Differences between Gnosticism and Orthodoxy
April 14, 2018 Ben & Diana

It is necessary to clarify a series of points so that we can understand the differences between Gnosticism and Orthodoxy. We could classify the gnostic as “the one who knows,” the one who has knowledge. Orthodox is the one of “right-thinking,” while Catholic literally means “universal.”

We have then two well-defined currents. On one hand, those who recognize as final authority their own Being, who manifests through the direct intimate revelation that each one verifies in the realism of one’s own psyche. On the other hand, we have the other tradition that speaks to us of the transmission that goes from Jesus to the apostles, and from the apostles directly to the different Patriarchs or bishops of Rome, the rest of the bishops, priests and deacons, and from them down to the people.

The Valentinian gnostics accept this last transmission, but they say that in addition to this external or exoteric transmission, there exists an esoteric or internal transmission. Valentinus goes back to Paul, who receives it directly from Jesus Christ in his mystic experiences that he narrates in the Acts of the Apostles and in his letters. As shown in these words from his second letter to Corinthians referring to himself:

“I know a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

As much in the experience on the road to Damascus, as in the other experiences narrated in the letters, Paul affirms the existence of this type of internal revelation that connects the disciple with Christ himself. In this manner, the tradition affirms that exactly as Jesus spoke in parables to all the people, nevertheless, to his disciples He spoke the words of the Kingdom of God. It occurs in the same way at the level of transmission of the teaching afterwards. Jesus himself affirms it in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

“Then, approaching the disciples, they asked Him: ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’

He responded, telling them: ‘Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

For whosoever hath (consciousness), to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.'”

Within the primitive Christian hierarchies, only a few were able to comprehend the immediate magnitude of Christ, while for others it was gradual, and for the many they were left without understanding the full magnitude of the event that was being represented. Among those who understood perfectly the dimension of the change that Christianity meant for the ancient world we find Paul; although not a direct apostle, he incorporates later to Christian Gnosis by way of revelation obtained on the road to Damascus. As we have seen previously, these intimate revelations received by Paul, according to the tradition, are transmitted to his disciple named Theudas, who, after receiving the transmission, raises himself in the revelation, and teaches in Alexandria to a series of characters, among which we find a young man known as Valentinus, whose history we already know.

Therefore, we must comprehend that there are two different religious perspectives: on one hand the gnostics that speak of the knowledge of oneself and of the path of Christic initiation as a means to salvation. On the other hand, the orthodox path, which tells us that Christ already made the sacrifice and that salvation is obtained by believing in him, participating in his church, accepting the authority of the clergy, receiving the sacraments and proclaiming the Apostolic Creed.

This means that, from then on, what it literally means to be a Christian, according to the Orthodoxy, is defined: to accept the doctrine, the ritual, the hierarchy, just as it was delivered; without intimate or esoteric transcendence. Meanwhile, Gnosticism speaks of the occult interpretation of the gospels, of the importance of the transcendent aspect of the sacraments and of the preponderance of revelation.

For the Orthodox, the origin of suffering is sin. Accepting Christ is how sin is eliminated, since he already made the sacrifice. For the gnostics, the root of sin is ignorance, and this generates attachment, desire and suffering. Therefore, obtaining knowledge or Gnosis, you liberate yourself from ignorance, attachment, sin and suffering. To arrive to knowledge of oneself is to vanish any possibility of wrongdoing and therefore, to eliminate any possibility of sinning.

While on one hand a passive type of salvation is established, the Gnostics speak of an active type of salvation. While the Orthodox Church catholicizes or universalizes Christianity, reducing the demand levels so that everybody can be involved; and with that really become a universal church; the Gnostics distinguish according to the levels of comprehension. There exist radical Gnostics that completely exclude from their cults and meetings anyone who does not have enough maturity to comprehend these mysteries. There exist others, such as the Valentinians, who live in the bosom of the Church and accept all levels, giving to every one according to their comprehension.

But in practice, this coexistence had in reality very little future. Let us imagine a bishop from a place where there was a Valentinian school, in theory subjected to the bishop’s authority. A school that supposedly could only study the canonically approved texts, and that should meet where the bishop indicated, and that were able to celebrate the Eucharist only from the bishop’s hands. And let us also imagine that Valentinian group that, in an active or passive form, are telling that bishop that he does not have the Gnosis, that by direct connection with the intimate revelation, they skip over all the hierarchies that enter in contradiction with their intimate experience, except that of the spiritual hierarchy. And, furthermore, that only those who have already begun walking in the levels of revelation, have access to the knowledge of the spiritual hierarchy. It is obvious that, more and more, the two positions are separating. One position offers a superficial, simple, concrete teaching that everybody understands, and where everybody universally feels saved, where everyone can participate without any distinction due to their level of comprehension. That is to say, a religion that is in the image and likeness of the Demiurge. And on the other hand, the Gnostics saying that everybody can participate, but each at their own level, and in that level receiving and delivering. And adding that the one who elevates himself to the revealed knowledge will connect directly with the divinity, with Christ, without going through the earthly hierarchy; a position in the image and likeness of the Intimate Christ.

That implies an absolute danger for an institution that is being born; in addition to giving grounds for any lunatic or mythomaniac to make a peculiar proposal on Christianity, as it occurred in practice with some who deviated. Let us not forget that not all the schools called gnostic really maintained the level of the Christic teaching, others were simply followers of deviated or degenerated individuals. This is a real danger of Gnosticism; hence it is so difficult to institutionalize Gnosis. Here we enter into the difficult balance between liberty and order, which allow us to maintain a pure and balanced vehicle necessary for the institution, provided that those who direct it at all its levels are involved in the intimate process of awakening.

For that reason, where the Valentinian school finally clashed was inside the institutional Catholic hierarchy, because for them the revelation was not accepted if it did not follow the official channels: bishop, priest and deacon. The proof of this is that the institutional church has always persecuted the mystic.

Neither can it be said that in the past all those who were grouped as gnostics really were. For that reason we base ourselves a great deal on the teachings of the Valentinian school, in the first place, because they left recognized initiates with whom the contemporary seeker can connect, who still are found working for humanity, who left texts that have been recovered that are crystal clear about the interior work, demonstrating that those who elaborated them had a deep initiatic knowledge.

Women in the Church

The role of the woman in the Church has always been one of the most controversial points of Christianity, since no one provides convincing reasons as to why a woman cannot hold important positions in the ecclesiastic institution or even participate in an equalitarian relation with man in the liturgical duties. As the V.M. Samael says, a religion without goddesses is half way to being atheism, since the Hebrew word ELOHIM, used in the Bible in relation with the creative divinity means Gods and Goddesses. Obviously, if the creation is sustained by the eternal masculine as the impulsive force, and the eternal feminine as the receptive force, both are necessary to make any creation. And, what is a ritual, if not a creation through the union of certain forces in a concrete space, with the intention of capturing a superior energy that increases the conscious field? Then man and woman, both in equal importance, are indispensable, each one in its role.

Priestesses existed in Egypt, as well as in Greece, Babylon, India and in all the pre-American cultures. It is at least strange, that in the history of Christianity the importance of the woman’s role in the way it is reflected in the texts found in Nag Hammadi, that is to say, at the same level of man, has been erased.

It is obvious that Christianity in the beginning emerges from Judaism, but it is not exclusively developed for Judaism. In opposition with the monotheistic masculine God, which gives grounds to the individual to mold the supremacy of the male in the physical world, a new cult that provides the possibility for women to share as an equal with the masculine element emerges based on the fact that Jesus never discriminated between man and woman.

Let us remember that the Gospel of Philip says:

“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”

The references to God-Mother in the primitive Gnostic texts, as well as to the importance of the feminine disciples in the par excellence gnostic text, the Pistis Sophia, are plentiful. However, toward the end of the second century any active reference to the woman playing important roles within Christianity disappears from any official text. The figure of Jesus’ companion, as well as that of his mother, and even that of those of his most important female disciples among his approximately 60 direct disciples are eclipsed, overshadowed and even missing from the official texts. Those twelve symbolic apostles, which make reference to the domain of the twelve constellations that accompany the Intimate Christ, and that symbolize different parts of the Being, become a dogma of faith that “demonstrates in an irrefutable form” the absence of feminine disciples. And above all, any possible reference to Mary Magdalene as the companion of Jesus disappears.

“… and the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it. They said to him: Why do you love her more than all of us? The Savior answered and said to them: Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”

Gospel of Philip

Let us not forget that according to the Canonical Gospels, after his resurrection, the Christ appears first to Mary Magdalene; although the majority of his apostles do not believe her. This makes her the trustee of a special knowledge that speaks to us of the importance of the eternal feminine in the process of the culmination of the Great Work.

Christianity, like all the teachings of the great masters of humanity, began without distinction of sex or race, and shared all its goods in a community fashion. In it, women found their ancestral role in an equality of conditions with the male; and in this way the new cult expanded. Little by little, the Hebrew tradition was recuperating terrain in the new movement until the Christian institution emerged. Then, all the texts that exalted the woman’s figure and those that insinuated or declared openly that Jesus had a companion disappeared. Including those that gave special importance to God-Mother, like the Gospel of Peace, whose original is found in the Vatican and it is one of the most ancient and beautiful texts about the life and sayings of Jesus that begins talking of the Creation from the point of view of God-Mother.

When towards the end of the II century there was a sufficiently strong control of the institutional church, and with women having been relegated to a secondary plane, in the middle of this political-religious operation that was so cunning; the bases that no woman could play an important decision-making role in church are established. The corresponding additions to the Pauline letters are done with the purpose of justifying “a posteriori” the institutional decisions. This gives origin to what the erudite denominate “pseudo-Pauline letters,” due to their evident differences of style and significance. As an example, the following paragraph from the first letter to the Corinthians:

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak; but must be in submission… as the law says. It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

Also during this time, the heretical groups are set apart due to the fact that in their meetings women participate in an active form, they speak, they work in an equalitarian level with men, they participate in the liturgical duties, etc. The single fact that a congregation functions in terms of equality means that we are before a “heretical” group.

This is the orthodox mentality, never that of Gnosticism. So, we see the following recommendation in Tertullian:

“It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, nor is it permitted for her to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer the Eucharist, nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine function – not to mention any priestly office.”

According to these theories, the tradition of Jesus and the apostles indicates that they were all men, and therefore, the woman should always remain in a secondary role, although Jesus had never manifested anything to this respect.

It is a very simple method: first manipulate history as it suits and later be shielded by it to promulgate laws and important decisions. Eliminate from the texts all the material that can endanger the “institutional” ideas and later declare them heretical; this way it can be affirmed that the ideas that the Orthodoxy sustains are in accord with the essential truth. A tenebrous game that finally gave its fruits.

Once the woman was controlled and subdued, a significant change of direction is produced, the strengthening of the Marian cults in their eagerness to universalize the church. It is obvious that any religion of that time that wanted to spread through the Mediterranean could not forget that the cultures of that area have adored in its entirety the eternal feminine in her different forms. Isis, Demeter, Proserpina, Insoberta, Diana, Cibeles, Venus, Aphrodite, Ceres, Ishtar, etc. form part of the collective unconscious of those people. Thus, the Church attempts to syncretize the spiritual yearnings, of the people of that area, in relation with this eternal principle of creation, in a feminine figure. Finally, the Church achieved it by strengthening the figure of Mary, the mother of Jesus—that great Hebrew initiate—granting her the characteristics of these goddesses of the feminine cults; and even, placing Marian sanctuaries where primitive cults to this great cosmic principle previously existed. In this manner we understand how in a religion in which the figure of Mary is so important, we do not find any woman in important institutional positions; and furthermore women are prohibited to practice as priestesses of the Christian cult. Obviously, this did not occur in the Gnostic circles, and that was another reason for their persecution and disappearance.

For that reason, the cult to Mary is a belated cult in relation to other religious archetypes of Christianity; since to strengthen that image too soon would have meant not only a justification to give preponderance to the woman inside the institution, but also the possibility of confusing the rising religion with the ancient cult mysteries19. Hence, first Christianity is expanded (for which the woman is indispensable), later women are subdued; and finally the Marian cult strengthens to assimilate the rest of the dispersed cults of the Mediterranean coast. This strategy gave its fruits to the point that even the names and attributes of those ancient deities were assimilated to a certain virgin of the many that Christianity has. A complete analysis of this exceeds the characteristics of this study, but many wise authors have already talked about it.

In this manner, the Marian cult spread with great force until becoming, in a transcendental way, part of Catholicism. To ignore the importance of this cult, as many sects that emerged from the root of the Reformation do, demonstrates a profound ignorance of the process of creation of the internal and external Universe in relation with the eternal feminine and its powers and attributes, which is indispensable for any religious postulate of a solar and serpentine type.

As the Gospel of Mary Magdalene in a masterful manner shows us, the root of all things lies in the seed, and it is always gestated in the bosom of Mother Nature. There the Savior reveals one of the biggest mysteries of human nature; one that due to the intolerance of the Roman Church has been taken away from its parishioners and substituted with dogmas and external cults.

“All natures, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The original Spanish word is “mistericos.”

Marvelous is the mystery of all the Marys; hardly intuited by a religion that has fragmented, diluted and manipulated the cult to the eternal feminine.