Throughout Enneadsii.9, commonly called Against the Gnostics, Plotinus repeatedly complains that the gnostics claim to possess an extraordinary capability to undertake a visionary ascent beyond the divine Intellect itself so as to attain the transcendent (and hyper-noetic) deity: a claim which he considers the height of arrogance. Plotinus further implies that this gnostic claim was in some way connected with the disparagement of Plato and the Greek philosophical tradition. No explicit trace of such disparagement has been found. This paper argues that (1) the extant Platonizing Sethian corpus, and in particular the tractate Zostrianos (nhc viii,1), envisions a complex hierarchy of types of souls, each correlated with both a different potential for visionary ascent and a corresponding position in the postmortem cycle of transmigration; that (2) Zostrianos tacitly suggests that the non-Sethian academic Platonists are those condemned to exile in the intermediary strata due to their cognitive overreach for the Good in the absence of Sethian revelation, and that (3) this reflects a gnostic deployment—against the Platonists themselves—of the supposedly Platonic injunction (in the 2nd Letter) that the soul’s attempt to comprehend the supreme principle, with which the soul has no kinship, inevitably leads to a fall into evil.
MazurZekeDeConickApril D.ShawGregoryTurnerJohn D.“The Platonizing Sethian Gnostic Interpretation of Plato’s Sophist.”Practicing Gnosis: Ritual Magic Theurgy and Other Ancient Literature. Essays in Honor of Birger A. Pearson2013aNag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 85LeidenBrill469493
MazurZekeCorriganKevinRasimusTuomas“‘Those Who Ascend to the Sanctuaries of the Temples’: The Gnostic Context of Plotinus’ First Treatise, i.6 On Beauty.”Gnosticism Platonism and the Late Ancient World. Essays in Honour of John D. Turner2013bNag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 82LeidenBrill329368in collaboration with Dylan M. Burns Lance Jenott and Zeke Mazur
MazurZekeMarsolaMauricio PagottoFerroniLorenzo“Traces of the Competition Between the Platonizing Sethian Gnostics and Plotinus’ Circle: The Case of Zostrianos 44–46.”Estratégias anti-gnósticas nos escritos de Plotino. Atas do colóquio internacional realizado em São Paulo em 18–19 de março 2012Forthcoming aSão PauloRosari et Paulus
MazurZeke“A Gnostic Icarus? Traces of the Controversy Between Plotinus and the Gnostics over a Surprising Source for the Fall of Sophia: the Pseudo-Platonic 2nd Letter.”International Journal of the Platonic TraditionForthcoming b
SieberJohnLaytonBentley“The Barbelo Aeon as Sophia in Zostrianos and Related Tractates,”The Rediscovery of Gnosticism Proceedings of the International Conference on Gnosticism at Yale New Heaven Connecticut March 28–31 1978 vol. 2 Sethian Gnosticism1981Studies in the History of Religions 41LeidenBrill788795
TardieuMichelCorriganKevinRasimusTuomas“Echo et les antitypes.”Gnosticism Platonism and the Late Ancient World. Essays in Honour of John D. Turner1996Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 82LeidenBrill427442in collaboration with Dylan M. Burns Lance Jenott and Zeke Mazur