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Gnosis and gnosis

To: soc.religion.gnosis
From: (Willard Uncapher)
Subject: Re: Gnosis and gnosis (was Gnosis, study and practice)
Date: 11 Oct 1994 17:44:18 GMT

Quoting: > (Dean Edwards):

In many meditative traditions, there is a real concern with how the 
non-ordinary experiences are developed, explored, and interpreted. How
does one now how 'far' one has gone and that one is not experiencing 
some kind of 'delusion' short circuiting deeper understandings.  Tibetan
shamatha meditations speak of 'bliss' states that should neither be 
embraced nor denied, since they are not of the deeper experience and 
connectivity being sought (Dean Edwards might call these 'psychic' 
states after the terminology of Valentinus).  There is a satori state 
of non-self, a kind of vast opening, perhaps.  While some traditions 
see this as their goal, many Buddhists want to push deeper to states 
involving the creating of mental and other form giving tendencies.

Perhaps true or not.  On 'returning' (or contracting) from one of these
deeper experiences, many interpretation schemes can be applied.  These
maps can implicitly be used to explore the exalted states as well.  
How is one to know if what is happening is delusional?  Perhaps what is 
happening is the result of too much serotonin on one neural receptor, or 
not enough dopamine on another.  The intepretation, the formalizing of 
what it all means is a key, and it is here that the distinction between 
gnosis and Gnosis is pertainent.

Taking gnosis as a kind of cipher for a host of expanded states seems to 
work all right.  Given that the relationship of consciousness to the 
physicality of human existence, to the chemical-electrical nature of the 
brain and its body (are they different), its habits/systems/psychologies 
is problematical, there is no clear way to delimit what is going on.  
However, the differences in the interpretations are very interesting.  
One of these interpretations is Gnosis, a historically determined 

> In terms of interpreting such an experience, I would say that this depends
> on how the world and spirituality is viewed. A christian would interpret
> and wxplain it along christian lines. St. John of the Cross is one of the
> best examples of this school. A muslim would see it in a very different
> way. Hafiz and Rumi are excellent examples of this approach. A Hindu
> would have still another approach. Mirabai and Tulsi Das come to 
> mind. Then there are folks like Kabir...

True, but the differences are there, and it often presumptuous, even
imperial to reduce all the differences to similarities, and then to 
substitute one's favorite brand of interpretation to cover it 'all.' To
link together, "true Pleroma, the fullness of being, Haq, or truth" is
not so far fetched since these traditions, including many Islamic
notions associated with Haqq show strong Hellenist influences.  But
most Buddhists would not use the kind of Yoga-Samkhya vocabulary of manas,
buddhi, and so on.  Rather, at least among Madhyamikan schools of Buddhists
we would find their meditators speaking more of what Dean would call
Kenosis, or emptying out, rather than Pleroma, a term that might fit with
the Chittamatran schools of Buddhists, the 'mind-only' schools.

The historical Gnostics, say the Valentinians, had a world view that
tended to lead implicitly or explicitly to certain conclusions.  Their
view that only certain people had experience with the truth (the 
pneumantics) led to kind of modernist elitism, and their dualist view 
that the material world was evil, led them to disparage the experience of
other people around them, and to practices of lived experience.  Combine
this with the notion of the 'inner spark' elitism and you get all kinds
problems.  Like what to do with the reprobates.  The issue is not whether
some people have had 'deeper experiences' than others, but the relationship
to people who have allegedly not had these experiences.

> What this tells me is that the natural world is an integral part of the 
> It is errant only to the extent that it is seen as being separate from
> the whole (ton holon) or Pleroma. I would suggest that what was actually
> being condemed was the separation of these aspects of the sacred out 
	from the
> spiritual whole by some pagan philosophers of the day. Otherwise, the
> concept of the Pleroma would seem at odds with the rejection of the lower
> hylic (physical or wooden) and psychic states. How can someone reject 
> their arm, saying, "See, this arm is not well. How wrong it is. How it
> afflcts my life." Instead a higher perspective would treat the body as
> a whole and see io its needs.

Is this an interpretation from someone arguing from the perspective of a
generalized gnosis, or historial Gnosis, as an apologist for Gnosis. I
don't know about this 'Endless Story' you mention, although I have vaguely
heard about it.  Rather, the reading of books like Hercleaon's Commentary
on John, such as is explored in Pagel's The Johannine Gospel in Gnostic
Exegesis, of books like Rudolph's, Jonas, the books by the various trans-
lators of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, of later works like Pistis Sophia,
of people who have looked at the Cathari, and so on, is a contempt for
materiality as the prison of the pneuma, of the prison of the inner spark.

The interpretation of the Pleroma as including materiality does ring of
the world of Islamic mystics who sought to see the Haqq as both immanent
and transcendent (ie., Hallaj).  One relevant question is whether one could
truly call these sufi's 'gnostics.'  I would think not.  Consider even the
notion that "The outer boundary was the boarderline between the Pleroma and
the Kenoma or Tou Ouden, the emptiness or the nothing."  These Platonic 
notions of 'purity' and 'truth' seem to be implicit judgements against the
impure or interconnected.  It is not enough to rehabilitate the inter-
connected as 'really not being all that impure, but also being part of the
great Pleroma.'  

To conclude, where in the historial records does anyone find references 
to the Pleroma as including materiality?  Is it not really that Platonic
world 'over-there,' the world of ideal forms and so on?  I do not deny
that there has been a renewed interest in seeing how the 'material' world
might be connected to the spiritual (and the division between the two is
pretty Greek), nor that the Sufi's might have sought to transcend that
difference, but what does this have to do with the image of the divine
spark caught in a material prison house?  If anything, much of Buddhist
epistemology was developed to examine how this kind of dyadic terminology
was productive of the very conceptuality that created the 'prison house'
in the first place.  That is, the 'prison house' concept was a concept
created by the ego to protect itself in its limitedness.

We are not all that far apart on the larger details.  I merely make these
points so that gnostics who would invoke Gnosticism might understand why
people from less dualistic perspectives are suspicious.


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