Forbidden Knowledge: Cognitive Transgression and “Ascent Above Intellect” in the Debate Between Plotinus and the Gnostics

in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

Throughout Enneads ii.9[33], 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.

Forbidden Knowledge: Cognitive Transgression and “Ascent Above Intellect” in the Debate Between Plotinus and the Gnostics

in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies

Sections

References

BarryCatherineFunkWolf-PeterPoirierPaul-HubertTurnerJohn D. Zostrien (nh viii 1) 2000 Bibliothèque copte de Nag Hammadi Section: « Textes » 24 Québec Les presses de l’Université Laval Leuven: Peeters

BrankaerJohanna “Der Begriff metanoia in gnostischen Schriften.” Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum 2011 13.1 87 97

BurnsDylan Apocalypse of the Alien God: Platonism and the Exile of Sethian Gnosticism Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion 2014 Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press

CahanaJonathan “None of Them Knew Me or My Brothers: Gnostic Antitraditionalism and Gnosticism as a Cultural Phenomenon.” The Journal of Religion 2014 94.1 49 73

FunkWolf-PeterPoirierPaul–HubertTurnerJohn D. Marsanès (nh x1) 2000 Bibliothèque copte de Nag Hammadi Section: “Textes” 25 Québec Les Presses de l’Université Laval Leuven: Peeters

FunkWolf-PeterPoirierPaul-HubertScopelloMaddalenaTurnerJohn D. L’Allogène (nh xi 3) 2004 Bibliotèque copte de Nag Hammadi Section “Textes” 30 Québec Les presses de l’Université Laval Louvain: Peeters

HenryPaulSchwyzerHans-Rudolf Plotini opera 1964–1983 Scriptorum classicorum bibliotheca Oxoniensis Oxford Clarendon Press 3 volumes

JacksonHoward M. “The Seer Nicotheus and his Lost Apocalypse.” Novum Testamentum 1990 32 250 277

KingKaren Revelation of the Unknowable God: With Text, Translation and Notes to NHC XI,3, Allogenes California Classical Library 1995 Santa Rosa, CA Polebridge

MazurZeke “The Platonizing Sethian Gnostic Background of Plotinus’ Mysticism.” 2010 Ph.D. Dissertation University of Chicago

MazurZeke DeConickApril 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. Pearson 2013a Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 85 Leiden Brill 469 493

MazurZeke CorriganKevinRasimusTuomas “‘Those Who Ascend to the Sanctuaries of the Temples’: The Gnostic Context of Plotinus’ First Treatise, i.6[1] On Beauty.” Gnosticism Platonism and the Late Ancient World. Essays in Honour of John D. Turner 2013b Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 82 Leiden Brill 329 368 in collaboration with Dylan M. Burns Lance Jenott and Zeke Mazur

MazurZeke MarsolaMauricio 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 2012 Forthcoming a São Paulo Rosari 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 Tradition Forthcoming b

NarbonneJean-Marc Plotinus in Dialogue with the Gnostics Studies in Platonism Neoplatonism and the Platonic Tradition 11 2011 Leiden Brill

SagnardFrançois Clément D’Alexandrie Extraits de Théodote 1970 Sources chrétiennes 23 Paris Cerf

SchmidtCarlMacDermotViolet The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex 1978 Nag Hammadi Studies 13 Leiden Brill

SieberJohn LaytonBentley “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 Gnosticism 1981 Studies in the History of Religions 41 Leiden Brill 788 795

TardieuMichel CorriganKevinRasimusTuomas “Echo et les antitypes.” Gnosticism Platonism and the Late Ancient World. Essays in Honour of John D. Turner 1996 Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 82 Leiden Brill 427 442 in collaboration with Dylan M. Burns Lance Jenott and Zeke Mazur

TurnerJohn D. Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition 2001 Bibliotèque copte de Nag Hammadi Section “Études” 6 Québec Les presses de l’Université Laval Louvain: Peeters

WireAntoinette ClarkTurnerJohn D.WintermuteOrval S. HedrickCharles W. “Allogenes.” Nag Hammadi Codices XI XII and XIII 1990 Nag Hammadi Studies 28 Leiden Brill 173 267

4

PorphyryVit. Plot. 23.7–18.

9

PorphyryVit. Plot. 16.5–7.

19

PorphyryVit. Plot. 16. 9–11.

29

As I have argued in Mazur 2010.

65

PorphyryVit. Plot. 16.1–18.

69

See PorphyryVit. Plot. 1.1–4 2.37–38 3.24–29 10.1–14 14.21–25.

74

Clement of AlexandriaExc. 31.3 (Sagnard 1948).

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 20 20 8
Full Text Views 8 8 7
PDF Downloads 4 4 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0