Know thyself.

- Inscription on the temple to Apollo at Delphi

HE WHO KNOWS

From the Persian

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.

He who knows not and knows that he knows not, is a child. Teach him.

He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep. Wake him.

He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise. Follow him.


This leads into a short note on the Nature of Gnosis, a kind of knowing that is different from the ordinary.

This Workshop will enrichen you with material to amplify the Birth-Chart. In fact, there is no reason to suppose that there is any limit to this amplification.

There is certainly no shortage of material.

"…you may wish to share your knowledge by writing or lecturing on information that will help others better understand their uniqueness or path in life. It is in the sharing of great truths that the consciousness of humanity will attain new heights."

Wolf, pp. 97-98, J. Sams. Medicine Cards.


At the centre of Hermetic tradition lies the need for a certain type of knowledge: gnosis, or knowledge of the divine. This is something entirely different from formal types of knowledge, which separate and distance us from what we think we know. Yet according to the Hermetic teachings, this knowledge is not a "bonus" or extra that we set our minds on if we want. Far from it: without that particular knowledge we are not men and women in any true sense. This knowledge has to do with the core of our existence, and that is why it is intensely intimate. That is also why the process of discovering it is so intensely disturbing, because it forces us to confront the silent core of our being. This knowledge can never be defined in terms of formal knowledge. It is not possible to define the new in terms of the old, or something so intimate in the normal of objective way. The Hermetic and Pythagorean traditions both relied heavily on teaching through hints: not because they wanted to mystify, but because that is the best that can be done. Those who are serious learn to follow the hints. Others overlook them; hence the problems that have arisen in understand these traditions. [5]

 Kingsley, Peter, Knowing Beyond Knowing - The Heart of Hermetic Tradition, Parabola, Vol.XXII, No. 1, Spring 1997, pp. 21 - 25.


THE OCCULT is what is hidden. But not to everyone. Wherever there is something hidden, there is necessarily someone who knows. Nor is the occult something that is merely ignored. It has, by implication, been concealed, by some agent and to some purpose, to all except those same inevitable knowers. Thus to ignore the occult would be folly, the equivalent, in parabolic terms, of failing to submit a bid on the Pearl of Great Price.

The occult is doubly occult: it is a hidden knowledge of hidden truths or powers. These latter were concealed, it is agreed, by the Maker of Truths who appears to have been generally reluctant to cast his Pearl before swine, while those who do possess them are careful to keep a close guard on their treasure. Indeed, in many societies those "knowers," who everywhere and always constitute an elite, banded together in guilds and brotherhoods to stand guard over the extremely useful and valuable knowledge that was theirs.

Peters, Francis E. "Hermes and Harran: The Roots of Arabic-Islamic Occultism," in Michel M. Mazzaoui & Vera B. Moreen, eds., Intellectual Studies on Islam: Essays Written in Honour of Marlin B. Dickson. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1990.

THE GNOSTIC TRADITION

I have just finished re-reading the first volume of the Avignon Quintet, by Lawrence Durrell, entitled: Monsigneur. The Prince of Darkness.  For those of us who loved, and still love, The Alexandrine Quartet, the Avignon Quintet covers similar ground. Here we have the aristocratic French brother  and sister, Piers and Sylvie, who are descended from a Templar ancestor. In fact, their family chateau, outside Avignon, is stuffed with Templar manuscripts.  Then the scene moves to Macabru, an oasis in the Egyptian desert, where we are introduced to Akkad and his Gnostic cult of Ophis, the Serpent.  And finally, Venice, described as only Durrell can, in lavish opulent language.

    In Chapter 2, during a picnic at the edge of a petrified forest on the Egyptian coastline, Akkad delivers a scorching outline of the Gnostic Doctrine. This exposition and its ramifications, could be said to be an esoteric Doctrine that runs counter to Christian theology. But before examining this question deeper, either here, or at another time, we need to understand what is meant by Gnostic. A simple way, would be by looking at a common definition, for example that of the  Encyclopaedia Britannica:

"The designation Gnosticism, derived from the Greek gnostikos (one who has gnosis, or "secret knowledge"), is a term of modern scholarship. Evidence for the Gnostic phenomenon, found in the Church Fathers who opposed Gnostic teachings (Irenaeus, c. 185; Hippolytus, c. 230; Epiphanius, c. 375) and in the Gnostic writings themselves, reveals a diversity in theology, ethics, and ritual that defies strict classification. Yet Gnostic sects appear to have shared an emphasis on the redemptive power of esoteric knowledge, acquired not by learning or empirical observation but by divine revelation."

As an exoteric definition, this is sufficient for the time being. Another definition of Gnosis could be the Secret Wisdom of the Ancients. Which ancients, we could ask, and why  should this wisdom be secret?

Let us look at another view, this time, from Harold Bayley:

 It is common knowledge that during the early centuries of Christianity there existed certain " Gnostics " who claimed supernatural wisdom and an "ability to restore to mankind the lost knowledge of the true and supreme God." [1]

     The Gnostic, unlike the modern agnostic or avowed non-knower, claimed to be gnostikos or  "good at knowing," and to be the depositary of Gnosis, a term defined by modern dictionaries as meaning " philosophic insight," "illumination," "intuition," and "a higher knowledge of spiritual things."

 

     The chief function of Gnosticism was moral salvation, but it also claimed to get behind the letter of the written word, and to discover the ideal value of all religious histories, myths, mysteries, and ordinances. Mythologies were held to be popular presentments of religious ideas originally revealed, and Christianity was believed to he the full revelation of the deeper truth embedded more or less in every religion.   The faith of Christianity was indeed treated as if it had little or no connection with historic fact, and almost as though it were an ideal system evolved from the brain of a philosopher.

 

     The Gnostic claimed to be not only the philosophical Christian who evolved truth out of thought, but also to be the depositary of a secret tradition, upon which his system was primarily constructed.

 

     Prior to about the middle of the second century the Gnostics were not considered heretical, but the subsequent history of Ecclesiasticism unhappily resolves largely into a record of the ghastly and protracted struggle between the spirituality of Gnosticism and the literalism of official Christianity. It was a contest in which Gnosticism in its varied phases was nominally extinguished and Ecclesiasticism was ostensibly triumphant.

 

     By the end of the sixth century Gnosticism disappears from history, being supposedly crushed out of existence; seemingly, however, it simply dived underground and continued to flourish sub rosâ.

 

     It is in the ancient cemeteries of Provence that one still finds the greatest number of Gnostic medallions. [2]

 

This final fact is fascinating, that the Province of Lawrence Durrell,  is one of the last repositories of the Gnostic heresy.

 

For those who have not read the Avignon Quintet,  I would like to briefly state that the gnosis contained therein is essentially a negative gnosis.  In fact we have a polarity within this  ‘knowing, which we could term:

OPTIMISTIC GNOSTICISM   and  PESSIMISTIC GNOSTICISM.

Peter French, drawing on the work of Festugiere and Francis Yates, gives us the clearest definition of these terms in his book on John Dee:  

"The texts themselves actually outline two opposing ways of achieving gnosis. 'Optimist' gnosticism accepts the universe as divine; God reveals himself in everything, and through his intellect, man can become like God in order to comprehend him. By a religious approach to the universe and by inscribing a representation of the universe within his own mens, man can ascend and unite with god. 'Pessimist' gnosticism, on the other hand, rejects the world as evil, and the material aspects of man and the universe are regarded as being a form of divine punishment." [3] 

Let us look at these headings again:

1) "Optimist' gnosticism accepts the universe as divine."

2.'Pessimist'gnosticism rejects the world as evil."

In 1934, Carl Gustav Jung wrote:

"We have today a Gnostic movement in the anonymous masses which exactly corresponds psychologically with the Gnostic movement nineteen hundred years ago." Jung.

Do you think that this Gnostic movement was optimistic or pessimistic ?

Hans Jonas, in his excellent work on the Gnostic religion, terms the general religion of the Gnostic period:

            "... a dualistic transcendent religion of salvation." 

            This 'dualism' within the larger Gnostic context is certainly contained within the symbol of the Pythagorean Y, and this long quotation from Hans Jonas will amplify the Gnostic resonances within the thought of John Dee:

"In the life the pneumatics, as the possessors of gnosis called themselves, are set apart from the great mass of mankind. The immediate illumination not only makes the individual sovereign in the sphere of knowledge (hence the limitless variety of doctrines), but also determines the sphere of action. Generally speaking, the pneumatic morality is determined by hostility toward the world, and contempt for all mundane ties. From this principle, however, two contradictory conclusions could be drawn, and both found their extreme representatives: the ascetic and the libertine. The former deduces from the possession of gnosis the obligation to avoid further contamination by the world and therefore to reduce contact with it to a minimum; the latter derives from the same possession the privilege of absolute freedom."  [4]


THE POO POO PLATTER

Bug Story, 'Who ordered the Poo Poo Platter." And suddenly a small cluster of blue bottle flies descends on their meal.

The Mess of Pottage . . . Man has sold his Divine Birthright for a mess of pottage . . . 

 gnosis (N-), N. Knowledge of spiritual mysteries; Gnosticism. [Gr = knowledge, as prec

gnos'tic (n-), a. & n. 1. Relating to knowledge, cognitive; having esoteric spiritual knowledge; of the Gnostics, occult, mystic.

There are two traditions in the History of GNOSIS - an optimistic and a pessimistic. The concept of Sin, for example, is inherited from the pessimistic strand, as is a great deal of the negative aspects of the Judeo-Christian/Islamic tradition.

All is not lost though. Under the surface, deeply repressed and persecuted - the optimistic tradition tradition has survived.


This polarity of optimism versus pessimism is a basic archetype and a radical source of our so-called 'Western Civilization in its Judeo-Christian-Islamic manifestations. What becomes clear is that the pessimists vision has achieved a certain supremacy, and is universal in application, as can be seen from this quotation from Buddhism:

            Intentions of renunciation.    

"The Buddha describes his teaching as running contrary to the way of the world. The way of the world is the way of desire, and the unenlightened who follow this way flow with the current of desire, seeking happiness by pursuing the objects in which they imagine they will find fulfillment. The Buddha's message of renunciation states exactly the opposite: the pull of desire is to be resisted and eventually abandoned. Desire is to be abandoned not because it is morally evil, but because it is a root of suffering.(*) Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive for gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom from the holds of attachment. The Buddha does not demand that everyone leave the household life for the monastery or ask his followers to drop all sense enjoyments on the spot. The degree to which a person renounces depends on his disposition and situation. But what remains as a guiding principle is this: that the attainment of deliverance requires the complete eradication of craving, and progress along the path is furthered to the extent that one can remove it. Breaking free from domination by desire might not be easy, but the difficulty does not abrogate the necessity. Since craving is the origin of dukkha, putting an end to dukkha depends on eliminating craving, and that involves directing the mind to renunciation."

-----------------------------

            By analogy, we can see that the path of the libertine and the way of desire can be equated with the Greek EROS - which is optimistic in essence because it accepts the universe as divine, while the path of the ascetic, and the way of renunciation and rejecting the world as evil, corresponds to the Greek LOGOS, which is pessimistic. 

            The EROS paradigm expands to that of DIONYSOS, while the LOGOS includes APOLLO. Thus a simplistic scheme can be generated: 

OPTIMISTIC GNOSIS

PESSIMISTIC GNOSIS

Bios, Life

Thatanos, Non-Eros.

EROS – DIONYSUS

LOGOS -APOLLONIAN

Flowing out to pleasure

Renunciation,pain, celibacy

EXPRESSION

REPRESSION

Conductivity (Copper)

Non-conductivity (Lead)

Venus (Attraction - Arcanum 6

Saturn (Repulsion)Arcanum 15

Holistic World View

World as fault/fragmented world view.

Reproduction/ Desire/Sexuality

Frigidity/desirelessness/ celibacy

History as in optimist/pessimist gnostic - could be viewed as a struggle between - 

Eros (Dionysus) and

LOGOS (Apollo.

            The 8 Worldly Dharmas of Buddhism continue the polarity with:

Praise

Abuse

Acceptance

Rejection

Gain

Loss

Honour

Dishonour

Happiness

Suffering

Praise

Blame

Kantipalo, Forest Meditations, p. 24.

As Peter J.French writes:

 "Though the two forms of Gnostic experience are based on fundamentally different attitudes toward the material universe, both achieve their common end through the mind contemplating the universe." 

            It could be said that the contemplation of the unsatisfactory nature of the material universe, as evident in the foundational practices of Tibetan Buddhism - the meditations on impermanence and suffering, etc. act as a stimulus to transforming the material condition. Here it seems that Buddhism shares a deep relationship to the Gnostic pessimist in the West. The danger lies in identifying the material fault as an absolute reality in itself. We are view phenomena from a specific locus, such as the body-mind often ensnared within this view to the detriment of any holistic outlook. The Gnostic optimist must be an ego-destroyer to release the vast panoramas of aesthetic awareness, and therefore, compassion and spaciousness, which cannot operate within a selfish framework. If he, or she subordinates his 'personal' evolution to that of the Greater Whole, he is not as it may seem, capitulating to the idea that the outer reality must be 'saved', but is merely returning to the ultimate matrix, where perimeters do not exist. He cannot 'save' the outside world, for there is no outside world, nor an inner world, but only one total unit, evolving and devolving according to universal Law. Suffering and impermanence would therefore take on the aesthetics of that Absolute Law - and would cease to read in relative terms.


 

"The conqueror and king in each one of us is the knower of truth. Let the knower awaken in us and drive the horses of the mind, emotions, and physical body on the pathway which that king has chosen."

- George S. Arundale


"I have pursued, alas, philosophy,
Jurisprudence, and medicine,
And help me God, theology,
With fervent zeal through thick and thin.
And here, poor fool, I stand once more,
No wiser than I was before."

- Goethe, Introduction to Faust


"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."

- Albert Einstein


"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Not nature but the 'genius of mankind' has knotted the hangman's noose
with which it can execute itself at any moment."

- Carl Jung

"Ere silence was completed their hearts were opened, and they knew what had been important on the earth. Man, the flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible, man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven."

- E. M. Forster, The Machine Stops


"I can think of no other time when it has been more important to consider the needs of the human soul. The twentieth century has been dominated by a worldview that glorifies a mechanistic, rationalistic focus at the expense of the inner life. The ravages that have been wreaked on the planet as a result of this dissociation from the essential self have reached crisis proportions. Yet, just as the individual unconscious knows when a person's survival is threatened, I believe the collective unconscious knows when group survival is in danger. Beyond the level of the rational mind is an awareness that without our souls, we are without our power, and without our power, we will die."

- Marianne Williamson, Foreword to Handbook for the Soul

"When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins."

- Tao Te Ching

"In the beginning was the Creator, within whom was the word, and the word was the Lord Himself'"

- Rig Veda


"On the altar of his Unknown God through all the ages man pathetically offers the holocaust of his reason."

- Jane Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion

"The schizoid man is the natural product of the technological man. It is one way to live and is increasingly utilized--and it may explode into violence."

- Rollo May, Love and Will (1969, p. 17)


"I'm tired of intelligence.
Thinking wreaks havoc on the emotions.
There are horrible side-effects."

- Álvaro de Campos


[1] Note 3, p. 6: Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. part ii. ch. v.

[2] Harold Bayley, The Lost Language of Symbolism, Bracken Books, London, 1996 [1912]. pp.6 – 7.

[3] Peter French, Dr John Dee. 'The World of an Elizabethan Magus', RKP, London 1972.

[4] Jonas, Hans, The Gnostic Religion.

[5] Kingsley, Peter, Knowing Beyond Knowing - The Heart of Hermetic Tradition, Parabola, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 1997, pp. 21 - 25.