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Charlatanry, Gnosis and Cultspeak

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.religion.gnostic,talk.religion.misc,alt.magick.chaos,alt.thelema,talk.religion.newage,alt.magick.order
From: (nigris (333))
Subject: Charlatanry, Gnosis and Cultspeak (was Gnosis/ suicide)
Date: 23 Jul 1999 22:40:57 -0700

49990609 IVom

a correspondent wrote:
# Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The word of Sin is Restriction.
# ...Why are you discussing gnosis? As far as I am told 
# (which is not necassaraly true) this is something that 
# we might achieve (as we work our way up to that degree) at 
# the IX*? 

there is a difference between organizational development
and personal development, much as those Orders that use a
system of 'degrees' might like to promote an equivalence
in order to secure dedicated workers to maintain the
pyramid scheme or allow the grunts to have fun while they
do the thankless tasks of administrating details.

it is difficult to know the status of participants in
Thelema93-L within either the (c)OTO or as regards their
spiritual development. it could be that they who are
elaborating the details of "gnosis" have actual experience
with what they are talking about (either indirect or

people are going to talk about the goals and legends
which are cloaked in mystery. secrecy is a big draw for
social groups that want membership: they put out that
they are the purveyors and stewards of some fantastic
mystical secret (say, the Gnosis, or the Universal
Medicine, or the Stone of the Philosophers, whatever any 
of these may actually be) and give the appearance of 
knowing all about it but being unable say much due to 
oaths or the ambiguity and danger of revelation, but 
intimate that if one would join the ranks of duespayers 
and support the structure (of which the initial founders 
and promoters are usually the most exalted and unrivalled 
masters) then over time one will come to know these
hallowed secrets or "mysteries" through exposure to
the people, their rites, or secret documents which only
they control (these days through legal pressure).

'gnosis' is a hot item in modern alternative religious
culture. 'Gnosticism' has a reputation as a 'heresy'
of the Roman Catholic Church, its documents of 
Christian bearing have been examined in great detail
of late (the Nag Hammadi library) by scholarly authors
whose work could constitute an expose' on the lack of
authenticity of the Christian scripture ('the gnostic
gospels'), it has been taken up by intellectuals as
an alternative to faith-based religion and favored on
account of its implication of 'knowledge', and it has
been linked to magic and the supernatural by authors
like Crowley and Carroll, who seem to define it to
suit their fancy regardless of its historical origins.

I barely know anything about it myself, by this name,
though I have watched for interesting descriptions,
read some books ostensibly having to do with the
subject, and followed a few threads of correspondence
within public forums. don't get me wrong, I am not 
claiming any special knowledge (or gnosis). but I do
find it valuable to ask questions about those things
which we are told are 'important stages or experiences
on the spiritual path', try to get a glimpse of what
those who talk about them as such feel they have to
offer us, whether it sounds like an experience I
would WANT to have, and begin to get some inkling of
what a person who *is* at that stage or has had that
experience should be like so that the next time I run
into a charlatan I'll recognize hir easily.
# - Can we really discuss with knowledge before we 
# reach that degree? 

we can discuss what others have said about the degree
in question, especially by quoting them and comparing
this with what others say. in fact this is a very
important way to see if there is anything consistent
in the claims of a cult -- contrast and compare the
expressions of a variety of adherents whose authority
is recognized by the group in question. once these
inconsistencies are ferretted out, one may both get a 
sense of to what they pertain and discern if the terms
are merely a smoke screen in order to draw in marks.

there is an old confidence game move in the religion
business that makes its appearance within 'Orderly'
cults: "that information is beyond your degree, you
are not yet ready for it". questions of substance,
scientific analysis and rational criticism are dismissed
like so much 'naysaying' on the basis of presumed
psychospiritual station and the coincidence of 
organizational roles with spiritual maturity. 

yet your question is a very important one when talking
about unusual experiences generally. without having
had the experience in question the type of 'knowledge'
from which one might approach a discussion of it is
always abstracted, from the outside, third-party.
such a participant is at a disadvantage to those who
have actually HAD that experience. the ultimate
dispute is over how to assess such mysteries and
exalted conditions/states and how to distinguish those 
who have had it from those who only THINK that they
have had it or who are merely POSING.

this quibble over authority typically occurs near the
end of any intelligent discussion after all that can
be reported on the subject has been aired and the
statements are challenged based on the quality of their
source -- inevitably someone stands on their personal
experience and this leads quickly to disputation and
ridiculous assessments of the spiritual condition of
people whom are barely known on the basis of the tone
and quality of their written or spoken expression.

as regards memory and the discussion of direct personal
experiences, however, only those who have had them can 
truly reflect on such a memory. yet as any police 
trainer can tell you, most people have not been educated 
to the level of observation and scrutiny required for 
detailed analysis (one of the many reasons that meditation
is so beneficial), and it may be the case that 'gnosis' 
does not in itself include a clarity of mind or 
comprehension of THE EXPERIENCE OF GNOSIS. it may be
that even those who experience it aren't capable of
discussing it knowledgeably unless they have compared 
and contrasted the cases of its occurrence (if indeed it
can be said to have ever been experienced at all).

so when do we start to talk about it? shall we leave it
as bait for the religious charlatans, or do we air our
ignorance and provide accounts from those who seemed to
exhibit the qualities associated with the state in

I think we should always talk about the source 
of information when it comes from someone 
claiming to have experienced spiritual maturation -- 
we should be asking whether their life and the 
observation of others corroborate the claims that they 
are making about themselves in the assessment of the 
reliability of their testimony. 

if those who are discussing exalted spiritual states and
bringing up sources do not offer this type of corroboration,
then we must ask why this is the case and whether the source
(Crowley, for instance) is really reliable as a first-person

ultimately each individual makes hir own assessment of when
it is 'appropriate' to discuss reputed states of spiritual
or technical adeptship. I find that I benefit from such
discussion by claiming little or no authority and referring
to what I have learned through sources to which I have been
exposed. this is the equivalent of bringing books to a
conference of the interested and asking them to comment upon
them. sometimes I find out that my sources are frauds. at
others I find that I am one of the few who has investigated
the subject in any depth amongst us. 

# I haven4t read about any other system claiming to have 
# "gnosis" within their system, maybe you can enlighten me 
# in that field as well.

that is a very important request. 'gnosis' is popular amongst
those of the Hermetic culture (Theosophists, Rosicrucians,
Golden Dawnians, Thelemites, and Chaos Magicians) from what I
can tell. it appears to have been seized upon by those who
were inspired by Gnostic and Hermetic archeological finds
(such as Nag Hammadi and the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Tris-
megistus). It seems to fit in with the turn of the century
Egyptophilia and a perpetuated Neoplatanism or 
Neopythagoreanism in which the adept can attain to a superior
comprehension of the cosmos through association with divinity
or the practice of certain purifying and harmonizing rites
or activities (e.g. ceremonialism, yoga, chanting, etc., etc.).
the New Age community is very fond of 'gnosis' also, though
its ambiguity herein is merely a reflection of the poor
scholarship rampant amongst the Hermetic and nuveaureligious
communities who so love to syncretically collage new paths.
# Conserning suicide I think of it this way. If they try to do 
# so within my reach I would stop them at any cost, mainly 
# because I would have to live with myself which I couldn4t 
# if I let someone die in front of me. 

then you are someone I whose company I would prefer to avoid,
since my life and how and when I take it are quite important
to me and I'd rather not have you interfere with that. 

Invoke me under my stars.

# Love is the law, love under will.

nigris 333 
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