davidmartin wrote: ↑
Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:36 pm
Interesting, and i really should study the Hermetic literature more
Can the Gnostic movement in your view define itself without having to hate YHWH?
i like to see a philosophy that hangs together without having to depend on some external opponent for it's reason to exist
If so what is that reason that is true whether the demiurge exists or not?
I recon some Gnostics focused more on that and didn't get into the opposition of us vs them. To me that's more appealing!
Beyond if you assume that the Gnostic movement defined originally itself without any connection with YHWH and judaism, or within it, the result is always anti-demiurgism (= anti-YHWHism) in the shortest possible time. So April DeConick describes perfectly the process:
It is fascinating that the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher, Philo, is worried about the same crack when he discusses the Bible and the nature of God. Like the biblical Gnostics, Philo conceives of God as Plato's transcendent Good. Like the biblical Gnostics, Philo agrees that God could not have hands and feet, eyes and ears, tongue and throat. He does not have emotions that move him to destructibe behavior. Such a literal reading is a monstrosity (Philo, De confusione linguarum 27). However, Philo claims, we cannot conclude from this that YHWH is not God. Instead, it means that the Bible is doing something different with language. Because the Bible is a teaching tool, it employes images of God that humans can easily identify with and understand. The biblical references to YHWH's humanlike characteristics are not literal descriptions of God, who really is transcendent and inconceivable. They are merely concessions to the limitations of the human mind and Language (Philo, Quod Deus sit immutabilis II).
The biblical Gnostics weren't convinced by Philo's argument. They held their ground and continued to insist on a literal reading of the Bible. The Bible says that YHWH is a god who walks and talks. Consequently, the biblical Gnostics were certain that YHWH must be a deity subordinate to the ineffable supreme God.
If YHWH is really a subordinate deit, then who is he and how does he fit into the bigger scheme of things? To answer this question, the biblical Gnostics rely on long-standing Jewish traditions of angels and demons as creatures that cross human and divine realms. They were particularly interested in an Old Testament figure, the angel of YHWH, which is translated in most English Bibles as "the angel of the LORD". This figure is impressive int he biblical narrative, because he is the earthly manifestation of the God YHWH himself and consequently possesses YHWH's sacred and personal name. This angel is YHWH in human form. He speaks with the authority, will, and voice of YHWH, and appears in many stories to be interchangeable with the God YHWH.
One of the most pronounced identifications of the God YHWH with is angel occurs in the story of Moses and the burning bush. In this story, the angel of YHWH appears to Moses in the burning bush. But whose voice does Moses hear calling out of the brush ? Not the angel's, but YHWH's own voice calls out, "Moses, Moses!" MOses hides his face because "he was afraid to look at God" (Exodus 3:1-6).
These and other biblical passages where YHWH and his angel stand in for each other confirmed for the biblical Gnostics that the God YHWH was not the superior all-lord but a secondary god or angel who created the world and rules it. So whenever the name YHWH is used in the biblical stories, the biblical Gnostics thought that it must point to this creator angel or god, not God with a capital G.
Once the biblical Gnostics figured this out, it was not long before they began to wonder about the relationship between the all-lord and YHWH. Was YHWH an extension of the all-lord, creating the world according to the will of the supreme God ? Was YHWH the supreme God's agent ?
As they thought about this, other craks began showing up in the scripture, revealing a biblical God with a capricious nature whose goal is to jealously bind a segment of humanity to himself.
These and other scriptures were used by the biblical Gnostics to determine that YHWH is not the supreme God's agent. He is his adversary.
This is the moment that the biblical Gnostics became transgressors. It marked them as heretics in the eyes of other Jews. Although the identification of YHWH with the angel of YHWH would have raised some eyebrows and garnered argument within Jewish circles in Alexandria, it wasn't until the biblical Gnostics viewed YHWH in adversarial terms that they crossed the line and found themselves cut away from the synagogues. They were Gnostics on their own.
(The Gnostic New Age
, p. 92, my bold)
This is the reason I find BASICALLY grotesque, stupid and irrational
(in a word: Joseph D.L.
) to talk about ditheism as original Gnosticism (in opposition to anti-demiurgism). Even if the original Gnostics were ditheists ( = YHWH is a mere Angel but basically good), even before the birth of Christiantiy the red line was crossed:
YHWH became the evil god.
The second step is the identification of YHWH with the Roman authorities, and obviously, later, with Pilate
In Gnostic communities, the initiated were called the Perfecte. They were the people who, following their ecstatic quest, had returned to earth to tell others about their experience. They considered themselves fully transformed, already resurrected, and more powerful than the traditional gods, including the biblical God YHWH. Because hye believed that they had conquered the gods with their power, they conducted themselves as healers and miracle workers. The gods did their bidding, not the other way around.
(p. 68, my bold)
From carvings on Gnostic gems ike the Ophian gem pictured in chapter 7 and descriptions of the gods in their literature, we know that Gnostics imagined the dark lords of the heavens as brutal monsters, animal-human hybrids dressed in Roman military uniforms. Most often the monsters had the heads of ferocious lions or hissing asps. They carried the sceptres of kings in their hands, and sometimes even displayed the heads of theis slain enemeies to terrorize their sujects.
There is a revolutionary edge to the Gnostic vision of the gods, one with political implications. Traditionally, kings and emperors were representatives of the gods, tasked with maintaining cosmic and civil order. When Gnostics characterize the traditional gods as demonic monsters in Roman military uniform, they are implying that their political leaders, the Roman power brokers, are demonic too. In Gnostic thought, the royals and their officials are the bad guys, terrorizing the rest of us, lying to us, and keeping us in servitude in the interests of their demonic overlords.
This vision shows that, to say the least, the Gnostics were disatisfied with their political leaders. They felt alienated and estranged. But even more distressing is that they felt brutalized and terrorized by the Romans in charge. Their helplessness and fear is palpable. They lived in a world of barbaric colonialism. They lived with the constant presence of the Roman military. They faced forced conscription, slavery, massive social inequality, and overwhelming economic disparity.
Yet, as critical as the Gnostics were of the Roman government, they were not incited to organize political coups or rebellions, which they knew from experience would be futile. Their criticism remained veiled in the narrative of religious stories. Instead of taking up arms against those in power, the Gnostics chose a different strategy to handle their political disaffection, alienation, and helplessness.
To gain a sense of control over their lives, they focuse on the task of overthrowing the cosmic powers. They believed that this cosmic coup would be the ticket to improving their lives because it dealt with the brutality and terror at its existential root. If they could control the source of terror, the demonic overlords that their Roman leaders embodied, then their public situation had to improve. For instance, to change their political situation, the Hermetic Gnostics actually developed daily prayer cycles that tried to break the king's connection with the demons and to realign him with the transcendent God (Corpus Hermeticum XVIII.8-16).
Since these demonic overlords also were responsible for the creation of the human soul and body, overpowering the demons through ritual purgation was cathartic and empowering fot the Gnostics at the personal level, too. These active ritual practices gave Gnostics the impression of an internal locu of control. Even through the world they experienced around them was chaotic and tumultuous, they could gain control over their own bodies and selves.
So it is not surprising that most Gnostics focused on creating for themlseves extreme bodies, wih serious regulations on diet and sex. These regulations did not necessarily demand withdrawal from meat, wine and sex; they just had to be transgressive. They had to defy the normal expectations of society. They had to subvert the order that the demonic overlords wanted their Roman agents to maintain. To this end, different Gnostic groups engaged in both libertine and ascetic behaviors.