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Re: [Gnosticism2] Lebanese Gnostics? Crispin's questions

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  • F8snafs@aol.com
    In a message dated 3/31/2006 10:37:54 PM Central Standard Time, Tsharpmin7@aol.com writes: hi Widad.... questions and a few comments: as far as you know, are
    Message 1 of 44 , Apr 1, 2006
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      In a message dated 3/31/2006 10:37:54 PM Central Standard Time, Tsharpmin7@... writes:
      hi Widad.... questions and a few comments:
       
      as far as you know, are those being chosen to learn from a Christian background, or are there Druse and Moslem as well?
      ================================================
      I'm afraid I don't know, Crispin, but it's a very good question. The
      man I met is origianally from a Druse community loyal to the
      Jumblatt clan and the PSP. But there are some Christians and
      Moslems there as well, in the minority.
      ================================================
      do you know any of the specific texts their teachers are drawing from? 
      ================================================
      It would be easy to assume they would be Valentinian texts but,
      again, I really couldn't say for certain. One thing that has me
      perplexed is the source of their ideas about the material creator.
      It would have been nice to have known more about Gnosticism at
      the time of my encounters in Sur as that rather unique
      conception would have had me asking better questions I should
      hope. 
       
      My mother thinks their creation entity is simply a toned down
      version of ancient demiurgic conceptions that might be considered
      detrimental formulations by the current teachers. That makes
      good sense to me, especially in light of how so much energy and
      attention appears to be misplaced on the ancient formulations by 
      current Gnostic seekers, as opposed to those who are simply
      trying to understand the ancient Gnostics. What worked for one
      time and society can easily become a distraction or detriment for
      a contemporary society. Square pegs in round holes and all that.
      ================================================
      do you know if they describe God in any anthropomorphic
      terms?
      ================================================
      I don't know.
      ================================================
      do they see this material creator as a source of mental
      distortions?  as an obstacle?
      ================================================
      If I understood correctly, the nature of the material world, not the
      creator per se, in their conception, tends to perpetuate distortions,
      yet all such distorions are only apparent; that there is an
      underlying reality that can be known and which supercedes that
      which can be known by ordinary perception. I couldn't detect any
      sort of adversarial attitude whatsoever; no resentment or
      resistance.
      ================================================
      is there anything more you can add about their attitude
      towards Jesus, e.g., godhead, resurrection, etc.?  is there
      anything that might lead you to suspect that there might be a latent esoteric -- possibly non-historical/allegorical --
      understanding of Jesus below the surface?
      ================================================
      It would be nice if these people would publish, but that's hardly
      realistic given the current climate. As far as I can tell they revere
      Valentinus as much as, if not more, than they do a historical
      Jesus. But it seemed to me more a matter of unabashed gratitude
      than crude hero or idol worship.
      ================================================
      was there anything about the dress or demeanor of the man
      you met that was particularly distinguishing?  did you ever
      witness him worrying beads or some such? 
      ================================================
      none.
      ================================================
      do you know if any of the adherents or teachers distinguish themselves by dress or demeanor?
      ================================================
      I'm pretty sure I know what you're driving at; the question behind
      the question, so to speak. So I'll address this when I sum up.
      ================================================
      would you care to speculate what preparations might have
      been deemed as making a candidate suitable to the teachers?
      ================================================
      I would say, humility, a prowess for learning and moral character.
      ================================================
      Widad wrote:
      "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."
       
      "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."
       
      this is extremely interesting to me as this is virtually indistinguishable from authentic Sufic teaching, i.e., the
      materials presented must be appropriate to the times, the
      place and the culture where the transmission is to take place.  for instance, no Sufi worth her woolies (nyuk, nyuk) would ever give The Parliament of the Birds as a study assignment to a would be student, rather only those very specific portions of the text that are appropriate to the student's current state and developmental needs, and which retain an affinity with the current times, place and culture.  to do otherwise is only to create pitiful little imitation 12th century Sufis; nothing even approximating the heights of an Attar.
      ================================================
      Well you certainly are in the minority to embrace this very
      unpopular understanding (almost as unpopular as the following
      subject you bring up). So, yes, for the teacher to design the
      teaching with strict regard to time, place and culture is a highly
      refined characteristic of authentic Sufic transmission. Yet I think
      there is some evidence that this was also a characteristic among
      some of the ancient Gnostics. Maybe someone will chime in here
      and let me know if I'm on the right track in this regard.
      ================================================
      Widad wrote:
      "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."
       
      "Their meetings are not public and are strictly restricted to
      those who have been invited to learn."
       
      right on, Widad, this smacks of Sufism as well as Gnosticism,
      of which some Sufis have said there is a direct lineage, though I'm unaware of any specifics having been given.
       
      you've previously discussed and demonstrated at Gnostic
      Thought the issue of states needing to be achieved in their
      proper order lest one lose the benefits of those states, so i'll
      leave it to others to decide if they want to pursue this avenue.  but i will say that this issue, in my view, is one of the greatest blind spots of New Age mysticism.
      ================================================
      Yeah, this is the least popular, and least understood, concept for
      many a New Age and Western seeker: like fingernails scraping
      across a chalkboard. Why? Because the idea of surrendering the
      autonomous, albeit false, self in order to discover one's true self
      will always be the most traumatic step for most of us. And at
      some crude level most of us fear abandoning that illusory
      independence we associate as "me." For me I had to constantly
      ask myself the question how many truly enlightened individuals
      I could discover who had arrived at that exalted state purely
      through their own studies and mentation. I kept coming up with
      nothing more than two very hesitant "maybes." So I surrender.
      ================================================
      Widad wrote:
      "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."
       
      once again this smacks of Sufism and Gnosticism, specifically the utter contempt for ostentation, recognizing the value of annonimity -- or at least the wisdom of blending into society -- and the need for the attainment of certain prerequisites in order to be brought into the teaching.
       
      "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."
       
      i agree, and least of all would it signify a failure of the teaching.
       
      yours and your family history suggests you're in an enviable
      position to keep track of this movement from afar.  i should
      hope that you are also doing whatever is in your power to do to keep them safe, under the circumstances, from negative
      exposure. 
       
      also, it's rumored that the U.N. is somewhat of a hotbed of
      Sufic activity and Idries Shah is suposedly a legendary figure there.  were the two of you ever at UNESCO at the same time?
       
      many thanks to the moderators for allowing us to go with this subject.  as you can tell i find it fascinating.
       
      and many thanks to you, Widad, for taking the time to put this together and, i hope, taking the time to answer my questions if you don't find them too tedious.
       
      your friend,
       
      Crispin Sainte III
      ================================================
      First, my thanks as well to the moderators. I hope I haven't gotten
      so far off topic with my replies as to make you regret your
      decision.
       
      To answer, or at least attempt to answer, the questions behind
      your questions, Crispin, yes, for all intents and purposes this
      whole activity has virtually everything in common with an authentic
      Sufic transmission: taking care in dress and behavior as to be
      indistinguishable from the culture and norms at hand; formulating
      new material and editing existing materials per the demands of
      time, place and culture; submission to the teacher; student
      selection based upon perceived capacities; stressing the
      importance of attaining states in their proper order; anonymous
      charitable works within the community.
       
      So is this Sufism or Gnosticism or a hybrid? What do you think?
       
      Sufis are notorious disrespectors of labels (especially the label
      "Sufi"), so why should they not come in the guise of Gnosticism
      if the demands of the situation require it? Masters of the option,
      right? Maybe time will tell. I don't give up easily. An I'm no longer
      the only bloodhound on their trail.
       
      Anyway, I assure you I'm not going to do anything that might
      place these people in harm's way. In fact my friends have made
      it easier for one of the teachers to get around, but whether or
      not he's on to us is debatable.
       
      Idries Shah died before I held my position at UNESCO. To say
      he is a legend at UNESCO may be a bit of an understatement.
       
      I hope I've satisfied your interests, Crispin. Clear and insightful
      questions and comments on your part. I wouldn't have expected
      anything less. But to keep all of this in perspective we need to
      remember that we have very little information aside from that
      which I received from a single student who may have transmitted
      his own misunderstandings to me and, thus, from me to
      everyone else. That's a very real possibility.
       
      Your sister and servant,
       
      Widad
    • Michael Leavitt
      ... Doesn t seem necessary for the Quabalists and the breaking of the vessles. Might make it better though, if he were there. -- M. Leavitt
      Message 44 of 44 , Apr 30, 2006
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        Steve wrote:
        >
        >
        >
        >> I'm curious what others think. Going back to Plato (as Steve did
        >> with his reference to Theaetetus), we see Plato's demiurge in
        >> Timaeus. How is a relational demiurge of some sort necessary
        >> functionally to a Gnostic system, and is this necessary to carry into
        >> a modern adaptation?
        >>
        >> Cari
        >>
        >>
        > Hi Cari. IMO, it's fascinating to see how, for example, the author of
        > The Apocryphon of John goes back and forth from the Timaeus to Genesis
        > and uses both as a point of departure for his/her own perspective. In
        > Timaeus Plato has the Demiurge using the Form of the Intelligible
        > Living Creature as a template for the Cosmos. As such, Plato seems to
        > be an early advocate for 'Intelligent Design'. For Plato, the world is
        > intelligible, hence modeled upon an intelligible pattern. In the
        > Apocryphon of John the Demiurge also seeks to work from an intelligible
        > pattern, but doesn't fully understand it. Consequently his handiwork is
        > flawed in ways that go beyond the inherent imperfection of a copy in
        > relation to the original. IMO, it might be possible to dispense with a
        > demiurgos in an Neo-Platonic emanationist system wherein the only
        > problem with materiality is the inherent inferiority of copy to
        > original and wherein the successive unfolding of emanations is simply
        > inevitable. However, it seems to me that the problem in the Apocryphon
        > of John goes deeper than this and is conceived as being an actual
        > rupture in the Great Chain of Being. As such, it would be difficult to
        > account for this apart from a Demiurgic figure, or at least a Sophia
        > figure driven by a desire which is contrary to the will of her Consort,
        > that is to say, unbalanced. What is your opinion on this? -Steve W.
        >
        Doesn't seem necessary for the Quabalists and the breaking of the
        vessles. Might make it better though, if he were there.

        --
        M. Leavitt
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