Advaita and gnosticism
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Advaita and Gnosticism ...
Advaita and Gnosticism
In discussing the Gnostics, one scholar came very close to the Advaita concept. Hans Jonas
found that the new spirit, underlying and providing a kind of unity to the disparate but related trends
of the early Christian Era, is “the gnostic principle”, as he terms it (p 26). The ultimate “object” of
this “gnoasis” (=knowledge) is God: “its event in the soul transforms the knower himself by making
him a partaker in the divine existence (which means more than assimilating him to the divine
essence). … [T]he relation of knowing is mutual, ie a being known at the same time, and involving
active self-divulgence on the part of the ‘known’ … [it is] the union with a reality that in truth is
itself the supreme subject in the situation and strictly speaking never an object at all” (p 35). In other
words, knower, knowing and known, are One.
The gnostic Gospel of Truth describes this Oneness very succinctly: “It is within Unity that
each one will attain himself from multiplicity into Unity” (25: 10-15, NL 44)2
In what follows I shall examine the appearance of this idea of Man’s unity with the Absolute in
the texts expressing the religious and philosophical trends mentioned earlier – ie Gnostics,
Christianity, Hermetism etc. First I shall describe analytically a work of the period, the Poimandres
of the Hermetic writings and show the parallel ideas in some Upanishads, which form the basis, as
was said, of Advaita.
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