Epistemology: Agnosticism or Gnosticism?

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Comparative Religion CORE 130


Introductory quotes[edit | edit source]

    'Wisdom [sic] crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the opening of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words saying: ... the fools hate knowledge. ... Happy is the man that findeth wisdom.... When ... prepared the heavens, I was there. Wisdom [sic] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: ... she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city. ... For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat....'--Proverbs 1:21-22 - 9:1.

    'Σοφιαν ζηλου ('Sofian zelou,' 'Long for wisdom,') 'Φιλοσοφος γινου' ('Filosofos ginou.' Be a seeker of wisdom,') 'Γνῶθι σεαυτόν' ('gnothi seauton,' 'know thyself,') 'Γνῶθι μαθων' ('Gnothi mathon,' 'Know what you have learned.')--Apollo; Delphic maxims.

    'An unexamined life is not worth living for the human being.'--Socrates.

    'It is said that there is an imperishable banyan tree that has its roots upward and its branches down.... The twigs are the objects of the senses. The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. ... But with determination one must cut down this strongly rooted tree with the weapon of detachment.'--Bhagavad-Gita 15:1-4.

    '[... Whoever] knows [himself will] find this. '...Seek, and ye shall find....'--Matthew 7:7. '...I might speak to you about the precise nature of the truth.'--The Sophia of Jesus Christ. [But if] you will [not] know yourselves, [you are] in [poverty....']--Thomas (Oxyrhynchus) 654:1-5.

Definition of Philosophic (Platonic) Epistemology[edit | edit source]

    Epistemology is the study of science and knowledge. We will discuss epistemological theology. Read the following Platonic dialogues: Meno, Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman, Republic, Parmenides, Timaeus. Republic is long, though it is good to read entirely, maybe just read the parables of the cave, divided line, and sun. The scientific method is applicable to epistemological theology, so you should read about that in the Philosophy (of science) dept.. More than intellect and five senses are said to exist, though it is common to ignore or stop investigating the idea (which just as learning from gross senses and mentation, can take years, decades,....)

    Patanjali's Yoga Sutra is another good epistemological text. It is philosophical and less religious than Plato--so should not bother average Western religious people. It can be considered Platonic; Plato can be considered Yogic.

Agnosticism or gnosticism?[edit | edit source]

     Agnosticism is the idea (or philosophy) that something (such as the Deity) cannot or should not be known. Gnosticism (from 'gnosis:' knowledge) is the idea (or philosophy) that something (such as human or even divine spirit) can and should be known: it is a synonym for epistemology. In mathematics, ideas can be proven to be neither knowable nor unknowable, but that nature of ideas is knowable. Agnostics/atheists who think Divinity is undefinable/unknowable are not completely reasonable, yet neither may be theists who think a language's description of Divinity can be eternal.

    Religions have views on the material and spiritual worlds. Under close study they usually say (and never disprove) spiritual reality is knowable--they have ideas about it, such as Divinity, human consciousness (including part of spirit,) before-/after-life. Where religions may differ is dogma/rules, the truth of which is often unknowable, but often more similar than usually thought, and misunderstood and corrupted. Great religious founders did not come to make religions; they did not demand worship, but re-established and continued ancient universal spiritual philosophy.

    Universal spiritual truths cause religion (a synonym for Philosophy.) The great religious founders desribe ethics and pneumatology similarly; most that mention other religions even say (s)he is there to continue and reform/synthesize it. If someone says only their religion is true, they are probably a(nti-)gnostic about spiritual truth and the intelligence of other humans to conceive of and define Divinity. (Anti-gnosticism, including exoteric empiricism of some (a)deism, is fundamentalist and sometimes aggressive.)

    Gnosticism (the idea of knowing, from Greek/Latin 'gnosis/gnostikus: knowing') is involved in mysticism (feeling-centered gnosis of spirit, from 'mystes/mysticus: initiate/mystery') esoterism/occultism (logic-centered gnosis of spirit, from 'eso(terikos)/occultus: within/hidden') and esoteric mysticism (logic-centered knowing of spirit, with compassion.) The 1st and 3rd can be termed spirituality: ecumenism.

    Consider whether priests should have monopoly on religious knowledge that they avoid/conceal, or if one should investigate it. If you think it should be studied, prepare to get into epistemology.

Gnosticisms[edit | edit source]

    Hermetism, Orphism, Pythagoreanism, (pre-)Socratics (some,) (neo-)Platonism, Essenes from Jews to Christians (to Manichaeans, Sufism, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy) are Gnostic (capitalized.) However, gnosticism/epistemology is in most 'great' and pagan religions. Capitalization (of the Western term) refers to Western Philosophy. In the East (viz., India) it may be a word with root 'vidya' (knowledge.) Some Quabala (Judaist spirituality) and Sufism (Islamic and some Sikh spirituality) is Gnostic, but all are partly Eastern with their own 'gnosis' word.

Consider whether you should know these; try to answer:

  • What is (temporal) life (and ether? Is being disincarnate death, or is materiality not life?)
  • What is the nature of emotions & mind? (Does mind only think, or mentate: sense, emote, even mentate independant of thought?)
  • what, of all the latter are the form(lessnes)s, and is the answer to the following completely separate and formless?
  • What is soul & spirit? (What form(lessness) do they have; do they only either mentate/think or psychose/ideate? ('Psychose' is 'do (a) soul process(es')) Is there anything beyond humanity, and how do those relate to Deity?)
  • Are there ways to define/know these, and ethics & methods to live by that help do so?

    Gnosticism/epistemology requires ethics (including what is not harmful to 'oneself') and (as in Yoga Sutra) further healthy self-development practices. Patanjali's method that helps with gnosticism, besides both the latter, is control of one's lifeforce (discipline,) sense-withdrawl (or paying only careful attention to sensation,) concentration-meditation-contemplation. The latter 5 are his consciousness methods, and he goes beyond the latter 3 (unifying them.)

    Gnosticism, and arguably epistemology, are also synonyms for esoteric mysticism, which has other synonyms. Sum up what you did (or will) investigate and prepare for metaphysics.

Proverbs quote note[edit | edit source]

    The Proverbs quote may be fascinating, but 'sic' is added until a place can be shown in Israel where after a concourse to gates high in a city where once 7 pillars were part of a building of feminine 'wisdom' who was at the door of it on a seat and had maidens there and in the city, etc.. 'Seven pillars' symbolizes good, but women rabbis (implied in that Proverbs section) were mostly forbidden, especially in most towns big enough to have such buildings. Since this was not necessarily so outside of Israel, this Proverbs section was/is considered biased.