God and the Devil in Jungian Gnostic Alchemy

Discussion in 'Esoteric' started by Ella S., Nov 14, 2021.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

    Sep 25, 2003
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    On the topic of personal agency –

    In the Apocryphon of John, for example, the various Aeons are described in a personal sense, and do seem to suggest personal or character traits. Is this just an anthropomorphism to describe something more complex? Would not a 'common' or 'populist' Gnostic see all this very much in personal terms?
    I am mindful here is a profound need in human nature for this kind of 'personal touch', in particular I'm thinking of the Amida Buddha who might be said to have arisen in response to such a need.

    (Do you set yourself apart from 'Biblical Gnostics'? Have you a core, go-to text?)

    I am aware it's said that Greek philosophers were as critical of Gnostics as Christian theologians. I'm wondering if that's because certain syncretic elements, in trying to blend Christian and Gnostic themes, are too theological of the Philosophers, too philosophical for the Theologians? I don't know enough to make comment.

    I know somewhere Plato criticised the Greek Gods on Olympus on the grounds that they seemed to be driven by some of the worst human failings. If they were Gods, he argued, you'd think they's be better than us, not worse. I'm wondering if the overt personalising of the Aeons falls under the same rubric?

    Also if there is a correlation between popular and rigorous Gnosticism on the one hand, and kataphatic and apophatic Christianity on the other, in that I think, as you have alluded, there are correspondences between Gnostics, gnosis, Hesychasm (although heyschasm at times might have wandered into dubious waters)

    Just some thoughts to keep the pot boiling ...
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  2. Ella S.

    Ella S. Utilitarian Logician

    Nov 1, 2021
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    Not necessarily, I think it depends on the kind of idealism. Gnosticism is loosely related to Platonic idealism, where certain abstract concepts are transcendent to the physical world, but manifest within it in specific ways. It's sort of how the Matrix is a virtual reality composed of certain abstract mathematical algorithms. The meaning attributed to the Matrix by an individual doesn't necessarily rewrite the program, although the Matrix works on a much looser concept of consensus reality where belief can change the virtual world. Even in the Matrix, this can only do so much; for instance, Morpheus couldn't bring himself back from the dead or stop bullets.

    Consensus reality only appears in some forms of idealism, but not the Classical Gnostic perspective, which instead is closer to positing that we are all the product of a singular mind - the Demiurge's - and we can't really edit physical reality at all. In fact, it's the inherently limiting nature of the structure of our physical world which causes suffering in the first place, as we are chained to an imperfect order.

    I could give you my personal perspective, but the actual understanding of these concepts that the Classical Gnostics held is lost to time. We don't have any of their exegesis. Indeed, some of them may have purposefully concealed their exegesis, similar to Mystery Schools of the time. Much of our understanding of them is speculative based on the movements they were influenced by, the movements they influenced, and the few writings that we do have.

    I will say that the "personal touch" tends to come with Jesus, although even in this case, a very popular Gnostic interpretation was that Jesus was merely a developed Gnostic himself who came in touch with the true Christ, or the Logos, through contemplation. This means that a lot of Gnostics were lumped in with Adoptionists and Quietists.

    As to the personality of the Aeons, they may have been seen as gods. I don't see them as such, but as lower emanations or facets of God, or rather personifications of intellectual principles. They have names like Thought, Wisdom, Reason, etc. I kind of doubt that they were ever meant to be literal spirits or beings. I would say the same about the Archons, too, given that most of them have divine names of the God of Abraham, and so again we're looking at facets of the Demiurge and not necessarily individual beings. There are plenty of modern Gnostics who disagree with me on this one.

    I would set myself apart from Biblical Gnostics in the sense that my focus is more on alchemy and hesychasm than theological dogma, although I share a lot of beliefs with Post-Gnostics like the Bogomils, Albigensians, Cathars, and Paulicians, who did have a much closer tie to the Bible as well as their own scriptures. My approach is a lot more focused on practice than theology; theology is merely a window dressing to help achieve spiritual insight. That doesn't mean that I don't really believe that Jesus was the first Gnostic, or that the Demiurge and God are objective beings, or in reincarnation, but these beliefs are secondary to the pursuit of gnosis. I would rather continue the movement into the modern age than reconstruct some specific ancient sect, and the Post-Gnostics themselves were fairly eclectic.

    This seems to be rather common among modern Gnostics, but I'm sure there are quite a few who take a more fundamentalist and scripture-focused approach. Personally, I think those people miss the point of Gnosticism as a movement surrounding core mystical practices rather than merely a grouping of Non-Nicene Christian denominations, but this is something that even historical scholars disagree on.

    Apophatic theology was huge with the Sethians, as well as a few other groups. The Monad itself was frequently seen as unknowable and ineffable; you could only gain an approximation of it through the Logos (the Word, literally the teachings of mystics like Jesus) and Sophia (Wisdom, referring more to the personal insights or gnosis gained through proper spiritual practice.) You wouldn't be able to fully comprehend the Monad in its totality until you successfully broke free of the cycle of reincarnation and reintegrated with the Pleroma. Then again, the Valentinians did believe that the Monad was comprehensible as the Father.

    There is quite a bit of writing on hesychasm early on that directly contrasts the Orthodox perspective on it with the Gnostics. It seems that one of the primary differences is, to nobody's surprise, that Orthodox hesychasts focus on Jesus and sin, and view it as an extension of moral practices like observing the 10 commandments and abstaining from mortal sins like blasphemy or masturbation. Gnostics weren't totally depraved as some heresiologists make them out to be, but their values were different, frequently dipping into concepts like Anti-Natalism, Veganism, Pacifism, etc. They also didn't believe in sin and didn't worship Jesus as God.
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