Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Gnostics and Ninjas: The Mysterious Connection Between the Cult of God and the Cult of Death

How can a person connect the Gnostics and the Ninjas, you might ask. On the surface, the two groups are not only separated by hundreds (if not thousands) of years and thousands of miles, but they are also greatly divided in their purpose ... or are they? Modern mainstream media has given us a pretty warped view of both groups.

The infamous Ninjamania movies of the 1980's told us that the ninjas were nothing more than assassins. Their sole purpose was to wreak havoc, dishearten enemy warriors, and brutally murder whoever got in their way. At best, we got to see the spiritual side of ninjutsu as Sho Kosugi angrily and tearfully performed kuji-kiri (hand gestures) and recite sutras in front of a Buddha in "Revenge of the Ninja" and "Pray for Death."

Modern literature/cinema has given us a glimpse of Gnostics as well, though the Gnostics of "The DaVinci Code" were just good at hiding secrets in artwork and having group sex in basements. At best most people think that the Gnostics were a group of people who were pretty smart and connected to some great power. At worst, they were a bunch of libertines who defied God and "His Church."

The truth is that both groups were just different from the accepted norm, and that got them both into trouble with the authorities of their time.

Ninjas were small, local clans of kinsmen who trained in the martial arts to survive the harsh times of a country embroiled in battle after battle. They accepted the teaches of outcast Chinese generals, Shinto priests, yamabushi Buddhist ascetic monks, and samurai who refused to slit open their own bellies just because their master lost a battle. They treated both sexes as important, and many women became valuable fighters as well, known as kunoichi. Because they didn't adhere to the codes of conduct prevalent at the time, they came to be seen as practitioners of dark arts, or even tengu (mountain goblins). They understood the value of melding the spiritual with the physical, of coexisting and working with Nature to achieve their goals, and to use their strengths to make a difference in the world. The stronger, more prevalent aspect of society, however, saw them as a threat and attempted to destroy them. Over time, they moved deeper underground, passing their traditions on to a select few or to other masters, if a master died without an heir. Only in recent years have they enjoyed the freedom to come out of the shadows back into society.

Gnostics were small groups of men and women who, at least in Christian times, existed within the structure of orthodox Christian society. However, living as many of them did at the crossroads of thought, Alexandria, they were exposed to the beliefs of many other people. They began to see that God was a lot more than what they had been told by the orthodox teachers. Melding the philosophies of Christianity, Neo-Platonism, the Mystery traditions, Zoroastrianism, and possibly Eastern philosophies, they began to get a fuller picture of the Divine and the Cosmos. They began to see the true purpose and mission of Christ the Logos. As they moved beyond the beliefs of society, so too did they change their views of women. Women were allowed to be ordained and to teach. In fact, the great aeon of Gnosticism became Sophia, the feminine aspect of God. Their beliefs threatened the power of the Church, however, and soon a campaign was launched against them to wipe out their books and their beliefs. They too survived into the modern age by going underground ... literally placing their sacred texts in an earthen jar in a cave at Nag Hammadi.

What both groups represent is a desire by a select few to see beyond what society tells everyone else to see. They sought to reach their full potential, and that was something their societies couldn't tolerate. Power cannot be placed in the hands of the individual if repressive societies are to endure. Freedom can only be allowed in the small doses meted out by those in authority. To do otherwise is blasphemy.

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