Roots of Western Mysticism

Week 6

The Roots of Esoteric Traditions: Jewish Mysticism, Gnosticism. READING: NET: Kabbalah,Merkabah Texts, Jewish Mysticism, What is a Gnostic? and The Gnostic World View


Jewish Mysticism & Kabbalah


  • The Gnostics posited an original spiritual unity that came to be split into a plurality.
  • As a result of the precosmic division the universe was created. This was done by a leader possessing inferior spiritual powers and who often resembled the Old Testament Jehovah.
  • A female emanation of God was involved in the cosmic creation (albeit in a much more positive role than the leader).
  • In the cosmos, space and time have a malevolent character and may be personified as demonic beings separating man from God.
  • For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code.
  • Mankind may be personified as Adam, who lies in the deep sleep of ignorance, his powers of spiritual self-awareness stupefied by materiality.
  • Within each natural man is an "inner man," a fallen spark of the divine substance. Since this exists in each man, we have the possibility of awakening from our stupefaction.
  • What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge.
  • Before the awakening, men undergo troubled dreams.
  • Man does not attain the knowledge that awakens him from these dreams by cognition but through revelatory experience, and this knowledge is not information but a modification of the sensate being.
  • The awakening (i.e., the salvation) of any individual is a cosmic event.
  • Since the effort is to restore the wholeness and unity of the Godhead, active rebellion against the moral law of the Old Testament is enjoined upon every man.


Matrix Philosophy - The Cave

The Divine Within - Nag Hammadi Library - Gnosticism

Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library - Gospel of Thomas

James Robinson on the Nag Hammadi Library