>Maybe the Holy Trinity should be viewed as an "inner mystery", while Jesus the Sacrificial Son should be viewed as an "outer mystery".
My first inclination is to consider every doctrine as having both an outer (exoteric) and inner (esoteric) meaning, so that there are the following:
o The inner mystery of the Holy Trinity
o The outer quasi-mystery of the Holy Trinity
o The inner mystery of Jesus the Sacrificial Son
o The outer quasi-mystery of Jesus the Sacrificial Son
Per Pagels, the Gnostics were able to agree with all dogmas; I call this ability "transcending language & conceptualization". I propose that there was no distinctive man HJ, yet I could agree that Jesus is the savior and was or is incarnate in the flesh -- such an affirmation by the Gnostic members of the early Christian groups causes the Literalists to struggle to clarify their concepts in a way that excluded the Gnostics; such a struggle contributed to the formation of formal theology and dogmatics.
In some ways, *any* doctrine can be read within the Literalist matrix of meaning or within the Gnostic matrix of meaning, so doctrine fails to divide into inner-circle (inner consciousness) members and outer members. A Gnostic thinker is able to view writings through a Gnostic lens and is generally able to agree with the Vatican pronouncements on theology. In this way, viewpoint transcends particular doctrines.
Perhaps those of the outer circle consider the Holy Trinity to be more of an inner mystery than Jesus the Sacrificial Son; I don't know, both doctrines are an open book and make sense when viewed through a Gnostic lens. (I can even side with the Catholic doctrine against the Eastern Orthodox and agree that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father.)
I was surprised to find one professed Gnostic who denied that the notion of spiritual "death" was relevant to Gnosticism; what was especially puzzling was his refusal to affirm that death can possibly be used legitimately to describe mystic experiencing. He rejected all possibility of legitimately considering death as a description of mystic experiencing.
Much more typical of the Gnostic way of thinking is to affirm that any metaphors can be used very flexibly in skilled religious discourse. This other self-declared Gnostic seemed to hold an uncharacteristically brittle conception of the use of language, a brittleness and singleness of word meaning that is more associated with Literalism. All doctrines have an inner and outer meaning because meaning is a matter of one's mode of reading, any any doctrinal formulation can be read through the lens of Literalism or through the lens of Gnosticism.
This reminds me of something interesting about styles of scholarly writing about Jesus: I have found the writing of the conservative N.T. Wright to have a high coefficient of Gnostic insight triggering, while I find that contemporary, psychology-oriented "Mystic Christianity" writers don't trigger much insight. So the amount of latent Gnostic insight in a book is largely independent of whether the author is a Gnostic or a conservative Literalist. As a result, a conservative HJ scholar could actually contribute more to the mythic-only Christ position than a liberal HJ scholar who portrays Jesus through a modernist psychology lens.
I kept wondering why I was so strongly attracted to some conservative theology and HJ authors even though I hold a positive experiential mythic-only Jesus view. This seems to be a case of the ends of a spectrum wrapping around to meet each other. My thinking, in some aspects, is closer to conservative scholar-theologians than to liberal religious humanists (moderate demythologizers). Gnostics and Literalists agree: Jesus Christ really essentially was and is a towering cosmic figure.
I would be surprised if you find much confirmation about one doctrine (Holy Trinity) being an inner-mysteries doctrine while another (Sacrificial Son) is outer. Freke & Gandy say that all the Hellenistic mystery-cults, including that of Jesus and Mary/Sophia, had a storyline that had an outer and inner meaning; they did not say -- as much -- that certain parts of the story were for the inner initiates only. Then our conversation must move to the era of doctrinal formulations. I think you raise an interesting question that is debatable: which Christian doctrines were most associated with the inner mysteries, in the opinion of the Literalist church? within the Gnostic groups?
A powerful way of dividing schools of religion is higher vs. lower, or other equivalent pairs:
o Gnostic/Literalist (as defined in The Jesus Mysteries)
o transformative/translative (per Ken Wilber)
According to this idea, every major religion has a more profound and less profound level. I get the feeling that Gnosticism is no different; this idea of 2 levels applied to Gnosticism as a religion implies that there are two levels of the Gnostic religion:
lower/exoteric/outer Gnosticism vs. higher/esoteric/inner Gnosticism
So we end up with the ironic oxymoronic combinations:
o lower supposed-higher religion
o exoteric supposed-esoteric religion
o outer supposed-inner religion
o Literalist supposed-Gnosticism
o translative supposed-transformative spirituality
There is genuine esotericism and bogus, phony, fake esotericism that merely *claims* and pretends to be esotericism; exoteric religion in drag as esoteric religion. A goat dressed as a sheep. Such is the Catholic co-optation of mystery language; such empty ceremony strives as hard as possible to look as esoteric as possible, while remaining purely exoteric.
Just because someone *claims* to be higher/esoteric/inner/Gnostic/transformative, means nothing; the bread remains bread and the wine, wine. Placebo religion results, and surely in this age of fake religion, Gnosticism is no different. The vast majority of religion, including New Age spirituality, according to Wilber, is merely translative even though it pretends to be genuinely tranformative. So we can assume that 95% of Gnosticism is fake and phony, or lower Gnosticism, posing as authentic higher Gnosticism.
>>The vast majority of religion, including New Age spirituality, according to Wilber, is merely translative even though it pretends to be genuinely transformative. So we can assume that 95% of Gnosticism is fake and phony, or lower Gnosticism, posing as authentic higher Gnosticism.
The editor of New Age magazine met with Wilber and realized and admitted that New Age magazine is almost entirely merely translative rather than truly transformative, per Wilber's definition of 'translative' and 'transformative' religion.
Wilber is developing a sophisticated theory of the mystic altered state; basically, if you have that temporary state a little, you'll just shuffle around (translate) the existing conceptions within your current worldmodel without deeply changing your entire way of thinking. In transformative, higher religion, your conceptions each change deeply, resulting in a deeply changed way of thinking.
People tend to think of this "changed way of thinking" in vague psychological terms, but it's actually a change from one specific worldmodel (egoic way of thinking) to another specific worldmodel (the transcendent way of thinking).
Like Greek myth, my system of distinguishing between these two specific worldmodels is infinitely simpler than Wilber's overbusy, unfocused general system. Wilber talks about all sorts of transformations in general; I'm only interested in the biggest transformation: from the lower childish way of thinking, to the higher adult way of thinking, especially with respect to one's conception of time, personal control, moral agency, and self.
Primary religious experiencing is intense. Genuine religion is inner religion which is primary religious experiencing. Real gnosticism is based on intense primary religious experiencing. Gnostic philosophy goes hand in hand with the cognitive state of intense religious experiencing; the philosophical worldmodel of gnosticism is distinct from the primary intense religious experiencing of Gnosticism and both halves are required, to build each other up.
95% of Gnosticism in practice only has the philosophical worldmodel; it utterly lacks the other required half, intense primary religious experiencing.
There is a *reason* why the mystics who invent and selectively preserve religious mythology choose drastic plot elements of tearing the body apart, going insane, visiting the land of the dead, miraculously rising, being born from a rock, sacrificing one's firstborn child, eating one's child, and so on. These are allegorized *reports* and allegorical vehicles to report and convey what is experienced in the true, genuine mystic state, or esoteric state, or Gnostic state.
Genuine religion of the mythic type is mythic allegory of intense primary religious experiencing. If you've experienced insanity, death, danger, a serious threat of chaos, need for appeasement, urgent need for protection, being blinded by looking at the sun in the center of the mind, then you're in the realm of true Gnosticism. True Gnosticism requires two components to be fully present and developed: the Gnostic *philosophy* (theory, worldview, worldmodel), and the Gnostic *experiencing* which is an intense, dangerously overwhelming altered state.
If you lack either one -- the philosophy or the experience -- you can't attain to true perfection, completion, maturity. Both halves are required, to ascend outside the prison of the cosmically determined block universe.
o If you have the intense altered-state experience but lack the philosophy, then you're still stuck in the block-universe prison whether you are aware of it or not.
o If you have the fully developed philosophy but lack the intense altered-state experience, then you're still stuck in the block-universe prison whether you are aware of it or not.
Ascension requires worshipping and harnessing both theory and experience. Lacking one, there's hardly even a half-ascension. If you set yourself against the intense mystic altered state and seek ascension through theoretical knowledge alone, you won't ascend; you'll remain on the outside, in the dark. If you set yourself against philosophy, theory, reason, Logos, organized patterned thought -- and seek ascension through the intense altered state alone -- you won't ascend; you'll remain on the outside, in the dark, among the lost. You must taste of the oral teachings, as well as read the sacred scriptures.
If one lacks *intense* primary religious experiencing that is seriously dangerous and requires passwords and safety measures, then one is practicing lower, outer, exoteric, substitute, merely translative, phony, beginner Gnosticism.
If you don't eat the flesh of the savior and drink the blood of the savior, you've not been raised up; you've not encountered fatedness, wrestled with God, and arisen out of the cosmic deterministic rock. Yes, there are other ways to encounter, experience, and transcend block-universe determinism, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, sensory deprivation, and meditation, but the most reliable and ergonomic way for typical people is to ingest God's flesh, which is the bridge between the material and spiritual worlds.
Real religion, real Gnosticism, is dangerous. Most Gnosticism isn't dangerous. The absense of danger is proof of phoniness, or more generously, of half-Gnosticism: the philosophy half without the intense experiencing half. If the sacred meal is missing, the sacred is missing (that's a main idea, though alternatives such as fasting with meditation in a cave are granted).
Freke & Gandy wrote:
WHAT IS A GNOSIS INTENSIVE?
At the end of our book Jesus and the Goddess, Peter Gandy and I suggested that what is now needed is for the perennial philosophy of Gnosticism to be completely updated for the 21st century. This is exactly what I have been working on and what I want to share with you.
We will be using ‘experiential philosophy’ to reach beyond words to the experience of Gnosis. Gnosis is more than an intellectual understanding of life. It is a passion for living. It is appreciating the miracle of this moment and communing with the Mystery of Life. Gnosis is a journey through wisdom to love. Love of others. Love of ourselves. Love of this moment. Love of life. Love of everything.
The two-fold path to Gnosis involves self-transformation and self-transcendence and we will be looking at simple ways of achieving both. I will be guiding you in various ‘philosophical experiments’ which entail perceiving your experience of the present moment in radically new ways. I want to introduce you to some extraordinarily profound ideas with the power to wake us up from the numbness we call ‘normality’.
Gnosis is not something ancient and esoteric, experienced by other people who are wiser or more spiritual than you. Gnosis is a natural state of awakeness available to you right now. The words Gnosis or enlightenment (the eastern equivalent of Gnosis) can sound so grand and exotic that we easily dismiss the possibility of experiencing this state for ourselves. For this reason, I often prefer to talk instead of enlivenment.
Enlivenment is possible. Your life can be a celebration of the miracle of existence. All that is required of you is a clear-mind, an open-heart, and a willingness to wake up. I can’t promise to enliven you. Enlivenment is like falling in love. You can’t force it and you can’t prevent it. But I can invite you on a blind date with some beautiful ideas and you never know - it might be the beginning of something big?
Come on off it -- this is "gnosis unplugged", an electric motor without the electricity, a modern Catholic mass fervent with *talk*, and *sentimentality*, and ritual ceremony, and all the other weak shadowy offshoot reflections of the intense, bona fide wellspring -- visionary plants.
Any fool priest -- gnostic-styled priest, Catholic-styled priest, or other styled priest -- can *say the words* "intense" and "experience", but unactivated surface pseudo-gnosis posturing and self-deception remains exactly that; no one who has experienced full intense gnosis can mistake the outer for the inner circle, no matter how much the outer works on counterfeiting and passing itself off as the real thing. I can carefully calibrate my color printer to simulate a thousand dollar bill, but it's still just a counterfeit that is financially worthless.
It's enough to make me safeguard my phrasings by including "psychoactive drugs" in every posting, saying not "mystic experiencing" but rather "intense entheogenic mystic altered state experiencing". How is this ersatz gnosis even one bit better than ersatz American Buddhism or ersatz modern Catholicism? Fake religious experiencing remains fake religious experiencing, even if you swap out the "Catholic" branding and replace it by neon advertising that proclaims it to be Gnosticism.
Just calling something "intense Gnostic experiencing" can do nothing to change it from fake to real; crossing out the words "non-dairy creamer" on the carton cannot possibly change it into real milk, not even a little. A *hallmark* of ersatz, mid-level religion is the *claim* to be high and mystical -- that's why mid-level religion is more noxious and a threat of deception; low-level religion doesn't make the claims to be higher, and thus is no great threat at deceiving people.
Real religion -- actual high-level religion -- flows from the wellspring of visionary plants, entheogens, psychoactive drugs, psychotomimetics -- even if mid-level religion can occasionally trigger faint and rare traces of that state in a few constitutionally abnormal people. Let us not mistake the exception (meditation/contemplation/drumming can, in the unusual case, produce primary religious experiencing) for the rule (entheogens very commonly, normally, usually are highly reliable triggers for full-on intense mystic altered-state phenomena).
People should not lie and counterfeit and falsely pass off the exception (enlightenment experiencing via meditation) as the normal case, while portraying the classic normal case (entheogen-triggered actual mystic experiencing) as the exception, inverting the reality, claiming that the lower is instead the higher.
As Valentinus reborn, I sit in judgement (and discernment) over the mid-level pseudo- or semi-gnostics, who ought to read Tim Freke's section in Encyclopedia of Spirituality aka Spiritual Traditions about entheogens. p128-131.
TOC page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/080699844X/ref=sib_rdr_zmin/103-2669391-6913409?p=S003&j=1#reader-page
>>COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN PREVIOUS INTENSIVES
>>Something has stirred so deeply inside of me that I know life will never be the same again. I am taking with me this amazing LOVE!!! What more could you possibly want?
Answer: full-on gnosis that brings apocalypse, the new era, full regeneration.
>>It’s not easy to express how grateful I feel. To bring this ancient teachings and wisdom to life is such important work and to do it with such authenticity and integrity too. Intellectual Gnosis is fascinating, but it mean very little if it remains on that level only. Thank you for helping me on my journey of realising the awesome beauty and love that is this experience we call life.
Adding an ordinary state-of-consciousness "journey" is only a quarter-step above "intellectual gnosis". Any foolish church can provide such a journey -- the Catholic church can provide their semi-bunk "experiential journey" as well, and the Protestants yammer about "regeneration" and their mostly bunk "rebirth from above", but that's just a feeble ripoff of the full-on entheogenic original such as was common in the *real* history of Middle Ages Christianity, which was driven by intense altered-state gnosis [pictures of lily-datura] rather than powerful institutionalized Catholic church, which per Edwin Johnson might not have existed with any great influence or power until 1500.
>>I experienced both an intellectual deepening of my understanding, but more important than that was the experiential. It awoke in me a very deep compassion for others that I’ve never experienced before.
*An* experience is easy to come by even in the ordinary state of consciousness, and *talk* of experience is even cheaper, but the main thing is an actual fully intense entheogenic experience.
>>The whole process was like coming home
It would be much more so when done along with drinking the cup of Mind, filled with psychoactive 'mixed wine' such as opium, hashish, datura, and psychoactive mushrooms.
>>Beautifully simple. I am a man of few words, but what I got from these days: LOVE
But no real gnosis.
>>I learned so much and feel I am taking new things back with me – perhaps I should say a new me back with me.
More so with adding entheogens to the mix.
>>But to hear him put the 'truth' about reality across in such an understandable way was like - as he said - "getting a letter from god". I really don't think he wasted one word - everything he said helped clarify what is often muddled up in my head.
Words are ubiquitous. The other churches can compete fine here, without delivering an actual gnosis experience.
>>A very wonderful and – dare I say it ‘powerful experience’ that I will treasure and never forget.
A feeble experience, compared with adding entheogens that activated and brought about the whole framework and terminology and concepts in the first place.
>>I have never experienced such real love among people I had never met.
Love, love -- how much more profound and deep Love there is at the source of full gnosis.
>>I would like to THANK YOU so much from the depth of my heart for the opportunity to participate in your seminar. It was such a wonderful experience! I appreciate your "fresh" approach to the subject.
Partial depth, somewhat wonderful, a fraction of the potential. The "fresh" approach is old hat: talk and more talk, ordinary-state imaginings and sentimentality.
>>Thank so much for a wonderful meeting and experience at Glastonbury it was like a little door opening onto a big, big world of brightness, hope and a never ending journey of discovery.
Never maturing, never attaining to the climax of perfection? That's not the full gnosis which lies easily to hand, per Tim Freke's section in Encyclopedia of Spirituality aka Spiritual Traditions about entheogens. p128-131.
TOC page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/080699844X/ref=sib_rdr_zmin/103-2669391-6913409?p=S003&j=1#reader-page
We must sacrifice mid-level semi/pseudo-gnosis to hold out for the real, full gnosis. Away with mid-level religion, ordinary-state American Buddhism, fervent pretense and imitations and simulations. There is a world of difference between the sound of a guitar amp simulator and a professionally set up and miked guitar amp in a studio. No matter how good of a simulation, the simulator sounds like what it is. Mid-level gnosis is very partially fulfilling -- more like tantalizing.
Tim Freke wrote:
>>...the US EXPERIENCING GNOSIS 3 day seminar. (We’ve changed the name from Gnosis Intensive because we don’t want it to sound too ‘intense’!)
>>... I am contacting you about two other possible events: an EXPERIENCING GNOSIS seminar for Australia and a new DEEPENING GNOSIS series of seminars in the UK.
This is effectively renamed from a "Gnosis Intensive" -- which was false marketing -- to "Gnosis Lite", which is accurate. I presume the Lite, introductory part -- "Experiencing Gnosis" -- will be packed full of discussing and talk and practice sessions, while Deepening Gnosis will be the classic standard series of some 8 entheogenic initiation sessions.
>>...Big love, bold visions
Beige and denatured, not bold. Labelling the bland "bold" does not alter the fact of blandness, but may give a momentary impression of boldness, the momentary impression the drives marketing and perpetual hunger for more, never reaching fulfillment of perfection and the release of mystical climax. Such proclaimed boldness is a frustrating tease of Tantalus, never reaching the consummation of mystical marriage.
It's up to you: attend showy superficial Mass time and again, go to showy superficial gnosis seminars time and again, or, ride the lightning chariot: the way that works is the way that is shortest, with steepest ascent.
-- Neo Valentinus
My theory -- the entheogen determinism theory of religion -- is the easy and direct solution to completely straighten out these issues. The discussion even poses "being troubled" as something challenging to reconcile with attaining "psychological stability".
When one "asks" -- about personal self-control in the face of entheogen-revealed determinism -- one "finds", and then "becomes troubled", and then awareness turns around, resulting in changing one's mental worldmodel to an intrinsically lastingly stable one: determinism and transcendence, rather than the original sinfully distorted and unstable mental worldmodel which cannot withstand the critical light shed by the intense mystic state of cognition, but prophetically must be doomed and accursed to fall like a condemned kingdom.
Different allegory systems are different systems, like different programming languages being used to accomplish the exactly functionally equivalent resulting program. I favor Freke & Gandy's broad use of the terms "Gnosticism" vs. "Literalism", defined in the books The Jesus Mysteries and Jesus & The Goddess. http://www.egodeath.com/jesusmysterieschapsumm.htm
The disputation would evaporate by everyone simply keeping track of the two distinct uses of 'gnostic' -- broad, and narrow, and acknowledging that both are required, for a full study of Gnosticism.
Even if we assume the narrow meaning, and therefore that "gnosticism" is "different" than "Christian mysticism" or "Sufism" or "Rosicrucianism", this "difference" is merely a *shallow* difference, like the difference between the Christian mythic-mystic metaphor of "going to heaven" and the Buddhist mythic-mystic metaphor of "escaping the cycle of rebirths". These are two different *metaphor systems* referring to the exact same type of thing.
Enlightenment, regeneration, salvation, nirvana, heaven, sainthood, gnosis, perfection, spiritual victory, cure, forgiveness of sins, purification, purgation, exorcism, and so on are all *essentially* the *same* thing, and on the *surface* *different* descriptions. A full study of mystic and gnostic religion must study *both* the deep sameness and the surface difference. These are different descriptions of the same thing.
The same goes for the missing-the-point hair-splitting "debate" between Gershom Scholem and Moshe Idel, making a mountain out of the molehill of "theurgic/philosophical Jewish mysticism" versus "ecstatic Jewish mysticism". Idel claims to "correct" Scholem by recovering mythic-mystic ecstatic Jewish mysticism, against Scholem's supposedly staid and over-respectable theurgic/philosophical Jewish mysticism.
But if neither scholar has any real acquaintance with the oral knowledge, which means ingesting visionary plants to experience determinism, they really just offer two debased distortions: Scholem accentuates debased literalist distortion of theurgic/philosophical Jewish mysticism, and Idel accentuates debased literalist distortion of ecstatic Jewish mysticism. Insofar as either version of Jewish mysticism is authentic, it is just another equivalent description of the same old universal perennial core religion, which is entheogen determinism.
Same with the lopsided exaggerated scholarly distinction between Jewish mysticism of "unity with God" versus the supposedly incompatible, different Jewish mysticism of "ascent to a vision of the throne of the unknowable God in the heavens". Sure, these are different systems -- but the difference is merely superficial, in comparison to the overwhelming sameness of the core, which is entheogen determinism.
Same with the supposed "difference" between Christianity and Buddhism: authentic Christianity and authentic Buddhism are merely two different user-interface skins on the same underlying software: entheogen determinism, which is what the perennial philosophy and perennial religion is actually all about in its core.
The same with Hellenistic Jewish, Christian, and Pagan Mystery religions: they are different cults, different cultic surfaces, of the same core engine of religious initiation through use of visionary plants to experience and discover and reconcile oneself with determinism.
Yes, academics should indeed be studying the differences between mythic metaphor systems, but *as* a mere shallow difference, *as* a mere comparison of two different metaphor systems for *the same essential thing* -- entheogen determinism. We academics must study the surface-level difference between Coke and Pepsi, but also the deep sameness and equivalence of them.
The scope of the Gnosticism2 discussion group cannot possibly be gnosticism in isolation; the only way to understand gnosticism is through a full investigation of both the similarities and differences between the various metaphor systems describing the experiential insights of the intense mystic altered state.
Note: I need to mark attribution correctly; see Yahoo page. -mh
Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2003 9:44 PM
Subject: [Gnosticism2] Re: Answer to Job
> 1) How do you see salvation acheived in Gnosticism in general?
>>First an explanation of my understanding of salvation, or, if you may, the attainment of eternal life. This means that the individual reaches a psychological state and outlook that is unchangeable. even if subjected to severe trauma . This is because the sum of past experiences allow the events of life to be put into immediate perspective because of some affective psychological mechanism (i.e. emotional, intellectual, and spiritual function) that is so complex that it is better suited to literary or allegorical description than tp academic or intellectual analysis. Passing to this state feels like you are "saved", because it makes the attitudes towards life of the previous state seem like they were all based on falsehoods and erroneous assumptions, a state that requires some apparant outside force beyond your contriol to come to your rescue.
>>Gnosis refers to:
>>a) The blend of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual states that support this unusual psychological stability;
>>b) The flash of illumination or slow evolutiuon that brings this state about.
>>>How is it achieved in Gnosticism?
>>I really do not know. If I knew, I certainly wouldn't be speculating about it on the internet. I suppose and intellectual understanding of the respective mythological systems and a certain devotional emotional commitment to them (i.e. "faith") prepares you to recognize it when it happens, but my understanding is that it happens spontaneously, or through "the Grace of God". The details and conditions will be intensely personal, and also specific to the culture and religious tradition of the individual .
>>This is why I find Job interesting. It appears to offer a literary case study of how gnosis plays out in a historical biblical setting. With a little imagination, it is very easy to identify with Job, as it is easy to identify with Sophia.
>>>2) How is that expressed in Valentinian texts?
>>Primarily through literary and mythological allegory. It requires a complex analysis in order to make intellectual sense of it. Because it goes to the root of human experience,the most appropriate way of analyzing it is to realate the imagery of these texts to personal experience, and draw paralells between the two. Some objective, universal psychological framework helps to put into perspective what otherwise would be a highly subjective exercise. Jung provides an one, but there are many others. You might say that Valentinian texts, if examined for a psychological framework (a limiting but useful interpretation), provide one as well. They obviously go beyond the psychological dimension, though.
>>No intellectual analysis will ever do these texts justice as their use of poetic allegory is much better suited to pointing out the universal truth of the human condition.
> 3) Do you feel you personally agree with that expression?
>>Yes. This is just a subjective impression, but other gnostic texts (or the ones I've read) often seem more intent on throwing out the Old Testament for its own sake, as you say, rather than getting to the heart of the matter. This could very well be because I haven't read many, but I can't help but feel that it would be a far better exercise to reinterpret past texts in light of new events. My impression is that Gnostics differ from the Orthodox in that they see this as a continous creative process, so that new layers of meaning are added to old stories all the time. I reiterate that they would have found Job very interesting. I would venture to say, however, that any commentary probably went up in smoke in Alexandria, as did most of their writings.
>>P.S. I read the Johannite article. Again, it suggests that from a Gnostic point of view, gnosis itself is a universal phenomenon not restircted to a particular time or tradition:
"From the discussion above it should be clear that using the term 'gnosis' to describe Valentinian teaching is contrary to the use of the term by the Valentinians themselves. Gnosis refers to mystical experiece and is not restricted to a particular group or period of history."
It would therefore seem very appropriate that the Bible be examined to understand how gnosis was expressed in the Hebrew tradition. So I'll do that now, making reference to the article to show that I understand the definitions:
"Herakleon describes the psychic level of salvation as "believing from human testimony" (Herakleon Fragment 39). Through pistis and psychic salvation, one attained to the level of the Demiurge. In order to be saved the person had to freely chose to believe and to do good works (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:6:2). The psychic level of salvation was decisive in that it opened the person to the possibility of attaining the pneumatic level. "
This decribes Job before his crisis of faith. He believes in human testimony. Indeed, he declares after his confrontation with God "Before, I heard of you". He believes, and is faultless in his good works. This opened him up to the crisis that would bring him face to face with God.
The article points out that the Valentinians saw this process of faith as essential:
"The superior pneumatic level of salvation depends on the person having already attained to the psychic level. As the Gospel of Philip says, "No one can receive without faith" (GPhil 61:35-36)"
The pneumatic condition is also described:
"Herakleon described this as follows: "At first men believe in the Savior because they are lead to that point by men, but when they encounter his word they no longer believe because of human testimony alone, but from the Truth itself" (Herakleon Fragment 39). Through gnosis one could participate in and experience the divine realm. Thats what the Gnostic doctrine of the resurrection refers to: spiritual rebirth through mystical experience (gnosis). One attained gnosis through the grace of God, not by choice. "
This is precisely what Job experiences. In the end, he believes in God because of direct contact with the Divine. It renews his faith, making it more mature than his previous piety. He attains it not by choice, but because God decides to run him through the wringer and put him to the test. Life's events drive him to despair, and it is only by a since and deeply affective questioning of his faith that he arrives at gnosis.
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 4:28 PM
Subject: [Gnosticism2] To the point, with Pneumen
>>Thank you Pneuman. This is something we can really interact and communicate with. I have hopes for this conversations positive value for all of us invloved. To start with I asked
1) How do you see salvation acheived in Gnosticism in general?
"First an explanation of my understanding of salvation, or, if you may, the attainment of eternal life. This means that the individual reaches a psychological state and outlook that is unchangeable. even if subjected to severe trauma . This is because the sum of past experiences allow the events of life to be put into immediate perspective because of some affective psychological mechanism (i.e. emotional, intellectual, and spiritual function) that is so complex that it is better suited to literary or allegorical description than tp academic or intellectual analysis. Passing to this state feels like you are "saved", because it makes the attitudes towards life of the previous state seem like they were all based on falsehoods and erroneous assumptions, a state that requires some apparant outside force beyond your contriol to come to your rescue."
>>As I was hoping, much of your observations certainly help us see where you are coming from. Of course, eternal life is a questionable goal when we are talking about Gnostic thought. I also see another problem. You are very explicit to mention the "outside force".... but the Gnostic "Christ" is in fact NOT an outside force at all. I think perhaps this is, in part, what caused me to be confused by your previous posts.
"Gnosis refers to:
a) The blend of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual states that support this unusual psychological stability;
b) The flash of illumination or slow evolutiuon that brings this state about."
>>What then do you make of the observation in Thomas that "He who finds will be troubled"? Your observations can certainly be applied to eastern notions of enlightenment... but how sure are you that they are the intent of Gnostic "Gnosis"? If Gnosis is the internal recognition that one IS Christ, and thus connected to ones Father, the Prime Source, and that recognition is an ongoing and growing process, what is the value of some external redeemer to die for our sins? AND, what is the value of being emotionally unchangable within a growth process?
>>How is it achieved in Gnosticism?
"I really do not know. If I knew, I certainly wouldn't be speculating about it on the internet. I suppose and intellectual understanding of the respective mythological systems and a certain devotional emotional commitment to them (i.e. "faith") prepares you to recognize it when it happens, but my understanding is that it happens spontaneously, or through "the Grace of God". The details and conditions will be intensely personal, and also specific to the culture and religious tradition of the individual."
>>According to the Valentinian sources, it is achieved through a series of initiations that happen in a specific order. The Gospel of Philip (which is Valentinian) is very much a text about this system of initiation. It gives us brief looks at the levels of understanding that it calls "Gentile, Hebrew, and Christian" (which to the author are other terms for hylic, psychic, and pneumatic) and even terms alluding to specific initiatory ceremonies that we also see mentioned in other Valentinian sources... such as the "Valentinian Exposition". E.G. The Baptism through the Bridal Chamber.
2) How is that expressed in Valentinian texts?
>>>"Primarily through literary and mythological allegory. It requires a complex analysis in order to make intellectual sense of it. Because it goes to the root of human experience,the most appropriate way of analyzing it is to realate the imagery of these texts to personal experience, and draw paralells between the two. Some objective, universal psychological framework helps to put into perspective what otherwise would be a highly subjective exercise. Jung provides an one, but there are many others. You might say that Valentinian texts, if examined for a psychological framework (a limiting but useful interpretation), provide one as well. They obviously go beyond the psychological dimension, though.
>>>No intellectual analysis will ever do these texts justice as their use of poetic allegory is much better suited to pointing out the universal truth of the human condition."
>>Agreed, however, the Valentinian texts also make clear that one mush go through that psychic phase of understanding before they can move on to the pneumatic. And before that, one must be the hylic.
>>>"P.S. I read the Johannite article. Again, it suggests that from a Gnostic point of view, gnosis itself is a universal phenomenon not restircted to a particular time or tradition:
>>>'From the discussion above it should be clear that using the term 'gnosis' to describe Valentinian teaching is contrary to the use of the term by the Valentinians themselves. Gnosis refers to mystical experiece and is not restricted to a particular group or period of history.'"
>>This is false, both academically, and for the purpose of this club. Gnosticism is a term invented by academics to refer to the emphasis placed on the invention of an idea called "Gnosis" amongst some Platonic groups. While the Gnostics certainly viewed thier principle as universal, it does not mean anyone else in any other culture forwarded an idea that directly equates with it. In fact, the specific form and function of what the Gnostics called "Gnosis" was found by some to be repulsive enough to kill over.
>>More to the point though, this club does not deal with how we can hypothetically apply the term "gnosis" to various forms of "enlightenment" in other systems. This club ONLY deals with the definition that comes from that academicly invented category that goes by the name of "Gnosticism". As you can see, this makes any atttempt to broaden "Gnosis" into an archetypal image into something other than what this club is about.
>>You go on to point out various things that are interesting... but this post is getting overly long. Let me jump right to the end...
"Life's events drive him (Job) to despair, and it is only by a since and deeply affective questioning of his faith that he arrives at gnosis"
>>The question here would be whether that is Gnosis. Since "Gnosis" is a Greek/Platonic principle, developed (in this case) more specifically into a sort of trade lingo (meaning more than just the basic Greek word in and of itself), why should we apply that term to a writing that may not have the same philosophical context? Does he gain a knowledge of god beyond what he started with? SURE... is that alone "Gnosis"? No!!! If we call any notion of spiritual maturing "Gnosis" then we also have to apply the term to any and every religion on the face of the earth that has some notion of spiritual growth and experience of the divine. Since we already have words to help us describe those effects, such as "esotericism" and "mysticism", we don't need another.... and we don't need to loose those special qualiteis that the Gnostics attributed to "Gnosis" in order to expand our usage to people simply based on SOME similarities, when there are also important differences.
>>I don't know much about the historical uses of the term "Gnosticism", but I ... think ... that the similarities between traditions are often what is shallow. For instance, I was a member of the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) for a while and I can tell you that was they teach is totally different from the sort of thing that, say, Stephan Hoeller writes about.
I laughed at the use of 20th-Century versions of Gnosticism or would-be Gnosticism to provide evidence for anyone's case about core vs. surface, similarities vs. differences, between traditions. 20th Century versions of Gnosticism have no core or very little actual mystic-state core; they are all surface and talk about non-ordinary phenomenology of direct experience, but have poor efficacy at actually inducing direct religious experiencing.
The conventional diagram of relation between traditions is a circle containing a circle of half the diameter. The inner circle represents the common core of all traditions, which is the nonordinary state of consciousness. The outer circle represents the surface metaphor systems describing and conveying in colorful and humorous double-entendre terms the perennial common inner core. However, I advocate a different emphasis: the outer circle ought to be wafer-thin; we should debate about how deep in terms of percentage, the difference is.
The existing view asserted by the theory of Tradition (Schuon, Nasr, Huston Smith) implies that the surface difference between religions goes 50% deep; whereas I advocate the view that the surface difference is more like 10% deep. The difference between religious traditions is really only skin deep.
Committed modern Gnostics, or perhaps chasers after Gnosticism, sometimes want to keep Gnosticism apart from other religions, but to do so requires exaggerating the depth of the differences, or even denying that all religions have the same core of nonordinary-state experiential insight.
Using the term 'Gnosticism' in the broad sense, the core of the "perennialist" diagram is Gnostic, and the outer circle is Literalist/Metaphorical. Using the term 'Gnosticism' in the narrow sense, that Gnosticism[narrow sense] is just one more surface allegorization or user-interface skin providing a specific user-interface to describe and convey the Gnostic[broad sense] core.
Indeed the argument really is about whether all religions have the same core, and if so, how deep the apparent difference goes: is the difference between Gnostic-styled religion and Catholic-style mysticism merely skin deep (as I hold), does it go 50% deep (as perennialism holds), or does it go 90-100% deep, such that different religions really have different or almost entirely different cores, where core means experiential insight and wellspring?
>>If we class both these things as Gnostic simply because they teach a system of direct experiencing,
20th Century versions of Gnosticism claim to, don't really, teach a system of direct experiencing. They *talk* about teaching a system of direct experiencing, but they don't effectively have actual direct experiencing on tap, which makes them not even a religion according to ancient Gnostics, much less a *Gnostic* religion. 20th Century versions of Gnosticism are a cargo-cult failed attempt to pursue and simulate a system of direct experiencing, but they don't deliver the goods, because they don't integrate a sacred cultic meal at the heart of their religion.
Neither do 20th Century would-be schools of Gnosticism teach no-free-will, or the associated features of Valentinian Gnosticism listed by Pagels in the book The Gnostic Paul. 20th Century versions or attempted systems of Gnosticism mistake their talk of depth for actual depth, but they remain superficial experientially.
'Gnostic' in the deepest and broadest sense is just another word for 'mysticism' and 'esotericism' in the deepest and broadest sense
>>then "Gnostic" becomes just another word for mysticism or esotericism. Maybe ultimately they do lead to the same place, but the methods and existential assumptions they make along the way are very, very different.
The debate is indeed about the extent and depth of the difference. My position is that the methods and existential assumptions along the way to the core of experiential insights is not very significantly different. The differences have been greatly overstated, resulting in serious heavy studies of the conflicts between different mystic systems, when these conflicts were actually of no great extent or significance.
Yes, two versions of ancient experientially based Gnosticism were different systems, but these two different surface systems *very quickly* led to the same *kind* or mode of inner experiencing: the universal common phenomena of the nonordinary state of consciousness.
>>It strikes me as being like the saying that all roads lead to Rome. However, with the risk of taking the anology too far, depending on your current location, some roads will be more useful for you than others. Given those circumstances, the various differences are far from shallow - they are extremely important.
No, the differences are shallow and of no significant import. If one were rejected by one gnostic or mystic group in antiquity, one could effortlessly cross the street to buy a completely equivalent product.
The differences between ancient esoteric systems have been completely overstated and overestimated, because modern scholars of religion are not initiates; they don't actually have much, if any, personal direct experience of the nonordinary state of consciousness; lacking the common core, they are limited to studying only the shallow surface differences, and therefore they assume that this difference covers the bulk of the respective gnostic and mystic ancient schools.
But the nonordinary state of consciousness was readily available on tap; the common core engine behind the cults was readily available even in banquet clubs, which were religious experiencing associations, as were various Jewish and Christian religious banquet associations of the time. The ancients had the ancient common core experiential insights available in spades, and competed only on the basis of surface differences; the same product was sold in many different packages, including Ruler Cult, which was the source for many Christian themes.
>>So why not just refer to Rosicrucianism as "Rosicrucianism", Buddhism as "Buddhism" and Sufism as "Sufism" - and leave it at that?
What these really are is the Rosicrucian or Buddhist or Gnostic[narrow sense] wrapper of metaphor around the common core religious experiencing, the core which can be, per Freke & Gandy, labeled as Gnostic[broad sense] as opposed to the Literalist/metaphorical surface packaging. There is good, defensible reason to define and specifically use the term Gnostic in both narrow and broad sense.
If one pays any attention to the distinction between core and surface religion, one *must* be able to carefully use the term Gnostic in both the narrow and broad sense, distinctly. Horizontally, Gnostic is different than Catholic; vertically, there is:
o Surface/literal/metaphorical/exoteric Gnosticism
o Deep/nonliteral/esoteric Gnosticism
o Surface/literal/metaphorical/exoteric Catholicism
o Deep/nonliteral/esoteric Catholicism
I'm against literalist Gnosticism. I think we can agree on a diagram that shows surface difference, some difference of *experiential* path, with increasing sameness as one approaches the core destination.
Just as there is Literalist Catholicism and Catholic core Mysticism, so is there Literalist/shallow Gnosticism and experiential core Gnosticism. Catholic core mysticism is essentially the same as experiential core Gnosticism, while surface Catholicism is simply different than surface Gnosticism -- different, yet fully functionally equivalent as a metaphorical description serving as concrete specific description of the core experiential insight mode.
With Microsoft's .NET framework, two languages that used to be quite different in capability -- BASIC and C++ -- are replaced by two languages that really are in every sense exactly functionally equivalent; nearly every language construct in VB.NET has an exact parallel in C#. Both languages program to the same virtual, intermediate platform, which is the .NET Framework or Common Language Runtime (like the Java language is a high-level interface above the Java virtual machine).
Scholars who lack direct experiencing, and even leaders of modern Gnostic schools who lack experiencing, portray Gnosticism versus Catholic Mysticism as being *very different* surface expressions positioned above a small common core of experiential insight. That overstates the extent of the differences. The differences between experientially oriented Gnosticism and Catholic mysticism are more like the difference between VB.NET and C# (skin deep, mere syntax) than between BASIC and C++ (truly very different in capability and usefulness).
>>We just need to remember that, ultimately, there is one reality and any good tradition, regardless of whether it classes itself as Gnostic or not, points us in the direction of it. This will hopefully prevent "Gnosticism" becoming so vague and general that it becomes meaningless (which, sad to say, it already has for many people).
The way to prevent Gnosticism from being misunderstood is to first understand it clearly, and then create precise usage of terminology to communicate it. There is no way to create precise system of terminology without differentiating and mastering the distinct terms 'Gnostic' [narrow sense] and 'Gnostic' [broad sense].
The existing confusions are a reality to be grappled with; people are using and will continue to use the term 'Gnostic' in both the broad and narrow senses, and it is an exercise in futility and overestimation of one's influence if you think we even have a viable option of being language police: people will not stop using the term 'Gnosticism' in the broad and narrow sense; but what we *can* do is *clean up* the usage, both usages, by adding clarification to both usages.
Stopping using the term 'Gnosticism' in the broad sense is not an option; it cannot and will not happen. The only result would be the exact kind of beating one's head against the wall that can be seen in "purist" Gnosticism discussion groups. What *can* happen is to *clarify* and *differentiate* the broad and narrow usages.
I like your distinction between surface, path, and core. I simplify further by reducing to just surface versus core. Yours is like a 3-layer rather than 2-layer version of the perennialist diagram, showing a core, intermediate ring, and outer ring. One could also picture different religious traditions as ladders that are far apart at bottom, joining at top. The further you are on your tradition's path, the more that path is the same as the other paths.
Still there is a sense in which the lowest rung, or outermost surface, is functionally equivalent among traditions: shallow beginner religion is suited for pre-initiates, thus teaches mundane morality. The lowest rung teaches the surface elements, whether in Gnosticism or in Catholocism; they are the same in this respect. Deep, advanced religion of those who are initiated into nonordinary experiencing teaches a transcendent type of morality.
'Mystic' does not mean 'Gnostic', and 'Psychic' does not mean 'Pneumatic'. But that's only true to a limited extent. The single-narrow-meaning fallacy is common. The term 'Mystic' can mean 'Gnostic' and 'Psychic' can mean 'Pneumatic'. One must have the ability to be flexible with terms and the ability to be precise. A word does not have a single narrow meaning.
There's only a limited legitimacy to saying that "A does not mean B". More legitimate would be an assertion like "I discourage using the term A as a synonym of B".
Degradation of conversation results from complete slackness of terminology usage. Some of the most valuable discussion groups err on the side of fanatical rigidity and narrowness, restricting term usages and discussion scope. The best comprehension of mysticism and Gnosticism includes some rigidity and some flexibility, sometimes defining 'mysticism' in a narrow sense and sometimes in a broad sense.
There is much potential in the Freke & Gandy usage of 'Gnostic' as a broadest-possible, world-religion term, defined as the opposite of 'Literalism'. According to such usage, there are only two religions in the world: Gnosticism and Literalism, or two forms of religion: Gnostic Religion and Literalist Religion. That idea has some merit and that usage of the terms has some merit. On the other hand, narrow and exclusive approaches and usages also have something to contribute.
My interest is a general theory of intense religious experiencing, generalized across religion but centered around the Christian mythic system. For that project, Gnosticism is just one more domain to relate to the others to construct a general theory of intense religious experiencing and connect that theory with the Christian mystic system as the main example, supplemented by other religions including early Christian-era Gnostic systems.
Someone studying early Christian-era Gnosticism as their central focus would understandably be committed to promoting certain restricted, narrowly systematic usages of Gnostic terms, so that such Gnosticism stays distinct and doesn't become the formless, worthless mush that immediately takes over the slack and uncritical discussion groups where everything is equally welcome, in a marshland of formless, regressive, structureless unity -- lower unity, the unity of undifferentiated regression.
If the primary goal of a discussion group is to create a 21st-Century form of Gnosticism rather than a theory of what Gnosticism originally used to be for certain groups in a certain era, it's necessary to consider more than a single narrow meaning of each Gnostic and religious-philosophical term. There is a right way to act as language police and a wrong way. It's wrong to imply that each term must have only a single narrow meaning; to do so would be bad, lazy, or oversimplistic language policing.
It's empowering to skillfully manipulate multiple narrow and broad meanings with masterful facility, amounting to a "transcendent" mastery of language in the best sense. The right way to act as language police is to insist on keeping careful track of usages and (at least implicitly) definitions of terms -- this is harder work than being a bad, *abbreviated* language police.
It would be a great loss to form a particular, tightly defined system of Gnostic terms while failing to effectively connect that to general esoteric religion-philosophy. That would be a system of Gnosis that has nothing to contribute to Enlightenment or Satori "because Gnosis, Enlightenment, and Satori do not mean the same thing".
Saying that Gnosis, Enlightenment, Revelation, and Satori "don't mean the same things" is like saying that the category of "Hellenistic god-man" is untenable because no two god-men are exactly alike. What's needed is a middle way that masters and integrates both the narrow usages and the broad usages of religious-philosophical terms and the systems constructed of those terms.
A Gnostic shouldn't be brittle, rigid, narrow, or inflexible, but rather, should know the benefits of the flexible nature of terms. Words mean what one intends in one's network of meaning. If one's meaning is sound, definite, coherent, and consistent, one has used language constructively. Over-rigidity of term usage leads to such dead ends as the call to eliminate the term "Gnostic" because it fails to perfectly describe multiple groups of people.
Most practically and basically, a word has a broad sense and a narrow sense. In the broad sense, the terms 'mystic' and 'gnostic' have much overlap, and the term 'psyche' means 'mind' in an extremely broad sense such as "anything that can be experienced" or "the realm of experience".
Like any perspective among perspectives, the Mystic perspective has its contributions and limitations; so does the Gnostic perspective have its contributions and limitations. Shorthand thinking and first-order approximations are a necessary reality; thinking is inherently stereotypical. The first thought to come to mind from a term is the stereotype. As far as first-order approximation or mental shorthand is concerned, the narrow conception predominates.
So the first meaning of "Mysticism" to come to mind is the most stereotypical meaning: the cartoon glyph or icon of a "typical mystic" or a "typical Gnostic" leaps to mind. Getting out our pen and ink, we quickly sketch, first of all, a caricature of the stereotypical Gnostic and the stereotypical Mystic.
At the other end of the spectrum of precision, an nth order of approximation may show a vast and qualified knowledge of mysticism in the broadest sense and everything to do with it, and the same for Gnosticism. Such a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the two fields would reveal a great area of functional overlap and equivalence, so that in some qualified and controlled sense, an individual Gnostic is a mystic, and an individual mystic is a Gnostic.
To balance this focus on the overlap, we'd also need to ask in what sense a Gnostic is *not* a mystic and a mystic is not a Gnostic. That's much like asking how Christianity and Buddhism are the same and how they are different. The uninformed or sophomoric mind is hopelessly oversimplistic, as the Socratic perspective so emphasizes.
The mind is foolish enough to think it has a clue when coming upon the names of religions, "Hinduism", "Buddhism", "Judaism", "Christianity", "Islam", "shamanism", "Zoroastrianism", "Mystery-Religions". But how dare we assume that we are even qualified enough to whip out some comically oversimplistic caricature and nod with recognition when these religious names are uttered?
The sophomore is given naught but a bag of cartoonish stereotypes, that are likely to distort and deceive as much as convey knowledge. A merely first order approximation of knowledge is of questionable value and may amount to false knowledge, pseudo-information. Such knowledge is just the barest beginning of knowledge; it's merely the raising of questions. The mentally mature reaction to this Socratic humiliation is to always gauge critically each of your ideas and items of knowledge.
After years of investigating the origins of Christianity, I'm only beginning to have some confidence in proclaiming how the development actually proceeded, and even this amounts more to a general characterization of conflicting tensions than an exact enumeration of the developments.
Most scholarly knowledge of Christianity is deeply compromised and corrupted by vested interests, and learning how knowledge is systematically distorted by vested interests becomes a necessary and prerequisite domain of knowledge in itself. What do we know with any certainty about Mysticism, or Gnosticism, given that we're struggling in the seemingly everlasting Dark Ages to awaken from a slumber? We know a thing, or maybe two, but no more.
Effectively, we've only recently begun to collect data and begin formulating questions to be asked. Generally, we're at the stage of hypothesis formation, not even at the stage of theory selection, much less of proof and conclusions. We're only at the stage of asking what kind of data we should begin looking for and what kind of questions we will need to ask.
The more we investigate the real history of Mysticism and Gnosticism, and each "familiar" religion, the more they dissolve into variety and complexity, in postmodern fashion. Modernity knew what mysticism meant, what Gnosticism meant, and what the big 5 religions are about (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism).
From the point of view of freedom of information, a strong candidate for the beginning of Postmodernity is the year Gopher gave way to the Web, around 1994.
Socrates brought us post-modern hypersaturation with details, theories, perspectives, possibilities, internal variants so that even the one true religion, the Catholic religion, disintegrates in our hands into seething sectarian diversity and rival internal systems.
Such postmodern loosening of conceptual categories into a fevered riot of diversity enables us to move our knowledge to a higher order of approximation -- keeping in mind the modern lesson that all knowledge is inherently tentative, approximate, and subject to revision.
http://www.egodeath.com/pagelsgnosticpaul.htm -- This is one of my many postings originally sent before opening the discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/egodeath). People have been re-posting it.
Lately I have developed a more complex view of the Church fathers and Catholic limited or suppressed or tabooed use of entheogens. Also, Ken Wilber has started to focus on altered states, I later found. Also I've read Arthur Drews' book The Legend of Peter, so that I now consider him an allegorical character based on Mithras and Janus.
It occurs to me now that Peter's lack of understanding and his wishy-washiness could allegorize the egoic muddled model of self-control cybernetics that tries to combine determinism with metaphysical autonomy or free will -- like most philosophers, he wants to have it both ways.
Star wrote (paraphrased):
>Thanks for the link about the Gnostics -- that was interesting. I guess I should give my feelings about the Dead Sea scrolls and the Gnostics. There is a reason that the canon of the bible was closed and those books weren't admitted. They all had convincing work. The counsel wanted to make sure that the books that was added was from the disciples. Paul admonished the churches that there were those trying to preach another Gospel.
>The Book of Thomas, there is something "off" about it: it is more about elevating yourself to a point of enlightenment and not a relationship with Christ and obeying the two commandments he left us. Points the gnostics believed:
>o That Yesua is God.
>o Yeshua gave the laws for man to follow and the consquence if they broke the laws: death.
>o Adam was perfect when he was born and if he would have behaved would have gained eternal life he would not have seen death. But since the let Satan bequile them they disobyed. So they brought sin and death into the world. So they die daily; that is, they aged.
>Yeshua and the father are One. He kept us from having to pay the death penalty. After his resurection, he sent his spirit to dwell in us, so that the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead also lives in me, and I will inherit eternal life. My salvation is a gift; I didn't do anything to earn it. My righteousness is that of Yeshua. By his stripes I am healed. The life is in the blood.
Per Ehrman's book Lost Christianities, consider the spectrum of 3 views:
o Jewish/Ebionite Christians (must follow Jewish dietary laws; circumcision is required, to be among God's chosen)
o Catholic synthesis compromise
o Marcionite heresy (rejecting Jewish god and Jewish scripture, even near-demonizing them)
Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
Rank 1K (very popular)
The "father" you gnostically revere -- was he the creator of the world/cosmos? Is the "father" you revere the god of the Jews as the chosen people? If we are saved through a gift we didn't earn through works, then are the Jewish scriptures ("Old Testament") works-oriented and therefore the opposite of the method of salvation you revere; set in contrast to your gnostic salvation?
I'm enjoying the DK Illustrated Family Bible. Even in this highly readable picture-rich digest form, the endless OT stories are tiresome after awhile. Their NT section is more intellectually interesting to me -- the publishers have to dance around all the problems and inconsistencies to try to portray the NT as unproblematic and simply coherent. I suppose the OT has the same challenge and that section of this illustrated digest Bible would be interesting and amusing to OT scholars.
In this book, I didn't find any acknowledgement of the Gnostics, but was glad to see Mary Magdalene at the cross and tomb. She's blatantly Jesus' consort, one of the 12 disciples, in an old artwork in the book, but in the new artwork, which is repeated on the cover of the book, there is no such pretty John the Most Beloved Disciple next to Jesus, just bearded men.
In fact the new art, by Peter Dennis has no womenly figures at all, in the Last Supper scene, even though that seems to be the universal standard tradition, reflecting how ineffectively the misogynist authoritarian Literalists suppressed the ever-thriving Gnostic tradition. Peter, you can't get away with painting the ideal disciple Mary Magdalene out of your history.
>>Religions operate primarily from a base of fear, although there is a lot of 'hope' mixed in with the fear. Religion is also sort of like an insurance policy.
You adequately describe the logic of Literalist Christianity, which is a degenerated form of mystical allegorical Christianity. Freke & Gandy generalize this distinction as there being only two religions: Literalism, and Gnosticism. These are general labels; the latter doesn't refer to some single narrow surface stylization of religion attributed to some doubtful group "the Gnostics", a highly artificial and contrived construct.
>> We'd gain much more insight by adopting the "essentially composite" framework of thinking and go from there, striving to determine how Christianity arose, given that there was no single historical man serving as a kernel. The truly profitable question leading to many insights is, "Given that there was no single historical man serving as a kernel for the Jesus figure, what was the actual historical evolution and development of the Jesus figure, and how did Christianity actually arise?"
Michael Conley's conspiracy-network model affirms that Christian networks offered a high degree of social support for individuals, but with a sinister, conspiratorial light, forming a coercive elite-controlled state within the state.
One must, however, always remember to be sensitive to the development of this trend over time. And one researcher's "early Christianity" is another's "later Christianity".
Tracking development and changing strategy pre and post Constantine is *essential*; explaining "how Christianity formed and spread" is *all* about dividing it into phases; generalization that lumps together pre and post Constantine is most likely incorrect and misleading. It's not safe to generalize about time periods longer than 50 years, and one must be especially cautious around the key turning point around 313 CE. It's almost better to talk about two different Christianities, that before 313 and that after 313.
As a 1st order of approximation, I picture the coercive elite-controlled state within the state as developing linearly from 100 CE to 313 CE: in 100 CE, Christianity was entirely Gnostic/grassroots and not at all a matter of an elite-controlled power hierarchy; around 200, it was 50/50 (battle between "the orthodox church" and "heretical gnostics"); by 313 it was completely an elite-controlled power hierarchy.
Those who take a simple anti-Christianity stance now neglect the nature of Christianity pre-313, particularly the gradually decreasing gnostic version -- so to speak, they neglect the pre-200 version of Christianity which was then taken over by the power-mongering, hierarchy-building elite -- the kind of Christianity that truly deserves the label "early Christianity" or "earliest Christianity".
What was the meaning of the Jesus figure and Christianity in each of the following periods?
-200 -- -150
-150 -- -100
-100 -- -50
-50 -- 1
1 -- 50
50 -- 100
100 -- 150
150 -- 200
200 -- 250
250 -- 300
300 -- 350
350 -- 400
Sloppy thinking (poor historical-research technique) tends to lump together the period when the Jesus lifestory was starting to form (perhaps 150 CE) with the post-Eusebian full-on profit-driven network-building gold rush around 350. The meaning, methods, and emphasis of the formation and spread of Christianity around 150 CE are distinctly different from 350 CE.
We cannot forget the sociopolitical motivations (of various oft-conflicting sorts) unique to the formation and spread of Christianity, nor can we forget the mythic/mystic dimension of legitimate spiritual insight and experiencing present in all the Hellenistic religions. An adequate and viable model of the formation and spread of Christianity must at least include the following elements:
o The sociopolitical motivations of the gnostic Christians (a majority in 100, a minority by 313)
o The sociopolitical motivations of the Literalist Christians (a minority in 100, a majority by 313)
o Mythic-mystic spirituality as conceived by the early, Gnostic Christians and by the spiritual Greco-Romans
o Spirituality and "belief" as conceived by the Literalist Christians
Too much focus on post-Constantine Christianity portrays the religious aspect as only being a matter of Literalist "belief", and only highlights the shady motives of the Literalist hierarchy-builders. The different sociopolitical motives and mode of spirituality of the generally earlier Gnostic Christians *must* also be worked into the story, or we end up with a Literalist Atheist distortion of history as a "solution" to the Literalist Christian distortion of history.
Modern Atheists are guilty of literalist cluelessness and distortion like the Christians they denounce: both groups conspire to omit the mystic-experiencing realm from history. Anti-Christian Atheists must not lump the earliest Christians -- Gnostic Christians -- into the type of Christianity dominant post-313, or just another false history results.
Most anti-Christian atheists talk about how awful "Christianity" is, but they always mean post-313 Christianity and the gradual ramp-up to it from 100 to 313 as the original Gnostic version waned and the orthodox version increased in influence. It's especially important to realize that esoteric mystic experiential allegorical truth was fully present in many sorts of philosophical-religious schools and groups, Pagan, Jewish, and Christian.
The spread of Christianity was not simply a matter of forcefully foisting empty and meaningless lies onto pagans; for the esotericists in both groups, it was a matter of variants of esoteric schools and alternative allegorizations of perennial knowledge.
It is possible to associate John (whether Baptist or Beloved Disciple or Mary Magdalene) with true, mystic, esoteric, Gnostic religion, and associate Jesus with false, Literalist, exoteric, official religion.
The book The Templar Revelation portrays the Cathars or Templars as followers of John Baptist and shows John chastising Jesus. What's this "John vs. Jesus" rivalry of sects all about? Perhaps John = Mary Magdalene the Baptist and the Gnostics follow Mary Magdalene (who becomes Virgin Mary) rather than following Jesus/Peter of the official organized church.
The most fruitful general line of analysis in such type of speculation is to look for a true, Gnostic church and a false, Literalist/official church, and then divide the Biblical characters into the two rivaling churches. I'm working on similar allegory possibilities in the judgement of King Solomon regarding the two claimed mothers of the infant.
The infant is religious truth, the true mother is mystics, the false mother is Literalists; the Literalist church officials claim that their religion is the real one, but they want religion to be destroyed entirely if they aren't in control of it. The mystics claim their religion is the real one, and certainly don't want religion destroyed; mystics would rather let the Literalists keep control of religion than having religion destroyed.
The baby (religion) should not be "cut in half" and thus killed; better to preserve the baby and let the Literalist powers continue to claim (falsely) ownership of the baby. Even if the baby's halves represent the divided kingdom, it must be remembered that politics is *not* the proper end of religious allegory; rather, politics is allegory pointing finally to the politics of mystic religion: land politics is a metaphor for the politics of mystic religion vs. Literalist religion.
So we should consider that in some systems of metaphor John the Baptist, or John the Beloved Disciple, or Mary Magdalene, represents true, mystic religion, and that Jesus and Peter represents false, official, Literalist religion.
The Old Testament "temple priests vs. true prophets" distinction is isomorphic with, and identical with, the tension in the Catholic Church (Christendom) between mystic heretics versus the ruling Literalist clerics who "withhold the cup". The parallels are exact and deliberate. There was an out-and-out war between the monks and the ruling clerics, a war fought through the invention, in addition to copying, of Jewish and Christian texts.
Along with monks, I'm having very strong suspicions that "lay Catholics" prior to the age of the printing press and concomitant literary Inquisition had genuine, "pagan", sacramental religion exactly as happened in Central America. This probable anti-official history of Christendom is suggested by looking at Mexican Catholic iconography.
Iconography in Central America and Europe proves via mystic symbolism that the lay Catholics possessed genuine sacramental religion, which the ruling officials could only, at best, struggle to control to a limited extent. Oppression doesn't work by sheer force, but rather, by coercion that strives to *direct* the energies of the determined populace.
Catholicism in reality, at least up to the printing press and Reformation, was like a running horse, where the horse and its energy are genuine sacramental religion of the populace, and the rider struggling to control the horse is the ruling officials, who amount to politicians in religious drag. The officials strive to portray themselves as in full control, shaping and defining and originating the religion, but that's false: they only had limited control, such as control over what is permitted to be published.
Witness the efforts of the Catholic rulers to suppress pagan religion and witches in Europe, and to suppress shamanic practices in Central America. With the age of the printing press, the popular genuine sacramental religion was bolstered by monks wielding pens as swords, and by sophisticated heretics, and by rebel aristocracies, but was resisted by imperial Catholic rulers (aristocratic clergy).
The elaborate canonical scriptures as we have them reflect this process of literary warfare between the allied populace, monks, and heretics on one side, and the imperial aristocracy and Catholic hierarchy on the other side. Rightly dividing the scriptures, then, the Gnostic Paul and the Gnostic Jesus and Mary "John" Magdalene are associated with the monks, sacramental populace, and heretics, while the Orthodox/Literalist Paul and Jesus are mouthpieces for the imperial Catholic hierarchy of rulers.
The rulers could seek to distort the popular scriptures, but *both sides were forced to reach a compromise*. The scriptures as they were eventually cobbled together Frankensteinesquely don't represent simply the official or the Gnostic/heretical version of Christianity, but rather, a bastardized compromise and oil-and-water mixture of warring, largely incompatible, esoteric versus Literalist versions of the religion.
This dispute between the two camps is reflected in many ways in the canon, and it's possible to interpret many figures in the canon as being representatives of one side or the other -- though in the end, both parties have struggled to gain control of the definition of each character (Paul, Mary Magdalene, Jesus, John the Baptist, the Beloved Disciple).
Every theological point and every character in the Bible, every facet of Christianity has two versions: the esoteric/Gnostic/mystic/suppressed version and the Literalist/orthodox/official/enforced version. It isn't profitable to consider as separate in time this timeless dispute as reflected in Judaism, earliest Christianity, and pre-Reformation Christianity.
The dispute is identical in all three systems or eras; it is only a single dispute, not three similar disputes. Christianity (in the Old Testament, New Testament, and "The Unchanging Testament") is largely about the struggle between esoteric and Literalist religion. If Literalism is metaphorized as idolatry, then the Christian religion may be seen to have the same theme as the Jewish religion: apostasy into (metaphorical) idol-worship and (metaphorical) polytheism.
3 reform stages to return to Gnostic cessation of freewill incarnation
In order of history:
Gnostics: determinism, entheogens, experiential, salvation now by cancelling moral sin-culpability.
Popular Catholocism: moral agency, salvation through good deeds and acts of contrition that yet assert moral agency
Pelagian evangelical: "Here's a radical improvement over Catholic moral scheme of salvation: the only good act is having faith; that's all that's relevant to be saved -- not ordinary moral works." That step of progress was one step back toward original true gnosticism.
Reformed theology (1515 Luther) -- "Here's a radical improvement over Pelagian "good news" as moral scheme of salvation: faith is an act of grace, an action owned by God, an alien cloak wrapped onto oneself by God." That step of progress was another step back toward original true gnosticism.
Gnosticism: "Here's a radical improvement over Reformed theology as a scheme of salvation: there is no free will; salvation is a matter of understanding and yet anyway somehow transcending determinism. Therefore the very nature of salvation and heaven is not what Cath/Pel/Reformed assume. There is no valid freewill moral agency, therefore heaven as a moral reward for acts or one's own faith or God- given faith makes no sense. Heaven and salvation are about moral- culpability-cancellation through fully experiencing and understanding determinism, even while continuous to act -- now qualified/justified - - as though one is a freewill moral agent."
So there is original Christian salvation in Gnosticism, then a huge fall into good-deeds salvation, then "reform" to reduce to the one good moral deed of faith, then in 1515 "reform" so that that faith is God's not mine, then the "final full reform" that brings one back to (Valentinian) Gnosticism's understanding of the nature of heaven and salvation.
I don't like the whole myth-model of Gnosticism; I see the main points being experiential knowledge of determinism and the sort of transcendence of determinism one has when one conducts one's life under the full understanding of determinism. We certainly this way can "transcend determinism" without just stupidly denying determinism. There may be some kinds of Gnostic "cessation from rebirth" that make sense in this model -- once freewill ego worldmodel is no longer assumed at all, one is "no longer reborn into the world" -- not as egoic delusion, anyway.
"Incarnation" or "the flesh" really means the freewill moral agency worldmodel.
"The spirit" really means the metaphysical determinist/ Fatalist/ necessitarian worldmodel.
Spiritual marriage means uniting our freewill worldmodel, as a persistent useful cognitive structure, with the determinist worldmodel.
Determinism has no room for egoic moral agency and it cancels sin- culpability, leading to heaven and salvation while alive bodily.
Gnostic desire to avoid being incarnated again is the wish to avoid being trapped in the freewill moral agency worldmodel way of thinking again after the experience of the Spirit.
Prostitution and stains of Sophia/Magdalene/soul = falling into habit of assuming freewill moral agency and its self-authorship power.
Passwords to ascend through layers of (determinist) cosmos = cognition-stabilizing techniques required for experiencing determinism and lack of egoic self-control, without self-destructive action.
The canonical Pauline epistles are a Catholic corrupted version of the Marcion (Marcionite Gnostic) Pauline epistles
http://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/detering.html -- excerpts with my annotations:
What is obvious here, is the [early Catholic church] attempt at "cutting Paul down to size," i.e., to subordinate the hero [Paul] of the Marcionites to the leader of the Jerusalem party to whom Rome appealed, i.e., Kephas-Petrus [Peter], and this, indeed, as soon as possible after Paul's conversion. The insertion has as its purpose to rob Paul of his sovereignty and to make him [and by proxy the Marcionites who the Paul figure represents] a man dependent on Jerusalem [that is, Rome; Jerusalem here is really a stand-in for the authoritarian Church fathers in Rome]. The Epistle to the Galatians, where in the introduction it is explicitly said that Paul is the apostle called by God, "not of man, neither by man," is remodeled on the basis of the Catholic Acts of the Apostles. Just as in Acts, the tendency of the Galatian gloss is that Paul has had "no revelation of his own" at all (against the assertion of the Marcionites [who are the true inventors of the Paul character & teachings]), but that he was with the Apostles, i.e., with Peter. The latter (and not God) instructed him as the representative of the Jerusalem congregation. Consequently the Marcionites cannot appeal to Paul, nor can they claim to be an independent church. Just as Paul was dependant upon Jerusalem, they are dependent on Rome (the legitimate successor to the Jerusalem church!).
... the first to profit by [and thus probably originate] the Pauline Epistles were undoubtedly the same as those in whose midst a canon of ten Pauline Epistles is demonstrable for the first time: the Marcionites. Only a thorough re-editing has made possible the reception of the Pauline Epistles by the Catholic Church. Only such a redaction has transformed Marcion's Paul, the "apostle of the heretics," into the Catholic Saint Paul, who henceforth ranks [merely] equally beside Saint Peter.
5. Another question crying for attention is how to explain the existence of Marcionite elements in Paul's theology. On close inspection it is apparent that we can still find, even in the re-edited canonical text, a series of images and ideas which make sense only in the context of the Marcionite system. In this connection some have spoken of "points of contact" that Marcion found with Paul. It could, however, just as well be a matter of Marcionite igneous rock repeatedly shining through the Catholic grass growing on it.
a) In this connection we must first note the presence in the Pauline Epistles of the docetic Christology of Gnostic origin which teaches that Jesus was not a real human being of flesh and blood, but had only a "seeming body" (a phantom). [I disagree; we should look for the savior godman as a vision of man and as a plant shaped like human flesh, so that the savior godman is a vision and a material substance -- but not a man.]
This comes to light in, e.g., the remarkable expression in Rom 8:3, where the author says of Christ that (in his life on earth) he was en homoiömati sarkos hamartias ("in the likeness of sinful flesh"). [The Amanita in one phase is phallic with white shaft, circumcision ring, and red tip, with white sperm-like spots, and is fastened to a birch Christmas tree.] Correspondingly it says also in the Hymn to Christ in Philippians (2:7) that he appeared en homoiömati anthröpön ("in the likeness of men"). Why does the author not simply say that God had sent him "into the flesh"? The concept homoiöma ("likeness") is clearly used by the author most consciously, so as to make clear the contrast of his view with that of the Catholic and Jewish-Christian view.
Here is one of the more phallic "Christ in the likeness of sinful flesh" images of Amanita:
If we pick a relevant myth-symbol framework instead of official Christianity's "willingly crucified rebel king", early Gnostic Christianity fails to provide a relevant myth-symbol framework. Gnosticism is popular today because of what people project into it, but the actual narratives are too alien to be relevant in style. A more fitting and somewhat proven approach is along the lines of acid rock. In Up From Eden, Wilber wrote that LSD and Course in Miracles are more fitting for our time than previous religious symbol-systems.
>The Valentinians, as in Pagels' The Gnostic Paul, had their own scheme of interpretation to enable them to use the Pauline writings, but even they rejected the Pastorals. The Marcionites went even further.
The Marcionites wrote the Paulines in the first place. They didn't receive existing non-Pastoral Pauline writings and then overlay their own interpretation on them. Non-Gnostics only later produced Pauline writings: the Catholic redacted version with Jewish insertions, and the Pastorals.
>Luther dismissed the Epistle of James ["straw"],
Luther didn't "translate" the bible, he *wrote* it. There was a battle of monastic pens in the early Church, around 1525. (Edwin Johnson's theory)
>Protestants reject the Apocrapha (or is it the Catholics?) Why not select the most entheogen-friendly works, add others [all firmly from within the Xtian tradition, as I indicated earlier) and dump the rest? Everyone else does. All churches define their own canon, why not us?
Then Gnostic writings are of little relevance. More like the song The Body Electric by Rush, or a more structured version of the Acid Rock religion.
>If we know that passages in the Paulines were "forged" to make Paul an orthodox spokesman ("Watch out for that phony gnosis stuff, folks") then why keep them in? What interesting or useful contribution does the phrase "Gnosis is of the evil one" or such like make to an entheogenic understanding of religion? Wouldn't it be easier for your project to just toss them out, rather than adding complicated epicycles to explain that they "really" have some kind of a pro-entheogen meaning?
All ancient religious-philosophical scriptures had an ongoing pro-entheogen meaning running throughout, just as does Classic Rock as an overall genre. It is unproblematic to consider Paul's Eucharist as entheogenic -- that is the only explanation that makes any sense, and it makes full sense. It is epicycles to assume that the Pauline Eucharist and Last Supper are *not* entheogenic.
>As you say, orthodox literalist Xtianity "contains" the old wisdom, and otherwise wouldn't have any appeal or effectiveness, but it has been "denatured" by additions and distortions. Why not remove the container that was no part of the orginal anyway, and was forged by our enemies?
I am against the common overemphasis on *temporal* origin. The better idea of "original meaning" is timeless; ongoing. Christianity doesn't originate from ancient gnosticism, but from ongoing gnostic inspiration throughout the eras. We should return to the gnostic original version of religion, where the terms "return" and "original" and "gnostic" have the timeless, ongoing sense, like Freke & Gandy's broad definition of Gnostic, against Literalist.
We should return to Original non-literalist religion. How will that be styled naturally and natively for us; non-exotically? All the options are gratuitously exotic, which might call them into doubt. Space exploration was a fitting natural, native modern metaphor in the late 1960s, early 1970s. No theme comes to mind in this fragmented postmodern era, but postmodern fragmentation, patchwork mishmash. Some day even computers and androids may seem quaintly passe and stiltedly, ironically exotic.
Erik Davis' book TechGnosis and a study of Acid Rock and Electronica are two leads, though Davis' Mondo 2000-era late 1980s cultural base is already nostalgia-producing, though Davis' study is sweeping in timespan. I no longer believe in the Mondo 2000 CyberTechCulture vision or styling, yet I still am it; it's the cultural nexus through which I was originally formed. I smell of it even though I have stopped identifying with it.
>>What is your reading of Paul?
Paul is a fictional, pseudo-historical, mystic composite construct, like Jesus. The biblical canon has a pastiche mixture of passages cobbled together and attributed to the Paul character, including varieties of entheogen-inspired mystic philosophy. See "Edwin Johnson" and maybe "Eysinga" or "Drews" at my home page for the pastiche aspect, described by the Dutch Radical Critics.
Like Johnson, I see it as a category error to think we need to read Paul with a microscope and run him through a rational compiler. It's all much simpler than that: the mystic passages attributed to the Paul character are "perfectly integrated in detail" not through the ordinary-state way of handling and fitting them together, but rather, when one starts by assuming the right interpretive framework: ingesting visionary plants to discover hidden block-universe determinism and live to tell about it.
All the complex and subtle theology in the Pauline mystic theology passages is merely different ways of expressing this one theme. In this sense, I hold the Pauline mystic theology writings to be perfectly coherent, while Johnson portrays them as a mishmash of cobbled-together conflicting theologies written by competing monastic groups.
It turns out, "gnosticism" is *not* a single narrative or theme, only a very loose and fuzzy-edged approach or stance toward mythic-mytic allegory and direct religious experiencing.
An interview of me would work well. I greatly need to get my ideas in print one way or another. Magazine publishers are clamoring for an article but writing polished articles isn't my bag. Blogging at Yahoo groups is absolutely perfect for me. And interviews would work well.
>>James' ideas are so old. People have been trying to reconstruct some kind of progressive, mystical-friendly Christianity for a long time -- in our modern era, certainly since the Golden Dawn.
>>Insisting on an entheogenic or at least experiential core within Christianity seems valuable enough labor.
>>I suspect it is more the basic formal structures of gnosticism rather than the complex Blakeon soap operas of its mythic narratives [the Jesus lifestory?] that make Christianity still translatable.
>>A British publisher wants a new intro for TechGnosis reflecting on cultural changes since the original printing.
I must explain why I have gone from sitting the fence about entheogen relevance to enlightenment (1988), to now in 2003 making them almost as central and key as block-universe determinism.
>The modern mind is terribly superficial. We have specialized in inventing extremely difficult terms to hide our own ignorance.
There's not so much something wrong with the "modern mind", just its paucity of integrating visionary plants. Were visionary plants to be seriously added to the modern mind, it would become profound.
>The key to unlock your dark matter is found in the number equal to it. In kabbalistic terms, the number 108 is really 1+0+8=9. Yesod is the 9th Sephiroth and is the cubic stone of our sexual energy. The secret of all secrets is found in the mysterious stone Shema Hamphoraseh of the Hebrews. This is the Philosophical Stone of the Alchemists. This is Sexual Magic; this is love. The mysteries of sex enclose the key of all powers. Everything that comes into life is a child of sex. No one can incarnate the Internal Christ without having edified the temple upon the Living Stone (the sex).
In Kali worship, I think the more important active component is inebriants, not sex. Sex is a fine metaphorical framework, but not an ergonomic method for inducing the mystic state or a mystic peak climax.
>>The 9th Sephiroth and is the cubic stone of our sexual energy. The secret of all secrets is found in the mysterious stone Shema Hamphoraseh of the Hebrews.
>> jas_pierce WRITES:
>> The Ninth Sephiroth = 216
>Exactly! Did you ever see the movie PI? The code Max's computer spits out is exactly 216 letters long.
In Hermetic initiatory astrology, 'the 9th' refers to the level outside the deterministic sphere of the fixed stars. Sex, astrology, war and politics are fine metaphorical systems for mystic experiences, but the master key realm is determinism and visionary plants.
Covert agendas and evasive conversational dynamics in the GnosticsMillenium discussion group
I don't get helplessly caught up in flaming like so many people often do, but I do have a weakness, and fondness, of studying conversational dynamics. Actually, I think mastering conversational dynamics is mandatory for an online-based scholar. These dynamics are fascinating in their own right, and an interesting challenge to master. I'm constantly experimenting with writing style and communication techniques.
After all, we do live and exist online; I am in my text. I am an arrangement of ASCII. I am in ASCII. I am 1001001, which is I in ASCII. Yet I transcend the text I manipulate and am not it.
George, to [person], the GnosticsMillenium discussion group moderator:
>When I joined this list I was amazed at your refusal to acknowledge the first and second century Gnostic Christians. I simply could not understand why you would dismiss such a rich heritage as never having existed. Now I understand. Your concept of the Gnostic experience is completely at odds with theirs. You deny that union with god is gnosticism. To the ancient gnostics it was central.
>You are correct about it being the knowledge of the true nature of one's self, but that knowledge is the realization that the true nature of one's self is that one is a part of God. That was the first and second century Gnostic Christian experience and that is why you deny they were Gnostics.
An important distinction or qualification is whether this "God" is the type that is imbedded in the Fated (frozen-future) cosmos, and is thus a slave of the Fates, or resides outside the Fated cosmos like Mithras, and is thus in command of the Fates, with the ability to move the stars (the commanders of our future) from their fixed positions.
Gnostics reject the God who is immanent in the Fated cosmos and become (or become one with) the God who is transcendent above the Fated cosmos.
>Though he may have adhered to the official description of the GnosticsMillenium discussion list, Michael did misinterpret the actual, covert doctrine of this list. That doctrine is, "Gnosticsm is what Crowley said it was, as interpreted by [person]."
>You realize we must all come to Gnosis by ourselves and receive our own Knowledge from our Gnosis, but [contradicting yourself,] if the knowledge from our Gnosis differs from yours and Crowley's, you deny it is Gnosis.
>You are a narrow path Gnostic, no different from the narrow path Christians you despise. Look in the mirror I am holding up to you and see yourself, you will see a Crowley priest no different from a Catholic priest.
>>The gnosis is not the mystical union of one's self with God, one's self with the universe, or dissolution into some medium of other.
>It was, according to the ancient Gnostics and according to many modern Gnostics.
Gnosis is the distinct rejection of identifying with the Fated cosmos, and a rejection of the metaphysical enslavement inherent in the fixed-future model of the cosmos. Gnostics did not deny that the future is fixed; they did not deny that the cosmos is determined/Fated. They sought a way to exit such a cosmos, rather than a way to philosophically disprove or refute the idea that the cosmos is determined/Fated. They did not believe in naive free will as a power exercised by the folk idea of the self as a controller/steersman. They understood that the (properly conceived) Fatalist view was unimpeachable and without flaw, as a metaphysical system.
The oppressive social and political systems of the classic era wanted a way to justify oppression by spinning it as "cosmic order". "I was destined by the stars to rule over you, and you were destined by the stars to submit to me." The state religion wanted people to worship the cosmic order and become passive by adopting a degraded version of Fatalism as passivism, by munging together different types of freedom, without distinguishing between them -- by conflating metaphysical unfreedom with political and practical unfreedom. "The cosmos is ordered, rather than free and chaotic, so you must submit to my ordered social and political system, rather than be free."
But metaphysical freedom, practical freedom, and political freedom operate on entirely different and independent planes. Metaphysical freedom is false. Practical freedom is true. Political freedom is good.
Gnostics rejected that conflation. They wanted metaphysical freedom, but knew reason saw the cosmos as Fated and metaphysically unfree -- this posed a problem they sought to solve by transcendently postulating some way rising above the cosmos itself, by envisioning a transcendent level of personal being that is outside the cosmos (that is, independent of the frozen, Fated, closed-future space-time block).
They had practical freedom, as we all do. Every philosopher agrees that we undeniably make choices on the practical plane -- all the debate is really about the metaphysical layer underlying the undeniable activity of making choices.
The Gnostics wanted political freedom -- part of the approach to achieve this was by rejecting the official State doctrine of "accepting the cosmic order" (the political status quo of ruler and ruled).
>>Finally, this is not a doctrinal group,
>But it is. [This is covertly a doctrinal group, enforcing] The doctrine of Crowley according to [person].
>however, I will resist [Michael's] current attempt to impose the fallacy of block universe on the group as doctrine.
Gnostics do not think the block universe model is false. They think it is so real, so true, it is the main problem they seek to rise out of. They *hate* the block universe (the frozen, pre-existing future that is forced upon us), but they do not consider it a false or incoherent metaphysical model of the cosmos. Gnostics, like the Hellenistic world in general, conceived of the cosmos as a fixed entity -- their belief in the block-universe cosmos idea is the very reason they so hated the cosmos.
>It appears I was right about you all along. I figured you were the type of person who would not put up with competing ideas for long. You have announced you will now censor Michael's posts because he won't listen to the truth as revealed by you.
>He is welcome to disagree with me as much as he wishes on either of my lists.
>And don't worry about having to censor me. This is my last post to this list. I will answer no more no matter how you or PJ misinterpret or misquote what I am writing here.
Yes, they are inveterate deliberate, willful misquoters. When I clearly presented compelling arguments, several people on the list, instead of attempting to refute what I said, invented stereotyped caricatures of other schools of thought, imputed those to me, and then rejected those. Sometimes they took my statements out of context when the overall postings on the subject made my position fully clear.
They forcefully closed their eyes to what I said -- they had to, because it was the only possible way to appear to refute my sober and reasonable assertions. I have conducted profitable discussions with many immature, combat-driven people online before, but never have I seen this blatantly willful misrepresentation of my statements.
The GnosticsMillenium moderator has a covert agenda and does not care what people actually write -- his first goal is to make other people look wrong by any means possible, and his second goal is to promote his bizarrely limited and truncated view of Gnosticism.
Such a tactic of refutation through deliberate misrepresentation is like people who wish to appear to refute Fatalism by addressing an absurd caricature of the position. They are unable to refute the genuine, properly defined Fatalism that is clearly expressed by its adherents, so instead, they cover their ears, close their eyes, draw the most absurd cartoonish misrepresentation of Fatalism they can think of, and refute that instead, and declare themselves to have vanquished the threat to metaphysical freedom.
>I will lurk and read the posts... unless... you ban me from this list. If you do that, so be it. Your and PJ's biggest problem is you both refuse to read what is written [by the discussion participants] and instead insist on answering [instead] some preprogrammed doctrine which you attribute to whoever is posting, based on your preconceived ideas about specific groups such as Christians or whatever group your mind places them [the post'er].
For example, his cartoon picture of the entheogenists' position, "refuting" the hypothetical position that entheogens are the only trigger for the mystic state of consciousness -- a position which surely no entheogenist has ever maintained. Not even a madman would claim that entheogens are the only way to experience the mystic state.
Sure, in the middle of a posting, I may have included a sentence that, taken out of context, seemed to assert that entheogens are required for enlightenment, but the moderator and his cohorts had to murder the overall posting in order to artificially extract that sentence. Am I supposed to be so on the defense, so overcautious, that I never construct any sentence that lends itself to such vicious, willful, deliberate, ill-meaning misinterpretation?
Am I really such a poor communicator that it was possible for them to miss the many times I clearly stated that entheogens were *one* way (and the most convenient way) to trigger the mystic state, just because one time, in one sentence in the middle of a discussion, I omitted the qualifiers which I try to always include? They apparently concluded there is only one way they could refute me: by deliberately murdering my clear meaning.
My position included these points which the moderator sought to dispute:
o Gnosis in some sense often involved some sort of what was often referred to as "spiritual death" of some sort of lower self. He claimed to reject this, but then he would make some assertion, in the middle of his refutation, that indicated support for the "death" metaphor.
o Entheogens are the most convenient way of triggering the mystic state. He sought to belittle entheogens and "rejected" entheogens because "there are too other ways of entering the mystic state" -- the latter position, of course, no one ever denied. So he was really just seeking to be disputatious -- a childish motive for discussion that I want no part of.
He exhibited perhaps seven different ways of evading a genuine refutation of my actual statements and meanings. Saying I wrote too much so he wouldn't reply, or pulling some crazy misportrayal of someone else's position out of thin air and then shooting it down as though he had refuted my position, or throwing a bunch of exotic foreign terms at me, or posting excerpts from books that had no apparent connection with my concerns, or saying he was writing poetically so didn't need to be consistent.
Such an array of dirty debate strategies, I have not come across, over a decade of online existence. Those were not flamers' techniques; they were worse: intellectual perversions, intellectual exchange for the purpose of distorting the other person's position. He gives Gnostics a bad name.
I was disappointed that no one responded to my posting that investigated ideas about shades of ad hominem. I thought it was interesting, an intriguing contrarian view (clearly and straightforwardly expressed). I made the interesting assertion that avoiding ad hominem statements really has nothing to do with Great scholarship. Only the petty would place such overemphasis on superficialities like always trying to word things so that there is no possibility of anyone taking offense.
One of the most solid points made therein was that ad hominem writing is not an all-or-nothing, yes-or-no, total foundation of an argument -- there can be shades and aspects, and especially, there are some ad hominem aspects in many or most postings in that discussion group, and others. Also noteworthy in the overall situation is that the host was not defending some poor ordinary participant from my criticisms -- he warned me because (according to his interpretation) I used some ad hominem statements about *him*, the host.
I did not expect this tough host to be such a delicate pansy that I had to treat him with such kid gloves and restrict my range of expression to such a degree. In the end, he came out looking so delicate -- but I don't believe for a moment that he really found my criticism of him emotionally offensive. Rather, his "ad hominem" complaint was in fact just a bluffing technique to avoid addressing the substance of my postings.
I may not have lived up to some harshly critical standard for writing ("Never slight the other person!"), but one thing is guaranteed from me: I am an *extremely* straightforward person in dealing with others. I say clearly what my position is, and I study carefully what their position is and address that.
My goal is to know and express truth, according to standards I hold, through *constructive* conversation, not that this means superstitiously avoiding ever slighting the other person. But many people online are motivated by some more dubious goal: some psychological project of elevating themselves by negatively portraying others. Such a social kind of elevation, I have no time for.
So ultimately, I was disappointed with the all-too-typical dominance of social goals over serious intellectual goals. I was a fool; I dreamed that I had found a group that steered by serious informational goals rather than social games.
I enjoyed the posting about the technique of "slow reading", in which the reader first learns to agree with the author and live in his point of view, before refuting him. However, I don't think the moderator misunderstood me at all. He understood the strength of my position full well, and he knew he could not refute it, but could only evade it.
He had to really dance around to try to avoid contradicting himself, but of course he couldn't avoid contradicting himself since his position was not driven by the serious quest for coherence, but rather, by the effort to make other people appear to be wrong and himself appear to be right, by any means possible, including self-contradiction.
Even if I had posted short, succinct postings that never made a misstep -- perfect, flawless, constructive, and so on -- he would have evaded my arguments one way or another, as was very clear before everyone's eyes, when he deleted my actual statements more than once and inserted a completely invented portrayal of some stereotypical position instead, and refuted that as though mine.
>Why am I saying all this? To change your mind? If that were all I wouldn't bother. You have a closed mind and will open it about the same time the Pope opens his. Not impossible, but hardly likely.
>No, my purpose in saying all this is to inform all the lurkers on this list that the Gospel of Crowley according to [person] and sometimes PJ is not the only Gnosticism. In fact although he to some degree started modern Gnosticism, Crowley and his followers are a very minor part of Gnosticism today.
>The Gnostic experience is an individual thing. Let no person tell you that you are or are not a Gnostic. That is for you alone to decide for yourself.
>... you will misinterpret what I said to mean [that] I got my idea of the Gnosis from first century Gnostic Christians. Then you are likely to rant about [the irrelevance of] book learning
What are they doing at that group? They are certainly not discussing ideas in a direct and straightforward exchange. The main activity there is to project crazy views onto other people and then shoot down those views, and declare the other person wrong. That is not just one trend or tendency of the group; that is the main, driving activity, the functional purpose, of the discussion group. It's really weird, a real weird vibe at that group -- it's a big game of "put words into others' mouths, then condemn them", repeated over and over.
That alternates with the usual contentless newage spiritual vagueness, which the host may loathe but which he engages in as well, partly because it's a good evasion strategy when a sober, specific, clear philosophical position is presented and contradicts his statements -- that's "the mush-out defense", when you escape from difficult philosophical conversational situations by running for cover into the Louisiana swamplands of spiritual vague-speak.
>or modern Christians and are likely to quote something from one of Crowley's books to prove your case. I know that is what you will believe regardless of what I say, but for the sake of the lurkers looking on I must explain that that is not the case at all.
It is good you clarified the situation for the lurkers.
>I discovered my Gnosis all by myself with no help from Crowley or the Gnostic Christians or anyone else. It was only several years later that I discovered Gnosticism on the internet are recognized they were talking about the same experience I had had.
>I don't agree with Michael,
(Note that I don't know which points you disagree with.)
>I just believe he has the right to disagree with the moderator on an [supposedly] unmoderated list such as this. If you want to censor, then change it to a moderated list and at least be honest about it.
The GnosticsMillenium group does smell of dishonesty -- claiming to discuss one set of topics in one way, to draw people in, but then covertly enforcing a different way of discussing a different set of topics. And the purpose seems to be not to investigate cooperatively or persuade through scholarly and intellectual means, as advertised, but to appear to win arguments, through any possible technique or manipulation.
I thought at first that this Gnostics group could clarify Gnosticism for me, but clarifying Gnosticism turned out not to be the actual goal of the group, and overall, they have nothing significant to offer me, and no way to justify spending time there. I have plenty of excellent scholarly books that communicate such ideas to me in a straightforward manner.
I am now able to start connecting my ideas to Gnosticism, despite the group. Who ever heard of a Gnosticism that seeks to cut itself off *entirely* from early Christianity? Such a position that all of early Christianity is entirely incompatible with Gnosis is inherently too sweeping of a rejection, too sweeping of a view, to cohere.
Everything the moderator said directly contradicted Pagels' portrayal of the Valentinian Gnostics' interpretation of Paul the Apostle's early, held-authentic epistles. Whatever Gnosticism he's enforcing in his "open" discussion group, it's artificially distanced from that which my books describe, as far as Christian aspects. He seems to have an absolutist, mad grudge against Christianity, that renders him unwilling to use nuance.
He's an extreme dogmatic counter-Christian, a counter-dogmatic. A kind of dogmatic adherence to certain specific principles is fine, in my view, except where reason and direct straightforward debate are discarded when reason and dogma conflict -- as I saw repeatedly in the GnosticsMillenium group. In practice, it's more like a Crowley cult (roughly) than what you would expect in a general Gnosticism discussion group.
I was essentially considered guilty of creating a different, contending cult -- trying to take over his community, by the nefarious scheme of proferring and seriously defending a system of ideas that generally match what I have read about early Gnostics -- those Gnostics which, according to George, the moderator rejects and artificially distances himself from.
There is no way to develop online discussion skills without jumping into the fray and learning a wide variety of interactive dynamics. I learned more about conversational dynamics at that quasi-Gnostic group than about general Gnosticism.
After considering it ever since Yahoo took over the previous discussion groups, I decided to create an egodeath discussion group, initially to conveniently archive my daily postings, since writing and posting via email utility is so much easier than updating my web site. It seems I don't write web pages directly: all my writing has always originated as Net postings, which I later organize onto Web pages.
I love posting, love writing in an online discussion environment. In 1985-1989, I developed my core theory, gradually moving from handwritten brainstorming to shorthand idea development in word-processor files, to heavy posting in 1989. I have never just sat down in a word processor or webpage authoring environment to write a polished article to publish or upload. By the time I created my first postings in 1989, I already had my complete core theory. Most of what I've done since then has been cracking the code of the mystery-religions.
My writing has been either in the form of shorthand notes (handwritten or keyed in), or Net postings which I later convert into webpages. I am addicted to the immediacy of posting; I'd always rather write another posting than work on writing a polished article. Posting as publishing, I love that Howard Rheingold or WELL way of looking at online discussion. It's so awesome: I can strive to make key philosophy connections on a daily basis and immediately publish them in an interactive conversation environment.
That is why it makes sense for me to finally start my own discussion group. I tried it before in Deja groups, but that was far inferior to the awesome YahooGroups framework which enables such integrated and controllable use of email or Web-based interfaces. I made my discussion archive fully open to the public, so I can create URLs as pointers then simply organize and re-sort the pointers at my normal website.
>>1. First, the impossible self who would claim to author his own future dies as a possibility and as a viable mental model of time, will, freedom, and personal control.
>OR, the very limited self dies to its limitations, having reached a point where the very thought of his barriers is hateful and demeaning;
That sounds like a Ken Wilber somewhat vague portrayal of how we are dissatisfied with the "limitations" of the "limited self", and what kind of "barriers" these are. The visionary-state is far more intense: it is an intense full confrontation with the concept of the fixed future, as against the power to steer oneself into the personally-created future as one chooses. I consider my description above to be compatible with yours, and largely equivalent, but much more specific.
>>2. Afterwards, the initiate suffers and mourns for the death of that impossible, virtual-only version of himself -- mourns upon seeing that the future is already closed, existing, given or forced upon him, and is pre-authored without his consent or consultation.
>OR, the initiate suffers and mourns for the safety, security and EXCUSE of his former limitations. Now he sees that they were a crutch. And he sees that limitations of thought and action are a blessing to the Lower Self; they allowed it phoney peace of mind and excused its rationalizations.
This reminds me of one important dynamic: seeing the fixed future and becoming thereby destabilized can send the mind fleeing downward in an effort to avoid seeing the killer vision of one's death as a metaphysically free agent. The mind then seeks, in a state of emergency, to thrust itself back down into the deluded worldmodel, and it is a tremendous relief when the light fades and the naive deluded child-mind returns, with its limited visionary horizons and uncomfortable, confusing self-contradictions regarding personal control.
But the mind starts growing and pushing upwards: transformation cannot happen until it is more uncomfortable to remain at the old, secure, accustomed level than to proceed forward through the painful birth to a new level of mental structuring.
>>3. initiate constructs a new mental model of self, identified now with a higher will that transcends the individual person and transcends cosmic astrological determinism or Fatedness.
>3. OR, the initiate, now a being aware of his lack of limitations, now must fact the responsibility and fact of his liberation. He must rearrange his thoughts and habits to conform to his new reality (And find the courage to face the downside of freedom, which is often a crushing sense of duty.
A downside of freedom is instability of self-control -- control beyond control, or control chaos, an elevated unrestrained wildness which cannot sustain a viable life.
Existential emptiness is also a life-and-death problem to grapple with and somehow overcome.
>Whether Michael is right or wrong in his version I won't dispute; I can't because I'm not a fatalist.
We're moderns and you probably think like a modern but don't know how to think like the ancients. We must remember that the ancients *were* (properly defined) Fatalists. This key fact lends a lot of weight to the views I put forth. How would the mystic altered state be experienced by determinists (or Fatalists) who believed that the future was closed and locked into place as surely as the stars are fixed in their movements? You have to learn to be a Fatalist or think as a Fatalist in order to fathom what sort of "escape from the rock-cosmos" the ancients sought.
I strive to explain exactly that, with reference to the myths of the age. What attitudes did they have about the presumed, or mystically observed, fixity of the future? It gave them both security and the feeling of stifling oppression, including political oppression that was justified in terms of metaphysical unfreedom. Why did the Christianity movement take off fairly well, in light of these mixed feelings about astrological determinism? How was the idea of the fixed future experienced before, during, and after the mystery initiations? These are questions posed in the native conceptual categories of the ancients rather than questions expressed in the terms of modernity and answered in such terms.
>I'd only point out that everyone I've known who was initiated in any system (including Catholic confirmation) always looked at it as a step forward into growth, and viewed with trepidation the fact that it freed them to more responsibilities.
>Mourning the innocent, more carefree "self" that died in the initiation is probably the most interesting part because it's usually neglected.
That smells like a modern, psychologist, perhaps Jungian explanation rather than using the conceptual categories (terms) that were active in the ancient mind.
There are three crucial elements missing from most spiritual analyses:
o The will
o The determinist/Fatalist fixed future
The puzzle of the meaning of the mysteries for the ancients is solved by introducing these three elements.