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Re: Gnostic beliefs on matter

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  • pmcvflag
    Hey Mark Sorry it took me so long to get back to your points, but I have been out of town. You state.... ... of the place and function of the will in what
    Message 1 of 48 , Aug 25, 2007
      Hey Mark

      Sorry it took me so long to get back to your points, but I have been
      out of town.

      You state....

      >>>In the definitions you have provided of 'gnosis,' I am wondering
      of 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.

    • pmcvflag
      Hey Mark You state... ... interpreters, I often wonder to what degree an historical Gnostic practitioner might have presented, or appeared, as a modern day
      Message 48 of 48 , Sep 10, 2007
        Hey Mark

        You state...

        >>>At times when reading the Gnostic texts and some of their
        interpreters, 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, to
        Historical 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 castrates
        the 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 must
        be 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.

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