I have been a part of the Pagan community for about six years now. A mere drop in the hat compared to many, but they have been formative years indeed.
The past year has led to my ordination as a Minister within the Universalist Gnostic Communion, and my study is still continuing and most likely will for the rest of my life.
My interest and practice in Gardnerian Witchcraft led me to investigate Gnosticism. This is still a big love of mine, although the term Gnostic as some scholars may understand it, does not really fit me. I seek Gnosis yes. I am searching for that intimate knowledge of the Divine, yes. If those two things alone are criteria in someone's eyes, then I am indeed a Gnostic.
During my study of Gnosticism, along with the traditional texts one would expect to find within that 'system', I came across the Gospel of Thomas. It was this text that really opened my eyes.
Gospel of Thomas is much like Tarot. It really does bring forth that which is within you. The words acting as symbols to trigger and stimulate lay ideas and thoughts. For people who are strictly Christian, the words in Gospel of Thomas quite possibly support their preconceived idea as to who or what Yeshua/Jesus was. Likewise for the Jew who finds interest in this writing, or anyone from any other religious background.
When I came across Gospel of Thomas, I had actually put neopaganism/hermetics behind me. I had come to the conclusion for some reason that the framework found in the pagan/wiccan/hermetic rituals just seemed to lack real substance.
Then, when reading these words which were written as long ago as 40AD or 140AD (Depending on which school of thought one is following along with, old or new) it began to change my viewpoint.
For one, I really began to see Jesus as a man. A teacher. A guy who was frustrated with the way that the Temple was operating. A man who wanted people to realize that The Divine was not something that the Pharisees or any other church leaders should be holding the keys to. Yeshua taught, in the Gospel of Thomas (which many scholars feel is the earliest 'gospel' we have and most likely pre-dates Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) that the Kingdom is within you. It is also outside of you. The Kingdom is 'here' but we don't see it. Of course, having a bit of an interest in Kabbalah, this sort of dialogue really engaged me.
Also in Gospel of Thomas is the talking of making the two into one. The inner as the outer, the male and female...
Although Kabbalah was not fully configured into written work until quite some time later, who is to say what sort of oral traditions and ideas were in use at the time? Jewish Mysticism started somewhere, and it is not at all unreasonable to believe that Yeshua was of that sort of mindset.
In fact, one can find a few different current writings about the Judaic Shamanism that existed in history, and it is that direction that my path took me.
There is a call back to the source. Back to the simplistic but unfathomable essence of the Divine.
There is a common truth within many different systems. This perhaps seeming mishmash of traditions within the Circle of the Eternal Sun is really not that peculiar.
Taken from http://www.newkabbalah.com/tikkun.html "The "raising of the sparks" implies that there is something of spiritual value in all things, and it is man's daily task to discover and bring out the value in the material world, thereby transforming that world into a spiritual realm. Tikkun ha-Olam will only be complete when the last spark has been raised and the entire world informed with spiritual meaning and value." Sanford L Drob
That idea of the Mystical within the mundane, that the Divine is present within earthly substance, is evident in many traditions. Panentheistic in many ways, it is the idea that observing, honouring and connecting to the natural world brings us closer to the Divine.
Rather than seeing our world as being run by Gods and Goddesses from different pantheons, COES sees all as being connected and an aspect of, the One.
Observing our Wheel at the right hand side: if East/Air/Spring is at the top, we see that in Spring, it is the gift of the warming air that brings about the growth in the earth.
To the South, where the Sun is red, is the blue bar. Blue is the gift of water within the heat of the summer months that sustains us.
To the West, where the bar is black, it is the gift of the Earth, the fruits of our labour.
To the North, where the red bar is, but the sun is in it's 'hiding', it is the gift of Fire that warms us in these cold days.
Here is a wonderful article I recommend that describes well the unification of opposites (an idea popular within Hermetics as well )