12810Re: Mani & The Manicheans this Sunday on Coffee, Cigs & Gnosis!!!
- Oct 28, 2006Hey Scott, welcome to the conversation.
>>>Jumping in to this delightful discussion, I decided to go see theother guys are saying. So I hit the Catholic Encyclopedia, where it is
said with a straight face that once Mani's cosmology is known, there
is little else to learn and that the Manichaeans are Gnostics in that
the believe in liberation through knowledge.<<<
Part of what would be at issue here is whether or not it is
essentially "Gnosis" or "Praxis" that Manichaeans viewed as the
primary soteriological force. According to Dr BeDuhn's book it is
correct action, not "gnosis", that was the primary means of
salvation/liberation, and "gnosis" served to help one come to
understand this correct action. The difference with the Gnostics (as
they are categorically imagined), then, was that they believed that
Gnosis in and of itself was salvation, and correct action would be a
sort of side effect.
>>>I don't know about the Manicheans but that is exactly what yourgarden variety gnostic is NOT into. That person is into knowing,
which is an event far diffferent from knowledge.<<<
When we talk about the Gnostics as they are more technically defined,
namely the Sethian or Valentinian forms, we see a number of attributes
within the concept of "Gnosis". Some Sethian texts, for instance, talk
about an understanding of cosmology as a central element of Gnosis.
The Gospel of Thomas talks about hermeneutics as a key function. We
can talk about knowing and knowledge in arbitrary terms, of course,
but in the end we always must keep in mind the concept of Gnosis as we
see it in historical Gnostic groups. The problem that is often debated
(and validly debatable) is just how the Manichaean concept of gnosis
relates or fails to relate to the Sethian or Valentinian notion of the
On another front, there is no question that Manichaeans use some
similar lingo and cosmology with the definitive Gnostic groups. One
aspect of that cosmology, though, seems nearly opposite. Gnostic texts
generally see the universal flaw as being caused by division and
seperation from the spiritual source. In other words, duality is a bad
thing. Manichaeans, on the other hand, describe a setting in which the
flaw in the universe was caused not because of duality, but because of
a mixing of the dual forces that should naturally be kept apart. In
Manichaean thinking the world is a sort of machine for sorting out the
dual elements back into their rightful opposites (the world having a
positive function). Gnostics, on the other hand, present the world as
a flawed creation by an ignorant Demiurge.
My point is that on the surface they two movements do have many
striking similarities, but careful reading of the text also presents
some differences that are so core that they raise the issue of the
very categorical attributes that define "Gnosticism". Debating one
side of that or the other is often a matter of how far one wishes to
stretch that term.
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