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Shedding New Light on the Buddha of Light

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  • hey_market
    First PMCV, when it comes to Mani, I d ask that you agree to disagree regarding why the blessed Buddha of Light (as I would see him) is a legitimate subject
    Message 1 of 74 , Jun 12, 2002
      First PMCV, when it comes to Mani, I'd ask that you agree to disagree
      regarding why the blessed Buddha of Light (as I would see him) is a
      legitimate subject for discussion in this club.

      While you readily acknowledge that it's o.k. to discuss Mani because
      his movement is something of a close relation to ostensibly authentic
      Gnostic sects, I would maintain that the primary grounds for
      discussing him is that he simply WAS a Gnostic... plain and simple.

      Neither of us seems inclined to move far afoot from our positions
      anytime soon, so it seems fairest to resist categorizing his
      legitimacy here, but rather let's simply leave him as a figure open
      to debate (like most Gnostic subjects, I might add).

      Now then, regarding my take on Mani, I'd first like to address the
      context from whence the public at large (well, not really sooo large)
      currently receives its impressions of him. Unfortunately, a quick
      reading of the literature, past and present, reveals that both the
      public's and adademia's understanding of Mani hasn't changed or grown
      much over the years.

      The same old Western prejudices of the past still haunt contemporary
      academia's depiction of Mani, albeit in new clothing.

      The currently fashionable academic error in asserting that Mani and
      his movement were not Gnostic arises chiefly from an ill-advised
      focus on means vs. meaning.

      Ironically, this is the very charge that academics level at Mani
      (i.e., he's more concerned with means than meaning), ande so they see
      their reflections in the mirror without recognizing what stands
      before them.

      It's a fairly common experience for critics in the art worlde.
      Closely watch for this trend in film reviews and you'll soon notice
      that the reviews themselves are routinely guilty of the very same
      criticisms that they aim at their subjects. But I digress
      (strategically, as you'll see).

      Reagarding these Manichean means, academics, at least TODAY's
      academics, would no doubt be far more comfortable with a mythically
      or else philosphically-oriented Mani vs. the spiritual artist and
      visionary that he was. Of course, the academics of only a century
      ago, and even half a century ago, mocked myth as much as they
      misunderstood it.

      But now it's safe to join on the bandwagon, thanks to C. G. Jung and
      Joseph Cambell, not to mention the death of subjective positivism.

      And a fine bandwagon it is. Far be it from me (or Mani for that
      matter) to take issue with walking either a mythic or philosphically
      oriented road to salvation. After all, gnostics have always been
      practical, as it witnessed by their undeniably heterdox history and

      In short, they'll take any approach that works. They have too many
      forces working against them to do otherwise!

      Why did Mani adopt his own peculiar approach?

      For the same reason that any Gnostic does anything: Because it's what
      works that really matters, and we only know it works when we know,
      sylologistic as that may be.

      That's because gnosis is a direct and real experience, self-defined
      and self-evident, just as anyone who knows it, well, knows it.

      Not to be overly simplistic here, but gnosis is none other than what
      it is and therefore it is not something else--not a treatise, not a
      myth, not a philosphy, and so on. The latter are merely roads to this
      experience, and primacy must be placed on the experience.

      In the case of Mani, he paved a new road, one that few academics
      possess the imagination to apprehend, perhaps most likely because few
      know the experience themselves or place a similar primacy up it.

      And why should they?

      Well, for their own good they should. However, we all know that they
      define their own good in other ways (publishing in "A" journals,
      obtaining appointments to "A" schools, gettings "A" in school, and
      generally speaking, acting like "A"s, that is, academics).

      All kidding aside, I don't mean to be too cynical about academics
      here, for their contributions are great. But they are also limited,
      for better or worse.

      And for better or worse, one must confront the fact that this class
      currently exercises the greatest control over public perceptions of
      Mani. However, if one hopes to get to either a more sujective AND
      objective truth, then one must fully appreciate THEIR ways and means
      before we can ever assess the value of their critique of Mani.

      We must critique the critics.

      Unfortunately, first and foremost, it must be observed that their
      ways and means do not mandate or even orient themselves toward the
      actual experience of gnosis.

      That said, of course, it must be conceded that one does not
      necessarily have to share an experience to effectively write about it
      or else understand it. But in the case of Mani and his gnosis, it
      just so happens that this lack of experience has devastated and
      distorted their judgment.

      In other words, sometimes you can get away with it, sometime you

      As a highly relevant side note, it's well worth pointing out that
      those academics who most appreciate or even describe themselves as
      Gnostics, or are closely affinitized to it, such as Quispel and
      Welborn, are invariably at odds with the 'consensus."

      The main problem is that lacking the essential experience of gnosis,
      academics know not where to categorize him, and categorization is a
      primary occupation of any scholar, particularly Gnostic scholars
      (also note that, again ironically, who studies Mani? None other than
      the very same "gnostic scholars" who contend that he isn't Gnostic!
      Such an obsession for a fellow outside their sacred area of
      specialization! Indeed, methinks they protest too much!)

      As a result, we see that failing to fit into a tidy academic category
      has relegated Mani to the (looney) basket bin of a kind of innocuous
      religious fundamentalism combined with an exploitive syncretism. In
      the process, Mani becomes nothing more than an intriguing curiosity,
      though unfortunately most academics aren't curious enough.

      In the end, Mani remains a bogeyman. Only whereas he used to be the
      sort of bogeyman that struck genuine fear owing to his mysterious
      power, he has now been supposedly deconstructed and demystified, and
      what's left is something of spiritual softy minus any menace.

      One can almost imagine harmless little Mani bears given to children
      as safe and fun little monsters.

      But if academics probed to the ultimate depth of understanding, they
      would discover that Mani, Valentinus, Carpocrates, Marcion,
      Basilides, etc. all share the very same core. Although they may have
      differed in their modes of religious expression and their means of
      transcendence, at the level that matters most they were all the same--
      they all shared the same essential experience of alienation and
      divine reclamation and so on.

      It is an experience which Messina, or even Loggins & Messina, can
      never define.

      This poverty of experience begets a poverty of insight and
      imagination that is truly appaling--and truly alienated from the
      subject at hand. Most academics miss the boat on Mani because they're
      not interested in riding the wave of gnosis--an authentic experience
      of knowledge and meaning, and so they consign themselves to paddling
      about in a ship of fools (for what else can one be accomplishing by
      studying gnosis without truly seeking to know it?)

      They seek what matters to THEM instead of what matters to their
      subjects, and as a result of this misorientation, their observations
      just don't matter.

      Again, it may not be an academics job to achieve gnosis, but in their
      abounding ignorance of the reality of this experience, not so
      surprisingly they fail to cultivate either a real or imaginative
      framework with which to do their job--to know Mani and accurately
      categorize him.

      However, while Mani was categorically different from most Gnostics,
      this doesn't mean he wasn't a Gnostic at all.

      For starters, his focus was a unique praxis of gnosis, which on one
      hand was characterized by a literal (though not fundamentalist)
      orientation towards the cosmos, while on the other hand, relatively
      speaking, it lacked the more common Gnostic emphasis on myth,
      philosophical or trascendental speculation, or other such means.

      So what were his means? What sort of Gnostic was he?

      One might devise any number of pithy phrases to describe him--some
      which might even merit academic publication--but at the risk of
      inexactititude I'll somewhat spontaneously toss out the
      label "Spiritual Expressionist."

      Other observers, such as Welborn, might be more inclinded to call him
      a "pseudo-scientist," a fitting appelation as well, so long as one
      bears in mind that in this case the "pseudo" prefix carries no
      perjorative connotation. It is "pseudo" only in the sense that
      Manicheans would recognize every so-called science as false precisely
      because it must attempt to describe a false world!

      Thus, there are always limits, and artifice beomces necessary to
      bring us more closely to a more perfectly divine picture of this
      imperfect world. Verification therein cannot be obtained though
      science, per se, but rather it is exclusively derived through an
      intuition about the reality that really exists.

      In other words, gnosis.

      And for Mani, his mode of artifice was a unique brand of religious
      and spiritual expressionism rather than myth or philosphical

      Now then, what do I mean by "religious" or "spiritual expressionist?"
      Well, akin to either the German Expressionists of the 20s or the
      later Abstract Expressionists, Mani sought to expose reality from
      both the outside in and the inside out.

      As students of art know, visual expressionists purposely distort
      reality from its perceptual norm only to reveal that the normal isn't
      so normal after all, and in fact, the distortion is more real than
      its normative root, which was nothing more than a fiction when now
      compared to the real root, which the artist skillfully reveals
      through his craft.

      Moreover, and this is pivotal, the depictions are meant to reveal

      Expressionists attempt to make actual and authentic visual
      descriptions of the world--not merely analogues of the world or else
      mytho-symbolic representations of it.

      This isn't to criticize the latter techniques or hold them to be
      illegitimate--far from it. Thing is, it just wasn't Mani's way.

      Rather, Mani took a more scientific (and simultaneously artistic)
      approach in that he wanted to observe and describe the world for what
      it was, as he saw it (as he expressed it) and then take evasive
      action within it to effectively deal with this reality--this powerful
      force of enclosure and all of its vested interests (I humbly bow to
      Morph here), not to mention the far more important otherworldly
      reality of the divine realm of light.

      These descriptions may not appear to us to be "real science," owing
      to the way they appear (their antiquity) and our preconceptions about
      what "real" science is. However, we must quickly remind ourselves
      that no modern scientist has ever ACTUALLY seen a quark or a black
      hole or a magnetic field, and yet they proceed to describe
      these 'realities' as 'uneniable' or 'proven' realities, and
      subsequently they intellectually abide by and engage in academic
      rituals associated with these so-called realities.

      Some even structure new religious beliefs around their findings!

      Mani simply engaged in alternative scientific practices and
      associated rituals in an earlier age. His means may not have been
      perfect, but he'd no doubt be the first to concede this (with far
      greater humility than the modern scientist), again, because he would
      not expect perfect worldly observations of an imperfect world.

      The might be abstracted from it, but they certainly are not IT. The
      perfection lies beyond this world.

      Nonetheless, Mani's observations were taken as real, most importantly
      because they were intuited as being true. In the case of Manichean
      science, meaning and truth are liberated from all worldy subjects
      through the power of this positive and highly practical process of
      observation and creative expression.

      This is why Docetism can be creatively construed as literal without
      betraying gnosis, and in fact, promoting it. Conversely, a non-
      docetic approach might be considered as 'potentially' anti-gnostic
      (emphasis on the word potentially). For example, in the revealing
      light of Mani's science, the literally distorted image of a tortured
      and twisted Christ on the cross might be held as a great unreality,
      or certainly a greater unreality than the laughing Christ standing to
      the side of this worldly spectacle.

      At any rate, as a spiritual expressionist or dinvinely-inspired
      Gnostic Scientist (yea, I like that best... "Gnostic Scientist"),
      Mani used religious ritual, dietary strictures, diverse ascetic
      practices, cosmic descriptions, and other modes of spiritual
      observation--no to merely present an indirect myth ABOUT reality, but
      to capture a real, truthful, and meaningful picture of reality as it
      is, and better still, an experience of the divine within us.

      A Gnostic experience.

      And so, if one looks at any Manichean practice and sees nothing more
      than someone going through the motions, well, that's to be expected
      because you're looking from the outside in. Mani did the same, but he
      simply saw something different in the world outside of him, and he
      simultaeously experienced a different reality within him--a reality
      one cannot seen from the outside.

      So, reconsidering Mani in this light (or is it still dark PMCV?), we
      see that Mani's Gnostic mode of spiritual expression, his science of
      gnosis, lead him to the same place as Gnostic mythologizers, which is
      to say a place of mind and spirit that knows the basis of man's
      alienation from the world, and the existence of a divine spark within

      And let's never forget that all modes of gnosis hold these truths to
      be SELF-EVIDENT, not necessary scripturally evident or mythically
      evident or philosophically evident... and certainly not academically

      But ultimately, all Gnostic experiences are direct and personal, and
      most importantly, they are experiences.

      In this further light, Mani's emphasize on praxis is to be admired,
      at least in my book. And Mani was nothing if not practical in
      religious matters. You've gotta give him credit for making such a
      relatively radical, rare, and heterodox belief stick for 1,500 years!

      I'm personally inclined to speculate that Mani saw that a
      mythological approach might leave far too much interpretive room for
      people to swim in and out of (again, I don't necessarily agree, but
      this appears to be Mani's modus operandi). And so, he chose a more
      concrete approach that brought with it the virtue of immediacy--a
      resolve that could inspire people.

      But to suggest that Mani pursued a more worldly approach for the
      ultimate purpose of being more worldly is patently absurd. Again, we
      should never pay so much attention to the means so as to miss the
      ends (even if many Manicheans were no doubt guilty of doing the same).

      No doubt there are dangers on this path, as with ALL paths (paths
      being worldy roads, even if to otherworldly places). It was certainly
      a highly proscriptive approach, one which doesn't suit many tastes,
      particularly modern tastes, and especially contemporary academic

      But if we understand Mani as more of an artist (and he WAS an artisy--
      literally--he avidly and passionately painted and wrote music and
      poetry, and lots of it by all accounts), then we come to see him less
      as a firebrand-style Southern (U.S.) preacher saving damned souls
      along the old Silk Road than a magnificent spiritual artist who
      uncompromisingly depicted the truth.

      Yes, Mani might say, there IS light in everyTHING, and unfortunatley
      we can't ignore such THINGS, or ANY THING, including all of the
      things of this world and including myths and even including that
      cheeseburger in your mits. But let's never ignore the light within
      you. That the ultimate trutyh of you.

      And for Mani, this latter truth was no mere scientific observation.
      It was no mere myth. It was nothing less than the truth--the reality
      that really is behind the reality that isn't.

      And it IS real. And it's here. And it's now. And you can do something
      about it. You can become what you've been meant to be, but first, you
      must see what you have not seen, so that you come to know what you
      have forgotten.

      Ah, but my good friend PMCV, surely you have not forgotten.

      Postcript: While I will attempt to bring forth some evidence in the
      not so distant future, again, it can never supercede SELF-EVIDENCE.
      And this self-evidence must come through experience. To all those
      without such experience, my observations on Mani will be nothing more
      than one more interpretation. But before dismissing them as nothing
      more than this, please also consider that my interpretation is
      unfashionable only because it stands outside academic consensus--not
      because it stands outside of experience. Please also bear in mind
      that fashion, after all is said and done, is nothing more than a
      consensus reality based upon a series of interpretations by
      individuals who are first and foremost dedicated to academic outcomes.
    • Coraxo
      Thanks Felis; Revelations 2:[17] He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the
      Message 74 of 74 , Jul 5 12:53 PM
        Re: [Gnosticism] Re: Shedding New Light on the Buddha of Light Thanks Felis;

        Revelations 2:[17] He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

        This troubling passage in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos makes sense in CON-TEXT with what is known of the Valentinian teaching of the name.

        Corax Bin Al-Ghorab Abu Gharib Al Maghribi

        From: "Enheduanna" <argot@...>

        Re: [Gnosticism] Re: Shedding New Light on the Buddha of Light

        Coraxo wrote:

        > How do we in fact know that Christ informs the understanding of someone?

        I just came across an interesting reflection on this with reference to the
        Valentinian concept of the Name:


        "As noted in Dawson (1992), Thomassen (1993), and Zyla (1996) the Name is
        closely identified by Valentinus with 'bold speaking' or 'free speaking'
        (parhesia). This notion of 'bold speech' as a characteristic of the presence
        of the Name seems to be derived from the New Testament. In the book of Acts,
        speaking boldly, healings and miracles are all said to be produced by the
        presence of the Name (Acts 4:29-30). According to Valentinus, the Father's
        "free act of speaking is the manifestation of the Son" (Valentinus Fragment
        2). He goes on to say that the Son visits the heart of the individual in
        order to purify it. Similarly, in his account of the creation of human
        beings, the presence of the Name within Adam is said to produce 'bold
        speech' which frightens the angels(Valentinus Fragment 5). Just as the
        Father expressed himself boldly in the Son, so the Son expresses himself in
        "bold speech" within the individual person. As Zyla (1996) states, "Through
        the sacrifice of Jesus, gnosis of the Father was gained and can be passed on
        through parrhesia (bold speech)". Gnosis of the Name produces "bold speech"
        in the individual.

        "Valentinus attributes inspired speech to the presence of the Name. The Name
        causes the individual to "utter sounds superior to what its modeling
        justified" (Valentinus Fragment 1). According to Marcus, inspired speech
        results from being joined to one's bridegroom angel (Irenaeus Against Heresy
        1:13:3). This further confirms the thesis that the angel is identical with
        the name. The experience of gnosis is the reception of one's angel/name
        which is a particular instance of the Son/Name. "

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