Something on gnosticism and in particular, the use of gnosticism by Franz Kafka. Like anything else, there are various strands of thought on the subject, often mutually exclusive and arriving at different conclusions. A wonderful description of Kafka and how gnosticism presents itself in his work that sounds like splitting hairs, but is actually a well clarified distinction: …
… ( Frederick) Crews’s distortions are especially egregious in his approach to ( Stanley ) Corngold’s work throughout. Crews paraphrases the argument of Corngold’s Lambent Traces, as follows: “Kafka was a gnostic dualist who… meant his literary works to be acts of communication with a realm of transcendent essence.” It is hard to make much sense of this, either as a summary of gnostic dualism or as a digest of any argument Corngold offers. Crews appears to be either unwilling or unable to grasp Corngold’s initial and crucial distinction between the religious tradition of a transcendental, “upper-case” Gnosticism and the cultural strategy of an immanent, “lower-case” gnosticism; the latter is a “descriptor” of Kafka’s mode of writing. What his book says is that Kafka’s writing is informed ideally by this gnostic verve, a swift leave-taking from the “sensory world”; it includes the writer’s ecstasy and a sense of bodily detachment; writing as a consuming of or leaping off experience; and a vast world of inspirations (“die ungeheure Welt, die ich im Kopfe haben“) conveying the promise of a higher perception. There is nothing here about communicating with “essence” but only the hope of producing works good enough to survive in a world of books and readers. Kafka’s relation to theological Gnosticism is another thing. In his journals you find continual notations on death and dying and the desire to die; and especially around 1917–1918, when Kafka does not write stories, his thoughts issue in aphoristic arguments distinctly reminiscent of historical Gnosticism. It is in the field of tension between these two concerns—between “consuming the self” (Selbstaufzehrung) and “casting off the self” (Selbstabschüttelung)—that Kafka’s life and writing make their way. This is the double strand of Kafka’s neo-Gnosticism, bound by a conflict at once tormented and witty. Read More:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2005/apr/07/kafka-up-close-an-exchange/?pagination=false
Gnosticism as a paring back, a throwback that reflects a parody or echo of a sort of shambling, incoherent, archaic Judaism where no one had a clue to what they were doing and to which the normative, Platonic based religion of today seems to purge these rough and ragged and brilliant prettiness out into a standardized, generic, bell curve of thought. Gnosticism: think of people ascending to heaven in mystical trances, folks like Enoch entering the pearly gates of heaven without having to pass through the prerequisite of dying; lots of moxie, some elan and a sprinkling of chutzpah. Bob Dylan captured some of the zeitgeist in his Basement Tapes and Greil Marcus expanded on this in The Old Weird America.
Harold Bloom: …the rabbi Elisha Ben Abuyah, whom the others called Akah, meaning the stranger or the alien, and who is reported to have ascended into heaven in a mystical trance and there beheld not one God but two gods, sitting on thrones facing each other, one being Yahweh, and the other being Metatron, the angel of the divine presence who simply was the transmogrified human being Enoch after he is carried off by Yahweh to the heavens without the necessity of first dying. There are all kinds of complex traditions, some of them going back a long, long way, even though we have no texts of what could be called an original Jewish Gnosis….
…As I understand Gnosticism,—and it seems to me in this I am highly consonant with my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson, as I am with Valentinus of Alexandria or Basilides of Alexandria, or with Luria or Cordovero, let alone that splendid fellow Nathan of Gaza, who wrote the treatise on the dragons and was the spokesperson or prophet for the false Messiah Sabbatai Zevi,—Gnosticism essentially comes down to a few convictions. One is that the best and oldest part of every one of us, even if we don’t have immediate access to it, or easy access to it, is part and parcel of God. Another is that the creation and the fall are not two separate events, but one and the same event with all of the unfortunate the unfortunate pragmatic pragmatic consequences of this….
. . . I suppose the remaining basic conviction of Gnosticism is that there is, besides the divinity to which it is so hard to have access, it is very deep in the rock of the self. There is also an exiled component of the true God, who is not Yahweh but presumably the Anthropos, the original man/God of the hermeticists. Except, who knows? Akiba—Akiba who was after all the normative rabbi, the founder of what we call normative Judaism in the second century of the common era, Akiba specifically said that his favorite name for God was ish, which is ma
o—in any case I suppose the final tenet of Gnosticism is that there is an exiled component of the Godhead, but it’s not in this world, which is governed by the archons and governed by Blake’s Nobodaddy as it were, and that far off beyond our solar system, in the cosmological outer spaces there is … Read More:http://www.rc.umd.edu/praxis/bloom_hartman/bloom/bloom.html