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In the light of the incarnate Christ, these other spheres of reality become especially luminous. With a Christian metaphysics of flesh, illuminated by the incarnation, we are able to address a number of pressing intellectual, ethical, and social questions about bodily life with philosophical integrity. Keywords: flesh , body , philosophy , metaphysics , gnosticism , morality , ethics , sexuality , incarnation , Christ. Adam G. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved.

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Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic

Sign in. Not registered? Syntax Advanced Search. About us. Editorial team. Adam G. Oxford University Press Life in the Flesh offers a new spiritual philosophy of the body, contrasting sources from the Christian tradition with contemporary voices in philosophy and theology.

Cooper challenges the Gnostic impulse either to marginalize or else to worship the body and gives a critical perspective on perennial issues including pornography, feminism, sterility, and death. Buddhism in Philosophy of Religion. Philosophy of Religion. Specific Religions in Philosophy of Religion. Edit this record.

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Mark as duplicate. Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index. Revision history. This entry has no external links. Add one. Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server Configure custom proxy use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy. Configure custom resolver. Aristotle, Metaphysics b and Plato, Theaetetus d. But the Gnostics recognized this "awe" as the product of a radical disruption of the harmony of a realm persisting beyond becoming—that is, beyond "becoming" in the sense of pathos , or "that which is undergone.

The myth is always an explanation of something already known, and therefore carries its truth-claim along with it, just as the immediacy of an event forbids any doubt or questioning on the part of the one undergoing it. Such criteria proceeds directly from the logos , or divine "ordering principle," to which the Gnostics believed themselves to be related, by way of a divine genealogy. Although Gnostic onto-theology proceeds by way of an elaborate myth, it is a myth informed always by the logos , and is, in this sense, a true mythology that is, a rendering, in the immediacy of language, of that which is ever-present to the Gnostic as a product of privileged reflection.

According to Gnostic mythology in general We, humanity, are existing in this realm because a member of the transcendent godhead, Sophia Wisdom , desired to actualize her innate potential for creativity without the approval of her partner or divine consort. Her hubris , in this regard, stood forth as raw materiality, and her desire, which was for the mysterious ineffable Father, manifested itself as Ialdabaoth, the Demiurge, that renegade principle of generation and corruption which, by its unalterable necessity, brings all beings to life, for a brief moment, and then to death for eternity.

However, since even the Pleroma itself is not, according to the Gnostics, exempt from desire or passion, there must come into play a salvific event or savior—that is, Christ, the Logos, the "messenger," etc. Apocryphon of John [Codex II] ff. The purpose of this re-integration implicitly is to establish a series of existents that are ontologically posterior to Sophia, and are the concrete embodiment of her "disruptive" desire— within the unified arena of the Pleroma.

Indeed, if the Pleroma is really the Fullness, containing all things, it must contain the manifold principles of Wisdom's longing. In this sense, we must not view Gnostic salvation as a simply one-sided affair. The divine "sparks" that fell from Sophia, during her "passion," are un-integrated aspects of the godhead. We may say, then, that in the Hegelian sense the Gnostic Supreme God is seeking, eternally, His own actualization by way of full self-consciousness cf. Hegel, History of Philosophy vol. But it is not really this simple. The Supreme God of the Gnostics effortlessly generates the Pleroma, and yet or for this very reason!

This is because all members of the Pleroma known as Aeons are themselves "roots and springs and fathers" Tripartite Tractate carrying Time within themselves, as a condition of their Being. When the disruption, brought about by the desire of Sophia, disturbed the Pleroma, this was not understood as a disturbance of an already established unity, but rather as the disturbance of an insupportable stasis that had come to be observed as divine.

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Indeed, when the Greeks first looked to the sky and admired the regularity of the rotations of the stars and planets, what they were admiring, according to the Gnostics, was not the image of divinity, but the image or representation of a "divine" stagnancy, a law and order that stifled freedom, which is the root of desire cf. Jonas, pp. The passion of Sophia—her production of the Demiurge, his enslavement of the human "sparks" in the material cosmos, and the subsequent redemption and restoration—are but one episode in the infinite, unfolding drama of spiritual existence.

We, as human beings, just happen to be the unwitting victims of this particular drama. But if, as the Gnostics hold, our salvation consists in our becoming gods Poimandres 26 or "lord[s] over creation and all corruption" Valentinus, Fragment F, Layton then how are we to be confident that, in ages to come, one of us will not give birth to another damned cosmos, just as Sophia had done?

The Christian idea that God has sent his only "Son" the Logos to suffer and die for the sins of all humankind, and so make possible the salvation of all, had a deep impact on Gnostic thought. In the extensive and important collection of Gnostic writings discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in , only a handful present the possibility of having originated in a pre-Christian, mostly Hellenistic Jewish milieu. The majority of these texts are Christian Gnostic writings from the early second to late third centuries CE, and perhaps a bit later. When we consider the notion of salvation and its meaning for the early Gnostics, who stressed the creative aspect of our post-salvific existence, we are struck by the bold assertion that our need for salvation arose, in the first place, from an error committed by a divine being, Sophia Wisdom , during the course of her own creative act cf.

Since this is the case, how, we are led to ask, will our post-salvation existence be any less prone to error or ignorance, even evil? The radical message of early Christianity provided the answer to this problematical question; and so the Gnostics took up the Christian idea and transformed it, by the power of their singular mytho-logical technique, into a philosophically and theologically complex speculative schema. The Christian philosopher Basilides of Alexandria fl.

Through the union of Wisdom and Power, a group of angelic rulers came into existence, and from these rulers a total of heavens or aeons were generated Irenaeus 1. The final heaven, which Basilides claimed is the realm of matter in which we all dwell, was said by him to be ruled by "the god of the Jews," who favored the Jewish nation over all others, and so caused all manner of strife for the nations that came into contact with them—as well as for the Jewish people themselves. This behavior caused the rulers of the other heavens to oppose the god of the Jews, and to send a savior, Jesus Christ, from the highest realm of the Father, to rescue the human beings who are struggling under the yoke of this jealous god Irenaeus 1.

Since the realm of matter is the sole provenance of this spiteful god, Basilides finds nothing of value in it, and states that "[s]alvation belongs only to the soul; the body is by nature corruptible" Irenaeus 1.

He even goes so far as to declare, contra Christian orthodoxy, that Christ's death on the cross was only apparent, and did not actually occur "in the flesh" Irenaeus 1. The notion that material existence is the product of a jealous and corrupt creator god, who favors one race over all others, is really the "mythical" expression of a deeply rooted ethical belief that the source of all evil is material or bodily existence. Indeed, Basilides goes so far as to assert that sin is the direct outcome of bodily existence, and that human suffering is the punishment either for actual sins committed, or even just for the general inclination to sin, which arises from the bodily impulses cf.

Fragments F and G. In an adaptation of Stoic ethical categories, Basilides declares that faith pistis "is not the rational assent of a soul possessing free will" Fragment C ; rather, faith is the natural mode of existence, and consequently, anyone living in accordance with the "law of nature" pronoia , which Basilides calls the "kingdom," will remain free from the bodily impulses, and exist in a state of "salvation" Fragment C.

However, Basilides goes beyond simple Stoic doctrine in his belief that the "elect," that is, those who exist by faith, "are alien to the world, as if they were transcendent by nature" Fragment E ; for unlike the Stoics, who believed in a single, material cosmos, Basilides held the view, as we have seen, that the cosmos is composed of numerous heavens, with the material realm as the final heaven, and consequently corrupt.

Since this final heaven represents the "last gasp" of divine emanation, as it were, and is by no means a perfect image of true divinity, adherence to its laws can lead to no good.

Further, since the body is the means by which the ruler of this material cosmos enforces his law, freedom can only be attained by abandoning or "becoming indifferent to" all bodily impulses and desires. This indifference adiaphoria to bodily impulses, however, does not lead to a simple stagnant asceticism. Basilides does not call upon his hearers to abandon the material realm only to dissolve into negativity; instead, he offers them a new life, by appealing to the grand hierarchy of rulers persisting above the material realm cf.


Fragment D. When one turns to the greater hierarchy of Being, there results a "creation of good things" Fragment C, translation modified. Love and personal creation—the begetting of the Good—are the final result of Basilides' vaguely dialectical system, and for this reason it is one of the most important early expressions of a truly Christian, if not "orthodox," philosophy. Marcion of Sinope , in Pontus, was a contemporary of Basilides.

According to Tertullian, he started his career as an orthodox Christian—whatever that meant at such an early stage of development of Christian doctrine—but soon formulated the remarkable and radical doctrine that was to lead to his excommunication from the Roman Church in July CE, the traditional date of the founding of the Marcionite Church Tertullian, Against Marcion 1. Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis , p. The teaching of Marcion is elegantly simple: "the God proclaimed by the law and the prophets is not the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one is just, but the other is good" Irenaeus 1. Marcion believed that this cosmos in which we live bears witness to the existence of an inflexible, legalistic, and sometimes spiteful and vengeful God.

Life in the Flesh: An Anti-Gnostic Spiritual Philosophy by Adam G. Cooper

This view arose from a quite literal reading of the Old Testament, which does contain several passages describing God in terms not quite conducive to divinity—or at least to the idea of the divine that was current in the Hellenistic era. Marcion then, following Paul in Romans declared that God is knowable through His creation; however, unlike Paul, Marcion did not take this "natural revelation" as evidence of God's singularity and goodness. Quite the contrary, Marcion believed that he knew the God of this realm all too well, and that He was not worthy of the devotion and obedience that He demanded.

Therefore, Marcion rejected the teaching of the orthodox Christian Church of his era, that Yahweh or Jehovah is the Father of Christ, and, through a creative excision of what he termed "Judaistic interpolations" in Luke and ten Pauline Epistles, Marcion simultaneously put forth his notion of the "alien God" and His act of salvation, and established the first Canon of Scripture used in a "Christian" Church Jonas, pp.

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Marcion was not a philosopher in the sense that term has come to imply. He never developed, as far as we can tell from the surviving evidence, a systematic metaphysical, cosmological, or anthropological theory in the manner of a Basilides or a Valentinus whom we shall discuss below , nor did he appeal to history as a witness for his doctrines.

This latter point is the most important. Unlike the majority of Gnostics, who elaborated some sort of divine genealogy e. According to Marcion, the god who controls this realm is a being who is intent on preserving his autonomy and power even at the expense of the human beings whom he created. The "alien" God, who is the Supremely Good, is a "god of injection," for he enters this realm from outside, in order to gratuitously adopt the pitiful human beings who remain under the sway of the inferior god as His own children.

This act is the origin of and reason for the Incarnation of Christ, according to Marcion. In spite of the absence of any solid philosophical or theological foundation for this rather simple formulation, Marcion's idea nevertheless expresses, in a somewhat crude and immediate form, a basic truth of human existence: that the desires of the Mind are incommensurable with the nature of material existence cf. Irenaeus 1. Yet, if we follow Marcion's argument to its logical or perhaps "anti-logical" conclusion, we discover an existential expression not a philosophy of the primal feeling of "abandonment" Geworfenheit.