Religion 222a Fall 2005
WHAT IS GNOSIS? EXCERPTS FROM SELECTED SOURCES
1. “It is not baptism alone that makes us free, but the knowledge (gnosis) of
who we are,
what we have become;
where we were;
where we have been cast out of;
where we are bound for;
from what we are delivered;
what birth is; and what rebirth is.” [Excerpts from Theodotus 78.2]
2. (3) Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty." [Gospel of Thomas, Log 3]
3. “I see in spirit that all are hanging
I know in spirit that all are being carried
Flesh hanging from soul
Soul clinging to air
Air hanging from upper atmosphere (aither)
Crops rushing forth from the deep
A babe rushing forth from the womb.” [Valentinus, “Summer Harvest,” Layton 248.]
4. Since the perfection of the All is in the Father, it is necessary for the All to ascend to him. Therefore, if one has knowledge, he gets what belongs to him and draws it to himself. For he who is ignorant, is deficient, and it is a great deficiency, since he lacks that which will make him perfect. . . .Those whose names he knew first were called last, so that the one who has knowledge is he whose name the Father has pronounced. For he whose name has not been spoken is ignorant. Indeed, how shall one hear if his name has not been uttered? For he who remains ignorant until the end is a creature of forgetfulness and will perish with it. . [The Gospel of Truth, Nag Hammadi Library]
5. I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name. . . . .
You who know me, be ignorant of me,
and those who have not known me, let them know me.
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace. . . . . .
Hear me, you listeners, and be taught my utterances, you who know me!
I am the hearing that is acceptable in every matter;
I am the utterance that cannot be restrained.
I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name.
I am the sign of writing and the manifestation of difference.
[Thunder, Perfect Mind, Nag Hammadi Library]
6. The Law established by Moses, my dear sister Flora, has in the past been misunderstood by many people, for they did not intimately know the one who established it or its commandments. I think you will see this at once if you study their discordant opinions on this topic. For some say that this Law has been ordained by God the Father, while others stoutly contend that it has been established by the adversary, the pernicious Devil…But they are utterly in error, they disagree with one another, and each of the schools utterly misses the truth of the matter,… though each does so in its own particular way. One by not having knowledge of the God of righteousness; the other by not having knowledge of the Father of the Entirety, who was manifested by him alone who came and who alone knew him. It remains for us, who have been deemed worthy of knowledge with both, to show you exactly what sort of the Law the Law is, and which legislator established it. We shall offer proofs of what we say by drawing from our Savior’s words, by which alone it is possible to reach a certain apprehension of the reality of the matter without stumbling. [Ptolemy, Letter to Flora]
7. Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, … and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations. These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein.….I have deemed it my duty…to unfold to you, my friend, these portentous and profound mysteries, which do not fall within the range of every intellect…I do this, in order that you, obtaining an acquaintance with these things, may in turn explain them to all those with whom you are connected, and exhort them to avoid such an abyss of madness and of blasphemy against Christ. I intend, then, to the best of my ability to set forth the opinions of those who are now promulgating heresy. I refer especially to the disciples of Ptolemy, whose school may be described as a bud from that of Valentinus. I shall also endeavour to furnish the means of overthrowing them, by showing how absurd and inconsistent with the truth are their statements. Not that I am practised either in composition or eloquence; but my feeling of affection prompts me to make known to you and all your companions those doctrines which have been kept in concealment until now, but which are at last, through the goodness of God, brought to light. "For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed, nor secret that shall not be made known.” [Irenaeus, Preface, Against Heresies, or Refutation and Overthrow of Falsely So-Called Knowledge, ca 180 CE]