Gnosticism was an assorted movement rooted in antiquity held together by a core of unitary ideas, not the least of which was a dedication to the Christian founder, Jesus Christ (2). The term derives from the Greek word gnosis, roughly translated, “knowledge of spiritual mysteries.” However, this is no ordinary knowledge, but a type directly apprehended, what some prefer to call “realized.” Rather than the designation “Gnostic,” more are probably familiar with its antonym, “agnostic.” The distinction between these two is that of a knower and a non-knower. The origins of the Gnostics are challenging to pinpoint. One can say with a degree of certainty that their advent traces back to the second and first centuries BCE, as evidenced by the treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum, the Apocalyptic writings of the Jews, along with the philosophy of Plato and the scriptures of the Hebrews (3). Bearing in mind the abovementioned variation among the factions, the preceding will set out to elucidate the concepts relating to Gnostic mythology and philosophy, “mytho-logos.”
Gnostics tended to view the world through the lens of intuition rather than reason, and saw in the world a radical rupture between the realm of pathos, “reason,” and the sphere of pure Being. They then confronted the issue of how to transmit such an extraneous notion of intuitiveness preeminent to philosophy. Intuition is here “pre-philosophical” since it subsists in a realm that transcends the mundane and has the potential of a multiplex of interpretations. The ancient Greeks described this experience or realization as a primordial “awe” or “wonder” impressed upon the individual who stands contra the world. Gnosis results in the ascendency of the understanding of reality as pathos to the awareness of being as aisthêsis, “sacred unalloyed recognition.” All Gnostics related to one another by way of divine genealogy, and thus, their onto-theology transpires as an intricate myth informed by the logos. It is genuine mythology because it is a rendering of the ever-present result of personal reflection in the instantaneity of language (3).
Christianity’s notion of the Son of God entering the world to alleviate the consequences of sin and bring salvation to all proved supremely impactful to Gnostic thought. The early Gnostic conception of the need for salvation placed the initial error not on humankind, as modern Christianity tells it, but with the AeonSophia and her blunder during creation. Christianity provided the answer to the potential for a post-salvific fall by its claim that salvation is once and for all time, and so the Gnostics altered it using their singular mythological technique. In this way, Christian Gnosticism became a complex religio-philosophical speculative schema (3).
The Gnostic treatise On the Origin of the World opens with a hypothetical question: Did anything precede the chaos found in Genesis 1 and other creation myths of the ancient Middle East, and if so, what? The text aims to demonstrate that the root of chaos, the infinite, antedated the disarray. In describing the process, the exposition reads as follows: “How agreeable it is to all people to say that chaos is darkness! But actually chaos comes from a shadow that has been called darkness. The shadow comes from something existing from the beginning” (1). Sharing inborn nature with this specter is also the Pleroma, “Fullness” (3). It is full, such that it is the container of everything including all the objects for which Wisdom longs. Salvation, therefore, makes partials wholes, and while this creates dualistic views in some, it may also be the reunion of a part with the whole.
Following the Gnostic creation saga, the world exists because Sophia, “Wisdom,” a transcendent member of the godhead, wished to actualize her congenial creative capabilities apart from the approval of her divine consort. Her insolence became the universe’s bare material, and her longing for the unnamable One generated the dreaded Demiurge called Yaldabaoth, who describes as the defector principle that leads to all generation and corruption. By way of an unchangeable necessity, the Demiurge brings all beings to life for a moment so that they may receive death eternally. The Pleroma arises from the Supreme God, yet it is not safe from the temptations of desire and passion. It is for this reason that a cosmic savior—Christ, the Logos—comes to negate worldly fondness and draw divine “sparks” back to their Source (3).
Although the Supreme God, whom The Book of Baruch platonically terms “the Good,” generates the Pleroma without effort, the Fullness acquires independence from the Father (1). Reason being, the Aeons, who are the constituents of the Pleroma, are what the Tripartite Tractate monikers “roots and springs and fathers.” That is to say, the Aeons carry Time with them, as an essential part of their Being. Sophia, the lowest or youngest Aeon, produces the Demiurge through passion and enslaves divine sparks in the bodies of a material cosmos; that, accompanying the subsequent redemption and restoration of light particles from matter, is only a single episode in the never-ending, evolving stage play of spiritual existence. Human beings are, incidentally, but mere victims of this cosmic drama, and for salvation to occur, individuals must become, as Christian theologian and Gnostic Valentinus proposes: “lord[s] over creation and all corruption” (3).
The Demiurge is the chief Archon, “ruler” or “prince,” a term that has a mostly secular connotation. Notwithstanding, the Apostle Paul uses it in a transcendent context in his epistles, Ephesians 2:2 and Colossians 2:15, for example. In texts such as The Secret Book of John and The Hypostasis of the Archons, Paul’s notion gains expansion (1). These works claim that the God of the Old Testament and his hosts of angels were nothing but Archons. They were mighty but flawed deities who governed reality and suppressed benevolent forces by submerging existence under the waters of ignorance and misinformation. The primary function of the Archons was to ensure that the lost sparks of divinity remained within humans, confined to the material dimensions which fuel the Archons’ power, not unlike the movie The Matrix. To escape, one must awaken to reality and attain the Gnostic salvation. Here is the telos, “end,” of the Gnostic mytho-logos.
1. Barstone, Willis, and Marvin Meyer, The Gnostic Bible. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2009.
2. Hall, Manly P.,The Wisdom of the Knowing Ones: Gnosticism, The Key to Esoteric Christianity. Los Angeles, CA: The Philosophical Research Society, 2010.
3. Moore, Edward, “Gnosticism.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://www.iep.utm.edu/gnostic/, 2019.
About Gerett: Gerett Treas, D.D., Ph.D. is an ardent metaphysician engaged in creative and world-changing thought. He is a writer, minister, counselor, and teacher; he is, also, a certified Muay Thai instructor. Gerett achieved a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Religious Thought from a traditional university. Successively, he attained a master’s degree in Metaphysical Sciences, along with two doctorate degrees, one as a Philosopher of Metaphysical Sciences and the other in Metaphysical Counseling from the University of Metaphysical Sciences in Arcata, CA. Gerett is concerned with the evolution of human consciousness and the recognition of the sacredness of all life. He is from Clarksville, TN
Gerett's website: https://agelesswisdom.press/