The Book of Thomas the Contender is a Gnostic Christian text from the Nag Hammadi Library that contains an interesting dialogue between Jesus and his disciple Thomas.
This text was buried by people who sought to preserve it during a time of persecution and was consequently unheard of for almost 2000 years, until it was re-discovered by a local farmer in Egypt, together with several other Gnostic texts, in 1945.
Throughout the text, Jesus illustrates how subconscious drives, desires, and inner states (also known as egos) are destructive and keep a person trapped in a low way of being.
Jesus stresses the importance of understanding these egos, in order to overcome them. He encourages Thomas to “examine himself,” to “learn who he is” and to learn “in what way he exists,” all of which are elements of self-observation.
The practice of self-observation is done when a person studies their thoughts, emotions, actions and desires, as they experience them.1 By doing this, a person is able to understand how each of the egos works within them. This is necessary to be able to overcome them, which allows someone to experience higher qualities of the consciousness, such as inner peace, empathy, love and compassion instead.
In the Book of Thomas the Contender, Jesus also explains how by knowing oneself a person can acquire more advanced spiritual knowledge and understanding, which Jesus refers to as the “depth of the all” in the passage below:
Now, since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion, examine yourself, and learn who you are, in what way you exist, and how you will come to be.
Since you will be called my brother, it is not fitting that you be ignorant of yourself. And I know that you have understood, because you had already understood that I am the knowledge of the truth.
So while you accompany me, although you are uncomprehending, you have (in fact) already come to know, and you will be called ‘the one who knows himself’. For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all.
~ The Book of Thomas the Contender, translated by John D. Turner 2
At the end of this text, Jesus describes how in order to be free from the negative consequences of harmful inner states and to become more spiritual, a person needs to “watch and pray.”
“To watch” in this context can be understood as “self-observation,” while “prayer” as describing the inner prayer to the Spiritual Mother — a higher feminine spiritual force within a person that has the ability to remove the egos permanently.3
This inner prayer is done by appealing to the Spiritual Mother whenever an ego is noticed through self-observation, and asking her to eliminate it.
Watch and pray that you not come to be in the flesh, but rather that you come forth from the bondage of the bitterness of this life. And as you pray, you will find rest, for you have left behind the suffering and the disgrace.
~ The Book of Thomas the Contender, translated by John D. Turner 4
The Book of Thomas the Contender, translated by John D. Turner from The Nag Hammadi Library published by The Gnostic Society Library: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/bookt.html
The higher feminine spiritual part within an individual has been depicted in many cultures and traditions such as Durga and Kali in Hinduism, the Virgin Mary in Christianity, the Aztec Goddess Coatlicue, the Sumerian goddess Inanna, the Greek goddess Hecate and many others. Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard, The Path of the Spiritual Sun: A Guide to the Solstices and Equinoxes (Mystical Life Publications, 2016), 104-105