Pseudonymity, Gnosis, and the Self in Gnostic Literature

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
David Brakke The Ohio State University

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Why did Sethian gnostic authors write pseudonymously? In addition to making a claim to authority, gnostic pseudepigraphy, exemplified by The Three Tablets of Seth, was multiple and performative, implying that the self is multiple—a manifestation of selfhood at different levels of a single reality—and that performing one’s self as multiple provides a path to higher knowledge of one’s self and thus of God. That is, gnostic pseudonymity stems from a distinctive understanding of the self and functions as a mystical practice that performs that understanding. The eschewal of pseudonymity in Valentinian literature reflects different conceptions of the self and of the path to gnosis.

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