Re: Does Matter matter?
- --- In email@example.com, "wvdog61" <wvdog61@7...> wrote:
> Hey folks,intoduction
> So far, in all my study of Gnostic teaching, one of the 'linchpin'
> ideas has been that the 'sparks of light' have been 'trapped' in
> matter, and that freedom/liberation/salvation means becoming
> disentangled from matter via Gnosis.
> Lately I've been reading Hippolytus' account of Basilides (Ref. VII
> 20, 1-27, 13 selections). Let me quote Werner Foerster's
> to the selected passages dealing with Basilides' cosmogony:reaching
> "Bailides is,...the one who harnessed his Gnosis in the most
> consistent way to a monistic system." Then, a little farther on:
> "The purpose and end is that all parts of the world, including the
> divine, shall be brought each to its proper place. Basilides has
> thus no need of any evil matter, or of an evil or even a merely
> mediating creator. He does indeed know two 'Rulers' who govern the
> spheres of the fixed stars and the planets, but do not control our
> world, for which the thought with which God created it is
> sufficient. That means that whereas both the Rulers believe
> themselves to be supreme, yet they do penance when they learn that
> the non-existent God exists and that they have no power over the
> world; they are not 'Fate'. The guilt in this world, which men are
> burdened with, will be expiated through reincarnation and through
> suffering." (Foerster, Werner. "Basilides According to Hippolytus."
> In, Gnosis, A Selection of Gnostic Texts. Vol 1. Trans R. McL.
> Wilson, 62-63. Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1972)
> I found this a little jarring. A gnostic system with no notion
> of 'evil matter' or apparently even a demiurge! Damn... It seems
> that the implications of such an understanding would be far-
> in large (ethos) *and* small (praxis) ways.Rodney, I think you've hit on how difficult it is to put a definitive
handle on all the fluid currents in early Christianity. The umbrella
of ancient Gnosticism covers a wide range... or not, depending upon
with whom you talk. Gnosis emphasized in the soteriology seems to be
generally accepted as a determining factor. I also personally would
like to think that the experience of Gnosis (and the accompanying
realization of the Unknown) should be paramount regardless of various
expressions or what otherwise seem to be common motifs in alternate
One example of someone who has a more specific idea of groupings
would be Bentley Layton in _The Gnostic Scriptures_. He categorizes
Basilides in the "Other Early Currents" section, along with Hermetic
writings, as opposed to what he views as "Classic Gnostic Scripture"
or even the Valentinians whom he views as Christian reformers of
Gnostic theology. In fact, Layton states his main purpose for
inclusion of Basilides (and Hermetic writings) in his "General
Introduction" (p. xvi): "Unlike the Hermetic writings, Basilides'
Christian philosophy is very different from the other scripture
translated in this book; its historical relevance lies in a very
shadowy connection with Valentinus. It was during his education in
Alexandria, A. D. ca. 120, that Valentinus could have encountered
these two currents."
Unfortunately, we only have a piecemeal picture of Basilides through
fragments and reports from heresiologists. Basilides seems to have
been eclectic and may also have been influenced by Stoic philosophy.
- On Mon, 02 Feb 2004 19:17:42 -0000
"K.M.Hunter" <lightpotential@...> wrote:
> On the question of matter,Hello Lightpotential,
> A good gnostic understanding in line with the wisdom
> contained in the
> Pistis Sophia, the Corpus Hermetica and certain Nag
> Hammadi texts, is
> that matter itself is like unto a counterfeit monetary
> claim. It is
> created 'from nothing' and 'backed up by nothing'. In a
> sense, this
> world of ours, a particular realm separated from higher
> realms in
> quality by a series of veils, was created fraudulantly
> upon a
> principle of counterfeiting. Thus, it represents an
> abnormal stress
> or strain upon the universe. It will possess a finite
> existence until
> the error that gave birth to the world is corrected,
> which will be at
> a time far off, described by Jesus as the moment of the
> assension of
> the universe. The abnormality of matter, will be
> dissolved. It will
> cease to be and disappear as if it had never been. This
> could very
> well be regarded as an event that puts everything in its
> place. Now, however, the central mystery of salvation is
> that those
> people who have not received gnosis will, at the
> assension of the
> universe, be composed of the same stuff - i.e. the
> counterfeit nature
> of matter, as the universe. They will be consumed along
> with the
> universe and disappear as if they had never been.
> However, those who
> have 'oil in their lamps', who have 'worked themselves'
> into a
> legitmate existence, will be of a quality higher than the
> and of the same nature as the higher realms of being.
> Thus, when the
> universe is destroyed around these people, they are not
> with it, but migrate instantly to a higher realm,
> appropriate to the
> soul in question, dependent upon the record according to
> its deeds,
> built up throughout many lifetimes.
Your reply is a good illustration of a Sethian/Valentinian
understanding of matter. However I was trying to express my
surprise at finding that at least one of the ancient
masters didn't share the view of matter held by other
ancient teachers and set forth so admirably in your post.