The Demuirgos in Gnosticism

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Gnostic mythologies and cosmologies relating the origin of creation are many and diverse, and typically speaking, they are quite complex and esoteric in nature. Gr.ostics are not so much seeking to communicate their mysteries to the average man or woman on the street. Rather, they are speaking to the elect, to those who have the spark of the fieiy intelligence in them, who hear a "call" to the mystical journey of enlightenment and liberation. The mythology and cosmology of a Gnos • school and the metaphysical teachings they communicate are for initiates and are meant to support a process of initiation. Oral teachings accompany whatever might be written, and adepts and masters of Gnostic traditions are able to transmit something of their spiritual experience to others, or are able to facilitate a shared experience, and thus to communicate something that is beyond words. Apart from the oral teachings of a lineage and the shared experience of initiation, it can prove veiy difficult to fully understand the symbolic language of a Gnostic tradition.

This becomes quite obvious in a study of the Nag Hainmadi librarv and much of the modern scholarship seeking to interpret the actual meaning of tre Gnostic texts that are in it. Much that is written on Gnosticism today is from the perspective of the outsider, yet these texts were intended for insiders. Thus, the reader of Gnostic texts swiftly finds him or herself struggling to understand exactly what the texts are saying and meaning, and the modern scholar struggles to interpret meanings apart from the spiritual or mystical experience of those who wrote the texts. In a large part it is a guessing game of speculation and theory, especially since most of the ancient Gnostic traditions no longer have living adepts and masters and therefore no longer exist as living lineages. Apart from a living lineage of initiates, it is very difficult to say exactly what the mythologies, cosmologies, and metaphysical- teachings of a Gnostic tradition actually mean, for it is all founded upon gnosis, which is to say a current of direct spiritual or mystical experience. Although this gnosis is individual, as any initiate of a living tradition can tell you, it is also something shared collectively among the initiates of a given tradition and serves as a common ground between them.

Again and again, in any exploration of Gnosticism, one must remember that the Gnostic is not asking us to believe in a creed and doctrine, akin to the way of institutionalized religions with which we are familiar, but rather is inviting us into a shared experience of the mystical journey. The Gnostic is speaking from his or her own experience, and a given Gnostic tradition is relating the shared experience of a lineage of Gnostic initiates. If what the Gnostics are attempting to communicate sounds outlandish or strange at times most likely we simply lack the experience they are relating through their mystical and symbolic language. In the end, we are not supposed to take their word ror it. We are meant to enter into the experience ourselves, to look and see and listen and hear, in the Spirit—hence, to seek the affirmation of Gnostic teachings in our own experience.

Common to all authentic Gnostic schools are teachings on the demiurgos and archons. However, exactly what the demiurgos and ar-chons are in the symbolic and mystical language of the various Gn:<-tic traditions can be very different from one tradition to another. T ie word demiurgos means "the creator of the world," "false creator," or "false god." Archons mean "rulers" and indicate spiritual or cosmic forces associated with the demiurgos. This is generally true from one Gnostic tradition to another,- yet the deeper meaning and teachings on the origin and nature of the demiurgos can be radically different.

Previously we pointed out how some schools view the demiurgos quite literally as the God of the Old Testament, while others do not view Yahweh as the demiurgos at all. These very different views, of course, lead to two very different relationships with the books that form the Old Testament, and they also represent two very different views and relationships with the material world. Those Gnostic schools that speak of the demiurgos as the God of the Old Testament tend to take a veiy dim view of this world, arid generally speak of this world as completely dark and evil—hence the more radical dualism of some Gnostic traditions. Those that do not consider the God of the Old Testament as the demiurgos take a less severe view oi this world and the natural order, though their view of unenlightened society and the establishments it en genders can certainly be somewhat severe. What both trends in Gnosticism will tend to agree upon, much like Buddhism, is the perspective of the great sorrow and suffering inherent in this life and the need for liberation of the soul from its bondage. In terms of the demiurgos, all Gnostic schools would generally agree that by "demiurgos" they me3n the cause of our sorrow and suffering, and that to which the soul is bound until enlightened and liberated.

It is this that determines the meaning of salvation and Savior in Gnosticism. Salvation in Gnosticism is liberation of the soul from its bondage to the dominion of the demiurgos and archons, and the Savior is the one who reveals the path to enlightenment -nosis) through which the soul is set free. Given the Gnostic view of salvation through gnosis rather than faith alone, and the implication of gnosis as the Opposite of ignorance or as the dispelling of ignorance, it is safe to say that the demiurgos fundamentally personifies cosmic ignorance in all Gnostic schools. In general, all Gnosticism points to cosmic ignorance as the cause of our sorrow and suffering and represents a process by which a state of divine illumination might be acquired, through which ignorance may be negated. This is certainly true of Sophian Gnosticism, which speaks quite clearly of ignorance and the states of admixture and relative evil that -. gives rise to.

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