THE FOG – Ignorance of Universal Truth
When St Augustine was on his death bed guess what book he had read to him? If you said the Bible you would be wrong. The fact is he asked to be read the Enneads by Plotinus. So next question? Who was Plotinus?
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his philosophy there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. Now does this in anyway sound familiar to the Christian idea of the Trinity which St Augustine so dearly pondered? Plotinus’s teacher was Ammonius Saccas, a Greek dock worker and philosopher from Alexandria. Plotinus studied under Ammonius for eleven years, from 232 to 243. Today Plotinus is known as the father of Neoplatonism. For Plotinus ignorance was the cause of all evil distortions. He taught that happiness can be found by living a virtuous life. He stated there were two types of virtue. The first is civic virtue and the second is heavenly virtue.
As we know Augustine began as a Manichaean. So we can safely assume that much of his foundational theology was greatly influenced by what is known as Gnosticism. Plotinus had many gnostic friends and recognized that Gnostic’s were very eclectic. As a result he did not believe everything they said or taught. He even went so far as to write an essay entitled, Against the Gnostics. However having said this and after reading the Enneads it may be hypothesized that Plotinus’s goal may have been simply to preserve the purity of wisdom itself. In which case he would be doing Gnosticism a valuable service.
Now let’s take into account the influence Plotinus had on Augustine. Firstly, we must appreciate that Augustine was a complex man. In doing so we can speculate that Augustine was influenced by Neo-Gnosticism up to the time of his death. And since Augustine was a major figure in the development of Christianity we can safely assume that much of traditional Christianity had Gnostic philosophy as a cornerstone. We can also presume that not all Gnostic’s were alike and that some were healthier than others. This is why Plotinus and Augustine chose to distance themselves from Gnosticism. However I would hypothesize that if either were alive today they would say that most modern religions have surpassed the realm of the practical and need to regain a healthy balance. Therefore to accomplish this we need to return to the source and get our equilibrium back. We need to be Christ centered and develop a Christ consciousness. Not a Jesus Fundamentalism.
Let’s take another example from the Buddha. The Buddha said there are two kinds of truth. Worldly and absolute. Or as Plotinus stated civic and heavenly. When we speak of worldly truth we experience suffering and joy as separate realities. But when we experience suffering and joy as absolute truths they exist as one. In other words you cannot have joy without suffering, and you cannot have suffering without joy. For example a wave has a beginning in the ocean and ends at the shore line. This view of a wave is worldly. However if you view a wave as water this is the absolute view with no beginning or no end.
On the surface these views may be paradoxical. But as we grow spiritually we grow in both worldly and heavenly realms. In Christ centered Gnosticism as opposed to fundamentalism we speak of communal truth and universal truth. Communal truth is all for one and one for all. In communities truth can change to reflect the circumstances of the day. However universal truth is constant and will never change to meet the expectations of individuals or communities. For instance the wisdom of the early church taught that the Sun evolved around the Earth because the bible said the Earth was the center of the universe. However universal truth tells us that the Earth evolves around the Sun and no matter how much rhetoric we produce this fact cannot be changed. At least not without some cosmic catastrophe taking place. In which case this catastrophe would also have to follow the precepts of universal truth.
Today we live in a world where people believe all sorts of distortions. Everything from denying climate change to believing that the Devil planted dinosaur bones on the Earth to trick us into believing the world was older than it is. The point is people fall for such distortions of universal truth because they are ignorant. They lack gnosis. For example if you look at churches in the developed world the pews are almost empty. However if you look at churches in underdeveloped parts of the world churches are growing. Now ask yourself why? One answer may be that in third world countries they lack basic education. It is not their fault. It is our fault for not sharing what we have. As a result churches are descending on them to continue their modis operendi of shame based superstition. In my vocabulary I call this abusive and I would suggest these churches are practicing old predatory behaviors. But what can you expect from a church that was raised for over 2000 years on a theology that taught when your power is threatened create an inquisition. Even to this day within the Roman Catholic Church this inquisition still exists under the title of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. This sounds more human but in the end its goal is still to hold onto power. This is what happens when gnosis is sacrificed for worldly truth.
This is why gnosis is the only thing which can make the world a better place. This is why gnosis is a living precept which needs to be taken seriously. If we use global warming as an example, countries will not do anything about it unless they possess gnosis. It does not matter how much technology or creative energy humankind possesses, it will not use it to solve the carbon problem unless it wakes up to the gift of gnosis. I really don’t care what you call it or who shares it. As long as someone does. Let’s all save time and not reinvent the wheel. Gnosticism has survived this long for a reason and from my point of view gnosis is the most direct way to awaken to the universal companionship of Christ consciousness. Churches which wake up to this will survive, and those which do not, will not survive as true vessels of Christ. We must remember the church is the people. So let us not wait for the political will of worldly leaders to decide our fate. Let us decide it for ourselves by praying for the heavenly virtues of gnosis. Amen