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A Personal Statement

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  • chesterelders
    Hello: I think anyone who studies ancient gnosticism does so in order to peek into the shadows. The Christian message has been refined and polished by
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 1, 2007
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      Hello:

      I think anyone who studies ancient gnosticism does so in order
      to peek into the shadows. The Christian message has been refined and
      polished by centuries of apologetics and street-level thuggery. What
      we now take to be orthodoxy is the product of the intrigues and
      passions of men who often resorted to such thuggery to do God's work.
      The various plots and counter-plots following the great Council of
      Nicaea in 325 are an excellent example.
      I'm not claiming that religion can be reduced to politics; what
      I am claiming is that the two are inextricably linked. The winners
      get to say what is and what isn't orthodoxy. There's this visceral
      belief in our bellies, though which just can't accept that truth and
      power are the same thing. Christianity has entered a phase of it's
      history where hard questions can no longer be avoided. Those hard
      questions want to peek into the tenebrous heresies which the early
      church tried so hard to supress.
      It's really quite amazing how the early church fathers
      squabbled over seemingly arcane points of theology. Even among the
      gnostics, themselves questions of exactly how the ineffable god
      managed to create the world stained their writings. Various schools
      of thought held that defferent archons rebelled against their
      appointed nature and thereby sinned. Those sins resulted in an
      aborted creation. It seems the message is clear enough: the atoms of
      the world are made of sin. What does it matter the exact means by
      which those sins occured?
      The shadows into which the gnostics were consigned are
      certainly not pristine. I doubt that we'll find truth in the gloom.
      Stripped to the bare essentuals, Christianity offers an explanation
      of sin which isn't so different from what the gnostics offered. The
      world is broken because of hubris. I think the gnostics are
      important, not because they knew a forgotten truth, but rather
      because they knew that truth is basically a drama. By that I mean
      truth can only properly be understood as it unfolds in the same way
      that a drama unfolds. The dramatis personae of the gnostic tales
      reveal the same truth which the church has proclaimed for two
      thousand years: the world is broken. The question becomes "Who has
      the remedy?". As with all great question, I believe that the asking
      is more important that the knowing. The real reason everyone fought
      over the truth is that the snake oil of salvation appeals to those
      who want comfort; they can't handle the hardness and lonliness of the
      question in all it's starkness.
    • pmcvflag
      Hello Chester, welcome to the forum. You state.... ... to peek into the shadows.
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 5, 2007
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        Hello Chester, welcome to the forum.

        You state....

        >>>I think anyone who studies ancient gnosticism does so in order
        to peek into the shadows.<<<

        I guess that is true in the sense that it is true of anything a
        person studies. If I learn to play guitar I am starting in the
        shadows until I learn more about how it works. However, I think in a
        more specific sense you will find that many people here are learning
        about Gnosticism for a number of different reasons. Some are
        interested in the history of the era, while others may be interested
        in comparative religion. Some people here may find some personal
        connection they feel they see with Gnostic thought, while others
        here may be interested in philosophical or artistic qualities....
        and some may simply be curious as to who exactly these "Gnostics"
        were. There have even been a few people here who are trying to learn
        about Gnostics in order to warn their churches about recent
        influence of Gnostic ideas in various venues of the entertainment
        industry.

        >>>Even among the gnostics, themselves questions of exactly how the
        ineffable god managed to create the world stained their writings.
        Various schools of thought held that defferent archons rebelled
        against their appointed nature and thereby sinned. Those sins
        resulted in an aborted creation.<<<

        This is closer to being true if we assume the Gnostic texts were
        intended in an entirely literal way. That issue is debated. Even if
        we do make that assumption, the outline you offer is not completely
        an accurate outline of the general Gnostic myth. Rather the "sin" as
        you put it (though the word is not generally used) does not come
        through a rebellion by the Archons, but because the final Aeon is
        simply too far removed from the unknowable source and thus ignorant.

        >>>It seems the message is clear enough: the atoms of
        the world are made of sin.<<<

        It could be questionable as to whether this is what the Gnostic
        texts are actually saying.

        >>>Stripped to the bare essentuals, Christianity offers an
        explanation of sin which isn't so different from what the gnostics
        offered.

        Again, very dependant on a questionable hermeneutic.

        >>The real reason everyone fought over the truth is that the snake
        oil of salvation appeals to those who want comfort; they can't
        handle the hardness and lonliness of the question in all it's
        starkness.<<<

        The term "salvation" means many different things to different
        people, not simply the Christian notion of being forgiven so one can
        go to heaven. Are we being saved from ignorance? Sin? A magazine
        seller at the door who won't go away until phone rings (probably a
        telemarketer)? I'm not as sure as you seem to be that the Gnostic
        soteriology is really looking for the same thing as the modern
        Christian one. Without the anthropomorphic "God" and the pearly
        gates of Heaven out there in space somewhere, the notion of what is
        achieved by "salvation" must be re-evaluated.

        I think conversation would be better served by critical reading of
        the texts so that we are sure we understand what they intend before
        we quickly lump them with other belief systems that may or may not
        be so similar. What I mean is, it is easy to gloss surface
        similarities so that we miss possible underlying differences.

        PMCV
      • Verna Leigh Johnson
        A beautiful and excellent post, Chesterelder. And my agreeance on all points. Except one. The concept of sin . Now that is truly an orthodox concept, and not
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 5, 2007
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          A beautiful and excellent post, Chesterelder.
          And my agreeance on all points. Except one. The concept of 'sin'.
          Now that is truly an orthodox concept, and not one held by gnostics.
          Either historical or 'new age' or whatever. WE didn't 'fall'. WE
          are born into a world that facilitates us not remembering who we are
          and where we came from. We are not into salvation, as there is
          none, According to the Cathars, we 'chose' to manifest ourselves on
          this plane, for some reason. But the 'fall' and 'sin' are concepts
          of the orthodox.
          Just my two coins! A refreshing post, thank you.
          Gosh it is good to see a gnostic of your caliber here!
          Kudos!
          whirled and inner peas,
          DarkChylde


          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "chesterelders"
          <chesterelders@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hello:
          >
          > I think anyone who studies ancient gnosticism does so in
          order
          > to peek into the shadows. The Christian message has been refined
          and
          > polished by centuries of apologetics and street-level thuggery.
          What
          > we now take to be orthodoxy is the product of the intrigues and
          > passions of men who often resorted to such thuggery to do God's
          work.
          > The various plots and counter-plots following the great Council of
          > Nicaea in 325 are an excellent example.
          > I'm not claiming that religion can be reduced to politics;
          what
          > I am claiming is that the two are inextricably linked. The winners
          > get to say what is and what isn't orthodoxy. There's this visceral
          > belief in our bellies, though which just can't accept that truth
          and
          > power are the same thing. Christianity has entered a phase of it's
          > history where hard questions can no longer be avoided. Those hard
          > questions want to peek into the tenebrous heresies which the early
          > church tried so hard to supress.
          > It's really quite amazing how the early church fathers
          > squabbled over seemingly arcane points of theology. Even among the
          > gnostics, themselves questions of exactly how the ineffable god
          > managed to create the world stained their writings. Various schools
          > of thought held that defferent archons rebelled against their
          > appointed nature and thereby sinned. Those sins resulted in an
          > aborted creation. It seems the message is clear enough: the atoms
          of
          > the world are made of sin. What does it matter the exact means by
          > which those sins occured?
          > The shadows into which the gnostics were consigned are
          > certainly not pristine. I doubt that we'll find truth in the gloom.
          > Stripped to the bare essentuals, Christianity offers an explanation
          > of sin which isn't so different from what the gnostics offered. The
          > world is broken because of hubris. I think the gnostics are
          > important, not because they knew a forgotten truth, but rather
          > because they knew that truth is basically a drama. By that I mean
          > truth can only properly be understood as it unfolds in the same way
          > that a drama unfolds. The dramatis personae of the gnostic tales
          > reveal the same truth which the church has proclaimed for two
          > thousand years: the world is broken. The question becomes "Who has
          > the remedy?". As with all great question, I believe that the asking
          > is more important that the knowing. The real reason everyone fought
          > over the truth is that the snake oil of salvation appeals to those
          > who want comfort; they can't handle the hardness and lonliness of
          the
          > question in all it's starkness.
          >
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