There is an obscure 3rd century gnostic text called the Acts of Thomas where the Hymn of the Pearl is found. Thomas is known in the New Testament as Doubting Thomas, a minor but gruesome role in the Jesus story, where he didn’t believe Jesus resurrected until he put his fingers into the holes in his body.
However, from some of the earliest ripples of the early Christian Church, in a place called Edessa in northern Syria, it is believed that Thomas played a key role in the early dissemination of the depth wisdom traditions of the gnostic Jesus and was one of the closest disciples of Jesus. Here, it is believed, the Gospel of Thomas originated, a text which is the most popular of the many gnostic texts. There is a lesser known text known as the Acts of Thomas that tells a long story of how Jesus sent Thomas to India though he did not go willingly. It is within this text that we find two Hymns both allegedly sung by St. Thomas himself. One is called the Wedding Song of Sophia, which we will look more into in future posts. The other is called the Hymn of the Pearl, also known as the Hymn of the Robe of Glory.
The Hymn of the Pearl tells the tale of a prince who comes from “the East”, in a kingdom of his parents, the King and Queen of the land. He is given the task of going down to the Egypt to find the “one Pearl.”
This is a tale of the soul’s journey. It is also a meta tale that includes the complex stories of Sophia, the Deep Christ and the Divine Spark Within.
The progression of the story laid out in the Hymn of the Pearl follows the four fold path of the journey of the soul, as outlined in the four paths of Creation Spirituality, made popular by Matthew Fox, an old teacher of mine. I believe that this four fold process is a valuable outline of the archetypal journey of the soul and is a model which describes many process of human development, initiation processes and psycho-spiritual growth.
I present this Hymn as a sort of introduction to the main themes of this series that I am presenting here; the Creation Story of Sophia, my unpacking of the historical story of the “Deep Christ” and the mystery of the Divine Spark Within.
May you find treasures on your journey and please enjoy my musical telling of the tale of the Hymn of the Pearl.
So here is the story, which is better if you listen to me telling the story with a little music to help it along. The quotes referred to below are from the G. R. S. Mead translation of the Hymn from the Acts of Thomas.
The Hymn of The Pearl
A long, long time ago, there was a prince, or a princess if you prefer. Who lived in this most amazing kingdom of the King and Queen who tended to the land in a way that the people loved them.
“The prince grew with such love and care. In the wealth and the glories of my upbringers, I was delighting, from the East our home.”
One day his parents came to him and said, it is time for you to go on a journey, down to the lands where you have never been. And your task is to find the one most precious pearl, that is guarded by the most terrible dragon. And the prince closed his eyes, and he knew. He knew that that was his task.
And so his parents removed the coat of many colors that he had worn for all of his days. He packed his bags, left the East and went down.
Traveling over many of the lands that he had never seen before. Until he began to see people he had never seen before, with different clothes and different language. He became intrigued by them, beginning to talk with them, learning their language, all the while asking them, “Where is the Pearl? “Ah, way over yonder,” they told him, as he continued to travel deeper into this foreign land.
In time, he became very pleased by this culture, by these people and he began to get to know them more, hanging out with them, hearing their music and eating their food. Until over time, he says,
“I forgot that I was a King’s son and became a slave to their King. I forgot all concerning the pearl for which my parents had sent me. And for the weight of their food, I sank down into a deep sleep.”
His parents became very concerned. They did not understand what had happened to him. “Prince! Have you forgotten? The pearl! The most precious pearl, where treasures are filled by that pearl. Prince, wake up!”
They sent this letter by eagle who flew it over the land until finally it found the prince where it landed on the window sill.
The prince grabs the letter, opens and begins to read.
“Oh you prince, have you forgotten? There’s a pearl to be found where treasures do abound. Won’t you wake up!?”
He’s reading this letter, shaking off the hangover. What is this letter? What is going on here?
Waking from his slumber, he began to remember. He remembered where he came from. He remembered his mission; the pearl.
And at that point, he sets out with singleness of purpose, whereupon he finds the pearl, guarded by that horrible dragon.
I began to charm him, the terrible loud breathing serpent. I lulled him to sleep and slumber. And I snatched up the pearl and turned to the house of my mother and father. Upon his return, his parents welcomed him with such open arms, such gratitude at the success of his mission and they brought him his robe fo glory, that was placed over him. And all was well in the kingdom.