Timothy Freke Transcript
December 3, 2007
Commentator: Now, Here is your host, Dr. Kent!
Kent Gustavson: Welcome to Sound Off Authors Radio. Today is the last day of November, and the 172nd birthday of Mark Twain. Happy Birthday, Mr. Clemens! Today on the show we pay tribute to Mark Twain with four guests of very different subject matter.Our first guest will be Timothy Freke, on religion and humor. Our second guest is Ron Villano, on loss and recovery. Something we don’t think about much with Mark Twain but something he was certainly dealing with.Marion Oram is our third guest, on traveling and wanderlust, and our fourth guest is Peter Mayer, with his wonderful music.So, our first guest is Timothy Freke, author of more than 20 books. He runs seminars across the world, exploring gnosis. His book, “Jesus and the Goddess,” was cited by Dan Brown as an inspiration for the Da Vinci Code. He has an international best seller, “The Jesus Mysteries.”Timothy Freke’s last book is entitled, “The Gospel of the Second Coming.” Mark Twain, of course, also had an irreverent love of religion, and a lot of humor. So, this is very appropriate. Welcome, Timothy Freke!
Timothy Freke: Thank you! Thank you, Kent. Lovely to be talking to you.
Kent: So, tell me a little bit about your latest book.
Timothy: Previously, Peter Gandy, my co-author and I, have written these controversial, popular, scholarly books on Christianity. In our latest book, we wanted to take those ideas and present them in a whole new way.What’s attractive about satire, is of course, it’s funny. The sub-title to our new book is, Jesus is Back, but this time He’s funny. So, it’s a very different form of gospel. But, it’s also got a serious side. Satire has that polarity to it which really attracted us to it.So, what we’ve done, is, we’ve created a kind of post modern gnostic gospel, if you will. It’s the first gospel in 2,000 years, in which Jesus gets to come back and, himself, explain all the confusions that have arisen since his first coming. And, explain the history and the meaning of Christianity. And, by some remarkable coincidence, Jesus’ theories on these matters turns out to be very similar to my own.
Kent: So, tell me a little bit about yourself and your co-author.
Timothy: Well, as you’ve said, I’ve written a lot of books. I do seminars. My passion, really, is philosophy. Peter is a classicist. We’ve come into the public eye through our work around Christianity, because it’s very controversial. Our other books, which are much more serious affairs, you know, full of footnotes and all that sort of thing, presents a revisionist history of Christianity.Our conclusions are pretty shocking to many people until they read the evidence, which we have huge amounts of. Because our conclusion is, that Jesus isn’t an historical figure. He’s the hero of a myth. It’s a bit like the Jesus stories, full of little parables, teaching stories.But they’re not history. You know, there wasn’t literally a good Samaritan. It’s parable. It’s import is to convey something spiritual to you. Well, the whole of the Jesus story, in my view, is one long parable. It’s an allegorical myth. And, it’s a very ancient myth.It’s actually based on pagan mythology that goes right way back to very, very similar myths in ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Persia. In fact, around the whole of the Mediterranean there were these stories of a dying and resurrecting son of god, who’s born of a virgin, has 12 disciples, changes water into wine at a wedding. Dies, resurrects, all of those things.So, that’s the serious side of what we’re doing, is to try and convey that.
Kent: That has something to do with the gnostic gospels. Can you tell me a little bit about your background with this?
Timothy: Yes, certainly. Well, the gnostics are traditionally dismissed as heretics, who distorted the true meaning of Christianity. Well, that’s the view that’s been conveyed to us by the Roman church. The Holy Roman Empire, actually. That’s the fascist empire that laid down what is generally accepted as the history of Christianity.Our view is not like that at all. The gnostics were actually the original Christians. And it was these gnostics who created the Jesus story as an allegory. Now, they’re called gnostics because gnostic means knowers. Because they’re interested in this gnosis. That’s the Greek work for knowledge.It’s a very particular sort of knowledge. It’s self knowledge. It’s deep, mystical wisdom of who we are. So, the whole of the Jesus myth was about trying to convey the teachings necessary to make the journey to gnosis.To actually wake up to who we really are and discover what they called the Christ within. Once you realize that the figure of Jesus is a fictional figure, you can rework him. And, not only can you, but you must rework him. Because art dies if it doesn’t constantly re-invent itself.If it doesn’t re-invent itself, it doesn’t convey the gnosis. It doesn’t have this impact. So, what we’ve tried to do is come back in and go OK, let’s do what the gnostics did. Instead of writing books about the gnostics, which is what we’ve done previously, let’s write a gnostic book.Let’s write a new gnostic gospel. But, let’s address a post modern audience. Keep all the nice bits, love, forgiveness. Lose the nasty bits, gnashing of teeth, we can do without that. And let’s add some gags. Let’s make it fun. Let’s make it a romp through history, mythology and philosophy.And then mash it up with a whole load of parody. Kind of Life of Brian, if you like. That great British tradition.
Kent: Alright. So, how has it been received in Britain and across the world?
Timothy: Oh, extremely well! I mean, obviously there’s a danger that we can upset people. It can be seen as blasphemous. It’s certainly irreverent. But, not just in the U.K. I’ve done a coast to coast tour of the U.S. and had a fantastic reaction, I think because it’s so funny.What people are getting is how playful it is. It’s a naughty book. There’s no malice in what we’re doing. It’s playful. It’s irreverent. But, it has this deep spiritual message, as well. And that message is, look, really, we’re all one. And that’s an experience of love.We haven’t had any death threats. But, we get what I call after death threats. You know, there’s a little corner of hell that’s being set aside for Peter and I, where we’re going to be tortured forever by a God of love. But I don’t take those too seriously.
Kent: Are you a religious man?
Timothy: I would say that I’m a spiritual man. I’d say that’s the very, very center of my being. Religion always seems like it distorts the real spiritual message. Why I love these gnostics is because of this gnosis. Our book, in a way, is conveying what this gnosis is, and it’s the perfect vehicle to convey the gnosis today. Because, here’s a book in which Jesus comes back to explain that he doesn’t really exist, and neither do his disciples, in fact, all of them are characters in a story being imagined by this one awareness, which is the author, the imagination of the author.Now, that’s a perfect analogy for the teachings of this gnosis, which is you and I are a bit like characters in a story and we seem to be separate in the story of life, and we’re doing our different things and all the rest of it. But where we need to pay attention to our deeper being, actually there’s one of us. There’s one imagination. There’s one mind. There’s one awareness – one dreamer if you like – within which this whole experience of life is arising.So there’s one deeper being and that’s what the original Christians meant by the Christ within – that’s the Christ. When we discover who we really are, we discover the Christ. And it’s no different to what the Hindus mean by the Atman or the Buddhists mean by the Buddha nature. It’s our real nature. So, that’s what the old Jesus myth was all about and that’s what our new book really is all about, once you take the gags out and the fun, that’s it’s real import.
Kent: When was your first interest in the Gnostic Gospels? When did this start for you?
Timothy: Well Kent, this philosophy of waking up to oneness has been a passion of mine since I was a child, and I had the privilege to write a number of books exploring what’s often called the perennial philosophy, because it’s found in every tradition. Whether you’re looking at Zen, or you’re looking at Alchemy, or you’re looking at the Sufis in Islam. Wherever you look, you find the same essential ideas being taught in the deep mystical heart of all spiritual traditions.To be honest with you, I struggled with my own Christian tradition because I couldn’t find it there in the same way until I came across the Gnostics. And then Peter and I immersed ourselves in our own Western ancient tradition, both Gnostic and the Pagan philosophers also, who are saying exactly the same thing. We found not only the same deep wisdom, but also a great iconoclastic spirit which really appealed to us. They were very much freethinkers, breaking the mold, trying to say things in new ways, and not frightened to confront authority.Of course, you can see all of that in their great mouthpiece who was Jesus, because he’s also not afraid to confront authorities, not afraid to break the rules – he’s an iconoclast. He really perfectly represents the Gnostic spirit. He hangs out with all the wrong people, whores and tax collectors. And all of that I find very, very attractive, and that’s what pulled me into it.
Kent: I find fascinating that you bring so much humor into the Christ story. I’ve always found that there are so many religious traditions that are so serious about religion. There is a playfulness to the figure of Christ in all of the Gospels, and I really appreciate that you’ve brought that back. On the cover, you claim that the book is irreverently serious and profoundly satirical. Is it both serious and satirical?
Timothy: Yes, it is. I mean satire already contains the idea of it being serious and funny. When we’re laughing at something, often it’s things we hold very dear. What I love about the people who get the Gnostic spirit is that you find this great sense of humor, and you’re right. As soon as you hear people going, “That’s not a laughing matter”, you know that something is going wrong, because all of this can be a laughing matter; it’s just the spirit you do it in.The thing I love about our new book, more than anything, is that it’s a very kind book. It’s a very playful, naughty book, but it opens out for people. I think it invites people in, and once they get used to how near the edge we can go, then I think they can enjoy the ride.
Kent: How much of the book is based in truth on other Gnostic Gospels and on the Bible itself, and how much of it is fiction?
Timothy: Well, the key thing we’ve taken from the Gnostic Gospels is the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene represent the spirit and the soul, and that was the allegory, which they used. And also, that the male disciples, particularly Peter, represent the body or the separate self. So we set it up as a trialogue really between Mary, Peter, and Jesus representing body, soul, and spirit.So, we’re able to play with a lot of allegorical elements and that’s all taken from the Gnostic Gospels. In some of the Gnostic Gospels, Mary and Peter are very much antagonistic to each other. That again, we take from the Gnostics directly, yet we resolve it. We want to take it to a place where they’re able to resolve their differences at the end in a delightful way.
Kent: In conclusion, I was absolutely fascinated when I paged through the book. It reads like a novel. It’s funny and it’s fun to read. What is your audience?
Timothy: [laughs] Well I’m delighted, first of all, that you had that reaction, Kent, because that’s great, because that’s what we’re looking for. Well what is it about this book is it’s speaking to a different audience for us. Hopefully, some of our old audience who are used to our more serious works will come with us.But, I’m finding it’s opening out to people who would not normally look at the sort of books we would write, who would find them too intimidating or too heavy, but are really getting into this, and of all ages. We’re having some very young teenagers reading it and enjoying it, but also people who never touch a book have picked it up and go, “Oh, I couldn’t stop reading it. I found it so funny.” I think that’s what humor does and that’s why I love it so much. It greases the mechanism like oil and allows you to explore some very deep philosophical ideas and some very confronting historical ideas, without it seeming like it’s a big heavy trip.
Kent: So the book is “The Gospel of the Second Coming” by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. It’s available fromwww.TimothyFreke.com and from HayHouse.com. It’s a book that’s very similar to “The Screwtape Letters” or any number of Mark Twain’s works, very reverent about spirituality and religion. It’s a beautiful book. Thank you for being on the show.
Timothy: It’s a real delight. Thank you for inviting me.
Kent: Next on the show, we’re going to be speaking with Ron Villano about loss and recovery. Come back for this conversation.[music]