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Pleroma (Greek πλήρωμα) generally refers to the totality of divine powers. The word means fullness from πληρόω ("I fill") comparable to πλήρης which means "full",[1] and is used in Christian theological contexts: both in Gnosticism generally, and by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 2:9 (the word is used 17 times in the NT).[2]

Gnosticism holds that the world is controlled by archons, among whom some versions of Gnosticism claim is the deity of the Old Testament, who held aspects of the human captive, either knowingly or accidentally. The heavenly pleroma is the totality of all that is regarded in our understanding of "divine". The pleroma is often referred to as the light existing "above" our world, occupied by spiritual beings who self-emanated from the pleroma. These beings are described as aeons (eternal beings) and sometimes as archons. Jesus is interpreted as an intermediary aeon who was sent, along with his counterpart Sophia, from the pleroma, with whose aid humanity can recover the lost knowledge of the divine origins of humanity and in so doing be brought back into unity with the Pleroma. The term is thus a central element of Gnostic religious cosmology.

Gnostic texts envision the pleroma as aspects of God, the eternal Divine Principle, who can only be partially understood through the pleroma. Each "aeon" (i.e. aspect of God) is given a name (sometimes several) and a female counterpart (Gnostic viewed divinity and completeness in terms of male/female unification). The Gnostic myth goes on to tell how the aeon wisdom's female counterpart Sophia separated from the Pleroma to form the demiurge, thus giving birth to the material world.

Modern useEdit

Pleroma is also used in the general Greek language and is used by the Greek Orthodox church in this general form since the word appears in the book of Colossians. Proponents of the view that Paul was actually a gnostic, such as Elaine Pagels of Princeton University, view the reference in Colossians as something that was to be interpreted in the gnostic sense.[3]

Carl JungEdit

Carl Jung used the word in his mystical 1916 unpublished work, Seven Sermons to the Dead, which was finally published in Answer to Job (1952), and later in an appendix to the second edition of Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962).[4] According to Jung, pleroma is both "nothing and everything. It is quite fruitless to think about pleroma. Therein both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and infinite possess no qualities."

Gregory BatesonEdit

In his work on the Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson adopts and extends Jung's distinction between Pleroma (the non-living world that is undifferentiated by subjectivity) and Creatura (the living world, subject to perceptual difference, distinction, and information).

Neoplatonism and GnosticismEdit

John M. Dillon in his "Pleroma and Noetic Cosmos: A Comparative Study" states that Gnosticism imported its concept of the ideal realm or pleroma from Plato's concept the cosmos and Demiurge in Timaeus and of Philo's Noetic cosmos in contrast to the aesthetic cosmos. Dillon does this by contrasting the Noetic cosmos to passages from the Nag Hammadi, where the aeons are expressed as the thoughts of God. Dillon expresses the concept that pleroma is a Gnostic adaptation of Hellenic ideas since before Philo there is no Jewish tradition that accepts that the material world or cosmos was based on an ideal world that exists as well.[5]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Svenska Akademiens Ordbok, search on the word Pleroma [1]
  2. See Strong's #4138: pleroma [2].
  3. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters (1975), Fortress Press, ISBN 0-8006-0403-2; 1992 edition: Trinity Press International, ISBN 1-56338-039-0, p. 137
  4. Jung C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962), Vintage Books, ISBN 0-679-72395-1
  5. John M. Dillon, "Pleroma and Noetic Cosmos: A Comparative Study" in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism (1992), R.T. Wallis, ed., State Univ. of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-1337-3, 2006 edition: ISBN 0-7914-1338-1.[3]

BibliographyEdit

  • John M. Dillon, "Pleroma and Noetic Cosmos: A Comparative Study" in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism (1992), R.T. Wallis, ed., State Univ. of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-1337-3, 2006 edition: ISBN 0-7914-1338-1.


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