15 July 2011

Gospel of Thomas, saying 21

Mary said to Jesus: Whom are thy disciples like? He said: They are like little children who have installed themselves in a field which is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say: ‘Release to us our field’. They take off their clothes before them to release it (the field) to them and to give back their field to them.

The children have been installed (born into) a world (field) which is not theirs. The owners of the field (society at large) say ‘The field is ours, and it is ours to say whether you are the sort of person who ought to be a professor running several departments. You are what we say you are and nothing else.’

The children take off their clothes (their social identity, representing how society wants them to think of themselves) and leave the field to society, within which it can assign social status.

What this saying does not say (at least not explicitly) is that the children, in abandoning the field and throwing off a false social identity, do not stop being people who need to be professors running several departments, and hence go on trying to buy the field back, while knowing that they have no control over the owners of it.