My Evolving Thoughts on Gnosis

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light.” ~ Plato

There was an interesting article in the New York Times ‘Opinionator’ yesterday that compared the views of optimistic Darwinians and pessimistic Darwinians on the concept of morality (“Moral Camouflage or Moral Monkeys?”). The author argued that pessimistic Darwinians feel that “[t]he great show we humans make of respect for moral principle they see as a civilized camouflage for an underlying, evolved psychology.

That psychology, in a nutshell, is that morality is simply the by-product of “the survival, not of selfish individuals, but of ‘selfish’ genes, which tend in the normal range of environments to give rise to individuals whose behavior tends to propel those genes into future.” Individuals come and go, but the argument is made that genetic code endures for centuries if not millennia.

The author notes: “A picture thus emerges of selection for “proximal psychological mechanisms”— for example, individual dispositions like parental devotion, loyalty to family, trust and commitment among partners, generosity and gratitude among friends, courage in the face of enemies, intolerance of cheaters — that make individuals into good vehicles, from the gene’s standpoint, for promoting the ‘distal goal’ of enhanced inclusive fitness.” Ain’t that grand?

I can’t help but wonder if the whole matter of human morality springs from a source much deeper than a pool maintained by natural selection. Could it be that the tragedy that Plato spoke about is what prevents man from understanding the true nature of his provenance? Is the wellspring of morality obscured by the obsessive compulsive tendency mankind has to try and get epistemological knowledge, like pigs rooting for truffles?

The Greeks had a term, “Gnosis,” which referred to the spiritual knowledge of an enlightened human being. It referred to the knowledge or insight into the divine, infinite and uncreated and it was obtained by both internal epiphany (intuition) and external epiphany (Theophany). I wonder if morality springs forth from the gateway to the infinite provided by Gnosis?

While I am astounded by the discoveries man has made over the last few centuries in particular I can’t help but wonder if the obsession with observing, cataloguing, and comprehending the finite, natural and material world is driven more by his fear of the dark than from his love for the light? Time will tell.

I seem to be offering more questions than answers in this post. Perhaps I am waiting for my thoughts on the matter to evolve. Or maybe I am waiting for an epiphany.

Either way, I truly hope that you have a fulfilling and generative day.

5 thoughts on “My Evolving Thoughts on Gnosis

  1. It appears that we cannot operate in this world if do not have an identity – a beingness. From our beingness all our actions flows. Whether what we think we are is true or false we cannot function in this world without an identity. What we think our function is in this world naturally also flows out of what we think we are.

    However, from time to time, through our living and experience, we discover that what we thought we were is not what we are. So, no wonder we will have such an obsession with questioning what we are.

    Even when we have Gnosis of what we are at a particular moment in time, the very Gnosis will result in changing what we discovered that we are at that particular moment in time.

    Discovering who we are is an ever evolving process.



  2. Lady Leo

    I love your subjects. This makes me think too. What is the major drive of human beings? Survival seems to be the base but why is man so intent on survival? Do we have a mission that is yet undiscovered by us as a species, so it is a driving innate force ? Or do we know the mission and it is so unrealized we do everything to mask the painful reality.
    In my own experience, I feel happiness and fulfillment when I have a purpose and my purpose has to make a difference. I want my life to add value to the world. I guess my thought is I have to leave more than I took during my life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  3. N Kolya

    It really is amazing how much effort is put into discovering the answers to, Who are we?, Where did we come from?, What makes us tick? and, Where are we going? It seems that these questions pop up from one end of the spectrum to another, whether scientific or theological or somewhere in between.

    It’s not that those questions aren’t important, but I often find that revelation comes from something that can’t quite be categorized. Perhaps the answer is in 3D and we just need the right glasses!


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