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Re: Lebanese Gnostics? PMCV's questions

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  • Steve
    ... a ... great ... this ... some ... question ... against ... it ... to ... the ... few ... imagine ... is ... to ... a ... some ... the ... Hi Karl. The
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 4, 2006
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      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
      >
      > Hey Widad
      >
      > >>>>Before I carry on, allow me to state, emphatically, that I am
      > NOT a Sufi, and I am not an authority on Sufism. I am not posessed
      > of the "Greater Understanding" Sufis and other mystical scientists
      > past and present lay claim to. I am a student; a seeker after truth
      > under direction. Nothing else.<<<
      >
      > I think many of us here would say something similar about our own
      > respective paths, or the paths we aspire to... or find an empathy
      > with.
      >
      > >>>I hope the words I have quoted above are sufficient to answer
      > your first set of questions, or at the very least provide some food
      > for thought. Similarly, I hope these words provide, if not answers
      > to your second topic of questions, at the least a demonstration of
      a
      > perennial attitude and understanding that you might find germane
      > to those questions.<<<
      >
      > Well, my first set of questions was largely rhetorical, and dealing
      > with how we might look at the subject as a methodological means for
      > comparing and contrasting spiritual movements. You have done a
      great
      > job of providing examples of how some Sufis view the question. I do
      > hope, however, my point was not overly obfuscated concerning the
      > difference between how practitioners of various systems may see it,
      > vs the categorical approach we must take here.
      >
      > Thank you for putting in so much work there. Sufism is, without a
      > doubt a very varied and interesting set of sects. Understand,
      > though, it wasn't at issue as to whether some Sufi orders think
      this
      > way (although in order to be honest we need to point out that it is
      > a debate between various Sufi schools as well, and many of them
      > don't agree with the more open view of tradition), I think we all
      > agree that indeed some Sufi schools do have this opinion of the
      > matter. We could go on to add that to some extent there are
      > syncratic (even eclectic) forms of mystical thinking in other
      > movements besides Sufism... including Hindu, Buddhist, and even
      some
      > Christian thinkers. Of course, some of them have drawn the line as
      > to where the tradition ends and the core meanings lay in slightly
      > different ways.
      >
      > >>As for my own understanding, I suspect the degree to which each
      > unique community or individual at various times understood the
      > Demiurge literally or allegorically cannot confidently be nailed
      > down in most cases. Chances are, if the Sufis are correct, it is
      > virtually inevitable that, at some point, some forms, or "motifs",
      > if you will, become automatized and ossified; they take on a lower
      > function -- even if highly venerated -- that was not the intent of
      > the original design. However, it is beyond my capacity to identify
      > clear instances of this phenomenon with any great certitude.<<<
      >
      > My other questions were meant to raise the issue (for the sake of
      > discussion) as to whether these are qualities also common to
      > Gnosticism. And if so, to what degree. It seems that you raise the
      > same issue from a slightly different angle. I agree with you, of
      > course, that we simply can't always be authoritative about how
      > everything in these texts are intended. You certainly have an
      > important point concerning how a mystical idea can become
      > concretized in popular usage... but historically the inverse has
      > happened as well. Non-mystical movements have had mystical sects
      > grow out of them.
      >
      > I'm not sure if it is really important here which way it happened
      > for Gnosticism... and that is an ongoing debate that we may not be
      > able to answer. It could, however, have implications to your point.
      >
      > I do think, though, that we can do much more justice to the
      question
      > of the Demiurge in Gnostic thinking. Lets get back to that in a
      > moment though.
      >
      > >>>I think this depends on the intent and actual capacity of the
      > individual, or individuals, who are presenting the material.<<<
      >
      > Inversely, it takes an assumption concerning what a "capacity" in
      > this area would necessarily lead to in order to make the valuation.
      > This premise can only be applied from one emic stance for or
      against
      > another... not from an etic perspective. That causes a serious
      > problem for what you say next.
      >
      > >>>To defer to Crispin for a moment, we would have to consider
      > whether stubbornly holding on to a particular form and presenting
      it
      > in times and communities different from the times and communities
      > that necessitated the original design, this because it is assumed
      to
      > be an essential, defining formulation -- so that we can say "yes,
      > this is clearly X, and not Y or Z" -- does not merely create
      > immitations of X as opposed to reproducing the much more valuable
      > transformative results X once had the capacity to transmit.<<<
      >
      > How could I disagree? But to get back to what I just mentioned
      > previously, we have to be very careful before we even foist any
      > particular notion of "transformation" on to these groups. I don't
      > think for this conversation we can take it as an assumption that
      the
      > Sufis and the Gnostics are necessarily seeking the same thing. I am
      > not saying they are not, but I think you may have jumped ahead a
      few
      > steps in the conversation about some things that many here may have
      > other perspectives on.
      >
      > That means before we can assume function, we have to establish
      > intent. That brings us back to the question I raised about the
      > Demiurge, which I think your next point leads into.
      >
      > >>>Are those who are presenting the material more concerned with
      > preserving or venerating prior formulations then they are acutely
      > concerned with the business of transforming people? For those
      > who wish to to develop or preserve an attachment to forms, then
      > the former will always be prefered above the latter. I don't
      imagine
      > one can have it both ways unless the requirements of the
      > situation demand an exoteric fa├žade to mask an esoteric inner
      > function.<<<
      >
      > There are many notions of "transforming" people. Evangelical
      > Christians consider the gaining of faith in Jesus to be the primary
      > transformation a person can attain. I think you and I are agreed
      > that this is a bit more literalist than any of the movements we are
      > talking about. I would venture to guess that we could agree that
      > there are some important points in common between the Sufi notion
      > and the Gnostic notion of spiritual attainment as a sort of
      > awakening to a kind of esoteric knowing. It doesn't mean, though,
      > that what they wish to know is necessarily the same. I think that
      is
      > an issue that needs further discussion.
      >
      > So what does that have to do with the Demiurge? As I mentioned
      > previously, I think that there was a literary aspect, a motif of
      > sorts, that gets delt with in different ways depending on the text.
      > Yes, there was some room for change. I also raised the question as
      > to how literal, over all, we can look at the subject as it was used
      > by the categorical movement of "Gnosticism". One thing I think we
      > can say, with a great deal of confidence, is that in the Gnostic
      > thinking the Demiurge was NOT simply a psychological device meant
      to
      > induce psychological change. Even when we see the motif used
      > allegorically, it is connected to metephysical observation that was
      > taken as a literal truth in not only Gnosticism, but Platonism as a
      > whole. In other words, the Demiurge is not simply a defining motif
      > for the methodology of Gnosticism, a Jungianism, but instead it is
      a
      > core attribute of the Gnostic view of the relationship between
      > matter and spirit, existence vs origin.
      >
      > This, I think, COULD be a deep philosophical difference between
      some
      > Sufis and the Gnostics that would be interesting to test. The
      > specific spiritual goal is another possible one that should be
      > explored. If we base our whole exploration on an assumption that
      the
      > goal is the same, we are bound to prove ourselves right via
      > eisegesis.
      >
      > >>>Khwaja Salahudin says the transformative essence of the
      > teaching, the Truth, "cannot be passed on in the same form
      > because of the difference in the minds of different communities. It
      > cannot be reinterpreted because it must grow afresh." So I choose,
      > however naievely one might suppose, to place my trust in the Way
      > of the Sufis in this matter. And, according to my teachers, only
      > that which serves the transformative process is untouchable;
      > sancrosanct. All forms are ultimately subservient to that
      > consideration; subservient to time, place and community/culture<<<
      >
      > I can imagine the debate between the hypothetical Sufi and the
      > Gnostic. The Sufi talking about the experience of God and the
      > transformative process, the Gnostic quipping that change is an
      > aspect of the fallen realms, and that "God" is just the experience
      > of the lower realms of the Plaroma, not the true source. The Sufi
      > could parry by calling the Gnostic moldy and stringent, and the
      > Gnostic retort that the Sufi only has half the picture. Then again,
      > maybe they would split a six pack of beer and marvel at how
      > entertaining it is to debate things that no one can really
      > demonstrate one way or another beyond our own experience and a
      > little logic here and there. ;)
      >
      > PMCV

      Hi Karl. The example of the Demiurge is instructive for me because
      I'm always walking that fine line between reading the gnostic myths
      as a coded reference to inner spiritual life and reading them as an
      ontological explanation of existence. Of course, in all Platonic-
      influenced systems of thought the two are not considered separate
      from each other, the whole microcosm/macrocosm thing. -Steve W.
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