Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 24, 2007

Is a Gnostic Path a Lonely One?

I see this thought over and over again. That traveling a path towards Gnosis is a lonely one for us poor misunderstood Gnostics. That Gnostics are categorically misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, and ostracized. Now I am painting things with a broad brush but this vein of thought is very much present and prevalent within modern Gnostic thought and praxis.

So let me ask the question. Is it lonely because we’re misunderstood, or is it lonely because we want it that way? How much of this perceived loneliness is self-satisfying poor-me-ism? Is it a kind of back handed self-righteousness or is it just the “way it is”?

With the pending publication of Jordan Stratford’s+ book “Living Gnosticism: An Ancient Way of Knowing” wherein he strives to clearly annunciate what “Gnosticism” actually is as a modern and relevant spiritual tradition whose roots and history are at par with Christianity, one has to ask oneself, am I a participant in this growingly accepted definition of Gnosticism the Religion or am I a solo seeker of Gnosis? A seeker of Gnosis does not a Gnostic make, unfortunately.

If one draws inspiration from the writings of Thich Naht Hanh, does that make one a Buddhist? Of course not. If one perceives truths in the writings of St. John of the Cross, does that make one a Catholic or even a Christian? Nope. So why then do those that feel a kinship with Gnosticism yet decline to follow even the basic tenets of the religion, insist on calling themselves Gnostics? Why the ongoing redefinition of it as a tradition?

Why, in this day in age, do we feel obliged and even entitled to push, prod, pull and stretch pre-existing ideologies to fit with our own personal world view and perceptions? Are we so arrogant as to think we know best? Are we so spiritually advanced that we can or should even make these decisions? As Jesus says, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is.” And this is an incredibly important point.

Accepting a tradition in it’s totality is not to yield our necks to the yoke of another’s will. It is surrendering what “you think is best” is the name of walking in the steps of those that have mastered a path whose intricacies and subtleties you may know nothing about, no matter how many books you’ve read and despite how many meditation seminars you been to. It is suspending your disbelief as it were. It is saying the Universe, “Teach me, allow me to learn, show my your secrets” in a state of submissiveness and humbleness we just cannot achieve if we constantly interject what we think works better. This is not to say that you should do this indefinitely, but how can we learn if we do not at least try? As we learn and perceive we then can make adjustments or choices based on knowledge rather than opinion.

Gnosticism tells us that there are two parts to our spiritual practice. That of an individual and private practice, consisting of contemplation, meditation, scripture and/or writings, and prayer, in any combination or order that works with your individuality. The second part is that of communal expression, of liturgy and the sacraments, and of community good works. To adhere to only one of these parts is to miss the larger picture. Both provide it’s counterpart with a larger or more refined context. It’s no different than a family. Can an individual who spends their entire existence alone truly partake in the larger variance and multiplicity of human experience? And can someone who spends their entire existence wrapped in the protective cocoon of family and people ever truly discover and profit from the hidden depths of our own individual human expression? The answer to both has to be no, so how then we can expect to do the same in our spiritual lives?

Being understood or misunderstood by those around us, or concerning ourselves with persecution or the same, within the context of spiritual life is counterintuitive to what it means to live a spiritual life. The desire to be understood implies a need for acceptance. Concerning ourselves with being persecuted for our beliefs implies a need for belonging. We’re told to worship in private and in secret for good reason, which is ultimately because our relationship with God is intensely personal and not about self-aggrandizement or self-congratulation. It is about satiating a deeper need for a connection for that which has created us. A deeper appreciation and participation in the Mystery that is behind all things, large or small.

Participating spiritually within a community setting as well is not about “one up manship” but about celebrating the Divine within and without together. It’s not about who’s more Gnostic-ier than who, but about sharing our journey with one another, not because we can show how more spiritually mature we are than others, but because doing so adds dimension and richness to our own experience.

Gnosticism does not have to be a lonely journey, nor should it be. It is one full of love, compassion and community. Since embarking on my own path of self-awakening I have experienced more of these things than I ever had previously before in my life, even with geographically being separated from my brothers and sisters as I am. Am I saying I don’t have moments of being misunderstood or maligned for my beliefs? No, that would be silly, but these moments only have power if I let them, if I feed my ego’s desire to be recognized and revered. But if I walk a path of humbleness, secure in my budding relationship with God and my growing understanding of the Divine in how It relates to me right now in this moment, these things hold no power over me and blow away like so many dandelions in the wind.

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Responses

  1. I see that my answer to your earlier-today-emailed question fits pretty well with this post from yesterday. Note the new email addy 🙂

    Ken

    Calgary


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