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Apocryphon of John as Social Critique

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  • Steve
    Hello. My previous comments and inquiries have been largely oriented toward interpretation of Valentinian and Sethian metaphysics. Recently, I have been
    Message 1 of 14 , May 8 9:13 AM
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      Hello. My previous comments and inquiries have been largely oriented
      toward interpretation of Valentinian and Sethian metaphysics. Recently,
      I have been considering the socialogical motivations underlying gnostic
      mythology. Professor King, in her book The Secret Revelation of John,
      goes to some length in discussing the use of myth as covert social
      critique. Does anyone here have any observations on this? -Steve W.
    • Bob Hope
      Steve, I think you may have a point there. I was just at a lecture last night by a professor of New Testament Greek that dealt with Revalation in a contextual
      Message 2 of 14 , May 8 10:48 AM
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        Steve,

        I think you may have a point there.

        I was just at a lecture last night by a professor of
        New Testament Greek that dealt with Revalation in a
        contextual format.

        The fact that he knew his bible-times history and
        sociolgy rather well kept it very interesting. He
        gave us a list of prominent happenings during the time
        John wrote Revelations. The Epistles to the 7 churches
        it seems were written in phrasology that they would
        recognize as part of their world at that point in
        time. For instance, in the letter to Laodicea, he
        refrenced the facts that at the time, Laodicea was a
        major trade cross-roads in the Roman Empire and became
        a very rich city as compared to Herodaetus (sp?),
        which was known for its hot mineral springs and
        Colloscia (sp?)which was known for its cold-water
        spas. Also, Laodicea had to have its water carried in
        via aquaduct, which allowed the mineral water to get
        tepid and if you have ever swallowed hot-tub water,
        you know how bad it tastes. This leading to the "you
        are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm and I spit it
        out comments.

        In looking at the the other letters to the churches, I
        noticed that it appears that each epistle mentions one
        of Augustine's famouns "7 deadly sins". So in a way,
        it could be construed as a "social commentary" on life
        in Asia Minor at the time.

        Bob

        --- Steve <eugnostos2000@...> wrote:

        > Hello. My previous comments and inquiries have been
        > largely oriented
        > toward interpretation of Valentinian and Sethian
        > metaphysics. Recently,
        > I have been considering the socialogical motivations
        > underlying gnostic
        > mythology. Professor King, in her book The Secret
        > Revelation of John,
        > goes to some length in discussing the use of myth as
        > covert social
        > critique. Does anyone here have any observations on
        > this? -Steve W.
        >
        >
        >
        >


        History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.
        Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), Pro Publio Sestio

        Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
        Removes the colours from our sight,
        Red is grey and yellow white
        But we decide which is right
        And which is an illusion.
        The Moody Blues - "Knights in White Satin"

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      • Steve
        ... Hi Bob. Sorry it took so long to reply. Technical Difficulties. I am very sorry, but the book I am referring to is not the New Testament book of Revelation
        Message 3 of 14 , May 13 9:04 AM
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          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Hope <taktani@...> wrote:
          >
          > Steve,
          >
          > I think you may have a point there.
          >
          > I was just at a lecture last night by a professor of
          > New Testament Greek that dealt with Revalation in a
          > contextual format.
          >
          > The fact that he knew his bible-times history and
          > sociolgy rather well kept it very interesting. He
          > gave us a list of prominent happenings during the time
          > John wrote Revelations. The Epistles to the 7 churches
          > it seems were written in phrasology that they would
          > recognize as part of their world at that point in
          > time. For instance, in the letter to Laodicea, he
          > refrenced the facts that at the time, Laodicea was a
          > major trade cross-roads in the Roman Empire and became
          > a very rich city as compared to Herodaetus (sp?),
          > which was known for its hot mineral springs and
          > Colloscia (sp?)which was known for its cold-water
          > spas. Also, Laodicea had to have its water carried in
          > via aquaduct, which allowed the mineral water to get
          > tepid and if you have ever swallowed hot-tub water,
          > you know how bad it tastes. This leading to the "you
          > are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm and I spit it
          > out comments.
          >
          > In looking at the the other letters to the churches, I
          > noticed that it appears that each epistle mentions one
          > of Augustine's famouns "7 deadly sins". So in a way,
          > it could be construed as a "social commentary" on life
          > in Asia Minor at the time.
          >
          > Bob

          Hi Bob. Sorry it took so long to reply. Technical Difficulties. I
          am very sorry, but the book I am referring to is not the New
          Testament book of Revelation but the gnostic Apocryphon of John. The
          New Testament book of Revelation is not generally regarded as being
          gnostic. But thank you for your reply. -Steve W.
          >
          >


          >
        • lady_caritas
          ... oriented ... Recently, ... gnostic ... John, ... Say, Steve, I purchased Karen King s book a little while ago, and I finally got around to reading the
          Message 4 of 14 , May 13 1:33 PM
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            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Steve" <eugnostos2000@...> wrote:
            >
            > Hello. My previous comments and inquiries have been largely
            oriented
            > toward interpretation of Valentinian and Sethian metaphysics.
            Recently,
            > I have been considering the socialogical motivations underlying
            gnostic
            > mythology. Professor King, in her book The Secret Revelation of
            John,
            > goes to some length in discussing the use of myth as covert social
            > critique. Does anyone here have any observations on this? -Steve W.
            >


            Say, Steve, I purchased Karen King's book a little while ago, and I
            finally got around to reading the introduction this morning. I'm
            curious to see how she expands on a few things included the
            overview.

            For instance, tweaking the demiurge into a more ignorant, malevolent
            Yaldabaoth can be seen as a polemic against the Jewish creator god.
            But she seems to read further a social critique of power relations
            *in* this world "couched in the language of cosmology and
            revelation."

            Also, I wonder if her comments (Intro – pages 6-7) about the ideas of
            the narrative in The Secret Revelation of John being "not so far
            removed from the version of the story adopted by other forms of
            Christianity" are a bit of a stretch. Even though she mentions that
            the story takes unfamiliar twists and turns, I would not find
            similar, for instance, the "Father" of this book to the "Father"
            adopted by more proto-orthodox Christian renderings.

            Then again, I need to read the main text. It looks very
            interesting.

            What's your take on social commentary in The Secret Book of John,
            Steve?

            Cari
          • Steve
            ... social ... W. ... malevolent ... god. ... of ... that ... Hi Cari. Sorry for the delays in response. Being a crazed ascetic, I don t own a computor and
            Message 5 of 14 , May 15 11:25 AM
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              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@...> wrote:
              >
              > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Steve" <eugnostos2000@> wrote:
              > >
              > > Hello. My previous comments and inquiries have been largely
              > oriented
              > > toward interpretation of Valentinian and Sethian metaphysics.
              > Recently,
              > > I have been considering the socialogical motivations underlying
              > gnostic
              > > mythology. Professor King, in her book The Secret Revelation of
              > John,
              > > goes to some length in discussing the use of myth as covert
              social
              > > critique. Does anyone here have any observations on this? -Steve
              W.
              > >
              >
              >
              > Say, Steve, I purchased Karen King's book a little while ago, and I
              > finally got around to reading the introduction this morning. I'm
              > curious to see how she expands on a few things included the
              > overview.
              >
              > For instance, tweaking the demiurge into a more ignorant,
              malevolent
              > Yaldabaoth can be seen as a polemic against the Jewish creator
              god.
              > But she seems to read further a social critique of power relations
              > *in* this world "couched in the language of cosmology and
              > revelation."
              >
              > Also, I wonder if her comments (Intro – pages 6-7) about the ideas
              of
              > the narrative in The Secret Revelation of John being "not so far
              > removed from the version of the story adopted by other forms of
              > Christianity" are a bit of a stretch. Even though she mentions
              that
              > the story takes unfamiliar twists and turns, I would not find
              > similar, for instance, the "Father" of this book to the "Father"
              > adopted by more proto-orthodox Christian renderings.
              >
              > Then again, I need to read the main text. It looks very
              > interesting.
              >
              > What's your take on social commentary in The Secret Book of John,
              > Steve?
              >
              > Cari

              Hi Cari. Sorry for the delays in response. Being a crazed ascetic,
              I don't own a computor and have to post from the local library ( A
              friend who is dismayed at my life-style keeps me on her account so
              that I can get e-mails from her. ). IMO, the key to understanding the
              social critique in The Secret Book of John is the idea of
              macrocosm/microcosm and the belief that the material world mirrors
              spiritual realities. From this point of view, all oppressive power
              structures on earth, including the Roman Empire, were and are
              reflections of the Demiurge and his Archons.
              The author of The Secret Book of John plays-off themes from both
              Genesis and The Timaeus. Professor King points out that the author of
              The Secret Book of John presupposes the idea that the "problem", the
              rupture in the Great Chain of Being which results in the birth of the
              Demiurge, is the result of a feminine aspect of a lower
              syzygy "stepping out of line", as it were, and acting apart from the
              will of her consort, thereby disrupting the natural harmony of the
              spiritual hierarchy. This is not, in principle, far different from
              blaming Eve for the Fall, as per the proto-orthodox position. I do
              agree with you that King stretches this a bit. However, there still
              seems to be a bit of sexist bias in The Secret Book of John. The very
              idea that the female (Sophia) half of the divine Syzygy screws things
              up by acting apart from her male counterpart is not terribly
              complimentary to women! Let me know what you think about King's book
              when you finish it. I don't entirely agree with her conclusions, but
              she certainly makes a persuasive case. -Steve W.
              >
            • lady_caritas
              ... ascetic, ... the ... of ... the ... the ... the ... very ... things ... book ... but ... Dear crazed ascetic ~ Delays in response ? Nah. In fact, I
              Message 6 of 14 , May 15 8:32 PM
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                --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Steve" <eugnostos2000@...> wrote:
                >
                > Hi Cari. Sorry for the delays in response. Being a crazed
                ascetic,
                > I don't own a computor and have to post from the local library ( A
                > friend who is dismayed at my life-style keeps me on her account so
                > that I can get e-mails from her. ). IMO, the key to understanding
                the
                > social critique in The Secret Book of John is the idea of
                > macrocosm/microcosm and the belief that the material world mirrors
                > spiritual realities. From this point of view, all oppressive power
                > structures on earth, including the Roman Empire, were and are
                > reflections of the Demiurge and his Archons.
                > The author of The Secret Book of John plays-off themes from both
                > Genesis and The Timaeus. Professor King points out that the author
                of
                > The Secret Book of John presupposes the idea that the "problem",
                the
                > rupture in the Great Chain of Being which results in the birth of
                the
                > Demiurge, is the result of a feminine aspect of a lower
                > syzygy "stepping out of line", as it were, and acting apart from
                the
                > will of her consort, thereby disrupting the natural harmony of the
                > spiritual hierarchy. This is not, in principle, far different from
                > blaming Eve for the Fall, as per the proto-orthodox position. I do
                > agree with you that King stretches this a bit. However, there still
                > seems to be a bit of sexist bias in The Secret Book of John. The
                very
                > idea that the female (Sophia) half of the divine Syzygy screws
                things
                > up by acting apart from her male counterpart is not terribly
                > complimentary to women! Let me know what you think about King's
                book
                > when you finish it. I don't entirely agree with her conclusions,
                but
                > she certainly makes a persuasive case. -Steve W.
                > >
                >


                Dear "crazed ascetic" ~

                "Delays in response"? Nah. In fact, I can't even give you an idea
                when I'll finish the book. But when I do, I'll be back with
                comments, for sure. *lol*

                Ah, poor Sophia gets a bad rep? Well, if the "male counterpart" were
                doing his job as attentive equal partner, perhaps he'd have been on
                top of things. Eh, maybe he was out drinking with his buddies,
                instead of nipping the problem in the bud. Couldn't blame Sophia for
                wandering a bit in that case. One should never underestimate the
                female will. ;-)

                Cari
              • Steve
                ... were ... for ... LOL! I can picture poor Sophie trying to get his attention at the kitchen table about a new project she had in mind while he buried his
                Message 7 of 14 , May 16 11:07 AM
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                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Dear "crazed ascetic" ~
                  >
                  > "Delays in response"? Nah. In fact, I can't even give you an idea
                  > when I'll finish the book. But when I do, I'll be back with
                  > comments, for sure. *lol*
                  >
                  > Ah, poor Sophia gets a bad rep? Well, if the "male counterpart"
                  were
                  > doing his job as attentive equal partner, perhaps he'd have been on
                  > top of things. Eh, maybe he was out drinking with his buddies,
                  > instead of nipping the problem in the bud. Couldn't blame Sophia
                  for
                  > wandering a bit in that case. One should never underestimate the
                  > female will. ;-)
                  >
                  > Cari

                  LOL! I can picture poor Sophie trying to get his attention at the
                  kitchen table about a new project she had in mind while he buried his
                  face in the newspaper! "Eh? Did you say something, dear? Well, I
                  guess I'll be off to the pub to see the lads. Don't wait up." Serves
                  him right, I guess. -Steve W.
                  >
                • lady_caritas
                  ... Steve ... I ... relations ... ideas ... ascetic, ... the ... of ... the ... the ... the ... very ... things ... book ... but ... Steve, sorry I m late
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                    --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Steve" <eugnostos2000@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@> wrote:
                    > >
                    > > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Steve" <eugnostos2000@>
                    wrote:
                    > > >
                    > > > Hello. My previous comments and inquiries have been largely
                    > > oriented
                    > > > toward interpretation of Valentinian and Sethian metaphysics.
                    > > Recently,
                    > > > I have been considering the socialogical motivations underlying
                    > > gnostic
                    > > > mythology. Professor King, in her book The Secret Revelation of
                    > > John,
                    > > > goes to some length in discussing the use of myth as covert
                    > social
                    > > > critique. Does anyone here have any observations on this? -
                    Steve
                    > W.
                    > > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > Say, Steve, I purchased Karen King's book a little while ago, and
                    I
                    > > finally got around to reading the introduction this morning. I'm
                    > > curious to see how she expands on a few things included the
                    > > overview.
                    > >
                    > > For instance, tweaking the demiurge into a more ignorant,
                    > malevolent
                    > > Yaldabaoth can be seen as a polemic against the Jewish creator
                    > god.
                    > > But she seems to read further a social critique of power
                    relations
                    > > *in* this world "couched in the language of cosmology and
                    > > revelation."
                    > >
                    > > Also, I wonder if her comments (Intro – pages 6-7) about the
                    ideas
                    > of
                    > > the narrative in The Secret Revelation of John being "not so far
                    > > removed from the version of the story adopted by other forms of
                    > > Christianity" are a bit of a stretch. Even though she mentions
                    > that
                    > > the story takes unfamiliar twists and turns, I would not find
                    > > similar, for instance, the "Father" of this book to the "Father"
                    > > adopted by more proto-orthodox Christian renderings.
                    > >
                    > > Then again, I need to read the main text. It looks very
                    > > interesting.
                    > >
                    > > What's your take on social commentary in The Secret Book of John,
                    > > Steve?
                    > >
                    > > Cari
                    >
                    > Hi Cari. Sorry for the delays in response. Being a crazed
                    ascetic,
                    > I don't own a computor and have to post from the local library ( A
                    > friend who is dismayed at my life-style keeps me on her account so
                    > that I can get e-mails from her. ). IMO, the key to understanding
                    the
                    > social critique in The Secret Book of John is the idea of
                    > macrocosm/microcosm and the belief that the material world mirrors
                    > spiritual realities. From this point of view, all oppressive power
                    > structures on earth, including the Roman Empire, were and are
                    > reflections of the Demiurge and his Archons.
                    > The author of The Secret Book of John plays-off themes from both
                    > Genesis and The Timaeus. Professor King points out that the author
                    of
                    > The Secret Book of John presupposes the idea that the "problem",
                    the
                    > rupture in the Great Chain of Being which results in the birth of
                    the
                    > Demiurge, is the result of a feminine aspect of a lower
                    > syzygy "stepping out of line", as it were, and acting apart from
                    the
                    > will of her consort, thereby disrupting the natural harmony of the
                    > spiritual hierarchy. This is not, in principle, far different from
                    > blaming Eve for the Fall, as per the proto-orthodox position. I do
                    > agree with you that King stretches this a bit. However, there still
                    > seems to be a bit of sexist bias in The Secret Book of John. The
                    very
                    > idea that the female (Sophia) half of the divine Syzygy screws
                    things
                    > up by acting apart from her male counterpart is not terribly
                    > complimentary to women! Let me know what you think about King's
                    book
                    > when you finish it. I don't entirely agree with her conclusions,
                    but
                    > she certainly makes a persuasive case. -Steve W.
                    > >
                    >


                    Steve, sorry I'm late getting back to you here. It's been a bit busy
                    around here, but I finally did have a chance to pick up Karen King's
                    book (_The Secret Revelation of John_) again this past week and was
                    able to finish Part I. I thought I'd offer a few comments before
                    going on to Part II since I was intrigued by some of her
                    observations.

                    She manages to not only poke holes but also tear gashes into some
                    popular misconceptions about these Sethians, IMO. At the very, very
                    least, she challenges the reader by taking a broad view within a full
                    context of society of that time. These Sethians were not body-
                    hating, psychologically alienated, existential nomads full of
                    despair, not in touch with this world. In fact, as you note,
                    Steve, "the key to understanding the social critique in The Secret
                    Book of John is the idea of macrocosm/microcosm and the belief that
                    the material world mirrors spiritual realities. From this point of
                    view, all oppressive power structures on earth, including the Roman
                    Empire, were and are reflections of the Demiurge and his Archons."
                    And what might seem socially unacceptable to a modern audience as
                    some sexist elements within the myth could be just a reflection of a
                    particular society and culture and philosophy.

                    Even though other Christians of the era were writing disguised social
                    critique, their god of Moses was not the god of the Sethians. In
                    fact, Dr. King notes (p. 171):

                    "I would suggest rather that a text like the _Secret Revelation of
                    John_ was rejected not because it was too `otherworldly,' but because
                    it was too utopian in its aspirations and too unremitting in its
                    critique of violence and injustice. It is impossible that such a
                    radical and uncompromising portrait of ruling power in the world
                    below could ever have been compatible with radical shift in the
                    political condition of Christianity from persecuted sect to imperial
                    favor, such as was established after the Emperor Constantine
                    converted to Christianity in the fourth century. In an oration given
                    at the celebration of Constantine's tricennalia, the church historian
                    Eusebius extravagantly praised the emperor's sovereignty as a mirror
                    of God's heaven monarchy. Such a theology could never have squared
                    with Christ's revelation in the _Secret Revelation of John_."

                    Yet, Karen King also disagrees with a notion of existential
                    alienation (p. 172). She says,

                    "As I note above, this positioning of self as other is usually
                    interpreted as an expression of existential alienation. But by
                    locating the powerful spiritual self outside the dominant system, the
                    _Secret Revelation of John_ affords it a critical perspective on the
                    violence and unjust practices of the lower, imitation world."

                    And, if you don't mind my further quoting, she turns any
                    interpretation of a negative outlook on its head in her final words
                    of Part I (p. 173):

                    "The spirituality of the _Secret Revelation of John_ is grounded in
                    the insistence that evil is essentially the consequence of unjust and
                    malicious power relations in the lower world; realizing this truth is
                    the necessary first step in the process of spiritual formation along
                    the path toward salvation. This linkage of social critique with
                    spirituality is a central religious insight of the _Secret Revelation
                    of John_. Religion, however transcendent or otherworldly in its
                    conceptuality, is immediately and irrevocably tied to the social and
                    material conditions of existence, to justice and human well-being.
                    One may not tend the one without attention to the other. The
                    attractiveness of Christ's revelation in the _Secret Revelation of
                    John_ lies in its articulation of hope for relief from suffering and
                    injustice, its desire for spiritual perfection, and its depiction of
                    unalloyed goodness, justice, and well-being as the ultimate end of
                    all human beings. The crux of this theology is justice. Its theme
                    is hope."

                    Steve, Dr. King also addresses the importance of the human body in a
                    way that could be surprising to some readers. I'll start a new post,
                    though.

                    Cari
                  • lady_caritas
                    Okay,... to continue from my previous post #12506 – In reading Part I of Karen King s _The Secret Revelation of John_, I was blown away by her Chapter 4,
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                      Okay,... to continue from my previous post #12506 –

                      In reading Part I of Karen King's _The Secret Revelation of John_, I
                      was blown away by her Chapter 4, "The Solution: Salvation." I'll
                      probably just include a few quotes of hers again because she
                      expresses herself better than I could paraphrase in some cases.

                      Dr. King highlights the idea that for the Sethians the human being is
                      not all material, that the body is not evil, and that by
                      understanding it, one can control demonic influences for healing.
                      Also, her discussion of sex is particularly challenging to some
                      modern views about these Sethians. She also confirms that salvation
                      is not just a matter of mystical experience.

                      Near the beginning of her chapter 4 (p. 122) about "Salvation," she
                      quotes Hauschild, saying:

                      "Those who are saved in the _Apocryphon of John_ are `spirituals' not
                      because they possess a divine spirit by nature – that is the case for
                      everyone – but because an additional salvific Spirit has come over
                      them."

                      Apparently, according to these Sethians, all humanity will be saved
                      ultimately, except those who blaspheme the Spirit.

                      Later she says (p. 123), "The evil humanity must overcome is the
                      counterfeit spirit of the demonic powers; the body is only their
                      tool. That the body is not the locus of evil is shown by the fact
                      that it can be neutralized. Complete purification and salvation can
                      be achieved while still in the body."

                      And –

                      "The flesh does not have to serve the ends of the demons; while it is
                      not the focus of salvation, neither is it the locus of its ailments.
                      The battle for life is not fought between the Spirit and the body,
                      but between the true Spirit of Light and the counterfeit spirit of
                      the demons. Neither is the soul considered to be evil by nature, for
                      even after the creation of the psychic body of Adam we are told
                      that "he was naked of evil" (SrevJohn 18.17). The bodily self is
                      quite real and has quite real effects. The story of Adam's creation
                      shows how the human body – and materiality itself – comes into being
                      through the interplay of forces seeking to control the Spirit. In
                      that sense, the human body is the effect of a power struggle. It is
                      the battlefield between the opposing forces of the true Spirit and
                      the counterfeit spirit.

                      "Moreover, the body is an important – if not the most important –
                      site of revelation and the purveyor of true knowledge. The
                      centrality of this topic is emphasized by the fact that an extensive
                      portion of the _Secret Revelation of John_ is taken up with the
                      creation of the human body (almost a quarter of the longer version).
                      What is the truth which the body teaches? It is a map of the
                      substance and structure of reality with all its tensions and
                      conflicts. Simultaneously it is the territory on which the struggle
                      for truth is waged. To know the body is to grasp the truth of God,
                      the world, and everything. The body is therefore what is most real,
                      and yet it will dissolve back into the formlessness out of which it
                      derived. The suffering of the body and human experience of injustice
                      expose the truth of the world rulers' nature: malignant rulers and
                      false god who seek only to dominate that which is superior to them
                      through lies and violence."

                      And (p. 124) –

                      "The body is at once spiritual and material, divine and fallen,
                      immortal and mortal, perfect and flawed, pure and alloyed. As such,
                      it is both ally and weapon, for it is simultaneously the revelation
                      of the truth and rulers' tool of deception, suffering, and death. To
                      say that _The Secret Revelation of John_ considers the body to be
                      evil by nature misses the complexity of the text's presentation of
                      the human body as both map and territory, as both revelation and
                      battleground, as the soul's ally and the demiurgic weapon against
                      which it must struggle."

                      And, later in a discussion of sexuality (p. 129)–

                      "Could it be, then, that we misconstrue the radical asceticism of the
                      Secret Revelation of John when we read it as merely repressive of
                      sexuality? Could it be that it does not reject sexual intercourse
                      per se, but rather its distorted parody in lust, violence, and
                      deception? Does it propose a model of sexuality as spiritual
                      knowledge, patterned on likeness to divine creativity? Because Adam
                      and Eve's union in producing Seth works to correct Sophia's untimely
                      birthing Yaldabaoth, could it be that sex can be conceived as an act
                      of salvation? If this is the case – and I believe it is – we need to
                      reconsider entirely our notions of sexual renunciation as a marker of
                      this kind of dualistic theology."


                      King goes on to say (p. 130) that salvation is far from automatic,
                      though, and definitely not just "mystical experience." –

                      "People are potentially able to receive the Spirit of Life because
                      they were created in the divine image, but to perfect that image and
                      gain salvation requires the reception of revealed knowledge, study,
                      extirpation of the passions, purification from all evil, and rituals
                      of baptism and healing."

                      I'm curious what others might think about Dr. King's observations,
                      and also what the Sethians might have meant by "passions" since these
                      ancients could be viewed as quite passionate in their approach to
                      life, both mundane and spiritual.

                      Cari
                    • Steve
                      ... busy ... King s ... very ... full ... a ... social ... because ... imperial ... given ... historian ... mirror ... the ... the ... and ... is ... along ...
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                        ---


                        > >






                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        > Steve, sorry I'm late getting back to you here. It's been a bit
                        busy
                        > around here, but I finally did have a chance to pick up Karen
                        King's
                        > book (_The Secret Revelation of John_) again this past week and was
                        > able to finish Part I. I thought I'd offer a few comments before
                        > going on to Part II since I was intrigued by some of her
                        > observations.
                        >
                        > She manages to not only poke holes but also tear gashes into some
                        > popular misconceptions about these Sethians, IMO. At the very,
                        very
                        > least, she challenges the reader by taking a broad view within a
                        full
                        > context of society of that time. These Sethians were not body-
                        > hating, psychologically alienated, existential nomads full of
                        > despair, not in touch with this world. In fact, as you note,
                        > Steve, "the key to understanding the social critique in The Secret
                        > Book of John is the idea of macrocosm/microcosm and the belief that
                        > the material world mirrors spiritual realities. From this point of
                        > view, all oppressive power structures on earth, including the Roman
                        > Empire, were and are reflections of the Demiurge and his Archons."
                        > And what might seem socially unacceptable to a modern audience as
                        > some sexist elements within the myth could be just a reflection of
                        a
                        > particular society and culture and philosophy.
                        >
                        > Even though other Christians of the era were writing disguised
                        social
                        > critique, their god of Moses was not the god of the Sethians. In
                        > fact, Dr. King notes (p. 171):
                        >
                        > "I would suggest rather that a text like the _Secret Revelation of
                        > John_ was rejected not because it was too `otherworldly,' but
                        because
                        > it was too utopian in its aspirations and too unremitting in its
                        > critique of violence and injustice. It is impossible that such a
                        > radical and uncompromising portrait of ruling power in the world
                        > below could ever have been compatible with radical shift in the
                        > political condition of Christianity from persecuted sect to
                        imperial
                        > favor, such as was established after the Emperor Constantine
                        > converted to Christianity in the fourth century. In an oration
                        given
                        > at the celebration of Constantine's tricennalia, the church
                        historian
                        > Eusebius extravagantly praised the emperor's sovereignty as a
                        mirror
                        > of God's heaven monarchy. Such a theology could never have squared
                        > with Christ's revelation in the _Secret Revelation of John_."
                        >
                        > Yet, Karen King also disagrees with a notion of existential
                        > alienation (p. 172). She says,
                        >
                        > "As I note above, this positioning of self as other is usually
                        > interpreted as an expression of existential alienation. But by
                        > locating the powerful spiritual self outside the dominant system,
                        the
                        > _Secret Revelation of John_ affords it a critical perspective on
                        the
                        > violence and unjust practices of the lower, imitation world."
                        >
                        > And, if you don't mind my further quoting, she turns any
                        > interpretation of a negative outlook on its head in her final words
                        > of Part I (p. 173):
                        >
                        > "The spirituality of the _Secret Revelation of John_ is grounded in
                        > the insistence that evil is essentially the consequence of unjust
                        and
                        > malicious power relations in the lower world; realizing this truth
                        is
                        > the necessary first step in the process of spiritual formation
                        along
                        > the path toward salvation. This linkage of social critique with
                        > spirituality is a central religious insight of the _Secret
                        Revelation
                        > of John_. Religion, however transcendent or otherworldly in its
                        > conceptuality, is immediately and irrevocably tied to the social
                        and
                        > material conditions of existence, to justice and human well-being.
                        > One may not tend the one without attention to the other. The
                        > attractiveness of Christ's revelation in the _Secret Revelation of
                        > John_ lies in its articulation of hope for relief from suffering
                        and
                        > injustice, its desire for spiritual perfection, and its depiction
                        of
                        > unalloyed goodness, justice, and well-being as the ultimate end of
                        > all human beings. The crux of this theology is justice. Its theme
                        > is hope."
                        >
                        > Steve, Dr. King also addresses the importance of the human body in
                        a
                        > way that could be surprising to some readers. I'll start a new
                        post,
                        > though.
                        >
                        > Cari

                        Hi Cari. Yes, it was an eye-opener for me, also. Because we come
                        from a culture that tells stories of scientific explanation, we tend,
                        IMO, to see myth as being scientifically incorrect explanation. I no
                        longer think that the Sethians were telling stories of scientifically
                        correct or incorrect explanation. I think that they were trying to
                        expose a bad dream and offer in its place a nicer one. -Steve W.
                        >
                      • Steve
                        ... I ... is ... salvation ... not ... for ... can ... is ... ailments. ... for ... creation ... being ... is ... extensive ... version). ... struggle ...
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Okay,... to continue from my previous post #12506 –
                          >
                          > In reading Part I of Karen King's _The Secret Revelation of John_,
                          I
                          > was blown away by her Chapter 4, "The Solution: Salvation." I'll
                          > probably just include a few quotes of hers again because she
                          > expresses herself better than I could paraphrase in some cases.
                          >
                          > Dr. King highlights the idea that for the Sethians the human being
                          is
                          > not all material, that the body is not evil, and that by
                          > understanding it, one can control demonic influences for healing.
                          > Also, her discussion of sex is particularly challenging to some
                          > modern views about these Sethians. She also confirms that
                          salvation
                          > is not just a matter of mystical experience.
                          >
                          > Near the beginning of her chapter 4 (p. 122) about "Salvation," she
                          > quotes Hauschild, saying:
                          >
                          > "Those who are saved in the _Apocryphon of John_ are `spirituals'
                          not
                          > because they possess a divine spirit by nature – that is the case
                          for
                          > everyone – but because an additional salvific Spirit has come over
                          > them."
                          >
                          > Apparently, according to these Sethians, all humanity will be saved
                          > ultimately, except those who blaspheme the Spirit.
                          >
                          > Later she says (p. 123), "The evil humanity must overcome is the
                          > counterfeit spirit of the demonic powers; the body is only their
                          > tool. That the body is not the locus of evil is shown by the fact
                          > that it can be neutralized. Complete purification and salvation
                          can
                          > be achieved while still in the body."
                          >
                          > And –
                          >
                          > "The flesh does not have to serve the ends of the demons; while it
                          is
                          > not the focus of salvation, neither is it the locus of its
                          ailments.
                          > The battle for life is not fought between the Spirit and the body,
                          > but between the true Spirit of Light and the counterfeit spirit of
                          > the demons. Neither is the soul considered to be evil by nature,
                          for
                          > even after the creation of the psychic body of Adam we are told
                          > that "he was naked of evil" (SrevJohn 18.17). The bodily self is
                          > quite real and has quite real effects. The story of Adam's
                          creation
                          > shows how the human body – and materiality itself – comes into
                          being
                          > through the interplay of forces seeking to control the Spirit. In
                          > that sense, the human body is the effect of a power struggle. It
                          is
                          > the battlefield between the opposing forces of the true Spirit and
                          > the counterfeit spirit.
                          >
                          > "Moreover, the body is an important – if not the most important –
                          > site of revelation and the purveyor of true knowledge. The
                          > centrality of this topic is emphasized by the fact that an
                          extensive
                          > portion of the _Secret Revelation of John_ is taken up with the
                          > creation of the human body (almost a quarter of the longer
                          version).
                          > What is the truth which the body teaches? It is a map of the
                          > substance and structure of reality with all its tensions and
                          > conflicts. Simultaneously it is the territory on which the
                          struggle
                          > for truth is waged. To know the body is to grasp the truth of God,
                          > the world, and everything. The body is therefore what is most
                          real,
                          > and yet it will dissolve back into the formlessness out of which it
                          > derived. The suffering of the body and human experience of
                          injustice
                          > expose the truth of the world rulers' nature: malignant rulers and
                          > false god who seek only to dominate that which is superior to them
                          > through lies and violence."
                          >
                          > And (p. 124) –
                          >
                          > "The body is at once spiritual and material, divine and fallen,
                          > immortal and mortal, perfect and flawed, pure and alloyed. As
                          such,
                          > it is both ally and weapon, for it is simultaneously the revelation
                          > of the truth and rulers' tool of deception, suffering, and death.
                          To
                          > say that _The Secret Revelation of John_ considers the body to be
                          > evil by nature misses the complexity of the text's presentation of
                          > the human body as both map and territory, as both revelation and
                          > battleground, as the soul's ally and the demiurgic weapon against
                          > which it must struggle."
                          >
                          > And, later in a discussion of sexuality (p. 129)–
                          >
                          > "Could it be, then, that we misconstrue the radical asceticism of
                          the
                          > Secret Revelation of John when we read it as merely repressive of
                          > sexuality? Could it be that it does not reject sexual intercourse
                          > per se, but rather its distorted parody in lust, violence, and
                          > deception? Does it propose a model of sexuality as spiritual
                          > knowledge, patterned on likeness to divine creativity? Because
                          Adam
                          > and Eve's union in producing Seth works to correct Sophia's
                          untimely
                          > birthing Yaldabaoth, could it be that sex can be conceived as an
                          act
                          > of salvation? If this is the case – and I believe it is – we need
                          to
                          > reconsider entirely our notions of sexual renunciation as a marker
                          of
                          > this kind of dualistic theology."
                          >
                          >
                          > King goes on to say (p. 130) that salvation is far from automatic,
                          > though, and definitely not just "mystical experience." –
                          >
                          > "People are potentially able to receive the Spirit of Life because
                          > they were created in the divine image, but to perfect that image
                          and
                          > gain salvation requires the reception of revealed knowledge, study,
                          > extirpation of the passions, purification from all evil, and
                          rituals
                          > of baptism and healing."
                          >
                          > I'm curious what others might think about Dr. King's observations,
                          > and also what the Sethians might have meant by "passions" since
                          these
                          > ancients could be viewed as quite passionate in their approach to
                          > life, both mundane and spiritual.
                          >
                          > Cari
                          >
                          Hi again, Cari. In the Stoic understanding, which was very popular
                          at the time, the passions arise from inaccurate or distorted
                          understanding. We, now, tend to equate passion with emotion, but the
                          Stoics saw the passions as arising from mistaken views. -Steve W.
                        • lady_caritas
                          ... Steve, you bring up a very important point,... that of the importance of philosophy incorporated in religious thought. Passions would be thought of as
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Steve" <eugnostos2000@...> wrote:

                            > >
                            > Hi again, Cari. In the Stoic understanding, which was very popular
                            > at the time, the passions arise from inaccurate or distorted
                            > understanding. We, now, tend to equate passion with emotion, but the
                            > Stoics saw the passions as arising from mistaken views. -Steve W.
                            >

                            Steve, you bring up a very important point,... that of the importance
                            of philosophy incorporated in religious thought. Passions would be
                            thought of as disorders of the soul. IOW, not all of what we think of
                            as "emotions" would be included, but surely would be a component
                            of "lust, fear, delight, stress," by modern standards anyway.
                            Standards of reason and nature and virtue were very important in
                            considering these "passions."

                            http://www.wku.edu/~jan.garrett/stoipass.htm

                            And you bring up a good point because we should consider a different
                            way of looking at "emotions" and "passions" when trying to interpret
                            practices and views we see in ancient writings.

                            Cari
                          • pmcvflag
                            Cari ... though, and definitely not just mystical experience.
                            Message 13 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                              Cari

                              >>>King goes on to say (p. 130) that salvation is far from automatic,
                              though, and definitely not just "mystical experience."<<<

                              I sure am glad somebody with a wider readership finally pointed that
                              out. In most of the discussions here on the net it seems an
                              assumptions that "Gnosis" is not only a synonym for the mystical
                              experience for modern "Gnostics" of the more New Age type, but meant
                              exactly the same thing to the historical Gnostics as well. Suggesting
                              that this is not what the word meant in that context is often met with
                              unthinking hostility.

                              PMCV
                            • lady_caritas
                              ... Suggesting ... with ... Oh, you know, PMCV, I d better be very careful how I word things. Dr. King didn t say those exact words. I was just summarizing
                              Message 14 of 14 , Jun 30, 2006
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                                --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > Cari
                                >
                                > >>>King goes on to say (p. 130) that salvation is far from automatic,
                                > though, and definitely not just "mystical experience."<<<
                                >
                                > I sure am glad somebody with a wider readership finally pointed that
                                > out. In most of the discussions here on the net it seems an
                                > assumptions that "Gnosis" is not only a synonym for the mystical
                                > experience for modern "Gnostics" of the more New Age type, but meant
                                > exactly the same thing to the historical Gnostics as well.
                                Suggesting
                                > that this is not what the word meant in that context is often met
                                with
                                > unthinking hostility.
                                >
                                > PMCV
                                >


                                Oh, you know, PMCV, I'd better be very careful how I word things. Dr.
                                King didn't say those exact words. I was just summarizing and noting
                                the fact that her list included more than "reception of revealed
                                knowledge." But she does plainly state a full list of items necessary
                                for salvation that goes beyond mystical experience. And certainly we
                                have seen the idea of things like "study" met with derision even right
                                on this board.

                                Her full paragraph (p. 129-130) reads:

                                "Salvation is, however, far from automatic, although all of humanity
                                will ultimately be saved, except apostates who blaspheme the Spirit.
                                People are potentially able to receive the Spirit of Life because they
                                were created in the divine image, but to perfect that image and gain
                                salvation requires the reception of revealed knowledge, study,
                                extirpation of the passions, purification from all evil, and rituals
                                of baptism and healing."

                                Cari
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