Category Archives: The Noesis of Gnosticism

Early Christian Heresies

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Early Christian Heresies by Joan O’Grady.

Joan O'Grady Early Christian Heresies

Gnosticism gets the lion’s share of attention in this survey of Christian unorthodoxy in antiquity, and O’Grady carefully distinguishes its qualitative difference from later heresies. Where Arians, Nestorians, and Pelagians might divide from Rome on points of doctrine, Gnostics differed with the “Great Church” (as she terms proto-Catholicism) on the very nature of the social institution of Christianity. She also appropriately identifies Gnosticism with the Neoplatonic culture of late antiquity, although further speculation on the non-Christian origins of Gnosticism (not to mention the non-Judaic origins of Christianity) is decidedly muted.

O’Grady’s book is not a piece of imposing scholarship; it’s more of a reflective journalistic approach. She’s almost painfully even-handed in her evaluations of heterodoxy and orthodoxy. To her credit, she does treat orthodoxy as a phenomenon demanding an explanation, rather than a mere given.

As an accessible, wide-angle treatment of its topic, it is better than passable. The author fails to disclose her own religious identity, but it’s probably safe to infer that she is a believing Christian, based on the extent to which she valorizes the survival and development of the Christian tradition. [via]

The Nag Hammadi Library

The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M Robinson, the 1990 paperback from HarperCollins, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. There is a newer revision The Nag Hammadi Scriptures which may be of more current interest.

James M Robinson The Nag Hammadi Library from HarperCollins

“This revised, expanded, and updated edition of The Nag Hammadi Library is the only complete, one-volume, modern language version of the renowned library of fourth-century manuscripts discovered in Egypt in 1945.

First published in 1978, The Nag Hammadi Library launched modern Gnostic studies and exposed a movement whose teachings are in many ways as relevant today as they were sixteen centuries ago.

James M. Robinson’s updated introduction reflects ten years of additional researcha nd editorial and critical work. An afterword by Richard Smith discusses the modern relevance of Gnosticism and its influence on such writers as Voltaire, Blake, Melville, Yeats, Kerouac, and Philip K. Dick.

Acclaimed by scholars and general readers alike, The Nag Hammadi Library is a work of major importance to everyone interested in the evolution of Christianity, the Bible, archaeology, and the story of Western civilization.” — back cover


The Gnostic Religion

The Gnostic Religion: The message of the alien God and the beginnings of Christianity by Hans Jonas, the 1963 second revised paperback edition from Beacon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Hans Jonas The Gnostic Religion from Beacon Press

“Here is a full-scale study of the heretical world of Gnosticism—its literature, symbolic language and main tenets—based on actual Gnostic documents and written by an eminent authority in the field. The paperback edition of this classic contains an important new chapter entitled ‘The Recent Discoveries in the Field of Gnosticism,’ and an epilogue on ‘Gnosticism, Existentialism and Nihilism.'” — back cover


A Little World Made Cunningly

A Little World Made Cunningly by Scott David Finch, a 2013 paperback graphic novel, with an afterword by Steven L Davies discussing Gnostic interpretation and parallels, is part of the collection at the Reading Room courtesy of the author.

Scott David Finch A Little World Made Cunningly

“At the beginning of this dreamlike graphic novel, a young woman’s sleep is disturbed by a mysterious voice calling in the night. She follows the sound into a forest grove where she is inspired to weave a dress of leaves. As she adorns her garment with one last leaf, it breaks and falls away, ruining her creation. She collapses in frustration only to awaken as some other tiny self on the surface of that torn leaf. She begins to explore her microscopic new world under the moonlight, unaware that a frightened, hungry creature, Samael, is growing on the darkened underside of this leaf world.

Scott David Finch’s A Little World Made Cunningly is a story about creativity built on the ancient template of the Creation Story.

Drawing upon images from esoteric Christianity, the syntax of postmodernism, and Saturday morning cartoons, Finch’s work demonstrates an interest in the arcane strata below and beyond ordinary waking consciousness. He often employs several parallel lines of metaphor at once in a dense, layered visual language.

After more than twenty years of making large brightly colored paintings derived from photographic imagery, during a creative block 2010, images of a woman weaving leaves into a dress around her own body began to unfold in his mind’s eye. This narrative impelled him to devote the next year to writing and drawing A Little World Made Cunningly.” — back cover

Scott David Finch A Little World Made Cunningly detail

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

A Little World Made Cunningly

A Little World Made Cunningly by Scott David Finch, is a graphic novel that may be of interest.

Scott David Finch A Little World Made Cunningly

“At the beginning of this dreamlike graphic novel, a young woman’s sleep is disturbed by a mysterious voice calling in the night. She follows the sound into a forest grove where she is inspired to weave a dress of leaves. As she adorns her garment with one last leaf, it breaks and falls away, ruining her creation. She collapses in frustration only to awaken as some other tiny self on the surface of that torn leaf. She begins to explore her microscopic new world under the moonlight, unaware that a frightened, hungry creature, Samael, is growing on the darkened underside of this leaf world. Scott David Finch’s A Little World Made Cunningly is a story about creativity built on the ancient template of the Creation Story.

Drawing upon images from esoteric Christianity, the syntax of postmodernism, and Saturday morning cartoons, Finch’s work demonstrates an interest in the arcane strata below and beyond ordinary waking consciousness. He often employs several parallel lines of metaphor at once in a dense, layered visual language. After more than twenty years of making large brightly colored paintings derived from photographic imagery, during a creative block 2010, images of a woman weaving leaves into a dress around her own body began to unfold in his mind’s eye. This narrative impelled him to devote the next year to writing and drawing A Little World Made Cunningly.” [via]

Thunder Perfect Mind

Thunder Perfect Mind” is a video of a Jordan Scott & Ridley Scott film for a 2005 Prada ad, staring Daria Werbowy, music composed by John Altman, and words selected from “Thunder, Perfect Mind”, one of the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi [HT Jordan Stratford]

Thunder, Perfect Mind (excerpt)
Translated by George W MacRae, in The Nag Hammadi Library

“For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in (due) time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.”

Johannite Religious Education online course starting Oct 31st, 2013

Tony Silvia and the Parish of Saint Martin AJC (based in New York City) is offering Johannite Religious Education, a course of 6 classes, beginning on Oct 31st, 2013 and running through mid-December. The course will be conducted via Google Hangouts and there is a very small number of openings available. Tony mentions in a post on the event site that the course “is primarily aimed at people who know little or nothing about the AJC or for those who are planning to join the Church.”

“The Parish of Saint Martin, AJC is pleased to announce a course of Johannite Religious Education, presented by the rector, Fr. Tony Silvia.

This course will run for 6 (non-consecutive) Thursday evenings as follows:
– October 31st
– November 7th
– November 21st
– December 5th
– December 12th
– December 19th

All classes will be from 8:00 – 9:30 PM Eastern US Time.

The Religious Education course is designed for those who want to know more about Johannite spirituality, either out of curiosity or if you intend to join the AJC. No commitment to the AJC in any form will be required or expected, this course is simply informational.

Space is limited, so please only register for this event if you are willing and able to attend all six classes.” [via]

Introduction to “Gnosticism”

Introduction to “Gnosticism”: Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds by Nicola Denzey Lewis, from Oxford University Press, may be of interest. There’s an interesting review of the work over at Peje Iesous at “Nicola Denzey Lewis’ Textbook On the Gnostic Literature Is Really Useful (Or: Why I’m Glad My Class Failed Before It Got Off the Ground)” [HT Jared Calaway] which may also interest you, especially since it highlights this book’s apparently good exploration of the way the term “Gnosticism” can be problematic. The review seems to suggest this is a new work for 2013, but I notice that Amazon has 2012 as the publication date; but, it is at least recent for some reasonably flexible value of recent either way.

Nicola Denzey Lewis Introduction to "Gnosticism" from Oxford University Press

“Discovered in Egypt in 1945, the fascinating and challenging Nag Hammadi writings forever changed our understanding of early Christianity. State-of-the-art and the only volume of its kind, Introduction to “Gnosticism”: Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds guides students through the most significant of the Nag Hammadi texts. Employing an exceptionally lucid and accessible writing style, Nicola Denzey Lewis groups the texts by theme and genre, places them in the broader context of the ancient world, and reveals their most inscrutable mysteries.

Ideal for use in courses in Early Christianity/Origins of Christianity, Christianity to 1500, Gnostic Gospels, Gnosticism, Early Christian Writings, Orthodoxy and Heresy, and New Testament Studies, Introduction to ‘Gnosticism’ is enhanced by numerous pedagogical features, including images of the manuscripts, study and discussion questions, annotated bibliographies, tables, diagrams, and a glossary.” [via]

Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Elaine Pagels'  Beyond Belief from Vintage

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

New Jordan Stratford post suggests that identifying Gnosticism as a literary genre also makes it open source

New Jordan Stratford post at Wayfinding suggests that identifying Gnosticism as a literary genre also makes it open source.

“If I’ve brought anything to the table of contemporary Gnostic studies – and I hope that I have – it’s been in framing the debate; identifying Gnosticism as a literary genre, and in identifying its core defining characteristic in its soteriology. I’ve done this work in turn arrogantly, prayerfully, joyfully, shamelessly, inadvertently, deliberately, creatively, bitterly, originally, clumsily and on occasion gracefully.

The move of classifying Gnosticism as a genre is a risky one; it absolutely puts me outside the accepted heresiological paradigm of the academic world. And I have to accept that, although I did spend several years coming to terms with it. The payoff, however, is worth it, because it states plainly that Gnosticism, far from being an extinct antique heresy, is in fact Open Source. Any author in any era can pick up a pen and work within the symbolic language and peculiar strata of Gnostic aesthetic and create a genuinely, validly Gnostic text. The difficulty then lies in the task of determining whether or not the author is merely paying lip service to the surface trappings of Gnosticism, or delving deep into the rich mines of Gnostic theme and conveying and authentic Gnostic message. This process of reasoned, prayerful discernment is unlikely to win you many friends.” [via]