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Re: Theos-World Jerry- Agnostics defined

Mar 24, 2006 04:32 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Gnosticism is a word originally coined by an Ante Nicene church father named Irenaeus. Though Irenaeus never never defined his term, it is evident by his usage that he meant the term to denote certain Christian communities, particularly those in Lyon France (Gaul), who had beliefs which differed from his own. Essentially he used the word Gnosticism as the opposite of Catholicism, which was the Christian community which he belonged. The coined word was a literary way to distinguish the right beliefs (his) from the wrong beliefs (theirs). He did say, however, that all of these "gnostic" communities derived their teaching from Simon Magus. This, of course, is utter nonsense. But what I think he was really trying to say was that Gnosticism comes from the Devil and Catholicism comes from God.
Therefore, this is a good example as to why it is not a good idea to consult a Christian source to define gnosis. It is kind of like asking a Turk to define an Armenian, or a NAZI to define a Jew. As a Turkish representative once candidly explained the reason for exterminating the Armenians: It is not because they are guilty of what the believe or what they did, but who they are.

You are quite right that the word gnosis is found in the New Testament, and its standardized meaning is "to know." But the object of that knowledge does not necessarily have to be "God."

Another problem, I mentioned before, is the inherent difficulty of translating an ancient language like Greek into a modern one like English. One usually ends up with several possible words, each one expressing approximately the meaning of the term, but none does so exactly. Though "knowledge" is, as far as it goes, an acceptable translation (the one preferred by theologians) for gnosis, there are other words which more closely reflects its meaning, such as "enlightenment." Better yet would be to define it as "perfect knowledge of both the heart and the head." That definition, though wordy, would take us closer to the spirit of the meaning.
Now, as I said, the Valentinian and Sethian schools, as well as the non-Christian neo-Platonists (As opposed to someone like Clement of Alexandria was a Christian neo-Platonist) did not believe in a God that is knowable. So, obviously, they (unlike the Roman Church who professed a knowable and a personal God) did not apply gnosis to God. Rather, their gnosis concerned the Gnostic's epinoia ("insight" or "wisdom") which brings the gnosis (spiritual awakening) to the Christ (Christos), who, is not Jesus. Jesus was a person, while Christ (in Gnosticism) is the "Son" i.e., the second part of the trinity. The Christ is "God's only begotten Son" the Gnostic scriptures say, and the writer of the Gospel of John borrowed. The Christ is the first Divine Thought, from which came the Word (Logos), and through which we gain the realization (Gnosis) of Christ, brought to us by Jesus, who was sent by God.

I hope this helps.

Vincent wrote:


Please define 'gnosticism' then as you interpret it to be. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word 'gnosis' found in the New Testament, meaning to 'know' God. If one claims that the existence and nature of a 'GOD' is unknowable, then how can such a one be termed a 'gnostic' (to know)? When I make references to a 'GOD', I am actually referring to the psyche-originated god concepts of others, rather than something generated on my own.


--- In, Jerry Hejka-Ekins <jjhe@...> wrote:

Dear Vince,

I think that your position that there is a God, but that it is unknowable, is not so much agnostic as it is gnostic--particularly
line with the Valentinian and the Sethian schools. You might look
the Apocryphon of John, for instance. Also, the idea of an
god was already well established in classical Greek culture, particularly in the neo-Platonist schools. If Paul's speech to
Athenians is historical, and there was a monument to "to a god
atop the Hill of Mars, it was probably, in truth, to this
unknowable god.

Vincent wrote:


Harder-core agnostics tend to go well beyond saying that they
know if there's a GOD or not, as opposed to softer-core
Harder-core agnostics such as myself actually say that GOD is unknowable by anyone involved in any creed or religion, despite
professions of religious people to know GOD, whether it be in
or personal relationship.

--- In, Jerry Hejka-Ekins <jjhe@> wrote:

Dear Chuck, Vince,

Agnostic is a word coined by Thomas Huxley in the nineteenth


He was playing on the word "gnostic", meaning, "to know."

The "a" is a

negation. So one who is agnostic is one who doesn't know.


Drpsionic@ wrote:

In a message dated 3/23/2006 10:49:21 AM Central Standard
vblaz2004@ writes:

So the basis of agnosticism is gnosticism, according to your interpretation of the First Theosophical Statement?


Not at all, at least not as the term agnostic, which really

means apatheitic

in modern speech, is used now.

Not that it matters.

Chuck the Heretic

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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