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.