- Hardcover: 61 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (March 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062513052
- ISBN-13: 978-0062513052
- Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.5 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,601,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gnosticism: The Path of Inner Knowledge Hardcover – March 1, 1996
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From the Publisher
A fresh and illuminating introduction to Gnostic thought and a concise history of this rebel offshoot of traditional Christianity.
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"Gnosis is one of the great alternatives in looking at the whole scheme of things and our place in it ... The very fact that the Gnostics probably were the first who saw the theme of the stranger in the world. That makes them, the Gnostics, a world historical event." Hans Jonas
A Path to Inner Knowledge:
This exquisite little book is a brief overview of Gnosticism, its dualistic belief system, leading teachers, and early history, starting with Simon Magus who was mentioned in the book of Acts. The multi talented author portrays the most vivid display of Gnosticism and follows its
continuing evolution to our days. He complements his biographer talent with a sustained and insightful interest in its cosmology and Neoplatonic philosophy, with selective samples from the Coptic Gnostic library. The author recounts the discovery of Chenoboskion Coptic library, a collection of thirteen codices, recently discovered in 1945, near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. He refers to the Gospel of Thomas to explain Gnostics gender distinctions. In few paragraphs he takes the reader from 'On the origin of the World' to the 'Rape of Eve' which echoes an allusion to Gauguin's unconscious primitive erotic feelings. The book includes many plates of delightful beauty that fits well with Gnosis and the intuitively poetic taste of the intellectual author. The superb illustrations integrate harmoniously with the text.
Gnosticism, Inner Enlightenment:
Gnosticism was a school of esoteric philosophy that flourished in the East Mediterranean of late antiquity, with its intellectual center in Alexandria. The word Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis (pronounced ne'osis) which means Inner Enlightening knowledge. There were many groups that were Gnostic and it is not possible to easily describe the nuances of each variant of Gnostic doctrines. In general terms, Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through Gnosis. The acquiring of Gnosis, the internal divine knowledge, accessed only by intuition rather than faith or good deeds. Accordingly since matter is evil, deliverance from material form, in Gnostic doctrine, was achieved only through gnosis, a special course revealed by the Gnostic teachers.
Gnosticism influence was extremely widespread, from Egypt through Syria to Asia Minor in the east to Northwest Africa. There was never a single monolithic Gnostic creed, but certain tenets do seem to have been more or less held in common. Valentinianism, a Gnostic movement founded by Valentinus in the second century AD was one of the major Gnostic movements. Valentinus was few votes short to be the Bishop of Rome, and the Gnostic movement that bore his name was a threat to Christianity according to church leaders and Christian fathers, not only because of their influence, but also because of their doctrine, practices and beliefs. Some scholars take evidence of its existence that predated Christianity. B Ehrman advances FC Baur theory alleging that Gnosticism was the early form of Christianity not Nicene orthodoxy which should owe its doctrines to opposed debates with the Gnostic fundamentals.
The Intellectual Author:
Martin Seymour-Smith, a British literary critic, biographer, editor, poet and astrologer who wrote 40 books covering from an annotated compilation of Shakespeare's Sonnets, to his opinionated biographies of Kipling, and Thomas Hardy. Celebrated for his broad intellectual interests, his grace as a poet and sharpness as a critic, Martin Seymour-Smith was best known for his "Guide to Modern World Literature." The book was a fine survey of Twentieth century poetry, drama and fiction that some critics doubted it was the work of one person.
Gnosticism was the school of spiritual philosophy that flourished in the Greco-Roman world that focused on the attainment of gnosis (divine knowledge intuitively accessed)- as opposed to the focus on faith, good deeds, and contrition of orthodox Christianity. Indeed Gnosticism may have been the original "Christianity" for orthodox Christianity seems to owe its structure to opposition to the Gnostic principles. As the author perceptively points out, the Gnosticism of the first two centuries were anathema to orthodox thinking because it revealed the essential materialism of the latter. This reminds us of what Voltaire said about Machiavelli: the so-called moralists hated him not because he was wicked, but because he exposed their trade secrets...
There was never a single monolithic Gnostic creed, but certain tenets do seem to have been more or less held in common. There was the principle of gnosis- a different kind of knowledge of higher things obtained by direct intuition (based of both making oneself worthy to receive it, as well as, divine grace.) Contrary to what traditional critics state, this type of knowledge was open to anyone- the only "secret" was individual worthiness. There was also the concept that we all contain particles or sparks of the Creator within ourselves- the purpose of life is to reunite these sparks with their Source. These sparks are also the basis of the concept that to find our connection to God we have to first look within. There is also the idea that the world of creation is fallen and evil, but the corollary to this is that it forces us to deal with the evil and imperfect and thereby accelerate our spiritual growth. Then again reincarnation and cyclic time were also central concepts.
The connections with depth psychology are pointed out- as well as very perceptive comments on its connections to existentialism and deconstructionism.
It is remarkable that so much philosophical and historical background is packed in such a gem-like package, but then you could claim that of the entire Hidden Wisdom Library (I especially recommend the companion volumes on Kabbalah and Theosophy.)