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8379Re: [Gnosticism2] Re: Messalians

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  • Terje Bergersen
    Oct 2, 2003
      Magusadeptus wrote:
      > Perhaps this will help clarify. Here is the source that prompted my
      > question about the Messalians:
      > " The occultation of ancient alchemy's theoretical component can be
      > partially explained by religious considerations. Alchemy, a sacred
      > art
      > in the Hellenistic East, employed the metal-tinting recipes as part of
      > a redemptive ritual. Thus it competed with the new redemptive god of
      > the Christians, who suppressed the alchemical texts. Despite
      > persecution
      > certain heretical Christian sects, particularly the Gnostics,
      > continued to
      > secretly practice the Sacred Art. It has recently been suggested that
      > the alchemical-technological recipes may have passed surreptitiously
      > into the West with Cathar missionaries. The Cathars, in turn, learned
      > the
      > recipes from the Messalians, a medieval Gnostic sect that is known to
      > have practiced the Sacred Art and to have preserved secret books from
      > antiquity. Other recipes may have come with migrating craftsmen who
      > had been in contact with one or another of these heretical sectsÂ…"
      > page 32, Science And The Secrets Of Nature, Books of Secrets in
      > Medieval
      > and Early Modern Culture, William Eamon, Princeton University Press.

      With regards to the excerpt:

      Are the means by which Alchemy is designated a "sacred art" qualified and
      explained in the book?
      Is it established, with textual (and I don`t mean a citation from another
      book of this kind.. ) evidence and groundwork,
      that Alchemy -as a sacred art- originates and is employed -to those ends-
      in Hellenistic antiquity?
      That question is quite interesting, if it is qualified,"proved" or proved
      probable, and given foundation - it is worth the chapter or the half -
      which is the usual contigent in books like these..

      Of course, Alchemy is a very specific topic to many readers of this list,
      while it is a general and tenuous one to many others...
      I get the impression that the simple definition used for "alchemy" here
      has to do with the doctrines concerning "refinement", which is to say -
      "perfection" - I have this quiet suspicion that very many, too many to
      list, in fact, of the religious and philosophical remnants of our past and
      passing civilizations (our culture is turning into static..beyond that
      threshold lays oblivion), traditions,movements,groups..religions - in some
      way employ intelligence,immagination,intuition and a collective and
      individual effort towards one or another kind of such "refinement".
      To demonstrate the idea behind such "refinement" (which incidentally is
      also just a barely workable metaphor) you could employ mental images,
      examples which is not the thing itself, or entirely representative as such
      - but which gives you an impression of what is at stake and if not the
      processes themselves, at least the fact of some kind of process being
      involved; one such would be the very primitive concern of what it takes to
      purify a metal - or distill something - or indeed, "produce gold". That`s
      everyday usage of the term "alchemy" - hard work and concentration to
      which is added a bit of genius, and a pinch of brimstone - produced
      brilliance, pure gold..

      The nature of the formula as claimed by the Messalian heretics (according
      to Theodoret among others) could remind one somewhat of the overblown and
      optimistic evaluations of certain
      philosophers,authors,artistes,socioanthropologists,psychologists and
      others.. concerning the effect of the "Psychedelic"; by "cleansing the
      doors of perception" - in the case of the messalians by way of "fire
      baptism" and ascetic and devotionary discipline - in the case of Huxley
      and other Psychedelic pioneers - by ingesting, "under the right set and
      setting", a substance - a true vision or appreciation of reality, not the
      collective and dull reality, but an expanded, "higher" reality - which to
      the Messalians included angels,spirits,gods and so forth .The "effect" of
      the discipline as cited by Theodoret almost suggest a shamanic direction..
      which isnt too uncommon among pietists - consider the trances and
      ecstasies of the early Quakers, the Shakers, the noncomformist communalist
      sects of the Taborians and their russian brethren the Dukhobors etc. all
      sharing a lifestyle and perspective which includes the ideal of
      "perfection" and the acquisition of the vision of heaven,angels etc.
      through ascetic discipline and contemplative prayer.

      All this is well and good, if it can be established that the doctrinal
      platform of for instance the Messalians or the Cathars - include an
      understanding of human divinity or consciousness of the divine,being
      increased by effort and technique; I`ll admit that we may very well
      combine two words -sacred- and -art-, but do we with those ingredients get

      I suspect the author of that book of really sincerely and perhaps even
      intensively studying what Titus Burkhardt had to say about Alchemy being
      an Sacred Art..but I also suspect,being a suspicious bastard.. that he
      runs off with it, reversing the relationships, so *any* "Sacred Art", as
      qualified by ourselves, becomes "Alchemy", and uses the two so much
      interchangeably. This is typical of so-called "popular occultists" and
      thats where I spot that assertion which includes or employs a "total
      unknown", which if partially "known" - like through the articles
      I cited in my last post, also is controversial.

      The cited authors casual accusation that Christianity, in general , of
      trying to obliterate a "science" or initiatory tradition, that really did
      not please me or impress me either ; considering that the Alchemical
      tradition were sustained in particularly two areas, one western and one
      eastern, and these were chiefly Christian and Islamic; The religious
      imagry/ideas that the author obliquely refers to in the excerpt -
      originates from these two, to which is added an almost necessary
      "Platonic" perspective on the relationship between a manifest,solid and
      muteable/manipulative/elastic constitution of matter/physicality - and a
      spiritual world of forms,"ideals",patterns and "powers" which
      inform,"sustains" and penetrates into the physical and sensual domains in
      which man, The Quintessence, finds himself immersed. This dependence of
      the Christian philosophers who employed themselves with or of Alchemy in
      one variety or another, upon Platonism,especially neo-platonism, is very
      much in evidence. From what we can gather it is highly probable that
      Thomas of Aquinas, a Docteur and Sainte of the Catholic Church, authored
      the Aurora Consurgens,
      which is a very curious document which, read by modern or probably
      contemporary eyes..However, if we inspect the Messalians and their
      Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox) counterparts
      in late antiquity, we find little evidence of that inspiration, nor
      dependence. We find the suggestion that matter is corrupt through sin, sin
      having brought about the presence of
      evil spirits within material containers and forms,in particular - human
      bodies; if these selfsame bodies are exorcised and purified, and kept in a
      state of "perfection", wherein
      the individual makes no bidding for his fate and desires nothing, being
      impassionate about anything but doing the will of God, they become vessels
      of light and of the Holy Spirit.
      This is quite comparable to the speculations and approach of the medieval
      Homines Intelligae, or the "Brethren and Sistren of the Free Spirit" -
      Their evaluation of the "base"
      stage of humanity, the state of being for the majority of humankind, and
      its foundation; sin - is similar to that of the Messalians, while it is
      quite different from the Cathars, because the latter, while divided
      between Traducianism (wherein the same psychological or "psychic"
      substance or persona is spread thin through the
      generations originating in Adam (and sometimes in Adam and Eve)) and the
      belief of the pre-existence of each individual soul as angels fallen or
      trapped into the condition
      of incarnation,human bodies - who employs the idea of a metaphysical
      cause: the fall of higher intelligences into Mutiny against God and the
      "First Creation" (which appears
      to me to be so dependant on Origenes Peri Archon (On First Principles)
      that they are practically "Origenists") but most dramatically: the flawed,
      rebellious, "wicked" creation
      of the physical universe, or at least the earth and its inhabitants
      physical forms. A "Biblical Demiurge" theme.

      With the Cathars we have an "ascension theme"; they seek liberation as the
      end of all ascetic and contemplative disciplines used on their path; the
      ritual of the Consolamentum are a formal seal
      which signify towards the exterior authorities (the "powers" or "archons")
      that they formally belong to the Church of God and endeavoured to give
      Caesar what is Caesar`s :
      their bodies, their birthright, their properties and so forth; as such,
      the body is not claimed from the possession of evil spirits, but in a very
      real sense consigned and given up to the world.
      With the Messalians we have chiefly a "perfection theme"; they seek a
      glorified deification of man as a physical creature, the role of the
      "elite" in a Manichaean and Cathar (here they are
      similar) setting is to "show the way", the role of the "elite" with the
      Messalians is kingship,domination and leadership - a theocracy - the body
      is claimed from the possession of evil
      spirits, purified, perfected and ..according to Epiphanius, allowed
      certain licenses which would theologically now befall the perfected soul,
      while in a state of imperfection, any pleasure
      would be considered the privilege of the devil, which of course had to be
      denied him. In addition, the perfected would expect to receive all gifts
      and abilities ascribed traditionally to such
      a condition and to the "gifts of the holy spirit".

      This difference of opinion upon the theme of Soma is quite significant,
      from the early 2nd century
      dissent and disagreement, even among those which historians treat as
      "Orthodox", have encrouched the question of the physicality or somatical
      nature of Jesus/Christ,
      the somatic or spiritual nature of Jesus resurrection and ascent (and
      death, as shown in the Docetic variant) as put against the expected
      physical or somatical "eternal abode/life"
      of the elect or the true christians, their possible resurrection, and
      "journey to heaven" - whether there is a temporal "rest" which some are
      consigned to, an eternal physical hell
      or an eternal physical paradise.. even if the anatomy of God the Father is
      a complete and actual physical and material analogue to the human, since
      the human is considered
      "the image of God". Of course, they would not use those struggling and
      failing terms; agreement over terminology took up quite a lot of the time
      as well, and even marching out
      as party or rebellious to one or another doctrinal Council, it doesnt
      appear that everyone got the same idea of what had been agreed upon.. The
      Messalians heresy would be
      declared as such, treated as such and very strongly argued against *after
      the disappearance of the heresy*, when the same ideas,practices and
      attitudes were discovered
      and treated in other movements...In the late middle ages. At that time -
      the more sophisticated and literate followers of such, *would* have an
      idea about Alchemy and other arts,
      and would adapt either their theology to its imagry,ideas and terminology
      - or vice versa. The "perfection theme" remains in a more socialized
      fringe than the "ascension theme"-
      the strongest "ascension theme" religion or movement, which is not
      violently fought and polemized against by the west - is actually
      non-Christian and non-western in origin and expression;
      It`s Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. The "perfection theme" in various kinds,
      also including the somatic view of the Messalians - you can find all over,
      but not particularized or put
      into a dogmatic body as such; Christian Science, New Thought, various
      trends of occultism including the so-called New Age - and yes, here we
      *do* find it conglomerated
      and synthetized with a symbology adapted from Alchemy.

      Pax Pleromae

      Terje Dahl Bergersen
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