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Unusual Podcast Episode: A Conversation with Cyd Ropp
This story is somewhat different from what I usually write.
Story behind the interview
Last year, I did a couple of interviews with Johnny Vedmore (see interview one on Klaus Schwab and the CIA and interview two on fake experts and Johnny’s personal very emotional experience of being groomed by a pedophile as a kid). During the second interview, Johnny spoke very unkindly about Gnosticism. It was a side remark, we ultimately agreed that neither of us knew a ton about Gnosticism, and the conversation went on. But it got me curious. At the time, I knew that Gnosticism was a banned old Christian sect of some sort but nothing else. I knew Cyd, however, who had previously interviewed me about my work, and who had also impressed me as a very sunny soul. Cyd is a Gnostic, which I was aware of.
Now, I am a very curious person. I like to understand things about the world, and I like to understand how people think. So I asked Cyd to do an interview about Gnosticism—which we did in July of last year. It went a little differently than how I had envisioned it. I was expecting an “academic lecture” of sorts, and instead, we got into a mix of human conversation about spiritual matters and a jungle of theological theory that was very interesting as a matter of learning about another person’s worldview, but I just couldn’t figure out how to fit it into the format of what I usually write about.
And so, I sat on it for seven months, feeling like a horse’s arse, trying to figure out how to write about it, while having no time to dedicate many, many hours to researching the Gnostic tradition. Cyd has been very gracious about the fact that I sat on it for seven months, for which I am grateful to her (A LOT). She really is a sunny soul! Her even-headed patience made it work.
Who is Cyd Ropp?
Cyd is the host of the podcast called “Gnostic Insights.” She grew up in California, where she was raised in the Evangelical tradition. Cyd has always been drawn to philosophy and religion and, as a teen, she hitchhiked around California and preached. Luckily, all ended well!
Cyd holds several degrees. One of her Master’s theses is on homeschooling, her other Master’s degree is in counseling. She wrote her PhD thesis on the trial of Abigail Odam, a traditional Amish midwife (also the midwife who had helped with the birth of Cyd’s brothers’ children)). In 1997, Abigail Odam was sentenced to four years in prison for “practicing medicine without a license” in CA.
Cyd, who attended the trial and later obtained the transcripts for her dissertation, is convinced that Abby had been blatantly set up by the “industry” and the hospitalized nurses, who were mad at Abby for defying their rules and for being their competition, and who had been sharpening their teeth at her, trying to make a case. According to Cyd, the tragic irony of the situation was that Abby Odam was not aspiring to practice Western medicine, she was practicing traditional Amish midwifery, and had many happy customers. Of course, if you look on the internet now, Abby is made to look like the devil. But then today, nearly every decent human being is made to look like the devil by the mainstream, so…
In addition to being an academic, Cyd is a really great singer who had been performing in musical theater up until the “pandemic measures” were rolled out. Cyd and I share the indignation over just how quickly the artistic community bent over and accepted totalitarianism and “new normal.” (Here is a link to Cyd’s recent backyard concert. What a voice she has!)
It boils down to love
And here is the thing. Our conversation is a perfect illustration of how to communicate soul to soul, over the maze of theories and words. Cyd is so lovable and such a beautiful soul that I really don’t care whether we agree or disagree on any of the things we discussed.
Some things she said, I think I know what she means, and I wholeheartedly agree in a philosophical sense, while I use entirely different words to describe the same thing. And then some things, I vehemently, wholeheartedly disagree with, but her passionate presence is still so genuine and she is so lovable and such a beautiful soul that, well, we think differently about cosmology, so what. Sooner or later, we will all die, and cosmology will present itself more immediately, and we will know who is right and who is wrong or anything in-between, and all our wishful thinking and cultural hang-ups here on Earth will dissolve. So we can disagree in sincerity and yet approach each other (all of us, who are on the good side) with love and total respect for the other person’s right to explore the sacred on their own terms.
Now, me. Am I seeking another person’s terminology or theory to explain the world to me? Not really, no. I am doing those things from the inside, I have been trying to figure it out all my life, I am very much at peace with my findings, and external words only get in the way. Furthermore (in no relation to Cyd), I think that “worldview” missionaries are mainly driven by a ghost in their souls, although they convince themselves that they are driven by their desire to spread the light. Typically, missionaries spread an imposition, not light. Light can only be spread when it’s voluntary and doesn’t require marketing tricks or swords. A conversation for another day but no, I don’t like the missionary principle at all.
So, again, do I agree with everything that Cyd says? Some of the important things she talks about, yes, and it’s all love, although I use completely different words and not seeking any other words except what already makes sense to me. And then on some other things, I completely disagree—and yet, her soul, her very being, is so beautiful that all I can feel is love. I don’t know if this makes sense but I think this is the normal mode of interacting with people who are sincere. You look at a person, the person is doing their thing, using their words, how it makes sense to them, and you respect that. You respect their spirit, and it is not necessary to agree on linguistic structures if you can sense their soul and see how beautiful it is.
If you want to go straight to the interview and skip the philosophy, it’s at the bottom of the article. I want to proceed with philosophy though.
My personal take on handling differences in opinion
Personally, I don’t get even minimally triggered by the differences in personal opinion, be it opinions in the political, scientific, cosmological, or theological sphere. Especially in the theological sphere. I think it would be pretty arrogant on the part of any human being to proclaim a theological right to convert other people to their own belief or to assume that having found something that works for them and that makes sense to them (which is always a happy thing) entitles them to more than telling their story to others, with love. I feel strongly about that.
And then sometimes, when I say that, people holding newer traditional beliefs (new comparing to the millions of years people have been around) jump to arguing and say that, “Yes, it could be all true but you are confused here because MY belief is God’s word, and everything that disagrees with it is delusion and fluff.” To which I say, “But how do you know that?” And how, in principle, do you resolve an argument between two people who both believe with total passion and dedication that their belief is a word of God, and the other person’s belief is delusion and fluff? No, seriously, how to do you resolve it? You can’t. And maybe, in this case, the truest truth lies somewhere else?
(A side remark: If you are very, very open-minded and curious about theological debates, look up Ahmed Deedat. But this recommendation comes with a big warming, His debates were very witty and he knew the theological literature of all three Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity and Islam, really well—but in his debates, he, just like his debate opponents, held no reverence for the other side’s Holy Books. So, if you have no need for it, or if you are not ready to watch irreverent and politically incorrect theological debates, in which every side only feels reverence for their Book but not the other side’s Book, don’t look him up, you’ll get upset.)
On the relationship between theology and power
Let me start with an assumption. I presume that being aligned with the spiritual forces makes one strong and hard to deceive. A human being who is aligned with the spiritual powers, in the true sense of it, is strong from the inside, doesn’t eat bullshit, and doesn’t bend over to abuse.
What does a typical state structure want from the people? Strength? Clarity? Independence? Wisdom? Self-sufficiency? Clarity of thought? Methinks, not.
And when we look at it this way, things are easier to understand. So when a big theological authority, just like any other authority, starts acting like a “parent,” policing people’s religions practices and beliefs, it is very unlikely that their goal is to ensure that the citizens are spiritually aligned in the truest sense.
More likely, they are seeking quite the opposite, i.e. actively seeking to limit the powers of the people, or at least of the majority of the people, by feeding them “theological disinformation” of sort. And yes, in parallel to the official talking points, there often be “secret societies” (which, by the way, is a perfectly legitimate way to maintain closed “expert” clubs, there is nothing wrong with it in principle, except when lying to the outsiders is involved and a deliberate suppression of other people’s powers).
So what ends up happening is that the people in high positions of power try to keep perhaps more accurate knowledge about the world to themselves and simultaneously, they convince the majority of people (and force them, if that’s what it takes) to internalize and practice disempowering beliefs, the kind of beliefs that distract the people from the truth. And then they take it to the ninja-level of disinformation, they convince the people that the knowledge that has the potential to wake people up to reality and to make them powerful is a shame and a sin. Like a children’s fairy tale!
How ninja is that?
Now of course, the people are not robo-zombies, people find the sacred in their souls no matter what theory they get from those in power. People would find the light even if we are told to pray to “011101111.” Even so, the spirit will shine through the darkness, even so.
But none the less, authorities lie. What does it have to do with Gnosticism? Me here, I am talking about the general principle, not Gnosticism. I know little about Gnosticism. Cyd would probably say that what I just said has everything to do with Gnosticism, and from her perspective, she would have a point.
But in general, this principle has been ruling society for centuries on end. And yet, we, good people, keep arguing with each other over whose institutional views are more correct? Why?
Now, it is possible to have a relatively pure version of a relationship between power and spiritual truth. I don’t believe it is possible on the level of high-level “state church” (just look at the relationship of the Orthodox priests with the KGB, or the pope and churches recommending the vax). But in the context of a small, local, family-like community, I think spiritual leadership can work. Especially, if we are talking about the way people lived for countless generations, before modern comforts showed up. In the context of a small, family-like community, where life was rough and everyone’s survival depended on holding accurate views about the world, it was far easier to stay pure. In a world where there was no “shield” from reality, fantasy led to death. And it kept people real, for a very long time.
Everything is a relationship. Wisdom and balance cannot be maintained without being in a relationship with other people and with the spiritual world. We are not wired, I don’t think, to be in a meaningful relationship with more than a certain number of people in the community. Once it becomes more than that, we lose our minds, things turn into a management conveyor, and wisdom takes a hike.
But yes, I agree that there is an accurate cosmological truth, and a relatively accurate description of how the world works, and where we come from, and where we go—it’s just that I don’t think that what we are being told by the institutional folk is that.
But we are here. We all have a feeling. Thanks to the books, despite the books, either way. And our feeling is eternal and sacred, and it’s nobody’s business to tell another person how to believe. Which is a very long way to say… I don’t have to agree with another human being’s view in order to marvel at the beauty of their soul and to treat them with love. I think it’s healthy to be this way.
We can trace the spirit of the push to eradicate “dangerous misinformation” to ancient state-sponsored theological debates. The incredible thing is that history, including theological history, is written by the winners, and whichever side of the debate wins politically, they also get to be “theologically correct.” Fact.
Here is an example. Even a shallow Wikipedia analysis of the “Arian controversy” (a theological debate between different Christian thinkers on the nature of Christ) was politically solved, and then theologically sealed. Does a political decision on theological matters prove that one side was right about God and the other side was wrong? I don’t think that this is how it works.
The Church was now a powerful force in the Roman world, with Constantine I having legalized it in 313 through the Edict of Milan. "Constantine desired that the church should contribute to the social and moral strength of the empire, religious dissension was a menace to the public welfare." Consequently, the emperor had taken a personal interest in several ecumenical issues, including the Donatist controversy in 316. He also wanted to bring an end to the Arian dispute.
To this end, the emperor sent bishop Hosius of Corduba to investigate and, if possible, resolve the controversy. Hosius was armed with an open letter from the Emperor: "Wherefore let each one of you, showing consideration for the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant." As the debate continued to rage despite Hosius' efforts, Constantine in AD 325 took an unprecedented step: he called an ecumenical council at Nicaea composed of church prelates from all parts of the empire to resolve this issue, possibly at Hosius' recommendation. It is traditionally said that 318 bishops came to Nicaea to attend the council, though others suggest figures from 250 to 300. The vast majority of those bishops were from the East. Italy, Spain, Gaul, North Africa, Persia, and Scythia each sent one bishop.
The Bishop of Rome, Sylvester I, himself too aged to attend, sent two priests as his delegates. Arius himself attended the council as well as the young deacon Athanasius, who attended as an assistant to Alexander of Alexandria and who would become the champion of the Nicene Creed and spend most of his life battling Arianism and other form of Unitarianism. Also there were Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia. Before the main conclave convened, Hosius initially met with Alexander and his supporters at Nicomedia. The council was presided over by the emperor himself, who participated in and even led some of its discussions.
Those who upheld the notion that Christ was co-eternal and con-substantial with the Father were led by the young archdeacon Athanasius. Those who instead insisted that the Son of God came after God the Father in time and substance, were led by Arius the presbyter. For about two months, the two sides argued and debated, with each appealing to Scripture to justify their respective positions. Arius maintained that the Son of God was a Creature, made from nothing; and that he was God's First Production, before all ages. And he argued that everything else was created through the Son. Thus, said Arius, only the Son was directly created and begotten of God; furthermore, there was a time that He had no existence. He was capable of His own free will, said Arius, and thus "were He in the truest sense a son, He must have come after the Father, therefore the time obviously was when He was not, and hence He was a finite being."
According to some accounts in the hagiography of Saint Nicholas, debate at the council became so heated that at one point, he slapped Arius in the face. The majority of the bishops at the council ultimately agreed upon a creed, known thereafter as the Nicene Creed formulated at the first council of Nicaea. It included the word homoousios, meaning "consubstantial", or "same in essence", which was incompatible with Arius' beliefs. On June 19, 325, council and emperor issued a circular to the churches in and around Alexandria: Arius and two of his unyielding partisans (Theonas and Secundus) were deposed and exiled to Illyricum, while three other supporters—Theognis of Nicaea, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Maris of Chalcedon—affixed their signatures solely out of deference to the emperor. However, Constantine soon found reason to suspect the sincerity of these three, for he later included them in the sentence pronounced on Arius.
A “heretical sect”
If you practice a traditional Abrahamic faith, you may or may not appreciate the Gnostic perspective on the world (with a disclaimer that there are different schools there, too, and differences between the schools). For example, Gnostics, as conveyed by Cyd and confirmed by the internet, don’t accept the God of the Old Testament as God. In Gnosticism, there is a personality called Demiurge, who is somewhat similar to the Christian “Devil,” although not quite. According to the Gnostic’s cosmological view per Cyd, the Demiurge separated from God to fulfill his ego, and it is the Demiurge who created this world. And he is also the one who has committed the original sin, not Adam and Eve. Consequently, Gnostics believe that the God of the Old Testament is really the Demiurge.
This is not the cosmology that speaks to me personally, I have a different cosmological view (an altogether different cosmological view)—but again, there is value in learning how different people think, and, if your own views are grounded, being exposed to a different cosmology is not a trigger event. :)
The part that I agree with, and something that, according to Cyd, is the most important part of the entire Gnostic view, is that "gnosis,” (“knowing”) is not a fancy unreachable thing (just like the Buddhist enlightenment is not an unreachable thing) but a reference to remembering why each of us is here. That’s a view that was shared among many “indigenous” cultures all over the world, and I am subscribed to that view. Back in the day, every single person was expected to figure it out early on in life so that to be useful to themselves and to the community at large. It has largely been forgotten (remember that power balance?) but it’s the most important thing for a human being, to remember why we are here, and then to do the job.
As for the rest of the theological debate, you will see it in the interview, it gets pretty dense at times, and we meander, agreeing and then disagreeing, then agreeing, then disagreeing, then arguing about terminology, then arguing about whether I am a Gnostic or not. All, with love. :))
Without further ado, here is the interview with Cyd, a sunny soul, Cyd.
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