In 1 Corinthians 2 and elsewhere, St. Paul distinguishes between two kinds of people, the psychic (ψυχικός) and pneumatic (πνευματικός) – translated in the King James Bible as the ‘natural man’ and the ‘spiritual man’ respectively (see Chapter 4). At that time ‘natural’ and ‘spiritual’ were felt to be opposites, as ‘natural’ was synonymous with ‘worldly.’
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [teleiois]: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:— 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 (KJV)
Since it is not ‘temporal’ but mythic wisdom, ‘hidden’ from secondhand (public) sight, we can say it is ‘ordained before the world,’ just as Buddhists say that the Buddha-nature is beginningless, unborn and undying. But Peirce says the same about the continuity of time itself …
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world (to pneuma tou cosmou), but the spirit which is of God (to pneuma to ek tou theou); that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.…
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.— 1 Corinthians 2:12, 16 (KJV)
The ‘we’ here is ambiguous; gnostics could read this chapter as an indication that Paul taught a ‘secret wisdom … not to everyone, and not publicly, but only to a select few whom he considered to be spiritually mature’ (Pagels 1979, 43; see 2:6 above, and the Gospel of Truth in NHS). Indeed Paul goes on in the next chapter to say that the Corinthians did not qualify as ‘mature,’ and still don’t, ‘For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?’
Then in 1 Corinthians 15, we come to ‘the end, when he [Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power’ (15:24, RSV). At this point comes the resurrection of the dead: ‘It is sown a physical body [σῶμα ψυχικόν], it is raised a spiritual body [σῶμα πνευματικόν]’ (15:44). The end of social hierarchy seems to be the beginning of spiritual life: ‘we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye’ (52), and ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ (54). The law, as embodiment of social convention, authority and power, seems to be swallowed up along with death, for ‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law’ (56).
— Thomas 17 (Lambdin); cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9
Valantasis comments on this that ‘Jesus offers the hearer something that transcends human capacity’ (Valantasis 1997, 84). But if you are human, then nothing beyond human capacity can be given to you, since you will not be able to receive it. What is offered here is new experience, unfiltered through old categories and habits, or rather taking them as a point of departure. (It’s not take it or leave it but take it and leave it.) This is not beyond human capacity; in fact it happens all the time, but being alive to it takes some unlearning, takes what John Dewey (1934) called perception as opposed to recognition. The veil of habit hides the Firstness of the phaneron, and generality dissipates the force of discovery. So maybe that’s what Jesus is offering here. Dogen in his essays and talks makes a similar offer, but since he urges you to realize it rather than saying that he will ‘give’ it to you, it sounds more like a challenge than an offer – a challenge to awaken.
To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.— Dogen, ‘Genjokoan’ (Tanahashi 2010, 29)