Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gnostics can be Clergy and "Independents"

I strongly object to the simplistic anti-ecclesiasticism that has been on the rise, because it is based on false assumptions. One false dichotomy that has arisen is between being an "Independent" or participating in an ecclesiastical form. Assumptions and prejudices arising from one's interactions with religion in other venues brought to bear in a new arena, are simply an indication of assumptions, not reality. This comes from ignoring or dismissing the “Gnostic” part of “Gnostic Church.”

The other danger in considering “churches” is that a “church” in this sense is generally not understood to be a grouping of individuals. Yet aside from the abstract realm, there are only individuals. Where we like to see abstract groups and not individuals is when we are attacking them. That is the way shadow projections work, they can't lay still on a complex reality, so it is the abstract that is covered with the perceiver's darkness, and both layers then block their view.

There is also the inductive fallacy that comes into play. The "one X did this, all Xs do that" assumption that is simply a way of finding one or more data points to back up an assumption or prejudice. If this isn't obvious I can point you to some hate sites that use this as a justification. It simply isn't an argument, it is simply specific cases of a prejudice finding data that may support it. It is not the only explanation for the data, nor even the one that makes the most sense. That is simply how prejudices work, they are gross generalizations whose explanatory power has been disproved countless times.

Now, is someone who is a prisoner to their own prejudices, and can't see what is in front of their face because of shadow projections, truly independent? I would argue that they are certainly not thinking or seeing for themselves, these things limit both. I would further argue that these things have a collective nature, they have mass appeal, which would indicate that.

This lets us see the nature of the Shadow that is being projected. One's own desire to loose oneself in a collective, to simply surrender to a mass movement, becomes succumbed to in this Shadow way. One joins in the collective group-psychology of rejecting something as the totem of collective group-psychology. This then becomes a very powerful trap, because we would then need to recognize this aspect of ourselves, own it as being ourselves and not a “them,” to escape from the collective—to stop doing what we hate, to quote Thomas.

It isn't an issue with people doing what they want to do, it is an issue in them being trapped by themselves in such a way that they feel they need to reject or tear-down something very removed, to free themselves of their internal issues. Sadly, this is the norm. And it is also the norm to call this “freedom” or “independence.”

When someone says that I, personally, can't work or think outside of a church structure--it is an insult, pure and simple. The on-line community has been heading that way for a few months now. Some of it comes from the neophytes making general claims about "Gnostic Churches" or "Gnostic Clergy" based solely upon their assumptions. Yet they only seem to be the leaders of the charge. These claims almost always include ones that directly contradict the facts of my life and all I have worked to do. Claims of exclusivity, which can be traced to the rejection (exclusiveness) of the person making such claims, flies in the face of all that we do. Claims of collectivity, which can be traced to the collectivity (group-psychology) of the person making such claims, flies in the face of all that we seek.

I don't see an issue in referring people to other organizations or churches, Gnostic or otherwise. There also isn't an issue with working with individuals, who are individuals, in fact the reverse is the case. I also try not to give undue credit, or make assumptions than seem inappropriate, in regards to others, because I serve in an ecclesiastical form.

Some object to having their work on the Internet dismissed or categorized. Imagine what it is like to have your decade-long ministry, with all the work and sacrifice that entails, dismissed and categorized, because part of it has an outward form some associate with bad things in unrelated contexts. Just think about it.

Is being "Independent" about avoiding organizations, starting one's own organization, or is it about working toward independence? There are real issues with organizations, but that is because there are real issues with individuals. Ultimately, our organizations fall into the category of Make Believe, they exist because we act as though they do. These assumptions aren't about organizations, organizations are individuals working with a form in a structure. And when the scope of the structure is as limited as it is in the Gnostic Ecclesia, it largely comes down to form.

Being one thing means that you are not everything, obviously. Having a form means that you don't have every form. Some find this to be a difficulty because they want the “form” to be themselves. They either think desires or dislikes guiding form is more useful than being guided by form, or, more commonly, they don't understand form. This leads to not simply a rejection of form, but a militant radical rejection of form. Rather than “that form isn't for me,” or even, “form isn't for me,” to “that form isn't for anyone,” or even, “form isn't for anyone.”

We can think of ourselves as being in a labyrinthine prison that we must each find our own way out of. A form isn't a map showing your particular way out. No such map is possible. The best we can hope for are useful practices and tools, as well as, information about the dangers. A form might be something akin to a standard set of practices employed to help overcome the maze. You can just wander. You can wander and mark some intersections and not others, or change your system of marking every now and then. Or you can heed some advice left by those who have gone through this before, and adopt a standard set of practices that makes sense and works for you. Simply accepting someone else's standard set of practices may only get you lost further still, they may not work for you, you may not be doing what is required to make them work, or you may not understand them well enough to really try. There is also the possibility that they weren't intended to help someone out of the maze. For all of these reasons, discernment is a personal responsibility no one can avoid.

The reality is simply this: we all have a form, and we are all independents. The form may be silly putty or stone, it may be large or small, but it is there—whether you want to see it as such or not. We also are all on our own paths, responsibility lies upon each of us to find our liberation. This is not something to take lightly, nor something one can give to someone else. We can help each other, we cannot be each other.


jp said...
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Joe Daher said...

I personally find the ecclesiastical form amazing. I see no problem incorporating it into the "beliefs" of Gnosticism, so much as it is understood that the main form is symbolic.

When I look at the Ecclesia, I see those who have studied and worked and thought for longer periods than I have about such topics. I see guides. I see teachers. If you wish to teach yourself, so be it. I wish to be guided, to be asked the questions to make me think beyond my own imagination.

Some don't. I dunno...

Rev. Troy said...

JP, I do not think I am "dismissing those who do not chose to work within my model." So, I would really need to be shown where I am doing that, or it will just seem to be another assumption. On the contrary I am arguing for the reverse, as you noted. I really don't see how putting us all on the same level is judgmental. Please show me, or there is a risk of this fueling my “rampant paranoia.” ;)

The trend is one that I have noted for some time, it has just gotten to the point where it really annoys me. Summer is the point for conscious refinements and distinctions. That, and the high desert July heat makes me less patient. :)

I've been working on projects and forcably off-line quite a bit. Which reminds me, I better post this before my connection dies yet again.

Rev. Illuminatus Maximus said...
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Rev. Troy said...

Rev. Max,
The statement was intended to be absurd, not overwrought, but may have been both. ;)

However your statement:'NOBODY is against "Gnostic Churches"' is obviously false. So obviously false I really don't think I need to address it. Do a Google search sometime. Or, just get out more. That will put an end to the "its all in his paranoid head" theory. Some of it may be in my paranoid head, but by no means all of it. ;)

I had planned on saying something against the "hipster" remark when I went to leave a comment on Tim's blog. But the comments had so much of that quality, that, honestly, they made me change my mind completely. It was the blatant absurdity of making the label seem to fit perfectly in responding to the label that put it all over-the-top.

I don't think anyone used the Hoo-Ha thing in anything but jest. The only one I'm not sure about was Tim. I quoted Tim's article title. As far as juvenile rebellion goes, are you the one who doesn't do that? I've wondered who it was. ;)

You and JP may be under the impression that this is specifically about you, or some single instance. That is not the case. That was more on the order of the straw on top of the "load" I've been dealing with.

Telling me that I overreacted to something smaller than perceived in the midst of something larger? Might be useful. Telling me something based on what is merely assumed and that is easily proved to be false? Not so much.

That said, I'm glad you are active again. A lot of us have been at this a long time in a lot of ways. Mostly that makes us, old. :)

Jordan Stratford+ said...

Random thoughts:

I for one am adding "spiritual hipster" to my resumé.

And I was the one who coined the term "holy hoo-ha", regarding a certain glow-in-the-dark goo-roo, and used it since as a warning that we must be careful not to look like that guy and sound like we're running a dojo.

I *have* seen this anti-clericalism, both first hand and levelled rather viciously against Troy (who handled the whole thing rather much better than I did – I just got snotty). But I don't think that one or two whackos speaks for all those who seek gnosis outside the greater Ecclesia.

We'd all no doubt agree that one can seek gnosis anywhere; both inside and outside a church or religious structure. Personally I'm of the evil minority opinion that one is hard pressed to seek GnosticISM outside of such a structure. This is my bias, my hangup, my programming, my whatever, MINE and you can't have it so there. Disclaimer: there are some "Gnostic" churches where one would be hard pressed to find Gnosticism OR gnosis, IMHO FWIW.

The title of T's post is telling: we Ecc Gn's are part of the "Independent Catholic Movement" historically, and there are so damn few of us all put together we're outnumbered by all the left-handed hot dog vendors in Iowa. Our ecclesiastical structure has always stressed individualism and local autonomy, as well as been extremely accepting of individual initiatives (which is why I'm EXTREMELY skeptical of any non-sanctioned or ex-ecclesia projects: if your congregation and/or bishop don't want to play, odds are there's a very good reason except in the rarest of circumstances). So upshot is, we're ALL indies.

Rev. Illuminatus Maximus said...

However your statement:'NOBODY is against "Gnostic Churches"' is obviously false. So obviously false I really don't think I need to address it. Do a Google search sometime. Or, just get out more.


LOL, OK ya got me.

I didn't mean James Dobson, Alan Keyes, et al - yeah, I'm sure if we took a poll tomorrow vast swathes of the North American public would come out against "gnostic churches," because they read bad things about gnosticism in on the

I meant, gnostics, occultists, hoohahs and hipsters - would they really be against it?

Not be facetious here, really asking and wondering.


"As far as juvenile rebellion goes, are you the one who doesn't do that? I've wondered who it was. ;)"

Can't quite parse this and so not 100% sure what you mean ... But OK, I'll bite anyway. DOWN WITH EVERYTHING! LOL.


"Telling me that I overreacted to something smaller than perceived in the midst of something larger? Might be useful"

Language is so corrupt and imprecise innit? Yes, I think you were overreacting to something small, perhaps within the context of somethng large I do not perceive myself.

We all do that every day though don't we?

I almost hate blogs because they're too revealing - whatever inner conflict or unresolved psychic drama I happen to be going through at any given time winds up provoked unbidden by someone else's blog musings... i project immediately and start holding forth all over the comments section until someone points out that my anima is showing and I retreat in embarassment. LOL.

Nice talking to you BTW.

Rev. Illuminatus Maximus said...

Shoot, just had two posts disappear, forces me to cut down on wordiness anyway which is good.

I still have a hard time believing that anyone (other than the usual suspects, e.g. right-wing fundamentalists and authoritarian culture warriors) is against gnostic churches. Maybe I am just naive.

FWIW I am sorry you have been the object of personal attacks. Thats fucking lame. It takes considerable cojones to get out there as the committed representative of such an ancient tradition - congrats and respect.

FWIW I do think you were overreacting to something small (on tim's blog), but of course there could be some larger context I'm not aware of. For example I know nothing of glow-in-the-dark-gurus per Jordan's reference.

And finally, no no no no - I'm aware this is not about me or JP at all.

Can't speak for him but I have the bad habit of sitting around agonizing amd brooding about "what is the responsibility of the artist in postmodern socity where the social contract has been broken but nobody will admit it" and unfortunately I will then tend to see my own unresolved conflicts and inner tensions reflected or mirrored in other peoples' online written explorations of parallel issues - one issue becomes an extension of another or a symbolic stand-in.... this reminds me of that reminds me of this... so I project all over the comments section until someone points out that my anima is showing and I retreat in embarassment.

Anyway the issue of organized form vs. individual gnosis and the tension between those ideas reminds me a lot of many similar issues I am puzzling through and so the issue interests me.

Hope your camel's back gets better, you gotta keep brushing the straws off as they land so the cumulative weight never gets too heavy! If ya hurt yerself you can't help anyone else. ;-)

be well


Rev. Troy said...


While I did give the "Independent vs Ecclesiastic" as one example of assumptions. And while JP seemed to assume it was about him because of that. ;) The issue is rather large, on a cultural scale, that simply gets translated into Gnosticism.

Yes, there is one side that would start the burnin' because of the "Gnostic" part of things. However, there is the other side that sees all "organized religion" if not all religion as the problem.

While the Gnostic-identified contingent that feels that way isn't large in the scheme of things. I'd love five bucks for every time I've come across the term "oxymoron" applied to Gnostic clergy, church, or religion. The funny part of all of this is, our approach is probably the only real hope to head off fundamentalism.

The snide comments don't bug me much, it's the actual thumping that happens sometimes that's a bit of a problem. The easy target is often the one you actually go after when you get caught up in projections, not the one's that'll thump back.

Implicit acceptance of this is pretty much the norm in our society, and so I try not to view that as an issue in our much smaller community. But, when it starts getting explicit, or even if it just looks that way... well, I hope you can see the problem.