Sunday, June 26, 2005

notes on gnosis 1: preface

I'm beginning here a new strand of reflection and commentary, this time based on my reading of Geddes MacGregor's Gnosis. Here are the full details of the book, followed by two passages from the preface.
Gnosis: A Renaissance in Christian Thought
Geddes MacGregor, 1979
A Quest Book, published by The Theosophical Publishing House,
Illinois, USA.
ISBN 0-8356-0522-1
ISBN 0-8356-0520-5 pbk.

Gnosis in the wider sense is as old as is reflection on religion. It is as basic a notion in all religions as is the longing for direct, mystical knowledge of divine being.

The place of gnosis in the Christian tradition is a complex and fascinating question. Christianity, cradled in a half-hellenized Judaism and nurtured in the cosmopolitan Mediterranean world, has in turn cradled both modern science and special forms of humanism. It claims uniqueness: the answer to all religious quests. Is the answer in any sense a gnostic answer? I think it is, and if so we may be on the verge of a theosophical renaissance in Christian thought. For, in the widest sense of the terms, theosophy and the ancient gnosis are the same.
[my emphasis]

I'm not sure how important is MacGregor's association of gnosis with theosophy. It may only be a nod to those who effected the book's publication. However, MacGregor also sees theosophy as having a wider sense than that connected simply with Madame Blavatsky and her following.

I have an uneasy relationship with theosophy myself. On the one hand, I can see great merit in the institution of the Theosophical Society because it has nurtured, embraced and sometimes even protected such a wide variety of spiritual and occult traditions. My misgivings arise from its lack of discrimination, a certain naive acceptance of both the authentic teachers and the charlatans. In most cases, however, it can be said that spiritual leaders of any prominence, Madame Blavatsky included, are both genuine and fake. This is true for primitive shamans, very clearly so for Islam's prophet, and today most evident in the enigmatic Sathya Sai Baba. Every effort is made by their followers to paint them as perfect but even the Buddha and Jesus were all too human and it's a pity we have so much trouble acknowledging that.

I'm sure that gnosis, too, and gnosticism will emerge as controversial, as having both a light and a dark side. This particular book of the name, Gnosis, is important to me because it was through my first reading of it that I came to identify as a gnostic or more accurately as a neo-gnostic. The gnosis that MacGregor delineates and discusses is the one that resonates with me and yet I see gnosticism currently taking many forms that I cannot identify with. I'm keen to seek out those elements that are important to me and also those that are not. In doing that, I will use MacGregor's book as my core scripture, almost like a canonical text. A better image might be to see it like the
stone as a central point around which I can dance.
* * *

further notes on gnosis:



At Wednesday, 21 December, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting.


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