The root of my journey toward these ideas began with PKD and proceeded directly to one of his own primary sources of inspiration – the Gnostic texts, particularly those found at Nag Hammadi. My ideas and understandings have proceeded from my own readings of these texts, as well as a of scholarly and critical works which help to illuminate them. A large part of my story has been a process of trying to rectify my insights with the seemingly extraneous aspects of thought found in much of Gnosticism, sometimes overtaking what to me are the central principles to such a degree as to render them meaningless. Exploring the similarities and differences is important to me for various reasons. What follows is an outline of conclusions I’ve come to regarding the relationship between my own ideas and various common expressions of Gnostic thought.
- That the emanationist system of description is a metaphorical way of identifying procedural processes in the universe. It is a valuable one, and one I retain.
- That Belial, the Aeons, the Pleroma et al. were intended to serve as metaphors and/or as metaphysical and scientific descriptions, and that the employment of various ontological states (being, time period, quality) is an indication of this.
- That the explicitly religious aspects of modern or historical Gnosticism, while not necessarily without value, are not essential to the core philosophical and cosmological ideas.
- That, at best, Jesus was a teacher whose philosophy often included aspects of Gnostic thought, but who was not a deity or savior in any way, shape, or form.
- That the very notion of worship is contrary to the most fundamental aspects of Gnostic thought.
- That the overt reinterpretation of texts and ideas throughout early Gnostic thought is indicative of a non-literal approach to the religious or mythological ideas contained in various texts.
- That Gnosis is not a particular state which can be imparted or replicated by any community or body of ritual or works, but is rather a revelatory moment in which basic, explicable truths about the nature of reality become clear.
The reasoning for this segment may not make sense to some, but it will probably come up in my life, so I’m putting it out there. These points represent the feelings I have about issues of importance within the Gnostic “community.” When I look past the differences and ask myself where I would fall, these are the places.
- There is no direct lineage or succession linking ancient Gnostic orders to modern ones.
- There is no “transmission” of Gnosis via tradition, ritual, or leadership. Community serves, at best and in theory, to clarify the details of the truths imparted by Gnosis, and to provide the comforts and supports of a group of peers grappling with the same issues.
- Anyone claiming to know what the “specific thing” the “ancients” were talking about when they spoke of Gnosis should not be given the time of day.
- Gnostic traditions and thought absolutely predate Christianity. They are also capable of surviving outside of it, and indeed outside of religion or theism of any kind.
- The ancient Gnostics understood the degree to which their texts were metaphorical, philosophical, and referential much more fully than modern scholars, and most modern Gnostics, do.
- Reverence for specific texts or for “the ancients” in general, in a way that conveys a greater likelihood of being correct, or any sort of holiness whatsoever upon them, is contradictory to the very nature of Gnosticism, as well as the spirit of said texts and said ancients.
- Gnosticism was not a heretical response to Christian Orthodoxy; quite the opposite. This is, again, a notion that simply has no place.