Shuck and Jive

Monday, August 18, 2008

Thunder, Perfect Mind

One of the texts found at Nag Hammadi in 1945 and recently made available to the public is a poem in which the protagonist is a female deity. It is reminiscent of Sophia or Wisdom who speaks in portions of The Wisdom of Solomon and in Proverbs. But this one is different. Of Thunder, Perfect Mind, Elaine Pagels writes:
" 'Thunder Perfect Mind' is a marvelous, strange poem. It speaks in the voice of a feminine divine power, but one that unites all opposites. One that is not only speaking in women, but also in all people. One that speaks not only in citizens, but aliens, it says, in the poor and in the rich. It's a poem which sees the radiance of the divine in all aspects of human life, from the sordidness of the slums of Cairo or Alexandria, as they would have been, to the people of great wealth, from men to women to slaves. In that poem, the divine appears in every, and the most unexpected, forms....
Scholars estimate the 2nd or 3rd century for its original composition, probably in Greek. The text that was found was written in the 4th century in Coptic. Thunder, Perfect Mind has somewhat of a cult following. Check this from Wikipedia:

Though the poem is a recent addition to our literature, it has already had an effect on contemporary culture. Excerpts from the poem were used by Toni Morrison as epigraphs to her novels, Jazz and Paradise. Umberto Eco includes a portion of it in the introduction to chapter 50 of Foucault's Pendulum; and Larry Lawson and Levi Lee use about a dozen lines in their play, Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends (A Final Evening with the Illuminati).

A 2005 film by Jordan Scott (the daughter of Ridley Scott) depicts Canadian model Daria Werbowy moving through various urban scenes (such as a nightclub, the back of a taxi, and around Potsdamer Platz in Berlin), while a recitation from the poem is read in as a form of narrative commentary. A shortened version of the film was used in a Prada advertisement with Canadian supermodel Daria Werbowy, to promote the launch of the fashion house's first perfume.

An April 17, 1998 episode titled "Anamnesis" from the second season of the Millenium (TV series) dealt with Mary Magdalene and quoted some of "Thunder Perfect Mind."

The poem has been used as inspiration for an album by the apocalyptic folk band Current 93 and industrial music band Nurse With Wound. Excerpts from the text are spoken in the song "I Am" by the band Tulku on the album A Universe to Come.

Here is the beginning of the text:

Translated by George W. MacRae

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.

You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am [the mother] and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in (due) time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.

And now a word from our sponsor, actually a stylish, creative film, even if an elongated advertisement for Prada Perfume:

Find out more about
Thunder, Perfect Mind, and other ancient literature that was forced underground only to surface in our time.

It is the Jesus Seminar on the Road in Elizabethton, Sept. 12-13. Dr. Hal Taussig will lead us through Thunder, Perfect Mind and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene
Saturday morning.

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