GNOSIS vs. GNOSTICISM: MAKING A DISTINCTION

by Bryan Rice on October 31, 2009.

(Though my views have changed since 2009 and I am not identified with radical dualistic gnosticism anymore, I thought I would re-blog this to make some distinctions that I think are worth pondering).

What is meant by gnosis? What is meant by Gnosticism?

Gnosis has many connotations. It is a Greek word that means knowledge. But in the context of “Gnostic” belief, it can refer to multiple forms of knowledge. The type of knowledge for a Gnostic is not mere conceptual, informative, data, nor analytical ideas, as many heresiologists might contend. For a Gnostic, gnosis means a direct experience of the Transcendent God, unmediated by anyone else, imparted to an individual. Gnosis is understood to be “knowledge of the divine”, or “self-knowledge”. I have come to know it as being “Divine acquaintance”. According to Elaine Pagels, gnosis means “insight”. Gnosis and the idea of Enlightenment are interchangeable. It also can mean “self-realization” or “illumination”. It is “A Way”, A “Path” one treads in an unfolding awakening process, in discovering their divine nature. The awakening that takes place through gnosis, is waking from ignorance in a person, about their divine origin, that they came from God’s Light, as children of the Light. Gnosis leads one to be anointed with the Christos, and to become a light-bearer. Gnosis also helps free individuals from the prison of matter, rather the illusion of separateness from the Transcendent God, who I have come to know as the Holy Androgyne, of not only Father+, but Mother+ too, and (not achieve) but attain Christ or Messianic Consciousness.

Gnosticism then, is a movement and a worldview dedicated to liberation from ignorance about one’s origin and to reaching one’s full potential or awakening in Christ Consciousness. According to Wikipedia Gnosticism “refers to diverse, syncretistic religious movements in antiquity consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god. This being is frequently identified with the Abrahamic god.” There are several sects in traditional Gnostic spirituality and practice such as Mandeans, Manicheans, Cathars, and Valentinians. Roots of Gnosticism come from Zorastrianism from Egypt, from Greece, and from Jewish mysticism related to what is known as the Kabbalah. Gnosticism as a worldview typically exists in dualistic consciousness, with the idea that the Transcendent God is “illimitable” and the eternal light, and a half-creator, or Demiurge, that came from an Emanation from God named Sophia, who decided to give birth to an offspring without blessings from God. Typically in Gnosticism, the world and creation and the cosmos are seen as the doing of the Demiurge, who considered himself a god. He became known as the lesser god who after creating a “corrupt and perishable universe”, (as antiquity teaches), created archontic powers, seen by many to be fallen angels.

So, matter and light are typically in Gnosticism to be distinct from one another, despite the belief that divine sparks of light are trapped in every incarnate human. To many, Gnosticism is a reality seen through the lens of poetic mythology, metaphors, the alternative view of creation, as mentioned, and traveling a unique path of salvation, “The Way” to gnosis. The eternal, imperishable realm of the Transcendent God exists as an outward Emanation from him/her. The real God exists in the Pleroma, or Fullness of God. Emanating outward from God are “divine principles” or “faces of God” called Aeons. They extend out and down towards matter, where separation from God seems to occur. Gnosticism supports the idea that “self-realization” can lead to a second birth and a human’s spirit can become a begotten son or daughter, an Aeon, in the Pleroma. For a Gnostic, knowledge in the forms talked about above, is what saves a person from having to reincarnate back into matter in a cyclic pattern. This belief is contrary to mainstream Christianity for instance, which says people are saved from their sins because Jesus died on the cross for them. They believed that the shedding of his blood atoned for their sins and that his resurrection from the dead opened the door for humanity to eternity.

Messianic Consciousness: The Way to Christhood

What is meant by gnosis? What is meant by Gnosticism?

Gnosis has many connotations. It is a Greek word that means knowledge. But in the context of “Gnostic” belief, it can refer to multiple forms of knowledge. The type of knowledge for a Gnostic is not mere conceptual, informative, data, nor analytical ideas, as many heresiologists might contend. For a Gnostic, gnosis means a direct experience of the Transcendent God, unmediated by anyone else, imparted to an individual. Gnosis is understood to be “knowledge of the divine”, or “self-knowledge”. I have come to know it as being “Divine acquaintance”. According to Elaine Pagels, gnosis means “insight”. Gnosis and the idea of Enlightenment are interchangeable. It also can mean “self-realization” or “illumination”. It is “A Way”, A “Path” one treads in an unfolding awakening process, in discovering their divine nature. The awakening that takes place through gnosis, is waking from ignorance…

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RISE FIRST, THEN DIE: A BRIEF GLIMPSE AT THE GOSPEL OF PHILLIP

by Bryan Rice on October 31, 2009.

In the Gospel of Phillip, Jesus says, “Those who say the will die first then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.” What does he mean? What is meant by the resurrection?

According to Lawarence Caruana, author of the book The Hidden Passion: The Story of the Gnostic Christ, the idea of resurrection that Phillip speaks of in his gospel, is closely tied to the sacrament of Redemption. Resurrection is seen to be a “visionary ascent through the aeons” of the Pleroma, done to prepare a person for their “after-death ascent”. Someone being initiated into the Gnostic Christian faith would receive Redemption for the purpose of gaining gnosis or knowledge of the names of the beings in the Lower and Upper Aeons who “would receive that person during their post-mortem or visionary ascent” (A Glossary of Gnostic Terms – http://www.gnosticq.com).

L. Caruana focuses specifically on the term resurrection further down in his glossary of terms. He cites the traditional Gnostic idea that there won’t be a bodily resurrection, and that the soul dwells temporarily in the body, which he says belongs to the Archons. The Gospel of Judas and the Testimony of Truth both say that the body or flesh will be left behind.

I intuit that there is more to the idea that Jesus said, written in Phillip’s gospel. Attaining gnosis or knowledge about the Heavenly Realm or Fullness from whence we came, is integral to making one’s self ready to travel “The Way” back to the Father/Mother. It’s almost like Jesus is instructing that knowing about or having had a glimpse of one’s intended destination, according to the Will of the Transcendent God – to redeem every living thing back into his/her fold – is a necessary preparation for a soul to be “homeward bound”. Perhaps Jesus was emphasizing that experiencing gnosis or the Divine Presence was primary to avoiding reincarnation back into matter or to another life afflicted by distractions that keep a person seemingly separate from God. According to Archbishop Christian Thomas Umberger, a person must experience a second birth, the resurrection, fueled by “self-realization” to secure a place in the Pleroma as a begotten son or daughter of God. He stated furthermore, as a result of “resurrection” before death, a person can become an Aeon in the Fullness of God.

The reality that someone who doesn’t experience resurrection prior to dying, as Jesus says, they will receive nothing, I can only infer that he meant, having not attained any knowledge about one’s true identity, their Ultimate Source, and “The Way” home to the Father/Mother, would leave a person trapped, a prisoner to the flesh, remaining in ignorance. Hence they would receive nothing comparable to the ascent through the Aeons, because they remained in darkness.

Messianic Consciousness: The Way to Christhood

In the Gospel of Phillip, Jesus says, “Those who say the will die first then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.” What does he mean? What is meant by the resurrection?

According to Lawarence Caruana, author of the book The Hidden Passion: The Story of the Gnostic Christ, the idea of resurrection that Phillip speaks of in his gospel, is closely tied to the sacrament of Redemption. Resurrection is seen to be a “visionary ascent through the aeons” of the Pleroma, done to prepare a person for their “after-death ascent”. Someone being initiated into the Gnostic Christian faith would receive Redemption for the purpose of gaining gnosis or knowledge of the names of the beings in the Lower and Upper Aeons who “would receive that person during their post-mortem or visionary ascent” (A Glossary…

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BOUND TO DUALISTIC CONSCIOUSNESS OR CONSCIOUS UNIFICATION WITH GOD?

As a student of both modern and classical Gnosticism, I have to comment on Tau Malachi’s book Living Gnosis. What I am drawn to are the words he uses to describe conscious unification with God or the divinity within. He doesn’t go so far to say we can achieve Godhood, for if he did, I would challenge that. That would be Luciferian Gnosis, according to Archbishop Christian Thomas Umberger. In the third chapter of Living Gnosis, Malachi accurately describes a condition of polarity which we tend to take upon ourselves. He is right. We, as he says, “identify ourselves almost exclusively with surface consciousness, finite reason, and the limited name and form of mortal being”. One would have to be totally detached from reality, or be in complete ego-illusion, rather to admit that we are not succeptable to ‘surface consciousness’. Though I do not believe everything Tau Malachi teaches about Sophian Gnosticism in particular, again he is right on when he says we “exist on many other levels” also citing that “there are many other dimensions to our consciousness and being, from the physical, vital-emotional and mental levels to spiritual and supernal aspects of consciousness and being into an authentic individual, representing alignment and harmony of our true being. To recognize with God naturally and spontaneously”. Gnostic Christians call this state Messianic or Christ Consciousness and Tau Malachi refered to it also as “the Gnosis of Yeshua Messiah”.

Malachi, then says something brilliant. “Whatever might transpire in our incarnation in the material plane and physical world, the unique essence and truth of our soul of light remains unchanged. It is, was, and forever shall be the same, completely pure and pristine, radiant and glorious, ever at-one with the light of the infinite and divine being. At anytime, we can remember ourselves and the light that is in us and experience a conscious unification with God and Godhead. It is the present truth of our inmost being – our Christ self”.”

Unity with God. That is sought after by every mystic and it is the call of every human, longing to return to its source. Notice he said “conscious unification with God and Godhead”, not “becoming God”.

Messianic Consciousness: The Way to Christhood

As a student of both modern and classical Gnosticism, I have to comment on Tau Malachi’s book Living Gnosis. What I am drawn to are the words he uses to describe conscious unification with God or the divinity within. He doesn’t go so far to say we can achieve Godhood, for if he did, I would challenge that. That would be Luciferian Gnosis, according to Archbishop Christian Thomas Umberger. In the third chapter of Living Gnosis, Malachi accurately describes a condition of polarity which we tend to take upon ourselves. He is right. We, as he says, “identify ourselves almost exclusively with surface consciousness, finite reason, and the limited name and form of mortal being”. One would have to be totally detached from reality, or be in complete ego-illusion, rather to admit that we are not succeptable to ‘surface consciousness’. Though I do not believe everything Tau Malachi teaches about…

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