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Re: Gnosticism and Darwin

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  • Mike Leavitt
    Hello pmcvflag ... My mind is going, I should have remembered that. Regards -- Mike Leavitt ac998@lafn.org
    Message 1 of 20 , Mar 7, 2005
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      Hello pmcvflag

      On 03/08/05, you wrote:

      >
      >
      > Hey Mike....
      >
      >>>> "Did evolution as a concept even exist at the time of the
      > Gnostics?"<<<
      >
      > Interestingly, it did. In fact, it predates Gnosticism and existed
      > all the way back in the time of the pre-Socratics (Anaximenes, for
      > instance). I think most people today think of "evolution" as a
      > completely modern concept that simply sprang into being. While it is
      > true that the Greek and Latin philosophers that talked about the
      > notion of evolution did not have all the evidence to work through,
      > bones, genetics, etc., but the basic concept was still there.

      My mind is going, I should have remembered that.

      Regards
      --
      Mike Leavitt ac998@...
    • pmcvflag
      Hey Gich You wrote..... ... I read many, many years ago that one should not use analogies when trying to prove a point. They lead to confusion, muddled
      Message 2 of 20 , Mar 8, 2005
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        Hey Gich

        You wrote.....

        >>>"Hey PMCV

        I read many, many years ago that one should not use analogies when
        trying to prove a point. They lead to confusion, muddled thinking
        and incorrect conclusions. I'm afraid your 'solar power -
        psychology' analogy does not help me at all.

        When you write '.... to some extent your question sort of goes
        against the point of evolutionary theory and the point of
        Gnosticism' I'm afraid I don't agree. You seem to view the two
        topics as completely disjoint but In my attempts to understand the
        gnostic idea of the 'inner spark' the theory of evolution looms
        large. Perhaps my other post on this subject clarifies my
        confusion."<<<

        I completely agree with you that analogies are an imperfect medium.
        Unfortunately they are sometimes what we have to fall back on when
        something gets difficult to explain. In fact, allegory, metephor,
        analogy, parable, these are all core methodologies in traditional
        Gnostic texts. Which means, without dealing with these methods we
        cannot hope to understand the Gnostic texts as they were intended to
        be understood. Our only other recourse is to take them literally.
        Are you taking them literally when you read them?

        However, understanding then that I did not make my point very well,
        may I point out that Cari and Crispin also answered you saying the
        same thing that I did only in different ways. Perhaps they were a
        bit more clear.... I don't know because you didn't respond to either
        of them. I can only go by your answer to me.

        Maybe it is simply a matter of us talking about different things.
        Let me then ask you a question that may help me to understand
        exactly where you are coming from with your question. Can you point
        out any specific Gnostic texts that in your view either seem to
        imply or deny the possibility of physical evolution? I mean, is
        there something in the text that made this seem important to
        reconcile physical evolution with spiritual evolution?

        Let me point out, again just for context, that the Gnostic texts
        really don't deal with physicality so much other than to simply deny
        that physicality is so serious in the spectrum of spiritual
        existance.

        Since the Gnostic story of how the "inner spark" came to be part of
        our human existance is not necessarily meant to be taken at face
        value (and we can't assume that all people actually have this
        spark), we are really left with a problem as to how to compare it to
        something that IS literal... i.e., evolution. The only way to do
        that would be to try and make the Gnostic cosmogeny literal as well.

        So, as you can see part of the reason it may look like you are not
        getting a straight answer may be simply that we are not on the same
        page in our subject matter. What are your observations on this
        possibility?

        PMCV
      • eyeambetty
        Hello Cari, ... it seems like the question of literal vs mythical interpretation is something that many of us struggle with, especially newcomers, like myself
        Message 3 of 20 , Mar 9, 2005
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          Hello Cari,


          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
          wrote:

          > Now, of course, caution should be taken in remembering that this is
          > mythology, metaphor. The esoteric nature of Gnosis doesn't suit a
          > black and white literal approach.


          it seems like the question of literal vs mythical interpretation is
          something that many of us struggle with, especially newcomers, like
          myself to Gnosticism.
          i've actually been grappling with understanding the function of myth
          for the last couple of months, specifically the function of Gnostic
          myths.
          i came across some passages in a book i've been reading, "The History
          of Gnosticism" by Giovanni Filoramo (one of the best books i've read
          thus far on Gnosticism), that were very insightful.
          under the heading "The Nature of Gnostic Myth" it reads:

          "The mythological revival of the Gnostics is not an isolated
          phenomenon and cannot be explained simply by means of oriental
          influences. If it is true that the mythological material on which
          Gnostic thinkers work derives from the available religious traditions
          of diverse provenance, it is equally true that they generally
          transform them, endowing them with new meanings. And if it is true
          that Gnostic myths are myths in their own right because they are the
          basis of the realities of this world, because of their particular
          narrative form, the structure of their underlying thought and their
          characteristic richness and varied symbolic value, it is equally true
          that their content is not unrelated to history. In other words, as
          structural analysis has shown, myth as the manifistation of primitive
          thought posseses an independent form of expression, which prevents it
          from being reduced to the level of a mere mirror of reality or an
          aetiological explanation. At the same time, above all in literate
          societies, it cannot be attributed solely to a combinatory mechanism
          endowed with a particular logic removed from the influence of
          historical changes. Gnostic myth thus no longer relates the
          activities of gods separate from humankind , but only those of that
          original Anthropos(human being), from whom individual anthropos, or
          humans are descended through fragmentation, and dispersal. The change
          of emphasis is decisive and betrays the centrality that reflection on
          humankind has acquired.

          In this respect Gnostic myth has only one predecessor: ancient
          Orphism. This was a religion of the book, inspired by holy scriptures
          from which it derived its doctrines and purificatory practices. These
          scriptures contain and transmit a mythical story of Dionysus'
          assasination by the Titans- in a form that reverses the view of
          traditional mythology of the type recorded by Hesiod. If the mythical
          account in the "Theogony" develops, as it does, from the indistinct
          to the distinct, from the void to the full, from chaos to cosmos,
          from atemporality to the affirmation of a chronos, or time, the
          Orphic myth is inspired by a contrasting aim to explain, to justify
          itself and at the same time to establish the passage from an initial
          ontological plenitude to the existential void of the present. In this
          way the Orphics seem to condemn the traditonal mythical structures
          that are used to affirm the primacy of existence and to guarantee
          hierarchies and equilibrium between humankind and gods, and
          consequently within humankind itself."

          "Gnostic mythology also adopts this reverse perspective as the result
          of its own radical dualism. It is now a matter of understanding,
          intuiting and reliving the origianl drama, the initial situation that
          provoked the rise, the establishment and triumph of evil, an evil
          that now has acquired an ontological toughness and substance. This
          cosmos is incurable and must be rejected. Myth thus acquires the
          functions of salvation. It describes the way of salvation, reminding
          the Gnostic of his true origins and showing him how to escape from
          the cosmos. But above all, like all myth, that of the Gnostics is
          essentially a story of origins: there lies the key of all that one
          thinks one possesses. But the 'origins' of the cosmos coincide with
          the pouring forth of Being, a Being that is the Anthropos, for the
          human has now become the predicate of the divine. The manifestation
          of God to himself: this is at the heart of the myth, that seeks
          access, like all theosophy, to the mystery of that first throb of
          Being, that initial moment, that original conflagration from which
          the pleromatic universe would emerge.

          And this manifestation can only take place through the medium of the
          imperfect narrative that pertains to the era of myth.
          As "Geschichte", or history, a sucession of archetypal events that
          proceed from plenitude to deficiency in order to establish and
          thereby explain it, this divine self-manifestation cannot be
          described in logical and discursive terms. In the heart of the
          individual Gnostic it takes shape as an individual process, which is,
          however, at the same time a moment in a more general process and thus
          in that same manifestation of God to himself. the mythological
          narrative form is thus the only channel, the necessary bridge between
          Being and its becoming.

          On the screen of imaginary myth of the Gnostic thus projects divine
          events and exiles that to the modern interpreter can appear only as
          stages in the search for a new identity, the attempt to refashion a
          different basis for a conception of the individual in crisis, to
          which the underlying logos of the Gnostic mythos is striving to
          restore to its origianl and archetypal unity.

          Gnostic mythological accounts reveal a profound cultural
          transformation. The Gnostics'is a conscious and reflected mythology.
          Using pre-existing material, the Gnostic shuffles them round and
          gives them a new task and purpose both profound and original: by
          penetrating the divine mystery to circumscribe and to clarify the
          same mystery of humankind."

          i hope this might be helpful to some...

          take care, betty
        • lady_caritas
          ... is ... a ... myth ... History ... read ... traditions ... [...] ... mythology. ... Betty, thank you. The passages you quoted were most appropriate to our
          Message 4 of 20 , Mar 9, 2005
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            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "eyeambetty" <eyeambetty@y...>
            wrote:
            >
            >
            > Hello Cari,
            >
            >
            > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
            > wrote:
            >
            > > Now, of course, caution should be taken in remembering that this
            is
            > > mythology, metaphor. The esoteric nature of Gnosis doesn't suit
            a
            > > black and white literal approach.
            >
            >
            > it seems like the question of literal vs mythical interpretation is
            > something that many of us struggle with, especially newcomers, like
            > myself to Gnosticism.
            > i've actually been grappling with understanding the function of
            myth
            > for the last couple of months, specifically the function of Gnostic
            > myths.
            > i came across some passages in a book i've been reading, "The
            History
            > of Gnosticism" by Giovanni Filoramo (one of the best books i've
            read
            > thus far on Gnosticism), that were very insightful.
            > under the heading "The Nature of Gnostic Myth" it reads:
            >
            > "The mythological revival of the Gnostics is not an isolated
            > phenomenon and cannot be explained simply by means of oriental
            > influences. If it is true that the mythological material on which
            > Gnostic thinkers work derives from the available religious
            traditions
            > of diverse provenance, it is equally true that they generally
            > transform them, endowing them with new meanings.
            >
            [...]

            > Gnostic mythological accounts reveal a profound cultural
            > transformation. The Gnostics'is a conscious and reflected
            mythology.
            > Using pre-existing material, the Gnostic shuffles them round and
            > gives them a new task and purpose both profound and original: by
            > penetrating the divine mystery to circumscribe and to clarify the
            > same mystery of humankind."
            >
            > i hope this might be helpful to some...
            >
            > take care, betty


            Betty, thank you. The passages you quoted were most appropriate to
            our discussion.

            It also further emphasizes that various "pre-existing material"
            didn't force or determine some kind of experience in eclectic,
            shallow fashion, but rather was employed in original manner as a
            means of expression for a very unique, profound human understanding.


            Cari
          • Gerry
            ... That title has been on my wish list for some time now. Each time I see passages from that book taken out of context elsewhere on the Net, I end up wishing
            Message 5 of 20 , Mar 9, 2005
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              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "eyeambetty" <eyeambetty@y...>
              wrote:
              > [...]
              >
              > i came across some passages in a book i've been reading, "The
              > History of Gnosticism" by Giovanni Filoramo (one of the best books
              > i've read thus far on Gnosticism), that were very insightful....





              That title has been on my wish list for some time now. Each time I
              see passages from that book taken out of context elsewhere on the
              Net, I end up wishing I had a copy of it right in front of me (so I
              could hit someone over the head with it, if nothing else!). Now
              you've piqued my curiosity even further.

              And I still haven't managed to get a copy of Mead's _Fragments of a
              Faith Forgotten_. I did locate one recently at a bookseller's in
              Richmond and have tried to talk myself into the drive up there to
              check out the condition of it. I may wait a while longer; I've also
              noticed that Dover is coming out with a new edition (in just a couple
              days) on his "Pistis Sophia," so I may be able to maximize my spree
              if I wait a bit.

              Gerry
            • pmcvflag
              Hey Gich I have not read the book by Harris that you mention, so I have no idea how accurate it may or may not be. I ll limit my observations to dealing with
              Message 6 of 20 , Mar 9, 2005
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                Hey Gich

                I have not read the book by Harris that you mention, so I have no
                idea how accurate it may or may not be. I'll limit my observations
                to dealing with your observations... if that is ok.

                >>"I am taking literally the idea of 'the inner spark', 'the divine
                within'. It seems to me to be a fundamental part gnosticism."<<

                I think we would all agree here, Gich, that this is something meant
                to be taken literally. However, it does not follow that the method
                by which it comes into the individual is meant literally. BTW, I
                also thought I would point out that this spiritual aspect to the
                human pneumatic is not always described as being "within". On the
                contrary, it is sometimes talked about as something out there,
                above, that we can ascend to or connect with. Consider the many
                passages dealing with the "consort" or sometimes the "twin". This is
                the spiritual spark, but it obviously is not described in these
                cases as being an "inner spark".

                >>>"My problem regarding evolution is that I could not 'see' how sub-
                humans could possibly have a pneumatic component (inner spark) and
                so fit into the gnostic system. However I now think my difficulty
                has been resolved...."<<<

                I think I see what you mean there a bit better now. let me deal with
                this at the same time as what you say next....

                >>>"So ALL humans (whether sub- or not) possess the 'inner spark'
                but not ALL will be saved because salvation requires considerable
                personal spiritual effort (which presumably the sub-humans were
                never capable of) together with Divine intervention!!"<<<

                Ok, consider this passage for a minute....

                "For he who is ignorant, is deficient, and it is a great deficiency,
                since he lacks that which will make him perfect."

                While this particular text does talk about being called by
                the "Father" in much the way you describe, it by no means assumes
                that we all have that ability to gain Gnosis, or that spiritual
                spark.

                Anyway, what you said about the spark and "sub" humans would apply
                to animals and one celled organisms as well. By the reasoning you
                present you would not only have to worry about the spark in humans,
                but also the spark in animals, plants, even one celled algea in the
                ocean. When did this spark descend? At what point did we
                become "human" and were is the line between us and other animals?

                But what is the point of that? Why do proto-humans have to fit into
                the Gnostic system? Why do mushrooms need to be saved? Remember, one
                cannot find pnuematicism without first reaching the psychic level.
                It would seem to fit MORE into the notion of evolution to not assume
                that early people had yet attained this function.

                >>"So the Divine will choose!!"<<<

                In Gnosticism, it is questionable as to what we could mean
                by "Divine". The First Father? It doesn't "choose" anything. The
                Second Father? Maybe, there does seem to be more of a notion
                of "divinity" and will attached to it even though it is infinite.
                The Logos or the Sophia? This seems the more likely when talking
                about divine human interaction. But when many people use the
                word "Divine" they really mean the Demiurge. You can see why the
                lingo you chose can look a little vague in this particular
                situation. Perhaps for the sake of clerity in dealing with the very
                specific and subtle Gnostic motifs we should try to use the Gnostic
                lingo. I think that will help our communication.

                PMCV
              • Tsharpmin7@aol.com
                hi PMCV... i m very much in the habit of using the divine yet i never intend for it to be mistaken for the Demiurge. when i use the divine i m
                Message 7 of 20 , Mar 9, 2005
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                  hi PMCV... i'm very much in the habit of using "the divine" yet i
                  never intend for it to be mistaken for "the Demiurge."  when i use
                  "the divine" i'm generally referring to that ineffable source of  life,
                  light and perception that, i suppose, most people call God.  since
                  there are multiple Gnostic mythologies/cosmogonies, some of
                  which had much less flattering opinions of the Demiurge than
                  others, what are you suggesting we use as a source for our
                  nomenclature here?  this looks like it could get pretty sticky
                  without a sizable consensus amongst us.  i'm willing to seriously
                  consider anything you have to offer.  i'm pretty flexible with this
                  sort of thing.
                   
                  your friend,
                   
                  Crispin Sainte III
                  _______________________________________________________
                  _______________________________________________________
                   
                  In Gnosticism, it is questionable as to what we could mean
                  by "Divine". The First Father? It doesn't "choose" anything. The
                  Second Father? Maybe, there does seem to be more of a notion
                  of "divinity" and will attached to it even though it is infinite.
                  The Logos or the Sophia? This seems the more likely when talking
                  about divine human interaction. But when many people use the
                  word "Divine" they really mean the Demiurge. You can see why the
                  lingo you chose can look a little vague in this particular
                  situation. Perhaps for the sake of clerity in dealing with the very
                  specific and subtle Gnostic motifs we should try to use the Gnostic
                  lingo. I think that will help our communication.

                  PMCV
                • pmcvflag
                  Say Crispin, what you said here confused me a little.... ... never intend for it to be mistaken for the Demiurge. when i use the divine i m generally
                  Message 8 of 20 , Mar 9, 2005
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                    Say Crispin, what you said here confused me a little....

                    >>>"i'm very much in the habit of using "the divine" yet i
                    never intend for it to be mistaken for "the Demiurge." when i use
                    "the divine" i'm generally referring to that ineffable source of
                    life, light and perception that, i suppose, most people call God."<<<

                    The very point of the "Demiurge" is to point out a problem with what
                    most people call "God". Jews, Christians, Muslems, even atheists...
                    they all worship the Demiurge in one way or another. Animists, and
                    various tribal religions the world over, some forms of Buddhism
                    (though perhaps not other forms) and so on, many of them worship the
                    Demiurge. Perception is a function of the Demiurge, as is life on
                    this Earth.... at least according to the Gnostic sources. What most
                    people the world over call "God" is, in fact, the Demiurge. Can you
                    see where my confusion is coming from? At one moment you say you are
                    not talking about the Demiurge, and in another moment you seem to
                    say you are.

                    In Gnosticism the "Source" is more than just "infinite"
                    or "ineffable"... in fact there are three types of infinity... but
                    the Gnostic source is truely apophatic.

                    >>>"since there are multiple Gnostic mythologies/cosmogonies, some of
                    which had much less flattering opinions of the Demiurge than others,
                    what are you suggesting we use as a source for our nomenclature
                    here? this looks like it could get pretty sticky without a sizable
                    consensus amongst us. i'm willing to seriously consider anything
                    you have to offer. i'm pretty flexible with this sort of thing."<<

                    Ah, good point Crispin. I should have made my intent more clear. All
                    I really meant to say is that we should make clear when we are
                    talking about the First Father, the Second Father (Barbelo), the
                    later Aeons (Sophia and Logos), or the Demiurge. Whether we wish to
                    put a positive or negative spin on the Demiurge is really not so
                    important, I only wish for us to all make clear when we are talking
                    about one of these four basic forms of "Divine" at any particular
                    moment so that we know which page we are on at that specific time.
                    Since we are talking about Gnosticism, maybe we should use the
                    language of Gnosticism rather than personal terms.... just so that
                    we understand each other. See what I mean?

                    I have been absolutely beat down in other "Gnostic" groups for
                    suggesting this, but I honestly think that it is simply logical
                    (.....Logos) that we should use a common language to talk about
                    these things. I think that the "Gnostic" language is the obvious one
                    we should stick to here.

                    PMCV
                  • pmcvflag
                    Hey Gich... ... Sorry to be picky but could you define apophatic ? Gich
                    Message 9 of 20 , Mar 10, 2005
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                      Hey Gich...

                      >>>"Hey PMCV
                      Sorry to be picky but could you define "apophatic"?
                      Gich"<<<

                      Sure, the term "apophatic" refers to a theological understanding in
                      which the divine source is so completely and absolutely infinite
                      that it can not be described using any attributes. Instead it is
                      described in a way known as the "via negativa", which is to say it
                      is described in negatives. This is because anything you can talk
                      about is a measurement. If we say "God is good" then we have given
                      god an atribute, but Gnostics do not believe that the true spirit
                      exists within the field of time, so it has no attributes that the
                      mind can understand. This is why you will see in a number of Gnostic
                      texts a long list dealing with what the true spirit is not. It looks
                      something like this...

                      "The source is not large, nor small, neither good nor evil, not
                      light nor dark, itt does not think or will, nor see nor hear, nor
                      have any thing that we can understand"

                      Sometimes you will then see an aditional note that explains that we
                      may call it "good" or talk about its "will" only because we need
                      some kind of language to talk about it.

                      This is what "apophatic theology" is.

                      You also ask me to provide links to "Gnostic" groups that are not
                      related in any way to traditional Gnostic thought. Here is one in
                      specific for those here who feel they would better enjoy that kind
                      of environment....

                      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GnosticGathering/

                      PMCV
                    • pmcvflag
                      Gich.... ... almost a perfect description of how I have felt most of my life, not that I m claiming to be particularly righteous. I have never been able to
                      Message 10 of 20 , Mar 10, 2005
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                        Gich....

                        >>>"The righteous feel estrange­ment in the world!! Wow! This is
                        almost a perfect description of how I have felt most of my life, not
                        that I'm claiming to be particularly righteous. I have never been
                        able to discuss philosophy or religion with anybody until I
                        discovered this gnostic cyber domain!"<<<

                        Well, I don't know that I would call Gnosticism "Apocolyptic" as the
                        word is commonly used, but I do think you would be interested to
                        note that one of the Nag Hammadi books is actually called "The
                        Stranger" or "The Alien". The Gnostics of old did not consider
                        themselves to belong here in material existance.

                        >>>"This implies that there are gnostic systems which DO NOT give
                        prominence to the redeemer and his mission! I'm hoping this will be
                        clarified later in the book but do you know what systems are
                        referred to and, if so, I would appreciate your comments on these
                        non-redeemer systems."<<<

                        Even the Gnostics that DO give an important role to the "redeemer"
                        or "Soter" do so primarily as an example. Gnostics did not believe
                        Jesus died for our sins. The mission of the "redeemer" is our own
                        mission, and everyone who gains Gnosis becomes that savior.

                        However, as you point out there are Gnostic texts that really only
                        mention this in passing. I believe what Harris is talking about here
                        is Sethian Gnosticism. In this form it is Seth, not Jesus, that is
                        given the role of bringing Gnosis into the world. Again, it is the
                        teachings not the teacher, and usually Seth is not really much of a
                        focus the way Jesus tends to be in the Christian texts.

                        PMCV
                      • janahooks
                        ... important and you ... Gich, I was looking for info on that earlier this week. All I ve had time for right now is to read the Valentinian version that is
                        Message 11 of 20 , Mar 18, 2005
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                          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "gich morgan" <gich2@b...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Hey PMCV.
                          >
                          > In my studies the concept of the "divine twin" seems to be
                          important and you
                          > say something about this in this old posting.

                          Gich, I was looking for info on that earlier this week. All I've had
                          time for right now is to read the Valentinian version that is
                          contained in a link that Gerry put in the links section. I think it
                          says *Valentinus and Valentinian tradition*. Last link on the page.
                          jana
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