On Saturday, the Foundation for Contemporary Theology in Houston asked me to relate what I know about ancient gnosticism to the scene of spirituality today. Yikes! This is a hermeneutical task I usually avoid. But this was a great group of people and so we talked about ancient gnosticism and then we tried to understand what it might be like as a system not dependent on ancient cosmology - or at least as a system that, like Judaism or Christianity, had remained a religious system even when its cosmology had shifted and changed over the centuries or had been absorbed into new cultures. We discussed the nature of gnosis - that it is mystical, subversive, esoteric, and constructed knowledge that involved catechism and initiation ceremonies. Gnostic traditions began in relation to other religious traditions, and that the move toward defining themselves as a new religious movement separate from Judaism and Christianity was gradual and filled with tension.
After this discussion, I gave a quiz that I thought would be fun to share with you.
what is your theology? (choose all that apply to you and add up the points)
1=I view ‘God’ in transtheistic terms, as something ‘beyond’ or ‘other than’ the traditional God or gods
1=I view ‘God’ as neither OR both male and female
1=I think the divine is within me and/or it is my true/real/authentic self
1=I think ‘God’ is something to be experienced directly and immediately
1=I think that I am (partially) responsible for my redemption/enlightenment via my engagement in religious teachings and practices
0=traditional theology is fine for me OR none of these represents my theology
what is your self-identity? (chose one and add the points to your subtotal)
1=I am a gnostic Jew/gnostic Christian/gnostic Muslim/etc.
2=I am a Jewish Gnostic/Christian Gnostic/Muslim Gnostic/etc.
3=I am a Gnostic
0=I am a Jew/Christian/Muslim/etc. OR none of these apply to me
Consider your relationship to the traditional religions (chose one and add the points to your subtotal)
1=my traditional religion needs additional ‘spiritual’ OR esoteric teachings and practices
2=my traditional religion needs to be protested/reformed into a community that is more ‘spiritual’/esoteric
3=my traditional religion is beyond repair; we need to start over and form a more ‘spiritual’/esoteric community as the authentic expression of my traditional religion
4=I (want to) attend a Gnostic community that understands itself to be distinct from the traditional religions
0=my traditional religion is fine for me OR none of these describe my relationship to traditional religions
what do you think about traditional scriptures? (chose one and add the points to your subtotal)
1=scriptures need reinterpretation that involves (some) transgressive/subversive rereading
2=in addition to transgressive rereading, old scriptures need to be supplemented with new scriptures
3=we need to discard the old scriptures and replace them with new scriptures
0=traditional scriptures and traditional interpretation are fine for me OR none of these
Check out the comments for the answer key!