Sean g 2009-08-22 01:32:27
I have been reading up on the Gnostics for a little while now but there’s
only so much you can do with reading. Are there any references in antiquity
to gnostic practices, for example meditation and the like. Or have any of
you through your own insights developed any practices. What peice of
gnostic literature is best to work with? I keep hearing about the
Tripartite Tractate. I would appreciate a little help on this matter.
Penitent leper 2009-08-22 01:32:30
Try Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Random House, Vintage, NY,
1981 – pp. 159-169 –
for a listing of Gnostic practices and meditative states,
including insight, immediate experience, becoming the divine reality
one perceives, self knowledge, ascetic practices, stilling the mind,
visions, prayer, chanting, ecstasy, to know both oneself and “the one
who lives within” as divine, etc.
There are a few pages on this subject as well in her recent book,
Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas.
– pl –
Kater moggin 2009-08-22 01:32:46
Here’s some info PL and Dreamsnake each offered last time the
question came up.
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Random House Vintage, NY 1981,
pp. 163-169 – practices performed to receive Gnostic wisdom:
Zostrianos – removed himself from physical desires, reduced mental
chaos, received a vision, retreated into the wilderness, received more
The Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth – moral effort,
dedication, prayer, chanting sacred words and vowels, ecstatic state,
hymn of silence, realization of Mind.
The Allogenes – meditative chanting, discovery of the inner Good,
knowing of the self, ascent to Vitality and Existence, stilling the
mind, knowing the one dwelling in the self, urge to seek the
“uncontainable, ineffable, unknown”, warning from “Powers” to seek no
Elsewhere Pagels describes the transformative function of Gnostic
sacraments. Hope the above examples are helpful.
Meditation on images should perhaps be added, if the Gnostic gems,
sigils in the Books of Jeu, and the Ophite diagram had a purpose
besides teaching or rote magical protection. The many beautiful
Manichean images might conceivably also have been used for
meditation. No, I have no direct evidence for this, but the
Manicheans were strongly influenced by Buddhism and could have
acquired the practice.
The Acts of John has a dance scene, possibly a reference to actual
Gnostics probably held sacred meals, though I cannot think of any
direct evidence offhand.
The Valentinians had baptism and anointing, discussed in short
NHL passages. See also On the Origin of the World 111, which
talks about the oil of the olive tree in passing.
The Gospel of Philip discusses the inner meanings of some Gnostic
sacraments and practices, from which you can infer what the
external actiions were.
I believe, in general, that ancient Gnosticism was more attentive
to external actions relating to purity and magic than most of the
new agers like to think. I do not mean this as a deprecation–
even seemingly simple acts like anointing can help transform
consciousness, if done mindfully in a ritual setting.
to e-mail, remove the thorn
Penitent leper 2009-08-22 01:32:49
Thanks for finding that old stuff, Moggin.
– pl –
Carlcat 2009-08-22 01:33:08
There are certian themes that run through several texts. Moggin and
others pointed out several. I agree that simple annointings, praying,
and using various sacred names, reaching out to spiritual principles and
Aeons, etc., is helpful, when done mindfully, i.e., not as a mere
formula, but with a sincere spiritual aspiration, filled with deep meaning.
I would recommend any contemplative prayer practice.
One theme you is the categories of hylic/sarkic (material/bodily),
psychic (soulish), and pneumatic (spiritual)…
So beginning a contemplation on the transcendence of the Divine Source,
as many Gnostic texts do, perhaps reading from one of them, about the
transcendent, makes sense. And recognizing that you have a spirit
beyond your apparent personality. Then you might want to spend some
time looking at the hylic/sarkic reality by contemplating your body
sensations and position, etc. Look at the reality of it, and recognize
that you are beyond this. Then recognize your heart and mind, your
patterns of personality, look at it and see it as it is, and realize you
are beyond this also.
I’d recommend contemplating the most transcendent divine in a text that
reaches to you, and ask for help from the various positive beings
mentioned in the text, and be receptive in silence. You could also
attempt to reconstruct the baptisms or other services indicated in
certain texts, any of the ones with reference to long strings of vowels
could be explored with singing, chanting, etc.
Sean g 2009-08-22 01:33:45
Thanks to Penitent Leper & Kater Moggin for responding to my post, a few
things to think about. I’ll give Elaine Pagels book a go aswell and see
what I can glean from it.
Penitent leper 2009-08-22 01:33:51
You’re welcome – enjoy your reading.
– pl –
Kater moggin 2009-08-22 01:33:57
You’re welcome, Sean. Also try _Gnosis_, by Rudolph — in
particular p. 204-252.
to e-mail, remove the thorn
Mouldy jester 2009-08-25 02:54:34
I found Rudolph quite helpful and quite readable. A good starting point.
“I keep telling you, Gnosticism ain’t dualistic.”
— Krag, (30th July, 2003)
Mombu 2009-08-25 02:55:59
Valentinians are unreliable Gnostics,
as already known by the author of NHC IX,3.
Their practices like water baptise are absolutely deprecable.
Mombu 2009-08-25 02:56:01
no, it’s nowhere near helpful, it’s perverse and disgusting,
as already known by the Testimonium Veritatis.
Carlcat 2009-08-25 02:56:19
Well not all Gnostics had this view that water baptism was bad. Various
Sethians seemed to have water Baptismal ceremonies, and spoke of
Jesus-Seth as living water. If you choose that particular sectarian
form of Gnostic teaching, I can appreciate your point of view, but my
own personal Gnosis is that the Valentinian material we have is of a
more spiritual bent, relevant to a spiritual path. If we had more texts
to work from maybe we’d see more of the spiritual path of Sethians, but
in either case we wind up reconstructing the details of ceremonies,
rites, standards, and pracitices.
Carlcat 2009-08-25 02:56:24
So are you saying that praying mindfully, is perverse and disgusting?
Or that reaching out to spiritual principles is perverse and disgusting?
Again, many Sethian as well as Valentinian texts indicate the use of
annointings/seals, praying, sacred names/hymns, and interaction with
spiritual principles, or Aeons. The burden is on you to say it is not
Gnostic, if that is your contention.
If you are simply sectarian in being against such things, that’s another
matter, but mere dogmatism is NOT spiritual fruit.
Mombu 2009-08-25 02:56:29
no, but water baptise and other material ceremonies are.