#24 - MED - Approaching Gnosticism Orientation talk part 1
Hello once again to each and all. This is JLL with Gnostic Intel on the internet. I'm recording on what I would believe to be, let's say, April 10th, Monday, April 10th, 2017. This is the 24th upload in the series Mandela Effect Decoded. And I'm taking a little bit of a departure here from the ongoing investigation, so you could consider this as an orientation talk.
I have indicated from the beginning of this channel in February, just over two months ago, that you would be undertaking, along with me, a Gnostic investigation of the so-called Mandela effect. And I don't know whether you're just dropping in randomly on this channel or whether you're following the sequence of the uploads. Whatever the case, all of you need to be oriented correctly to Gnosticism and to particularly to the way I handle Gnosticism in order to take fullest advantage of what I'm trying to do here.
So if you bear with me, I'm going to refer you to an article I wrote on Metahistory.org in 2006, that's over ten years ago. You'll find quite a lot of material on Gnosticism on that site. But this one particular essay is an orientation essay entitled, “Approaching Gnosticism through the eye of the heart” and I just came across it recently by random, by chance and it occurred to me that it might be useful to you and instructive as an orientation essay.
You know there is an enormous distortion, an enormous field of distortion around the subject of Gnosticism, historically speaking. Who are the Gnostics? What did they believe? What did they teach? There is a huge amount of disinformation that has been perpetuated for centuries and there is slander, there is lies, and there's a huge cover-up about the true nature of the Gnostic message to humanity.
So I've done my best in the course of my work over the last 15 or 20 years to clear up the situation and I'm going to offer to you now this orientation essay to assist you in approaching Gnosticism and especially to give you direction and confidence about the way that I handle Gnosticism and the way that I define what Gnosis really is, what it was, what it is, and whatever it shall be.
So I'm going to read this to you now and of course you can read the original yourself on metahistory.org. I'll provide a link on the tracking page. Approaching Gnosticism is rather like entering a sharp curve on a mountain road. You're wary of the maneuver, but intrigued by the promise of a spectacular sight around the bend. This short essay is intended to get us around the bend.
Many people attracted to Gnosticism are apt to be put off by the difficulty of defining it. Problem of definition is so bad it can almost immediately spoil interest in the subject, it must be said we're in good company with the problem. To date there is no scholarly consensus on how to define Gnosis or Gnosticism. The definition proposed at the Messina conference in 1966 has not proven useful and is now disregarded.
Yet that definition carries erroneous notions about Gnosticism, disinformation deriving from attacks on Gnostics by Christian ideologues 1,600 years ago, and continues to have currency. To make matters worse, the lack of a clear consensus hides the fact that routine assumptions are always applied to Gnosticism, as if scholars did agree on how to define it. These assumptions concern the historical origins of Gnosticism, the Gnostic “redemption myth” of Sophia, and the heretical critique of Salvationist religion.
Subheading: Historical Origins. The earliest scholars no longer cited regarded Gnosticism in the broad sense as a monumental spiritual movement of Asiatic origins, long predating Christianity. There is now a slight tendency to return to this view. See, for instance, the introduction by James Robinson in NHLE, Nag Hammadi Library in English, 1990. “This debate seems to be resolving in favor of understanding Gnosticism as a much broader phenomenon than the Christian Gnosticism documented by the heresiologists."
Most scholars writing today, however, insist that Gnosticism was the mystical philosophy shared by a loose confederation of cults that sprang up between 50 and 350 CE in the milieu of early Christianity. In this view, Gnosticism was a marginal and even parasitic movement that only existed in response to the genuine religious impulse of Christianity.
Karen King argues that Gnostic views were merely differences of opinion among early Christians who debated the Gospels, the identity of Jesus, the doctrines formulated by St. Paul and St. John the Divine, and so on. This argument is particularly misleading because the emphasis on difference tends to conceal the real issue which is dissent. Gnostics did not merely differ on Christian views of creation, sin, salvation, etc. They dissented from these views.
Certainly many different views on Jesus and his message were discussed in the communities where Christianity arose. But this atmosphere of tolerance was not due to the generous spirit of the first Christians, as King would have us believe. Tolerance was the mark of the pagan religious attitude, and the more Christianity came into power, the less tolerance there was in the classical world.
But the church ideologues who condemned Gnostics as heretics were not merely intent on eliminating diversity and difference so that they could impose uniform totalitarian doctrine, as they eventually did. They were far more intent on eliminating dissent, especially the informed dissent of Gnostics from the mysteries, such as Hypatia, who argued brilliantly against Salvationist doctrines. Paganism was made illegal by the Emperor Theodosius in 391, when Hypatia would have been about 21.
Salvationism: the totalitarian belief system that asserts divine intercession in history and imbues suffering with redemptive value, includes Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the three dominant mainstream religions, assumes superhuman rescue of humanity from its problems and off-planet remote control authority on morals and divine retribution. This is from the glossary of Not in His Image.
King's praising view of the rich diversity of early Christianity fudges the real issue. It was the dissent of the educated heretics, not merely different views in the pagan community, that so threatened the church's rise to power that draconian measures were taken to eradicate Gnostics and destroy all their writings.
I might say it was the brutal clarity of the dissenting arguments that drove the church fathers and early converts to violent reactions. Here occurs an illustration with this caption. St. Augustine portrayed, “refuting” a heretic. When seers of the mysteries confronted early Christians with lucid arguments against the Messiah and the salvationist agenda, the response came with a sword.
The Telestai of the pagan world were demonized and murdered to bring the state religion of Christianity to power. Continuing the text, there is so little evidence left of the Gnostic movement that scholars find it difficult to believe it had vast scope, uniformity, and autonomy.
Some scholars, like Berger Pearson, who sees Gnosticism as a heretical offshoot of Judaism, view the movement more sympathetically on its own terms, but still consider it to be largely derivative. Seame Perkins, writing from deep within the Christian fold, is unusually bold in asserting the pre, non, and anti-Christian elements in Gnostic writings. Other Orthodox scholars also give credence to the pre-Christian and pagan origins of the Gnostic movement, but without developing their arguments because, as explained below, they cannot do so without going outside their special fields of expertise.
Gnostic studies are so completely bogged down in specialist debate on obscure issues that no one pays attention to the unique and alarming message contained in the Gnostic texts. On the whole, Gnostic scholarship is a dreadful scandal of selective oblivion.
Heading 3: Definitions. I propose three definitions of Gnosis, psychological, inspirational, and evolutionary or shamanic. The psychological definition is, Gnosis is intuitive knowing of the heart that liberates us from social conditioning and ego fixation. As such, it is a path of questioning and learning, open-ended and unlimited in scope. The evolutionary aim of Gnosis is to realize human potential so that we can co-evolve with all species and serve Gaia's purposes. In his massive Gnostical treatise, The Exegesis, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick says that Gnosis, “consists of disinhibiting instructions”, that allow us to access, “the core content of knowing already intrinsic to us”.
Dick believed that Gnosis enables the self-repair of, “memory retrieval”, circuits that exist uniquely in the human species but have been damaged. This accords with my view that humanity provides a memory circuit for Gaia or Gaia Sophia. Dick assumes, as I do, that Gnostic teachings and practices were preserved in the Mysteries. “The ancients possessed techniques, sacraments, and rituals used largely in the Greco-Roman mystery religions to induce firing and retrieval of those memory circuits. He notes that these techniques had a restorative value for the individual, but Gnostics also, quoting Dick again, correctly saw the ontological value to what they called the Godhead itself, the total entity."
That is, Gnostics recognized that these practices were not for self-glorification, but to contribute to the healing of God or goddess. These passages are from The Exegesis quoted in Vallis, page 108. This view of Dick’s is consistent with the Gnostic assertion that we, the human species, are intimately involved with the correction of the goddess Sophia.
Next, the inspirational definition is, Gnosis is the deep ecology of the human spirit. In other words, Gnosis is to the religious experience of humanity what deep ecology is to our rapport with nature. And this idea is close to the evolutionary or shamanic definition. Gnosis is a way of encountering the sacred as it is known to the powers that in here in the natural world, the animating powers of the earth and the cosmos at large.
Subheading: alternative history. Nearly all scholars maintain that Gnosticism arose historically with Christianity, but I take a different view as follows. Gnosis was a spiritual path of millennial duration closely related to, yet distinct from, well-known traditions of Pan-Asian mysticism, including Indian yoga and Buddhism. Gnostics were telestai, initiates in the mystery schools who broke their vows of anonymity to come out in the open and protest Judeo-Christian doctrines of salvationism, doctrines that provide the ideological frame for the patriarchal dominator agenda. Because the initiates emerged into the public eye during the first centuries of the Christian era, scholars assume that Gnosticism must have been devised then and there.
I also depart from orthodox scholarship in looking outside the genre to develop an historical profile of Gnosticism. No scholar would say that Gnostics were from the Mystery Schools, because there is a disciplinary fence between Gnostic studies and Mystery School studies. Thus, Elaine Pagels, whom I met and with whom I discussed this very point, by the way, insists flatly that there is no evidence, by which she means no textual evidence, of a link between the Mysteries and Gnostics. But pioneer researchers such as this Theosophical scholar G. R. S. Mead thought otherwise.
Mead assumed Gnosis to be the core of the Mystery Mystery School teachings, “Gnostic forms are found to preserve elements of the mystery traditions of antiquity in greater fullness than we find elsewhere." That is from Mead, the gospels and the gospel, page 210. That statement was written in 1901. Early scholars such as Mead are routinely ignored today.
Even the earliest evidence on Gnostics, such as the polemics of Hippolytus, state that the heretics drew their views from the Greek mysteries. This link to the enthenogenic cult of the Eleusinian mysteries confirms my view that Gnosis was a refined form of psychedelic shamanism, a visionary path dedicated to the Earth Goddess. Such links are totally ignored by Gnostic scholars today. This is selective oblivion.
There is ample historical evidence for cross-cultural exchange between Gnostics and Asian mystics such as Pramins and Buddhist monks. From the 4th century BCE, Alexandria was a melting pot where diverse cults met and mixed. The Church Fathers attest the presence of Druids and Brahmins in Egypt at the dawn of the Christian era. Gandhara art from the Hindu Kush demonstrates the fusion of Greek and Indian cultures from the 4th century BCE, and Buddhist scholars such as David Snellgrove and Paul Williams see Gnostic ideas affecting early views of Mahayana.
In a Hallmark essay published in 1967, renowned Buddhist scholar Edward Kahns outlined 17 key similarities between Buddhism and Gnosticism. But comparative studies of this kind are totally out of fashion today and comprehensive historical perspective on Gnosticism is non-existent. The result is a fog of ambiguity. On approaching Gnosticism, we naturally want to locate and label this movement to get a sense of where Gnostics were coming from, culturally, historically, and geographically. Not a chance.
Narrow-mindedness and denial dominate this subject. We must approach Gnosticism knowing beforehand that its origins are under-researched and misrepresented. To make matters worse, my claim that Gnostics came out of the Mystery Schools throws the entire issue into perplexity, because no one knows what went on in the mysteries. When I make this link I set myself up to explain what the mysteries were, which is about as difficult as explaining what Gnosticism is. Actually it is not so difficult, but building an adequate picture takes time.
I cannot fail to link Gnosticism to the mysteries, even if this leaves people in bafflement. These abstruse matters are crucial to recovering the lost spiritual heritage of Europe, that is, of the West, and it takes a lifelong commitment. It's not just an obscure episode in history we're contemplating here. What Gnosis really was, and what happened to it, determined the most decisive shift in the moral and spiritual life of Western civilization.
The story of the Gnostics is the crucial missing chapter of that part of our collective story. In other words, I might add, editorially, how we lost our way. And there's a link there to a long article on the origins of the Gnostic movement.
Subheading: Lego Method. No scholar today regards the actual content of Gnosticism to be worthy of discussion. The message of the Gnostics is lost in endless debate over the textual meaning of the surviving materials. Scholars assume that Gnostic texts are valuable for what they tell us about the origins of Christianity, period. But using Gnostic text to legitimate Christianity is contradictory to its radical message. The Gnostic protest against Judeo-Christian religion is written clear and large in the surviving materials, chaotic and fragmentary as they may be.
I use what I call the Lego method of Gnostic scholarship to select those elements from surviving materials that build into a consistent and coherent message, distinct from Judaic and Christian doctrines. Scholars also use the Lego method, putting together selected pieces of text to highlight a specific doctrine or viewpoint, but without admitting that they do so, or why they do so. They take no interest in recovering the message of radical pagan Gnosticism on its own terms.
My intention in reworking the Gnostic materials is fourfold. First, to show what is valid in the Gnostic protest against the patriarchy and the salvationist agenda. Second, to describe the rich spiritual heritage of pre-christian Europe destroyed in a centuries-long rampage of sexual, spiritual, and intellectual genocide. Third, to restore and redevelop the Sophia myth, treating it as a story to guide the human species toward a sane and sustainable future. Fourth to propose a corrective view of certain paranormal aspects of human experience based on Gnostic writing about the Archons.
This is quite a tall order I know. Nevertheless I believe that nothing less than this is acceptable where genuine experience of Gnosis is concerned. There is huge responsibility involved in knowing what Gnostics knew and how they knew it. I'm convinced that the way for the human species to co-evolve with Gaia can best be discovered, and perhaps only discovered, on the visionary path of Gnosis.
Paragraph Heading: Religious Pessimism. The disinformation regarding Gnosticism has persisted for 1600 years. Needless to say, it is not easy to dispel. A difficult but important book that has tackled this problem is Rethinking Gnosticism, 1996 by M.A. Williams.
The author, who is, unlike myself, an outstanding recognized Gnostic scholar, shows that the negative hype attached to Gnosticism is unfounded, and the evidence routinely cited to support it, unreliable. The presumed contents of the Gnostic worldview are routinely derived by selecting from the pathetic heap of surviving texts certain elements that are not even the prominent factors in those texts, yet are favored by scholars because they carry assumptions that cast Gnosticism in a negative light, just as the Church Fathers intended 16 centuries ago.
These assumptions are usually stated in language as follows. Gnostics regarded nature and the material world as flawed, corrupt, if not downright evil. They believed that the human soul belongs to a higher world, but has fallen captive to the realm of the senses, and so must extricate itself and return to the source, to the light.
Gnosis is the recognition of the presence of the higher self, the spark of divinity trapped in matter, but only an elite few can realize this awareness and liberate themselves from the enslavement of this world. This is a loose paraphrase of the Messina declaration which I cited at the beginning of this article.
Now, at this point, 24 minutes, I'm going to break off this reading, and about halfway through the article, and pick up the rest of it in the second part to be uploaded under the same title. As I've said, it's not easy getting to the truth about Gnosticism.
So I appreciate your patience and your determination and may your attention be rewarded by the truth.