Valentinus the learner? LO27258

From: Mark (
Date: 09/24/01

Re LO 27234

Hi AT and all

Some comments questions around your comments on Valentinus...

One of the weaknesses I have experienced in relation to religion in
general and spiritual (or mystical) paths in particular (as I have more
experience of these) is that they tend to provide very limited support or
encouragement for the development of what I have come to understand as a
learning orientation. In my experience the authority of the learner and
the process of learning tend not to be valued except within a set of
externally controlled boundaries. On the contrary, the authority of the
institution and its fixed views are valued, and learning is only
acceptable that builds on or extends these views.

(For example did Jesus make mistakes? Did his disciples make mistakes in
their records? If so, who decides which are mistakes and which are not?
Are some of the claims that were helpful then not helpful now? Again, who
decides? And how do we reconcile the claims of one religious or spiritual
movement with another, presuming that each is referring to an underlying
reality that at some level transcends and includes all of these claims?
Isn't it time for some approach to being human that can genuinely include
all of what has gone before, and is also flexible to include new learning
and understandings that will inevitably emerge in the future? What will
this look like?)

In particular each institution seems to me to tend over time to create
conditions that obscure the capacity for learning to emerge in the learner
through being able to ask fundamental questions without fear. This seems
to me to have come to a head with the vast sea of conflicting information
about the meaning and origins of life in general and human life in
particular that we swim in today. In this sea I find that

 - cultivating a learning orientation,
 - exploring but not giving allegiance to the many paths to wisdom about
the nature of reality and how to live,
 - managing the evolution of a holistic and emergent practice of living,
 - assuming a trans-traditional transcendent goodness at the heart of
reality and
 - learning from and with a network of similarly motivated friends and

are all needed to provide the kind of context I need but struggle to
manifest consistently. I have not found any organised religious or
spiritual path that supports this mix of what I see as basic needs for our

I'm also curious about your references to Gnostics in relation to
Valentinus, and Gnostics in relation to religion. I presume that you are
aware that many Gnostic's would claim Valentinus as their own. I'm
interested to hear about your sources of information about Gnosticism,
particularly with respect to your view that Gnosticism is a reductionist
rationalisation of faith. I have found that all religions (eg Sufism with
Islam, Shamanism within Indigenous Traditions), seem to have an equivalent
to Gnosticism (and similar) within Christianity in the sense of a
spiritual path that values direct knowing of the views otherwise promoted
to religious adherents on the basis of faith or belief. Typically this
group operates in a somewhat hidden or covert way as it is cyclically
subjected to persecution. I think this is only marginally relevant to a
conversation with a learning orientation, apart from the claim that I
might make that those paths that value and promote direct experience seem
to me to be more aligned with a learning orientation, but still within
prescribed views about what has value and validity, that themselves are
not open to question.


>Because of the persecutions on the first and second generations, the RC
>was preoccupied with apologetics. They also had to fend off the gnostic
>movement, i.e., those who want to replace the whole spiritual involvement
>of Christianity with a reductionistic rationalising of faith into pure
>knowledge. Furthermore, much Christian literature were in circulation
>which had not been written authentically by the first and second
>generations of Christians. When arriving in Rome, Valentinus immediately
>recognised that a vast task lay in front of the whole church.


>His critics also accused him of being swept away by his own fantasies
>resulting in a most esoteric and even mystic Gnosticism. But his admirers
>of later generations began to realise how he struggled to uncover the
>first principles of theological disciplines such as exegesis and
>hermeneutics. His adversaries accused him of fanaticism. But students of
>later generations acknowledged how important it was for him to delineate
>sacred Scripture from commentaries upon it.

Warm regards


Mark Feenstra
DDI +64 9 912 7373
PO Box 99193, Newmarket
Auckland, New Zealand


"Mark" <>

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