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127 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It identifies "common themes" in early Gnostic Christianity.
This is an excellent book with much original research. Out of the three schools of thought in early Christianity: (1) Literalist (Pistis); (2) Joint Literalist-Gnostic; (3) Gnostic, Freke and Gandy are strong supporters of number (3), the Gnostic Christians.
Freke and Gandy attack literalist Christianity with venom, who they accuse of hijacking early Christianity...
Published on February 25, 2002

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't what I was looking for.
The beginning showed how fundamentalist religion and the Catholic Church have taken what Christ preached, and Paul changed, to conform to their ideas. It shows how the Jesus followers believed much differently than the organized religions we have today. However, most of the book deals with Gnosis, and seems to be put on a pedestal. I agreed with some, but not all of...
Published on January 13, 2013 by David Creighton


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127 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It identifies "common themes" in early Gnostic Christianity., February 25, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (Hardcover)
This is an excellent book with much original research. Out of the three schools of thought in early Christianity: (1) Literalist (Pistis); (2) Joint Literalist-Gnostic; (3) Gnostic, Freke and Gandy are strong supporters of number (3), the Gnostic Christians.
Freke and Gandy attack literalist Christianity with venom, who they accuse of hijacking early Christianity which was eclectic and tolerant, turning it into the most totalitarian nightmare the world has ever seen. This included systematic destruction of the Gnostic Christian and Gnostic Pagan intelligentsia of their day and all their powerful knowledge they had gathered (with the destruction of the ancient, Great Alexandrian Library). Replacing it with mass ignorance and complete nonsense that was the beginning of the dark ages in the west.
The books great strength is that is "unifies" early Christian Gnostic thought, by identifying "common themes" that existed in all denominations of the Christian Gnostics, despite their "individual" differences. Describing the processes of hylic, psychic, pneumatic initiates and gnosis as the final prize for the initiate, in original Christianity.
The one big criticism of the book is Freke and Gandy's denial of the historical Jesus. Just because the independent evidence is weak for the existence of an historical Jesus, it doesn't mean he didn't exist as a person.
The totalitarian literalist Christians who seized power in the 4th century AD, may well have destroyed independent evidence of an historical Jesus fearing it would do damage to their ignorant vision, particularly if Jesus was a maverick style, radical individualist and a Jewish Gnostic, such as an Essene or a Therapeutae initiate and not the totalitarian figure the new powerful Christian church wanted to falsely portray. Freke and Gandy don't address this argument.
Also another criticism is that the Literalist Christians may not have always been this total monster that Freke and Gandy portray. Because the Literalists offered a sense of community, self-belief and faith, that gave its followers (in face of persecution), an intuitive sense of strength in unity before the 4th century AD. Literalist Christians were a "solid movement", while the Gnostics Christians were no match, being only a "loose network".
Only after the 4th century AD and the seizure of power and triumph of the totalitarian literalist Christians, one could argue, the "democratic" literalist vision was hijacked and twisted by these new, sinister, "totalitarian" literalists who seized power for their ignorant uses and plunged the west into darkness for 1000 years. Only with the "Reformation" in the 16th century some sanity has been restored, with the triumph of the "individual" in the west laying down the magnificent democratic principles of modern, western society.
I am sure Clement of Alexandria and his pupil Origen would have agreed with much of the above four paragraphs and that is why both these early Church Fathers were supporters of the joint Literalist-Gnostic school of thought. This expressed "both" the literalist exoteric outer mysterious (historical, the community and faith emphasis) and Gnostic esoteric inner mysterious (mythological, the individual and self knowledge emphasis), which the writer believes was the framework of original Christians, before the church split in two, with the literalist (Roman Christianity) and Gnostic (Alexandrian Christianity) factions disastrously going their separate ways in the 2nd century AD.
Despite these criticisms get a copy of this book now. This is an important book in the "Jesus Debate". It shows how easily a "philosophical" religion of inclusive, democratic freethinkers with "unity in variety" and a "freedom to question" as their message can be hijacked and turned into the "control" religion of the exclusive, authoritarian personality (see your psychology books), with "them and us" and a "duty to believe" as their message. That is what happened to Christianity and many of today's Christian denominations are a misguided product of this.
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161 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here is Wisdom...., November 4, 2001
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OAKSHAMAN "oakshaman" (Algoma, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (Hardcover)
_As much as I valued the authors' first book on the subject, I must say that I value this effort even more. This work goes beyond presenting the history of gnosticism, to setting forth the actual gnostic teachings in absolute crystal clarity. When you think about it, giving such clarity and accessibility to gnostic thought is a phenomenal achievement in and of its self. Unlike more academic studies, or outright translations, where you sense that the author or translator doesn't comprehend gnosis at all, here you have a definate feeling that you are getting teachings from true initiates. The analogy of the circle of the self with the One Consciousness of God at the center, radiating all of our individual psyches into the many seemingly separate bodies and egos of the physical world at the circumference is extremely well expounded. Yes, you find the same teaching in Plotinus, but only after wading through hundreds of pages of deliberately obscure prose.

_Oh yes, the connection of the gnostic teachings to the gospels is the best I've seen. The meaning of formerly difficult passages veritably leaps out at you.

_The authors mention in passing that when a student starts on the gnostic Way, meaningful coincidences often occur. This book was released on the date of my own birthday. I could not think of a finer or more appropriate gift. Thank you.
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gnosticism for the masses, May 27, 2002
By 
Jeff Danelek (Lakewood, Colorado United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (Hardcover)
For those who read Freke's and Gandy's earlier book, The Jesus Mysteries, this work is the perfect companion piece. Whereas The Jesus Mysteries made a good case for the pagan origins of the Christian mythology and the Gnostic origins of the early church, Jesus and the Lost Goddess goes one step beyond in explaining-in considerable detail-the nuts and bolts of how Gnosticism works. In effect, Freke and Gandy have done nothing less than reintroduce the ancient religion to a broader audience in an attractive package that is sure to reach even into the dusty pews of the established churches. Whether this will prove to be a good or bad thing is yet to be determined.
In any case, Jesus and the Lost Goddess does a good job explaining precisely how Gnosticism works and how the Jesus story might be interpreted in the light of Gnostic mythology. In this, it presents a thought-provoking and fascinating look at a movement who's time has come and gone and, perhaps, come again. And, it manages to do this in a considerably more user friendly manner than most books on the subject, including Elaine Pagel's excellent work The Gnostics (which, while it does an admirable job explaining the history of the movement, does not do as well explaining it) and herein lies its greatest strength: it manages to bring the very complex and often confusing concepts within Gnosticism down to a laymen's level. While it can be on occasion a tedious read (Freke and Gandy sometimes slip in a few $25 words) and a bit obtuse at points, anyone who makes it all the way through should have a pretty good working knowledge of this ancient belief system that manages to seem both ancient and modern at the same time. I also found many parallels between the Gnostic's theology and that expressed in Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations With God trilogy, making me wonder if the three men ever read each other's work.
There are a few negatives however. First, the buyer should be aware that fully half of this book is composed of endnotes, making it a less substantial read than it might first appear. I also found the first appendix to be an unnecessary (and less concise) reiteration of information contained earlier in the book, and the second appendix on Islamic Gnosticism to be misplaced and not particularly useful (I also question their premise that Mohammed was a mystic. Historically speaking, he appears much more a conquering warrior/king than a closet Gnostic, but-oh well.)
But for anyone who is looking for an all encompassing and intellectually satisfying belief system that can stand up to the scientific and philosophical scrutiny of the twenty-first century and beyond, Jesus and the Lost Goddess is a good place to start. It sure beats anything else I've come across recently.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great theory, finally fills in the gaps! This makes sense!!, April 12, 2005
Great book, well written and extensively researched and foot-nooted. A refreshing read for anyone interested in the teachings and meaning of Jesus and the subsequent birth of the formal Church, especially put in the context of the time and place of his alleged ministry. Makes cogent, articulate arguments for many of their hypothesis; in fact after reading it, you'll wonder how it is not clear to the rest of the world. It also demonstrates quite clearly that the winners do indeed get to write the history, and the truth often gets lost along the way. As can be seen by some of the reviews posted here, not something that fundamentalist/ literalists will enjoy or even credence ( there are no leaps of faith required here, merely an open mind), but anyone who wants to know why we thirst for the 'divine' will enjoy this book.
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46 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here is Wisdom...., July 2, 2002
By 
OAKSHAMAN "oakshaman" (Algoma, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (Hardcover)
As much as I valued the authors' first book on the subject, I must say that I value this effort even more. This work goes beyond presenting the history of gnosticism, to setting forth the actual gnostic teachings in absolute crystal clarity. When you think about it, giving such clarity and accessibility to gnostic thought is a phenomenal achievement in and of its self. Unlike more academic studies, or outright translations, where you sense that the author or translator doesn't comprehend gnosis at all, here you have a definate feeling that you are getting teachings from true initiates. The analogy of the circle of the self with the One Consciousness of God at the center, radiating all of our individual psyches into the many seemingly separate bodies and egos of the physical world at the circumference is extremely well expounded. Yes, you find the same teaching in Plotinus, but only after wading through hundreds of pages of deliberately obscure prose.

Oh yes, the connection of the gnostic teachings to the gospels is the best I've seen. The meaning of formerly difficult passages veritably leaps out at you.

The authors mention in passing that when a student starts on the gnostic Way, meaningful coincidences often occur. This book was released on the date of my own birthday. I could not think of a finer or more appropriate gift. Thank you.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RE: Strong effort, January 20, 2002
By 
Stephen Toth (Hawthorne CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (Hardcover)
Good follow up to The Jesus Mysteries. The authors show that they have a working knowledge of Gnostic teachings. They show the unity behind the apparent dualism. I found it helpful to put a bookmark in the notes section for quick reference. The style starts off a little slow, but picks up when they start talking about the Demiurge. The notes are about half of the book. Maybe it would have been better to put more of the information found in the notes into the text. But a solid effort. Good explantion of the difference between spirit & soul.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book with no "after-death threat.", February 23, 2005
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After reading this book I've come away with a better understanding of a way of Christianity that was sadly suppressed by the political power-brokers of the day, namely the Roman Empire and ideologically rigid bishops. The authors examination of Paul as a Gnostic leader is very revealing. The deep connections between Gnostic teachings and Neo-platonic philosophy are also very penetrating. Best of all, I think I have a better handle on the whole notion of the Holy Spirit. Its a sublimation of the Goddess Sophia, which, in turn, is a sublimation of spiritual becoming in a corporeal context. (This interpretation will resonate with process theologians.) In short, this is a stunning book which will stimulate a lot of reflection.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great deal about gnostics, little about the goddess, April 20, 2003
This review is from: Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (Hardcover)
I'm not sure I believe much of what Freke and Gandy attempt to prove in their deconsruction of Christian Church. While there is not doubt that the early Christians were nothing like the Roman Catholic church of today, it's hard to convince this reader that the entire cult was based on a gnostic myth.
At the heart of this book, the writers try to display (as in their earlier writings) that Jesus never existed. The gnostics just imagined his story, and egged on by Paul, who never met the historic Jesus, they spread their story world-wide. And then the literatists turned myth into history.
It's hard to grapple with. While their description of the gnostics is wonderful and their slight brush with the goddess Sophia (who became the Virgin Mary as an object for veneration in the traditional church), the essential theme remains suspect.
Writers with better reasoning powers and closer readings of Jewish midrash and Gospel research (Spong and Pagels) have shown that the first Christians were both gnostic *and* that Jesus was a real person. They also point out theat another branch of original Christians, led by Jesus' brother James, practiced a highly Jewish form of Christianity, keeping the laws and demanding circumcision. If Jesus were just a myth, why would this cul even have come into existence?
When it comes right down to it, Freke's and Gandy's view is skewed, but makes some interesting reading. It just isn't convincing.
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35 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Follow-Up To The Jesus Mysteries, June 27, 2003
This is an admirable, noble, and timely book. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy have attempted to unveil gnosis for the modern reader, taking away the complexity of the scrolls that have come down through the ages to us; they make gnosis accessible to all who seek it. They also do what the ancients would consider unthinkable: Freke and Gandy reveal the goal, and secrets, of gnosis.
Freke and Gandy hinted at the secret teachings of the original Christians in their previous book, "The Jesus Mysteries." Wisely, they chose only to give a glimmer of these secrets there, as a full-blown examination of gnosis would've been outside of that book's boundaries. However, Jesus and the Lost Goddess is devoted to nothing but, and the authors are to be congratulated on their skillful presentation of gnosis for the modern reader.
In particular, I am indebted to them for finally making me see the positive side of gnosticism. In fact, their clear-cut view made me kick myself for never having noticed it before. After reading several other books about the gnostics, I was turned off by what seemed to be their total hatred for life. For example, the followers of Mani didn't marry, lived the lives of celibates, and basically waited for death. A horrible life-view, and to me seemingly a waste of the gift of life.
Freke and Gandy turn this view around; of course the gnostics believed that the body and the world were at heart a tomb, but at the same time, just as they practiced and preached docetism (that everything is composed of conflicting natures), they believed that, just as life can be bad, it can also be good. A simple view, but so much better than that presented by Literalist Christians. When asked how a "just God" could allow all of the human suffering that has been witnessed in human history, the fundamentalist can only offer vapid excuses. The gnostic, however, can say that of course life is bad, this world is hell; but good can happen just as easily, and everything, both good and bad, is just a test on our character. More importantly, it's just a movie we're watching; like the Platonists, the gnostics deemed Consciousness immortal: though our frail bodies might suffer and die, our soul is merely a spectator of events. So smile, even though you suffer, for nothing can truly harm you. And the "All is One" concept has never been advanced as breezily and believably.
In short, this is the type of book I've been searching for. It can give one a new lease on life. It wisely doesn't preach a return to gnosticism; Freke and Gandy explain why this would be absurd in their final chapter, "The New Improved Testament." This part of the book is especially affecting, as the authors point out several "bad ideas" that have corrupted our minds, and offer "good ideas" to combat them. Their response to the "bad idea" that God is a male is both hilarious and enlightening.
I would love to give a copy of this book to those people I know who are fundamentalist Christians. I think it could reveal to them how they've been mislead by two thousand years of "Christian" oppression and suppression. That it's time to grow up and leave the old cultural prejudices behind. But I don't think they could handle it. They'd probably end up stoning me to death.
The truth hurts.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opening book all 'Christians' must read, August 26, 2004
By 
This work is a fascinating examination of how Gnostic and other Pagan myths influenced the movement called 'Gnosticism.'

'Gnosticism' is a complex movement that appeared to arise, along with a pluarality of other 'Jesus' movements in the period from about 50 A.D. to 200 A.D. As any Christian with half a brain and who is not brainwashed into mindless fundamentalism should know, at this time the four 'canonical' Gospels were composed by various authors along with the canonical and deutrocanonical letters of Paul, drawing from an original source of sayings known as the 'Q' or 'Quelle' document. In addition, Gnostic writers used this source to create the 'Gospel of Thomas' and other Gospels, which contain various Gnostic teaching about the origin and destiny of the universe, the nature of man, the nature of Christ and Sophia, and so on. The Gospel of Thomas is perhaps the most beautiful, including the saying 'Whoever learns these teachings will not taste death.'

It is unfortunate in many Christian bookstores I see book after book claiming to prove with absolute truth that the entire Bible was we now have it is infallibe, God's eternal word, not to be changed and not to be understood in light of other religions. One depressing and faith-destroying argument I see especially pushed by Evangelicals is that all religions bar Christianity are the 'Devil's Inspiration' and those who refuse to accept Christ as the 'Lord and Saviour' will burn in the 'lake of fire' (see Revelation). I knew that this was nonsense; how can one part of the Bible claim 'God is love' and yet the same God create eternal hellfire with no chance of redemption? Evangelicals and fundamentalists often cite the passage where Jesus says 'I am the way, the truth and the life' taking it to mean that it is either Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christianity you accept, or you are condemned to eternal hellfire. Much as militant Muslims blow up buses carrying schoolchildren in Israel because they are 'infidels', this sort of nonsense destroys the true heart of the Christian message, 'God is love.'

The authors make the useful distinction between those who seek salvation by 'faith' and those who do so by 'Gnosis', or mystical insight. Gnosis comes from the Greek word for knowledge or knowing. The authors make the argument that political authorities have corrupted the true Christian message - that salvation is found within by understanding the Bible as a sort of symbolic text rather than a literal history. And I agree.

For twenty or so centuries Christian thinkers have held the Bible to be factually true. Even today, we see 'Creation Scientists' trying miserably like the workers who made the Tower of Babel trying to raise miserable sophisms against science, especially evolution, to salvage the archaic idea the world must be 6000 years old. Treating the Bible as infallible, literal history has been nothing short of a disaster, and has resulted in terrible persecutions reminiscent of the Stalinism and Nazism Evangelical and Fundamentalist apologists often attack when we let go of 'absolute values.'

The authors stress we need to recover the allegorical and mythical dimension within the Gospel, which is key to understanding the concept of Christ's 'Kingdom on Earth.' While they sometimes stretch some parts of their case very thin and their own philosophical prejudices intrude, I believe their basic thesis that we need to pay more attention to the mystical aspects of Christian myth needs to be taken seriously, especially the role of the Divine 'Sophia' or 'Wisdom.' Mention of 'Wisdom' so many times in the Bible reminded me it is far more than a boring history book of ancient Israel, which fundamentalists seem to insist is exactly what we should take it to be. That realisation liberated me from the shackles of fundamentalist/literalist 'either/or' without having to abandon the faith that has such a beautiful inner message in common with the teachings of the mystics of other world faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, the Hermenetic traditions, and so on. For the past few thousands years the feminine element of the divine has been played down while the male images of the reality called 'God' have been invoked to the point where God is not much more than a nasty despot, exactly the sort of figure atheists so rightly hate.

While I can't agree with some of the author's arguments, which appear to be casual dismissals rather than scholarly findings, i.e. 'The historical Jesus never existed' or 'The God of the Old Testament is a jealous, murdering patriarch', where the authors do argue their case with good evidence, such as the Gnostic influence on Paul, they are excellent.

So, for the fundamentalist or evangelicals among you, this will just be another work inspired by Satan, but for those with an open mind and a more critical and open stance towards their faith, this book is good and makes you feel more at home among those early Christians who, like me, 'Take the best of other traditions and integrate them into their own (Christian) perspective to reach God.'
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