Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
The Lantern Cage
I am a hanging lantern cage
Suspended in another prison;
The rusty bars speak of no age,
Yet death is near, and I, arisen,
Will wander where no metals are,
Where no door shall lock me in;
Though I still bear a mortal scar,
Soon I will shed this fatal skin.
I am the confine and the flame,
And only I can burn so bright;
This glow breaks out from in the frame
And scares away the bleakest night.
Many will heed the serpent’s hiss
And few the light of something higher.
I am the spark’s short-lived kiss,
And, in my time, the greatest fire.
I am a moment, one undying,
Where now my flame is this, the key;
This sacred blaze is still supplying
The truth of that which makes me free.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery http://www.thehtm.org]
A Prayer for Protection
by Dean F. Wilson
O Thou great and holy Prince, Commander of the Heavenly Armies, Archangel Michael, Thou who art like unto God in Thy fiery countenance, protect us from the powers of darkness and despair, defend us from ignorance and injustice, and shield us from suffering, pain, and grief, that we might become Strong with Thee, and that we might shelter under Thy massive wings when the world around us has offered no shelter. Arise, move, and appear, Thou Leader of the Host of Heaven, Guardian of the Gates, and Sentinel of the Cosmos – come unto us, Thy suffering Children of the Light. Sustain us in our battles against the Adversary; Lift us up when we are knocked down; and ever remind us that God is with us, in us, and through us works His many secret and silent Wonders. Lay Thy Flaming Sword upon our brows, and Bless us in the Holy Spirit of the Sacred Fire, that we might attain unto that Blissful Abode on High, and shake off the Shackles of the System that imprisons our eternal spirits. When Darkness comes, guide our Eyes unto the Light. When Fear wells up, show us the Fountain of Truth that dispels all doubt. When Despair comes ravaging upon our souls, feed us with Thy Strength, that we might overcome all Sorrows and Reach ever closer to Thee and Our Lord God Almighty, in the ever-blesséd experience of Holy Gnosis.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
[A Note: While we are traditionally familiar with the idea of a Priest being male, in Gnostic tradition there have always been women in the Priesthood and Episcopacy (Bishop-hood), and, as far as I’m concerned, always will be. Thus, the terms “Priest” and “Priesthood” used below are used in a very generic sense.]
One of the most common criticisms of the “priestly caste” is that such people act as intermediaries, as an elect or elite, and take away from that personal communion with God. It is a valid criticism, of course, and one of the main reasons why people have flocked to alternative paths that allow you to “be your own priest”.
One thing I have to ask, however, is why can’t you be your own priest in a mainstream tradition? I mean, surely the option of becoming a priest is open to people (women can become priests in certain traditions, such as Gnosticism, for example)? Of course, I understand that the phrase “be your own priest” is usually used as not referring to a vocation in the Priesthood, but to the general idea of personal communion with the Divine, which many, often rightly, feel is withheld from them in organisations like the Church.
However, I would like to get away from our assumptions for a moment and explore the idea of the Priesthood in another way. Many of us in the Gnostic world are familiar with ceremonial magick and the esoteric, with the Keys of Solomon, the Goetia, Kabbalah/Qabalah, Thelema, Enochian, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and, especially, the Order of the Golden Dawn (in its various incarnations). Many of these organisations, especially the latter, have a strict hierarchy of grades for personal development and gradual communion with the Divine. In the Golden Dawn, for example (which many modern groups and orders use as their baseline, and which was based on even older structures and traditions), there are four Elemental Grades before what is known as Adepthood. These Elemental Grades are attributed to the Sephiroth Malkuth, Yesod, Hod, and Netzach, and to one of the four traditional elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Time spent in these grades is a time of transformation, of personal alchemy, and is a necessary prerequisite of Adepthood (the first grade of which, Adeptus Minor, is attributed to Tiphareth), which is where the true work of communion with the Divine is undertaken (often exemplified in the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel).
Now, what has this got to do with the notion of the Priesthood? Well, firstly, those who undertake the work of an esoteric order must go through a series of grades before Adepthood. This is exactly the same in an ecclesiastical structure (which is, let’s face it, just another structure for working with the Divine, but one that is often a lot more open than esoteric orders). Instead of the Elemental Grades, there are Minor Orders, and these can be attributed to the Sephiroth (which you can see more clearly in Fr. Jordan+’s post here). The priest goes through these “grades” just as the initiate of an esoteric school does, and when they arrive at the necessary stage, they enter Adepthood – or Priesthood. I covered some more links between the Priest, the Adept, and Tiphareth in my previous post on the Eucharist, which you can find here.
Now, if we look at it, there is less difference between the idea of an ecclesiastical body and an esoteric order than we might have at first assumed. The same, or, at least, very similar, structures are in place, with similar goals, and a very similar hierarchical make-up. For initiates in these orders, they look to the Adept as a teacher, as one who has gone through the system and can help them do the same. Likewise with the Priesthood. Perhaps the only difference, which is a major one, is that an esoteric order is, by its very nature, a closed group. It is not for the many, just as the Priesthood is not for the many. When you join an esoteric order, you are, effectively, already engaged in the Formation to Priesthood, which is merely termed Adept in that system. In an ecclesiastical structure, there is a new element – the laity. Instead of closed group-ritual, such as that in an esoteric order, which is only open to those who are Adepts (Priests) or those in the Elemental Grades (Minor Orders, in Formation for the Priesthood [Adept]), there is a new group of people, the general congregation, who can participate freely in the rites held, without being obligated to undergo the same Formation that is present in the quest for priesthood or Adepthood in their respective bodies.
So, to those who are indeed members of an esoteric order and criticize the notion of the Priesthood, I would ask that they look at the same (or, at least, very similar) process they are undergoing, and realise that the divide is where we make it, or where we perpetuate it. For those undergoing the various initiations in an esoteric order and who proclaim that they are their own priest, I would again ask that they look at those who are undergoing the same (or, at least, very similar) process in an ecclesiastical body, who are indeed their own priest.
Now to one of the last elements that needs addressing. You do not need to be a Priest, an Adept, or one undergoing Formation or Initiation in either a church or esoteric order to seek, find, and experience communion with the Divine. Yes, when you are participating in a group ritual such as that of the Eucharist, of course there is a certain structure that must be followed, with certain Officers fulfilling essentially symbolic (and alchemically potent) roles that you may not be sufficiently trained to undertake. This is the same as that of an Initiation Ceremony in an esoteric order (albeit, with the new, more open, element of the laity). But, outside of group ritual, you are indeed “your own priest”, if you consider a Priest to be merely an intermediary with the Divine. You are your Higher Self. That is your intermediary. Everyone has one, and everyone needs to commune with and assimilate this essentially “Divine Self” into their life to effectively attain, amplify, and share their own gnosis. You can pray, perform ritual, and meditate – you do not need to go to a priest to experience the Divine in your life, remember that. The purpose of group ceremonies is similar to that of initiations – they’re supposed to help plant seeds in you, seeds that you water, seeds that you shine your own divine light upon, and seeds that you ultimately nurture until they grow and bear fruit, a process which happens outside of Church or
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
After some preliminary studies on the sacrament of the Eucharist, I have decided to share my findings.
Firstly, I feel the need to point out that the Eucharist is actually much older than Christianity, with signs of it in Mithraism, Osirian tradition, and in the myths and tales of the vine-god Dionysus (the latter two are often grouped together as “Osiris-Dionysus” to represent all of these dying-and-resurrecting godmen). To elaborate on this, here’s a quote from the play “The Bacchae” (Bacchus was another name for Dionysus), by the Greek tragedian Euripides, who lived nearly 500 years before the birth of Christ:
“Next came the son of the virgin. Dionysus.
bringing the counterpart to bread. wine
and the blessings of life's flowing juices.
His blood, the blood of grape,
lightens the burden of our mortal misery...
it is his blood we pour out
to offer Thanks to the Gods. And through him.
we are blessed.”
This makes clear reference to the blood = wine, but also talks about the bread, which is the counterpart of this. These two food types were often considered the staple of sustenance in the ancient world, so it is no real surprise that they would be given divine correspondences. However, what I want to illustrate by the above is that this relation of food to the gods (including its popular application in Christianity over the last 2,000 years) is a strong part of the Western tradition, one that many cultures practiced for many hundreds of years, and one that I feel is a powerful and potent ritual that we, today, can continue to practice.
Next there is the notion of eating the body and drinking the blood of a man or god, which many people (especially those of different traditions) might find odd and disturbing, as it essentially a form of cannibalism. However, again, this tradition is much older than Christianity itself, and is known as theophagy. I would also like to stress that this is a symbolic act, which essentially enforces the notion of “you are what you eat”; therefore, eating that which is divine will bring divinity into you, and is also the pivotal act of Western religion: the investment of the physical with the spiritual. It’s also interesting to note that Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God, the sacrificial lamb, which links back to the ancient Jewish tradition of sacrificing a lamb during Passover, and then sprinkling the blood along the temple door and eating the body. So, in a sense, the idea of the theophagy of Christ is a continuation of an even older Jewish tradition.
Some people will ask what the role of the priest is in this rite (and, indeed, what the role of the priestly caste is in Christianity and other traditions as a whole, a topic which I will address in a separate post sometime soon). Firstly, the Priest, in a sense, takes on the role of Christ himself (“in persona Christi”), and if we look to our Qabalah (click here for a good image of the Tree of Life), Christ is attributed to Tiphareth (with the Holy Spirit possibly equating with Yesod), and the priesthood (presbyterate) is also attributed to Tiphareth, in the sense that Tiphareth represents Adepthood (see Fr. Jordan’s+ excellent post on this and the Minor Orders for more information on this), which can be seen as synonymous with priesthood. As the priest often acts as intermediary, this represents Christ as intermediary (we can each consider our own Higher Self as our personal embodiment of Christ, or the Cosmic Christ). Since you have to pass through Tiphareth to get from Malkuth (the physical) to Kether, the Spiritual (where resides the Sacred Spark), this represents the “intermediary process” that Christ and the priest fulfil in ritual.
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
While some people might see this as endorsing that only those who believe in the figure of Christ can commune with God, I think it is more likely that the teaching is endorsing the communion with God through our own Higher Self, which is Christ (and remember that the Eucharist is often called "Communion" in many Catholic congregations).
I will leave the theological debate between transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and the various other theories and beliefs on whether or not Christ is actually present within the Eucharist itself to another post.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
A poem from around a year and a half ago:
Remember the muted mountain that awaits,
Like a fissure in the framework of your mind;
Remember the entrance, the golden gates,
And the coiling serpents, bound and entwined.
Remember the message from the cosmic fates,
And let it simmer down to gently remind
You of all the sparkling stars combined;
Remember the muted mountain that awaits.
Remember not the heartless wounds and hates,
Nor creeping thoughts that are cruel and unkind;
Remember not to walk the mental dire straits,
Like a fissure in the framework of your mind,
Driving you to think of all that is behind –
Remember them not, nor their clawing traits,
For they do naught but block and blind;
Remember the entrance, the golden gates.
Remember what all the hounding grey creates,
And then let it go – glow and unwind;
Remember the hand’s extension that awaits,
And the coiling serpents, bound and entwined.
Remember not the pointless dabbles and debates,
Nor the trudging through the faces of mankind;
Remember not what the secret devil dictates,
But what lies secret in your heart enshrined –
Remember the muted mountain.
Friday, September 22, 2006
And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death."
- Gospel of Thomas, Saying 1
Beauty is a strange thing – we all have experienced it in some form (and, indeed, this is part of its peculiarity, in that beauty can be so strong and present for people in so vastly different things), and we have all, for the most part, found it very difficult, if near impossible, to express. Like Love and Gnosis, this utterly transcendent concept (and reality) of Beauty (which is also so utterly immanent, since it pervades our very existence) can only truly be experienced, but it can be expressed trans-personally through a medium or vessel that speaks to the heart, not the head – a medium like poetry, or a parable or koan.
Hegel, like many philosophers, considered Beauty to be a spiritual thing, the expression of the spiritual in our world (“Beauty is merely the spiritual making itself known sensuously”). Given this, it’s interesting to note that, in the Qabalah, both Christ and the Higher Self are attributed to the Sephirah called Tiphareth, which is translated to English as “Beauty”. This solar sphere is, in the human, usually equated with the Heart (or, in the Eastern Chakras, as a kind of blend of both the Heart and Solar Plexus chakras), which is the true Vessel of Beauty. Christ, and equally with Buddha and other such figures, spoke in a way that granted this “understanding of the heart”, as I term it, which is intrinsically woven into the very substance, form, and essence of poetry, parables, and koans.
Rev. Troy Pierce, of the Ecclesia Gnostica, wrote the following:
“In the Gnostic view liturgy is poetry, not theology. The same is true for scripture generally, including the scriptural passages that are read during the Eucharist service. The words are not statements of belief—they are not there as an end, but as a means. No belief is required to participate, and unexamined beliefs are actively discouraged in our tradition.”
So, what is the purpose of writing in what many might consider such a strange fashion? Why “veil” truth in language and metaphor (I quote veil here, as I really consider such language and metaphor as the revealer, not the veiler)? Why not just say it as it is, plain and simple, in easy-to-understand prose? Why does it have to be written this way? It’s simple - because it cannot be summed up. It is not an equation. It is not deductible, explainable, processible, or understandable to the mind. It is only understandable to the heart, because it is this truth, this beauty, this gnosis that transcends rationality, transcends the limits of the other kind of knowledge (i.e. science – and the world of “facts”, a word to which I will eternally roll my eyes), which is a rational and expressible kind of knowledge. So, these transcendent mediums are not there, as Rev. Troy mentioned in the above quote, as an end – they are not intended to “sum up” what they are describing, but they are intended as a means, as a way to that “end”, as a conduit of that truth, beauty, and gnosis.
So, when we read works that are written like this, and works that speak to our Heart, we are breaking through the sphere of rationality (and illusion), penetrating into something deeper, something more meaningful, something more real and true. We are accessing our personal Tiphareth, communing with our Higher Selves (who reside in Beauty), and experiencing that transcendent truth to which Christ (and others like him) has always been alluding to, a truth which is immanently beautiful.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
THE PURPOSE OF SUFFERING
There is no inherent purpose to suffering,
But through the divine invasion,
God has come to permeate all existence,
And so has, through his concealed nature,
Invested all things, including suffering,
With a latent and hidden sense of purpose,
A sense of purpose that, due to its disguise,
Can exist in a world without purpose.
By being born into temporal existence,
We have inherited ignorance and pain,
But having (truly) been born eternal,
We have inherited our own salvation.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I recently had a discussion/argument with someone about how the modern world seems to have a major “hangup” on Christianity, religion, clergy, ritual, etc. There seems to be a growing number of people resorting to a kind of “Christian-bashing” because they feel religion, and the Catholic Church in particular, is the source of many (if not all) of our current problems (the same has also been extended to Islam over the last few years). I don’t agree with them, because I think it’s not as black and white as that, and I believe Catholicism has done a lot of good for us and is a beautiful religion, regardless of those few who abuse it.
Nowadays we hear about the collapse of Catholicism (though, I feel, while it is not as popular as it was and holds less power now, it’s not the same type of collapse as, say, the Nazis, and I have heard people compare Catholicism to Nazism [as well as others saying the same thing about various political parties], which I believe is an extremely insulting exaggeration). We hear about pedophile priests and the Church’s cover-up of that. We hear about religious wars, the persecution of minority faiths, the tyranny of Church leaders, etc., etc. But do we ever hear about the millions of people who live a happy and fulfilling life as a Christian? Do we hear about those thousands of priests who have not only not committed a crime, but are outraged by what fellow priests have done, and are actually contributing to the benefit of many of the members of our society? Do we hear about all those many Christian charities and people who want to spread the love of God? These things don’t make the news; there won’t be an article on charitable clergy and laity on the front page of the papers; there won’t be radio coverage of the good deeds done in the name of religion.
I’ve heard so many people say things like “Nothing good has come out of religion” or that all Christians are misguided or that all clergy are abusing their position, abusing power (all of which are gross exaggerations). One person I met on a forum recently asked why “Religion” and “Spirituality” were grouped together – they said “they’re [two] complete different things like chalk and cheese”, and that “religion … divides people and spirituality doesn’t”. Not only is that a naïve sentiment, in my opinion, as spirituality can just as easily divide people, like anything else – but it is also a divisive comment. The two were grouped together and this person wanted them separated as if religion was not a spiritual thing, as if religious people somehow are not following a spiritual path.
Now, just because I think that some good has come from religion and the like, and just because I feel we should not be so quick to dismiss an entire faith and long-lasting tradition (that, by the way, is based on even older myths, and is our tradition), this doesn’t mean that I’m either approving Fundamentalism (as it is today in its most negative guise) or saying we should not act against iniquities and inequalities. I don’t like Fundamentalism anymore than the rest of you, whether it is Christian, Islamic, or other. I think it’s an unhealthy extremism. I don’t like the problems of this world, and I feel we should act on them. We need to address iniquity, war, poverty, famine, corruption, and other forms of injustice. But religious ignorance is not the only problem out there, and I think we need to address our own ignorance when we slam another faith, regardless of whether it is being abused or not.
Ironically enough, I wrote this essay two days ago, but decided to hold off on posting it ‘til today. Yesterday I heard that Pope Benedict XVI made blatantly insulting and inflammatory remarks regarding Islam when he quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said that Muhammad and Islam had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. The
What can we learn from this most recent event? No, we should not use it as yet another excuse to defame Christianity, but why not do better than the Pope? Why not try to demonstrate to people that we can live in a world with respect for all religions, faiths, and spiritual paths? If we think the Catholic Church is judgemental, insulting to other faiths, and closed-minded to other opinions, then why should we do likewise and judge all Christians, insult Christianity, and consider Christian opinion as wrong or confused?
[Feel free to replace “Christianity”, etc. with any other religion here, because the same applies for all]
Thursday, September 14, 2006
She who is told the nature of love
Lives a life knowing this in the mind;
She who experiences love for herself
Truly knows it, in the heart and the spirit,
And she lives a life in the light of truth.
He who is told that the fire burns
Knows such, but only from second-hand knowledge;
He who puts his finger in the flame
And burns it, feeling pain,
Knows truly that the fire burns,
And this is the true knowledge
That kindles the fires of the inner flame.
P.S. This is not an endorsement for sticking your hand in a fire ;)
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Is Gnosticism a dualistic religion? Is dualism a vital tenet of what makes a person or a sect Gnostic? My short answer is (despite what the heresiologists have always claimed): No.
Firstly we need to address what dualism is in relation to theology. Dictionary.com states that dualism is “the doctrine that there are two independent divine beings or eternal principles, one good and the other evil” and/or “the belief that a human being embodies two parts, as body and soul”. Since the latter was not as emphatically denounced by the heresiologists as the former notion of two opposing gods or principles, I will address the first one here and the second one in another post.
Many Gnostic sects, including the Sethians and Valentinians (who are usually considered the main influences of modern Gnosticism), ascribe to what can be called Emanation Cosmogeny, the theory that the universe and everything in it is “created” through a series of emanations, or, perhaps more accurately, is emanated, not created. This is readily supported by the vast number of “Aeons” (emanated principles or eternal beings) that are used to describe the creation process of the cosmos. Indeed, this is also supported by the Qabalah (or Kabbalah), a kind of Jewish mystical gnosticism of its own, where the spheres of the Sephiroth (which could easily be likened to Aeons) are emanated one following the other to make up the Tree of Life, the effective “map” of the Universe, and these in turn are emanated through the Three Veils of Negative Existence from the “Source” which the Gnostics would have (and do to this day) called the Pleroma (“Fullness”). Now, how can this notion of the “fullness” of God equate with the radical dualist notion of a good god versus a bad god?
To elucidate how different these two “theisms” are, check the following diagrams. The first shows the radical dualist concept (one that is, admittedly upheld by certain Gnostic groups like the Cathars and Manichaens, though sometimes in a more mitigated form). The second shows panentheism (not the same as pantheism), which is most accurate for the Gnostic conception:
The Qabalah also has a concept called “Tzimtzum” (“contraction” or “constriction”) which relates to this Emanation Cosmogeny. The main element of this concept is that God “contracted” himself in order to grant the space for a finite world to exist in. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi wrote that the purpose of Tzimtzum is “to conceal from created beings the activating force within them, enabling them to exist as tangible entities, instead of being utterly nullified within their source”. It also contains the paradox that God is simultaneously transcendent and immanent.
To end, Father Jordan Stratford+ of the AJC has an excellent post on the cosmogony of Gnosticism, part of which says: “Gnostic Tradition teaches that the Pleroma ("the Fullness") is the Ultimate Godhead; everything – everything – radiates out concentrically from the Godhead like ripples from a stone dropped in water: Christ, Sophia, the Demiurge, you, me, chartered accountants, loofas, squids, ginko trees. The Pleroma is also the stone, and the water, and the idea and act of "dropping". This is a good analogy, as a wave/ripple is a transitory expression of a phenomenon rather than an object unto itself.”
[Images based on the designs of Fr. Jordan Stratford+ and Jesse Folks' "theism" images]
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
GOD IS A PARADOX
When God is, God is no more,
When Man is, Man is seemingly finite.
This is not Man, but an illusion,
A vesture of darkness that shrouds
An infinite and eternal light.
When you pass into Oneness, into Unity,
You do not lose your identity,
But recover the One you had already lost
When you passed into the oblivion
Of temporal existence.
The oblivion of eternity is a remembrance,
Whereas the oblivion of this world
Is that of the oblivious nature of
Each person will have a personal apocalypse,
A revelation that will shake off
The shackles of the world.
They will remove their transitory clothes
And don a robe of eternal glory,
And know infinitely
That they have always known,
Have always worn,
Have always been,
And always will be -
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Here are the last 10 questions in reply to Father Jordan Stratford+'s request for his upcoming book "Living Gnosticism". The previous 10 can be found here.
11) What is the role of the Divine Feminine in Gnosticism? Why are some attracted by this idea, while others are repelled? Is Sophia a Goddess?
Along with God the Father, there is God the Mother. One could view the Pleroma (“Fullness”) as an androgynous being, just as Adam Qadmon (Adam meaning its original meaning of “Man” as in mankind, not the male sex) was before splitting into the sexes of male and female. So, God is not male, as such, nor female (irregardless of familiar terms like “he” or “his”), and some Gnostics use a polarization of divinity like that found in modern Paganism (i.e. a Father God and Mother Goddess [who tends to be Sophia, or Sophia in her “higher” aspect as Barbelo]). Given the rise of the feminist and other related movements, and the reemergence of Paganism, and Wicca especially, it is obvious that there are many people out there who are seeking the Divine Feminine. Since there tends to be a gap between Paganism and orthodox Christianity, exemplified by the division of female and male, Gnosticism allows both of these concepts of God to be worked into one harmonious tradition.
12) Why do you think orthodox Christianity is still threatened by the message of Gnosticism?
Many of the heresiologists of ancient times would have considered Gnosticism as more dangerous than other opposing religions or heathen faiths, mainly because Gnosticism penetrated Christian tradition, offering alternate or opposing views to what would eventual became the orthodox ones, and was therefore threatened to divide the community into many differing viewpoints, irregardless of whether they would consider themselves as still belonging to the “one catholic church” or not. In the modern world, when orthodox Christianity is suffering a decline, Gnosticism continues to offer an alternative religious experience, one that, while being alternative, is still heavily invested in the indigenous traditions of the West. Many people might be dissatisfied with Catholicism, Protestantism, and other orthodox approaches, but feel at odds with other traditions like Paganism or Buddhism – Gnosticism, especially in its ecclesiastical form, can act as a bridging tradition for people in orthodox faiths, giving them the same familiar language, but a whole new meaning and experience of the Divine. Some Christians will never consider becoming Pagan or Buddhist (or other religions), no matter how dissatisfied they are with their current religion, but they may consider Gnosticism as a viable alternative – this could be seen as a major threat to orthodox Christianity.
13) If you admit there is not one, continuous, unbroken Gnostic church throughout history, how is Gnosticism not a "revival" religion, or a kind of "dress up"?
How can there be one, continuous, unbroken Gnostic church? Gnosticism, by its very tenets, is a broad, open, multi-cultural, and multi-religious experience. There have always been many different Gnostic groups, many opposing or alternate views, and many people who brought ancient teachings forth into the modern day through different means (such as the Rosicrucian movement, which gave rise to a lot of modern occultism). In order to have a continuous, unbroken, and verifiable line throughout history, a universal creed would have had to have been enforced, to ensure the tradition remained “as is” when it was handed down – that simply doesn’t work with the evolutionary nature of Gnosticism. Gnostics took myths that mattered to them and shaped them into applicable teachings – we now have access to modern myths, alternate cultures and religions, and various applications of Gnosis and Gnosticism in the world, so we cannot help but let our changing world shape our changing, growing religion. Some people can claim valid apostolic succession to “prove” that there was a genuine handing-down of the Gnostic tradition, but I honestly do not feel the need to defend the historical validity of Gnosticism in the modern day (which simply is not a “neo-“ anything or a pretentious attempt at ancient tradition). It’s the Gnosis that matters, and we should be more concerned with how to attain that and help others do likewise than spend our time here arguing about lineages.
14) How does "the occult" factor into Gnosticism? Do you practice ceremonial magic or cast spells or read tarot cards?
The occult doesn’t necessarily have to factor into Gnosticism at all. However, there are many people interested in Gnosticism who are also interested in various esoteric subjects, and both Gnosticism and Esotericism are often complementary traditions. The Qabalah is one tradition that is commonly used by Gnostics (and is a kind of “Jewish Gnosticism”, the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom might argue). Hermeticism as it stands today is quite Gnostic in character, and many Hermeticists and ceremonial magicians would use the word “Gnostic” and “Gnosis” quite liberally to their pursuits. I, personally, am a ceremonial magician, with my main interests in that regard being Qabalah and Enochian. I don’t “cast spells”, nor do I use the Tarot for divination, but I do consider the Tarot a wonderful tool for growth, being symbolically deep and artistically pleasing.
15) Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yes, I have, for most of my life, believed in reincarnation in some form or guise. We are caught in a cycle of rebirths until we “learn our lessons” (this is what karma means to me – learning), remember our true identity, and transcend the bonds of this world. When we achieve a certain amount of growth (enough to propel us “inwards and upwards”), we break free from this cycle of rebirth and return to the Pleroma (though I believe we still retain some of our personal identity [i.e. we don’t just become one with a “nothingness”], albeit in a different form, since our previous growth would have developed our persona into something much more epic and transpersonal). For those who don’t learn their lessons, there’s always the next incarnation, so in this way, everyone is “saved” at some stage – whenever they are ready. This is very similar to the Buddhist belief of breaking free from samsara (reincarnation) and achieving nirvana (enlightenment), though I do not believe we transmigrate into animal or insect bodies (if we do/did, then it would have to be only at the beginning of our journey), as a human is a human and after ascension is still human – albeit the heavenly human (i.e. Adam Qadmon) that is much more true of ourselves than our current bodily cages. I believe nous (mind) is an essential element of our growth and liberation, and without it (i.e. if we were not in human form) we cannot escape from bondage and illusion (though admittedly, the intellect can equally act as a binding and restrictive force).
16) Is Gnosticism best pursued in a specifically Gnostic organization, exclusively solo, or in a broader community (ie Unitarianism, Society of Friends, Theosophical Society?)
Gnosticism is best pursued in whatever form, organization, or community the individual person “clicks” with, whatever will allow the best pursuit of gnosis for them. If they want to do it “solo”, then by all means they should do so (though I would suggest they still keep certain communication with others, to avoid becoming too stagnant in their own views). If they want to set up a Gnostic study group or parish, then, again, by all means, do so! We could certainly do with more of such in the world, to help offer an alternative path for those who might want or need it. However, if that isn’t your cup of tea, stick with the Unitarians or other groups (actually, you can still stick with these groups even if you decide to work with a specifically Gnostic organization). Many of these will be open to your views, and you never know, you might find like-minded company there. Indeed, Valentinus and his followers mingled quite happily with the growing orthodox church of his time, so we shouldn’t feel the need to divorce ourselves from our previous associations with other organizations.
17) How will the growing popularity of Gnosticism affect what's happening now? How will it affect your practice and expression as a Gnostic?
The growing popularity of Gnosticism will have two effects, which, sadly, are necessary complements of each other: 1) it will give rise to a barrage of “hip” Gnostics, with Gnosis key rings, anti-Archon slogans, and basically a watered-down idea of what Gnosis and Gnosticism is; and 2) for every 1,000 of these (or thereabouts, though don’t quote me on figures), there’ll be one genuine person who discovers Gnosticism through its growing popularity. Is this monumental surge in “popcorn gnosticism” (or “McGnosis” as some call it) worth it if only a single person, a single divine spark, is awoken? Yes!!! Of course it is. You are all worth it.
18) How did you come to identify yourself as a Gnostic? Are you "out" about this identity?
I came from a Catholic background, but was dissatisfied with it. I then moved to Paganism and then to ceremonial magick very quickly when I found that Paganism didn’t satisfy my “spiritual hunger” either. I encountered the Qabalah and it instantly “clicked” with me (the Qabalah, I believe, is inherently gnostic, so this would have been one of the early stages of my “push” towards Gnosticism). I then encountered Enochian and Gnosticism at the same time and both “called” to me very deeply (I find the Christian mythology to be very beautiful and powerful). Joining the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Light allowed me to explore these two subjects more deeply, and found that they slotted into place with my own personal views, views to which I could find no label or mythology to express them. It was only then, after much more study and meditation, that I realized the inevitable – I’m a Gnostic. As for being “out” regarding this, I always have a problem with people feeling the need to tell everyone about things like their religion or sexual preference. If people ask, by all means, tell them, and you can be fairly public about these things if it really calls for it (i.e. if you’re a Gnostic priest, being open about such might actually be beneficial to others who might be seeking Gnosis). I am fairly “out” and open about these things, but I won’t start my conversations with strangers by saying “I’m Gnostic”.
19) To which Gnostic historical figure do you most relate (even if that person was not Gnostic per se, such as Joan of Arc)? What's the most meaningful Gnostic scripture to you personally, and why?
I think Valentinus “speaks” to me most, but that would tend to be because I would have a slight Valentinian bias in my spiritual beliefs and practices. However, I do like many other historical figures and their writings (St. John the Baptist,
20) What is the most important thing that Gnosticism has to offer non-Gnostics? What's the one thing you want everybody to know about Gnosticism?
Gnosticism can offer an alternative view for non-Gnostics. It can show people the age-old mythology of the West and how it can be used for spiritual growth. It can show people that personal responsibility and personal divinity are important steps for the human. It can highlight ignorance and illusion and can offer an arsenal of poetry, myth, and ritual to dispel these things. Most importantly, it shows how a multi-cultural and multi-religious system can work, that no one’s personal beliefs are wrong or invalid, and that we can and should work together with all our Brothers and Sisters around the world to liberate ourselves from ignorance and oppression. If people are to walk away now knowing but one thing about Gnosticism, I would want them to know that Gnosticism is about freedom – freedom of expression and practice, freedom to believe or worship in whatever way is personally rewarding with gnosis, freedom from illusion, cosmic lies, and self-deception, and freedom to reclaim our divinity and craft a new divine world to live in.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Image Copyright: Eileen McGuckin
Woman of Wisdom and the Waking,
Fire of Heaven as our Inner Flame,
And Spirit of those still in Slumber.
Hail, you Essence of Splendour
Like a Dove descending
On the Crown of the World,
Yet your Descent is in Sorrow,
And we, your children, Mourn with you.
Hail, you who have endured
The pains and pangs of the Cosmic Birth,
You who are Virgin and Birthless,
And yet the product of your Father
As you are our Mother.
Hail, you who are Life in the Belly of Death,
Child of the Bornless
And Pregnant with Potential,
Great Mother of all Wisdom,
And that which is free of carnal desire.
Hail, you who have come into the world,
Bound by the shackles of cosmic ignorance,
You who exist in a form of Grace.
May we lift you up,
Just as you lift us,
And may we rise and ascend as One,
Free from a world bound in pain.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Father Jordan Stratford+ of the AJC posted a list of 20 questions for fellow Gnostics to answer for inclusion in his latest book (due out early next year). The thread is here and my answers to the first 10 questions are below:
Gnosis is experiential knowledge of the Divine. Gnosticism comes in two guises: 1) a blanket term for a huge number of “heresies” at the beginning of the first century CE (and before and after), and 2) a living, breathing, and growing religion with the attainment of Gnosis as its core. Gnosticism is not required to attain Gnosis, as Gnosis is perennial, but Gnosticism as it stands today is an alternative religious/spiritual path that can aid towards this attainment. To distinguish between the two, the idea of “small g” gnosticism (blanket term) and “big G” Gnosticism (religion) is helpful.
2) Is Gnosticism a distinct religion, an approach to religion, or a sect within another religion?
Gnosticism is a distinct religion that has influenced other religions and has drawn influence from other religions. It is not a breakaway group or heresy from orthodox Christianity, but has lived and grown alongside those orthodox groups. It also draws from other paths, including Judaism, Hermetism, Buddhism, and Platonism. As it currently stands, it can potentially bridge the gaps between the major and minor religions of this day.
3) As a Gnostic, have you achieved gnosis? What is your experience of gnosis? If gnosis is "knowledge" of the Divine, do you believe in God?
I don’t believe gnosis is a solitary event in our life. We don’t just one day “wake up” and say “Ah, I’m Enlightened”. Gnosis, to me, is a continual unveiling of that which is eternal. I have achieved gnosis and experienced the Divine in various guises, but I feel I’m a long way away from declaring myself as “Enlightened” or free from all bondage. As for God, I do believe in God, but I do not believe God is a bearded old man sitting on a cloud loving or judging is. I believe in the supernal Father, the Monad, who cannot be described accurately by us, but can only be experienced. This experience is gnosis.
4) How do you express your Gnosticism in your daily life?
Although I use prayer, meditation, and ritual in my daily life, I believe reading and pondering Gnostic texts (both ancient and modern) and other inspirational works is an act of meditation that is a valid practice towards gnosis (“Know Thyself”, as the old Delphi maxim says, and if we take Harold Bloom’s statement that “we read to find ourselves” as true, reading can become an intensely spiritual practice in the pursuit of gnosis). I also see all art as an expression of gnosis (which would explain why so many artists were/are drawn to Gnosticism), so all of my fiction, poetry, and spiritual musings are also a contribution to my spiritual life.
5) I think I'm a Gnostic! What do I do now?
If you think you’re a Gnostic, then think and study and read and meditate until you know you are. There are quite a few books out there on the subject now, so reading them is a good place to start, but there is also a strong Gnostic community online, drawing from all corners of the world. But don’t restrict yourself to reading – go and find someone (or many people) to talk to, either in “real life” or in the virtual world. Ask questions, bounce your ideas back and forth, and discuss things. Don’t take them at face value, and don’t accept beliefs and myths just because you want to become more Gnostic – explore them until they ring true in your heart; there are enough variations on the Gnostic path out there to choose from alternate ones, and if there isn’t one there that “clicks” with you, then make your own. What then? Do something. Do anything that might help you attain gnosis – meditate, pray, perform ritual, etc. Don’t just read about it – experience it.
6) If the sacraments don't lead to gnosis, automatically or even eventually, what's the role / need for the sacraments in Gnosticism?
I see the sacraments as extremely potent rituals that have been tried and tested, and then handed down through the various generations. They invest the physical with the spiritual, which is specific to the West and an essential practice while living in the Western world. However, there are other rituals and techniques that can do this, so they aren’t the only path to go, but offer a tried and tested means. In and of themselves, they are a way to “open the door”, but we still have to individually walk through it, so it only guarantees potential, nothing more.
7) Is the Demiurge real? What role does having the Demiurge or Archons in your world-view play? Is an evil god the cause of evil in the world? Does this evil god create earthquakes and tsunamis?
The Demiurge and Archons are symbolic representatives for the forces of bondage that keep us blind to our origin and our inner light. They are personified because it’s easier to fight “Mr. Bad” than the force called “Evil”, and the personification gives us a powerful literary weapon that speaks to the heart, soul and spirit in us. I don’t necessarily consider these forces as inherently evil, but they can definitely be misguided, confused, blind, and ignorant to a higher purpose or supernal light, and therefore do not necessarily have our highest interests in mind (which would explain wars and “natural” disasters – even the myth of Noah’s
8) What's the difference between Gnosticism and "mainstream" Christianity?
The disagreement regarding salvation through faith (pistis) or knowledge (gnosis) is a major element that divides these two communities, as is the Gnostic idea of a divine spark in everyone and the potential for “enlightenment” or personal ascension in the here and now as apposed to an “eternal reward” in an afterlife. Gnostic poetic interpretation versus orthodox literalist interpretation is also another difference, though there are many in the orthodox “camp” that see scripture as metaphor, analogy, etc., so this “difference” isn’t water-tight.
9) What role does the concept of sin play in Gnosticism?
Although the term sin has a huge array of negative connotations now, it wasn’t always like that. The original meaning was to “miss the mark” – i.e. to fall short of your intent. So, if you mean to be nice to someone and you “miss the mark”, that would be sin. However, it doesn’t mean you’re now damned to hell or need to say 100 Hail Mary’s to atone – it simply means you have to try to “hit the mark” next time. This is how I view sin and atonement in the Gnostic sense. I do not believe we should whip ourselves on a daily basis because of some concept of “original sin” – what happened at the time of Creation, for me, was that we became ignorant of our true divinity. That is “missing the mark”, and the only concept of “original sin” that I can accept (i.e. sinning against the Original, the Monad, Pleroma, etc.).
10) If it's gnosis that saves, what is the role of faith? If gnosis is necessary for salvation, are non-Gnostics saved? Saved from what?
The argument over soteriology (the study of salvation, from “soter”, Greek for “salvation”, and “logos”, Greek for “word” or “study”) is long-standing and one of the main divisive issues between Gnostic and orthodox groups. I personally consider the “exoteric church” (orthodox) as an essential part of the equation of evolution and growth, a necessary step for many of us to avail of before embracing the “esoteric church” or “inner church” of Gnosis. This essential step includes faith. Sometimes we just have to believe, because we don’t have “personal proof” (I find the concept of proof highly debatable in the first place, so the idea of “personal proof” here is the experiential inner knowing that is gnosis), and we have to struggle on with belief until we can know. We don’t live in a constant state of gnosis, as our lives are lived in a world of distractions and illusions (which is why practices like meditation are so essential), so in those “between times”, we keep faith in our gnosis until we again experience it and do not require faith anymore. Gnosis is necessary for salvation from ignorance and illusion, so if there is no inner knowing, then this cannot be attained right now. However, many people have gnosis and don’t know it, and those who don’t are not doomed or damned – they can grow and attain it as humanity evolves and pushes every closer to a wider state of illumination and freedom (even if it takes several incarnations for them). We are saved from ignorance, from the “World of Lies” that has denied us our birthright and knowledge of our true origin.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
A single flame feigns weakness,
For it is humble and contained,
Though secretly it is a potent power,
For in a single moment it burns brightly
And illuminates the way of the traveler.
When the flame is lit, it exposes all shadow,
And makes bright as day
The darkest secrets of the night.
Without the flame, the shadow remains hidden,
As is the fire that burns silently in the heart.
The flame can guide the way for many,
And one flame may highlight that of another,
Though we are all the lighters of our own flame,
For we are all blind when night falls upon us,
And we all bear waiting candles in our hearts.
This was initially inspired by an older piece of mine from around a year or so ago:
Courage In A Candle Flame
A candle flickered in the frightening fire,
The flame balancing on the waxy ledge,
Wearing down inside.
Wearing down inside, tempted to retire,
To snuff the light and break the pledge,
And quickly step aside.
To quickly step aside and pass the reign
Unto the shadows and the silent dark,
Bound so tightly.
Bound so tightly, it’s weakness that you feign,
For in a sacred moment you spur and spark,
And burn so brightly.
While it is often held that Gnosticism is particularly open and respecting in regards to women, especially with the belief that all humans contain a divine spark (not to mention anything of Sophia ["Wisdom"], who plays a vital role in many Gnostic texts and traditions, and exemplifies the "Divine Feminine" principle which is at present our latent spark, waiting for gnosis to turn it into a Divine Flame), there are a few passages in certain texts that raise an eyebrow or two for some readers. In particular, there is Verse 114 of the Gospel of Thomas, which reads:
(114) Simon Peter said to him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life."
Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
For some (if not many) people, this verse initially leaves a bad taste in their mouth, especially if they haven't been exposed to many Gnostic teachings or the sometimes stark nature of some of the metaphors some Gnostic teachers used. Indeed, anyone who was to try taking a literal interpretation of this verse might be astounded at the implication that women are inferior to men, and "are not worthy of life" (which, one should note, is said by Peter, not Jesus, and Peter is again the one who dismisses Mary's vision of Christ in the Gospel of Mary, which suggests a recurring theme of his views on women). Worse yet, this could easilly give some misogynists a scriptural backing to their own behaviours, so that they could enforce it as "the word of God" (though one has to take into consideration that the Gospel of Thomas was widely used in Gnostic circles who taught regarding the Divine Feminine [and therefore would have not suggested misogynism], whereas it was not accepted into the corpus that eventually made up our modern New Testament at the time of the Council of Nicea).
However, and this is where I feel the misleading potential of this verse is crumbled, how can you actually take this verse literally? I mean, how exactly is she to be made literally male (and therefore worthy)? Firstly, I don't think sex changes were around at the time, and even if they were, would they be accepted as an honourable and indeed scriptural procedure for women to undergo? In fact, if all women were to make themselves literally (therefore physically) male, how would humanity survive? Is Jesus suggesting the eradication of the human race by sex change?
I don't think so. So then, what is he getting at with this unusual and provocative saying? This is where the distinction between gender and sex comes in. Sex is biological. I have a penis, therefore I am a man. This is sex (not to be confused with that strange excercise people do under blankets or in the back seats of cars). Gender is not limited to your biology. Many males have a male gender as this is the "code" set out by society, and indeed, the code is what establishes what is male in the sense of gender in the first place. The same goes for women. However, and I must stress this, a man can uphold a female gender, and vice-versa, regardless of general society's insistence on "none of that sort of thing".
Gender also, more importantly, goes beyond the realm of the sexes altogether and applies to a polarity view of the world around us. For example, from ancient times to the present, there has been a set of "binary opposites" established, which includes these two poles of male and female. On one side you have male, light, day, active, positive, fire, spiritual, and the Sun (among other things), and on the other you have female, dark, night, passive, negative, water, physical, and the Moon (think Moon Goddess versus the Solar Gods). Again, the sometimes misleading terms of positive and negative here do not actually equate with "good" and "bad" as we know them in everday terms, but two essential, equal, and complementary aspects of a symbiont process of existence. You cannot have day without night.
If we take two of the above polarities of male and female, those of spiritual and physical, then we start to get a much different picture of what Verse 114 is actually saying. Firstly, Peter says that Mary should leave them because she is not worthy of life. Life, in this instance, would be the spiritual Life after being "reborn in gnosis", as it were, so it is not suggesting that Mary is not worthy of physical existence. However, if we take the myths regarding Mary's role as a prostitute in her time in Babylon, and her possession by seven demons (possibly relating to the seven Archons [or planets], which bind her in captivity to earthly existence), we can easilly see how she is, at that time at least, still a physical, carnal, or "hylic" person (going with the Valentinian notion of "hylics" - people of the physical; "psychics" - people of soul [such as orthodox Christians in the case of a Gnostic viewpoint]; and "pneumatics" - people of spirit). Jesus suggests that he will "make her male", i.e. a spiritual or pneumatic person (or Gnostic), and that "she too may become a living spirit resembling you males". "Living spirit" in this instance again suggests a spiritually reborn person, and the use of the word "spirit" (pneuma) also reinforces the idea of gender being used to represent these polarities. "Resembling you males" would then refer to not necessarily all biological males (many of which would be likewise hylic in nature), but the apostles (as he is talking to them), who would be seen to have become spiritual people by their following of the teachings of Jesus (though some apostles were venerated more than others in this regard, depending on the Christian group).
One does have to wonder why the author (or rather compiler, which seems more likely, as there is conflicting viewpoints given in some of the sayings, which suggests potential multiple authors) kept this saying for last, or, indeed, included it at all. Understandably, the shock value is strong (though perhaps stronger now in today's society with feminism and other social drives), and perhaps the compiler felt it was best to keep it to last so as not to turn off some readers, allowing them to become more familiar with the rest of the material and therefore get a better understanding at what this verse might be saying. However, as a last verse, it's also the one that's going to stay in their mind for longer, with no others to follow and change that viewpoint. Was the compiler deliberately intending to shock his audience? Indeed, why did the writer use such a metaphor in place of other ones? As a poet myself, while I would be very reluctant to use gender in this way, given our "politically correct" sensitivities, I can see how the impact of this metaphor can really get a person's attention (and potentially, through its shocking nature, wake them up). It also points to the universal polarities of nature, and gender is much closer to us than the cycles of day and night are, for example - and if a person meditates on this verse to uncover its meaning, it helps them to unlock this universal principle of polarity that exists all around us. Finally, there is also the political mind of the author at the time, which, like everything else, influences the language in which we write things.
At this stage I would also like to quote another verse from the Gospel of Thomas, which gives a completely different (on the surface) suggestion of what to do with our maleness and femaleness (among other polarities):
(22) Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, "These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom."
They said to him, "Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?"
Jesus said to them, "When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom."
While the suggestion that we should become "like children" deserves a whole exegesis of its own, the large reply from Jesus that we should "make the two one" is important. While in Verse 114 it is suggesting we become spiritual people (by abandoning the bondages of physicality, and therefore entering into the eternal life of the spirit, and "not taste death"), here in 22, I feel it is suggesting that we return to our original state of oneness, to our primal image (tzelem) as Adam Qadmon, or Anthropos, the Heavenly Human that is Androgynous and therefore has all polarities intrinsically entwined, like the Yin Yang (which is another good example oh how polarities have been mapped over the millenia).
So, while this verse will remain controversial for many (so much so that some translators felt the need to add a note to explain the spiritual versus physical idea), it can still lead us to a well of truth that language can neither idolize nor defile.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
When we were thrown into Creation,
We were denied our very birthright,
For it was the Creator
Who committed “original sin”,
For he sinned against the original,
And shunned us into forgetfulness,
That we might wake from reality
In a vague and perpetual haze,
So that we live in the Creator’s Dream,
Puppets of his consciousness,
Asleep in ourselves, unaware,
And truly blind to the reality
That this is not reality,
But a world of lies and illusion,
Built upon the Creator’s own delusion,
And to wake from our paralysis,
We must reclaim what he has denied us,
Our very birthright
To remember our own true origin.
All travellers need a map,
Though not all maps are made of paper;
Some who wander, wander inwardly,
And their map is of an inner parchment,
Unseen by their neighbour’s eyes.
But it exists, and such wanderers are not lost,
For they know their road truly.
Some need a map in another tongue,
And some need a map with symbols,
Others need a map that is complex,
And others yet need a simple one;
But all need their own map,
And the map is not what is mapped,
But a tool to travel it and find it.
Truth does not live on the page;
It does not exist within letters or grammar,
But resides in the heart, the mind, and the spirit.
It dwells there as on the verge,
Awaiting a perpetual unlocking.
The words are a key, for the word is a key,
Being but one of many keys sent in revelation.
When you unlock your heart,
There you will find truth;
When you unlock your mind,
There you will find understanding;
And when you unlock your spirit,
There you will find me,
And we will be one, eternal.
Suffering is an issue that literally plagues humanity, and has plagued humanity since creation itself. Everyone goes through it, even those who appear to be rolling in the belly of bliss, and most of us (if not all) want to end our own personal suffering - and some of us want to do likewise for the rest of our species. It finds its way into many areas of thought, including philosophy and religion (many people will think of the emancipation of the human from suffering as a key element of Buddhism, for example), but there is always the age-old question of: “Why do we suffer?” The Seeker & The Sought "1. Those who try to lift a boulder will lift a Stone, but as they try they are tried, and when they look beneath the
This isn’t a simple one to answer. In many cases, the Gnostic might attribute all manner of suffering (war, famine, disease, abuse, etc.) to the work of the Demiurge and Archons, the “False God” and “Rulers” of this world, who simply do not have our best interests in mind. And, while this is (at least symbolically) essentially true, it isn’t a very pleasant thought for most (if any) people.
However, the Shekinah (Sophia, the Holy Spirit, etc.) permeates our world – it is our indwelling divinity, our Holy Spark – our Sacred Flame. Indeed, it is so involved in our world (whether we are consciously aware of it or not) that we find even those dark moments where it seems like we are puppets to some sadistic archonic tyrant, there is purpose, a hidden element that is working for the Light. Yes, there are forces at work against us, but there are others at work to aid us (Christ, the Logos, was/is one of these forces), and many of these work through the System (“kosmos”) and use the System to achieve their aim. Thus, while suffering in and of itself is not inherently good for us, it can be used (and is, if we let it) to achieve a higher aim.
Knowing why is half the battle and can comfort us in those dark times.
To explore this subject further, I will post an “enormous fiction” that I wrote around a month ago to deal with this subject (and related issues). May it fill you in spirit and inspire you to overcome suffering in its various guises.
2. Those who are content to move pebbles like pieces of a boardgame, they will not know Me. If they looked at the board, they would see that I am all lines and no line, and it is the Breath of My Spirit that moves the pieces, not their hands.
3. Let the Movers of Mountains take Comfort and Solace in their Suffering, for only those who Suffer seek, and only those who Seek find. I am the Seeker and the Sought, and all who seek Me without find Me within.
4. I am beneath pebbles and boulders, and I am the creator of suffering and the absolver of strife. All who know Me shall become Me, and I shall become them, and We will walk in the Light together.
5. For he who is hungry shall be filled with the Bread of Life, and she who thirsts shall be filled with the Wine of Spirit; so shall the Famished inherit the Fullness."
P.S. The term “enormous fictions”, which is commonly adopted in the Gnostic community to refer to personal scriptural work, was first assigned to the Gnostic scriptures by Irenaeus, the second-century Bishop of Lyons, in his “Against Heresies”:
“Every one of them generates something new every day, according to his ability; for no one is considered initiated among them unless he develops some enormous fictions.”
The Seeker & The Sought "1. Those who try to lift a boulder will lift a Stone, but as they try they are tried, and when they look beneath the
"1. Those who try to lift a boulder will lift a Stone, but as they try they are tried, and when they look beneath the
Friday, September 01, 2006
Gnosis is experiential knowledge of the Divine. Gnosis is not a scientific knowledge – it is not about books or laboratories or facts. When we think of the word “knowledge”, a huge list of connotations and associations come to mind. “That person is very knowledgeable”, we might say of a professor of literature or someone who has a PhD. The Greek word for this familiar type of knowledge is not gnosis – it is episteme (literally “science”, though often translated as “knowledge” in the scientific and “book knowledge” sense). Gnosis, on the other hand, is a completely different type of knowing – it is a knowing that permeates the very core of us. It is not based on “theory” or “proof”, both of which change as new “facts” replace old ones and are just as impermanent as the last. When we “plug in” to Gnosis, we access something that is primordial, something that has existed before “existence” itself (I refer to physical creation here) – we access a truth that does not change or waver, the very core of our eternal being. It cannot be measured by intellect. It cannot be summed up in words. It can only be known in the gnostic sense. Even this very essay is going to fall short of describing what gnosis is. I can give you pointers and clues, and I can use language to stimulate something in you, but ultimately, despite what I say here, I cannot tell you what gnosis is, least of all your own gnosis of yourself. Gnosis cannot be conferred or appointed, nor is it a destination, but a continual unveiling and perpetual remembering of that which is eternal. “No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” They say seeing is believing, but true seeing is knowing. Let those who have eyes to see, see. When I say “Gnosis is experiential knowledge of the Divine”, what do I mean by Divine? What is Divine is truly a matter of perspective, but I, personally, consider it to be both Man and God, for they are ultimately one and inseparable. So, this covers both experiential knowledge of God and experiential knowledge of the self, for they are identical. Gnosis is not just about knowing “God is good” or “God is Love”, or even how many hairs he has on his beard – it is the experience of God. When you look at him, he looks back at you, and you look with one set of eyes, not two. Gnosis does not belong, of course, to Gnosticism alone, for it has been, is, and always will be eternal and perennial, but Gnosticism is one of the few paths that deals directly in the attainment of it. Not everyone needs this path to attain it, for as said in a Valentinian piece, “What makes us free is the gnosis”. Gnosticism does not make us free, but it, like all tools of growth, can help and contribute to the attainment of that which makes us free – Gnosis itself.
Gnosis is not a scientific knowledge – it is not about books or laboratories or facts. When we think of the word “knowledge”, a huge list of connotations and associations come to mind. “That person is very knowledgeable”, we might say of a professor of literature or someone who has a PhD. The Greek word for this familiar type of knowledge is not gnosis – it is episteme (literally “science”, though often translated as “knowledge” in the scientific and “book knowledge” sense). Gnosis, on the other hand, is a completely different type of knowing – it is a knowing that permeates the very core of us. It is not based on “theory” or “proof”, both of which change as new “facts” replace old ones and are just as impermanent as the last. When we “plug in” to Gnosis, we access something that is primordial, something that has existed before “existence” itself (I refer to physical creation here) – we access a truth that does not change or waver, the very core of our eternal being. It cannot be measured by intellect. It cannot be summed up in words. It can only be known in the gnostic sense. Even this very essay is going to fall short of describing what gnosis is. I can give you pointers and clues, and I can use language to stimulate something in you, but ultimately, despite what I say here, I cannot tell you what gnosis is, least of all your own gnosis of yourself. Gnosis cannot be conferred or appointed, nor is it a destination, but a continual unveiling and perpetual remembering of that which is eternal. “No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” They say seeing is believing, but true seeing is knowing. Let those who have eyes to see, see. When I say “Gnosis is experiential knowledge of the Divine”, what do I mean by Divine? What is Divine is truly a matter of perspective, but I, personally, consider it to be both Man and God, for they are ultimately one and inseparable. So, this covers both experiential knowledge of God and experiential knowledge of the self, for they are identical. Gnosis is not just about knowing “God is good” or “God is Love”, or even how many hairs he has on his beard – it is the experience of God. When you look at him, he looks back at you, and you look with one set of eyes, not two. Gnosis does not belong, of course, to Gnosticism alone, for it has been, is, and always will be eternal and perennial, but Gnosticism is one of the few paths that deals directly in the attainment of it. Not everyone needs this path to attain it, for as said in a Valentinian piece, “What makes us free is the gnosis”. Gnosticism does not make us free, but it, like all tools of growth, can help and contribute to the attainment of that which makes us free – Gnosis itself.
Gnosis, on the other hand, is a completely different type of knowing – it is a knowing that permeates the very core of us. It is not based on “theory” or “proof”, both of which change as new “facts” replace old ones and are just as impermanent as the last. When we “plug in” to Gnosis, we access something that is primordial, something that has existed before “existence” itself (I refer to physical creation here) – we access a truth that does not change or waver, the very core of our eternal being. It cannot be measured by intellect. It cannot be summed up in words. It can only be known in the gnostic sense. Even this very essay is going to fall short of describing what gnosis is. I can give you pointers and clues, and I can use language to stimulate something in you, but ultimately, despite what I say here, I cannot tell you what gnosis is, least of all your own gnosis of yourself. Gnosis cannot be conferred or appointed, nor is it a destination, but a continual unveiling and perpetual remembering of that which is eternal. “No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” They say seeing is believing, but true seeing is knowing. Let those who have eyes to see, see. When I say “Gnosis is experiential knowledge of the Divine”, what do I mean by Divine? What is Divine is truly a matter of perspective, but I, personally, consider it to be both Man and God, for they are ultimately one and inseparable. So, this covers both experiential knowledge of God and experiential knowledge of the self, for they are identical. Gnosis is not just about knowing “God is good” or “God is Love”, or even how many hairs he has on his beard – it is the experience of God. When you look at him, he looks back at you, and you look with one set of eyes, not two. Gnosis does not belong, of course, to Gnosticism alone, for it has been, is, and always will be eternal and perennial, but Gnosticism is one of the few paths that deals directly in the attainment of it. Not everyone needs this path to attain it, for as said in a Valentinian piece, “What makes us free is the gnosis”. Gnosticism does not make us free, but it, like all tools of growth, can help and contribute to the attainment of that which makes us free – Gnosis itself.