Monday, April 7, 2008

Hot Air In There

My understanding of Gnosticism is modern (and also woefully incomplete). This might seem like a ridiculous statement. Of course my view of Gnosticism would be a contemporary one, with its own nuances and perplexities. It is impossible to comprehend exactly the world of the Sethians or Valentinians et al., and it is difficult to translate their world to ours.

This is why I find that accusations of "gnosticism" (that is, a modern group or idea is labled as "gnostic", as if some great insult has been levied and the reader is now fully aware of the topic's naughtiness) are at best amusing. In these situations gnosticism is always identified as an arrogant, early dualist heresy that had a secret handshake that gave its members supAr secret knowledge, and that it was roundly tapped on the head, scolded and done away with for being the bad little child it was. This definition is, at best, patently dishonest. Those that speak against these things that they have labeled as "gnostic" surely aren't talking about what I'm talking about, and I'd be surprised if most of them had any notion of who Sethians or Valentinians were.

I pause slightly when I come across these things on blogs, tempted by the desire to correct false assertions, and simultaneously held back by the greatness of silence. Some of the things I come across are blatantly ignorant of the subject, while others seem to know just enough to twist gnosticism or gnostic ideas into something totally alien to reality (whatever that is). It is at this moment that I sometimes begin writing in the comment box, succumbing to the temptation to respond. Without fail, however, at some point before I hit submit, something always comes to mind that causes me to forget about my indignation entirely:

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