Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gnostic Notebook: Volume Five: On the Secret Teachings and the Hidden Mythos by Timothy James Lambert.
Reviewed on the basis of a complimentary copy from the author. (Nevertheless, this review contains only my usual biases.)
Although the jacket copy refers to a forthcoming “new book” from Timothy James Lambert, this fifth volume of The Gnostic Notebook appears to be the final book of that project. It does successfully take up all sorts of esoteric threads that were left lying in the earlier volumes, in service here to Lambert’s distinctive exegesis of the synoptic gospels, and concluding the discussion of the seven chief parables which has extended through the series. On the Secret Teachings and the Hidden Mythos is structured very much like its immediate predecessor On the Fruit of Knowledge and the Precession of the Ages, moving on from ancient Hebrew scripture to the Greek tales of Jesus. As before, at least half of the book’s text is direct quotation from various translations of the Bible.
An important concept relatively latent in the earlier books, but brought out in great relief early in this volume, is the notion of centuries-long human “breeding programs” among the ancient Hebrews, engineered by a sometimes-secretive goddess cult. The impression provided is something like a cross between the Bene Gesserit of Dune and the Cirinists of Cerebus. This background motivates an intriguing comparative study of the gospel genealogies of Jesus.
One of Lambert’s hermeneutic idiosyncrasies is an insistence on aggregating similarly named but customarily distinct characters of the Gospels. Many Marys are collapsed into one, just as there can be only one Simon, one John, and so forth. The narrative consequences of these identifications tend to be startling, to say the least. Those familiar with Gnostic scriptures should enjoy the solutions offered here for the origins of Christian baptism, the removal of the head of John, and other enigmas. The application of logion 13 from the Gospel of Thomas to clarify the Transfiguration is a clever approach, although I did not find Lambert’s explanation of logion 13 itself to be as compelling as the one that I have received through initiated sources. (“Lord, you are like the most discreet and perceptive bartender.”)
A “Conclusion” sums up Lambert’s between-the-lines revision of the gospel story in a mere three pages! If he were to revisit the material of this book in a different style, presenting it as a straightforward but detailed story in which his readings were made obvious (rather than the long Bible quotes with often obliquely hinting interpretive expositions of the Notebook series), I think it would be more accessible, and at least as likely to blow the minds of any readers with conventional orientations to the Bible. There could be a Gnostic Gospel of Timothy James perhaps, maybe with a supplementary Secret Book of Timothy James to cover his version of key Hebrew scriptures.
Lambert professes disinterest in establishing facts about an objective historical Jesus. He is instead supplying a provocative variant reading of the biblical texts, undertaking what Ioan Couliano characterized in The Tree of Gnosis as a characteristically Gnostic activity of creative misprision with respect to scripture. Lambert neither proves nor even claims that he is in receipt of any perspective authoritatively transmitted outside of the texts, but the work demonstrated in these books shows that the Bible can still support the sort of hair-raising doctrinal experimentation found among the ancient Gnostics.