Pronoia – Part 1

Pronoia - Past and Present

Pronoia – Part 1

Pronoia is an attitude towards life that is very popular among spiritually evolved people today. It is defined as the opposite of paranoia and the belief that the entire universe is focused on our good.

Is this belief correct, or does it contain something untrue?

To answer this question we will first look at the etymology of the word “pronoia” and the ancient mystery tradition from which it comes. The study of the tradition shows us that the meaning of this word has changed throughout history. If we learn about the particular phenomena that are hidden in it, we can better understand the essence of the spiritual path.

The word comes from the Greek and is composed of two parts: the prefix “pro”, which means “before”, and the word “nous”, which means “thought” or “spirit”. From this connection comes the idea of a phenomenon or state of consciousness that exists outside or perhaps above the mind and thought. Pronoia can also be translated from Greek as providence, prophecy, prediction, or certainty. They describe abilities that a person may possess as attributes of his consciousness.

We encounter the word “pronoia” when we study Greek mythology. It is one of the two names of the sea nymph Hesione Pronoia, the daughter of Oceanidus and wife of Prometheus. Pronoia” was also another name attributed to the goddess Athena.
This term is found on several Gnostic Apocryphal Gospels found at Nag Hammadi, including the “Apocryphon of John,” the “Gospel of the Egyptians,” and the Neoplatonic text “Zostrianos.

This word, borrowed from Greek, also represents the feudal system that prevailed in the Byzantine Empire, including Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia, since the 11th century. This system was introduced in Byzantium during the reign of Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1055) and consisted of granting land or estates to prominent citizens in return for military services. It gave the new owners the right to collect taxes from the population that inhabited these lands.

Nowadays, the term pronoia is used in psychology to describe the “positive” attitude towards life as opposed to paranoia. The term pronoia thus became more widely known again in 1982 by sociologist Fred Goldner. As a term, it differs slightly from the common usage presented at the beginning of this article because, first, it refers mainly to interpersonal relationships and, second, it encompasses the full spectrum of its meaning, namely, as an approach that, depending on its intensity, can be either constructive or, when taken to extremes, destructive and harmful.

In this article, we will refer to the different meanings of this word in the context of the development of human consciousness and try to find an answer to the question of whether the universe is really focused only on our good.

Pronoia in the Gnostics

Let us begin with the texts from the Nag Hammadi writings. In these Gnostic writings we find a continuation of the thoughts of the ancient mystery schools about the process of liberation from matter, often described as the symbolic death of the old man and the rebirth of a new man. This process is the timeless essence of many spiritual paths.

Pronoia is understood in this context as the feminine face of God, the benevolent divine power that keeps the world in order; Providence, the first revelation of the invisible Source, the reflection of its light and wisdom; the womb for the Father’s thoughts, the first power from which further emanations arise; the consciousness that transcends the mind. Together with the virgin spirit, she creates a being called the Metropator – the Mother/Father.

In the Apocrypha of John, Pronoia is also identified with Protonoia – the first thought of the Father – and Epinoia – the reflection, the subsequent thought and the divine light that was hidden in the earthly man. It is also represented as the figure of the Savior, the power of Christ, Autogenes. It is the power that comes to liberate fallen man from the bondage of matter. In the world of our ancestors, there was a belief that the material world was created without the participation of the spirit and is therefore full of suffering and imperfection.

The Apocrypha of John states:
“I am the providence of everything. I became like my own children of men. I existed from the beginning. … I dwell in the light. I am the memory of Providence. I entered in the midst of darkness. I came into the deepest part of the underworld. I let my face light up. I think of the end of their time. I entered their prison. The body is that prison.

I called out, “He who hears, arise from his deep sleep”! And the sleeper woke up and cried. He wiped bitter tears and said, “Who is calling me? Where does my hope come from while I lie in the depths of this prison?
I am the providence of pure light”. I answered, “I am the thought of the virgin spirit that raises you to an honorable place. Rise up! Remember what you have heard. Trace your roots back to me, the Merciful One. Beware of the demons of poverty. Beware of the demons of chaos. Protect yourself from all those who want to bind you. Wake up! Stay awake! Rise from the depths of the underworld!

have raised him up. I sealed him with the light/water of the seven seals; death never had power over him again. I rise again into the perfect realm.” [1]
The fragment quoted above states that the divine power of the beginning does not abandon the light present in man after it has been imprisoned in matter. It descends into the center of darkness, into the prison of the physical body. It reminds man of the divinity hidden in him, instructs him, seals him with the light/water of the seven seals, raises him to a place of honor, frees him from death, and leads him into the “perfect kingdom,” the kingdom of God.

In the ancient mystery schools and in the texts of the first Christians, which had a Gnostic character and of which we find traces in the Bible, the knowledge of the divine element hidden in the human heart was passed on. Most often it was called a spark. In the Apocrypha of John it is called epinoia or root. This divine element is located in a special place in the heart, filled with the original substance, the original, intelligent, divine power of light, which according to the “Apocrypha of John” we can call pronoia. It is like a luminous seed from which the divine ‘Pigera Adamas’ – the original perfect human being – can be reborn in the sevenfold liberation process (“sealing with the light/water”).

Pronoia as feudal system

In the “Apocryphon of John” besides the pronoia, which is understood as a divine power, another pronoia is mentioned, it power of the second archon, which was created by Yaldabaoth. He is the personification of the spirit of the fallen and sinful world,the world of matter. We can conclude that this second Pronoia is an earthly reflection of the luminous Providence and Wisdom.

In pronoia, understood as the medieval feudal system that was in force in Byzantium and some other countries, we find a corresponding use of the word pronoia. This mirror-image use of the word pronoia is about a material security that man receives from the ruler at the price of an enormous sacrifice in the form of servitude. Let us take this example as an opportunity to reflect on the social conditions that have shaped human consciousness for centuries, or rather, on the consciousness that shapes such social conditions.

In the world we live in, there has been a division into a ruling class and an oppressed class since the beginning of time, which can be described with a powerful statement from the movie “Cloud Atlas”: “The weak are food, the strong eat.” The matrix of the socioeconomic order of earthly reality seems to be based on the concept of scarcity (“there are not enough resources on earth for everyone”), as emerges from behaviors such as struggle for survival, competition, and the exploitation of the weaker by the stronger. This is a social “food chain” in which wealth is unequally distributed, in which some are rich beyond measure while others have barely enough to eat despite hard work.

When we speak of pronoia with regard to the ancient social system, we see a ruling class that, as the supposed owners of the state, divided among its favored subjects their lands in exchange for military service, that is, for putting their lives at risk. The latter, if they had earned it, received ownership of the land and often also the right to manage the people living on it and to profit from their energy and labor.

So we are dealing here with a social pyramid of masters and slaves, in which the masters of some were the slaves of others. And those who were the masters of all masters, were they not also slaves? Is not a master the one who, in order to survive or feel comfortable, must feed on the energy of others, conquer new lands and nations, and rob them by force? What lack must there be in the consciousness of a being who never has enough and lives on the misery of others? And how dependent must he be on his donors?

From this we can conclude that the people at the top of the pyramid were as enslaved as those at the bottom. So we have two poles, the material pole and the consciousness pole, both expressing the one basic sense of poverty, of “lack.” Here we see that there is a lack of spirit in this consciousness, as the principle that unites wisdom, love and life.

When we look at the history of the world, we see that despite social upheavals and apparent changes in political systems, this pyramidal order has always existed. We see how the attempts to create a perfect world, happy and free from exploitation, always fail.

Paranoia and pronoia

Why is it that despite the efforts of the best minds of humanity, and despite the efforts of almost all of humanity over so many centuries, we have failed to create a good and just world? Is it because our consciousness lacks spirit?

Nowadays, in the Age of Aquarius, we are getting a lot of new information about the beings that rule our world, and their machinations are coming to light. This information is currently going under the general name of “conspiracy theories”. It is believed that the real, invisible rulers of this world have been conspiring for centuries, plotting to keep humanity in ignorance and slavery. Whatever the truth is, the fact is that everything that surrounds us was created by ourselves.

Focusing on the threats posed by those who can be perceived as the black architects of the modern world can put us in paranoia, an overwhelming fear of their next moves. On the other hand, ignoring the fact that we live in an imperfect world, in which forces that promote degeneration and destruction operate through people alongside benevolent and life-sustaining forces, fosters a particular form of ignorance and slander that can be described as an extreme form of pronoia.

Pronoia in this sense refers to the exaggerated belief that others want or wish us well, think well of us, love us, and admire us. It can be a strategy of the ego to ensure its survival. Its basis is to hold on to consciousness and the horizon of life in an environment characterized by treating people as objects. Their value is considered only on the basis of their ability to slip into socially desirable roles, to perform tasks required of them, and to energize the system. Pronoia must be understood here as an inability to properly assess life situations, which may be a variant of narcissistic belief in one’s own uniqueness.

The starting point of paranoia and extreme pronoia, as a reflection and shadow of the original pronoia in our world, is that one puts oneself in a position of dependence on others. While the paranoid person believes that others are to blame for his unhappiness, the narcissistic pronoiac believes that others are the source of his happiness. Both refuse in the extreme to participate in shaping their own reality and to take responsibility for the quality of their own lives. This unconscious tendency helps to strengthen the ego, which is understood as a false identity. In the case of paranoiacs, the ego feeds on the energies of victimhood. And in the case of the pronoic, it feeds on the idea that another admires him.

Knowledge of paranoia is widespread and longstanding, unlike pronoia, which was identified as a psychological determinant by Fred Goldner in the early 1980s. To further explain what scientists mean by this phenomenon, consider an example by Laurence J. Kirmayer of McGill University. In his study entitled “Paranoia and Pronoia: The Visionary and the Banal” [2], he cites an example by W. Bonime (1979) in which a woman was absolutely convinced of her irresistible attractiveness to the opposite sex. To prove this to her psychiatrist, she described a situation in which she was “hit on” by a good-looking man. When the man saw her, he followed her a good distance, then caught up with her, complimented her on her appearance, and invited her for a drink. When asked by the psychiatrist how she knew the man was following her, she replied that she kept turning around and glancing at him. Completely unaware that her behavior could be perceived as seductive, she held on to her belief that she possessed the power of attraction.

In the 1997 film “Fierce Creatures,” Jamie Lee Curtis describes the character of Kevin Klines as excessively paranoid. He says, “It means that despite all the available evidence, you actually believe that people like you. You see life as one long charity dinner in your honor, where everyone is cheering you on and wants you to win it all. You think you’re the prince, Vince.”

Pronoia in the psychological sense is an attitude that, when it occurs in lesser intensity, can sometimes be constructive. It becomes pathological when it consists in fearfully denying the fact that there is evil in the world. Or when a person who has no discernment whatsoever fails to perceive the hostile intentions of others and takes everything he learns from them at face value. Or when a person with very low self-esteem and narcissistic traits uses his belief in his own uniqueness for compensatory purposes.

What narcissistic paranoids and pronoid people have in common is an inability to develop compassion. This includes a lack of self-awareness, an inability to take responsibility for one’s own actions, and the projection of one’s perspective onto others.

If we look closely at ourselves, we can discover tendencies and behaviors in our psyche that can be grouped under the definition of mild shades of paranoia or pronoia. We will return to this topic later in this article.

(To be continued in Part 2)




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Date: April 19, 2023
Author: Emilia Wróblewska-Ćwiek (Poland)
Photo: Julia Volk on Pexels CCO

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