>>There was a book a couple years back called "The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back" which went on a couple hundred pages saying we are all bringing the demons back to haunt poor old Christianity. It was written by a childhood friend of the Beatle John Lennon. One of the oddest books I ever tried and failed to read.
>I definitely read this one. It was extremely interesting. I do like to read what those I thoroughly disagree with are saying, which is why I read it. That was the same time period when I read the Pat Robertson or whoever book....one of the top fundamentalist preachers.....two word title....thick paperback....and found the same theme there.
The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age
Dec. 1992, rank 208K
Could be interesting:
Against the Protestant Gnostics
Philip J. Lee
Aug 1993, rank 212K
sample pages available.
Essentially, there are only two denominations: Literalist Christianity and Gnostic Christianity (esoteric, mythic allegorical-only, mystic, experiential). Overall, the word "heretical" has always consistently been attached to the latter. Thus, given that Literalist Christianity is false (or lower) and Esoteric-only Christianity is true (or higher), we may correctly say that heretical Christianity, or heresy, is the true version of Christianity.
In fact, heresy is truth; Orthodoxy is lies and error. Thus I can truly be called a heretic (a purist heretic), and I'm intent on converting the orthodox Christians to heretical Christianity. I'm a heretical Christian, a Gnostic, and maintain that heretical Christianity is the true Christianity, and that orthodox Christianity is false Christianity. I'm not an "unbeliever", as the Literalist unlearned are wont to say, but a heretic.
I argue for the esoteric Christians' telling of the origin and authentic meaning of Christianity. So I am a Luke dropping the payload into the heart of the Death Star of Literalist Christianity.
Is it accurate to equate New Age and Gnostic Christianity? Yes, insofar as both teach the perennial religious philosophy of primary religious experiencing, mystery religion, esoteric allegorical-only mythic mysticism, and enlightenment. I don't have any more respect for Gnosticism than for New Age.
Both are imperfect pointers to transcendent knowledge, and I'm intent on providing a more efficient, accurate, explicit, streamlined, and ergonomic system of transcendent knowledge, integrating theory, experience, and systematic explanation of allegory. I'd sooner say that New Age and Gnostic Christianity are both imperfect approximations of higher, esoteric religion.
>That jogged my memory. It was New World Order, but was published separately....now apparently out of print. I had heard the term New World Order kicked around my philosophy group and wanted to know first hand what it was supposed to be.
The New World Order
March 1992, rank 113K, 17 reviews
page scans available
Oct. 1991, rank not available
The reviews are worth reading. Probably of interest to this discussion group for mostly different reasons than the book Gnostic Empire Strikes Back.
"Anyone who wants to understand what drives Pat Robertson (and by extension, the Christian right) definitely needs to read this book. ... Conspiracy theorists will love this book... Freemasonry and the Illuminati... Read it for a good laugh or to cry about the state that the beautiful tradition and religion we call 'Christianity' has degenerated to."
Here are the other links again:
The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age
Dec. 1992, rank 208K
Could be interesting:
Against the Protestant Gnostics
Philip J. Lee
Aug 1993, rank 212K
sample pages available.
Note that one of the top 3 topics in theology now is dispensationalism, Holy Spirit, charismatic Christianity, and the history of Christian spirituality. The Holy Spirit is inexorably returning home like Odysseus to slay the revelling symposiasts who have invaded his house.
These trends are surveyed in some of my book lists.
Original, experiential, mystical Christianity
Mary "John" Magdalene, The Beloved Disciple
Holy Spirit and Christian Spirituality
Word and Power (doctrine and spiritual experience)
I could add a list demonstrating the ever-thriving perennial tradition of Gnostics, heretics, and mystics.
p.s. I found more confirmation that the Passover Seder was the Jewish version of the Greek symposium (wine-mixture drinking party), both evidently equivalent to the Christian agape love-feast, which is the Last Supper on earth of those who are being initiated, prior to entering the kingdom of Heaven. This is crucially important for the entheogen theory of the origin of religion.
I have the deepest respect for these four books and they are unsurpassed in clarity. I actually was persuaded finally to read Gnostic Gospels by The Jesus Mysteries; these books have much in common. I've read them all cover to cover and have read the first two cover to cover twice.
o The Jesus Mysteries http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0609807986
o Jesus and the Lost Goddess http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0609607677
o The Gnostic Gospels http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679724532
o The Gnostic Paul http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1563380390
http://www.egodeath.com/jesusmysterieschapsumm.htm -- a section-by-section study guide (outline/summary) of The Jesus Mysteries.
>stoicism plays an important role in the formulation of Christianity and gnosticism - insofar as it the classical formulation of the workings of the Cosmos and subordinates human will to fate - something that also plays a huge role in gnostic ideology which is in some ways seen as a means to move beyond fate.
Yes, largely based on Luther Martin's book Hellenistic Religions, and David Ulansey's Mysteries of Mithras, and confirmed by numerous other books, I settled upon this formulation:
Esoteric religion of late antiquity was based on a sacred meal followed by encountering and in some sense transcending fatedness, heimarmene, cosmic determinism. This meal, this amazing encounter, and this transcending were allegorized in many equivalent ways.
Freke & Gandy are heroes because in Jesus Mysteries they cover the sacred meal (in a partly veiled way) and in Lost Goddess they cover the encounter with determinism and the project of transcending determinism. Taking the sacred meal and determinism with utmost seriousness is as rare as genuine religion and primary religious experiencing.
To recommend more books, I'd need to study your stated vision for the group. I advocate clear and specific vision statements about discussion groups.
One of my recent book lists is Ancient Near Eastern religion: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/listmania/list-browse/-/3T0D5J9AMHTQM
I just received Alien Wisdom, opened it, and immediately saw coverage of the intermingling of Greek and Celtic culture, a coincidence because that was being discussed in this discussion group. That book is an example of the "ancient comparative religion" approach I'm interested in lately.
I'm dissolving my distinctions between Jewish religion, the Christian religion, the mystery religions, Gnostic religions, and others of late antiquity -- I'm interested in Gnostic religion as universally defined by Freke & Gandy as a synonym of esoteric, inner religion. After Freke & Gandy, we need two different definitions of "Gnosticism" -- broad Gnosticism, meaning esoteric primary religious experiencing and insight; and narrow Gnosticism.
This "broad vs. narrow" distinction reminds me of the problem with the term "psychedelic". The broad meaning of "psychedelic" is simply and generally, "mind-revealing plants or chemicals". The narrow meaning is "late 60s cultural style largely inspired by mind-revealing plants or chemicals". It is a malapropism to study the entheogenic origins of religion using the term "psychedelic", because the narrow definition of that term can't apply to antiquity.
One book proposes to eliminate the term Gnosticism because it's an arbitrary umbrella/grouping. My philosophy of terms is different: we should use any terms helpful, as long as we define them. I like Freke & Gandy's broad and universal definition of Gnosticism as esoteric primary religious experiencing, as long as that universal conception of Gnostic-type religion is kept distinct from the narrow definition of Gnosticism that only lived in a certain place during a certain time.
This is a book review I posted today. It's a gut-feeling review from memory, because it's not as though I've recently read the 15 leading books twice and carefully compared them. When assembling my list of 25 Gnosticism books, I wanted to include this classic but also warn beginning readers to pick up a recent no-nonsense straightforward and to-the-point book instead -- there are several far more accessible and comprehensible books now. Everyone else gave it 5 stars, except a reviewer who gave it 1 star, who I heartily ageed with.
The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God & The Beginnings of Christianity
3 of 5 stars
Dated, overrated, turgid, surpassed, scholastic, existential
I would not recommend this book as a clear and straightforward introduction to gnosticism. It is outdated, overrated, turgid, and scholastic. It has been surpassed as far as clear introductions go. It distorts the subject matter by forcing it through a lens of mid-20th Century existentialist and academic-styled expression; it converts the gnostics into 1950s existentialist academic dissertationists. Several more recent books have been written to provide a clearer, more straightforward introduction to this subject, including "Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism" by Kurt Rudolph, and "Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing" by Stephan Hoeller.
Below is the 1-star review I agree with. Later reviewers defended the turgid prose and assured that it's worth the labor of unravelling the unclear writing -- hardly persuasive; they only confirmed the criticisms. I strongly dislike turgid, overwrought, unclear, German/Continental, academic-style prose. I love books that have an explicitly structured set of definite, clear principles, stating the theses, with summary sections and with section subheadings.
I'm skeptical that "existentialist alienation", as understood through 1950s philosophy, is a correct description of what the Gnostics had in mind. I think the book uses the subjection of Gnosticism to discuss as its actual subject matter 1950s existentialist philosophy. The book should be filed under the section "Existentialism" rather than "Hellenistic Religion".
This book is almost unreadable. Perhaps (let's hope) the reason for its turgid prose and ponderous grammar can be blamed on the translator of the German text (but I doubt it). The sentences are impenetrable. For example, does anyone have the time to decipher the meaning of the following excerpt from page 35:
"There, the object of knowledge is the universal, and the cognitive relation is 'optical,' i.e., an analogue of the viusal relation to objective form that remains unaffected by the relation. Gnostic "knowledge" is about the particular (for the transcendent deity is still a particular), and the relation of knowing is mutual, i.e., a being known at the same time, and involving active self-divulgence on the part of the 'known.'"
There may be some meaning in there, but it would take a pick axe to get at it.
In addition, this book was published in 1958 -- *before* the Gnostic texts of the Nag Hammadi library were fully available and translated. In other words, this book constructs its inchoate theories without the benefit of the latest Gnostic texts. This book should be consigned to the bibliography of a better book about Gnosticism.
Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians.
Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
Oct 30, 2001
This book answers my request for a plausible, substantive, compelling alternative to the Orthodox Literalist portrayal of how Christianity actually began, and an alternative to the empty "Jesus is a hoax" flatland humanist mentality.
There must be an explanation of how Christianity began as a meaningful mystic system. It cannot have started merely as an empty hoax, and it need not have started by a historical Jesus. It began as a mystic system, and Freke and Gandy have spelled out this system and put it firmly in context, explaining the essential unity and strong overlap between Jewish, Pagan, and Christian mystics.
The Jesus Mysteries discussion group is misnamed; it has no right to use the book title created by Freke and Gandy unless it accepts discussion of this new book which answers my strong and repeated call for a positive treatment of the mystic meaning of early Christianity.
If Jesus existed as myth rather than bodily, *how* did this myth function and what did it *mean*? The Jesus Mysteries group practically forbids discussion of the Jesus Mysteries book.
Jesus and the Lost Goddess is entirely about the mystic meaning of early Christianity. There is certainly a need for Doherty's hyper- restricted kind of scholarly refutation of the Historical Jesus hypothesis, but he provides no compelling positive alternative hypothesis.
Both approaches are needed: the narrow negative proof that Jesus didn't exist bodily (or that we have no more evidence for him than for a Historical Dionysus), and the positive provision of a broad mystic alternative theory of what was compelling in the spread of earliest Christianity.
Freke and Gandy provide a broad portrayal of the Hellenistic mythic ideas of the late classic era, reflecting their broad mystic scholarship in their book:
The Complete Guide to World Mysticism
This book is an especially valuable achievement for all the skeptical mystics who have felt certain that Literalist Christianity is a later distortion of the doctrines of the original Christians.
Through studying unorthodox books such as The Jesus Mysteries, I have been gathering and pulling together a network of dozens of hypotheses, which Freke and Gandy have not only confirmed, but have made far more sense of by at the same time figuring out the puzzles of the meaning of other mystic systems of the era.
Freke and Gandy not only support these kinds of hypotheses, they pull them all together into a refined mystic-styled philosophical system.
o Practically all the characters in the Bible are allegorical rather than historical.
o The gospel of John is actually the gospel of Mary Magdalene.
o The Pauline writings are an oil-and-water combination of valuable mystic ideas and Orthodox propaganda.
o Peter -- the authority-figure of the Orthodox -- represents incomprehension, while Mary Magdalene represents enlightenment.
o "Death" should always be read first as "mystic death and rebirth".
We cannot possibly understand the original, mystic meaning of Christianity without also being a serious student of the mystic meanings of the other mystic systems of the time. The Christianity puzzle can only be solved in the context of the surrounding mystic traditions.
There is an entire network of Literalist concepts and interpretation of the canonical scriptures, but the early Christian scriptures were allegorical and supported a systematic mystic philosophy network of meaning, concepts, and interpretation. There is a mystic way to read even the canonical scriptures after Orthodox redaction.
Freke and Gandy have helped mystic theorists of Christianity leap far ahead, by providing a specific, encompassing, systematic reconstruction of Christianity as a mystic system of experiential philosophy.
After having studied several books about Reformed theology, and the excellent Metaphilosophy and Free Will by Richard Double, I especially commend the authors for the philosophically faultless discussion of the illusory aspects of free will.
My specialty is combining entheogens, the pre-existing fixed future, and religious experiencing, so I am positioned to compare Catholic, Reformed, and Gnostic doctrines in terms of the philosophy of metaphysics.
Reformed theologians try to portray themselves as having the only true doctrine, and all other spiritual systems as preaching the lie of free will. However, this argument falls the moment you read something other than Catholic or Arminian writings.
Reformed-theology Christians may be right that the will is metaphysically unfree and there is no metaphysical autonomy, but they are wrong to think that they have a monopoly on the doctrine of metaphysical unfreedom, and they misunderstand what it means to be saved.
To counter Reformed Literalism with a truer truth, it means *everything* that Freke and Gandy have remained blameless and true to the doctrine of heimarmene (Necessity, Fate) while rejecting the Literalist confused notions of what it means to be saved.
Advaita Vedanta, the Jewish mystic Spinoza, the Stoics, the ancient Greeks, philosophical determinists, hidden-variables quantum mechanics theorists, and many other traditions, mystics, and philosophers have asserted the inability to change the future and the metaphysical impotence of the will.
Some Reform theologians attempt to portray the pagans as freewillists, but they were Stoics and Fatalists hardly able to imagine the muddled idea of metaphysical autonomy. The moralist Church fathers criticized the Gnostics for their determinism.
Later, Reformed theologians surely wish they could criticize the Gnostics for being freewillists, just as these theologians try to portray all the lost souls as freewillists. But the Gnostics know the truths that the Reformed believers hold to, yet the Gnostics also know a more universally applicable concept of what it means to be saved.
Freke and Gandy portray the origin of our will and thoughts specifically as part of the hidden mystery of consciousness and the mysterious source of our existence. They portray these issues not as vague mysteries but as specific mysteries that are known while unknown.
The authors have finally presented a clear and specific kind of "ineffability" or "ungraspability" that I can immediately concur with -- unlike mystic theorists who revel in general ungraspability of transcendence.
Jesus and the Lost Goddess explains not only what the original Christians thought, but how the classic pagan philosophers thought, in a singularly clear and illuminating way that is unprecedented.
Culturally, The Jesus Mysteries may be the authors' milestone work, but philosophically, their new book provides the greatest positive substance. The Jesus Mysteries largely took care of the negative, like Doherty's work, establishing what the early Christians did *not* believe, thus clearing the way for the authors to get fully involved in portraying positively what the early Christians actually *did* believe.
This book provides a completely clear target for relating my contemporary theory of ego death and rebirth with not only the original Christians, but classic pagan philosophy and Gnostic thought as a whole. This book emphasizes Gnosticism as an experiential as well as theoretical and allegorical form of knowledge.
We need more work in the new field of entheogen scholarship, like the slight coverage of entheogens in The Jesus Mysteries. Jesus' mystic and mythic rather than literal existence has explained half of the mystery of what the mystery religions and Christian mysteries were about.
But we still can ask how the mysteries were so widely compelling. Given that all the mystic traditions all had sacred eating and drinking of sacred food exactly in the middle of the highest levels of initiation, the huge second half of the meta-mystery is most likely found in the entheogenic explanation.
The original inspiration for the remarkably sophisticated classical mystic philosophy is either entheogenic, or a completely baffling and unexplainable mystery. In practice, sitting around thinking mystic thoughts and performing mystic rituals does not lead to enlightenment effectively at all -- unless entheogens are included in the mix, such as at the highest levels of initiation.
If the allegories are about death and rebirth, and the allegories express a specifically experiential kind of philosophy, that degree of intensely compelling experience requires entheogens such as were part of the standard pharmacopoeia of the classic age.
Freke and Gandy's theory of pagan mystic philosophy and original, Gnostic Christianity is entirely compatible with the Graves/Wasson entheogen theory of the origin of religions. Entheogens produce exactly the kinds of insights as are typical of such mystic philosophy.
Without entheogens, the authors provide a fully coherent explanation that still remains less than forcefully compelling. Most likely, entheogens provided inspiration to the originators of these philosophical mystic systems, and thus influenced the multi-level mystery initiations from the top down, with genuine and complete experiential ego death and rebirth occurring in the highest level of initiation.
There is only *degree* of difference between unassisted and entheogenic techniques for entering the mystic altered state, but it is a *huge* degree of difference. Every point about the experiential nature of pagan philosophy is directly amplified in compelling plausibility if you add entheogens into the mix of influences, as a key source of inspiration at the highest levels of the classic mystery traditions.