Inconsistencies Noticed

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Often when Gnostics argue against the Creation myth of orthodox Christianity, they do so by understanding the myth from a literalistic point of view. If this indeed the case, yes, the Genesis myth says some terrible things about God, and as God throughout the Old Testament is portrayed, he is often not fit for worship.

If and only if we take it 100% literally as factual history.

The issue here is that Gnostics take their own Scriptures most often as being symbolic, metaphorical, and having many layers of meaning to them- but rarely do modern Gnostics understand their own Scriptures as being 100% literal and historically accurate. So the question that I have is why this same principle and method of exploration is not applied to the Creation myth according to Genesis.

The Temptation and the Fall of Mankind have a completely different meaning when taken symbolically- it isn’t that God is cruel and that we’re horrible and disobedient; rather, it’s an Existential situation in which mankind makes a choice to leave the Divine and bears the consequences thereof. It all comes down to free-will and choice and reaction. God never abandoned us; we abandoned God, in other words. HUMANS created the rift between the spiritual and the material, between the Divine and the Mundane.

But in the same way, when Christ comes, it shows that God has not forgotten us. God still loves us. God still wants us. And God’s immersion and incarnation into the material realm, along with His life, death, and resurrection (the return to the spiritual, in other words) repaired the rift that we created. Man created the rift, and God, in the form of man, repaired it for us.

Naturally, that doesn’t explain why suffering exists and does not explain the problem of evil, which is probably the first thing someone would point out. But perhaps that’s what Genesis tells us- leaving the Divine abode creates evil inside of us. This is a Neo-Platonic idea that evil is the absence of good, not unlike how cold is the absence of heat.

We might also question mankind’s motives for leaving the Divine abode. Why would we do it and do so collectively? This is the important part of the story, the nagging question that arises in the mystical understanding of the orthodox myth.

The Gnostic account is much more helpful here, as the “fall” is no “fall” at all but the beginning of liberation from the false god. Christ’s eventual coming is a finishing of the liberation of mankind begun by Sophia and a redeeming of the material world that ultimately belongs to Sophia anyway.

I find it interesting to note that Sophia’s fall in Gnosticism is much more indicative of humanity’s fall or analogous to humanity’s fall in the orthodox account, and Christ redeems Her; and then, in turn, when mankind is created in an enslaved fashion, Sophia begins the process of redemption for mankind, and Christ again is the ultimate Redeemer.

Another humorous thought I have about why the Catholic traditions don’t take so much of the Scripture literally is because of the literal belief in transubstantiation. You don’t have to really believe too much of the Bible to be 100% accurate when your God shows up to every single Mass, do you?

Beaux


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Numinous Christ, or the Noumen of the Holy Eucharist

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Immanuel Kant proposed the notion that we have both the phenomenal world which can be apprehended to the senses and the noumenal world that cannot be apprehended by the senses. Before taking this into the realm of metaphysics, I think we should focus on the fact that he probably meant that we simply don’t experience reality as reality is- we experience reality as our bodies tell us reality is.

But that doesn’t mean that the notion of metaphysics can’t somehow fit into this.

My realization is that the noumenal reality- or better yet, shall we say, the Noumen- the stark void is-ness of things, what I’ve termed “black fire” at times- is precisely what I’ve come to identify with in terms of Christ.

What I mean to say is that Jesus Christ gives us both levels of reality, the phenomenal and the noumenal. The historical man Jesus is the phenomenal reality- the flesh and bones that made up his body. The Christ is the noumenal reality- the Logos- the unseen reality that we can’t possible begin to grasp with our bodies.

So it goes with the Holy Eucharist, and Bernadette Roberts says as much. The Holy Eucharist become the Body and Blood of Christ- yet we see no body and we see no blood. This has been explained in terms of Aristotelian philosophy that I’m not going to go into now. The Holy Eucharist remains bread and wine phenomenally, but noumenally– the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ has appeared. The phenomenal, then, is a veil over the noumenal.

The question that’s on my mind, and likely the minds of everyone else, is why I would identify the overwhelming experience of the Noumen with Christ in the first place, and this is a confusing thing to me as well, as, quite frankly, that seems almost superfluous. I can experience the Noumenal reality and imagine most people do or have without necessarily identifying it with Christ.

But what I can say is this: the Noumen is real, more real than the vast majority of the life I’ve lived. Perhaps the Christian imagery is simply the major way in which I can interpret the Noumen- otherwise, I’m left with a kind of vast Void that cannot be translated to other people. I can write blog after blog about the Noumen, about the black fire, but who will understand? Maybe this is the kind of frustration that Jesus faced in trying to explain things to the Apostles.

Another point is that the actual revelation here is something that my liberal tendencies don’t want to accept- that there is actual and substantial connection between the Noumen and Christianity. That’s pretty terrifying, as it sets me up in a position that Christianity is no longer a religion among religions but becomes more absolute.

But Christianity is certainly not perfect, and though it may point to the Truth, to the Noumen of Christ, it is not the Noumen that is Christ in and of itself, and I’ll always be aware of this.

WHY CAN’T A GNOSTIC CHURCH OPEN DOWN THE STREET? OR AT LEAST A LIBERAL ANGLO-CATHOLIC CHURCH, YEESH!

Okay, done ranting.

Beaux


As for the Doubts and a New Shift.

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While reading Wikipedia yesterday (a dangerous past-time for intellectuals, as we’re likely to get swept up in a dozen or so articles when we only meant to read one or two), I stumbled upon the entry on Neo-Platonism.

As I read about Neo-Platonism, I was shocked, in many ways, to see how the cosmology aligned largely with what Bernadette Roberts’s take on Catholicism and her own mystical Christian journey.

Also, I was amazed to see Neo-Platonism accounted for a few intellectual hurdles that I’d encountered with both Catholicism and Gnosticism. We’ll come back to this.

First, allow me to say that Neo-Platonism has heavily influenced the interpretation of Christianity, specifically within the Catholic traditions (again here referring to Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.) The modern evangelical Christianity adopts a more immediate and literalist view of things, which, I think, is the wrong idea.

Second, allow me to break Christianity down into two major varieties that we may call Messiah-ism and Christ-ism to give respect to the Jewish and Greek names for the Logos. First, the official doctrine of Jesus Christ is that he is both FULLY God and FULLY Man. There are two natures united in one person; there is not one nature, there are not two people with two natures. There is ONE person with TWO natures.

Messiah-ism is the kind of Christianity that has more of an emphasis on the human nature, or shall we say, on “Jesus.” Messiah-ism is largely focused on the Jewish origins of Christianity, on the historical nature of Judaism and how it relates to Christianity, and so on. This goes back to what I said about Jesus being the final puzzle piece to the Jewish mystery and how we get this feeling from Protestantism much more often than not. Messiah-ism becomes suspicious of any kind of ritual that is not specifically and outwardly Jewish, as Jesus was specifically and outwardly Jewish. Thus Messiah-ism is much more literalistic and interprets that religion from that standpoint- the superficial standpoint, supplemented with historical and cultural understanding. This standpoint definitely seems to the be the choice among evangelical Christians of our era.

Christ-ism is the kind of Christianity that has more of an emphasis on the divine nature or shall we say, on “Christ.” Specifically, Christ-ism focuses on Christ as the Logos, as the Eternal Principle that creates the universe and binds the universe together. As Christ is cosmic and pre-existent to his specific Jewish incarnation as Jesus, Christ-ism is universal- or catholic as we might say- and doesn’t have to take on a specific formula of the rituals and imagery. That is to say, the symbolism of the Christ extends above and beyond a Jewish historical and cultural setting, as do the rituals. Certainly the Catholic traditions resemble, in abstract terms, the Jewish traditions of the temple without specifically wearing and using only Jewish symbolism. Christ, then, can also be understand in virtually an infinite number of modes.

Messiah-ism and Christ-ism parallel a phenomenon in the Hebrew Bible, which is the contrast between Jehovah and Elohim. Jehovah is the nasty god, the one that’s highly anthropomorphized and turns off both Christians and Jews and anyone else who reads about him. By contrast, Elohim is a magnificent, transcendent being, the ground of the universe, worthy of our praise and adoration.

Keeping on track: Messiah-ists become suspicious of sources of interpretation outside of the Bible and selected writings throughout Christian history. They believe that the Bible represents a form of “pure Christianity” (of which there is no such thing!), and that to interpret through a lens other than the Bible and Jewish world is to make a huge mistake about Christ.

But Christ-ists would insist that Christ is bigger than that- bigger than one culture, bigger than the Bible, that there is more to the Christian mystery and the universe, and besides, if we limit ourselves to the Bible and the world view of those people, we isolate ourselves from the modern world and therefore cannot experience and more importantly share the Eternal Mystery of the Logos with others as easily, whereby said Mystery of Christ appears to each person differently and uniquely.

So Messiah-ists are more likely to be the sort of people who need to nail things down and to have things set in stone. Christ-ists are more likely to see a wider picture and draw parallels among religions while pushing the bar and trying to penetrate more deeply into the Mystery of Christ- or more importantly, allowing the Mystery of Christ to penetrate them more deeply. These are two different approaches, and each has its own merits. In other words, Messiah-ists are more literal-thinking and Christ-ists are more abstract-thinking.

This does not mean that the Messiah-ist denies the Divinity of Jesus, nor does it mean that the Christ-ist denies the humanity of Christ. What matters is where the emphasis lays, what matters is the approach.

Now, a word on Anglicanism (Andy, you knew it was coming). The Episcopal Church, while fantastic for many reasons, oddly enough has a number of people who are shifting towards the “fully human” view of Jesus. I think what happens is that the Christ-ist view gets left out somewhere along the lines, and therefore many Episcopalians are left with Messiah-ism, and a watered-down Messiah-ism at that. I’m not really sure why that is. Bu at the same time, I have heard the saying that Anglicanism is “defined by the Incarnation,” so the notion of the Eternal Christ (that is, the eternal and pre-existent principle that allowed for and created the universe and its laws) limiting Itself in the form and appearance of a human being is something that certainly appeals to the Anglicans.

Now, I want to point out something to everyone else after I’ve written all this: the above categories are something that I invented. If others who have encountered Christianity have made the exact same sort of apprehension and been able to divide the theology about Jesus Christ into said categories, I am not personally aware of this. Others may have categorized this much better than I, so don’t take my views as the golden and solid ones.

Tying this back into Gnosticism: the cosmology of Gnosticism makes far more sense to me than the cosmology of orthodox Christianity. The mystical nature of Gnosticism, along with its sacramental nature and liturgy, appealed to me greatly.

To give a brief and crude summary, in Gnosticism, the Eternal Father, who is the ONE existence, pours forth from his own perfection attributes of himself that reflect himself: this process is called emanation. To understand what this means: God is Eternally Full and Complete in and of himself (that is, Perfect), and the Fullness and Completeness forced into existence reflections of itself. So God’s own Perfection created reflections of itself that are known as the Aeons.

The Aeons appear in masculine-feminine pairs. Different stories exist, but the final pair of Aeons are Christ (Logos) and Sophia. Logos and Sophia respectively would mean, “logic” and “wisdom.”

Different stories exist at this point, too, but the essence is that Sophia tried to emanate from herself without Christ’s help. In another story, she “falls” from her station. In another story, she is essentially raped. She gave birth a kind of lesser god that thought it was THE only god in existence, and with its afterbirth, it created the material universe, even lower gods, and Adam as a kind of helpless slave.

Some Gnostics do view the material universe as evil; they’re often accused of “radical dualism,” which is just not true for the majority of them and certainly not true for the modern Gnostics. Father Jordan Stratford of the Apostolic Johannite Church deals with the attacks on Gnosticism concerning “dualism” rather well in his own blog; I suggest you look him up if you’re interested. His main point is that matter is not the issue: the issue of the material world comes down to being the systems that are imposed on us, the laws and rules and regulations and so on.

Even so: there’s still the view that the material universe is a kind of prison for us, that it is essentially flawed but not evil. And this is where Gnosticism and I part ways: I see the material world as good. I see creation as being a good thing.

The Gnostic would argue that world was created flawed, so flaws are bound to pop up.

The Christian would argue that the world was created perfect, including mankind being created perfect, but that we collectively chose to leave that perfection (which is illustrated in the myth of the Garden of Eden.)

Enter Neo-Platonism. Neo-Platonism has the same system of emanations of the Aeons from God. who is called “The Good.” The difference is that the Creator, which is called Nous, is a being that is a perfect reflection of God (or the Good) and creates the universe. Thus, we can conclude that the Neo-Platonic Nous is one and the same as the Christian Logos, which all adds up to and refers to being Christ. Then comes the World Soul, which essentially splits into various Souls, and here we all are. Again, this is a very, very rough draft of this, and with more research, it can become more refined.

But I think the major issue with me is that I would be properly categorized as a Neo-Platonist who uses Christian imagery to reach the Good as opposed to a Christian who interprets Christianity through a Neo-Platonist lens.

For the moment, Neo-Platonism has resolved the issues I have with both Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity, at least on the intellectual level of trying to sort out the cosmology.

More importantly, Neo-Platonism unmasked the Reality behind Jesus Christ as a cultural phenomenon and revealed Christ as one-to-one universal reality that I have personally encountered; now I understand that this Reality is something quite real, something that I can accept, because I know I’ve encountered it personally.

I want to point out this entry has not been a matter of attacking orthodox-minded Christians or Gnostics; I’ve only wanted to point out my intellectual objections to both of them and how Neo-Platonism has offered a potential bridge between the two and likely among other world religions for the time being.

Moreover, I would say that the Gnostic understanding of their cosmology and scriptures has more to do with the human mind and our psychology than it does with the cosmology of the universe, thus setting them apart and saving them from their opponents attacks. So conflating the ideas of Gnosticism with literal understandings found in other denominations and religions would be a mistake.

I would also like to point out that Neo-Platonism apparently views evil as an absence of good. I can grasp this. I can totally grasp this. Evil is not the presence of something; it is the absence of something, like cold being the absence of heat. So in reality, there is no such thing as “cold,” there is only “absence of heat.”

I like it.

Beaux

P.S. Dear Gnostic Priests, if you happen across this blog and see any number of errors with regards to philosophy and Gnosticism, please forgive me and don’t burn my biscuits too much if you so choose to correct me.

P.P.S. I realize that in writing this blog, I apparently have included even more of an issue of so-called “measuring the spaghetti” instead of eating it, but I would like to point out to all my readers that I meditate/contemplate daily, along with doing a few other non-essential mystical practices, and thus I have action that I take in addition to simply thinking about these things.