Re: Job and the Valentinians: Part 1
- Pneuman, first let me say Thank you. Even though I disagree with
some of your observations, you have given sources and reasons for
your view, and that is very helpful to the conversation.
As for the book of Job. Obviously we can't call it "Gnostic" in the
technical sense, but I do think that the book is very impressive in
the literary sense. I find it rather interesting that we don't hear
more about Job from the Gnostic sources, either to raise or
villanize him. The fact that the Gnostics seem so silent on the
matter may itself be an indicator.
"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."
... but this is very unlikely. When Job was written, the Hebrews
were not even yet monotheists.
"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."
Also unlikely. The development of the idea of the "Christ" happens
largely away from Judism, it is later that it is rationalized into a
Jewish setting. This is a whole new conversation, but one that is
quite interesting. Since such a significant portion of the early
Christians simply threw the Old Testement out, we have to be careful
about how much we see the connections with the development of thier
ideas with the Jewish texts.
"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."
This is certainly one notion of gnosis, but it is not the Gnosis of
historical Gnosticism. For that we would do better to examine Plato
than the Bible.
"Even Gnostics acknowledge that the Demiurge is a projection of the
Father onto the experience of those who are not yet spiritually
This is very important, and may be the foundation for much of the
disagreements that have come up in this conversation. I would
challenge you to demonstrate where Gnostics in general do in fact
- 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
> implies an ultimate end to the process. I believe that the Tree ofNo. I'll elaborate further.
> 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.
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
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
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 distinctionI'll certainly attest to the potential for confusion here. I'm
> between "Gnosis" with a capitol "G", and "gnosis", little "g",
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
>No, they undestood these things in experiential and pneumatic terms.
> 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.
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 on4.1 I can probably guess why. That's proven to be dangerous here, so
> the road to Damascus with Gnosis.
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 Redeemersame
> 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
> token.... Christians also talk about the historical Jesus, andI realize I've proposed a motive for "creating" the life of Jesus
> equate him with Christ.
However, the writings of the apostles seems to give direct
testimonials that Jesus was a real person. There are no countervailin
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
>I really couldn't follow this letter. It didn't make any sense to me.
> "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
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 historicalThis, of course, is not a statment of fact, but a value judgement
> treatment as superficial, but they would be wrong in that respect.
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 "thatsome of
> ugly thing called Late Antiquities Syncratism (sic)". The fact is,
> the vogue in the Late Antiquities was really more ecclectic thansources
> syncratic (sic), and was not always so careful to understand the
> 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 cannotWe cannot understand them unless we examine all aspects of their
> 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.
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,
> we are dealing with it as an archetype. Human suffering is explicit8.1 I'll be more specific. A central theme in Job is Redemption
> in human existance.
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 criticimsthem
> 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
> from the Gnostics, thier view of salvation, cosmology, etc. The8.2 Do they point to a mystical experience of the Divine as a source
> Neopythagorians are also Platonists.
of Truth, as all Gnostics do?
>I appreciate the point. You have to be careful. I'm arguing that
> How do you see salvation/redemption achieved in Gnosticism/Job in
> 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.
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 earlierLord
> Mesopotamian texts like "Man and his God", "I Will Praise Thee,
> of Wisdom", and the "Babylonian Theodicy" which some believe Jobwas
> 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 HOTLYThanks. I've found others. Curiously, all the dates predate Plato.
> debated... and I thought I would post a webpage that gives an
> outline of a number of theories concerning origin etc..