Into The Gnostic
November 30, 2002 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Out of the mist of the beginning of our era there looms a pageant of mythical figures whose vast, superhuman contours might people the walls of another Sistine Chapel. Their countenances and gestures, the roles in which they are cast, the drama which they enact, would yield images different from the biblical ones on which the imagination of the beholder was reared, yet strangely familiar to him and disturbingly moving. The stage would be the same, the theme as transcending: the creation of the world, the destiny of man, fall and redemption, the first and the last things. But how much more numerous would be the cast, how much more bizarre the symbolism, how much more extravagant the emotions!
                                                                                                        Hans Jonas

Into the Gnostic.

Of magicians, miracle workers, saints and sinners of early Christianities and other mystery religions--including but not limited to Valentinus, Simon Magus, Mithras, Marcion, Manicheans, Mandeans, the Winged Hermes, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary, among many other Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphica, the Cathars and Apollonious of Tyana. Not to mention Philip K. Dick.
posted by y2karl (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There were several Christianities until the converison of, Constantine the Great, after which the Roman, and later, Orthodox, church crushed all others, pagan, Manichean and Gnostic, in time. The Cathars lasted in France until the 1400s and some argue that the Knights Templar were infused with a Gnostic strain via contacts with Sufis in the crusades. The one true living Gnostic strain still lives in the Mandaeans. Modern varieites of Gnosticism are, in part, like modern Wicca and paganism, artificial ahistorical re-creations and inventions. Artificial in part, and quite real in another--as Gnosticism is that eternal strain in human religion which Aldous Huxley called the Perennial Philosophy.

Primary Sources: the Gnostic Archive, which includes the Nag Hammadi Library, the Gnostic Friends Network, the Gnostic page at What? magazine, the Invisible Basilica of Sabazius at the Hermetic Library, the Mystica, the Mystae, the Ouroboros Webring, Khepher Dot Net and Farvardyn Dot Com, among others.
posted by y2karl at 3:22 PM on November 30, 2002

Just to point out Gospel of Mary and Gospel of Thomas aren't nessecarily written by either. More likely someone dreaming or smoking something wrote them.

Stigmata the movie used the Gospel of Thomas as the magic gospel the church was trying to cover up. I thought it was somewhat cool that Stigmata didn't make up some prop gospel rather they appropriated someone elses (who would've still had the copyright on it now if Sonny Bono was alive back then :) ).
posted by abez at 3:50 PM on November 30, 2002

Shall I just turn over my bookmark list for you to FPP, y2karl? ;P

The Gnostic Archive, or whatever it's calling itself these days ( is probably one of the best religious sites of any sort on the web, IMHO. In addition to purely gnostic texts such as the poems of Mani, it also includes Christian apocrypha and writings by the early church fathers (Clement of A., Tertullian, etc.). Anyone interested in religious scholarship on the cheap (whether a filthy atheist such as myself, or otherwise inclined) ought to check it out.

Oh, and anyone particularly interested in the Gnostics would do well to check out Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which is incredibly dense if you're not familiar with the material (the history of European esotericism), but becomes a brilliant and highly enjoyable piece of work if you take even a mild interest in it.

Oh, and a highly amusing, if none-too-rigorous introduction to esoteric religions can be found at the Tomb of Jesus site.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:04 PM on November 30, 2002

I always look forward to y2karl's posts, but in this case he crossed the line into contributing to an ugly front page. The small text looks bad enough, and anyway this post is long--almost 200 words long--and unnecessarily so. The quote would have been excellent material for a [more inside] rather than an introduction.

The crux of the matter is one person's aesthetic sensibilities clashing with the official aesthetic.
posted by Hildago at 5:53 PM on November 30, 2002

Crap, that was meant for Meta. I'm dumb, sorry.
posted by Hildago at 5:55 PM on November 30, 2002

Karl, as for My Site it's not even close. Your font size is about half or a quarter of that on my site.

And mine is readable. It has a lot to do with the switching back and forth between big and small fonts that's the strain on the eyes.

Besides, if the quote was too long and took up too much space shouldn't you do a (more inside)?
posted by nyxxxx at 6:36 PM on November 30, 2002

Thanks, y2karl! Like the author of this interesting article, I first learnt about gnosticism through reading Jorge Luis Borges.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:49 PM on November 30, 2002

Hey, thanks for that link, Miguel--if I'd seen it, I would have used it here. Do check out the Templar of the Knights Templar link in regards to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Now, there's a place I want to see. Scotland, the center of Masonic intrigue--who'd a-thunk it? Now I really wonder what they wear under those kilts...
posted by y2karl at 8:12 PM on November 30, 2002

So, thanks Pseudoephedrine ( & y2karl ) - i've just received an education by reading most of the Tomb of Jesus website. I didnt find it that amusing, in fact quite intriguing and plausible*. It basically confirms my atheism, but based on the historical record, instead of gut feeling.

(*Well, it's as plausible as anything propounded by several other religions which make regular appearances on Mefi...)
posted by dash_slot- at 9:51 PM on November 30, 2002

I read the P.K.Dick "10 Major [Gnostic] Principles" to my wife whereapon she became inexplicably upset and angry, cried for a while, then fell asleep....
posted by troutfishing at 10:04 PM on November 30, 2002

So many good links: many thanks. To anyone interested in this kind of thing I can recommend Ioan P. Couliano's book The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism as a thought-provoking overview.
posted by misteraitch at 2:05 AM on December 2, 2002

« Older Conservatives dispute Bush on Islam   |   TextArc Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments