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Job and the Valentinians: Part 1

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  • pneumen_borealis
    ... I think I understand what you are saying. A pneumatic understanding involves direct contact with a spirit world, whose logic is quite different from that
    Message 1 of 79 , Dec 4, 2003
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      >
      > I was using the term "spiritual" in a very general context most
      > likely not appropriate for this list. Pneumatic awareness for the
      > Gnostics was something quite different from a psychic understanding,
      > to be sure. I personally feel the term "spiritual" is used by many
      > to describe what otherwise I might view as psychic understanding.
      > That said, psychic understanding is not static, and one can
      > mature, "gaining some sort of affective understanding of the deeper
      > nature of oneself and the world," still staying within a psychic
      > framework, or it can lead to the process of gnosis, which involves
      > considerations beyond our temporal awareness.
      >

      I think I understand what you are saying. A pneumatic understanding
      involves direct contact with a spirit world, whose "logic" is quite
      different from that of our everyday existence. You are saying that
      Gnosis involves a kind of affective mastery of the language of this
      other world, and that you cannot see Job being left with this
      following his vision. I would argue that this is an intentional
      ambiguity o the part of those who wrote Job.


      > I see no real evidence in those passages of a "Gnostic Christ-like
      > intermediary figure" and there are alternate explanations, which I
      > already discussed in a previous message.

      I went over your previous posts, and did not come across any
      alternative explanations. I may not have been thourough enough.

      The fact that alternative explanations exist would be irrelevant to
      my argument, in anycase. Orthodox explanations for the Gospel of John
      have always existed, and this did not make it any less appealing to
      the Gnostics. What I am trying to point to here is the human condition
      that Job adresses is the same one that Gnosticism adresses, and that
      they do so in similar ways: by making reference to an archetypical
      "redeemer" .

      To focus the issue (becasue I feel we'll run in circles if we don't)
      lets examine the first three exerpts in my post in order to show how
      the divine figure that Job longs for is similar to Christ. I make no
      claims about it actually being Jesus, because it is obvious that the
      idea of a human "Redeemer" is much newer and less developed at this
      earlier time.

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gnosticism2/message/8723

      Job 9:32-35, Job 16:19-21, Job 19:25-29

      1. Who is this figure?

      "someone to arbitrate between us"
      "My intercessor"
      "my friend"
      "my Redeemer" or "my defender"
      "my witness"

      In both Gnostic and Orthodox Christianity, Jesus is decribed
      similarly. The relationship is described as personal. This is in
      stark contrast to other divine figures and prophets, who always stand
      apart from the individual.

      2. What does he do?

      "remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no
      more."
      "on behalf of a man he pleads with God"

      The role of this figure is to heal the rift between Man and God from a
      relationship based on fear and wrath, to some other unspecified
      relationship. Christians go further in defining it as a relationship
      based on love. However, the spirtitual problem identified by both is
      similar.

      3. Where does he reside?

      "Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high."
      "in the end he will stand upon the earth (or upon my grave)".

      This refers to the divinity of this Christ-like figure. It intimates,
      like the Christians (both Orthodox and Gnostic), that this figure was
      part of the fabric of existance from the beginning. Morover, like the
      Christians, the writers of Job suggest that this divine figure is
      destined to take on an Earthly form. Moreover, Job expresses a certain
      amount of faith in this Redeemer. He believes that his heavenly
      friend is already actively lobbying the heavans on his behalf. This
      suggests that the appearance of God later is a result of this
      intercession.

      Note that I'm just objectively noting the similarities between these
      two figures. The Christ, of course, is a lot more complex than the
      figure described here. However, everything said about Job's "Redeemer"
      can also be said about Christ.

      I'm also not making claims that Jesus "fulfilled" this prophecy. It's
      apparant that most Jews, despite the best efforts of Mathew, and Luke,
      never accepted this.

      The next question, then, is: Did Christians arrive at this idea of a
      Redeemer inependently of the writers of Job, or were they heavily
      influenced by them? I believe the most reasonable answer is that they
      read Job carefully, and that Job was crucial in the development in the
      idea of a Christ. I don't seriously think that you doubt this.


      > I
      > *have* seen the term "true faith" used in orthodox settings, but
      > perhaps you have a different notion concerning that expression?
      > Faith, whether pious or "true," is still faith and not Gnosis.
      >

      I view faith from a psychological persepective. Faith involves a
      certain confidence and certitude in the order of the world in and
      around you. It is central to the core of your sanity to have
      affective faith. We have affective faith that the sun will rise and
      fall regularly. We have affective faith that the earth beneath our
      feet is solid (well, in this part of North America we do).

      Job shows that intellectual piety is a superficial faith, because it
      will only lasts as long as everything in your universe unfolds as you
      egotisticly believe it should. As soon as it doesn't, you become
      dissatisfied and question that faith, just like Job. Gnosis brings a
      deeper affective faith because it reveals the deeper structure (or
      lack of it) behind your view of the world. Because of this, the new
      faith, based on gnosis, is more unshakable. Gnosis also brings with it
      a certain humility, because it shows how tenuous this affective faith
      can be, and how easily life's events can bring it toppling down. I
      believe this is the lesson of Job.

      As for what Job does with this realization, that appears to be left
      open for interpretation. God gives Job more questions, not answers.
      You can interpret these questions as rhetorical, as the Orthodox do,
      or you can interpret them as a challenge, which is what a Gnostic
      would do. The choice is left open to Job, and presemably, to all of us
      who question our faith.

      What is clear, and perhaps surprising, is that Job is not punished for
      questioning God. In fact, he is rewarded for it. His demand for a
      direct knowledge of God is granted. Whether this God is the Demiurge
      or not is largely immaterial to the argument. Even Gnostics
      acknowledge that the Demiurge is a projection of the Father onto the
      experience of those who are not yet spiritually mature. The Demiurge
      would be the only way for Job to experience the Father up until
      Gnosis.
    • pneumen_borealis
      1. Attaining pneumatic understanding (Gnosis?) ... Life ... No. I ll elaborate further. I believe that eating from the Tree of Knowledge represents moving from
      Message 79 of 79 , Dec 14, 2003
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        1. Attaining pneumatic understanding (Gnosis?)

        >
        > "I see Eternal Life as allegory for a final psychological state of
        > gnosis that is irreversable. If one accepts salvation as an
        > allegorical process of spiritual death and rebirth, then Eternal
        Life
        > implies an ultimate end to the process. I believe that the Tree of
        > Life that Yaweh denies Adam and Eve is allegory for the realization
        > that such a world-changing process exists. I believe that when the
        > New Testament refers to eternal life, if one accepts it as allegory,
        > points to the same human condition as Gnosis. I thin that is the
        > first level of Gnosis to which Job ascends."
        >
        > If I understand you correctly, you seem to be saying that Job has
        > moved from the Hylic to the Psychic level of understanding.

        No. I'll elaborate further.

        I believe that eating from the Tree of Knowledge represents moving
        from the Hylic to the Psychic level, and that eating from the Tree of
        Life means moving from the Pychic to the Pneumatic level of
        understanding. Adam and Eve would be the defining Hebrew (and
        Gnostic!) myth where this initial leap were made.

        I think it is clear that Job is already at the Psychic level at the
        beginning of the Drama. He knows of God, knows of his laws, knows
        what is good and evil, believes in His laws, and is unimpeachable in
        his faith and moral conduct out of sincere, psychic conviction. A
        Hylic would act strictly out of fear and self-gain. Job's
        lamentations are based on a sincere and deeply rooted psychic
        interest in justice, which drives him to confront Yaweh. A Hylic
        wouldn't even think about the point of justice in the face of an
        omnipotent being. He'd just duck for cover and hope that groveling
        would curb further afflictions.

        What we are really debating is whether this is a psychic deepening of
        knowledge and faith (Lady Caritas' words) or an initial leap to a
        pneumatic level of understanding (my contention).

        I'll accept that I may have missed something in my definition
        of "pneumatic".

        In order to clarify this point in a concrete way, I'll ask you to
        answer the following questions:

        1.1. Precisely what points to this knowledge being psychic?

        1.2. In what Gnostic allegory or exposition is the Drama of ascending
        from the psychic to a pneumatic understanding of the Divine descibed
        or depicted?

        1.3. If there is no such drama or exposition, upon what do you base
        your conception of ascension to a pneumatic level?



        2. The related question of "Gnosis" vs. "gnosis"

        > years ago, in this club, we tried to outline a distinction
        > between "Gnosis" with a capitol "G", and "gnosis", little "g",

        I'll certainly attest to the potential for confusion here. I'm
        totally missing something in this line of conversation.

        2.1 Correct me if I'm wrong: gnosis = growing psychological
        undertanding through affective mystical experience. Right?

        That takes care of one definition. Could you elaborate on precisely
        how the second one differs?

        2.2 Gnosis: ?

        Perhaps "pneumatic understanding" is a better term? Of course this
        begs the question of what we mean by "pneumatic", and whether
        pneumatic can just mean spiritual. All this seems to indicate how
        important and fundamental this definition or description is. However,
        it does seem to clarify what we are debating in he Job question.

        3. Allegorical vs. Literal view of gnosis
        >
        > I feel it is important to point out though, that it is debatable as
        > to whether the Gnostics saw this salvation in such allegorical
        > terms. Truely Gnostic sources are full of allegory, but they also
        > seem to intend some literal points concerning spiritual function.
        >

        No, they undestood these things in experiential and pneumatic terms.
        The allegory merely points to the source of this understanding. They
        would have seen decribing these things in literal terms as an
        inherently limited psychic exercise. That's why they wouldn't even
        try to explain it to the Heresologists, who approached everything on
        a literal psychic level.

        4. Paul's conversion experience.

        > ... I am leary about equating Paul's experience on
        > the road to Damascus with Gnosis.

        4.1 I can probably guess why. That's proven to be dangerous here, so
        instead I'll ask you to elaborate on why.

        This is an important point and an opportunity to elaborate on the
        distinction what you see between pneumatic and psychic understanding
        in a more concrete way.


        5. The utility of faith in the historical Jesus

        > "Therefore, for some, the belief in an external Redeemer
        > sets up the groundwork for establishing a personal relationship more
        > suitable for establishing an identification, affectivelt reinforcing
        > Christ as a mythic intermediary figure with the Father."

        > It is interesting that the Talmud states explicitly that Job is an
        > allegory, and he never historically existed, while Orthodox
        > Christians often comment on the supposed historical Job. By the
        same
        > token.... Christians also talk about the historical Jesus, and
        > equate him with Christ.
        >

        I realize I've proposed a motive for "creating" the life of Jesus
        here.

        However, the writings of the apostles seems to give direct
        testimonials that Jesus was a real person. There are no countervailin
        testimonies.

        I would say that a group that gets hung up on literal interpretations
        of allegory, dwelling on the fact that Jesus did or did not live in
        the literal sense, isn't really Gnostic . Any Gnostic would take
        such an arguement about a psychic rendering of gnosis as the domain
        of the Archons and realize that they are pointing towards a faith in
        dogma rather than primordial experience as the source of truth.

        7. Lady Caritas's post
        >
        > "Well, I was given this link for a definition of Gnosis, and you
        > approved. If I was mistaken, it is certainly not my fault."
        >
        > There are aspects on this page I find useful, and some that I find
        > create confusion. Lady Cari's explination to Terje puts it quite
        > nicely.
        >

        I really couldn't follow this letter. It didn't make any sense to me.
        The article did. It was saying quite clearly that the big "G" Gnosis
        refers to a universal experience independent of the Gnostic belief
        system. I'm almost quoting he article here. It's pretty unambiguous,
        considering that the author says it twice.

        Platonic systems are one of many influences on the psychic part of
        their belief system. The pneumatic part resides in the individual's
        direct experience of the Divine.

        8. Modern Value judgements are inevitable


        > It is possible that the Gnostics would have seen an historical
        > treatment as superficial, but they would be wrong in that respect.

        This, of course, is not a statment of fact, but a value judgement
        based on very modern sensibilities similar to the ones you critique
        below. They are based on taking a modern historical view laden with
        ideological and cultural baggage to describe very different times. It
        is simply too limiting an approach, especially when studying a group
        that would have totally rejected the approach as "psychic".

        > In fact, this is one of the failings of what Dr Wind calls "that
        > ugly thing called Late Antiquities Syncratism (sic)". The fact is,
        some of
        > the vogue in the Late Antiquities was really more ecclectic than
        > syncratic (sic), and was not always so careful to understand the
        sources
        > they borrowed from (much like the New Age movement today).

        (LOL. Dr. Wind ... You're kidding, right? )

        This is not surprising considering that the praxis and beliefs of
        Gnostics was not based on faith or allegiance to any one of the many
        ideas of the divine that were floating around at the time, but rather
        a) personal experience with the divine; b) personal instrucion from
        some sort of mentor. They used whatever worked to animate and affirm
        their religious experience in the psychic realm.

        > We cannot
        > actually understand the Gnostics, without understanding the context
        > in which thier ideas grew. This goes back to the problem I see with
        > the "Archetype" system. Our modern perspective of some of the
        > allegories can give us a very different picture than the one
        > intended by the original authors, thier communication can be lost
        > beneath our attempt to "archetype" them.
        >

        We cannot understand them unless we examine all aspects of their
        experience, of which their "ideas", by their own accounts, play a
        secondary role. In the case of the Orthodox, who DO base their praxis
        and beliefs primarily on a succession of written documents,
        testimonials, and intellectual belief systems, it makes sense to
        stress the philosophical and theological context. In the case of the
        Gnostics, the context that is central is that of human experience?
        What inspired them from wihin to reach out for Jewish, Greek, and
        even Indian ideas to express their faith and outlook?

        Modern ideological bias is always a danger. But this is true of any
        theoretical framework we would care to use. It is inevitable.
        All we can do is take care to choose the appropriate one.

        So when choosing one, it is best to choose one that refers to the
        same defining source of the movement's Truth to describe it. This is
        a phenomenological world, of which the spiritual world is a subset.
        The narrow confines of Platonic philosophy. again, are too limiting.

        >
        > "To the Gnostics themselves, the Greek/Platonic context is at worst
        > superficial and at best only the tip of the iceberg. The key, for
        > them, lies in understanding and identifying with the myths expressed
        > in these archetypical dramas (and I believe that the creators of
        > these myths are very conscious of the universal appeal of these
        > drama). In other words, do the Platonists point to the same human
        > experience as the writers of Job?"
        >
        > I am not aware of any human philosophy or religion that does not,
        if
        > we are dealing with it as an archetype. Human suffering is explicit
        > in human existance.
        >

        8.1 I'll be more specific. A central theme in Job is Redemption
        through knowledge of the Divine. This theme is also central to the
        Gnostics. How do the Platonists deal with redemption? How is it
        different than in Job and more similar to the Gnostics?

        > And besides simply the treatment of suffering, one of the criticims
        > of Plotinus is that it can be difficult to tell the difference
        > between him and the Gnostics he attacks... even sometimes for
        > Plotinus himself *lol*. Some time ago I did a post on
        > Neopythagorians and how difficult it can be to seperate some of
        them
        > from the Gnostics, thier view of salvation, cosmology, etc. The
        > Neopythagorians are also Platonists.
        >

        8.2 Do they point to a mystical experience of the Divine as a source
        of Truth, as all Gnostics do?


        >
        > How do you see salvation/redemption achieved in Gnosticism/Job in
        > general?"
        >
        > My point is not meant to deal with whether we can see psychological
        > and archetypal connections, we can.... with any religion. My point
        > is a bit more specific concerning whether reducing these motifs to
        > mere archetypes is a good thing to do.
        >

        I appreciate the point. You have to be careful. I'm arguing that
        reducing it to Platonic philosophy (which I also recognize is
        possible) is even more dangerous, because it does not address the
        primordial experience at the center Gnosticism, and can lead to empty
        arguements about secondary issues. Looking for archeypes does. The
        probability of doing a bad analysis is there, but it will at least
        allow us to compare personal experience to other mystics, both modern
        and historical. I will allow us truly to separate the cultural
        baggage from the universal.

        > BTW, I am curious... you have not commented on the earlier
        > Mesopotamian texts like "Man and his God", "I Will Praise Thee,
        Lord
        > of Wisdom", and the "Babylonian Theodicy" which some believe Job
        was
        > taken.
        >

        Later. I'm still dealing with the Gospel of Philip and some documents
        from Clement of Alexandia that refer to Job in a Gnostic context. He
        refers to Job as one of the elect!

        > BTW, I also wanted to point out that the date of Job is HOTLY
        > debated... and I thought I would post a webpage that gives an
        > outline of a number of theories concerning origin etc..
        >
        > http://www.bible.org/docs/ot/books/job/job-intr.htm
        >

        Thanks. I've found others. Curiously, all the dates predate Plato.


        > PMCV
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