To continue the discussion started in the last few posts, 
I thought I would discuss briefly another word you will 
probably encounter in
the Gnostic scriptures: the "Pleroma." 
This can be a bit confusing since it seems sometimes 
to be used almost interchangeably with Aeon. 

My understanding of what the Pleroma represents is the
spiritual realm as a whole, in which the spiritual beings 
of Gnostic cosmogony move and have their being. 
In this sense, it is a bit more inclusive and can 
include the modes of existence of the archon
entities as well as the aeonic entities.
 
Pleroma may also be seen as a kind of 
communion of spirit, linking
all spirit together in a basic unity. 
The implication of this, of
course, is that insofar as we are 
spiritual beings, we are linked to
the Pleroma in that spirit; 
however, as we are simultaneously
limited by physicality, 
we are unable to fully and immediately
actualize that Pleromic existence in the 
way that we will be able to
once we acheive gnosis.
 
What is perhaps more interesting, 
however, is this theology of the
Pleroma with regard to how it affects 
the Gnostic perception of
Christ and Sophia. 
When we say Christ was the full incarnation of
the divine spirit into the world, 
what we are really saying is that
he was unique among all human beings 
in being able to really
actualize his Pleromic identity 
even while he was physically
contained within his human nature. 
We see this idea reflected in
Gnostic writings, for example the so-called 
"Second Apocalypse of
James," where Jesus remarks that he 
himself has received "revelation
from the Pleroma of Imperishability." 
In the Apocalypse of Peter,
Jesus actually declares that the Pleroma 
was like a being "coming to
me" who provided him with the divine 
revelation that makes him the
great mediator between God and human beings, 
and the power that even
conquered death, as, again in the words of 
the Apocalypse of Peter,
Christ is seen 
"on the tree, glad and laughing." Or, as the Apoc.
Pet. continues, the nature of Jesus 
"into whose hands and feet they
drive nails is his fleshly part," 
but it is Christ's spiritual
connection with the Pleroma that ensures 
that mere physical death
will not prevent his continued life and 
his continuing revelation of
the divine spirit. 
In this light, we can better understand the
event of the Ascension, which 
represented Christ more or less
shifting back from the physical 
existence begun by his incarnation,
drawing this physical phase to a close 
and reentering the realm of
the Pleroma fully. In this way, the ascent of 
the combined physical-
spiritual Christ to the Pleromic Christ 
means indeed that Christ is
the "firstfruits of those who believe" 
-- in other words, he has
laid out the same path that we will follow in 
the process of gnosis,
as beings who now are a kind of 
amalgamation of physicality,
intellect, and spirit, but will eventually 
find the true fulfillment
of our human identity in the end 
state of the Pleroma.
 
Similarly with Sophia, who, 
although she is not made incarnate in
the same sense as Christ, 
does in a different way "descend" as the
manifestation of the "holy spirit" 
that Christ promised to send to
his disciples after his Ascension 
back into the Pleroma -- the
descent of Sophia that we will soon 
be celebrating with the Feast of
Pentecost. Just as Christ manifested 
in the world a fully realized
Pleromic identity, so Sophia, who 
descends into the world (though
not physically) but retains her full 
Pleromic identity. We can see
this theological orientation in the 
Nag Hammadi "Authoritative
Teaching," where Sophia's nature is 
described: "Whether she is in
the descent or is in the Pleroma, 
she is not separated from them,
but they see her and she looks at 
them in the invisible world." In
other words, Sophia, who is simultaneously 
in descent and in the
Pleroma, remains the eternal bridge 
(along with Christ) between our
identity in the visible physical world 
and our identity in the
invisible spiritual world. 
Where we cannot immediately "see" the
Pleroma in its true spiritual manifestation, 
we can however directly
see as it were the bridges to the Pleroma, 
Christ and Sophia, who
both more or less bring the Pleroma 
down into the world in which we
inhabit in order to raise us up through 
the progress of gnosis in
our own lives.
 
One last thing I would like to emphasize, 
particularly because some
of these posts have emphasized the 
individual's process of gnosis,
is that the theology of the Pleroma 
and the Aeon is profoundly
communitarian and collective. 
Gnosis is indeed a deeply individual
process, but Gnosticism is not an 
egotistical and individualistic
movement in the sense of 
mainstream Christianity, where the whole
religion is directed toward MY salvation, 
MY relationship with
Christ, MY experience of conversion 
or being saved. As beings who
participate in part in the Pleroma now 
and who eventually will
participate fully in the Pleromic life, 
we are intimately and
inextricably linked to all other 
human beings, indeed to the rest of
the natural cosmos, due to the suffusion 
of Pleromic identity --
i.e. the spirit -- in the midst of the 
physical world, as it were.
Therefore, while the process of gnosis 
is extremely personal in one
sense, the direction in which it moves us is 
deeply communitarian
and brings us toward a connectedness 
with the spiritual brothers and
sisters that surround us. 
I will be discussing some major themes of
a modern Gnostic morality in the next few weeks, 
but for now, let us
suffice it to say that this profound 
connection must inform our
moral judgements, our actions, 
and our thoughts, because to hurt or
damage another spiritual being 
(either a person or the natural world
and the environment, for example) 
is to diminish our own spirit
because of its mutuality and 
interdependence with all other spirit
in the cosmos.
 
This is what forms the basis for one 
of the three major principles I
propose in articulating a modern Gnostic morality 
-- the doctrine of non-harm, which is reflected as 
well in many types of modern
paganism and in Eastern religions as well. 
As the poet John Donne
wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself; 
all are a part of the
Contninent, a part of the Main." 
The process of gnosis is
inevitably a process that fulfills both our 
identities as
individuals and at one and the same time 
our identities as beings in
the community of the spirit. 
I think that this is part of why
Gnosticism is so attractive, 
because it at least attempts to answer
the whole breadth of the so-called 
"existential problem," the
communitarian question as well 
as the egoic one.
 
I hope this will help you consider 
the previous posts on "What is
an 'Aeon'" and "What is an 'Archon,'" 
and also provide you with some
of the theoretical theological basis 
for the more practical
discussions of how we construct a 
Gnostic morality or ethical
framework that is meaningful to modern life 
at the same time it
reflects the profundity of our 
Gnostic traditions that reach back
almost 2000 years.
 
Again, I would like to invite you all 
to begin posting your
questions, reactions, or thoughts about 
Gnosticism or the process of
gnosis, since this group is meant to be a 
forum for your discussions
and not simply a means of 
propagating my own opinions; I hope that
what I write will spark you to think 
about linkages, practical
meanings, and indeed even 
points on which you disagree 
with me and
think I have missed the boat, so to speak.


In Christ and Sophia,
+Matthew

 

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