Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gnosticism & The "Real" World

From Wikipedia (I know-where else?): Gnosticism refers to diverse, syncretisitic religious movements in antiquity (I would think modern times applies here too!) consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god, the demiurge, this being frequently identified with the Abrahamic god, and is contrasted with a superior entity, referred to by several terms including Pleroma and Godhead. (my emphasis)

Depictions of the demiurge-the term originates with Plato's Timaeus-vary from being as an embodiment of evil, to being merely imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy permits. Gnosticism was a dualistic religion, influenced by and influencing Hellenic philosophy, Judaism (Notzrim), and Christianity, however, by contrast, later strands of the movement, such as the Valentinians, held a monistic world-view. This, along with the varying treatments of the demiurge, may be seen as indicative of the variety of positions held within the category.

The gnosis referred to in the term is a form of revealed, esoteric knowledge through which the spiritual elements of humanity are reminded of their true origins within the superior Godhead, being thus permitted to escape materiality. Consequently, with the sects of gnosticism only the pneumatics or psychics obtain gnosis, the hylic or Somatics, though human, being incapable of perceiving the higher reality, are unlikely to attain the gnosis deemed by gnostic movements as necessary for salvation. Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnosis to the earth.

In others, (e.g. the Notzrim and the Mandeans) he is considered a msiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist. Still other traditions identify Mani and Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, as salvific figures.

Whereas formerly Gnosticism was considered by some a heretical branch of Christianity, it now seems clear that traces of Gnostic systems can be discerned some centuries before the Christian Era. Gnostic sects may have existed earlier than the First Century BC, thus predating the birth of Jesus. The movement spread in areas controlled by the Roman Empire and Arian Goths (see Huneric), and the Persian Empire; it continued to develop in the Meditteranean and Middle East before and during the second and third centuries. Coversion to Islam and the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) greatly reduced the remaining number of Gnostics throughout the Middle Ages, though s few isolated communities continue to exist to the present. Gnostic ideas became influential in the philosophies of various esoteric mystical movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and North America, including some that explicitly identify themselves as revivals or even continuations or earlier gnostic groups.

The Main Features of Gnosticism

1. The notion of a remote, supreme monadic divinity, source-this figure is known under a variety of names, including 'Pleroma', 'Bythos' and 'Abyss' (Greek for "deep");

2. The introduction by emanation of further divine beings, which are nevertheless identifiable as aspects of the God from which they proceeded; the progressive emanations are often conceived metaphorically as a gradual and progressive distancing from the ultimate source, which brings about an instability in the fabric of the divine nature;

3. The subsequent identification of the Fall of Man as an occurrence with its ultimate foundations within divinity itself. As mysticism, the modern word for the category of the study of mystic knowledge or gnosis, teaches the fall of man, and the material world are an illusion. Salvation is a radical essentialism and not based on personal choice, action or behavior but rather destiny or fate. Due to this, salvation does not occur either entirely or partially through any human behavior or agency; this stage in the divine emanation is usually enacted through the recurrent Gnostic figure of Sophia (Greek "wisdom"), whose prescence in a wide variety of Gnostic texts is indicative of her central importance;

4. The introduction of a distinct creator God or demiurge. Which is an illusion and as a later emanation from the single monad or source, this second God is a lesser and inferior or false God. This creator god is commonly referred to as the demiourgos ( a technical term literally denoting a public worker the Latinized form of Greek demiourgos, hence "ergon or energy," "public or skilled worker" "false God" or "God of the masses"), used in the Platonist tradition.

The gnostic demiurge bears resemblance to figures in Plato's Timaeus and Republic. In the former the demiourgos is a central figure, as benevolent creator of the universe and works to make the universe as benevolent as the limitations of matter will allow; in the latter, the description of the leontomorphic 'desire' in Socrates' model of the psyche bears a resemblance to descriptions of the demiurge as being in the shape of the lion, the relevant passage of The Republic was found within a major gnostic library discovered at Nag Hammadi, wherein a text existed describing the demiurge as a 'lion-faced serpent.'

Elsewhere this figure is called 'Ialdabaoth', 'Samael' (Aramaic "blind god") or 'Saklas' (Syraic "the foolish one"), who is sometimes ignorant of the superior God, and sometimes opposed to it; thus in the latter case he is correspondingly malevolent. The demigurge as a tyrannical God having caused the imperfect world and all of its suffering, is as the creator God of the pagan philosophers (Zeus) and the Judeo-Christian-Muhammadan creator God (Yahweh or Adonai) not real but a construct or illusion of the human mind (as nous). Since no secondary creator God is necessary or of high importance as everything is eternal or emanated and can not be created or destroyed. The demiurge typically creates a group of co-actors named 'Archons', who preside over the material realm and, in some cases, present obstacles to the soul-seeking ascent from it;

5. The estimation of the world, owing to the above as flawed or a production of 'error' but nevertheless as good as its consituent material might allow. This world is typically an inferior simulacrum of a higher-level reality or consciousness. The inferiority may be compared to the technical inferiority of a painting, sculpture, or other handicraft to the thing (s) of which those crafts are supposed to be a representation. In cetain other cases it takes on a more ascetic tendency to view material existence, negatively. Which then becomes more extreme when materiality, and the human body, is perceived as evil and constrictive, a deliberate prison for its inhabitants;

6. The explanation of this state through the use of a complex mythological-cosmological drama in which a divine element 'falls' into the material realm and lodges itself within certain human beings; from here, it may be returned to the divine realm through a process of awakening (leading towards salvation). The salvation of the individual thus mirrors a concurrent restoration of the divine nature; a central Gnostic innovation was to elevate individual redemption to the level of a cosmically significant event;

7. Knowledge of a specific kind as a central factor in the process of restoration, achieved through the mediation of a redeemer figure (Christ, or in other cases, Seth or Sophia).

Why Gnosticism now you ask-when you are doing another series? Why Gnosticism again you ask? Why Gnosticism at all you ask? Well stay tuned and find out the answers to these and other exciting questions as "Dev's Mind Disintegrates" -no in all seriousness-this philosophy/religion has interested me for a long time. For various reasons I hope to be getting into soon I will propose that much of what Gnosticism says about the human condition-I am starting to believe is true -truer-or more "close to home" than many other philosophies have come to describing our "real" status as human beings in this very material world. I still intend on keeping going with the "Mythical Creatures" series as I start this. I think both series will have stops and starts as I try to find good information to use-so I can't guess on any posting times or frequencies. Thank you again for all of your intelligent, thoughtful and insightful comments and to anyone else who is following or reading this blog! I hope to get caught up with other blog and net friends very soon!

14 comments:

Autumnforest said...

Wow! That was a mind-bending trip. I love philosophy too, but I have to admit that when my son was taking it in college and I had to help quiz him, my mind couldn't get around some of the points. This was excellently presented. I kind of liked #5 the best. Something in it rang true for me. Keep it up. Can't wait to read some more mythical creatures. Thanks my font-of-knowledge friend!

Ricardo said...

Gnostic stuff is all over the map. there are so many variations of it. We have an offshoot of it in Judaism in Kabbalah but it's obviously not totally in line with this as there is no Jesus stuff going on. But you get the idea.

ivan said...

Excellent and thought-provoiking blog. Gnosticism and and ourtight hereticism havelong fascinated great thinkers from the theologian Carl Barth to the incredibly successful novelist, the late John Updike.
The Gnostics, were, of course ultmately JFK-ed, I think by the Emperor Constantine.

Ricardo (below raises some interesting points. I would so like to read more of Moses of Maimonides, Martin Buber and all.

Anadæ Effro said...

Devin, bro! I fuckin' swear! There's (k)NOT(work) a single series that you initiate that I don't appreciate! As a longtime Naasseni (AKA Ophite) Gnostic my(s)elf, this is beyond appreciated ….you're like a Rock & Roll god & I, a groupie.… thank you for this new blogticle. Here's your reward!

For the Pleroma,
Anadæ Effro (•8-D

Alex Robinson said...

Great stuff Devin
I do like the 'possibilities' that these ideas lead to & the questions they allow.
Looking forward to wherever this journey stops off next.
I hope you are very well :)

Justin Russell said...

Gnosticism is a fascianting subject indeed. In a very real sense it's the prototype of existential philosophy itself. The main problem I have with it is the notion that the entire material world is in error, a black iron vault (the original Gnostics prefigured PKD by a thousand years or so ;-) ) that served to encase the spirit and prevent transcendence beyond the material.

However, I don't believe that the world is inherently evil and in "error." It certainly can be, but it's so often a place of exquisite beauty.
It's of note I think to see the parallels between such heretical knowledge and the current state of conspiracy theory/alternative media, which is the current body of heretical knowledge of a similar counter-culural type, or a sub culture, which is itself enthused with the Gnostic heresy vs. Christian orthodox war many hundreds of years later. The conspiracy media we have seems to be cut straight down the middle between orthodox Christian researchers and Gnostic/Hermetic/Occult researchers. Those with no God seem to be in a minority in these areas, if they even really exist at all. Whether they know it or not, a person investigating these areas would have to come to terms with this fact, especially in Amerika. The main figures in the "truth movement" always seem to be warring with each other over what God they worship, who that God really is, or whether the truly Godless elite are taking over the world. Either side, depending on their religious persuasion, will assign the elite as Saturnian Roman Catholic psychopathic control freaks, the orthodox Church as the enemy of all; or they will assign them as antinomian pantheistic Gnostic Satanists, with the heretics as the enemies. But no-one ever says that it's all the same shit in the end, both are the disowned shadow of the other, the true dualism is orthodoxy and heresey in an endless dance.

Orthodox thought vs heresy never went away. It's still here now, the war continues. A good book to read on Gnosticism is Hans Jones' The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. Note the 'alien' part. This idea comes up in many, many Gnostic schools of thought according to Jonas, in the original Coptic and Greek. The parallels of the 'Alien God' to current UFOlogy/Exo-politics and its heavy implications as a religion are uncanny. There is something going on for sure with this, I just don't quite know what it is for sure...
The UFO fraternity within conspiracana itself is heavily heretical, Gnostic; opposed to the orthodox Church in a big way. Jordan Maxwell, Michael Tsarion, Chris Knowles, William Henry, etc. Even the more mainflow exo-politics community is this way in many ways, but maybe they dont' consciosuly realise it. Note that just about every major orthodox Christian conspiracy researcher rejects extra-terrestrial contact with earth in a big way. There are those that don't, at least not on the surface.

Anyway, there's my ramble. Your post is timely as it is something I have been pondering for a while.

Peace Dev, I look forward to the next instalment!

Devin said...

Autumnforest thanks so much for your fantastic comment-and I should say for all the support you have constantly been here for so long now!!
It helps so much to know that intelligent and people who "think outside the box" get something out of this blog
I am sorry -and this applies to all of the next commenters too-that it is taking me so long to answer comments-my health is very up and down lately-and I notice that the closer my hearing gets (dec 17th) my anxiety is really becoming an issue-mom and me found out the other day that it may be another 3 to 5 months AFTER the hearing before we hear if we win or lose-can you imagine?
I hope to get by the sites of everyone who has commnented at my blogs today -especially if folks have updated -I will do my articles first -there might be 2 new here-at least one-and one new at "Dev's ?s" -if there isn't that mean my net connection went -which i hope doesnt as i feel like typing and keeping in touch with people today-my so called "writing" blog is on a standstill -dont know if it ever took off really haha-because the disability case is crowding out any creative thoughts I have
hopefully after the 17th-kind of disappointed in it so far -but will keep trying-and thanks for your commnents and the follow there also!!!-all the best!!!

Ricardo -so very happy you could stop by -one of the books i am working from right now really gets into the whole Kabbalah/Jewish aspect of the Gnostic thing -it is a library book and will have to be turned in-maybe before i get to that -but i would like to mention the Kabbalah/Jewish part when i can at least re-check out the book-all the best in the world to you and i will get by your place today barring any probs-thanks again!!!

ivan-yes -Ricardo -Autumnforest and others are all great great commenters!! i am really happy to see your comment here-and man-I learned something-a few things completely new from you that i find fascinating-i had no clue about Updike and Barth-and Updike was always one of my -what would you call it "mainstream"? authors-so thanks so much for that knowledge too-I will get by your place today also -after doing my new articles-again very much appreciate seeing your comment here!!!

Anadae as always -you are a long time commenter and supporter and wonderful "linker" :-) so I am always very happy for your comments -haha when i first thought of doing this I was wondering if I had a bit of ADD or something-some of it was running out of "unique" information-and I didn't want to run all of the "dragon tales" together-they are wonderful thanks to Dr Karl Shuker's digging and research-Autumnforest had suggested Minotaurs which i thought was a wonderful suggestion-looked at the library yesterday and no go -the one book they had -i gather completely about the subject with a few other Gr Myth thrown in was checked out-will look again-all the best in the world to you my friend and I will check out "reward" right away-o an can you send any of the elven folk to do a "bad deed" against some "bad seeds"-? thinking of my neighbooors here:-)

Alex -just seeing you here makes me very well and to know that you are doing great -I am behind you 100 percent on what you have to go through with personal situation!!
I hope you and Cos don't get "mugged" today by season shoppers-although I imagine "Kiwi" shoppers to be a bit better mannered than American ones haha-it seems we have a death every year at a "wally mart" from some poor sod getting trampled to death !!! ATBxx

Justin thanks also so very much for stopping by and your fantastic comment -the comments i get here make dealing with my lousy typing skills -back pain -all of it more than worth it!!

I really loved this commnent of yours and am so glad i took the moderation thing off so people could read comments in the time it takes me to get to them-really great thinking -and loved the part about PKD!!

Devin said...

Justin-just to let you know-and this has never happened before-there was a thing that said i couldnt go over 4,096 characters in comment-and i had to keep paring the last part of yours down until it took the thing!!!
I had no idea there was a max comment length
It basically said how much i appreciate you commenting here and how much new that i learn from you also - so thanks once again my friend!!!
very great and well thought out comment and if that is "rambling"-I love your rambling!!!
all the best and I will get by your place today if you have updated after i do my posts!!

Devin said...

Cool "reward" Andadae-will check out the rest too-I am going to set aside a whole day very soon to read linkage and other blogs no work of my own-thanks again to all of you!!!

Justin Russell said...

No probs Dev, I just wish my rambling had better grammar. Be well, catch you on the next post.

Devin said...

Hey Justin sorry I didnt catch this earlier haha still online catching up -about to go off for the night -hey never ever worry about bad grammar here
I am the king or queen :-) howeevr you want to look at it of bad grammar and like i say yours was a superb information filled comment
can't wait for your next post
all the best!!!

X. Dell said...

Very informative article. I'm struck by some of the similarities you list here to some protestant dogmas. For example, the belief that salvation occurs only partially within or exclusive of human agency sounds an awful like the Calvinist Doctrine of the Elect.

My guess has always been that as a cultural entity, Gnosticism has been with us for quite a while in some form or another.

Michael said...

Awesome! I'm so pleased to find an "elevator speech" (pun intended) of Gnostic thought that I copied and pasted it! I am quite possibly very "Gnostic" in approach, considering that my most recent article at gosporn was all about the "temple" being our idea of who and what God is, which is why it is always being mythically destroyed and rebuilt.

Cheers, Michael

Devin said...

Definitely agree with you thereXdell-I think these thoughts or philosophy has been packaged in differnt forms that some might not even think of as gnosticism-such as the successful "Matrix" movies
all the best to you my friend and really appreciate your wonderful comments when you get the time!!
i know you are busy -but i will be fascinated to get any reactions from you and Anadae and Michael -along with some others as I go along with this in the future (hopefully)
I have found some great books to work from but they are library books and will have to turn them in -so the series could be somewhat "bumpy" as my access to articles -books etcetera comes and goes
all the best to you my friend!!

Michael -thanks so much for your thoughts on this and I will very much enjoy any you have in the future with this subject -hopefully i can do posts on it with some frequency not promising anythiing tho
I can't wait to take a peek at your article-or articles as the case may be today after i do mine
here
all the best to you and Var and i hope the both of you are having a beautiful
"winter" and "holiday" season!!