November 02, 2010
Many people who are frustrated with orthodox Christianity, at least in the form they’re familiar with, turn to Gnosticism as a way of seekingout deeper spiritual experience.
And when they do this, they often speak of the shift in polarized terms, as a turning from exotericism to esotericism, from institutionalism to inner life, from religion to spirituality. Why, only lastnight I read this: “…well from what i know Orthodox Christianity doesn’t agree with Gnosticism because they often have different views on what happened to Jesus and his teachings. Gnosticism has a more mystical approach to things and orthodox doesn’t like it.”
But I don’t buy into that metanarrative so easily. In response to that comment, I said “It’s misleading to put the difference down to ‘Gnosticism has a more mystical approach to things and orthodox doesn’t like it.’ Because the fact of the matter is there are many varieties of orthodox / non-Gnostic mysticism within Christianity. So you’re statement only holds true for some streams of Christianity at best, not all.”
I highlight this because I think it’s important to sort between false and genuine differences at this point. There are differences between Christianity and Gnosticism, but it’s not in the mysticism.
Chris Bryan said…
Thanks for this Matt!
I think I mentioned in a previous comment that I’m exploring the world of “big-O” Orthodoxy at the moment, and experiencing something of that paradigm shift myself. In that tradition, mysticism (trinity, incarnation, and theosis, experienced through sacrament and symbol) is the very heart of it all! It’s only in the West that that was replaced by the framework of legal justification.
As I understand the history, it was the gnostics who fought against this mysticism by rejecting the physicality of Jesus.
Mysticism is one of those words that bothers me, at least as it’s currently thrown around today. What does it really mean? What does it mean to be a mystic. I pray to my gods and talk to them. They talk back. Does that make me a mystic? Or does it just make me a person who has a good relationship with my gods?
My personal issue with Gnosticism is its tendency to create a hard duality between physical/mundane existence and spiritual/mystical experience, usually resulting in the latter to be declared superior to the former. Of course, I’ll note that this doesn’t seem to be a problem within merely Gnosticism, but tends to get into many forms of (both Christian and non-Christian) mysticism, and even some branches of orthodox Christianity.
Nice comment on what’s not different between gnosticism and orthodoxy – courtesy of Fr Anthony.