Monday, May 08, 2006

The Thunder:Perfect Mind

I just wanted to post part of an essay that I wrote, concerning the unidentified figur in the text The Thunder:Perfect Mind. This is one of my favorite texts because it shows a very powerful, even divine, female force acting independent off any others. Many people identify this voice with Sophia, but there are arguments for other identifications. Here is what I wrote:

"This figure is completely unidentified, unless one considers the title of the text, The Thunder: Perfect Mind, as identification. One scholar does, noting that thunder is feminine in Greek and the “Thunder in Greek myth, the Hebrew Bible, and elsewhere comes forth from the highest god... It is the way in which the god makes his presence known on earth.” This figure reveals herself in a series of paradoxical revelations, almost as if entreating the listener to contemplate a greater mystery. Her statements have parallels in other texts, Eve gives and ‘I am” proclamation, but the most striking parallel is with Isis. Some of the statements of Isis and Thunder correspond nearly exactly. For instance, an inscription from Ios says “I am the wife and sister of King Osiris.”, and “I am the mother of King Horus”, where Thunder says “I am the mother of my father, and the sister of my husband, and he is my offspring.”. Clearly this figure is powerful, telling her listeners to ‘Hear!’ several times. Some have suggested that the paradoxical statements could indicate her identity as Sophia, in both her higher and lower aspects, or the dual Eve. Whoever she is, she is a formidable figure, confident in her power, and able to speak in a commanding voice."

And here is a link to the rest of the paper.

This text to me represents female power, and shows the equal ability of women to attain gnosis and thus salvation. While many traditions say that women are excluded from salvation, including otherwise enlightened eastern traditions, gnosis is here clearly available to all who seek it. Like I said in an earlier post, this equality is what attracted me to Gnosticism in the first place.

Until next time...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Gospel of Judas

This has been in the news recently, and while I have had an opportunity to read it, I've really only skimmed it. However, it seems to my semi-scholarly opinion that it does fit into a "Gnostic" worldview. It should be noted, however, that Gnostic is very difficult to define. It's rather anti-dogmatic nature means that one could include just about anything. But a few things jump out at me in this Gospel of Judas.:

1. When he [approached] his disciples, gathered together and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread, [he] laughed.

A laughing Jesus is often seen in the Nag Hammadi texts. Especially one laughing at the ignorance of his followers believing in empty ritual. He's pointing out here that ritual is only effective/beneficial when it is done from the heart, not merely from rote behavior.

2. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo.

Barbelo is a fairly dead give-away. Even Irenaeus mentions Barbelo in connection with the Gnostics.

3. Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom."

In the Gospel of Mary Mary Magdalene reveals to the disciples the teachings Jesus gave to her in private. (of course most don't believe her, since she's "just" a woman.) We also see her having a greater understanding than the other disciples. Many scholars, and other people alike, have speculated that these texts represent an early power struggle in the Church, where some people accepted Mary as a source of authority and learning, and others, the 'orthodox' view point which ultimately won out, did not. My opinion is that the Gospel of Judas belonged to a group which saw Judas as another source of authority, since he too received special, secretreadGnosticc) teachings from Jesus.

4. and corruptible Sophia

DING! Again, a pretty dead give-away. And corruptible Sophia is important. Sophia, in most Gnostic myths is responsible, through her desire to know and emulate the Monad, for bringing about the demiurge, the creator of the physical world. Her actions sometimes lead to her being cast out of the Pleroma, and wandering the world, being used, sexually, by the archons and other powers. Other times she has some of her power stolen by her 'son',whichis trappeddwithinn humanity. Either way, Sophia in a text of this time (say 2nd-4th century) generally indicates a Gnostic text of some kind.

5. Self-Generated

The divine parent, or Godhead, goes by many names and attributes. It is called Bythos (abyss), the Monad, The One, and (you guessed it) the Self-Generated. It is difficult to explain this 'being', since 'it' is so far outside human comprehension that we can only speak metaphorically and in incomplete images. Some times it is called Father. But Self-Generated works too!

6.Adamas and the Luminaries

Adamas is the first Human, but not inphysicallyl sense. "He" is the spiritual human, and we are reflections of "his" form. (I put he and his in quotation marks because I think the intention behind the male pronouns in the text were meant to include everyone, not just he's). This is influenced by Plato who spoke of forms, in the heaven. These forms where pure and absolute, what we saw here on earth, however, were mere reflections of these forms. Shadows on a cave wall type thing. A selection of Plato was found at Nag Hammadi, oddly not the section talking about forms. But still, the influence of Platonic though on Gnosticism, and other things, is well documented.

7. Yaldaboath and Saklas

Again, fairly common names for the demiurge, or one of his powers. These names, especially Yaldaboath (or similar names, are almost cornerstones for Gnostic texts.

So, it seems to me fairly obvious that this is a Gnostic text, the only thing left to do would be to try and determine which group it came from/was used by. The Sethians jump to mind. They, according to Irenaeus, revered Barbelo as a divine figure. They were Christian Gnostics with strong Platonic influence, from them we get the Adamas ideal. But of course we should be careful, since we get these classifications come from the people who were against the Gnostics. It is possible that this, and other texts, were not exclusive to oneparticularr group, but were used by individual groups as they saw fit.

I've also heard that some see the text as antiSemiticc, but I'm afraid I just don't see it. In some cases Gnostic texts clearly identisy the Demiurge, the ignorant if not evil creator of the world, with the God of the Old Testament, but to me this isn't anti-semitism. It's just a denial of an old world order, infavorr of a new one.

So there are my thoughts on the Gospel of Judas. I may have more to say later, but for now that's it. Untill then....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What Gnosticism Means to Me...Part One

How I "got into" Gnosticism

AKA A Short, Selected, Personal History

It all started with a dream. In the dream I was locked in a building, like a jail execpt not, with many other people. Then we needed to escape because there was a flood. We ended up on the roof, a few dozen of us, and then the roof became an island. We were the only people left on earth. It was cold and night-time, and we were all scared. We looked up and the moon, a crescent moon with something wierd attached to the end, began 'dancing'. We knew this was an omen of impending doom.

This dream bugged the heck out me! I wanted to know what it meant (and no dream dictionary entries don't help). So, I bought a few books on moon lore, and one of them had something about goddess. Well after a while the dream faded, although it returns to haunt me periodically, but I started reading books about women and various religions, mostly Christian, and pagan/goddess. I had been raised as, well nothing really but Christian in a VERY non-denomination/non-church-related way, but I had always believed in something divine. But Christianity turned me off, because of the male bias. That's when I stumbled, quite by accident, upon Elaine Pagel's book "Adam, Eve and the Serpent", which seemed to be delving into the gender issues of the Genesis story. It did, but by examining the myth in gnostic texts. I was fascinated. And when I get that fascinated, look out!

So I started reading into gnosticism, searching out every book I could get my hands on. I've had books that I didn't see literally fall off the shelf, drawing my attention to them. I was able to get a copy of the Nag Hammadi Library by James M. Robinson. Then I had access to the texts themselves. That sealed the deal. Everything just fell into place.

So now that you know how I became Gnostic, I should tell you what attracted me to it. Well the main thing that did, and still does (only more so now), reel me in, was the fact that women are treated much more sympathetically then in most of Christianity, and in fact in many World Religions. Rather than seeing Eve as the first sinner, here she is viewed as the first teacher. Women were active in the early Gnostic Churches (as they were in most early Christian churches despite what you may have heard.) Women were equal to men, they were revered in the persons of Eve, Sophia, Mary Magdalene and other goddess-like figures. This was exactly what I had been looking for. And the best part, I could still consider myself a Christian, a Gnostic Christian! (FYI - this is a position I've been reconsidering since)

So, That's part one of what Gnosticism means to me. Female equality and power in the religious sphere. Of course this isn't all that gnosticism has to offer. But that will have to be discussed at a later time. Untill then...

Oh and if you know nothing about Gnosticism, visit my page in the links section (The Thunder). Anything else you need to know that you can't find there, ask me! Untill whenever....

In Case you were wondering, this isn't me, it's my puppy. His name is "Plato" and he's a Pomeranian:)

My first post

Well, I've never done this before, but I've been looking for a way to express my Gnosticism, and this seems as good as any. I guess I should start with a little intro. I'm a student of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa. I have about a year and a half left in my B.A. Then I want to get my masters and phd and be a professor. I started taking religious studies because I had read about Gnosticism, and decided that I liked learning about religion enough to make a career out of it. My first intro to Gnosticismm was Elaine Pagel's book "Adam, Eve, and The Serpent. I was immediatly intrigued, and read more and more. And the more I read, the more I realized that it made sense to me. Soon I was hesitantly calling myself a Gnostic. Now, I have a web page (The Thunder), and openly tell people I am a Gnostic, which usually leads to the question, What's that? Well that question is hard to answer and I hope this blog will help answer that. In the meantime, I'm going to go figure this 'blog' thing out. Hopefully I'll get it down pat by tomorrow.. Untill then....