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Valentinian Monism - Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition

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Valentinian Monism
Valentinianism is ussually classified as a form of Gnosticism. The term 'Gnosticism' was coined in the nineteenth century to describe a variety of religious movements in the ancient world which have some common features. Some consider "radical dualism" to be a characteristic feature of all forms of Gnosticism (Jonas 1963). However, this generalization is simply incorrect. As Elaine Pagels points out in her book The Gnostic Gospels, "Valentinian gnosticism...differs essentially from dualism" (Pagels 1978). Describing Gnostic systems such as Valentinianism as "dualist" has also been subject to extensive criticism by Simon Petrement (1990). Indeed, it has been recognized for some time that "a standard element in the interpretation of Valentinianism and similar forms of Gnosticism is the recognition that they are fundamentally monistic" (Schoedel 1980, see also Petrement 1984, Dawson 1992). This article represents an attempt to characterize Valentinian monism. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines monism as describing "philosophies which maintain that there is ultimately only one thing and that the many are aspects of it, or to a more radical way of thinking, simply an illusion resulting from our misperception of the One". As we will see, this is an accurate description of Valentinianism. Valentinian sources describe God as containing all things within himself. An anonymous Valentinian quoted by Irenaeus claims that, "the Father of all contains all things, and that there is nothing whatever outside of the Pleroma..." (Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:4:2). Using virtually identical language, another author argues that God "contains in himself all things and is himself not contained" (Doctrinal Epistle quoted in Epiphanius Panarion 31:5:3). A similar background can be seen Ptolemy's in description of the Father as "uncontained" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:1:1). Valentinus himself says describes the relationship of God to all other things using similar language. He says that "the entirety was inside of him--the inconceivable, uncontained, who is superior to all thought."(Gospel of Truth 17:5-9) Elsewhere he describes God as "him who surrounds every way while nothing surrounds him" (Gospel of Truth 22:22-26) According to the Valentinian Exposition found at Nag Hammadi, "he possessed the All dwelling within him...He encompassed the All, he who is higher than the All". Another author argues that, "in the Unbegotten One, all things exist 1/6

"Ignorance of the Father caused agitation and fear. yet we do not recognize or know him..e. According to Valentinus. the "entirety" i. or as a spot is in a garment.. He argues that "such theology presupposes a non-dualistic cosmology. All other things lie within him and continue to be a part of him. "It was quite amazing that they were in the Father without being acquainted with him and that they alone were able to emanate. It implies that there is a single reality i. William Schoedel (1972.htm 2/6 ." (Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:4:2). this sort of teaching implies a "cosmological model. It is contained by the ineffable Greatness. In vain. 1980) researched the use of such topological language in Jewish.gnosis. All things continue to be a part of God despite their apparent separation from him. for it does not allow that the God who contains all things is limited by any other reality" (Schoedel 1972). those within the Father "were unacquainted with the Father since it was he whom they did not see"(Gospel of Truth 28:32-29:1). The fact that we have come forth within the Father does not imply that we are acquainted with him. The divine realm is not "self-contained and remote". whether human being or angel or mystery" (Gospel of Philip 56:14-15). having been made by the Craftsman or by the angels. Rather it contains all things within itself including the cosmos. they are unable to perceive it completely on their own. self-contained and remote. He claims that "to the divine realm of light. As Valentinus says. the cosmos is opposed as the realm of darkness" (Jonas 1963).org/library/valentinus/Valentinian_Monism. as the center is in a circle. this is inaccurate in the case of Valentinianism. According to Valentinus. As we can see. This is in sharp contrast to Hans Jonas' characterization of Gnostic teaching on the relationship of God to rest of reality . the whole creation which we know to have been formed. God is ultimately responsible for the creation of all things "It is he who created the entirety and the entirety is in him" (Gospel of Truth 19:8-9) However. "the entirety searched for the one from whom they had emanated" (Gospel of Truth 17:4-6). inasmuch as they were not able perceive and recognize the one in whom they were" (Gospel of Truth 22:27-32) Due to our ignorance of God we can fall into an erroneous or false understanding of reality ("error" or "deficiency").e.6/18/13 Valentinian Monism . or in those things that are contained by the Father. It is something of a paradox that we are within God.provided by Stoic pantheistic monism" in which "all is enclosed by God and ultimately all is God". The Gospel of Philip argues that "Christ has each within him. According to the respected scholar of Gnosticism Bentley Layton (1987).Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition simultaneously" (Hippolytus Refutation of all Heresies). Christian and Gnostic sources. This is explicitly stated by the Valentinians who opposed Irenaeus: "In the Fullness. And the agitation grew www. Such terminology is an extremely significant argument in favour of monism. Being only a small part of reality. God who is "cause of the generation of all created things" (Valentinan Treatise source quoted in Hippolytus Refutation).

These things are images of those which truly exist. as regards the reality of material structures". The author of the Treatise on Resurrection similarly describes the material world as follows. Valentinians believed that one can get only an incomplete understanding of God as reflected in the physical realm. This myth describes Sophia's ignorance of God and the suffering that results. or as a spot is in a garment" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:4:2). "They insist that their local language is relevant only epistemologically" and that it does not imply that the material realm is outside of the Father.2:6:3. This is often expressed by Valentinians though the story of Sophia. Even though physical things are seen as an image of the divine. and not with respect to local distance" (Anonymous Valentinian quoted in Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:4:2). God is the only reality. The things we perceive in the physical world are often described as "images" or "shadows" of the divine realm. Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:5:1. Irenaeus' Valentinian opponents were willing to present "a resolutely monistic interpretation of their theology and to stress the epistomological significance of the spatial language of their mythology.htm 3/6 . Instead. As Schoedel(1972) notes. "Suddenly the living are dying . As Layton (1987) points out. According to Valentinians. Valentinian sources occasionally describe the material realm as "outside" of the Fullness. they claimed that "what is without and what within (the Pleroma is) in reference to knowledge and ignorance. the material universe that we perceive is an illusion deriving from our ignorance of the Father. The material realm of is a product of the Fullness and lies within it "as the center is in a circle.the rich have become poor. Thus error found strength" (Gospel of Truth 17:9-20). the world is an apparition" (Treatise on Resurrection 48:19-27cf Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:14). However." (Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:14:3). As Schoedel (1980) observes. so that no one could see.. the Valentinian teaching exemplified by the Gospel of Truth "is strongly rulers overthrown: all changes. The name used to describe this imperfect www.) This is a reference to the famous Platonic parable which compares the physical world to shadows cast on the back wall of a cave. In contrast to the reality of the Father. we who are ignorant of the true situation mistake the shadows for reality.6/18/13 Valentinian Monism . Valentinus describes the "realm of appearance" as an bad dream as "when one falls asleep and finds one's self in the midst of nightmares" (Gospel of Truth 29:8-10f).surely they are not alive at all in this world of apparition! . It is the suffering that results from her error that constitutes the material realm. We construct an illusory false reality for ourselves because we are ignorant of the overall picture. etc.. "those things which are 'outside' of the Fullness have no true existence.Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition dense like fog. (Valentinian Exposition 36:10-13. They could imagine a realm of 'vacuity and shadow' within the Father presumably because it was felt to be epiphenomenal to the reality of spirit". even illusionist.

. so does the distinction between the self and God. According to the Gospel of Philip. if you have seen Christ.. This is expressed in Valentinianism through the notion of the syzygy (pair). This is the highest level of reality. According to the teacher Marcus. Valentinian tradition makes clear that this is only an inferior image of the true God. 67:26-27). However. The halves of a syzygy are often referred to as male and female. Upon knowledge (gnosis) of the reestablishment of the link between the self and the divine.if you have seen the spirit... Not only does the realm of multiplicity pass away through knowledge (gnosis). and so from that moment on." (Gospel of Philip 53:14-23).6/18/13 Valentinian Monism . "Inasmuch as the lack came into being because the Father was not known. if you have seen the Father. "Since deficiency and suffering had their origin in ignorance. the entire system originating in ignorance is dissolved by knowledge (gnosis)" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:21:4 cf. the world of multiplicity vanishes. right and left are mutually dependent.lack passes away in completion. "People cannot see anything in the real realm unless they become it. Categories that are considered as opposites are in fact closely related and one cannot be understood without the other. The material world is an illusion that is dissolved by knowledge (gnosis) of God. The term refers to the linking together of complementary qualities ("Aeons") of to form a state of wholeness (pleroma).. that is. The illusion of multiplicity vanishes once the person knows the true reality. There can be no concept of maleness without femaleness or no concept of darkness without light. it will be dissolved through knowledge (gnosis). the Craftsman "could not express its (the divine) permanence and eternity because he was an offspring of deficiency" (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:17:2). Dualistic distinctions between "body" and "mind". All things are ultimately one. you will become the Father" (Gospel of Philip 61:20-32 cf.It is by acquaintance (gnosis) that all will purify themselves out of multiplicity into unity. 'life' is not life. The male corresponds to form and the female corresponds to substance. Accordingly the 'good' are not good. This is discussed in the Gospel of Philip: "Light and darkness.htm 4/6 . life and death. As an anonymous source puts it. It is due to our ignorance of the true nature of reality that we believe that things can be separated into opposites. the realm of appearance is no longer manifest but will pass away in the harmony of unity. also Irenaeus Against Heresies 2:4:3). Valentinus Fragment 4). According to Valentinus. To know God is to be God. you have become the spirit. also Treatise on Resurrection 48:38-49:4.Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition image of God is the 'Craftsman' (demiurge). Just as the illusion arose as result of ignorance. from the moment the Father is known. 'death' is not death. the lack will not exist. The Craftsman is God understood as the creator of the material realm and as a law-giver. it is impossible for them to separate.. the 'bad' are not bad. www. It represents a restoration to the syzygy. "soul" and "matter" are meaningless. consuming matter within themselves as fire" (Gospel of Truth 24:2825:19 cf. you have become Christ.

Boston. The duality vanishes since it was never really there in the first place. it is manifest to him or her alone. Berkeley.htm 5/6 . your perception of multiplicity is gone. The entire process of emanation from the Father. As Dawson (1992) points out. Beacon.Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition Once you understand that reality. It is worth noting that Valentinianism shows an astonishing degree of similarity to another monistic system." (Dawson 1992) . Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria. University of California Press. As such. As a result... there was no systematic statement of Advaita thought. despite all appearances to the contrary. Jonas.gnosis. However. According to the Gospel of Philip. fall into illusion and restoration through gnosis takes place within the Godhead. References Dawson. the Advaita Vedanta school of Indian philosophy. Hans.. The reception of gnosis brings the dissolution of the world for the individual. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God. Advaita philosophy as it now stands was given its definitive form by Shankara in the 6th or 7th century AD. such that "the apocalypse now takes place not in history but in the mind. 1963. Through knowledge (jnana) of the ultimate reality (brahman). Through gnosis one can participate in and experience the divine realm. 1992. www. at the time of Valentinus. In Advaita. There was some awareness of Indian thought in the ancient Roman world.6/18/13 Valentinian Monism . True redemption (moksha) is the knowledge of one's true nature. It is possible that Valentinian missionaries or refugees may have made their way to India and come into contact with Shankara or his immediate predecessors.. the material world is an illusion (maya) attributed to ignorance (avidya) of the true contrast to the dissapointment of history. not hidden in the darkness and the night. There also exists the possibility that he was influenced by Valentinian thought. for to this person the eternal realm is Fullness. It is possible that Valentinus came into contact with some form of early Advaita Vedanta teaching. but hidden in perfect day and holy light" (Gospel of Philip) It implies that for the person who has there is no longer any distinction between the world and the Pleroma. "The world has already become the eternal realm (Aeon). However. struggle.David. any connection between the two remains purely hypothetical. fear and evil. Valentinians are known to have been active in the Middle East as late as the seventh century. the world of multiplicity vanishes. "the Valentinian and his or her world have been completely absorbed by the divine fullness or entirety" (Dawson 1992). "the patterns and sequences of nature and history now unfold simultaneously within the mind of God and the minds of the Valentinians". reality is good. and its division. This raises the intriguing possibility of some kind of connection between the two. the emanated Son brings the message that.

William. Doubleday & Co. Elaine.Brill. E.J.1: The School of Valentinus. Leiden. 2000. 1972. Random House.Brill. That All-Seeing Heart: Vedanta Basics Cited Mar 1. 1987. 1990. "Topological Theology and some Monistic Tendencies in Gnosticism" in Essays on the Nag Hammadi Library in Honour of Alexander Bohlig. William.Valentinus and the Valentinian Tradition Layton. E.gnosis.htm 6/6 . San Francisco. The Gnostic Scriptures.6/18/13 Valentinian Monism . Schoedel. Garden City. Schoedel. Simone.J. Leiden. edited by Bentley Layton. Vol. New York. Conte nt authore d by David Brons www. A Separate God: The Christian Origins of Gnosticism. The Gnostic Gospels. "Gnostic Monism and the Gospel of Truth" in The Rediscovery of Gnosticism. edited by Martin Krause. Pagels. 1980. Bentley. Harper. NY. Petrement.