Believe me: It is no teaching and no instruction that I give you. On what basis should I presume to teach you? I give you news of the way of this man, but not of your own way. My path is not your path, therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The spirit of our time spoke to me and said: "What dire urgency could be forcing you to speak all this?" This was an awful temptation. I wanted to ponder what inner or outer bind could force me into this, and because I found nothing that I could grasp, I was near to making one up. But with this the spirit of our time had almost brought it about that instead of speaking, I was thinking again about reasons and explanations. But the spirit of the depths spoke to me and said: "To understand a thing is a bridge and possibility of returning to the path. But to explain a matter is arbitrary and sometimes even murder. Have you counted the murderers among the scholars?"
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
The calendar features the Liturgical Calendar of the Ecclesia Gnostica: the Sundays and Holy days/holidays of the year, with the liturgical color of the day in the upper right hand corner.
The Gnostic Calendar also features many additional dates of interest. It is an introductory outline, in calendar form, to different threads in the Gnostic Tradition. Also included are many unofficial Gnostic holidays, historical days of note, secular holidays, humorous/fun holidays, made-up holidays, Buddhist holidays, solar holidays, full and new moons--and yes, more.
It includes quotes from almost all the authors noted. Facing pages feature original art and commentary on Gnostic themes by a Gnostic Priest. This year's themes include a series on the Great Guides to Gnosis, with Basilides, Valentinus, Bardesenes, Marcus the Magician, and more.
Printed on high-quality thick and durable acid-free paper, the Gnostic Calendar sells for only slightly more than you'd pay for a non-generic calendar at a retail outlet. Proceeds benefit education and services in the Salt Lake City area, and a portion aids a Gnostic Priest facing a debilitating illness.
Space may separate us, but time can join us.
May this help serve that purpose.
Online Ordering is now available!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
- c. 1850 Paschal Beverly Randolph begins an eight year career as a medium, appearing as a "trance speaker" and working as a "clairvoyant physician."
- c. 1857 Randolph travels through Europe and the near East. He later recounts that it is on this trip he learned "the fundamental principle of the White Magick of Love."
- 1858 Randolph renounces Spiritualism, ending an eight year career as a medium.
- 1861 Randolph travels to London, where he is inducted by Hargrave Jennings as a knight of the Order of the Rose.
- Human Love by Paschal Beverly Randolph
- 1870 Founding of the Brotherhood of Eulis to spread Randolph's teachings.
- The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries by Hargrave Jennings.
- 1872 Randolph is arrested for distributing "free love" pamphelets, tried, and acquitted.
- 1873 The Ansairetic Mystery: A New Revelation Concerning Sex! by Paschal Beverly Randolph
- 1874 Eulis! The History of Love: Its Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods and Rationale; Being the Third Revelation of Soul and Sex, and The Immortality of Love: Unveiling the Secret Arcanum of Affectional Alchemy by Paschal Beverly Randolph.
- 1875 Ancient Symbol Worship: Influence of the Phallic Idea in the Religions of Antiquity by Hodder M. Westropp and C. Staniland Wake (Second Edition).
- 1880 Phallic Worship anonymously by Hargrave Jennings. Privately Printed.
- 1884 The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor goes public, offering a correspondence course on occultism including a number of selections from the writings of Hargrave Jennings and Paschal Beverly Randolph.
- 1889 Phallism: A Description of the Worship of Lingam-Yoni in Various Parts of the World and in Different Ages anonymously by Hargrave Jennings. Privately Printed.
- 1904 When visiting Egypt, Aleister Crowley engaged in sexual magic invocations of Egyptian gods that inspired his writing of the Book of the Law, a text couched in that mythology, and his philosophy of Thelema.
- 1906 Theodor Reuss, inspired by Carl Kellner, and assisted by Franz Hartmann, founds the OTO as an umbrella occult organization with sex magic as its core, the "key" that explains "all the riddles of nature, all the secrets of Freemasonry, and all systems of religion."
- L'Eucharistie ('the Eucharist') by Chevalier Le Clément de St.-Marcq, which puts forward a theory of "Sacred Spermatophagy." Reuss wrote to Le Clément, "I enclose two numbers of the 'Oriflamme' which will show you that the Order of the Oriental Templars is in possesion of that same knowledge contained in your L'Eucharistie."
- 1908 A Masonic and Spiritualist conference held by Gérard "Papus" Encausse. Theodor Reuss comes into contact with Encausse and Jean Bricaud. Reuss and Encausse exchange offices for the OTO and the Martinist Order. Bricaud receives a masonic charter from Reuss. Reuss subsequently founds Die Gnostische Katholische Kirche (GKK, 'the Gnostic Catholic Church'), under the auspices of the OTO.
- 1912 Reuss takes the OTO public. He recruits Aleister Crowley and quickly raises him to the then highest degree of the order.
- Bricaud begins confering the title of Gnostic Legate on many individuals in esoteric circles.
- 1918 Reuss refers to himself as "Sovereign Patriarch and Primate" of the GKK, now being called the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, and establishes Aleister Crowley's Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Canon Missa ('the Canon Mass of the Gnostic Catholic Church', aka "the Gnostic Mass") as the central ritual of the OTO.
- 1919 Bricaud names Reuss as a Gnostic Legate to Switzerland.
- 1929 Arnoldo Krumm-Heller founds the Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua (FRA, 'Fraternity of the Ancient Rosicrucians') and is subsequently called Frater Huiracocha.
- 1950 El Matrimonio Perfecto ('the Perfect Matrimony') by Víctor Rodríguez (Samael Aun Weor).
Paschal Beverly Randolph
Modern sexual magic was initiated through the teachings of Paschal Beverly Randolph (Deveney, 1997, p. xxi; Urban, 2006, p. 36), a "trance speaker" and "clairvoyant physician." In 1857 he traveled to Europe and from there to Epypt and Syria. It is on this trip that he writes of encounters that change the course of his career.
One night - it was in far-off Jerusalem or Bethlehem, I really forget which - I made love to, and was loved by, a dusky maiden of Arabic blood. I of her, and the experience, learned - not directly, but by suggestion - the fundamental principle of the White Magick of Love; subsequently I became affiliated with some dervishes and fakirs of who, by suggestion still, I found the road to other knowledges; and of these devout practicers of a sublime and holy magic, I obtained additional clues - little threads of suggestion, which, being persistently followed, led my soul into labyrinths of knowledge themselves did not even suspect the existence of. (Randolph, 1874, p. 48; cited in Urban, 2006, p. 66)The essence of sexual magic in Randolph's view is as follows:
The moment when a man discharges his seed--his essential self--into a ... womb is the most solemn, energetic and powerful moment he can ever know on earth; if under the influence of mere lust it be done, the discharge is suicidal. ... At the moment his seminal glands open, his nostrils expand, and while the seed is going from his soul to her womb he breathes one of two atmospheres, either fetid damnation from the border spaces or Divine Energy from heavens. Whatsoever he shall truly will and internally pray for when Love ... is in the ascendant, that moment the prayer's response comes down. (Randolph, 1874, p. 339-40; cited in Urban, 2004, p. 68)The association and subsequent use of, and identification with, the term 'Gnosticism' by sexual magic groups is of twentieth century origin. In his book length study of the phenomenon, Hugh Urban concludes that, "despite the very common use of sexual symbolism throughout Gnostic texts, there is little evidence (apart from the accusations of the early church) that the Gnostics engaged in any actual performance of sexual rituals, and certainly not anything resembling modern sexual magic" (Urban, 2006, p. 36, note 68).
The Ordo Templi Orientis
At first associated with the Middle East, and then with Tantric traditions of the East, the association of sexual magic with Gnosticism came by way of Theodor Reuss and his interaction with leaders of the French Gnostic Church, with its close ties to Masonry, Martinism, and the strong esoteric current of the time. It is from that highly interconnected milieu of esoteric societies and orders which the most influential of sex magic orders arose, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO, 'Order of Oriental Templars').
The individual primarily responsible for associating sexual magic with Gnosticism was German Occultist Theodor Reuss, who was interested in the accusations of sexual impropriety made against the Gnostics and the Templars. Such charges brought against these groups were most probably politically motivated fictions, yet, "they would reappear in striking new form in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the foundation of a new Templar order--the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)..." (Urban, 2006, p. 36).
The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (HB of L) propagated sexual magic teachings derived from Paschal Beverly Randolph through its correspondence course on occultism (Deveney, 1997, p. xxiii; Greer, 2003, p. 348). It is likely that this was the primary source on sexual magic for Theodor Reuss, a member of the HB of L. In 1906, inspired by co-member and practitioner Carl Kellner, and assisted by Franz Hartmann, Reuss founded the OTO as an umbrella occult organization with sexual magic as its core (Greer, 2003, p. 221-2). It initially consisted of nine grades, the first six being along masonic lines and the last three focusing on sexual magic. For Reuss sexual magic was the "key" that explains "all the riddles of nature, all the secrets of Freemasonry, and all systems of religion" (Urban, 2006, p. 98).
The French Gnostic Connection
In 1908 Reuss came into contact with Gerard Encause and Jean Bricaud at a Masonic and Spiritualist conference organized by Encause. Further ties were established with Reuss and Encause exchanging charters for the OTO and Martinist Orders. A similar exchange is claimed by some sources, with Reuss granting charters in the Memphis Mizarim Rite of Freemasonry to Bricaud in return for a grant concerning the Eglise Catholique Gnostique (EGC, 'the Gnostic Catholic Church'). Sources infer this because Reuss subsequently founded Die Gnostische Katholische Kirche (GKK, 'the Gnostic Catholic Church'), under the auspices of the OTO (Pearson, 2007, p. 47). However, it is unclear whether there was any formal tie to the ECG, or the nature of such a connection. It should also be noted that there is a significant difference between ecclesiastical and esoteric bodies, it would not constitute a simple reciprocal exchange like that between Reuss and Encause.
When the OTO went public 1912, Reuss recruited Aleister Crowley and quickly raised him to the then highest degree of the order.
By 1918 the GKK certainly had no ties to the EGC/EGU, as Reuss proclaimed himself "Sovereign Patriarch and Primate" of the church, having dedicated the OTO to the promulgation of Crowley's philosophy of Thelema. It is for this church body, called in Latin the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC), that Aleister Crowley wrote the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Canon Missa ('the Canon Mass of the Gnostic Catholic Church'), the central ritual of the OTO that is now commonly called the "Gnostic Mass." Although it is generally referred to as the "Gnostic Mass," that name refers to its status as the official "mass" of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.
In 1919 Bricaud named Reuss as a Gnostic Legate of the Eglise Gnostique Universelle (EGU) to Switzerland (Pearson, 2007, p. 47). Although it was a title conferred on many individuals in esoteric circles beginning in 1912, its conference on Reuss and his use of it at that time indicate that Reuss's church (GKK/EGC) had not officially been affiliated with, and so did not actually break away from Bricaud's (ECG/EGU). The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica remains an active arm of the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the mass that Crowley wrote for it remains the central ritual of the OTO.
Krumm-Heller and the FRA
Arnoldo Krumm-Heller traveled in occult circles at the turn of the century where he studied with notable figures such as Gerard Encause of the Martinist Order and Franz Hartmann of the OTO.
Krumm-Heller moved back to Germany in 1920, where he made contact with Aleister Crowley. He founded the Iglesia Gnostica (Gnostic Church) in Mexico. Not finding as much success as he hoped for, he moved through Latin America before settling in Brazil. In 1929 he founded the Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua (FRA, 'Fraternity of the Ancient Rosicrucians') and took the name Huiracocha.
He kept a low profile through WWII, but when he was able to travel again after the war, he resumed contact with his Latin America students. Between the end of WWII and his death in 1949, Krumm-Heller encountered and subsequently mentored Víctor Manuel Gómez Rodríguez who would subsequently take the name Samael Aun Weor (Dawson, 2007, p. 55-57). Rodríguez states that Krumm-Heller taught a form of sexual magic without ejaculation that would become the core of his own teachings.
Samael Aun Weor and the "International Gnostic Movement"
Víctor Rodríguez left the FRA after the death of Krumm-Heller. He also reports an experience of being called to his new mission by the "venerable white lodge" (associated with Theosophy). Sexual Magic without ejaculation (called the Arcanum AZF) became the core of Weor's "New Gnosis", calling it "the synthesis of all religions, schools and sects." Moving through Latin America, he finally settled in Mexico where he founded the Movimiento Gnostico Cristiano Universal (MGCU, 'Universal Gnostic Christian Movement'), then subsequently founded the Iglesia Gnostica Cristiana Universal ('Universal Gnostic Christian Church') and the Associacion Gnostica de Estudios Antropologicos Culturales y Cientificos (AGEAC, 'Gnostic Association of Scientific, Cultural and Anthropological Studies') to spread his teachings (Dawson, 2007, p. 54-60).
The MGCU became defunct by the time of Weor's death in December 1977. However, his disciples subsequently formed new organizations to spread Weor's teachings, under the umbrella term "the International Gnostic Movement". These organizations are currently very active via the Internet and have centers established in Latin America, the US, Australia, and Europe (Dawson, 2007, p. 60-65).
Dawson, Andrew (2007). New era, new religions: religious transformation in contemporary Brazil. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
Deveney, John Patrick (1997). Paschal Beverly Randolph: a nineteenth-century Black American spiritualist. Albany: State University of New York.
Greer, John Micheal (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. St. Paul: Llewellyn.
Pearson, Joanne (2007). Wicca and the Christian Heritage. New York: Routledge.
Urban, Hugh B. (2006). Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in modern Western esotericism. University of California.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
[Somewhat redacted for language]While I can understand frustration with a question that is itself a problem and that has vexed many theologians for many centuries, I cannot understand your personal attacks.
Reverend, I don't see how saying that Gnosticism is mythical rather than theological answers my question. I already knew what the problem of evil is, and I have no interest in reading a scholarly discourse or in reading a bunch of mystical mumbo-jumbo, so why can't you just answer my [emphasis] question? If you don't know the answer to the question (as I don't), then just say so and I would respect that. I know what you're thinking, [personal abuse]. You're thinking that you have attained gnosis and I haven't and therefore I am not capable of understanding your incoherent [dismissive descriptor].
The "question" itself is incoherent and self-contradictory. You are demanding a simple answer when to my knowledge none has ever been given to the problem of evil in the centuries since it has been formulated within the theological system in which it arose. You expect me to force the Gnostic mythos into some theological system it won't fit, then crank out a satisfactory answer.
I have tried in good faith to show you that it is the question that is incoherent. When you complained of my first attempt, I started again. This takes time and patience, with which I have been generous. The problem is philosophical and I used some basic tools of philosophy: analogy, logic, and epistemology; to try to explain the problems with the question. Jesus could use simple and direct symbols that worked on many levels, the Buddha could hold up a flower to preach a sermon, but I have only what small skill in trying to explain these things that I have. My failure to communicate is nothing that I find pride in.
If we look at it as a story, such a story is a way of explaining and understanding the general situation that we find ourselves in that we cannot otherwise articulate. It is a mirror in which we see ourselves, our situation, and the solution to it. If it did not unfold as it did, we would not see these things within it, we could not find ourselves and our way back.
Blessings on your journey.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The best advice that I can give you is to at least travel to visit and participate for a few days in parish life (if any) and speak at length with different types of participants in any church you are seriously considering, before entering any formation program. This happens automatically in our tradition, because people either live there or are considering moving there. However, in many of these churches one generally only meets others in person for ordination, and these may be at extraordinary events (visits or conferences) disconnected from life at the parish level. Beyond being due diligence, it will also give a level of insight that will prove invaluable if you enter a distance formation program.
Geography is a serious limitation, however gnosis (first-hand knowledge and experience) is also a limitation in that a distance formation is one without the dimension of gnosis. Recently founded church bodies that have such programs don't see gnosis as part of the formation process, and in my experience that is correlated with demonstrations of an understanding of Gnosticism centered on doctrinal elements. There is a long development of an individual's understanding of gnosis, that is itself a part of the overall developmental process, and an institutional understanding narrowly focused on doctrinal elements is more likely to hinder than to aid in this.
For me, an established community of practice is a large part of what a spiritual institution has to offer. It isn't necessarily correlated to the age of a particular institutional form, but it is a matter of having significant experience and interaction in a community of practice. In all spiritual traditions an individual is first a student and is then graduated by being encouraged or approved to teach by a long established teacher. This basic system doesn't always work as intended, but its fundamental purpose is to both pass on a living tradition tied into a larger community of practice, and to ensure the development of the individual beyond a certain point before they become a teacher in that tradition. The “living” aspect and the “development” aspect are of the nature of gnosis. It is worth considering how far back a living tradition goes within an institution and its leading and teaching members.
It may also be useful to point out that at different points of development there are common “universal solutions” that one realizes are not actually solutions of any kind a bit further along. I am not just speaking of personal observations, but also of quantitative research in developmental psychology. While it is best to avoid any simple easy “universal solution” presented, the example of this that is seen far too frequently is the notion of otherwise empty empowerment. This may manifest as a desire of an individual to receive a title without formation, because the title is all that is perceived as needed. It may also manifest as someone essentially granting titles without a formation process, and thinking that doing so is the same as someone going through a formation process.
I think that to be a Gnostic is to consider gnosis to be of importance, even when it is not redemptive-gnosis (usually referred to as Gnosis). One can learn quite a bit at a distance. There is no limitation on information at a distance, but there are severe limitations on gnosis at a distance. I suggest being aware of the severity of the limitations and considering the implications before entering such a program.
For my part, although I am designing a largely distance learning program in Spiritual Ministry and have no reservations about the granting of academic degrees in such a program, I cannot imagine putting someone forward as a candidate for the priesthood who has not had significant experience of the priesthood liturgically and within the context of parish service. Which would result in becoming a Gnostic Priest without gnosis of what a Gnostic Priest does liturgically and informally. That just strikes me as something of an oxymoron.
I hope all goes well whatever path you take. Development does not end with formation, and in an open and supportive environment, where further development does not inevitably lead to conflict with the institution, much can be accomplished. All institutions have their limitations, their blind spots, their weaknesses along with their strengths. I would simply reiterate the suggestion to visit before entering any formation program—a bit of first-hand knowledge, gnosis, is worth more than thousands of words.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
- 1900 Fragments of a Faith Forgotten by G. R. S. Mead.
- Doinel readmitted to the Gnostic church as a bishop (Tau Julius).
- 1903 Additional material from the Gospel of Thomas discovered at Oxyrhynchus. Beginning of the text through logion 7, logion 24 and 36 and fragments of logion 36 through 39.
- 1904 New Sayings of Jesus and Fragments of a Lost Gospel by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt. Pre-publication abridgment of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Part 4.
- 1906 Thrice Greatest Hermes a comprehensive three volume treatise by G. R. S. Mead.
- 1907 Jean Bricaud, a bishop of l'Église Gnostique since 1901 with previous connections to the Eliate Church of Carmel of Eugene Vintras, the remnants of Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat's l'Église Johannites des Chretiens Primitif (Johannite Church of the Primitive Christians), and the Martinist Order, establishes the Eglise Catholique Gnostique (Gnostic Catholic Church) combining these, becoming patriarch under the name Tau Jean II. Liturgical services are based on Western Rite Christianity rather than the Cathar inspired rituals established by Doniel. Bricaud was encouraged and supported by fellow bishop Gérard "Papus" Encausse, likely to provide sacraments to excommunicated members of the Martinist Order.
- 1908 Eglise Gnostique Universelle (Universal Gnostic Church) becomes the name of the church lead by Bricaud. The original church body founded by Doinel continues under the name Eglise Gnostique du France (Gnostic Church of France).
- 1911 The close ties between Eglise Gnostique Universelle and the Martinist Order are formalized.
- 1917 Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (Seven Sermons To The Dead) by Carl Gustav Jung. Privately published.
- 1921 Pistis Sophia (Second edition, with commentary) by G. R. S. Mead.
- 1926 l'Église Gnostique du France (the original church body founded by Doinel) is disbanded in favor of the Eglise Gnostique Universelle.
- 1928 The Gnostic Society founded in Los Angeles by Theosophists James Morgan Pryse and his brother John Pryse for the study of gnosticism.
- 1933 First annual meeting of Eranos, an academic group inspired by Jung, focused on the study of religions. Participants include the foremost scholars of religion, subsequently called the "history of religions" school of thought.
- 1944 Jean Bricaud's successor in the EGU, Constant Martin Chevillon (Tau Harmonious) is executed by Nazi collaborators.
- Ronald Powell, an Australian of French decent and priest in the Liberal Catholic Church, leaves Australia for Europe, eventually settling in England. He acquires a grant of nobility in keeping with his understanding of spiritual nobility, and legally changes his name to Richard Jean Chretien Duc de Palatine.
- 1945 A cache of codices representing a large collection of Gnostic texts in Coptic is found near Nag Hammadi.
- 1949 A rare copy of Jung's Septem Sermones ad Mortuos is shown to a young student at Innsbruck by the name of Stephan Hoeller, because of his interest in Gnosticism.
- 1951 Gnosis als Weltreligion (Gnosis as World Religion) by Gilles Quispel.
- 1953 The first codex of the Nag Hammadi Library to be acquired, dubbed the Jung Codex, is formally presented to C. G. Jung.
- The Pre-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church (now called Ecclesia Gnostica) instituted by the Most Rev. Richard Duc de Palatine, consecrated a bishop previously that year.
- 1954 The first translation of the Berlin Codex is published.
- 1955 The Jung Codex by H. Puech, Gilles Quispel, and W. Van Unnik. First publication of translations of Nag Hammadi texts.
- 1958 Morton Smith reports finding an ancient copy of a letter by Clement of Alexandria quoting a secret Gospel of Mark.
- The Gnostic Religion: The message of the alien God and the beginnings of Christianity by Hans Jonas, a student of Bultmann and Heidegger. Second edition 1963.
- Eglise Gnostique Apostolique instituted by Robert Amberlain.
- 1959 The Ante-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church becomes active in the US through the ministry of Stephan Hoeller.
- English translation of the Gospel of Thomas.
- 1960 Eglise Gnostique Universelle discontinued in favor of Eglise Gnostique Apostolique by Robert Amberlain (Tau Jean III).
- 1967 The Institute for Antiquity and Christianity is founded. The Coptic Gnostic Library Project directed by James Robinson, is one of its six initial projects.
- Consecration of Stephan Hoeller (Tau Stephanus) as regionary bishop of the Americas for the Ante-Nicene Gnostic Catholic Church (Ecclesia Gnostica).
- 1973 The Gnostics By Jacques Lacarrière. English translation published in 1977.
- 1977 Die Gnosis: Wesen und Geschichte einer spatiken Religion (Gnosis: The Nature And History of Gnosticism) by Kurt Rudolph. Revised and expanded 1980. English translation 1983.
- 1977 The Nag Hammadi Library in English edited by Marvin Meyer and James Robinson.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
- 1735 Isaac de Beausobre publishes the first modern monograph on Manicheism (Rudolph, 1983, p. 30).
- 1738 Papal Bull In eminenti apostolatus specula issued by Pope Clement XII, banning Roman Catholics from becoming Freemasons.
- 1769 The Bruce Codex was brought to England from Upper Egypt by the famous Scottish traveller Bruce, and subsequently bequeathed to the care of the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Mead, 1900, p. 426).
- <1785 The Askew Codex was bought by the British Museum from the heirs of Dr. Askew (Mead, 1900, p. 426).
- 1835 Die Christliche Gnosis (The Christian Gnosis) by Ferdinand Christian Baur. According to Kurt Rudolph (1983, p. 31), Baur is "the real founder of research into gnosis."
- 1851 Pistis Sophia text and Latin translation of the Askew Codex by M. G. Schwartze.
- 1864 The Gnostics and Their Remains by Charles William King, an expert on, and the largest collector of, ancient gems. In it King puts forward the theory of the Eastern origins of Gnosticism, common to the period.
- 1875 The Theosophical Society founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Col. Henry Steel Olcott.
- 1877 Isis Unveiled by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Gnostics are one of the spiritual traditions mentioned favorably. King's the Gnostics and Their Remains repeatedly cited as a source and quoted.
- 1884 Encyclical Humanum Genus of Pope Leo XIII against Freemasonry. This inspires the writer known as Léo Taxil to engage in an elaborate hoax claiming that Freemasonry was satanic.
- 1887 The Gnostics and Their Remains (Second edition) by Charles William King. Expanded, including account of the Pistis Sophia.
- 1886 Lerhrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (The History of Dogma) by Adolph von Harnack. According to Rudolph, Harnack "laid the basis for an assessment of Gnosis from the point of view of church history" (1983, p. 31).
- 1890 l'Église Gnostique (the Gnostic Church) established after discovery of Cathar documents and a series of spiritual experiences by archivist Jules-Benoît Stanislas Doinel du Val-Michel (aka Jules Doinel), becoming patriarch under the name Tau Valentin II. Teachings are based on extant Cathar documents and the Gospel of John with a strong influence of Simonian and Valentinian cosmology. The church having both male and female Clergy, such as, male bishops and female "sophias." Liturgical services are based on Cathar rituals.
- through 1891 Mead publishes a serial article on Pistis Sophia in the Theosophical magazine Lucifer, the first English translation of the Askew Codex.
- 1891 The Bruce Codex text and French translation with a brief introduction by E. Amélineau. Text was based on a century old copy, without knowing that it consisted of two manuscripts whose leaves were intermixed.
- The Martinist Order founded by Gérard Encausse, primarily known by his nome du plume "Papus."
- 1892 The Bruce Codex critical text and German translation by Carl Schmidt. First critical edition.
- 1895 Pistis Sophia French translation of Schwartze's text by E. Amélineau.
- Jules Doinel resigns and converts to Roman Catholicism (apparently one of many duped by Léo Taxil's anti-masonic hoax) writing Lucifer Unmasked against freemasonry.
- 1896 Pistis Sophia by G. R. S. Mead. Translation of the Askew Codex.
- The Coptic Berlin Codex (aka. the Akhmim Codex), unearthed in Akhmim, Egypt, wrapped in feathers, in a niche in a wall at a Christian burial site.
- through 1898 Mead publishes another serial article, "Among the Gnostics of the First Two Centuries," that laid the foundation for his monumental compendium Fragments of a Faith Forgotten.
- 1897 "The Acts of John" by M. R. James in Apocrypha Anecdota II. A long fragment of the Acts of John, much of which was previously unpublished.
- Two Lectures on the 'Sayings of Jesus' Recently Discovered at Oxyrhynchus by Walter Lock and William Sandy. Text, translation and lecture commentaries on first fragments of the Gospel of Thomas discovered earlier that year (fragments of logion 26 through 33).
- 1898 The Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Part 1 by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt. Begins with unidentified fragment of the Gospel of Thomas.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
The problem goes like this: since there is no external limit, there is nothing other than God that can be responsible for evil, but God is all-good and so cannot allow evil that God could prevent. However, there is no limit on the knowledge and power of God so there is nothing other than God that can be responsible for evil, but God is all-good and so cannot allow evil that God could prevent... Rinse. Repeat.
If we modify the definition, the problem goes away. If God is not all-good, then God can allow evil to occur, or even cause it. (A common pragmatic belief, even if denied in theory.) If God is not all-knowing, then God cannot be expected to know each instance of evil that will occur in order to prevent it. If God is not all-powerful, then God may not be able to prevent every instance of evil. The other way out of the problem is to deny the existence of evil in various ways, and that is the usual strategy employed by theologians. (There are also self-limited and all-good arguments.)
From the Gnostic texts we see statements comparable to the all-good part of this theological definition. The other two definitional elements, all-powerful and all-knowing, are certainly not present as understood and formulated in contemporary theology. For example, in Gnostic stories the ultimate divinity emanates aspects of the divine nature rather than acting as a creator wielding power upon a separate creation. There is also the question of whether it is valid and to what extent it makes sense to re-frame ancient Gnostic stories into modern theological arguments.
One of the things that annoys some academic scholars of Gnosticism is the mythic rather than theological nature of Gnostic texts. Our culture is so used to theological ways of thinking that the mythic form seems unwieldy. Yet there is a fundamental difference between the mythic and theological in the nature of meaning.
The analogy that comes to mind is the characters of a story, be it a book or a film, being translated into a game, such as a video game or trading card game. The character is removed from the story, the context of meaning, and is then defined by attributes relative to other things in the game. It may be fun to play the game, to move outside of the story, but it is a fundamentally different enterprise from that of telling the original story. Likewise, translating the ultimate divinity from Gnostic stories into a game piece with theological attributes and moving outside of the story is a very different thing from the telling of the original stories.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I have a question about the Gnostic explanation for the evil in the world. If the Demiurge is responsible for this flawed creation, why would the true God create the Demiurge? If this true God is perfect, why would it allow lesser deities to emanate from it? Why does it emanate in the first place? It seems to me that the Gnostic explanation for the problem of evil comes back to the same dilemma as the other explanations.That your formulation of it comes down to the same problem is to be expected. The 'problem of evil' (aka, theodicy, justness of God) is a result of a particular theological definition of God as: all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing. Since it is a definitional problem and not a situational one, any situation in which you place that definition will result in that same problem. The reverse is also true, if you do not have that definition then you do not have that problem. Gnosticism doesn't have that theology and so doesn't have that problem.
Mythology is not theology, and the Gnostic approach is mythological rather than theological. Also, using the term "evil" invokes a larger dualistic frame that isn't necessarily any relation to the ancient thought on the subject. The Greek word is kakos, which means: bad, ugly, ill-born, unskilled, unlucky, foul, pernicious, wretched, etc. We get 'cacophony' from kako-phonos meaning "bad/ugly sound."
The explanation for endemic kakos in Valentinian Gnostic mythology is that the half-maker (demiurge) was created apart from the emanation of the ultimate divine source, and was then hidden in a fog and so was ignorant of the divine. The half-maker as a kakon (unskilled) creator then begins to create the powers (archons) and the cosmos. This story gives an explanation for the kakos (badness, ugliness, wretchedness) that is an endemic aspect of the cosmos and also the ignorance of the powers that are a part of it--it is separated from the divine and ignorant of it. This also shows the remedy, which is the reason for, point of, the myth.
The word "perfect" is another translation that invokes an anachronistic meaning frame. The two applications of telos are "without blemish," and "end, completed." In contrast, we combine and amplify the two in our use of "perfect." However, the ultimate divinity can be without blemish and still undergo a process such as emanation.
As far as the 'why' of emanations in the myth, it is also probably best understood as descriptive of the many ways in which we experience the divine (with ourselves being an aspect of such experience), and so as showing the way back to the divine. It can also be viewed as the original divine unity going through a process of realizing its different aspects through emanating (hypostasizing) those aspects.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I shopped online, looking for something inexpensive that might work. Donations don't cover regular expenses and holy week was coming up. I was torn between cheap and something that would hold up to use and so last much longer. I came across catholiclinens.com that was offering 100% linen linens for about the price of 51% linen linens. The proprietor offers quality and durability rather than lace and embroidery. She also offers larger sized amices.
My order arrived much faster than I was expecting, even though I ordered a larger size amice. I have been quite pleased with them. Pure linen is much more absorbent and more durable. You really notice the absorbency when you use the lavabo towel. As someone who sweats under all the layers of vestments, the large amice is very nice. The linen absorbs more, and with the larger size there is more of it. It really helps protect stoles and chasubles.
The red crosses are very basic, five cross-stich "x"s. The linens come pressed and creased correctly, with the exception of the purificators (they are folded in half rather than a trifold).
Friday, May 08, 2009
Some time ago I spent time on a forum, I said I was a Gnostic, they said they were Gnostics. There were occasional useful/non-polemical discussions at the very beginning. It seemed nice to find other Gnostics, and be Gnostics together. By now you should have guessed what the issue would become—that name-space “Gnostic.”
The problem seriously emerged when an attempt was made to define that name-space. When urged to caution, the charge was made “we have to do it to exclude the sex magic and new age groups!” Despite the many problems with that 'reason,' the push went aggressively on. Dissent is rarely popular by definition, and for such a grand scheme there was no opt out option, it was the entire name-space remember. A vocal dissenter is a persona non grata. The definition was presented as a fiat accompli, one of many such 'conclusions.' It was presented without an argument in its favor, the burden being on others to successfully convince those responsible for it that they were in error. Yes, it was that scholarly of a debate. “Here's my conclusion, convince me I'm wrong,” is not a caricature since identification with the conclusion stated was the norm, with arguments against being taken personally. Did I mention that these were the moderators of the forum?
Of course, it only got worse. In effect, if you disagreed with the definition of the name-space you were telling others that they were not Gnostics. Be part of the collective, or you are attacking the 'aggrieved' other parties. It was all about identity. It was the worst instance of identity politics. Simply not affirming the proclamations of some became “saying they weren't as good as you,” or, “saying that they were bad Gnostics.” It certainly wasn't the case that the 'aggrieved' weren't sincere, just that it was not a rational reaction by any means.
And, it got worse. The right to be a distinct individual with a different view on anything Gnostic was completely abrogated in practice. Any post making a distinction in regards to my own understanding and actual practice of Gnosticism was attacked by many respondents in ways that violated the forum rules. The only response of the moderators was to promptly close the entire discussion.
So, I was effectively silenced. Oh, the moderators did discuss me in their private forum, which they either forgot I had access to or just didn't care. Other moderators were asked to close discussions so it wouldn't seem biased on the surface that one of those involved actually closed them. Juvenile nicknames were used for me. A significant personal bias against my church and bishop was evidenced on a number of occasions. After seeing all that they were about, I left.
Yes, even after I left it got worse. I was pursued and hounded at another forum for the same sin of disagreeing. It may have done the trick of putting me off forums all together and effectively silencing me yet again. Fortunately, the moderators of that forum actually intervened to remove the personal attack made by a moderator of the first forum. There is much to be said for standards.
That was years ago, but the same people are doing the same things and whining and insinuating the same things. While about the most seriously creepy thing that I have experienced in my online dealings with those who call themselves Gnostics, I like to think that I have learned from the ordeal.
What comes most to mind is that community actually means being able to be distinct and to make distinctions. If you cannot be distinct it is not really a community, it is an identity. Dialoging is easiest with those who won't have identity-crossover with you, that is, for whom you do not play a role in their identity. When there is a similarity, caution is needed, as are perhaps new qualifiers for distinctions within your shared idea or name-space. To actually share things in common, we need to be able to share our distinctions and differences; after all, they are what we have to give each other.
One of the big lessons I learned is to actively remain agnostic about people and groups encountered online. When all you can know about them is what they say and what others say, it goes without saying that there is no gnosis involved. One can easily make a false-recognition out of a desire to either uncritically include or reject. Staying agnostic is what the ancients would have called a spiritual exercise, a practice of remaining aware of the difference between gnosis, doxa, and episteme.
I studied the scholarship on Gnosticism for years and had my own developing understanding from experience before encountering any practicing Gnostics, and I was quite skeptical about them, with many tests they had to pass both formulated and vague. Yet, somehow when this started, my policy was to accept anyone as they said they were, until proven otherwise. I had become ego-identified with being Gnostic in the usual way of such things so that I unconsciously identified with others who identified the same way. While a common and well-studied psychological effect, it is no less a failure on my part.
I also think that I have acquired more skillful means of communicating by that long exercise in not communicating. If someone misunderstands your argument, you can try to learn to argue more clearly. However, if someone twists your plain text in order to 'misunderstand' you, they are attacking you and not your argument, and that fact is all that there really is to learn.
The other lesson that gets driven home all too often is that if someone is attacking you in this medium, you probably cannot help them in any way. The reason for this is that anything you say will be twisted, and there is no “reality factor” that has to come into play. The interpretation by the individual does not have to be subjected to reason, facts, or simple reality tests—in this medium the interpretation by each isolated individual can be unassailable. However, I don't know if it will keep me from trying. After all, in the worse case, it only brings in a more personal animosity against me in particular.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Of course, rather than the cosmology of the Valentinian Gnostic tradition we draw upon the Jewish Kabbalah, generating a Christian Kabbalah; but many of the basic principles remain much the same. The difficulty is that, in truth, no one really knows the Valentinian Gnostic cosmology in its original intention and context – there must be much guess work and speculation filling in the gaps. This is not the case, however, with the Kabbalah, but there are plenty of source works and it remains a living tradition, so that when we draw from its teachings we may know the original intention and context, and when we shift the teachings to form our Christian Kabbalah we can do so with this knowledge and understanding.This statement says that the ancient Gnostic traditions are at a remove from us. While it exaggerates the difficulty in understanding the original intention and context of Valentinian cosmology, the fact that it wasn't handed down to us as a living tradition is quite obviously true. This is given as the reason for choosing to use the Kabbalah as a core tradition, it is a living tradition as opposed to the Valentinian one. This statement makes sense. I could hope for the presentation of the results of this to be called "Sophian Kabbalah" rather than "Sophian Gnosticism," but it is a valid argument for the pragmatic choice that was made to teach a Kabbalistic core rather than a Gnostic one. One can also quote such scholars as Gershom Scholem about the Kabbalah being "Jewish Gnosticism," and the resonance between the two traditions, though they remain quite distinct.
Many in my tradition study the Kabbalah quite extensively, including the tradition of Christian Kabbalah, but it is not our core tradition—for that we use the ancient Gnostic tradition. It is a situation that can result in a somewhat steep learning curve in order to understanding the ancient context and intent of ancient scriptures (there is also a steep curve in beginning to study Kabbalah), but it does not require guesswork or speculation as a basis for practicing as modern Gnostics. The reason for this is gnosis, which most often can be translated as recognition or acquaintance. We come to know our selves, our cosmos, and the teachings, myths and symbols of our scriptures, through recognition and acquaintance—through gnosis. Gnosis is not the end of the path it is the method, that is, the path itself. Following the path of Gnosis we use study and experience of the myths, symbols, and teachings of scripture, individual spiritual inquiry, and developmental spiritual practices, in particular the mysteries/sacraments. These reflect and illuminate each other through gnosis.
However, somewhat opposite reasoning from the quote above is used against us modern practitioners of plain old (as in ancient) Gnosticism.
In this regard, I’m quite amazed that often times modern schools of Gnosticism become so bound up in orthodox patterns of priesthood, the formula of the Mass and so forth, and I’m astounded that this, very often, is how “Gnosticism” is interpreted and presented...We actually view this in similar terms outlined in the first quote. We are choosing to practice a living tradition of ancient mystery ritual practices, a majority of which were practiced by ancient Gnostics, at a time when any specifically Gnostic tradition of practice has been long lost. However, according to TM, such a choice is not possible in this context, instead we must be "bound up in orthodox patterns." Apparently, we cannot look at the ancient Gnostic sources and see that they had mystery ritual practices, that they shared some of these with the universal church, and also that Gnostic schools functioned within the universal church, then make a choice to base our practice on a living tradition, rather than make one up largely out of guesswork and speculation. We would much rather have a living tradition of practice than one of cosmology.
Of course, when speaking of others it is easy to only consider the rules applied one way. In psychology we call this an instance of the fundamental attribution error.
If this is the case, then naturally our ancient Gnostic brothers and sisters would assume that their modern counterparts would generate their schools upon actual gnosis of Christ; specifically, actual gnosis of the Risen Christ.If that were the case, then naturally we would expect you to generate your school upon actual gnosis of Christ, rather than on the tradition of Kabbalah. (Don't you hate it when someone turns your own argument against you by replacing terms?) You see, it doesn't matter who makes them, polemical arguments are generally bad arguments.
TM does talk quite a bit of sense about gnosis, and expresses valid though misplaced concerns. For the most part he's preaching to the choir. But from my point of view, such concerns point more towards his own group. He would seem to agree that Gnosis is not some esoteric knowledge that you have but knowledge that you are. Yet, couching everything in such a complex esoteric system as Kabbalah strikes me as somewhat counter-productive. Especially if someone can come and potentially experience gnosis of the living Christ through participation in a Eucharist service, with no need to learn a system. He merely assumes that the ancient mysteries practiced by Christians were not born out of Gnosis. Yet, there are scholars who think that the sacramental aspects of Christianity are Gnostic in origin. Surely, seeking to experience the presence of Christ rather than merely be told about him is quite Gnostic, and it is also the purpose of the Eucharist as a spiritual practice, a group spiritual exercise.
In the end it is best to remain agnostic concerning that which is in the domain of gnosis and of which we have no gnosis, no direct knowledge. The questions that I have for TM that would make his position and understanding clear to me are not ones that can be answered with words. So, I remain agnostic though not antagonistic.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"Our unwillingness to see our own faults and the projection of them on to others is the source of most quarrels, and the strongest guarantee that injustice, animosity, and persecution will not easily die out. when one remains unconscious of oneself one is frequently unaware of one's own conflicts; indeed the existence of unconscious conflicts is actually held to be impossible." [Ibid., p. 811-812; para. 1804]
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Zazzle is less expensive and gives more options per design than CafePress. Though I haven't ordered from them yet.
Here are the CafePress links:
Holy Thomas Gift Shop
PriestCraft: Gifts for Clergy
Sunday, March 22, 2009
There does not exist, nor will there ever exist, any treatise of mine dealing therewith. For it does not at all admit of verbal expression like other studies, but, as a result of continued application to the subject itself and communion therewith, it is brought to birth in the soul on a sudden, as light that is kindled [341d] by a leaping spark, and thereafter it nourishes itself.
Notwithstanding, of thus much I am certain, that the best statement of these doctrines in writing or in speech would be my own statement; and further, that if they should be badly stated in writing, it is I who would be the person most deeply pained. And if I had thought that these subjects ought to be fully stated in writing or in speech to the public, what nobler action could I have performed in my life than that of writing what is of great benefit to mankind and [341e] bringing forth to the light for all men the nature of reality?
But were I to undertake this task it would not, as I think, prove a good thing for men, save for some few who are able to discover the truth themselves with but little instruction; for as to the rest, some it would most unseasonably fill with a mistaken contempt, and others with an overweening and empty aspiration, as though they had learnt some sublime mysteries.
Plato (Epis. 7, 341b-e)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Fortunately, it worked out with only relatively minor difficulties. Missing the conference would have been difficult as I had already missed one due to illness, and I would have paid for it since it was beyond the cancellation date.
However, the trip held much more than that, it was quite beneficial. Attending a course on the collective shadow, socializing with people with similar interests, and being exposed to a hint of the number of advanced spiritual practitioners working in the area. This latter item struck me as being a resource so rare in human history from one point of view, and from another unique in human history for the diversity of traditions that are involved. It is a resource that I hope to make more use of in my own journey.
Yet, illness has hit me very hard again. It seems to be a severe food allergy to something hard to avoid, and I was unable to avoid it despite my best efforts. So, back into the twilit world of fatigue, sleep, and frustration. Though, there is hope that it will not last for long this time.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
It was an enjoyable interview for me, speaking with an interesting and insightful interviewer.