Below is a passage related to self-knowledge that comes from The Teachings of Silvanus — one of many Gnostic Christian texts found in the Nag Hammadi Library.
The Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of ancient texts discovered buried together in the sands of an Egyptian desert last century. They had been hidden away there nearly 2000 years ago after being labelled heretical by the early Church. The texts were uncovered by chance in 1945, and found to contain the esoteric and more hidden teachings of Jesus and his disciples which were excluded from the Bible.
The Teachings of Silvanus, in particular, is a text that uses allegories to explore different inner states that are likely to arise within a person in reaction to the events and relationships of life. The particular extract below discusses observing and overcoming the power of the egos — inner states like anger, jealousy, greed, negativity and so on — through self-observation and an active, investigative internal approach.
It also describes the negative impact the egos have on a person (referring to them as “robbers,” “enemies,” and “wild beasts”) and how internal peace can be gained if they were to be removed.
Abolish every childish time of life, acquire for yourself strength of mind and soul, and intensify the struggle against every folly of the passions of love and base wickedness, and love of praise, and fondness of contention, and tiresome jealousy and wrath, and anger and the desire of avarice. Guard your (pl.) camp and weapons and spears. Arm yourself and all the soldiers, which are the words, and the commanders, which are the counsels, and your mind as a guiding principle.
My son, throw every robber out of your gates. Guard all your gates with torches, which are the words, and you will acquire through all these things a quiet life. But he who will not guard these things will become like a city which is desolate, since it has been captured. All kinds of wild beasts have trampled upon it, for thoughts which are not good are evil wild beasts. And your city will be filled with robbers, and you will not be able to acquire peace, but only all kinds of savage wild beasts. The Wicked One, who is a tyrant, is lord over these. While directing this, he (the Wicked One) is beneath the great mire. The whole city, which is your soul, will perish.
Remove yourself from these things, O wretched soul! Bring your guide and your teacher. The mind is the guide, but reason is the teacher. They will bring you out of destruction and dangers.
Listen, my son, to my advice! Do not show your back to enemies and flee, but rather, pursue them as a strong one. Be not an animal, with men pursuing you; but rather, be a man, with you pursuing the evil wild beasts, lest somehow they become victorious over you and trample upon you as on a dead man, and you perish due to their wickedness.
Oh wretched man, what will you do if you fall into their hands? Protect yourself, lest you be delivered into the hands of your enemies. Entrust yourself to this pair of friends, reason and mind, and no one will be victorious over you. May God dwell in your camp, may his Spirit protect your gates, and may the mind of Divinity protect the walls. Let holy reason become a torch in your mind, burning the wood which is the whole of sin.1
This excerpt allegorically describes something that can be practised in daily life: observing and studying the various negative and harmful inner states that come up within a person (egos) throughout the events of the day.2
As the text puts it, a person doing this would be “pursuing the enemies” (the egos) and thereby actively gaining an understanding of how these various inner states work, which helps in not being overcome by them, and to experience inner peace and quietude instead.
This practice can also be combined with the elimination of the egos practice. As negative inner states are observed within, a prayer can be made to the Spiritual Mother, the higher feminine spiritual part of one’s consciousness to ask her to remove them.3
The Teachings of Silvanus, translated by by Malcolm L. Peel and Jan Zandee, from The Nag Hammadi Library published by The Gnostic Society Library: http://gnosis.org/naghamm/silvanus.html ↩
The practice of self observation is described in-depth by Belsebuub in his book The Peace of the Spirit Within, Mystical Life Publications. ↩
The Mother Goddess who is referred to in many ancient texts from all around the world, is a higher feminine spiritual part of each person’s individual being whose role is to help a person understand and remove difficult and undesirable inner states permanently. More information on this subject can be found in The Path of the Spiritual Sun: A Guide to the Solstices and Equinoxes , by Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard (Mystical Life Publications, 2016), p. 99-105 ↩