Thursday, 14 November 2013

Valentinian Gnosticism and Classical Samkhya : A Thematic and Structural comparison

Just past year I posted a post titled "Who is our true God and what is our true religion?" where I had tried to explain the astonishing similarities between Valentinianism and the other Indian traditions especially the Samkhya philosophical system. Well, even the church fathers knew that Valentinus had tried to amalgamate oriental speculations about the divine of the most fantastic kind into Christianity.

It seems I wasn't alone in trying to know as to how did Paul and the Paulinists had come up with a soteriology exactly identical to the highest esoteric interpretation of the Indian traditional philosophical systems. It seems scholars of the past decades were very much aware of this problem which is an unsolved mystery to this day.

Valentinian Gnosticism and Classical Sāṃkhya: A Thematic and Structural Comparison

Stephen A. Kent, 1980
Philosophy East and West 

This problem or mystery has been burning in my heart since the time I acquainted myself with the Pauline letters and after some research I have reached the conclusion that the mystery is not with Valentinus or Basilides neither with Saint Paul. The mystery is with Christ himself. Who is Christ? Is he one among the Aeons in the Pleroma? Was he sent by Yahweh or Abraxas?
"Afterwards broke out the heretic Basilides. He affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, by whom was created Mind, which in Greek he calls Νοῦς; that thence sprang the Word; that of Him issued Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom; that out of these subsequently were made Principalities, powers, and Angels; that there ensued infinite issues and processions of angels; that by these angels 365 heavens were formed, and the world, in honour of Abraxas, whose name, if computed, has in itself this number. Now, among the last of the angels, those who made this world, he places the God of the Jews latest, that is, the God of the Law and of the Prophets, whom he denies to be a God, but affirms to be an angel. To him, he says, was allotted the seed of Abraham, and accordingly he it was who transferred the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt into the land of Canaan; affirming him to be turbulent above the other angels, and accordingly given to the frequent arousing of seditions and wars, yes, and the shedding of human blood. Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies."

“From the unbegotten Father, Nous was engendered first; from Nous was engendered the Logos; from the Logos, Phronesis; from Phronesis, Sophia; from Sophia and Dynamos [were engendered] the Virtues, the Powers and the Angels whom he named the first ones, and it was from them that the first heaven was created. From these angels came other angels who made a second heaven similar to the first. From these angels came [still] others, in their turn and in the same fashion, in the image of the superior angels, and these angels formed a third heaven. From this third heaven was born a fourth, and thus there followed, in an analogous fashion, the Princes, Angels and 365 heavens. It is from this number of heavens that the year has 365 days. The last heaven, the one that we see, is filled by the angels who made everything that is in the world. They shared among them the earth and all the people who are on it. Their leader is the God of the Jews. This last one, because he wanted the other people to be subjected to his people, that is to say, to the Jews, the other princes raised themselves up against him and paralyzed his plans. This was why the other people were animated by hostile sentiments with respect to his people. But having seen their corruption, the unbegotten and innumerable Father sent his unique Son, Nous, who is called Christ, to deliver those who believe in him from the domination of those who made the world. He manifested himself to their people as a man on the earth and accomplished the powers. But it wasn’t he who suffered; it was a certain Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry his cross to its place. He was crucified by error and unconsciously, after which he was changed by Jesus so that he would be taken for him. Jesus took the form of Simon and mocked them, because he remained nearby. He was the incorporeal power and the unbegotten Nous; this is why he was able to transform himself at will, and he thus returned to the one who had sent him, mocking those who had not been able to keep him, and he was invisible to all. Those who knew this were delivered from the Prince and Creator of this world. It isn’t the crucified to whom one must confess, but he who was crucified in appearance, that is to say, Jesus, who had been sent by the Father to, by this action, destroy the works of those who had made the world. Thus the one who confesses to the crucified man is a slave to the power of those who created the world of bodies; on the contrary, the others are free; they know how the unbegotten Father had spared them all. But redemption is only extended to the soul, because the body can only dissolve itself in conformity with its nature. . . . Likewise, the prophecies came from their leaders who made the world, the Law, in particular, from the one who brought the people out of Egypt. Sacrifices to the gods had to be scorned and held as nothing, but they took part in them without scruple; likewise they were not bothered by any action or the exercise of any sensual pleasure. They likewise practiced magic, the evocation of ghosts and all of the other magic tricks; they invented all sorts of names for angels, and put some in the first heaven and some in the second, and they applied themselves to distinguishing the names, principles, angels and powers of their (...) 365 heavens. It was thus, for example, that the world to which the Savior descended and from which he ascended was called Kaulakau. The one who knew all the angels and their origin became invisible and ungraspable to all the angels and the powers, in the manner of Kaulakau. Just as the Christ was unknown to all, they must not be recognized by anyone, they are invisible and unknowable to all, whereas they know all the beings and can cross them all. ‘You know all, but no one knows you!’ – such is their formula [...] Few people are capable of this knowledge, one in a thousand, ten in ten thousand. They are no longer Jews, they say, and not even Christians. It is forbidden to reveal their secrets; one must keep them in silence. They determined the site of the 365 heavens as if they were mathematicians. They borrowed their theories and applied them to the particular requirements of their doctrine. Their leader is Abraxas; the numeric value of the letters of this name is 365.”[7] 
          - Ireneaus

Purusha and Prakrithi reside in the Agnishoma Mandala or the Pleroma and the master of this Mandala is Savithru (the unbegotten Father) which the philosophers of Samkhya didn't knew. If seen in this light both Valentinianism and the Vedantic systems is essentially monistic in nature so much so that they both teach us to go beyond the Father to know the unity or Brahman.

My position is quite clear in this issue that both Paul and the Indian seers had true revelations of the divine and that they both came up with an identical soteriology almost independent of another. 

"It is reasonable to agree that when there is a core agreement in the religious experiences of people in different times, places, and traditions, and when they have the same rational interpretations of the experiences; it makes sense to conclude that they are all in contact with some objective aspect of reality, unless there is positive evidence otherwise."