WTH is Gnosticism?

In reading Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov (writer of Lolita), my literature class got into a discussion on what gnosticism is. (Read the Wiki on Gnosticism here.)

For almost all of my entire adult life (Which isn’t that long, really. Just trying to make a point here.), I have been trying to get my head around the concept of the Supreme Being. Organized religion seemed to me an inadequate source of information, science was too critical of the Divine’s existence, and all philosophy only showed me that both sides of the existence argument could be true. I settled with being deist, which isn’t really saying much. When I heard about gnosticism, I decided to read about it, hoping, I suppose, to get better answers than I’ve had thus far.

Gnosticism is dualistic, like most belief systems, and takes from Plato’s theory of forms. The primary assumption is that our reality is imperfect and materialistic and through the Divine a person can escape to a more perfect and ethereal reality. To reconcile the imperfection of the world with the supposedly perfect Divine, another assumption is that there must be such a thing as an imperfect god, who only possesses characteristics of the Supreme Being.

One problem I have with this belief system is that it assumes that human perception of reality is perfect. What I mean to say is that just because we perceive the world to be imperfect does not mean it actually is. It is just as likely that it is the receiver of reality that is imperfect as it is that people could just be insisting that our reality is imperfect when it really is. (Has anyone heard of the golden ratio? This, to me, is the simplest and most concrete proof that our world is not without direction and form.)

I am also not comfortable with the term “perfect,” as the word is completely subjective. I do not only mean this in terms of human opinion either. What is imperfect to a man may in fact be perfect to the Divine. If there is indeed a perfect Supreme Being, and we admit to the imperfection of man, then we must also admit that man’s understanding of perfection relative to the Divine’s understanding of perfection must be imperfect as well.

I am not a fan of the notion of an imperfect god either. I think the conception of an imperfect god is contrary to the only earthly value of organized religion. To achieve order in our ephemeral existence, believers must perceive a god that can be feared and revered. The assumption that there is such a thing as an imperfect god removes the necessity of striving for moral perfection in the material world.

These are some of the reasons I can’t accept gnosticism as a belief system. Because of all this celebration of imperfection, the belief itself is imperfect, which simply won’t do.

So I’m back where I started. I still can’t get my head around the concept of the Divine. I’m starting to think it is supposed to be that way.


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