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Date: Sat, 2 Nov 2002 17:16:23 +0000 (GMT)
From: Josh Geller 
Subject: Re: (urth) Gnostic Wolfe

On Sat, 2 Nov 2002, James Jordan wrote:

> I've been out of the country for this discussion, and have skimmed the
> posts. A few comments:

>          1. Gnosticism is just "philosophy + myth." Philosophy, whether
> Greek or Buddhist,

These are the only two kinds of philosophy?

>                   held that the "world" is corrupt in some essential
> way,

The more I think about this, the less I am satisfied with it, and the less
I think it is true, even if you limit it to Greek philosophy (what about
Lucretius? what about Epicurus?) and Buddhist philosophy (what about
Theravada? what about dhyana/Ch'an/Zen?).

What about all of these religious philosophers? They aren't really

> and that the wise man "escapes" from the world through contemplation,
> contemplating his way out of the "cave."

This is not at all consonant with my understanding of the Cave. Even after
you've been outside of the Cave, you still have to go back inside and live

>                                        Gnosticism popularized this
> notion, adding myths, and various ritual and esoteric ways of escape
> (though esotericism is all over Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras, if you
> read them aright). The prophets of Israel preached against all escape, and
> called the people to involve themselves with the plight of the poor, the
> oppressed, etc.; and Jesus and the (best) of the Church follows this.


> Christianity, with its sacraments of water, oil, bread, and wine, and with
> its central doctrine of physical resurrection, is very "this-worldly,"

So does Plato.

Else why is he so concerned about politics?

> preaching redemption and activistic good works, not escape into contemplation.

There's one big difference between the Jewish and the Christian way of
looking at things. Judaism says, do the right thing because it is the
right thing to do. Christianity doesn't really say do the right thing so
that you will go to Heaven: salvation is a gift of grace, not the result
of works. I guess when you really look at it a certain way Christianity
does say the same thing as Judaism, if works are really inessential to
salvation. Still, it is amazing how many people have the impression that
people who do good things "go to Heaven" and people who do bad things "go
to Hell".

I have to say that I think that this whole focus on Gnosticism in the Book
Of The Long Sun is sort of a distraction from the really more interesting
things that Gene Wolfe is doing with these books.


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