Gnosis Not the Highest State!

The New Dictionary of Theology writes of Gregory of Nyssa (d. 385-ish), who observed the stages of the ascent of the soul:

Gregory is also noted for his influential mystical writings in which he traces three stages in the ascent of the soul from apatheia, freedom from passion, through gnosis, mystical knowledge in which the senses are left behind, to theoria, the highest stage in contemplation in which (since a created soul cannnot see God) one passes into the limitless ascent into the divine darkness.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Victor

    Is this a form of Buddhism?
    Doesn’t appear related to our flesh-and-blood existence as disciples of Jesus.

  • nakedpastor

    Which should signal to us the deep roots that connect what we think are different spiritualities.

  • Victor

    I don’t feel connected to the “limitless ascent into the divine darkness”. I’m not even sure I want to achieve “freedom from passion”, and I don’t know what is meant by “mystical knowledge”.
    What have I missed?

  • nakedpastor

    Victor: sorry for any confusion. This kind of language is typical mystical/contemplative language. I guess I’ve been reading this kind of stuff for years so I’m familiar with it. Freedom from passion doesn’t mean what, say, Eldridge, would say it means. It doesn’t mean absence of intensity, but freedom from inordinate attachments. Then mystical knowledge is that which is acquired separate from our attachments. Then darkness is considered by most, if not all, mystical writers, to be that which surrounds God, like the Cloud of Unknowing. Hope that helps.

  • Victor

    David, thanks for the background. Still not sure where any of this connects with me or the New Testament, but at least I understand more of where you’re coming from.