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Here we have a myth that helps to dramatize the duality of the world - the split between spiritual wisdom and the "ignorance" of the material world.
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They are just trying to figure it all out, just like everyone else in the world. Buried deep down in all religions is the belief in "free will" and why there is so much evil and suffering in the world, and gnosticism is an attempt to answer the question, "Why does a supposedly loving God allow suffering and pain and separation to exist?" They didn't know about the holographic nature or the universe or what that implied so they found it all very confusing.

I think the answer is simple. #1. this so called physical reality is a holographic projection, and therefore "not real." It's an illusion, created to teach the soul a few simple lessons before it merges back into the Spiritual Universe. #2. Free will is an illusion. The education of the soul is too important to leave it up to chance. Separation teaches the soul what it means to be separate and physical pain and suffering imprints the parameters of the body on the soul. Like little bits of information.

Everything else is commentary.

If we knew absolutely for certain that there was life after death we might not mourn quite as much when a loved one dies, and death would cease to be the powerful lesson in separation that it is. If we knew absolutely for certain that one day we were going to be reunited with our loved ones in heaven forever we might not mourn quite as much. The more emotional the experience the more powerful and long lasting the memory it creates. Full knowledge about this life, the fact that it's a very temporary illusion, and it's shortness, and that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience would lessen or negate the emotional impact it has on us, and therefore reduce the effectiveness of the lesson.

If we knew absolutely for certain that there was life after death we might not mourn quite as much when a loved one dies, and death would cease to be the powerful lesson in separation that it is.

But the longer the separation the more detached most of us become to lost loved ones. 50 years since a friend died and we can't remember what she looked or sounded like, and remember her as little as we remember something from our childhood. Widowers get remarried. Life goes on. Mourning is distant memory, like network television drama. I think knowing that we'll be reunited would go a long way toward keeping the love alive...

I personally prefer Clement of Alexandria's more simplistic straight to the point Gnosticism (of seeking a deeper intimate personal revelatory knowledge of God), and the type of Mysticism found within Eastern Orthodoxy (Especially Theosis), over the ridiculously complicated Gnostic Systems.

The whole idea of The Demiurge was drawn from Jewish Mysticism, perticularly the Angelic Figure of Metatron, which was the Theosised Theophany (Representative Angelic Avatar) of YHWH during the Old Testament, basically a Limited "Shadow" / "Image" of the True Creator in a debased angelic form, prone to Anger and Jealousy, but still holding Divine Authority. Not evil, yet not fully good, but rather, "I create the light and form the darkness".

Sophia appears all over Jewish Mysticism, where she takes up pretty much the Old Testament role of The Holy Spirit.

Gnostic Stuff is basically a Neo-Platoism mixed with Kabbalah Concepts mixed with other stuff.

I use to be very drawn to Gnosticism, until I realized that the "core" essence of Gnosis can be found in much simpler forms in other Mysticism Branches of Christianity and Other Religions, without all the complex cosmological system hierarchy baggage.

Various Kaballah traditions also have very complex models to explain the nature of the metaphysical universe, though without necessarily mythologizing the various levels into personalized aeons. Part of it I believe stems from sheer curiosity and the need to categorize everything, and in addiction, understanding how one's own inner consciousness intersects with all those complex levels of reality can serve as an aid to realization, and also to performing various magical operations.

As others have mentioned though, other traditions have models and systems of realization which are simpler and more to the point, dividing the levels of reality which are relevant to humanity into physical, astral and noetic. They may also give one or several methods of meditation or concentration which are relatively simple (though complex and difficult in their application).

Speaking of which, the book Magus of Strovolos makes for a very good read. The Christian mystic it is about, Daskalos, has a very concise and understandable way of describing how the "spiritual world" operates.

I don't know about you, but to me this seems like a needlessly elaborate scheme, somewhat on par with the complicated musings of medieval numerologists and alchemists.

It's also on par with the pantheon of the Hindu gods - yet Hinduism is perfectly clear that ultimately Brahman and Atman are One. So we're right back to the divine spark.

I will go to my grave claiming that the best path to understanding is no path at all, and that applies to Gnostic Christianity as fully as it does to every other religion and philosophy on earth. Every damn one of them is needlessly elaborate. All anyone really needs to know is that our consciousness converts our thoughts to our reality at every moment, and that process goes on until someone is fully assimilated into the moment. At which point it's understood that the moment is all that actually exists. From the perspective inherent to the moment, "getting there" took no time at all, and we were there all along.

Why everything is so cloaked in mystery is another question. Manly P. Hall claims in The Secret Teachings of All Ages that all of the mystery schools employed a sharp division between the esoteric teachings given to the elite few and the exoteric interpretations fed to the masses:

“There are, however, but few mature minds in the world; and thus it was that the philosophic-religious doctrines of the pagans were divided to meet the needs of these two fundamental groups of human intellect--one philosophic, the other incapable of appreciating the deeper mysteries of life. To the discerning few were revealed the esoteric, or spiritual, teachings, while the unqualified many received only the literal, or exoteric, interpretations.”

The Gnostic canon is certainly intended for the former audience. As verse 62 of the http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gthlamb.html>Gospel of Thomas states: "It is to those who are worthy of my mysteries that I tell my mysteries. Do not let your left (hand) know what your right (hand) is doing." There’s also the phrase in the same document that becomes a refrain: "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”

I happen to think that everyone on earth has the proper hearing apparatus. If there's a reason that few seem to hear, and know, it's because they've decided to believe that they can't hear, and know - or to believe that they already do hear and know. Both Richard Dawkins and N.T. Wright are illustrative of the latter.

The Gnostics were highly accurate in at least one respect: their disdain for the "creator god". Anyone who thinks they understand the divine doesn't; and anyone who claims to know more than another, doesn't.

The real mystery is that there’s no mystery. As verse 5 of the above link reminds us: "Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest."

Then again, that just sounds mysterious, doesn't it? Maybe the objective is to get someone so hopelessly confused that they just flat-out stop thinking.

Love the Joker reference.

But the longer the separation the more detached most of us become to lost loved ones. 50 years since a friend died and we can't remember what she looked or sounded like - DDHolmes
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My mother died when I was 15 1/2 years old and I'm now 56 years old and there's not a day that goes by where I don't miss her and look forward to being reunited with her in Heaven. My baby sister, who was 10 when Mom died feels the same way, and she and I talk about mom all the time. My mother's death is a never ending lesson in separation for my soul. What separation means and what it feels like. People who have NDE's routinely say that they felt an overwhelming feeling of oneness, connectedness, and love while in heaven so much so that we here in the physical universe can't begin to comprehend it. I think it may be impossible to become a separate unique individual in heaven so that the only way to become a separate person is to first spend time in the Physical Universe.

"I will go to my grave claiming that the best path to understanding is no path at all, and that applies to Gnostic Christianity as fully as it does to every other religion and philosophy on earth. Every damn one of them is needlessly elaborate. ... (snip)... Why everything is so cloaked in mystery is another question." - Michael H
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It's because of the need to experience separation. The soul craves input while on this Earth. It's the same reason why cutters cut themselves, why medieval flagellators whipped their own backs, why Malaysian religious fanatics stick metal bars through their cheeks, why Philipinos feel the need to re-enact Christ crucifixion, and why American Indians felt the need to hang themselves up by hooks in the air. The pain creates bits of information imprinted on the soul on what the body looks and feels like. Like a sculptor chiseling a body. Every time we stub our toe, or scratch a mosquitoe bite, or get a paper cut it imprints memories on the soul of the parameters of the body. Like the little pixels on a TV set, all added up together to create an image on the soul of the body. It's the whole point of life, we are spiritual beings here to have a physical experience.

Love the Joker reference.

I'd been waiting for a chance to use that one.

“to have felt the need to work out extremely complex mythological and symbolic narratives to explain it.”

The mind is much more attracted to complex mythological and symbolic narratives than a simple explanation. Drama sells. It appears to be a story that became a myth to explain the ignorance and suffering in the world and as most myths has elements of past myths.

Tell your followers that the evolution of consciousness creation process creates unique souls that perceive themselves as separate due to their unawareness and that unawareness leads to both joy and suffering would not “sell” to many followers. A complex and symbolic story sells much better. I.e. the Adam and Eve story which has elements of past religious myths.

Just tonight watched a movie called the beautiful country which was a simple but thoughtful story that has many implications about life; wars, racism, humiliation, cruelty, love, rejection, poverty, suffering, grief, humanity, hope, and then some level of understanding and forgiveness. Apparently it was no box office hit. Too much reality. The terminator movies do much better.

But yet each of our lives is touched to some degree by most of those realities about life.

It's the whole point of life, we are spiritual beings here to have a physical experience.

As I wrote earlier, Art, if there's a reason that few seem to hear, and know, it's because they've decided to believe that they can't hear, and know - or to believe that they already do hear and know.

What puzzles me the most about your metaphysics is that you've apparently managed to incorporate both sides of the coin. On the one hand you claim that we can't ever know if there's life after death, and on the other you claim to know that we're in a holographic universe.

We're spiritual beings having a physical experience until such time as we realize we're physical beings having a spiritual experience. It's a short step from that realization to the realization that we're both, and neither, at the same time.

If there's anything worth taking from the Gnostics, it's in the meaning of the word itself. Gnosis - to know - is entirely possible and attainable. I happen to think it's attainable for anyone, as well – and not limited to an elite few.

I won’t find many who agree with me, however. Those who do agree might want to look into something Ian Lawton brought to my attention via email this morning, http://www.pathwork.org/>The Pathwork Foundation As their home page states: “The Pathwork is a body of practical spiritual wisdom that lays out a step-by-step journey into personal transformation and wholeness, down to the very core of our being. It is a voyage of discovery to the Real Self through the layers of our defenses, denial and fear.

“The map for this journey to the Real Self is in 258 lectures given by Eva Pierrakos over a 30-year period. We invite you into this inspiring world of astonishing clarity and wisdom.”

The quote on the main page struck me as particularly wise, so I took a look at some of the lectures to see what else might be contained therein. In Lecture 6 of the 1996 edition I came across the following, which addresses some of the topics that have been discussed here recently:

QUESTION: I would like to ask you, what is the difference between the Indian and the Western concepts about the continuity of life after death. Which one is right? Is it true that there is nothing after death, as the Indians say, that after repeated incarnations the soul finally returns to nothingness, that the individual personality does not survive? Or does personality and individual consciousness remain in existence in some form?

ANSWER: First I want to mention again that there is hardly any religious concept which does not contain a kernel of truth. And whenever you ask such a question, ask about that also, and I will help you to see where you can find this kernel of truth, whether it concerns the Bible or any other religious teaching. So, to come back to your question, I want to explain to you first how it really is. This will shed light on the contradictions.

The higher evolved an individual is, the more will the limitations of the ego fall away. It is the ego which erects the wall of blindness and separation around the soul. The higher the development, the more will the band of love which ties one soul to the other become visible -- but this band is tied in freedom, in the sense that we are bound to each other by love. All who are connected with this band of love will feel the other's pain with the same intensity as their own; the other's joy will be like their own. The experience will be the same for you and the other. The ego, putting itself in its own separate place, elevates itself above the other by wanting something better for itself than for the other. The ego will disappear with each step that the being -- human or spirit -- takes on the upward path. When the highest steps are reached, the feeling of brotherhood, of love, of at-oneness with the Thou, every Thou, is so complete that each soul vibrates in an ever-growing unity with every other soul, forming a true, free bond with all its brothers and sisters and with the Heavenly Father. It is very difficult to explain this to you in words, because you lack the inner experience of such a state and therefore have no concept for it. Therefore I am asking you to try to feel into the meaning between the lines, so that you can in some way imagine what I am trying to convey.

The highest level is that which we call "the House of God." Do not imagine this as a house, but as a vast sphere. A being who enters the House of God, who does not have to incarnate in a human body anymore, has merged so completely with the Thou that, as I said before, everything is felt and experienced equally in the self and in the other -- exactly because the ego has been overcome. By the way, not everybody who no longer needs to incarnate on earth enters the House of God right away; often the development continues in other spheres first. Now, human beings often make the mistake, by confusing the basic concepts, of believing that the ego is identical with the sense of individuality the personality has. But one has nothing to do with the other. On the contrary, as I tried to explain in some of my lectures, the consciousness of the "I" is expanded and intensified with every higher level reached, and exactly because the separation of the ego has been overcome. Since this separateness is nothing but blindness and lack of understanding, it must necessarily diminish and reduce awareness, and thus the sense of individuality in the personality. One day the ego must be overcome and the merging accomplished. Then individuality will not only not be relinquished, but will come into its own in ever-increasing freedom, light, understanding, and love.

So you can see the kernel of truth in the Indian, as well as in the Jewish and Christian concept, though they seem to contradict each other. The Indian concept refers to the dissolution of the ego, while the Jewish and Christian concept deals only with the individuality of the soul, which truly and eternally exists in a heightened form. Both are true.

By the way, readers of this blog – and especially Art - might be interested in Ian Lawton’s new book, The Big Book of the Soul - Our many lives as holographic aspects of the Source. Info is available at http://www.ianlawton.com/bbosindex.htm>his site. Ian has also dedicated a page to the Pathwork method, found under the “Rational Spirituality” submenu.

I think we are gods in training. Personally being a Borg drone doesn't appeal to me all that much. I prefer my "ego", my individuality, and think it has an awful lot to do with "why we are here."

"What puzzles me the most about your metaphysics is that you've apparently managed to incorporate both sides of the coin. On the one hand you claim that we can't ever know if there's life after death, and on the other you claim to know that we're in a holographic universe. - Michael H

In statistics there's a thing called confidence factor. It's expressed as a percentage. It's like "how much do you believe?" In the Alison Krauss song, "There is a Reason" (written by Ron Block) she sings "I do believe but forgive my unbelief".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWXNm9b6pKs

I can really relate to that. I like to think that I have a high degree of confidence in "life after death" but since I have not had a near death experience I can't say that I'm absolutely 100% convinced. The total aggregate of evidence points me in that direction, but until I "know" (by experience) there is always a tiny bit of doubt in my mind that perhaps there's something I haven't thought of yet. I can't say absolutely 100% for certain I'm right, but I think I am.

Why so mysterious?

I tend to think this kind of thing comes from the we-have-a-club-and-you-don't-belong mindset.

Philosophers and scientists have been getting away with this kind of thing forever. Ever read Hegel? Or wonder why scientists and philosophers don't speak in ordinary language, but seem addicted to cryptic terms you have to be initiated into understanding by the educational system they are a part of?

What advantage does it have to name a creature "dinosaur" instead of "thunder-lizard" which the word is actually derived from in Greek?

I think it's all intentionally cryptic to keep people out except those who really want to know and have to join the club or society.

People seem to feel that they are more important when they belong to an exclusive club, and it makes it harder for those outside the circle to criticize you, within the circle, because they don't understand what you are doing or why you are talking like that.

"Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest."

Then again, that just sounds mysterious, doesn't it? Maybe the objective is to get someone so hopelessly confused that they just flat-out stop thinking.

No, Michael H. It does not sound mysterious at all. Not to me. You have no idea how much you’ve just explained to me. Then again, maybe I’m just hopelessly confused…

So there is part of Gnosticism that is elaborate word play and division of the world into unreal categories and there is part that is an attempt to guide the student to spiritual wisdom. And the way to accept the real guidance is to stop trying to put everything in categories and "recognize what is in your sight". So the elaborate stuff is for the less discerning and, "for those who have ears to hear", the simple stuff is the real wisdom. Tough lessons for rationalists.

The unhelpfulness of karma;

This is a very misleading heading for one of the chapters in his book. Of course when you read what he has on his website he means the misconception of karma as being unhelpful so I have to agree at this time with much of his writings on karma.

It appears to me that without karma the “law of progress” for a soul would not exist. Karma feels like punishment to the ego. I found it interesting that Brunton wrote about karma as punishment but in his later writings he moved beyond the idea that karma was punishment.

Brunton was an interesting author as he quit writing books and took to the mountains and found after 12 years of meditation some level of enlightenment for his self. His notes during this 12 years revealed his inner peace and bliss he experienced after his “enlightenment”.

“I tend to think this kind of thing comes from the we-have-a-club-and-you-don't-belong mindset.”

I think like attracts like and we prefer to be around people that think like us.

“By the way, not everybody who no longer needs to incarnate on earth enters the House of God right away; often the development continues in other spheres first”

This statement agrees with my research that we move into higher and higher vibratory planes or levels of dimensions.

“I think we are gods in training.”

I also think we are gods in training and these gods may very well be in “charge” and maybe even the creators and in control of the evolutionary process of our planet earth. Or not.

If we look at soul development as on going continual improvement then where does this progression stop? Sooner and most later must arrive at a place that others might refer to them as gods. I suspect we must have many incarnations on earth and move through many dimensions or spheres before we attain this god like status.

This may explain why meister eckhart saw a Godhead and a god with the god doing the creating and the Godhead like a barren desert.

Tough lessons for rationalists.

It sure would appear that way. One of many parallels in mystical thought is that understanding arrives in flashes of insight or direct realization, rather than in a gradual process of accumulation of knowledge. This leads me to believe that understanding spiritual and psychological truths requires that we use our minds differently than in the rational fashion that has dominated western thought since Plato and especially Aristotle.

The Greek scholar Peter Kingsley has written at great length about this issue, suggesting that the pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Empedocles were in fact mystics of high order, who had each realized deeper truths regarding the nature of reality. Kingsley suggests that Plato and Aristotle either misunderstood or misinterpreted these earlier philosophers - writing about Parmenides, who is still known as the father of reason, “Well over two thousand years ago, science as we know it was offered to the West with a warning tag attached to it: Use this, but don’t be tricked by it. And of course, impatient little children that we are, we tore off the tag and ignored the warning”.

Kingsley’s books are filled with observations regarding the nature of knowledge – there’s an excellent compilation of excerpts from In the Dark Places of Wisdom and Reality available at AntiMatters, The Spiritual Tradition at the Roots of Western Civilization. A few representative excerpts follow.

We need to appreciate that this is not some hillbilly talking: some eccentric mystic. Parmenides is someone who knew. He was right at the forefront, the cutting edge, of the knowledge of his times; way ahead. And he said it was an illusion. To hold the most advanced information in the palm of one’s hand and describe it like that is not a scenario we are too used to. . .

Parmenides’ own teaching had been torn away from the background and context that had given it its meaning and life. What originally had been intended to involve every fibre of one’s being was converted into a dry logic that’s only good for complicating and torturing our minds. . .

Always we want to learn from outside, from absorbing other people’s knowledge. It’s safer that way. The trouble is that it’s always other people’s knowledge. We already have everything we need to know, in the darkness inside ourselves. The longing is what turns us inside out until we find the sun and the moon and stars inside. . .

And yet there is no secret about the fact that originally the word ‘philosophy’ meant love of wisdom. Now it has just come to mean the love of endlessly talking and arguing about the love of wisdom — which is a complete waste of time. Philosophy is a travesty of what it once was, no longer a path to wisdom but a defence against it. There is only one way to wisdom: by facing the fact that we know nothing and letting our reasoning be torn apart. Then reality is what is left behind. . .

You have no idea how much you’ve just explained to me. Then again, maybe I’m just hopelessly confused…

It’s good to know that quote resonated with you, Sandy, but it seems to me that we should give credit for the line you quoted to the one who I was quoting. As the source document states: “These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.”

By the way – I think confusion is a good thing, although I also think it’s probably best to try and be amused by our confusion.

"I think like attracts like and we prefer to be around people that think like us."

Yes, and people tend to behave as selfishly as chimpanzees too, but that doesn't mean we ought to behave that way or have to behave that way because as people, who live in a normative realm, we can do more. We can challenge ourselves and go outside the circles that merely affirm what we already believe, which is the harder thing to do and the path it seems most people avoid.

"This leads me to believe that understanding spiritual and psychological truths requires that we use our minds differently than in the rational fashion that has dominated western thought since Plato and especially Aristotle."

Rational thought is not going to produce a spiritual experience for you. No thought will. But what rational thought can be used to do is to lead you to the edge of the world so that you can see rational thought can go no further, and that is important too, especially in this time and place. It can also argue for and model theories of reality, which won't give you a spiritual experience, but it might convince you to be more adventurous and open minded about the universe and your place in it.

Some people disparage rationality because they plainly suck at being rational.

And some people disparage going beyond rationality because they don't get the notion that besides being either rational or irrational, one can also be a-rational.


I.M.O. that's a very skewed presentation of Gnostic thought. Favoring Valentinus but ignoring the Notzrim and the truly seminal aspects? That means you've read enough about it to get the idea already, but don't really feel inclined to present the fuller picture, for whatever reasons. You could probably count the number of modern Gnostics who obsess over the peripheral (numerological, etc) and post-Sethian aspects in the extreme minority. For the rest, it's simply a perspective that dispenses with what Nassim Nicholas Taleb terms "domain-dependant skepticism". Control-based systems function on scaring the individual out of honoring their own perceptions and instincts in deference to "experts". In reality, the only thing you can really trust is what you personally, honestly can attest to. That's Gnosis. The ideology of the demiurge and the trap of the "burning world" is reflected somewhat in the 2nd law of thermodynamics (apparent in something as simple as the cooling of a cup of coffee): Given enough time, everything in this world turns to sh*t BUT the observer, in recognizing this, stands somewhat apart from and can potentially transcend it. All it takes is a willingness to let go of whatever mentally binds you to it. That's what Gnosticism is about.

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