lunamoth said:Perhaps we both have it wrong. Everyone considers themself a free-thinker, and each naturally considers themself right.
Well, yes and no. Sure, everyone considers themselves a free-thinker. But it's not necessarily true that everyone considers themselves "right", or, more to the point, it is not necessarily the case that everyone considers everyone who disagrees with them as "wrong."
One of the things I've stressed in this topic is that the "right-thinking" in Orthodoxy defines itself by prosecuting. That's why it's useful to read the origins of their methods. The idea of a creed is to make a declaration about objective truth (which necessarily implies that that the creedmakers' are right). Think about this: As many have correctly pointed out, Gnostics make all kinds of claims that significantly differ from one another. Indeed, the broader context of gnosticism or mysticism involves people of entirely different faith traditions, using completely different cultures and symbols to communicate to still come together despite the different ways they may express their spiritual experience. And one doesn't claim access to one, defined objective truth to which the others are not privy.
But dogma (and its "creeds"), is a different sort of thing. Sure, a person deciding for themselves what they "believe," is inevitable and necessary. But creeds don't serve that purpose. They serve the purpose of creating uniformity in thinking. That was the express purpose that Ireneaus undertook in the late second century - to create one "Christianity" out of many. And when a creed becomes accepted, it defines itself by distinguishing "heresies." This is the fundamental problem that sits beneath the religious conflicts that have raged for thousands of years and still obviously haunt us today. The inevitable result of building one's identity around a creed and based on faith is that others don't just disagree with the beleiver -they must necessarily be wrong. And not wrong in some inconsequential sense usually, but wrong in the grand cosmic sense of being bamboozled by evil spiritual forces and acting as an agent of some imagined devil. While in practice an individual certainly may be able to constrain himself from acting out on this perception of others, I think two things should be acknowledged: (1) to perceive that there is only one objetively correct way to express the truth makes it nigh impossible to really listen to what others are saying; and, (2) en masse the thinking behind creeds (and not just religious creeds) becomes disastrous and often downright monstrous.
The gnostic tries to hear the human experience behind the symbols to find the connection to others and affirm our humanity. It's a way too complicated topic to go into here and probably deserves a seperate conversation, buy symbolic language and its relationship to identity and reason is a principal vehicle for gnosis. It's an attempt to find the humanity behind the veil of identity.
If a person wants to make empirical claims about external reality, we do have a common language by which to discuss them - scientific method. We can investigate the evidence for and against a factual claim and arrive at whatever conclusions we may feel compelled by the evidence to make. And they may be different from one another, because reasonable people can certainly differ on the interpretation of evidence. But "facts" about external reality taken solely on faith are typically not open to investigation, so the one of the common tools of the modern world that allows us to communicate, despite our differences, is lost to us. And there's nothing wrong even with that. If a person subjectively has been moved by their experience to have 'faith' in a particular set of propositions about external reality, while we might be able to investigate the evidence, we are unlikely to reach a consensus. Who am I to claim to have reached the only right conclusion? What do I know that would entitle me to make such a claim?
Because Gnosis is misunderstood as making claims about external reality as is done in creeds, it is ridiculed as a heresy and labeled "wrong" thinking. Which takes us back to why I originally responded to Thomas in the first place, which is that he was misrepresenting Gnosticism (a straw man, like I said) so that he could ridicule it. And he was ridiculing it based on its divergence from his preferred creed, which is why they particular subject of creeds was the starting point for the conversation about gnosis.
I can't convince Thomas he's wrong, nor am I interested in trying to do so. I can give an honest account of what moves me to share my ideas and experiences with others. I can do my best to listen to what others explain moved them to do the same thing. And we can try to find a common ground. And if we don't, we respectfully disagree with one another, accepting that nobody really knows the objective truths of the cosmos.
Sorry if I rambled. But does this make sense?