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12994Re: Jewish Gnostics

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  • pmcvflag
    Feb 20, 2007
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      Hey Doug

      As I first logged in to the group I notice that one of your posts
      showed up here and another has not.... though both showed up in my
      email. Then, when I checked back the other post showed up, but I think
      it is out of order. I will just answer both of your posts at the same

      For what I am about to post I know the rest of us have talked about
      this many many times, so those of you who have been here awhile can
      probably stop reading now. I would just refer Doug to the old
      conversations, but I can never seem to find them in our archives.

      >>>So, in essence, what you are saying there is that this gnosis IS NOT
      an experience at all. Leastwise as it is seen to be on this group
      anyway. That of course does somewhat conflict with what most
      literature on gnosis and Gnosticism claims, but however and what
      ever, so be it. Now, could you refer me to the source which claims
      that gnosis is NOT an experience, for I sure would like to look that

      Sure. For one example consider Rudolph's "Gnosis", pg 55 second
      paragraph. Or, consider Dr Pagels' treatment of Gnosis as a process of
      inner exploration in a whole chapter of the Gnostic Gospels
      called "Gnosis; Self-Knowledge as Knowledge of God", Jonas talks about
      it as a cosmological understanding. Of course, perhaps we should not
      rely overly heavily on any one specific set of academic observations.

      I think you will find that Gnostic liturature deals with "Gnosis" as a
      multi-aspect concept that INCLUDES experience... but is not ONLY
      experience. My arm is part of me, but I am not my arm. Allogenes talks
      about the salvation knowledge via a set of instructions given by
      spiritual sources. Thomas talks about salvation by way of esoteric
      understanding of the meaning of the texts, and through self knowledge.
      On top of this, I think we have to understand that the Gnostics borrow
      the term from Platonism, and that the Platonist meaning is implicit in
      their usage.. though not always explicit.

      I am not debating that Gnosis has an important aspect of experience,
      but I don't think it is accurate to say that traditional Gnostics
      viewed it as a synonym for what modern people call the "mystical

      This is not just about a personal definition of this group, it is
      about the group's attempt to understand the traditional definition
      rather than assign a definition used by a modern sect or New Age
      groups. There is nothing wrong with these other definitions, but they
      often have little to do with the Nag Hammadi liturature that we look
      at here.

      >>>So, are some here saying that this Gnosis IS an expeience after all?
      Jewish mystical experienc, or mystical experience in any other part
      of the world is all mystical experience. Many people have mystical
      epeience today. Probably even more than they did thousands of years
      ago, so this phenomenon still goes on today in which case.<<<

      I have no problem with the notion that the mystical experience (or
      actually, I believe there are a number of different mystical
      experiences) has rough equivalents across traditions. I just think we
      should not confuse Gnosis (in the traditional Gnostic usage) with the
      mystical experiences.

      >>>So the question becomes IS this gnosis event and experience or not.
      Most seem to say that it is. So who defines a word and with what
      authority do they do so?<<<

      Anyone has authority to define a word however they wish, the question
      then becomes whether they communicate by doing so. We are trying to
      talk about the concept in a rather specific format that is defined by
      the academic category called "Gnosticism".

      >>>I have read the codecies form which Gnosticism derives and these
      people cetanily sounded to me that they were talking of some deeep
      inner esoetic experience; and which is just another name for mystical
      experience and which is common today.<<<

      I have no doubt they do. The quesiton is whether that is the whole
      picture, or just part of it. BTW, esoteric is not the same as
      mystical. I understand many people use the terms to mean the same
      thing, but this forum tries to deal with subjects on a deeper and more
      technical level than the casual speaker generally would. I think the
      term "esoteric" would probably be more accurate in describing "Gnosis".

      >>>Also, could I be so bold (later) to offer a few quotes form the Nag
      Hammadi Codices and get your opinion as to whether they are genuine
      Gnostic sayings from people who had undergone what, in the Western
      World, became known as Gnosis.<<<

      Not only can you be so bold, but it would be very helpful. I fully
      encourage you to give examples of what you mean. In fact, for some
      things we generally demand that they are backed up with examples from
      Gnostic texts (unless we assume everyone here is aware of some
      examples). I am sure you can produce examples from Gnostic texts that
      talk about an experience of sorts... and I think I can then augment
      them with examples from the texts that demonstrate we cannot
      reduce "Gnosis" to one single attribute out of a number of important

      I don't mean to imply that the sources you are reading are wrong, but
      just that perhaps they are partial. I would level the same criticism
      towards Jonas for reducing "gnosis" to a function of cosmology and
      world view. Is the understanding of the cosmology "Gnosis" in the
      ancient usage of the term? We can sure find many examples in the texts
      that do talk about this "gnosis", but I would say it is only one part.
      Again, I am not my arm. Reducing "Gnosis" to the mystical experience
      is no different than reducing it to cosmology. They are both part of a
      larger concept.

      If it helps, I also put a file up in our files section that sort of
      describes the attributes I am talking about.


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