Re: Chicken or Egg (and other layings and scratches)
- Hey Crispin...
>>>"hi PMCV... sorry for the late reply but i've been hangin' aroundanother "Gnostic" playground of late."<<<
Hey all HE IS CHEATING ON US! I hang around a few other Gnostic
groups myself, Crispin... including George's club (and obviously he
is a member here as well), which is the other big one on Yahoo. THe
differences in focus can be helpful.
>>>"and further, these markers would exist prior to the developmentof a uniquely Gnostic system; prior to a time when Gnosticism
Agreed. In the case of Gnosticism we can also identify the proto-
Gnostic movements, and trace many of the essential functions back a
good way. This includes the very notion of "Gnosis", which obviously
has some similarities with some other esoteric ideas of what we
could call "enlightenment", as well as some important differences.
>>>" its just that using the word "system" may lead some to imaginethat there might be a single method employed by the Gnostics for
individual developmental purposes; that what worked for Harry is
necessarily going to work for Sally."<<<
Well, I see your point. However, to some extent that is exactly what
the verious "Mystery" traditions did. I mean, you are right that
there was flexibility and change and difference.... but there was
also enough cohesion that we can outline very definitively a system.
A better analogy could be to medicine than child raising. Perhaps
the same antibiotic is not good for everyone who gets 'the clap',
but the prescription is still likely to be within a certain
framework of drugs. All the same, Gnosticism was certainly not seen
as being for everyone. On the contrary, it appears that some were
not allowed into the "system".
I believe perhaps we are saying the same thing, since you do make
the point of destinction between what a student may need vs what a
student may think they need. Nobody WANTS a shot in the arm (well,
most people anyway). On the other hand, not everyone who is a
teacher is able to compose a complete curriculum. There are levels
of teacherhood just as there are levels of studenthood.
>>>"yes. absolutely. for the Sufi its the content, not thecontainer, that takes priority."<<<
Well, perhaps, but the people I have talked with who were actually
practitioners from traditional groups that are generally known
as "Sufi" (and we have actually had a couple in this group in the
past) not seemed to agree with you. And, authors like Seyyed Hossein
Nasr don't seem to either. It is not that I necessarily disagree
with you, but that I will have to leave that debate between you and
them since it is not my field. Instead, I suppose I have to take
your point to mean that all esoteric paths are "Sufi", and that
would include Gnostics and the more mystically minded Freemasons,
whether or not they have ever studied "Sufism" or not.
If this is true, then "Sufism" is simply a wider category. What is
the difference then, in your view, between Sufism and Esotericism?
While I think various forms of Platonism certainly can fit within
virtually any western esoteric tradition (some scholors have called
it a "parasite"), and in fact it does exist as the core of Sufism,
Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and Gnosticism, I am not willing to go so far
as to equate the source of Platonism with the categories it creates.
In other words, in my usage, if you take the core out of Kabbalah
and fit it into another system it is no longer technically Kabbalah,
but instead it is the Platonic core in whatever new system we have
caused. I would say the same is true of Gnosticism. Sure the core
can fit elsewhere, and be effective, but when that core was placed
in a later Rabbinical Jewish framework I no longer call
it "Gnosticism" I call it Kabbalah. The core is important to the
definition (Both are Platonic), but so are the trappings (both are
not Gnosticism). The Gnostic texts themselves recognize this....
>>>"Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divertour thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who
hears the word "God" does not perceive what is correct, but
perceives what is incorrect. So also with "the Father" and "the Son"
and "the Holy Spirit" and "life" and "light" and "resurrection"
and "the Church (Ekklesia)" and all the rest - people do not
perceive what is correct but they perceive what is incorrect, unless
they have come to know what is correct. The names which are heard
are in the world [...] deceive. If they were in the Aeon (eternal
realm), they would at no time be used as names in the world. Nor
were they set among worldly things. They have an end in the Aeon.
But truth brought names into existence in the world for our sakes,
because it is not possible to learn it (truth) without these names.
Truth is one single thing; it is many things and for our sakes to
teach about this one thing in love through many things. The rulers
(archons) wanted to deceive man, since they saw that he had a
kinship with those that are truly good. They took the name of those
that are good and gave it to those that are not good, so that
through the names they might deceive him and bind them to those that
are not good. And afterward, what a favor they do for them! They
make them be removed from those that are not good and place them
among those that are good. These things they knew, for they wanted
to take the free man and make him a slave to them forever."<<<
The destinctions are in one way false, but in another way they are
>>"however, can we say, unequivocally, that some Gnostics did notmove on or evolve into new cultures and times without the obvious
trappings of Christian Gnosticism (which might reasonably lead to
their harsh persecution). in order for this to be so we would have
to imagine that every accomplished Gnostic was destroyed or scared
into dropping the idea of transmitting the abilities of "knowing
one's self, knowing the spiritual realm." this idea of absolute
destruction and/or abandonment seems pretty silly to me. just as
some Gnostics had the good sense to avoid martyrdom when given the
choice, i think we can give at least some of them credit for moving
into the shadows and adjusting the container without losing the
I think this outline is far to simplistic to deal with the large
scale attempt to censor a culture or belief system. What I mean is,
there were Gnostics of the time who surely made many different
choices as to how to deal with the situation in different ways, and
maybe even differently at different times. Unlike the ravening
Ignatius, it does seem that historical Gnostics were not running
towards death in order to proove conviction and faith. When dealing
with the question, it seems that most of them simply figured why not
light a candle to Jupiter for the Emporor, it isn't a real God
anyway and he doesn't seem smart enough to know any better.
On the other hand, some did die. Rather than to prove faith, though
(since faith is not salvation in Gnosticism, it would make no
logical sense to die for it), it seems to me to be something more
akin to the Buddhists who have quietly burned themselves on the
streat to protest the threats of death against them. Sort of
a "fine, it is not my body anyway". While I have wonderment at this
sort of thing, it is true that the effect of this on public opinion
was pretty profound (and at least they did this without taking a bus
full of kids with them).
Generally speaking though, it seems that Gnostic thinking did merge
with other movements (some have even theorized that this is where
Sufism came from, but I have my doubts)... but this tactic did not
always work. Even non-Gnostic groups like the Manichaeans were still
destroyed in spite of the fact that they would deny being a
Manichaean when faced with death. Doing this can actually help
destroy the movement though it seems on the surface to do otherwise.
Christains died all the time while the Gnostics did not, and yet
which group survived?
All I am saying is, I agree with your general thoughts on martyrdom,
but I think from our armchairs we should consider the motivations of
various historical personages with a bit of seperation and lack of
assumption as to what causes an idea to survive in the midst of
certain social and political climates of a past era.... at least not
in a simplistic way.