Monday, September 7, 2015

Who is "Doubting Thomas"?

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

One of the more famous episodes in the New Testament resurrection story is the account of "Doubting Thomas," also referred to as "The Incredulity of Thomas" ("incredulity" meaning literally "the not-believing" of Thomas, or the "not-giving-credit [i.e., trust]" by Thomas).

The account of this episode is found in the Gospel According to John (and only there, out of the texts that were included in what came to be the accepted texts of the "canon"), and is there described as follows (in the 20th chapter of the Gospel According to John): 
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.
This passage is often interpreted as being about belief or faith, particularly by those who assert that the texts were intended to be understood literally and historically (that is to say, those who believe the texts were intended to be understood as describing an encounter that took place in literal history between two literal and historical figures).

But what if that is not what this episode is actually about at all?

If the text is describing a literal event that took place after a literal resurrection, then it would make sense to understand this encounter with Thomas as being about believing that the literal resurrection happened in the manner described. 

But we have already examined some evidence that the character of Thomas has a meaning that goes far beyond the common understanding of Thomas as a particular individual who lived a long time ago and had a particularly "incredulous" disposition and a particularly blunt way of expressing himself.

A major clue to the critical importance and true identity of this character "Doubting Thomas" is in fact found in the very passage cited above from the "canonical" text of the Gospel According to John: the information given in verse 24 of John 20 that Thomas (one of the twelve) was also called Didymus.

The word "didymus" is Greek in origin and means "twin" (the prefix di- is still found in many English words, many scientific in nature, which carry the meaning of "twin" or "two" or "twinned," such as a diode or a dipole or a diplodocus or a dichotomy or even a diploma -- diplomas apparently being so named because they were originally "folded in two" or "doubled" instead of being rolled up in a cardboard tube the way they are today).

The Gospel According to John is the only text among those admitted to the New Testament canon which uses the word Didymus (or didymos in the New Testament Greek) or reveals that Thomas was either an actual twin or was for some reason called "the twin" (even though Thomas is listed in the naming of the twelve apostles found in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, as well as in Acts of the Apostles). Neither John nor the others ever explain why Thomas is called that, or who his other twin might be.

But, as has already been discussed at some length in the previous post entitled "The Gospel of Thomas and the Divine Twin," there were other "New Testament era" texts which were specifically excluded from the New Testament canon but which were apparently preserved in a large sealed jar which in ancient times (in fact, during the same century that the current canon was being established and other texts not included in the canon were being marginalized or even outlawed) was buried beneath the sands at the base of a cliff near the modern-day village of Nag Hammadi in Egypt -- and one of these texts has Jesus addressing Thomas as "my twin and true companion."

This remarkable statement opens up an entirely different interpretation of the so-called "Incredulity of Thomas" episode -- and indeed of the identity and meaning of the character of Thomas altogether.

The statement simply cannot be understood literally, as in referring to a literal-historical twin of Jesus, since such an interpretation would then undermine a literal-historical interpretation of the descriptions of the birth of a single child (not a twin) found elsewhere in the New Testament scriptures.

But just because something is not literal does not mean that it is not true

If we are not meant to interpret these scriptural passages as literal-historical, then how else could we be intended to interpret them? If the passage is not intended to describe a literal individual named Thomas with an incredulous disposition and a gruff manner of speaking, then what are we supposed to learn from it?

Something of tremendous importance and applicability to our daily lives -- something which makes Thomas a character of immediate and ongoing relevance to each of our individual journeys through this world, every single day (in a way, I would argue, that a Thomas who lived a couple of thousand years ago might not be).

In fact, I would argue that even those who take the scriptures as literal and historical probably do not find themselves thinking about Thomas and his importance to their lives multiple times every day.

But I would submit that after reading the esoteric interpretation of Thomas offered below, you might (at least I do).

Because if Jesus and Thomas are twins, and if out of the two of them Jesus represents the "divine twin" in the pairing (and, as we explored in that previous post on Thomas, there are many such "twins" in ancient mythology, including Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology and Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the mythology of ancient Sumer and Babylon), then what does that imply about the identity of Thomas?

Why, it could imply that Thomas is "the human twin."

And which one would that make us? 

(This is a trick question).

The answer, of course, is: "both of them."

We are running around in this incarnate life with both of these "twinned" natures within us at all times (in fact, as has been explored at some length, the very symbol of the cross itself can be seen to represent the "crossing" of two natures in each and every human being -- a horizontal nature and a vertical nature, so to speak: see for example previous posts here, here and here).

To put it very plainly, I believe that the episode of "Doubting Thomas" is intended to teach us to get in touch with the divine Infinite. 

And our "Thomas nature" -- while serving a very necessary function -- can be an obstacle to that connection with the Infinite, at least when overcome by doubt.

Having offered that interpretation, let's now take another look at the text itself to see if it is possible to find any support for such an assertion.

In verse 25, the other disciples say to Thomas: "We have seen the Lord." 

Thomas replies in the same verse: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Let's just think about that for a second. 

As noted above, the episode of the "Incredulity of Thomas" is usually interpreted as instructing belief or faith, and not doubt -- and hence a "negative spin" is imputed to this "incredulity" of Thomas (this failing to "extend credit" or trust to the account of the other disciples, on the part of "Doubting Thomas").

But is this statement from Thomas really something that we are meant to see in a negative light? 

He did not say, "Even if I see the print of the nails, I will not believe."

He did not say, "Even if I thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Thomas is actually displaying critical thinking, a desire to check things out and examine the evidence which supports one or another theory, or which might disprove one or another theory . . . even what we might call "the scientific method."

And this kind of thinking is actually indispensable in our daily life, from one moment to the next in this physical world (in fact, it is essential to our very survival from one moment to the next).  

If a traffic light turns green, telling you that it is safe to proceed into an intersection, or a railroad crossing signal tells you that it is safe to proceed across the railroad tracks, and you don't exercise at least a very little bit of what Thomas here displays when he receives the report of the other disciples, there may come a day when those signals are telling you an untruth that could be extremely dangerous to you. It is advisable to just swivel your head to glance quickly up and down a cross-street or a train-track as you approach it, to "see for yourself" in the same way that Thomas might advise you to do.

In other words, critical thinking is critically important to anyone living in the material world.

It is the same critical thinking that enables us to categorize things into one category or another ("this" and "not that"), to communicate using language (which is built upon definitions of "this" and "not that," the very word definition meaning "to put a boundary or a limit around something"), and to analyze our situation and come up with possible hypotheses to explain what we see, and then examine the evidence that could help us accept or reject the different possible explanations or hypotheses.

All that being said, the scriptural passage itself does indeed appear to be telling us that all of this critical thought, while essential, can have a negative side (like any other good thing, especially when there is "too much of a good thing").

The very same essential and indispensable faculty that enables us to categorize, to hypothesize, and even to criticize ("this is good" versus "that was not so good" or even "that was a disaster") is exactly the same faculty that makes possible self-doubt, self-criticism, and even what we might term "self-imposed isolation from the divine twin."

If you haven't watched it already or don't remember the details of this previous post discussing the excellent conversation with Dr. Darrah Westrup at the mindbodygreen "Revitalize 2015" conference (her talk can be seen in this video clip beginning at about the 1:03:00 mark), please check it out or give it a re-look. 

Because in her talk, after pointing out that animals do not typically walk around wracked with self-doubt, and that even if a cat makes a terrible failure of trying to leap somewhere, it doesn't seem to reduce its self-image or cause it to wonder if it is going to be a failure at it the next time, Dr. Westrup states that it is through language (and thus, I would argue, through the entire facility of defining into "this" and "not that") that we can let our minds "run away with us" with negative results.

In the same presentation, she explains that ancient practices such as meditation and ancient scriptures such as the Vedas seem to teach that what we call our mind is not the whole of who we are, but rather a very useful and indeed indispensable tool, one which we should view as occasionally detrimental: a sort of "over-eager office assistant" that will sometimes make absolutely terrible recommendations, from which we can learn to "stand aside" or "stand above" through disciplines  and methods which were known to the ancients and which can put us in touch with something altogether different. 

In the scripture passage from John chapter 20, the remedy or solution given to Thomas does not involve thinking or talking or reasoning at all: it involves feeling and seeing and experiencing and knowing. And it involves getting in touch with the divine twin.

Note that this does not mean "getting rid of the Thomas" -- as Dr. Westrup says in her talk about the "over-eager office assistant," we actually cannot get rid of that assistant, nor would we really want to. 

Once we have the faculty of defining and critically thinking (and hence of criticizing and also of doubting) then we cannot ever get rid of that, nor would it be good to do so: but we can get in touch with something which is beyond defining, which cannot be "de-fined": something which is in fact In-finite (non-boundaried, non-bounded, non-finite).

Something which other traditions (such as the Vedic texts and epics and commentaries) call variously the Higher Self, the Supreme Self, the Brahman -- which is just as much a part of who we are as is the  part we might call our Thomas-self. That's why they are described as twins. You can't separate them: they are both part of our identity.

In other words, the relationship between Thomas and Jesus implied by the word Didymus may be intended to convey the very same thing that the relationship between Arjuna and the Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is intended to convey.

And note that at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna (who corresponds to Thomas) is racked by doubt

Not doubt about the existence or divinity of his divine charioteer, Krishna, but doubt about himself, his worthiness, and whether it is right or not for him to engage in the upcoming battle of Kurukshetra.

And as we see in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reveals himself to be unbounded and infinite (just as the goddess Durga revealed herself to be unbounded and infinite immediately prior to the Bhagavad Gita, and in fact was addressed as identical to the Brahman, in the hymn to Durga uttered by Arjuna).

In those Vedic texts, which I believe were designed to convey the very same message being conveyed by the episode of "Doubting Thomas," the metaphor of a chariot is used, in which the horses are the senses and the desires, and the mind is compared to the reins, but the driver is the "divine charioteer," who in the Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna himself.  Here, mind is shown to be an essential tool, but it must be guided by the divine charioteer, held in the hands of the divine charioteer.

In other words, I believe we need our critical-thinking "Thomas-faculty" nearly all the time during our waking hours, but there is a very real sense in which this aspect of our humanity gets in the way of our accessing something much deeper, something that is in fact infinite, and that can actually be properly described as divine (and that is described as divine in ancient sacred texts and traditions, including those of the New Testament, as discussed in previous posts such as "Namaste and Amen" and previous examinations of the teachings of the person called Paul).  

And we are actually designed to be in touch with the divine Infinite in this life.

Many of us have in fact experienced moments when we seem to suddenly touch something that is beyond or beneath all of the mental chatter, perhaps in a sports situation when (looking back later) we realize we were playing "out of our head." 

(Conversely, we can also probably recall situations in sports or other areas of endeavor in which we seemed to "self-sabotage" -- through a sudden onset of "doubting Thomas" self-talk -- a play or a catch that we normally would have been able to easily make).

Examples from daily life which we might put into the "uncontroversial" category could include parallel parking perfectly on the first try (even into a very difficult spot), or fetching the exact right amount of water to pour into a coffee-maker to come exactly up to the "max-fill" line without measuring (in an unmarked jug or pitcher that you use to fetch it), or even looking at the clock exactly at 3:33 on several different days, without even thinking about it (we might wonder what exactly was "ticking" in the back of your mind that seemed to be keeping track of the time, since it is clear in this example that it was not the conscious part of the mind that "reasoned out" the exact right moment to glance over at the clock on those different days).

But there are other examples that are far from "mundane" and which seem to evidence a sudden manifestation of the "hidden divine within" or the "unconscious connection with the Supreme Self," such as the incredible displays of timing caught on camera in popular videos such as the "Greatest 'Dad saves' ever" shown here (and there are many other collections along the same lines -- many showing situations that are clearly not staged, unless people are deliberately hazarding their infants to make these movies):

It should be pointed out that in nearly every one of these "Dad saves," the injury-saving action is completely unpremeditated and even apparently "unconscious" (without conscious thought). In some of them, the "save" even appears to be literally "unconscious," as in "he was half-asleep (or more than just half) and his arm reached out to save the baby."

It should also be pointed out that these kinds of difficult-to-explain displays of unconscious genius are not limited to "Dads," although saving a baby or a child does seem to be a common denominator. For instance, there was an incident in my own experience (known to me personally) in which a mother was in line at the grocery store, facing the clerk, and reached completely behind her back to grab the shopping cart and stop it from tipping over as her older son climbed onto the side of it while her younger son (an infant at the time) was inside of it. She was not looking in that direction at all when this took place: it was behind her and she was about to say "hi" to the clerk in anticipation of moving up to the check-out point.

As difficult to explain as such examples appear to be, there are some who would argue that even these displays of human response -- admittedly beyond our "day-to-day" way of behaving or reacting -- are still explainable within the realm of the "natural, material world" and do not require descriptions involving the words "divine" or "infinite" or connections to anything non-material or super-natural.

Perhaps they are just manifestations of highly-developed instinctual abilities on the same level as those which animals routinely display (untroubled as they are by anything resembling the "Thomas-mind" and the self-doubt that comes along with being able to think critically and maintain inner dialogues), and which we usually forget in our civilized setting, but which "pop up" from time-to-time when they are most necessary (a kind of "animal-like survival instinct" that is usually forgotten but occasionally awakens).

That is certainly a possible explanation, and one that our critical-thinking, scientific-method-following minds should consider.

But even if that is a valid explanation for some manifestations of behavior (like the "Dad saves" shown above) that fall completely outside of what we usually experience in what might be called "ordinary reality," there are other examples of human beings apparently accessing the fabric of non-ordinary reality for which even that explanation (already a stretch) seems to be completely inadequate.

For example, in this post from all the way back in January of 2012, we examined an account of a daughter who was visited in dreams and who received information about the existence of a Buddhist monastery the existence of which she had previously been unaware, but which upon visiting she learned from the presiding abbott that her father had helped found that particular monastery, years before she had even been born.

It is difficult to explain that account as an example of "highly-developed human ability or instinct," because it involved information that came to a person (while unconscious, it should be noted) who could not be expected to know that information at all -- even subconsciously.

Or, see for another example the situation described in the account of Norman Ollestad in his book Crazy for the Storm, in which as a young eleven-year old boy, he had to make his way down a steep and icy mountain in what can only be described as a life-or-death situation.

In that book, we see an excellent real-life example of the "Doubting Thomas" phenomenon: young Ollestad must overcome his own fears, anxieties, self-criticisms and self-doubt -- both on the mountain and in the challenging situations he faced while growing up in the canyons and suburbs around Los Angeles and the California coast during the 1970s.

In order to overcome those doubts, he relies on the uplifting influence of his father, and on reserves of courage and resourcefulness inside himself that at first the boy might not even have known or realized were there.

However, that is not all that helps him survive, as those who have read the book (or who will read the book after this) see by the end. Indeed, in order to eventually make his way off the mountain, several events (including something that he is able to "see" which he later realizes he would not have been able to see based on actual terrain and line-of-sight) and "coincidences" took place which directly contributed to the author's survival on that awful day in 1979.

Although they might not be as dramatic, many of us can also think of "coincidences" or "synchronicities" in our own experience in which people who could not possibly have known that we were thinking about something or considering some course of action suddenly contacted us with information or suggestions that make it seem as though something from outside of ordinary reality is at work.

It is my belief that the episode involving the encounter of "Doubting Thomas" and "the risen Lord" is intended to describe this exact dynamic in our human experience: the fact that we ourselves are endowed with an important facility of critical thinking, which is well-suited for many aspects of day-to-day life (and which is in fact indispensable for our survival), but which can also be a hindrance to us, to the extent that it can lead to self-doubt, self-sabotage, self-destruction in extreme cases, and self-imposed separation from someone we are actually supposed to rely upon as absolutely vital to our experience in this life: our Higher Self, the "divine charioteer," the Christ within.

Indeed, while some readers may remain unconvinced by the analysis and examples offered so far (and especially those who are especially committed to a literal-historical interpretation of the sacred texts of the New Testament) -- even though I believe that the discussion so far should already be fairly convincing -- I believe there is actually a whole additional line of evidence which makes the above interpretation not only "likely" but nearly "indisputable."

The more I have studied the ancient mythology of humanity, the more evidence I have found that virtually all of it, from every single inhabited continent on our globe, and from millennia in the past right up to living traditions which have remained in practice into the present day, is built upon a common system of celestial metaphor, the purpose of which is to convey exactly the type of knowledge that we have been examining above regarding the human condition and the makeup of the natural world and the cosmos in which we find ourselves.

Knowledge regarding its dual material-spiritual composition: the existence of a Spirit World or an Infinite Realm which interpenetrates this material realm at all times and at all points, and with which we are actually in contact all the time ourselves, through our own inner divine spark, our own inner connection to the Infinite.

This inner connection may be often neglected, or even completely forgotten, but (as the embedded video and some of the other examples discussed above make clear) it is very real, and it is very powerful.

It absolutely transcends and blows away our limited understanding of what we ordinary think of as "reality."

But our normal facilities of thinking and understanding and analyzing (the "Thomas side" of our "twinned" existence) tend to doubt the very existence or reality of the divine nature, and when we listen to them enough we can miss out on something that is actually a huge part of who we really are.

A nice "contemporary film allegory" for this self-doubt and self-sabotage which keeps us from reaching our "non-ordinary potential" is the famous exchange between "doubting Skywalker" and Yoda in the famous "X-wing in the swamp" scene from The Empire Strikes Back (1980):

One way that we can help to confirm that the "Doubting Thomas" episode in the Gospel According to John was intended to be understood as an esoteric metaphor and not as a literal account of an event which took place in terrestrial earthly history is the fact that, like so many other events related in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (see a partial list here), it incorporates clearly-identifiable celestial components.

In fact, I can find enough celestial components to this story and those which precede and follow it in John's gospel as to amply confirm to my own satisfaction that it is almost certainly a description of the heavenly cycles of the sun, moon, stars and planets (with which we ourselves are connected, and which serve throughout the world's mythology as an allegorical system which relies upon some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring aspects of our physical, material universe to discuss and explain aspects of the invisible, spiritual world) and not a description of anything that took place in terrestrial human history.

Very briefly, the Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844), who lived well before the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts, and who spent considerable time discussing the identity of Thomas in a collection of his public sermons or lectures published in 1854 (ten years after his death) and entitled The Devil's Pulpit, makes much of the fact that the traditional observance of St. Thomas' Day was held on December 21st, the point of winter solstice and the point on the zodiac wheel which during the Age of Aries marked the beginning of the sign of Capricorn.

Since at the points of solstice ("sun-station" or "sun-stand-still") the sun appears to "pause" and rise at roughly the same point on the horizon for about three days before turning back around and moving in the other direction again, which is why the "birth" of the solar child is celebrated three days later (at midnight on the 24th of December, rather than on the solstice-day of the 21st of December), Robert Taylor argued that the 21st is a sort of "day of maximum doubt," when the sun has been rising successively further and further south since summer solstice in June, and tracing an arc that is lower and lower across the sky, and the hours of daylight each day have been getting shorter and shorter relative to the hours of darkness -- and that "unbelieving Thomas" is thus the figure who doubts that the sun will ever turn around again (Devil's Pulpit, 42).

Zodiac wheel with positions of the signs of Capricorn (green) and Cancer (red) indicated, one beginning at the point of winter solstice (Capricorn) and the other beginning at the point of summer solstice (Cancer).

Interestingly enough, there are also traditions which associate the feast-day of Thomas with the 3rd of July, which is in the sign of Cancer the Crab, the sign which follows the sun's point of maximum arc and its northmost rising- and setting-points (as well as with other days of the year).

Robert Taylor incorporates all these details into his explanation, in which he argues that Thomas is associated both with the Goat of Capricorn (beginning at the sun's lowest point) and with the Crab of Cancer (beginning just after its highest) -- and also the related fact that he is called "the twin."

One look at the zodiac image above should be enough to perceive just how ingeniously the ancient myths (including those in the Bible) were crafted to impart their esoteric message, and how the majestic cycles of the celestial realms were employed in order to convey knowledge of spiritual truths -- in this case, the truth allegorized by the metaphor of Thomas and the Divine Twin, one enmeshed in the doubts and definitions of the "practical" struggles of the finite world, and the other completely free of the bounds of earth (passing easily through locked doors) and of the endless defining and analyzing of the "Thomas" side of our nature: the divine nature, at home in and representative of the realm of the Infinite.

Images of Thomas in this famous encounter with the Lord painted in previous centuries have in fact emphasized his Capricornian nature.

Now is a good time of year to observe the Goat of Capricorn in the sky (look to the west of the Great Square of Pegasus, or to the east of the distinctive "teapot" outline in the constellation of Sagittarius, which is currently still easily visible looking towards the south during the prime stargazing hours after sunset and before midnight, at the base of the rising column of the Milky Way).

Below is an image of the night sky as it looks to an observer in the northern hemisphere in the temperate latitudes, and looking towards the southern horizon (where the zodiac constellations make their nightly procession):


In the above image, you can see that the zodiac constellation of Capricorn the Goat (or the Sea-Goat) is actually reaching its highest point (its transit point) as it turns through the due-south celestial meridian-line (the highest point on its arc through the sky between rising in the east on the left and setting to the west on the right) right around 11pm.  The outline of Capricorn is almost directly above the letter "S" marking due south.

Below is the same image, adding color to the outline of Capricorn as well as to the landmarks of the  Great Square of Pegasus and the "teapot" in Sagittarius:

In the above image, the Great Square of Pegasus is outlined in yellow, the "teapot" formation in Sagittarius is outlined in blue, and the Goat of Capricorn is shown in green.

The general direction of the shining band of the Milky Way galaxy, which rises up from the southern horizon almost straight-up into the heavens at this time of year, is indicated with a label written in purple.

Please take special note of the outline of the stars of the Goat of Capricorn. In order to observe them more closely, a "zoomed-in" image of the Capricorn region and its constellation's stars is shown below:

Note that the constellation suggests the shape of two "point-downward" triangles: one for the head of the Goat, and the other formed by Capricorn's two feet, which come together in a near-point, as if he is a rock-hopping mountain goat instead of a Sea-Goat as he is often portrayed.

It is also notable that he has some fairly formidable "goat-horns" pointing almost straight forward from his head, which are distinctly two in number: there are two stars to mark the tips of the Goat's horns (one is labeled in the image above, Deneb Algedi, and the other is just a bit further to the right and on a line slightly below Deneb Algedi in the sky).

Below is the same "zoomed-in" image of Capricorn, this time with green outlines to help make perfectly clear the line of the horns and the "two triangles" shape of the constellation:

Having familiarized ourselves with the outline of Capricorn, let us now take a look at some of the images created by master artists over the centuries depicting the famous encounter between Thomas and the risen Lord in the episode of "The Incredulity of Thomas."

The first (and perhaps most revealing) is from Giovanni del Giglio, who lived from some time in the late 1400s through approximately 1557. It is entitled L'incredulita di San Tommaso:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Take a close look at the hands of Thomas and the divine twin (the risen Lord).

If you have studied the images of the constellation Capricorn presented above, you will find that the unmistakeable features of the heavenly symbol are reproduced in this drawing and are associated with the probing fingers of Thomas (the horns of the Goat), the downward-facing triangle of the hand of Jesus (the head of the Goat), the bend of the arm of Thomas below the elbow of the risen Lord (the feet of the Goat), and the distinctive hand-symbol being displayed by the woman in the image (the tail of the Goat).

If you are having trouble seeing the correspondence between the image and the constellation, it is outlined in the identical image below, with Capricorn added:

Below is another example, much more recent, from Tissot (1836 - 1902), which envisions the same scene but instead appears to use the bearded, downward-bowed head of Thomas himself to evoke the idea of the head of Capricorn, and the down-stretched arm and one leg of the apostle to suggest the front and back legs of the constellation which are nearly together in the outline of Capricorn in the actual night sky:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The examples could be multiplied on and on: the reader is invited to examine them for himself or herself to decide whether or not the identification of Thomas with the constellation Capricorn is valid in these examples, based on what we know of the outline of the stars themselves in the sky.

There is actually much more which could be added to the celestial metaphors at work in this particular scriptural event, and in the events which surround it in the John gospel, which act to confirm even more powerfully the fact that this story was originally intended to be understood esoterically rather than literally as an event taking place in earthly history.

One other important piece of evidence which Robert Taylor offers in his extensive analysis of the identity of Thomas is the fact that his name itself points to the connection between Capricorn and Cancer in this story (the signs marking the celestial low-point and the celestial high-point).

The name Thomas, he alleges (and others have made the same assertion) is related to the name Tammuz, which is both the name of an ancient deity and also of the fourth month of some ancient calendars (including the Hebrew calendar still in use today).

If you look again at the zodiac wheel reproduced above, and count to the fourth sign after the point of spring equinox (the beginning of the year in many ancient cultures), you will find that this count brings you to the sign of Cancer the Crab (1 - Aries; 2 - Taurus; 3 - Gemini; 4 - Cancer).

In other words, Thomas is associated with both Capricorn and Cancer: both the "doubting twin" and with the exalted Supreme Self (and some have even noted that his confession or exclamation "My Lord and my God" appears to refer to both human kingship and divinity, an expression of the dual nature of the Christ).

All of this appears to rather strongly confirm the powerful insight of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, quoted many times in previous posts (see here and here and here), that the ancient myths of the world (including those in the Bible) are not about ancient history but about our experience "here and now;" that they are not about "old kings, priests and warriors" but rather that in every scene they treat the experience of "the human soul."

"The Bible is about the mystery of human life," he says, "[ . . .] and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it!" (Note that the two halves of the foregoing quotation are from different sentences in the same lecture by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, but by quoting them in this way I have not altered the sense of what he is asserting).

Indeed, when it comes to the story of Thomas the Twin (Didymus), we might alter Alvin Boyd Kuhn's quotation a bit further and say that this particular story "is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself or herself to be a twin in exactly the same way!"

The metaphor of Thomas and the divine twin is a metaphor to teach us a profound truth. It could be taught a different way, using a different metaphor -- such as the metaphor of Arjuna and the divine charioteer, in the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, there are endless different ways of expressing the same concept, found throughout the myths of the world, which collectively are the precious inheritance of humanity, intended for our benefit and use in this life.

We are each a twin in exactly the same way that Thomas is a twin: permanently 'twinned' with the 'divine twin,' who can appear in an instant no matter where we are or in what circumstance we find ourselves. No locked door can prevent the appearance of the divine twin, for we ourselves have within us -- always and in every circumstance -- an inner connection to the Infinite; we ourselves contain both Capricorn and Cancer: both twins, simultaneously. We are prone to doubting and to forgetting -- to saying with Luke in the swamp, 'I'll give it a try' -- cutting ourselves off from unlimited potential, when in reality we have access to all of it, all the time.

The fact that the story is a metaphor in no way means that it is "not true" (it just is not, at least in my understanding of it based on the evidence that I have seen for myself, literal or historical).

In fact, I believe it is profoundly true, and that it has daily practical applications for us in virtually every field of our human experience.

There are ways to learn these truths other than through the exquisite metaphors found in the world's ancient myths -- but when we have this incredible treasure which has been imparted to us for our good, it would seem to be a terrible waste to ignore these ancient teachings, or to turn them into something which they quite plainly are not (especially if we know what they are).

Who is "Doubting Thomas"?

Well, obviously, we have him with us every day.

But if we recognize his good aspects (incredulity, after all, can be a good quality), while avoiding the negative side of incredulity (self-doubt, over-criticism, over-haste in labeling defeat or failure, self-sabotage, and disconnection with the divine nature which is as much a part of who we are as is the Thomas-nature), we can touch the Infinite. Every day.


image: Wikimedia commons (link).