The Nag Hammadi Scriptures

Has anyone read this book? I’m not really religious but more inclined to spirituality. So what is Gnosticism? Any similarities to Plotinus or transcendentalism?

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  1. 4 months ago
    Anonymous

    I read it. It was pretty good.

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      What were your favorite parts? The gospel of Judas has always fascinated me. I buy into the idea that he is the greatest martyr of all to the point no one realizes he’s a martyr. Jesus says to his disciples that one will betray him to fulfill the prophecy. No one steps up so big dick Judas does. Judas takes on the ultimate sacrifice where his name is a curse and he is depicted in the most treacherous part of hell. Without him Jesus doesn’t fulfill his role

      And the gospel of Thomas interest me as well. I suspect the church is built around Jesus to suit their own ends, but Jesus’ sayings and teachings were probably much simpler and different. We could have had a Jesus Dhammapada but it wasn’t meant to be

  2. 4 months ago
    Anonymous

    It's forgery, most gnostard texts are honestly

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      Most christian texts are

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      >t. doesn't understand pseudepigrapha

      • 4 months ago
        Anonymous

        It's not just that, they are not even ancient

        • 4 months ago
          Anonymous

          Pretty sure they’re at least from about within the first hundred years of Christ’s life, or perhaps even shortly within the years or dozens of years following his crucifixion, and at best (but a big supposition) is some of them actually trace back to His time (and directly to His teachings and experiences of apostles). Irenaeus, lifespan given as c.130 – c.202 AD, had to be talking about Gnostic texts and sources from SOMEWHERE when he refuted them as heresy, after all.

          It depends on what your conception of “ancient” is. Even if they’re from just about within the first 100-150 years after Christ’s death (so Irenaeus could attempt a refutation of them), many would still see that as “ancient” and teaching us something interesting about some early Christian belief. There’s also a matter of “faith” here which can’t really be rationalized. For instance, one could believe at least some of the texts are legitimately from Christ’s time, written by people who knew of Him, or disciples of apostles/some close chain like that, or authentic oral traditions that got put down onto parchment, or re-transcriptions of other authentic source documents. I am not claiming this is true, I’m saying it’s not anymore absurd to have faith in this than it is to have faith in another interpretation of Christianity.

          When you look at the Gospels on a sheer historical level, what you can say, with the maximum of rational skepticism and without resorting to faith, is, “They were indeed written at about this time period and in these locations by people adhering to this newfound religious faith.” That any of the Gospels or New Testament texts are accurately describing events that really happened, and the teachings of Jesus, is a matter of FAITH. It’s not anymore “ridiculous” to have some degree of faith in at least some of the Gnostic texts, from an outsider’s perspective, than it is to be another type of Christian. You could say faith in either (orthodox Christianity — small-o, as in mainstream sects — or Gnosticism) is equally “ridiculous” or equally a matter of faith.

  3. 4 months ago
    Anonymous

    I've been in the gnostic rabbithole myself.

    Gnosticism isn't really one thing, it's a bunch of early Christian thoughts lumped together by convention. That said, the main point I can piece together is that the material world is created by the demiurge and this corresponds to the god of the old testiment, whereas Jesus beamed down from the higher heavens to give us the "nous" which is a knowledge that allows us to escape from the material world which has imprisoned our souls- and then we become an inseperable part of the One- Monad. Some of the finer points are lost on me such as the point of the Bridal Chamber, and to what extent the aeons play in anything.

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      The problem with this is you think Jesus would have mentioned or alluded to this at some point but instead seems to imply the opposite - he comes to fulfill the old covenant. Nowhere does he say it's evil or bad, more like it is good and he is carrying it out onto the next stage.

      • 4 months ago
        Anonymous

        This is one of Ireneus' critiques, no? There's a couple of things Gnostics might say- they might point to the wildly difference in character between the god of the old testament and that of the new testimaent. They might also point to uses of Logos and Pneuma which perhaps fits their cosmonymy a little better. And perhaps more so, they would point to gospels- like that of Marry, Thomas or Seth. And perhaps other works we don't have access to because they were destroyed or lost.

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      >Gnosticism isn't really one thing, it's a bunch of early Christian thoughts lumped together by convention
      So... exactly like the Bible, Catholicism and Christianism in general?

      • 4 months ago
        Anonymous

        Yes. The implication wasn't otherwise. Irenaeus and his "Against Heresies" seems to have had the biggest impact on what we think is the cannon.

  4. 4 months ago
    Anonymous

    I enjoyed reading it. I haven't gotten through all of the included texts though but a fair few.

    Gnosticism is more of a loose category than any defined sect. Its usually categorized by several key beliefs.
    Firstly is the belief in a Pleroma, a kind of heaven. Translated as 'fullness' it's a realm that God (whose definition and attributes change drastically from sect to sect) resides in with emanated beings called 'aeons'. I wouldn't equate them to angels but certainly not equal to gods themselves. Humanity is connected to the Pleroma through their souls/divine sparks.
    Another key belief is in a secondary ignorant/malevolent creator deity known as the Demiurge (a name borrowed from Platonism or just plain ol' Greek for artisan) who is responsible for the material world. The Demiurge lords over the material world usually with archons (rulers) and imprisons humanity inside. Responsible for the demiurge's creation is usually an aeon called Sophia or 'wisdom'.
    Another key belief is the importance of 'gnosis'. Gnosis is a kind of knowledge, awareness and understanding of the world we live in that is crucial and necessary for salvation. Its not so much simple acknowledgement but a lived wisdom, at least in my understanding. Achievement of this 'gnosis' is meant to eventually reunite the soul with the Pleroma.
    I would say that these two are perhaps the only things you could call 'dogma' in any Gnostic belief system. These theological ideas in isolation are not in themselves sufficient to classify a system as 'Gnostic', like with Marcion. He held a belief in a demiurgic understanding of creation but lacked other facets to really be called anything other than a dualist. There are also several ways that Gnostics try and categorise humanity; usually into two or three camps on a spectrum from enlightened to base/worldly. Many Gnostic cosmologies are extremely convoluted with many figures in many different heavens and realms.

    I can't speak much to its relation to Plotinus, Neo-platonism or transcendentalism because I am not well-versed enough in them. There are some connections, to be sure.

  5. 4 months ago
    Anonymous

    I found it unreadable. It's all the pretention of the gospels with none of the worth. Is there a part that's actually interesting?

  6. 4 months ago
    Anonymous

    I've read most of the texts included. Personally, I like the "Gnostic Bible," more as a print copy, as the introductions are good and it includes some later Islamic and Cathar texts, as well as some influential Hermetic texts. However, all of these can also be found at gnosis.org and sacred-texts.org for free.

    As for Plotinus, yes there are very many similarities. Generally, people tend to talk like the direction of influence goes from Plotinus , Proclus, and Porphery to Christianity. This is because this is how the influence went in Saint Augustine's own intellectual journey, as documented in the Confessions, and because there is a tendency to think in terms of "paganism = older than Christianity."

    This isn't really true though. israeli and Christian ideas, Gnostic Christianity included, predate Plotinus and almost certainly influenced him. In some ways, Neoplatonism is Christianity made more abstract and then replatonized.

    You have israeli Platonism starting before Christ, and influential folks like Philo of Alexandria doing influential work in this tradition. Alexandria was a center of this sort of work, and you have many influential Platonist Christians there, e.g. Cyril and Origen. Origen actually overlaps with Plotinus in the city, although he is a bit earlier, and it's not hard to see potential lines of influence between Origen and Co and what would become "Neoplatonism." This is partly why early Augustine has such an easy time mapping the Plotinian Hypostases to the Trinity perhaps, because they are already intellectually related, although they have a pre-Nicean, less equal structure. In any event, Augustine abandons that mapping precisely because the Hypostases are unequal, leading him to a semiotic view of the Trinity in De Trinitate and De Doctrina (although you can see it as early as De Dialecta, where he basically comes up with C.S. Pierce's tripartite semiotics 1,500 years early, just like he did Descartes cognito ergo sum earlier, and arguably Hegel's lord-bondsman dialectic in The City of God.)

    The Great Courses course on the Gnostics is surprisingly good too. I would highly recommend that, but get it cheap of Audible or a Wonderium trial because the full price is ridiculous.

    Unfortunately, a lot of scholarship on gnosticism is quite bad. It's a target of New Age fictions and wild academic speculations.

    I wouldn't assume that Gnosticism is in any way "more spiritual," than orthodox Christianity. Gnosticism as a whole was less suppressed than incorporated into orthodoxy. Pagels even argues that we can see the canonical Gospel of John as a "gnostic work." Themes about achieving divine union and gnosis are present in the Gospels, and the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John (Thomas Merton's "The Inner Experience" is good here).

    What was suppressed were the various versions of the "gnostic myth," which posited that the God of the material world was a lesser, sometimes evil god distinct from the true God.(cont.)

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      Cont.

      The really wild stories, like the demiurge Yaldaboath and his Archons gang raping Eve and producing Cain come from the Sethian Gnostics, a small subset of all Gnostics.

      In many cases, Gnostics didn't have these elaborate retellings of the creation story, and existed as study groups within catholic churches.

      As

      I enjoyed reading it. I haven't gotten through all of the included texts though but a fair few.

      Gnosticism is more of a loose category than any defined sect. Its usually categorized by several key beliefs.
      Firstly is the belief in a Pleroma, a kind of heaven. Translated as 'fullness' it's a realm that God (whose definition and attributes change drastically from sect to sect) resides in with emanated beings called 'aeons'. I wouldn't equate them to angels but certainly not equal to gods themselves. Humanity is connected to the Pleroma through their souls/divine sparks.
      Another key belief is in a secondary ignorant/malevolent creator deity known as the Demiurge (a name borrowed from Platonism or just plain ol' Greek for artisan) who is responsible for the material world. The Demiurge lords over the material world usually with archons (rulers) and imprisons humanity inside. Responsible for the demiurge's creation is usually an aeon called Sophia or 'wisdom'.
      Another key belief is the importance of 'gnosis'. Gnosis is a kind of knowledge, awareness and understanding of the world we live in that is crucial and necessary for salvation. Its not so much simple acknowledgement but a lived wisdom, at least in my understanding. Achievement of this 'gnosis' is meant to eventually reunite the soul with the Pleroma.
      I would say that these two are perhaps the only things you could call 'dogma' in any Gnostic belief system. These theological ideas in isolation are not in themselves sufficient to classify a system as 'Gnostic', like with Marcion. He held a belief in a demiurgic understanding of creation but lacked other facets to really be called anything other than a dualist. There are also several ways that Gnostics try and categorise humanity; usually into two or three camps on a spectrum from enlightened to base/worldly. Many Gnostic cosmologies are extremely convoluted with many figures in many different heavens and realms.

      I can't speak much to its relation to Plotinus, Neo-platonism or transcendentalism because I am not well-versed enough in them. There are some connections, to be sure.

      and

      I've been in the gnostic rabbithole myself.

      Gnosticism isn't really one thing, it's a bunch of early Christian thoughts lumped together by convention. That said, the main point I can piece together is that the material world is created by the demiurge and this corresponds to the god of the old testiment, whereas Jesus beamed down from the higher heavens to give us the "nous" which is a knowledge that allows us to escape from the material world which has imprisoned our souls- and then we become an inseperable part of the One- Monad. Some of the finer points are lost on me such as the point of the Bridal Chamber, and to what extent the aeons play in anything.

      rightly point out, Gnosticism is a loose category. It can either be defined as all forms of early Christianity that focused on a sort of enlightenment that comes to practitioners or it can refer specifically to groups with a demiurge mythos. The demiurge isn't bad in all these, just some.

      It's a very wide group, sort of the way the term "Protestant" can refer to anything from Catholic-lite Anglicans, to tongue-speaking Pentecostals, to the Amish, to Jehovah's Witnesses, to Mormons, to Lutherans.

      If you take the broader definition of Gnostic, than orthodox Christianity always had a strong gnostic streak, found in mystics such as Gregory of Nysa, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Augustine, Saint Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, ect.

      These trends are still strong in Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Churches, and the Coptic tradition. It's Protestantism that really moves away from this tradition, although you still do have great mystics early in the Protestant tradition, such as Jacob Boheme.

      Catholicism focused on this less, largely due to the Counter Reformation and interactions with Protestants and the anti-modern movements, but you have modern Catholics such as Thomas Merton and James Finley who make meditation and mystical union the center of the faith. I would say Orthodoxy, with it's larger focus on theosis does place more emphasis here though.

      After all, the quote from Saint Athanasius, borrowing from Saint Irenus, that "God became man that man might become God," is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Diefication is still a thing in Catholicism.

      That all said, if you want spiritual stuff, you might find the Gnostic texts fairly opaque. I would recommend pic related instead, since it summarizes many great mystics (Rumi from Islam and Dogen from Zen too) with lots of direct excerpts.

      Lastly, people tend to conflate all non-canonical New Testament literature with "gnosticism." This isn't accurate, a lot is Orthodox or Arian, etc. Even the Gospel of Thomas isn't really gnostic if you take a tighter definition of the term.

    • 4 months ago
      Anonymous

      Cont.

      The really wild stories, like the demiurge Yaldaboath and his Archons gang raping Eve and producing Cain come from the Sethian Gnostics, a small subset of all Gnostics.

      In many cases, Gnostics didn't have these elaborate retellings of the creation story, and existed as study groups within catholic churches.

      As [...] and [...] rightly point out, Gnosticism is a loose category. It can either be defined as all forms of early Christianity that focused on a sort of enlightenment that comes to practitioners or it can refer specifically to groups with a demiurge mythos. The demiurge isn't bad in all these, just some.

      It's a very wide group, sort of the way the term "Protestant" can refer to anything from Catholic-lite Anglicans, to tongue-speaking Pentecostals, to the Amish, to Jehovah's Witnesses, to Mormons, to Lutherans.

      If you take the broader definition of Gnostic, than orthodox Christianity always had a strong gnostic streak, found in mystics such as Gregory of Nysa, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Augustine, Saint Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, ect.

      These trends are still strong in Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Churches, and the Coptic tradition. It's Protestantism that really moves away from this tradition, although you still do have great mystics early in the Protestant tradition, such as Jacob Boheme.

      Catholicism focused on this less, largely due to the Counter Reformation and interactions with Protestants and the anti-modern movements, but you have modern Catholics such as Thomas Merton and James Finley who make meditation and mystical union the center of the faith. I would say Orthodoxy, with it's larger focus on theosis does place more emphasis here though.

      After all, the quote from Saint Athanasius, borrowing from Saint Irenus, that "God became man that man might become God," is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Diefication is still a thing in Catholicism.

      That all said, if you want spiritual stuff, you might find the Gnostic texts fairly opaque. I would recommend pic related instead, since it summarizes many great mystics (Rumi from Islam and Dogen from Zen too) with lots of direct excerpts.

      Lastly, people tend to conflate all non-canonical New Testament literature with "gnosticism." This isn't accurate, a lot is Orthodox or Arian, etc. Even the Gospel of Thomas isn't really gnostic if you take a tighter definition of the term.

      I'll also add pic related as a recommendation for a more analytical look at what is going on in early Christian thought and spirituality, which includes gnosticism.

      Even the orthodox church fathers were largely panentheistic, classical theism being more of an Enlightenment/Protestant innovation. Augustine says "God is within everything, yet contained in nothing." Aquinas also has it that God is "in everything," present as cause (effects are signs of their causes, pansemiosis).

      This sort of thinking is only fully jettisoned, largely in the Protestant tradition, as a reaction against the over-reification of Kant, Hegel, and other liberal theologians. Aquinas (and Pope John Paul II) have it that reason and faith are the two wings that power the soul's ascent to God. Faith being contrary or apart from reason is more a modern conception, although it shows up in the fideists of the medieval period as well.

      I found it unreadable. It's all the pretention of the gospels with none of the worth. Is there a part that's actually interesting?

      The Apocryphon of John and the Hypostasis of the Archons has all the wild shit about Yaldaboath aka Secclus aka Samael creating the material world to entrap light from the Pleroma (souls) and raping Eve, etc. Then you have the real hero of the Ark story being Noah's daughter Norea who burns the ark and is taken into occultation by Sophia to protect her from being gang raped by the Archons and Yaldy Bady.

      Zostrionos and The Thunder also have some cool more mystical stuff.

      What were your favorite parts? The gospel of Judas has always fascinated me. I buy into the idea that he is the greatest martyr of all to the point no one realizes he’s a martyr. Jesus says to his disciples that one will betray him to fulfill the prophecy. No one steps up so big dick Judas does. Judas takes on the ultimate sacrifice where his name is a curse and he is depicted in the most treacherous part of hell. Without him Jesus doesn’t fulfill his role

      And the gospel of Thomas interest me as well. I suspect the church is built around Jesus to suit their own ends, but Jesus’ sayings and teachings were probably much simpler and different. We could have had a Jesus Dhammapada but it wasn’t meant to be

      Buddah-Jesus was a thing. Art to this effect was dug up in China and Manicheans sort of spread this sort of thing far and wide.

      However, the canonical Gospels date to a good deal earlier than most of the Gnostic texts and were almost always held as authoritative, even outside the emerging catholic orthodoxy. Only Thomas might be from around the same period as the latest of the Gospels, but Thomas isn't particularly "gnostic," in the sense people often use the term.

      Saint Paul's letters are definitely earlier than any of these works. These were also used for exegesis by Gnostics however, and can be read in gnostic terms.

      DESU, people often err by thinking old Catholic orthodoxy somehow is equivalent to modern fundementalism or trad Cath doctrines; that there is no mysticism in the canon itself. This is way off base. Fundementalism and literalism are modern movements, a reaction to modernity. A good deal, probably a majority of the Patristics didn't think the world was made in a strict 144 hours, and the more influential ones like Origen and Saint Augustine read the Bible in an allegorical and anagogical sense often. I mean, the Bible itself seems to suggest anagogical and allegorical readings in fairly transparent ways, so this was never a stretch. Fundementalism isn't actually a return to tradition but a modern move towards literalism and against the tradition of mysticism, an acceleration of trends in Protestantism.

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