To continue the discussion on “What is Gnosticism?” I am posting this. I offer this as my opinion only, not as an authority. I think we can always learn from each other, I certainly have much to learn.
When it comes to Gnosticism, most modern professed Gnostics generally refer to classical Gnosticism as Gnosticism. By this they mean the writers and users of the Naghammadi texts. Of course I would beg to say this is a bit narrow, but that is their choice. So to continue aspects, that I consider are “universal” to the majority if not all sects of “classical” Gnosticism, I am briefly reposting a post on ineffable. This concept and others of course are found not only within Gnosticism…as I think it is clear. This perhaps ties in well this week’s coffee and cigarettes Gnostic radio show on the syncretic nature of Gnosticism.
Ineffable: Means, 1. Incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable. See Synonyms; unspeakable. 2. Not to be uttered; taboo: “the ineffable name of God.” (American Heritage Dictionary)….”Moreover it is these who have known him who is, the Father, that is, the Root of the All, the Ineffable One who dwells in the Monad. He dwells alone in silence, and silence is tranquility
since, after all, he was a Monad and no one was before him.” (”A Valentinian Exposition. ”)
In Gnosticism one of the universal concepts is the unknowable mature of God. Indeed Gnostic texts even state that word God is insufficient. So as Gnostics we know that God is unknowable.
But we can easily fall into a trap here. As Gnostics we know that our concepts, our map, our cosmology etc are merely sign posts upon the way. Metaphor and symbolism. Thus things should be taken at face value, yes…but not JUST.
O HOW may I ever express that secret word?
O how can I say He is not like this, and He is like that?
If I say that He is within me, the universe is ashamed:
If I say that He is without me, it is falsehood.
He makes the inner and the outer worlds to be indivisibly one;
The conscious and the unconscious, both are His footstools.
He is neither manifest nor hidden, He is neither revealed nor unrevealed:
There are no words to tell that which He is.
Kabir the Hindu/Islamic mystic here explores this very theme, very well. God is ineffable, but that is not really the whole story. Sister Artemis expressed a view that G_d is the root. So G_d is “knowable” to a point… But I think you get the idea, I hope.
The Kabbalistic concept of Ain or En Sof is this unknowable root.
I think it is very easy to see this concept is fairly universal within mystic traditions. I think it is important to restate that we should not fall into the trap of thinking a concept is the truth. There is truth in the idea of the Ineffable, but that is not the whole “truth.”
This leads in to the idea of transcendence…
As for the Way, the Way that can be spoken of is not the constant Way;
As for names, the name that can be named is not the constant name.
The nameless is the beginning of the ten thousand things;
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Therefore, those constantly without desires, by this means will see only that which they yearn for and seek.
These two together emerge;
They have different names yet they’re called the same;
That which is even more profound than the profound—
The gateway of all subtleties.
–Tao Te Ching (chapter 1)
Therefore to It Gnosis is no beginning; rather is it [that Gnosis doth afford] to us the first beginning of its being known.
Let us lay hold, therefore, of the beginning. and quickly speed through all [we have to pass].
`Tis very hard, to leave the things we have grown used to, which meet our gaze on every side, and turn ourselves back to the Old Old [Path].
Appearances delight us, whereas things which appear not make their believing hard.
Now evils are the more apparent things, whereas the Good can never show Itself unto the eyes, for It hath neither form nor figure.
Therefore the Good is like Itself alone, and unlike all things else; or `tis impossible that That which hath no body should make Itself apparent to a body.
The “Like’s” superiority to the “Unlike” and the “Unlike’s” inferiority unto the “Like” consists in this:
The Oneness being Source and Root of all, is in all things as Root and Source. Without [this] Source is naught; whereas the Source [Itself] is from naught but itself, since it is Source of all the rest. It is Itself Its Source, since It may have no other Source.
The Oneness then being Source, containeth every number, but is contained by none; engendereth every number, but is engendered by no other one.
Now all that is engendered is imperfect, it is divisible, to increase subject and to decrease; but with the Perfect [One] none of these things doth hold. Now that which is increasable increases from the Oneness, but succumbs through its own feebleness when it no longer can contain the One.
Light and darkness, life and death, and right and left are siblings of one another, and inseparable. For this reason the good are not good, the bad are not bad, life is not life, and death is not death. Each will dissolve into its original nature, but what is superior to the world cannot be dissolved, for it is eternal.
The names of worldly things are utterly deceptive, for they turn the heart from what is real to what is unreal. Whoever hears the word “god“ thinks not of what is real but rather of what is unreal. So also with the words “father,” “son,” “holy spirit,” “life,” “light,” “resurrection,” “church,” and all the rest, people do not think of what is real but of what is unreal, [though] the words refer to what is real. The words [that are] heard belong to this world. [Do not be] deceived. If words belonged to the eternal realm, they would never be pronounced in this world, nor would they designate worldly things. They would refer to what is in the eternal realm.
Only one name is not pronounced in the world, the name the Father gave the Son. It is the name above all-it is the Father’s name. For the Son would not have become Father if he had not put on-the Father’s name. Those who have this name understand it but do not speak it. Those who do not have it cannot even understand it.
Truth brought forth names in the world for us, and no one can refer to truth without names. Truth is one and many, for our sakes, to teach us about the one, in love, through the many.
–Gospel of Philip
Monad: From the Greek word, meaning “one”, “single” or “unique.” It has ample
descriptions according to different contexts: According to Pythagoras it was the
first thing in existence. ”The Valentinian Exposition” declares Jesus the
‘Monad.’ (See Sethian Monadology.) mo·nad; (mnd) n. 1. Philosophy; An
indivisible, impenetrable unit of substance viewed as the basic constituent
element of physical reality in the metaphysics of Leibnitz. 2. Biology; A
single-celled microorganism, especially a flagellate protozoan of the genus
”Monas.” 3. Chemistry ; An atom or a radical with valence 1. (Online
Webster’s Dic. See also; Wikipedia.) The Monadic sequence to the Triad is
expressed is by the ”Oracles of Zoroaster,” which illuminates the
25. The Monad first existed, and the Paternal Monad still subsists.
26. When the Monad is extended, the Dyad is generated.
27. And beside Him is seated the Dyad which glitters with intellectual sections,
to govern all things and to order everything not ordered.
28. The Mind of the Father said that all things should be cut into Three, whose
Will assented, and immediately all things were so divided.
29. The Mind of the Eternal Father said into Three, governing all things by Mind.
30. The Father mingled every Spirit from this Triad.
31. All things are supplied from the bosom of this Triad.
32. All things are governed and subsist in this Triad
33. For thou must know that all things bow before the Three Supernals.
34. From thence floweth forth the Form of the Triad, being preexistent; not the
first Essence, but that whereby all things are measured.
35. And there appeared in it Virtue and Wisdom, and multiscient Truth.
36. For in each World shineth the Triad, over which the Monad ruleth.”