9946Re: First Line of Questions, :)>
- Aug 2, 2004Hey Gavin, you bring up some very important points...
>>>"If Gnostic texts were a single, defined philosophy by a single (orclose-nit) group, then I might be more inclined to accept that
answer. I do take your point though."<<<<
Well, now, before you take my point... or leave it... maybe we should
talk about it a bit further to make sure it is understood. You are
very right to point out that "Gnosticism" was not a single group, or
even a close nit one, but I do not feel you are accurate to say that
it is not a "defined philosophy". What you say next brings the
subject up a bit more specifically.....
>>>"As this group has members with all sorts of reasons andmotivations for being here, I should probably explain mine briefly. I
am interested in Gnosticism mostly because I am a seeker after truth;
my interest is not purely academic. If I were a historian with no
interest in religous experience as such (that is, not seeking it
personally), then I would no doubt be content with the explanation
that Gnosis is whatever the Gnostic authors wrote about. Indeed, for
the purposes of discussion I can do that quite happily."<<<
While I am now the one to say "I take your point", let me point out
that the focus of this club is not simply specified "for the purpose
of discussion". You and I can both be seekers of truth, as you put
it, but unless you really do wish to go back to the notion
that "truth" is subjective (in which case, what is there to seek?),
then we do have to understand the intent of communications via which
we find our interest in truth piqued.
If we can't define what the word "Gnosis" means, we cant communicate
it... so once again the search be becomes a sham if we even take the
time to look at ANY ancient liturature or assume any communication.
What is the point of having a club dealing with the subject then?
>>>"However, the "spiritual" part of me, if I can get away with thatmetaphor here, is thinking, "hang on a minute, how do we know
this is a genuine expression of Gnosis and not just a nice, but
otherwise pointless, story?" Due to the variety of the Gnostic
authors, it seems like a reasonable question. Is Jung's Gnostic-
influenced text a genuine expression of Gnosis? What if I were to
write my own text? Of course, the question is irellevant from a
historical point of view--neither I nor Jung are or were classical
Gnostics as per this group's focus--but hopefully it makes a point.
What makes a text truly Gnostic?".....
You do a good job of bringing the question into focus here. Please
don't take this as patronistic (I have been accused of it when I
don't intend it at all), but, may I suggest that PERHAPS the very
question could come from a bit of unsurity as to what "Gnosis"
actually is? IF (an I emphasize the word "IF" so that you can feel
open to correct me if I do confuse your point here) there is a lack
of clarity as to the meaning of the word "Gnosis" in its traditional
usage, then one could seperate the historical point of view from the
multitude of possible usages of the word "Gnosis". Let me put it
another way.... We can absolutely say that Jung was not
technically "Gnostic", based on something like an era attribute in
the deffinition... but is it really THAT hard to know if he
expressed "Gnosis" (which is not the same question as whether or not
he HAD it)? Well, if the word "Gnosis" is well defined then we should
at least be able to look at some attributes. Does Jung express the
cosmology? More importantly, does Jung express the notion and
function of understanding in the same way? Please take note of the
difference here as to whether we are talking about "gnosis"
or "Gnosis". This is one of the reasons I was not sure about bringing
this destinction into the conversation. If you want to argue whether
he has some spiritual knowledge, that is one thing.... but not any
and all spiritual outlines really fit the term "Gnosis".
>>>"Is it simply having Gnostic themes? If that were so, some of themembers here could probably write a "Gnostic" scripture based on the
textual conventions of other scriptures. Apart from the minor (!)
issue of none of us being from the 2nd century, there would be no
reason not to give it that status. Unless, of course, I'm mising
something, some other criteria."<<<<<
Well, of course you do point out an historical point that we do deal
with here... HOWEVER.... may I also point out that it is easier to
copy motifs from mythologies than to present something that truely
continues to represent it's meaning. For instance, I have read many
copies, reworkings, and attempts to represent Dante's Divine Comedy.
While I am no expert, I know enough to see sometimes when an attempt
simply failes the depth of his meaning... it is not always to hard to
tell if the modern author doesn't understand what he is copying.
Likewise, if one reads a poem from some of the troubadours as
a "cognoscenti", one from the inside of the tradition, they can vey
quickly tell if another is presenting them from the outside....
>>>>"I'm not sure whether this question falls within the group'sfocus or not, but it's what motivated my earlier post. I'll try to
phrase it in a less personal-religious way: what are the criteria of
a text being Gnostic? Is it just a certain style and set of
conventions? Are there any disagreements about whether certain texts
are Gnostic, perhaps like the orthodox issues of the RC deutero
cannonical books or disputed letters of Paul?"<<<<
Gavin, your questions are quite on focus, so don't worry. Let me
answer your books backwards.
1) The dispute between the validity of Pauline texts is largely on a
pretty defined line between academic vs Christian observation. The so
called "Apocrapha" has a three way split, Catholic, vs Protestant, vs
Academic (which is tending to put them more in line with the Catholic
as time goes on). But the disagreements concerning what is "Gnostic"
is entirely academic concerning the focus of this club.
That is to say, while the term "Gnostic" may be argued on technical
grounds, we should not confuse that with the arguements amongst
laypersons which are generally based on ignorance of the origin of
the word itself.
On the academic front there is argument as to what is and is
not "Gnostic", but it is often very specific and really does not
detract from the over-all meaning as much as casual readers may
think. Are Manichaeans "Gnostic"? Well, I say no, some may say yes,
what we all agree is that they are at least a closely related group
that can help us in our understanding of the definition.
2) proceding from that is the question you ask concerning whether
Gnosticism is a set of conventions (or style) and exactly what the
Certainly to some extent, the answer is "yes".... if there are
criteria then something has "convention". I mean, does something that
is "Gnostic" automatically agree with every other tradition or belief
system on the face of the Earth? ABSOLUTELY NOT. As mike recently
pointed out, solipsism and Gnosticism are not reconcileable.
Syncratism should not be confused with ecclecticism, and in spite of
the fact that Gnosticism is quite open to other traditions from which
it is connected, and in a modern context, from which it may have
affinities, it does not mean that it is identical with any and every
philosophical bent. The criteria then are very specifically a
cosmological, and soteriological, outline.
If interperatation, meaning, as intended by the author, is understood
by the reader, the question of "Gnostic" meanings in the text may
become less difficult.
The most important criteria then, would be on the hermeneutic, which
may be subjective on some levels, but are objective on some levels as
well. If that sounds vague it isn't. I am willing to make the point
more specific if anybody wants.
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