Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Demiurge: A Conceptual Analysis

I wanted to explore the Gnostic idea of the demiurge a bit more in depth than my last posting. Just to recap a few things, the basic idea is as follows: The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are not the same being. The God of the Old Testament is a lesser deity that created the physical world to enslave humanity into physical matter. He is a bloodthristy rebel, and not the One True God. In some traditions, the One True God is known as El, while this lesser deity is known as Yahweh. I will use these terms to keep things simple.

First of all, I would like to point out that "demiurge," "Yahweh," "Yaldabaoth," and all of the other terms for this being are concepts and not to be taken literally. However, there are some important things to point out. Yahweh was a tribal war god that was worshiped by the Ancient Hebrews as the One Supreme God, what some have termed El. They raised the level of this false god Yahweh up to equality with El. Some have said that Yahweh may be one of the many faces of the ever changing face of the Godhead, likening God to this massive Divine Centrifuge. But I do not think so. It would make far more sense that the Hebrews of the time created a god in their own image (Yahweh) and this god justified the Hebrew peoples' lust for blood and domination via conquest. They became the "chosen" people of Yahweh, and led their armies to victory in his name. At least...victory according to their scriptures. All of the scriptures of the Old Testament are subject to being flawed, because they come from the perspective that God is, essentially, a war monger. The only time that God was revealed in the Old Testament as the One Supreme Being, was when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush in the Book of Exodus. He said "I am that I am." Basically, this translates to, "I am Ultimate Being." God has no name, for God transcends names and titles. He is a Being that transcends form. Yahweh is a "being" that only "exists" because he of his form, and his form was created by the thoughts of the Ancient Hebrews. These Hebrews who saw God as the one who led them in battle and conquered their enemies and slaughtered them.

The God of the New Testament is different. Jesus Christ embodied the True God, whose actual name "Immanuel", refers more to Son of El, than it does son of God (Yahweh, Yeshua.) Christ came to the Earth to teach humanity that Yahweh was a false God and to abolish the harsh, inhumane Mosaic law and establish a new Law, one of Mercy and Forgiveness. Christ taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, not to conquer them as Yahweh would have us do. Why do you think the Pharisees hated Christ so much and wanted to put him to death? It was not solely due to the fact that he proclaimed himself as the Son of God. Christ was very much an enemy of the state. He was an activist who stood up to the Truth and stood strong against all opposition. He died a brutal death and never fought to save himself, thus never abandoning his strict teachings of pacifism. Of course the Jews wanted him dead, for they were worshiping Yahweh, a false God. And the messiah they expected was to be just like the demiurge, coming with the sword and leading the nation of Israel against the Roman Empire. When Christ was dying on the cross he cried out "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani," which literally translates to, "My God El, My God El, why have you forsaken me?" Christ said this because, symbolically, he had become the false god Yahweh in order to put him to death. Thus, the one true God (El), forsook him so that he could put the demiurge to death once and for all, abolish the cruel law of Moses and all of the corruption. Then, when Christ rose again, he was resurrected as Immanuel, the Son of El. Of course, this is not to be taken literally, but conceptually this is what took place, as Christ's intention was to put these old, false teachings to death and to teach us the Truth about God. Unfortunately, organized religion got a hold of these true teachings of El via the Roman Catholic church, and continued to teach about God based upon the false concepts of the demiurge. Which I will get into now...

"Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing."

~Matthew 23:27-28

This was spoken by Christ when he was denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees who ended up having him put to death in the end. But this does not only refer to those people in that specific time period. This very much rings true for many Orthodox Christians of today, who worship religion itself (the church) in place of God. Many of these people think they are righteous simply because they recite prayers and do rituals in the name of God, but inwardly are not righteous and do not do God's will. Nor are many of them good people. They think that by doing all of the outward signs this automatically makes them Godly people. This is but another concept of the demiurge - worshiping the church in place of God Himself. The Roman Catholic church is notorious for this, and even arrogantly claims to be founded by Christ himself. Christ warned against such hypocrisy...and yet, the demiurge was reborn once more into the bloody history of the Roman Catholic church. But it does not end there. Even with the Reformation, many Protestants act in the very same ways as the Scribes and Pharisees of Christ's time. This is why doing good works and being a good person through  one's actions is far more important and Truly virtuous than any ritual act or gesture could ever be.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Orthodox vs. Gnostic Christianity

I would like to explain my perspectives on the basic theology and philosophy of both Gnostic and Orthodox Christianity. Then I would like to point out some of the flaws I see in both by shedding light on some misunderstandings. I will try to explain it from a historical perspective as well drawing upon my own knowledge, though as this is an informal blog, I will not be citing any actual sources.

Even though I know many people are already aware of the basic tenants of Orthodox Christian theology, I would like to explain just a few basic examples of it that I will use later to compare and contrast against the Gnostic view. These will include the concept of original sin and the need for salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Most Orthodox Christians believe that our first parents fell from grace by choosing to disobey God by attaining the knowledge of good and evil in an attempt to be like Him. Personally, I do not take the account of Adam and Eve literally, but I believe the preceding statement sums up that theology quite nicely regardless. Because our first parents sinned in this fashion, we are all inherently born in sin and with an innate desire to disobey God. The only way we can overcome this is to accept Jesus Christ into our hearts by believing that His death paid the ultimate price of sin and, hence, saved us from death. Yes our bodies die, but now we have the hope of resurrection with Christ and ascension into heaven just as He did. This is a very basic understanding of this theology and I will explain the historical origins of it a bit later after discussing the Gnostic view.

Though not all Gnostics will necessarily admit this outright, from my understanding, what the Orthodox call original sin is not something that entirely fits with the Gnostic view. Most Gnostics believe that knowledge is necessary in order to achieve salvation. As such, Adam and Eve had to attain the knowledge of good and evil in order to experience the freedom that comes with it via free will. Adam and Eve had a very limited sense of free will in the Garden of Eden. The only choice they really had was whether to eat of the fruit and disobey God or not. They were ignorant of much. They did not know the difference between good and evil and as such they did not know how to make a conscious choice between the two. They lived in a blissful sense, but with that bliss came ignorance. According to most Gnostics it is ignorance, not sin, that is the greatest problem that the world faces. There are certain Gnostics who believe the true savior of the Eden tale is the Serpent. Like Prometheus, the Serpent freed humanity from ignorance by providing them with the knowledge they needed to not only attain a greater sense of free will, but also to begin to reflect the Divine in a more intimate way, hence reaching toward enlightenment.

According to the Gnostics, Jesus Christ's sole purpose was not to die for the sins of humanity, but to leave behind knowledge and teachings in order to show us how to liberate ourselves from the confines of this material world and ascend on high as He did. A stout Gnostic believes that the material world, and hence the body, is really a prison for the spirit. This world was not created by the one true God, but by a lesser deity known as the demiurge who wishes only to keep humanity confined into the material realm. Hence the flesh is to be transcended. Obviously this completely contradicts the Orthodox view of the Resurrection of the body, as according to this view the body must be escaped in order that the spirit may be free. Hence Christ did not die for the sins of humanity, he died in order to escape this realm and return to the one of His origin, the heavens. He lived in order to leave behind the knowledge needed for others to do the same.

Now I would like to take apart some of these teachings with a bit of history. I will begin with the concept of original sin. Contrary to popular Orthodox views, the doctrine of original sin is not Biblical in origin. It was developed in the 2nd century AD by Irenaeus, who, interestingly, developed the doctrine in an attempt to stomp out the Gnosticism that the church at the time was fighting to suppress. In the early church, the Gnostics were dubbed as heretics and many of them were persecuted and their doctrines and teachings were suppressed in lieu of the more Orthodox views that won out in the end. This is why there are so many books that did not make it into the official cannon. The Gnostics simply lost this theological war that waged on all through the early years of the church. Suppressing the Gnostic view by developing the doctrine of original sin, Irenaeus and other clergy were better equipped to propagate the need for an atoning sacrifice and as such it can be seen clearly how these two concepts go hand in hand.

Now I would like to discuss some Gnostic theology regarding the demiurge and their idea that matter is evil. First of all, I personally consider the idea of an actual deity lesser than God, but still capable of creating the Earth to be utterly ridiculous. It only makes things more complicated than they need to be and injects polytheism into a monotheistic system that has survived for thousands of years. I simply see the Gnostics as being misguided regarding this teaching. They believe that the God of the Old Testament is this lesser being, this demiurge. They believe that he is evil. Many see the God of the New Testament as being representative of the One True God, whom Jesus Christ was born of. But it is not that there are two different deities in the two different sections of the Bible. Rather it is a matter of perception. You see the Ancient Jews who wrote much of the old testament saw God differently than the way that Jesus taught. Why do you think the Pharisees were so baffled and perplexed by many of Christ's teachings? They had the wrong conception of who an what God is. This is the same for the authors of the Old Testament. Many of them were zealots who believed God was angry and vengeful and would wipe out His enemies in the same militarized way as we have for thousands of years. We live in a society where war between man and man is a common thing. And it has been this way for millenia. They created God in their image, rather than understanding that we are created in His. So it is not that the God of the Old Testament is a literal, evil being, but that it is a misconception of the actual God. Even today many people have the wrong idea of who God is and this has led many people away from the Judeo/Christian life. Many, many atheists lay claim that God is evil and use the Bible as their proof, particularly the Old Testament. We have to understand that, honestly, the Bible is not the "word of God," it is the word of man. And much of it was not even inspired by God. If it were, there would not be this misconception. That is also why, I believe, Christ came. He came to teach us about the One True God, not the false concept of God that much of the Old Testament promotes.

The idea of matter being evil I believe to be an extreme one. While it is true that, technically speaking, the body does confine the soul while we are living, it also has a unique relationship with it. They are connected. I think the whole idea of matter and hence, the body, being evil came from the fact that there are many sins of the flesh that people are prone to. Living only to pleasure the body, one can never experience the limitless freedom of the spirit. Hence, though the body serves its purpose and is connected to the spirit, we cannot depend on it.

To conclude, I think that both Gnostic and Orthodox views can be incorporated into one another. Maybe Christ did die for our sins or maybe this was just a teaching, like original sin, that was developed by the early church fathers in order to promote the idea that they had about what Christ intended and in order to prevent the Gnostics from spreading what they called heresy. Personally, I don't know. I do know that Christ definitely left behind very important teachings, both secret and obvious, that are meant to guide us on the way to our own salvation. I believe that we are responsible for our own salvation and the choices that we make. Christ is a teacher that will show us the way, but He will not carry us along the Path. One does not need to believe that Jesus died for our sins in order to aspire to be like Him. But like I said, I am not sure about this teaching. All I know is that there were at least two main "groups" at war with each other because of their different ideas about God and Jesus Christ, His son. Maybe neither of them were completely "right." Perhaps we can take a bit of truth from each side. I do not believe that one system of belief alone contains the totality of the Truth when there are a myriad of different perspectives to explore via the countless religions of our various cultures.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Two Paths

Ultimately there are only two Paths in this journey we are on here on this Earth. These are: service to self and service to others. Only one of these Paths lies in True Providence. The other only leads to inevitable destruction. 

Service to self begins with our basic survival instincts. We were created with the innate need to preserve ourselves and to avoid pain, discomfort, and death in any way we possibly can. This is the purpose of the ego. The ego propels the self through life by conforming to the body's innate need to preserve itself and protect itself from harm and physical pain. This is not bad. It is only natural. Still, our survival instincts do stem from the ego, and the service to self Path also begins with the ego. Most people, if they had their way, would never endure pain or discomfort. They do not realize that it is impossible to recognize and appreciate pleasure and comfort, without the perspective that pain and displeasure can bring. Every light casts a shadow. Duality cannot be escaped in this world. Even this very topic is dual, the two paths of life. One cannot choose a "middle" Path. Though there are those who swing on a pendulum between the two and find themselves unable to make decisions and instead procrastinate and get little accomplished. I have had this problem before. I think we all have. That is why it is so important to know the self. Completely. 

Anyway, service to self begins with something that we are all born with. It begins to evolve when people begin to make decisions based upon preserving themselves; their own happiness, pleasure, comfort, and security. Then the ego begins to take more and more control. Other peoples' happiness, pleasure, comfort, and security begin to "take the back seat." The individual finds that they want to be in control of their own life, regardless of what this means for those around them. Self preservation begins to progress into self-will. 

Self-will is one of the most destructive forces in the human mind. Actually, it only begins in the mind. As it progresses it manifests in the outside world as corruption. And corruption begins with agendas that come about through the self (the self-preserving ego) alone. There is no care for others. They are irrelevant as long as the ego-guided will brings about self-preservation (pleasure, comfort, and security.) Notice that these three things are sought after for the self first, and others become irrelevant due to the nature of the disease that is self-will. Self-will and ego often form together in the individual and breed to give birth to pride and vanity. 

Pride and vanity go hand in hand. Pride tends to be more of a subtler, spiritual disease and can be harder to diagnose. Vanity is obvious and often manifests physically, such as in the superficiality of celebrity culture. Both of them are forms of self-love. This self-love, however, is not the same as the love that we should all have for ourselves (the love that is natural and healthy) because it is absent of the unconditional love of those around us and the empathy and compassion that leads us to actually care about their well being. We will get more into that when I bring up the other path, service to others. The self-love that is absent of empathy and compassion is capable of evil. 

Evil is the last stage of the Path of service to self. At this point the Path is ready to kill the one who walks it. But you may be thinking..."So many people walk around in life committing evil deeds and get away with it." This is true. And that is why, though evil is the final stage on the Path of service to self, Perdition is the final result. This stage occurs after the Path has already destroyed the one who walks it. The sword of Justice strikes down the ego and the self and destroys it forever. With no hope. With no pity. With nothing at all. Total despair. Some of you may not believe in this. That is fine. But I send it as a message for those who may feel they are on the wrong Path. If that be the case, please, continue reading...

Some of you reading this may be wondering why the service to others Path is not called the service to God Path. By serving others, one is serving God. We cannot serve God directly. Nothing we can do will give God anything that He does not already have. I am not saying that prayer and worship are bad. But Christ himself said, "what you do unto the least of your brothers, you do unto me." 

Service to others begins by working against the grain. We must learn surrender and in that surrender we must learn to shed our ego enough so that the disease of self-will cannot be sustained. We cannot completely get rid of the ego and survive. We do need it. But in order to successfully walk this path (the True Path of Providence) we must not allow our egos to grow into self-will, pride, vanity, and evil. This Path is much easier to describe and much harder to walk. What helps us walk this Path is the surrender that opens us up to the graces to allow us to practice virtues like compassion and empathy. We must love others even more than we love ourselves. This does not mean we do not love ourselves at all. We maintain a healthy amount of self-love. But we do not let it exceed the limits that are needed to also have a healthy ego that will not progress into narcissism. Unconditional love is what is needed at the beginning of this Path, and what will carry the walker unto the end of this Path. This is the type of love that God has for His children, even the ones who have forsaken him. We must love in the same way, and that includes learning forgiveness. (See my other post 'Forgiveness and Redemption.') 

It may be uncomfortable at times to put others first. But it has great rewards. Anyone who has ever volunteered can tell you that it brings them a certain level of joy that no material thing could ever bring them. The other path can simply not give you this pure joy. It only provides those who are lost with the illusion of joy. Find real joy. Find joy that comes with a heart. Walk the Path with a will never destroy you. It will lead you to Paradise...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Forgiveness and Redemption

"Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past."

~Landrum Bolling

Sometimes in life it seems so hard to forgive those who have wronged us. It is so much easier for us to play the victim or to hold a grudge or to seek some form of revenge. Playing the victim only enables us to see things from our point of view. We do not consider what the person may have gone through in their life. Behavioral development is a two way street. While there are some generational or genetic causes that can lead to, say, violent behavior, it is almost always only manifested within an individual brought up into an environment where violence was a daily thing and where this individual was likely the victim of it himself, in many cases by his own family members. Childhood trauma so often follows people into their adult lives. Did the person who hurt us grow up in this type of environment? Did they also have a genetic predisposition toward aggressiveness? 

Holding a grudge is much like holding onto anger. One of several enlightened sages of the ancient world said that holding onto anger was like clutching a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone. You yourself is the one who ends up getting burned. A grudge operates in much the same way. If you allow it to, it can consume you with anger, hate, and rage. It is also one of the heaviest of burdens. It is actually much easier to forgive this person and let that grudge go, because it frees you of this burden. Grudges can also bind you into a state of isolation, fear, and misery. Anger is a form of fear, as is hate. Hate is not the opposite of love as it takes equal amount of passion to hate as it does to love. Fear is the opposite of love, because fear is binding and love will set you free, just like Truth. That is why the Christ said to love your enemies. He knew that only love could conquer fear. One only hates one's enemies when one fears them. 

Revenge is often thought to be justified if someone has been wronged or an injustice has been committed. The only form of true justice comes from Above. And revenge will never satisfy. Even taking the life of someone who has taken the life of your loved one will do nothing. It will not bring your loved one back. It would be better for inmates on death row to be given life sentences so that they could at least have the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives in repentance. Who are we to deny them of this? One who turns his heart over to the Divine and promises to do good deserves to be redeemed and to be welcomed into the Light. The entire concept of revenge has caused so much suffering in this world. 

So, what does it mean to forgive? It means letting go. It means relinquishing all grudges and resentments and opening up your heart. Sometimes that can seem so hard to do, but in all honesty it is probably the simplest and easiest thing we can do when someone hurts us. It is actually so much harder to continue to hold that grudge and bottle up all of that volatile anger. It is like a poison in our soul and the antidote is forgiveness. 

So, why do we forgive? Forgiveness gives the transgressor the chance to redeem himself. People can and do change. But we need to give them the opportunity. We need to give them the chance. Have we not also hurt those that we loved sometimes? How painful would it be if our loved ones never forgave us and always thought we would continue to hurt them and never gave us a chance to prove that we could change? Unfortunately their are people in our society (some have called them "low lifes") who have hurt their families so badly and so consistently that their families decided to completely reject them and even disown them. These are the people we should be praying for the most. Many of them were victims themselves. They are like the ones who had a rough childhood and ended up finding negative coping mechanisms like drugs. These people are patients, not criminals. Maybe some of them will never see their families again or be back in their graces, but they can find forgiveness in the one Above. Everyone deserves a chance to redeem themselves.