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Gnosticism and Satanism?

To: alt.religion.gnostic,alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (Puss in Boots)
Subject: Re: Gnosticism and Satanism?
Date: Sun, 05 Mar 2000 01:25:59 -0500 (SOD of CoE):


>         AS TO THEIR ACCURACY AND RELIABILITY? I'd be grateful.

     Sure thing.  The account of Gnosticism offered on that web
page is just a mess:  a jumble of random notions, some
borrowed from Gnosticism, others from very different traditions.  
Let's start fresh.

     The distinguishing features of Gnosticism are radical 
anti-cosmism and a critical attitude toward the god responsible
for this world -- in other words, the Gnostics rejected 
Creation and Creator alike.  From the Gnostic point of view the
universe is a prison or a labyrinth made by a stupid and 
arrogant demiurge.  God is somebody else entirely:  not the 
Creator, but a transcendent deity who exists outside the cosmos.

     Historically speaking, Gnosticism first appears in the 2nd 
century A.D.  The 2nd and 3rd centures were also when it 
reached a peak of influence.  It may date back well before then 
-- it might even precede Christ.  But that's speculation.  
Gnosticism is best known as an early Christian heresy, although 
not all Gnostics were Xians.  (Of course to the Christian 
Gnostics, the proto-orthodox were the heretics:  Christians who
strayed from Jesus' true teachings.)

     The mix-up with Satanism usually occurs as a result of the
Gnostic devaluation of the Creator:  the Gnostics saw him
basically as a devil (although some Gnostic systems also have a 
more specialized devil-figure), so folks who aren't paying 
enough attention sometimes conclude Gnosticism is devil-worship.
A silly mistake, since to the Gnostics, the Creator wasn't
worth worshipping.  The Gnostics worshipped God.  They just had
their own ideas about God's identity.

> blessed beast!

     668:  the neighbor of the beast.

From web-page:
>#      Saying "Gnosticism" is like saying "Knowingism." 

     The term "Gnosticism" designates the beliefs and the ideas
of the Gnostics.

># Gnosis means to KNOW, as if with direct perception. 

     In ancient Greek, "gnosis" had a variety of meanings.  But
we're speaking in English about Gnosticism, where "gnosis" 
refers to the knowledge claimed by the Gnostics -- for instance
the knowledge that the Creator isn't God.

># Gnost-ICS were like "Know-ISTS."

     You could say that.  But the knowledge they claimed, which
they called "gnosis," wasn't just any knowledge:  it had 
specific features, like the ones I've been talking about.  They 
knew this world was a prison of the spirit, they knew it was 
created and ruled by an arrogant, ignorant deity, and they knew 
that diety wasn't the true God.

     Good books on Gnosticism include _The Gnostic Religion_, a
classic by Hans Jonas, and Kurt Rudolph's _Gnosis_.  I also 
recommend Adolf Harnack's _Marcion_.  _The Gnostic Gospels_, by 
Elaine Pagels, discusses Gnosticism in context of Church  
politics.  _The Nag Hammadi Library_ (edited by James Robinson)
and _The Gnostic Scriptures_ (edited by Bentley Layton) both
offer selections of the source materials in English translation.

-- Moggin

From: (Puss in Boots)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.gnostic,alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
Subject: What is Gnosticism?
Date: Sun, 05 Mar 2000 01:34:42 -0500
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     Here's two short descriptions of Gnosticism.  The first is
more scholarly.  (It comes from _The Gnostic Religion_, by 
Hans Jonas.)  The second is more impressionist.  (It comes from
_The Gnostics_, by Jacques Lacarriere.)  -- M

     "The cardinal feature of gnostic thought is the radical 
dualism that governs the relation of God and the world, and 
correspondingly that of man and the world.  The deity is 
absolutely transmundane, its nature alien to that of the universe,
which it neither created nor governs and to which it is the
complete antithesis:  to the divine realm of light, 
self-contained and remote, the cosmos is opposed as the realm of
darkness.  The world is the work of lowly powers which though
they may mediately be descended from Him do not know the true God
and obstruct the knowledge of Him in the cosmos over which they
rule.  ...

     "The universe, the domain of the Archons, is like a vast
prison whose innermost dungeon is the earth, the scene of man's
life.  ...  The Archons collectively rule over the world, and
each invididually in his sphere is a warder of the cosmic prison.
Their tyrannical world-view is called _heimarmene_, universal fate,
a concept taken over from astrology but now tinged with the 
gnostic anti-cosmic spirit.  In its physical aspect this rule is
the law of nature; in its psychical aspect, which includes for
instance the institution and enforcement of Mosaic Law, it aims at
the enslavement of man.  As guardian of his sphere, each Archon
bars the passage of souls that seek to ascend after death, in 
order to prevent their escape from the world and their return to
God.  The Archons are also the creators of the world, except where
this role is reserved for their leader, who then has the name of
_demiurge_ (the world-artificer in Plato's _Timaeus_) and is often
painted with the distorted features of the Old Testament God.

     "Man ... is composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.  But reduced
to ultimate principles, his origin is two-fold:  mundane and
extra-mundane.  Not only the body but also the 'soul' is a product
of the cosmic powers...  Through his body and his soul man is a
part of the world and subjected to the _heimarmene_.  Enclosed in
the soul is the spirit, or 'pneuma' (called also the 'spark'), a
portion of the divine substance from beyond which has fallen into
the world; and the Archons created man for the express purpose of
keeping it captive there.  ...  In its unredeemed state the pneuma
thus immersed in soul and flesh is unconscious of itself, 
benumbed, asleep, or intoxicated by the poison of thw world:  in 
brief, it is 'ignorant.'  Its awakening and liberation is effected 
through 'knowledge.'  [_Gnosis_.]

     "The radical nature of the dualism determines that of the
doctrine of salvation.  As alien as the transcendent God is to
'this world' is the pneumatic self inthe midst of it.  The goal of
gnostic striving is the release of the 'inner man' from the bonds
of the world and his return to his native realm of light.  The
necessary condition for this is that he _knows_ about the
transmundane God and about himself, that is, about his divine
origin as well as his present situation, and accordingly also 
about the nature of the world which determines this situation.  As
a famous Valentinian formula puts it,

          What liberates is the knowledge of who we were, what we
     became; where we were, whereinto we have been thrown, whereto
     we speed, wherefrom we are redeemed; what birth is, and what

     "This knowledge, however, is withheld from him by his very
situation, since 'ignorance' is the essense of mundane existence,
just as it was the principle of the world's coming into existence.
In particular, the transcendent God is unknown in the world and
cannot be discovered from it; therefore revelation is needed.  The
necessity for it is grounded in the nature of the cosmic situation;
and its occurence alters this situation in its decisive aspect,
that of 'ignorance,' and is thus itself already a part of 
salvation.  Its bearer is a messenger from the world of light who
penetrates the barriers of the spheres, outwits the Archons,
awakens the spirit from its earthly slumber, and imparts to it the
saving knowledge 'from without.' ... "

                        (Hans Jonas, _The Gnostic Religion_ 42-45)

     Gnostics "hold this world and the creatures that inhabit it 
in total suspicion.  ...  Viscerally, imperiously, irremissibly, 
the Gnostic feels life, thought, human and planetary destiny to be 
a failed work, limited and vitiated in its most fundamental 
structures.  Everything, from the distant stars to the nuclei of 
our body-cells, carries the materially demonstrable trace of an 
original imperfection..."  Gnosticism delivers "a radical censure 
of all creation...accompanied by an equally radical certainty...
that there exists...a light issuing from the true God -- that 
distant, inaccessible stranger to the perverse order of the real 
universe; and that man's task is to regain his lost homeland by 
wrenching himself free of the snares and illusions of the real, to 
rediscover the original unity, to find again the kingdom of this 
God who was unknown, or imperfectly known, to all preceding 

     "These convictions were expressed through a radical teaching 
which held almost all of the systems and religions of former times 
to be null and void.  In spite of its links with some philosophies 
of the times, and apart from minor reservations -- since they 
borrowed certain beliefs indiscriminately from various systems, 
prophets or sacred books -- one can say that Gnosticism is a 
profoundly original thought, a _mutant thought_.

     " their eyes the evil which taints the whole of creation 
and alienates man in body, mind, and soul, deprives him of the 
awareness necessary for his own salvation.  Man ... possesses only
a shadow of consciousness.  And it is to this one task that the 
Gnostics deliberately devoted themselves, choosing paths that were
not only unorthodox but which, moreoever, greatly scandalized 
their contemporaries:  to create in man a true consciousness, 
which would permit him to impart to his thoughts and deeds the 
permanence and the rigour necessary to cast off the shackles of
this world."

                              (Jacques Lacarriere, _The Gnostics_)

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