Joseph H Kovacic
Having dabbled in the study of Gnosticism for several years, a formal examination of the subject seemed in order. The course, “Master of Gnosticism,” offered at Universal Life Seminary appeared to be a means of satisfying that goal. Early on the World Wide Web provided a plethora of information on Gnosticism. Ecclesia Gnostica offered an abundance of data on their web site (www.gnosis.org/gnintro.htm). Bishop Dr. Steven Hoeller, is a prolific writer, scholar and Bishop of the “Ecclesia Gnostica” Diocese in Los Angeles, California and the expanded Diocese consisting of parishes in several western states. There were reams of data on Ecclesia’s Web Site, including a Gnostic Catechism (http://www.gnosis.org/ecclesia/catechism.htm). Various texts on Gnosticism were used to supplement a wealth of information from other sources such as: The Gnostic Bible (Meyer, Barnstone); The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (Meyer) and works by Erhman; Freke and Gandy; Tabor; Krosney; Pagles: Starbird; Nahmad and Bailey; Jacobovici and Pellegrino; Leloup; Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, et. al. The Gnostic Bible and The Nag Hammadi Scriptures were used primarily as references and The Catholic Encyclopedia was also consulted. It is a good source of information about Gnosticism. One, however, must read the material cautiously and filter out all of the negative propaganda and focus on the history.
In addition, the ULC Seminary’s course provided, not only reinforcement for previously learned material, it offered new Concepts. Myth is presented throughout the “Master of Gnosticism” course. Evidently, certain movies reflect the Gnostic Experience. “Matrix” was alleged to contain “many” elements of Gnosticism. Science fiction? Well, . . . don’t know about that. This writer saw the movie after reading its reference in an early lesson (lesson two) of the “Master of Gnosticism” course. The movie was alleged to offer many examples of Gnosticism; that, however was not recognized by this student. Only “bits and Pieces” were observed; the movie was found to be boring. It was probably someone’s loss having not focused during the preponderance of the “flick.”
There were many terms presented, id est: demiurge, aeons, archons, Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion, Docetae, monad, pleroma, Sophia, Jaldabaoth, Jao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, Astaphaios, Ailoaios, Oraios and many others. Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion were bishops who were excommunicated by the orthodox Roman Church. Having became disillusioned by the narrow views ordered by the orthodox, they drifted to Gnosticism and founded important Gnostic schools. Actually, they drifted prior to excommunication.
This observer finds the KISS principal (keep it simple, stupid) more than adequate for consideration of the Gnostic phenomenon. The many myths seem to be an encumbrance.
Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion were involved with establishing various schools of Gnosticism. Egypt, Alexandria, and Syria were some of the areas these men congregated and disseminated Gnosticism. Gnostic is from Greek and means knowledge. This is not knowledge one embraces via a book. Here one does not need to search for knowledge outside of oneself. Seeking knowledge from others, priests, bishops, etc. is not necessary. All one need do is look inwardly and commune with God directly. This did tend to pose a threat to the orthodox establishment. Therefore the establishment sot to eliminate the Gnostics. Solitary worship is what is practiced by most Gnostics according to Bishop Hoeller.
Gnosticism is dualistic; good, bad, evil, etc. The Demiurge would be equivalent to the creator god of the universe, earth and all material things encompassed therein. That would be concomitant to the Jewish people’s god; angry, punitive and a “witz-vogel”, so to speak. Space alien maybe; that was Yahweh. The Absolute God is far above the Demiurge and projects love rather than the hatred and meanness as do the lessor gods.
The Supreme Being was unknowable, a pure Spirit. Jesus was, perhaps, associated with this “loving” God. Love is what Jesus represented, and thus the all powerful God made its appearance through and in Jesus. That would be the basis for the concept of duality, two gods, the materialistic evil god and the Supreme Spiritual Good God of Love; the Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Ghost with Sophia representing the Holy Ghost; Wisdom.
Bishop Hoeller in one of his homilies mentioned that many people consider themselves Gnostic, but there are few who actually are. Clarification would be helpful. This writer considers himself a Gnostic Christian. Where did he go wrong?
One of the possible authors (there were obviously several writers involved in the course construction) of the “Master of Gnosticism” course drew some outstanding contrasts between Gnostic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity in lessons fourteen and fifteen. Perhaps the author overdid the comparisons in lesson fifteen. This writer took offense at the very extreme presentations and called it “tommyrot.” Although, there were obvious errors in spelling, grammar and syntax, etc., the information was thorough. Yet, there may have been a bit of redundancy, but that is expected. Driving the issue home may be crucial. Repetition is of value to the student. So, that was, perhaps, a favorable technique.
This writer was confused by some of the text. Run on sentences without definite conclusions plagued this writer, especially in undergraduate school. This may still be a problem.