Questions about Gnosticism.

Thomas

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We know that pride is the greatest sin.
Thank you. That tends to be my opinion.

Your false portraying of all gnostics as being arrogant is not true at all.
Well you said it, not I.

I have no issue with gnosis per se, only those who appropriate materials from one or more traditions and then declare themselves superior to that tradition – it's patent nonsense. If they were indeed superior, they would have no need nor dependence on the tradition.

Christ's 'last commandment' was that we love each other. The Gnostic, who follows the philosopher's 'flight of the alone to the Alone' will find himself standing before God and being asked the question: "Where is your brother?", and will be unable to reply.

The Great Traditions, and indeed the Great Revelations, treat of man as such, as a communal creature, not an individual, and the Great Teachers speak to all men, and don't just whisper secrets into the ears of the few.

As for man as such, I've seen too often yesterday's hylic become tomorrow's pneumatic, and yesterday's pneumatic become tomorrow's hylic. It's an artificial and often prejudiced judgement.

So my concern is for all, not just for me.

There is a story from the Moslem Gospel of Jesus.
"Jesus was walking along the road and came upon a holy man (a Gnostic) sitting in contemplation. "What are you doing?" Jesus asked. "I have dedicated my life and every living moment to the quest for God," the Gnostic told him. "And who cares for your daily needs?" Jesus asked. "My brother takes care of all that," the man said. "Then your brother loves God more than you do," Jesus said, and continued on his way."

Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
 

Ammonius

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I have no issue with gnosis per se, only those who appropriate materials from one or more traditions and then declare themselves superior to that tradition – it's patent nonsense. If they were indeed superior, they would have no need nor dependence on the tradition.

"The scriptures are ambiguous and the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition." (Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:2:1).

Only tradition has access to the truth not outsiders.

Christ's 'last commandment' was that we love each other. The Gnostic, who follows the philosopher's 'flight of the alone to the Alone' will find himself standing before God and being asked the question: "Where is your brother?", and will be unable to reply.

The Great Traditions, and indeed the Great Revelations, treat of man as such, as a communal creature, not an individual, and the Great Teachers speak to all men, and don't just whisper secrets into the ears of the few.

As for man as such, I've seen too often yesterday's hylic become tomorrow's pneumatic, and yesterday's pneumatic become tomorrow's hylic. It's an artificial and often prejudiced judgement.

So my concern is for all, not just for me.

And yet your brother is not sought out for the council of the people, nor does he attain eminence in the public assembly. He do not sit in the judge's seat, nor does he understand the sentence of judgment; he cannot expound discipline or judgment, and he is not found using proverbs. But he keeps stable the fabric of the world, and his prayer is in the practice of their trade.

Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira

24 The wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure; and he who has little business may become wise. 25 How can he become wise who handles the plow, and who glories in the shaft of a goad, who drives oxen and is occupied with their work, and whose talk is about bulls? 26 He sets his heart on plowing furrows, and he is careful about fodder for the heifers. 27 So too is every craftsman and master workman who labors by night as well as by day; those who cut the signets of seals, each is diligent in making a great variety; he sets his heart on painting a lifelike image, and he is careful to finish his work. 28 So too is the smith sitting by the anvil, intent upon his handiwork in iron; the breath of the fire melts his flesh, and he wastes away in the heat of the furnace; he inclines his ear to the sound of the hammer, and his eyes are on the pattern of the object. He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork, and he is careful to complete its decoration. 29 So too is the potter sitting at his work and turning the wheel with his feet; he is always deeply concerned over his work, and all his output is by number. 30 He moulds the clay with his arm and makes it pliable with his feet; he sets his heart to finish the glazing, and he is careful to clean the furnace. 31 All these rely upon their hands, and each is skilful in his own work. 32 Without them a city cannot be established, and men can neither sojourn nor live there. 33 Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people, nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly. They do not sit in the judge's seat, nor do they understand the sentence of judgment; they cannot expound discipline or judgment, and they are not found using proverbs. 34 But they keep stable the fabric of the world, and their prayer is in the practice of their trade.


1 On the other hand he who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be concerned with prophecies; 2 he will preserve the discourse of notable men and penetrate the subtleties of parables; 3 he will seek out the hidden meanings of proverbs and be at home with the obscurities of parables. 4 He will serve among great men and appear before rulers; he will travel through the lands of foreign nations, for he tests the good and the evil among men. 5 He will set his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and will make supplication before the Most High; he will open his mouth in prayer and make supplication for his sins. 6 If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom and give thanks to the Lord in prayer. 7 He will direct his counsel and knowledge aright, and meditate on his secrets. 8 He will reveal instruction in his teaching, and will glory in the law of the Lord's covenant. 9 Many will praise his understanding, and it will never be blotted out; his memory will not disappear, and his name will live through all generations. 10 Nations will declare his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise; 11 if he lives long, he will leave a name greater than a thousand, and if he goes to rest, it is enough for him.

Jesus taught different level of mysteries to different people and so did Saint Paul. This division of people as those who are elected and those who are ignoramus existed from beginning of the time.
 

Thomas

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"The scriptures are ambiguous and the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition." (Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:2:1).
Only tradition has access to the truth not outsiders.
Well that's a self-evident truth – no scholar would dispute that. That's why, in my experience, the first step in understanding what a Tradition says is ask those we have to learn about something

Jesus taught different level of mysteries to different people and so did Saint Paul. This division of people as those who are elected and those who are ignoramus existed from beginning of the time.
No, the judgment of the self-elect to dismiss the meek as 'unelected' and, in the general case of 'Gnosticism', unelectable.

Our Lord demonstrated the error in that when he gave sight to "the man born blind" in John 9. Now the 'Gnostic' will read this to mean 'spiritual sight' – I know, because there was a time when I and my Gnostic companions thought just that. It was not a physical miracle, we would say, it was a metaphorical miracle. He's not physically blind, it's about spiritual blindness.

But then I read the man's responses. It's full of not-knowing. These aren't the answers of the spiritually illumined. He doesn't know what happened, or how, or why, or who did it, until Our Lord tells him. He's patently not a gnostic, an esoterist, a symbolist, a mystic.

"And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him" (John 9:38).

Just the kind of faith the self-declared elect dismiss as ignorance, superstition and fear.
 

wil

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a figment of your imagination
On the physical miracle front...we've got a number of miracle recoveries, from leprosy to sight to death that was overcome....but all were mentions of the healing... no mention of any 'five year cancer survivors' eh? How many mentions of folks do we hear from later, how many of the miracle recipients do we have where we know that the healing took, lasted, stuck?
 

Ella S.

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1.) Does Gnosticism have to be inherently dualistic? Are there any non-dualistic streams of thought in Gnosticism? Are there any that might resemble Vishishtadvaita from Hinduism?

I would say that a defining part of Gnosticism is a form of dualism. However, this is frequently something called "mitigated dualism" and many of the Gnostic sects that are mitigated dualists are, perhaps confusingly, also monists. Radical Dualism (which rejects monism) is more common in Persian Gnostic sects like Manichaeism and Mandaeism, but these are only a small subset of Gnostic groups.

2.) What exactly are the Demiurge and Sophia?

Ask 10 different Gnostics, get 10 different answers. To me, the Demiurge is a personification of separation from God. Sophia is our own interior reflection of the One.

3.) Can one be apart of an orthodox or "official" Christian denomination and still also identify as Gnostic? Or at least have theological influence from it?

Yes, in a sense. That's sort of what Marcionites are, since they use the same scriptures as Christians but merely interpret them in a way closer to Gnosticism. A lot of Rosicrucians might claim to be Gnostic, too, although I personally feel like that one's a bit of a stretch.

4.) How would you counteract criticisms that Gnosticism is a "depressing" or "material denying" path?

I wouldn't. To me, Gnosticism really is anti-materialist and pessimistic. I wouldn't say that it's depressing. It's pessimistic in the philosophic, Schopenhaurian sense. Pessimists can still be as happy and content with their lives as anyone else, they just admit that, generally, life is more of a bad thing than a good one.

5.) Branching from 4, does Gnosticism literally deny the material world? In that the physical world does not actually exist?

I have seen some modern Gnostics claim this. Personally, I disagree. I think the physical world exists just as much as the spiritual one.

6.) I've gotten a general impression that Gnostics tend to be anti-science. Is this inherently so?

I hope not! I'm actually pursuing my PhD in a scientific field right now and I tend to ally with a lot of atheists in pushing against a lot of anti-science urban legends and conspiracy theories. That said, I can't say that every modern Gnostic is the same. There are a lot of bizarre conspiracy theories, pseudohistories, and faith healing practices inspired by Gnosticism and they make me a little sad.

7.) Is God evil?

In a sense, I don't believe in the traditional "God" at all. I don't believe in an omnipotent Creator.

I believe in a dualism between spirit and matter.

8.) Are heaven and hell literally real or are they more symbolic?

Neither are mentioned in my sects texts. We have the Emptiness, the Luminous Cloud, Sojourn, Repentance, and the Fullness. I do believe these to be literal places, but this is more of a feeling on my part. I can't back that up with any hard evidence.

9.) What is the nature of Christ? Is he the divine savior and son of God? Or more of a Promethean/Luciferian archetype?

To me, I see Jesus as a Jewish heretic who laid seeds for later Gnostic mystics. These seeds were likely inspired from his reflection on the One and, in a sense, given to him by Autogenes in the same way that Autogenes is responsible for all salvific Gnosis.

Autogenes himself was often given the title of Christ, and Jesus was sometimes reduced to a metaphorical personification of Autogenes in texts like the Gospel of Judas. This is often seen as a form of Docetism. I am not a Docetist, though, I'm an Adoptionist; I believe that Jesus was merely an important Gnostic who was gifted with special gnosis from Autogenes.

10.) Can one be a non-theistic Gnostic? In that, they apply Gnostic metaphysics, philosophy, and spirituality to their life; but don't necessarily believe in God?

It depends on how you define "God." To me, God is a personification of the Whole of spirit and God is who we gain "gnosis" about, which is the whole namesake of Gnosticism. As I mentioned above, though, this is a very different perspective of God than what most people mean by that word.
 

Ella S.

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One more question:

Is it true that Gnosticism is a form of "metaphysical anti-semetism"?

No. When I was a kid, I was friends with two first-generation Israeli kids, both of them were Jewish. I actually went to their synagogues with them, celebrated Hannukah with them, learned a bit of Hebrew from them. To this day, I still prepare couscous the way their parents taught me.

I have a lot of respect for the Jewish people. When I first discovered anti-semtism in my teens, I was really confused because these were folks that I had a lot of personal respect for. The persecution they face is incredibly unjust and it amazes me that their community is strong enough to have survived it for so long.

Gnostic texts take from a variety of sources, such as Hellenism, Buddhism, Hermeticism and, yes, even Judaism. Because Judaism regards God as the Creator, and Gnosticism regards the Creator as an evil Demiurge, some of the folklore about the Jewish God has been demonized during syncreticism.

However, some of the folklore about the Jewish God is still seen as about God, or the One/Monad in Gnosticism. Not every myth about the God of Abraham is demonized. It's a complex topic. In my opinion, it's better to regard the Gnostic concepts of the One and the Demiurge as completely separate from Judaism and to view the myths as part of their own unique tradition.

And, above all, the Jewish people themselves are not demonized at all in Gnosticism. That's a relatively modern invention by anti-semites looking for a religion to justify their bigotry. Many Gnostics were actually Jewish themselves, especially in earlier sects like the Sethites.

Anyone using Gnosticism as an excuse for anti-semitism is, in my opinion, completely misguided. Nothing of the sort should ever be tolerated.
 

JonDD22

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I have read some of the Gnostics texts. I found them very interesting and engaging. I remember reading one by St. Peter in which he described the nature and origins of evil. It was so completely spot on, it could be applied to the way greedy CEOs are abusive today. Or any of the many problems we face because of people's corruptions. Reminded me, in a sense of "The Art of War." Like a treatise to help people fight against horrible people that you encounter in life.
 
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