Friday, June 18, 2010

Is marriage salvation?

That is the title of chapter 6 of the manuscript I am preparing for publication: Sex and the Serpent. I begin the chapter with this observation:
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.

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?
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.

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


Robert said...

I am looking forward to this so much! (And whatever you figure out about the Carpocratians may help clarify some of my remaining questions about the Clement of Alexandria fragment that Morton Smith published. It seems to me to be a far more complex problem than either Carlson or Jeffery think, on the one hand, or Brown, on the other.)

Pastor Bob said...

Interesting theory, not yours but the Gnostics. Does this mean that sperm that remains inside the male body is released when the man died but sperm outside the male body (as during wet dreams) were not? And does it also follow the tradition that says that the man plants the seed in the woman and that the seed is in and of itself complete and the woman is only the "fallow field?"

R.Eagle said...

if marriage is one's salvation, then it may also be one's damnation...don't mean to be a downer, but that's the experience i've seen...everything else you've discussed is a mystery to me

lightseeker said...

April, really looking forward to this book!

My sense of marriage as salvation ties in with G. Thomas logia:

70 Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you."

106 Jesus said, "When you make the two into one, you will become children of Adam...

and 22 Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one ... and when you make male and female into a single one ... then you will enter [the kingdom]."

In re logion 70, what one must bring forth is the Divine masculine and/or feminine. If one of these aspects is weak in a person, that person needs to find, strengthen and bring that aspect forth to be a whole human being. For example, a man tends to embody the Divine masculine, but his Divine feminine side/aspect may be so weak as not to be apparent at all--he must bring forth this "missing" (it's not really missing, just hidden within) aspect to become fully human, or Adam (the image of God).

The act of marriage/sexual union can be either sacred or profane, depending on one's perspective or approach.

From a spiritual approach, sexual union brings union of both the Divine masculine and feminine aspects. The male partner shares his Divine masculine aspect with his female partner, and she shares her Divine feminine aspect with him. It's a sacred act of giving and receiving and becoming whole. The two become one flesh, and in so doing, each individual brings both aspects together within themselves--the 2 become 1--each partner is now whole, as the partnership is whole/one also. This is the conception and birthing of "Adam" (the image of God) within each of human being. This is salvation, entering the Kingdom.

If one approaches sex merely from the profane level, it's only an act of two bodies (2 egos), or an act associated with the demi-urge or false god, what we might call ego today, or lower self obsessed with the world and duality/separation consciousness. This is the failure to bring forth one's divine aspects -- and that is death, the failure to transcend duality/separation consciousness.

There are ways to learn to bring forth the Divine aspects within oneself without sacred marriage. Neither is better than the other way, they're just different points of view, different paths to wholeness/becoming Adam/entering the Kingdom. This may explain why some sects chose celibacy and others celebrated the sacred union of marriage/sex.