Gnosis strange, to find a Christianity I am not programmed to believe! I am commanded to disbelieve, even execrate it. From the spiritual ferment of the early Church came a victorious tradition, which expelled this secret Knowledge.

I first read of Gnosticism in the commentaries of William Barclay, who comments that several of the New Testament texts are written to combat it. From the understanding of Barclay which I retain I could tell you of Docetism, the idea that Jesus just seemed to be human, but was pure spirit- only the fleshly shell suffered on the Cross, as Christ stood with John, watching and commenting (Acts of John, I think).

I also knew the idea that the true God, pure spirit, could not create matter, which is evil, but put forth emanations  (aeons) and eventually an emanation with no knowledge of the Father created matter. I have a violent emotional reaction against that. I hated my body, as a child. Not so much my penis, as my arm, which was so thin and weak. Then I transitioned, and found my arm and hand slim and beautiful. Flesh is good, and this I know. The early church so condemned that view that we say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body”, and I understand that Protestant and Catholic theologians do not differentiate a soul which comes from the body at the resurrection, but a spiritual body (I Cor 15:42-44- note also v29, which appears to refer to the Mormon practice of baptising the living on behalf of the dead).

There is suffering in the world. Either God will not stop it, and is not all-powerful, or cannot stop it, and is not all good. This is the problem of evil, and Theodicy is the branch of theology answering it. Docetism produces a radically different theodicy. I would say that God is in the File:Wiccan Syzygy.pngwhirlwind, suffering with God’s creation, and Christ is on the Cross, transfiguring our suffering into our growth, maturity and glory- do ask, if you would like me to unpack those statements- but Docetism would say that only matter, which is evil, suffers, and the Wisdom of God rescues spirit from matter.

Mmm. That works, actually. It is not even “pie in the sky when you die”- through wisdom and understanding and maturity one comes to realise that physical suffering does not matter. My facebook feed regularly quotes Teilhard de Chardin, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience, out of context.

Now I come across A New New Testament, where I read the Secret Revelation. I have not read the commentary, but this moves on from Barclay’s Gnosticism bad, Orthodoxy mostly good (he did not believe in the virgin birth) to-

here are contradictory texts valued by early followers of Jesus. What value can we find in them?

The Secret Revelation is another Dogma. I do not just accept it- I am attached to my physical body, and don’t call it evil- but, can we find in it anything good?

6 thoughts on “Gnosis

  1. An exaggerated dichotomy between world and spirit is bad philosophy and theology. Catholic moderate realism strikes a good balance here. And, yes, your hands are beautiful.


  2. This is so interesting. I haven’t thought about my body and my thoughts being separate for quite some time. I’d forgotten that I used to feel like I was trapped in this body, peering out from my jail that unjustly compromised and influenced my true self. I think I’m much more accepting and philosophical about my limitations and odd behaviour, and certainly less frustrated, now that I’ve accepted I’m one complete being.


    • I am one complete being, and I understand it is official Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant theology that we are. And- has no-one told you of feeling that as the wrinkles and sags appear, they appear to be pasted over the true self, who is underneath? I am, just, still at the stage where I can pass over the lines, not consider them too closely, but I begin to see the point. Here is a trivial matter-

      No. Here is a deeply important matter, about identity and self-worth and self-acceptance- where the thought of a Spirit separate from the husk might aid acceptance and adjustment. You have to look after this physical being, and the obvious question is: if someone with Alzheimers can no longer remember the day before, know where she is or learn anything, what is the state of her Spirit- but, how might such docetist ideas actually be useful?


      • I didn’t know that was official doctrine. I was clearly a heretic in my day! I always felt my essence was trapped by limitations, hormones and illogical emotions when I was younger. Physical aging is an interesting one too, and how we relate ‘ourselves’ to the increasingly odd-looking shell. In terms of Alzheimers, in the past, I would have assumed that the ‘soul’ just had faulty hardware to exist in, but was still there somewhere. Now I would see that person simply ‘is’ whatever condition their brain is in at the given moment, but there is hope that perhaps some sort of regeneration treatment will be available at some point in the future. Although I guess by the time that would be available, preventative treatments would be so well established that it would be unnecessary. I’m conscious here I’m just waffling about my own limited point of view, because, as usual, you’ve made me think about an interesting subject.


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