FIND in
<--prev V210 next-->
From: "tom" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Gnostic Wolfe vs CE Wolfe
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 16:17:32 GMT

James Wynn writes:

> Tom said:
> Gnostics (as far as we know) weren't all that pessimistic, really.
> Compared to doctrines like Sheol and predestination, Gnostics
> were positively euphoric.
> It's best to read this entire entry [on Gnosticism from the CE) as an
> outdated (almost 100 year old) polemic by an ancient enemy of the Gnostics,
> rather than a serious analysis.
> Crush responds:
> [...] That said, I don't see how
> one can say the article is not a "serious analysis".

The article does a decent job of noting sources and summarizing the
positions of various scholars.  It fails, however, to provide an objective
view of Gnostic doctrine.  This is due, at least in part, by a lack
of primary sources.  Arendzen compounds this by his repeated choice of
pejorative phrases to describe Gnosticism: "mad hope",
"pseudo-intellectual", "pretended to be", "spread as a fungus",
"stupefying roar of bombast", and so on.  It also leaves out the
interesting topic of how Gnosticism influenced (and was influenced
by) early Catholicism.

> I'd be curious to know
> how 20th century discoveries of Gnostic documents would alter (rather than
> augment) what's covered in this article.

The findings at Nag Hammadi and (to some extent) the Dead Sea Scrolls
could lessen the author's use of secondary, antagonistic sources.  The
author had at hand a mere fraction of the material now available.  A
newer version would involve a major overhaul of his textual evidence.

Given the article's (necessary) paucity of details concerning the
various Gnostic doctrines, Wolfe certainly had other sources.

I might suggest Elaine Pagels' _The Gnostic Gospels_ for those looking
to read up on the Gnostics, or the Amazon.com Listmania entries:
_Gnostic Starter Library_ and _Coptic Gnostic Library at Chenoboskion_.
For a more modern, popular take, read Philip K. Dick's final three
novels (_Valis_, _The Divine Invasion_, _The Transmigration of
Timothy Archer_).  The Whorl looks a lot like The Black Iron Prison
and Fats's laser beam is the same deus ex machina as the portals
(although Silk is nothing like Horselover Fats).  On the web (although
baised): http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhlintro.html

> This article seems to clearly delineate Gnostic pessimism as relating to
> Creation and it's Creator. Even Calvinist Protestantism doesn't claim that
> Creation was wrong from its inception by an evil god; only that it is
> "fallen"--totally so. They claim it was made perfect by a perfect and doting
> Creator. There are better authorities on Gnosticism on this list than me,
> but it seems to me even *that* somewhat pessimistic religious view is
> incompatible with Gnostic doctrine as I understand it.

Gnostics had a variety of beliefs about the material world, ranging from
it being evil to simply irrelevant.  A common thread is the idea that the
material world is not as important as the spiritual one, an idea they
shared with Christianity.

Maybe I'm missing the meaning of pessimism, but salvation through gnosis
seems a lot less pessimistic than predestination.

> --- Crush


<--prev V210 next-->