Anagoge VI: In the Beginning was the Question

Previously in the Premiseless Imperative Series:
Introduction
Kimetikos I: Foundations
Kimetikos II: Theory
Kimetikos III: Practice
Anagoge I: If You Want to be Saved, Admit That You’re A Sinner
Anagoge II: Achtung, Babies!
Anagoge III: Shooting For the Existential Buzz
Anagoge IV: The Perfect Home in Just an Hour
Anagoge V: Scattered Brains Are Better Brains

—————

“The capacity to be puzzled is the premise of all creation, be it in art or in science.”
– Erich Fromm

If you’ve been following this series, by now you’re probably wondering where it’s going. When, you may be asking, do I get to have this gnosis thing (if, of course, you haven’t yet experienced it by doing the previous exercises)?

If not, if you don’t have any questions about this process, congratulations! You’re either already enlightened, or you’re so content being unenlightened that you don’t need it. Or, you’re dead. Regardless, you should probably stop reading this and get back to work, especially if you’re dead.

Of course you have questions, though.  So far, each of these posts has been designed to get you to ask questions– that’s been my ultimate purpose here all along. You may, or may not, be familiar with the concept of the Via Negativa,  a spiritual method of knowing God by describing what it is not.  There’s an excellent example of this in the Secret Book of John (this is from the Davies translation):

The One is without boundaries
Nothing exists outside of it to border it
The One cannot be investigated
Nothing exists apart from it to investigate it
The One cannot be measured
Nothing exists external to it to measure it

The One cannot be seen
For no one can envision it
The One is eternal
For it exists forever
The One is inconceivable
For no one can comprehend it
The One is indescribable
For no one can put any words to it.

What you might not know, however, is that one of the definitions of the word “Logos” is Question. If this is the case, I like to apply this meaning to the opening lines of the Gospel of John: “In the Beginning was the Question, and the Question was with God, and the Question was God.” The methodology I’m trying to employ is the Path of Radical Inquiry, the Via Paradoxia, salvation through the Double Bind.

You can’t know anything without asking about it; the question must precede the answer, so it seems to me that God itself is a Question, and its act of asking about itself is the basis of creation and emanation.

I’ve named this series “The Premiseless Imperative” because to succeed, to experience gnosis, we absolutely must try to cultivate an absence of premise, an absence of assumption. We must try to approach every situation, every interaction with the world of forms, without premise. We must try to experience pure Being, communion with the Great Objective Deity (GOD!), but to do so, we must eliminate all prior states of individuation by constantly and deliberately asking questions.

An example: we might think, “such-and-such a politician is evil. Therefore I hate him.” But, if he’s acting according to his concept of good, is he still evil? What are the circumstances surronding him that may have made him evil? Without knowing experiencing every single circumstance surrounding him, does anything other than our own mind make him evil? What about this “mind” thing? What exactly is “mind”? Does “mind” exist as an ideal, or simply as a series of chemical reactions? If it’s the latter, what caused the reactions that made me think so-and-so is evil?

Is it ever possible for us to know something, definitively? And, isn’t there a danger of falling into the error of solipsism, in which we consider ourselves the only mind that exists? Yes, and yes, but the answer to either of these questions is the answer to both. This Answer, a Great and Terrible Secret Mystery, is Gnosis itself.

The act of inquiry is the single definitive act of conciousness. Every great thought, every great philosophy, spirituality, movement, etc. began with a question. Asking questions is also the most radical act one can perform, and the most essential skill needed to live within the confines of the world of forms. Many of the great teachers of enlightenment– Jesus, Socrates, Gautama Buddha and their adherents, for example– chose the dialectic form, question and answer, to impart information to their students. Information doesn’t “stick” if it doesn’t come in response to honest questions.

The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us, how will our end come?”
Jesus said, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end?
—–
Mayo: “What is Zen?”
Patriarch: “What is your original face before you were born?”
—–
Socrates: And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?

Again, according to our interpretation of Gnostic creation mythology, existence began when God asked itself a question, which we might express as “So?” In asking, God began the process of creating distinctions between objective and subjective, self and other. This act of questioning led the God to continue investigating itself, researching itself, learning about itself. Each Aeon God manifested is an additional question, coupled with its own answer. What is Peace? What is Perfection? Where does Understanding come from? What is God? In contrast, the Demiurge never asked about himself; he proceeded under the assumption that he already knew exactly what the heck was going on when he sprang into existence. Remind you of anyone?

Asking questions is Godlike. When we ask questions we fulfill our roles as sensory organs of God in its eternal quest to come to know itself. Let’s look at another way of reading the passage from The Secret Book of John we quoted above:

What bounds the One?
The One is without boundaries
Nothing exists outside of it to border it
How can we investigate it?
The One cannot be investigated
Nothing exists apart from it to investigate it
How big is it?
The One cannot be measured
Nothing exists external to it to measure it

What does it look like?
The One cannot be seen
For no one can envision it
How old is it?
The One is eternal
For it exists forever
What’s the best way to understand it?
The One is inconceivable
For no one can comprehend it
How do you describe it?
The One is indescribable
For no one can put any words to it.

In Gnostic tradition, the Path of Radical Inquiry can be summarized by the second saying from the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, “He or she who seeks should not stop seeking until he or she finds what he or she is seeking. When they find what they are seeking, they will be troubled. When they are troubled, they will be amazed, and will become king over the All.”

Your exercise: read the Gnostic text “The Interpretation of Knowledge.” You’ll notice that the section beginning, “But he was being pursued in that place….” and ending with “…destroyed the arrogant teacher by teaching her to die”contains tons of those little lacunae […] indicating an area in which the text was destroyed.

Once you’ve read through the text, fill in each of the lacunae with a possible reconstruction of what might have been there originally. This probably seems like a crazy and impossible task, but don’t worry about that. Instead, for each lacuna, ask yourself questions, writing your questions as you go. Take the questions as far as you can. You might ask, what should go here? What might this have said? How does this fit into Gnostic doctrine? What is meant here? Who is filling in these lacunae? Try to come up with a dozen or so core questions you can ask about each one.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Anagoge, Gnostic Philosophy, Kimetikos, Premiseless Imperative

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s