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TilE REGISTRAR OF THE COSMIC UNIVERSITY 619 The Registrar of the Cosmic University LINDA MUNK A.D. Nuttall. The Alternative Trinity: Gnostic Heresy in Marlowe, Milton, and Blake Oxford: Clarendon Press 1998. 282. $116.00 J remember that at the time of the student uprisings in the late 19605 one often heard the view that the Vice-Chancellor was really a good person but the Registrar and officers of the university were the cause of the trouble. By this analogy, the tyrant Jehovah, Ialdabaoth, Nododaddy is merely the Registrar of the cosmic university. (A.D. Nuttall) Gnosticism is a 'philosophy which shrank in horror from the created world and hated its creator'; Christianity, 'which defeated this philosophy, asserted the goodness of creation and the Creator.' I am drawn to A.D. Nuttall's use of the upper case: Gnosticism hated the 'creator,' and Christianity 'asserted the goodness of ... the Creator.' In orthodox Christian doctrine, the upper-case Creator, maker of all things, visible and invisible, is God the Father and the first Person of the Trinity. Gnosticism, on the other hand, held that the well-balanced world was created by an inferior power, 'the Demiurge/ whom Gnostics identified with the God of the Hebrew Bible, 'the God of the Jews.' When Church historians use the term 'Gnosticism,' they are referring to sects of the second and third centuries: Simonians, Valentinians, Orphites, Basilideans, Marcionites, Saturniiians, and Sethians, for example. Despite their many differences, the most characteristic mark of Gnostic sects is the doctrine of two gods: the Creator of the world (or 'the Demiurge'); and an unknown, good and 'true God.' According to Gnostic teaching, the 'good God,' who is utterly separate from the world, was first revealed by his envoy, the Saviour Jesus Christ, who was not the Messiah foretold in Hebrew Scripture. Nor in Gnosticism is the .God of Genesis the Father of Jesus' Christ. To follow Simone Petrement: 'The God who speaks and gives the laws in the Old Testament did not make the Father of the Saviour known. He was not this Father and did not know him' (A Separate God: The Christial1 Origil1s ofGnosticism). Until the sudden and unexpected advent of Jesus Christ in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the 'true God' had been unknown to mankind. 'The Father for Blake is a jealous tyrant,' Nuttall writes; and 'Blake's oppressorgod , Urizen ... is evidently Jehovah.' In order to identify Blake's 'oppressor-god' with the DemiurgeofGnosticism, Nuttall would have toshow that Blake's 'Father' (or 'Jehovah') is not the first Person of the Trinity. An 'opposition between Jesus' and the Creator,' or between the 'tyrannical Father of theJews' and 'the Son' is not Gnosticism. Gnosticism is characterized by a distinction between two gods: the God of the Old Testament ('the Original Patriarch'), and the previously unknown, 'true God' of the Gospel, whom Nuttall locates 'on the far side of the universe.' 620 LINDA MUNK Nuttall's book argues for Ian alternative picture of the Trinity, in which the Father is a tyrant, not complemented but opposed by the Son.I The word 'alternative' implies a choice: to choose one of two alternative things involves rejecting the other. 'The tendency of my argument is to suggest that, long before William Blake, Gnosticism implies an alternative Trinity in which the Son opposes the Father.' Which IPather'? The only 'alternative Trinity' I have come across in Gnosticism was recorded by Origen: 'Paul was seated at the right hand of Christ in heaven, and Marcion at the left' (Gilles Quispel's study of Marcion is being cited by Jaroslav Pelikan). That is not the 'alternative Trinity' Nuttall is writing about. As for Blake's 'Gnostic heresy,' it appears to be a domestic disrurbance: lIn orthodox Christianity the Trinity is a happy family, in Blake unhappy; the Father and the Son do not get on.' Moreover: 'If the Father and the Son are one substance, it follows they are on the same side (see eye to eye, perceive the same moral truth). But in Blake the Father and Son are not on the same side.' To conclude: 'it seems to me beyond doubt that Blake's Trinity...


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