It's finally time for me to ask a question that I've been pondering for a few months now, but until recently, I hadn't been able to locate the quote from a particular source that had left me scratching my head. Let me start with a little background on my query by mentioning a new book that I've been enjoying recently. I've long had a soft spot for the writing and translations of Marvin Meyer, and since we have dealt with the subject of Gnostic writings here as depicted in the popular culture, I figured I would find his new release, THE GNOSTIC DISCOVERIES: The Impact of the Nag Hammadi Library, both enjoyable and informative. In one of the sections outlining various schools of Gnostic thought, the author offers this description:
The gnostic system of Valentinus and the Valentinians resembles the Sethian school of thought to a considerable extent, but Valentinian thought has its own distinctive features. Valentinian gnosis is specifically Christian, and Valentinian Christians were thoroughly involved in the life of the church. Very likely they did not refer to themselves as Valentinians, but rather as devoted Christians . Typically, Valentinian Christians seem to have attended worship services with other Christians, read the Christian scriptures, and participated in the sacraments. Valentinian scholars studied the writings of the apostles John and Paul, and they produced their own letters, commentaries, sermons, and other learned and pious Christian works .
Valentinians also convened their own meetings in addition to the services of the churches they attended [emphasis added], and at their meetings they carried their Christian thought and practice beyond those of the great church to a deeper knowledge and a more mystical form of piety. (page 117118)
I suppose this is very similar to the understanding I had gleaned over the years from reading other sources on the subject. In my mind, a Valentinian congregation would have consisted of psychics and pneumatics, both attending basic services together, while the latter also met privately for the more esoteric functions. Although the following summary begins similarly to Meyer's, the second paragraph seemed to be at odds with the notion of joint fellowship:
A unique aspect of Valentinus's teaching is that he held out hope that ordinary Christians might attain to some kind of gnosis, or secret knowledge. So when he taught, he used those Scriptures that were accepted by the orthodox Christians as authentic. He recognized and offered the same sacraments as the larger Christian community. And as we've seen, he continued to be involved in the leadership of the churches. More than anyone else, Valentinus made it possible for gnostic Christians to remain part of the larger church as long as they did.
Still, secrecy was an important hallmark of Valentinian gnosticism. Valentinus' followers met separately from the rest of the church for instruction [emphases added]. This state of affairs was certainly uncomfortable for orthodox Christians. It took centuries to completely root out all of the Valentinian gnostics in the church. (J. Michael Matkin, The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Gnostic Gospels, page 42)
I guess I initially inferred from Matkin's comments that he was describing two separate services: one for pistics, and one for Gnostics. Now that I've found the quote again, I'm not sure that he's not simply pointing out the need for the pneumatics to meet privately for the more specialized "instruction" involved in their own initiatory ritesnot necessarily precluding them from also sitting alongside psychics during regular services.
If anyone else had some thoughts on the composition of Valentinian congregations, I'd be quite interested in other references you might provide.
- hello AA.... maybe these particular Wiccan and NewAge teachers you speak of need to develop the capacityto recognize those "empty containers" (I think of thetype of approach you described more as entertainmentand identity seeking) and turn them away at the doorbefore they waste everbody else's time and energy....unless, of course, as part of the teaching, thesemystical tourists are being made examples of. sometransformative traditions have this technique down toa virtual art form. its not as cruel or cold as it soundswhen to do so serves a higher purpose. which is notto say that the individual, whether they are turnedaway or made an example of, does not benefit atsome level.Your friend,Crispin Sainte IIIIn a message dated 1/26/2006 5:34:03 PM Central Standard Time, koalaKards@... writes:Hi,I don't know if this is Homer or Crispin's quote:"but imitating hand-me-down transformative traditionsin hopes of duplicating their highest accomplishmentsis pretty silly, yet it is the most common thing in theworld and few ever think twice about it. this may be abit of a cliche, but it really does boil down to containerand content; surface and depth. so if you canrecognize those who rely on the container; those whoappear to you to be empty vessels, you're way aheadof the game. and I believe you are!"I'm seeing this in Wiccan/New Age Community. Lots of wannabees they see Charmed and they look for people in the craft to teach "all that they know" then they consider themselves to be a High Priest/tess or in even New Age circles, Reiki Mastership in a weekend, or people calling themselves shaman after taking a single class just to say they are. I consider them to be "empty vessels". AA
Tsharpmin7@... wrote:hey Homer... you seem to have developed a prettymature and perceptive outlook regarding thesematters in a very short time. you're going to spareyourself a lot of wasted energy.some people approach traditional systems like Fredand Barney in the Flintstones cartoons approach theBuffalo Lodge: for its entertainment and social benefit.The secret handshakes are fun and its good to makefriends with a common interest and slip away fromthe mundane and routine. and there is nothing atall wrong with that as long you're not mistaking it forsomething higher.but imitating hand-me-down transformative traditionsin hopes of duplicating their highest accomplishmentsis pretty silly, yet it is the most common thing in theworld and few ever think twice about it. this may be abit of a cliche, but it really does boil down to containerand content; surface and depth. so if you canrecognize those who rely on the container; those whoappear to you to be empty vessels, you're way aheadof the game. and I believe you are!the use of specialized language, myth and allegorymay serve a very specific purpose when employed bythose who have already arrived where I think you wishto someday arrive, Homer. i think you'll understandthe way and why of it as you continue to study theancient Gnostics. and i do agree with you in the sensethat if there were a live and functioning Gnosticismtoday -- and i can't say for sure there isn't -- i imaginetheir use of metaphor and allegory would draw frommore contemporary sources than those employed bythe ancients; that those dusty old paradigms wouldhave long since been discarded as barriers to learningin favor of something much more accessible andimmediate. to foment confusion, even if it'sinadvertant, should be a very trustworthy indication tous that IT'S NOT HERE!as you so wisely suggest, Homer, mystery for the sakeof mystery is just plain vanity and gamesmanship.they are what they are, not what they could be.Your friend,Crispin Sainte IIIIn a message dated 1/26/2006 2:03:26 PM Central Standard Time, shaftpopper@... writes:Dear Crispin,This makes good sense to me. From what I've seen I think there is a lot of copying without understanding if what they're copying is even needed anymore. Its the same with some of the language and the myths and allegories. If I really want somebody to understand me or learn something I can teach I would try to make it as plain as I could. But I think some people like to be mysterious because it makes them feel special, and I think that just encourages the false self or our vanity. I feel like that's the wrong direction to go if you are trying to find something like what the original Gnostics were searching for. I like how in the Gnostic Gospels the Gnostics wouldn't waste their lives to be martyrs if they could help it. What a shame and a waste it would have been if they copied the orthodox Christians who thought that copying the Jesus myth would automatic get them in heaven. I think the Gnostics knew God would have to be insane to want something so cruel.Homer