Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Team Identity versus Community

“Save us from the slavery of small aims and of the narrow life.”
--The service to the MH Sophia of the Ecclesia Gnostica

It is an oft repeated pattern that perhaps is inevitable that those who identify themselves as Gnostics will seek to come together across the vastness that most often separates us and feel the joy of making such contacts. However, the other thing that seems to be taken as an inevitability is that the primary concern is always with marketing a particular Gnostic church or identity group. If this had happened in only a few circumstances it might not be worth mentioning. But it is much more than that, it seems inexorably tied into the common understanding of the world.

A seemingly simply Gnostic project to serve the community gets branded. And those who find that surprising are considered reactionary. What seems like working together simply as Gnostics ends up being more like socializing outside of a private club most are unwelcome in. Attempts to aid on a personal level are taken for granted as being motivated by organizational goals or politics. And the lack of an organization becomes the un-brand brand. This seems much more like a fundamental part of our consumer oriented culture brought into a Gnostic context, than mere incidents.

What this leads to is a general consumer mentality applied to even what should be most resistant to such things. Making things like market share and popularity poor substitutes for more stringent standards. So that, even facts and conclusions become matters resting upon persuasion and popularity, without a foundation upon which they might be examined, questioned, and refined.

For some of us this current incarnation of an Internet Gnostic community is not the first one we have witnessed. Without some structure with broader standards in which to discuss things, discussion may cease as soon as it is inconvenient. Pronouncements go unquestioned, along with the methods and assumptions implicit and explicit. And work that seeks to be beyond marketing fades and is replaced by marketing.

Even under circumstance where there are foundations or structures: persuasion is an element, camps or schools of thought form, and marketing occurs. Anyone the least familiar with academia will be familiar with this. In the absence of foundation and structure, there is only persuasion, camps, and marketing. This is a way to market share or even market dominance, but it is not a way to liberation.

I have taken flak, and no doubt will take more, for not being satisfied with this state of affairs. Yet I yearn for more very deeply. Standards and structures by which we can come together to see and question what we think we know, and where we think we are, comprises an essential work required for there to be a future of Gnosticism in our culture.

For, ultimately, the most stringent standards we must face are not those of scholarship, logical argumentation, or scientific research. The standards we must, each of us, face are those of the cosmos itself. If we even risk setting ourselves up within a comfortable realm where we will not be truly challenged by others, the real challenge will only grow more difficult.

The Gnosis Institute will strive to be a place with a foundation, structure, and standards that will take us forward. I have learned from experience that there doesn't seem to be any way of even being a Gnostic community without them.

While there is much that could be found disappointing in this, we must simply learn and continue. If we do not expect more of each other, and give each other opportunities to move beyond the otherwise seemingly inevitable patterns, then our own failure of imagination is as apparent as any.


Jordan Stratford+ said...
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Rev. Troy said...

There is cooperation and there are connections, however, I was obviously speaking of non-social situations.

The structure and foundation of which you seem to be considering for the first time is the Gnosis Institute. There is a core group of individuals, many more have been invited both personally and publicly, and declined to respond let alone engage in much of any level in the project.

This is not re-inventing the wheel. But it is creating a place where standards are standard, where beliefs are just beliefs, and where questions are the norm. I don't see why there is such a failure of imagination as to the nature and possibilities of this, but you are correct, it is happening. It is happening right now, and folks who are serious about Gnosticism can become involved.

Seeing what is in front of your face is one of those important things the gospel of Thomas points out.

Reason, logic, consistency, evidentiary rules, standards of scholarship, et al., are certainly not things we need to reinvent, we just need to be unafraid to apply them. And be willing to apply them without seeking the false comfort of not really being challenged or engaged with one's own ideas.