The Nature of Gnosis

Let’s take a quick dip into Bible history. Some of you may know that Jewish Hellenism was the source of great evil in the Hebrew nation, essentially disemboweling the Hebrew mysticism of the Old Testament religion. This had gone on long enough that when Jesus came to call Israel back to that ancient orientation — to the real Covenant — He was treated as the single greatest threat to the existing Judean establishment.

The elitist social stratification of Jesus’ day was not native to Old Testament religion. Hellenism was the soul of gnostic assumptions (small “g”). It corrupted the ancient Hebrew mysticism, forcing the parabolic language into literal semantic legalism. This removes from the individual the duty to develop and maintain a deep personal commitment to God, the inherent assumption that requires a heart of conviction. This living relationship was replaced with a rigid and fragile intellectual assumption of static objective truth as the real God, and Jehovah demoted to serve this objective truth. It was now possible to handcuff God with His own words, and the elite rabbis were convinced they had done so.

That reflects the nature of gnostic assumptions. We can characterize those assumptions thus: (1) the world sucks, but (2) it most certainly can be fixed, and (3) it requires the determined pursuit of reason and logic. Naturally, there is an elitism built into this. While Alexander the Great and other promoters of Hellenism acted as if this gnosis (reasoned wisdom) was within reach of everyone, those who actually began putting that approach into practice quickly assumed an elitist position. Anyone who didn’t think like they did deserved his ignorance and misery. There is a built in resentment of the ignorant masses who held the gnostics back from achieving paradise.

Did not the Old Testament offer a strong record of how great Israel could be when she obeyed the Covenant? And here they were, living with the very obvious problem that Rome was oppressing her and the land was filled with nasty Gentiles. It was all the Jewish peasants’ fault for not living as perfect as the Pharisees! The elite prosperity and power over the common run of Jewish peasants was manifest proof of their righteousness; isn’t that exactly what the Law said? “Live by the Law and you will prosper.” What they refused to understand was that their methods were oppressive and robbed the common folk of their share of what little shalom was possible. In the Old Testament, prosperity was always shared, and social mobility rested largely on moral virtue.

And here comes this Jesus of Nazareth trying to tear down the existing system and make the elite a laughingstock with His smart-aleck comments. What they did not realize was their hostile reaction to the Messiah was precisely what God was counting on. Even now, believers struggle with the idea that God could know how they would react even as He gave them a full fair chance to accept the truth. So it was they broke all their own rules to insure this one threat to their system was destroyed. But when it turned out the teaching of Jesus had a life and power of its own, just like the risen Christ, they found themselves fighting a monster of their own making.

The initial attack on Christians was predictable: blunt violence. When it was apparent this accomplished nothing, and only made things worse, the highly intelligent among them began to devise ways to infiltrate and seduce Christians back to Judaism. Instead, their efforts gave birth to some even worse perversions of Judaism — the birth of Gnosticism as a distinct religion that bled away adherents to Judaism, and a pernicious influence that in turn gave rise to Kabbalism. In case you don’t know it, the Kabbala is actually very much mainstream orthodox Judaism. They just don’t admit it to Gentiles; it’s supposed to be a hidden gnosis.

We are in no position to understand why God allowed the gnostic approach to prosper, but we find ourselves right in the middle of Western Christianity deeply infected by those three characteristics listed above. Of course, number 3 is modified somewhat by using that literal and legalistic approach of early Judaism to Scripture (keeping in mind that Judaism was born from Hellenism around 300 BC and is not Old Testament religion).

Look at those three points again. We who walk the heart-led mystic path can agree that this world is not what God intended, but we have accepted the Fall as a justified penalty. So instead of being miserable and angry, we embrace the mercy and redemption God offered in His Laws. This world can’t be fixed, but it can work as a training ground for eternity. We can see how it’s full of delights and beauty despite the Fall. We rejoice that God has reached out to mitigate our disaster, and we face the future with joy and peace. We embrace the situation and make the most of it. But it requires a pursuit of the heart-led wisdom of God, and is most certainly not elitist.

Do you see why I encourage you all to take up your own calling? It demands all of us with our unique gifts. Your progress in your own calling benefits me. If more people give serious effort to discovering what God’s revelation means for us, this way of life holds the potential for helping us reclaim the vast hidden treasures of our divine heritage. Sure, I dabble in heart-led photography, and I scribble a little fiction now and then, but I’m just a duffer. I’m not called to rebuild all of the arts through the heart-led way; I know only that it can and should be done. I’m trying to set the pattern of evaluating art and nature with the eye of the heart.

We need a wider and deeper influence to help keep us on track and our minds employed in serving the Holy Spirit. It’s okay if you see me as a trailblazer, but I’m not your leader; God in your heart is the Leader. I’m just a coach helping you get the most out of your own abilities. You will be the ones who win or lose your own games.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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