Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gnostic Apocalypse

O'Regan argues that the mystic Jakob Boehme is the site where Gnosticism returns to the modern world. He briefly explains ancient (Valentinian) Gnosticism and explores possible influences which mediated its return through Boehme.

O’Regan suggests that “narrative” unites ancient Gnosis and modern pneumatic forms of religious thought (12-13). There could be something to this. If this works, then one can see a connection between ancient Gnosticism, neo-Platonism, medieval mysticism, and post-Renaissance magic. Key to O'Regan's thesis is the six-stage outlining of Gnosticism and finding parallels in Boehme. I'll briefly summarize the six stages rather than listing all of them: a primordial fall from divine perfection and such fall is usually seen as embodiment. The salvation is the divine Gnosis rescuing one from embodiment.

Boehme's Trinitarianism is more of a Quaternity. First there is a non-principle (Unground--hyperousia, uberwesen), God exists first as undifferentiated substratum, then becomes the three principles. This is a cipher for the divine that is beyond being (69). Transcends knowing and is encountered only in “unknowing” (70). Standard mysticism, whether pagan or Christian.

There is a fascinating section on the Kabbalah's influence on Jakob Boehme. O'Regan neatly suggests that the En Sof of Kabbalah is the same as the Unground of German Idealism. I would take it a step further: it is the same as Hyper-Ousia of Christian Neo-Platonism.


I think O’Regan overplays the issue of how much Valentinianism specifically influenced Boehme and whether Boehme is the decisive influence on Hegel. At the end of the day this is a difference of degree, not kind. The question is whether modern Gnosticism is a direct descendant of ancient Gnosticism. It’s an interesting genealogy but ultimately irrelevant. I think a strong correlation actually exists and would even be prepared to argue as much. Still, the worse elements of both systems are equally present.

O’Regan suggests that reality's manifestation in being is a form of speech (220 n.34). I disagree. Manifestation is a movement from inward to outward; speech is something that happens extra nos

No comments:

Post a Comment