Gnostic lesson 1
Lessons in Gnostic origins, concepts and non dual dynamics.
1. Brief history and origin of the Gnostics
2. Sethian creation myth
3. Valentinus Metaphysics and non duality.
4. Three worlds kabbalah and Gnosis awareness.
5. Nous sword of reasoning
Brief history and origin of the gnostics
Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός gnostikos, “having knowledge”, from γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish-Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. These systems believed that the material world is created by an emanation of the highest God, trapping the divine spark within the human body. This divine spark could be liberated by gnosis. Some of the core teachings include the following:
All matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit
Gnosticism does not deal with “sin”, only ignorance.
To achieve salvation, one needs to get in touch with secret knowledge.
The Gnostic ideas and systems flourished in the Mediterranean world in the second century AD, in conjunction with and influenced by the early Christian movements and Middle Platonism. After the second century, a decline set in, but Gnosticism persisted throughout the centuries as an undercurrent of Western culture, re manifesting with the Renaissance as Western esotericism, taking prominence with modern spirituality.In the Persian Empire, Gnosticism spread as far as China with Manicheism, while Mandaeism is still alive in Iraq.
The earliest origins of Gnosticism are obscure and still disputed. The Christian groups called Gnostic’s a heresy of Christianity but according to the modern scholars the theology’s origin is closely related to Jewish sectarian milieus and early Christian sects. Scholars debate Gnosticism’s origins as having roots in Neoplatonism and Buddhism, due to similarities in beliefs, but ultimately, its origins are currently unknown. As Christianity developed and became more popular, so did Gnosticism with both groups often existing in the same places. The Gnostic belief was widespread within Christianity until Christianity expelled the group in the second and third centuries (C.E.). Gnosticism became the first group to be declared heresy.
Some scholars prefer to speak of “gnosis” when referring to first-century ideas that later developed into gnosticism, and to reserve the term “gnosticism” for the synthesis of these ideas into a coherent movement in the second century. No gnostic texts have been discovered that pre-date Christianity, and “pre-Christian Gnosticism as such is hardly attested in a way to settle the debate once and for all.
Gnostic’s borrowed significant ideas and terms from Platonism, using Greek philosophical concepts throughout their text, including such concepts as hypo-stasis (reality, existence), ousia (essence, substance, being), and demiurge (creator God). Both Sethian Gnostic’s and Valentinian Gnostic’s seem to have been influenced by Plato, Middle Platonism, and Neo-Pythagoreanism academies or schools of thought. Both schools attempted “an effort towards conciliation, even affiliation” with late antique philosophy, and were rebuffed by some Neoplatonists, including Plotinus.
The Syrian–Egyptian traditions postulate a remote, supreme Godhead, the Monad. From this highest divinity emanate lower divine beings, known as Aeons. The Demiurge, one of those Aeons, creates the physical world. Divine elements “fall” into the material realm, and are locked within human beings. This divine element returns to the divine realm when Gnosis, esoteric or intuitive knowledge of the divine element within, is obtained.
Dualism and monism.
Gnostic systems postulate a dualism between God and the world,varying from the “radical dualist” systems of Manichaeism to the “mitigated dualism” of classic gnostic movements. Radical dualism, or absolute dualism, posits two co-equal divine forces, while in mitigated dualism one of the two principles is in some way inferior to the other. In qualified monism the second entity may be divine or semi-divine. Valentinian Gnosticism is a form of monism, expressed in terms previously used in a dualistic manner.
Source wikipedia Gnosticism
Plato (/ˈpleɪtoʊ/;[a] Greek: Πλάτων[a] Plátōn, pronounced [plá.tɔːn] in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423[b] – 348/347 BC) was a philosopher in Classical Greece and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the development of Western philosophy. Unlike nearly all of his philosophical contemporaries, Plato’s entire work is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years.
Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: “the safest general characterisation of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” In addition to being a foundational figure for Western science, philosophy, and mathematics, Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality.
Source wikipedia Plato
Before the Gnostic movement started in the east, Plato taught some interesting concepts, hypostasis (reality, existence), ousia (essence, substance, being), and demiurge (creator God). These concepts inspired a mysterious group to create a new system of spirituality based on these concepts. This group was the Gnostic’s. Plato’s ideas actually explain duality of the world in a logical way. It explains why there is something wrong with the world. The whole structure of dualistic metaphysics is actually a way to oneness. It is my theory that Plato was well aware of the oneness (non dualism) and created these concepts to point to it. The ousia concept is actually oneness substance . So this means Plato must have had some knowledge of non duality. The gnostic concepts of demiurge, ouisa etc all come from Plato.
Timescales of development
Late first century – development of ideas
mid second century – the Gnostic’s reached their summit and declared their gnosis was the secret teachings of Jesus
end of second century – decline
The Gnostic’s began in Jewish-Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. Many of the heads of the Gnostic schools were Jewish Christians. The new movement was anti law ,it was believed only the spirit could be saved and not the body. This group was called Sethiaism which may have been the original teachings of the Nazerite sect. Sethianism attributed its gnosis to Seth, third son of Adam and Eve and Norea, wife of Noah, who also plays a role in Mandeanism and Manicheanism. Their main text is the Apocryphon of John, which does not contain Christian elements, and is an amalgam of two earlier myths. The implications here was that Seth was without sin.
These were offshoots of John the baptist’s school managed by Dositheus, Simon Magus (the magician) and Menander. The avenue this school took was that the world was created by ignorant angels. Thus it was thought through Baptism it was possible to remove natural death (caused by the angels).
Valentinus was a candidate for bishop of Rome but started his own group when someone else was chosen. In the teachings of Valentinus, creation was flawed materially not due to moral failings of the demiurge but that demiurge was less than perfect than its superior entities. Valentinianism did not see the world as bad but saw the material world not as a seperate substance of the divine but said there was an error of perception.
Marcion was a church leader from Sinope who was later expelled. His ideas may have been the source of the two gods theory discussed in the Nicaea council AD 325. Marcion taught about an evil creator of the material universe and also a loving god. Marcion’s god was alien to the creation. God had no part in the creation of the world or any connection to it.
The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. Their religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. Mandaeanism is still practiced in small numbers, in parts of southern Iraq and the Iranian province of Khuzestan, and there are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide.
The name of the group derives from the term Mandā d-Heyyi, which roughly means “Knowledge of Life”. Although the exact chronological origins of this movement are not known, John the Baptist eventually came to be a key figure in the religion, as an emphasis on baptism is part of their core beliefs. As with Manichaeism, despite certain ties with Christianity,Mandaeans do not believe in Moses, Jesus, or Mohammed.
Source wikipedia Mandaeanism