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Jewish Gnostics

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  • bicyclesophie
    I ve seen Jewish Gnostics mentioned here before and I would like someone s input on the subject. When I first started to look at Kabbalah some concepts struck
    Message 1 of 14 , Feb 20, 2007
      I've seen Jewish Gnostics mentioned here before and I would like
      someone's input on the subject.

      When I first started to look at Kabbalah some concepts struck me as
      Gnostic. I found this interesting. For my reading selections on
      Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, I went directly to the source and
      purchased only material by Jewish authors and strictly avoided all
      else, since they seemed a bit diluted, their foundations seemed
      shakey.

      Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
      a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
      they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
      being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
      these sentiments and continued with my study.

      I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish can be
      Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
      worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
      tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
      basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
      true God.

      However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I faced the
      same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
      Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
      saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
      there is a Gnostic hand in it.

      Could someone who is knowledgeable on this subject please comment and
      offer some perspective, and maybe some reading material? I have a
      small library on Kabbalah, but I always have room for more
      information.
    • lady_caritas
      ... Hi, Celeste. I don t have a lot of knowledge about Kabbalah; however, Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem definitely would have agreed with you regarding a
      Message 2 of 14 , Feb 20, 2007


        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "bicyclesophie" <imamuzd@...> wrote:
        >
        > I've seen Jewish Gnostics mentioned here before and I would like
        > someone's input on the subject.
        >
        > When I first started to look at Kabbalah some concepts struck me as
        > Gnostic. I found this interesting. For my reading selections on
        > Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, I went directly to the source and
        > purchased only material by Jewish authors and strictly avoided all
        > else, since they seemed a bit diluted, their foundations seemed
        > shakey.
        >
        > Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
        > a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
        > they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
        > being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
        > these sentiments and continued with my study.
        >
        > I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish can be
        > Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
        > worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
        > tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
        > basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
        > true God.
        >
        > However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I faced the
        > same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
        > Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
        > saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
        > there is a Gnostic hand in it.
        >
        > Could someone who is knowledgeable on this subject please comment and
        > offer some perspective, and maybe some reading material? I have a
        > small library on Kabbalah, but I always have room for more
        > information.
        >

        Hi, Celeste.  I don't have a lot of knowledge about Kabbalah; however, Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem definitely would have agreed with you regarding a connection between ancient Gnosticism and later Kabbalah.

         

        Briefly ~

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

         

        Kabbalah aside, one will sometimes see a possessive, territorial feeling expressed among adherents of various religious groups.  And occasionally issues might have merit if ideas or practices are misused outside a particular cultural, initiatory context. 

         

        There are scholars who would designate a Sethian Gnosticism not necessarily reliant on Christian roots.  For instance, John D. Turner who specializes in Sethian Gnosticism was recently interviewed by Miguel Conner, a member of our group.  During the interview Dr. Turner stated that it could be argued that Sethianism had its origin in a Jewish priestly movement, among priestly groups that became excluded during first and second centuries BCE.  They left the area of Jerusalem, which they considered polluted and went to the wilderness to worship in a heavenly temple.   Dr. Turner also mentioned that there was only a loose alliance between Sethianism and Christianity.   There was increasing objection of Sethian Christology by Christian theologians.  Also, in the works, Zostrianos, Allogenes, and Marsanes, there is not a trace of evidence with Christianity. 

         

        Celeste, you can read more at John Turner's website, which includes several articles:

        http://jdt.unl.edu/

         

        One article in particular on "Sethian Gnosticism" might be of interest to you:

        http://jdt.unl.edu/lithist.html

         

        Of course, there remains an ongoing larger dispute when also considering the category of Valentinian Gnosticism with its more full-blown Christology, whether we should consider Gnosticism as being primarily a Christian phenomenon,... or not, and whether there were legitimately pre-Christian "Gnostic" sects.

         

        Cari

         

      • pmcvflag
        Hello Celeste In response to your post I would like to reiterate some of what Cari states and toss a couple of things in the mix. You state... ... a Jewish
        Message 3 of 14 , Feb 20, 2007
          Hello Celeste

          In response to your post I would like to reiterate some of what Cari
          states and toss a couple of things in the mix. You state...

          >>>Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
          a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
          they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
          being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
          these sentiments and continued with my study.<<<

          On top of Cari's point about this, I would like to add that in some
          cases it may be ignorance on the part of the author about exactly
          what Gnosticism is. In spite of the legendary history of Kabbalah
          reaching back into the beginning of human existance, historians
          generally trace it to the early medieval period, with other forms of
          Jewish mysticism, such as Merkabah, feeding into it. In this sense,
          Gnosticism predates Kabbalah, and exists at roughly the same time as
          Merkabah. Dr Scholem talks about it this way in "Origin of the
          Kabbalah", and considers Kabbalah to simply be a late form, an
          offshoot of, Gnosticism.

          There ARE some important differences between the movements, but the
          essential structure in both movements is still Platonism in a
          Biblical lingo. Whether Kabbalah grew out of Gnosticism, or Kabbalah
          and Gnosticism simply have the same roots may be up in the air, but
          in spite of the distaste that some Kabbalists practitioners may have,
          I am not aware of any scholars that don't agree that there is SOME
          connection between the two movements.

          >>>I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish can
          be Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
          worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
          tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
          basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
          true God.<<<

          I am not sold either. I think that the arguments of Dr Turner, and
          others like Pearson, that trace Sethianism into a pre-Christian
          Jewish origin need to be seriously considered. On top of that, the
          line between the Merkabah of Philo, and the Valentinian thought that
          we see in the Tripartite Tractate is frankly a bit fuzzy. When is it
          no longer "Gnostic"? Philo has been placed on both sides of the line
          by different people, and the Tripartite Tractate reminds me more of
          him than it reminds me of what Jonas would call "Gnostic".

          If the only real line we wind up drawing between Merkabah and
          Gnosticism is that one is Jewish and the other Christian, then the
          Kabbalist authors you are talking about could just as easily try to
          deny that Christianity has no Jewish origins. On the other hand, they
          would then have to explain another origin for Sethianism or accept it
          as Jewish but not Gnostic. To me that makes their argument look like
          it comes more from passion than from historical criticism.

          >>>However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I faced
          the same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
          Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
          saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
          there is a Gnostic hand in it.<<<

          Having said what I just did I think we have to be careful to remember
          that in spite of the commonalities we should not be overly quick to
          lump them into one grouping. Even though Gnosticism likely grew
          within a Jewish ethnic awareness, to some extent it rejects this
          identity. They did indeed face the same issue that you did and I
          believe their rejection has a philosophical base.

          Unlike Scholem, I would not call Kabbalah "Jewish Gnosticism". If I
          used the term "Jewish Gnosticism" I would more likely mean a
          theorhetic pre-Christian Sethianism. Likewise I don't think it is
          accurate to call Hermetism "pagan Gnosticism" (in part because I
          don't think an academic category should use the word "pagan" in such
          a way). Instead, I would say that Hermetism, Merkabah, and Gnosticism
          are three very closely related movements that fit a larger category
          of mythological Platonism.

          PMCV
        • dougwilmer
          So, are some here saying that this Gnosis IS an expeience after all? Jewish mystical experienc, or mystical experience in any other part of the world is all
          Message 4 of 14 , Feb 20, 2007
            So, are some here saying that this Gnosis IS an expeience after all?
            Jewish mystical experienc, or mystical experience in any other part
            of the world is all mystical experience. Many people have mystical
            epeience today. Probably even more than they did thousands of years
            ago, so this phenomenon still goes on today in which case.

            So the question becomes IS this gnosis event and experience or not.
            Most seem to say that it is. So who defines a word and with what
            authority do they do so? I have read the codecies form which
            Gnosticism derives and these people cetanily sounded to me that they
            were talking of some deeep inner esoetic experience; and which is
            just another name for mystical experience and which is common today.
            Ther are many thousands of such dcumented accunts, and they are not
            talking of aliens and UFO's but some deep inner mystical reunion
            event. And some seem to be calling that gnosis.

            Doug.

            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
            >
            > Hello Celeste
            >
            > In response to your post I would like to reiterate some of what
            Cari
            > states and toss a couple of things in the mix. You state...
            >
            > >>>Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
            > a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
            > they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
            > being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
            > these sentiments and continued with my study.<<<
            >
            > On top of Cari's point about this, I would like to add that in some
            > cases it may be ignorance on the part of the author about exactly
            > what Gnosticism is. In spite of the legendary history of Kabbalah
            > reaching back into the beginning of human existance, historians
            > generally trace it to the early medieval period, with other forms
            of
            > Jewish mysticism, such as Merkabah, feeding into it. In this sense,
            > Gnosticism predates Kabbalah, and exists at roughly the same time
            as
            > Merkabah. Dr Scholem talks about it this way in "Origin of the
            > Kabbalah", and considers Kabbalah to simply be a late form, an
            > offshoot of, Gnosticism.
            >
            > There ARE some important differences between the movements, but the
            > essential structure in both movements is still Platonism in a
            > Biblical lingo. Whether Kabbalah grew out of Gnosticism, or
            Kabbalah
            > and Gnosticism simply have the same roots may be up in the air, but
            > in spite of the distaste that some Kabbalists practitioners may
            have,
            > I am not aware of any scholars that don't agree that there is SOME
            > connection between the two movements.
            >
            > >>>I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish
            can
            > be Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
            > worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
            > tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
            > basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
            > true God.<<<
            >
            > I am not sold either. I think that the arguments of Dr Turner, and
            > others like Pearson, that trace Sethianism into a pre-Christian
            > Jewish origin need to be seriously considered. On top of that, the
            > line between the Merkabah of Philo, and the Valentinian thought
            that
            > we see in the Tripartite Tractate is frankly a bit fuzzy. When is
            it
            > no longer "Gnostic"? Philo has been placed on both sides of the
            line
            > by different people, and the Tripartite Tractate reminds me more of
            > him than it reminds me of what Jonas would call "Gnostic".
            >
            > If the only real line we wind up drawing between Merkabah and
            > Gnosticism is that one is Jewish and the other Christian, then the
            > Kabbalist authors you are talking about could just as easily try to
            > deny that Christianity has no Jewish origins. On the other hand,
            they
            > would then have to explain another origin for Sethianism or accept
            it
            > as Jewish but not Gnostic. To me that makes their argument look
            like
            > it comes more from passion than from historical criticism.
            >
            > >>>However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I
            faced
            > the same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
            > Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
            > saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
            > there is a Gnostic hand in it.<<<
            >
            > Having said what I just did I think we have to be careful to
            remember
            > that in spite of the commonalities we should not be overly quick to
            > lump them into one grouping. Even though Gnosticism likely grew
            > within a Jewish ethnic awareness, to some extent it rejects this
            > identity. They did indeed face the same issue that you did and I
            > believe their rejection has a philosophical base.
            >
            > Unlike Scholem, I would not call Kabbalah "Jewish Gnosticism". If I
            > used the term "Jewish Gnosticism" I would more likely mean a
            > theorhetic pre-Christian Sethianism. Likewise I don't think it is
            > accurate to call Hermetism "pagan Gnosticism" (in part because I
            > don't think an academic category should use the word "pagan" in
            such
            > a way). Instead, I would say that Hermetism, Merkabah, and
            Gnosticism
            > are three very closely related movements that fit a larger category
            > of mythological Platonism.
            >
            > PMCV
            >
          • Michael Leavitt
            Regardless of what others say, Gershim Scholem wrote about Jewish Gnosticism, I think in the book simply titled Kabalah. And to my memory, he finds Gnostic
            Message 5 of 14 , Feb 20, 2007
              Regardless of what others say,
              Gershim Scholem wrote about Jewish Gnosticism, I think in the book
              simply titled Kabalah. And to my memory, he finds Gnostic elements in
              Kabala as well. Look at the section on Isiac Luria in his Major Trends
              in Jewish Mysticism, and you will see something next to if not
              Gnosticism. 'Taint a simple subject, I'm afraid. I heard Sholem say at
              a Pamarion conference, that the Jewish Gnostics were the ones that Philo
              had referred to going too far from his Platonic viewpoint. This was in
              personal conversation with Scjolem.

              bicyclesophie wrote:
              > I've seen Jewish Gnostics mentioned here before and I would like
              > someone's input on the subject.
              >
              > When I first started to look at Kabbalah some concepts struck me as
              > Gnostic. I found this interesting. For my reading selections on
              > Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, I went directly to the source and
              > purchased only material by Jewish authors and strictly avoided all
              > else, since they seemed a bit diluted, their foundations seemed
              > shakey.
              >
              > Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
              > a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
              > they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
              > being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
              > these sentiments and continued with my study.
              >
              > I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish can be
              > Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
              > worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
              > tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
              > basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
              > true God.
              >
              > However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I faced the
              > same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
              > Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
              > saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
              > there is a Gnostic hand in it.
              >
              > Could someone who is knowledgeable on this subject please comment and
              > offer some perspective, and maybe some reading material? I have a
              > small library on Kabbalah, but I always have room for more
              > information.
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
            • pmcvflag
              Hey Doug As I first logged in to the group I notice that one of your posts showed up here and another has not.... though both showed up in my email. Then, when
              Message 6 of 14 , Feb 20, 2007
                Hey Doug

                As I first logged in to the group I notice that one of your posts
                showed up here and another has not.... though both showed up in my
                email. Then, when I checked back the other post showed up, but I think
                it is out of order. I will just answer both of your posts at the same
                time.

                For what I am about to post I know the rest of us have talked about
                this many many times, so those of you who have been here awhile can
                probably stop reading now. I would just refer Doug to the old
                conversations, but I can never seem to find them in our archives.

                >>>So, in essence, what you are saying there is that this gnosis IS NOT
                an experience at all. Leastwise as it is seen to be on this group
                anyway. That of course does somewhat conflict with what most
                literature on gnosis and Gnosticism claims, but however and what
                ever, so be it. Now, could you refer me to the source which claims
                that gnosis is NOT an experience, for I sure would like to look that
                up.<<<

                Sure. For one example consider Rudolph's "Gnosis", pg 55 second
                paragraph. Or, consider Dr Pagels' treatment of Gnosis as a process of
                inner exploration in a whole chapter of the Gnostic Gospels
                called "Gnosis; Self-Knowledge as Knowledge of God", Jonas talks about
                it as a cosmological understanding. Of course, perhaps we should not
                rely overly heavily on any one specific set of academic observations.

                I think you will find that Gnostic liturature deals with "Gnosis" as a
                multi-aspect concept that INCLUDES experience... but is not ONLY
                experience. My arm is part of me, but I am not my arm. Allogenes talks
                about the salvation knowledge via a set of instructions given by
                spiritual sources. Thomas talks about salvation by way of esoteric
                understanding of the meaning of the texts, and through self knowledge.
                On top of this, I think we have to understand that the Gnostics borrow
                the term from Platonism, and that the Platonist meaning is implicit in
                their usage.. though not always explicit.

                I am not debating that Gnosis has an important aspect of experience,
                but I don't think it is accurate to say that traditional Gnostics
                viewed it as a synonym for what modern people call the "mystical
                experience".

                This is not just about a personal definition of this group, it is
                about the group's attempt to understand the traditional definition
                rather than assign a definition used by a modern sect or New Age
                groups. There is nothing wrong with these other definitions, but they
                often have little to do with the Nag Hammadi liturature that we look
                at here.

                >>>So, are some here saying that this Gnosis IS an expeience after all?
                Jewish mystical experienc, or mystical experience in any other part
                of the world is all mystical experience. Many people have mystical
                epeience today. Probably even more than they did thousands of years
                ago, so this phenomenon still goes on today in which case.<<<

                I have no problem with the notion that the mystical experience (or
                actually, I believe there are a number of different mystical
                experiences) has rough equivalents across traditions. I just think we
                should not confuse Gnosis (in the traditional Gnostic usage) with the
                mystical experiences.

                >>>So the question becomes IS this gnosis event and experience or not.
                Most seem to say that it is. So who defines a word and with what
                authority do they do so?<<<

                Anyone has authority to define a word however they wish, the question
                then becomes whether they communicate by doing so. We are trying to
                talk about the concept in a rather specific format that is defined by
                the academic category called "Gnosticism".

                >>>I have read the codecies form which Gnosticism derives and these
                people cetanily sounded to me that they were talking of some deeep
                inner esoetic experience; and which is just another name for mystical
                experience and which is common today.<<<

                I have no doubt they do. The quesiton is whether that is the whole
                picture, or just part of it. BTW, esoteric is not the same as
                mystical. I understand many people use the terms to mean the same
                thing, but this forum tries to deal with subjects on a deeper and more
                technical level than the casual speaker generally would. I think the
                term "esoteric" would probably be more accurate in describing "Gnosis".

                >>>Also, could I be so bold (later) to offer a few quotes form the Nag
                Hammadi Codices and get your opinion as to whether they are genuine
                Gnostic sayings from people who had undergone what, in the Western
                World, became known as Gnosis.<<<

                Not only can you be so bold, but it would be very helpful. I fully
                encourage you to give examples of what you mean. In fact, for some
                things we generally demand that they are backed up with examples from
                Gnostic texts (unless we assume everyone here is aware of some
                examples). I am sure you can produce examples from Gnostic texts that
                talk about an experience of sorts... and I think I can then augment
                them with examples from the texts that demonstrate we cannot
                reduce "Gnosis" to one single attribute out of a number of important
                attributes.

                I don't mean to imply that the sources you are reading are wrong, but
                just that perhaps they are partial. I would level the same criticism
                towards Jonas for reducing "gnosis" to a function of cosmology and
                world view. Is the understanding of the cosmology "Gnosis" in the
                ancient usage of the term? We can sure find many examples in the texts
                that do talk about this "gnosis", but I would say it is only one part.
                Again, I am not my arm. Reducing "Gnosis" to the mystical experience
                is no different than reducing it to cosmology. They are both part of a
                larger concept.

                If it helps, I also put a file up in our files section that sort of
                describes the attributes I am talking about.

                http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/files/

                PMCV
              • bicyclesophie
                Thanks PMCV and Cari, I appreciated the response, and I looked again at some of my Kabbalah books. Yes, the Scholem books do mention Gnostics and merkabah
                Message 7 of 14 , Feb 21, 2007
                  Thanks PMCV and Cari,

                  I appreciated the response, and I looked again at some of my Kabbalah
                  books. Yes, the Scholem books do mention Gnostics and merkabah
                  together without animosity, (its been about seven years since I went to
                  those books, once I discovered Aryeh Kaplan I tended to favor his work
                  on the subject). The others do not list "gnostic" in the index, but
                  one would have to read and then find a reference. As I have the time I
                  will sift through and search for the exact wording of the "top ten
                  reasons why Kabbalah isn't Gnostic". You gave me some great info to
                  ponder and I appreciate your expertise.

                  I would like to mention that of all the Kabbalah books that I purchased
                  over the last nine years, Aryeh Kaplan's books are the most accessable,
                  most intelligently written and more objective than anything else I have
                  found. His untimely death was a great loss.

                  Thanks again for your thoughts on the subject.

                  Celesst
                • imdarkchylde
                  Blessings, All! I too am a student of Kabbalah, altho I am a beginner, and I am amazed at the connections I see in Kabbalah and Gnosticism as well. But I was
                  Message 8 of 14 , Feb 21, 2007
                    Blessings, All!
                    I too am a student of Kabbalah, altho I am a beginner, and I am
                    amazed at the connections I see in Kabbalah and Gnosticism as well.
                    But I was to understand that Merkavah Mysticism had its origins with
                    Elijah, being teachings he left his student Elisha with. Merkavah
                    means 'chariot' if I am not mistaken, hence the connection with
                    Elijah and the fiery chariot thing.
                    However, Sethianism claims back to Seth's teachings, and I guess it
                    would be harder to get older than that.
                    But I too believe they had far more similairities than differnces,
                    moreso than other 'traditions' or 'faiths'. I actually haven't found
                    an instance where they don't agree, but as I noted, I am just a
                    beginner in the Kabbalah.
                    But wouldn't gnosticism be older than Plato, or the Kabbalah for that
                    matter? I am sure how they are catagorized, but what is the
                    historical data on the sources? I try not to raise issues of
                    authenticity, altho I'd probably tend to trust the National
                    Geographic Society and the like...
                    whirled and inner peas
                    DarkChylde


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


                    --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Hello Celeste
                    >
                    > In response to your post I would like to reiterate some of what
                    Cari
                    > states and toss a couple of things in the mix. You state...
                    >
                    > >>>Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
                    > a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
                    > they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
                    > being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
                    > these sentiments and continued with my study.<<<
                    >
                    > On top of Cari's point about this, I would like to add that in some
                    > cases it may be ignorance on the part of the author about exactly
                    > what Gnosticism is. In spite of the legendary history of Kabbalah
                    > reaching back into the beginning of human existance, historians
                    > generally trace it to the early medieval period, with other forms
                    of
                    > Jewish mysticism, such as Merkabah, feeding into it. In this sense,
                    > Gnosticism predates Kabbalah, and exists at roughly the same time
                    as
                    > Merkabah. Dr Scholem talks about it this way in "Origin of the
                    > Kabbalah", and considers Kabbalah to simply be a late form, an
                    > offshoot of, Gnosticism.
                    >
                    > There ARE some important differences between the movements, but the
                    > essential structure in both movements is still Platonism in a
                    > Biblical lingo. Whether Kabbalah grew out of Gnosticism, or
                    Kabbalah
                    > and Gnosticism simply have the same roots may be up in the air, but
                    > in spite of the distaste that some Kabbalists practitioners may
                    have,
                    > I am not aware of any scholars that don't agree that there is SOME
                    > connection between the two movements.
                    >
                    > >>>I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish
                    can
                    > be Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
                    > worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
                    > tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
                    > basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
                    > true God.<<<
                    >
                    > I am not sold either. I think that the arguments of Dr Turner, and
                    > others like Pearson, that trace Sethianism into a pre-Christian
                    > Jewish origin need to be seriously considered. On top of that, the
                    > line between the Merkabah of Philo, and the Valentinian thought
                    that
                    > we see in the Tripartite Tractate is frankly a bit fuzzy. When is
                    it
                    > no longer "Gnostic"? Philo has been placed on both sides of the
                    line
                    > by different people, and the Tripartite Tractate reminds me more of
                    > him than it reminds me of what Jonas would call "Gnostic".
                    >
                    > If the only real line we wind up drawing between Merkabah and
                    > Gnosticism is that one is Jewish and the other Christian, then the
                    > Kabbalist authors you are talking about could just as easily try to
                    > deny that Christianity has no Jewish origins. On the other hand,
                    they
                    > would then have to explain another origin for Sethianism or accept
                    it
                    > as Jewish but not Gnostic. To me that makes their argument look
                    like
                    > it comes more from passion than from historical criticism.
                    >
                    > >>>However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I
                    faced
                    > the same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
                    > Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
                    > saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
                    > there is a Gnostic hand in it.<<<
                    >
                    > Having said what I just did I think we have to be careful to
                    remember
                    > that in spite of the commonalities we should not be overly quick to
                    > lump them into one grouping. Even though Gnosticism likely grew
                    > within a Jewish ethnic awareness, to some extent it rejects this
                    > identity. They did indeed face the same issue that you did and I
                    > believe their rejection has a philosophical base.
                    >
                    > Unlike Scholem, I would not call Kabbalah "Jewish Gnosticism". If I
                    > used the term "Jewish Gnosticism" I would more likely mean a
                    > theorhetic pre-Christian Sethianism. Likewise I don't think it is
                    > accurate to call Hermetism "pagan Gnosticism" (in part because I
                    > don't think an academic category should use the word "pagan" in
                    such
                    > a way). Instead, I would say that Hermetism, Merkabah, and
                    Gnosticism
                    > are three very closely related movements that fit a larger category
                    > of mythological Platonism.
                    >
                    > PMCV
                    >
                  • pmcvflag
                    Hey Imdarkchilde ... amazed at the connections I see in Kabbalah and Gnosticism as well. But I was to understand that Merkavah Mysticism had its origins with
                    Message 9 of 14 , Feb 21, 2007
                      Hey Imdarkchilde

                      >>>I too am a student of Kabbalah, altho I am a beginner, and I am
                      amazed at the connections I see in Kabbalah and Gnosticism as well.
                      But I was to understand that Merkavah Mysticism had its origins with
                      Elijah, being teachings he left his student Elisha with. Merkavah
                      means 'chariot' if I am not mistaken, hence the connection with
                      Elijah and the fiery chariot thing. However, Sethianism claims back
                      to Seth's teachings, and I guess it would be harder to get older
                      than that.<<<

                      These are legendary origins, Darkchilde, not historical accounts. I
                      understand there are people who take them at face value just as
                      there are people who take the Genesis creation or the idea that
                      Freemasons date back to the building of the first temple at face
                      value. But, just as the quantum physicist would not see Genesis as a
                      literally accurate creation of the universe, the historical evidence
                      is against these legendary accounts as literally accurate.

                      Take, for instance, Kaplan's origin of the Sefer Yetzirah in the
                      introduction to his translation. He states that Abraham wrote it, or
                      at least part of it. Scholem, on the other hand, points out in
                      his "Origins of Kabbalah" that while historians have not agreed on a
                      date, they DO agree that it is somewhere between the 2nd and 6th
                      century C.E.. This is obviously LONG after Abraham. Kaplan's
                      interest and perspective is theological, Scholem's is historical.

                      >>>But wouldn't gnosticism be older than Plato, or the Kabbalah for
                      that matter? I am sure how they are catagorized, but what is the
                      historical data on the sources?<<<

                      It is very unlikely that Gnosticism would predate Plato unless we
                      expand the term "Gnosticism" overly far (though no doubt Doug/Dick
                      Richardson would likely argue otherwise if he had not left once
                      again). The earliest date I have ever seen any scholar date
                      Gnosticism is in the second century B.C.E.. More often it is dated
                      to about the first or second century C.E..

                      PMCV
                    • gnostic_ken
                      ... Hi PMCV, That is interesting. Much earlier than anything I have ever found. You don t happen to have a reference for that do you? I would like to look it
                      Message 10 of 14 , Feb 22, 2007
                        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > again). The earliest date I have ever seen any scholar date
                        > Gnosticism is in the second century B.C.E..
                        >
                        > PMCV

                        Hi PMCV,
                        That is interesting. Much earlier than anything I have ever found. You
                        don't happen to have a reference for that do you? I would like to look
                        it up.

                        Ken
                      • pmcvflag
                        Hey Ken If I recall correctly, that would be Birger Pearson in his book Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity . His outline is similar to that of
                        Message 11 of 14 , Feb 22, 2007
                          Hey Ken

                          If I recall correctly, that would be Birger Pearson in his
                          book "Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity". His outline
                          is similar to that of Turner in that he presents a preChristian
                          Sethianism that would have to come from the first or second century
                          (since that is the only way it could be "pre Christian" I guess
                          *lol*). Of course, most scholars feel that is too early. However, I
                          think that Petrement's date that seems to influence scholars like
                          Davies simply doesn't work either, and is far too late (not to
                          mention the fact that it is presented for the wrong reasons).

                          Without speculating on the real date of Gnostic origins, if we do
                          accept a relationship between Philo and Gnostic thinking then at the
                          very least we can prove Jewish Platonism as early as the first
                          century.

                          PMCV

                          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "gnostic_ken" <gnostic_ken@...>
                          wrote:
                          >
                          > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@> wrote:
                          > >
                          > > again). The earliest date I have ever seen any scholar date
                          > > Gnosticism is in the second century B.C.E..
                          > >
                          > > PMCV
                          >
                          > Hi PMCV,
                          > That is interesting. Much earlier than anything I have ever found.
                          You
                          > don't happen to have a reference for that do you? I would like to
                          look
                          > it up.
                          >
                          > Ken
                          >
                        • pmcvflag
                          Oh, Ken.... I probably should have added that this was Dr Scholem s theory as well, though you probably already gathered that from the previous conversation
                          Message 12 of 14 , Feb 22, 2007
                            Oh, Ken.... I probably should have added that this was Dr Scholem's
                            theory as well, though you probably already gathered that from the
                            previous conversation about him and his belief that Merkabah is an
                            offshoot of Gnosticism. Since Philo was born in the first century
                            B.C.E., this would place Gnosticism in the first century at the
                            latest. This can be found in his "Origins of Kabbalah" that we were
                            talking about previously.

                            Questions have been raised over whether Dr Scholem was using the
                            term "Gnosticism" correctly. Pearson countered on behalf of Scholem
                            that while he agreed Dr Scholem's usage of the term "Gnosticism" was
                            not quite accurate, his basic historical outline still held. As one
                            would expect, other scholars disagree.

                            Anyway we look at it, we are looking at a date between the second
                            century B.C. to the second century A.D., likely not quite so early
                            and definately no later.

                            PMCV

                            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hey Ken
                            >
                            > If I recall correctly, that would be Birger Pearson in his
                            > book "Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity". His outline
                            > is similar to that of Turner in that he presents a preChristian
                            > Sethianism that would have to come from the first or second century
                            > (since that is the only way it could be "pre Christian" I guess
                            > *lol*). Of course, most scholars feel that is too early. However, I
                            > think that Petrement's date that seems to influence scholars like
                            > Davies simply doesn't work either, and is far too late (not to
                            > mention the fact that it is presented for the wrong reasons).
                            >
                            > Without speculating on the real date of Gnostic origins, if we do
                            > accept a relationship between Philo and Gnostic thinking then at
                            the
                            > very least we can prove Jewish Platonism as early as the first
                            > century.
                            >
                            > PMCV
                            >
                            > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "gnostic_ken" <gnostic_ken@>
                            > wrote:
                            > >
                            > > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@> wrote:
                            > > >
                            > > > again). The earliest date I have ever seen any scholar date
                            > > > Gnosticism is in the second century B.C.E..
                            > > >
                            > > > PMCV
                            > >
                            > > Hi PMCV,
                            > > That is interesting. Much earlier than anything I have ever
                            found.
                            > You
                            > > don't happen to have a reference for that do you? I would like to
                            > look
                            > > it up.
                            > >
                            > > Ken
                            > >
                            >
                          • gnostic_ken
                            ... century ... I ... the ... Hi PMCV, Thank you. Freke and Gandy throw out a 300 BCE date, but they didn t give good references. IMO they were more interested
                            Message 13 of 14 , Feb 22, 2007
                              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > Hey Ken
                              >
                              > If I recall correctly, that would be Birger Pearson in his
                              > book "Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity". His outline
                              > is similar to that of Turner in that he presents a preChristian
                              > Sethianism that would have to come from the first or second
                              century
                              > (since that is the only way it could be "pre Christian" I guess
                              > *lol*). Of course, most scholars feel that is too early. However,
                              I
                              > think that Petrement's date that seems to influence scholars like
                              > Davies simply doesn't work either, and is far too late (not to
                              > mention the fact that it is presented for the wrong reasons).
                              >
                              > Without speculating on the real date of Gnostic origins, if we do
                              > accept a relationship between Philo and Gnostic thinking then at
                              the
                              > very least we can prove Jewish Platonism as early as the first
                              > century.
                              >
                              > PMCV

                              Hi PMCV,
                              Thank you.
                              Freke and Gandy throw out a 300 BCE date, but they didn't give good
                              references. IMO they were more interested in building their own myth
                              than in history. Which BYW is fine with me. I like their myth. I
                              just don't confuse it with historical fact where I can't find
                              evidence other than their word.

                              Ken
                            • pmcvflag
                              Hey Ken ... good references. IMO they were more interested in building their own myth than in history. Which BYW is fine with me. I like their myth. I just
                              Message 14 of 14 , Feb 25, 2007
                                Hey Ken

                                >>>Freke and Gandy throw out a 300 BCE date, but they didn't give
                                good references. IMO they were more interested in building their own
                                myth than in history. Which BYW is fine with me. I like their myth. I
                                just don't confuse it with historical fact where I can't find
                                evidence other than their word.<<<

                                Completely agreed. Freke and Gandy offer a good introduction to to a
                                sort of Gnostic allegorical style, offset by a nightmare
                                historiography. Unfortunately, unlike you many people are not
                                informed enough to tell the difference.

                                The good side of that is that it makes people stop to think about
                                the mythological aspect. I think it is very important to do so when
                                talking about Gnosticism. There are SO many people who try very hard
                                to understand Gnostic texts as if they were talking about Jesus,
                                Judas, Seth, Thomas, Adam, Eve, etc., as historical people. Even Dr
                                Ehrman recently gave a talk dealing with the Gospel of Judas and the
                                supposed "historical" Judas. Why?

                                The bad side is that because critical perspective is also an aspect
                                of hermeneutics, and therefore Gnosis, presenting such a flawed
                                historical perspective about Gnostics actually works against the
                                principle of "Gnosis" itself (besides the fact that I think flawed
                                historical thinking is a disservice to humanity, just as flawed
                                scientific thinking is). It is one thing to deal with Jesus as a
                                myth, and completely another thing to misinform about what that
                                means in traditional Gnostic thinking.... and Gnosis.

                                PMCV
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