Final Essay for Gnosticism
For Rev. Linda Francis
Fifteen years ago my late husband and I began to read about the Gnostic religion. We read a dozen or more books before his death, and discussed them by the fireplace or on the back porch each night. Missing our studies together I enrolled in a couple of local classes and several discussion groups. Like myself and my late husband, I found that the others that also had an interest in this religion had one major thing in common. We all were highly formally educated and were seeking to keep our minds informed long past our formal education years to achieve a career goal. The second factor that we shared was a thirst for truth, or at least information from all sides of an issue to make the best choice possible, and this not only had to do with religion, but political and ethical issues, as well.
Needing one more class to complete my sixty hours I decided to take one more class in Gnosticism. After some of the early classes I was disappointed and almost dropped the study. It at first seemed as if the teacher was finding the faults within Gnostic teachings to show how wrong they were. The lesson on Hitler as a Gnostic was the one lesson that actually made me sign up for another class to complete my study. It was a class in the Gospel of Thomas For some reason I did not drop it right away and in a few weeks I decided perhaps the teacher was like myself and was only trying to show both sides. By the time I reached this last lesson I had no doubts that the teacher liked as many things as I found that I liked about the Gnostics.
I especially, enjoyed the idea the teacher tossed out about many scholars believing that Buddhism was a forerunner of many of the Gnostic/Christian ideas. I too had wondered about the two. I studied Buddhist meditation for many years and read much that I liked about that faith, as well, even taking some formal classes in this field. I have a little Buddhist sculpture where he is bent over weeping in his lap. One day after finishing my class I picked the Buddha up and said to myself. "I wish I had one of Jesus weeping, too. For surely both weep at what mankind kind and his egoic dogma has done to both of their teachings." For these reason I find it harder and harder to call myself Christian anymore than I could claim I am a Buddhist. And when I read one of the last lessons that stated that Gnostics felt they were the only ones with the real truth about God, I thought to myself, well there are the Jews, the Muslims, Baptist and Catholics, etc each believing they are the only right ones and that is why mankind has been killing each other with one war after the other all their lives.
However, I will agree that a major part of enlightenment is seeking knowledge which was highly promoted by the Gnostics and part of the narrow vision from other faiths is they refuse to study and open themselves up to the ideas of others, accepting only what their parents, community and the faith they were born into teaches. The less formally educated the faith as a whole is (both women and children as well as men), the more dogma seems to appear in their rules and the more fearful and violent they are at defending these rules, even at taking the life of those different from them, to speak nothing of the shunning and refusing to show love to those different from themselves.
The study states that today, "If one desires to become a Gnosis you must seek your path to find your truth and understanding. In order to do this one must clear their mind of all barriers, to include their own ego. Finding the truth for one's self can be obtained numerous ways, meditation, dreams, and yoga among other practices." I think of myself as on a spiritual path (a personal one) rather than a religious one (founded by an egoic group seeking control and claiming they know God's mind.)Our minister was away last Sunday and the sermon was delivered by a local writer and college professor. Dr. John Nash, from East Tennessee State University. He spoke of Sofia, wisdom and the Gnostic faith. He ended with a pondering thought. He stated, that at one time in the early foundation of the Christian faith that there was a Gnostic called Valentenus that was suggested as a good idea as the next Pope. He lost by just a vote or two. His name was Valentinus. Church father Tertullion reported that he narrowly lost the election. Valentenus was educated in Alexandria, but moved to Rome in 136 AD. He lived there for nearly 25 years. The information is in Dr. Nash's textbook, called Christianity: the One, the Many," vol 1, p 258. The thought he left us to ponder was how might the world have been a different place to live in today, if Vllentinus had been elected … where ego was put aside and power, guilt and fear were not used a tools of control for not just the government, fathers ruling their families and the Christians.
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