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11926Re: What Is Gnosticism? by Karen King

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  • Thomas Leavitt
    Feb 9, 2006
      On Thu, 2006-02-09 at 19:40 +0000, gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com wrote:
      > Message: 4
      > Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2006 04:23:51 -0000
      > From: pmcvflag
      > Subject: Re: What Is Gnosticism? by Karen King
      > Hey Mike
      > >>>>Karen King was one of my son's Professors at Occidental College.
      > She was fascinated at meeting a 2nd generation neo-gnostic. He got a
      > lot out of her classes.<<<
      > Hey, very impressive. Your son had a teacher that was a little better
      > known on the common front than my own primary teacher in the subject
      > (who specialized in Manichaism and NT translation, rather than
      > Gnosticism specifically, though that was a secondary specialization)
      > Don't know exactly what that means... but I certainly envy the
      > education that I cannot continue at this point. Recently I keep
      > thinking I will write her and try to get some kind of idea of where
      > she will go next.... but her work has been VERY critical (in a good
      > way) so far as I have seen.
      > Off the point a little, she has been accused of the kind of feminist
      > political preconceptions that Dr Pagels sometimes is accused of
      > showing. Honestly, as I have become more familiar with her work, I
      > have not seen it at all (though yes I HAVE seen it in Dr Pagels). On
      > the contrary, her critical abilities have seemed more truly open (and
      > critical... even CLASSICAL) than almost any other academic source I
      > have read (and I am not unfamiliar with the genre).
      > I am assuming this son was Thomas... whom I wish would stop in and
      > talk with us more often. :) I would actually love to discuss the
      > topic
      > of academic vs personal communication with a person who has had
      > both... like your son. I know my own communication could use some
      > work
      > in joining the two ;) That could be a topic all to itself.
      > PMCV


      I'm basically a lurker here... email already consumes way too much of
      my time as it is.

      I really enjoyed my two years pursuing a "Religious Studies" degree at
      Occidental - I had some really great professors; Burton Mack, of the
      Claremont School of Theology, was a guest professor my first year there,
      and we studied the Lost Gospel of Mark and early Christian history in a
      lot of detail. Wonderful experience for a first year student.

      I wound up in the Senior seminar in my second year; taught by Karen
      King, just five or six students... unfortunately, that somewhat
      coincided with my decision to leave school... and somewhat precipitated
      it. In my view, to have an effective working knowledge of the field and
      do original work, you need to know French, German and English (at a
      minimum) for modern work, and Coptic, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic (at a
      minimum) to be able to read and study materials in the original
      language. Learning languages is not one of my strengths, so I realized
      that an academic career in that direction wasn't a good idea.

      Keeping in mind that Karen King was fifteen years less advanced in her
      career track, she never struck me as having a "political" bias
      ("feminist" or otherwise)... it seemed very logical to me that she, as a
      woman and an academic, would be interested in what quite honestly had
      been a rather neglected area: women's roles, etc. ... not to mention
      that the higher level of participation and authority and mythological
      significance given women by certain Gnostic traditions (and most modern
      ones, as well) relative to "orthodox" tradition, is a logical and
      interesting thing for any academic to pursue (especially a female one).
      At that point, her body of written work was relatively limited (she left
      Oxy for Harvard Divinity school several years after I was there), but
      she struck me as someone very deeply grounded in the original works and
      their context, and not the type of academic to make wild extrapolations
      or play down aspects of a work that didn't forward her positions.

      I honestly didn't take anywhere near enough of the advantage I had, to
      interact with her or the other professors (typical college
      distractions). She and the other professors I took classes with were
      quite intrigued by my perspective and history. I was already fairly well
      read in many of the materials, my own readings, readings from my dad's
      libraries, and of course weekly exposure to Stephan Hoeller's lectures,
      which gave me quite an advantage.

      On the other hand, I haven't had the time or money to keep up on the
      explosion of literature over the last few years... I'm not sure if I've
      even read much of Karen King's work.

      I'd love to return to school again at some point in the future and
      study this at my leisure, without economic pressure driving the decision
      making process, and with the benefit of the experience I've gained since
      then. Perhaps after I retire, whenever that happens.

      Thomas Leavitt

      This is an interesting and provacative discussion of Mack's work, which
      I haven't seen mentioned much...

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