Orthodox forms of Christianity would have us believe that the Christos is isolate to the person of Yeshua (Aramaic for "Jesus") and that he alone is Christ or the Messiah. However, Gnostic Christianity holds a very different view of Yeshua and the Christos. Yeshua is viewed as a Christ-bearer and the Christos is viewed as a Light-Presence; thus, to Christian Gnostics, Yeshua is a mystic and a magician: a Light-bearer. Rather than something isolate or exclusive to Yeshua, the Christos is considered to be embodied by others around the Master, Yeshua acting as a Center of a Light-Transmission or Christ Revelation. Essentially, according to masters of Gnostic Christian Tradition, the Light-Presence of the Messiah is not embodied by a single individual alone but by a matrix of individuals and, ultimately, is to be embodied by humanity as a whole--giving birth to a New and Divine Humanity.
From the Gnostic perspective, Yeshua is akin to the Image of our Future Self, our True and Divine Self, and belief in the Incarnation of the Christos is not merely a belief in the divinity of Yeshua, but a belief in the Divine Potential within each and every human being. Thus, to believe that Yeshua is the Incarnation of Christ is to believe that the Christos is the True Nature of one's Soul and Self, and that one is destined to evolve toward Christhood. In this sense, Gnostic Christianity is similar to Eastern Wisdom Traditions which teach a Path to Enlightenment, and in the Gnostic view the True Gospel is a Way to the Attainment of Christ Consciousness. The idea of "salvation" in Christian Gnosticism is a state of Self-realization.
The name of Yeshua in Hebrew connotes this idea of Self-realization. It is the Name of Yahweh, which appears throughout the Old Testament, with the addition of one letter (the Hebrew letter Shin.) The Divine Name of Yahweh literally means, "That Which Was, Is, and forever Shall Be", and the name Yeshua means, "Yahweh delivers." Yahweh represents the one Being-Consciousness-Force or Life-Power which is the Source of all, and Yeshua represents a conscious unification with the Source; hence a state of Truth-Consciousness (Christ Consciousness). In essence, the Blessed Name of Yeshua means "knowledge of truth that will set you free." This truth is the awareness of one's Soul and Self inseparable from Yahweh.
Glimpses of this truth are certainly to be found in the gospels that appear in the Holy Bible, but it becomes more obvious in gospels that were not included in the Bible, such as the Gospel of St. Thomas, which was among the scrolls found at Nag Hammadi by an Arab peasant in 1945. This gospel is quite different than those that appear in the Bible. Instead of an interpretive story, the Gospel of St. Thomas is composed of wisdom sayings, the interpretation of which is left completely to the reader. It is a book meant to support an oral tradition and to encourage a spiritual quest for the direct experience of the Spirit of Truth. The first saying or verse of the gospel makes this perfectly clear. Basically, it is a proclamation of the gospel as a record of "secret sayings" that were spoken in the presence of Didymos Judas Thomas by Yeshua and tells us that if we gain understanding of the sayings, we will be spiritually empowered and free from death, which is to say Self-realized. No one can really say whether St. Thomas actually wrote this gospel, but the dedication of the gospel to his name is significant, for Didymos literally means "a twin." If Yeshua is speaking to a disciple called Didymos Judas Thomas, then it alludes to the disciple as being like unto Yeshua or resembling him--hence the idea of the disciple as a Christ-bearer in the same way Lord Yeshua is a Christ-bearer. Thus, the disciple to whom these sayings are spoken is one who knows the Indwelling Christ within himself, and it is implicit that one who reads and contemplates the Gospel of St. Thomas is to recognize Christ indwelling her or himself and to identify her or himself with that Light-Presence. Yeshua may well have spoken these sayings, but the sayings may also have been spoken by the Indwelling Christ within the one who wrote them. From the Christian Gnostic perspective, either way they are authentic teachings of the Christos. Whether uttered by Christ indwelling Yeshua or Christ indwelling the disciple, the same Light-Presence has revealed Itself.
In this light, the sayings in the Gospel of St. Thomas may be contemplated and meditated upon as sayings emerging from the Indwelling Christ within ourselves, as though a still, small voice is speaking them inwardly as we read and contemplate and meditate upon them. Study and contemplation of any Scripture in this way can lead to deep intuitive insights and can easily become an experience of contact with the Light-Presence within us. This is the purpose of the Gospel of St. Thomas, and from the Gnostic perspective, it is the purpose of any Wisdom Teaching or Scripture--a way to enter into the knowledge and communion of the Divine Presence and Power within ourselves and our lives. It is interesting to note the many different gospels we have: the Gospel according to St. John, the Gospel according to St. Thomas, the Gospel according to St. Mark, and so on. If one studies them, they clearly do not tell the same story nor represent a static or fixed view of Yeshua or the Christos. In fact, each gospel actually represents the knowledge and understanding of Christ in the experience of the person who wrote it. In this we gain a sense of Original Christianity--rather than a fixed doctrine and dogma, it was a living experience of the Christos (a living spiritual experience rather than a religion). It suggests that every "Christian" had his or her own unique gospel, his or her own knowledge and understanding of the Truth and Light as it was revealed in his or her own experience of Christ. In this sense we may say that Original Christianity was Gnostic, for gnosis is a Greek word meaning "knowledge," specifically knowledge and understanding acquired through direct spiritual or mystical experience, and a Gnostic is anyone who has acquired such spiritual knowledge to one degree or another. Essentially, according to the Christian Gnostic view, the True Gospel is one's own experience of the Truth and Light, which is "the knowledge of truth that will set you free." When the Christos is understood in this way, the fact that some people may use the name Buddha or Krishna or another name for the Light-Presence does not present a problem, for by "Christ" we mean the Spirit of Truth or Light-Presence in whatever form it might appear. Every human being is unique and individual, therefore every individual's experience of the Truth and Light will be unique to her or himself, as will the Holy Gospel she or he brings forth from within her or himself. It could well be in modern times, for example, that some people's experience of extraterrestrials is an experience of the Christos! After all, in a technological age, it would be quite logical that spiritual experiences might assume a technological form in consciousness. In terms of Self-empowerment and Self-realization, the only question in the Gnostic view is whether or not the individual having a psychic or spiritual experience is able to recognize the Light-Presence (Indwelling Christ) within him or herself, because it is this inward recognition that opens the way to various degrees of Enlightenment and Liberation ("Salvation").
This is the key to understanding the Gnostic Christ: the recognition and realization of the Light-Presence or Indwelling Christ within oneself and the bringing forth of that Light and Truth from within oneself. The message of Gnostic Christianity is that we are powerful spiritual beings, whether or not we are conscious of it--the only question is how we receive our empowerment and actualize the Light-Presence in us. To this end, Gnostic Christianity is replete with methods of mystical prayer, meditation, and sacred ritual, all of which have the aim of Self-empowerment and Self-realization. Above I indicated a way to read and study the Gospel of St. Thomas, or any other Scripture one might choose, to put one in touch with Divine Presence and Power in oneself. Now I'd like to share a meditation practice common to Gnostic Initiates that may also help you towards recognizing and merging yourself with the Indwelling Christ. It is called the Essential Meditation of the Risen Yeshua or Lord of the Rainbow:
Sit in a quite place where you will not be disturbed, and let your body find its own natural rhythm of breath. As you breathe, relax, yet remain alert. Consciously let go of any tension, stress, or negativity in the body, heart, and mind, allowing yourself to be present in the moment, clear and conscious. Let your body relax, your emotions become still, and your mind become quiet, enjoying the innate peace and joy of the moment. When you are settled gently, shift your focus to a point within and behind your heart and visualize a Spiritual Sun shinning there--aware that in this Light-Presence and in your breath you are intimately connected to all that lives. Abide in this awareness of Sacred Unity for a while, conscious of yourself as Spirit-Connected. When you feel ready, envision a ray of light shoot out of the Spiritual Sun and magically appearing as the Image of the Risen Yeshua before you. His feet are not on the ground, but the image hovers in the space in front of you. He is wearing an inner robe of white brilliance and an outer robe of violet-purple. His body shines like the Sun and he is enshrouded with a rainbow aura. Holding this Divine Image in mind, you may have a conversation with the Light-Presence or you may abide in silent meditation in the Divine Presence and Power, whatever you are inclined to do. Whether taking up a conversation or abiding in silence, feel the warmth and love of the Christ-Presence within and all around you and sense the depth of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in the Living Presence. Imagine the Holy One smiling upon you and blessing you and see light pouring from his body into your body, your whole body becoming pervaded and enshrouded with light. Whatever you seek--peace, healing, knowledge, or any other gift, imagine that it is transmitted to you in this way. When you feel the transmission is complete, chant the name Yeshua. As you chant the name, visualize the Divine Image dissolving into fluid light and pouring back into the Image of the Spiritual Sun in your heart--your whole body filled with the Light-Presence. Let yourself merge completely with the Christ-Presence and, as you fall silent, ending the chant, let your mind become the Mind of Christ, your heart become the Sacred Heart of Christ, and your body become the Body of Christ--be united with Christ. Abide as long as you can in unification with the Light-Presence, and then consciously ground the energy, letting go of the meditation and just being present for a few moments. Then you can go about whatever activity you have in mind aware of yourself as a Light-bearer.
This practice is a good way to enter into gnosis and communion with the Indwelling Christ and to progressively develop a self-identification with the Christ-Self (the Inner and Higher Self). All manner of spiritual experiences may unfold from a meditation of this kind, and it is not uncommon for individuals using this method to acquire psychic or spiritual gifts. Essentially, with regular practice of this meditation, one is consciously activating the Light-Presence within oneself and invoking the Divine Presence and Power into one's life and one's dreams. Joined to the study and contemplation of the Gospel of St. Thomas or other Wisdom Teachings, it will naturally tend to bring about deeper knowledge and understanding and hopefully serve to bring forth the Gospel of Truth that is within yourself.
You can learn more about the Gnostic Christian perspective and Gnostic interpretations of the Gospel of St. Thomas in my book The Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas: Meditations on the Mystical Teachings.
The Nag Hammadi Library In English, Paperback Edition 1990, James M. Robinson General Editor, Harper/Collins, New York
The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels, Vintage Books Edition 1981, Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, New York
The Odes of Solomon: Original Christianity Revealed, by Robert Winterhalter, Llewellyn Publications, 1985, St. Paul
The Fifth Gospel, by Robert Winterhalter, 1988, Harper & Row Publishers, San Francisco
(These references reflect influences in the article rather than direct quotes.)