Just five days till show time!!
I mentioned the book "Gnostic Philosophies" by Tobias Churton in a previous post. The passion of the author for the subject is refreshing. However, I think the emphasis is more on the history of Gnosticism rather than philosophy, per se. Another book I think, captures more of the soul (and therefore the philosophy) of Gnosticism. That book is "Jesus and the Lost Goddess" by Freke and Gandy.
I am simply amazed by how many books there are in print on the subject of Templars. Tobias Churton has a separate book on the Templars and has even founded an organization devoted to Templar/Freemason history and particularly the Gnostic legacy in the Templar/Freemason movement. I haven't read this book yet.
I do have a copy of "The Templars and the Assassins" by James Wassserman. This book gets beyond the typical bias against Arab culture, and shows that a main objective of the Templars was to learn as much as possible from contemporary Arab wisdom societies. It now seems very likely that the Templars were compelled to seek out these Arab and other Eastern societies due to their roots in French Catharism, which in turn came from the East.
I picked up another book recently called "Guardians of the Holy Grail" by Mark Amaru Pinkham. I enjoyed a previous book of his titled "The Return of the Serpents of Wisdom". He too has established a Neo-Templar/Freemason organization. I'm beginning to wade through the book, but I have to say I was taken aback by the hardcore reincarnation emphasis at the beginning.
My present thinking on Gnosticism is that it was merely a stylyzed form of Near Eastern mythology. There were also some ideas passed on from initiatory cults (Isis and others), and especially the idea of the androgenous first man.
The biggest influence on Gnosticism and all other religious groups of Jesus' day had to have been the writing of the Torah and its translation into Greek. The Torah was a product of the ruling elite. At first it was probably well guarded and used for training fellow elites. However, with the "publication" of the Septuagint, the Torah gradually became more widely available.
The Torah as a stand-alone work became something like manna falling from heaven. It was gobbled up by educated people everywhere, especially Jews of the Diaspora (Hellenized or otherwize). The interpretive keys however remained the exclusive property of the ruling elite. Nevertheless, this did not prevent various groups from developing their own interpretations, a phenomenon that continues to this day.
Gnosticism represented one major stream of naive Torah speculation. Gnostics were already predisposed to the anti-kingship sentiments of the Torah. But many of them were prepared to go even further. They were ready to denounce the very God of the Torah. Such groups were not only disenchanted with kingship as a form of government, but also with the God who supposedly ordained the perpetual tyranny.
As part of their own plan for world domination, the Herodian family reached out to the major sects. Proto-Gnostics represented a sizable constituency, perhaps even numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Herodian "evangelists" would not have attempted to convert these groups to orthodox Judaism. Instead, they formulated a message that would appeal to these groups and gain acceptance by them.
It was very much comparable to modern political campaigning. Modern politicians don't try to convert groups from one belief system to another. They devise a "platform" that has the broadest appeal possible, and in some cases they make promises to particular groups. Within the Roman Empire, Herodians could not exercise direct authority. They had to operate as religious leaders, prophets, etc., especially outside of Israel/Palestine. They had to go out and win "votes", and often one Herodian was competing with another Herodian to get the most.
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