Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is There A Way Out? Part One

Although certain topics I would like to put before you might not seem to directly involve Gnostic belief structures, I would like to see if people who read this blog agree that I am still essentially talking about the basic Gnostic philosophy or not. It seems to me that a great deal of Gnostic thought and discussion centers around the belief that this world we inhabit is a "false" world created by a "false" god. There may be some disagreement as to the degree of falseness of both the material world and the "god" who created it. There is definitely a huge degree of debate about the nature of the Demiurge or "false" god. To some, this being is essentially good but misguided. To others, the Demiurge is an utter imbecile or fool. And to many the Demiurge is the very embodiment of evil.

Perhaps an example of the degree of how fake our own three-dimensional world is would be the theory that we don't even inhabit a material world at all. This is what has come to be loosely known as the "Matrix" or "Simulation Argument." In this theory, which I have discussed before here in some of the "nature of reality" posts-all you see around you-and you yourself are an illusion created by a vast supercomputer -or something very much like one. Many people might be tempted to laugh at the "Matrix" theory or "Simulation Argument"--and I don't like the idea myself-but the idea that our world is projected by a hugely powerful computer (again computer might be too weak of an analogy-but the idea it evokes is appropriate) solves an uncomfortably large number of problems in modern physics. The "Bottom Layer" site on my blog under the "great links" section goes into this in great detail and will guide anyone interested through the intricacies of the theory much better than I can.

Whatever the true nature of our world is, there are many reasons Gnosticism intrigues me. There are two major reasons that come to me immediately all the time. Remember the three types of human personalities discussed in a prior post? The pneumatikoi or "spirituals"-people who have awakened to their real divine nature through gnosis. The psychikoi or psychics, whose soul-nature may be guided by faith, but who will still need exceptional effort to gain enlightenment. Lastly, there are the hylikoi or hylics ("materials")-these people are only aware of matter, material things. They only belong to matter and because of this they don't have any chance of enlightenment. From the spiritual point of view they are already dead. I find this categorization very interesting, for what it says to me is that there are varying degrees a person is "stuck" in matter-the gross, physical material world.

I am not saying that this way of classifying people is one-hundred percent correct by any means, but aspects of the three states remind me of myself and other people. I do feel that there is some aspect of my being that is not attached to this world- a little spark here and there-a little light that is both divine and "me" at the same time. I really do feel that I "have" a body and don't feel as if I am "only" a body. There are even times that I have dreams where I feel I am really somewhere else and not just a sleeping body whose matter based brain's neurons are discharging and creating an inside movie.

The problem is that these insights and intuitions seem to occupy about one to two percent of my reality and the other 98 to 99 percent is concerned with surviving- mentally, physically and psychically in this world. There is also another face to the "surviving" aspect. At first this opposite aspect of surviving-to do more than survive-to enjoy various pleasures seems good or even great but many times I wonder if the pleasure principle, the things that give us joy in the world-of course pain is pleasure to some but lets not go there:-) chains us to the gross material world much more effectively than the painful and unpleasant aspects of life.

On the surface this might seem a stupid way to put it, as no one generally likes pain. But think how often in your daily routine you become obsessed-many times-first and foremost with money. Will I have enough money to pay my bills? Will I be "downsized" or let go from work? And to many these days-even in the so-called "modern" or "progressive" nations of the world- Will I be homeless soon? or "What bridge am I going to sleep under tonight? What I am basically trying to say is that for a species which supposedly craves pleasure and despises fear and pain, many people seem to live in a constant state of fear or free-floating anxiety (even when there is no need) -this will also be a very important idea in future posts here in relation to the archons or "rulers"- many Gnostics believes the archons or rulers of our material realm "feed" of psychic energy. A junkie putting a needle into his or her arm and getting the huge (and false -and sometimes fatal) initial rush of pleasure might be the equivalent of Steak Diane with a baked potato and a Caesar salad to an archon. The millions of lives ended or ruined by Hitler and Stalin (not to mention many others) might be like a bacchanalian Roman orgy-and a seven course meal. And perhaps a person having their first smoke of the day is just a Philly Cheesesteak or cheeseburger to them. In other words the archons- the rulers of this world-who serve at the pleasure of the Demiurge -feed off any type of human emotions-but in some Gnostic thought -agony -which there is so much of in this world-is the most exquisite for them.

Tobias Churton in Gnostic Philosophy talks about the history of some of these ideas on pages 23 to 24: We now come to a key Gnostic conception, one that caused consternation to the enemies of Christian gnosis in the second century A.D. Insofar as the Demiurge claimed to be the highest God, then the Demiurge, the awful creator of the material universe, was, for the Gnostics a false god. The Gnostic had seen through his deceptive handiwork, and, free of it by virtue of knowledge, could "look down" on it. Enemies of the Gnostics regarded this posture as one of insufferable arrogance. The radical Gnostic could reply that such a position was as nothing compared to the supreme destructiveness and arrogating offense of the Demiurge-himself the blind god who knows no higher than himself.

In their Secret Book (Apocryphon) of John, written sometime in the second century A.D., we hear of how the Demiurge, here called Ialdaboth, took counsel with the archons and created seven planets-hence the false god's claim to "have none before him." (The zodiac provided the image for the grim fetter that held humans in ignorance, or agnosis: that is, "without gnosis").

I would also like to go to pages 40 and 41 from the same book to give some information about the "Unknown God And The Demiurge: The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus wrote polemics against those who taught of two gods; at the same time, Philo himself called the Logos (the divine instrument of creation) "a second god," "archangel," "Lord," and "Name."

"After Philo's time, Jewish rabbis complained of heretics (minim) who believed that God had a representative who bore his name, Jao (an abbreviation of YHWH, the proper name of God) or Jaoel. These Jewish heretics said that this figure sat on a throne next to God's and was called Metatron. Metatron became a significant figure in what Gershom Scholem called "Jewish Gnosticism," which contains much of what is now generally referred to as the Kabbalah."

"Some dissident Jews, called Magharians, said that all anthropomorphic names in the Hebrew Bible referred not to God, but to the angel Metatron, who created the world. In the Gnostic Apocryphon of John, which is dated before A.D. 185, something like this angel appears as the Demiurge, or "the archon who is weak," with three names: Ialdaboth, Saklas, and Samael... "

"Come," says Ialdaboth in a terrifying parody of the Genesis account of the creation of Adam, "let us create a man according to the image of God and according to our likeness, that his image may become a light for us." Having made a "luminous" man, the archons recoil in jealousy, for their combined efforts have made a being greater than themselves individually: "And when they recognized that he was luminous, and that he could think better than they, and that he was free from wickedness, they took him and threw him into the lowest region of all matter".

"This is hard-core Gnosticism, where the false god has become a perfectly sinister deity. The philosopher Hans Jonas, for one, has doubted it could possibly be the work of Jews-especially since its knowledge of Hebrew scripture seems limited to the Book of Genesis, which certainly did fascinate Gentile readers. In a short and typically clear paper of gnosis, Professor Quispel observes, "Only people who had been brought up to believe every word of the Bible, and to cling to the faith that God is one, and yet found reason to rebel against Law and Order may have been inclined toward the Gnostic solution: God is one and the Bible is right, but Anthropomorphisms like the handicraft of a creative workman and personal lawgiving are to be attributed to a subordinate angel".

"Perhaps Quispel is right, but there is all the difference in the world between a subordinate angel and the vicious, scheming, sinister bunch of archons who make Man on to kick him into the dark dungeon of matter, there to all but tread the life out of him. This was the disturbing revelation of the cosmoclastic Gnostic texts such as the Apocryphon of John."

I hope to have the next article here as soon as possible. This series might be somewhat more difficult to do because I would like to use many different sources for it. I wish I had known I would stay on this subject for so long because I would have done it very differently. If anyone is confused about anything please let me know in comments or emails. My basic questions when I think of Gnosticism are: Is this world of matter we are in inherently evil? Is there any good in it at all? Or is the gross, material world indeed more like a prison than anything else? And why-if the material world is absolutely no good-why and how did we come to descend into it? And-what is the best way to regain our "real" spiritual nature-or to "break out of prison"? Thanks again for all of your wonderful comments! The next time I am online I am going to try to get caught up with everyone's work on their blogs and other things. This should be fairly easy to do because I don't think this series can be rushed in any way from here on out-especially as I want to use seven different books and other sources for it, and don't want to confuse anyone by needlessly rushing it-and if I already have please let me know. All the best to anyone stopping by!

13 comments:

Alex Robinson said...

Thoroughly enjoyed (if that's the right word) this post Devin - these thoughts ring bells inside my head & heart.
I find a freedom within myself when I allow the thought that this world is not what it has forever been cracked up to be. If I can wonder if this world is the underworld, I am free to think bigger thoughts, instead of the forever staleness of being a sinner in a god's world, I may be an ok being in a world that's twisted out of shape!

Very best to you my friend & I hope you are having an 'out of this world' day & I thank you heartily for this in-formation :)

Devin said...

Alex- so glad you were able to stop by and read this - I am also happy it "made sense" to you!!
In the viewpoint of Gnosticism -our world is a kind of "underworld" -the philosophy just fascinates me for some reason- as always I am behind with work for it -hopefully I can get back into the swing of things - hell anything would be better than I have been lately after this next round of appts are over-
all the best in the world to you my friend!!xx

Justin Rusell said...

The possible problem with the classic hierarchy the Gnostics employed, pneumatikoi, psychikoi, and hylikoi, is that it may indeed have been an elitist view the Gnostic themselves employed to distance themselves as spiritual aristocrats from the common herd. The psychikoi were often those that the Gnostic sects would use for their purposes, if I remember correctly. Those that would be on the fringes of the particular sect. I shall have to double-check on that. If Gnosticism could be termed "The Religion of the Call," then only the privileged few could hear it, and achieve Gnosis.
You see the very same conceit around today with those that self-identify as Gnostics and refer to that hoary millenarian fantasy of 2012, and the "psychic ascension" thing where some openly state that there is only a minority that will ascend to the next level. The rest of the herd are culled. Bloody spiritual and psychic eugenics. I don't find it any better than "Find salvation in Jesus and be not condemned to eternal damnation."

I like many elements in Gnostic thought, others I'm not so hot on...

When they employed metaphor to describe the human condition in a seemingly uncaring, inexplicable world, that works best for me. The allegory of the "Hymn of the Pearl" is such a gem. The whole Gnostic predicament sems to be of descending into a lower world where you forget who you really are, engorged by material and sensual pleasures that fog your mind and render your soul sluggish. The job is to remember who you really are, then, of course, to know.

The Ryan Reynolds' film "The Nines" is all about this. And more.

Devin said...

Justin- as always - I am so happy to see you are still here (in blogspace:-)!!!!
this was an excellent and super well thought out comment - like yours always are
and I am so glad my miserable typing skillz arent being wasted and some people are reading -
I agree with your last paragraph - and will absolutely have to see the Reynolds' film - am writing it down
I am also thankful to have your thoughts on 2012 - I was going to attempt my first poll here - but dont know if i will do it yet- to ask people if they think 2013 will be same ole same ole
or will they be "ascended masters":-)
i am suspicious of the fascination with it too- and there are some curious intelligence (national level etc) names attached to it in some ways
I actually have a few written down - will try to remember where- and I think why would CIA/NSA types want us to think SOMETHING big is coming then????
usually the answer with these people is that nothing good comes out of it!!!!!!!!!!!!
the only thing i will say - and this is probably just "yours truly" aging -is that it does seem to me - that time itself is going faster -and seemed to me to get another 'bump' up in Sept 2009
Justin- I honestly cannot believe that it is early February 2010- it seems like yesterday was 'ween!!!!
but again might be my bit imaginative (at times-except with the thing i most want to do - haha -write - ) or aging brain
I hope you continue to come back and also hope that somewhere -maybe soon??
that you will start a blog again
best to you as always my friend and thanks for stopping by!!!!!!!!

Green Man said...

The Buddhists speak of something similar. Nothing exists independent of everything else. It is all interconnected. It is like a big spider's web. Or what is referred to as Indra's net. Our dream world isn't just while we sleep--we are asleep to the true nature of reality.

Devin said...

I couldnt agree with you more there Green Man - I only wish it were "easier" to wake up - it may become a matter of survival to do so - thanks so much for the Indra reference- I had heard of Indra also- and the proverb I heard spoke of everything being a reflection of everything else in the Heaven of Indra- thanks so much for stopping by !!
I will try to check out one of your articles today if my connection will stay - crossing my fingers-all the best to you!!

nils said...

Great blog. Where to start… I first read Churton’s “Golden Builders” (which I really enjoyed), and then moved on to “Gnostic Philosophy.” I tend to share some of commenter Justin Russells hesitations on some individual Gnostic thoughts. I had actually never heard of Crowley before reading about him in Gnostic Philosophy, so I had none of the negative baggage I later saw from further research. However, I felt Churton glossed over some of what I view as questionable aspects of Crowley and the OTO. This was further enforced when I read the Book of Law, especially the third chapter. Then I felt the elitist aspects of OTO thinking, which hints that only the spiritual elite can understand the third chapter, and much of Crowley’s work. This spiritual elitism goes against some of what I had learned of broader Gnostic belief outlined by Churton.

In Gnostic Philosophy, Churton points out some of Crowley’s arrogance and pettiness, such as when he noted that the Thelama groups were prone to schism from ego, moral disaffection, annoyance and squabbling over authority. In this light, they seem to be power hungry hedonists. As I learned more about the OTO, I began to see links between L Ron Hubbard and OTO, especially via Jack Parsons and the OTO in the USA. Honestly, Scientology and L Ron Hubbard are major spiritual turn-offs for me ad I view that aspect as cultish mind control, contrary to inner enlightenment. But again, Scientologists have their own hierarchy and ego that says outsiders “just don’t get it”.

Lastly, I went to Waldorf school as a child, and came into these readings in research about Steiner and his philosophies (which also I half embrace, and half am doubtful of). Anyway, great blog and dialogue, I recommend Churtons’ “Golden Builders” as further reading.

BTW, my name is jason, but I can't figure out how to make the comments name me correctly.

Devin said...

Jason thanks so much for your excellent comments!!
I always love to see new people here and great comments - thanks for mentioning the things about Scientology -and others - I had been aware of Crowley for some time and Churton is the only person I have ever seen with such a good take on him - I am also aware of Jack Parsons and stupidly didn't connect his relationship to Hubbard or Crowley when I wrote this up - I do think Scientology is bad news all the way round -
I will check out Churton's other book you mentioned as soon as I can - the various relationships and philosophies from Gnosticism and Theosophy also fascinate me - another great commenter in a much earlier post brought up the strong racist trend that seems to be attached to some Theosophists -Steiner is the only one that I have read (not that I have familiarity with all of them to say the least) that I "liked" I am also like you in that I only seem to get to the halfway point with embracing any philosophy- I first became interested in Gnosticism through the writings of Philip K Dick - I am much in agreement with Justin and it appears with you about his reservations of some aspects of Gnosticism -

Thanks so much for enjoying this blog- I am in a real slow phase right now - I am on so many different meds that sometimes i feel the "cure" is worse than the 'disease' and I go thru phases of exhaustion - which I am in now-hopefully this wont last much longer
all the best to you my friend and thanks again for stopping by!!

X. Dell said...

(1) If you subscribe to one of many basic faiths, you would have to accept "The Matrix" premise. Seeing that a creator deity created a cosmos and man, that would make us all works of artifice.

(2) You write: "In other words the archons- the rulers of this world-who serve at the pleasure of the Demiurge -feed off any type of human emotions-but in some Gnostic thought -agony -which there is so much of in this world-is the most exquisite for them."

This brings to mind Karen Horney's description of sadistic tendencies. A person with sadistic tendencies exhibits a neurotic need to frustrate others. When coupled (which it often is) with an aggressive personality type, sadism translates into the ability to control one's entire space, including the people in it right down to where they live (i.e., their emotions).

Horney would say that the aggressive sadist must often be excessively generous in spurts. He/she can delight in the positive emotions of others, if he/she feels responsible. Problem with good times, though, are that people like having them. You don't usually have coerce someone to dally in the things they like.

Hence, the causation of pain, misery, anger, etc. is a truer test of power. No one wants to go into these states willingly, for they often entail some psychological pain.

Devin said...

Thanks for yet another fantastic comment Xdell!!
again please accept my apologies for not being able to give a halfway decent response - sometimes if i feel exhausted i will hold off a day responding until i can think more clearly - but this last week hasn't given me much hope that tomorrow will be better in this regard!!

I always wanted to do more about the thought that we might live in a reality that is kind of like the "matrix" movie premise -and this isn't because i like the theory - i dont actually like it at all - but as i stated in one article - the thought that we live in a projected reality solves a great deal of thorny problems in modern physics (the observer problem, the uncertainty priniciple, and others)
thanks so much for the link and i will take a look at it
I think your description of Karen's thoughts/work sound very intriguing -that name sounds familiar but i am not 100 percent sure i have ever heard of it
all the best to you my friend and thanks so very much for stopping by !!

Devin said...

thanks indeed for that link Xdell!! a very quick looksee tells me i would like to research her thoughts in more depth - the last paragraph before "Feminine Psychology" really hit home with my personal being - in my darkest moments i alternate between a feeling of complete and utter failure which then turns into one of self-hate- not that i am this way all the time - and thank god for this!!!!
in my personal life (in relation to the "bullet" points in the link) i often want someone so bad -romantically to solve all my problems (more or less as all of them would be an impossible task for Hercules:-) but i am also seized by a huge urge at times to push "helping" people away from me
very intriguing - thanks again - I hope you are doing great -will check to see if your wonderful series has updated!!

Green Man said...

Yes, indeed it could come down to survival for many. Being a Zen meditator I work to shed the layers of ignorance and the ego-self daily. It's not easy but with each session and day it gets better.

If we don't make this shift in consciousness then our planet is pretty, (excuse my language) fucked.

Devin said...

Green Man thanks so much for stopping by!!
I completely agree- we need this shift or we are toast - I can't believe the number of problems that have global implications right now - it almost seems hopeless -but I believe in miracles - all the best to you my friend!!