Musings on a Gnostic Theme

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by earl, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. earl

    earl ?

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    Since I figured it was time to plant some more discussion seeds here for the fun of it, thought I'd share my peculiar view on Jesus Christ and my take on a Christianity. From time to time here, we speak of gnosticism-be it of the Christian variety or other. As I understand gnosticism, it was basically a view that material life was essentially "evil-" that folks were "trapped" in material form and that their goal was to unite with Spirit. Modern day gnostics and quasi-gnostics seem to like to speak of "secret teachings" of Jesus imparted to a select few which were the actual key to realizing the kingdom of heaven.

    My peculiar views are shaped by many non-theological things, be it findings from various altered states of consciousness or, most importantly, my own anomalous experience. The aforementioned altered states-those which lift one outside of conventional consciousness- certainly tend to impart a greater sense of interconnection with all and an incomprehensible sense of peace at times, such that those experiencing such could easily conclude that, while the material is not "evil," it almost seems to block us from a greater sense of awareness. Perhaps that's what the early gnostics were fundamentally getting at.

    Did Jesus have secret teachings and if so what? Perhaps he imparted his elevated knowledge to others not documented in the Bible-it's possible. But, my take on it is that Jesus due to his singularly unique spiritual power could induce others into greater trans-egoic awareness and thus, his statement about being the way and the truth was literally true because he induced greater truth in those who met him; he became a "way" of realization. I believe that the Christ continues to function in that manner-those who open to the Christ via any number of approaches such as contemplative methods or simply total radical love/forgivenss may be slowly induced into greater understandings of truth or a deeper connection to "God."

    My view of the ends of Christianity have nothing to do with traditional notions of salvation: various findings are pretty convincing on the continuation of consciousness beyond death. But, the quality of awareness of that consciousness, the deepest possible connection to/awareness of Truth/God may be what it's actually about and my understanding of the word "gnosis" was "to know." So, in that sense do I consider Christianity to potentially be a "gnostic" path. earl
     
  2. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

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    Hi Earl, the major problem I see with the term, "gnostic" is that it tends to evoke extreme otherworldliness - i.e., images of an oddball "mystery cult." This may be unnecessarily troubling to some who forget that a straightforward reading of the Bible can support a very otherworldly, dualistic view of evil. Consider the Gospel of John:"(A)ll that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father."

    Rather than try to deal with gnosticism in general (which is very broad and by no means limited to Christianity), it might be helpful to focus on one particular concept - like the notion of matter as evil.

    I guess it depends on where you want to go with this. Quality of consciousness is worth examining. But for that, you could potentially draw upon any religion that makes a distinction between matter and spirit.
     
  3. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    I agree. In my experience, gnostic has been a confusing word.
     
  4. earl

    earl ?

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    I was commenting on the traditional notions of gnosticism-personally I think all legitimate spiritual endeavors are about uniting "heaven and earth-" discovering the Divine amidst the material. Which is where I think original gnosticism had it all wrong in that their views seemed to reflect a simple desire to escape the material altogether. But nowadays the term "gnosticism" is used in such variable fashions it is about as meangingless as the term "New Age." In fact, was tempted to term my version of Christianity, "New Age" Christianity, in the sense that I think that the "New Age" belief systems are fundamentally about honoring an individual's desire for a personal experience of the Divine as opposed to settling on mere adherence to any particular dogma. earl
     
  5. earl

    earl ?

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    PS, N-N, I interpet that line from John as pointing out how "attachment" to form/the material can act as an impediment to greater spiritual awareness. earl
     
  6. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

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    Someone pointed out that in certain Bibles "lust of the flesh" is translated as "attachment to the flesh." It's not "the flesh" per se that's the problem. Rather it's misplaced importance with regard to certain enjoyable experiences. It doesn't have to be sexual. It could be wanting rich, fatty foods all the time.

    The Buddhist notion of kama-tanha or thirst is relevant here. It apparently includes not only a desire for pleasure in this life but also the desire to be (re)born as a human in order to be able to keep enjoying various pleasures. If I recall, Buddhists consider the mind to be an physical organ. From that perspective, intellectual enjoyments are subsumed within a broad class of "this-worldly" enjoyable experiences (as distinct from "otherworldly").

    To my way of thinking, "lust of the flesh" is just misguided desire. It indicates that indicates that the person is misguided. When craving for "this-worldly" experiences is dominant, the person is unduly driven by that kind of motive force rather than being directed by divine spirit.

    I'm with the Buddhist: You can crave intellectual stimulation as much as sensory stimuli and this would be considered "this-worldly" experience that entails identification with the material/phenomenal world of (mental ) forms - i.e., identification that tends to lead to attachment and bondage.

    See also:
    http://www.interfaith.org/forum/did-god-know-eve-would-9664-5.html#post164055
     
  7. sonoman

    sonoman Interfaith Forums

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    Isn't it special that regulars here can post Gnostic Christian ideas on the top level boards but if an uppity Johannine Christian poster like me posts about John's beliefs which are gnostic, no two ways about it, I get "special" treatment, my posts removed from the Christian debates and moved to the basement, to the isoteric folder as if they were not Christian any more.

    My Christian beliefs have been abused on this forum by this tactic and I don't need the forum owner or anyone telling me their personal opinion of my religious beliefs-especially if they are not even Christians doing this censorship of Christian members. I don't care if he does own this forum. If we cannot engage in intellectual honesty here there's no point to this forum except as a place for pedants to show off to each other as if we didn't have enough of that already. But do carry on. I was just cruising by and happened to notice the Gnostic topic and thought I'd remind you of how this forum treats real Gnostic Christians, ones who dare to have real Gnostic visions. They get warned not to tell these visions or face banishment--the typical prophets reward. Some things stay the same no matter what the aeon as those invested in the status quo protect it against all who threaten change.
     
  8. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Gnostic thoughts seem to lead me to Ecclesiastes 3. This passage seems to be quite appropriate:
    9 What does the worker gain from his struggles? 10 I have seen the task that God has given people to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.
    Both the physical and spiritual nature of man is mentioned here, and how it seems that the physical can keep us preoccupied and distract us from our spiritual cravings (loaded word!) Perhaps our being at peace with our not-knowing is a good place to start when it comes to spirituality--attachment to 'knowledge,' especially partial knowledge, could lead to trouble. According to this scripture, any 'knowledge' we might have regarding Spirit is going to be partial and incomplete.
     
  9. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    sonoman, perhaps some music might make you feel better:
    U2 - Mysterious Ways Lyrics
     
  10. Faithfulservant

    Faithfulservant Well-Known Member

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    Im just sorry he seems so bitter. I dont think he understands how it works here and rather than try to understand and get along he just fights with brian and makes it personal. Hes the classic martyr and I didnt think there were any worse martyrs than the fundies :p:D
     
  11. earl

    earl ?

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    Yeah, I don't see the problem afterall you didn't see me posting this particular thread in the Christianity forum.;):D earl
     
  12. GlorytoGod

    GlorytoGod There is a River

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    I have received impartation at some charismatic events, it can be a really powerful experience !

    they talk a bit about it here YouTube - Prophetic Word for the UK with Bob Jones
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Earl — I'll muse with ya'!

    Historically 'gnosticism' and 'the gnostics' were terms used by German theologians in the 19th century to class a whole raft of different and conflicting, but generally 'dualist' opinions within Christianity that unbalanced or actually refuted the orthodox doctrine — they were not talking about the idea of gnosis as such.

    What's the easiest way to get round the fact there's not a shred of evidence to support your claim? It's a Secret!

    All the gnostic schools claimed a 'secret teaching' of Jesus imparted to their founder, but not to the Apostles ... to whom He taught something else entirely, apparently ... He must have had so many secret disciples ... keeping them all apart must have been like a French farce!

    (Then again, if the guy was indeed so enlightened, you'd think He'd forsee the outcome of that methodology ... contradiction, confusion, conflict, chaos ... )

    Then again, the fact that each school claimed a different teaching, then Jesus obviously told each chosen (anonymous) disciple something entirely different to the others — and then set up the twelve on yet another contradictory teaching, more fantastic again, and then He sat back, presumably to laugh at all the chaos and confusion that ensued.

    For example — according to the gnostics:
    1 — Jesus was an angelic being in the semblance of a man, and therefore did not suffer on the cross, but only appeared to do so.
    2 — Jesus was a man, but not a divine being, and suffered on the Cross, and died. End of story.
    3 — Jesus was taken down before He died — being an ascetic, etc., he'd trained to survive the event that would kill the average man.
    4 — As 3 above, but with the variation that certain secret potions fed before the crucifixion induced a deep, deathlike state that other potions counter-acted after He was taken down.
    5 — Judas, not Jesus, was crucified.
    (Quite how letting someone else carry the can for you is 'enlightened', I'm not so sure ... )
    6 — Someone else, neither Judas nor Jesus, was crucified ...

    And so it goes. Now assuming that each gnostic testimony is from the mouth of a secret 'super-initiate', then we can only assume that this gnostic Jesus was something of a 'creative' fantasist.

    But hey, why let the details get in the way ...

    No, not really. You're looking at it retroactively, from the vantage point of the exposure to other traditions.

    They were insistent the world was evil, the product of a demiurge who was mad, bad, or both. What they couldn't get to grips with is the idea that the material is good, it's oneself that's the battleground, not the world as some huge conspiracy to bring you down. They could not get passed that principle of duality.

    Love? (Way too simple for the gnostics ... and in reality way too sublime)

    Just musing, mind ...

    But unlikely, unless above all He was intent on mischief and mayhem ... see above.

    Then again, what more secret secrets do the gnostics have than transfiguration, eucharist, resurrection? None that I know of. All they have is layer upon layer of complexity ... they'd make brilliant games designers! Then again, they were the Conspiracy Theorists of their day ...

    Orthodoxy ... we have: "God became man, that man might become God" — Beat that!

    Agreed, but all these approaches are contained, in their primordial purity, in the teachings of the Church — you won't find a better source or commentary elsewhere!

    You can, however, find enormous troves of nonsense, misinformation, propaganda, speculation, rubbish, and opinion. You could spend all you life looking, and end up worse than when you started. In the Church, at least you have something concrete to work with.

    The simple fact is, without the Church, the words of Christ would have bled themselves into the dust at the foot of the Cross ... without the testimony of His followers, there would be nothing to draw on.

    The Church then re-presents (to the true gnostic) the Way, the Truth and the Life ... but the 'context' of Christianity is it must be all-inclusive ... that's the bit your gnostic really doesn't like. (The gnostics, competing with each other and thus confounding themelselves in contradiction, would have been tossed in the bin a long time ago as just further dualist fancilful speculation if there were no big, bad institution to dislike.)

    Christianity is not about the 'flight of the alone to the alone' because man is not 'alone' — he is a creature in communion, not of the socio-economic necessity or any evolutionary accident, but man alone reflects on the principle and metaphysical nature of 'communion', without which there is no authentic Christian 'realization', or rather, without that dimension the individual falls far short of what the Christian gnosis actually is.

    The aim of Christianity is not the Union of 'God and me', it's the Union of 'God and we'.

    Maybe, but in reality it rather depends on whether your views have anything to do with actual Christianity? :rolleyes:

    The Fathers spoke of gnosis ... in fact they spoke of it before the gnostics did ... they only stopped speaking about it because it became so obvious that everyone was grabbing the wrong end of the stick ... and because they realised that true gnosis is a way of being, not a way of knowing.

    The gnostics really disliked that ... they saw it all about knowing secrets, and the more secret stuff you knew, the better a gnostic you were.

    It's not about knowledge, it's about change ... and it's so easy to dupe yourself into thinking that because you know a lot, you're a changed person.

    One of the truisms of my old Hermetic/Cult Master:
    "Your notebooks will get to heaven before you will!"

    It's a lot easier to know stuff, and change not a jot ... and convince yourself you're 'making progress' because you know more now than you did then ...

    Where is the virtue in assenting to something proven? That's just common sense (and even that is sadly lacking!)

    The gnostic and the agnostic can and indeed often know exactly the same thing. What they make of it, however, is a whole something else.

    Thomas
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi sonoman —

    Whoa, hang on a minute ...

    ... who says 'no two ways about it'?

    The argument that John was influenced by gnostic thought is an old one, a stalwart of the Bultmann school of Biblical redaction, and one that recent Biblical and historical scholarship has shown to be rather an assumption based on lack of data.

    More recent scholarship has shown, quite convincingly, that John was in fact steeped in the Rabinnic argument and thought of his day — and although this was a melting point of Hebrew and Hellenic ideas, to call John a gnostic is now accepted as something of a misnomer.

    I don't think so. As probably the most outspoken orthodox Catholic here, or at least the one with the most to say, I'm the one who should be shouting abuse! abuse! And indeed I have done so, but never have I found a post of mine removed ...

    OK. Well here's a Catholic telling you that your opinion is your opinion, to which you are entitled ... but that it's not doctrine (at least it's not Catholic nor Orthodox) nor even necessarily correct. In fact it can be demonstrated to be erroneous. An error I used to share, but an error nonetheless. I can supply references to the review of the Johannine materials if you like.

    Oh, you don't have to be a pedant to show off around here, anyone with an opinion is welcome. And I challenge 'intellectual dishonesty' in matters of Christian doctrine often. I am obliged to say I would challenge your notion that John was a gnostic, 'no two ways about it'.

    Ah, there's the rub. Gnostic according to whom?

    If that were true, then I'd be 'cock of the walk' of this particular hill, but I ain't, and it ain't ...

    Thomas
     
  15. earl

    earl ?

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    Thomas you did a good job here noting some of the standard gnostic views on Jesus/Christ, which I also do not agree with. As to imparted "secrets," I only mentioned that as alot of gnostics claim that. To me it is irrelevant whether he did as my point was actually that it was his mere "presence" not specifically his words about anything particularly that induced those close to him to more elevated views and/or altered states. The only thing that really elevates consciousness is the experiential as opposed to teachings about the same, though I think a number of things Jesus shared over the course of his ministry reflected an elevated understanding of realities beyond the conventional. Now as to whether what I posted had "anything to do with Christianity?" Well, certainly not in the conventional sense.:D That's why I posted it to this forum for folks to discuss or cuss or whatever.:) earl
     
  16. sonoman

    sonoman Interfaith Forums

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    Cognitive dissonance on interfaith forums abounds. I guess none of you paid attention to the fact my posts about gnosticism were removed from these threads while you regulars do not get yours removed and placed in the esoteric section. You are blind to the censorship that I am experiencing here and that is the source of my complaint. All you do is reinforce each others' blindness to censorship of my religious beliefs. I would hope you had sensitivity and smarts enough to see what you are doing if I pointed it out forcefully to you but it seems it will take something greater than one disgruntled gnostic Christian to get through your walls.

    The conversation going on here that I see attempting to confine gnosis to classical gnostic theology is very wrong as it does not address what was going on in the early Christian communities, a conflict between bodily resurrection and resurrection of the soul only. John is on the side of the body resurrectionists but schizophrenically so, e.g. telling us only the soul reaches heaven at one point but having Thomas touch the resurrected Jesus to prove his body at another.

    I would love to be able to tell you why John and the Gospels stick to the bodily resurrection theme but due to censorship of gnostic ideas and visions going on here I cannot share what I know. Is this site a place where freedom of intellectual discussion is allowed? For me, that answer is no, it is not, and that's a shame because why can't I post my honest Christian beliefs here? Can any of you answer me this?
     
  17. LeoSalinas22

    LeoSalinas22 merely a shadow...

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    *waives frantically for attention* HELLO! i'm over here! i'm willing to listen. what does it matter if you're posts are public or not. are you giving the message to the broken hearted or not? send me a pm, man. i'm willing to learn. why are you ignoring me?
     
  18. earl

    earl ?

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    Steve-rather than spending your time complaining here about where your ideas get "placed," why not simply discuss your ideas wherever they are placed? Afterall, you might have something interesting to say.:) earl
     
  19. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    sonoman, from what I can tell, you have had one thread moved from the Abrahamic section to the Esoteric section. It seems that the three other threads you started remain in the forums where you started them. where you started them. (Two in the Christianity forum,[ The Egyptian Cross connection to Jesus and Revelation is not Christian ] and one on the feedback forum. [Good bye].) I wouldn't call that censorship, nor would I call that selective censorship, either. Definitely not a conspiracy. JMHO.
     
  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    How long does it take to read the stories of Jesus life? I mean take Paul's letters out of the New Testament, take out anything that isn't the supposed quotes or acts of Jesus and take out the repetition by each gospel and how much is left? Three years of teaching?? I think not. Take a look at the volume of info a history or science or math teacher teaches a tenth grader in 9 months. Can you imagine the volume of teaching that Jesus dispelled in a couple of years to the desciples?? It had to be incredible. Just the volumes of your preacher, 20-40 minutes a Sunday for a year multiply the size of the gospels 30-40 times!!

    Since it was handed down and not written by those in attendance, not recorded and transcribed on the spot, the gospels is just a highlight reel. To me it is fairly obvious there is a lot more than we've got in our hands today. Tip of the spiritual iceberg as it were.
    fundies come in all flavors.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2008

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