07 November 2010

Why Ogres are Like Onions, or Gnosis and Swimming.

Alright, I'm not actually going to talk about Ogres and Onions.  But I do want to draw a parallel between Gnosis and learning to swim.

I think that there is a tendency to think of Gnosis as something that is acheieved, and once you've "gotten it," you "keep it."  I also think that this is totally wrong.  I do hold that Gnosis positively transforms the one who seeks after it insofar as she reaches that kind of knowledge, but the process is ongoing.  Gnosis is a faculty of human (though perhaps not only human) consciousness that allows us insight into the most fundamental being of a phenomenon. To attain Gnosis in this regard is to behold the being of the thing, and to understand it, as it were, from the inside out.  But this process is always ongoing, just as learning to swim is always a process.  When I learn to do the crawl, or not drown when thrown into a pool, one can say that I have "learned to swim."  But I don't stop there.  I continue to learn more and more, and to perfect that which I've already learned.  To have attained Gnosis is to have learned to swim.  It is the beginning of Initiation, not the end of it.

We often imagine that the attainment, or fuller attainment, or a certain degree of attainment, of Gnosis guarantees certain effects.  Perhaps I will become more compassionate toward my fellow beings.  Perhaps I will survive death.  Perhaps my head will glow with the uncreated light.  Rather, I would suggest that the attainment of Gnosis opens possibilities.  It is, for this reason, and this reason alone, desirable and salutory.
Take for example the idea of persistence after death.  The idea of conditional immortality as put forward by many traditional forms of initiatic practise and by contemporary authors like Julius Evola, suggests that the default state of human beings after death is simply dissolution.  To die is, for the profane, to simply end.  The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out...  On the other hand, the initiate attains immortality and survives death. Evola in particular characterises this as a simple cause-effect reaction.  I would submit that the process is more sophisticated.

It is true that if I don't learn to swim, if you throw me in the middle of the ocean, I will drown.  Perhaps I will survive by chance, or luck, but odds are I'm going down into the deep.  On the other hand, if I learn to swim, that's no guarantee that I'll survive.  This is true especially if I've only learned the American Crawl.  However, even that basic knowledge of swimming technique opens up possibilities for my survival that simply wouldn't be present without that knowledge.  The more I strive after Gnosis, the more I attain, the more possibilities open up.  As a swimmer, when I'm thrown into the drink, I've got more possibilities. Maybe I'll swim to safety.  Maybe I'll tread water until a boat passes by.  Maybe I'll just be able to keep my wits about me long enough to figure out that the water's only six feet deep.  Or maybe I'll decide to drown, and let myself sink into the embrace of the Nereids.

Perhaps initiation and Gnosis offer me the possibility of survival post-mortem.  Perhaps I will stand before God and sing his praises unceasingly.  Perhaps I will be dissolved into divinity.  Perhaps I will reincarnate on this planet, in this reality, or some other.  Perhaps I'll just sleep.

The point is, when I learn to swim, I open up possibilities that I wouldn't have otherwise. When I attain to Gnosis, the universe opens up for me in little and big ways.  It's all about possibilities.

Oh, and Onions have layers, and Ogres have layers.

In case you were wondering.