Gnosticism, as I write about it, is a cosmology. That’s about the best word I could find. I don’t really like it, though. It’s not powerful enough. Not very catchy. I like the word faith, now that’s a powerful word. It carries a tremendous amount of freight. That’s also the problem. So much is connected to the word faith that it’s easily confused in the sense I’d like to attach to it. Although it’s enormous in its implications, it’s usually understood in the narrower sense of religion.
A term that really fits well is worldview, but I like that even less. Seems so neutered.
So we’ll stick with cosmology, and, like worldview, it pretty much describes itself. But I’m still going to describe it. It is the way a person views reality. It’s the mental framework that helps a person find answers to those basic questions of life, like these: How did we get here? Who are we? Why does the world seem so messed up? Etc.
It encompasses our conscious mind as well as our metaphysics, what Owen Barfield called thinking vs. perception.
You can have an endless amount of religions in this world, but there are only three cosmologies. Take your pick.
That’s it. You are one those three, or some combination thereof. Since people are complex, it stands to reason that virtually everyone is a combination of two or three, whether they know it or not. But there isn’t a fourth to choose from. The question then becomes, what cosmology are you primarily?
This claim of mine would be a much easier sell to the Apostolic Church (from here on out, AC). They would easily agree, I think. But when I explain what a modern Pagan is, you can bet that the modern examples I give would never describe themselves as Pagan. And as I wrote in my last post, nobody ever describes themselves as a Gnostic.
The AC would re-word the three questions above this way: Who is God? Who are we? What is the problem? How you answer those questions determines which cosmology you belong to.
Judeo-Christian: 1) God is transcendent and perfect, 2) We were created by God, and 3) We are the problem.
Pagan: 1) God is immanent, not transcendent, and not perfect, 2) We were created by chance, or accident, and 3) There is no “problem”
Gnostic: 1) God is transcendent but not perfect, 2) We are an accident, and 3) the SYSTEM is the problem.
Now the question is, since these three cosmologies are all that’s available to us, how are these expressed today?
I don’t think we need to spend too much time on Judeo-Christianity, since most are pretty aware of it’s continued existence and it’s basic structure. I think next we’ll look at modern Pagan cosmology and identify it’s unwitting followers.