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Revisiting "Old vs new - Who decides?"

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  • Tsharpmin7@aol.com
    In a message dated 7/15/2006 3:34:07 PM Central Standard Time, ... Say, Crispin, thank you for the reading suggestions. PMCV noted I might be out for a bit.
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 28, 2006
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      In a message dated 7/15/2006 3:34:07 PM Central Standard Time, no_reply@yahoogroups.com writes:
      > hi Cari.... i like the way you ramble and your sense of
      > humor.
      > i'll just dive in now. i think an "ideal" truth launches
      > us right back into subjectivity, reflecting our hopes and
      > fears. so then, is there an underlying reality/truth
      > governing existence that is not subject to our
      > imagination, prejudices and whimsy; that remains
      > largely unperceived by our ordinary perception? both
      > ancient and current Sufis say (Rumi, for instance) that
      > humankind can develop (after all Rumi was an
      > evolutionist) the organs of perception necessary to know
      > and experience this underlying -- or pervasive yet mostly
      > undetected -- reality/truth. Valentinians and Sethians
      > and Platonists and Hermeticists, etc., made similar
      > claims. we witness their containers and outer forms
      > changing via the requirements of time and culture,
      > but ultimately the contents they seem to suggest
      > appear to be virtually the same. and we witness them
      > in their various times and cultures pointing their
      > fingers at this ineffable content in the only way our
      > ordinary perceptions can know that they have done so:
      > ink on paper/papyrus. words and language; be they
      > written source material, imperfect and incomplete
      > copies or hearsay.
      > now if you, Lady Cari, for example, were intimately
      > conjoined to this ultimate, ineffable Source or
      > reality/truth, should you be described as container or
      > content? maybe both? would you then be the Christ
      > (Gnosticism) or "haq," which can mean either truth or
      > God (Sufism)? how might you be different from a book
      > widely acclaimed to contain great wisdom? what might
      > you accomplish that words, language and books
      > cannot? might you, like the householder of the large
      > estate entrusted with the care and maintenance of
      > several children, slaves, dogs, pigs and cattle in The
      > Gospel of Philip, go about feeding, grooming and
      > clothing each according to the requirements of its kind;
      > might you be like a "disciple of God" who "perceives the
      > conditions of [all] souls and speaks to each one"
      > accordingly, recognizing that each has different needs
      > and stands at a different level of spiritual maturity?
      > though you may have to take my word for it, the
      > example from GoP above is, as far as i can discern, in
      > perfect harmony with Sufism as it has always been
      > disseminated. and they have always claimed that the
      > transmission and the way of revealed truth is part of a
      > guided tour. the pamphlet at the gift shop, they tell us,
      > is of relatively limited value. it may help us prepare
      > for what to expect, how to behave, discuss history and
      > personalities and beliefs, but, ultimately, "the map is
      > not the territory." it cannot interact with us or
      > address the unique requirements of our individual
      > journeys.

      Say, Crispin, thank you for the reading suggestions. PMCV noted I
      might be out for a bit. I'm trying to keep my foot elevated because
      of an ankle I managed to sprain yesterday. :-( I'm coming back to
      your post here with a few comments at this point though. [ I'm
      trying not to identify too intimately with PMCV's description of
      cracked leg with bone cutting through flesh. ;-) ]

      Perhaps you could clarify here for me, Crispin, since you have a
      better running knowledge of Sufism than I, a bit more about how the
      Sufis viewed being "intimately conjoined to this ultimate, ineffable
      Source or reality/truth. " Was there consensus among them about
      this? I'm also having difficulty concerning how becoming "Christ"
      vs. becoming "truth" or "God" are related.

      The Gospel of Philip, which you mention, talks about receiving truth
      in the form of images. Allogenes speaks of a point beyond which
      humans should not seek the Unknowable One "lest he be diminished."
      IOW, ~
      "we are not acquainted with whether the unrecognizable possesses
      angels or gods; nor whether the still has anything within it but
      stillness, i.e. its own self."
      It seems this mystical ascent does not bring complete disclosure or a
      full dissolution into the Unknown. And at the end, the Foreigner is
      told to write a book for the sake of those who "may be worthy" and
      deposit it upon a mountain, and "call upon the guardian." "Come, O
      Phriktos, guardian of death." And, in fact, Allogenes incorporates a
      heavy philosophical style in explaining the ascent. There is
      experience and then there is philosophical understanding of that
      experience, which we have discussed in this forum.

      Rumi, OTOH, speaks of surrender and escape into silence. And he not
      only seems to emphasize mystical experience or emptiness as a major
      aim, but also even admonishes using books and practices, although I
      read his following poem (I'll just type the beginning lines) in a
      lovely book (Rumi the Book of Love, trans. Coleman Barks) and am
      talking about it:

      "If you want to learn theory,
      talk with theoreticians. That way is oral.

      When you learn a craft, _practice_ it.
      That learning comes through the hands.

      If you want dervishhood, spiritual poverty
      and emptiness, you must be friends with a teacher.

      Talking about it, reading books, and doing practices
      don't help. Soul receives from soul that knowing..."

      Rumi's teacher was said to push Rumi's books into a fountain at their
      first meeting before they went into retreat. Rumi was to live what
      he had been reading and talking about.

      I imagine that Gnostics appreciated the necessity of experience.
      Books and philosophy were important, too. An either/or proposition
      doesn't appear to have been an issue, the way I've heard some moderns
      polarize things. But it is also clear that philosophy, study and
      ritual were part of realizing that experience toward salvation. I
      somehow can't envision them discarding books.

      In any case, I've only talked about one Sufi you mentioned, Crispin.
      Perhaps you could clarify better what core you see among the various
      groups you listed, and whether, for each, this functionally related
      to the same concept of Source when talking about "conjoining. "

      Thank you,

      Cari
      hello Cari.... you are a real challenge to me, and i
      honestly appreciate the clarity of your questions and
      exposition, and i always hope i am up to the task of
      replying in kind.
       
      let me offer an apparent enigma that might
      demonstrate the difficulty of gleaning consensus
      amongst the Sufis (an enigma that is especially
      confounding to those who insist their spiritual
      desserts be plated upon recognizable systems and
      doctrines).
       
      many are confused by how, on the one hand, various
      Sufi "schools" appear to be at distinct odds with each
      other.  yet, on the other hand, contemporary Sufis
      continue the long standing tradition of sending their 
      students to study with one or more of these "opposing"
      schools.  what are we to make of that?  not only does
      the surface (apparent outward form) of Sufic tradition
      lack consensus, but they send students to the
      "opposition" from which they may or may not return. 
      whatever motivations we may project upon the Sufis to
      explain this practice, i think it is safe to say that the
      idea of competition between Sufi "schools" and the
      desire to prevail ideologically, one over the other, is
      mere appearance and unexamined habit of thought
      and expectation on our part.
       
      unfortunately, it bears little fruit to consult Western
      scholarship on the matter of Sufic consensus --
      unless you are collecting examples of the folly of
      overspecialization --  when heralded experts and
      "Oriental" specialists consistently miss the forest for
      the trees: for example, one world famous Western
      Orientalist translated Hujiwiri's 11th century
      "Revelation" -- long recognized as the earliest Persian
      treatment of Sufism as well as one of the most
      authoritative Sufi texts -- which specifically states
      that SUFI has no etymology; yet the great Orientalist,
      having quite accurately translated that information,
      could not grok that a word might not have an 
      etymology, and thus continued to insist in all his 
      subsequent works that SUFI is etymologically
      derived from the Arabic word for "wool" -- pronounced
      SOOF -- referring to the rather simple woolen robes of
      early Muslim mystics, and this apparently logical yet
      erroneous explanation of the origin of "Sufi" remains
      the prevalent model amongst Externalists to this day.
      Trust me: SUFI has no etymology other than the
      artificial etymologies imposed by Western scholars. 
       
      so the way of the Sufis in regard to outward 
      "presentation" or "representation," so to speak, is very
      much, they say, secondary to the actual experiential
      realities encountered along the way.
       
      if there is a consensus among the Sufis in regard to
      the subject matter at hand i suppose it would be that
      they all seem to claim that the attainment of genuine
      self-knowledge has, as a consequence, a
      knowledge/experience of an underlying reality which
      is not readily apparent to our ordinary perceptions
      (whether they call it Allah, God, Truth, the Divine, the
      Beloved, etc.).  nothing particularly new or unique in
      that is there? 
       
      the relation between becoming Christ, or Truth, or
      God in the various traditions i mentioned are simply
      metaphors, imo, for what i think are virtually identical
      "states" endemic to this self-knowledge.  i say
      "virtually" because the supposed implications of what it
      "really means" to have arrived at that state, and what is
      "really necessary" as prerequisites to arriving at that
      state, can be all over the map (this includes the
      literature expressing the "philosophical
      understanding" of these states).  but what should we
      expect, in terms of expressed meaning, when
      individual human beings from disparate traditions,
      times and cultures are trying to express to those 
      unique cultures or circles that which, by their own
      admission and insistence, is ultimately ineffable? 
      and if those who have attained cannot make the map
      (words) equal to the territory (the experience itself),
      then how much more am i grasping at straws to
      employ an expression such as "conjoined" in my
      previous posting?  Maybe I am throwing stones at the
      moon?
       
      in an article concerning the nature of fundamentalism,
      Georgetown professor Patrick Laude prefaces his
      observations with this insight regarding religious
      "forms" and that which can not be fully contained
      within those forms:
       
      "HERE IS A PARADOX AND A PRECIOUS SPIRITUAL
      KEY: the great religious traditions are worlds of ideas
      and practices -- worlds of forms -- the goal of which is
      to take each of us closer to what can never be fully
      defined by means of those forms. Whether we think of
      Nirvanic bliss or speak of the God of the Bible, we refer
      to a Reality that lies beyond the scriptures, rites and
      injunctions through which it manifests itself to us, and
      through which it invites us to be drawn back to its
      shore. If all these scriptures, rites, laws, practices have
      any value -- and the transformative and creative
      experience of centuries are clear evidence that they
      do -- they derive validity and power from the Source
      that is both beyond and within them."
       
      it is, imo, this paradox which places a great limitation
      upon those of us who seek to understand a religion or
      spiritual tradition solely through its externals; its
      "forms."  without the humility and grace to make the
      inward acknowledgment that our intellect can not
      penetrate certain experiential realms, errors get
      compounded and values become diminished or
      outright lost.
       
      as to whether or not the "mystical ascent" brings with
      it "complete disclosure or a full dissolution into the
      Unknown" is, in turn, unknown to me.  my "reason"
      suggests to me the answer is no, but my experience is
      insufficient to knowing this one way or the other.
      when one has achieved the fullness of what you have
      termed "mystical ascent" (and what i am most
      comfortable terming "complete self-knowledge") and
      then at some point goes on to proclaim "I am a Christ"
      or "I am the Truth/God" i don't get the sense that they
      are claiming to be coequals with "God" or "First
      Father" or what have you.  some days i think i might
      understand what they are trying to demonstrate (if
      we assume they are making identical demonstrations);
      some days i'm quite not so confident.
       
      allow me to take some time here to take up an issue i
      feel i need to speak about before i address the rest of
      your questions and comments.
       
      quite frankly, this issue of "core" understandings,
      assumptions or beliefs is rather anathema to my
      approach to learning.  people are, of course, free to
      assign these cores to me: i have no control over this.
      what i have tried to develop is a sort of modus operandi
      that does not seek to fix or impose a particular "is-ness"
      to the phenomenal world, present or past.  yet there is
      this implication of certainty and fixedness when we
      describe something as a "core."  in my experience this
      can lend itself to a loss of fluidity for those who insist
      upon, or actively seek out, these "cores."  it appears to
      create attitudes of implacability in some, and that is not
      an aspect of my being -- which i certainly am not free of
      -- that i wish to reinforce via thought or deed. 
       
      i try to understand people and events in a rather
      conceptual manner, something more akin to an
      empathetic understanding as opposed to literal
      understandings.  for instance, i don't tend to assign a
      core personality or "is-ness" to people, such as Johnny
      is a thug and a thief or Suzy is a slut and a liar.  my
      experience and observations has demonstrated to me
      the futility and injustice of categorizing people as
      having a "core" essence.  i have no desire to be a part of
      that.  so why should i imagine assigning these "cores" 
      within historical contexts wouldn't have the same
      drawbacks?  but to abandon this practice of placing
      events, people and their "natures" in various fixed
      cubby holes one has to then become comfortable with a
      corresponding degree of uncertainty.  and i have
      learned to be very comfortable with this.  and thus my
      understanding of people and events, i hope, tends to be
      rather fluid, even though some might describe it as
      topsy-turvy.  for instance,  what i have thought the most 
      likely turn of events in Christian/Gnostic  history is
      constantly evolving.  so what kind of history professor
      would that make me?  according to the game rules of
      scholasticism, where one is generally expected to teach
      with authority and conviction,  i would probably be
      regarded as a failure if not a complete quack.  in other
      words, the freedom i experience in not being hamstrung
      by actively developing convictions renders me unsuitable
      for most institutions of "higher learning."
       
      while i certainly don't reject scientific methodologies
      (they are, to the best of my ability, of great value in my
      toolbox), it is the pursuit of conceptual/empathetic
      understanding that is most interesting and meaningful
      to me, though i neither expect or demand it of others.
       
      if we are going to speak of Rumi (by the way, the
      incident Barks related re Rumis and Shams of Tabriz is
      probably legendary, nor is it terribly accurate to refer to
      Shams as Rumi's teacher without mentioning the
      reciprocal nature of that relationship and an
      experiential knowledge of baraka in the Sufic sense of
      the word), and i am to address what you have quoted,
      then there is no way around this one very germane
      teaching of Sufism, which, if one does not credit it, most
      of what follows is written in vain.
       
      and that teaching is that time and culture are the most
      critical factors for assessing how, when and where the
      transmission of Sufi learning is to be DESIGNED.
      there is no Sufi Bible; no standardized system or
      teaching guide.
       
      one may claim, and many have and do, that the Koran
      is, so to speak, the Sufi Bible.  i do not think this is so. 
      some will contest this -- many of whom consider
      themselves to be Sufis.  but my understanding is that
      the Koran is so ingrained within those cultures where
      Sufism is traditionally understood to have originated
      and prospered that it is virtually mandatory, for the
      most part, to incorporate that which can, or
      necessarily must, be incorporated as part of the
      designed vehicles of Sufi transmission.  On the cynical
      side this could be looked upon as a rather savvy way of
      avoiding persecution -- a sort of Valentinian approach
      to placating religious authorities; hiding in the open, so
      to speak -- though i'll be the first to admit this is
      somewhat an over-simplification of a deeper
      methodology we don't have time for here. However, fyi, 
      Sufis are still being murdered by Muslims in Africa and
      Asia Minor in the 21st century.
       
      in the words of  Nuri Mojudi, "The Sufi is one who does
      what others do -- when it is necessary.  He is also one
      who does what others cannot do -- when it is
      indicated." 
       
      there are levels of meaning in the above quote that one
      simply can't approach in lieu of certain experiences.
      but we can apply a relatively exoteric meaning, in light
      of this concept of design -- whether or not one
      accepts that aspect of Sufic transmission, it is
      undeniable that the Sufis do -- to some aspects of the
      quote from Rumi (C. Barks trans.) you've provided.
       
      al Hashimi said this of Rumi: "Rumi, like other Sufi
      authors, plants his teaching within a framework which
      as effectively screens its inner meaning as displays it.
      This technique fulfills the function of preventing those
      who are incapable of using the material on a higher
      level from experimenting effectively with it: allowing
      those who want poetry to select poetry; giving
      entertainment to those who want stories; stimulating
      the intellect in those who prize such experience."
      (interestingly, Professor Ehrman, speaking in regard to
      many of the Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi,
      supposes [rightly imo] they were "written by Gnostics,
      for Gnostics, presupposing Gnostic perspectives.... the
      very fact that some of these texts PRESUPPOSE
      [Ehrman's emphasis] Gnostic views make them difficult
      to understand. It is somewhat like reading the sports
      page. An article about the first game of the World
      Series will not give a detailed account of the history
      and rules of baseball. It is written for insiders who
      already have all the background information they need
      to make sense of the report. So it is with many of the
      Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi. They are books for
      insiders who -- unlike us -- already have all the
      background information they need.")
       
      also, al Hashimi says, "Rumi had the uncomfortable
      Sufi habit of excelling in literature and poetic ability
      beyond all his contemporaries, while constantly
      affirming that such an attainment was a minor one
      compared with Sufihood."
       
      there are several possible reasons why Rumi would
      make the "admonishments" you mentioned, but the
      "truth" of the matter may not be open to us since we
      are not intimately in tune with the times and culture
      of those limited areas in Anatolia where he taught. 
      nevertheless, here are some possible socio-cultural
      factors that may or may not have played a part: the
      local literacy rate; common attitudes or assumptions 
      regarding the literate and/or their place or role in
      society (was the common man or woman of a mind
      that associated literacy with their oppressors, such as
      tax collectors; were they of a mind that overvalued
      literacy, automatically, and thus artificially, associating
      literacy with wisdom);  did the literate tend to be overly 
      prideful; were they or the local mullahs of a mind that
      the mosque constituted the "proper" or "rightful"
      environment for books and reading?  i could go on but
      this post is getting too long for most tastes, so i need to
      wind up.
       
      if you think in terms of a very perceptive doctor who
      accurately perceives and assesses our condition and
      PRESCRIBES the proper treatments, then you have a
      pretty good idea of how Sufism operates between
      disparate times and cultures.  just as our good doctor
      knows that what cures one kills another, the Sufi
      teacher designs the teaching within a certain
      framework according to what is indicated, not according
      to holy writ or ossified systems.  and that is a crucial 
      aspect of Sufism that is in complete harmony with the
      good "householder" in Gospel of Phillip.  for my money,
      if you love your fellows then there is great value in
      obtaining to such perceptions and capacities.
       
      from Idries Shah's Learning How To Learn:
       
      Q: How can you explain the many forms in which people
      have attempted to teach? Since people believe in these
      forms, believe that they are true renditions of fact, they
      are enabled to reach truth through them. But is it that
      some are true and some are not, as the exponents of the
      organizations claim? If certain forms through which
      studies are carried out are true, are all the others false?
       
      A: I must have answered this question -- or, rather, the
      questions in this cluster -- several hundred times, both
      in speech and in writing, including what I have written
      and quoted in books.
       
      The fact that such questions continue to be asked
      constitutes a quite remarkable demonstration of what
      questioners are like: some at least will ask questions
      even though they have been answered in accessible form
      dozens of times.
       
      But this may mean that the questions need to be
      answered again and again, until the answers penetrate.
       
      The answers, once again, are: --
       
      1. Truth has no form;
      2. The means through which people may perceive Truth
      have forms;
      3. All forms are limited. Some of the limitations are
      time, place, culture, language;
      4. Different forms are not necessarily antagonistic, for
      the above reasons;
      5. Forms have changed through the centuries in
      obedience to the external world to which all forms
      belong;
      6. When people believe that the form is more important
      than the Truth, they will not find Truth, but will stay
      with form;
      7. Forms are vehicles and instruments, and vehicles
      and instruments cannot be called good or bad without
      context;
      8. forms outlive their usefulness, increase or diminish
      in usefulness;
      9. These statements are abundantly to be found in the
      writings of Sufi teachers. They were written down in
      order to be read and remembered. They are seldom so
      energetically stated or so strongly maintained
      elsewhere, which may account for the fact that they
      have not been sufficiently heeded by people who have
      not given Sufi materials the study they deserve.
       
      The outward forms of things of the world, about which
      Sufis so often speak, include the forms of teaching,
      which must be understood in their inner meaning, as
      well as exercising an instrumental function.
       
      Nari-i-Khusuru has truly said:
       
      Your diver (for treasure) has only given you salty clay
      Because he has seen from you only envy.
      Seek the meaning from the Outward like a man:
      Don't be like an ass, content with noise.
       
      Crispin again: please forgive me, dear Lady, for my
      tardiness in replying.  i began this reply ages ago, it
      seems, but i was derailed before i could finish.  the
      battle to save my legs is lost.  i surrendered and the
      whole ordeal is finally over, and new chapters are
      beginning.  plus i now gnow what i had only suspected:
      my wife is a Saint(e). 
       
      your friend,
       
      Crispin Sainte III
       
    • imdarkchylde
      Blessings, All!! Just wanted to thank you for your posting, Crispin. I learned alot, and it was so good for me to see someone else who would rather find the
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 29, 2006
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        Blessings, All!!
        Just wanted to thank you for your posting, Crispin. I learned alot,
        and it was so good for me to see someone else who would rather find
        the common thread to tie us all together rather than to focus on the
        differences to further seperate us.
        I wish the brightest of blessings on you (and your personal saint)!!!
        whirled and inner peas
        Dark Chylde

        Gnothi Seauton
        **Love thy enemies. Messes with their heads!!**


        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Tsharpmin7@... wrote:
        >
        >
        > In a message dated 7/15/2006 3:34:07 PM Central Standard Time,
        > no_reply@yahoogroups.com writes:
        >
        > > hi Cari.... i like the way you ramble and your sense of
        > > humor.
        > > i'll just dive in now. i think an "ideal" truth launches
        > > us right back into subjectivity, reflecting our hopes and
        > > fears. so then, is there an underlying reality/truth
        > > governing existence that is not subject to our
        > > imagination, prejudices and whimsy; that remains
        > > largely unperceived by our ordinary perception? both
        > > ancient and current Sufis say (Rumi, for instance) that
        > > humankind can develop (after all Rumi was an
        > > evolutionist) the organs of perception necessary to know
        > > and experience this underlying -- or pervasive yet mostly
        > > undetected -- reality/truth. Valentinians and Sethians
        > > and Platonists and Hermeticists, etc., made similar
        > > claims. we witness their containers and outer forms
        > > changing via the requirements of time and culture,
        > > but ultimately the contents they seem to suggest
        > > appear to be virtually the same. and we witness them
        > > in their various times and cultures pointing their
        > > fingers at this ineffable content in the only way our
        > > ordinary perceptions can know that they have done so:
        > > ink on paper/papyrus. words and language; be they
        > > written source material, imperfect and incomplete
        > > copies or hearsay.
        > > now if you, Lady Cari, for example, were intimately
        > > conjoined to this ultimate, ineffable Source or
        > > reality/truth, should you be described as container or
        > > content? maybe both? would you then be the Christ
        > > (Gnosticism) or "haq," which can mean either truth or
        > > God (Sufism)? how might you be different from a book
        > > widely acclaimed to contain great wisdom? what might
        > > you accomplish that words, language and books
        > > cannot? might you, like the householder of the large
        > > estate entrusted with the care and maintenance of
        > > several children, slaves, dogs, pigs and cattle in The
        > > Gospel of Philip, go about feeding, grooming and
        > > clothing each according to the requirements of its kind;
        > > might you be like a "disciple of God" who "perceives the
        > > conditions of [all] souls and speaks to each one"
        > > accordingly, recognizing that each has different needs
        > > and stands at a different level of spiritual maturity?
        > > though you may have to take my word for it, the
        > > example from GoP above is, as far as i can discern, in
        > > perfect harmony with Sufism as it has always been
        > > disseminated. and they have always claimed that the
        > > transmission and the way of revealed truth is part of a
        > > guided tour. the pamphlet at the gift shop, they tell us,
        > > is of relatively limited value. it may help us prepare
        > > for what to expect, how to behave, discuss history and
        > > personalities and beliefs, but, ultimately, "the map is
        > > not the territory." it cannot interact with us or
        > > address the unique requirements of our individual
        > > journeys.
        >
        > Say, Crispin, thank you for the reading suggestions. PMCV noted I
        > might be out for a bit. I'm trying to keep my foot elevated
        because
        > of an ankle I managed to sprain yesterday. :-( I'm coming back to
        > your post here with a few comments at this point though. [ I'm
        > trying not to identify too intimately with PMCV's description of
        > cracked leg with bone cutting through flesh. ;-) ]
        >
        > Perhaps you could clarify here for me, Crispin, since you have a
        > better running knowledge of Sufism than I, a bit more about how
        the
        > Sufis viewed being "intimately conjoined to this ultimate,
        ineffable
        > Source or reality/truth.Source or reality/truth.<WBR>" Was there co
        > this? I'm also having difficulty concerning how becoming "Christ"
        > vs. becoming "truth" or "God" are related.
        >
        > The Gospel of Philip, which you mention, talks about receiving
        truth
        > in the form of images. Allogenes speaks of a point beyond which
        > humans should not seek the Unknowable One "lest he be diminished."
        > IOW, ~
        > "we are not acquainted with whether the unrecognizable possesses
        > angels or gods; nor whether the still has anything within it but
        > stillness, i.e. its own self."
        > It seems this mystical ascent does not bring complete disclosure
        or a
        > full dissolution into the Unknown. And at the end, the Foreigner
        is
        > told to write a book for the sake of those who "may be worthy" and
        > deposit it upon a mountain, and "call upon the guardian." "Come, O
        > Phriktos, guardian of death." And, in fact, Allogenes incorporates
        a
        > heavy philosophical style in explaining the ascent. There is
        > experience and then there is philosophical understanding of that
        > experience, which we have discussed in this forum.
        >
        > Rumi, OTOH, speaks of surrender and escape into silence. And he
        not
        > only seems to emphasize mystical experience or emptiness as a
        major
        > aim, but also even admonishes using books and practices, although
        I
        > read his following poem (I'll just type the beginning lines) in a
        > lovely book (Rumi the Book of Love, trans. Coleman Barks) and am
        > talking about it:
        >
        > "If you want to learn theory,
        > talk with theoreticians. That way is oral.
        >
        > When you learn a craft, _practice_ it.
        > That learning comes through the hands.
        >
        > If you want dervishhood, spiritual poverty
        > and emptiness, you must be friends with a teacher.
        >
        > Talking about it, reading books, and doing practices
        > don't help. Soul receives from soul that knowing..."
        >
        > Rumi's teacher was said to push Rumi's books into a fountain at
        their
        > first meeting before they went into retreat. Rumi was to live what
        > he had been reading and talking about.
        >
        > I imagine that Gnostics appreciated the necessity of experience.
        > Books and philosophy were important, too. An either/or proposition
        > doesn't appear to have been an issue, the way I've heard some
        moderns
        > polarize things. But it is also clear that philosophy, study and
        > ritual were part of realizing that experience toward salvation. I
        > somehow can't envision them discarding books.
        >
        > In any case, I've only talked about one Sufi you mentioned,
        Crispin.
        > Perhaps you could clarify better what core you see among the
        various
        > groups you listed, and whether, for each, this functionally
        related
        > to the same concept of Source when talking about "conjoining.to
        >
        > Thank you,
        >
        > Cari
        >
        >
        >
        > hello Cari.... you are a real challenge to me, and i
        > honestly appreciate the clarity of your questions and
        > exposition, and i always hope i am up to the task of
        > replying in kind.
        >
        > let me offer an apparent enigma that might
        > demonstrate the difficulty of gleaning consensus
        > amongst the Sufis (an enigma that is especially
        > confounding to those who insist their spiritual
        > desserts be plated upon recognizable systems and
        > doctrines).
        >
        > many are confused by how, on the one hand, various
        > Sufi "schools" appear to be at distinct odds with each
        > other. yet, on the other hand, contemporary Sufis
        > continue the long standing tradition of sending their
        > students to study with one or more of these "opposing"
        > schools. what are we to make of that? not only does
        > the surface (apparent outward form) of Sufic tradition
        > lack consensus, but they send students to the
        > "opposition" from which they may or may not return.
        > whatever motivations we may project upon the Sufis to
        > explain this practice, i think it is safe to say that the
        > idea of competition between Sufi "schools" and the
        > desire to prevail ideologically, one over the other, is
        > mere appearance and unexamined habit of thought
        > and expectation on our part.
        >
        > unfortunately, it bears little fruit to consult Western
        > scholarship on the matter of Sufic consensus --
        >
        > unless you are collecting examples of the folly of
        > overspecialization -- when heralded experts and
        >
        > "Oriental" specialists consistently miss the forest for
        > the trees: for example, one world famous Western
        > Orientalist translated Hujiwiri's 11th century
        > "Revelation" -- long recognized as the earliest Persian
        > treatment of Sufism as well as one of the most
        > authoritative Sufi texts -- which specifically states
        > that SUFI has no etymology; yet the great Orientalist,
        > having quite accurately translated that information,
        > could not grok that a word might not have an
        > etymology, and thus continued to insist in all his
        > subsequent works that SUFI is etymologically
        > derived from the Arabic word for "wool" -- pronounced
        > SOOF -- referring to the rather simple woolen robes of
        > early Muslim mystics, and this apparently logical yet
        > erroneous explanation of the origin of "Sufi" remains
        > the prevalent model amongst Externalists to this day.
        > Trust me: SUFI has no etymology other than the
        > artificial etymologies imposed by Western scholars.
        >
        > so the way of the Sufis in regard to outward
        > "presentation" or "representation," so to speak, is very
        > much, they say, secondary to the actual experiential
        > realities encountered along the way.
        >
        > if there is a consensus among the Sufis in regard to
        > the subject matter at hand i suppose it would be that
        > they all seem to claim that the attainment of genuine
        > self-knowledge has, as a consequence, a
        > knowledge/experience of an underlying reality which
        > is not readily apparent to our ordinary perceptions
        > (whether they call it Allah, God, Truth, the Divine, the
        > Beloved, etc.). nothing particularly new or unique in
        > that is there?
        >
        > the relation between becoming Christ, or Truth, or
        > God in the various traditions i mentioned are simply
        > metaphors, imo, for what i think are virtually identical
        > "states" endemic to this self-knowledge. i say
        > "virtually" because the supposed implications of what it
        > "really means" to have arrived at that state, and what is
        > "really necessary" as prerequisites to arriving at that
        > state, can be all over the map (this includes the
        > literature expressing the "philosophical
        > understanding" of these states). but what should we
        > expect, in terms of expressed meaning, when
        > individual human beings from disparate traditions,
        > times and cultures are trying to express to those
        > unique cultures or circles that which, by their own
        > admission and insistence, is ultimately ineffable?
        > and if those who have attained cannot make the map
        > (words) equal to the territory (the experience itself),
        > then how much more am i grasping at straws to
        > employ an expression such as "conjoined" in my
        > previous posting? Maybe I am throwing stones at the
        > moon?
        >
        >
        > in an article concerning the nature of fundamentalism,
        >
        > Georgetown professor Patrick Laude prefaces his
        > observations with this insight regarding religious
        > "forms" and that which can not be fully contained
        > within those forms:
        >
        > "HERE IS A PARADOX AND A PRECIOUS SPIRITUAL
        > KEY: the great religious traditions are worlds of ideas
        > and practices -- worlds of forms -- the goal of which is
        > to take each of us closer to what can never be fully
        > defined by means of those forms. Whether we think of
        > Nirvanic bliss or speak of the God of the Bible, we refer
        > to a Reality that lies beyond the scriptures, rites and
        > injunctions through which it manifests itself to us, and
        > through which it invites us to be drawn back to its
        > shore. If all these scriptures, rites, laws, practices have
        > any value -- and the transformative and creative
        > experience of centuries are clear evidence that they
        > do -- they derive validity and power from the Source
        > that is both beyond and within them."
        >
        > it is, imo, this paradox which places a great limitation
        > upon those of us who seek to understand a religion or
        > spiritual tradition solely through its externals; its
        > "forms." without the humility and grace to make the
        > inward acknowledgment that our intellect can not
        > penetrate certain experiential realms, errors get
        > compounded and values become diminished or
        > outright lost.
        >
        >
        >
        > as to whether or not the "mystical ascent" brings with
        > it "complete disclosure or a full dissolution into the
        > Unknown" is, in turn, unknown to me. my "reason"
        > suggests to me the answer is no, but my experience is
        > insufficient to knowing this one way or the other.
        > when one has achieved the fullness of what you have
        > termed "mystical ascent" (and what i am most
        > comfortable terming "complete self-knowledge") and
        > then at some point goes on to proclaim "I am a Christ"
        > or "I am the Truth/God" i don't get the sense that they
        > are claiming to be coequals with "God" or "First
        > Father" or what have you. some days i think i might
        > understand what they are trying to demonstrate (if
        > we assume they are making identical demonstrations);
        > some days i'm quite not so confident.
        >
        > allow me to take some time here to take up an issue i
        > feel i need to speak about before i address the rest of
        > your questions and comments.
        >
        > quite frankly, this issue of "core" understandings,
        > assumptions or beliefs is rather anathema to my
        > approach to learning. people are, of course, free to
        > assign these cores to me: i have no control over this.
        > what i have tried to develop is a sort of modus operandi
        > that does not seek to fix or impose a particular "is-ness"
        > to the phenomenal world, present or past. yet there is
        > this implication of certainty and fixedness when we
        > describe something as a "core." in my experience this
        > can lend itself to a loss of fluidity for those who insist
        > upon, or actively seek out, these "cores." it appears to
        > create attitudes of implacability in some, and that is not
        > an aspect of my being -- which i certainly am not free of
        > -- that i wish to reinforce via thought or deed.
        >
        > i try to understand people and events in a rather
        > conceptual manner, something more akin to an
        > empathetic understanding as opposed to literal
        > understandings. for instance, i don't tend to assign a
        > core personality or "is-ness" to people, such as Johnny
        > is a thug and a thief or Suzy is a slut and a liar. my
        > experience and observations has demonstrated to me
        > the futility and injustice of categorizing people as
        > having a "core" essence. i have no desire to be a part of
        > that. so why should i imagine assigning these "cores"
        > within historical contexts wouldn't have the same
        > drawbacks? but to abandon this practice of placing
        > events, people and their "natures" in various fixed
        > cubby holes one has to then become comfortable with a
        > corresponding degree of uncertainty. and i have
        > learned to be very comfortable with this. and thus my
        > understanding of people and events, i hope, tends to be
        > rather fluid, even though some might describe it as
        > topsy-turvy. for instance, what i have thought the most
        > likely turn of events in Christian/Gnostic history is
        > constantly evolving. so what kind of history professor
        > would that make me? according to the game rules of
        > scholasticism, where one is generally expected to teach
        > with authority and conviction, i would probably be
        > regarded as a failure if not a complete quack. in other
        > words, the freedom i experience in not being hamstrung
        > by actively developing convictions renders me unsuitable
        > for most institutions of "higher learning."
        >
        > while i certainly don't reject scientific methodologies
        > (they are, to the best of my ability, of great value in my
        > toolbox), it is the pursuit of conceptual/empathetic
        > understanding that is most interesting and meaningful
        > to me, though i neither expect or demand it of others.
        >
        > if we are going to speak of Rumi (by the way, the
        > incident Barks related re Rumis and Shams of Tabriz is
        > probably legendary, nor is it terribly accurate to refer to
        > Shams as Rumi's teacher without mentioning the
        > reciprocal nature of that relationship and an
        > experiential knowledge of baraka in the Sufic sense of
        > the word), and i am to address what you have quoted,
        > then there is no way around this one very germane
        > teaching of Sufism, which, if one does not credit it, most
        > of what follows is written in vain.
        >
        > and that teaching is that time and culture are the most
        > critical factors for assessing how, when and where the
        > transmission of Sufi learning is to be DESIGNED.
        > there is no Sufi Bible; no standardized system or
        > teaching guide.
        >
        > one may claim, and many have and do, that the Koran
        > is, so to speak, the Sufi Bible. i do not think this is so.
        > some will contest this -- many of whom consider
        > themselves to be Sufis. but my understanding is that
        > the Koran is so ingrained within those cultures where
        > Sufism is traditionally understood to have originated
        > and prospered that it is virtually mandatory, for the
        > most part, to incorporate that which can, or
        > necessarily must, be incorporated as part of the
        > designed vehicles of Sufi transmission. On the cynical
        > side this could be looked upon as a rather savvy way of
        > avoiding persecution -- a sort of Valentinian approach
        > to placating religious authorities; hiding in the open, so
        > to speak -- though i'll be the first to admit this is
        > somewhat an over-simplification of a deeper
        > methodology we don't have time for here. However, fyi,
        > Sufis are still being murdered by Muslims in Africa and
        > Asia Minor in the 21st century.
        >
        > in the words of Nuri Mojudi, "The Sufi is one who does
        > what others do -- when it is necessary. He is also one
        > who does what others cannot do -- when it is
        > indicated."
        >
        > there are levels of meaning in the above quote that one
        > simply can't approach in lieu of certain experiences.
        > but we can apply a relatively exoteric meaning, in light
        > of this concept of design -- whether or not one
        > accepts that aspect of Sufic transmission, it is
        > undeniable that the Sufis do -- to some aspects of the
        > quote from Rumi (C. Barks trans.) you've provided.
        >
        > al Hashimi said this of Rumi: "Rumi, like other Sufi
        > authors, plants his teaching within a framework which
        > as effectively screens its inner meaning as displays it.
        > This technique fulfills the function of preventing those
        > who are incapable of using the material on a higher
        > level from experimenting effectively with it: allowing
        > those who want poetry to select poetry; giving
        > entertainment to those who want stories; stimulating
        > the intellect in those who prize such experience."
        > (interestingly, Professor Ehrman, speaking in regard to
        > many of the Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi,
        > supposes [rightly imo] they were "written by Gnostics,
        > for Gnostics, presupposing Gnostic perspectives.... the
        > very fact that some of these texts PRESUPPOSE
        > [Ehrman's emphasis] Gnostic views make them difficult
        > to understand. It is somewhat like reading the sports
        > page. An article about the first game of the World
        > Series will not give a detailed account of the history
        > and rules of baseball. It is written for insiders who
        > already have all the background information they need
        > to make sense of the report. So it is with many of the
        > Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi. They are books for
        > insiders who -- unlike us -- already have all the
        > background information they need.")
        >
        > also, al Hashimi says, "Rumi had the uncomfortable
        > Sufi habit of excelling in literature and poetic ability
        > beyond all his contemporaries, while constantly
        > affirming that such an attainment was a minor one
        > compared with Sufihood."
        >
        > there are several possible reasons why Rumi would
        > make the "admonishments" you mentioned, but the
        > "truth" of the matter may not be open to us since we
        > are not intimately in tune with the times and culture
        > of those limited areas in Anatolia where he taught.
        > nevertheless, here are some possible socio-cultural
        > factors that may or may not have played a part: the
        > local literacy rate; common attitudes or assumptions
        > regarding the literate and/or their place or role in
        > society (was the common man or woman of a mind
        > that associated literacy with their oppressors, such as
        > tax collectors; were they of a mind that overvalued
        > literacy, automatically, and thus artificially, associating
        > literacy with wisdom); did the literate tend to be overly
        > prideful; were they or the local mullahs of a mind that
        > the mosque constituted the "proper" or "rightful"
        > environment for books and reading? i could go on but
        > this post is getting too long for most tastes, so i need to
        > wind up.
        >
        > if you think in terms of a very perceptive doctor who
        > accurately perceives and assesses our condition and
        > PRESCRIBES the proper treatments, then you have a
        > pretty good idea of how Sufism operates between
        > disparate times and cultures. just as our good doctor
        > knows that what cures one kills another, the Sufi
        > teacher designs the teaching within a certain
        > framework according to what is indicated, not according
        > to holy writ or ossified systems. and that is a crucial
        > aspect of Sufism that is in complete harmony with the
        > good "householder" in Gospel of Phillip. for my money,
        > if you love your fellows then there is great value in
        > obtaining to such perceptions and capacities.
        >
        > from Idries Shah's Learning How To Learn:
        >
        > Q: How can you explain the many forms in which people
        > have attempted to teach? Since people believe in these
        > forms, believe that they are true renditions of fact, they
        > are enabled to reach truth through them. But is it that
        > some are true and some are not, as the exponents of the
        > organizations claim? If certain forms through which
        > studies are carried out are true, are all the others false?
        >
        > A: I must have answered this question -- or, rather, the
        > questions in this cluster -- several hundred times, both
        > in speech and in writing, including what I have written
        > and quoted in books.
        >
        > The fact that such questions continue to be asked
        > constitutes a quite remarkable demonstration of what
        > questioners are like: some at least will ask questions
        > even though they have been answered in accessible form
        > dozens of times.
        >
        > But this may mean that the questions need to be
        > answered again and again, until the answers penetrate.
        >
        > The answers, once again, are: --
        >
        > 1. Truth has no form;
        > 2. The means through which people may perceive Truth
        > have forms;
        > 3. All forms are limited. Some of the limitations are
        > time, place, culture, language;
        > 4. Different forms are not necessarily antagonistic, for
        > the above reasons;
        > 5. Forms have changed through the centuries in
        > obedience to the external world to which all forms
        > belong;
        > 6. When people believe that the form is more important
        > than the Truth, they will not find Truth, but will stay
        > with form;
        > 7. Forms are vehicles and instruments, and vehicles
        > and instruments cannot be called good or bad without
        > context;
        > 8. forms outlive their usefulness, increase or diminish
        > in usefulness;
        > 9. These statements are abundantly to be found in the
        > writings of Sufi teachers. They were written down in
        > order to be read and remembered. They are seldom so
        > energetically stated or so strongly maintained
        > elsewhere, which may account for the fact that they
        > have not been sufficiently heeded by people who have
        > not given Sufi materials the study they deserve.
        >
        > The outward forms of things of the world, about which
        > Sufis so often speak, include the forms of teaching,
        > which must be understood in their inner meaning, as
        > well as exercising an instrumental function.
        >
        > Nari-i-Khusuru has truly said:
        >
        > Your diver (for treasure) has only given you salty clay
        > Because he has seen from you only envy.
        > Seek the meaning from the Outward like a man:
        > Don't be like an ass, content with noise.
        >
        > Crispin again: please forgive me, dear Lady, for my
        > tardiness in replying. i began this reply ages ago, it
        > seems, but i was derailed before i could finish. the
        > battle to save my legs is lost. i surrendered and the
        > whole ordeal is finally over, and new chapters are
        > beginning. plus i now gnow what i had only suspected:
        > my wife is a Saint(e).
        >
        > your friend,
        >
        > Crispin Sainte III
        >
      • lady_caritas
        Hello, Crispin. Thank you for your thoughtful, informative, thorough response. I wouldn t concern yourself with length. Some posts call for short, pithy
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 30, 2006
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          Hello, Crispin.  Thank you for your thoughtful, informative, thorough response.  I wouldn't concern yourself with length.  Some posts call for short, pithy replies.  Others seem to demand more words to fully address a subject.

          I'd also like to offer my sincere sympathy regarding your ordeal with your legs, Crispin.  You are fortunate to have a wife so devoted and compassionate.

          I'll proceed now to address some of the main ideas in your post.  I also encourage other members to offer opinions and reflections on some comments or questions I might put forth along the way.

          >>>>let me offer an apparent enigma that might

          demonstrate the difficulty of gleaning consensus

          amongst the Sufis (an enigma that is especially

          confounding to those who insist their spiritual

          desserts be plated upon recognizable systems and

          doctrines).

          many are confused by how, on the one hand, various

          Sufi "schools" appear to be at distinct odds with each

          other.  yet, on the other hand, contemporary Sufis

          continue the long standing tradition of sending their 

          students to study with one or more of these "opposing"

          schools.  what are we to make of that?  not only does

          the surface (apparent outward form) of Sufic tradition

          lack consensus, but they send students to the

          "opposition" from which they may or may not return. 

          whatever motivations we may project upon the Sufis to

          explain this practice, i think it is safe to say that the

          idea of competition between Sufi "schools" and the

          desire to prevail ideologically, one over the other, is

          mere appearance and unexamined habit of thought

          and expectation on our part.<<<<

          I suppose this might not surprise me in an esoteric setting.  Some reflection on differences might have a purpose.  Also, some particular elements of an order just might not suit an initiate, and if a teacher feels that a student still has the right `stuff' to proceed down a Sufi path, this can be a viable alternative.

          >>>>if there is a consensus among the Sufis in regard to

          the subject matter at hand i suppose it would be that

          they all seem to claim that the attainment of genuine

          self-knowledge has, as a consequence, a

          knowledge/experience of an underlying reality which

          is not readily apparent to our ordinary perceptions

          (whether they call it Allah, God, Truth, the Divine, the

          Beloved, etc.).  nothing particularly new or unique in

          that is there? <<<<

          No, not unique.  However, in a previous post you also brought in "Valentinians, Sethians, Platonists, and Hermeticists, etc."  ~~

          so then, is there an underlying reality/truth

          > governing existence that is not subject to our
          > imagination, prejudices and whimsy; that remains
          > largely unperceived by our ordinary perception? both
          > ancient and current Sufis say (Rumi, for instance) that
          > humankind can develop (after all Rumi was an
          > evolutionist) the organs of perception necessary to know
          > and experience this underlying -- or pervasive yet mostly
          > undetected -- reality/truth. Valentinians and Sethians
          > and Platonists and Hermeticists, etc., made similar
          > claims. we witness their containers and outer forms
          > changing via the requirements of time and culture,
          > but ultimately the contents they seem to suggest
          > appear to be virtually the same. and we witness them
          > in their various times and cultures pointing their
          > fingers at this ineffable content in the only way our
          > ordinary perceptions can know that they have done so:
          > ink on paper/papyrus. words and language; be they
          > written source material, imperfect and incomplete
          > copies or hearsay.

          My question about "core" didn't require one to stereotype religions by reducing their identity to one issue. ~~ 

          >>>Perhaps you could clarify better what core you see among the various
          groups you listed, and whether, for each, this functionally related
          to the same concept of Source when talking about "conjoining."<<<

          I can appreciate your conceptual approach with empathetic understanding, Crispin.  I can also appreciate those humble scholars, historians, and scientists who are also more interested in searching for genuine understanding (that also employs scientific methodology) than personal "authority and conviction," which you mention later in your post. 

          Perhaps I should rephrase that to ask, for clarification, whether or not you consider all the various groups you list (Sufis, Valentinians, Sethians, Platonists, and Hermeticists, etc.) to be understanding the same (ineffable) concept regarding "contents" of the "underlying -- or pervasive yet mostly undetected -- reality/truth."  If so, how do you come by this knowledge?

          Even though we are not insiders, so to speak, we can glean something from their writings and cosmologies, etc. enough to know some things.  We can derive *some* background information.  For instance, we know that Intellect was important to the Gnostics, as well as mystical experience, in the process of self-acquaintance and acquaintance (within human limits, as expounded in Allogenes that I already mentioned) with the "Source."  We know this because Intellect is incorporated directly as an integral part of their basic cosmologies and philosophical jargon in writings, which seem to imply more than a cursory voice counteracting some prevailing socio-cultural factors, even if these did play any part.  In other words, we don't even have to understand the meaning or function of "Intellect" to know that it was considered important to the Gnostics,... simply because they say so in a functional way.  At least it appears that way to me.  ;-)

          We also can read that there is a difference between demiurge and the original "Source" (ineffable, infinite, not a being, etc.)  I'm basically wondering whether we can establish that the Sufis shared the same understanding of "content" regarding "Source" with these other groups you list.  Or, if the "Source" should be the same, would various cultural or systematic "containers" or "outer forms" help or hinder true recognition of such?  Don't worry.  I certainly don't even know if these questions are answerable.  However, they are food for thought.  The process alone of exploring them could even shed a bit of spiritual light along our paths.  And there is at the very least a possibility that this type of investigation could bring up an idea about whether or not we can automatically assume that "Source" is conceived the same amongst these various groups you mention, regardless of a wish to find commonalities of "content" while recognizing differences in containers, etc. 

          For instance, I ran across the following Rumi poem from the same collection of Coleman Barks I quoted from before (Rumi, The Book of Love, p. 98-99).

          Perhaps you or others have more examples for consideration.

          "There are two types on the path, those

          who come against their will, the blindly religious,

          and those who obey out of love.

          The former have ulterior motives.

          They want the midwife near because she gives them milk.

          The others love the beauty of the nurse.

          The former memorize the prooftexts of conformity

          And repeat them.  The latter disappear

          Into whatever draws them to God.

          Both are drawn from the source.

          Any motion is from the mover.

          Any love from the beloved."

          How might this compare to a Gnostic expression of "source" and "mover"?  What about "beloved"?  Would the mover's motion be considered good, bad, or indifferent?  I guess I'm curious as to translation here.  Would "mover" be the same as Aristotle's "prime mover" or something else? 

          And anything else you all might think of...

          >>>>the relation between becoming Christ, or Truth, or

          God in the various traditions i mentioned are simply

          metaphors, imo, for what i think are virtually identical

          "states" endemic to this self-knowledge.  i say

          "virtually" because the supposed implications of what it

          "really means" to have arrived at that state, and what is

          "really necessary" as prerequisites to arriving at that

          state, can be all over the map (this includes the

          literature expressing the "philosophical

          understanding" of these states).  but what should we

          expect, in terms of expressed meaning, when

          individual human beings from disparate traditions,

          times and cultures are trying to express to those 

          unique cultures or circles that which, by their own

          admission and insistence, is ultimately ineffable? 

          and if those who have attained cannot make the map

          (words) equal to the territory (the experience itself),

          then how much more am i grasping at straws to

          employ an expression such as "conjoined" in my

          previous posting?  Maybe I am throwing stones at the

          moon?<<<<

          Crispin, yes, "conjoined" might be a tricky word.  And I respect your subsequent words about not being "quite so confident" about how the Sufis experience this in the mystical ascent.  At least I don't recall Gnostics talking about becoming "god" in an absolute sense.  If anything, total dissolution into the Unknown did not appear to be a goal for Gnostics while in their human state.  They spoke of receiving Truth in the form of images.

          >>>>in an article concerning the nature of fundamentalism,

          Georgetown professor Patrick Laude prefaces his

          observations with this insight regarding religious

          "forms" and that which can not be fully contained

          within those forms:

          "HERE IS A PARADOX AND A PRECIOUS SPIRITUAL

          KEY: the great religious traditions are worlds of ideas

          and practices -- worlds of forms -- the goal of which is

          to take each of us closer to what can never be fully

          defined by means of those forms. Whether we think of

          Nirvanic bliss or speak of the God of the Bible, we refer

          to a Reality that lies beyond the scriptures, rites and

          injunctions through which it manifests itself to us, and

          through which it invites us to be drawn back to its

          shore. If all these scriptures, rites, laws, practices have

          any value -- and the transformative and creative

          experience of centuries are clear evidence that they

          do -- they derive validity and power from the Source

          that is both beyond and within them."

          it is, imo, this paradox which places a great limitation

          upon those of us who seek to understand a religion or

          spiritual tradition solely through its externals; its

          "forms."  without the humility and grace to make the

          inward acknowledgment that our intellect can not

          penetrate certain experiential realms, errors get

          compounded and values become diminished or

          outright lost.<<<<

          Humility can be a virtue, to be sure, Crispin.  Yet Patrick Laude's statement also opens a can of worms (partly because I'm not certain what he means by "Source"), which I do not intend to pursue regarding what type of "transformative experience" some paths may show evidence of through outward expression and how some "containers" might be capable of obliterating awareness.  Ha!  I guess that's another quandary.  Is so-and-so's "awareness" better than my "awareness," blah-blah-blah.  Nope.  Not going there.  In our group, comparisons to historical Gnostics might be appropriate in some cases, but I'm trying to shy away from assigning too many values to those differences, one way or another, for our purposes.

          >>>>from Idries Shah's Learning How To Learn:

          Q: How can you explain the many forms in which people

          have attempted to teach? Since people believe in these

          forms, believe that they are true renditions of fact, they

          are enabled to reach truth through them. But is it that

          some are true and some are not, as the exponents of the

          organizations claim? If certain forms through which

          studies are carried out are true, are all the others false?

          A: I must have answered this question -- or, rather, the

          questions in this cluster -- several hundred times, both

          in speech and in writing, including what I have written

          and quoted in books.

          The fact that such questions continue to be asked

          constitutes a quite remarkable demonstration of what

          questioners are like: some at least will ask questions

          even though they have been answered in accessible form

          dozens of times.

          But this may mean that the questions need to be

          answered again and again, until the answers penetrate.

          The answers, once again, are: --

          1. Truth has no form;

          2. The means through which people may perceive Truth

          have forms;

          3. All forms are limited. Some of the limitations are

          time, place, culture, language;

          4. Different forms are not necessarily antagonistic, for

          the above reasons;

          5. Forms have changed through the centuries in

          obedience to the external world to which all forms

          belong;

          6. When people believe that the form is more important

          than the Truth, they will not find Truth, but will stay

          with form;

          7. Forms are vehicles and instruments, and vehicles

          and instruments cannot be called good or bad without

          context;

          8. forms outlive their usefulness, increase or diminish

          in usefulness;

          9. These statements are abundantly to be found in the

          writings of Sufi teachers. They were written down in

          order to be read and remembered. They are seldom so

          energetically stated or so strongly maintained

          elsewhere, which may account for the fact that they

          have not been sufficiently heeded by people who have

          not given Sufi materials the study they deserve.

          The outward forms of things of the world, about which

          Sufis so often speak, include the forms of teaching,

          which must be understood in their inner meaning, as

          well as exercising an instrumental function.<<<<

          This I found interesting.  Would you describe Idries Shah as more liberal than some other Sufis? 

           

          And more to the point of our focus, I wonder what those ancient Gnostics might have thought about his commentary on "forms," considering we might not have the benefit of their direct transmission through the centuries.  Any ideas, anyone?

          Cari

           

        • pmcvflag
          Hey Crispin Lets see if together we can bring this around to the topic at hand by picking out a few specific points..... ... presentation or
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 30, 2006
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            Hey Crispin

            Lets see if together we can bring this around to the topic at hand
            by picking out a few specific points.....

            >>>so the way of the Sufis in regard to outward
            "presentation" or "representation," so to speak, is very
            much, they say, secondary to the actual experiential
            realities encountered along the way.<<<

            Do you feel this is similar to the way Gnostics deal with the issue?
            If so, why?

            >>>if there is a consensus among the Sufis in regard to
            the subject matter at hand i suppose it would be that
            they all seem to claim that the attainment of genuine
            self-knowledge has, as a consequence, a
            knowledge/experience of an underlying reality which
            is not readily apparent to our ordinary perceptions
            (whether they call it Allah, God, Truth, the Divine, the
            Beloved, etc.). nothing particularly new or unique in
            that is there?<<<

            Surely you are right that various ideas of self knowledge and
            spiritual experience of a single underlying principle (not always
            readily apparent to our ordinary perceptions, at least initially)
            are common to various forms of mystical and esoteric thought....
            since it is a defining quality of those movements. It would be
            tempting (though not logically valid) to then democratize
            spirituality with the assumption that those areas of agreement are
            the most important areas that we should concentrate on. In order to
            not rule out that there is some possible truth to that way of
            thinking, perhaps you could outline exactly how you see your point
            as it may relate to Gnostic lingo.

            >>>the relation between becoming Christ, or Truth, or
            God in the various traditions i mentioned are simply
            metaphors, imo, for what i think are virtually identical
            "states" endemic to this self-knowledge. i say
            "virtually" because the supposed implications of what it
            "really means" to have arrived at that state, and what is
            "really necessary" as prerequisites to arriving at that
            state, can be all over the map (this includes the
            literature expressing the "philosophical
            understanding" of these states). but what should we
            expect, in terms of expressed meaning, when
            individual human beings from disparate traditions,
            times and cultures are trying to express to those
            unique cultures or circles that which, by their own
            admission and insistence, is ultimately ineffable?<<<

            I think that if we were ONLY talking about the ineffable, what you
            say would be solid. However, many parts of what make up and feed in
            to the concept of "Gnosis" are quite effable. This is very important
            since Gnostic though speculates on a form of contenuity between the
            source and the forms that is then broken when it comes to the
            physical. So, since the implications could extend beyond
            mere "expressed meaning" the caution you express with the
            term "virtually" could be important beyond even the obvious
            communicative aspects of a system. In other words, however you feel
            various Sufi schools may deal with this issue (though even these
            points remain undemonstrated at this point) our interest here would
            be whether the same attitude is implied within the meaning
            of "Gnosis". This leads into the next point.....

            >>>it is, imo, this paradox which places a great limitation
            upon those of us who seek to understand a religion or
            spiritual tradition solely through its externals; its
            "forms." without the humility and grace to make the
            inward acknowledgment that our intellect can not
            penetrate certain experiential realms, errors get
            compounded and values become diminished or
            outright lost.<<<

            Dr Laude did not actually imply in this particular passage that
            the "forms" he is talking about are merely external principles.
            Perhaps he does so elsewhere, but since I have not read the entire
            work I can't assume this is the intent simply from the part you have
            posted. However, more important are the implications you draw in the
            above passage. You, in contrast to Gnostic thinking, seem to imply
            there could be no continuum between the ineffable and the world of
            forms. Do you feel there is a way you can reconcile with the concept
            of Gnosis in spite of this important difference?

            >>>as to whether or not the "mystical ascent" brings with
            it "complete disclosure or a full dissolution into the
            Unknown" is, in turn, unknown to me. my "reason"
            suggests to me the answer is no, but my experience is
            insufficient to knowing this one way or the other.<<<

            It is known to me, but that is another conversation };> . I am more
            interested whether your "reason" would reach the same conclusion if
            this fullness were removed from an allegorical equation with
            internal exploration. What I mean is, if there were a more literal
            aspect within the concept of Gnosis do you feel the same assumptions
            would hold?

            >>>quite frankly, this issue of "core" understandings,
            assumptions or beliefs is rather anathema to my
            approach to learning. people are, of course, free to
            assign these cores to me: i have no control over this.<<<

            This, of course, is about the previous conversation where the topic
            was ended with you stating "by the way, let's just drop the whole
            Sufi issue." (besides my pointing out that it was generally off
            topic). If you wish to get back into the subject of "cores" we can.

            Let me then point out that what you just stated does not accord with
            the rest of your post prior to that point. For instance, the
            assumption that you clearly state in postulating an underlying
            principle merely being expressed in different ways by different
            systems is exactly the kind of "core" I was talking about.

            Though I can fully understand that one would try to avoid such an
            assumption of a "core", your expression on this point has not
            remained internally consistant (not to mention a bit passive
            aggressive). Because of this I feel that if I have misunderstood
            what you mean to explain it is a justified confusion.

            Some Platonist schools obviously did believe in some kind of "core"
            that was being intended by various systems. This can, at times, seem
            very similar to modern Jungian thinking in that it assumes equatable
            meanings to various images. I believe this is relatively common in
            mystical and esoteric schools in general, actually. While this
            doesn't go so far as popular postmodernism (New Age) thinking
            sometimes does (or even as far as Joe Campbell would have us believe
            to be the case), I think it is something most people here would
            agree with on at least some basic level.

            However, I personally contend that when it is taken to the point of
            glossing differences it can be detrimental to understanding the
            special and unique aspects of various systems. Though some here such
            as "Historynow" and Darkcylde have expressed disagreement with me on
            this particular matter I continue to feel this method can sometimes
            toss the baby out with the bathwater. Viva la difference.

            >>>i try to understand people and events in a rather
            conceptual manner, something more akin to an
            empathetic understanding as opposed to literal
            understandings. for instance, i don't tend to assign a
            core personality or "is-ness" to people, such as Johnny
            is a thug and a thief or Suzy is a slut and a liar.<<<

            You equivocate on the function of the word "core" as it was used
            previously, and thus create an inaccurate equation between misuse of
            personal arbitrary consignment (being judgemental) and simple valid
            categorical distinction. This will create a problem for you if it
            spills over into the subject of the meaning of terms like "Gnosis",
            or what is Gnostic.

            >>>for instance, what i have thought the most
            likely turn of events in Christian/Gnostic history is
            constantly evolving. so what kind of history professor
            would that make me?<<<

            If you added logical methodology to your description of this it
            would make a prime cantidate for a history professor. A true
            academic perspective retains a conservative intellectual skepticism,
            and underlying uncertainty.

            >>>(interestingly, Professor Ehrman, speaking in regard to
            many of the Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi,
            supposes [rightly imo] they were "written by Gnostics,
            for Gnostics, presupposing Gnostic perspectives.... the
            very fact that some of these texts PRESUPPOSE
            [Ehrman's emphasis] Gnostic views make them difficult
            to understand.<<<

            Agreed. In fact, this is not simply Dr Erhman's insightful
            discovery, but the common view so generally accepted (and obvious,
            imo) that I think Dr Ehrman only takes the time to explain it since
            he is writing generally for people who are new to the subject. Of
            course, since Dr Erhman is an historian that understanding must
            sound at odds with scholastic perspective the way you previously
            presented it. I notice that he seems careful to use the
            word "difficult" rather than "impossible". Having read similar
            quotes from him a number of times, I believe he is actually
            presenting a point that is quite at odds with the view you presented
            earlier on academic methodology. He is cautioning those who are
            dealing with the texts to remember that they have a better chance of
            truly understanding them if they are MORE critical and contextual in
            their reading rather than less so.

            I am not saying I agree with him on all accounts, just that I don't
            think his point lends weight to yours.

            While I understand that you find the "empathetic" more interesting,
            this forum tries to play the two methodologies off each other...
            with a slight emphasis on the critical for the sake of maintaining a
            level base to start from.

            >>>So it is with many of the Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi. They
            are books for insiders who -- unlike us -- already have all the
            background information they need.")<<<

            You may wish to amend the word "us". I think there is a very wide
            range of views in here on that matter. Many people here may feel
            they have the tools to deal with Gnostic texts, though they may
            disagree with each other on what those tools are as well as what the
            texts mean *lol*. Of course, in a different context I have argued
            the same point you just made. However, my intent was to point out
            an "us" as in the focus of the forum rather than the ability of an
            individual or group. You may be right, you may be wrong, but I
            wouldn't want to over extend the point.

            PMCV
          • pmcvflag
            (The following post is actually not from me, it is one that Pneumen had tried to post from his email but Yahoo would not let him. Luckily it still went through
            Message 5 of 5 , Dec 16, 2006
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              (The following post is actually not from me, it is one that Pneumen
              had tried to post from his email but Yahoo would not let him.
              Luckily it still went through to us mods so I am posting it for him.
              It is in answer to the quote from me that starts the post.)

              >>>He is cautioning those who are dealing with the texts to remember
              that they have a better chance of truly understanding them if they
              are MORE critical and contextual in their reading rather than less
              so.<<<

              Just to focus on the point of context in a discussion that revolves
              around comparisons of Sufis and Gnostics.

              Studying Sufism has the distinct advantage of having a living
              tradition that can be examined directly from observation (which I
              have actually done in an academic setting!). With the Gnostics all
              we have is texts, (unless you count Kaballists, Masons, Britney
              Spears, etc. as Gnostics).

              One possible insight can be gained by observing the role of the
              Sheikh or spiritual leader. It seems in Sufism as much of the
              spiritual exercise revolve around the personality and imagination
              of the Sheikh as around the traditional writings of a particular
              school. When we examine their writings and observe ritual first
              hand, we get a fuller sense of the context of the test and the
              importance of being very careful not to take as doctrine what is
              often personal license on the part of the Sheikh.

              Yet for the Gnostics, only the texts survive. The context is not as
              evident. My question: To what extent can we understand the true
              extent of personal license within the Gnostic texts? Within the
              Valentinian, texts, for example, are the elaborate allegorical
              cosmologies intended as heuristic devices intended for a certain
              time and place, or are they intended to be timeless doctrine? Did
              differnent Gnostic shools emphasize doctrine more than others?

              I can't help but suspect that the emphasis of doctrine among scholars
              arises out of the reliance on texts to gain insight into Gnosticism.
              That's why I think it unwise to dismiss the group dynamics and
              beliefs observed among Sufis as irrelevant to Gnostics. Sufi's do
              live in a similar desert culture and share similar mystic traditions
              to those of many historical Gnostics.

              Pneumen
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