The Hymn of the Pearl: A Gnostic Story of Descent and Liberation
The Hymn of the Pearl (also known as the Act of Thomas) is an early Gnostic-Christian text that is said to be written by the apostle Judas Thomas while in prison. The story recounts in a beautiful and symbolic way the descent of the soul, his entrapment in matter, and finally his liberation through achieving the purpose of the self-realization of the Being. In the story there is some deep esoteric symbolism, some more known while some known only to those who have been progressing on the path of initiations and thus seen in experiences of the higher worlds.
The soul journeys down into matter, being prepared for it by his Father and Mother (the Being) and given all that he needs for this adventure and mission. However, he becomes stuck in his journey due to the heaviness of matter and all that comes with it. He needs help in many ways and forms, but eventually he rises up, conquering the ‘pearl’ for which he was sent and reunites again with his Father and Mother, the King and the Queen of the kingdom in the East.
Here goes the story:
“The Hymn of the Pearl of the Apostle Thomas. When I was a little child living In my fathers palace in his kingdom, happy in the glories and riches of my family that nurtured me, my parents gave me supplies and sent me out on a mission from our home in the East.
From their treasure house they made up a cargo for me it was big though but light enough so I could carry it myself. It held gold from the highest houses and silver of Gazzak the Great and rubies of India and opals from the land of Kushan. And they girded me with adamant that can crush iron. They took off my bright robe of glory, which they had made for me out of love, and took away my purple toga, which was woven to fit my stature.
They made a covenant with me and wrote it in my heart so I would not forget: “When you go down into Egypt and bring back the one pearl that lies in the middle of the sea and is guarded by the snorting serpent, you will again put on your robe of glory and your toga over it, and with your brother, our next in rank, you will be heir in our kingdom.”
I left the east and traveled down to Egypt with my two royal guides, since the way was dangerous and harsh and I was very young to walk alone. I crossed the borders of Maishan, the gathering place of merchants of the east, came into the land of the Babylonians, and entered the walls of Sarbug. When I went down into Egypt my companions left me. I went straight to the serpent and settled close by him in an inn, waiting for him to sleep so I could take my pearl from him.
Since I was alone I was a stranger to others in the inn, yet I saw one of my own people there, a nobleman from the east, young, handsome, loveable, a son of kings-an anointed one, and he came and was close to me. And I made him my confidante with whom I shared my mission.
I warned him against the Egyptians and of contact with the unclean ones. Then I put on a robe like theirs, lest they suspect me as an outsider who had come to steal the pearl, lest they arouse the serpent against me. Somehow they learned I was not their countryman, dealt with me cunningly, and gave me their food to eat. I fell into a deep sleep. I forgot that I was a son of kings and served their king. I forgot the pearl for which my parents had sent me. Through the heaviness of their food I fell into a deep sleep.
When all these things happened my parents knew and grieved for me. I was proclaimed in our kingdom that all should come to our gate. And the kings and princes of Parthia and all the nobles of the east wove a plan on my behalf so I would not be left in Egypt. And they wrote me a letter and every noble singed it with his name:
“From your father, the king of kings, and your mother, the mistress of the east, and from your brother, our next in rank, and to you, our son in Egypt, peace! Awake and rise from your sleep and hear the words of our letter! Remember that you are a son of kings and see the slavery of your life. Remember the pearl for which you were sent into Egypt! Remember your robe of glory and your splendid mantle, which you may wear when your names is called in the book of life, when it is read in the book of heroes, when you and your brother inherit our kingdom.”
And serving as messenger, the letter was a letter sealed by the king with his right hand against the evil children of Babylon and the savage demons of the Sarbug labyrinth. It rose up in the form of an eagle, the king of all winged fowl; it flew and alighted beside me and became speech. At its voice and the sound of its rustling I awoke and rose from my sleep. I took it, kissed it, broke its seal, and read. And the words written on my heart were in the letter for me to read. I remembered that I was the son of kings and my free soul longed for its own kind. I remembered the pearl for which I was sent down into Egypt, and I began to enchant the terrible and snorting serpent.
I charmed him into sleep by calling the name of my father over him and of my mother, the queen of the east. I seized the pearl and turned to carry it to my father. Those filthy and impure garments I stripped off, leaving them in the fields, And went straight on my way into the light of our homeland in the east. On my way the letter that awakened me was lying like a woman on the road. And as she had awakened me with her voice so she guided me with her light as if she were an oracle. She was written on Chinese silk and shone before me in her own form. Her voice soothed my fear and its love urged me on.
I hurried past the labyrinth walls of Sarbug and Babylon on the left and came to Maishan, the haven of merchants, perched over the coast of the sea. My robe of glory that I had taken off and the toga over it were sent by my parents From the heights of Hyrcania. They were in the hands of treasures to whom they were committed because of their faith, and I had forgotten the robe’s splendor, For as a child I had left it in my father’s house. As I gazed on it, suddenly the garment like a mirror reflected me, And I saw myself apart as two entities in one form.
The treasures had brought me one robe, yet in two halves I saw one shape With one kingly seal. They gave me wealth, And the bright embroidered robe Was colored with gold and beryls, With rubies and opals, And sardonyxes of many colors Were fasted to it in its high home. All its seams were fastened With stones of adamant, and the image of the king of kings was embroidered on it as it rippled with sapphires of many colors. I saw it quiver all over, moving with gnosis, in a pulsing knowledge, and as it prepared to speak it moved toward me, murmuring the sound of its songs. It descended and said, “I am the one who acted for him. For him I was brought up in my Father’s house. I saw myself growing in stature in harmony with his labors.”
With regal movements the robe was spreading toward me, urging me to take it, and love urged me to receive it, and I stretched forth and received it and put on the beauty of its hues. I cast my toga of brilliant colors all around me. Therein I clothed myself and ascended to the gate of salutation and adoration. I bowed my head and adored the majesty of my Father, who sent it to me. I had fulfilled his commands and he fulfilled what he had promised. At the gate of his princes I mingled with his nobles. He was happy through me and received me, and I was with him in his kingdom, and his slaves praised him resoundingly. He promised me that I would journey soon with him to the gate of the King of Kings, and with my gifts and my pearl I would appear with him before our king.
End of the Hymn that the apostle Judas Thomas sang in Prison.”