Monday, July 11, 2005

gnosis 8: pistis and gnosis

I must admit to having spent most of my life repudiating what I saw as "blind faith". And yet, at some critical point, I realised that I had, all along, felt a strong commitment to the dual concepts of truth and justice. These were my gods: my pistis was my faith in their value and in the human capacity to realize both, perhaps never perfectly but with progressive clarity and determination.

It was my reading of MacGregor's Gnosis that started opening my eyes on this issue. In particular, I came to realize that I could be religious, even a Christian, despite all those years of repudiation.

Faith is the basis of all human life. Whether we call ourselves "religious" or not, we walk by faith in something or other. Faith, then, is totally indispensable to the seeker after the divine.

I also love how MacGregor relates religion to science so firmly and frequently, revealing the two as being like a reflection of each other.

Yet faith is no more the end of the story than the hypothesis is the end of the scientific inquiry, indispensable as are both in their respective domains. Pistis seeks gnosis; faith seeks understanding.

In reviewing the early Christian literature, MacGregor notes that the authors are not so much against gnosis in itself as against a phoney, immature, or upstart pretense at knowledge of the divine. He expresses this in a modern and science-related context at the end of this longer block of text.

   Still, faith cannot be an end in itself. It is a disposition, an expression of love and trust. The whole value of my faith lies in the fact that it opens up to me the way to a genuine knowledge of God, a gnosis that would otherwise have remained closed to me. Through faith in my teacher I learn not merely the informative lesson he has to teach me; I learn to know him and what it means to be he. Through faith in my mother I learn not only whatever she has to tell me; I learn to know her as she is in herself and what her motherhood means, not to me, but to her. Through faith in God I learn to know the very nature of God, at least in respect of his relationship to me, and the knowledge of the ways of God to man evokes awe and love such as I have never known in all my seeking.
   In short, faith and knowledge, pistis and gnosis, traditionally contrasted as though they were two virtually incompatible approaches to God, are, on the contrary, two aspects of the same cognitive process. As soon as I humbly accept the revelation of God that is given to me, I already, by its light, see dimly something of the divine secret. I already see something of the suffering of God before I know the depths of my own suffering. I already understand tragedy before it touches my own life. I know, as I knew, in however feeble a way, something of the nature of my mother when I was so young and so feeble as to be able only to grasp at her for sustenance and protection. As I walk in faith, however, the prospect enlarges. I do not know where precisely I am being led; yet that is the beginning of true gnosis. The exercise of my faith is like the exercise of my mind: it leads me to understand what it is to be a consciousness. It teaches me that self-knowledge that leads to gnosis of God. The boy or girl in the school laboratory who makes halting steps in conducting a scientific investigation, under the teacher's eye and without much maturity of understanding of what is going on, has already begun to grasp the nature of the universe better than someone who leisurely reads clever little articles about space in popular science magazines. Authentic faith results in authentic gnosis of God.

- MacGregor: Gnosis, pp. 18-20.

And so I will plod on in faith here, committed to getting to know myself better through Rumi, through MacGregor, through whatever revelations come my way.


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