Re: Revisiting "Old vs new - Who decides?"
- 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 tothe 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, orGod 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 limitationupon 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
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 withit "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
>>>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 ratherconceptual 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 mostlikely 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 tomany 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
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. Theyare 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.
- (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 rememberthat they have a better chance of truly understanding them if they
are MORE critical and contextual in their reading rather than less
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.