Sunday, April 5, 2009

Readings: Out of the Box

To wrap up the Hans Jonas/Gnostic posts, there are these two final excerpts; the first is Jonas’ restatement of a Gnostic “formula” for salvation, as found in an apocryphal Christian Gnostic scripture from Nag Hammadi, entitled The Gospel of Truth:

The Gospel of Truth: the Formula

“Since ‘Oblivion’ came into being because they did not know the Father, therefore if they come to know the Father, ‘Oblivion’ becomes, at that very instant, non-existent.” Of this bald proposition it is then emphatically asserted that it represents the gist of the revelation of truth, the formulation as it were of its logic: “That, then, is the Gospel of Him whom they seek, which Jesus the Christ revealed to the Perfect, thanks to the mercies of the Father, as a hidden mystery.”

The second is a restatement of the formula from The Gospel of Truth as a philosophical “equation”:

The Pneumatic Equation

That the human-individual event of pneumatic knowledge is the inverse equivalent of the pre-cosmic universal event of divine ignorance, and in its redeeming effect of the same ontological order; and that thus the actualization of knowledge in the person is at the same time an act in the general ground of being. The “formula” is precisely a shorthand expression of that pneumatic equation—which thus is the Gospel of Truth. [emphasis added]

Kind of “existential,” isn’t it? As pessimistic as is the dualistic Gnostic understanding of the cosmos, at least it offers the human being who finds himself exiled in the material world a little help from Beyond—unlike, say, French Existentialism, which offers Man only his acceptance of the fate of Sisyphus as a remedy for the absurdity of existence—and his freedom as a condemnation, rather than as a blessing. At bottom, Gnosticism was an attempt to provide a detailed solution to the Problem of Evil, rather than just labeling it a “mystery” and passing the plate.