This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The gnosis of the apostles transmitted orally

Here we need to return to the concept of gnosis, which is quite separate from any doctrines associated with the gnostic heresy, and which is a term used not only in the Gospels themselves and by St. Paul, but is used frequently in the Doctors of the Church. It refer specifically to spiritual knowledge, although of the highest order, such that it constitutes a kind of spiritual state or a degree of ‘spiritual realization.’

This knowledge was, according to St. Clement, imparted first and foremost to only four apostles: “The Lord after his resurrection imparted gnosis to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles,”[1] and he elsewhere admits St. Paul into this list, by his special illumination on the road to Damascus.

What is this gnosis?

It is a true knowledge which consists in the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient systema of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved…a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures.[2]

We pause to point out here that this teaching is clearly oral, as it is claimed to be ‘in harmony with the Scriptures’ and therefore distinct from mere interpretation of Scripture itself or derived exclusively from them, especially since that this time the New Testament was not even readily available.

St. Clement frequently speaks of this gnosis, this Christic teaching given to the four apostles, received from them orally, and restricted to those able to receive them:

These teachers, preserving the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy aposltes, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God’s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds.[3]

The Lord…allowed us to communicate of those divine mysteries, and of that holy light, to ‘those who are able to receive them’ (Matt. 19:11). He did not certainly disclose to the many what did not belong to the many; but to the few to whom He knew that they belonged, who were capable of receiving and being moulded according to them. But ineffable things are entrusted to speech, not to writing, as is the case with God. But the mysteries are delivered mystically, so that what is in the mouth of the initiator may be in the mouth of the initiated; rather not in his voice, but in his mind.[4]

Various elements of this teaching are important, but we would emphasis the nature of the mysteries and the insistence that they be transmitted orally and not by writing, which is in line with the whole Catholic tradition and the hermeneutic office of the Church.

The gnosis in question is not given to all, and this does not contradict the mission given to preach the Gospel:

True, the Lord has told us: ‘What ye hear in the ear, proclaim upon the houses’; bidding them receive the secret traditions of true gnosis, and expound them aloft and conspicuously; and as we have heard in the ear, so to deliver them to whom it is requisite; but not enjoining us to communicate to all without distinction, what is said to them in parables.[5]

We could summarize by saying that the existence of this gnosis is therefore undeniable, and that it is for all but only given to those endowed with the requisite spiritual comprehension.

[1] Fragment 13: Church History, II, 1, 4.

[2] Against the Heresies, IV, 33, 7-8.

[3] I Strom. c. 1, 11, 3.

[4]  Strom. c. 1, 13, 2.

[5] 1 Strom., c. XII, 56, 2.

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