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Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing Paperback – July 1, 2002
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According to the author, Gnosticism straddles the divide between psychology and religion - the place where soul and spirit meet, where dream and vision are transformed into an experience of liberation. Gnostic myths, metaphors and symbols partake of both psychological and metaphysical meaning. It this sense they are like endless loops in which psychological meaning points to metaphysical meaning that leads one back to the individual psyche again. It is the place where cosmology and psychology fuse, where archetypes and deities merge and separate in an endless dance. In both the intrapsychic and external sense, Gnostic myths belong in depth psychology and religion at the same time.
The author discusses the Gnostic view of the soul and of the divine and manifest worlds, considers the Gnostic Christ as a guide to the sacred mysteries and as Liberator more than Saviour and looks at the concept of Sophia (wisdom) in the Gnostic tradition. Various groups like the Mandaeans, Manicheans and Cathars are investigated.
One of the most interesting sections deals with three great Gnostic thinkers: Valentinus (famous for the poetic beauty of his words), Basilides (renowned for his mystical profundity) and Marcion (noted for his informed criticism of the Bible.) Finally Hoeller considers the influence of Gnostic ideas on writers and artists like Blake, Jung, Hesse, Melville and others.
Another very gripping section looks at Gnosticism in the light of Chaos Theory, Modernism, Post-Modernism and Nihilism. Here, Hoeller very convincingly refutes the claims of certain critics that Gnosticism is similar to nihilism and proves that it is, on the contrary, a very positive and life-affirming worldview that offers hope to the individual in the 21st century.
The text is enhanced by black and white illustrations of ancient and modern Gnostic art, and the book includes a glossary of terms, a general reading list, a bibliography of modern books and an index. I also recommend this same author's earlier masterpiece, The Gnostic Jung And The Seven Sermons To The Dead.
I do get the feeling from reading the subject that he is pushing his own particular brand of gnosticism, some of which is disconcerting. He seems to argue at the end that gnostics should turn their back on the world completely, and let it suffer in its own pool of dreck. That was unsettling to me but as I explore gnosticism further in other books, I'll find out for myself if this is THE gnostic position on the subject or just one position of many within the gnostic world.
Overall though, a great place to start for the Gnostic beginner.
Also, in reply to someone who said, "He seems to argue at the end that gnostics should turn their back on the world completely, and let it suffer in its own pool of dreck." This however is a misrepresentation of Dr. Hoeller's views. Who much like comparative mythologists Joseph Campbell would say, "The world is a mess. It's always been a mess. We can't change the world. We can only change ourselves." I know for a fact that Stephan would add to this "but you can make it better" and of course that would probably be summed up in "changing yourself".
If you bought this book in the hopes that it was a scholarly book you should've referred to page 10 in the Introduction, "This book is not primarily a work of academic scholarship...The format and style of this book are rather more simple than those of my other books, even simpler than I like. The reason for this is that the book aspires to serve as an introduction to the subject." However, this does not make the book useless! If you want scholarship read Pagels, Jonas, Rudolph, Ehrman, or any of the authors that he gave in his "Gnostic Reading List" at the end of the book for further study.
If however, you want to "wade in the shallows of this deep subject called Gnosticism" and find out how a modern day Gnostic Bishop applies these Ancient concepts and beliefs in today's world, you should buy this book.