10902Re: [Gnosticism2] Re: Chicken or Egg (and other layings and scratches)
- Mar 29, 2005In a message dated 3/25/2005 1:47:08 PM Central Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
>>>"this might be a chicken or the egg issue: which came first? can
we entertain the idea that someone might have attained to what we
might consider the sublimities of gnosis in lieu, or outside, of any
Gnostic or Platonic or Mystery training or trappings? other
traditions claim that, while extremely rare, some individuals just
have "it": "it" being gnosis, illumination, enlightenment, or choose
a term (we needn't be too strict in our definitions here -- just
trying to establish some points of reference). they're simply born
with "it" or may be suddenly hit with "it" through no intention or
pursuit on their part -- "it" appears to have pursued them!"<<<
Even though I may disagree with some of the specifics that your
choice of equations can carry as baggage, I do think that I agree
with your main point. Since Gnosis is a process rather than something
that a person simply has or does not have, it does not seem likely
that one is simpy born with it. However, there does seem to be a
concept of natural pneumaticism so that some people may have an
easier time getting there than others.
Remember though, since Gnosis is context specific just because a
person may have found "enlightenment" does not mean they have Gnosis.hi PMCV... sorry for the late reply but i've been hangin' around another"Gnostic" playground of late.agreed: "enlightenment" doesn't in and of itself imply the possession ofGnostic gnosis per all of the parameters you previously described. my pointis that not just any old Joe Shmoe could develop an effective Gnostic"system" and expect to turn out individuals capable of "knowing one's self,knowing the spiritual realm." it would require someone already in relativepossession of these "Gnostic" markers to accomplish this (can you giveaway what you don't posses?). and further, these markers would exist priorto the development of a uniquely Gnostic system; prior to a time whenGnosticism included "understanding the meanings behind the Gnosticsystem" in order to attain gnosis.
>>"someone had to develop the "system" (i'm using "system" for lack
of a more flexible, creative and perceptive substitute to describe
what a true Gnostic might have employed to realize gnosis in others)
we think of as Gnosticism. and the individual(s) who developed the
original may or may not have come out of another tradition. i
believe we can see elements of other traditions, obviously, that
influenced Gnosticism, but we don't know this original "Gnostic"
developer. we can' say anything really meaningful about the
originator other than he/she was familiar with one or more
developmental traditions that were culturally prevalent at the time,
but was not necessarily a product of any of those traditions."<<
You should not feel bad about using the term "system" to describe
Gnosticism. To some extent we would be more accurate to view Gnostics
of old as something that looks a little more like the more mystical
branches of modern "Freemasons" than seeing them as some kind of
spiritual anarchists practicing a lone art of contemplation.i don't feel bad at all. cautious is more like it. its just that using the word"system" may lead some to imagine that there might be a single methodemployed by the Gnostics for individual developmental purposes; that whatworked for Harry is necessarily going to work for Sally. those who have donea good job of rearing their children will know what i mean. i imagine anindividual with the sort of capacities we envisage for the accomplishedGnostic has the capacities and flexibility to adjust the teaching to eachstudent's unique requirements (as opposed to what the student imagines heor she needs or requires). in other words i think that if it came right down toit a real teacher would eschew or adjust any cant, dogma, mythology,cosmogony, cosmology, etc., if that's what it took for the student to realize"knowing one's self, knowing the spiritual realm." it the teacher wasshackled by such self-imposed manacles, then that's just a crying shame,and i have little respect for such as he. besides, if such a one were slave tothe "system", as opposed to master of the option, what does that sayabout that teacher?
Let me use your Sufi point to raise a question then; if you remove
Sufism from ALL of it's Islamic imagery, is it still Sufism?yes. absolutely. for the Sufi its the content, not the container, that takespriority. recall that the true Sufis do not refer to themselves as "Sufis."they don't employ such labels unless it serves their purpose; or rather therequirements of that purpose -- not tradition or imagined obligation. therehave been "Sufis" long before the advent of Islam (or else they're all just abunch of stinkin' liars). our common Western conditioning makes thisconcept difficult to grasp as it seems to go against the grain our habitualdependence on labels and categories; our sense of order.
Sure a Sufi master can teach a Masonic order (and I am aware that there are
Masonic lodges that have had Islamic members), but wouldn't it still
need to have some of the destinctive conceptual imagery in order to
be Sufism?only if the the requirements of time, place and culture demanded it.otherwise, no.
There already is a notion of "enlightenment" in
Freemasonry, so if a Sufi member removed all the concepts from the
specifically "Sufic" terms and methods of attaining that
enlightenment, how could it be seperated from what already exists in
Freemasonry?let's not take my hypothetical too far, but let me just say that the "notion"of enlightenment does not equal the "actualization" of enlightenment. AsRumi says, if not for the existence of real gold, there would be no such thingas "fool's gold." further, if my hypothetical Shriners were already producingenlightened individuals the Sufi would recognize this and there would be nopurpose in his being there unless he was invited and his acceptance of thatinvitation would not be contrary or counter-productive to his perceptions ofthe requirements of the moment.
I would take it even further. It is tempting to say that the reason
the Freemason and the Sufi concepts seem to interchange at the point
the terms do is that the concepts are essentially the same at the
core, but I think this is false. Instead, what I would say happens is
that aspects of the meaning itself changes when the terms go from
being Sufic to Freemason. What I mean is, not only do the external
trappings change, but genuine core meanings can change as well. When
these core meanings change what we have is no longer what we started
with.again, there's a great difference between the concept of a thing and that thing'sactualization. Sufis are in the business of actualization, among other things.for the Sufi "meaning" is but a feeble shadow (and subservient in extremis) tothe experience of absolute truths.
Christianity as a whole has the general terms and imagery of
Gnosticism, but it is the core understandings that make it different.
Since we agree that a rose by another name may not be the same, then
we should not be afraid to say that Gnosticism by another name may
not really be Gnosticism.maybe, maybe not. the important question for me would be whether ornot Gnosticism by another name, or via another incarnation, can develop inothers the abilities of "knowing one's self, knowing the spiritual realm." if thisnew incarnation did not have this capacity than what would be the point of itsexistence? there are plenty of imitative, derivative and superficial "systems"and methodologies in the world that quite obviously don't live up to theirpromises. as for those groups i'm only superficially, when at all, interested.however, can we say, unequivocally, that some Gnostics did not move on orevolve into new cultures and times without the obvious trappings of ChristianGnosticism (which might reasonably lead to their harsh persecution). inorder for this to be so we would have to imagine that every accomplishedGnostic was destroyed or scared into dropping the idea of transmitting theabilities of "knowing one's self, knowing the spiritual realm." this idea ofabsolute destruction and/or abandonment seems pretty silly to me. just assome Gnostics had the good sense to avoid martyrdom when given thechoice, i think we can give at least some of them credit for moving into theshadows and adjusting the container without losing the developmentalcontent. and if some of these survivng Gnostic were truly possessed ofsomething of value, i'll give them credit, even if no one else will, for havingwhat it takes to continue transmitting the "knowing one's self, knowing thespiritual realm" through a different vehicle, be that new vehicle an existingtradition (or a branch of an existing tradition) in need of revival, or somethingnew or hidden in plain sight.
>>>"PS it suddenly occurs to me, PMCV, was there any sort
of "miracle" tradition within any of the Gnostic communities? i
don't recall having read of any, but i'm curious what their attitude
might have been on the subject of supposed miracles. i've got a hunch
about what their attitude may have been, but i can't find anything.
all my web searches comes up empty except for references to
a "Gnostic Mass" and Jesus stories."<<<
Hmmmmm, that could be a touchy subject. I would say that generally
speaking we can say no (depending on what one means by "miracle").
The properties of experience one finds in the initiation could be
called a miracle. However, practical magic is something that some
texts warn against since it is seen as a trap that will focus
attention in the material world instead of a true higher
spirituality. However, it is an accusation that heresiologists make
that Gnostics did do this sort of thing. I think we would have to
dedicate a whole thread to it.
PMCVthanks, PMCV. this is sort of what i had in mind: Rabia is famous for anincident where some women in the kitchen were bemoaning the absence ofonions to put in a stew they were concocting. at some point, in Rabia'spresence with them, there suddenly appeared an abundance of onions. thewomen fell to their knees in praise and fear of Allah, but Rabia rebuked them,saying "My god is not a green grocer." this is pretty typical of the Suficattitude toward apparent "miracles."your friend,Crispin Sainte III
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