Submitted by Ernest Kayorie
After the completion of the extensive and sometimes tedious reading associated with the course, I would like to state that this has been an extremely informative course. While the subject is very interesting, it can be off setting because of the numerous definitions and oftentimes convoluted concepts. In many ways, it has involved learning a new vocabulary. She uses many resources to present the various topics and information important to a proper understanding of the subject. The most important part of the course for this writer was the summation because it brought together many of the ideas presented throughout the course.
The idea that Gnosticism was and is a distinct pre-Christian movement certainly makes sense and comparisons between Christianity and Gnosticism should be based on that concept. Oftentimes, one gets the distinct impression that Gnosticism was and is viewed as a aberration of Christianity. This belief system attempts to relate the story of man’s origin and how the known universe came to be. It also relates how that universe continues to unfold. This explanation is no different than the accounts in the Book of Genesis or any other creation story/myth with all variations on how the universe came to be.
Gnosticism presents ideas on the never ceasing potential that exists within man. It states that man strives for union with that part of him/her that is divine and immortal. The belief in the limited aspect of deity that was represented by the Jewish god, Yahweh was challenged by Gnostic wisdom because it saw man has a being of perfection who was simply attempting to return to or remember its rightful place in the universe. Gnosticism presented a lofty alternative to the small/petty cultural deities who were prone to human emotions. Who says we don’t create gods in our image?
The fact that this search for gnosis (wisdom) was existent at the time of the writing of the gospels and was prevalent throughout the known world is not surprising. Traditions tracing their origins prior to anything Christian (Hinduism, Buddhism) share their secret wisdom with those who are able to understand. What that truth entails is expressed differently in every culture and, at the same time, it shares commonalities which are self evident. The teachers of wisdom and the seers who share the responsibility of bringing this secret knowledge to those who wish to hear were certainly familiar with the ideas presented. The fact that some of these Gnostic ideas influenced the writings that found their way into the canon of the fledgling organization that was to become the “Church” also should not be surprising. The placing of what came to be known as Gnostic thinking on heretical lists is also not surprising. The knowledge presented within Gnostic texts was not for the commoners. It was too heady and convoluted and also it gave too much potential/power to everyman. Gnostic thinking continued to have influence throughout the growth of western thought and is certainly a factor in establishing our ongoing quest of finding out who we truly are.