Gnostics

All research or scholarship questions
Zazaban
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Gnostics

Postby Zazaban » Wed Sep 20, 2006 7:13 pm

What do you think? the idea in some of it seems a lot more like christianity would be. The mystic writings seem similar to Baha'i stuff.
Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.
~ Bahá'u'lláh

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Thu Sep 21, 2006 7:55 pm

I guess it would help to know how you are defining Gnosticism.

I met some Christian Scientists who were interested in it, apparently because of a common view by them of matter being seen as inherently evil (or imaginary). This aspect we could not agree with, as we believe all creation has been made for good; however, we can agree in the inadequacy of the material, its relative non-existence, and that any "perfection" on earth can only be a dim reflection of the Heavenly Kingdom. Looking on the web, I see some things about a "Demiurge" or separate "God" who made creation. This too we could not accept, as we see God as having no partners.

Shoghi Effendi states something indirectly about the movement existing at the time of early Christianity in the World Order of Baha'u'llah:

A parallel might almost be drawn between these confused and confusing systems of thought that are the direct outcome of the helplessness and confusion afflicting the Christian Faith and the great variety of popular cults, of fashionable and evasive philosophies which flourished in the opening centuries of the Christian Era, and which attempted to absorb and pervert the state religion of that Roman people. The pagan worshipers who constituted, at that time, the bulk of the population of the Western Roman Empire, found themselves surrounded, and in certain instances menaced, by the prevailing sect of the Neo-Platonists, by the followers of nature religions, by Gnostic philosophers, by Philonism, Mithraism, the adherents of the Alexandrian cult, and a multitude of kindred sects and beliefs, in much the same way as the defenders of the Christian Faith, the preponderating religion of the western world, are realizing, in the first century of the Bahá'í Era, how their influence is being undermined by a flood of conflicting beliefs, practices and tendencies which their own bankruptcy had helped to create. It was, however, this same Christian Religion, which has now fallen into such a state of impotence, that eventually proved itself capable of sweeping away the institutions of paganism and of swamping and suppressing the cults that had flourished in that age.

(pp. 184-185)


Although the Baha'i Writings and practices certainly do emphasize the importance of the mystical feeling between man and God, we are to avoid--as even our mystical Writings testify--the tendency among many "mystics" to either claim independence from the laws of the Holy Manifestations, or to their avoiding engagement in the social betterment of society. In fact, as the above passage suggests, the Baha'i Writings tend to sympathize more with the traditional strain (at least until the next Manifestation came) as can also be seen in Shoghi Effendi's description of our need to accept the "primacy of Peter".

Any sect which is originated by human beings will inevitably contain strains that are inadequate to capture (and in fact will obscure) the Truth of Divine Revelation. However, as the House of Justice advises us, we can find the points of commonality in our dialogue with people of a variety of religious beliefs.

best wishes,
Brett

Dorumerosaer
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Postby Dorumerosaer » Thu Sep 21, 2006 8:41 pm

Brett did a good job of summarizing key elements of the Baha'i view of gnosticism. All I would add, is that while the Baha'i Writings contain a great deal of criticism of the phonies in this field, and of those mystics who reject the Manifestations of God, the mystic element is still extremely important. In fact, it is of the very essence of the Faith. Mysticism, the connection to God, is the foundation of the Spiritual Assemblies; of the teaching work; of our daily lives; of our work; of everything about the Baha'i Faith, and if it is not kept front and center, there is no Source from which to draw energy, and no focus to keep our activities properly oriented.

It reminds me of the very common mistake in teaching that some Baha'is make, when asked "What do you believe about knowing God," and the response will be, "We believe that God is unknowable" instead of saying "We feel that the knowledge of God is the very center and core of our Faith. The short obligatory prayer says it very well, 'Thou hast created me to know Thee'." Instead, some Baha'is mix up doctrine (that God is not directly known, but through the Manifestation), with experience and focus (that knowing God is of the essence of the Faith).

The prayers are addressed, not to the Manifestation, but to God.

Rumi was a favorite author of both Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Baha, and both of them quoted him. Rumi did not reject the law of God or the Manifestation of God; his devotion to God was in the proper context.

Brent
The Divine Messengers have been sent down, and their Books were revealed, for the purpose of promoting the knowledge of God, and of furthering unity and fellowship amongst men. (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 12)

The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God...
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 5)

The spirit that animateth the human heart is the knowledge of God ...
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 290)

In the days to come a great number of holy Tablets and other sacred writings will be translated, and thou shouldst read these as well. Likewise, ask thou of God that the magnet of His love should draw unto thee the knowledge of Him. Once a soul becometh holy in all things, purified, sanctified, the gates of the knowledge of God will open wide before his eyes.
(Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 191)

...the root of the exaltation of man is the good attributes and virtues which are the adornments of his reality. These are the divine appearances, the heavenly bounties, the sublime emotions, the love and knowledge of God; universal wisdom, intellectual perception, scientific discoveries, justice, equity, truthfulness, benevolence, natural courage and innate fortitude ...
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 79)

Question. -- It is said in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas "...whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed." What is the meaning of this verse? Answer. -- This blessed verse means that the foundation of success and salvation is the knowledge of God, and that the results of the knowledge of God are the good actions which are the fruits of faith. (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 238)

Zazaban
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Postby Zazaban » Fri Sep 22, 2006 4:15 pm

Let me rephrase, I mean the actual writings not the way Gnostics interpeted it. The demiurge could be seen as man's animal desires for example.

Some of the "Gnostic" and other christian/jewish apocryphal writings could be interpeted in light of the Baha'i faith to conform to Baha'i teachings.

Once again, the writings not the interpetation.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Sat Sep 23, 2006 12:31 pm

As far as apocrypha, I am not aware of any in the Writings, besides this one apparently for Jewish apocrypha:

Dear John:

In "The Voice of Youth" for July, page ten, there is an article by David Solomon in which he quotes some very significant passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Guardian would like to have the exact source of these passages, and the quotations in the paragraphs in which they occur, written out in full....

(2 October 1957, on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 387)


I inquired of the British NSA about the above reference at an earlier date and received this reply (with the date header 26 Jan 2001):

Dear Baha'i Friend,

Dr Palin has asked me to try and help with your enquiry.

The letter from Haifa written on behalf of the Guardian was about the last item received in London from him before his tragic passing and was possibly on John Ferraby's desk awaiting a response when the news of his death hit them. When I compiled "Unfolding Destiny" I found no mention of an answer but then I was not looking for one, I just passed the original letter on to Haifa with all the others in the NSA's files.

The copy of "The Voice of Youth" to which the letter refers will be in the archives in Haifa - if there is one in our files it is not presently possible to access it - I suggest therefore that you pass your request directly to Haifa...


I did not follow up on his suggestion (I didn't think I really needed it)...

Zazaban
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Postby Zazaban » Sat Sep 23, 2006 4:19 pm

I have a copy of the nag hammadi library and some other apocryphal works, and some of it really does seem to have a similar tone used in some Baha'i writings, and just poorly interpeted by the people of the time.
Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.

~ Bahá'u'lláh

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:44 pm

I just found this interesting pilgrim's note, attributed to 'Abdu'l-Baha, which seems to lend a bit of credence to at least some of the "Apocrypha":

“Jesus was a dyer by trade. He also lived in Egypt 'Out of Egypt have I called My Son' (Matt. 2:15; Hos. 11:1) was spoken of Jesus. The 5th Gospel which is considered noncanonical gave other history of Jesus than is contained in the Gospels of the New Testament. There were fifty gospels, but only four were accepted as genuine by the priesthood.”

(Ten Days in the Light of 'Akka, http://www.bahai-library.com/books/tendays/words.html )

Zazaban
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Postby Zazaban » Fri Nov 10, 2006 1:17 am

Yes some interesting things can be found in the other gospels.
Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.

~ Bahá'u'lláh


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