“As men’s Prayers are a Disease of the Will, so are their Creeds a disease of the Intellect.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is the use of gnosis, if it is so forbiddingly elitist? Since the alternatives are diseases of the will and of the intellect, why invoke the criterion of usefulness? Prayers are a more interesting literary form than creeds, but even the most impressive of prayers will not change us, let alone change God. And nearly all prayers are directed anyway to the archons, the angels who made and marred this world, and whom we worship, William Blake warned, as Jesus and Jehovah, Divine Names misapplied to our prison warders. The Accusers who are the gods of this world have won all of the victories, and they will go on triumphing over us. History is always on their side, for they are history. Everyone who would return us to history always performs the work of the Accusers. Most scholars worship history, the Composite God who rewards their labors by granting them their illusion of value. Emerson remarked that there was no history, only biography, which is another Gnostic recognition.
Do not pray, do not believe; only know and be known. Many among us know without knowing that we know; Bentley Layton catches this when he suggests that gnosis should be translated as ‘acquaintance’ rather than as ‘knowing.’ Acquaintance with your own deepest self will not come often or easily, but it is unmistakable when (and if ) it comes. Neither the will nor the intellect spurs such acquaintance, but both come into play once it is achieved. To be acquainted with what is best and oldest in yourself, is to know yourself as you were, before the world was made, before you emerged into time.
–Harold Bloom (from “Alone with the Alone” by Henry Corbin)