As the Holiday Season wanes and the new year looms like bleak canyon under the winter skies, I’ve been in a reminiscing mood like many. One person in my mind has been Nathaniel Merritt. His book Jehovah Unmasked greatly assisted my exorcism of orthodox demons and digital baptism into heresy more than a decade ago. In fact, after I invited Nate on my nascent podcast (back then called Coffee, Cigarettes, and Gnosis), he became a friend and regular blogging contributor at the old site. In truth, his ideas on Gnosticism were foundational to both the show and my own writings.
Times changed, though, and we parted ways as contributors and friends. It wasn’t an amicable split, like most a complicated stew of ideological, circumstantial and egoic ingredients – both sadly avoidable and ultimately inevitable as the ending of most friendships are. Years later, I heard he had died of heart complications (Nate had always struggled with heart disease). To this day, I still view his memory with fondness and inspiration.
Nate was a freakish and incendiary trinity of Gnostic dualist, Greek Orthodox sleeper cell, and Zen Priest (he was actually an ordained one). He was also a recovering Jehovah Witness armed with a wicked sense of humor that, as with the ancient Gnostics, was probably more of a survival skill. Nate wasn’t a unique snowflake but napalm from the gods. And his wisdom and warmth were salvific at times.
During that reminiscing mood, I have found a writing of my former friend and foe, and thought I’d share with you, Truthseeker Warriors. Here is Nate’s The Differences Between a Gnostic and a Christian:
“It’s still easy to distinguish between a Gnostic and a Christian.
- A Christian is an unquestioning believer. A Gnostic questions everything, especially religious dogmas.
- A Christian believes what they’re told to believe. A Gnostic stands upon the ground of their own inner sight and knowing.
- A Christian wields a handy battle axe, made by every petty despot who commands them to kill. A Gnostic lives by the sermon on the mount.
- A Christian will kill or die over a single word in a creed, a mere abstraction that exists nowhere except in the Christian’s mind. A Gnostic knows there isn’t a shred of divine reality in any or all words.
- A Christian is an abject worshipper of a petty, irrational dictator-god. A Gnostic bows to no god except his or her own innate Divinity.
- A Christian has a god no greater than a human shell of a man, a god easily comprehended by the human mind. The inner Divinity of the Gnostic is limitless.
- A Christian believes myths to be actual events that took place on the stage of history. A Gnostic sees and understands that such myths are symbols of a Mythic inner journey and transformation.”
Wise words, I would say, but both Nate and I would be the first to admit that the terms “Christian” and “Gnostic” are interchangeable today — as many modern Gnostics can be extremely literalistic and intolerant, while the world is full of Christians seized by the imaginative spirit of Sophia. But it’s still a sensible list, perhaps even a daily check on our state of spirituality.
Nate’s words certainly remind me of what another tortured and searching soul, John Lennon, said in a Playboy interview many moons ago:
It seems to me that the only true Christians were the Gnostics, who believed in self-knowledge, i.e. becoming Christ themselves, reaching the Christ within. The light is the truth. Turn on the light. All the better to see you with, my dear.
Oddly enough, someone emailed me a few years ago claiming that Nate was still alive, even if I had read about his death in an obituary sent by a listener. The individual said that Nate was simply laying low, but would return to the internet at the right time. As of now, I haven’t heard of Nate’s return to cyberspace. Perhaps, like the Jesus, there will never be a second coming but only an eternal footprint in my heart, until it’s time for that heart to fail too and then I might continue with my discussions with the old Zen Priest.
I will see Nate much better this time, my dear.