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Gnosticism 101


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This is the reply to Erics post in the DaVinci thread. I decided to post it here to encourage more discussion.

 

Gnostic priest addresses Da Vinci Code controversy

 

Rev. Stratford (from the article) has an interesting blog at http://egina.blogspot.com/ He's an interesting guy with a sharp mind. He's a Sophian Gnostic, ordained by and active in the Apostolic Johannite Church, and wrote an interesting book called the Da Vinci Prayer Book http://thedavinciprayerbook.com/ that does more justice to Gnosticism (than Mr. Brown).

 

I also think he's the one that described Gnosticism (or at least the current group of active Gnostic churches) as Catholic on the outside and Buddhist on the inside. :D

 

Cool blog. It's gonna keep me busy for a while. An online friend of mine sent me a link to a Johannite Gnostic Church site. I'll have to see if I can find it.

 

He (Stratford) has a great blurb on dualism that I find refreshing. Some gnostics I've talked to are so "Evil, evil, matter is evil and must be escaped!" that it's kept me from investigating gnosticism for a long time.

 

Stratford says:

 

The Gnostic view is vastly more subtle, and therefore easily misinterpreted. To use a pop-culture reference, "The Matrix cannot tell you who you are."

 

The world is not in and of itself evil. Flawed, yes - red in tooth and claw and all that. Disease. Hunger. Age. Disaster. But not by its nature evil.

 

It is more a question of the created world not being the source of our spiritual selves, and therefore less spiritually relevant. An approach much less cut and dried.

 

Rather than a rejection of the Earth, Gnosticism involves a challenge to and negotiation with the System, or cosmos. A subtle yet critical distinction.

 

Natural allegories, such as storms, the planting of crops, fish, newborn babies and flowers are recurring positive themes in Gnostic literature. Would world-haters employ such symbolism, and so lovingly?

 

I just started reading The Soul's Code by James Hillman, a Jungian psychologist. In it he discusses the "acorn theory" of life. In a nutshell (which is actually the title of the first chapter) the book is about how each of us have a "calling." He uses Plato's story of Er and the three fates and how we each have our own "daimon" which nudges us towards a specific fate.

 

Although he doesn't espouse any particular religion and would prefer to keep such concepts within the realm of psychology, his words make it clear that "soul/spirit" is an important facet of his theory.

 

I've gone from being a monist to a dualist, to a monist, to a qualified monist (which is pretty much a dualist). :P

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I spent the evening at Barnes and Noble, looking through various books about Gnosticism. I perused Pagels, Meyers and Ehrman. The book I enjoyed the most (since it seemed relatively neutral) was The Idiot's Guide to Gnosticism. It went into everything just a little bit. I think I'll pick it up later.

 

At the end of the evening I walked out of the store with Thomas Moore's book Dark Nights of the Soul.

 

:)

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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He (Stratford) has a great blurb on dualism that I find refreshing. Some gnostics I've talked to are so "Evil, evil, matter is evil and must be escaped!" that it's kept me from investigating gnosticism for a long time.

 

May I be so bold as to suggest that those you've talked to have been providing you with a superficial understanding of Gnosticism. The two groups that I know that have told similar tales include the "immature" Gnostic and the more orthodox Christians who want people to run screaming from anything Gnostic. :( I have never understood how mainstream Christianity has not fessed up to the same dualistic dillema?

 

 

I just started reading The Soul's Code by James Hillman, a Jungian psychologist. In it he discusses the "acorn theory" of life. In a nutshell (which is actually the title of the first chapter) the book is about how each of us have a "calling." He uses Plato's story of Er and the three fates and how we each have our own "daimon" which nudges us towards a specific fate.

 

Although he doesn't espouse any particular religion and would prefer to keep such concepts within the realm of psychology, his words make it clear that "soul/spirit" is an important facet of his theory.

 

Cool, cool book! :D Hillman has made claim to be a Neo-Platonist, but I've never heard of him claiming to be a Gnostic. He (as did Jung) seems to believe that the border between psychology and religion is worthy of much mining. I think that he is right.

 

Has anyone ever read "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead" by Stephen A. Hoeller? Great book! Hoeller (a bishop at a LA parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica link: http://www.webcom.com/gnosis/eghome.htm) makes clear how Jung really was a modern Gnostic. Albeit one who utilized that same border territory, between psychology and religion, that Hillman has so readily brought to life.

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Other good books:

 

"The Beliefnet Guide to Gnosticism and Other Vanished Christianities" by Richard Valantasis (with a preface by Marcus Borg).

 

"The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead" by +Stephan Hoeller

 

"Gnosticism: New Light On The Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing" by +Stephan Hoeller

 

"Jesus And The Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Origional Christians" by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy

 

"The Gnostic Bible" edited by Willis Barnstone & Marvin Meyer

 

 

I would have mentioned Pagels, but you already did so. :)

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Cool, cool book! :D Hillman has made claim to be a Neo-Platonist, but I've never heard of him claiming to be a Gnostic.  He (as did Jung) seems to believe that the border between psychology and religion is worthy of much mining.  I think that he is right. 

 

 

I was surprised to read in The Idiot's Guide that Plotinus was anti-gnostic. :huh: I guess it's a fine line between neo-platonism and gnosticism that Plotinus just didn't want to cross.

 

As an aside, while I was at B&N the other night, I had them search to see if there was an Idiot's or Dummies guide to Plato. No such luck. They had many good books on Plato, but I'd like something light (and easy) which is why I like the Stupid People books. :P

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There is fantastic article in Newsweek about Mary Magdalene. It gives a lot of credibility to the Gnostics, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Phillip. It gives a sort of timeline narrative of how the Church went with Peter and discredited Mary.

 

These kinds of articles in mainstream mags do a lot for the cause of setting the record straight about the Bible and Christianity. Loved it!

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12893635/site/newsweek/

 

Gnosteric,

 

I'd love to hear your take on the article.

 

Fatherman

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Gnosteric,

 

I'd love to hear your take on the article.

 

Fatherman

 

Not a bad article. It’s nice to see all of this attention being given to Gnosticism right now. It’s hard to keep a good idea down! ;)

 

BTW, a good translation and commentary is “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” by Jean-Yves Leloup.

 

Jacob Needleman, who writes the foreword, points out the text’s focus on mystery and the unconscious. It makes me think of Jung (the great Gnostic that he was) and the impact that the repression of women (as well as Mary & Sophia) has had on the Church.

 

The Church has tried to hide from half of its “being” for a long time. The result is a growing “shadow” that keeps manifesting itself in the most embarrassing, and well documented, of ways. It’s also interesting to keep anima/animus in mind when thinking of the roles of (and ratio of) men/women in the current church population. The archetypal symbolism of "masculine" and "feminine" is all out of whack and it is affecting women and men. If the church had not repressed so much of Sophia then just maybe more men would be involved as congregants and more women would be in leadership thus creating a more “individuated” church body.

 

I agree with the viewpoint that Christ symbolizes “God consciousness” and Sophia (often seen as Mary) symbolizes wisdom and life. When the two are combined (or married) then our psyche (or soul) connects with God in a more enlightened place. The fruits of this “marriage” are seen in our culture’s transformation. When one is absent the other …. well ….. that means trouble (again well documented within the church by its scandals, declining membership….) and our culture's stagnation.

 

IMO, we will never reach our true Fullness (the Kingdom?) until we remedy this current imbalance. :(

 

Fatherman, still glad you asked? :lol:

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God yes!

 

My first exploration of Gnosticism (after reading Da Vinci code) was stopped abruptly because I didn't like the idea that was coming across of the physical world being bad stuff, but on second look I see that I was missing the point. No more time to comment, but I'll be back to this topic. I suspect I am more in line with Gnosticism that I earlier suspected. Especially in practice.

 

Later

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My first exploration of Gnosticism (after reading Da Vinci code) was stopped abruptly because I didn't like the idea that was coming across of the physical world being bad stuff, but on second look I see that I was missing the point.

That was a stumbling block for me as well. My contemplation on "original sin" vs "original flaw" eventually boosted me up and over something that wasn't there. B)

 

No more time to comment, but I'll be back to this topic.  I suspect I am more in line with Gnosticism that I earlier suspected.  Especially in practice.

I look forward to it. :)

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I found this in an essay by Stephen A. Hoeller called What is Gnostic?

 

He offers these twelve points composed by Professor Clark Emery as an appromixation of what characterizes Gnosticism ( some or all of these). I put numbers on them for the purpose of discussion

 

    1.)  The Gnostics posited an original spiritual unity that came to be split into a plurality.

 

    2.)  As a result of the precosmic division the universe was created. This was done by a leader possessing inferior spiritual powers and who often resembled the Old Testament Jehovah.

 

    3.) A female emanation of God was involved in the cosmic creation (albeit in a much more positive role than the leader).

 

    4.)  In the cosmos, space and time have a malevolent character and may be personified as demonic beings separating man from God.

 

    5.)  For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code.

 

    6.) Mankind may be personified as Adam, who lies in the deep sleep of ignorance, his powers of spiritual self-awareness stupefied by materiality.

 

    7.) Within each natural man is an "inner man," a fallen spark of the divine substance. Since this exists in each man, we have the possibility of awakening from our stupefaction.

 

    8.) What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge.

 

    9.)  Before the awakening, men undergo troubled dreams.

 

    10.)  Man does not attain the knowledge that awakens him from these dreams by cognition but through revelatory experience, and this knowledge is not information but a modification of the sensate being.

 

    11.)  The awakening (i.e., the salvation) of any individual is a cosmic event.

 

    12.)  Since the effort is to restore the wholeness and unity of the Godhead, active rebellion against the moral law of the Old Testament is enjoined upon every man.

 

#1 - No problem, to the extent that the ultimate Truth of the plurality is its Unity.

#2 - I assume this is the Demiurge. Correct? I believe that humanity's symbols for God are ever-expanding and the Demiurge represents the Ancient Hebrew's first recorded symbol for God (pretty sophisticated actually), but limited. I don't yet see the value of this symbol except in recognizing that it is not the whole story of God.

#3 - Sophia? Yes, a very important symbol for me. I often pray and seek solace in Mother Divine. She brings balance to the masculine.

#4 - I would call this Maya (in the Hindu tradition), the great illusion.

#5 - I affirm the truth of this statement, but struggle with the language. I would say Sandbox rather than Prison.

#6 - Totally! This is the challenge, isn't it?

#7 - And this it the tool of salvation

#8 - Knowlege in the Gnostic understanding, right? Not in the western understanding. We're talking about the living Truth.

#9 - When you stir up the metaphysical components of the person from it's daze, you're going to get some trouble (not unlike when you undergo psychotherapy). All attachments, all wounds, all fears will rise to consciousness and the *%@#storm begins. Many will give up at this point. The important task here is to summon gratitude for each event and release it.

#10 - Yes

#11 - Cosmic, yes, but certainly not detached from the physical and emotional states (I suspect)

#12 - We're talking about Jesus' mission to usher in the Kingdom of God one person at a time (maybe? yes?). In practice, this is a personal task, a shift in consciousness that (subsequently) when it reaches a critical mass in humanity will cause a massive paradigm shift.

 

Just some thoughts.

 

I don't know, Gnosteric, how you view these 12 points. I guess some of the symbols and myths in classic Gnosticism are still really unfamiliar to me and seem a little bizarre, but then again, traditional Christian symbols would seem bizarre at first glance as well.

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I found this in an essay by Stephen A. Hoeller  called What is Gnostic?

I do like that list, although I think you can pare down the "fundamentals" even further. In fact, I came across a website that whittled them down to the following:

 

1)The Divine Spark is within everyone.

2)Humanity's true state is to be found beyond the material world with God.

3)Enlightenment is awakening to these facts and reconnecting the Divine Spark with God.

 

Oh, no! :o The traditionalists might be after my head for posting such a short list.

 

BTW, Bishop Hoeller (+Stephan Hoeller) has some great free lectures Here

 

 2.)  As a result of the precosmic division the universe was created. This was done by a leader possessing inferior spiritual powers and who often resembled the Old Testament Jehovah.
#2 -  I assume this is the Demiurge.  Correct?  I believe that humanity's symbols for God are ever-expanding and the Demiurge represents the Ancient Hebrew's first recorded symbol for God (pretty sophisticated actually), but limited.  I don't yet see the value of this symbol except in recognizing that it is not the whole story of God.

 

Yes, but..... Yes, but..... :lol: That always seems to be the case when anyone starts trying to describe Gnostic thought. The myths are so difficult to translate into linear forms. How do you describe a mystical moment? Poetry. Art. Storytelling. I think the best Gnostic myths are more Tao-like.

 

In my mind, the Demiurge represents creation absent the Divine Spark. Have you ever witnessed a painting that is technical, not artistic? It is creative and imaginative and the brush strokes are excellent, yet something is missing. A piece of music that makes all the right notes, but doesn't have soul? I think the story warns us of "acting" without being connected to God. It is a story of arrogance and ignorance. Some say the Demiurge is God's "ego."

 

I like the Gospels that tell of Sophia's role in creation. Her wanting to be creative, but trying to do so without the "Invisible Spirit" (or the real God). She creates from a place of separation (separated from that which she emanated from .... and from her opposite) and the result was a flawed creation, lacking in the fullness of the Pleroma. It speaks to syzygy.

 

I'll be back later for more. Good stuff! :D

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I guess no matter what I call myself, I have a great desire to be in tune with the Source for as much of may daily minutes as I can. When God's Truth is revealed, I pay attention and respond in gratitude, but mainly I just want to walk in her company and feel her tender embrace...that is peace for me.

 

Here's a song that I often sing.

 

O Great Wave,

Wipe away,

Wipe away my false face.

Awaken from my sleep a radiant light.

Touch me.

Touch me.

I'm once again beyond the beyond.

I Am That I Am.

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Here's a song that I often sing.

 

O Great Wave,

Wipe away,

Wipe away my false face.

Awaken from my sleep a radiant light.

Touch me.

Touch me.

I'm once again beyond the beyond.

I Am That I Am.

 

Namaste. Thank you fathergnosisman! Thank you! I just used that as part of my contemplation/prayer and plan on doing so in the future. I have added it into my rotation (with your permission, of course). :)

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Namaste! :)

 

No permission required. I didn't write it.

 

There is a branch of a yoga lineage here in Oklahoma

 

Babaji-->Lahiri Mahasaya-->Paramahamsa Yogananda-->Roy Eugene Davis-->Audley Allison

 

We have a wonderful tradition of chant that I've been fortunate enough to receive (mostly in English, some in Sanskrit). This one is good for self realization and samadhi.

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BTW, typing in "Recovering Fundamentalist" (keep the quotes) produces interesting results!!!

I have been reading on www.leavingfundamentalism.org. He's got everything: forum, articles, reviews, even a "hall of shame" (fundamentalism that give Christianity a bad name) and "hall of fame"(those that give it a good name). I don't think he differentiates between fundamentalism and evangelicalism (Tony Campala is there), but we're not all theology geeks. :-)

 

--des

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BTW, typing in "Recovering Fundamentalist" (keep the quotes) produces interesting results!!!

I have been reading on www.leavingfundamentalism.org. He's got everything: forum, articles, reviews, even a "hall of shame" (fundamentalism that give Christianity a bad name) and "hall of fame"(those that give it a good name). I don't think he differentiates between fundamentalism and evangelicalism (Tony Campala is there), but we're not all theology geeks. :-)

 

--des

 

 

Thanks for the heads up, Des!

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