Thursday, July 12, 2007

Questions: Children and Liberation

If Gnosticism sees the world as a kind of prison from which one seeks liberation then how should a person view his children? It seems on one level a rejection of the world should involve a rejection of those things which bind oneself to the world. Is it consistent with Gnosticism to love one's children and still be on the path to Gnosis and ultimate liberation?
There is a current that goes against having children in the history of Gnosticism. However, there isn't any such current opposed to loving and caring for the children that you have. And, neither of these short statements is all that meaningful without more context—for Gnostics, the answer doesn't lie at the level of the physical.

In one view, if humans are imprisoned here then we shouldn't take part in that imprisonment. "I have sown no children to the rulers of the world," is in keeping with this view. The world is an often harsh place, and at times and places is much more so. If bringing about more people will perpetuate misery and slavery, it is certainly something to consider. In general, acting consciously and with consideration is a good thing all around. I think the main issues Gnostics have taken with bearing children, is that we often do so unconsciously, perpetuating unconsciousness, and we focus on physical reproduction that is often seen in an egoistic way. Either in seeing the child as the parent's property, as the parent's immortality or legacy, or fulfillment of the parent's hopes and dreams.

However, it is not human bodies or human forms that are imprisoned, but rather human spirits--sparks of the divine. And, depending on how the story is told, we could take another view in which being incarnated, even in a prison, can be an opportunity for a spark of the divine to seek liberation. Yet, there is a greater responsibility, a responsibility towards the divine within the child. It is a responsibility to nurture not only a child, but if at all possible, a conscious human being capable of self-determination.

Love, duty, and affection can be manipulated into chains that bind. Parents also have their responsibility to follow the path to their own liberation, in addition to responsibilities towards children. And, the same is true for children, they must seek their own path even if it is quite different from what their parents wish. In a larger deeper sense, as scriptures continually tell us, ultimately we are not parents and children of each other, but are all children of God. This is a model for nurturing each other in loving-kindness, and treating one another as self-determining individuals with a deep kinship.

The tension between ties as binding us together or of being bound up in them, is one that runs through all human relationships. Yet it is not a quality of our relationship with God. In developing that relationship, we gain gnosis that helps us with our other relationships.

People often fear that if those they love were to be free in their love, then they wouldn't choose to love them back. Yet love without freedom isn't really love. In Gnostic tales it is the Demiurge who commands love and obedience. While the highest unknowable God does not force our love, but loves us freely and completely.

Just as we shouldn't serve the Archons (Powers) blindly in any other circumstance, we shouldn't serve someone else's inner-archons blindly, even out of love for that person. For in doing so, we bind not only ourselves, but them as well. Indeed, serving the divine within someone else may require uncompromising determination against being manipulated by the other forces within them. We can see this clearly in addictions and self-destructive behaviors, but it runs deeper than that. To not be a slave nor enslave on a psychological level can be a difficult attitude to maintain.

So, I would say the Gnostic attitude towards conception is less clear, and would certainly involve consciously considering the deeper responsibilities. While the attitude toward children is to value them. Love them deeply, care for them as children of God, and aid them towards growing into people capable of being free to seek their own liberation. To not fall into the trap of feeling that we own them, or that we are owned by them.

We must always seek to follow our own path, it is a vital part of who we are, we cannot put it off. If we are on a path of growth and transformation it has effects on those around us. Change may be perceived as dangerous and sometimes freedom is scary for others. We must be mindful of this, but not try to stop our growth for anyone else. We must also be mindful that it can take time for us to integrate the changes we go through, and so not make decisions that effect those around us before we can grow into a change—before we attain gnosis from it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have chosen to have a child, only one. It does in a sense go against what i believe in but i made this decision anyways, i think it was meant for me to bring another spirit of the light here. Helen

Kimberly said...

Thanks for this post. I have been wondering about this -- freedom and liberation, self-determination, etc. -- as it pertains to my own two grade-school-age children and how I can raise them with the type of "stuff", if you will ;-) , that will equip them to chart their own individual paths to gnosis.

Pax. Kimberly

Robyn--Florida said...

I called my children to me. Neither of them was brought here by "accident". Not only this, they both wanted to join me and my husband here as we "knew" them before I ever conceived. I am just now (at 38) discovering gnosticism, even though most of the main beliefs have been part of my belief system for as long as I can remember. I just didn't know that my view of the world had a name. But in regards to children I have found that my most profound growth--gnosis--has come from the challenges I come up against raising other human beings--other spirits--on a daily basis. It's one thing to have a belief and live it when one is by oneself, but I feel I know my beliefs inside and out as they are challenged daily. I have to pull strength out of depths I didn't realize I had. I have to be aware of myself, my beliefs and my place in the world, as well as my path to gnosis in a way I believe I never would have without children. Plus, as others have said, I get to raise other beings to bring the light here on Earth. We need it here, too. God Bless the Children.
Robyn