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The Name "Gnostic"

Posted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 3:13 pm
by Tau Malachi
Did ancient Gnostics refer to themselves as "Gnostics"? The answer to this is that most likely they did not. Their adversaries in ancient times appear to have coined this term, and modern scholars have taken it up, but Gnostics themselves had a different view of themselves. This is reflected in our own lineage, which only began to use the term "gnostic" to identify themselves to others about a hundred to a hundred fifty years ago. Prior to that time they merely considered themselves spiritual or mystical Christians; hence practitioners of the inner or mystical tradition of Christianity. This was most likely the view of ancient Gnostics as well - they viewed themselves as spiritual or mystical Christians; hence as true Christians.

What is meant by a "spiritual" or "mystical" Christian? It indicates a person who has had direct spiritual or mystical experience of the Truth and Light of the Gospel, specifically of the Risen Savior, and per chance has tasted of Christ consciousness during a peak experience. In the fullest sense it indicates a person who may embody something of this Divine illumination, the Christ consciousness. In other words it indicates a person whose faith has been confirmed through their own experience of the Truth and Light, and who has thus acquired Gnosis of Christ.

Though Gnostics may not have used the term "Gnostic" for themselves, and today it is used by most of us only in a provisional sense, both in ancient times and modern times the need to bring faith to fruition in gnosis was and is taught, as well as the spiritual life and practice through which that can be accomplished. This is really what authentic Christian Gnosticism is - a path to Christ consciousness; hence a path to self-realization.

This gives us some insight into what a Gnostic tradition or school actually is, for if Christian Gnosticism is a path to self-realization, or to enlightement and liberation, then an authentic Gnostic tradition or school represents teachings and practices that facilitate an actual self-realization process. In place of clergy one finds spiritual teachers and guides, in much the same way as one does in Eastern traditions, and in place of dogmatic creed and dogma one finds methods for the spiritual life and practice through which Divine illumination can be experienced. Indeed, the outer teachings of the Gospel remain in place, only they are understood in the context of the inner and secret teachings, and the Gnostic seeks to confirm her or his faith through direct spiritual experience of the Truth and Light - yet more, she or he labors to live according to that Truth and Light, and in so doing to embody it; hence to realize Christ consciousness.

It has been said that the culmination of all religion is the sparking of the mystical inclination - the awareness of the Divine within and beyond oneself, and seeking to realize and embody the Divine in oneself and one's life. This is exactly what Gnosticism is and if we study and contemplate the Holy Gospel we will find that this is exactly what Lord Yeshua taught his disciples.

Someone asked me what I thought of the term "Gnostic" and whether or not "Gnostics" used to call themselves by this term, so I thought I share my response here.

Blessings & shalom! :)

Re: The Name "Gnostic"

Posted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 8:08 am
by RChMI
Tau Malachi wrote:...
Someone asked me what I thought of the term "Gnostic" and whether or not "Gnostics" used to call themselves by this term, so I thought I share my response here.

There is also the aspect of the word itself. The modern connotation of the term Gnostic often does not rise to that of the potential technocracy of its native tongue. Usually being that of "Gnostic as one that practices Gnotisticism through Gnostism."

Gnostic in the Greek would be transliterated as Gnostikoi (those of or, belonging to Gnostikos,) which would relate to Gnostikos (towards or, leading to Gnosis,) which harkens to Gnosis (Knowledge and Acquaintance.) Such an inference could be translated as that of "Gnostikoi are those of a particular Path leading towards a particular Knowledge and Acquaintance."

As to what the ancient Gnostics would of called or referred to themselves as, that is reflected in the Gnostic texts themselves... The Offspring of Seth; The Seed of Seth; The Posterity of Seth; The Race of Seth; The Offspring of the Light; The Perfect Race; The Undominated Race; The Immovable Race; or simply... Those People.

Posted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 11:33 am
by Phillip
Well, it's nice to hear from someone so schooled in greek works! We have a more semetic base here, but I enjoy hearing from different perpsectives, sometimes!

There are so many interesting names in mystical schools, fun names that people call themselves and one another. In one school, the master is called, "Nimo". Nimo means "no one". Interesting 'attainment', huh? What strikes me as interesting is the meaning behind some of those names that mystics call themselves. Seth is an interesting association, because I get the sense that they're not speaking a bloodline descendency, but a more direct soul descendency. "Seth" in Hebrew is Shin and Tau, implying a fiery cross. What does a fiery cross mean? I suppose there are many directions we can go, but I remember that Malachi proposed many of these ideas in his writings on the name Seth, so I'll leave a reference to that.

(I use the name loosely)

Posted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 2:39 pm
by RChMI
Using the name Seth was generally seen as a way to distinguish the Gnostics from themselves and others - Christians (Race Of Cain) and Pagans (Race of Abel.)

As for Mystical names, they usually reflect the inner quality of the level of understanding of the particular school. Nimo, meaning "No One" is generally consdered as a universal connector to the Unity of All. If someone is considered as no one, or not one, then they can be considered as being all one, or at one, and someone that is all one or at one within, is also one in all and one without... God would be considered the unltimate No Thing, that is All Things. :wink:

Cain, Able & Seth

Posted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 3:15 pm
by Tau Malachi
Hi RChMi & Philip!

You will find that the Sophian Tradition reverses the attributes of Cain and Abel in its mystical and symbolic language from those of other Gnostic Traditions; thus Cain in our language is the beastial or material humanity, Abel is the faithful or psychic humanity, and Seth the spiritual elect. We take the contemplation of these three into "sinner," "saint" and "tzaddik," respectively, pointing to the transcendence of either saint or sinner in the process of self-realization in Christ. The root of our interpretation, of course, comes from our Judaic foundation - the Semitic trend of thought that runs through our Gnostic Tradition.

You will find that this is true of many of our ideas - they proceed by a bit different angle of thought than those of other Gnostic Traditions, so we frequently have a significantly different take on things. But that would seem to be true from one Gnostic Tradition to another, even those that seem to share more in common within their language and symbolism. It seems part and parcel of placing greater value on individual experience and actual Divine illumination.

"Nemo" in our jargon is much as you have expressed it; the individual united with the universal, hence at-one with all. Generally speaking, in our jargon, it also implies the aim of the Great Work, which is to become "more than human." Hence the translation of Nemo as "no man," which may imply a state of being beyond this transitional state we presently call "human."

I wonder if "No Man" discovers "No God"? This is an interesting contemplation Tau Elijah shared with his disciples one afternoon in speaking of the truth of the Self in the realization of the Ain Nature of all things. The implication is an "emptinesss" which at one and the same time is "fullness," and is connected with Sophian teachings on repose and movement, being and becoming.

Blessings & shalom!

Posted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 5:19 pm
by lleyr
This may be a little off topic of the way the thread has progressed, but is still in line with the term gnosis.

I remember studying about Gnostics while attending school for a Masters in Theology. The prof and the texts kept talking about gnosis as "secret knowledge" and how absurd it was that they believed that God had secret knowledge".

I have come to appreciate the fact that gnosis does involve secret knowledge, but not because it is being kept from anyone. The secret is open to all, but it is something that can't be conveyed in words... it is trully experiential knowledge that is only secret because it can't be conveyed one person to another.

This simple truth is the key to why gnosis makes so much sense. I believe all trully spiritual Christians are seeking experiential knowledge of their God and if they trully understood what gnosis means they would be seeking it also.

Blessings, Mark

"Secret Knowledge"

Posted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 5:58 pm
by Tau Malachi
Hi Mark!

I believe you hit the nail right on the head - truly "secret knowledge" is experiential knowledge; hence knowledge that cannot be spoken but can only be received through direct spiritual or mystical experience.

There also seems to be another context for the idea of "secret" knowledge, however; as in the reception of esoteric teachings and practices through which the Gnostic experience might be brought about. Until we are introduced to certain ideas or to certain practices they are, in effect, "secret." Gnostic traditions typically have teachings and methods of practice that would qualify for the term "secret knowledge" in this context. However, usually Gnostics will share their knowledge with anyone who has a sincere desire to receive it, so it is not exactly "secret" in any elitist sense (much of it can be found on other wisdom traditions as well, so it also is not exactly exclusive either).

Blessings & shalom! :)

Gnostic "Secrets"

Posted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:04 pm
by Elder Gideon
Shalom All!

This topic of "secrecy" reminds me of what I once heard during a practice: "What is secret is too obvious to be true." This is confirmed in before-and-after experiences which continue to unfold for me.

Before an awareness of the Indwelling Christ, scripture connoted experiences I took to be poetic and metaphorical. By Grace, the poetry and metaphor of the Light Kingdom within and all around became an even terrifying discovery, guarding the utmost secrecy: dimensions of these "Gnostic" teachings acutely and literally describe experiences of one made "Gnostic".

Since such experiences of "secret knowledge", scripture is also re-written. What was once accepted as symbolic I now know to be quite exactly the experience described by the Apostles. The Very Good News of this Gnostic "Godspell" is that Yeshua, the Bride and the Apostolic Succession is not at all as scholars and even post-modern clergy might posit--as though these partzufim are domesticated pets or mere psychological allegories in some museum codex. Rather, they're live, firey and at times even overwhelming in their beauty.

Praise be Living Spirit who grants Gnosis of the Firey Intelligence!


Posted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 7:25 am
by Rebekah
Shalom everyone!

"Secret" seems to connote that which can only be known inwardly. While we "Gnostics" may be fortunate enough to hear esoteric teachings, it is the inward experience brought about by these teachings that transpires in secrecy and makes us truly Gnostic.

This term "Gnostic" also seems to imply unification; the non-dual awareness of "No Man" and "No God", emptiness and fullness, movement and repose, being and becoming. I'm reminded of the logion from the Gospel According to Thomas: "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below..."


Posted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 6:50 am
by Guest
Shalom Rebekah!

It is amazing how something that seems secret to us at one point on the path becomes part of our experience and not secret at another point.

As we progress on our path and the experience unfolds the secret becomes clear and new secrets come into being- ones we hadn't even considered.

What a job it is to be on this path and to continually see the unfolding.



Posted: Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:11 pm
by Tau Malachi

There seems to be something more to be said of the name "Gnostic," for with growing interest in Gnosticism among modern peoples the use of the name "Gnostic" is becoming common. More and more I encounter individuals using the term to describe themselves and the context it often seems to be akin to the idea of a religious belief to which one ascribes. Thus, if I believe in what I think Gnostics believe, then I'm a "Gnostic"; hence it is used in the context of converting to a set of beliefs.

However, that is not typically how we view the term in the Sophian Tradition - I am not Gnostic because I agree with Gnostics or believe what Gnostics believe, but rather I become Gnostic by entering into something of the Gnostic experience, a direct spiritual or mystical experience of the Truth and Light; hence by acquiring gnosis.

In Christian Gnosticism first I am Christian, and then Gnostic; I do, indeed, begin in faith, faith in the Gospel according to my understanding of it. However, I become Gnostic to the extent that my faith is translated into something experiential, hence gnosis. Gnostic means, "one who knows," one who has experienced gnosis - knowledge and acquaintance.

In terms of Gnostic Christianity, this knowledge and acquaintance is with the Risen Savior and Holy Spirit. In that this knowledge and acquaintance is experiential and cannot be told to us it is, indeed, secret knowledge - known only as we enter into the Gnostic expeience of Christ.

It is so secret, who can say who has experienced and who has not?

The name Gnostic may well apply to anyone embarking on the Gnostic path, but it is interesting to consider the deeper meaning in the name, just as with the name "Christian" which the Gospel of St. Philip explores along similar lines.

Blessings & shalom! :)