The Pearl

I just listened to a radio show from one of my friends on Facebook on the topic of Gnosticism and the Hymn of the Pearl.  I get a lot out of myth and the resulting analysis of them, and so this section of his talk was very interesting to me.

Basic story:

“The Hymn of the Pearl tells the story of a prince sent by his father,
the grand King of Kings, down to Egypt to fetch “the one pearl which
resides there near the ravenous dragon.” His Father promises him that
once this is accomplished, he could “put(back) on that jewel-studded
garment” which was made out of love” for him and would become a herald
for the kingdom along with his “well-remembered brother.” Leaving his
kingdom in the East, he arrives in Egypt and hurries “directly to the
dragon and camps near his den.” In order “to guard against the
Egyptians and against intercourse with their impurities,” he puts on
their “style of dress” in order to go undercover as well as to shun any
suspicion that he was a stranger in their land. As fate would have it,
the Egyptians become aware that he is a stranger, form a plot to snare
him and knock him into a slumber with their matter-laden food. With a
taste he succumbs into forgetfulness, no longer remembering he was “a
child of the king” and so becomes subservient to their king. Then he
sinks “into deep sleep under the heaviness of their food.” Meanwhile,
his parents recognize that he is suffering and also “suffer” over him.
So the King of Kings sends a letter, exhorting him to “arise and become
sober out of sleep,” since he had “fallen under the servile yoke.” He
is instructed to “call to mind” his garment full of gold and his
mission regarding the pearl. Heading back home toward the light, he
encounters “a female being” that lifts him up and helps guide him on
his return journey. Finally he is reunited with his beloved garment and
“perceived in it” his “whole self as well.” From here he enters the
royal realm of peace.”

The basic explanation was that the Prince represents the soul.  It starts in the heavens, then is encased in bodily form in order to blend in while on its search for the pearl.  The soul then forgets its purpose, forgets that it even had another home.  Once a message from above comes to wake him up he is finally able to complete his mission and return to the fullness.

The interesting part of the talk comes in the discussion of what the pearl means.

“With this, the pearl can be isolated as “part of the divinity lost to
darkness” which can only be reached if the prince retrieves it. In this
sense both the prince and the pearl are the soul. He goes further in
asserting that the “interchangeability of the subject and the object of
the mission”(savior and soul/prince and pearl)”is the key to the true
meaning of the poem and to Gnostic eschatology.”

Nice.  We are both searching and waiting to be found.  I love the subject/object ambiguity. 🙂

And then the meaning of the cloak:

“The pinnacle moment to understanding the cloak’s purpose is when the
prince states that while they derived from “one and the same,” they
were “partially divided: and then again” they “were one with a single
form.” When he saw the garment, he saw in it his “whole self.” From
this one may suppose that whatever the prince is so is the cloak and
could even haphazardly guess that they are both soul. But they can be
one form and yet fulfill different functions and even identities.”

Awesome.  I just love the multi-faceted explanation.  The intricacies you can get through this sort of complicated myth and symbolism are what really excite me.

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