But renunciation of marriage and procreation was not the only lifestyle embraced by Gnostic groups. The double-feature theology raised serious questions for some Gnostics. How could the spirit be saved if its incarnation was stopped? How could the spirit be returned to the transcomic realm if it was never birthed in a child? If procreation and birth ceased, the spirit would never be exposed to the secret rituals and the holy gnosis that was necessary for its release from the lesser god's dominion.So this morning I have been outlining the chapter and going back through the primary sources and having a blast doing so. I am still not sure about Epiphanius' account of "The Gnostics" in book 26 of Panarion - how much of this is genuine and how much of it is politically motivated and how much of it is just mixed up by Epiphanius. I imagine there is a little of all three operating in that chapter. I find myself hesitant to accept Epiphanius' accounts since he mixed up the Cainites with the Gospel of Judas in such a bad way. He has become less trustworthy in my eyes. Whenever I compare his accounts to Irenaeus, which was one of his sources, I find that he gets some things accurately, but others not so much. He tends to misread Irenaeus in places, and dump together sources that really are unrelated.
The Gnostics who asked these sorts of questions found themselves in a precarious position, posed on a razor's edge. How could they justify procreation and birthing children so that the spirit could be incarnated and receive instruction when the sex act itself was an act of corruption and trickery instituted by an arrogant god they desired to defy?
In terms of chapter 26, his story is associated with something that happened to him in his youth which he explains as the seduction of Gnostic women who wanted to have sex with him to collect his seed and save the spirit in it from the demiurge. I can't imagine that he was the innocent bystander he claims, not with all the information he appears to know from their books and lessons. He was deeply involved in this group for a time. The fact that he turns in eighty people from the Gnostic community to the church authorities to be punished tells me that his story is slanted and exaggerated to his own benefit. He brought down eighty Gnostics with what appears to me to be sexual slander. I hope as I write this section of the chapter that I will be able to reflect on this and "solve" it for myself.
The other piece I want to solve is the testimony about Carpocrates. I'm not sure what was going on in this community because the testimony from the church fathers about their behaviors do not mesh with their testimonies about Jesus and his behavior. I am wondering if there was a shift in this community's behaviors when Epiphanes became prominent, something which shifted the behavior for a new reason to be more libertine than what I think Carpocrates may have taught.
So there are a lot of questions I am trying to resolve for myself as I write this chapter, many mysteries to 'unsecret'.
After a day's reflection, my chapter subtitles look this this right now:
- Sacred Sex
- The Law has passed away
- Spirit Collectors
- You will be pardoned
- The Lover Mary