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Scholarship on the Terms: Gnosis vs. Gnostic

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  • George
    I thought this would be helpful in comprehending the confusions that we encounter on this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism [At the 1966 Messina
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 30, 2006
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      I thought this would be helpful in comprehending the
      confusions that we encounter on this list:

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

      "[At the 1966 Messina conference]....it had been decided
      that 'Gnosticism' would become a historically-specific term,
      restricted to mean the Gnostic movements prevalent in the 3rd
      century, while 'gnosis' would be an universal term, denoting
      a system of knowledge retained 'for a privileged élite'."

      "However, this effort towards providing clarity in fact created
      more conceptual confusion, as the historical term 'Gnosticism'
      was an entirely modern construction, while the new universal
      term 'gnosis' was a historical term: 'something was being
      called "gnosticism" that the ancient theologians had
      called "gnosis" ..."

      "[A] concept of gnosis had been created by Messina that was almost
      unusable in a historical sense' (Markschies, Gnosis: An
      Introduction, 14-15). In antiquity, all agreed that knowledge
      was centrally important to life, but few were agreed as to what
      exactly constituted knowledge; the unitary conception that the
      Messina proposal presupposed did not exist."

      "These flaws have meant that the problems concerning an exact
      definition of Gnosticism persist. It remains current convention
      to use 'Gnosticism' in a historical sense, and 'gnosis'
      universally."

      "Leaving aside the issues with the latter noted above, the usage
      of 'Gnosticism' to designate a category of religions in the 3rd
      century has recently been questioned as well."

      "Of note is the work of Michael Allen Williams in Rethinking
      Gnosticism: An Argument for the Dismantling of a Dubious
      Category, in which the author examines the terms by which
      gnosticism as a category is defined, and then closely compares
      these suppositions with the contents of actual Gnostic texts
      (the newly-recovered Nag Hammadi library was of central
      importance to his thesis)."

      [END OF QUOTE]

      Conclusion? Could those ancient sects we would call gnostic
      have agreed to what was core of Gnosticism? I doubt it.

      Shouldn't we stop using the word "Gnostic" as a reference to
      the ancient groups at all? There were groups who pursued
      gnosis. In fact, they were all rivals in their attempt to
      define gnosis.

      I would suggest that calling this or that ancient group
      "gnostic" is intended as a restrictive term when in fact
      the term would encompass most of Christianity, and much
      of mystic Judaism.

      Regards,

      George
    • lady_caritas
      ... George, as I have sat here watching your conversation with PMCV unfold, I have to admit that I am absolutely amazed how you keep fast- forwarding to some
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 30, 2006
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        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "George" <historynow2002@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > I thought this would be helpful in comprehending the
        > confusions that we encounter on this list:
        >
        > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism
        >
        > "[At the 1966 Messina conference]....it had been decided
        > that 'Gnosticism' would become a historically-specific term,
        > restricted to mean the Gnostic movements prevalent in the 3rd
        > century, while 'gnosis' would be an universal term, denoting
        > a system of knowledge retained 'for a privileged élite'."
        >
        > "However, this effort towards providing clarity in fact created
        > more conceptual confusion, as the historical term 'Gnosticism'
        > was an entirely modern construction, while the new universal
        > term 'gnosis' was a historical term: 'something was being
        > called "gnosticism" that the ancient theologians had
        > called "gnosis" ..."
        >
        > "[A] concept of gnosis had been created by Messina that was almost
        > unusable in a historical sense' (Markschies, Gnosis: An
        > Introduction, 14-15). In antiquity, all agreed that knowledge
        > was centrally important to life, but few were agreed as to what
        > exactly constituted knowledge; the unitary conception that the
        > Messina proposal presupposed did not exist."
        >
        > "These flaws have meant that the problems concerning an exact
        > definition of Gnosticism persist. It remains current convention
        > to use 'Gnosticism' in a historical sense, and 'gnosis'
        > universally."
        >
        > "Leaving aside the issues with the latter noted above, the usage
        > of 'Gnosticism' to designate a category of religions in the 3rd
        > century has recently been questioned as well."
        >
        > "Of note is the work of Michael Allen Williams in Rethinking
        > Gnosticism: An Argument for the Dismantling of a Dubious
        > Category, in which the author examines the terms by which
        > gnosticism as a category is defined, and then closely compares
        > these suppositions with the contents of actual Gnostic texts
        > (the newly-recovered Nag Hammadi library was of central
        > importance to his thesis)."
        >
        > [END OF QUOTE]
        >
        > Conclusion? Could those ancient sects we would call gnostic
        > have agreed to what was core of Gnosticism? I doubt it.
        >
        > Shouldn't we stop using the word "Gnostic" as a reference to
        > the ancient groups at all? There were groups who pursued
        > gnosis. In fact, they were all rivals in their attempt to
        > define gnosis.
        >
        > I would suggest that calling this or that ancient group
        > "gnostic" is intended as a restrictive term when in fact
        > the term would encompass most of Christianity, and much
        > of mystic Judaism.
        >
        > Regards,
        >
        > George
        >


        George, as I have sat here watching your conversation with PMCV
        unfold, I have to admit that I am absolutely amazed how you keep fast-
        forwarding to some kind of "one-size-fits-most" Gnostic theory.

        Would it be possible to come to some kind of common ground of
        understanding regarding categories, definitions, and functions before
        dismissing them or changing them outright?

        PMCV has taken the time to answer your recent points in two posts
        regarding this subject:

        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/12649
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/12650

        Not that it is a requirement,... but do you intend to respond
        directly to all his points, too?

        Just wondering, because I find this adjunct post of yours confusing
        in light of current conversation regarding this subject of
        terminology and categories.

        Anyway, I'm climbing back up to the peanut gallery...

        Cari
      • Michael Leavitt
        ... But what you asked had to be asked!
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 30, 2006
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          lady_caritas wrote:
          > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "George" <historynow2002@...>
          > wrote:
          >
          >> I thought this would be helpful in comprehending the
          >> confusions that we encounter on this list:
          >>
          >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism
          >>
          >> "[At the 1966 Messina conference]....it had been decided
          >> that 'Gnosticism' would become a historically-specific term,
          >> restricted to mean the Gnostic movements prevalent in the 3rd
          >> century, while 'gnosis' would be an universal term, denoting
          >> a system of knowledge retained 'for a privileged élite'."
          >>
          >> "However, this effort towards providing clarity in fact created
          >> more conceptual confusion, as the historical term 'Gnosticism'
          >> was an entirely modern construction, while the new universal
          >> term 'gnosis' was a historical term: 'something was being
          >> called "gnosticism" that the ancient theologians had
          >> called "gnosis" ..."
          >>
          >> "[A] concept of gnosis had been created by Messina that was almost
          >> unusable in a historical sense' (Markschies, Gnosis: An
          >> Introduction, 14-15). In antiquity, all agreed that knowledge
          >> was centrally important to life, but few were agreed as to what
          >> exactly constituted knowledge; the unitary conception that the
          >> Messina proposal presupposed did not exist."
          >>
          >> "These flaws have meant that the problems concerning an exact
          >> definition of Gnosticism persist. It remains current convention
          >> to use 'Gnosticism' in a historical sense, and 'gnosis'
          >> universally."
          >>
          >> "Leaving aside the issues with the latter noted above, the usage
          >> of 'Gnosticism' to designate a category of religions in the 3rd
          >> century has recently been questioned as well."
          >>
          >> "Of note is the work of Michael Allen Williams in Rethinking
          >> Gnosticism: An Argument for the Dismantling of a Dubious
          >> Category, in which the author examines the terms by which
          >> gnosticism as a category is defined, and then closely compares
          >> these suppositions with the contents of actual Gnostic texts
          >> (the newly-recovered Nag Hammadi library was of central
          >> importance to his thesis)."
          >>
          >> [END OF QUOTE]
          >>
          >> Conclusion? Could those ancient sects we would call gnostic
          >> have agreed to what was core of Gnosticism? I doubt it.
          >>
          >> Shouldn't we stop using the word "Gnostic" as a reference to
          >> the ancient groups at all? There were groups who pursued
          >> gnosis. In fact, they were all rivals in their attempt to
          >> define gnosis.
          >>
          >> I would suggest that calling this or that ancient group
          >> "gnostic" is intended as a restrictive term when in fact
          >> the term would encompass most of Christianity, and much
          >> of mystic Judaism.
          >>
          >> Regards,
          >>
          >> George
          >>
          >>
          >
          >
          > George, as I have sat here watching your conversation with PMCV
          > unfold, I have to admit that I am absolutely amazed how you keep fast-
          > forwarding to some kind of "one-size-fits-most" Gnostic theory.
          >
          > Would it be possible to come to some kind of common ground of
          > understanding regarding categories, definitions, and functions before
          > dismissing them or changing them outright?
          >
          > PMCV has taken the time to answer your recent points in two posts
          > regarding this subject:
          >
          > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/12649
          > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/12650
          >
          > Not that it is a requirement,... but do you intend to respond
          > directly to all his points, too?
          >
          > Just wondering, because I find this adjunct post of yours confusing
          > in light of current conversation regarding this subject of
          > terminology and categories.
          >
          > Anyway, I'm climbing back up to the peanut gallery...
          >
          > Cari
          >
          >
          But what you asked had to be asked!
        • imdarkchylde
          I too try to unite rather than seperate, and I too look to what we all, Gnostic (if you call yourself that), Christian, Muslim, Sufi, Buddhist- I believe all
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 30, 2006
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            I too try to unite rather than seperate, and I too look to what we
            all, Gnostic (if you call yourself that), Christian, Muslim, Sufi,
            Buddhist- I believe all paths to be different roads to the same
            light.
            However, I have to support Cari, whose research in this is probably
            more in scope than Wikipedia, and I have noticed that religions who
            ascribe to the same core will fight more vehemently over
            translations than they will over completely different beliefs.
            Hence the anamosity between the suni and the shite, the catholic and
            the protestant- need I cite more examples? I suspect this existed
            with the ancient Gnostics as well. Sometimes we are less tolerant
            of someone who believes as we do but doesn't agree with us than
            someone with different views altogether, as seems to be the reality
            for other beliefs or religions.
            Also, and I could be wrong in this (I personally always TRY to leave
            myself open to the 'possibility') but I doubt if the ancients
            called themselves 'gnostic' anymore than the ancient Vikings called
            themselves Vikings. They called themselves the Northmen, and only
            thier enemies called them Vikings. I wonder if since a great deal
            of the info we have on the ancient Gnostics was written by thier
            enemies, we must be careful what can be gleaned from that.
            And although the Gnostics might not have elaborated on themselves as
            much, there IS much on how they defined Gnosis.
            Knowledge in itself is taken for granted nowdays, in our age
            of 'instant information'. Perhaps because of this fact the
            definition of knowledge as we know it has undergone a change, and we
            do not appreciate knowledge for itself. I have found in my personal
            life that all bigotry, prejudice and chavenism is due to ignorance-
            ignorance for what it is like to walk in another's shoes. Once one
            has taken that journey, ignorance dies and true understanding takes
            place. We are well educated in today's world, we talk openly and
            without the fear of retribution for our beliefs, which existed in
            the world before, and which I feel is the reason gnostism was
            exclusified by the elite was because the common man as it were
            couldn't buck conventional religion without fear, much like the guy
            in the fancy car gets by with infractions because he can afford the
            high-priced lawyer to get him out, while the person in the beat-up
            pinto gets reamed because he can't afford the same representation,
            and the officer issuing citations is well aware of that. The rich
            and powerful have never been under the same rules as the rest of us,
            and I'm sure that was as true then as it is now.
            I would really do some serious research before one takes up cudgels
            in this group.*LOL*
            Love and peas
            Darkchylde





            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@...>
            wrote:
            >
            > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "George" <historynow2002@>
            > wrote:
            > >
            > > I thought this would be helpful in comprehending the
            > > confusions that we encounter on this list:
            > >
            > > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism
            > >
            > > "[At the 1966 Messina conference]....it had been decided
            > > that 'Gnosticism' would become a historically-specific term,
            > > restricted to mean the Gnostic movements prevalent in the 3rd
            > > century, while 'gnosis' would be an universal term, denoting
            > > a system of knowledge retained 'for a privileged élite'."
            > >
            > > "However, this effort towards providing clarity in fact created
            > > more conceptual confusion, as the historical term 'Gnosticism'
            > > was an entirely modern construction, while the new universal
            > > term 'gnosis' was a historical term: 'something was being
            > > called "gnosticism" that the ancient theologians had
            > > called "gnosis" ..."
            > >
            > > "[A] concept of gnosis had been created by Messina that was
            almost
            > > unusable in a historical sense' (Markschies, Gnosis: An
            > > Introduction, 14-15). In antiquity, all agreed that knowledge
            > > was centrally important to life, but few were agreed as to what
            > > exactly constituted knowledge; the unitary conception that the
            > > Messina proposal presupposed did not exist."
            > >
            > > "These flaws have meant that the problems concerning an exact
            > > definition of Gnosticism persist. It remains current convention
            > > to use 'Gnosticism' in a historical sense, and 'gnosis'
            > > universally."
            > >
            > > "Leaving aside the issues with the latter noted above, the usage
            > > of 'Gnosticism' to designate a category of religions in the 3rd
            > > century has recently been questioned as well."
            > >
            > > "Of note is the work of Michael Allen Williams in Rethinking
            > > Gnosticism: An Argument for the Dismantling of a Dubious
            > > Category, in which the author examines the terms by which
            > > gnosticism as a category is defined, and then closely compares
            > > these suppositions with the contents of actual Gnostic texts
            > > (the newly-recovered Nag Hammadi library was of central
            > > importance to his thesis)."
            > >
            > > [END OF QUOTE]
            > >
            > > Conclusion? Could those ancient sects we would call gnostic
            > > have agreed to what was core of Gnosticism? I doubt it.
            > >
            > > Shouldn't we stop using the word "Gnostic" as a reference to
            > > the ancient groups at all? There were groups who pursued
            > > gnosis. In fact, they were all rivals in their attempt to
            > > define gnosis.
            > >
            > > I would suggest that calling this or that ancient group
            > > "gnostic" is intended as a restrictive term when in fact
            > > the term would encompass most of Christianity, and much
            > > of mystic Judaism.
            > >
            > > Regards,
            > >
            > > George
            > >
            >
            >
            > George, as I have sat here watching your conversation with PMCV
            > unfold, I have to admit that I am absolutely amazed how you keep
            fast-
            > forwarding to some kind of "one-size-fits-most" Gnostic theory.
            >
            > Would it be possible to come to some kind of common ground of
            > understanding regarding categories, definitions, and functions
            before
            > dismissing them or changing them outright?
            >
            > PMCV has taken the time to answer your recent points in two posts
            > regarding this subject:
            >
            > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/12649
            > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/12650
            >
            > Not that it is a requirement,... but do you intend to respond
            > directly to all his points, too?
            >
            > Just wondering, because I find this adjunct post of yours
            confusing
            > in light of current conversation regarding this subject of
            > terminology and categories.
            >
            > Anyway, I'm climbing back up to the peanut gallery...
            >
            > Cari
            >
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