Gnosticism
Gnosticism developed alongside Judeo-Christianity over two thousand years ago, but with an important difference: It emphasizes, not faith, but direct perception of God--Gnosticism being derived from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge." Given the controversial premise that one can know God directly, the history of Gnosticism is an unfolding drama of passion, political intrigue, martyrdom, and mystery. Dr. Hoeller traces this fascinating story throughout time and shows how Gnosticism has inspired such great thinkers as Voltaire, Blake, Yeats, Hesse, Melville, and Jung.

Gnosticism Details

TitleGnosticism
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 1st, 2002
PublisherQuest Books
ISBN-139780835608169
Rating
GenreReligion, Gnosticism, Spirituality, Christianity, History, Philosophy, Nonfiction, Fantasy, Mythology, Metaphysics, Psychology

Gnosticism Review

  • Christine Pugh
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to like this book, I really did. Hoeller explains at the beginning that this will not be a book for "experts" or theologians; instead it is a book for the educated, intelligent, but not professional individual. I understand that the book is not a work of academic scholarship, but throughout its pages, it purports to be informed by the latest developments in scholarship. With an undergraduate degree in religious studies, I am not the target audience of this book. I thought I understood t I wanted to like this book, I really did. Hoeller explains at the beginning that this will not be a book for "experts" or theologians; instead it is a book for the educated, intelligent, but not professional individual. I understand that the book is not a work of academic scholarship, but throughout its pages, it purports to be informed by the latest developments in scholarship. With an undergraduate degree in religious studies, I am not the target audience of this book. I thought I understood this going in, and was limited by what my public library made available. I had hoped this book would be a relatively evenhanded look at a misunderstood tradition. I have read some of the early Church Fathers' (such as Irenaeus') diatribes against Gnosticism and was looking for some less biased information. Instead, what I seem to have gotten is a diatribe against the orthodox Christian church, the modern world, and earth based religions. Hoeller's book seems to attempt to serve as a Gnostic recruitment tool.The book started off promisingly, but this may have been because I am not well versed in classical Gnosticism and cannot tell whether or not the author's descriptions are accurate. I started to worry when he described the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls, with which I am somewhat familiar, as "Gnostic" in nature, but as this was only mentioned briefly, I decided to ignore it. I was comfortable with Hoeller's treatment of the early Church Fathers because I've some of the more famous heresiologists, and understand that the information they gave about Gnosticism is incredibly biased and based on their particular, orthodox perspective. I was, however, uncomfortable with Hoeller's explanations of what "the true" Gnostic teachings were. Frankly, if you're going to spend half a book protesting that the Church Fathers are wrong, you need to be able to back up these claims with your own evidence. I found that Hoeller called into question the motives of detractors without defending the early Gnostics themselves. For example, Irenaeus argues that according to the school of Carpocrates, human souls are reincarnated again and again, until they have pased through every kind of activity and condition. The followers of Carpocrates believe they can conclude this process in only one lifetime. From this teaching, Irenaeus argued that since to be liberated, one had to pass through all possible experiences, the followers of Carpocrates had to commit all manner of heinous acts, including sexual deviancy. Irenaeus didn't actually believe the Carpocratians actually did these hienous things, but he thought that, according to their own teachings, they "should" (Hoeller, p. 103-104). Instead of offering a different exegesis of the teaching and text in question, Hoeller insults both Irenaeus' interpretation and his motives. I understand that Irenaeus was out to discredit the Gnostics, now tell me how the Carpocratians interpreted this teaching.Some of Hoeller's early history and mythology seems to be accurate, or at least I cannot tell whether it is inaccurate or not, but when he comes to the modern era, his complete lack of rigor, evidence or balance made me put the book down. I cannot take seriously an academic who raves about H.P. Blavatsky's wonderful contributions to Western spirituality without mentioning her many detractors, petty squabbles, and questionable practices. I have read Blavatsky. I have studied (academically) Theosophy. I have also read the many histories that assert Blavatsky's autobiography is invented, and that she was caught red handed writing and placing messages from the "Tibetan Masters" who ave supposedly ascended to a higher plane of being. This is a controversial figure whom Hoeller gives 3 pages of glowing praise and absolutely no context. I realize the book is not about Blavatsky, but if Hoeller gets so many things wrong, or at least twisted, in these three pages, what does he leave out in the rest of the book? How does he misinform the reader in the other 220 pages?This book is indeed a sympathetic introduction to Gnostic teachings, emphasis on the sympathetic. If you're interested in converting, and don't mind the complete lack of critical analysis or scholarly rigor, this may be the book for you. If you're looking for something more balanced, however, give this book a pass.
    more
  • Colleen
    January 1, 1970
    On one hand, this book was precisely what I wanted: it is a quick and easy read, and it lays out many of the tenets of the Gnostic faith, presented within a strong framework of history. After reading it, I feel qualified to discuss Gnosticism with other individuals on the basis of what Gnostics believe, how they view the world, their sacred texts, and their method of living. It also fulfilled my primary purpose of researching Gnosticism: I now know enough to play with the basic precepts to use t On one hand, this book was precisely what I wanted: it is a quick and easy read, and it lays out many of the tenets of the Gnostic faith, presented within a strong framework of history. After reading it, I feel qualified to discuss Gnosticism with other individuals on the basis of what Gnostics believe, how they view the world, their sacred texts, and their method of living. It also fulfilled my primary purpose of researching Gnosticism: I now know enough to play with the basic precepts to use the ideas and forms presented in a fictional world if I so choose. On the other, this book fails to be a good, objective view on the subject. I will grant that books on religion written by practitioners of that religion are unequivicably biased. But maybe Bart Ehrman raised the bar for me in what I expect from critical religious literature. There were many assumptions in the text that were faulty, either due to poor research, or a desire to oversimplify the world. In Hoeller's book, there are only three paths being pursued in today's world: the Judeo-Christian-Muslum monotheistic outlook, the elevation of science and technology to a religion, or a New-Age jumble of philosophies dressed in ritual that lack discipline. As an adherent of none of these, I found his regular - and voiciferous - condemnation of such philosophies to be tiring. It also made some basic assumptions about Christianity that are false - such as the fact that Christianity as a whole believes in "original sin," or that everyone interprets the creation story of Genesis in the same way. Since Hoeller does mention a Mormon scholar at one point, one must wonder how he is so ignorant of the breadth of practices and beliefs present in those who proclaim to follow Christ. Indeed, half of this book read as a diatribe against the early Catholic Church and the writers like Iraeneus who penned tractates against the Gnostics in the first two centuries A.D. In that way, it is no better than those who did it the disservice in the first place. The other half of the book reads as a diatribe against "modernism," "rationalism," and other such philosophies. The true nuggets are in the middle of the book where Hoeller briefly relates the tale of the creation of the universe through the fall and redemption of Sophia, and the view of the role and nature of Jesus. However, this is weakened by the bookends of diatribe and condemnation that open and close the work.
    more
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    Dr Hoeller explains the basic tennets of the modern Gnostic movement with reference to the historical Gnostics. Much of what is known about Gnosticism is through stories, myths, and criticism which can make explaining the tradition a bit difficult. In a nation founded on Orthodox Christian beliefs, shifting your viewpoint to understand the Gnostic world view can be hard. Dr Hoeller does a decent job showing this worldview, though I found his approach a little haphazard. Many of the chapters can Dr Hoeller explains the basic tennets of the modern Gnostic movement with reference to the historical Gnostics. Much of what is known about Gnosticism is through stories, myths, and criticism which can make explaining the tradition a bit difficult. In a nation founded on Orthodox Christian beliefs, shifting your viewpoint to understand the Gnostic world view can be hard. Dr Hoeller does a decent job showing this worldview, though I found his approach a little haphazard. Many of the chapters can be read stand alone as they don't form a consistent and building viewpoint. I especially enjoy the Gnostic Adam and Eve myth which seems more reasoned and less accusatory. I consider myself a Gnostic and have for many years; with that in mind I think this is a good starting point for someone checking out Gnosticism for the first time, but definitely not an authoratative voice for the whole of the religion.
    more
  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    Now I know a lot more about these mystic Christians whose beliefs the early church fathers found so upsetting. One does not find salvation through faith said the Gnostics, but through the knowledge of one’s true identity, the knowledge that one is a divine spark separated from the cosmic consciousness otherwise known as God. Jesus was not sent to die for our sins, but to show us the means by which we can rejoin that consciousness. The author also provides an overview of the complex mythology of Now I know a lot more about these mystic Christians whose beliefs the early church fathers found so upsetting. One does not find salvation through faith said the Gnostics, but through the knowledge of one’s true identity, the knowledge that one is a divine spark separated from the cosmic consciousness otherwise known as God. Jesus was not sent to die for our sins, but to show us the means by which we can rejoin that consciousness. The author also provides an overview of the complex mythology of the Gnostics which, according to the author, should be viewed through the lens of depth psychology as well as theology. Overall, a very interesting and readable book.
    more
  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    By no means is this a book for theologians. Neither do you have to be of a 'religious' disposition to find this book insightful. A fantastic introduction to this, often misunderstood, sect of Christianity. It provides information on theological origins, its evolution throughout the changes in history, right up to how it has influenced many well known philosophers, psychologists and writers of fiction. Easy to follow and understand, the only downside is a rather preachy last chapter, albeit short By no means is this a book for theologians. Neither do you have to be of a 'religious' disposition to find this book insightful. A fantastic introduction to this, often misunderstood, sect of Christianity. It provides information on theological origins, its evolution throughout the changes in history, right up to how it has influenced many well known philosophers, psychologists and writers of fiction. Easy to follow and understand, the only downside is a rather preachy last chapter, albeit short.
    more
  • Ryan
    January 1, 1970
    A thorough introduction to the history and thought of Gnosticism. Well written and easily read, Hoeller’s book explores the major mythological teachings of the ancient wisdom tradition, the Gnostic Christ, Sophia, and a historical overview of Gnostic movements (Manichaeans, Mandeans, Cathers). But the best part of this quick and concise introduction is the glossary of terms and suggested reading at the end of the book. This helps any neophyte continue his or her study of the Gnostic tradition.
    more
  • Anjoo
    January 1, 1970
    A rather nice primer regarding the nature and history of Gnosticism. Hoeller's prose is very easily readable and explains the more central beliefs and tenants of the religious tradition rather well, containing quotations from many sacred texts. The further reading section also contains a wealth of extremely worthwhile books on Gnosticism.
    more
  • Manuel Vega
    January 1, 1970
    You may resignate or not with Gnosticism, but this book is as clear as it can be about it. I didn't feel any proselytizing attitude, on the contrary; a very honest exposition of this spiritual path that removes many of the prejudices we may have about it.
    more
  • Greg
    January 1, 1970
    He doesn't paint a clear enough picture to call it an introduction to Gnosticism and he doesn't go very deep. Wikipedia does a better job because you can follow hyperlinks to get more info.
  • Arthur George
    January 1, 1970
    The author is overly inclined to equate ancient Gnosticism with too many other spiritual traditions including his own form of contemporary Gnosticism and does not acknowledge the differences between them, but he has many other valuable insights that redeem the book and make it a very worthwhile read. He also does not cite to the passages in the ancient Gnostic texts that he is talking about, which is frustrating when you are doing research.
    more
  • Ralitsa Mitova
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 rating
  • GilianB
    January 1, 1970
    This book provides a good general introduction to Gnosticism. The author is very fond of the religious thought provided by Gnosticism, which might distort a more objective view.
  • Madeleine
    January 1, 1970
    Heady, insightful and properly eye-opening. I'll have more to say once I've digested this a bit because, while blessedly accessible, the amount and variety of information presented here is tremendous. It did reaffirm that Gnosticism appeals to me far more than mainstream Christianity, as well as my suspicion that a lot of people who read and reviewed this book did so neither carefully nor with open minds.
    more
  • Matte
    January 1, 1970
    The least known heretics the Gnostics! A great introduction to the world of Gnosticism! I would recommend this book for anyone interested in judeo-Christian theology or have an inclination with more esoteric theology like hermeticism and Kabbalah. Who has Jesus? Well the Gnostics had a very different view than the orthodox Christians
    more
  • Chelsea Jennings
    January 1, 1970
    I thought this book was very informative and I did not find it to "bash" Catholicism or Christianity in any way as some other reviewers stated. It outlined some differences, but differences are not insults.
  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    Hoeller seems to keep writing the same introductory book to Gnosticism over and over again...at least each time he seems to get better. This book is probably the best overall introduction I've read and goes a long way to "standardizing" a definition of Gnosticism (if such a thing is possible).
    more
  • James
    January 1, 1970
    Despite the revisionist history, this is a good introduction to Gnosticism written by a gnostic. The author’s bias against traditional Christianity is evident throughout. I wish more time was given to gnostic thought and cosmology rather than just pushing Gnosticism.
    more
  • Shawn Minihan
    January 1, 1970
    Great introduction to Gnosticism.
  • William Jones
    January 1, 1970
    Truly an an awesome introduction for those new to my noble religion..
  • Jeff
    January 1, 1970
    This was a very good introduction to the Christian mystical tradition for me. It gave me a whole new perspective on Christianity.
  • Elizabeth Eiler
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant!
  • Doug Luberts
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent overview of the topic, basic literature, traditions and resources.
  • Eliza Anna
    January 1, 1970
    NOTHING
  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    Without overstepping boundaries, as many of the hallowed 20th Century Gnostic "scholars", this book gives a great intro to Gnosticism. Great reading list in the back as well.
  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyed his book, The Gnostic Jung, more.
Write a review