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Introduction and question

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  • Jesse
    All; I m new to the list, but have enjoyed reading some of the past discussions here. I m probably in the just barely knows enough to be dangerous category
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 22, 2003
      All;

      I'm new to the list, but have enjoyed reading some of the past discussions
      here. I'm probably in the "just barely knows enough to be dangerous"
      category when it comes to the study of Gnosticism - I've read books by
      Pagels and others, explored the Nag Hammadi writings, etc., but I would
      hardly call myself more than an informed amateur. I look forward to
      learning more from those of you with more experience in this area.

      One of my hobbies is comparative religious studies, and within that I
      particularly enjoy studying lesser-known religious movements throughout
      time. In addition to the various flavors of Gnosticism, I enjoy learning
      about groups such as the Yezidi (and other "Cult of the Angels" groups),
      syncretic offshoots of more well-known religions, and folk belief systems
      that aren't quite religions (American "Hoodoo", as opposed to Vodun, for
      example).

      I was wondering if anyone could point me towards any decent scholarly works
      on the Carpocratians (especially), Ophites, and Borborites. I've read the
      Catholic anti-heresy writings that mention them (Iraeneus, Tertullian,
      etc.), but was wondering whether any scholars have written more detailed
      (and realistic) information about those groups. If there isn't much
      scholarly writing on them, are there more even-handed writings by their
      contemporaries?

      By way of introduction, I am 36 years old, and live near Dallas, Texas. In
      the late 80's/early 90's I spent three years doing graduate studies in
      cultural anthropology - I did all the coursework for the Masters and PhD and
      part of the fieldwork, but didn't end up with either degree (long, boring
      and irrelevant story about academic politics). After almost a decade as a
      professional programmer, I decided to follow my heart (and lower my blood
      pressure) and returned to graduate school. I just got my Masters in Library
      Science, so now I'm job-hunting for a children's librarian position (youth
      services was my field of concentration). My hobbies include playing banjo,
      writing, drawing, programming, assorted arts and crafts, going to flea
      markets/garage sales, collecting various and sundry things (children's
      books, etc.), watching animals, and (of course) comparative religious
      studies. I'm divorced (been with my girlfriend for 5 years now), have a
      four-legged daughter of the French bulldog variety, and have a two-legged
      daughter-surrogate (niece). Spiritually I'm closest to being a
      pantheist/animist mix, and my girlfriend is Wiccan.


      Many thanks,

      Jesse
    • pmcvflag
      Hey Jesse, pleased to meet you. As per your question concerning Carpocrates. The fact is, we have so little about him, at least that we can take seriously,
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 22, 2003
        Hey Jesse, pleased to meet you.

        As per your question concerning Carpocrates. The fact is, we have so
        little about him, at least that we can take seriously, that I think
        it it would be difficult to write an entire book on him without
        building on rather huge inductive leaps. As far as I know, no genuine
        academician has attempted it. The largest work I am aware of is
        Mortin Smith's book on Secret Mark.

        However, there are some good journal reviews, etc., out there. Here
        is a link to one that pretty much outlines what is known.

        http://www.gospelcom.net/dacb/stories/egypt/carpocrates_.html

        We can certainly discuss the topic in here though. There are surely a
        number of theories the club could explore.

        PMCV


        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Jesse" <jpe@m...> wrote:
        > All;
        >
        > I'm new to the list, but have enjoyed reading some of the past
        discussions
        > here. I'm probably in the "just barely knows enough to be
        dangerous"
        > category when it comes to the study of Gnosticism - I've read books
        by
        > Pagels and others, explored the Nag Hammadi writings, etc., but I
        would
        > hardly call myself more than an informed amateur. I look forward to
        > learning more from those of you with more experience in this area.
        >
        > One of my hobbies is comparative religious studies, and within that
        I
        > particularly enjoy studying lesser-known religious movements
        throughout
        > time. In addition to the various flavors of Gnosticism, I enjoy
        learning
        > about groups such as the Yezidi (and other "Cult of the Angels"
        groups),
        > syncretic offshoots of more well-known religions, and folk belief
        systems
        > that aren't quite religions (American "Hoodoo", as opposed to
        Vodun, for
        > example).
        >
        > I was wondering if anyone could point me towards any decent
        scholarly works
        > on the Carpocratians (especially), Ophites, and Borborites. I've
        read the
        > Catholic anti-heresy writings that mention them (Iraeneus,
        Tertullian,
        > etc.), but was wondering whether any scholars have written more
        detailed
        > (and realistic) information about those groups. If there isn't
        much
        > scholarly writing on them, are there more even-handed writings by
        their
        > contemporaries?
        >
        > By way of introduction, I am 36 years old, and live near Dallas,
        Texas. In
        > the late 80's/early 90's I spent three years doing graduate studies
        in
        > cultural anthropology - I did all the coursework for the Masters
        and PhD and
        > part of the fieldwork, but didn't end up with either degree (long,
        boring
        > and irrelevant story about academic politics). After almost a
        decade as a
        > professional programmer, I decided to follow my heart (and lower
        my blood
        > pressure) and returned to graduate school. I just got my Masters
        in Library
        > Science, so now I'm job-hunting for a children's librarian position
        (youth
        > services was my field of concentration). My hobbies include
        playing banjo,
        > writing, drawing, programming, assorted arts and crafts, going to
        flea
        > markets/garage sales, collecting various and sundry things
        (children's
        > books, etc.), watching animals, and (of course) comparative
        religious
        > studies. I'm divorced (been with my girlfriend for 5 years now),
        have a
        > four-legged daughter of the French bulldog variety, and have a two-
        legged
        > daughter-surrogate (niece). Spiritually I'm closest to being a
        > pantheist/animist mix, and my girlfriend is Wiccan.
        >
        >
        > Many thanks,
        >
        > Jesse
      • pmcvflag
        I thought I would come back and be the first to jump on the topic, maybe I can spark some debate. Besides the fact (mentioned in my previous post) that so
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 22, 2003
          I thought I would come back and be the first to jump on the topic,
          maybe I can spark some debate.

          Besides the fact (mentioned in my previous post) that so little
          survives concerning Carpocratian thought, even much of what we do
          have must be brought into question. The main sources are Irenaeus and
          Clement (with Hippolytus, and the latter works, being basically a
          repeat of Irenaeus) There are some problems here, not the least of
          which is the simple fact that there is a limit to what we can glean
          from polemical sources. Worse, even, is that in this case the two
          sources disagree.

          Was Carpocrates sexually liscentious? After listing the number of
          practices that the Carpocrations are supposed to be involved in,
          Irenaeus himself admits that his is unsure of the truth of the
          accusations. What he does feel more sure in is relating the basic
          structure of Carpocratian cosmology, which is similar to that of
          Basilides. He accuses both Carpocrates and Basilides of the same
          types of magic (something that has been brought into question for
          Basilides, and therefore can be brought into question for Carpocrates
          as well), and seems to see them as related systems. He also mentions
          the Carpocratian reverence for Plato and Pythagoras, which is
          believable considering the demonstrated connection between
          neoplatonism, neopythagorianism, and Gnosticism. However, this would
          also go against the sexually liscentious behavior previously
          mentioned.

          The next source (Clement) presents even more problems. The most
          obvious of which is the fact that it does not show Carpocratian
          beliefs as in any way related to Gnosticism. On the contrary, where
          Irenaeus says the Carpocratians have the demiurgical structure of the
          Basilidians, Clement presents a text (On Justice) that shows a non-
          demiurgical belief system. While it is tempting to think that Clement
          must be right, since he quotes actual sources, it is actually not
          difficult to bring into question whether or not "On Justice" is
          really a work representing Carpocratianism.... whereas Irenaeus is an
          earlier source.

          Not only are we left wondering whether Carpocrates was Gnostic or not
          (Was Clement right or Irenaeus?), but we are left with a number of
          inconsistancies concerning even the most basic beliefs that the
          Carpocratians may have held.

          Anyone want to present some possibilities?

          PMCV
        • Terje Bergersen
          ... I concur with PMCV on this - but would like to add to the list of readings. I recently completed reading G.R.S.Mead`s Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, its a
          Message 4 of 9 , Aug 25, 2003
            PMCV:
            > As per your question concerning Carpocrates. The fact is, we have so
            > little about him, at least that we can take seriously, that I think
            > it it would be difficult to write an entire book on him without
            > building on rather huge inductive leaps. As far as I know, no genuine
            > academician has attempted it. The largest work I am aware of is
            > Mortin Smith's book on Secret Mark.

            I concur with PMCV on this - but would like to add to the list of
            readings. I recently completed reading G.R.S.Mead`s Fragments of a Faith
            Forgotten, its a book written prior to the Nag Hammadi find (1894 or
            thereabouts), chiefly a study of the heresiological and secondary sources
            with some discussion on the different schools. I am not quite sure if I
            could recommend that book now, but I do know Mead does seem some more
            symphatetic and *interested* in finding out about the systems than many of
            his contemporaries and later writers on the subject. And because this were
            before the Nag Hammadi find he also pays attention to "schools" of
            Gnosticism which is not represented in the find, later literature neglects
            these because Sethian,"Syrian"/"Encratite" and Valentinian Gnosticism has
            better source material.

            The book I was going to suggest is Dr.John D. Turner`s recent study
            _Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition_ - for the simple reason
            that among the earliest Gnostics, Carpocrates were known to be among the
            best disposed towards Platonism in its pre-"Neo-Platonic" form - in fact,
            many writers on Carpocrates (short articles all) seem to view Carpocrates
            as chiefly a speculative Platonist (like the rivals/heretics "founding
            father" Plotin writes against in his "Against the Gnostics" treatise)
            which shares some features with what is assumed to be specifically
            "gnostic" (ascension through the spheres, Guardhouses, the net of fate
            (Heimarmene, "fate", so-called Karma),metampsychosis (so-called
            Reincarnation) and an incarnating pre-cosmic Logos). Mead considers the
            suggestion of polygamy and the fathership of Carpocrates for a certain
            Epiphanes to be based on misreading and a poor handling of the Greek and
            Latin heresiological literature - while also questioning the libertinism
            which is unaccountably associated with the Carpocratians. Turner discusses
            the relationship and dependence of the Gnostics with the Platonic and
            Stoic ambience in Egypt and Asia Minor around the period the seminal
            teachers began to have an influence, he also analyzes a few Nag Hammadi
            scriptures and makes comparison to ancient Platonic doctrines.

            Lawrence Durrell has written on the Ophites, excellent info - have a look
            and I suspect you know what I mean about the suggestion that they even
            existed...
            The Naassenes and Peratae seems to be a corollary to the Ophites in a
            sense - only here Ophis, the Serpent is divided between Ouranos (the
            world-encompassing cosmic serpent - not the "Ouroboros" -
            "ring-do-not-pass", symbol of the closed-system/Kosmos devouring itself
            because it lacks spirit, light and knowledge) and Nachash or the serpent
            entwined around Aaron`s rod (giving healing and sight back to the
            stricken/blind in the desert.. a medicinal allegory, like that of the
            serpent on the Caudeceus of the Hermetic/Greek mythology around
            Ascelepsius) , which seems to have positive connotations were such lacks
            completely in comparable Gnostic systems, and is not in any way associated
            with the Paradisical serpent, except lazy writers mix them up with
            eachother, which isnt helpful at all, especially when the systems diverge
            and disagree in such an extreme way.

            I am not sure about the schools you mention..in terms of good sources.
            Seems to me that certain occultists have taken these and made a run with
            them (inspect what certain precious someones have done with the tantric
            traditions of the East)... best source to these things I feel, is where
            they originate..in the human imagination, best treatment also - in
            fiction.

            Pax Pleromae

            --
            Terje Dahl Bergersen,
            Deacon for Capella Santa Sophia,Ecclesia Gnostica Norvegia
            terje@...
            http://terje.bergersen.net/
          • pmcvflag
            Terje!! Good to see you drop in. Turner s book looks particularly interesting, and I have made a note to myself to try and pick it up. Thanks for the info PMCV
            Message 5 of 9 , Aug 25, 2003
              Terje!! Good to see you drop in. Turner's book looks particularly
              interesting, and I have made a note to myself to try and pick it up.
              Thanks for the info

              PMCV

              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Terje Bergersen" <terje@b...>
              wrote:
              > PMCV:
              > > As per your question concerning Carpocrates. The fact is, we have
              so
              > > little about him, at least that we can take seriously, that I
              think
              > > it it would be difficult to write an entire book on him without
              > > building on rather huge inductive leaps. As far as I know, no
              genuine
              > > academician has attempted it. The largest work I am aware of is
              > > Mortin Smith's book on Secret Mark.
              >
              > I concur with PMCV on this - but would like to add to the list of
              > readings. I recently completed reading G.R.S.Mead`s Fragments of a
              Faith
              > Forgotten, its a book written prior to the Nag Hammadi find (1894 or
              > thereabouts), chiefly a study of the heresiological and secondary
              sources
              > with some discussion on the different schools. I am not quite sure
              if I
              > could recommend that book now, but I do know Mead does seem some
              more
              > symphatetic and *interested* in finding out about the systems than
              many of
              > his contemporaries and later writers on the subject. And because
              this were
              > before the Nag Hammadi find he also pays attention to "schools" of
              > Gnosticism which is not represented in the find, later literature
              neglects
              > these because Sethian,"Syrian"/"Encratite" and Valentinian
              Gnosticism has
              > better source material.
              >
              > The book I was going to suggest is Dr.John D. Turner`s recent study
              > _Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition_ - for the simple
              reason
              > that among the earliest Gnostics, Carpocrates were known to be
              among the
              > best disposed towards Platonism in its pre-"Neo-Platonic" form - in
              fact,
              > many writers on Carpocrates (short articles all) seem to view
              Carpocrates
              > as chiefly a speculative Platonist (like the
              rivals/heretics "founding
              > father" Plotin writes against in his "Against the Gnostics"
              treatise)
              > which shares some features with what is assumed to be specifically
              > "gnostic" (ascension through the spheres, Guardhouses, the net of
              fate
              > (Heimarmene, "fate", so-called Karma),metampsychosis (so-called
              > Reincarnation) and an incarnating pre-cosmic Logos). Mead considers
              the
              > suggestion of polygamy and the fathership of Carpocrates for a
              certain
              > Epiphanes to be based on misreading and a poor handling of the
              Greek and
              > Latin heresiological literature - while also questioning the
              libertinism
              > which is unaccountably associated with the Carpocratians. Turner
              discusses
              > the relationship and dependence of the Gnostics with the Platonic
              and
              > Stoic ambience in Egypt and Asia Minor around the period the seminal
              > teachers began to have an influence, he also analyzes a few Nag
              Hammadi
              > scriptures and makes comparison to ancient Platonic doctrines.
              >
              > Lawrence Durrell has written on the Ophites, excellent info - have
              a look
              > and I suspect you know what I mean about the suggestion that they
              even
              > existed...
              > The Naassenes and Peratae seems to be a corollary to the Ophites in
              a
              > sense - only here Ophis, the Serpent is divided between Ouranos (the
              > world-encompassing cosmic serpent - not the "Ouroboros" -
              > "ring-do-not-pass", symbol of the closed-system/Kosmos devouring
              itself
              > because it lacks spirit, light and knowledge) and Nachash or the
              serpent
              > entwined around Aaron`s rod (giving healing and sight back to the
              > stricken/blind in the desert.. a medicinal allegory, like that of
              the
              > serpent on the Caudeceus of the Hermetic/Greek mythology around
              > Ascelepsius) , which seems to have positive connotations were such
              lacks
              > completely in comparable Gnostic systems, and is not in any way
              associated
              > with the Paradisical serpent, except lazy writers mix them up with
              > eachother, which isnt helpful at all, especially when the systems
              diverge
              > and disagree in such an extreme way.
              >
              > I am not sure about the schools you mention..in terms of good
              sources.
              > Seems to me that certain occultists have taken these and made a run
              with
              > them (inspect what certain precious someones have done with the
              tantric
              > traditions of the East)... best source to these things I feel, is
              where
              > they originate..in the human imagination, best treatment also - in
              > fiction.
              >
              > Pax Pleromae
              >
              > --
              > Terje Dahl Bergersen,
              > Deacon for Capella Santa Sophia,Ecclesia Gnostica Norvegia
              > terje@b...
              > http://terje.bergersen.net/
            • Jesse
              All; Thanks for the great info! I will definitely check those sources. Lawrence Durrell has written on the Ophites, excellent info - have a look and I
              Message 6 of 9 , Aug 26, 2003
                All;

                Thanks for the great info! I will definitely check those sources.

                "Lawrence Durrell has written on the Ophites, excellent info - have a
                look and I suspect you know what I mean about the suggestion that
                they even existed..."

                Do you know the name of his book offhand, or should I be looking for
                journal articles?


                "Seems to me that certain occultists have taken these and made a run
                with them (inspect what certain precious someones have done with the
                tantric traditions of the East)... best source to these things I
                feel, is where they originate..in the human imagination, best
                treatment also - in fiction."

                Precisely. I'm not particularly interested in those approaches to the
                study of it (the occultists and such). I'm just trying to track down
                any historical/archaeological information (or scholarly
                opinion/theory) related to them.

                Thanks!
                - Jesse
              • Terje Bergersen
                ... I believe the book in question is called _Monsieur_, check also _The Black Book_ and the _Alexandria Quartet_. Durrell also wrote the introduction to
                Message 7 of 9 , Aug 26, 2003
                  > "Lawrence Durrell has written on the Ophites, excellent info - have a
                  > look and I suspect you know what I mean about the suggestion that
                  > they even existed..."
                  >
                  > Do you know the name of his book offhand, or should I be looking for
                  > journal articles?


                  I believe the book in question is called _Monsieur_, check also _The Black
                  Book_ and the _Alexandria Quartet_.

                  Durrell also wrote the introduction to Stuart Holroyd`s Elements of
                  Gnosticism, written for the Element Book series.

                  --
                  Terje Dahl Bergersen
                  terje@...
                  http://terje.bergersen.net/
                • Jesse
                  Terje; Thanks for the info! I appreciate it! - Jesse
                  Message 8 of 9 , Aug 26, 2003
                    Terje;

                    Thanks for the info! I appreciate it!

                    - Jesse
                  • Jesse
                    PMCV; Thanks for the leads - I really appreciate them! - Jesse
                    Message 9 of 9 , Aug 26, 2003
                      PMCV;

                      Thanks for the leads - I really appreciate them!

                      - Jesse
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