Gnostic Ephemera

This is a bizarre experiment. I’ve transcribed some old notes taken while reading an esoteric text of some minor fame: Tobias Churton’s The Gnostics. Reading the book led to an odd revelation of sorts, also included. I’m not sure what to make of it all…I leave that to you:

Initial description of the burial of non-canonical, unorthodox texts in 367 AD.

Valentinus; greatest of the Roman Gnostics. Ca. 160 AD. Possible author of Gospel of Truth. (??)

Apuleius; Platonic. Distinction between the sensible and the intelligible (the nous). An intuitive faculty: A higher reason.

Description of “intellect”. (35)

Hans Jonas; Gnostic scholar…worked with Heidegger.

Gnosticism; split between man and nature. “Otherness” of man. “Proto”-humanism (?). Concept of alienation.

Immanentist nature of modern world. Determinism (science; cause & effect). Value-free origin (Evolution) — starts one on a path to nihilism… (??)

Contrast between Gnosis and the mystery religions (naturalistic). Is Hermetic an intermediary — “naturo-spiritualism”? Wings on feet and head.

Hermetic; Hermes (earth & heaven). Inspiration to the philosophers. (Thoth) God of writing and magic. Knowledge. Quick wit.

Valentinus; Born ca. 110 AD. Poet, philosopher, theologian.

Origin of “the world.” (54-5) Manichean duality.

Catharism; link to Gnosis.

Similarity in principles of Catharism & Gnosticism; Duality, evil/corrupted world, criticism of orthodoxy.

Monts├ęgur; final stronghold of the Cathars.

Renaissance Hermeticism; Platonism (neo-), Spiritual humanism, microcosm-macrocosm, Hermes — mediator between spirit & matter, Seeking the “one”; classical revival (magic).

Discussion of Hermes in St. Augustine and Lactantius.

Ficino; translation of the Corpus Hermeticum (Pymander) for Medici (1464).

From Cosimo to Lorenzo. Pico Della Mirandola (1463-94). Dignity of Man. 900 Theses. 13 Found heretical. Responds with apologia. Oratio; Oration on the Dignity of Man. “Hermetic man…” (111).

Man’s potential. (113)

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). Hermeticism. Living. “Anima Mundi.” “Thus everything…” (125). A divine and living universe.

Deism; “mechanistic” God.

Hermetic/Gnostic; little known to Newton. (?)

“Anti-rationalist.” “Anti-materialist.”

The warning of Frankenstein.

William Blake; criticism of mediocrity and materialism. “Mind-forged manacles.” Criticism of industrial mechanism. Reason & reductionism.


Connection between Rosicrucians and science. Division regarding the future purposes of science ca. 1650.

Saint-Martin, Charcot, Constant, Steiner, Jung…

Hylic, psychic, pneumatic. Body, mind, spirit.

We moderns understand knowledge to be knowledge only of an objective form. This is to say that real meaning and value are ascribed only to objective knowledge. Experience, perception and feeling are sources of knowledge, but not forms of knowledge itself. People, places and ideas only become knowable through a mediated “lens” of imagery and language. If people aren’t Africans, Canadians, miners, old, impoverished, short, tired, rich, starving, blind, religious, or even non-descript, who are they? If you’re not somewhere, where are you? Nowhere? Are not the powerful and constant experiences of everyone everywhere a kind of knowledge? What is the meaning? How does one understand?

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5 Responses to “Gnostic Ephemera”

  1. ricki Says:

    Sounds like a walk on the wild side…

  2. kerrjac Says:

    “Experience, perception and feeling are sources of knowledge, but not forms of knowledge itself.”

    Reminds me of the interest in treating PTSD with Propranolol: link

    The theory is that norepinephrine – a neurotransmitter primarily responsible for raising blood pressure – plays a side-role in writing and retrieving memory. The beta-blocker Propranolol inhibits it, which has a clinical benefit in treating PTSD, perhaps by making the memory less poignant; in animals, the drug prevents learning.

    On a separate note, sometimes I’ll feel haunted by the emotional poignancy of a dream. It’s like we spend all day making sense of things, logically building things up, chasing after people and places, and then we’ll on a random occasion have a dream that – for at least a moment – means more than any of that. Feeling may be a source of knowledge; but to me it appears knowledge more often seems the handmaiden to feeling.

  3. The Necromancer Says:

    Fascinating link, there. Dreams are definitely an insight into how perception is not always to be trusted. I’ve certainly had dreams that intense, making it difficult to properly process the day-to-day. That this can be connected to chemical balances and imbalances is a given, and partially explored in the new hit film, Inception

  4. IR Says:

    It is interesting to note the parallels you draw to Vygotsky’s work: mediation through language. He would argue that everything we know is culturally-historically constructed through mediation and tools. The meaning of “Canada” or “religion” for example, are cultural-historical constructs.

    Vygotsky would say, even when we are alone, and attempting to individually construct meaning, we are using language to do it, and language is a tool that came to use through outside mediation.

    …at least I think that’s what he would say – I’ve been wrong before.

  5. The Necromancer Says:

    Yeah, he would probably say that. Social construction is a powerful force, more powerful than most of our socially-constructed minds can wrap our heads around. I might not go so far as Vygotsky, however; Chomsky makes persuasive arguments that language has a certain internally coherent and universal quality across cultures. A kind of base of patterns and shapes. But that means much more to neurology than it does to hermeneutics.

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