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Re: Gnostic beliefs on matter

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  • Mark
    PMCV, I am not able to address all your questions, but I would like to muddle through some possible answers in hopes that others may see a window to enter into
    Message 1 of 48 , Sep 9, 2007
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      PMCV,

      I am not able to address all your questions, but I would like to
      muddle through some possible answers in hopes that others may see a
      window to enter into the discussion.

      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
      PNCV states:
      > It is very interesting that in sharp contrast many people today
      talk
      > about the experience as the ONLY important aspect, the goal, of
      > spiritual practice.
      >

      Response: It seems the more I read of the spiritual masters, the more
      they warn about getting caught up or distracted by experience. I
      LOVE experience, especially the spiritual ones, but experiences are
      not the end. One must even pass on beyond experiences. Even Buddhism
      warns us not to get attached to experiences. Is God/Buddha/Self
      present only when a certain feeling is experienced?

      PMCV: > Rather than raise the issue of whether Plato was right/wrong
      or modern
      > people right/wrong, I mean to point out an interesting difference
      in
      > thinking and ask the people in the forum to consider which they see
      > more of in historical (and traditional) Gnostic thinking.
      >

      Response: 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
      charismatic. A Gnostic appeared to be someone who had had SOME sort
      of spiritual experience, such that it set them on a Gnostic path.
      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.

      PMCV: > It may be an interesting subject to try and talk about how a
      > continuity could be most effectively maintained. For instance, what
      > differences are there in the modern mind (intrinsically), if any,
      that
      > would call for a different lingo to express the same things we may
      > pick out in ancient texts? On the other hand, what is the same and
      > need not be changed in the allegories/myths or interpretive
      methods?
      > Is there anything outdated, or is it more about hermeneutics? Is it
      > possible to truly understand the ancient texts at all, or are they
      > just "moldy old books and doctrins" as some here have sometimes
      > pointed out?

      Response: 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
      time.

      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 fact, we are truley
      blessed to have these "moldy old texts abd doctrines," because they
      provide us an opportunity to sharpen our skills in separating
      historical form from transhistorical content. If one cannot learn to
      do it with these texts (or with others), then they will never learn
      to separate the current historical "form" of their spiritual
      experience from the timeless "content" their experience points
      toward. It is far easier to stop with the experience of That than to
      press on toward That which one's experience points. Gnosticism is a
      historical finger pointing toward That.

      PMCV: >AND, I almost hate to even raise the messy subject....
      > but is there a way to test "truth" as intended by the texts vs
      modern
      > popular postmodernist acceptance of the text as either personally
      > effective or personally not?
      >

      Response: What is the "truth" the texts intend?

      Mark
    • 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
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        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
        charismatic.<<<

        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
        time.<<<

        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
        judgement.

        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
        both).

        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.

        PMCV
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