the body, led to the ruling out of preexistence. If the soul is material and not spiritual, then it cannot have existed before the body. As Gregory of Nyssa wrote: “Neither does the soul exist before the body, nor the body apart from the soul, but … there is only a single origin for both of them.”

When is the soul created then? The Fathers came up with an improbable answer: at the same time as the body – at conception. “God is daily making souls,” wrote Church Father Jerome. If souls and bodies are created at the same time, both preexistence and reincarnation are out of the question since they imply that souls exist before bodies and can be attached to different bodies in succession.

The Church still teaches the soul is created at the same time as the body and therefore the soul and the body are a unit.

This kind of thinking led straight to the Arian controversy. Now that the Church had denied that the soul preexists the body and that it belongs to the spiritual world, it also denied that souls, bodies and the created world emanated from God.

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2. The Arian Controversy

When Arius asked whether the Son had a beginning, he was, in effect, pointing out a fundamental flaw in that doctrine. The doctrine did not clarify the nature of Christ. So he was asking: If there is an abyss between Creator and creation, where does Christ belong? Was he created out of nothing like the rest of the creatures? Or was he part of God? If so, then how and why did he take on human form?

The Church tells us that the Arian controversy was a struggle against blasphemers who said Christ was not God. But the crucial issue in the debate was: How is humanity saved – through emulating Jesus or through worshiping him?

The Arians claimed that Jesus became God’s Son and thereby demonstrated a universal principle that all created beings can follow. But the Orthodox Church said that he had always been God’s Son, was of the same essence as God (and therefore was God) and could not be imitated by mere creatures, who lack God’s essence. Salvation could come only by accessing God’s grace via the Church.

The Arians believed that human beings could also be adopted as Sons of God by imitating Christ. For the Arians, the incarnation of Christ was designed to show us that we can follow Jesus and become, as Paul said, “joint heirs with Christ.”

The Orthodox Church, by creating a gulf between Jesus and the rest of us, denied that we could become Sons in the same way he did. The reason why the Church had such a hard time seeing Jesus’ humanity was that they could not understand how anyone could be human and divine at the same time. Either Jesus was human (and therefore changeable) or he was divine (and therefore unchangeable).

The orthodox vision of Jesus as God is based in part on a misunderstanding of the Gospel of John. John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Later John tells us the “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The orthodox concluded from these passages that Jesus Christ is God, the Word, made flesh.

What they didn’t understand was that when John called Jesus “the Word,” he was referring to the Greek tradition of the Logos. When John tells us that the Word created everything, he uses the Greek term for Word – “Logos.” In Greek thought, Logos describes the part of God that acts in the world. Philo called the Logos “God’s Likeness, by whom the whole cosmos was fashioned.” Origen called it the soul that holds the universe together.

Philo believed that great human beings like Moses could personify the Logos. Thus, when John writes that Jesus is the Logos, he does not mean that the man Jesus has always been God the Logos. What John is telling us is that Jesus the man became the Logos, the Christ.

Some early theologians believed that everyone has that opportunity. Clement tells us that each human has the “image of the Word (Logos)” within him and that it is for this reason that Genesis says that humanity is made “in the image and likeness of God.”

The Logos, then, is the spark of divinity, the seed of Christ, that is within our hearts. Apparently the orthodox either rejected or ignored this concept.

We should understand that Jesus became the Logos just as he became the Christ. But that didn’t mean he was the only one who could ever do it. Jesus explained this mystery when he broke the bread at the Last Supper. He took a single loaf, symbolizing the one Logos, the one Christ, and broke it and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.”

He was teaching the disciples that there is one absolute God and one Universal Christ, or Logos, but that the body of that Universal Christ can be broken and each piece will still retain all the qualities of the whole. He was telling them that the seed of Christ was within them, that he had come to quicken it and that the Christ was not diminished no matter how many times his body was broken. The smallest fragment of God, Logos, or Christ, contains the entire nature of Christ’s divinity – which, to this day, he would make our own.

The orthodox misunderstood Jesus’ teaching because they were unable to accept the reality that each human being has both a human and a divine nature and the potential to become wholly divine. They didn’t understand the human and the divine in Jesus and therefore they could not understand the human and the divine within themselves. Having seen the weakness of human nature, they thought they had to deny the divine nature that occasionally flashes forth even in the lowliest of human beings.

The Church did not understand (or could not admit) that Jesus came to demonstrate the process by which the human nature is transformed into the divine. But Origen had found it easy to explain.

He believed that the human and divine natures can be woven together day by day. He tells us that in Jesus “the divine and human nature began to interpenetrate in such a way that the human nature, by its communion with the divine, would itself become divine.” Origen tells us that the option for the transformation of humanity into divinity is available not just for Jesus but for “all who take up in faith the life which Jesus taught.”

Origen did not hesitate to describe the relationship of human beings to the Son. He believed that we contain the same essence as the Father and the Son: “We, therefore, having been made according to the image, have the Son, the original, as the truth of the noble qualities that are within us. And what we are to the Son, such is the Son to the Father, who is the truth.” Since we have the noble qualities of the Son within us, we can undergo the process of divinization (at-one-ment with God).

To the Arians, the divinization process was essential to salvation; to the orthodox, it was heresy. In 324 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine, who had embraced Christianity twelve years earlier, entered the Arian controversy. He wrote a letter to Arius and Bishop Alexander urging them to reconcile their differences, and he sent Bishop Hosius of Cordova to Alexandria to deliver it. But his letter could not calm the storm that raged over the nature of God – and man. Constantine realized that he would have to do more if he wanted to resolve the impasse.

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3. The Council of Nicea

In June, 325 A.D., the Council of Nicea opened and continued for two months, with Constantine attending. The bishops modified an existing creed to fit their purposes. The creed, with some changes made at a later fourth century council, is still given today in many churches. The Nicene Creed, as it came to be called, takes elaborate care by repeating several redundancies to identify the Son with the Father rather than with the creation:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made … Who … was incarnate and was made human …”

Only two bishops, along with Arius, refused to sign the creed. Constantine banished them from the empire, while the other bishops went on to celebrate their unity in a great feast at the imperial palace.

The creed is much more than an affirmation of Jesus’ divinity. It is also an affirmation of our separation from God and Christ. It takes great pains to describe Jesus as God in order to deny that he is part of God’s creation. He is “begotten, not made,” therefore totally separate from us, the created beings. As scholar George Leonard Prestige writes, the Nicene Creed’s description of Jesus tells us “that the Son of God bears no resemblance to the … creatures.”

The description of Jesus as the only Son of God is carried forward in the Apostles’ Creed, which is used in many Protestant churches today. It reads: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty … I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.” But even that language – calling Jesus God’s only Son – denies that we can ever attain the sonship that Jesus did.

Christians may be interested to know that many scholars analyzing the Bible now believe that Jesus never claimed to be the only Son of God. This was a later development based on a misinterpretation of the gospel of John.

There is further evidence to suggest that Jesus believed all people could achieve the goal of becoming Sons of God. But the churches, by retaining these creeds, remain in bondage to Constantine and his three hundred bishops.

Some of the bishops who attended the council were uncomfortable with the council’s definition of the Son and thought they might have gone too far. But the emperor, in a letter sent to the bishops who were not in attendance at Nicea, required that they accept “this truly divine injunction.”

Constantine said that since the council’s decision had been “determined in the holy assemblies of the bishops,” the Church officials must regard it as “indicative of the divine will.”

The Roman god Constantine had spoken. Clearly, he had concluded that the orthodox position was more conducive to a strong and unified Church than the Arian position and that it therefore must be upheld.

Constantine also took the opportunity to inaugurate the first systematic government persecution of dissident Christians. He issued an edict against “heretics,” calling them “haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction.”

Even though he had begun his reign with an edict of religious toleration, he now forbade the heretics (mostly Arians) to assemble in any public or private place, including private homes, and ordered that they be deprived of “every gathering point for [their] superstitious meetings,” including “all the houses of prayer.” These were to be given to the orthodox Church.

The heretical teachers were forced to flee, and many of their students were coerced back into the orthodox fold. The emperor also ordered a search for their books, which were to be confiscated and destroyed. Hiding the works of Arius carried a severe penalty – the death sentence.

Nicea, nevertheless, marked the beginning of the end of the concepts of both preexistence, reincarnation, and salvation through union with God in Christian doctrine. It took another two hundred years for the ideas to be expunged.

But Constantine had given the Church the tools with which to do it when he molded Christianity in his own image and made Jesus the only Son of God. From now on, the Church would become representative of a capricious and autocratic God – a God who was not unlike Constantine and other Roman emperors.

Tertullian, a stanch anti-Origenian and a father of the Church, had this to say about those who believed in reincarnation and not the resurrection of the dead: “What a panorama of spectacle on that day [the Resurrection]!  What sight should I turn to first to laugh and applaud? … Wise philosophers, blushing before their students as they burn together, the followers to whom they taught that the world is no concern of God’s, whom they assured that either they had no souls at all or that what souls they had would never return to their former bodies? These are things of greater delight, I believe, than a circus, both kinds of theater, and any stadium.” Tertullian was a great influence in having so-called “heretics” put to death.

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4. The Fifth General Council

After Constantine and Nicea, Origen’s writings had continued to be popular among those seeking clarification about the nature of Christ, the destiny of the soul and the manner of the resurrection. Some of the more educated monks had taken Origen’s ideas and were using them in mystical practices with the aim of becoming one with God.

Toward the end of the fourth century, orthodox theologians again began to attack Origen. Their chief areas of difficulty with Origen’s thought were his teachings on the nature of God and Christ, the resurrection and the preexistence of the soul.

Their criticisms, which were often based on ignorance and an inadequate understanding, found an audience in high places and led to the Church’s rejection of Origenism and reincarnation. The Church’s need to appeal to the uneducated masses prevailed over Origen’s coolheaded logic.

The bishop of Cyprus, Epiphanius, claimed that Origen denied the resurrection of the flesh. However, as scholar Jon Dechow has demonstrated, Epiphanius neither understood nor dealt with Origen’s ideas. Nevertheless, he was able to convince the Church that Origen’s ideas were incompatible with the merging literalist theology. On the basis of Ephiphanius’ writings, Origenism would be finally condemned a century and a half later.

Jerome believed that resurrection bodies would be flesh and blood, complete with genitals – which, however, would not be used in the hereafter. But Origenists believed the resurrection bodies would be spiritual.

The Origenist controversy spread to monasteries in the Egyptian desert, especially at Nitria, home to about five thousand monks. There were two kinds of monks in Egypt – the simple and uneducated, who composed the majority, and the Origenists, an educated minority.

The controversy solidified around the question of whether God had a body that could be seen and touched. The simple monks believed that he did. But the Origenists thought that God was invisible and transcendent. The simple monks could not fathom Origen’s mystical speculations on the nature of God.

In 399 A.D., Bishop Theophilus wrote a letter defending the Origenist position. At this, the simple monks flocked to Alexandria, rioting in the streets and even threatening to kill Theophilus.

The bishop quickly reversed himself, telling the monks that he could now see that God did indeed have a body: “In seeing you, I behold the face of God.” Theophilus’ sudden switch was the catalyst for a series of events that led to the condemnation of Origen and the burning of the Nitrian monastery.

Under Theodosius, Christians, who had been persecuted for so many years, now became the persecutors. God made in man’s image proved to be an intolerant one. The orthodox Christians practiced sanctions and violence against all heretics (including Gnostics and Origenists), pagans and Jews. In this climate, it became dangerous to profess the ideas of innate divinity and the pursuit of union with God.

It may have been during the reign of Theodosius that the Gnostic Nag Hammadi manuscriptswere buried – perhaps by Origenist monks. For while the Origenist monks were not openly Gnostic, they would have been sympathetic to the Gnostic viewpoint and may have hidden the books after they became too hot to handle.

The Origenist monks of the desert did not accept Bishop Theophilus’ condemnations. They continued to practice their beliefs in Palestine into the sixth century until a series of events drove Origenism underground for good.

Justinian (ruled 527-565 A.D.) was the most able emperor since Constantine – and the most active in meddling with Christian theology. Justinian issued edicts that he expected the Church to rubber-stamp, appointed bishops and even imprisoned the pope.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire at the end of the fifth century, Constantinople remained the capital of the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire. The story of how Origenism ultimately came to be rejected involves the kind of labyrinthine power plays that the imperial court became famous for.

Around 543 A.D., Justinian seems to have taken the side of the anti-Origenists since he issued an edict condemning ten principles of Origenism, including preexistence. It declared “anathema to Origen … and to whomsoever there is who thinks thus.” In other words, Origen and anyone who believes in these propositions would be eternally damned. A local council at Constantinople ratified the edict, which all bishops were required to sign.

In 553 A.D., Justinian convoked the Fifth General Council of the Church to discuss the controversy over the so-called “Three Chapters.” These were writings of three theologians whose views bordered on the heretical. Justinian wanted the writings to be condemned and he expected the council to oblige him.

He had been trying to coerce the pope into agreeing with him since 545 A.D. He had essentially arrested the pope in Rome and brought him to Constantinople, where he held him for four years. When the pope escaped and later refused to attend the council, Justinian went ahead and convened it without him.

This council produced fourteen new anathemas against the authors of the Three Chapters and other Christian theologians. The eleventh anathema included Origen’s name in a list of heretics.

The first anathema reads: “If anyone asserts the fabulous preexistence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.” (“Restoration” means the return of the soul to union with God. Origenists believed that this took place through a path of reincarnation.) It would seem that the death blow had been struck against Origenism and reincarnation in Christianity.

After the council, the Origenist monks were expelled from their Palestinian monastery, some bishops were deposed and once again Origen’s writings were destroyed. The anti-Origenist monks had won. The emperor had come down firmly on their side.

In theory, it would seem that the missing papal approval of the anathemas leaves a doctrinal loophole for the belief in reincarnation among all Christians today. But since the Church accepted the anathemas in practice, the result of the council was to end belief in reincarnation in orthodox Christianity.

In any case, the argument is moot. Sooner or later the Church probably would have forbade the beliefs. When the Church codified its denial of the divine origin of the soul (at Nicea in 325 A.D.), it started a chain reaction that led directly to the curse on Origen.

Church councils notwithstanding, mystics in the Church continued to practice divinization. They followed Origen’s ideas, still seeking union with God.

But the Christian mystics were continually dogged by charges of heresy. At the same time as the Church was rejecting reincarnation, it was accepting original sin, a doctrine that made it even more difficult for mystics to practice.

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5. Conclusion

With the condemnation of Origen, so much that is implied in reincarnation was officially stigmatized as heresy that the possibility of a direct confrontation with this belief was effectively removed from the church. In dismissing Origen from its midst, the church only indirectly addressed itself to the issue of reincarnation. The encounter with Origenism did, however, draw decisive lines in the matter of preexistence, the resurrection of the dead, and the relationship between body and soul. What an examination of Origen and the church does achieve, however, is to show where the reincarnationist will come into collision with the posture of orthodoxy. The extent to which he may wish to retreat from such a collision is of course a matter of personal conscience.

With the Council of 553 A.D. one can just about close the book on this entire controversy within the church. There are merely two footnotes to be added to the story, emerging from church councils in 1274 and 1439 A.D. In the Council of Lyons, in 1274 A.D., it was stated that after death the soul goes promptly either to heaven or to hell. On the Day of Judgment, all will stand before the tribunal of Christ with their bodies to render account of what they have done. TheCouncil of Florence of 1439 A.D. uses almost the same wording to describe the swift passage of the soul either to heaven or to hell. Implicit in both of these councils is the assumption that the soul does not again venture into physical bodies.

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“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” – (Matthew 16:13-14)

This section taken from:www.near-death.com In December, 1945, early Christian writings containing many secrets of the early Christian religion were found in upper Egypt, a location where many Christians fled during the Roman invasion of Jerusalem. Undisturbed since their concealment almost two thousand years ago, these manuscripts of Christian mysticism rank in importance with theDead Sea Scrolls. These writings affirmed the existence of the doctrine of reincarnation being taught among the early Jews and Christians. These Christian mystics, referred to as Christian Gnostics, were ultimately destroyed by the orthodox Church for being heretics. Their sacred writings were destroyed and hidden with the belief that they would be revealed at an appropriate time in the future. The discovery in 1945 yielded writings that included some long lost gospels, some of which were written earlier than the known gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Brian A. Bain, M.A., has this to say about the 1945 discovery:

“Long considered to be heretical, ancient Gnostic Christian texts unearthed this century display compelling similarities between Gnostic conceptions of life and death and modern near-death experiences. The Gnostic texts devoted extensive tracts to what readers could expect to encounter when they died. Other passages make numerous allusions to near-death-like experiences that can be realized in this life, most notably the human encounter with a divine light. The Gnostic Christian literature gives us one more example of NDEs and similar experiences in the ancient world.”

Another interesting fact comes from Edgar Cayce (a near-death experiencer) who affirmed that Gnosticism is the highest form of Christianity.The Christian Gnostics were regarded by some as a new Jewish sect who believed they had finally found the long-awaited Messiah and not a new religion. Some of the apostles became Gnostic and because of this, Christianity could well have grown up as a Gnostic religion had it not been for their eventual persecution by the organized Church centuries later. 
Table of Contents
1. The Secret Teachings of Jesus
2. Origen: The Champion for the Secret Teachings of Jesus
3. The Theology of Christian Gnosticism
4. Christian Gnostic Writings
5. The Gospel of Thomas
6. The Apocalyptic Texts
7. The Apocalypse of Paul
8. The Suppression of Christian Gnosticism
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1. The Secret Teachings of Jesus
An important Christian Gnostic teaching was the “Logos” which in Greek is translated as “the image of the Word.” It is an important concept found in the gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Logos is the part of God that acts in the world. It is the perfect unity of the human and the divine. This is affirmed by John when he wrote that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” When John stated that Jesus is the Logos, he is stating that Jesus became the Logos, the Christ. The Logos is the divine “spark” of God within humans that needs to awakened. Everyone has the “image of the Word (Logos)” within them and it is for this reason that Genesis describes humanity as created “in the image and likeness of God.”The Logos is the divine Spirit in humanity. By using the Christian Gnostic idea of the Logos, John is not only affirming the preexistence and divinity of Jesus, but he is affirming that all sons of God created in the “image of the Word” as Jesus was, preexisted in spirit before being born. In other words, every human is an incarnation of the Logos and every human has to potential of becoming like Jesus, a manifestation of the human-divine unity. Every human can be a “Christ” and because of this, every soul will eventually be drawn back to God.

The Roman Church misunderstood what the Logos was in John and incorrectly concluded from this that only Jesus is divine – the Word made flesh. The orthodox Church either rejected or ignored this Christian Gnostic concept found in John. This may have been a factor when the gospel of John was almost rejected from New Testament canon when it was being put together. This was during a time when Christian Gnosticism became an enemy of the organized Church. Nevertheless, it was the idea of the preexistence of the soul and its corresponding doctrine of reincarnation that the Roman Church had great difficulty with. The Christian Gnostics emphasized spiritual knowledge rather blind faith as the road to salvation. They indicated that they possessed secret knowledge (i.e., “gnosis” in Greek) concerning the hidden meaning of the “resurrection.” This was a part of the secret teachings of Jesus handed down to them by the apostles. This special knowledge was restricted to people who were given the public teachings of Christianity before qualifying to be initiated and receive the secret teachings. In contrast, the very term “Catholic” means “universal”, implying that anyone could become a member of the Church by adhering to the public teachings of faith and rituals. The Christian Gnostics were harsh critics of the orthodox Church. The Christian Gnostics accused the Church of watering down the gospel in order to popularize it for the masses. The orthodox Church stressed salvation through faith alone and by the rituals of the Church. This secret gnosis emphasized spiritual “resurrection” (i.e,. spiritual rebirth) and physical “resurrection” (i.e., reincarnation) as opposed to a resurrection defined as people sleeping in their graves until it is time their corpses to crawl out of their graves at the last day. Christian Gnostics held the view that if spiritual resurrection was not attained in one lifetime, then the soul would be subjected to as many reincarnations as it takes until spiritual rebirth is attained. One of the great Church leaders was Clement of Alexandria in Egypt (150-211 A.D.) who indicated that he possessed the secret teaching handed down from the apostles. In the Gnostic text entitled The Secret Gospel of Mark, one of the Christian Gnostic texts discovered in 1945, describes Jesus performing secret initiation rituals. Before the discovery of this secret gospel, our only knowledge of it came from a letter written by Clement. Clement quotes from this secret gospel and refers to it as, “a more spiritual gospel for the use of those who were being perfected.” He also states, “It even yet is most carefully guarded [by the church at Alexandria], being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.” Clement mentions elsewhere that Jesus revealed a secret teaching to those who were “capable of receiving it and being molded by it” He also affirmed that, “The gnosis (secret knowledge) itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few, having been imparted unwritten by the apostles.” (Miscell. Book VI, Chapter 7) The existence of a secret teaching can be found in the New Testament:

The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding’ (Mark 4:11-12)

“He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” (Matthew 13:11-12)

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1)

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

Paul wrote about teachings which are taught to spiritual “babies,” teachings about righteousness for the more mature, and then teachings for the spiritually mature. Paul reveals this fact immediately after equating Melchizedek to Jesus by stating:

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

According to tradition, after the Roman invasion of Jerusalem, the author of the Gospel of Mark established a church in Alexandria, Egypt. Mark may also have been the author of a “secret gospel” containing more advanced teaching for those being initiated into the Christian mysteries. This secret gospel contains passages portraying Jesus teaching secret doctrines.
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2. Origen: The Champion for the Secret Teachings of Jesus
As the orthodox church in Rome gained more and more political power the more it viewed secret teachings as a threat to their own public teachings. But the Church leader who made the final and greatest attempt to revive the secret teachings of Jesus within the orthodox teachings was the first Church Father named Origen (183-253 A.D.) of Alexandria in Egypt who was a disciple of Clement of Alexandra. Origen was the first person since Paul to develop a system of theology around the teachings of Jesus. His effort was the first within the orthodox church to systematize a theology on so vast a scale. Although Origen defended orthodoxy, he included in his system the wisdom of the Christian Gnostics. His theology was a perfect synthesis of “orthodox” and “gnostic” teachings and came the closest to reviving the “Lost Christianity” of the original sects, communities and schools, at a time when the Christian Gnosticism was falling into disrepute. Unfortunately, hundreds of years later, the Church declared him a heretic and his teachings as heresy mostly because they affirmed preexistence and therefore reincarnation.Origen had this to say about the secret teachings of Jesus:

“[Jesus] conversed with His disciples in private, and especially in their sacred retreats, concerning the Gospel of God; but the words which He uttered have not been preserved, because it appeared to the evangelists that they could not be adequately conveyed to the multitude in writing or in speech and they saw what things were to be committed to writing, and how this was to be done, and what was by no means to be written to the multitude, and what was to be expressed in words, and what was not to be so conveyed.” (Contra Celsus, Chap. VI. 18)

Concerning these secret teachings, Clement stated:

James the Righteous, John and Peter were entrusted by the Lord after his resurrection with the higher knowledge. They imparted it to the other apostles, to the seventy (Outlines Book VI)

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3. The Theology of Christian Gnosticism
According to Gnostic theology, a series of “falling away” from the Whole that is God occurred in eternity which resulted in all that there is today. After the first “fall”, the divine consciousness descended to the level of the divided consciousness; now after another “fall”, it has fallen even further, into the depths of the unconscious; it has been “forgotten.” It is now humanity’s privilege to discover the potential realms of human existence and face the great challenge of the “ascension of consciousness” through the Man-God-Spirit transformation.Once souls fell into the lower levels of consciousness, they became enamored of it and burned with the desire to experience the pleasures of matter. The souls then no longer wanted to disengage itself from these lower levels. Thus the world was born. From that moment souls forgot themselves. They forgot they original habitation, their true center and eternal being. Gnosticism proceeds from one fundamental insight: this world in which we find ourselves is thoroughly and irretrievably less than holy. The soul is trapped in a prison of flesh, and the flesh is intrinsically less than divine. According to Gnostic theology, the creation of the cosmos came about as the result of a tragicomic mistake: the fall of the soul from God. Thanks to the advent of Christ in the lower realms of consciousness, the power of reconciling the fallen souls has been given to restore the One-ness and usher in the kingdom of light over the kingdom of flesh and matter. The unity of the Godhead is assured thanks to the introduction of the new uniting force, the Logos, the part of God who acts in the flesh and the material. It is important to distinguish the Logos (Christ) from the soul named Jesus. Any person has the potential of becoming a Logos but it was the soul known as Jesus who actually incarnated as a Logos and therefore became a Christ on Earth. We, as humans, cannot comprehend the omnipotent power available to us until we utilize the Christ power. When we effectively use the divine “Christ awareness” we have the ability to help in the liberation of the imprisoned “sparks of divinity” from flesh and rejoin them to the Source. The divine plan of creation will become complete as the divine outpouring of Christ gnosis liberates humanity from ignorance. The result of this will be the redemption of all human beings. The Christ power can only liberate souls through the call and revelation of Christ gnosis to, “Awake, remember who you are and where you come from!” But since the soul cannot by itself hear the gnosis, the Christ power resorts to elaborate strategies to create the conditions for which all souls will be saved. Christian Gnostics felt that initiation into the Cosmic Christ gnosis is inseparable from “the light which lighteth every person coming into the world.” It is this light within, our Higher Self, which each individual must bring to at-one-ment with the divine Source if liberation is to occur. As more and more people hear the call to “Wake up!” and attain the Christ gnosis and become liberated, their souls are received back into the bosom of Divine Consciousness. The soul becomes free from unholy flesh and the cycle of birth and rebirth. Christian Gnostics seek to achieve this by cultivating the Higher Self within people to seek reunification with the Godhead. But each soul returning to its divine source must, after death, pass through the various levels of consciousness. Sometimes Christian Gnostics describe seven of these heavenly realms, other times ten.
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4. Christian Gnostic Writings
The following quote from Jesus from the Christian Gnostic gospel, the Book of Thomas the Contender, describes Jesus teaching reincarnation:

“Watch and pray that you may not be born in the flesh, but that you may leave the bitter bondage of this life.” (Book of Thomas the Contender 9:5)

In another part of the Book of Thomas the Contender, Jesus tells the disciple Thomas that after death, those people who were once believers but have remained attached to things of “transitory beauty,” will be consumed “in their concern about life” and will be “brought back to the visible realm.”

The following quote from Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas affirms Jesus teaching reincarnation to his disciples:

“When you see your likeness, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will bear!” (Gospel of Thomas, saying 84)

More excerpts from this very interesting gospel will be profiled later.

In the Secret Book of John, written by 185 A.D. at the latest, reincarnation is placed at the center of the discussion concerning the salvation of souls. The following is a summary of the Secret Book of John’s perspective on reincarnation.

Everyone has drunk from the water of forgetfulness and lives in a state of ignorance. Some people are able to overcome ignorance by having the life-giving Spirit descend upon them. These souls “will be saved and will become perfect,” that is, escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. John asks Jesus what will happen to those who do not attain salvation. They are hurled down “into forgetfulness” and thrown into “prison,” the Christian Gnostic symbol for a new body. Jesus says the only way for these souls to escape is to acquire knowledge after coming from forgetfulness. A soul can accomplish this by finding a teacher who can lead the soul in the right direction:

“This soul needs to follow another soul in whom the Spirit of life dwells, because she is saved through the Spirit. Then she will never be thrust into flesh again.” (Secret Book of John 14:20)

Another Christian Gnostic book, the Pistis Sophia (Greek for “Faith Wisdom”), outlines a system of punishment and rewards that includes reincarnation. The book explains the differences in one’s fate as a result of past-life actions. A “man who curses” will be given a body that is continually “troubled in heart.” A “man who slanders” will be given an “oppressed” body. A thief will be given a “lame, crooked and blind body.” A “proud” and “scornful” man will be given “a lame and ugly body” that “everyone continually despises.” From this, we can see how this Earth, as well as hell, is a place of education through suffering.

According to the Pistis Sophia, some souls experience hell as a place of shadows and torture. However, after these souls pass through hell, they return to Earth for further experiences. Only a relatively few extremely evil souls are not permitted to reincarnate. These souls are cast into “outer darkness” until a time when they are “destroyed and dissolved.”

The Pistis Sophia combines the ideas of reincarnation and divine union in a verse beginning with the question:

“[What happens to] a man who has committed no sin, but done good persistently, but has not found the mysteries?” (Pistis Sophia)

The Pistis Sophia reveals such a soul will receive “a cup filled with thoughts and wisdom,” allowing the soul to remember its divine origin and pursue the “mysteries of the light” until it finds them and is able to “inherit the light forever.” To “inherit the light forever” is a Gnostic term for union with God.

In the Gospel of Phillip, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the resurrection of the spirit (i.e., spiritual rebirth) and the resurrection of the body (i.e., physical rebirth, reincarnation):

“People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken. If they do not first receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing.” (Gospel of Philip 73:1-4)

In the Apocryphal book, Wisdom of Solomon, recognized as canonical by the Catholic Church, is the following verse:

“I was given a sound body to live in because I was already good.” (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20)

This verse raises the following question: How is it possible to get a body after you have already been good, unless reincarnation is true?

Among the works of the Christian Gnostics are some of the early gospels, including secret gospels which were not preserved in the New Testament. The Gospel of Thomas was the first gospel ever written and is considered by scholars to be the most reliable gospel. Much of this gospel contains sayings of Jesus that are contained in the four New Testament gospels.

The Christian Gnostic gospels reveal a clear and strong vision of the resurrection as a past and present event. Below is a verse from the Gospel of Thomas that shows the “resurrection” to be a past event:

“His followers said to him, ‘When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?’ He said to them, ‘What you look for has come, but you do not know it.'” (Gospel of Thomas, saying 51)

In the verse above, Jesus says the resurrection and the kingdom are already here. In Gnostic terms, this quote from Jesus refers to a person’s past “resurrection” (i.e., physical rebirth, reincarnation) and the fact that we are already living in the kingdom of God which exists within us. Only through the Christ gnosis can this kingdom be realized and the cycle of resurrection end.

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5. The Gospel of Thomas
The sayings that are presented below are excerpts of the Gospel of Thomas that are not present in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

“These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Judas Thomas the Twin recorded.

Jesus said, “Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”

Jesus said, “Let one who seeks not stop seeking until one finds. When one finds, one will be disturbed. When one is disturbed, one will be amazed, and will reign over all.”

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Behold, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds in the sky will get there before you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will get there before you. Rather, the kingdom is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and embody poverty.”

Jesus said, “Know what is within your sight, and what is hidden from you will become clear to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.”

Jesus said, “I have thrown fire on the world and, behold, I am guarding it until it is ablaze.”

Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me with someone, and tell me whom I am like.” Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a just angel.” Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.” Thomas said to him, “Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say whom you are like.” Jesus said, “I am not your teacher. You have become intoxicated because you have drunk from the bubbling spring that I have tended.” And he took Thomas and withdrew, and told him three things. When Thomas came back to his friends, they asked him, “What did Jesus tell you?” Thomas said to them, “If I tell you even one of the things he told me, you will pick up rocks and stone me. Then fire will come forth from the rocks and devour you.”

The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us about the end.” Jesus said, “Have you already discovered the beginning, that now you can seek after the end? For where the beginning is, the end will be. Blessed is one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end, and will not taste death.”Jesus said, “Blessed is one who came to life before coming to life.”

Jesus said, “If you become my disciples and hearken to my sayings, these stones will serve you.”

Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom.” They said to him, “Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?” Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female will not be female, when you make eyes replacing an eye, a hand replacing a hand, a foot replacing a foot, and an image replacing an image, then you will enter the kingdom.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are alone and chosen: you will find the kingdom. For you have come from it, and you will return there again.”

His disciples said to him, “When will the final rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?” He said to them, “What you look for has already come, but you do not know it.”

Jesus said, “I disclose my mysteries to those who are worthy of my mysteries. Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Jesus said, “Whoever knows everything but lacks within lacks everything.”

Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you will kill you.”

Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: all came forth from me, and all attained to me. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Pick up a stone, and you will find me there.”

Jesus said, “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire, and whoever is far from me is far from the kingdom.”

Jesus said, “Images are visible to people, but the light within is hidden in the Father’s image of light. He will reveal himself, but his image is hidden by his light.”

Jesus said, “When you see a likeness of yourself, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before you, and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will be able to tolerate!”

Jesus said, “When you make the two into one, you will become sons of man, and when you say, ‘Mountain, move!’ it will move.”

Jesus said, “Whoever drinks from my mouth will be like me, and I shall be that person, and what is hidden will be revealed to that one.”

Jesus says, “Whoever finds self is worth more than the world.”

His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?” “It will not come by looking for it. Nor will it do to say, ‘Behold, over here!’ or ‘Behold, over there!’ Rather, the kingdom of the Father is spread out on the Earth, but people do not see it.” (Gospel of Thomas)

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6. The Apocalyptic Texts
Among the Christian Gnostic writings were no less than five separate apocalypses. Here they are:The First Apocalypse of James contains the secret teachings of Christ that were given to James the Just, the Lord’s brother. In it, James refers to Jesus as “rabbi.” Jesus warns James to leave Jerusalem, for the city is a dwelling place of a great number of “archons” or evil angels. Jerusalem is stigmatized as the city which “gives the cup of bitterness to the sons of light.” Jesus coaches James on what to say when he is judged and challenged by the “toll collectors” of heaven in order to pass through the gates of heaven. The Second Apocalypse of James.

The Apocalypse of Adam.

The Apocalypse of Peter is a record of the vision of Peter the apostle in which he speaks with Christ in the spirit. In this, Peter is clearly seen as the true successor to Christ and the founder of the Gnostic community. In the vision, Peter first sees hostile priests who seem to be intent upon stoning him and Christ to death. Next, Peter recalls the crucifixion during which Jesus stood nearby talking with him.

Peter asks, “Who is this one glad and laughing on the tree (i.e., cross)? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?”

Christ replies, “He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshy part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into  being in his likeness. But look at him and me.”

Peter seemed to realize that it would be a long time before his book was read and understood, for he writes:

“These things, then, which you saw you shall present to those of another race who are not of this age.” (Apocalypse of Peter)

He seems to be right, as this apocalypse has only just seen the light of day before we enter the age that many believe will begin with the second coming of Christ.

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7. The Apocalypse of Paul
The Apocalypse of Paul is an account of the apostle’s ascent into heaven and what he found there, with instructions for other souls on how to conduct themselves during judgment. One of the most interesting aspects of this text is that it corresponds to events found in the New Testament and includes references to reincarnation. Several Christian Gnostic texts combine the ideas of reincarnation and union with God.

As Paul passes through the fourth heaven, he witnesses a soul being punished for murder. This soul is brought “out of the land of the dead” (i.e., Earth) by angels where three witnesses charge the soul with murder. The soul looks sorrowfully down and is cast down into a body that has been prepared for it. The book describes Paul’s journey through the heavens, which is also symbolic for the Gnostic process of union with God.

The New Testament contains a letter by the apostle Paul to the Christians in the city of Corinth, Greece, where he had founded a church on his first visit there. The Christians at this church were being divided by the teachings of so-called “false teachers” that were infiltrating the church there and Paul wrote a letter telling them to not forget what they were taught by Paul. These “false teachers” were trying to get people to follow their teachings and not Paul’s. In order to put these false teachers to shame, Paul rebukes the Corinthians by using false pride and boasting about himself and telling the church why he is more qualified than the false teachers. He tells them of his sufferings and how he was once stoned and left for dead (2 Corinthians 11:23-26). The letter goes on to say:

“I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this person – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that humans are not permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)

In the above passage, Paul continued his “boasting” by telling about visions and revelations he had received from the Lord. “I know a person in Christ” means that he was speaking about himself. He explained that he didn’t know if he was taken up in his body or in his spirit, but he was in paradise (“the third heaven”). This incident cannot be positively identified with a recorded event in Paul’s career, although some think this may have been when he was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19-20). Paul told about this incident to show that he had been uniquely touched by God.Many people are unaware of this passage of the Bible and that it is a near-death experience which Paul had. The person who wrote most of the New Testament, the sacred writings of orthodox Christianity, had a near-death experience which he based his authority as an apostle of Christ to the Corinthian church. It can even be argued that his near-death experience directly or indirectly inspired his epistles. The Apocalypse of Paul reveals how each soul must rise as best it can after death through a hierarchy of heavens and face the increasingly difficult challenges posed by the guardian angels of each heaven. The journey begins with Paul meeting a child on the mountain of Jericho on the way to heaven (symbolized by Jerusalem). This child turns out to be the Holy Spirit, who takes Paul first to the third heaven. The Holy Spirit warns Paul to keep his wits about him for they are about to enter the realm of “principalities … archangels and powers and the whole race of demons.” The Holy Spirit also mentions that they will pass “one that reveals bodies to a soul-seed,” that is, the being that takes souls and plants them in new bodies for reincarnation. For the soul who wished to ascend to the highest heaven, reincarnation was to be avoided. When Paul reaches the fourth heaven, the Holy Spirit encourages him to look down upon his body which he has left behind on the mountain of Jericho. As Paul ascends, he witnesses in the fourth heaven the judgment and punishment of another soul. He says, “I saw the angels resembling gods … bringing a soul out of the land of the dead.” The soul has been resurrected so that it can be judged, one of the four events promised for the end of the world. The angels were whipping it. The soul spoke, saying, “What sin was it that I committed in the world?” The “toll collector” of this heavenly gate accuses the soul. The soul replies, “Bring witnesses! Let them show you in what body I committed lawless deeds.” Three bodies rise up as witnesses and accuse the soul of anger and envy, and finally murder. When the soul heard these things, it gazed downwards in sorrow … It was cast down. At this point we expect the soul to be cast into hell, as in later Christian doctrine, but no: “the soul that had been cast down went to a body which had been prepared for it,” and was reincarnated. Paul, somewhat shaken by this experience, was beckoned forward by the Holy Spirit and allowed to pass through the gate of the fifth heaven. Here he saw his fellow apostles and “a great angel in the fifth heaven holding an iron rod in his hand.” This angel and three other angels, with whips in their hands, scourge the souls of the dead and drive them on to judgment. Paul remains with the Holy Spirit and the gates to the sixth heaven swing open effortlessly before him. In the sixth heaven, Paul sees a strong light shining down on him from the heaven above. He is motioned by the “toll collector” through the gates of the seventh heaven. Here, he sees “an old man filled with light and whose garment was white. His throne, which is in the seventh heaven, was brighter than the sun by seven times.” This old man bears a striking resemblance to Jehovah as he is described in the vision of Ezekiel. The old man asks, “Where are you going, Paul?” Only reluctantly, after some encouragement from the Holy Spirit, does Paul speak with him and give the Gnostic sign he has learned. The eighth heaven then opens and Paul ascends. Here he embraces the twelve disciples, most of whom he has not met before, and together they rise to the ninth heaven. Finally, Paul reaches the tenth and highest heaven, where he is transformed.
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8. The Suppression of Christian Gnosticism
The Christian Gnostics believed in reincarnation and the preexistence of the soul. They refused to believe in a resurrection of corpses at the end of time. They emphasized meeting Jesus on a spiritual level to become liberated and attain permanent citizenship in heaven. The Church of Rome of the second century A.D., on the other hand, declared that those who deny a Last Day resurrection of corpses are heretics.Many Christian Gnostics regarded themselves as part of the organized body of Christians of the early church. However, as the organized Church gained political control of the Roman Empire, the Christian Gnostics were persecuted by the organized Church and many were martyred. The Christian Gnostic tradition is one of many branches of early Christianity labeled as heretical by the early Church fathers. The Gnostic influences and writings were cut out of official Church doctrines as heresy. Because of their suspected Christian Gnostic origins, the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation was almost rejected from the New Testament. Nevertheless, the organized Church succeeded in hiding its Christian Gnostic doctrines. It is not surprising that the orthodox Church bishops edited out the practical spiritual knowledge which was once an integral part of Christianity and was known and practiced by the apostle Paul. For these fathers, it was far more convenient and gratifying for their egos to assert that spiritual grace could only be attained through them as Christ’s representatives on Earth. To control the masses, the political organization of the church declared that salvation was attained only through the church rituals and through the priesthood. Salvation through a personal mystical experience with Christ apart from the organized church was cast away. In a move that is very likely to have met with the disapproval of Christ himself, the worldly political aspirations of a few priests won out over the spiritual enlightenment of the many. And as it is with any religion or movement, the successors of its founder decided which things to keep and which to throw out. The organized Church discarded the spiritual knowledge of Christian Gnosticism as being too dangerous and kept the concept of blind acceptance of church doctrine. Ultimately, the organized Church declared Christian Gnosticism a heresy and began killing those who adhered to its doctrines. Thus the powerful Roman Church began its crusade of eliminating all rivals to its authority. Christian Gnosticism was obliterated and relatively little historical and theological information was left to fully understand early Christian history. This all changed in 1945 with the discovery of the Gnostic Christian scriptures discovered in Egypt. Then in 1947, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls of early Jewish Gnostic writings occurred. Today, with many Christians wondering if the Second Coming of Christ is soon to happen, it may not be a coincidence that these secret writings have come to surface after two thousand years of being hidden. Finally, after two thousands years, the secret is finally out again.
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“The soul has neither beginning nor end. [They] come into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives” – Origen, 183-253A.D.

 

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