Yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Two very different characters.
St. Paul was intelligent, well written, theologically grounded in Judaism and Greek Logic, and a persecutor of Christianity until he had a Gnostic Experience of the Christ. The First Gnostic, his life changed by a mystic vision. He'd never met Jesus, and so his is the first experience of the Christ we have documented, in such a way.
St. Peter was a working man, a fisherman from Galilee, practical, straightforward, not given to philosophizing. A man of his time, a butt for jokes (Jesus did call him a 'rock', after all). He was genuine, loyal, afraid at the end. The practical man looks at death, and sees nothing beyond it. He starts looking after his own skin when the movement seems to die. Yet, in the end, this practical man experiences the impractical. He sees the body gone, sees the Risen Christ, and in a practical way he sets about transforming the world, bringing the Good News to the center of temporal power, and building on it.
Both men died for their faith, for their experiences. Both men died for the stand that they took, that Christ is in each of us, and we should act accordingly.
Generally, these men are not considered Gnostic role models. To me these men illustrate a very important point: that Gnosis can come to anyone who is open to it, whether he be a theologian or a fisherman. It is not learning that gives us gnosis, it is engagement with the Divine in the world. Whether in the library or in the boat, we all have the chance to engage the divine. Peter engaged the divine in the Person of Jesus the Christ, Paul engaged the Divine in the Vision of the Christ. Both experiences left profound marks not only on the men, but on the world.
The price for that engagement may be high. If you asked these men, was the cost too great, I would wager they'd say "No, I could do no other." Engage the Divine in the world, and change the world.