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10414Re: Baptism

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  • pmcvflag
    Jan 11, 2005
      Just to add to what Dr Turner stated (and mildly refute Turner's
      statement that Gnostic texts are silent on the matter as well as
      bolster his main point concerning spiritual meaning above ritual
      practice), I would like to point out a passage from Philip....

      "If one goes down into the water and comes up without having
      received anything, and says "I am a Christian," he has borrowed the
      name at interest. But if he receives the Holy Spirit, he has the
      name as a gift. He who has received a gift does not have to give it
      back, but of him who has borrowed it at interest, payment is
      demanded. This is the way it happens to one when he experiences a
      mystery."

      At first this may sound a bit like an admonition that we could
      actually here in the average Christian church today, but I think Dr
      Turner is right on the mark in pointing out that in the Gnostic
      context this is at least in part meant to be understood within the
      allegorical framework of understanding vs non understanding. To make
      that point more clear we can look at the earlier statement in Philip
      that says "He who has received something other than the Lord is
      still a Hebrew" that comes after a fairly direct (almost
      unchericteristically so) explination that the word "Hebrew" is meant
      as an initiatory term rather than one of cultural identity.

      In other words, the functions of the rituals is to gain that
      allegorical meaning and spiritual process of the message rather than
      washing away sins to make amends to some angry Demiurge lest he
      smite us.

      We may be tempted to see this difference between the Gnostic and the
      common modern understanding of baptism as nothing more than
      sectarian dogmatic debate, but it actually goes further than that.
      By raising the issue of form and function we are forced to consider
      methodology itself. What I mean there is, it two completely
      different things to say that a ritual is meant to somehow please a
      god vs whether it is meant to help us understand something about
      ourselves and the universe around us. This is ritual as magic spell
      vs ritual for spiritual meaning. I think it is safe to say that the
      exact same ritual can be used in the two completely different
      contexts. Perhaps it is that realization that allowed the
      Valentinians to exist in and among the non-Gnostic Christians and
      use the same ritual practice while simply seeing them as well
      meaning people who didn't fully understand yet because of thier
      being stuck in physical understandings of the spiritual process.

      Hope I didn't confuse the issue.

      PMCV

      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
      wrote:
      >
      > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pege41 <no_reply@y...> wrote:
      > >
      > > Hi, I have lurked awhile maybe a year?
      > > I read from the web and guilty of not coming more often.
      > > I have a question, and if any would like to e-mail me privately
      > that
      > > is fine also.
      > > How does Baptism play into gnosticism?
      > >
      > >
      > > thanks
      > > Pam
      >
      >
      > Hi, Pam. I don't if anyone has emailed you privately, but I'll
      take
      > a stab here with a few references for you.
      >
      > John D. Turner has written an excellent scholarly paper on ritual
      in
      > Gnosticism, including a whole section on baptism with details
      about
      > Sethian and Valentinian baptism:
      > http://jdt.unl.edu/ritual.htm
      >
      > In addition, Bentley Layton has a nice summary of Gnostic baptism
      in
      > his Historical Introduction to Part One of _The Gnostic
      Scriptures_,
      > pages 19-20. I'll type it up for you below with links to some of
      > works I found online that he references.
      >
      > Hope this helps.
      >
      > Cari
      >
      > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      >
      > Like other Christians, the gnostics laid great stress on the
      > importance of baptism and made strong use of baptismal rhetoric
      when
      > speaking of salvation. To judge from the texts, gnostic baptism
      > marked a decisive step in the spiritual life of the gnostic,
      > involving renunciation, instruction, learning, and initiation in
      to a
      > new "kinship" and a new state of life. Reception of gnostic
      baptism
      > was closely associated with reception of _gnosis_ and was believed
      to
      > enable the gnostic to overcome death.
      >
      > Various stage of a gnostic baptismal ceremony are enumerated in
      FTh
      > {First Thought in Three Forms (Trimorphic Protennoia) -
      > http://gnosis.org/naghamm/trimorph.html }: the candidate strips
      > off "darkness," puts on a robe of light, is washed in the waters
      of
      > life, receives a throne of glory and is glorified with glory
      of "the
      > kinship," and finally is raised to "the luminous place of . . .
      > kinship." The baptized is also said in EgG {The Holy Book of the
      > Great Invisible Spirit (The Egyptian Gospel) -
      > http://gnosis.org/naghamm/goseqypt.html } to put on the name of
      > Jesus, and according to BJn {The Secret Book According to John -
      > http://gnosis.org/naghamm/apocjn.html } _gnosis_ is received when
      the
      > savior seals the candidate with "the light of the water of the
      five
      > seals." These five seals are mentioned in many passages of
      gnostic
      > scripture as having a very intimate connection with _gnosis_, but
      > what they consist of is never clearly explained. EgG concludes
      with
      > a lengthy, ecstatic baptismal invocation presumably spoken by a
      > recipient of gnostic baptism.
      >
      > Yet despite the insistence on baptism in gnostic scripture, the
      > references to it are phrased in exaggerated poetic language,
      always
      > giving the impression that the ceremony takes place not on earth,
      but
      > only in the spiritual realm. For example, various aeons known
      from
      > gnostic myth take a leading role in the ceremony; the spiritual
      > baptismal water is even mythically personified, as are "the five
      > seals." It may seriously be asked, then, whether such references
      to
      > baptism are not mere metaphor, a mystical description of salvation
      by
      > acquaintance (such an equation is explicitly made at the end of
      RAd
      > {The Revelation of Adam -
      http://gnosis.org/naghamm/adam.html } ).
      > Was there also a physical gnostic rite of baptism, and if so was
      it a
      > once-for-all initiation into the new kinship of the gnostic church
      or
      > a repeatable act of mystical enlightenment? What was its
      relation,
      > if any, to that baptism already received by members of the non-
      > gnostic church who then converted to gnostic Christianity? No
      answer
      > to these questions is given by the scriptures themselves, apart
      from
      > silence. But St. Epiphanius, a hostile--and not fully reliable--
      > fourth-century observer (EpA {Epiphanius. On the Archontics – p.
      194
      > of _The Gnostic Scriptures_} ), reports that the Archontics, a
      > subdivision of the gnostics, "curse and reject [non-gnostic]
      baptism,
      > even though there are some among them who have already been
      baptized
      > [as orthodox Christians]" because baptism is "alien and has been
      > established in the name of Sabaoth," i.e. the god of Israel, who
      > according the Archontics is the son of Satan. Furthermore,
      according
      > to St. Epiphanius, the Archontics believe that when the soul is
      saved
      > it "gets _gnosis_ and flees baptism of the [non-gnostic] church."
      > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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