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Gnostica, Judaica, Catholica. Collected Essays of Gilles Quispel: Edited by Johannes van Oort, With additional Prefaces by April DeConick & Jean-Pierre Mahé, Leiden / Boston (Brill) 2008, [ with extensive Indices, ] 869pp.; [= Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 55]

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This huge collection of (50!) very interesting publications comes from the hand and spirit of Gilles Quispel (1916-2006) who was not only an extraordinarily gifted researcher but also a man with very special qualities as a religious person, family man, colleague, teacher as well as public person, acquainted with many people interested in the same subjects as he. He loved discussion and exchange of ideas and facts from different angles thereby trying to reach the core of their meaning, always first in their historical context but then too in their personal spiritual meaning. In this book he often mentions the opinions of those he spoke with privately or discussed with publicly, be it Carl Gustav Jung or the then still priest Joseph Ratzinger, and many many others. This always makes the reading of his texts very lively and not without comparisons from at first sight sometimes seemingly remote but then often very interesting points of view.
Gilles Quispel was at home in several disciplines. Brought up in classical literature and theology, he defended his dissertation (1943) about the sources of Tertullian’s defense Adversus Marcionem (`against Marcion’) and so became a scholar of the Gnostics. He published Gnosis als Weltreligion (1949) about Valentinus (who also was heavily attacked in the books of Tertullian), after which he became a frequent lecturer in the Eranos Conferences of Jung. Having acquired for the Jung Institute (1956) – with some help of the then Dutch Queen Juliana – one of the Nag Hammadi Codices (now called the Jung Codex) he became one of the first editors (1959) of the now very famous Gospel of Thomas. He was Professor of Early Church History in Utrecht during his whole academic career but also lectured at Harvard, Leuven and many other audiences in the world, from Sweden to Australia. In fact he was one of those who gave the greatest impulse for the serious retake of the studies of Christian origins in the second half of the last century, particularly of Jewish Christianity and Christian Gnosticism with its different roots and branches in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Northern Africa, Italy and so forth. But apart from that he had a big interest in the history of Jewish and Christian spirituality and its literary influences as such. For example he was a lover of Novalis and Goethe, and of Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Piety as well. And he was one who valued the spiritual revival in the second half of the 20th Century outside the churches positively from a very early stage, notwithstanding his permanent faithfulness to his own Christian heritage and church.

Gilles Quispel had several international and Dutch students who became forerunners in their fields of study, with several chairs in American universities as well as in the Netherlands, and other ones who wrote their dissertations under his guidance. To name only the first subjects and fields of study which come to mind:

* Jewish and Christian Gnosticism and its relation with Hermetism and classical philosophy, as well as Early Christian Literature and Art and the Hellenistic Religions, as well as the history of Early Christianity in Egypt (Alexandria) and further Northern Africa,

* the Gospel of Thomas, the Diatessaron (a very old compilation of the Gospels from the Syrian scholar Tatian) and later Syrian Christianity as a precursor of Eastern-Orthodox Christianity, including old Syrian mysticism (Macarius) and the theology of Gregory of Nyssa, and their influences upon Western asceticism and mysticism,

* precursors of Jewish and Early Christian theologies and mysticism (Samaritanism and the history of the biblical and non-biblical Angel of the Lord),

* the Jerusalem church under James the brother of Jesus,

* the parallels between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas and the ideas of the Gospel of John and the Revelation of John, and other New Testament Studies

* the history of Mani and Manicheism,

* Augustine and his Jewish Christian and Manichean roots,

* the idea of androgyny (“man and woman are one” – see below) within Christianity: within the works of Gnosticism, Johannes Scottus Eriugena, Jacob Boehme, among others

* the history of the (Mother) Goddess outside and inside Western culture and its forerunners in Europe and the Near East and Her – veiled or not – presence in Western monotheistic Judaism and Christianity.

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Background and qualities

A very very strong aspect of Gilles Quispels qualities as a researcher was his intuition. Another one his very strong memory. Another one his unbelievable drive and working force. It has to be added here: his wife Lien de Langen was the strong loving, caring and practically guiding character behind everything he did, be it the centre of his family or their many journeys, or any other activity. For as Gilles Quispel always said, he “had” his Madonna in heaven and then the Black Madonna as a sign of our mother deep down from the earth, but his spouse as his Madonna on earth. And although not so much versed in Eastern ‘non-dualism’ as some modern scholars and interpreters, Gilles Quispel had a strong intuition for the importance of duality and its Western varieties, and particularly of androgyny in Western thought and religion (unity or oneness of man and woman, male and female as main symbol of the oneness behind or within every polarity; to be found starring also within Jewish and Christian Kabbala and related “esoteric” currents).
Quispel seldom wrote long explanations of method or changing paradigms, he often wrote just about the facts and parallels and gave insights and impulses and hints, often illuminating series of very relevant ones; so that in the end he often was judged to have got it right, or certainly to have pointed in the right direction. What later became proven from different studies and angles, in an early phase he often suggested the important parallels for, always presented with great wit. That is why everyone interested in the subjects of this great scholar will always be very glad to take the effort of screening all Gilles Quispels writings for the many gems to be found. Indeed in this last collection you will find also a first publication about one of the latest topics he intuited as very important: the background of Islam in Judaic Christianity. It is a lengthy article called ‘The Muslim Jesus’! But even the other ones he himself carefully edited in the last years before his death at 89 (!), often adding the new literature (the editor added still more).

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Some further hints

A complete bibliography has not yet been added although most of Quispels earlier publications are mentioned in this one. It has three prefaces, a very informative one by the editor Professor Johannes van Oort about the work of Gilles Quispel and its main results, and a second very informative as well as personal one (based on a many-years exchange of letters with him) by Quispels Doktor-“grandchild” Professor April DeConick, who reassessed the origins of the Gospel of Thomas and of the Gospel of Judas, and so carried further the heritage of her Doktor-“Grossvater” Quispel (as can be followed nearly day by day at her interesting “The Forbidden Gospels Blog”), and one more personal by Jean-Pierre Mahé, the famous author about and editor of Hermetic writings who since long has been in contact with Gilles Quispel. The very valuable indexes were thankfully prepared by Quispels close and longtime collaborator Dr. Jaap van Amersfoort.

The book has three parts: Gnostica, Judaica and Catholica. It is not nearly possible to summarize their contents here, but be assured that they all three contain publications which are not easily to be found elsewhere, as well as a few more personal essays. The Catholica part is personally interesting as it bespeaks Quispels lifelong commitment to the Christian heritage. Although he often had to defend his findings against fundamentalist Christians who were afraid that he reintroduced long forgotten heresies, here he declares – which those acquainted with him always knew already very well – his strong commitment for the wellbeing of Christianity in the future. Let me just close with his – of course more personal – remarks in this regard. He does not foresee a strong future for Protestantism, because it can mainly preach and is not audiovisual like the celebration of the mystery which the Roman Catholic church is (to which he does not hesitate to add that the liturgy of John Chrysostom is still more mysteriosophic). After that he proposes his wishes. Democracy in the Roman Catholic Church, he writes, has never existed, as in any `orthodox’ (read: self-declared orthodox) church. But he wishes (“as its only hope”) that it would be conscious of its past, which included legitimate currents which articulated experience not authority. Instead of the authoritarian government of the church he then proposes not democracry, not republicanism but … constitutional monarchy, which even in modern times, for example in the state of the Netherlands, has proved perfectly practical and workable. And not for the first time in his long life and career, he hastens to mention the important and not to be neglected but to be acknowledged and honoured role of women, in this case of the “three eminent female monarchs of the Netherlands in the 20th century”.

Gilles Quispel had his strong intuitions, as well as favorites and dislikes. It is always a great pleasure to be abundantly and exactly informed by him (as he once said to me writing my thesis under his guidance: “in writing a thesis your first task is informing people about facts, not preaching”) and then draw our own conclusions, within our own contexts. If you would like to be enriched by his writings with factual findings and insights on very important historical and actual topics, this book is an excellent means and introduction.

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Naar inhoudelijk meest verwante eerstvolgende pagina

Naar chronologisch eerstvolgende pagina

Gepubliceerd door

Boudewijn K. ⃝

--- Deze site bevat overblijfselen van afgesloten publieke activiteiten. --- In 1947 werd ik geboren in Sint Laurens op Walcheren. Ik woonde en werkte verder in Middelburg, Goes en plaatsen in de provincies Noord- en Zuid-Holland en Utrecht. --- Mijn oudste persoonlijke vermelding in het telefoonboek was "(Onder)zoeker van de wegen van het hart"; op dit moment zou ik schrijven: "van de verbondenheid - zonder en met woorden - van alle verschijnselen inclusief u en mij". --- Omdat die kwalificatie nogal een aanmatiging is (ik ben immers minstens even verbonden met alles als "apart deel" van alles), verkies ik als aanduiding "Boudewijn Koole - aspirant". Want zolang het einde van "mij" niet in zicht is, kan "ik" moeilijk beweren dat mijn ervaring anders dan als een streven op te vatten is. Dat streven is: laat mij spreekbuis zijn of kanaal waardoor bewustzijn zich ontplooit en verwerkelijkt. Het allerwonderlijkste: met u/ jou die dit nu leest, met u/ jou ben ik nu ook verbonden! En wij samen weer met ...