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, "wvdog61" <wvdog61@7...> wrote:
> Hey folks,
> So far, in all my study of Gnostic teaching, one of the 'linchpin'
> ideas has been that the 'sparks of light' have been 'trapped' in
> matter, and that freedom/liberation/salvation means becoming
> disentangled from matter via Gnosis.
> Lately I've been reading Hippolytus' account of Basilides (Ref. VII
> 20, 1-27, 13 selections). Let me quote Werner Foerster's
> to the selected passages dealing with Basilides' cosmogony:
> "Bailides is,...the one who harnessed his Gnosis in the most
> consistent way to a monistic system." Then, a little farther on:
> "The purpose and end is that all parts of the world, including the
> divine, shall be brought each to its proper place. Basilides has
> thus no need of any evil matter, or of an evil or even a merely
> mediating creator. He does indeed know two 'Rulers' who govern the
> spheres of the fixed stars and the planets, but do not control our
> world, for which the thought with which God created it is
> sufficient. That means that whereas both the Rulers believe
> themselves to be supreme, yet they do penance when they learn that
> the non-existent God exists and that they have no power over the
> world; they are not 'Fate'. The guilt in this world, which men are
> burdened with, will be expiated through reincarnation and through
> suffering." (Foerster, Werner. "Basilides According to Hippolytus."
> In, Gnosis, A Selection of Gnostic Texts. Vol 1. Trans R. McL.
> Wilson, 62-63. Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1972)
> I found this a little jarring. A gnostic system with no notion
> of 'evil matter' or apparently even a demiurge! Damn... It seems
> that the implications of such an understanding would be far-
> in large (ethos) *and* small (praxis) ways.
Rodney, I think you've hit on how difficult it is to put a definitive
handle on all the fluid currents in early Christianity. The umbrella
of ancient Gnosticism covers a wide range... or not, depending upon
with whom you talk. Gnosis emphasized in the soteriology seems to be
generally accepted as a determining factor. I also personally would
like to think that the experience of Gnosis (and the accompanying
realization of the Unknown) should be paramount regardless of various
expressions or what otherwise seem to be common motifs in alternate
One example of someone who has a more specific idea of groupings
would be Bentley Layton in _The Gnostic Scriptures_. He categorizes
Basilides in the "Other Early Currents" section, along with Hermetic
writings, as opposed to what he views as "Classic Gnostic Scripture"
or even the Valentinians whom he views as Christian reformers of
Gnostic theology. In fact, Layton states his main purpose for
inclusion of Basilides (and Hermetic writings) in his "General
Introduction" (p. xvi): "Unlike the Hermetic writings, Basilides'
Christian philosophy is very different from the other scripture
translated in this book; its historical relevance lies in a very
shadowy connection with Valentinus. It was during his education in
Alexandria, A. D. ca. 120, that Valentinus could have encountered
these two currents."
Unfortunately, we only have a piecemeal picture of Basilides through
fragments and reports from heresiologists. Basilides seems to have
been eclectic and may also have been influenced by Stoic philosophy.