Friday, January 13, 2006

Gnostic Fascism (1)

MIRANDA: O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

"Man is evil" -- so all the wisest ones said to me for consolation. Ah, if only it were still true today! For evil is man's best strength.

"Man must become better and more evil"- so do I teach. The most evil is necessary for the Superman's best.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra


What is the innate first quality of Mankind? Are we innately good or innately evil? And what of our world, our universe, of existence itself? Is it good or is it an evil thing, perhaps the result even of an evil creator? Or is it possibly the tail end of a good thing, now something in this material state that is corruption and dirt?

How we consider the world and existence decides for us how we organize our lives, our societies, how we interact with our fellows, how we live and why. If we live within a mental world of good, we live differently and are different from those whose mental world makes for them a world that is an evil creation of an evil creator. Those latter, and they are many, might well be Gnostics, whether they know the term and its history or not.

There is a Manichaeistic view of life and being, one that begins with the premise that life is bad, that people are bad, and that the best result is not to live in the material, evil world. It is a form of gnosticism. The gnostic is one who has knowledge, who knows not only that life and existence are evil, but one who knows why and who also knows what is better, in fact, what is true and good. That knower is on his way to perfection. The rest of us are doomed to continue living in the material world, ignorant of our ignorance, doomed to continue in an eternal cycle of mucking about in the material of the false maker demiurge. We would be the hopeless animal types who just don't get it. At best, if we were conscious of our state we would be in a state of false consciousness, likely mistaking the minor god for the real God. The gnostic hopes to leave us and the evil world behind.

Gnosticism isn't new, nor is it always the same. There are three periods of gnosticism in Western history, (if we allow for today's Iran being the Western world of 2,500 years ago,) that centre in today's Middle East during the early Christian period; that features strongly in southern France in the Middle Ages; that is all-encompassing in today's modern West.

Below we'll look at some excerpts from a short essay on the history of some aspects classical Gnosticism. Briefly, Gnosticism grew concurrently with Christianity in the time of the primitive Church, was, in fact, a Christianity of itself until the Church formulated its orthodoxies and sorted out its heresies. The Gnostic heresies lay dormant until the Middle Ages and during the nadir of the Catholic Church. The Albigensian Crusade annihilated them and their Gnostic revival. I argue that the Gnostic movement has taken root again in the West, this time in the heart of Modernity, and this time in a pseudo-religious, pseudo-scientific, and anti-Humanist course. I argue that today's gnosticism is a child of the counter-Enlightenment, that is is a form of fascism, and that it is stronger than Christianity today in the West. I further argue that not one man in a million has the first clue about it, that today's gnosticism is naive and subtle and dangerous.

I argue that today there is a third Gnostic movement, syncretic, and based on the root idea that Man is evil, that Man is a thing to be despised, to be hated, at best to be managed by those who have special knowledge of the higher realms of reality. I argue that today there is a movement of Left dhimmi fascists that is often gnostic in its perception of Man and meaning. I argue that this is Gnostic fascism, a new and improved Gnosticism, one grounded in secularism and pseudo-science, a pseudo-religious response to life unloved.

In today's Gnostic fascism the material world itself in not evil, but the creation of the "modern world" is the Gnostic's evil. Creation is evil today, as it was evil in classical Gnosticism. The evil creator of this, our brave new world, the capitalist, is the new demiurge; and it is the enlightened ones, the Left dhimmi fascists, who strive to "know" the greater reality the he might escape from it, i.e. the capitalist world of evil. The capitalist stands in for the demiurge of classical Gnosticism, he having taken the pure and natural world of the barbarian and recreated a poor imitation thereof, the world of Modernity, and he sees not the folly of his ways, thinking he is god. The "first man" in his uncreated, i.e. natural state, that world and that man is the stuff of Heaven and perfection. All else is the work of the evil maker, the demiurge creator who has fouled the good and polluted the pure. All of the created, the modern world, if it is evil, should thus be destroyed, and there is no shortage of those who would make such a plan come to fruition by actively aiding and abetting, for example, our Muslim cousins, or simply by passively allowing our Modernity to dissolve into irrationality, into a social slime from the time before any conscious awareness troubled Mankind, a time of Eden and endless free pot to smoke.

None of our current round of Gnosticism started yesterday. If we trace its development we can see why we have a culture today in the West of superior anti-Modernity, of the striving for special knowledge, of knowing gained from tarot cards,horoscopes, native shamanism, runes, mystical insights derived from anything but reason, logic, or even common sense.

Today we are in the grip of a fever of spiritual madness. The old gods are failing, Communism, Nazism, socialism, fascism of the Italian and Spanish varieties, and so on. Science is failing too. In there places we have nothing, and that nothing, though a religion in itself, is not satisfying to the average person. Some long for more. Some seek some understanding of the nature of life and the reason therefore. they seek in the Republic of Plato, in the realm of the Ideal, for gnosis. This created world, this they hate.

The essay below covers some of the many threads of classical Gnosticism. Our emphasis is on the Manichean Gnosticism, which plays little part in the essay below but the essay, being clear and informative is a good beginning for those who would wish to know more about our current situation in the modern West.

In coming posts we'll look closely at the heroes of Gnosticism in our times, at such evil monsters as C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, and other oh so nice and cuddly figures as will likely surprise some and offend the many.

Jeremy Puma , "A Short Introduction to Gnosticism"

The early Christian Church, before it was an organized body, emerged in an historical era known for its syncretism, variety, and religious experimentalism. Faced with an outbreak of interpretive zealots and apocalyptic mystics, the network of societies calling themselves "Followers of the Way of Christ" (later to be renamed "Christians") was steeped in confusion during the first three centuries of its existence. Without a distinctive, unifying body of dogma, this network would have no chance at survival; but first, the leaders of the body had to draw distinctions between orthodox Christianity and heretical sectarians that sprouted up in major theological centers like Alexandria and Rome. One of the most significant (if not the most significant) sectarian movements and challenges to the Christian concept of faith during these centuries was the philosophical movement that modern scholars know as Gnosticism, which presented not merely a dogmatic challenge to the Church, but an entirely alien epistemology.

A great body of sects that arose in Egypt and Asia Minor between the First and Fourth centuries had qualities that we call "gnostic"; these sects, however, never used this term to describe themselves. Mostly they called themselves "Christians," making no distinction between themselves and the early Church. Consequently, modern scholars are forced to lump these "Gnostics" together based on similar epistemological and ontological traits. To elaborate on the beliefs of every sect would require a many-volumed opus; as such, scholars of gnosticism have deduced two main points that most Gnostic groups shared: a pseudo-dualistic cosmology of spirit versus matter, and the belief in "gnosis," or personal acquaintance with the God of the Spiritual realms. Although not all of the gnostic sects were Christian, the most significant did follow the teachings of Christ to some extent, and it is these that we investigate when we attempt to show the gnostic concept of "faith," which is inextricably intertwined with both their phenomenon of gnosis and their cosmology. In order to more fully understand gnosis, I will seek to avoid secondary sources and, instead, attempt to analyze this idea from the epistemological viewpoint of the Gnostics through an investigation of their writings and an examination of their influences, which will show us more quickly that the dogmas of the Gnostics were not the biggest threat to faith. The way that they thought about their concepts proved a far greater challenge indeed.

In the Second Century, when Christianity was coming to light as an important new theology, the ideas of personal acquaintance with God and dualistic worldview were old hats. A tendency towards dualism was evident in the West as far back as Zoroaster, author and prophet of a four thousand year-old Persian religion that we know only as Zoroastrianism. Positing a dualistic battle between the God of Truth (Ahura Mazda) and the God of Falsehood (Ahriman), Zoroaster displays the universe as the interplay of these opposing forces in battle, as the two sides share in the Creation. As Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin says in his (obviously dated) introduction to the Gathas, the most well-known of the Zoroastrian scriptures, "Of the two great currents from which the European mentality takes its being, the Greek and the Jewish current, neither can be said to be decidedly free of all Zoroastrian contamination" (1). With the advent of Zoroastrianism, dualism was in place within Western society, and would later be evident in Gnostic scripture.

A more prominent dualistic influence on Gnosticism was Platonic philosophy. As is well known, Platonic thought is dualistic in a variety of ways. The philosopher, in his cosmological work Timaeus, states that the Earth is created by a Demiurge and that there are two "world souls:" the good, and the not-good, both of which are equal in power. Most Gnostic sects shared this idea, as we will see later. More of Plato's thought than his cosmology displays an innate separation between matter and spirit. Perhaps his most famous idea of all, the "divided line," found in Book VI of the Republic, presents us with a dualism that most definitely sparked off similar currents of thought within the world of human reason. According to this idea, there exist extra-material realms that contain "Ideals" (an important concept to the Gnostics). These Ideals are archetypes – blueprints, as it were – upon which material creations were modeled. The realms of the ideal were much closer to "reality" than the realms of the Created in which we live. He expounds on this idea more firmly in his "Allegory of the Cave" (Hamilton 745 - 751), which is highly regarded in Gnostic circles. And, who can forget the famous phrase that so inspired Socrates in the Apology: Gnosti Sauthon --- "Know thyself."


It is impossible to understand Gnosticism without understanding its cosmology, which is more than a cosmology per se. The creation epics of the Gnostics often contain treatises on history, ethics, and the relationship of Christ with Humanity inherent within the myth cycle.


[T]he Secret Book of John, one of the earliest Gnostic myth cycles discovered ... the Secret Book contains elements of cosmotheology that most other gnostic myths also contain: emanation, in which the universe is created in a series of steps from most divine to least, a recognition of the feminine creative principle, and a focus on Jesus not as a human teacher, but as a vehicle for the divine Word: the Logos, called by Gnostics the Christos. An analysis of this book illustrates why the early Church had such trouble with Gnostic teachings.

In dualistic fashion, the action in the Secret Book takes place on two levels: the Spiritual realms and the Material realms. Beginning with the Spiritual realms, the book goes on to describe the Godhead from which all of creation sprang forth:


Eventually, this "Perfect One" gave birth to a thought through self-awareness.


So, to review, a kind of ladder has been built with Christ and Pigeradamas at the top, closest to Spirit, and Sophia at the bottom, farthest away. The next act in this divine play creates the largest dichotomy between Gnostic Christianity and orthodox Christianity. Sophia, or Wisdom, feels the desire within herself to imitate the Unnamable One's creation. Just as the Unnamable One created Barbelo simply by thinking of her, Sophia creates a Thing as soon as the thought arises within her. Unfortunately, the active principle can create the passive principle, but not vice-versa. Sophia's creation is the Demiurge, Yaldabaoth, a bastard son who is missing the active principle and, as such, a spiritual essence. Immediately, Yaldabaoth is thrust into an Abyss of matter and is cut off from the spiritual realms and begins creating companions for himself which are the zodiacal signs, planets, and days of the week (64).


Meanwhile, Yaldabaoth sees the reflection of the agitating Upper Powers, most importantly Pigeradamas, and believes that he has developed that image in his own thoughts. He decides to create material versions of the reflections, which he still believes are his creations. He speaks to his companions, "Come, let us create a human being after the image of God [meaning himself] and with a likeness to ourselves, so that this human image may give us light" (69). Yaldabaoth and his servitors went to work to create man and matter based on the reflection of the Ideal Man Pigeradamas and the images of the Heavenly Realms. Now follows the Secret Book of John's interpretation of the book of Genesis. Yaldabaoth creates Adam, Eve, and matter, all imperfect and lacking in spirit because the Creator is imperfect and lacking in spirit. Obviously, the powers in the Spiritual Realms are not going to stand by idly and watch this happen. There is a small problem, however. Being eternal, the Spiritual Powers are unable to function properly in the newly created realms of matter, which are perishable. As such, they give Sophia the job of cleaning up; albeit, she and the Christos must go together as a balance between the active and passive powers of the Spiritual (78).

In the Garden of Eden, events are occurring just as they occur in Genesis. Yaldabaoth creates an earthly paradise in which Adam and Eve can mindlessly praise him. Luckily, he has stored some of the Spiritual Essence from his mother Sophia in the Tree of Knowledge, but it is dormant, not yet activated by the active principle. He warns Adam and Eve against eating from the Tree in the same way Yahweh does in Genesis, telling them that eating it will cause their deaths. Suddenly, Sophia and Christos descend into a serpent that rests upon the tree and activate the power within the fruit in what I call the "Primary Gnostic Event." They tempt Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree, and the humans do, gaining their Spiritual, imperishable nature, their free will, and their ability to attain the Higher Realms of Spirit by gnosis (78 - 79). In a way, this makes Adam and Eve the first true "Gnostics," because they were the first to experience the Spiritual Realms. Many Gnostics would try to trace their spiritual lineage back to Adam and Eve through Jesus in the same way that many Judaic Christians would trace Jesus back to David to justify the prophecies in the Old Testament.

When Yaldabaoth discovers what has happened, he becomes infuriated because he does not know how it occurred, still ignorant of the Upper Realms. "He threw the humans out of Paradise, and cloaked them in thick darkness" (79) -- the darkness of matter. Now the myth simply picks up at the Bible's account of the expulsion of Adam and Eve, the humans muddled and confused by the matter in which they are encased.


To the Gnostics, Jesus was the vehicle for a second descent of Sophia and the Christos into the realms of the material, which enables humans to grasp the first rung on the ladder. The Jesus event was the "Secondary Gnostic Event," a recreation of the Event in Eden, and it enabled humanity to grasp Sophia and ascend past the Demiurge into the realms of Spirit. This is gnosis: using the same self-knowledge that Adam and Eve used after eating the fruit to "become acquainted" with Sophia and Christos and to recognize the latent Spirituality within creation.


Everything from spirit to matter to Christ to the Demiurge is connected and filled with the spirit of the Unnamable One. The emanations that came from the Spiritual Realms are all layered above matter, but are not separate from it. Rather, the matter is "full" of the essence of spirit. The word that the Gnostics used to describe this "filling" was pleroma, the same word used by Paul in the above passage. In most Gnostic teachings, the Christos is seen as the spirit that fills the material realms. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Thomas, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: all came forth from me and all attained to me. Split a piece of wood and I am there. Pick up a stone, and I am there" (Meyer 33). The "I am" concept was familiar to most Christians through the "I am" statements in the Gospel of John (compare Jn. 8:12, Ecc. 10:9), but to the Gnostics it was more than that. To them there was no separation between Heaven and Earth, as there was to the Catholics. Rather, Heaven filled the Earth, as is evidenced in the 112th saying in Thomas: His disciples said to him, "When will the Kingdom come?" "It will not come by looking for it. Nor will it do to say, 'Behold, over here,' or 'Behold, over there!' Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the Earth, but people do not see it (Meyer 38).

The Kingdom of Heaven is right here on Earth; all it took was gnosis to make it appear. It was quite important for the discerning Gnostic to verify all of this information for his or her self. Opposed to a regimented priesthood because it limited experience to the pastors and made the laity dependent on faith instead of acquaintance, certain Valentinians went so far as to cast lots at meetings to see who would become the priest for that day. Consequently, spiritual equality was common in Gnostic circles, men and women playing equal parts, unheard of in that time (Pagels 41 - 42).


Although not polytheistic, the Gnostics could not have faith in the Creator, because the Creator was Yaldabaoth, an ignorant bastard son who called himself "God." To the Christians, this devalued the trust that they had to put in their Creator's omnibenevolence in order for faith to occur. Yaldabaoth was by no means all good.

Has Gnosticism really vanished? It can be said that Gnosticism has made a resurgence since the publication of the Nag Hammadi corpus in 1970. Even before these works were discovered, Gnostic ideas occasionally peeked their heads up in epistemologies that the public considered "alien" at the time. The works of the poet William Blake, for example, present what is obviously a Gnostic cosmotheology in full glory. Science fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote about Gnosticism in his underground VALIS trilogy. Gnostics abound in hordes on the Internet, where much of the research was done for this paper. Is the Gnostic epistemology better suited to our modern world where independent thought and experience are so valued? In our society, where acceptance and tolerance are a social norm, would more people appreciate less of a distinction between man and woman, Christian and Pagan within the Church Community? Perhaps one day we will see.


"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?"

William Butler Yeats, "Among School Children"

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