This is a new translation and introduction by teachers and students at Union Seminary namely Hal Tausig, Jared Calaway, Maia Kotrosits, Celene Lillie, Jutin Lasser
Essayist: John Cowan
I was browsing Amazon books when I tripped for the third time this year over this poem, “The Thunder: Perfect Mind.” I had read the poem a couple of times in the past, found it intriguing, and baffling. Part of the Nag Hammandi trove unearthed decades ago from its burial before the time of Jesus. Here was offered the possibility of explanation so without even looking at the price tag I began the ordering process. I think this is the only book on the subject.
Two surprises. The first just before I mailed my request. I reviewed the order and discovered that this one-hundred-eighty-page book would cost me much more than any book I have ever bought. Perversely this further encouraged me to go, not back, but forward. There must be something great there! A buried treasure, literally. The mind is my world. I have sought a clear mind. What is this perfect mind? Surely this book will prove priceless!
Every fantasy I had about the presence of what I wanted to learn, at least at the first reading was to be disappointed. For your understanding a few lines of the poem will be helpful. (The entire poem is about six times this long.)
I am the slave woman of him who served me
I am she, the lord of my child…
Do not stare at me in the shit pile, leaving me discarded
You will find me in the kingdoms….
Because I am a barbarian among barbarians…
I am she who they call law
And you all call lawlessness…
I am she who is revered and adored
And she who is reviled with contempt
I am peace and war exists because of me
I am a foreigner and a citizen of the city
I am being
I am she who is nothing
For much of the book the authors are interested in exploring things I regard with minimal interest. For instance, the only ancient copy extant is in Coptic. Was it written first in Coptic and then translated to Greek, for since there are later copies in Greek, there could have been an earlier Greek original as well. And the Greeks are thought to be intellectually superior to the Egyptians. Most scholars think Coptic was a later translation. However, in many places the Coptic works easily and the Greek is awkward. Hmmm! A puzzle. One that interests me a little but not much. This, of course is not a condemnation. Actually, I am impressed. I took two years of Greek and found it immensely difficult. Coptic looks equally so. Anyone who knows them both enough to have this conversation impresses me. Those of you more scholarly than I will find this feature more than useful.
My first exciting insight came from reciting the poem aloud. Much of it is the subject describing herself first as one side of a coin, and then the other, good and bad and bad and good. I woke up, realized in a deep way, how I am both good and bad. I have been brave and I have been a coward. I have stood for the truth and I have lied. I have sometimes spent hours trying to understand a difficult person, and sometimes rejected a person immediately for first impressions. I am nice guy, except when I am not. I dropped everything and stared at that insight for the next couple of hours. Not often, but easily, I slide to the pole I am ashamed of. That is me as well as the person of virtues is me.
Who was it who flooded me with these contradictions and various odd sayings. First of all, the speaker in “The Thunder” is a “she” who sometimes morphed into a “he,” but not often enough to dampen my impression that this was mostly “she.”
The authors of the book Thunder: Perfect Mind think that speaker is a divine messenger and divine herself.
Where have I heard this before?
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh.” Do you suppose as I do that the author of the poem “The Thunder: Perfect Mind” was touched by the same force as the author of The Gospel of John. .
The Divine Thunder is both magnificent and lowly. While the God of the Word is magnificent the Word made Flesh, Jesus himself was lowly, a bastard and an indigent homeless preacher, who regarded the lowly and the high equally and both equal to himself. How similar The Thunder and Jesus are. And yet how different. The Thunder just is. Jesus has a teaching. Now maybe I just do not know the Thunder’s teaching. One poem seems to be all we have.
But before you buy, best check the price tag. Amazon has a more cost-effective version of this book. (I did not look before I bought.) Same page, just watch which one pops up on the order form before you push “submit.” After all is said and done, I am alright with the huge price. This is the first book like this. The research and thought must have taken ages, and in Greek and Coptic. A reviewer on Amazon finds the authors’ English awkward. I agree. I suspect reading Greek and Coptic does this to you. I doubt that this will be a hot seller, but I wanted to leave the choice to you. I am satisfied with the book. It did me well.