Re: Limited reading, have questions
- Hello, all,
Well, looks like I found time to post and think afterall.
Many people have stated many things. I will address them in no
Ange stated: "I would argue that the Deity (and indeed, all things
spiritual) exist outside of time, for time is something every
physics student can manipulate using any particle accelerator.
makes no sense to think that God could be constrained by time."
I agree, Ange, that God is not constrained by time. That is exactly
why I was shocked to read on gnosis.org that, and I paraphrase, the
Unknown Father released his substance and, somehow, it (His
substance) "underwent unwholesome changes that eventually led to the
birth of an intermediate deity".
I admit that my reading filtered through a conception of an
Ontological God as the most perfect thing possible. In Perfection
everything ceases, nothing changes, and the Perfect thing is wholly
immutable. A God whose substance does not decay, even when
separated from the "Pleroma", is more perfect that a God whose
substance does, in fact, decay. That is why I saw a problem with
it. My question about the fruit seed was a metaphorical way of
addressing this issue. But it seems, judging from the many
responses to my questions, that there are many differing conceptions
of God working in Gnosticism. I'll try to be more specific in the
Ange also stated:
"I'm probably not the best one to speak on the subject of the
traditional Gnostic philosophies. For one think I don't feel that
the material world is inherently unworthy or inferior."
I agree that the material world is not inherently unworthy or
inferior. I wasn't aware that one could be a Gnostic while
upholding such a belief, though. The reason for this, uhh,
misunderstaning(?) is that I am terribly under-read and ill-
informed, it seems, with regard to what precisely Gnosticism means.
I have always understood it as a belief that a bumbling fool created
the world without the 'real' God's authority or permission, and that
he fouled up bigtime, and that we ought to appeal to the 'real' God
rather than the intermediate one (hence, let's have huge orgies to
piss off the intermediate God for telling us not to be lechers).
But I have recently learned, due in no small part to "PMCV", that
there have been many, many differing Gnostic traditions throughout
history, and that many of them are not in agreement. But I should
have known better than to have such a limited view, especially in
light of my ignorance on the subject.
PCMV also clarified a few things about the vision of this group. I
was under impression that you are all Gnostics, uphold the ideology,
et cetera. But there are many people here just inquiring in
general -- historians, philosophers, Gnostics, et cetera. A useful
bit of information, that. Again, I should have read more about this
group before making such assumptions.
PCMN, and others, pointed out the difficulty of discussing the
Gnostic God, or any conception of God, due to the limitations of
language. Agreed. Difficult, indeed! In my view, attempting to
articulate God at all is completely futile for this very reason.
All our knowledge arises out of experience, and this experience is
mediated through space and time. God is not limted by such things,
and therefore all attempts to 'pin him down' will fail. But I
thought I had been using the Gnostic's conception of a Godhead --
again, various traditions, etc -- and tried to engage Gnosticism
with my belief about God's immateriality (is that a word?) in
I'm not even sure, it seems, what the hell Gnosticism is. I don't
have any intention on becoming one -- never did, actually. Just
curious and interested in religious studies and philosophy of
relgion, etc., not that this information is at all relevant.
I am curious, PCMV, to see how Aristotle's idea of an "unmoved
mover" was adopted by Gnosticism. I find that discussing this right
now is extremely difficult, given that I do not even seem to know
what Gnosticism means.
"First, the Unknown Father is not necessarily part of the Pleroma. In
some texts the Pleroma pours out from a source called the "Invisible
Spirit", or also called the "Second Father". Is it possible that you
have confused the two "Fathers" as one?"
It is very possible, and highly likely, that I have confused the
two. The "invisible spirit" issue seems to clear it up, and
provides a nice loophole for the problem of the "unknown father's"
seeming immutability: put him behind the "Pleroma", call
him "unknown", and any arguments against Gnosticism are cleared,
i.e., all attempts to define and limit Him fail because He is bound
by nothing, et cetera.
"On the other hand, why must it's nature [a spider] be
dependant on the death of others?"
It cannot and should not be dependent on the death of others. I was
under the impression that Gnostic's believe that the design of the
universe is flawed and imperfect because humans experience
suffering. But I seem to be confusing Manicheism (spelling) with
Gnosticism in general.
The existentialist issue seems to be irrelevant in this group. I'll
leave it at that. At any rate, I haven't read "Jonas" and am not
qualified to discuss him in any depth.
PCMV makes a good point that can, pretty much, apply to all of the
questions/issues that I have raised:
"In either case, you can't forward the
idea you present as definitively 'Gnostic'."
I'll try to be more mindful of that in the future.
"Nietzsche's point is about creating god in our image, and then
looking to it for salvation. His Zarathustra does not come close to
being a Gnostic... unless we reduce Gnosticism to a single shallow
and inacurate attribute."
But his Zarathustra does suggest that, at one point, he considered
something like a particular sect of Gnosticism as valid. I should
have added, however, that Zarathustra's use of Gnostic-like ideas
was only rhetorical, in particular when he suggests that, at one
point, he thought the Earth the "work of a suffering an imperfect
diety, smoke before the eyes of an imperfect creator...drunken joy
it is for the creator to create and look away from himself". He was
giving a speech and was only adopting the ideology as a foil, a
straw man, which he then attacked.
At any rate, some Gnostic sects, particularly those who despise the
Earth because it was supposedly created by an imperfect, foolish
being, do create God in their image -- namely, the image of a
foolish and ignorant human --, and thus Nietzche's little chapter
here in "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" does apply in some cases. But PCMV
acknowledges this when saying "unless we reduce Gnosticism to a
single, shallow and inacurate attribute." Noted.
According to my reading of Nietzche, all attempts to define God will
always fail, even those that do or do not anthropromorphize him, as
if it were a possibility for a human to do anything except
There has been much debate over Nietzche's supposed athiesm, and I
too see no reason to go into that now. But I really want to,
briefly. Do I think he was an Atheist? Irrelevant, considering our
conversation, sure. It will be enough for me to say I think we have
no reason to believe that he was an Athiest. His God could simply
be "beyond Good and Evil", et cetera. But who knows, right?
Doesn't matter, anyway.
That's all for now. Please forgive the lack of organization,
clarity, shallowness, et cetera.
--- In email@example.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@y...> wrote:
> Hey again Chuck
> >>>I do not understand how the "Father's" substance should become
> corrupt once separated from the original source or the "Pleroma",
> cetera. Surely, such is the mark of a being which does not
> transcend, as you say, all qualities, but rather one who is subject
> to change. The Gnostic's unknown "Father" seems to me to be just as
> mutable as anything.<<<
> First, the Unknown Father is not necessarily part of the Pleroma.
> some texts the Pleroma pours out from a source called
> Spirit", or also called the "Second Father". Is it possible that
> have confused the two "Fathers" as one?
> >>>This all seems to me like violence against life, bad conscience
> against the Earth, and hatred of the body. All decadent virtues.<<<
> That is, of course, exactly what the heresiologists of old accused
> the Gnostics of. It is a questionable observation, but one that
> hold. In fact, I think you will find that even some modern self
> styled "Gnostics" take that notion and run with it. Some modern
> philosophers who believed themselves to be historians have
> unfortunately added to the view. More recent scholorship has
> the supposed nihilism of the historical Gnostics into question.
> >>>1) Let us use the metaphor of a "spider" to represent all pain,
> agony, and suffering on the Earth. Why, then, should a spider's
> bite be considered evil; why should it be said to represent
> imperfection in the design of the Earth and the Universe, simply
> because it causes us to feel pain? What is the relation between
> pain, suffering, and imperfection? What, for that matter, is evil?
> In the Gnostic texts, "evil" is generally equated with ignorance.
> The question concerning the spider is not as straightforward as it
> may appear, since there are a host of concepts and contexts that
> lead up to it. For instance, the spider can't be faulted for
> out it's nature.. and obviously it can't be compared with a
> melevolence with intent. On the other hand, why must it's nature
> dependant on the death of others?
> Gnostics understood that language was problematic, and they very
> specifically meant various passages to be understood in their own
> context. We do have to be careful that we understand that the
> concept of "evil" can mean different things in different contexts.
> >>>2) This one is less a question than a comment intended to
> stimulate discussion and clarification of the Gnostic ideaology. I
> have noticed that a lot of those who call themselves Gnostics
> Sartre and Camus as, somehow, quasi-Gnostic. But don't each of
> these existentialists make a distinction that Gnosticism seems to
> You may see that in other groups, Chuck, but not here. There is
> specific philosopher, Jonas, who wrote a book long ago equating
> Gnosticism with Existentialism. He goes through his various
> for doing so, but modern historians generally discount this
> entirely. Yes, Jonas had some good things to offer the growing
> academic treatment of the subject, but some of his theories have
> seemed to hold up to more critical academic scrutiny (and he
> questions them himself later on so this is not an attack).
> This group does not deal with existentialism, only traditional
> >>>Both idealogoies agree, to be sure, that life is absurd,
> but the Gnostics seem to believe that the Universe or those behind
> it is/are actively cruel or imcompetent with regard to humanity,
> while the existentialists seem to think the Universe, as Camus has
> put it, has a "gentle indifference" towards humanity and "defies
> explanation" -- an explanation which the Gnostics believe is not
> denied us. There seem to be, then, two different definitions of
> the "absurd" working here, the one belonging to the existentialists
> and the other to the Gnostics.<<<
> Actually, Chuck, there is a range of historical Gnostic ideas
> concerning this subject. The Tripartite Tractate has the world
> created by the Logos... who is Good. Some Sethian texts, in stark
> contrast, seem to view the world and it's creator as outright
> idiotic. Even then, there are some who would argue that this is a
> literary divice more than a literal truth intended in the texts...
> but that is open to debate. In either case, you can't forward the
> idea you present as definitively "Gnostic".
> >>>Here is a link to a site which reproduces a section of
> Nietzche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." While it does not directly
> refer to Gnoticism, it clearly shows that, at one point,
> almost became a Gnostic, of sorts, but considered otherwise. Do
> know that I am not trying to convert any of you. Rather, I simply
> believe that such arguments must be dealt with before a mature
> conversion to Gnosticism, such as the one I am toying with. How
> would a Gnostic, typically, refute them? I ask because I cannot
> think of any valid arguments against them, though it would be nice
> to do so. The translation on this site is not the best (Kaufmann's
> translation is much better), but it will do<<<
> Nietzsche's point is about creating god in our image, and then
> looking to it for salvation. His Zarathustra does not come close
> being a Gnostic... unless we reduce Gnosticism to a single shallow
> and inacurate attribute. Rather he admonishes us to develope the
> critical "ego" in it's place. I know there has been much debate
> whether this implies Nietzche was atheist, but lets not go there.
> the end, one of the main points is to avoid anthropomorphism, and
> with this the Gnostics certainly agreed.
> Of course, the materialism Nietzsche expresses in the end is not
> something Gnostics would have agreed with. Not to say they
> have wanted to be healthy, they just would not have agreed that it
> is the point of life. I think they would have said a healthy mind
> a higher goal, and still higher than that is a healthy spirit. Let
> me point out now that most people who become interested in
> Gnosticism assume it is the same as the common meaning of the
> the Christian "spirit"... and it isn't.
- Hey David
>>>wow, your questions really sparked some thought in my head, Ineed to ask ya first. Did Early "Gnostics" really think and speak in
allegorical terms? Cause if so that may answer a lot but only open
more questions to debate. very good questions at that.<<<
Thanks, glad you liked the questions :) As Lady Cari states, there
is evidence in the original Gnostic writings for allegorical
hermeneutic. Part of the point I was trying to bring up was exactly
where this should be applied. In other words... Philip, the
Tripartite Tractate, and other texts state directly that there is
allegory (so there is no question on that front), but exactly where
and how it is applied is very open to discussion.
In this particular case, I was asking if you think that that
allegory extends to the notion of the Demiurge or not. Let me also
point out that the idea that something may literally be true does
not exclude the notion that it may have also been allegorical in
meaning. So.... where do you think this all fit in the original
intent of the Gnostic texts?