Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gnosticism

Gnosticism
by Scott Bradley


I have long been intrigued by that amorphous religious-philosophy called Gnosticism. It seems to have arrived in the Middle East from still further East in the form of various ‘mystery religions’ in the centuries just preceding Christ. It was not a religion itself, but attached itself to pre-existing religions and molded them after its own image. Many of the early Christian ‘heresies’ were Gnostic in nature. But my favorite is a Jewish Gnosticism which had already arisen in Egypt.

Before I can say more on that, I need to at least outline some of the basic beliefs of Gnosticism (as I remember them). Matter, flesh, self are bad — or at least maya-like, which amounts to the same thing. But there is in every human being a divine spark which, if we achieve gnosis (knowledge), can be liberated from the evil matrix in which it finds itself. There was, of course, a hierarchy of the enlightened with the illuminati, the spiritual ones, being the top dogs.

When Gnosticism encountered Judaism with its Creator God, something radical had to give and so it simply stood it on its head. Jehovah, the creator of evil matter, became a god so low in the descending order of ever-less-holy manifestations of the Divine (archons, which together were the plethora) as to become practically a devil. This mess is his fault! Thus was the problem of evil solved.

Why am I sharing this? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because in my early post-Christian experience it resonated with my own rejection of god on moral grounds. Now, it just amuses me. Or maybe it’s because I see these same basic ideas expressed everywhere in the religious-philosophies of today.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

2 comments:

  1. "But there is in every human being a divine spark which, if we achieve gnosis (knowledge), can be liberated from the evil matrix in which it finds itself."

    This is not all that different from the aims of neidan.

    I think the commonalities we find in religious philosophies may hint at "the truth," distilling the essentials.

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  2. Perennial philosophy (Latin: philosophia perennis "eternal philosophy", also Philosophia perennis et universalis) is the notion of the universal recurrence of philosophical insight independent of epoch or culture, including universal truths on the nature of reality, humanity or consciousness (anthropological universals).

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