Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The Gnosis Institute Higher Education FAQ
While this will not be the primary focus of the Institute, it is the one that is asked about most often, and so I will outline here the current plans and direction for higher education within the Institute.
What is the relationship of the Gnosis Institute to Gnostic organizations?
The Institute is not something that organizations participate in, it is something that individuals participate in. Likewise, it is not something that exists to serve the needs of organizations directly, but to serve the needs individuals regardless of whether that is through an organization or not.
What this means practically, is that the curricula of the Institute will not grow out of requirements presented by organizations, but rather will be designed to meet the requirements for individual education and preparation. Organizations determine how they will consider such work.
Will ordination be offered through these programs?
No more than through any other institution of higher education. MDiv programs do not grant ordination, they are a preparation for ordination. Formation as clergy within a particular ecclesiastical body is entirely at the discretion of that body. The Gnosis Institute will provide a part of the preparation for Gnostic clergy; being Gnostics, however, education is seen as necessary but by no means sufficent preparation.
What Programs will be offered?
Eventually, curricula will be developed for the following programs: Gnostic Studies, Gnostic Ministry, and Spiritual Development. The goal is to provide graduate level courses, and work towards offering graduate level degrees. However, a diploma option will be available for those who have not completed an undergraduate degree, and it is most likely that those programs will be developed first.
The Gnostic Studies Program will provide a Gnostic approach to the study of Gnosticism, combining rigorous scholarship within a Gnostic world-view. Studies will include the necessary foundations in philosophy and psychology that Comparative Religion Studies programs lack.
The Gnostic Ministry Program will focus on preparing individuals to serve others in a Gnostic setting or capacity. This will be the Gnostic equivalent of a Divinity program, that in stark contrast to most such programs will prepare an individual for active service, rather than theological debate. This program will have a strong praxis, and practicum element, and will probably include a minimal formation program.
The Spiritual Development Program will consist of the study of spiritual growth and development from a pragmatic perspective. This program will probably offer a diploma in Personal Spiritual Development for those most interested in the personal applications. The graduate level work will have two areas: a practical element of aiding individual's in their spiritual development, and a research element to increase our knowledge.
How can all of this be done with any academic rigour?
A strong foundation in critical thinking will be required of all students beginning with a required course on critical thinking in religious/spiritual contexts. Unlike creedal religions, Gnosticism has nothing to fear either from critical examination, or from honest research. Gnosis is what matters, everything else is at best a good description or approximation.
Why not start offering degrees now?
The reason that education will not be the main focus of the Gnosis Institute is that the resources required do not currently exist—the Institute must develop them. Until the serious work of the Institute is well underway, developing advanced courses is pre-mature. The purpose of the Institute is not to propagate ideas or beliefs about Gnosticism, but to develop and grow real Gnosticism in our modern world—to build a real center and foundation for the future of Gnosticism. The work of the Institute is also not merely intended to be of service to Gnostics, we are in a position to lead in the real study of spirituality and religion, for the benefit of all.