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!