Tag Archives: Gnosticism

Simon Magus

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Simon Magus: His Philosophy and Teachings by G R S Mead, introduced by Paul Tice.

G R S Mead Simon Magus

Mead was easily one of the sanest and most erudite of the first-generation Theosophists, and his summary and discussion of Simonian Gnosticism is as useful as anything one might expect from that vein. He catalogs the antique sources, summarizing fully and quoting at length, and provides a sober evaluation of their relative merits. His final section, on “The Theosophy of Simon,” is an exercise in fairly freewheeling comparitivism with a mystical bias. I enjoyed it.

The Paul Tice foreword to the Book Tree edition is laughably bad, and makes one wonder if Tice even bothered to read the book that he introduces. [via]

Living Gnosticism

Living Gnosticism: An Ancient Way of Knowing by Jordan Stratford, the 2007 paperback from Apocryphile Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jordan Stratford Living Gnosticism from Apocryphile

“Twenty two centuries ago in Alexandria, a sect of philosopher-poets fashioned a myth the strands of which weave through Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Greek philosophy, and inspired the legends of the Holy Grail. Long banished to the realm of notorious heresy, the myths of the Gnostics (‘knowers‘) took root in the fertile imagination of the nineteenth century’s artistic movements and esoteric circles, bearing fruit in the daily spiritual practice of thousands today. In 1945, a library of Gnostic writings surfaced from the Egyptian desert, allowing the movement—after 1500 years of propaganda and slander—to speak with its own voice. Rich in imagery, nostalgic in tone, Gnosticism quietly restores Wisdom to her place as Goddess in Western religion, reveres Eve as the first saint, and acknowledges Mary Magdalene as foremost of the Apostles.” — back cover


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


Initiatic Eroticism

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Initiatic Eroticism: and Other Occult Writings from La Flèche introduced and translated by Donald Traxler from articles in Maria de Naglowska’s La Flèche. This is the fourth volume in the series of Maria de Naglowska material being released by Inner Traditions and Donald Traxler.

Maria de Naglowska Donald Traxler Julius Evola Initiatic Eroticism from Inner Traditions

In common with most Anglophone occultists, my principal knowledge of Parisian sybil Maria de Naglowska prior to the appearance of Donald Traxler’s translations was occasional brief mention as a French translator of some writings by Victorian American sex magician Paschal Beverly Randolph. As it turns out, she occupied a vital node in the esoteric communications of 1930s Paris, maintaining her own small “Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow” while also being actively engaged with Traditionalists, Surrealists, Theosophists, and individual occultists such as William Seabrook. Traxler presents this volume as the fourth of five in his major translation of Naglowska’s work, but it was my starting place, and I would recommend it as a worthy point of entry.

The book presents articles from the twenty numbers of Naglowska’s periodical La Flèche (“The Arrow”), an “Organ of Magical Action,” as she subtitled it. These represent the way in which she chose to express her esoteric ideas to the general public at the time that she was also composing book-length works addressed to formal aspirants and initiates. In addition to expository articles, there are a small number of poetic and narrative pieces, and a final section gives two essays written for La Flèche by Julius Evola. All of this material is quite interesting, and my favorite pieces are probably “The Magic Square,” “The Priestesses of the Future,” and “Masculine Satanism, Feminine Satanism.”

Naglowska’s central doctrine of the “Third Term” is a pristine example of twentieth-century occult neo-Joachimism. In Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the Nineteenth Century, scholars Reeves and Gould demonstrate in the world of modern letters a revival of the medieval Joachim’s trinitarian prophetic theory of history, with proponents such as Yeats and D.H. Lawrence. This phenomenon was so widespread that by the 1930s, when Naglowska was writing, it is hard to know how mediated (and by what thinkers) any specific instance might be, even when it is as clear a reflection as the one found in Naglowska’s Third Term. Her Holy Spirit (the Third Term of the Trinity) is emphatically female, and so her teachings also align with the French Neognosticism of Jules Doinel and his successors.

In Evola’s Metaphysics of Sex, he pairs Naglowska with Aleister Crowley as examples of sexual mystics in the contemporary world. Seeing the errors in Evola’s presentation of Crowley’s ideas, I am leery of his reading of Naglowska, although he was certainly on more familiar terms with her. It seems almost unbelievable that Naglowska and Crowley could not at least have known of one another, and yet I’ve seen no evidence that either took such note. In any case, Naglowska’s “Third Term” teaching of the Golden Mass is, I think, a useful way for adherents of Crowley’s Gnostic Catholic Church to understand the role of our own Mass: a synthesis that transcends the white and black masses of the previous age.

I learned a number of useful things from this book, and it was entertaining into the bargain. I will read further in Traxler’s translations of Naglowska. [via]

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.

The Golden Thread

The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions by Hermetic Library fellow Joscelyn Godwin, with an foreword by Richard Smoley, a 2007 paperback from Quest Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Joscelyn Godwin The Golden Thread from Quest Books

“The ancient sages of the Western Mystery Traditions passed on a knowledge beyond reason, allowing us to access transcendent states that reveal our own nature and that of the cosmos. Such sages exist in every age and elevate all of humanity, says Joscelyn Godwin, whether we realize it or not. Among those whose wisdom traces from antiquity to the present include:

  • Hermes Trismegistus
  • Zoroaster
  • Orpheus
  • Pythagoras
  • Plato
  • the Gnostics, the alchemists
  • and the Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and Theosophists

Each stage is always with us, Godwin emphasizes, and so each offers a potential source of inspiration and action for today.” — back cover

 

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.

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]