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The Pleroma

One idea that characterises most Gnostic texts are their complex accounts of the unfolding of the various Divine emanations, the Aeons, the "Eternities" or "Worlds", which become the transcendental Pleroma or realm of Light.  The Pleroma is distinguished from the lower or manifest creation, so the Gnostic Cosmology is based on the idea of a duality between the transcendent Spiritual Reality (which includes the manifest and unmanifest) Absolute) and the imperfect psychic and physical reality, the "Cosmos".   The psycho-physical cosmos in fact is considered a lower or imperfect reflection or copy of the higher perfect order of the Pleroma

The exact representations of the Pleroma differ according to different Gnostic sects, but if we take the Sethian and Valentinian schools there is the division into four grades of divine existence, as follows

the Supreme Principle;
Spirit, Abyss, Fore-Father etc
(and associated Aeons)
The Self-Begotten - Autogenes
(and associated Aeons)
the Archetypal Man
(and associated Aeons)
the Cosmos
psyche and matter

It is fascinating to consider the parallels here between the Gnostic idea of the Pleroma and parallel themes from Neoplatonism, Kabbalah, Ishraqism, Samkhya, Kashmir Shaivism, and more recent teachings like Sant Mat (Radha Soami), Theosophy, Sri Aurobindo, Meher Baba, and various New Age and Channelled teachings, all of whom distinguish between a transcendent Divine Spiritual ontological Reality (or Realities) and a lower imperfect reality of finite psychic and physical existence, usually in terms of a number of distinct planes or emanations.  The fact that such similar models of understanding can arise independently in different cultures and systems of thought suggests that Reality really does have a "structure" that can be tapped into and perceived.  Of course the sceptical materialist can and will find other explanations - and I respect that.  But the materialist still cannot explain why one should prefer their irrational and very limited world-view over other worldviews that may be equally irrational but at least are not so limited.  Ultimately though it is upto each individual to decide how they wish to perceive reality.  Which is how it should be.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 20 July 1998, last modified 6 June 2004