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Re: Revisiting "Old vs new - Who decides?"

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  • 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 1 of 5 , Nov 30, 2006
      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.

    • 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 2 of 5 , Dec 16, 2006
        (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

        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.

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