Hey, I_eat_pi, welcome to the group. You raise some interesting
points and questions.
>>>Can gnosis ever be exclusively private? By this I mean to ask
whether we can achieve gnosis on our own without a community's
It is very good you made your intent more clear, because to me the
first question and the second could be seen as completely different
things. In fact, the absense of physical community may not
imply "private" in the least if the conclusions are shared with a
wider community. Since you used the word "exclusively" I would have
thought you meant on all levels rather than simply the physical...
had it not been for your qualification of intent.
However, one thing you did not qualify or explain is your meaning of
the word "Gnosis" itself. In this forum we do try to stick to the
historical usages, so I am going to have work from that angle.
>>>I'll tell you why I ask. Postmodern culture has nurtured a cult of
the subjective. I suspect this is so because the subjective has
become problematical. Our interior selves are constantly being
Postmodern culture has very little to do with Gnosis. In my view it
was a big mistake on the part of some philosophers to
equate "Gnosis" of the ancients with their own philosophies. This is
true of the Existentialists, and I would say even more true of
anyone who wishes to do the same with postmodernism. However, I
think we do have to draw a line between Philosophical Postmodernism
and Popular Postmodernism before your question can have meaning. You
seem to be implying a greater interest in the latter, but I am
trying to not assume that before I say anything further on that
>>>We've become so exteriorized that personal experiences are a joke.
In order to salvage what historically has been our subjective
and private selves, postmodernism gives us permission to experience
the "divine" without justifying anything.<<<<
The Gnostic texts deal with the subject from almost the opposite
perspective. It is the personal and the subjective that is exterior
(or more accurately, not completely exterior OR interior). For
instance, reading the first part of "Gospel of Truth" we
see "ignorance" categorized as a sort of subjectivity that melts
away with Gnosis. Same with the Tripartite Tractate and the Gospel
of Philip where the subjective observations of language are seen as
problems with the fallen state, where an objective realization of
underlying meaning is seen as part of Gnosis itself.
In fact, I think it would be fair to say that the Gnostics accepted
subjective methods for attainment, but equated Gnosis itself as a
move toward objectivity. Again and again the texts talk about
absolutes that are beyond subjectivity, and they equate this
recognition with aspects of "Gnosis". It could amost be stated that
popular postmodernism ("New Age" thinking) is nearly opposite to
that of Gnosticism.
>>>Yet, even though ancient gnostics were open to charismatic and
original experiences, those experiences were expressed in familiar
terms. The gnostics spoke in the language of well established
cosmologies. The most ad hoc insights were still subject to the
logic of those cosmologies.<<<
I was not sure if you meant "ad hoc" in the popular or the
traditional way, but it almost doesn't matter. I take you to mean
that the Gnostics were actually very specific in the linguistic
usage, and thier belief about the function and meaning of
experience, in which case I think there is no question that you are
>>>It might be argued that modern gnostics do the same thing.<<<
This forum uses the term "Gnostics" only in the historical
meaning... which means we have to question the usage of the
term "modern Gnostics". This does not mean that we question whether
modern people can find Gnosis, or if they can find the meaning and
method of ancient Gnostic orders... it only means that we don't
extend the category beyond the more technical meaning.
>>>The problem is that the ancient cosmologies don't have currency,
This is a question that was recenly raised (by me) in another
conversation. Before you can even deal with whether the ancient
cosmology has currency you have to deal with whether you think it
was literal or not. In fact, you have to deal with a whole host of
hermeneutic methodologies that you simply have not.
>>>The universe is no longer some anthropomorphic projection.
Consider the narrative from the gnostic text "Thunder Perfect Mind."
The hubris of Wisdom and her subsequently deformed progeny just don't
This actually brings up my prior point perfectly. For one, it is
questionable whether Thunder is technically a "Gnostic" text, but
more importantly there is the issue of just how much of this is a
literary divice. One has to ask exactly how this text is being
understood... is it an allegory? If it does not resonate is that
because it isn't true? Or because the person does not yet understand
it? (if the CAN understand it)
>>>If gnosticism is simply a way to validate our personal and
private selves, then in what sense can we claim kinship with the
ancient gnostics? For them, gnosis was a release from an interiority
which was already there, not a means to create that interiority.<<<
While I think the terms may be more complex, if this is what you are
driving at I think I agree. I am partially bringing up these
problems to point out that in this forum your point needs to bring
up actual examples and contrasts.
>>>>As I see it, we must hollow out the languages of our mundane
communities and fill them with new meanings as the ancient gnostics
did with their creation myths. In order to become a personal
expression, gnosis must first spring from a communal matrix. The
irony is that the subjective derives from it's community. Once the
subjective is created, then and only then can the light trapped
within us be released.<<<<
I think that is a really great idea for a topic. In fact, I would
like to ask anyone here to attempt it. We have already talked about
how the Gnostics had a pretty specific "trade lingo" that helps to
identify them as a group, BUT!!!! what modern words would you all
use if you thought you were going to try to communicate the beliefs
to a modern mind?
Those of you who voted for modernization in the recent poll should
especially answer this one.