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Answer to Plotinus?

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  • AJRoberti@aol.com
    Hello Everyone, Have been reading Plotinus Against the Gnostics. This treatise consists of a series of attacks on the logic of the Gnostic myth, many of
    Message 1 of 19 , Jan 6, 2003
      Hello Everyone,

      Have been reading Plotinus' "Against the Gnostics." This treatise consists
      of a series of attacks on the logic of the Gnostic myth, many of them quite
      substantive.

      Here's one example, from the MacKenna/Page translation:

      "The Soul that declined, they tell us, saw and illuminated the already
      existent Darkness. Now whence came this Darkness?

      "If they tell us that the Soul created the Darkness by its Decline, then,
      obviously, there was nowhere for the Soul to decline to; the cause of the
      decline was not the Darkness but the very nature of the Soul. The theory,
      therefore, refers the entire process to pre-existing compulsions: the guilt
      inheres in the Primal Beings."

      Here's another:
      "This All that has emerged into life is no amorphous structure -- like those
      lesser forms within it which are born night and day out of the lavishness of
      its vitality -- the Universe is a life organized, effective, complex,
      all-comprehensive, displaying an unfathomable wisdom. How, then, can anyone
      deny that it is a clear image, beautifully formed, of the Intellectual
      Divinities? No doubt it is a copy, not original; but that is its very
      nature; it cannot be at once symbol and reality. But to say that it is an
      inadequate copy is false; nothing has been left out which a beautiful
      representation within the physical order could include."

      I was wondering if there was an answer anywhere to the criticisms of
      Plotinus? Or, can these criticisms be dismissed as archaic or irrelevant?
      In any case, while Plotinus, like Irenaeus and the Christian heresiologists,
      seems to be "besides the point" in attacking the myth while failing to
      recognize the underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching (and that's
      notwithstanding the notion of hidden esoteric meanings) they still deserve an
      answer of some sort.

      Tony Roberti
      ---
      Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
      Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/

      "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step toward resting
      in Tao. To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step toward
      attaining Tao."
      --Chuang Tzu
    • Will Brown <wilbro99@yahoo.com>
      If my understanding of Plotinus is correct, and he sees evil as ignorance of the good, then that in itself would put him at odds with the Gnostics. If my
      Message 2 of 19 , Jan 7, 2003
        If my understanding of Plotinus is correct, and he sees evil as
        ignorance of the good, then that in itself would put him at odds with
        the Gnostics. If my understanding of the Gnostics is correct, they
        ascribe the material world as being evil and gnosis as its
        transcending. I see the difference between the two in light of my
        understanding of gnosis, namely, that ignorance is the problem and the
        removal of ignorance leaves only understanding. In this light the
        problem is not between two worlds, but within one's relation to
        oneself. If the Gnostic scheme is a metaphor for that problem, cast in
        the language of the day—complete with Gods and such, that is one
        thing, but if the Gnostic scheme is taken as representing the facts,
        then I am with Plotinus here.

        Tony, not that I know any better, but it seems to me that the quote
        (see below) by Chaung Tzu at the end of your post puts the whammy on
        any underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching. How can the Gnostic path
        be seen as no path when the Gnostic path claims to be a unique path? I
        think I remember the Flag making the claim that there was more to
        Gnosticism than just gnosis. ----willy

        "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step toward
        resting in Tao. To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first
        step toward attaining Tao." --Chuang Tzu


        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, AJRoberti@a... wrote:
        > Hello Everyone,
        >
        > Have been reading Plotinus' "Against the Gnostics." This treatise
        consists
        > of a series of attacks on the logic of the Gnostic myth, many of
        them quite
        > substantive.
        >
        > Here's one example, from the MacKenna/Page translation:
        >
        > "The Soul that declined, they tell us, saw and illuminated the already
        > existent Darkness. Now whence came this Darkness?
        >
        > "If they tell us that the Soul created the Darkness by its Decline,
        then,
        > obviously, there was nowhere for the Soul to decline to; the cause
        of the
        > decline was not the Darkness but the very nature of the Soul. The
        theory,
        > therefore, refers the entire process to pre-existing compulsions:
        the guilt
        > inheres in the Primal Beings."
        >
        > Here's another:
        > "This All that has emerged into life is no amorphous structure --
        like those
        > lesser forms within it which are born night and day out of the
        lavishness of
        > its vitality -- the Universe is a life organized, effective, complex,
        > all-comprehensive, displaying an unfathomable wisdom. How, then,
        can anyone
        > deny that it is a clear image, beautifully formed, of the Intellectual
        > Divinities? No doubt it is a copy, not original; but that is its very
        > nature; it cannot be at once symbol and reality. But to say that it
        is an
        > inadequate copy is false; nothing has been left out which a beautiful
        > representation within the physical order could include."
        >
        > I was wondering if there was an answer anywhere to the criticisms of
        > Plotinus? Or, can these criticisms be dismissed as archaic or
        irrelevant?
        > In any case, while Plotinus, like Irenaeus and the Christian
        heresiologists,
        > seems to be "besides the point" in attacking the myth while failing to
        > recognize the underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching (and that's
        > notwithstanding the notion of hidden esoteric meanings) they still
        deserve an
        > answer of some sort.
        >
        > Tony Roberti
        > ---
        > Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
        > Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/
        >
        > "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step toward
        resting
        > in Tao. To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step
        toward
        > attaining Tao."
        > --Chuang Tzu
      • klaus schilling
        ... Of course the material world is evil in the extreme and needs to be denounced. There s no doubt about it. Klaus Schilling
        Message 3 of 19 , Jan 7, 2003
          "Will Brown <wilbro99@...>" <wilbro99@...> writes:
          > If my understanding of Plotinus is correct, and he sees evil as
          > ignorance of the good, then that in itself would put him at odds with
          > the Gnostics. If my understanding of the Gnostics is correct, they
          > ascribe the material world as being evil and gnosis as its
          > transcending.

          Of course the material world is evil in the extreme
          and needs to be denounced. There's no doubt about it.


          Klaus Schilling
        • pmcvflag
          That is a really good subject Tony. Let me throw in my pennies here. I see the attacks of Plotinus and Celsus as fundamentally different from those of the
          Message 4 of 19 , Jan 7, 2003
            That is a really good subject Tony. Let me throw in my pennies here.

            I see the attacks of Plotinus and Celsus as fundamentally different
            from those of the Christian heresiologists. The attacks are better,
            more valid, from the former group. Plotinus himself recognizes the
            common origin in Platonism between himself and his Gnostic
            aquaintences, and argues philosophically. Plotinus appears to have
            had Gnostic friends, and there is an atmosphere of debate (except for
            the anger at having been "misquoted" by these Gnosticsand for Plato
            being misunderstood by them. However, on this point the Gnostics
            appear to be right... they may have misunderstood Plotinus' intent,
            but he seems to have forgotton some of his own statements by the time
            the altercation exploded).

            While Plotinus is the end of Middle Platonism, and the beginning of
            Neo-Platonism, his essential argument is against Neo-Platonism, and
            Gnostics as a FORM of Neo-Platonism. He is against the fact that
            Gnostics deride the world, and more so, the creator. For Plotinus the
            Demiurge is Holy and Good. At the same time, Plotinus hates the body
            and accuses the Gnostics of being immoral. This seeming inconsistancy
            may on the surface look very much like the heresiologists rhetoric,
            but I believe it goes a little deeper. Plotinus does not accuse them
            of terrible deeds though, just of not conforming to his exacting
            standards by being too worldly. BTW, though I don't remember him
            using it, this would be an excellent demonstration of Dr WIlliams'
            point that Gnostics were in fact not the ascetic body-haters the
            modern scholors USED to say they were. Plotinus believes the world is
            eternal, he accuses the Gnostics of believeing the world had a
            beginning and would have an end.

            Plotinus also accuses Gnostics of being overly complex (and
            exclusive) in saying the same things as he does, and so of
            degenerating Philosophy into mere Mythology. In a way he is right of
            course, but the seperation he draws is not one innate in Platonism
            (and in fact Plato himself saw value in this kind of mythological
            description, and even talks about how wonderful it would be to
            syncratize the Mysteries with Philosophy.... something that I would
            say is exactly what the Gnostics were attempting).

            To boil that down, Plotinus and the Gnostics tend to be different in
            that they chose a different lingo, and that Plotinus hated the body
            in practice but not in theory, while Gnostics hated the body in
            theory but not in practice. Otherwise it is nearly impossible to
            conclusively draw a destinction between Plotinus and the Gnostics as
            a whole, as they seem to have very directly influenced each other. It
            does seem though in part that Plotinus may have not fully understood
            the psychological aspects of the teachings that his Valintinian
            counterparts were trying to outline. He doesn't in any case deal with
            the notion of the creation and fall and salvation happening on an
            individual basis instead of simply being a literal cosmic
            explination. He never mentions the notion of identifying ones self
            with the fall of Sophia, or the rise of Christ, etc.

            I do have to disagree with Wilbro on something. I see no Gnostic
            teachings that say evil comes from the earth, but only that evil is
            in ignorance of ones self, and that ignorance was the cause of
            creation. When the world is mentioned as a source of evil in Gnostic
            writings, it is generally only on the personal level that this
            holds... not empirically. In this one particular instance, Plotinus
            seems to be argueing the same point as the Gnostics, and only
            thinking he is against them. Perhaps though the fact that this
            misunderstanding happens is a greater proof of the validity of his
            point concerning the overcomplexity of Gnosticism for common
            description. So, maybe he is right in some ways and wrong in others.

            That's my opinion anyways

            PMCV

            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, AJRoberti@a... wrote:
            > Hello Everyone,
            >
            > Have been reading Plotinus' "Against the Gnostics." This treatise
            consists
            > of a series of attacks on the logic of the Gnostic myth, many of
            them quite
            > substantive.
            >
            > Here's one example, from the MacKenna/Page translation:
            >
            > "The Soul that declined, they tell us, saw and illuminated the
            already
            > existent Darkness. Now whence came this Darkness?
            >
            > "If they tell us that the Soul created the Darkness by its Decline,
            then,
            > obviously, there was nowhere for the Soul to decline to; the cause
            of the
            > decline was not the Darkness but the very nature of the Soul. The
            theory,
            > therefore, refers the entire process to pre-existing compulsions:
            the guilt
            > inheres in the Primal Beings."
            >
            > Here's another:
            > "This All that has emerged into life is no amorphous structure --
            like those
            > lesser forms within it which are born night and day out of the
            lavishness of
            > its vitality -- the Universe is a life organized, effective,
            complex,
            > all-comprehensive, displaying an unfathomable wisdom. How, then,
            can anyone
            > deny that it is a clear image, beautifully formed, of the
            Intellectual
            > Divinities? No doubt it is a copy, not original; but that is its
            very
            > nature; it cannot be at once symbol and reality. But to say that
            it is an
            > inadequate copy is false; nothing has been left out which a
            beautiful
            > representation within the physical order could include."
            >
            > I was wondering if there was an answer anywhere to the criticisms
            of
            > Plotinus? Or, can these criticisms be dismissed as archaic or
            irrelevant?
            > In any case, while Plotinus, like Irenaeus and the Christian
            heresiologists,
            > seems to be "besides the point" in attacking the myth while failing
            to
            > recognize the underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching (and that's
            > notwithstanding the notion of hidden esoteric meanings) they still
            deserve an
            > answer of some sort.
            >
            > Tony Roberti
            > ---
            > Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
            > Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/
            >
            > "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step
            toward resting
            > in Tao. To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step
            toward
            > attaining Tao."
            > --Chuang Tzu
          • klaus schilling
            ... This is only valid for feable Gnosticists like Valentinus, Isidoros, Simon the Mage, Herakleion, Ptolemaios, BarDaisanes. True, strong Gnosticists like
            Message 5 of 19 , Jan 7, 2003
              pmcvflag writes:
              >
              > To boil that down, Plotinus and the Gnostics tend to be different in
              > that they chose a different lingo, and that Plotinus hated the body
              > in practice but not in theory, while Gnostics hated the body in
              > theory but not in practice.

              This is only valid for feable Gnosticists like Valentinus, Isidoros,
              Simon the Mage, Herakleion, Ptolemaios, BarDaisanes.
              True, strong Gnosticists like Satornil, J. Cassianus, and Severus
              hate world and life in theory && practice.

              Klaus Schilling
            • Terje Bergersen
              ... I think I can with a certain confidence state for the record that such weak gnosticists (sic!) are quite happy not be counted among such. That Plotin
              Message 6 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > pmcvflag writes:
                > >
                > > To boil that down, Plotinus and the Gnostics tend to be different
                > in > that they chose a different lingo, and that Plotinus hated the
                > body > in practice but not in theory, while Gnostics hated the body
                > in > theory but not in practice.

                Klaus:
                > This is only valid for feable Gnosticists like Valentinus, Isidoros,
                > Simon the Mage, Herakleion, Ptolemaios, BarDaisanes.
                > True, strong Gnosticists like Satornil, J. Cassianus, and Severus
                > hate world and life in theory && practice.

                I think I can with a certain confidence state for the record that such
                weak gnosticists (sic!) are quite happy not be counted among such.

                That Plotin considers there exists a breach or chasm between a system
                wherein material existence is either considered a cause for ignorance, or
                caused by ignorance (which is, respectively, addressing either an
                individual,specific or a universal,general situation) and a view that all
                suffering and "evil" is caused by ignorance of the good (this would make
                Plotin an excellent source for apologetic of a basically Augustinian
                ethic, an argument for the Privatio Boni doctrine - that evil is the
                absence of good and repaired by being _informed_ of the existence and
                superiority of the good, whatever its definition or actual relevance in
                experience (sic!))
                . The "feeble" Gnosticists, almost contradistinct to the "true,strong"
                Gnosticists - would consider matter as _doketia_ or the appearance of
                reality, but in truth, nothing in and of itself - They would address
                "evil" as a condition caused by the interference of intermediary
                authorities who abuse conscious beings and entrap them on account of their
                affiliation/dependence on matter. I thought this was what the encratists
                were basing their doctrines and practices upon; the orthodox encratists in
                the Syrian tradition, for instance, focused on the condition of
                "translucency" and non-judgement - which meant that the
                adepts/practicioners sought to become as "clarified light",invisible to
                the authorities - by way of "fulfilling the commandments", not in order to
                be favoured, but in order not to be accounted for by the
                authorities/powers.
                Inherent in this is a dual appreciation of the word "acquiantance" -
                either a man is acquianted with material and sensual concerns, and a
                material and sensual "world" - or else he is, by his renouncement of "the
                world and all the matter therein", acquianted with the spiritual and
                suprasensual "world" through his uniformity with the nature of that world,
                while still being "in" this world. As such, Matter does not matter, only
                if the archons which dwell within man (a view shared between a great
                variety of Gnoses, whether you consider them "true" or "false") or some
                exterior influence, be it embodied or disincarnate - confuses and
                confounds man to value either the physical or psychic as being
                divine,eternal,ultimate,absolute or of greater necessity than the soul
                itself. In that respect, man looses himself temporarily through his
                predicament _in_ Matter, just as he stands in danger of eternally loosing
                himself _in_ the "Outer darkness", these two are most clearly not
                identical, just as Chaos and emptiness are _distinct_ from eachother.


                As for Satornil, I am not sure if you are correct, to wit - if we consider
                the implications of Yahweh, the creator of the physical realm being an
                _angel_ or angelos in his cosmology, even subordinate to the Unknown God
                (i.e. employee/servant) - which in Marcion is demoted to ignorant
                lawgiver, demagogue _without_ ultimate authority, a view also reflected by
                Ptolemaus in his letter to Flora, Satornil appears to be closer to the
                Jewish Christian groups, such as the Ebionites and Elchesaities, as well
                as Menander. Also in terms of the Supreme Father himself breathing into
                Man the "breath" or "spirit" so that he might live, _in this particular
                setting_, to wit, the world.
                There is the distinction made between man in generic sense, as being
                passive containers of the spark (an evaluation close to the one possessed
                by Buddhists and Manichaeans, concerning _animals_)- and the disembodied
                and completely spiritual saviour. Like Marcion, Satornil is nevertheless
                positive in his view that such men, in generic, might be redeemed and
                transformed, by the mysteries.

                The terminology used by Simon Magus, according to the churchfathers, are
                quite negative in terms of the souls experience of incarnate existence, I
                see no evidence of an actual practical approach to this negative view of
                the world - appart from the assumed practice of Magic.
                Magic is defined by a manipulation of forms and the nature of containers
                and their relationship to eachother, in order to obtain control or
                influence upon powers which allow themselves to be found in such.

                Pax Pleromae
                --
                Terje Dahl Bergersen
                terje@...
                http://terje.bergersen.net/
              • AJRoberti@aol.com
                Hello Klaus,
                Message 7 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                  Hello Klaus,

                  << Of course the material world is evil in the extreme
                  and needs to be denounced. There's no doubt about it. >>

                  If this is one's belief, why continue to live?  What incentive is there to continue trudging and struggling through life if the material world is "evil in the extreme"?

                  I don't ask this facetiously, but honestly.

                  Tony Roberti

                • lady_caritas
                  ... of the ... world, ... only ... some ... soul ... loosing ... eachother. Interesting point, Terje, and I would wonder then whether divisive, materialistic
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                    --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Terje Bergersen" <terje@b...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    > Inherent in this is a dual appreciation of the word "acquiantance" -
                    > either a man is acquianted with material and sensual concerns, and a
                    > material and sensual "world" - or else he is, by his renouncement
                    of "the
                    > world and all the matter therein", acquianted with the spiritual and
                    > suprasensual "world" through his uniformity with the nature of that
                    world,
                    > while still being "in" this world. As such, Matter does not matter,
                    only
                    > if the archons which dwell within man (a view shared between a great
                    > variety of Gnoses, whether you consider them "true" or "false") or
                    some
                    > exterior influence, be it embodied or disincarnate - confuses and
                    > confounds man to value either the physical or psychic as being
                    > divine,eternal,ultimate,absolute or of greater necessity than the
                    soul
                    > itself. In that respect, man looses himself temporarily through his
                    > predicament _in_ Matter, just as he stands in danger of eternally
                    loosing
                    > himself _in_ the "Outer darkness", these two are most clearly not
                    > identical, just as Chaos and emptiness are _distinct_ from
                    eachother.


                    Interesting point, Terje, and I would wonder then whether divisive,
                    materialistic distinctions (or judgments based on personal, earthly
                    lifestyle choices) like "feeble" and "strong" in categorizing
                    gnostics would therefore be relevant...

                    Cari
                  • Unknown
                    Hi Klaus,
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003

                      Hi Klaus,

                      <<Of course the material world is evil in the extreme
                      and needs to be denounced. There's no doubt about it.>>

                      I respectfully disagree. How we think, live and function in this material world (which is neither inherently evil nor good) determines whether it is viewed as "evil" or "good" by ourselves. Good & evil are our interpretations of the world, especially when we do not undertstand it. If it appears to be beneficial for us something becomes perceived as "good" and when detrimental it is perceived as "bad". Is rain bad? It gives life to our crops and our land, yet rain that damages our property suddenly becomes bad. Is the rain really any different, and more "good" or any more "evil"? No, but our perceptions of their results are.

                      So in my opinion the world is as we see it. If we choose to see it as evil or bad then that is what it becomes to us. If we choose to see it as good or beneficial, then that is what it becomes to us. Indulging in the dualities of the world being either good or bad in my opinion causes many of our problems.

                      The only benefit of a negative world view is that it allows us to stay forcused on that not of this world and prevents us from being obsessed with the pleasures of this world. Of course teh trade off is that one will never be able to reconcile the two into one and thus achieve the true goal of all gnosis. Just my opinion.

                      Peace,
                      T


                       



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                    • troberti <AJRoberti@aol.com>
                      Hello Willy,
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                        Hello Willy,

                        << If my understanding of Plotinus is correct, and he sees evil as
                        ignorance of the good, then that in itself would put him at odds with
                        the Gnostics. If my understanding of the Gnostics is correct, they
                        ascribe the material world as being evil and gnosis as its
                        transcending. I see the difference between the two in light of my
                        understanding of gnosis, namely, that ignorance is the problem and
                        the removal of ignorance leaves only understanding. In this light the
                        problem is not between two worlds, but within one's relation to
                        oneself. >>

                        This is how I read the Gnostic teaching too -- that it was primarily
                        metaphorical and not literal. However there were schools of thought
                        that appeared to take the teaching literally. I think this second
                        group was whom Plotinus was targeting; those who considered Gnostic
                        teaching more about removing ignorance (as is most clearly stated for
                        example in the Gospel of Truth) would not have fundamental
                        disagreements with Plotinus' arguments, or his overall position.


                        << If the Gnostic scheme is a metaphor for that problem, cast in the
                        language of the day—complete with Gods and such, that is one thing,
                        but if the Gnostic scheme is taken as representing the facts, then I
                        am with Plotinus here. >>

                        Me too. And, I think Plotinus was trying to correct and not destroy
                        (unlike the Christian heresiologists).


                        << Tony, not that I know any better, but it seems to me that the
                        quote (see below) by Chaung Tzu at the end of your post puts the
                        whammy on any underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching. How can the
                        Gnostic path be seen as no path when the Gnostic path claims to be a
                        unique path? I think I remember the Flag making the claim that there
                        was more to Gnosticism than just gnosis. >>

                        There have been debates concerning various specific systems, over
                        whether or not they can be described as Gnostic. But little of the
                        discussion has touched on what I think is more important -- whether
                        or not Gnosticism "gels" on a mystical level with esoteric teachings
                        that do not meet all of the qualifications of being "Gnostic."
                        Personally I think there are strong parallels, on the
                        mystical/experiential level, between Taoism and Gnosticism. Taoism
                        is not Gnostic, but I think they are rooted in the same basic
                        mystical experience.

                        Consider the quote:
                        "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step toward
                        resting in Tao."

                        And then compare it to the various passages in the Gnostic texts
                        regarding the value of "repose" (meaning stillness). For example,
                        the Gnostics taught that the Father, the Root of All, resided
                        in "repose." This can very easily be read as promoting stillness
                        meditation, especially in light of the famous Jewish mystical addage
                        to "be still and know that I am God."

                        Tony Roberti
                        ---
                        Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
                        Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/

                        Truth is too much inclined to exaggerate its own importance, and one
                        must guard oneself against its despotic authority.
                        --Lev Shestov
                      • troberti <AJRoberti@aol.com>
                        Hello PMCV,
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                          Hello PMCV,

                          << I see the attacks of Plotinus and Celsus as fundamentally
                          different from those of the Christian heresiologists. The attacks are
                          better, more valid, from the former group. Plotinus himself
                          recognizes the common origin in Platonism between himself and his
                          Gnostic aquaintences, and argues philosophically. >>

                          Yes, this is why they have caught my attention. They do not seem to
                          be arguments intended to "debunk" the Gnostics -- though I think this
                          is how Porphyry, whose attitude is less congenial towards the
                          Gnostics, seems to have interpreted them.

                          My own readings into the background of the Enneads also agrees with
                          what you recounted -- that Plotinus never read what he wrote and so
                          did not take some of his ideas through to their logical conclusions.
                          I think by and large he was frustrated with the inadequacy of
                          language to communicate his thoughts. That might account for some of
                          his anger at being "misquoted" or misinterpreted.

                          Exploring the criticisms of Plotinus requires a vivid look into the
                          world of ancient philosophical discourse, because it proves
                          impossible to examine this fully without examining the personality of
                          Plotinus himself and the nature of his rivalry with the Gnostics.
                          Interesting stuff.


                          << He is against the fact that Gnostics deride the world, and more
                          so, the creator. For Plotinus the Demiurge is Holy and Good. At the
                          same time, Plotinus hates the body and accuses the Gnostics of being
                          immoral. This seeming inconsistancy may on the surface look very much
                          like the heresiologists rhetoric, but I believe it goes a little
                          deeper. >>

                          For Plotinus, the problem with the Gnostics was that they thought too
                          much instead of spending time seeking mystical experience. This
                          might also account for his complaints about the Gnostics' indulging
                          in thaumaturgy -- it is all too easy for magic ritual to become a end
                          in itself rather than a means for mystical attainment.


                          << Plotinus does not accuse them of terrible deeds though, just of
                          not conforming to his exacting standards by being too worldly. BTW,
                          though I don't remember him using it, this would be an excellent
                          demonstration of Dr WIlliams' point that Gnostics were in fact not
                          the ascetic body-haters the modern scholors USED to say they were. >>

                          Ah, yes, this is an excellent point. I think that overall scholars
                          have been and still are carried away with the notion of Gnosticism as
                          highly dualistic. IMO this is a gross misinterpretation of Gnostic
                          teaching.


                          << Plotinus also accuses Gnostics of being overly complex (and
                          exclusive) in saying the same things as he does, and so of
                          degenerating Philosophy into mere Mythology. In a way he is right of
                          course, but the seperation he draws is not one innate in Platonism >>
                          <snip>

                          Plotinus does not seem to understand the nature of the esoteric
                          initiatory process -- which "natural" mystics are likely to see as
                          pompous and unnecessarily overblown.


                          << It does seem though in part that Plotinus may have not fully
                          understood the psychological aspects of the teachings that his
                          Valintinian counterparts were trying to outline. >>

                          Right -- while there was some overlap in their ideas, I think they
                          were ultimately after different goals.


                          <snip>
                          << He doesn't in any case deal with the notion of the creation and
                          fall and salvation happening on an individual basis instead of simply
                          being a literal cosmic explination. He never mentions the notion of
                          identifying ones self with the fall of Sophia, or the rise of Christ,
                          etc. >>

                          In this he might simply not be privy to that as the underlying
                          meaning of Gnostic myth. The Christian heresiologists make the same
                          error, though it is understandable on their part. It is possible
                          that the psychological aspects of Gnostic teachings were a closely-
                          guarded secret.


                          << I do have to disagree with Wilbro on something. I see no Gnostic
                          teachings that say evil comes from the earth, but only that evil is
                          in ignorance of ones self, and that ignorance was the cause of
                          creation. When the world is mentioned as a source of evil in Gnostic
                          writings, it is generally only on the personal level that this
                          holds... not empirically. >>
                          <snip>

                          I strongly agree! I think this is a misreading that has been
                          perpetuated within the scholarly ranks caused by taking the
                          heresiologists at their word. There is little evidence that I have
                          found that the Gnostics considered the world "evil" in an imperical
                          sense -- only insofar as it perpetuated ignorance.

                          Tony Roberti
                          ---
                          Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
                          Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/

                          Truth is too much inclined to exaggerate its own importance, and one
                          must guard oneself against its despotic authority.
                          --Lev Shestov
                        • Will Brown <wilbro99@yahoo.com>
                          ... Either man is acquainted with the sensual or he is acquainted with the suprasensual whilst still in the sensual world. In other words, there is a
                          Message 12 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...> wrote:
                            > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Terje Bergersen" <terje@b...>
                            > wrote:
                            > >
                            > > Inherent in this is a dual appreciation of the word "acquiantance" -
                            > > either a man is acquianted with material and sensual concerns, and a
                            > > material and sensual "world" - or else he is, by his renouncement
                            > of "the
                            > > world and all the matter therein", acquianted with the spiritual and
                            > > suprasensual "world" through his uniformity with the nature of that
                            > world,
                            > > while still being "in" this world. As such, Matter does not matter,
                            > only
                            > > if the archons which dwell within man (a view shared between a great
                            > > variety of Gnoses, whether you consider them "true" or "false") or
                            > some
                            > > exterior influence, be it embodied or disincarnate - confuses and
                            > > confounds man to value either the physical or psychic as being
                            > > divine,eternal,ultimate,absolute or of greater necessity than the
                            > soul
                            > > itself. In that respect, man looses himself temporarily through his
                            > > predicament _in_ Matter, just as he stands in danger of eternally
                            > loosing
                            > > himself _in_ the "Outer darkness", these two are most clearly not
                            > > identical, just as Chaos and emptiness are _distinct_ from
                            > eachother.
                            >
                            >
                            > Interesting point, Terje, and I would wonder then whether divisive,
                            > materialistic distinctions (or judgments based on personal, earthly
                            > lifestyle choices) like "feeble" and "strong" in categorizing
                            > gnostics would therefore be relevant...
                            >
                            > Cari

                            Either man is acquainted with the "sensual" or he is acquainted with
                            the "suprasensual" whilst still in the "sensual" world. In other
                            words, there is a necessary breaking of the first to come upon the
                            second regardless of what terms the first and the second are to be
                            cast in. The Gnostic form is just one form of the casting.

                            Another form of the casting: At the center of all castings is a
                            movement, within one's sense of self, from one sense of the self in
                            the world to another sense of the self in the world. From that
                            movement, a reflection upon the self that was takes the form of a
                            transcendence. If, however, the sense of self is seen to be given
                            through reflection, then the act of transcendence is transcended, and
                            Plotinus might then speak in terms of "the alone to the alone."

                            Of course, that cast was made with a baited hook. ---- willy-nilly
                          • Will Brown <wilbro99@yahoo.com>
                            Tony with a touch of pluralism. I agree. It is my contention that there is, in fact, one basic mystical experience that leads to the different attempts to
                            Message 13 of 19 , Jan 8, 2003
                              Tony with a touch of pluralism. I agree. It is my contention that
                              there is, in fact, one "basic mystical experience" that leads to the
                              different attempts to corral it within the confine of words. I would
                              define it an awakening up from a false sense of self, or, a "fog of
                              error," if you will (did some homework I did); and yes, I agree, it is
                              a process. My words would corral it by stating that the false sense of
                              self is a doing and that its demise comes about through a not doing,
                              which is, in effect, a passive stance towards the act that it is. It
                              is here that words arise such as repose, stillness, passive awareness,
                              or, as the Tao would put it: "Do that which consists in taking no
                              action and order will prevail." (Book I, Verse 10, tr. Lau)

                              Having said that, and assuming you agree with what I have said, it
                              would seem to me that we still have the task of uncovering whether or
                              not we are talking about the same thing. That task would, I assume,
                              need to be reduced to a long process of process talk. ---- willy-willy


                              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "troberti <AJRoberti@a...>"
                              <AJRoberti@a...> wrote:
                              > Hello Willy,
                              >
                              > << If my understanding of Plotinus is correct, and he sees evil as
                              > ignorance of the good, then that in itself would put him at odds with
                              > the Gnostics. If my understanding of the Gnostics is correct, they
                              > ascribe the material world as being evil and gnosis as its
                              > transcending. I see the difference between the two in light of my
                              > understanding of gnosis, namely, that ignorance is the problem and
                              > the removal of ignorance leaves only understanding. In this light the
                              > problem is not between two worlds, but within one's relation to
                              > oneself. >>
                              >
                              > This is how I read the Gnostic teaching too -- that it was primarily
                              > metaphorical and not literal. However there were schools of thought
                              > that appeared to take the teaching literally. I think this second
                              > group was whom Plotinus was targeting; those who considered Gnostic
                              > teaching more about removing ignorance (as is most clearly stated for
                              > example in the Gospel of Truth) would not have fundamental
                              > disagreements with Plotinus' arguments, or his overall position.
                              >
                              >
                              > << If the Gnostic scheme is a metaphor for that problem, cast in the
                              > language of the day—complete with Gods and such, that is one thing,
                              > but if the Gnostic scheme is taken as representing the facts, then I
                              > am with Plotinus here. >>
                              >
                              > Me too. And, I think Plotinus was trying to correct and not destroy
                              > (unlike the Christian heresiologists).
                              >
                              >
                              > << Tony, not that I know any better, but it seems to me that the
                              > quote (see below) by Chaung Tzu at the end of your post puts the
                              > whammy on any underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching. How can the
                              > Gnostic path be seen as no path when the Gnostic path claims to be a
                              > unique path? I think I remember the Flag making the claim that there
                              > was more to Gnosticism than just gnosis. >>
                              >
                              > There have been debates concerning various specific systems, over
                              > whether or not they can be described as Gnostic. But little of the
                              > discussion has touched on what I think is more important -- whether
                              > or not Gnosticism "gels" on a mystical level with esoteric teachings
                              > that do not meet all of the qualifications of being "Gnostic."
                              > Personally I think there are strong parallels, on the
                              > mystical/experiential level, between Taoism and Gnosticism. Taoism
                              > is not Gnostic, but I think they are rooted in the same basic
                              > mystical experience.
                              >
                              > Consider the quote:
                              > "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step toward
                              > resting in Tao."
                              >
                              > And then compare it to the various passages in the Gnostic texts
                              > regarding the value of "repose" (meaning stillness). For example,
                              > the Gnostics taught that the Father, the Root of All, resided
                              > in "repose." This can very easily be read as promoting stillness
                              > meditation, especially in light of the famous Jewish mystical addage
                              > to "be still and know that I am God."
                              >
                              > Tony Roberti
                              > ---
                              > Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
                              > Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/
                              >
                              > Truth is too much inclined to exaggerate its own importance, and one
                              > must guard oneself against its despotic authority.
                              > --Lev Shestov
                            • pmcvflag
                              ... Actually Klaus the view of Gnosticism you present here is not quite historically accurate. The ascriptions you place are ones you have recieved from
                              Message 14 of 19 , Jan 9, 2003
                                > This is only valid for feable Gnosticists like Valentinus, Isidoros,
                                > Simon the Mage, Herakleion, Ptolemaios, BarDaisanes.
                                > True, strong Gnosticists like Satornil, J. Cassianus, and Severus
                                > hate world and life in theory && practice.


                                Actually Klaus the view of Gnosticism you present here is not quite
                                historically accurate. The ascriptions you place are ones you have
                                recieved from literary views (your interpretation of writings that
                                don't necessarily imply practice), and heresiological sources that
                                have been brought into serious doubt by more recent discoveries and
                                stricter critical analysis. The strict division of Gnostics into
                                ascetic vs libertine probably didn't exist amongst the Gnostics
                                themselves.... there is absolutely no historical evidence to support
                                it. Instead, it is a case of heresiologists attempting to show the
                                extremity of others in order to make themselves seem more moderate
                                and rational. Layton ("The Gnostic Scriptures" 159) even questions
                                whether we can in fact know if Satornil is even Gnostic since we know
                                almost NOTHING about his doctrin or practice. Still, the
                                heresiologists seem to place him in the category, and that makes us
                                have to consider thet he MAY have been Gnostic... we then also have
                                to keep in mind that the same heresiologist that tells us of
                                Satornil's asceticism tells us that it is only something he pretends
                                to be, and in fact he is libertine in his practice (A.H. 1:24:2).

                                The previous observation presents a few possibilities to us. Just as
                                easily as you can argue that it implies Satornil was truely ascetic
                                and the rest of Irenaeus is false, one could argue that Ireneaus is
                                right and Satornil was a hypocrite. OR, one could argue that in fact
                                Irenaeus simply didn't understand that the asceticism was simply a
                                litterary convintion so it didn't have to mean anything concerning
                                Satornil's own ascetic practice, or maybe he didn't even actually
                                have sources that reflected Satornil's liturature. There are many
                                possibilities that could explain the descrepencies. The most common
                                one in the scholastic word had been the first one... but it has been
                                moving more lately towards the third one.

                                So Klaus, this means to me that your designation of "true" Gnostic
                                may really be more about an eisegetic reading that is convenient to
                                the "facts" your psychological profile wishes to project on these
                                historical groups. This is understandable, but not quite appropriate
                                to presume that others should conform to.

                                PMCV
                              • pmcvflag
                                ... Yes, without a doubt. I do however feel that historians on the subject have generally moved away from this more recently. THe problem is though that many
                                Message 15 of 19 , Jan 9, 2003
                                  > I strongly agree! I think this is a misreading that has been
                                  > perpetuated within the scholarly ranks caused by taking the
                                  > heresiologists at their word. There is little evidence that I have
                                  > found that the Gnostics considered the world "evil" in an imperical
                                  > sense -- only insofar as it perpetuated ignorance.
                                  >
                                  > Tony Roberti


                                  Yes, without a doubt. I do however feel that historians on the
                                  subject have generally moved away from this more recently. THe
                                  problem is though that many of the recantations of this position have
                                  only been seen in less poppular works (scholastic journals, etc) so
                                  that books written for popular consumption by non-academicians tend
                                  to STILL repete the same old points that just don't seem to hold up
                                  anymore. This is not the fault of the scholors, it is just a downside
                                  of the lack of more recent publications with critical perspective.

                                  PMCV
                                • AJRoberti@aol.com
                                  Hello PMCV,
                                  Message 16 of 19 , Jan 9, 2003
                                    Hello PMCV,

                                    << Yes, without a doubt. I do however feel that historians on the subject
                                    have generally moved away from this more recently. THe problem is though that
                                    many of the recantations of this position have only been seen in less
                                    poppular works (scholastic journals, etc) so that books written for popular
                                    consumption by non-academicians tend to STILL repete the same old points that
                                    just don't seem to hold up anymore. >>


                                    Thank you for clarifying that. I confess that I do not read journals on the
                                    subject, so my awareness of the most recent trends in research is not as good
                                    as it could be. I stand corrected.

                                    Tony Roberti
                                  • Mike Leavitt
                                    Hello AJRoberti@aol.com ... I hope Klaus doesn t think about this too much and kill himself. :-) Regards -- Mike Leavitt ac998@lafn.org
                                    Message 17 of 19 , Jan 11, 2003
                                      Hello AJRoberti@...

                                      On 08-Jan-03, you wrote:

                                      > Hello Klaus,
                                      >
                                      > << Of course the material world is evil in the extreme
                                      > and needs to be denounced. There's no doubt about it. >>
                                      >
                                      > If this is one's belief, why continue to live? What incentive is
                                      > there to continue trudging and struggling through life if the
                                      > material world is "evil in the extreme"?
                                      >
                                      > I don't ask this facetiously, but honestly.
                                      >
                                      > Tony Roberti
                                      >

                                      I hope Klaus doesn't think about this too much and kill himself. :-)

                                      Regards
                                      --
                                      Mike Leavitt ac998@...
                                    • klaus schilling
                                      ... Suicide is pointless, as it doesn t stop life permanently. Klaus Schilling
                                      Message 18 of 19 , Jan 11, 2003
                                        Mike Leavitt writes:
                                        > I hope Klaus doesn't think about this too much and kill himself. :-)

                                        Suicide is pointless, as it doesn't stop life permanently.

                                        Klaus Schilling
                                      • Mike Leavitt
                                        Hello klaus ... I feel better now, knowing that you have thought that one through. ;-) Regards -- Mike Leavitt ac998@lafn.org
                                        Message 19 of 19 , Jan 12, 2003
                                          Hello klaus

                                          On 12-Jan-03, you wrote:

                                          > Mike Leavitt writes:
                                          >> I hope Klaus doesn't think about this too much and kill himself.
                                          > :-)
                                          >
                                          > Suicide is pointless, as it doesn't stop life permanently.
                                          >
                                          > Klaus Schilling

                                          I feel better now, knowing that you have thought that one through. ;-)

                                          Regards
                                          --
                                          Mike Leavitt ac998@...
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