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Penitential Discipline, Anyone?

Chapter 104 of the Gospel of Thomas for Awakening

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They said to Jesus, Come, let us pray today and let us fast.
Jesus said, What is the sin that I have committed, or wherein have I been defeated? But when the bridegroom leaves the bridal chamber, then let them fast and pray. (104)

There are certain people who have a pathological attachment to practices of self-denial, especially those that cause them discomfort. Usually this attachment is based on self-loathing and a masochistic desire for punishment. At the same time it is a way to continually draw attention to themselves. Fasting is for some reason an obsession with many, especially if it gives them a chance to publicly refuse food and tell others that they are fasting. Others of this type are continually observing silence in public where they can make a point of it to everyone. Both of these not only make themselves the center of attention, they manage to make everyone around them feel awkward and embarrassed, unsure of how to respond and act. If they can also manage to inconvenience others, it is an added bonus. Their fasting and silence are never done in private with no one else knowing about it. They are spiritual sociopaths.

Jesus has just been invited by these neurotic exhibitionists to join them in holy self-denial. He immediately and vehemently rejects the proposal on the ground that it has no purpose; that indeed such observances may have relevance when there is need of self-purification, but otherwise are pointless displays.

There are other forms of this peculiarity, almost always involved with food for some reason. The perpetrators like to refuse something offered them and ask for something peculiar and hopefully difficult to supply. (In The Screwtape Letters one of them asks for weak tea and dry toast, as I recall.) Here, too, we are dealing with a kind of Pharisee who makes a big to do so everyone knows how disciplined and self-denying they are.

Having said all that, I must add that Jesus indicates there are times when such discipline is appropriate, but only when done in private and for good (right) reasons. And he has shown us how to deal with such people. I hope you keep it in mind.

Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Daring to Know

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Chapters in The Gospel of Thomas for Awakening

  1. The Open Secrets
  2. Seeking Is More Than Just Finding
  3. Seeking the Kingdom Realistically
  4. The One Goal
  5. From the Seen to the Unseen
  6. What Jesus Wants Us To Do
  7. Eat Or Be Eaten
  8. Fishing Wisely
  9. The Inner Field
  10. Guarding the Flame
  11. What Will You Do?
  12. Who Shall Lead?
  13. The Unspeakable
  14. When Virtue is Vice
  15. Father in Heaven; Father on Earth
  16. Divine Discord
  17. The Divine Gift
  18. The Origin is the End
  19. Original Being
  20. A Mustard Seed
  21. Disciples of Jesus
  22. How to Enter the Kingdom
  23. Unity of Vision
  24. Where is Christ?
  25. Love and Protect
  26. Seeing
  27. The Fasting and Sabbath of the Spirit
  28. How Jesus Saw the World
  29. Hidden Treasure
  30. One
  31. The Power of Unbelief
  32. Spiritual Strength
  33. Speak It Out
  34. The Blind
  35. The Secret of Spiritual Security
  36. Live Carefree
  37. Unashamed Before God
  38. At the Source
  39. The Religion of Ignorance
  40. Within God
  41. Spiritual Gain and Loss
  42. Move On
  43. Challenging the Master
  44. The Source of Good and Evil
  45. Great in the Kingdom
  46. Impossible Duality
  47. Peace That Moves Mountains
  48. Back to the Source
  49. Children of the Light
  50. Here and Now
  51. Seeing Yet Blind
  52. Outer Ritual or Inner Growth?
  53. Infinite Transcendence
  54. “Hate”
  55. True Understanding
  56. Wheat and Weeds
  57. Finding Life
  58. Live and Die Not
  59. “Lest Thou Also…”
  60. Who Will Die; Who Will Live
  61. The Path of Unknowing
  62. Awakened by Death
  63. Turning Ourselves Away
  64. Gullibility
  65. The Rejected is Truly Accepted
  66. All–and Nothing
  67. The Blessings of Persecution
  68. Life or Death Lie Within
  69. Admission
  70. Not a Divider
  71. Seeking the Harvest
  72. Thirsting in Vain
  73. Who Shall Enter?
  74. Unfailing Treasure
  75. The All Speaks
  76. Well-dressed Ignoramuses
  77. True Blessedness
  78. A Duplication
  79. Balancing the Inner and the Outer
  80. Near and Far
  81. Seeing the Unseeable
  82. Seeing Your Unknown Side
  83. Our Forefather Adam
  84. Blessed Homelessness
  85. Doubly Wretched
  86. Onward and Upward
  87. Twofold Life
  88. The Yoke of Christ
  89. Knowing the Unknown
  90. Asking and Hearing
  91. Give Not…
  92. Seeking and Knocking
  93. Right Generosity
  94. The Expanding Kingdom
  95. The Fulfilled Universe
  96. Taking Stock
  97. The Spiritual Family
  98. Three Debts
  99. Father and Mother
  100. Exoteric Religion
  101. Ready for Invasion
  102. Penitential Discipline, Anyone?
  103. Daring to Know
  104. Ending Duality
  105. “I Love You More…”
  106. At the Source
  107. Finding the Hidden Treasure
  108. Having Come to the End
  109. Immortal and Above the World
  110. Body and Soul
  111. Where is the Kingdom?
  112. Male and Female?
  113. In Conclusion
  114. Glossary
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