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Gnosticism...Theistic Satanism?

wgw

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Now by the way, one can claim these are relatively isolated incidents amd they would be not entirely incorrect.  What is dostressing is the degree to which these texts are becoming accepted.  The Gospel of Thomas or the Pistis Sophia might not be in the RCL...yet, however it seems inevitable that a remnant of mainline Protestant parishes will be reading these twenty years hence.

By the way, regarding the RCL, iconodule is right to "jab" it; in my opinion its exclusion of 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 is something to be utterly ashamed of.
 

William T

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JamesRottnek said:
William T said:
JamesRottnek said:
Wgw, before this debate begins its procession, how about you define your understanding of gnosticism for us?
Are you Episcopalian? I thought they had a relatively orthodox bible.  What books do they use that could be considered "Gnostic".

But if Orthodoxy usually considers Anglicans to be one of the closer Western expressions of Christian faith to Herself, Ihighly doubt  "Satanism"" is going to be associated so quickly with Anglicanism, regardless of whatever changes occurred in the past decade or two.
Yes I am.  And for our actual Biblical canon, we have "those canonical books of whose authority was never in doubt in the Church," according to the 39 Articles.  So, basically, your standard Protestant books.  On top of that, the 39 Articles (which still have some authority in the Episcopal Church) adds 3 & 4 Esdras, Tobias, Judith, "the rest of the Book of Esther," Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, The Song of the Three Children, The Story of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasses, and 1 & 2 Maccabees.  They're used "for example of life and instruction of manners."  Today, though, there are indeed Episcopalians (and Anglicans of the other provinces) who would equate them with the rest of scripture.

What wgw is referring to, I believe, is that some Episcopalians (including some clergy) also do read, and find edifying, and will (from time to time) mention in a sermon, some books that are frequently called Gnostic.  Among those I've seen used most often are the Gospel of Thomas (not the Infancy Gospel), and the Apocryphon of James.  And could also, here, and the Gospel of Mary.  The problem with doing so, of course, being that no one can really read it today, as it's missing something like 10 pages. 

What other specific books he might be referring to, I'm not sure (as Episcopalians read many things for edification, including some of reading works like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Book of Enoch - the latter of which is in the Ethiopian canon).  But those are the two I most suspect he could be referring to.
1.  The books such as Barauch, Additions to Daniel etc are part of the general "canon" of the East and to a degree Catholics.  I think the concept of canon works a bit different in The East though.

2.  I can't speak about The Gospel of Mary off hand, but with regards to some non-canonial texts that get miscatagorized as "gnostic" you are correct there is another category,  The Apocalypse of Peter, The Gospel of Thomas, etc are among such texts.  I don't know the word off hand to catagorize these texts (spurious, maybe?).  I think strong cases can be made against them, but in general I think they are texts that came more or less within the Christian Tradition (though in some cases perhaps on the fringe, and with more than a swirl of Gnostic influence in some cases) and were rightfully rejected.

3. The Shepard is something that is catagorized as an "early Christian writing".  Early Christians loved it.  There is nothing wrong with it. Jewish Books like Enoch (which was quoted by Jesus), are very broadly within the Christian Tradition.  The Ethiopians officially use it as a text as well as books like 4 Esdras (where we first have the name "Uriel" given) and Jubilees.  Such books may not enjoy quiet the same respect in Byzantine Orthodoxy, or most Oriental expressions, but there is nothing inherently wrong with them, and there is profit to reading them.
 

William T

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Iconodule said:
JamesRottnek said:
We use the Revised Common Lectionary, which you'll find is suitably free of gnostic or so-called gnostic texts.
It's also free of a lot of scriptural verses that make people uncomfortable... sorry, just had to make a jab.

But yeah, accusations of "Gnosticism" are typically overblown.
I can see how that can be a horribly misused word.  I was surprised to see it was used at all in modern day western parlance.  There are legitimate unbroken expressions of it in the East (Yazidi for example)...the West it becomes a little harder to trace and look at in modern times.  Even if people want to call themselves gnostics, it is usually too technical and philosophical/New Age-y to be taken as anything as 100% Authentic.  The biggest fear is for it to turn into a trendy philosophical/trendy word that can be used as a generic "catch all" word.
 

wgw

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Thank you for your post.  The canonical status of those books sometimes referred to as "Apocrypha", known to Catholics as "Dueterocanonical," is uncontroversial among the Orthodox; I support these works.  In fact recently I mounted a defense of them in a disputation with Josiah on these fora.  In fact, I am inclined to favor the Ethiopian Broader Canon whoch not only includes 1 Enoch, but many other works.

The Shepherd of Hermas likewise is best understood as something to be used in accordance with the instructions of St. Athanasius in the 39th Paschal Encyclical; it is not NT scripture, however, its use for catechtical purposes is sanctioned.

On point 2 I do agree that some of these texts can be used to support Tradition, however, others are essentially worthless.  The links I posted however show these as being used in an essentially Gnostic manner.
 

wgw

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William T said:
Iconodule said:
JamesRottnek said:
We use the Revised Common Lectionary, which you'll find is suitably free of gnostic or so-called gnostic texts.
It's also free of a lot of scriptural verses that make people uncomfortable... sorry, just had to make a jab.

But yeah, accusations of "Gnosticism" are typically overblown.
I can see how that can be a horribly misused word.  I was surprised to see it was used at all in modern day western parlance.  There are legitimate unbroken expressions of it in the East (Yazidi for example)...the West it becomes a little harder to trace and look at in modern times.  Even if people want to call themselves gnostics, it is usually too technical and philosophical/New Age-y to be taken as anything as 100% Authentic.  The biggest fear is for it to turn into a trendy philosophical/trendy word that can be used as a generic "catch all" word.
The Yazidi are not unambiguously Gnostic although they would wualify as Gnostic under the standards I set out earlier; Yazidism can be regarded as the worship of the Islamic conception of Satan, which is to say, a being very different from our own conception of Satan.  There is much evidence to suggest that Sheikh Adi, a Sufi mystic, defined Yazidism out of some degenerate form of Christianity, one which contained elements of traditional Paganism and which may have been related to the Syrian school of Gnosticism.

The Mandaeans on the other hand are unambiguously Gnostic, although not Christian.  Their theology is an example of a Gnostic faith in which the source of enlightenment was a person other than Jesus Christ.

The last unambiguously Christian adherents of historic Gnosticism were the Paulicans, who became extinct in the 19th century.

Now Yazidism is an interesting point to being up in that herein we have an example of a sect with a Gnostic cosmology of emanationism, a Gnostic view of the devil being somehow good, and what amounts to a form of theistic Satanism, which is made more palatable by the fact that their conception of Satan is shaped by Islam, a religion I regard as devil worship.
 

William T

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wgw said:
Thank you for your post.  The canonical status of those books sometimes referred to as "Apocrypha", known to Catholics as "Dueterocanonical," is uncontroversial among the Orthodox; I support these works.  In fact recently I mounted a defense of them in a disputation with Josiah on these fora.  In fact, I am inclined to favor the Ethiopian Broader Canon whoch not only includes 1 Enoch, but many other works.

The Shepherd of Hermas likewise is best understood as something to be used in accordance with the instructions of St. Athanasius in the 39th Paschal Encyclical; it is not NT scripture, however, its use for catechtical purposes is sanctioned.

On point 2 I do agree that some of these texts can be used to support Tradition, however, others are essentially worthless.  The links I posted however show these as being used in an essentially Gnostic manner.
I think books like Apocalypse of Peter or whatever are best left for academic study.  You could read Enoch or Shepard to a five year old or a catechumen...those other books require a more academic perspective.  They are rejected Christian writings that aren't necessarily heretical but have some serious and heavy duty flaws.  Enoch and Shepard aren't rejected in any way.  I don't think Peter can really be used for anything outside of more academic use.
 

Iconodule

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William T said:
Iconodule said:
JamesRottnek said:
We use the Revised Common Lectionary, which you'll find is suitably free of gnostic or so-called gnostic texts.
It's also free of a lot of scriptural verses that make people uncomfortable... sorry, just had to make a jab.

But yeah, accusations of "Gnosticism" are typically overblown.
I can see how that can be a horribly misused word.  I was surprised to see it was used at all in modern day western parlance.  There are legitimate unbroken expressions of it in the East (Yazidi for example)...the West it becomes a little harder to trace and look at in modern times.  Even if people want to call themselves gnostics, it is usually too technical and philosophical/New Age-y to be taken as anything as 100% Authentic.  The biggest fear is for it to turn into a trendy philosophical/trendy word that can be used as a generic "catch all" word.
I think Gnosticism in the West pretty much dovetailed with hermeticism and neoplatonism and all the weird variants thereof into a catch-all "Western esoterism", finding expression in alchemy, astrology, and other disciplines like that, through the rosicrucians, masons, etc. and today in parts of the New Age movement. Talking about "authentic" Gnosticism seems dubious because it was never a stable, unified school of thought.
 

FatherGiryus

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Iconodule said:
William T said:
Iconodule said:
JamesRottnek said:
We use the Revised Common Lectionary, which you'll find is suitably free of gnostic or so-called gnostic texts.
It's also free of a lot of scriptural verses that make people uncomfortable... sorry, just had to make a jab.

But yeah, accusations of "Gnosticism" are typically overblown.
I can see how that can be a horribly misused word.  I was surprised to see it was used at all in modern day western parlance.  There are legitimate unbroken expressions of it in the East (Yazidi for example)...the West it becomes a little harder to trace and look at in modern times.  Even if people want to call themselves gnostics, it is usually too technical and philosophical/New Age-y to be taken as anything as 100% Authentic.  The biggest fear is for it to turn into a trendy philosophical/trendy word that can be used as a generic "catch all" word.
I think Gnosticism in the West pretty much dovetailed with hermeticism and neoplatonism and all the weird variants thereof into a catch-all "Western esoterism", finding expression in alchemy, astrology, and other disciplines like that, through the rosicrucians, masons, etc. and today in parts of the New Age movement. Talking about "authentic" Gnosticism seems dubious because it was never a stable, unified school of thought.
Very true.
 

wgw

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Iconodule said:
William T said:
Iconodule said:
JamesRottnek said:
We use the Revised Common Lectionary, which you'll find is suitably free of gnostic or so-called gnostic texts.
It's also free of a lot of scriptural verses that make people uncomfortable... sorry, just had to make a jab.

But yeah, accusations of "Gnosticism" are typically overblown.
I can see how that can be a horribly misused word.  I was surprised to see it was used at all in modern day western parlance.  There are legitimate unbroken expressions of it in the East (Yazidi for example)...the West it becomes a little harder to trace and look at in modern times.  Even if people want to call themselves gnostics, it is usually too technical and philosophical/New Age-y to be taken as anything as 100% Authentic.  The biggest fear is for it to turn into a trendy philosophical/trendy word that can be used as a generic "catch all" word.
I think Gnosticism in the West pretty much dovetailed with hermeticism and neoplatonism and all the weird variants thereof into a catch-all "Western esoterism", finding expression in alchemy, astrology, and other disciplines like that, through the rosicrucians, masons, etc. and today in parts of the New Age movement. Talking about "authentic" Gnosticism seems dubious because it was never a stable, unified school of thought.
Now on this, I think you raise a very excellent point which touches close to the core of my argument.  You argue that Western Gnosticism was coterminous with the occult; I concur; I would argue this conditon existed in the East as well, althoigh frankly there is so much mysticism and dissimulation in non-Christian religions of the East that this fact seems to "shrink to insignificance."  We should not forget at any time however that according to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Epiphanius of Salamis and other credible Patristic experts, the Protoheresiarch of Gnostic Christianity was the dreaded Simon Magus, wno was as much of an occult figure as anyone else, in purely Eastern terms.

The Roman Marcus, who founded the sect of the Marcosians, was a almost a satire of Simon Magus, resorting to what amounted to parlor magic in order to swindle Old Ladies.

However, my point is that in being coterminous with the Occult, Gnosticism managed to essentially adopt the most sincere expression of Theistic Satanism ever attained.  The Ophite conceit glamorizes the Serpent and makes God out to be the devil.  Yazidism glamorizes the Peacock Angel, a rebellious archangel, whose origins closely parallel those of Satan or Lucifer in Christian thought, who is more specifically based on the Islamic Shaitan.  My view is that only Gnosticism represents a sincere, earnest worship of the devil on the basis of the error that the Old Testament deity is somehow malign, which is an adolescent theology, ideal for those caught inextricably in the torments of Teen angst, but otherwise grossly erroneous.
 

William T

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Iconodule said:
William T said:
Iconodule said:
JamesRottnek said:
We use the Revised Common Lectionary, which you'll find is suitably free of gnostic or so-called gnostic texts.
It's also free of a lot of scriptural verses that make people uncomfortable... sorry, just had to make a jab.

But yeah, accusations of "Gnosticism" are typically overblown.
I can see how that can be a horribly misused word.  I was surprised to see it was used at all in modern day western parlance.  There are legitimate unbroken expressions of it in the East (Yazidi for example)...the West it becomes a little harder to trace and look at in modern times.  Even if people want to call themselves gnostics, it is usually too technical and philosophical/New Age-y to be taken as anything as 100% Authentic.  The biggest fear is for it to turn into a trendy philosophical/trendy word that can be used as a generic "catch all" word.
I think Gnosticism in the West pretty much dovetailed with hermeticism and neoplatonism and all the weird variants thereof into a catch-all "Western esoterism", finding expression in alchemy, astrology, and other disciplines like that, through the rosicrucians, masons, etc. and today in parts of the New Age movement. Talking about "authentic" Gnosticism seems dubious because it was never a stable, unified school of thought.
Agree, especially when looking at the West.  I think even if someone like Jung,  Julius Evola, or whomever calls themselves gnostics or Pagans it really is very different than Yazidi or "Hinduism"...these are best looked at as "modern" conditions.  Direct links to paganism or gnostic practices is just too difficult to do where the direct links have been obliterated, we can do geneologies and speculate how these things evolved within a culture... but that's going to be far from any concrete prognosis.  Words like gnostic or pagan in general may be useful for technical phenomenological outlooks, but become very difficult when in dialogue with people who never call themselves "pagans" even if they worship some pantheon of gods.  I may be able to go on about "paganism", but what does that have to do with someone who worships Shiva?

And as you hinted, Neoplatonism never exactly died.  Whatever problems neoplatonism has, it is not Gnosticism, nor do I think it's really that big of a spiritual problem.  Neoplatonism Is probably one of the better spiritual outlooks for people born in a secular environment.
 

wgw

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I disagree regarding Neoplatonism; classical Platonism, sure, however Neo-Platonism introduced a number of direct references to pan-Hellenic paganism.  I would go so far as to regard Julian the Apostate as essentially neo-Platonic.
 
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