To deeply understand Gnosticism one must understand one of its central tenets: Gnosis.
Sure, ultimately Gnosis is an experience, sublime and ineffable. Nonetheless, the Sethians contended that God’s mind suffered a breakdown and lost its wisdom, also known as the Aeon Sophia. Due to this trauma, Sophia fell into a void of chaotic, speculative emotions that eventually became the material world. As a coping mechanism against this insanity, she fooled herself into thinking she was a human. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best when he wrote: “A man is a god in ruins”.
By perfecting our own minds, according to the Sethians, humans could not only connect with but restore to soundness the mind of God (a concept Kabbalists would later refer to us the Tikkun Olam, borrowing from the Talmud that states God needs us as much as we need him to heal a fractured cosmos).
The human mind is a kind of miniature representation of the aeons that emanate from the ultimate God… For this reason, the Gnostic could also contemplate God by contemplating his or her own intellect.
Thus, understanding Gnosis intellectually and how Gnosis is an intellectual pursuit is essential to seeking Gnosis itself. The ancient Gnostics were philosophers and individuals of reason—with even the Valentinian Theodotus explaining that “scientific knowledge is necessary both for the training of the soul and for gravity of conduct; making the faithful more active and keen observers of things”.
So let me present ten definitions/viewpoints of Gnosis . This somewhat eclectic, intersecting list will hopefully stimulate your mind, deepen your understanding, and move you closer to that sublime and ineffable experience that gets us closer to rectifying both the sanity of God and humanity.
Ten Definitions of Gnosis:
- Gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (“He knows mathematics”) and knowing through observation or experience (“He knows me”). As the Gnostics use the term, we could translate it as “insight”, for Gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself. Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level is to know God; this is the secret of Gnosis.
- Going through the Inferno of matter and the Purgatory of morals to arrive at the spiritual Paradise.
- In the case of Gnosticism, Gnosis is the very basis of salvation. One comes to Gnosis by having it revealed to that person, and through that revelation is awakened from ignorance, from sleep, or from drunkenness, which are various metaphors that are used for the state of the human being before he or she received Gnosis. Once Gnosis is revealed to that person and is accepted by that person, it’s ultimately the basis for integration into the world of the divine from which that person had originated. One of the essential features of Gnosis in terms of its content is that the knowledge that saves is the knowledge that the world in which we live is not the eternal world and our innermost beings are divine and consubstantial with a divine being who is beyond the world, and ultimately is not responsible for its creation.
- Salvific knowing, arrived at intuitively but facilitated by various stimuli, including the teaching and mysteries brought to humans by messengers of divinity from outside the cosmos.
- The cognitive awakening of gnosis is usually a gradual process, rather than a single, transformative vision. This liberation of the true “I” from the world does not make moral behaviour irrelevant; it makes it easier. Detachment from externalities makes it easier to love one’s fellow humans, because one is then free from wanting things and nursing hidden agendas.
- Gnosis, as a special kind of knowledge, should not be confused with Gnosticism.
- Direct knowledge of the divine, which itself provides salvation. For the ancient Gnostics, Gnosis existed within the framework of cosmology, myth, anthropology, and praxis used within their groups. There Gnosis was not only illumination but was accompanied by an understanding, as expressed in the Excerpt from Theodotus, of “who we were, what we have become, where we were, wherein we were cast, where we are going, what we are freed from, what birth is and what rebirth is.
- Greek for “knowledge”; a specific knowledge of one’s divine origins and that the path to salvation comes through self-knowledge.
- Unawareness and ignorance keep man in thrall to the Archons; it is knowledge (gnosis) alone that can liberate him: knowledge of the transcendent God and of the divinity within, and also knowledge of the way to combat or outwit the Archons and enable the soul to achieve the reunion it yearns for. This saving knowledge cannot be discovered in the world, the realm of darkness. It must come from the realm of light, vouchsafed either by revelation (or illumination) or brought by a messenger, a transcendent saviour.
- The goal of the Gnostic is to be saved from the cosmic prison in which it now exists and to be restored to the realm of light from which the true human self originated. Gnosis provides the means for achieving this and ensuring the passage of the soul after death back to God. Once the process of liberation is completed, that is when all of the elect are redeemed, the material world will either be annihilated or become subject to eternal darkness. Gnostic eschatology is basically a reinterpretation of standard biblical and Jewish eschatology.
Gnosis in action, and its perils and opportunities
I hope this list calibrates your mind for a better comprehension of the radical message of the Gnostics: complete liberation through a fierce awakening, resulting in the hopeful restoration of the universe. The awakening i.e., the salvation of any individual is a cosmic event.
Listen: gnosis tells you that the world sucks, they really are out to get you, and you don’t know jack about anything. Anyone who tells you anything different is trying to get something of you. Sure, there are benefits to gnosis too, but if what you’re hearing about gnosis sounds like the work of some enlightened being, or it makes your b.s.-detector start to twitch, or it makes the author look good, you should probably take a step back.
In the end, what makes Gnosis more unique is Mystics desire to become unified with the Divine, while the Gnostic-minded desire to both understand and become unified with the Divine. The Gnostic wants to comprehend what they seek (which is paradoxically what is lost—the wayward shards of divinity that are the essence Sophia); the mind has to be present to, again, repair the mind of God.
The Gnostic way might be the hardest way, though, due to the total demands on both mind and heart (and dealing with that profoundly sick society , as well as the Archons reinforcing the bars of the Black Iron Prison once they realize you’re waking up). Achieving Gnosis is only the beginning of the arduous Hero’s Journey of a Thousand Facebook posts. Again Gnosis is not the results, it brings results.
The truth doesn’t always set you free. Sometimes it saddles you with a burden you can never escape. So choose very carefully where you decide to start digging and what dragons you choose to slay. Prepare to be taken places you never wanted to go. Gnosis isn’t always a flower– sometimes it’s a sword. Maybe more often than not.
Is Gnosis even worth it? Only you can answer that question. While you decide whether to slay that dragon on Facebook and eventually in the material world, here is a central takeaway and responsibility of this entire article on Gnosis:
You are not your mind, but you are the mind of God.
Anything else would be crazy.
So that brings us back again regarding the ego, and it’s subtle little tricks! A trap one can fall into regarding understanding and assimilation of knowledge, is when the ego can ‘play’ at becoming self-realized, The ego will almost invariably try to co-opt one’s initial “glimpse” of the self, which is the experience of the reflection of awareness in a sufficiently pure mind, and claim it as its own. In other words, the ego (i.e., the apparent individual person you take yourself to be) will declare that it got “enlightened”.
Technically this subtle thought or intuitive insight or spontaneous understanding—call it what you will—is referred to as “the limitless thought” or “the thought of limitlessness”. It takes the form of some variation of the understanding “I am whole, complete, limitless awareness; all that exists is nothing other than me, and yet of everything that exists I am free”.
If you take a moment to analyse the thought, it is obvious that this understanding negates one’s identity as the ego. It is simply the self recognizing itself in the mirror of the intellect. The ego likes to think that it thought the thought, but the ego is actually nothing more than a thought itself, so it can’t think. And the intellect in which the ego or I-notion arises is nothing more than an inert object made of subtle matter, a component within the mechanism of the mind-body-sense complex, which despite appearances is not an independently sentient entity that acts—or thinks—at its own behest, and so it didn’t actually think the thought either in the sense of it being an independent entity who can claim the ideas, imaginings, and memories that occur within it as its own. The mind-body-sense complex is nothing more than a machine, and it only functions when it is illumined and, thus, enlivened by awareness. It is designed, so to speak, to produce and process experience. When set into motion by the presence of awareness shining within it, it generates perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and emotions. But it doesn’t create these phenomena according to its own will or even technically experience them as a discrete entity. To credit it with doing so would be like believing a computer experiences all the images and ideas and whatnot that are processed and produced through it. Just as the experiencer of the information displayed by the computer is not the computer but the person using the computer, so the “experiencer” (i.e., knower) of the entire array of phenomena arising in the subtle body is not the ego but awareness. Awareness doesn’t actually experience these phenomena, for awareness itself has no attributes with which to experience (not to mention the fact that from its point of view there is nothing other than itself to experience), but for our present purposes the point of significance is that both the intellect, which is inert matter, and the ego, which is only a thought “manufactured by” or arising within the intellect, are capable of doing or experiencing anything as discrete, independent entities. Thus, the ego (i.e., the apparent individual person) does not get “enlightened”. What happens is that by means of the limitless thought or the vedic akhandakara vritti, the apparent person, who, to reiterate, is simply an experience-making machine illumined and set into motion by awareness, registers the recognition of its true nature, and thus awareness in the guise of the person “realizes” itself. The bottom line is that the person doesn’t get “enlightened”, he simply realizes that he was never the person he thought he was in the first place and that his actual identity is limitless awareness. Thus, self-realization really doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the person you take yourself to be. You are not the person. You are the “light” in which the person is known.
This is a subtle understanding, but I hope you are able to grasp it.
This conditioning is deeply ingrained, it won’t just disappear overnight. The money is already in the jukebox and the records are set to play, so to speak. The task now is simply to recognize them as recordings that no longer ring true. Witness them for what they are, and dismiss them. And always keep in mind the understanding that you, awareness, are ever free of your thoughts. No matter what their content, no thoughts actually touch you. This is actually something you don’t have to take my word for, simply contemplate your own experience of life. Has any thought—or, for that matter, any experience of any kind—ever changed you, awareness? Certainly, most have been blown about all over the place. But has the awareness in which you appear ever changed, even one iota? If you are subtle enough, you will see—clearly and directly—that you, awareness has never been affected in the least and, thus, has always been–and IS NOW—free.
Then suddenly the most pure, clean, unattached thought ‘I am awareness, I am aware, it’s as simple as that. I am simply awareness!’ And then the realization that even though I understood this, I had been guilty of waiting, looking, for the ground breaking, earth shattering, reality twisting, bright white light to happen!
Perfect. This is the knowledge working. And don’t beat yourself up about wanting “the big cosmic orgasm”. That’s just another remnant of the old conditioning. Just observe it for what it is, as you did, and know you are free of it. Even if you did experience “the big cosmic orgasm”, it wouldn’t last, and, moreover, the one observing your “big cosmic orgasm” would be the same ordinary awareness that observes you taking a sandwich and remains totally unaffected by all experience, whether “spiritual” or “mundane”, whether “sacred” or “profane”.
But by now you should see that there is no need for any of that, to realize I am, it’s basically been there all the time, but obscured by ignorance. So then the question is, is it that simple?
This is why i say that “enlightenment” is the biggest disappointment you’ll ever experience. Of course, the consequent understanding that you are free is pretty awesome, so it’s not actually disappointing at all in the end. But, yeah, sorry to say, the ego’s in for a big pout.
Often I am asked the same questions, but each time you’ll to gain a ‘deeper’ understanding/realization so do not feel you can’t. Repetition is how you learn. Keep applying the teachings. They eventually break the back of ignorance and you run free as you already are.
The question could emerge in many of you, whether the spiritual Ego is a supporter or an obstructer of the spiritual development. Can it meddle in the process of spiritual development, and if yes, then how does it do it? The spiritual Ego can interfere with innumerable tricks in the life of the spiritual seeker. These spiritual tricks are manifested in various spiritual mind games. Some of the most important ones I will mention below.
1.The Spiritual Ego says: “Look for truth! Develop your personality to make it the most sophisticated possible! Be spiritual!”
The ego-dominated mind keeps coming up with new and new programmes: “Do this! Do that! Then all your problems will be solved”. You try to obey, but in the meanwhile you are wasting your entire life.
Personality development is one of the most dangerous traps on your spiritual journey along the road. The more energy you invest into, for instance, the decoration of your spiritual mask, the more powerfully you will identify with it, and insist on it so desperately that you will be eventually unable to abandon it!
In this way, self-development only polishes the spiritual Ego shinier and more impressive. In reality, it is the spiritual Ego that instigates the individual’s start of a spiritual Journey on the road. It is a defensive mechanism of the mind! It diverts our attention from the possibility of a real internal change by adding an attractive new mask to our collection!
Be aware that Truth is already there in you, here and now in the present moment! Search will only take truth farther away from you, as it either keeps seeking in the future, or presents old obsolete truths of the past to you.
2. Be Calm and Peaceful!
It is the Ego-dominated mind that longs for peace and tranquillity. It wants to be peaceful and powerful so that its inner quiet can open a gate for the Formless. The mind nurtures the unconscious hope that in the Formless it will be able to continue to exist somehow. That is why so many spiritual seekers seek spiritual experience during their spiritual Journey.
In reality, however, inner quiet and spiritual Ego or unity and spiritual Ego are incompatible with each other. Where one is present, the other cannot exist.
The Ego-dominated mind is capable of creating some inner quiet and tranquillity, a dead emptiness and, with the effort of the willpower, it is possible to sustain it for a while. But it is not the quiet of the pulsatingly alive internal silence, peace and tranquillity saturated with the joy of Existence. Only a mere image of that kind of peace, created and attempted to be implemented by the mind.
You are only able to recognize the quiet of the union, already present in human beings (as this is their real self ), if you are able to give up the expectations, desires, hopes etc. of our Ego-dominated mind.
3. Get Rid of the Ego!
On your spiritual Journey you may ask yourselves the question, “How can we get rid of the spiritual Ego?” Who asks this question? The mind itself, the spiritual Ego. When the mind asks that question, you assume that it cannot be the mind, as the Ego-dominated mind surely does not want its own destruction!
Many of you want to shed spiritual Ego, so you are deeply involved in various spiritual studies, in search of the method that is applicable in your own current situation and circumstances for weakening the spiritual Ego, which will eventually disappear. That is how the mind misleads us again.
For studying spiritual methods and choosing the appropriate one takes time, and time is in short supply. Your real Self does not ask questions, as it does not require answers. It is there, it is present Now. You are only able to find it if you forget about questions and submit to the Self, radiating its light in the Present! Your real Self is light itself, shining bright!!
Eliminating Mind Games
Consciousness is an indispensable condition for you to recognize the spiritual Ego and reach Awakening on your spiritual Journey. Otherwise it is not possible to observe yourselves. The witnessing, observing Presence should always be there.
The mind will never understand anything that reaches beyond it. But it tries. In this way, though, it will explain everything from the separate aspect that it currently occupies in the time-space continuum.
When one is able to reach beyond that separate focus point and identification with the mind, that the person will also recognize this conditioned state and will also be able to reach beyond that, too. In that case, the individual will not identify with the mind, but increasingly with the Consciousness Witnessing presence. The Presence will gain dominance over the mind to an increasing extent, and will be expressed through the mind.
Self-Realization Is Simply a Shift in Identity.
I’m currently reading this or that book and your website material. I have an intellectual interest in a buddhistic path (or any other), with a view to finding some level of contentment with life. I know you’ll say only self-realisation will provide complete freedom, but perhaps you’ll agree that even an intellectual understanding still provides some measure of contentment, simply due to having a satisfactory explanation of reality. At this stage, however, I’m still looking into this tradition alongside other traditions, I suppose I’m looking for the system which seems to resonate with me the most, and see where it may lead me.
What I’m definitely NOT interested in is the current wave of ‘new age’ which I’ve found to be half-baked, contradictory and confusing, the only benefit of it being that it highlights how important it is to find an established tradition and stick to it. The new age movement seems to mix together terminology from all eastern (and sometimes western) traditions resulting in a recipe for confusion.
Can I just say, reading Buddhist material, and yours, has been a pleasure. It’s very clear, concise and to the point, with a clear terminology and all the nonsense removed.
With that said, I would just like to query something on the Enlightened Person, where they talk about the subtle shift of identity away from the apparent person to Awareness.
It said that after the subtle shift of identity away from the apparent person to Awareness, ‘the mind/body mechanisms continue to function as they did before the shift, only now you are no longer identified as them, they seem to belong to someone else. It is like watching yourself in a dream’.
It’s the phrase ‘they seem to belong to someone else’ that I’m looking for clarification on. Obviously, from Awareness’s point of view (not that Awareness technically has a point of view), the mind/body can’t actually ‘belong to somebody else’, as I am all there is. What I think he’s saying is that the ‘somebody else’ is the apparent identity/person I previously identified as, and after the shift there is the firm understanding that while the apparent identity is me, I am not it.
i.e. the correct formulation being conveyed is that the apparent person is me, but I am not the apparent person.
I know that this understanding can be difficult to describe which is why they are using analogies here. Obviously, the mind/body doesn’t really belong to someone else, and the experience is not really the same as watching myself in a dream, but there are all good analogies for conveying the sense that although the apparent person I appear to be is, and will always continue to be an expression of me, I as Awareness am not the apparent expression.
One related pitfall I think I’ve managed to avoid from reading your material, is the fallacy of ‘getting behind yourself’, an erroneous idea that many people on this path come to hold, where they imagine themselves as some ghostly presence ‘behind’ all experience, somehow separate from it and watching, but not being affected by it, with the idea of a cinema projector often being imagined as analogy of this. I can see how this idea may arise, particularly if the teachings about the relationship between Awareness and apparent identity are not properly understood. I think it’s more accurate to say that I am the screen, out of which the images are made.
Thank you for any comments/clarifications you may wish to make concerning the above.
“Hello, and It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
Your understanding is correct. Though other sentences in your email suggest that you already know this, the only clarification I offer is that “I as awareness am not the apparent person” means that while the apparent person is essentially nothing other than awareness—for, from the apparent perspective, limitless conscious existence is the ultimate cosmic trinity: 1) the “field” in which all objects appear, 2) the material out of which all objects are made, and 3) the “pool of pure potentiality” that contains all the knowledge for the design of the manifestation as well as the physical, psychological, and ethical laws that govern its operation—awareness cannot be comprehensively defined as any particular object or even the entire host of all objects (i.e., the entire manifestation in both its subtle and gross aspects).
Provided you understand that, your intellectual knowledge is complete. Now the only task is to ruminate over this understanding until such time as you are as convinced that your true identity is limitless conscious existence as it once was that you are the body-mind-sense complex (i.e., the apparent individual person) with which you are associated. Once your identification with the body-mind-sense complex is broken, the association with it will continue and the mind and body will continue to experience all the pleasures and pains that are the province of bodies and minds, but the mind will know that the person of whom it is a part is not the fundamental reality—that is, by virtue of the mechanism of the mind, the experience of understanding that your true identity is limitless conscious existence is had. This experience of understanding your true identity is not the same as the fundamental reality “itself”, which is the reason why I say that the self is not an object, but this understanding, which occurs in the mind, does constitute self-knowledge.
And what is the virtue of this knowledge? The alleviation of suffering. Buddha defines suffering as the deep-rooted existential angst that accompanies ignorance of one’s true nature. Though we may experience pain and pleasure, we only suffer as a result when we believe that the pain or the lack of pleasure is actually affecting us. For instance, if we think that we will be damned to eternal Hell when we die, or that when we die our existence will cease entirely, we experience a level of fear that can have various deleterious effects on our experience of life. Once we know that no matter what happens to the person or even the manifestation in general has any ultimate impact on limitless conscious existence, then even though pain and pleasure persist, suffering ceases.
Mind you, this understanding is not a ticket to apathy or unethical behaviour. The manifestation holds many wonders to behold and opportunities for expression and experience. Life should be savoured. Also, the manifestation is governed by the law of cause and effect, which is essentially due to the fact that given the non-dual nature of reality whatever you do you are doing to yourself, and thus the apparent person will inevitably (though it may take lifetimes) experience the results of its actions. Basically, when you know who you are, you will “play by the rules”, so to speak, for two reasons: 1) you want to contribute to the smooth functioning of the apparent reality appearing within you, and 2) you know your sense of wellbeing is not dependent on objects, so there is no reason to “break the rules” to get something that you don’t need.
When you have fully assimilated the knowledge that your true identity is limitless conscious existence, you get to play the role of the apparent person to the hilt, yet know that you remain totally okay no matter what happens.”
I will leave it at this for now.
Although I have not often integrated correspondence, I will do it more frequently as another tool to clarify and or answer questions.
Moshiya van den Broek