Concerning Gnosis and Gnosticism

Yesterday I made the following off-the-cuff remark in a comment to my post Theosis and Kenosis: It’s less about knowing who we are (that’s the error of gnosticism) and more about simply a way of being, a way of doing life. And in reply, a reader named Tomasis left a simple frowning (sad) emoticon:  :-(   To this, I replied, I don’t know if it’s ever possible to affirm what one believes without sooner or later saying something that will elicit a “frowning face” from those who walk a different path … [Read more...]

What Christian Mysticism is Not

One way to understand Christian mysticism would be to begin by clarifying what things are commonly called “mysticism” but really aren’t — at least, not from an orthodox Christian perspective:Christian mysticism is not occultism. It’s not about uncovering some long lost secret, à la The DaVinci Code. Christian mysticism is not magic. It’s not about wielding spiritual power or engineering our own experience. Christian mysticism is not esotericism. It's not about learning techniques for psychic … [Read more...]

Holy Agnosis

Something that I keep mulling over is the relationship between gnosticism and agnosticism and how both of these categories relate to contemporary Christian mysticism and Christian spiritual practice.We know that Gnosticism was the first great Christian "heresy." But we also know that early mystics like Clement of Alexandria and Origen spoke of a holy gnosis as an essential part of the Christian experience. In our day, Christian wisdom teachers like Cynthia Bourgeault and the late Valentin … [Read more...]

Redeeming Gnosis

Can gnosis be redeemed?Today I began reading Richard Smoley's Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism. Right away he sets up a tension that I don't buy into: a conflict between the gnostics — those who have direct mystical experience — and the religionists, those who are the custodians of doctrine and dogma and therefore tend to be suspicious of gnosis. Oh, I suppose it's a fair assessment of a real tension between those at the center of religious power, and those whose "power" (i. … [Read more...]


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