This course will examine, via the writings of Georges Bataille, Ioan Couliano, Gershom Scholem, Elaine Pagels, Hans Jonas, Harold Bloom, Philip K. Dick and Eric Voegelin the contemporary meaning of Gnosticism as a theory of knowledge. This five-day course will examine the core gnostic concepts and approaches, including dualism, Sophia, the demiurge, logos and aeon. It will ultimately aim to provide students with the ability to see how gnostic ideas have permeated our contemporary culture, even, or especially, when we believe we live in secular times.
Reading marked with an asterisk is primary, but try to read as many of the texts as possible for the full experience!
Day 1: What is Gnosticism?
- *Ioan P. Couliano, ‘Chapter 2: Myths about Gnosticism: An Introduction’, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, translated by H. S. Wiesner and the author (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 50-69
- *Kurt Rudolph, ‘THE SOURCES’, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, translation edited by Robert McLachlan Wilson (New York: HarperCollins, 1987 ), pp. 9-52
- Henry Corbin, ‘The Dramatic Element Common to the Gnostic Cosmogonies of the Religions of the Book’, Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 14, Nos. 3 & 4 (Summer-Autumn, 1980), pp. 199-221.
- Michael Allen Williams, Introduction & ‘Chapter 1 What Kind of Thing Do Scholars Mean by “Gnosticism”? A LOOK AT FOUR CASES’, Rethinking “Gnosticism”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 3-28
Day 2: Gnostic Texts
- ‘Gospel of Truth’ (possibly Greek between 140-180 by Valentinian Gnostics/possibly Valentinus), The Nag Hammadi Library, by Harold W. Attridge and George W. MacRae, available here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospeltruth-attridge.html
- *‘The Thunder, Perfect Mind’, The Nag Hammadi Library, translated by George W. MacRae available here: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/thunder.html
- ‘Thunder Perfect Mind’ by Current 93 (1992), available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uid_zeWokw0
- and the sister album ‘Thunder Perfect Mind’ by Nurse With Wound (1991), available here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kQzaFE8eMgPP4TuWNrQ1yg6Q7Mlazf88w)
- *Elaine Pagels, Introduction, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Vintage Books, 1989 ), pp. xiii-xxxvi)
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies (Greek, c. 180), translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1., Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
- *Chapter 1, available here: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103101.htm
- *Chapter 2, available here: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103102.htm
- Chapter 3, available here: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103103.htm
- Chapter 4, available here: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103104.htm
- Chapter 5, available here: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103105.htm
Day 3: The Meaning of Gnosticism
- *Hans Jonas, Prefaces & ‘Part 1: Gnostic Literature – Main Tenets, Symbolic Language, Chapter 2: The Meaning of Gnosis and the Extent of the Gnostic Movement’, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, second edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963 ), pp. xiii-xx & pp. 31-47
- *Georges Bataille, ‘Base Materialism and Gnosticism’ (1930), The Bataille Reader, edited by Fred Botting and Scott Wilson (London: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 160-164
- Gershom G. Scholem, ‘Chapter IX, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GNOSTIC AND JEWISH SOURCES. JEWISH SOURCES ON THE OGDOAS. YALDABAOTH AND ARIEL. ELIJAH AND LILITH’, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition, Second Edition (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1965 ), pp. 65-74
- *Ioan P. Couliano, ‘Chapter 11: Modern Nihilism’, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, translated by H. S. Wiesner and the author (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 249-266
- Ioan P. Couliano, ‘Chapter 10: The Tree of Gnosis’, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, translated by H. S. Wiesner and the author (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 239-248
Day 4: Gnosticism and Politics
- *Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago & London, The University of Chicago Press, 1974 ).
- *Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two Essays (Washington D.C., Gateway Editions, 1997 )
- Harold Bloom, ‘Chapter V: Millennium’, Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, And Resurrection (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996), pp. 217-230
Day 5: Gnosticism and Culture
- Philip K. Dick, Extracts, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, Edited by Pamela Jackson & Jonathan Letham (London: Gollancz, 2011)
- Mark Shiffman, ‘Humanity 4.5’, First Things, November 2015, available here: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/11/humanity-45
- Michael Kaler, Kaler, ‘Neo-Gnosticism at the Movies’, Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 22: Issue 3, Article 11, 2018.
- Mary Harrington, ‘Welcome to Fully Automated Luxury Gnosticism’, UnHerd, September 23rd 2021, available here: https://unherd.com/2021/09/welcome-to-fully-automated-luxury-gnosticism/