|The Philosophy of the New Gnosis||Key to The Kingdom||
Gnosis and Basic
||Gallery of New Gnostic Wisdom||The Sethian Gnosis, Old and New||
|Gnosis and the Occult||New Gnostic Links||
From New Age
to New Gnosis
Gnosis Old and New
The old gnosis of
antiquity was a mytho-poetic critique of the ruling gods of its era,
in particular those of the Old Testament, and of Greek and Roman
paganism. The New Gnosis is a theo-political critique of the ruling
secular gods of our era and the social and scientific cults that
surround them. These include the scientific and New Age cult of
‘energy’, the worship of the ‘eternal gene’, the high-tech temples
of bio-technology and the global stock exchanges, and with them, the
hegemonic culture of American imperialism and its God-given ‘way of
life’. Thus, in the words of Karl Marx “the critique of heaven is
transformed into the critique of earth…the critique of theology into
the critique of politics.” Such theo-political critique does not
take the form of a theoretical treatise produced as an academic
end in itself. For “Its subject is its enemy …It no
longer acts as an end in itself but only as a means. Its
essential emotion is indignation. Its essential task is
denunciation.” The “enemy” is not a person or persons, nor some
force of evil. It is spiritual ignorance (agnosis) and lack
of awareness (agnoia).
the centuries immediately preceding and following the birth of
Christ, a multi-cultural mix of races co-existed under the political
sway of the Roman empire and its vassals, along with a medley of
spiritual mythologies and theologies – a medley mirrored in today’s
New Age pick-and-mix assortment of ancient spiritual traditions and
new fangled therapies. Then, as now, the main concern of the ruling
powers of the day was only to ensure that no coherent spiritual
movement emerged which in any way challenged their political
authority or the military hegemony. But the spiritual key word of
the day was not ‘therapy’ or ‘healing’ however, but ‘redemption’.
This word did not mean salvation from sin but freedom from
slavery to the ruling military-political powers and their
The individual is a fact of existence in so far as he steps into a
living relation with other individuals. The aggregate is a fact of
existence in so far as it is built up of living units of relation.
…at the first stage after death the human being moves among the spirit-physiognomies of those who connected with him by destiny: he beholds these physiognomies. Human beings learn to know each other in the spirit-form, they learn to know each other’s moral and spiritual qualities. But at this first state it is a beholding only, a seeing; although it means that the souls come into intimate connection. Then begins the period I described as the growth of mutual understanding. The one begins to understand the other; he gazes deeply upon him and looks into his inner nature, knowing the while that the sure working of destiny will link the future to the past. Then the great process of transformation begins, where the one is able to work upon the other out of a profound knowledge and understanding, and the plastic moulding of the spirit is taken up and changed to music and to speech. And here we come to something that is more than understanding; the one human being is able to speak to the other his own warmth-filled creative work. On Earth we speak with our organs of speech; by means of these we tell each other what we know. Our words live in the physical body as something fleeting and transient; and when we express what we want to say by means of our speech-organs, in that moment we completely shut off that which lives behind the merely material. But now imagine that what a man thus utters, what goes over into the fleeting word, were an expression of himself, were not alone a manifestation of him but was at the same time his very being…The human souls are themselves words, their symphony is the symphony of the spoken Cosmic Word in its very being – communion. There, men live in and with one another; there is no such thing as impenetrability. The word which is one human being merges into the word which is the other human being.
The type of intimate soul-spiritual connectedness with others which Steiner describes as a feature of the after-life is also the key to gnosis or inner knowing. Getting to know this depth of inner, spiritual communication in our earthly lives breaks the ultimate taboo. For it not only lifts the psychological veils that separates us spiritually from other human beings in this life. It also lifts the ultimate veil – that which separates our earthly ‘being in the world’ from the spiritual world of beings to which we return after death. The essential message of gnosis has always been that this other world is one in which our innermost spiritual self never ceases to dwell, even after birth. The outer human being or ‘personal’ self is but one embodiment or incarnation of another ‘trans-personal’ or spiritual self - the inner human being. That is why we are ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ it. It is also why, even whilst being ‘here’ in this world, we are also already ‘there’ in that other world to which we most truly belong. This other world is not some other place in cosmic space – it invisibly permeates physical space and the physical world, just as our innermost being also invisibly permeates our physical body. The spiritual relationships we enter into in that other world also set the stage for our human relationships in this world – and can be re-experienced through the spiritual deepening of those human relationships.
At the heart of gnostic spirituality is the understanding that the inner human being has a trans-personal, trans-human, and trans-physical character - that it is a being fundamentally other than the personal, human and physical self we know. Man’s alienation from his inner being can lead him to interpret and experience it as a being of an entirely foreign or alien nature - a libidinal unconscious, an unidentifiable presence or an extra-terrestrial life-form. In contrast, the earliest gnostic religions recognised that we ourselves are the aliens. It is not from UFO hunters or Hollywood science fiction but ancient Mandaean scriptures that the word ‘Alien’ first gained its significance - denoting the living spiritual essence of the human being.
the name of that Alien man who forced his way through the worlds,
came, split the firmament and revealed himself.
The word gnosis, like the terms diagnosis and prognosis derive from the Greek verbs gignoskein or gnoskein – from which come the Latin gnoscere and noscere. The verb gignoskein meant to know by direct experience or first-hand acquaintance. Ordinarily we understand ‘knowledge’ as experience represented indirectly in words or symbols. The word gnosis, on the other hand, came to refer to each individual’s capacity for a direct wordless knowledge of spiritual reality, free of signs and symbols. Gnosis is not objective knowledge of or about some ‘thing’. Instead it denotes the sort of subjective knowing we refer to when we speak of knowing ourselves, or of knowing someone intimately. The way in which we know ‘some-one’ – a being – is never reducible to any ‘thing’ that we know ‘about’ them. Gnosis is an inner knowing that belongs to our own innermost being, but that can only be deepened by deepening our direct inner relationship to other beings.
The term ‘gnosticism’ is generally
used as a generic term for a variety of spiritual teachings that
emerged in the first centuries before and after the birth of Christ.
Uniting them was a ‘heretical’ belief in salvation through inner
knowledge or gnosis rather than sacrifice or death on the
cross. Our knowledge of these teachings comes principally from the
Dead Sea scrolls and also from a variety of extraordinary
manuscripts discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1946. These
include numerous ‘gospels’ not recognised in the Christian canon and
known as the ‘Gnostic Gospels’. Still today, however, there is much
debate about the exact definition of ‘gnosticism’ as a religious
movement. The difficulty in providing such a definition belongs to
the very nature of gnosticism, whose essence remains something that
cannot be determined by historical definitions but needs to be
directly experienced. From a gnostic perspective, ‘gnosticism’ can
only be understood dia-gnostically: through inner knowing or
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The Genesis of Gnosticism
The same constellation of circumstances that gave birth to a gnostic spirituality in the centuries just preceding and following the birth of Christianity, are reflected in our contemporary world as we move into the third millennium AD. In place of a Hellenic cosmopolitanism and Roman imperialism we have scientific cosmos worship and American imperialism. In place of a Christian sacramental culture of communion we have a secular culture of commodification, commercialisation and consumerism. In place of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian East we have Syria, Iraq and Iran. In place of the ‘Near East’ we have the ‘Middle East’ – where Judaism has regressed to the status of a regional state-backed religion and where the Palestinians have become the new Jews of the ‘Holy Land’. In place of the revival of interest in ancient spiritual traditions that constituted the Hellenic ‘New Age’ we have our own – a mix-and-match marketplace of second-hand spiritual knowledge lacking any philosophical or spiritual depth – sold through the symbolic allure of ancient traditions or given a pseudo-scientific gloss in the jargons of quantum-physics.
Ancient gnosticism was the most heretical and iconoclastic and politically subversive spiritual movement ever to emerge and challenge the ruling gods of the day and their earthly priests and bishops. The Nag Hammadi gospels are ample evidence of this iconoclasm. The gnostic movement arose in the centuries around the beginning of the first millennium supplanting the ‘New Age’ style ‘pick-and-mix’ of religious cults and philosophies that had sprung up within the Alexandrian empire. Weaving together elements of esoteric Judaism and Christianity, and giving new expression to ancient mystery traditions in the language of Greek philosophy, the gnostics forged a new and radically dualistic religious philosophy, characterised by five fundamental distinctions:
1. Between the egotistic and genocidal god of the Old Testament and that deeper spiritual source and reality which it arrogantly denied (“No other gods before me”).
2. Between the outer human being that is ‘in the world’, and the inner human being – a being that is not ‘of’ this world at all, and gives each individual direct access to spiritual reality through inner knowing or gnosis .
3. Between holy scriptures and symbols that merely represented spiritual reality and gnosis – the direct inner cognition of that reality.
4. Between distorted ideas of salvation through struggle against sin, self-sacrifice, martyrdom and death on the cross, and salvation through struggle against spiritual ignorance or agnosis.
5. Between the seed of Cain and Abel, symbols of an unending war of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and the seed of Adam’s third son Seth – the bearer of authentic inner knowledge.
Gnosticism survived repression by the Roman Church, to leave traces
in the mystical traditions of the Eastern Church, Judaism and Islam.
It re-emerged in Europe in the heretical theology of Meister Eckhart
and Jakob Boehme. Just as gnostic spirituality had first found
expression in the language of Greek philosophy – whilst at the same
time imbuing that language with an otherwise missing dimension of
spiritual passion and depth – so did the resurgent gnosis now find
expression in the language of German and German-Jewish philosophy
and poetry. Whilst the heretical ‘Gospels’ discovered at Nag Hammadi
provided decisive evidence of the early gnostic spiritual movement,
the ‘Gnostic Gospels’ of our own time remain largely
unacknowledged. Karl Marx’s profoundly spiritual critique of the
false gods of capitalism is but one example of the re-emergence of
an underground stream of wordless inner knowing or gnosis
that has, in the last two centuries, been finding expression in
entirely new frameworks of thought. Examples of latter-day gnostic
philosophies are those of the twentieth-century German thinker
Martin Heidegger, his Jewish counterpart Martin Buber and the
‘spiritual scientific’ thinking of Rudolf Steiner. More recently,
gnostic thinking has found indirect expression in the experiential
psychology of Eugene Gendlin, the writings of Peter Sloterdijk and
above all in the SETH books of Jane Roberts – SETH being a
name with deep resonance and significance in the history of
gnosticism. As we enter the first years of the third millennium AD,
humanity finds itself in a similar position to that which it
faced in the first centuries of the first millennium. Our New Age
spirituality co-exists with the rampant religious and political
egotism of a New Rome – US imperialism – whose only god is its own
global economic and cultural hegemony.
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Religion and politics have always been and remain inseparable. The supposed separation of spiritual and secular power, ‘church and state’, merely sanctifies that other unrecognised world religion – that of the global money markets. The economic military and media power wielded by this religion is unparalleled. It makes a complete mockery of democracy, a term which means nothing in societies in which it is not elected parliaments but unelected corporate managements that have the most impact on people’s everyday working lives. The gnostics of old struggled against worldly power of both church and state. They did not do so through parliamentary or extra-parliamentary action, martyrdom or mass demonstrations, militancy or armed revolution, communal mobilisation or media campaigning. They did so by recognising the innate spiritual power of each individual to ‘change the world’ by changing themselves – learning to be in ‘in the world but not of the world’. But a spiritual world revolution, a “world revolution of the soul” (Sloterdijk) is in essence neither an individual nor a social revolution. Fundamental social changes, economic and political, can only come about through a revolution in a third realm transcending the individual and the social. This is the realm of immediate human relations between individuals which Martin Buber called the ‘inter-human’. The spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of both the individual and society are all inseparable from the health of human relations within society and between individuals. A revolution in human relations however, can in turn only come about through the way in which we ourselves relate to other individuals. It demands that as individuals, we take unconditional responsibility for the manner in which we relate to other human beings, not relegating this responsibility to some ‘thing’ – whether our genetic programming, neurological functioning or childhood upbringing. It demands re-ligion in the most essential sense of this word – the capacity to re-link with our innermost spiritual self. For, only in that way can we knowingly relate to and re-link with the innermost self of other individuals.
Far from being reducible to a set of obscure ancient sects or doctrines that sprang up in the Near East at the turn of the first millennium, gnosticism was and remains an unrecognised world religion – the only world religion that is not a sectarian cult, reliant on institutional structures. Gnosticism has become an unrecognised world religion because it is the underground stream of spiritual knowing or gnosis from which all religions spring. There has always been a gap between individual spiritual awareness and the symbols provided for it by institutionalised religions. Today this gap grows ever wider, leading to ever more desperate and fanatical attempts to bring the individuals back into the fold of dogmatic communal fundamentalisms. It remains an underground world religion because it is not a communal ‘faith’ but a form of spirituality that gives precedence to individual spiritual awareness – an awareness that is above all an awareness of our own spiritual individuality. Gnostic spirituality is ‘gnosis’ – a knowing awareness of our own innermost spiritual identity. This spiritual identity is both individual and inviolable – eternal. And yet it is capable of infinite expansion. For, it is not an unconscious ‘part’ of the everyday self we identify with in this life, but the very source of that self and of countless selves and countless lives. The life of our innermost spiritual being is not bounded by birth and death but is the source of such boundless potentialities of being as can never be fully embodied in any one life. It is the self that is never fully born or ‘actualised’. A self that is already ‘dead’ – for it has never ceased to dwell in the spiritual world. It is the self that is “in the world but not of the world”. Gnosticism is a form of spirituality that can be named in a word but not ‘defined’ in words. It cannot be defined, because its basis is gnosis – the wordless inner knowing that links each individual to their innermost spiritual being.Together with ancient gnostic mythologies are long surviving myths regarding gnosticism. The ancient mythologies spoke of the material world and its god as a spiritual abomination. In this mythology Sophia gave birth to Ialdaboath, the world creator or ‘demiurge’, and was distressed when her infantile offspring arrogantly denied there were other gods before him – denying, like an infantile human ego, its source in the womb of a larger self and the larger spiritual world. The mythology regarding gnosticism has it that the gnostics rejected the material world. In fact what they rejected was the identification of reality with an artefact of the demiurge – a ‘world’ posited and projected, manufactured and materialised by the ego. We know this ‘world’ all too well today – the artificial world of the global media and global markets. In this modern world it is no longer the gods but material commodities that are imbued with human qualities (“real chocolate, real feeling”). Hindu and Buddhist religious philosophers saw the material world as ‘maya’ – a spiritual illusion. Only the gnostics recognised that spiritual illusions can take on a worldly material reality of their own. In the past all authentic human qualities were projected on and personified by the gods. Today they are not projected onto but materialised as commodities – “Real chocolate. Real feeling”. In the past, relations between human beings were seen as dominated by relationships between the gods or by cosmic bodies. Global capitalism, as Marx anticipated, would replace such fatalism with something far more fatal. Human beings would become subservient to their own material products. Relations between beings would become dominated by relationships between things – global markets and consumer commodities. Technology has created a ‘virtual’ world of media images, designed to sustain, through clever marketing, the idolisation of the commodity. The global media construct a ‘world’ in which images substitute for immediate lived experience. Instead of astrologers seeking ‘signs’ in the movements of the planets and stars, shareholders look for ‘signs’ in movements of market prices in the stock exchanges of the world.
Science, having supposedly vanquished superstition, has become the servant of global corporations all of which have the basic character and structure of religious cults, each with its own spurious corporate ‘cultures’, ‘philosophies’ and ‘values’. None of this can disguise the fact that within these corporate sects all the real human qualities of the employee are valued only in so far as they generate purely quantitative values. Valued only as a means to an end, all individual qualities are fundamentally devalued – valued only to the extent that they can be materialised as material commodities and measurable economic values – profit. The aim is not individual value fulfilment but “maximising the value of human capital”. In place of the Invisible Spirit of the gnostics is the invisible hand of the Market. In place of the gospel of gnosis, of inner self-discovery, we have the gospel of the marketeers: “Rediscover the real you with Radox”.
In the beginning God created human beings. Now, however human
beings are creating God. Such is the way of this world – humans
invent gods and worship their creations. It would be better for such
gods to worship humans.
All beings beget and give birth alike, having received by justice an innate equality. The Creator and father of all with his own justice appointed this, just as he gave equally the eye to all to enable them to see. He did not make a distinction between female and male, rational and irrational, nor between anything else at all; rather he shared out sight equally and universally...The ideas of Mine and Thine crept in through the laws which cause the earth, money, and even marriage no longer to bring forth fruit of common use. God made all things to be common property. He brought the female to be with the male in common and in the same way united all the animals. He thus showed righteousness to be a universal sharing along with equality.
then a voice – of the cosmocrat – came to the angels. I am God
and there is no other beside me. But I laughed joyfully when I
examined his empty glory.
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|Gnosis and Religious
The naming word inherently tends to split reality into paired polar opposites such as light and darkness, father and son – concealing the nameless reality which underlies and transcends those opposites. Gnostics themselves were well aware that the word or symbol and its inner meaning or sense needed to be distinguished from one another. Without awareness of this fundamental distinction, words derived from worldly things can easily distort the expression of wordless inner understanding, and empty symbols become deceiving substitutes for the direct perception of spiritual reality (‘the Aeon’). That reality, being nameless, wears countless names, none of which can therefore be counted as a holy or sacred name above all names. The seemingly pious may use names as God, Father and Son without in any way questioning what it is that these words essentially name, let alone seeking to know what they name through direct awareness or gnosis. Instead they hear in them only what they want to hear, or want others to hear, identifying gnosis with their naming words and wordy ‘knowledge’
Light and darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of
one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the
good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For
this reason each one will dissolve into its original nature. But
those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.
Names given to worldly things are very deceptive for they divert our
thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who
hears the word God does not perceive what is correct, but
perceives what is incorrect. So also with the Father and
the Son and Holy Spirit and life and
light and resurrection and the Church (Ekklesia)
and all the rest - people do not perceive what is correct. The names
which are heard in the world …deceive. If they were in the Aeon,
they would at no time be used as names in the world…They have an end
in the Aeon.
The notion of a “wordless knowledge within the word” has an
ancient and venerable history. It has its beginning in the idea of
magical words or god-spells (whence the term gospel), oracular
utterances and ‘gnomic’ expressions which communicated more than
what appeared on the surface. The word gnosis and gnome
(a maxim or expression) share a common root – the word gnomon
referring to an erudite man or man of knowledge. Another example is
the sayings of the Greek sage and initiate Heraclitus (c.500 BC)
which themselves refer to a speech or logos which men “fail
to comprehend, both before hearing it and after they have heard.”
The Greek Stoic philosophers distinguished between the outer word or
logos prophorikos and the inner word logos endiatheros,
a distinction taken up by Augustine (354-430AD) as that of signum
and verbum, (outer) sign and (inner) sense. The Greeks
were familiar with a communicative culture of hyponoia –
saying one thing to mean another. And it was already in the first
century AD that the Greek grammarian Pseudo-Heraclitus coined the
term allegoria to mean something ‘other’ (allos) than
what is publicly spoken (agoreuein). ‘Other’ meant
also secret, esoteric mysteries hidden in the word and
understandable only to those with the keys to inner knowing or
gnosis. As literary works the Gnostic Gospels are highly complex
allegories. But it was above all the Jewish exegete Philo of
Alexandria (c20BC-AD50) who first systematised the practice of
allegoresis – the allegorical or ‘metaphorical’
interpretation of holy scripture, comparing the relation between its
literal and metaphorical levels of meaning to that of
body and soul.
Gnosticism understands all holy scriptures as translations and
symbolic expressions of inner knowing or gnosis. Nothing is
a greater travesty of gnostic spirituality than the attempt
to transform old gnostic scriptures into the canonical basis of a
new church with its own ritualistic practices and priests, one which
once again bestows authority on archons such as bishops and
deacons. Any New Gnosis cannot be founded on archaic rites
but must be a return to the fundamental essence of religiosity as
gnosis itself, a re-linking to our own wordless inner knowing.
Gnostic ‘faith’ is not faith in scripture or dogmas, orthodox or
heretical, but faith in each individual’s access to this inner
knowing. But it is of fundamental importance to this gnostic faith
to distinguish inner knowing from what we ordinarily understand as
“knowledge”. Each of us bears within, a wordless inner knowing or
gnosis that is our link with the knowing awareness or gnosis
that is God. For the pleroma of divine gnosis is not
only the source of all beings but is also a gnosis
shared by all beings – each of which are not only conscious of their
own actuality, but imbued with a knowing awareness of their own
unbounded inner potentialities. Knowledge is ordinarily
understood as knowledge of or about some actually present or
existing thing or being. From this point of view existence or being
precedes knowing. But if knowing is understood as gnosis – a knowing
awareness of potentiality, then knowing precedes being.
Gnosis, as knowing awareness of potentiality, is a type of knowing
of the sort that fills each moment of our lives, allowing us to
begin a sentence even though it is not yet fully actualised and we
do not ‘know’ where it will end. For, we possess a wordless knowing
awareness of different potential ways of expressing ourselves, and
it is out of this field of potentiality that our actual words arise.
Our actual words themselves however, continue to resonate
with all the potential words we might have chosen and the different
senses they would convey. Their deeper sense has to do with these
different senses and this inner resonance. Similarly, our own deeper
self has to do with our own sensed potentialities of being. The
inner self is a knowing awareness of these potentialities of being –
which take the form of meaningful potentialities of
awareness. Each of us bears within us a wordless inner knowing that
is our link with the divine gnosis that is God.
But if the Gnostics were destroyed, the Gnosis, based on the secret
science of sciences, still lives.
The word ‘science’, like the word ‘gnosis’ means knowledge – deriving from the Latin scire – to know. Unlike both religion and science, gnosis questions all accounts of fundamental reality that seek to explain all actually existing things or beings as a product of some other thing or being – whether a Big Bang or Supreme Being. All such accounts deny the true nature of the ‘One’ God’ or God’s ‘Oneness’ – for the nature of this Oneness transcends that of a single being and transcends all worlds in which the existence of one thing is conditional upon others.
In the type of modern ‘cosmology’ offered today by orthodox scientists such as Stephen Hawking, profound scientific questions regarding the fundamental nature and origins of the cosmos are asked and answered in the most philosophically naive and superficial manner conceivable. In this cosmology, awareness itself is seen as the inexplicable by-product of a fundamentally unaware universe of matter and energy. In the cosmos of the physicists and mathematicians there is no place for God. The quantum ‘void’ and ‘virtual’ particle serve as hollow symbols of the divine fullness or pleroma. The old gnostics challenged the orthodoxies of traditional religion with its ‘heresies’. But as Heidegger points out “Science is the new religion.” The New Gnosis challenges the orthodoxies of modern ‘science’ with its own profoundly heretical propositions.
All knowledge is essentially subjective. The basic
‘fact’ on which knowledge or science rests is not the ‘objective’
existence of a cosmos ‘out there’ but our subjective awareness
of that cosmos.
To explain these
propositions, we need only consider what it means to ‘know’ a piece
of music, for example. Knowing a piece of music means more than just
knowing ‘about’ it, however knowledgeable we are in musical matters.
It also means more than just ‘hearing’ the ‘objective’ sensory
qualities of the music. To know the music means to resonate with the
soundless feeling tones or soul tones that re-sound within it. These
soul tones are not the private property of a person or persons –
whether the composer, a performing musician, or an appreciative
listener. They are the very medium of their soul-spiritual resonance
as beings. That is why the space of our felt inner resonance with a
piece of music has nothing to do with the physical space in which
sound travels as ‘energy’ in the form of vibrations of air
molecules. It is an unbounded inner soul space linking us
spiritually with other beings.
Gnosis is subjective knowledge of an inner universe made up
not of matter, energy, space or time but of countless qualitative
spheres or ‘planes’ of awareness – a knowledge obtained directly
through inter-subjective resonance. It is the
subjective science of this inner universe. The New Gnosis
challenges not only modern scientific materialism in its new guise
of ‘energeticism’ but also New Age pseudo-science, which reduces
everything to the workings of a universal ‘life energy’. No better
example can be given of the difference between New Gnosis and this
New Age pseudo-science than so-called ‘energy medicine” – the
belief that illness is reducible to energy blocks or
imbalances, and can be cured by ‘working’ with a person’s ‘energy’
or by directing sound or light waves of specific vibrational
frequencies at a patient’s body. Mankind has indeed long recognised
the healing effect of light, sound and colour – in the form of music
and art . The healing power of music and art however, works through
the soul, not through impersonal healing ‘energies’. The fact that
our bodies themselves vibrate in resonance with different
frequencies of audible sound, for example through music blasted from
a loudspeaker, is no guarantee that our souls are in resonance with
the music or experience its healing potential. New Age talk of
healing ‘vibrations’ misses the essential difference between
energetic vibration and inner resonance. To do so we need to
actively resonate with the music, bringing our own inner soul tones
into resonance with the sensory tones of the music. Only
through this resonance between soul tones and sensory tones does
sound heal. The same applies to light and colour. Just bombarding
the body with light of a certain colour frequency brings no more
healing than simply gaping at a colourful painting or sunset. The
healing comes through our capacity to resonate with the colourations
of mood or feeling tone that shine through the colours of the
painting and the light of the sunset.
Gnosticism understands the task of humanity not as the overcoming of
‘evil’ but as overcoming spiritual ignorance and its rationalisation
– a-gnosis and a-gnosticism. The
major modern and post-modern forms of a-gnosticism are
materialism and energeticism, biologism and geneticism,
psychologism and linguisticism in its two main forms
constructivism and deconstructionism. Energetic
reductionism has replaced the dogmas of old-fashioned materialism,
identifying fundamental reality not with material but with energetic
units or quanta, and reducing consciousness itself to
manifestation of quantum dynamics or the quantum void.
Energeticism is also the pseudo-scientific ideology of New Age
spirituality – an ideology that identifies fundamental reality with
an impersonal cosmic ‘life energy’, reducing the inner body to an
‘energy body’, and healing to ‘energy medicine’. Genetic
reductionism is the foundation of biologism. It regards
the human body as a product of its genetic alphabet and
vocabulary – rather than understanding this molecular alphabet and
vocabulary as a living biological language of the inner human
being. The latest ‘post-modern’ form of
a-gnosticism is linguisticism Instead of recognising the
“wordless knowledge within the word” it sees all knowledge as a
‘construct’ of language and signs. Linguisticism and ‘narrative’
constructivism reduces the meaning of life to indirectly
signified or verbalised sense. It has no place for
gnosis as directly ‘felt sense’, nor any understanding of how
pre-verbal, bodily sensing or the ‘sixth sense’ puts us in touch
with as-yet unsignified depths of meaning or sense.
Like the ‘orthodox’ cults of the major world
religions, neo-paganism and New Age spirituality are all
degenerate forms of gnosis, relying as they do on
second-hand spiritual knowledge transmitted through verbal symbols
1. The ignorance that denies the trans-personal nature of our inner being and identifies it instead with a divine or semi-divine person - a personified god, prophet or saviour. This is the ignorance of traditional religion.
2. The ignorance that confuses the trans-personal dimension of our inner being with an impersonal energy or universal life force. This is the ignorance of New Age energy medicine and the ideology of energeticism.
3. The ignorance that reduces the inner human being to the human body and brain. This is the ignorance of materialistic science and biological medicine, now expressed in the ideology of geneticism.
4. The ignorance that perceives the trans-human dimension of our inner being as an inhuman being – an evil or demonic force, or an extra-terrestrial or alien being. This is the ignorance of Satanism, UFO-ism and Alien-style science fiction.
5. The ignorance that opposes the trans-personal and trans-human self to our personal, human self - attempting to affirm the former by violating or sacrificing the latter. This is the ignorance of spiritual martyrdom.
6. The ignorance that identifies the inner human being with a set of cognitive patterns or an internalised parent figure, a set of unconscious instinctual drives or the mythological archetypes of a ‘collective’ unconscious. This is the ignorance of psychologism and psychoanalysis.
7. The ignorance that identifies the inner human being with the outer ego (the ignorance of the ‘normal’ person) or with the inner voice of some super-ego or alter ego (the ignorance of the ‘schizophrenic’). Normality and schizophrenia are thus two expressions of the same spiritual ignorance.
8. The ignorance that does not recognise the individual nature of our inner being or inner self, but identifies it instead with the symbols and collective ‘spirit’ of a particular ethnic group, religious cult or national culture. This is the dangerous spiritual ignorance of racism and nationalism.
The root meaning of religion is to re-link or re-connect (re-ligare). Without duality there can be no relationality and no re-ligion, for there would be no other to relate or re-link to. How can we renew our link with our inner selves and with others, with God and with other human beings, unless we recognise them in their otherness – as something distinct from the self we ordinarily identify with. Gnosis as religious experience is founded on the principle that only through getting to know another self and other selves within us can we truly get to know the inner selves of others. Conversely, inner knowing or gnosis is the very bond of inner connectedness re-linking us with our inner being and other beings. Our inner connection to things and people is a reality. It is also the source of inner knowing. In our age, however, people are no longer deeply aware of inner connections, except with those close to them. Nor are they in touch with their inner knowing. As people’s awareness of deep inner connection with the world and other people declines they feel inwardly alone and spiritually empty. Religions offer symbols of inner knowing. Initiation in the gnostic sense is the re-awakening of inner knowing through inner connection with an initiate. An initiate is someone who can knowingly connect with others on a deep inner level and in this way reawaken their sense of inner connectedness with themselves and others. Through our own withinness, we are all inwardly connected with one another - and connected also to the withinness of all the things we perceive around us. Awareness of inner connection is an expression of inner knowing or gnosis. That is because inner knowing is intrinsically relational – an aware relation to our inner being and other beings. Through inner knowing we can recognise that all the outwardly perceived qualities of things and people are the sensory expression of inner soul qualities. We become aware of an entire world of soul linking us spiritually to the aware withinness of everyone and everything around us.
The relation that constitutes the human being is a relation between the outer and inner human being, what Seth calls the ‘outer ego’ and ‘inner ego’. The outer ego is the outer ‘eye’ and “I” of the inner ego – looking outwards into physical reality. The inner ego is the “I” and inner eye of the outer ego - looking inwards into non-physical dimensions of reality. The outer ego experiences itself as an identity separate and apart from the world it looks out onto. The inner ego knows itself as a part of all other beings, inwardly connected to them through the inner world of soul. The inner ego is not a part of the outer ego. Instead it is the other way round, the outer ego is just a part of the inner ego – one expression of its own larger awareness and identity , The inner ego is not an ‘unconscious’ part of the self. It is experienced as unconscious only to the extent that the outer ego remains unconscious of it, and does not know it as that other, inner self that is its own source. Yet, as Seth reminds us:
The outer ego does not want to meet the inner ego. The outer ego
does not want to admit the existence of the inner ego. As the eye
cannot see its own pupil without a mirror, so the outer ego could
not even see itself, were it not that the inner ego hides in the
depths of all reflections.
The child that calls to his mother and the child that watches his mother - or to give a more exact example, the child that silently speaks to his mother through nothing other than looking into her eyes, and the same child that looks at something on the mother as at any other object - show the twofoldness in which man stands and remains standing.
The character of a person’s gaze is strongly influenced by their experience, as infants, of the mother’s face and the maternal gaze. The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott recognised that when the mother looks into the baby’s eyes, “what she looks like is related to what she sees there.” In infancy the baby’s outer ego is undeveloped, but its inner being is not. If the mother looks at the baby either as an appendage to her own being or as a mere bodily object the baby’s own inner being will find no reflection in the mother’s gaze. Nor will it experience the mutual gaze as a potential medium of deep inner connectedness to its mother - or to any other.
…perception takes the place of apperception…of that which might have been the beginning of a significant exchange with the world, a two-way exchange in which self-enrichment alternates with the discovering of meaning in the world of seen things.
It is in this way that the face of the other, like that of the mother for the baby, is a mere object or ‘It” - something that needs to be studied and analysed in order to predict a pattern of behaviour. Before the baby or child even knows the meaning of the word science, the baby has become a precocious scientist – studying the face of the mother in order to gauge her mood and predict her behaviour and discover its pattern. The adult will be forced to rely on traditional religious beliefs to secure its faith that it is not alone – to feel a sense of inner connectedness with other beings. Or else it will look for some ‘scientific’ proof that as human beings “we are not alone” in the universe – that there is ‘something out there’. But what or who? It is with our inner eye and inner ‘I’ that we look into an inner universe composed of trans-physical planes and spheres of awareness, just as our outer eye and outer ‘I’ looks outward on our physical planet and the astral cosmos beyond. Science-fiction images of “first contact” with extra-terrestrial beings are a metaphor of our capacity to re-connect with the alien within - our own innermost being and the inner being of others. The eyes figure large in images of extra-terrestrials as does the delicacy of their hand and touch. The alien eye and hand symbolise our capacity for inner connectedness with others, a connectedness achieved through the inner gaze and inner touch.
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“In the beginning was the Word”. The gnostics however,
recognised that Silence was the womb of the Word or logos,
just as listening is the midwife of speech. When the Greek sage
Heraclitus wrote ‘Listen not to me but to the logos’, the
‘word’ he referred to was not the spoken word but its wordless inner
resonance – that which constituted the unbounded depths of the
psyche. The wisdom of silence, understood as the womb and
resonant interiority of the word or Logos, was named in gnostic
terminology as the feminine principle Sophia – a name related to the
Greek words sophos, meaning wise, and philosophein –
the love of wisdom.
Psychotherapies which attempt to ‘make sense’ of people’s
feelings by labelling or verbalising them are simply attaching
symbols to them – attempting to signify this sense. Signifying the
meaning or sense of something in words or symbols is one thing.
Directly sensing its significance is quite another. Gendlin’s work
implicitly reaffirms a basic distinction between signified sense
and directly sensed significance – what Gendlin calls ‘felt
sense’ or ‘bodily sensing’. This distinction was acknowledged in the
work of Harald Garfinkel, the tutor of Carlos Castaneda, who studied
the ways in which people constantly seek to make sense of their
experiences by fitting them into already established patterns of
significance. A doctor ‘makes sense’ of a patient’s symptoms for
example by interpreting them as signs, and ‘diagnosis’
consists in fitting these signs into an already established pattern
of disease pathology. But ‘diagnosis’ of this sort is not true
gnosis. A doctor working ‘through gnosis’ (dia-gnosis) would
not seek to make sense of the patient’s symptoms by merely
incorporating them in his own body of medical knowledge – assigning
them a place in an already established pattern of significance. He
would use his own body to directly sense the significance of
the patient’s symptoms – to get to know them in an intimate bodily
way as the patient’s way of expressing an underlying sense of dis-ease.
experiential psychology and therapeutic practice of ‘focusing’
developed by Eugene Gendlin emphasises the importance of attending
to our felt bodily sense of different states of being, noting where
and how we feel them in our bodies.
A felt sense is not just an emotion. Fear, anger, joy, sadness – these are emotions. A felt sense is different…It is a bodily quality like heavy, sticky, jumpy, fluttery, tight…A felt sense is unmistakeably meaningful and yet we don’t know what it is.
it is that Gendlin is referring to are not simply qualities of
bodily sensations that tend to go together with particular
emotions or that we label with emotion words, but something far
deeper – the felt meaning or sense of those qualitative
sensations as an expression of something we know in a wordless,
intimate bodily way. The gnostic dimension of Gendlin’s work
lies in affirming that meaning or sense is not a property of words
or symbols alone but is something that can be directly felt or
sensed in a bodily way. What Gendlin calls ‘bodily sensing’ is a
type of deep bodily knowing. Our surface sensations, emotions
and thoughts, on the other hand, are more or less distorted
interpretations of this bodily knowing. What Gendlin calls
‘focusing’ is our capacity to follow our felt bodily sense of
verbally named emotions back to their source in gnosis,
understood as our body’s own wordless inner knowing. Bodily knowing
is a knowing which puts us in touch with our innermost
potentialities of being. None of us can fully embody these
potentials in any one life. The gnostics believed in the truth of
reincarnation rather than physical resurrection of the dead. Yet
when St. Paul spoke of a soma-pneumatikos or ‘spiritual
body’, he was echoing the gnostic understanding that in any
given life we can each ‘rise in the flesh’.
Today the term 'body, mind and spirit' has become the epitome
of hackneyed New Age phraseology. Notwithstanding all the repetitive
talk of ‘holistic’ approaches to medicine, 'body', 'mind' and
'spirit' are still thought of as referring to three separable
‘parts’ of the ‘whole’ human being. Mind and body are understood
without reference to soul and spirit. Yet long before ‘body’
and ‘soul’, ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’ were conceived as separate ‘things’,
there was a felt understanding of the intimate inner relation
between the flow and circulation of air in and around our
bodies, and the flow and circulation of awareness. Flows of
awareness were felt to possess their own spiritual substantiality,
constituting a medium which, like air, linked the inwardly sensed
inner spaces of our bodies into which we draw breath, with the
sensory world around us, in which this air circulates as wind or
pneuma. There was, therefore, a felt sense of ‘spirit’ as a
medium of meaningful interconnectedness between the aware inwardness
of all beings – their soul or psyche. This understanding was
and is confirmed by the fact that all living beings breathe,
and that human beings, in particular, express themselves through
those shaped and toned flows of breath that constitute speech.
It was in this sense that the human body itself could be understood
as the fleshly ‘word’ or ‘speech’ (logos) of the spirit. It
was in this sense too, that spirit was understood as that
which, like the breath we draw in, quite literally ensouls
the body – allowing the human being to breathe in and vitalise their
awareness of themselves and the world.
What ‘body’ is it with which we breathe in, digest and metabolise our own awareness of the world? What ‘body’ is it with which we experience, express and embody different inner states of being. What body is it with which we feel ‘warmth’ or ‘coolness’, ‘closeness’ or more ‘distance’ to another being – and do so quite independently of our physical temperature and physical distance from them? What ‘body’ are we referring to when we speak of being ‘touched’ by someone without any physical contact, of moving ‘closer’ to them or ‘distancing’ ourselves from them, of feeling ‘uplifted’ or ‘carried away’? Are these phrases merely emotional metaphors derived from motions in physical space, or are the emotions themselves expressions of basic motions of awareness belonging to an inner body of awareness – that body which Winnicott referred to as the psyche-soma, and Jung as the ‘subtle body’? What body and what organs are we referring to when we speak of someone being ‘warm-hearted’ or ‘heartless’, ‘thick-skinned’ or ‘thin-skinned’, ‘stable’ or ‘unstable’, ‘balanced’ or ‘imbalanced’, ‘solid’ or ‘mercurial’, ‘stable’ or ‘volatile’? Are we simply using bodily ‘metaphors’ to describe disembodied mental or emotional states? Or are we are describing felt states of a distinct inner body – a ‘higher’ soul-spiritual body with its own spiritual shape and substantiality; a body composed not of flesh and blood but of tissues of thought and flows of awareness that are no less tangible?
…perhaps the entire evolution of the spirit is a question of the body; it is the history of the emergence of a higher body that emerges into our sensibility.
These words of Nietzsche, that self-proclaimed philosophical
‘anti-Christ’, mirror the mystical essence of Christian spirituality
– the resurrection of a spiritual body (soma-pneumatikos)
that can bring fresh life to our body-soul (soma-psychikos).
In the Greek language of the New Testament however, we find traces
of the important distinction between the flesh (sarx) and the
body or soma. The literal meaning of sarx is ‘skin’
– related to the outer form or aspect (eidos) under which
any body appeared. But as the New Testament states: “Life is more
than meat and the soma more than its raiment” Luke 12.23.
Psyche or soul is the very inwardness of soma - an
inwardness not to be understood in an ordinary spatial sense but as
something akin to the inwardness of the word – its felt inner
sense or ‘resonance’.
flesh or sarx, like the word, is a surface skin of
meaning with its own resonant interiority.
The world of soul, on the other hand is a world of resonant
inner meaning linking us spiritually with other beings.
we call ‘spirituality’ is our capacity to resonate with the
qualitative spiritual essence or quintessence of things and people –
their beingness. Just as it makes a difference whether we see an
object as ‘red’ or attend and attune to the unique tone of
the object’s redness, so it makes all the difference whether we
perceive an object as a ‘book’ or attune to the unique overall
tonality of all its sensual qualities. By doing so, we bring
ourselves into inner somatic resonance with its spiritual
individuality or beingness. The ‘New Yoga’ is the cultivation
of soma-spirituality - the capacity to sense and
resonate with another person’s outward state of being - mental,
emotional or physical - in an inner-bodily way, thus experiencing
them as the expression of subtle inner-body states.
Again it must be emphasised that when we speak of someone feeling
‘fragmented’, ‘frozen’ in panic, ‘hollow’ or ‘empty’ inside, walled
in ‘up to the neck’, ‘volatile’ or about to ‘burst’ etc. these are
not simply emotional metaphors but literal expressions of inner
body states. These felt states are also field states of
awareness which we can sense through somatic field resonance with
our own inner soul-spiritual body.
people feel their bodies imbued with an entirely new ‘spirit’ after
undergoing and overcoming a serious illness, they bear testament to
the fact that a spiritual ‘resurrection’ of the flesh is something
that can be achieved within this life. It does not require illness
for us to ‘rise again’ in the flesh - only a willingness to fully
embody our own innermost states of being, whether these be states of
ease or of dis-ease. Medical science looks for the causes
and cures of illness, making no distinction between clinical
diagnosed disease pathologies and the felt dis-ease or
pathos which they embody and express. Spiritual health does not
come from transcending the body in life or in death but from
‘focusing’ – attending to the felt bodily sense we have of our state
of being and actively bodying that state of being. A state of
being is a self-state, a way of feeling ourselves. When we are ill,
we do not ‘feel ourselves’ – our bodies themselves feel foreign to
us. This is not simply the result of ‘foreign bodies’ such as
viruses or tumorous cells – those so-called antigens or ‘non-self’
elements to which our immune system responds. Rather, this ‘not
feeling ourselves’ is a pregnant shift in our bodily sense of
self - one which, if followed, can allow us to quite literally
feel a new self.
Elaine Pagels explains that according to the Sethian gnostics
“…heaven and earth have a shape similar to the womb”. The world of
outer space and of the cosmic bodies within it (the Kingdom around
us) was understood as something that opened up within the larger
womb of the Heavens – the spiritual world. Corresponding and
connecting us to it was the Kingdom inside us - the womblike inner
space or psychical interiority of our own Earthly bodies. “I am he
that formed thee in thy mother’s womb.” When we leave our mother’s
womb we continue to dwell in the womb of our own soul-spiritual
body, a body whose boundaries do not end at the boundaries of our
skin. Our flesh is but a surface boundary or skin (sarx)
between the inner and outer fields of our spatial awareness. Thus
“the Kingdom is inside you and outside you” (Gospel of Thomas).
This inside and outside is the unbounded spatiality of our being and
of our soul-spiritual awareness.
Nowhere does this ancient theo-psychology find better
expression than in the new Sethian gnosis - in particular
the description given by Seth of the “The Agony of All That Is” and
recorded by Jane Roberts in her book The Seth Material (see
The Sethian Gnosis, Old and New). Here Seth describes the
agonising labour pains undergone by God (“All That Is”) as ‘he’
sensed the immense creative potentialities pregnant within ‘him’
expanding and multiplying to the point at which they became
unbearable. His solution was to give birth – to quite literally and
instantaneously let go of his own potentialities, to no
longer hold them within the womb of ‘his’ own awareness but
instead release them into their own free, independent, living and
creative actuality. This ‘alpha event’ did not take place in
time, but simultaneously gave birth to all possible pasts,
presents and futures – and still does. It cannot be traced back in
linear time to a Big Bang, but leaves its trace in all
consciousness, pregnant as they are with their own boundless
potentialities of being - and driven, like God, to release them into
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