Which of your books should I start with?
I would recommend The Gnostic: History * Traditions * Scriptures * Influence as a first book. This is a thorough introduction to the Gnostics, sympathetic to Gnosticism yet scholarly. Then you might check out The Gospel of Philip: Annotated & Explained, which looks at one of the most accessible Gnostic texts. Or you might tryGnostic Writings on the Soul: Annotated & Explained. This includes two beautiful Gnostic myths, The Hymn of the Pearl and The Exegesis on the Soul, with commentary, and the introduction gives a potted history of the concept of the human soul and spirit. Lost Sayings of Jesus: Annotated & Explained isn’t only about Gnosticism, it’s a compilation
(again with a commentary and introduction) to the agrapha, the tradition of Jesus sayings in all sorts of sources outside of the New Testament—Christian, Jewish, Gnostic, Muslim and other sources.
Do you write academic books?
No. My books are accessible but scholarly, and I try hard to be accurate and factual and not misrepresent what these ancient writings are saying, but the books are intended for the general reader, particularly those who are interested in spiritual matters. They are also suitable for those who are curious about the subjects and don’t have a spiritual or religious approach themselves. I tend to write the books that I want to read, that I wish had existed when I began researching.
Are you a Gnostic?
When I’m asked this, I usually reply, “I don’t call myself a Gnostic, but I’m happy for others to call me that.” Gnosticism is one of several spiritual traditions that resonate with me. But Gnosis, in the broader sense of inner spiritual experience, is fundamental to my approach to life. From another angle, I might say that I aspire to be a Gnostic.
Do you only write about Gnosticism?
No, I’m interested in many different subjects. (And The Lost Sayings of Jesus was about all the alternative traditions of Jesus’ sayings, not just the Gnostic ones.) I’ve been working on two biographies for a while, one on Alan Moore the writer of graphic novels, and the other on Rodney Collin, pupil of the esotericist P.D. Ouspensky and author of The Theory of Celestial Influence and The Theory of Eternal Life. And I have plenty more projects lined up for the future—perhaps a book about the Mandaeans, a book about the nature of time, and a mystical, romantic look at the nature of poetry…
Do you only write non-fiction?
So far, apart from a few short experiments. I’ve always wanted to write some fiction, perhaps some fantasy with a Gnostic theme, or some genre-combining work. My favourite fiction authors include Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, Peter Ackroyd, John Le Carré, J. G. Ballard, William Burroughs, and many others. Oh, and I love comics and have a longstanding ambition to write comics.
How do I buy your books?
The books published by Watkins, Quest and Skylight Paths should be available in many bookstores/bookshops but can be ordered if they are not. All the books are available through all the major online sellers in many countries. The Lost Sayings of Jesus has been published in German as Die Verborgenen Worte Jesu: Jesus in Gnosis, Koran und Neuoffenbarung. The books published by Bardic Press are available through online sellers, through selected specialist bookstores and direct from Bardic Press.
What is Bardic Press?
Bardic Press is my small (micro) publishing company. We’ve published Will Parker’s magnificent book on the Welsh Mabinogi tales, The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, plus books in the Gurdjieff tradition (Fritz Peters’ Gurdjieff trilogy and Bob Hunter’s biography of P.D. Ouspensky), Sufi poetry (two volumes of Hafiz and a collection of Omar Khayyam translations), and there’s more to come. I’ve written forewords for the two Hafiz volumes, New Nightingale New Rose and Door of the Beloved, for The Quatrains of Omar Khayyam, and forChrist in Islam.
How can I get hold of your first book. The Gospel of Thomas: A New Version Based on the Inner Meaning?
It’s out of print and occasionally surfaces at various ridiculous prices on the Internet. Please don’t pay $50 or $100 or $150 for it! It’s a small book and it isn’t worth paying that much. I put in a proposal for a new book on the Gospel of Thomas with my most recent publisher, Quest, but I don’t suppose that they will consider it until A Dictionary of Gnosticism comes out. I’ve also considered republishing a modified, perhaps expanded version of my first book. If you really want to read my book on the Gspel of Thomas, then email me and nag me to put it out again.
How do I find out more about Gnosticism?
Read my books! Also make sure that you read as much as you can of the Nag Hammadi Library, which is available online at www.gnosis.org. If you want to purchase a collection of Gnostic writings, I would recommend the recent The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition, The Gnostic Scriptures by Bentley Layton or The Gnostic Bible by Barnstone and Meyer, all of which have more readable translations and better introductory material that the older The Nag Hammadi Library in English. I would also urge you to purchase my A Dictionary of Gnosticism when it comes out, because it will make the Nag Hammadi Library and other Gnostic texts much clearer.
I want to be a Gnostic. How do I start?
I would suggest that you begin with your own experience. Have you ever experienced an awakening or an epiphany? Perhaps during your childhood? A sudden flash in which you and the world seem different to your usual experience? Or any kind of consciousness-changing, such as déja vu or drug experiences? Try to remember the quality of those experiences. Then get involved with other people who are interested in Gnosticism. The online Gnostic community at thepalmtreegarden.org has a forum where you can meet other Gnostics and discuss Gnosticism from both a personal and scholarly standpoint. If a churchlike community appeals to you, there are various modern Gnostic churches, primarily in the United States, but also in some other countries. Or you could perhaps combine Gnosticism with another tradition such as Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, the Gurdjieff tradition or western esotericism.
Are you a Christian?
I would have to say that, no, I’m not a Christian because Christ isn’t central to my outlook. I’m very interested in Christianity, particularly in those aspects of it throughout the ages that have stressed the importance of inner experience of the divine. I have a lot of respect for sincere Christians who acknowledge the validity of other traditions.
Is Andrew Phillip Smith your real name?
Yes, Phillip is my middle name. Andrew Smith is the eighth most common name in the UK, so I needed something to help me stand out from all the other Andrew Smiths (though they are a fine bunch.)
Will you sign my copy of your book?
You don’t really want my appalling scrawl on your crisp, pristine new book do you?