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10906Re: Chicken or Egg (and other layings and scratches)

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  • pmcvflag
    Mar 29, 2005
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      Hey Crispin...

      >>>"hi PMCV... sorry for the late reply but i've been hangin' around
      another "Gnostic" playground of late."<<<

      Hey all HE IS CHEATING ON US! I hang around a few other Gnostic
      groups myself, Crispin... including George's club (and obviously he
      is a member here as well), which is the other big one on Yahoo. THe
      differences in focus can be helpful.

      >>>"and further, these markers would exist prior to the development
      of a uniquely Gnostic system; prior to a time when Gnosticism
      included "<<<

      Agreed. In the case of Gnosticism we can also identify the proto-
      Gnostic movements, and trace many of the essential functions back a
      good way. This includes the very notion of "Gnosis", which obviously
      has some similarities with some other esoteric ideas of what we
      could call "enlightenment", as well as some important differences.

      >>>" its just that using the word "system" may lead some to imagine
      that there might be a single method employed by the Gnostics for
      individual developmental purposes; that what worked for Harry is
      necessarily going to work for Sally."<<<

      Well, I see your point. However, to some extent that is exactly what
      the verious "Mystery" traditions did. I mean, you are right that
      there was flexibility and change and difference.... but there was
      also enough cohesion that we can outline very definitively a system.
      A better analogy could be to medicine than child raising. Perhaps
      the same antibiotic is not good for everyone who gets 'the clap',
      but the prescription is still likely to be within a certain
      framework of drugs. All the same, Gnosticism was certainly not seen
      as being for everyone. On the contrary, it appears that some were
      not allowed into the "system".

      I believe perhaps we are saying the same thing, since you do make
      the point of destinction between what a student may need vs what a
      student may think they need. Nobody WANTS a shot in the arm (well,
      most people anyway). On the other hand, not everyone who is a
      teacher is able to compose a complete curriculum. There are levels
      of teacherhood just as there are levels of studenthood.

      >>>"yes. absolutely. for the Sufi its the content, not the
      container, that takes priority."<<<

      Well, perhaps, but the people I have talked with who were actually
      practitioners from traditional groups that are generally known
      as "Sufi" (and we have actually had a couple in this group in the
      past) not seemed to agree with you. And, authors like Seyyed Hossein
      Nasr don't seem to either. It is not that I necessarily disagree
      with you, but that I will have to leave that debate between you and
      them since it is not my field. Instead, I suppose I have to take
      your point to mean that all esoteric paths are "Sufi", and that
      would include Gnostics and the more mystically minded Freemasons,
      whether or not they have ever studied "Sufism" or not.

      If this is true, then "Sufism" is simply a wider category. What is
      the difference then, in your view, between Sufism and Esotericism?
      While I think various forms of Platonism certainly can fit within
      virtually any western esoteric tradition (some scholors have called
      it a "parasite"), and in fact it does exist as the core of Sufism,
      Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and Gnosticism, I am not willing to go so far
      as to equate the source of Platonism with the categories it creates.
      In other words, in my usage, if you take the core out of Kabbalah
      and fit it into another system it is no longer technically Kabbalah,
      but instead it is the Platonic core in whatever new system we have
      caused. I would say the same is true of Gnosticism. Sure the core
      can fit elsewhere, and be effective, but when that core was placed
      in a later Rabbinical Jewish framework I no longer call
      it "Gnosticism" I call it Kabbalah. The core is important to the
      definition (Both are Platonic), but so are the trappings (both are
      not Gnosticism). The Gnostic texts themselves recognize this....

      >>>"Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert
      our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who
      hears the word "God" does not perceive what is correct, but
      perceives what is incorrect. So also with "the Father" and "the Son"
      and "the Holy Spirit" and "life" and "light" and "resurrection"
      and "the Church (Ekklesia)" and all the rest - people do not
      perceive what is correct but they perceive what is incorrect, unless
      they have come to know what is correct. The names which are heard
      are in the world [...] deceive. If they were in the Aeon (eternal
      realm), they would at no time be used as names in the world. Nor
      were they set among worldly things. They have an end in the Aeon.

      .....

      But truth brought names into existence in the world for our sakes,
      because it is not possible to learn it (truth) without these names.
      Truth is one single thing; it is many things and for our sakes to
      teach about this one thing in love through many things. The rulers
      (archons) wanted to deceive man, since they saw that he had a
      kinship with those that are truly good. They took the name of those
      that are good and gave it to those that are not good, so that
      through the names they might deceive him and bind them to those that
      are not good. And afterward, what a favor they do for them! They
      make them be removed from those that are not good and place them
      among those that are good. These things they knew, for they wanted
      to take the free man and make him a slave to them forever."<<<
      (Philip)

      The destinctions are in one way false, but in another way they are
      absolutely important.

      >>"however, can we say, unequivocally, that some Gnostics did not
      move on or evolve into new cultures and times without the obvious
      trappings of Christian Gnosticism (which might reasonably lead to
      their harsh persecution). in order for this to be so we would have
      to imagine that every accomplished Gnostic was destroyed or scared
      into dropping the idea of transmitting the abilities of "knowing
      one's self, knowing the spiritual realm." this idea of absolute
      destruction and/or abandonment seems pretty silly to me. just as
      some Gnostics had the good sense to avoid martyrdom when given the
      choice, i think we can give at least some of them credit for moving
      into the shadows and adjusting the container without losing the
      developmental content."<<<

      I think this outline is far to simplistic to deal with the large
      scale attempt to censor a culture or belief system. What I mean is,
      there were Gnostics of the time who surely made many different
      choices as to how to deal with the situation in different ways, and
      maybe even differently at different times. Unlike the ravening
      Ignatius, it does seem that historical Gnostics were not running
      towards death in order to proove conviction and faith. When dealing
      with the question, it seems that most of them simply figured why not
      light a candle to Jupiter for the Emporor, it isn't a real God
      anyway and he doesn't seem smart enough to know any better.

      On the other hand, some did die. Rather than to prove faith, though
      (since faith is not salvation in Gnosticism, it would make no
      logical sense to die for it), it seems to me to be something more
      akin to the Buddhists who have quietly burned themselves on the
      streat to protest the threats of death against them. Sort of
      a "fine, it is not my body anyway". While I have wonderment at this
      sort of thing, it is true that the effect of this on public opinion
      was pretty profound (and at least they did this without taking a bus
      full of kids with them).

      Generally speaking though, it seems that Gnostic thinking did merge
      with other movements (some have even theorized that this is where
      Sufism came from, but I have my doubts)... but this tactic did not
      always work. Even non-Gnostic groups like the Manichaeans were still
      destroyed in spite of the fact that they would deny being a
      Manichaean when faced with death. Doing this can actually help
      destroy the movement though it seems on the surface to do otherwise.
      Christains died all the time while the Gnostics did not, and yet
      which group survived?

      All I am saying is, I agree with your general thoughts on martyrdom,
      but I think from our armchairs we should consider the motivations of
      various historical personages with a bit of seperation and lack of
      assumption as to what causes an idea to survive in the midst of
      certain social and political climates of a past era.... at least not
      in a simplistic way.

      PMCV
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