Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two Reviews of The Gnostic

Two excellent online reviews of The Gnostics: History * Traditions * Scriptures * Influence (even now I can't remember the order of words in the subtitle and have to look it up.)

One on amazon.co.uk

4.0 out of 5 stars Early Christian ideas of God and Creation, 2 Sep 2009
By Dr. H. A. Jones (Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
The Gnostics: History, Tradition, Scriptures, Influence by Andrew Phillip Smith, Watkins Publishing, London, 2008, 256 ff.

Early Christian ideas of God and Creation
By Howard A. Jones

Although ideas of gnosis - individual experience of the divine - date back to ancient Egypt and the Jewish Kabbalah, the 2nd and 3rd century Gnostics brought Christ into the picture, but not in a way acceptable to the Church so became one of many Christian heresies in the early centuries of Christianity. To the Gnostics, Christ is an emissary of God, not the incarnation, and the deity itself is a demiurge who created an imperfect and perverted material world. Salvation would come to those who had spiritual knowledge or gnosis of God. If Gnostic stories seem somewhat fanciful it is because they regarded myth `as being the best vehicle for expressing their insights into mankind and the universe.' Gnostic mythology is the focus of chapter one.

There were many sects of Gnostics, the best known founded by Basilides, Marcion, Simon Magus and Valentinus, differing somewhat in beliefs and practices: all are explained in chapter two. The next chapters deal with Gnostic interpretation of the Bible and the mantra of their philosophy, `as above, so below', which is found ubiquitously in contemporary books on spirituality and the Lord's Prayer: `Thy Will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven'. The rituals and beliefs of the Gnostics comprise chapter 5 and, in subsequent chapters, we learn about the origins of Gnosticism, the Manicheans, the Cathars and the Mandeans.

The final chapter in the book is about the revival of Gnosticism after the Reformation, due in no small measure to the publication of the Hermetica - writings attributed to the (probably fictional) `prophet' Hermes Trismegistus, a fusion of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.

The book is very readable and informative: its author has written several books on Gnosticism and early Christianity and now edits The Gnostic magazine. This book more than adequately fulfils its role as an introduction to the ideas of Gnosticism.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.

Another on New Consciousness Review

According to the ancient Gnostics—the early Christians who wrote such controversial texts as the recently discovered Gospel of Judas—we are all capable of gnosis, or direct knowledge of the true reality that lies behind the material world. Andrew Phillip Smith, author of respected works on the lost sayings of Jesus, the Gospel of Philip, and other Gnostic subjects, now offers a highly accessible layman’s introduction to this long-suppressed philosophy that offers an intriguing alternative to accepted Christian beliefs. With references to The Da Vinci Code, The Matrix, and other fictions inspired by the Gnostic worldview, this is an eye-opening, and possibly life-changing book meant to revive forgotten traditions, and perhaps even allow readers to experience gnosis themselves.

I notice that my last blog entry was back in July. I'm toying with the idea of closing this blog and starting a new more general blog, which could include Gnostic musings, author news, Bardic Press news, and whatever bits and pieces are going on in my life or interesting me.

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