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Gnostics in Lebanon?

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  • F8snafs@aol.com
    These are the initial discussions on the subject I had with PMCV. I ve bracketed both postings within asterisks. * * * * * * * *
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 31, 2006
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      These are the initial discussions on the subject I had with PMCV.
      I've bracketed both postings within asterisks.
       
      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
      Widad: There is a relatively small but growing Gnostic movement in
      and around the southern third of Lebanon. As far as I can tell from
      the limited information I have on their methods, it does seem to
      conform with the four attributes you listed [those would be critical
      perspective, hermeneutic training, ritual initiation and spiritual
      experience which PMCV has recently demonstrated as critical
      aspects of classical Gnostic understanding and methodology in 
      his hermeneutics post of 3/20/2006]. 

      PMCV: Interesting. Well, I know that in Iran and Iraq are the groups
      that some scholars used to consider to be Gnostics (though  they
      no longer generally do), but you seem to be talking about a newer 
      movement? I would be interested to know more about  them.

      W: The main difference I see is that they are not using any of the
      complete Gnostic texts from ancient times, but rather select
      passages and the commentaries of their two primary teachers.

      They appear to have discarded the Judeo-Greek cosmogonies in
      favor of, for lack of a better phrase, a less crowded cosmogony.

      P: Well, of course that would remove the specific hermeneutic
      aspect that I listed, even if it leaves the other attributes.

      W: I haven't seen any of the texts or commentaries they use, but I
      have met with someone who has. It's not a safe part of the world to
      be openly Gnostic without offending Muslim, Druse or Christian.
      Like the ancients, these people have no desire to be martyrs for
      the cause. I don't think they have a cause anyway, nor do they
      appear to crave any unnecessary attentions.
      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
       
      Later, in answer to PMCV, I wrote the following, which I have edited
      for clarification and to remove some comments that are not
      germane to our current discussion.
       
      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
      The Gnostic movement I speak of began around 1988 -89 in the
      area of An Naqurah on the southern coast of Lebanon, and now
      has some adherents, apparently, as far north as Tyre and possibly
      Sidon [I'm now told that they are in fact in Sidon]. I know of no
      relationship they might have with any other groups outside of
      Lebanon.

      I don't think I understand your comment, "that would remove the
      specific hermeneutic aspect that I listed." Would you care to
      elaborate? [This is what might have motivated PMCV to write his
      recent hermeneutics piece, as I had also complained that the
      dictionary definitions seemed inadequate to the task. As Crispin
      mentioned, certain events prevented us from completing our
      discussion in the original forum.]

      As I said, there are two primary teachers for this movement. They
      are both itinerant, apparently establishing very small groups in parts
      of the southern coastal communities. Their meetings are not public
      and are strictly restricted to those who have been invited to learn.

      I was in Tyre to attend the wedding of my father's nephew when I
      encountered a student of one of the teachers: the younger of the
      two. He was approached by this "Gnostic" teacher in 1992 while he
      was managing a charity clinic just north of the Golan Heights during
      the Israeli occupation.

      During a lull in the wedding rehearsals I had said something to my 
      aunt about what I might buy my future husband for Valentine's Day.
      This fellow cornered me later and, having heard part of my
      conversation with my mother, asked me if it was true that "Saint
      Valentinus has his own celebration day in America." I told him I
      didn't know if the Valentine of Valentine's Day and the Valentinus
      of Christian Gnosticism were one and the same, but that I doubted
      they were.

      When I saw him two days later at the wedding dinner he cornered 
      me again, asking me what I knew about the old Gnostics. I guess
      he liked my answers because he eventually confided to me, albeit
      guardedly, his own involvement with Gnosticism and his teacher
      who was the former student of an even greater teacher.

      He talked about what a blessing it was that men have recovered the
      NH codices and how his teacher's teacher had access to the
      Valentinian texts, and had translations before they were fully 
      published. When I asked him how they use the texts that's when he
      told me that they only use the parts that are suitable to his
      generation, and that is determined by the teachers.

      At that time I knew very little about Gnosticism in general, even less
      about Valentinus or the NHL in particular. So my questions, in
      retrospect, were probably rather naive. My impression from his
      answers is that they do not see themselves as forming a religion so
      much as constituting a discreet philosophical network of teachers
      and students whose purpose is to attain knowledge of self and God,
      and thus serve their fellow man as invisible agents and friends of
      God. This through a directed methodology of study (the edited texts
      and the accompanying commentaries), observation (paying close
      attention to behaviors and customs in the community), interpretation
      (this, I think, is giving feedback to the teacher's oral lessons),
      process (again I'm not certain but I think this has to do with directed
      exercises that are designed to affect specific states of being in their
      proper order, which sounds very much like Sufism to me), a form of
      ritual communion that celebrates the "Holy Breath of God which
      intoxicated Jesus and the Saints and Friends of God," and work
      within the community which is done anonymously in the sense that
      they don't do what they do under any banner or title, but just as
      ordinary citizens and neighbors; no proselytizing.

      And that reminds me: when I asked if they called themselves
      Valentinian Gnostics he said no and would not elaborate. I reminded
      him that he had previously referred to Valentinus as Saint Valentinus.
      He said yes, they do venerate him as a saint and a great teacher but
      do not take his name.

      They see Jesus as the first man to consciously seek and receive the
      Holy Breath of God and transmit Its secrets and ways to those who
      have prepared themselves, most often unknowingly, to receive It. Of
      course I asked him how one can prepare one's self for such a gift
      unknowingly. He said he didn't know the answer to that, but since
      he had been invited to learn how to receive it and never consciously
      prepared himself for it, and nobody in his group had consciously
      prepared for it, all he could do was speculate based on what he and
      his fellows seemed to have in common, and this he was unwilling to
      do for me. I asked if they were all as well educated as he and he
      reluctantly, it seemed, said yes, for his group anyway. He's had
      limited contact with any of the other groups.

      Apparently they understand the creator of the material universe not
      as a deity removed from God, per se, but rather as the inevitable
      consequence of the principle idea of form in the mind of God made
      manifest, i.e., a sort of mindless machine that is neither good nor 
      evil, whose only drive is to maintain, manipulate and preserve the
      continuity of forms. It is self aware yet oblivious of its own origins.
      This  creative mechanism is no more or less concerned with events
      on this planet, much less the human condition and human affairs,
      than it is with matter and form anywhere else in the universe. So in
      this sense they absolutely do not equate this figure with any other
      tradition I'm aware of. [It was later pointed out to me by Jenny that
      this was rather similar to Taoism.]

      Anyway, I have a lot of contacts in Lebanon through family (Tyre is
      my father's ancestral homeland) and professional ties. I ask
      everyone to keep their eyes and ears open in regards to this
      movement and that is how I managed to identify one of the two
      teachers and learn a little more about their travels. But it's difficult
      to separate facts from rumors. If the man identified to me is truly
      one of the two teachers then he at least has the perfect cover for
      his movements without drawing much suspicion or attention to his
      other, "Gnostic," activities at a time and place where the wrong
      kind of attention can land you in some very serious trouble.
      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
       
      Per your earlier question, Crispin, other than getting confirmation
      that the movement has reached Sidon, there's little new to report
      save that we know that one of the southern groups has dispersed
      or disbanded. But you, of all people, well know that this can
      signify many things.
       
      Anyway, I'll let this sit with everyone for a while and field any
      questions the group might have before I move on to the issue of
      hermeneutics and the Lebanese Gnostics.
       
      Your servant,
       
      Widad
    • thalprin
      Hi, I m also very interested in hearing more about Gnostics in Tyre (and Carthage too? or any relations, with Carthage as well.) Also, in Tyre (word means
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 31, 2006
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        Hi,

        I'm also very interested in hearing more about Gnostics in Tyre (and
        Carthage too? or any relations, with Carthage as well.) Also, in Tyre
        (word means rock doesn't it?) I'm interested in facts/data relative
        that you might know about Saint Stephan's church (I think it is.)

        Best wishes,

        Terrie
      • F8snafs@aol.com
        Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists from Tyre nearly three thousand years ago. There are currently no significant ties between the two that I am
        Message 3 of 9 , Apr 1 7:51 AM
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          Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists from Tyre nearly three
          thousand years ago. There are currently no significant ties between
          the two that I am aware of, political or metaphysical.
           
          Also, Terrie, I can assure you there is no Saint Stephan's church in
          Tyre. When UNESCO arrived there in 1998 to assist in the city's
          revitalization efforts and invited several archaeologists to assess and
          map key historical sites they found many structures which had been
          built by European Crusaders, but no major church structures were 
          identified.
           
          There is a Church of Saint Stephans which is about 25 or 30 miles
          north of Beirut in Al Batrun. Perhaps that is the church you were
          thinking of.
           
          Your servant,
           
          Widad
           
          In a message dated 3/31/2006 2:45:29 PM Central Standard Time, thalprin@... writes:
          Hi,

          I'm also very interested in hearing more about Gnostics in Tyre (and
          Carthage too? or any relations, with Carthage as well.)  Also, in Tyre
          (word means rock doesn't it?) I'm interested in facts/data relative
          that you might know about Saint Stephan's church (I think it is.) 

          Best wishes,

          Terrie
           
        • thalprin
          What espeially interests me is the religious/spiritual relations passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre This
          Message 4 of 9 , Apr 1 9:33 AM
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            What espeially interests me is the religious/spiritual relations
            passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre

            This article/rap on Wikipedia mentions the church (in Trye) that
            interests me - they say it was built shortly after Saint Stephan's
            death. I'd assume it'd been named/dedicated to Saint Stephan? Are
            you saying it doesn't actually exist?

            Thanks for the info. Please keep us informed. This is a very
            interesting and important topic I think.

            Best wishes,

            Terrie

            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, F8snafs@... wrote:
            >
            >
            > Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists from Tyre nearly
            three
            > thousand years ago. There are currently no significant ties
            between
            > the two that I am aware of, political or metaphysical.
            >
            > Also, Terrie, I can assure you there is no Saint Stephan's church
            in
            > Tyre. When UNESCO arrived there in 1998 to assist in the city's
            > revitalization efforts and invited several archaeologists to
            assess and
            > map key historical sites they found many structures which had been
            > built by European Crusaders, but no major church structures were
            > identified.
            >
            > There is a Church of Saint Stephans which is about 25 or 30 miles
            > north of Beirut in Al Batrun. Perhaps that is the church you were
            > thinking of.
            >
            > Your servant,
            >
            > Widad
            >
            > In a message dated 3/31/2006 2:45:29 PM Central Standard Time,
            > thalprin@... writes:
            >
            > Hi,
            >
            > I'm also very interested in hearing more about Gnostics in Tyre
            (and
            > Carthage too? or any relations, with Carthage as well.) Also, in
            Tyre
            > (word means rock doesn't it?) I'm interested in facts/data
            relative
            > that you might know about Saint Stephan's church (I think it
            is.)
            >
            > Best wishes,
            >
            > Terrie
            >
          • lady_caritas
            ... Terrie, upon reading the link you offered, I found this: A church was founded here soon after the death of Saint Stephen, and Paul of Tarsus, on his
            Message 5 of 9 , Apr 1 11:03 AM
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              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "thalprin" <thalprin@...> wrote:
              >
              > What espeially interests me is the religious/spiritual relations
              > passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans.
              >
              > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre
              >
              > This article/rap on Wikipedia mentions the church (in Trye) that
              > interests me - they say it was built shortly after Saint Stephan's
              > death. I'd assume it'd been named/dedicated to Saint Stephan? Are
              > you saying it doesn't actually exist?
              >
              > Thanks for the info. Please keep us informed. This is a very
              > interesting and important topic I think.
              >
              > Best wishes,
              >
              > Terrie
              >


              Terrie, upon reading the link you offered, I found this:

              "A church was founded here soon after the death of Saint Stephen, and
              Paul of Tarsus, on his return from his third missionary journey,
              spent a week in conversation with the disciples there."

              Unless you were referring to something else I missed, it's not clear
              that the founding of this church included construction of a building,
              or at least one that survived to modern times. Disciples also might
              have met in each others' homes or elsewhere.

              In any case, the Gnostic movement described by Widad, "a discreet
              philosophical network of teachers and students," does not appear to
              have a very public building façade.

              Cari
            • F8snafs@aol.com
              I m sorry, Terrie, but I think it pretty unlikely any such structure could still exist and slip my notice. Perhaps some ruins have been unearthed recently
              Message 6 of 9 , Apr 1 12:11 PM
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                I'm sorry, Terrie, but I think it pretty unlikely any such structure 
                could still exist and slip my notice. Perhaps some ruins have been
                unearthed recently that I'm unaware of. I'll write my father and see
                what he can find if you'd like. I'd be more than willing to do so.
                 
                I'm not very knowledgable in regards to "the religious/spiritual
                relations passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans." I
                saw a PBS program on the Phoenicians that stressed how little
                we know about this issue outside of Jewish, Greek and Roman
                histories which, the program suggested, were too biased to be
                considered all that reliable. Though they may have been right
                about one thing: that at some period the ancient Phoenicians
                practiced a form of ritual child sacrifice.
                 
                Anyway, Christianity and Gnosticism was about two thousand
                years later in coming to the Levant.
                 
                Your servant,
                 
                Widad
                 
                In a message dated 4/1/2006 12:58:13 PM Central Standard Time, thalprin@... writes:
                What espeially interests me is the religious/spiritual relations
                passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre

                This article/rap on Wikipedia mentions the church (in Trye) that
                interests me - they say it was built shortly after Saint Stephan's
                death.  I'd assume it'd been named/dedicated to Saint Stephan?  Are
                you saying it doesn't actually exist?  

                Thanks for the info.  Please keep us informed.  This is a very
                interesting and important topic I think.

                Best wishes,

                Terrie

                --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, F8snafs@... wrote:
                >

                > Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists from Tyre nearly
                three
                > thousand years ago. There are currently no significant ties 
                between
                > the two that I am aware of, political or metaphysical.

                > Also, Terrie, I can assure you there is no Saint Stephan's church
                in
                > Tyre. When UNESCO arrived there in 1998 to assist in the city's
                > revitalization efforts and invited several archaeologists to
                assess  and
                > map key historical sites they found many structures which had  been
                > built by European Crusaders, but no major church structures  were
                > identified.

                > There is a Church of Saint Stephans which is about 25 or 30 miles
                > north of Beirut in Al Batrun. Perhaps that is the church you were
                > thinking of.

                > Your servant,

                > Widad

                > In a message dated 3/31/2006 2:45:29 PM Central Standard Time, 
                > thalprin@... writes:
                >
                > Hi,
                >
                > I'm also very interested in hearing more about Gnostics in  Tyre
                (and
                > Carthage too? or any relations, with Carthage as well.)   Also, in
                Tyre
                > (word means rock doesn't it?) I'm interested in facts/data 
                relative
                > that you might know about Saint Stephan's church (I think it 
                is.) 
                >
                > Best wishes,
                >
                > Terrie
                >
                 
              • thalprin
                Yes, thanks very much, I d like that if it s no bother. ... structure ... see ... Yup, it s a problem, ie political/cultural propaganda. Should hear what
                Message 7 of 9 , Apr 1 12:26 PM
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                  Yes, thanks very much, I'd like that if it's no bother.

                  --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, F8snafs@... wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > I'm sorry, Terrie, but I think it pretty unlikely any such
                  structure
                  > could still exist and slip my notice. Perhaps some ruins have been
                  > unearthed recently that I'm unaware of. I'll write my father and
                  see
                  > what he can find if you'd like. I'd be more than willing to do so.
                  >
                  > I'm not very knowledgable in regards to "the religious/spiritual
                  > relations passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans." I
                  > saw a PBS program on the Phoenicians that stressed how little
                  > we know about this issue outside of Jewish, Greek and Roman
                  > histories which, the program suggested, were too biased to be
                  > considered all that reliable.


                  Yup, it's a problem, ie political/cultural propaganda. Should hear
                  what folks had to say about the Etruscans.


                  > Though they may have been right
                  > about one thing: that at some period the ancient Phoenicians
                  > practiced a form of ritual child sacrifice.
                  >


                  I think I saw that show too. Wikipedia has a nice little rap
                  mentioning the continuing controversy as to whether or not Carthage
                  was involved with ritual sacrafice:

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthage


                  > Anyway, Christianity and Gnosticism was about two thousand
                  > years later in coming to the Levant.
                  >


                  Yah that's what I hear too.

                  Best wishes,

                  Terrie


                  > Your servant,
                  >
                  > Widad



                  Best wishes,

                  Terrie


                  >
                  > In a message dated 4/1/2006 12:58:13 PM Central Standard Time,
                  > thalprin@... writes:
                  >
                  > What espeially interests me is the religious/spiritual relations
                  > passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans.
                  >
                  > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre
                  >
                  > This article/rap on Wikipedia mentions the church (in Trye) that
                  > interests me - they say it was built shortly after Saint
                  Stephan's
                  > death. I'd assume it'd been named/dedicated to Saint Stephan?
                  Are
                  > you saying it doesn't actually exist?
                  >
                  > Thanks for the info. Please keep us informed. This is a very
                  > interesting and important topic I think.
                  >
                  > Best wishes,
                  >
                  > Terrie
                  >
                  > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, F8snafs@ wrote:
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists from Tyre nearly
                  > three
                  > > thousand years ago. There are currently no significant ties
                  > between
                  > > the two that I am aware of, political or metaphysical.
                  > >
                  > > Also, Terrie, I can assure you there is no Saint Stephan's
                  church
                  > in
                  > > Tyre. When UNESCO arrived there in 1998 to assist in the city's
                  > > revitalization efforts and invited several archaeologists to
                  > assess and
                  > > map key historical sites they found many structures which had
                  been
                  > > built by European Crusaders, but no major church structures
                  were
                  > > identified.
                  > >
                  > > There is a Church of Saint Stephans which is about 25 or 30
                  miles
                  > > north of Beirut in Al Batrun. Perhaps that is the church you
                  were
                  > > thinking of.
                  > >
                  > > Your servant,
                  > >
                  > > Widad
                  > >
                  > > In a message dated 3/31/2006 2:45:29 PM Central Standard Time,
                  > > thalprin@ writes:
                  > >
                  > > Hi,
                  > >
                  > > I'm also very interested in hearing more about Gnostics in
                  Tyre
                  > (and
                  > > Carthage too? or any relations, with Carthage as well.) Also,
                  in
                  > Tyre
                  > > (word means rock doesn't it?) I'm interested in facts/data
                  > relative
                  > > that you might know about Saint Stephan's church (I think it
                  > is.)
                  > >
                  > > Best wishes,
                  > >
                  > > Terrie
                  > >
                  >
                • thalprin
                  I wants that data from that moment. (Wah!) Surely they archived. ... and ... clear ... building, ... might ... I hear you, of course, ie several things are
                  Message 8 of 9 , Apr 1 12:28 PM
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                    I wants that data from that moment. (Wah!) Surely they archived.


                    --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@...>
                    wrote:
                    > Terrie, upon reading the link you offered, I found this:
                    >
                    > "A church was founded here soon after the death of Saint Stephen,
                    and
                    > Paul of Tarsus, on his return from his third missionary journey,
                    > spent a week in conversation with the disciples there."
                    >
                    > Unless you were referring to something else I missed, it's not
                    clear
                    > that the founding of this church included construction of a
                    building,
                    > or at least one that survived to modern times. Disciples also
                    might
                    > have met in each others' homes or elsewhere.


                    I hear you, of course, ie several things are generally quite
                    possible.


                    >
                    > In any case, the Gnostic movement described by Widad, "a discreet
                    > philosophical network of teachers and students," does not appear
                    to
                    > have a very public building façade.
                    >


                    Well, privacy is always important. :)))


                    > Cari
                    >


                    Hi,

                    Terrie
                  • thalprin
                    ... been ... so. ... hehe, when city-state elders were asked to comment upon their brutal behavior towards their children they of course replied: The Pharoh
                    Message 9 of 9 , Apr 1 12:55 PM
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                      > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, F8snafs@ wrote:
                      > >
                      > >
                      > > I'm sorry, Terrie, but I think it pretty unlikely any such
                      > structure
                      > > could still exist and slip my notice. Perhaps some ruins have
                      been
                      > > unearthed recently that I'm unaware of. I'll write my father and
                      > see
                      > > what he can find if you'd like. I'd be more than willing to do
                      so.
                      > >
                      > > I'm not very knowledgable in regards to "the religious/spiritual
                      > > relations passed between Tyre, Carthage, and the Etruscans." I
                      > > saw a PBS program on the Phoenicians that stressed how little
                      > > we know about this issue outside of Jewish, Greek and Roman
                      > > histories which, the program suggested, were too biased to be
                      > > considered all that reliable.
                      > > Though they may have been right
                      > > about one thing: that at some period the ancient Phoenicians
                      > > practiced a form of ritual child sacrifice.
                      > >


                      hehe, when city-state elders were asked to comment upon their brutal
                      behavior towards their children they of course replied: "The Pharoh
                      made us do it."



                      > > Anyway, Christianity and Gnosticism was about two thousand
                      > > years later in coming to the Levant.
                      > >
                      > > Your servant,
                      > >
                      > > Widad
                      >
                      >
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