Re: Gnostic beliefs on matter
- Hey Mark
Sorry it took me so long to get back to your points, but I have been
out of town.
>>>In the definitions you have provided of 'gnosis,' I am wonderingof the place and function of the "will" in what might be considered
historical gnosis and much of what is related as gnosis in common
usage today. With Allogenes definition, we hear of "a visionary
process" and in the Gospel of Truth we hear of "an active
comprehension." Other texts such as Zostrianos and The Discourse on
the Eighth and the Ninth speak of disciplines that take years to
master. If the will is important to our understanding and definition
of gnosis, then I wonder if it might provide one way to distinguish
between what many people today understand as a mystical experience as
opposed to what gnosis was in its historical setting. In other words-
-and lacking is subtlety--the difference between a mystical
experience and an experience of gnosis is a function of the will.<<<
I very much agree that this is an important difference between what
many people today talk about as "gnosis", and what was more
traditionally understood by the concept (which some people here
call "Gnosis" with a capital "G"). Dealing with this difference
between historical usage and modern definition has actually been one
of the longest running conversations in this forum.
I would also add intellect and critical perspective as attributes of
the historical notion of "Gnosis" that is often not only lacking in
the way many modern people use the word, but sometimes actively
rejected by them. For instance, it is very common to hear some
people repeat that "books have nothing to do with gnosis". Well, it
is obvious that the author of Thomas and the author of Allogenes did
not see it that way. On the contrary, they place a great deal of
importance on the function of their books in the attainment of
On the other hand, I am not trying to imply that the mystical
experience was completely removed from the notion of Gnosis. I
simply think it is not accurate to use them as synonyms when talking
about the traditional concept.
- Hey Mark
>>>At times when reading the Gnostic texts and some of theirinterpreters, I often wonder to what degree an "historical" Gnostic
practitioner might have presented, or appeared, as a modern day
Could you help me by telling me what you mean by "charismatic"? I am
not sure if you mean this in the generic, or if you mean it in the
modern evangelical sense, or if you mean it etymologically.
>>>Thus, I think experience was important, maybe even critical, toHistorical Gnosticism. But such an experience only helped to start
them on the path, and it was not the whole of the path. If you want
to find a person who has lost faith, then find a charismatic who can
no longer experience the "Spirit." I think Historical Gnosticism
would agree with the idea that faith may be initiated through an
experience, but faith grows through an act of will. Experience is
the proverbial icing on the cake. Without a doubt, beautiful and
delicious, but without a substance that sustains and nurishes.<<<
This could raise an interesting question for another thread. One may
wonder exactly what function pistis, praxis, and gnosis have in the
larger concept of Gnosis (with a capital "G") for historical (and
traditional) practitioners. Is there a correct mix or specific
interaction that one can find stated (or even implied) in the texts?
>>>I am a fairly firm believer that every generation castratesthe previous one in order to individuate themselves. Or to put it
differently, each generation has the right or obligation to recast in
their own terms/lingo that which their ancestors held as sacred.
This is not the same as rejecting. Many, perhaps due to an
intellectual laziness, find it easier simply to reject tradition,
instead of re-interpreting it. Tradition, in its most meanigful
sense, however, is this very process of re-interpretation through
Interesting point. I find I can't disagree.
There is, as you point out, a move to reject all notion
of "tradition" itself. I find it interesting that the rhetoric used
in these cases are very often based on singular experience and a
reaction against that experience (people who were raised with strict
fundementalist backgrounds). This is then cast in a lingo that is
very closely related to racist doctrins, i.e., all notion of
tradition or structure of any sort must be spiritually dead (the
proof being their personal experience with one single false claim)
and need not be examined or understood before making such a
More important to our subject is how shockingly many people who are
interested in Gnosticism are very much using Gnosticism (and by this
I mean the historical texts) as a weapon for this kind of reaction
without really wanting to try and understand the texts in and of
themselves (I am tempted to call it the Da Vinci code complex, but
maybe there are better terms).
>>>When it comes to the questions of what is outdated and what mustbe changed, I think we need to be careful to distinguish between
the "form" of the Gnostic "truths" and the "content" of those
truths. In other words, there were many social and political norms
that "formed" the Gnostic content and we must account for these,
which is the domain of hermeneutics. Nonetheless, I think there are
some spiritual truths that worked then and that work now, regardless
of the "forming" influence of culture. In this sense, these texts
are not just "moldy old texts and docrines," but give "form" to a
spiritual "content" that speaks to us today.<<<
In the end, that may be key to the whole issue. When you state this,
though, do you have any specific examples in mind? If not, could we
impose upon you to find a couple? It seems to me that the point may
be too core to the conversation to be left abstract.
>>>What is the "truth" the texts intend?<<<Well, I guess I could counter by asking "what is truth", but I think
Darkchylde already does this. Frankly, though, it isn't so much my
point. Rather, I was trying to raise the question of whether the
authors of the texts believed in a "truth" or whether they were
relativists like the modern popular postmodernists (or maybe bits of
To be fair, let me try to give my own perspective on the texts and
some examples of what they may posit as "truths".
For one, I think they intend their cosmology as a genuine
functional "truth" (whether that cosmology is literal or allegorical
may be a different question, but from the functional perspective it
may not matter).
I think they intend to offer a specific soteriology as a literal
truth based directly on the functionality of the cosmology (again,
whether that cosmology is literal or allegorical).
I am open to debate on these points, as always, but I just wanted to
offer what I think to be the intended function of many of these
texts so that it doesn't seem like I am standing outside the issue.