This ninety-seventh verse of the Gospel of Thomas continues the theme of the universe and its evolution. It is related to the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rig Veda that has come to be known as the Nasadiya Shukta. Here is T. H. Griffith’s translation:
- Then was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered it, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
- Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider. That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
- Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos. All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
- Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit. Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.
- Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.
- Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The Gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
- He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.
Now we should look at the verse itself.
Jesus said, The kingdom of the father is like a certain woman who was carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking on the road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and the meal emptied out behind her on the road. She did not realize it; she had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down and found it empty. (97)
The jar is the cosmos and the meal is all that the cosmos contains in potential–and eventually actualized–form. At first there is no overt manifestation, but only a steady expansion which eventually results in the emergence of evolving forms. From that point on the drama of creation is carried out. That is why this verse says that the woman walked for a while on the road before the meal emerged and began falling on the road. In her experience there was no differentiation between the first half of the journey in which no meal appeared and the second half where the trail was laid out along the road as the jar emptied itself. The woman’s not noticing all this is a symbol of the spontaneous nature of emerging and withdrawing creation. It makes no difference to the “carrier” of the universe.
The complete emptying of the jar and the arrival at home were simultaneous. That is, when the creative will inherent in the universe was expended, the creative process was completed.
No simile is perfect, and this one certainly is not. The Veda is not saying that creation takes place in a totally unconscious manner. Actually the creation is fully conscious, being a manifestation of the Infinite Consciousness. What it does mean, however, is that creation is a continuous process, seamless from beginning to end. To an outside observer it may appear to be progressing in stages, but in reality it is a single movement activated by a single will.
The seventh verse: “He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not” is not implying that God is unaware of the creation as his activity. What it does mean is that God has not planned out or worked out the creation in the manner that a human being would plan and carry out a project. There is nothing intellectual in the process, because God does not possess a mind. In the perfect knowing that is the very nature of God, the creation comes forth and is withdrawn in the same eternal, timeless moment. In a sense the creation has no past, or present or future. It is a single thing, as is its Creator.
When a motion picture is shown in a theater, it appears to begin, proceed and end, taking up a certain amount of time. But this is illusory. Even before the showing the entire thing is present in its container. It takes time to project, but its contents are always present simultaneously. So although the audience sees something taking place, the only thing that is happening is the audience’s perception of it. It takes up time, and it takes up space, but it is really beyond time or space. It is the same with creation.
What is the exact message of this verse? Do not get caught in the illusion. Step back and see it as it is: simply Light projected on Light. And you yourself are that Light.
Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Taking Stock