“full participation in divinity which is humankind’s true beatitude and the destiny of human life”

–Thomas Aquinas

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At least one circumstance emerges from this statement that is widely overlooked in America. In Europe “Gnosis” and “Gnosticism” are almost always used interchangeably. The suggestion that term “gnosis” ought to be used to describe a state of consciousness, while “Gnosticism” should denote the Gnostic system, has never caught on. The use of such classical Gnosticism of Valentinus, Basilides, et al., persists in European literature, including the writings of such scholars as Gilles Quispel, Kurt Rudolph, and Giovanni Filoramo (to mention some of the most recent ones). It is true that the late Robert McLachlan put forth a proposal to use these terms otherwise, but current usage in Europe has not followed it.

It is evident that a word used in such contradictory ways has lost its meaning. No wonder GNOSIS writer Charles Coulombe despairs over the situation when writing recently in a Catholic publication:

In reality, “Gnosticism,” like “Protestantism,” is a word that has lost most of its meaning. Just as we would need to know whether a “Protestant” writer is Calvinist, Lutheran, Anabaptist, or whatever in order to evaluate him properly, so too the “Gnostic” must be identified.

        http://www.gnosis.org/whatisgnostic.htm

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Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration (Theophanes the Greek, ca. 1408).

Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration (Theophanes the Greek, ca. 1408).

Gnosis: While the literal translation for this word is “knowledge”, it’s meaning is closer to “insight” or, to use another concept, “enlightenment.” It may imply more in some cases than a purely intellectual understanding. It may imply complete comprehension that comes from both rational and intuited means. Gnosis is bonding the soul (nous) with wisdom, in both Sethian,Valentinian, and other Gnostic schema, which link this act through Jesus. The process of Gnosis may have different schema, or criteria as to secular practices. The process of Gnosis seems to be transitional or a transcendence in a learned process.

Gnostic: A person regarded as a student of Gnosis. Can refer to specific sects mentioned by historians, and heresiologists, The term can be used as a category for a number of sects and individuals that believed “Gnosis” had a salvational purpose. Gnostic sects are known to have existed in pre-Christian Jewish
communities and later in Christian movements, according to information in the “Nag Hammadi” text by Robinson. Gnostic views differ, as do secular characters of the Pleroma in the creation myths. The term or versions of it, are used very early in regard to Christian learning, this quote from Book 3 of Clement of
Alexandria’s “Stromata.” “Joannis autem vitae institutum gnosticum quis imitabitur?”

Gnosticism: The word was adapted by modern scholars to refer to the sects of the ‘Late Antiquities’ that shared a similar cosmology and soteriology. More recently the definition has been widened in some circles to mean any form of mysticism or esotericism. Gnostic scenarios both differ, and are alike in the
cosmic reasoning for the creation, making them ‘creation myths.’ Gnostic texts use different names for the characters of the creation stories for characters from the Palermo. Gnostics all believe that man, through learning the perspectives of his psyche, earthly, and pleromic self can attain life after death in a corporeal state by bonding with the higher entities. The ‘Light,’ ‘ Sophia,’ (Wisdom). (See also; ”The
Five Gospels,” by Funk, Hoover, Harpper-Collins, 1993, p. 544.)

Saunder’s Gnostic Glossary

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Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father’s) kingdom.”

They said to him, “Then shall we enter the (Father’s) kingdom as babies?”

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

–Gospel of Thomas (22)

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The slave seeks only to be free, but he does not hope to acquire the estate of his master. But the son is not only a son but lays claim to the inheritance of the father. Those who are heirs to the dead are themselves dead, and they inherit the dead. Those who are heirs to what is living are alive, and they are heirs to both what is living and the dead. The dead are heirs to nothing. For how can he who is dead inherit? If he who is dead inherits what is living he will not die, but he who is dead will live even more.

A Gentile does not die, for he has never lived in order that he may die. He who has believed in the truth has found life, and this one is in danger of dying, for he is alive. Since Christ came, the world has been created, the cities adorned, the dead carried out. When we were Hebrews, we were orphans and had only our mother, but when we became Christians, we had both father and mother.

God is a dyer. As the good dyes, which are called “true”, dissolve with the things dyed in them, so it is with those whom God has dyed. Since his dyes are immortal, they become immortal by means of his colors. Now God dips what he dips in water.

It is not possible for anyone to see anything of the things that actually exist unless he becomes like them. This is not the way with man in the world: he sees the sun without being a sun; and he sees the heaven and the earth and all other things, but he is not these things. This is quite in keeping with the truth. But you saw something of that place, and you became those things. You saw the Spirit, you became spirit. You saw Christ, you became Christ. You saw the Father, you shall become Father. So in this place you see everything and do not see yourself, but in that place you do see yourself – and what you see you shall become.

Faith receives, love gives. No one will be able to receive without faith. No one will be able to give without love. Because of this, in order that we may indeed receive, we believe, and in order that we may love, we give, since if one gives without love, he has no profit from what he has given. He who has received something other than the Lord is still a Hebrew.

–The Gospel of Philip

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Archimandrite George has been the Abbot of St. Gregorios Monastery since 1974. He is well known throughout the Orthodox world both as a theologian and spiritual father. He has written many books and articles on theology and the spiritual life. His works have been translated into many languages.

The idea of Theosis will be unfamiliar to the Western mind, although it is not a new concept to Christianity. When Christ said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” [1] this is a call to a life of Theosis.

Theosis is personal communion with God “face to face.” [2] To the Western mind, this idea may seem incomprehensible, even sacrilegious, but it derives unquestionably from Christ’s teachings. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the messianic dream of the Jewish race; [3] His mission to connect us with the Kingdom of God [4] a Kingdom not of this world. [5] When Jesus said, “You are gods,” [6] “be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” [7] or “the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father,” [8] this is to be taken literally. For those who are interested, further Biblical evidence for this can be found in Leviticus 11:44-45; 20:7-8; Deuteronomy 18:13; Psalms 82:1,6; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-4.

 

The whole sacrificial tradition of Israel beginning with the sacrificial offering of Isaac reaches fulfillment in Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist echoing Isaiah says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes upon Himself the sins of the world.” [9] St. Paul has this in mind when he says, “If you are Christ’s, then you are descendants of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise,” [10] because “those who believe are children of Abraham.” [11] The name Israel, was given to Jacob by God as an expression of his fidelity. Later this name was inherited by his faithful descendants. This train of thought is expounded in the writings of St. Paul, where he blesses the Church as “the Israel of God;” [12] whilst elsewhere he wrestles with and is pained by his fellow Jews denial of their own Messiah, labeling them “Israel according to the flesh.” [13]

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis.aspx

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Theoria (Greek θεωρία) is Greek for contemplation or ‘the perception of beauty regarded as a moral faculty’ (OED). From within Eastern Orthodox theology it is the ‘vision’ and or the ‘seeing’ of God, as the experience of God, achieved by the pure of heart who are no longer subject to the afflictions of the passions. This affliction of the passions is caused by the knowledge of good and the knowledge the evil. Theoria is validated because God is in the Universe or material world, which is evidenced by the material world containing beauty. Theoria is obtained as a gift from the Holy Spirit to those who through partaking of the sacraments along with the observance of the commandments of God and ascetic practices (see also kenosis, Poustinia and schema) have achieved dispassion.[1]Theoria is closely tied to the ascetic form of contemplative prayer called hesychasm that in the Eastern Church can also encompass the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart. Theoria is a faculty that develops along with and is intimately related to the process of theosis, considered (especially by the Eastern Orthodox church) to be the quintessential purpose and goal of Christianity. Theosis has three stages the first is called catharis or purification, the second theoria or illumination and finally theosis or deification.[2] The love of beauty (philokalia), transcending the love of wisdom (philosophy) manifests into the love of God (theophilos). Love of God as faith in God manifests as humility. Humility is above all else, the characteristic hallmark of the saints. Theoria and Theosis culminates into the Kingdom of God. Here humility as a saintly attribute is called sophia or Holy Wisdom. Humility not knowledge is the most critical component to mankind’s salvation.[3]

The word has its origin in the Greek language and is derived from the same root as the English word theory. Theoria is used to express the experience of life as “one who watches a play or activity”, the state of “being” is defined as spectator. Hence it means to focus one’s attention exclusively on one thing, Beauty and or God being the object of focus. The act of experiencing and or observing is through the nous or “eye of the soul” Matthew 6:22-6:34. Noesis as faith in God (action through faith and love for God), leads to truth through our contemplative faculties. This theory, or speculation, as action in faith and love for God, is then expressed famously as “Beauty shall Save the World”. This expression of the idea comes from a mystic or gnosiology perspective (rather than say, a scientific or cultural one),[

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoria

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This is the second stage of Theosis, called

“theoria,” in the course of which man, having

already been cleansed from the passions, is illumined

by the Holy Spirit, is made luminous

on the way to becoming deified. Theoria means

vision. Theoria of God means a vision of God.

To see God, he must be a deified man. Thus,

theoria of God also means Theosis.

Of course, when he has been thoroughly

cleansed and has offered himself entirely to

God, then he also receives the greatest experience

of divine Grace available to men, which,

according to the holy Fathers, is the vision of

the uncreated light of God. Those who are very

advanced in Theosis see this light, very few in

each generation. God’s Saints see it and appear

within it, and, incidentally, this is what the halos

in the holy icons show us.

For example, in the life of St. Basil the Great,

it is said that when St. Basil was praying in his

cell, those who were able to see him saw that he

himself, and even his cell, were shining within

this uncreated light of God, the light of divine

Grace. In the lives of many of the New-Martyrs

of our Faith we read that, after horrible tortures,

when the Turks hung their bodies in the squares

of the town to intimidate other Christians, on

many nights a light appeared around them. It

shone so clearly and brightly that, because in

this way the truth of our Faith was so brilliantly

revealed, the occupiers ordered them taken

down so that they would not be ashamed before

the Christians, who saw how God glorified His

holy Martyrs.

The Grace of Theosis preserves the bodies

of the Saints incorruptible, and these are the

holy relics which exude myrrh and work miracles.

As St. Gregory Palamas says, the Grace of

God, having first united with the psyches of the

Saints, afterwards shrouds their holy bodies and

fills these too with Grace: not only their bodies,

but also their graves, their icons, and their

Churches. Here is the reason why we venerate

and kiss the icons, the holy relics, the graves,

and the Churches of the Saints. Through Theosis,

all these have something of the Grace of

God which the Saint had in his psyche because

of his union with God.

Therefore, in the Church, we enjoy the Grace

of Theosis not only with our psyche, but also

with our body, because as the temple of the Holy

Spirit Who dwells in it, and shares its struggles

with the psyche, the body is surely glorified.

The Grace springing from the holy Lord

–the God-Man Christ– is poured out into our

Panagia, into the Saints, and it also comes to

those of us who are humble.

It is certainly worth noting that the experiences

of the Christian are not always experiences

of Theosis and so spiritual. Many people

have been deluded by demonic or psychological

experiences. In order that there is no danger of

delusion and no demonic influence, all of this

must be humbly mentioned to the Spiritual

Father, who, illumined by God, will discern

whether these experiences are genuine or not,

and he will give appropriate direction to the

psyche who is confessing. Generally, our obedience

to the Spiritual Father is one of the most

basic points of our spiritual path. Through it we

acquire an ecclesiastical spirit of discipleship in

Christ by which the legitimacy of our exertion

is confirmed in order to guide us towards union

with God.

Within the Church, a special domain of Theosis

is monasticism, where the monks, having

been sanctified, receive high experiences of

union with God.

Many of the monks who experience Theosis

and sanctification also help the whole Church,

for, as we Christians believe following the agelong

holy Tradition of the Church, the struggle

of the monks has a positive effect on the life of

every struggling faithful in the world. In our

Orthodoxy, the people of God have great reverence

for Monasticism because of this.

After all, in the Church we partake in the

communion of the Saints, and experience the

joy of union with Christ. By this we mean that

within the Church we are not isolated members

but a unity, a brotherhood, a fraternal community

– not only among ourselves, but also with

the Saints of God, those who are living on earth

today and those who have passed away. Not

even at death are Christians divided. Death is

unable to separate Christians because they are

all united in the resurrected body of Christ.

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis-english.pdf

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Man, according to the scriptures, is created in the “likeness” and “image” of God (Gen 1:26-27).

To be like God, through the gift of God, is the essence of man’s being and life. In the scriptures it says that God breathed into man, the “breath (or spirit) of life” (Gen 2:7). This teaching has given rise to the understanding in the Orthodox Church that man cannot be truly human, truly himself, without the Spirit of God.

The image of God signifies man’s free will, his reason, his sense of moral responsibility, everything, which marks man out from the animal creation and makes him a person. But the image means more than that. It means that we are God’s ‘offspring’ (Acts 27:28), his kin; it means that between us and him there is a point of contact, an essential similarity. The gulf between creature and Creator is not impassable, for because we are in God’s image we can know God and have communion with him.

Fall of man

The story of creation, and specifically of Adam and Eve, tells of the goodness of all things that exist, and the superiority of man over other beings. It shows how the origin of evil does not lie in God but in his most perfect creature whose free act of sin brought wickedness and death to the world, how man lost the “likeness” of God, his response to God’s love.

The Church teaches that when we do not respond to God’s love, we are diminished as human beings. The act of faith that he asks of us is not so very different from the faith and trust we place in those people who surround us. When we do not respond to the love given us by the people who love us, we become shallow and hardened individuals.

Prophets

Since man still was of God’s image, the search for meaning was as critical for human existence as are air and water. Creation itself, as the handiwork of God pointed to him. Yet, before the coming of Christ, the meaning of the world and our place in it remained difficult to understand. People created stories to help themselves explain the great mystery of their own existence, the world around them, and the one who was responsible for bringing them into being. Yet, knowledge of the true God eluded them. The Holy Scriptures speak of this lack of knowledge as darkness. So God sent messengers to speak for him, holy men and women through whom he worked wonders, prophets to announce the coming salvation. Finally, God sent his own Son, Jesus Christ. When he came, the very one who had created the world was now clearly made known to the world, giving light to those who had been sitting in darkness.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Soteriology

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Salvation is the goal of Christianity, and the purpose of the Church. The theology of salvation is called soteriology. Orthodox Christianity strongly believes that God became man, so that man may become like God. This concept of theosis, rejects that salvation is a positive result to a legalistic dilemma, but a healing process. Orthodoxy views our inclination to sin as a symptom of a malady that needs treatment, not just a transgression that requires retribution. One of the distinctive characteristics of Orthodox Christian thinking is that it sees the Gospel message not as law, but as relationship. It speaks of the mystery of the Holy Trinity in terms of the relationship of love that exists among them. To join in that love is the work that will lead to salvation.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Soteriology

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Theosis (“deification,” “divinization”) is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamártía (“missing the mark”), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation. Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to share in the Life or Nature of the all-holy Trinity. Therefore, an infant or an adult worshiper is saved from the state of unholiness (hamartía — which is not to be confused with hamártēma “sin”) for participation in the Life (zōé, not simply bíos) of the Trinity — which is everlasting.

This is not to be confused with the heretical (apothéōsis) – “Deification in God’s Essence“, which is imparticipable.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Theosis

 

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All religions, all Yogas, may be paths to lead us closer to Him who is the only One through whom all was created, the Christ. Jesus was the manifestation in human form of the limitless Christ of God.

There is no separation in God. The forces which promote separation, selfishness and egotism should not be feared, for nothing can hinder the plan of God, nor prevent its fulfillment. Love alone shall be our protection. Where there is love there is unity, there is the Christ.

When Christ returns, He will be as the fulfillment of each individual soul potential, and the unified consciousness and loving brotherhood of all mankind. No differences of language, race or even religion can separate us then, as we are all One in? Him, and we will realize this in all fullness. Meanwhile we should realize that no man is our enemy! The only enemy is the sense of limitation which divides us from Him and each other.

All this shall pass away as the Consciousness of the whole race is lifted into a larger awareness of God. We grow toward this by letting go of our limited conceptions, and opening up to the universal Christ-Love, by allowing His Love to flow through us to all mankind.

This I believe.

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