Fathers’ Rights

A Chicago Blog

Nietzsche the Gnostic

Posted by madcap on July 5, 2007

Cross Posted on my new blog www.thoughtsongod.com

By, Chuck Jines

The following is in response to Nietzsche was Not a Gnostic by Brother Jeremy at Summer Harvest. His claim is that Eric Voegelin is mistaken in his understanding of Gnosticism. Brother Jeremy claims that Gnosticism in neither dualistic nor “world hating,” and that Nietzsche was not a Gnostic. His article is partially in response to an article I wrote titled The Age of Gnosticism. To get the background, you may choose to read these other articles. However, this article stands on its own, and can be read alone.

Brother Jeremy states that “Such claims [that Gnosticism is both dualistic and views creation as evil] are not only completely baseless, they’re completely devoid of any kind of provable assertion.”

I will now show, using Brother Jeremy’s own words and the Gnostic texts themselves, that Gnosticism is in fact both dualistic and has a negative view of creation. Or as Jeremy claims, they are “world haters.”

Gnostic dissatisfaction with the world

Lets take the term “World haters,” which Voegelin does not use, to describe the belief that creation is a poorly organized mistake. From this follows the attempt to re-create the world through man-made systems. Brother Jeremy contradicts his own premise and confirms Voegelin’s perspective, by explaining the purpose of this demolition job… rather than denying the Gnostic desire to tear down the ground of being. This is how Jeremy himself describes the Gnostic enterprise:

The point behind tearing down these structures, behind admonishing the control systems and demolishing the illusion of the world is to rebuild It… and I’m fond of referring to the Gnostics as the ‘original anarchists.’”

And this is how Voegelin describes it:

One) It must first be pointed out that the Gnostic is dissatisfied with his situation. This, in itself, is not especially surprising. We all have cause to be not completely satisfied with one aspect of another of the situation in which we find ourselves.

Two) Not quite so understandable is the second aspect of the Gnostic attitude: the belief that the drawbacks of the situation can be attributed to the fact that the world is intrinsically poorly organized.

Three) The third characteristic is the belief that salvation from the evil of the world is possible.

Four) From this follows the belief that the order of being will have to be changed in an historical process. From a wretched world a good one must evolve historically

Five) With this fifth point we come to the Gnostic trait in the narrower sense – the belief that a change in the order of being lies in the realm of human action, that this salvational act is possible through man’s own effort.

Six) If it is possible, however, so to work a structural change in the given order of being that we can be satisfied with it as a perfect one, then it becomes the task of the Gnostic to seek out the prescription for such a change. Knowledge -gnosis- of the method of altering being is the central concern of the Gnostic. [Science, Politics and Gnosticism; pg. 64, Eric Voegelin]

I would have to say that Jeremy’s definition of the Gnostics, as anarchists who set out to demolish the illusion of the world in order to create a new order, lends even deeper insight into the validity of Voegelin’s understanding of Gnosticism. Jeremy described what Voegelin would call the Gnostic enterprise. He confesses to possessing the desire of “demolishing the world.” He clearly states that the reason for this demolition is so that the Gnostic can “rebuild it.” His motivation for this endeavor must be that he views the world as intrinsically poorly organized. God screwed up, and Jeremy’s going to fix it!

To the Gnostic, the divine light of the “true” God is trapped in creation by the “trickster God.” This is how the basic philosophy is portrayed in Gnostic myths. It is in fact a well know motif. Joseph Campbell, who was hardly out to get the Gnostics, articulated and extensively wrote about this basic motif. It is a rebellion against reality as it is given; it is a movement that believes it possesses the power to alter the ground of being. It is an attempt to bring about heaven in the here and now. It is a revolt against the limitations of human nature.

While Jeremy may not believe in the actual ancient myths of the Gods at war, he still holds those basic beliefs. He claims Voegelin’s description of Gnosticism to be “baseless,” while living out his very claim! In other words, Jeremy is what he says he is not. Charles Taylor, in his work Sources of the Self, describes this modern Gnostic mass movement as the “worldview that claims not to be a worldview.” This is part of what Voegelin terms the “intellectual swindle,” and what George Orwell coined “doublethink.”

Duality of Gnosticism: The source of evil

On Jeremy’s point concerning Gnostics not being dualistic, I must again differ with him, in that it is the dualism that leads to the view of the creation as bad. Looking at the Apocrypha of Peter, one of the Gnostic texts, we find the following:

“… But many others, who oppose the truth and are the messengers of error, will set up their error and their law against these pure thoughts of mine, as looking out from one, thinking that good and evil are from one source.”

This is a central theme of Gnosticism that makes it dualistic. To the Gnostic, as I said before, the Divine light of the one God has been trapped in the creation by the trickster god, thus giving evil a source other than the one God. This idea expressed in the ancient myths evolved from mere myth to an actual philosophy.

In the Apocrypha of John we find this story of the fall of God into creation: The name given to the creator god in this account is Yaltabaoth. The trickster God is Elohim. It is said in this motif that “he called himself god.”

“…but the power in him, which he had taken from his mother, produced in him the likeness of the cosmos. And when he saw the creation which surrounds him and the multitude of the angles around him which had come forth from him, he said to them, ‘I am a jealous god and there is no other god besides me.’ But by announcing this he indicated to the angles who attended him that there exists another god. For if there were no other one, of whom would he be jealous?”

This then leads to the common interpretation that the serpent in the genesis account of the garden is the redeemer. It is Yahweh the creator god, who has been tricked by Elohim the trickster god, into trapping the soul of man in matter, forever imprisoning man. Therefore, life as it is, is something to be escaped.

The translator of this text, Frederik Wisse, sums up the matter as follows:

“Yaldabaoth is tricked into breathing light-power into him. Thus begins a continuous struggle between the powers of light and the powers of darkness for the possession of the divine particles of man. The evil powers put man in a material body to keep him imprisoned, and also create woman and sexual desire to spread the particles of light and make escape more difficult.”

This is no small matter and is the direct opposite of Occidental philosophy. Plato, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas all maintain that evil is caused by the deficiency of goodness. Evil is totally dependant upon the good, and has no source other than the good. In contrast with this Occidental philosophy, Gnosticism is indeed dualistic. Not in that it does not recognize the one God, but in that it creates a lesser god in order to account for evil.

“On the contrary, Augustine says that there is no possible source of evil except the good…evil has no formal cause, rather is it a privation of form; likewise, neither has it a final cause, but rather is it a privation of order to the proper end; since not only the end has the nature of good, but also the useful, which is ordered to the end. Evil, however, has a cause by way of an agent, not directly, but accidentally.”Thomas Aquinas, Suma Theologica; Part one, Question 49

FOUNDERS OF MODERN SECULAR GNOSTICISM

While the spiritual Gnostics tend to elevate man as god, i.e. man is god who has forgotten himself; the secular Gnostics claim god is dead. Both however, share in the idea that man can be re-created, that man can be overcome. Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche can indeed be considered the founding fathers of the Gnostic mass movements of the past century. Their ideas led to the holocaust and multiculturalism. Their ideas led to the political decline spawned by communism, and the moral decline caused by relativism.

The Gnostic Enterprises in recent history include Karl Marx, with his attempt to create the social man, Fredric Nietzsche with his attempt to create the superman, Hitler with his attempt to create the Arian man, and the New Age Movement with its attempt to create the god man.

All of these Gnostic enterprises ended in disaster. All of these secular Gnostic enterprises share in the belief that, as Hillary Clinton put it, man can “change what it means to be a human being.

Conclusion

The premises put forth by our Gnostic friend, Jeremy, can neither be substantiated in Gnostic text, Gnostic history nor modern Gnostic philosophy. Modern Gnosticism is without a doubt dualistic, and therefore views creation as a mistake. The attempt to re-create what God messed up, through a man made system, is the heart and soul of Gnosticism. This is true of the ancient Gnostics as well as our modern secular versions devised by the great swindlers Marx and Nietzsche.

Voegelin stands firm on the ground prepared by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. “The nature of a thing cannot be changed; whoever tries to ‘alter’ its nature destroys the thing. Man cannot transform himself into a superman; the attempt to create a superman is an attempt to murder man.” In this respect Nietzsche was indeed one of the founders of the modern Gnostics.

UPDATE: Response to critics

  1. JP and Jordan,

    “Essentially what Voegelin’s logic boils down to, for me and for everyone involved in the contemporary Gnostic religion, is that he is taking the name of our religion and applying it to his own political ideologies. This isn’t just a semiotic quibble, it’s sloppy reasoning; what he’s doing is observing that some modern people like to ride horses and concluding that therefore these people are members of the Golden Horde. It don’t make no sense, chappie.”

    Thank you for your responses. Rather than trying to convince each other, why don’t we pursue the matter as a joint quest for truth. Most Christians would consider me a heretic just as much as they would you.

    You’re quite correct that this would be a sloppy line of reasoning. This however is not the reasoning I am employing. What I am saying is that both members of the golden horde and some modern people ride horses. Therefore both groups share something in common, while at the same time being distinctly different groups.

    The modern Gnostic church has no monopoly on the ideas they ride, any more than the golden horde were the only people to ever ride horses. Traditionally, Gnosticism is born out of other religions. The spiritual schools of the Gnostics, both ancient and modern, share some ideologies with many Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. It would be sloppy reasoning as well to state that the contemporary modern Gnostics are Buddhists. That’s not to say that they don’t both ride horses. In fact, they ride many of the same theological, and methodological horses.

    I was a member of Ananda Marga for several years. I practiced advanced tantric meditation and studied the philosophy of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. This school is anything but an official contemporary Gnostic church. None of the Nag Hammadi texts are ever mentioned or studied. Ananda Marga is from the Hindu traditions, and a Gnostic enterprise.

    It is Gnostic in that, and this would be my broad definition, it offers self salvation through a method of realization (i.e. gnosis that all things are divine consciousness; duality is an illusion). It places God in the creation, and claims the possibility of total “liberation” from the self, in the here and now, as an ontological perfection of the soul, via their particular “secret system.”

    How religious Gnosticism translates into the “secular world” is through Marx and Nietzsche. Obviously both of these thinkers were less than friendly toward religion. You will not see Nietzsche state he is a Gnostic who reads aloud the Nag Hammadi texts at Gnostic services. However, Nietzsche found some relevance in Buddhism. “Buddha makes no promises and keeps every one of them.” (Twilight of the Idols and the Antichrist) What Fred was referring to was the Buddhist concept that you can know in the here and now, in opposition to the Christian concept of faith. Nietzsche was not a Buddhist, but he was a Gnostic in his idea of the superman. In this light, his Thus Spake Zarathustra can be rationally considered to be a secular Gnostic text. Nietzsche does not have to convert to Buddhism, or the Gnostic Church to partake in the idea that man can be overcome. This is the horse I am referring to, not the name of the stable. I’m not arguing that Marx and Nietzsche were members of the Gnostic church. What I’m saying is that they shared with the Gnostics the idea that the ground of being can be altered through man’s efforts. Of course, these modern Gnostic intellectual and political mass movements ended in disaster; as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and many others claimed it inevitably would, regardless of possible good intentions behind the attempt.

    I think your attempt to limit Gnosticism to those who read the Nag Hammadi text and attend Gnostic religious services is rather shortsighted. It’s like saying only people who live in our stable actually ride horses. I also do not understand all this upheaval over what “true” Gnosticism is. Why not simply stand on what you believe? Why is there such a problem with acknowledging that there are fundamental differences between Gnosticism and classical Occidentalism?

    I know what Gnosticism is, not simply by what I have read in books. I have been a practitioner of two well established schools of Gnostic teachings, first hand. Voegelin simply articulates aspects that I found on my own; I don’t need Voegelin to tell me what Gnosticism is. I’m rather surprised that Gnostics would spend so much time trying to claim they are not what they are. It’s everyone else in the world that is deceived and confused I guess.

    Having actually studied the Gnostic texts, and after many years of personal practice in Gnostic schools, I must be much more ignorant than I ever thought, if I am so far off the mark as to what Gnosticism is.

    This being the case, it would be in my best interest to stop making statements about Gnosticism and start asking questions so I can understand. These three come to mind:

    Do Gnostics, as you define them, think that humanity can come to a point in time where things like starvation and war will be no more? If so, how will this come to pass?

    Do Gnostics, as you define them, think that an individual can come to a point in their spiritual development where they can become free of all attachments and illusions of reality? If so, how can one achieve this? What should be done with the ego?

    Would Gnostics, as you define them, consider it unfair and disingenuous to take note of other schools of thought, belief systems, and political philosophies that might answer these same questions in a similar manner, thus tending to show a common theme that runs through all despite other differences? What name should be given to this common theme, should it actually exist?

    May the peace and blessings of the One be upon us all.

11 Responses to “Nietzsche the Gnostic”

  1. jp said

    I read your post with some amusement. The false premises are still there; they’re dependent upon a definition of Gnosticism created whole-cloth by Voegelin. I’m referring, of course, to the term “Secular Gnosticism,” which is a little like saying “Secular Christianity” or, perhaps, “Religious Golf.” There’s no such bird; never has been, never was. Now, if you and Voegelin want to claim that such a thing exists, you’re welcome to do so; you’re supplying your own premise to the equation, so there’s no real argument here. We could go back and forth on this until blue in our faces, but since we’re starting from such radically different suppositions, no minds would be changed.

    Essentially what Voegelin’s logic boils down to, for me and for everyone involved in the contemporary Gnostic religion, is that he is taking the name of our religion and applying it to his own political ideologies. This isn’t just a semiotic quibble, it’s sloppy reasoning; what he’s doing is observing that some modern people like to ride horses and concluding that therefore these people are members of the Golden Horde. It don’t make no sense, chappie.

    You can claim that Hitler et al are “Secular Gnostics” all you want, but you’ll never find support for your arguments among the modern Gnostic community until one of these indivduals so labelled says “I am a Gnostic,” reads the Nag Hammadi library, attends a Gnostic service, and acheives gnosis.

    At least we’ll be in agreement on one thing: neither of us wants to claim Hillary Clinton as one of our own!😉

  2. Four) From this follows the belief that the order of being will have to be changed in an historical process. From a wretched world a good one must evolve historically

    Actually this doesn’t “follow” at all. Your entire argument is based on this unsupported premise. Individual liberation is nowhere described as “historical” evolution. You then identify “modern Gnostic philosophy” with this premise. So Vogelin invents (really, he’s making this up) a point that is definitive to his mind about Gnosticism, and those who agree with his error get to be defined as “modern Gnostic philiosophy”.

    There are 2 distinctions you fail to grasp here. The first distinction is between the “world” and “the system”. Gnostic literature, particularly the Valentinian, speaks lovingly of the natural world an often invoke natural metaphors to illustrate the process of gnosis.

    The other is your arbitrary assignment of the term “dualism”. Traditionally this is meant to describe a world view of equal-but-opposing forces. In Gnosticism, emanations cosmogeny show at all flow ultimately from a single ground of being, and that the illusion of separation is in fact Error itself. If Gnosticism is dualist because it shows a unifying Pleroma and *aspects* of that Fullness oblvious to their union, then Christianity is vastly more dualist with the whole God vs. Satan thing. Ah, you argue, but God and Satan are not equals. Well, neither are God and the Demiurge.

    “Secular Gnosticism” is an unsupported invention of Vogelin, and has nothing to do with either historical Gnosticism as collection of diverse movements, a body of literature, or a living religion.

    Nowhere – NOWHERE – in Gn literature is there any hint of “immanentizing the eschaton”. If you still want to define N, H, and M as Gnostic, you’re going to need to argue from a deeper place than Vogelin.

    And good luck with that.

  3. madcap said

    JP and Jordan,

    “Essentially what Voegelin’s logic boils down to, for me and for everyone involved in the contemporary Gnostic religion, is that he is taking the name of our religion and applying it to his own political ideologies. This isn’t just a semiotic quibble, it’s sloppy reasoning; what he’s doing is observing that some modern people like to ride horses and concluding that therefore these people are members of the Golden Horde. It don’t make no sense, chappie.”

    Thank you for your responses. Rather than trying to convince each other, why don’t we pursue the matter as a joint quest for truth. Most Christians would consider me a heretic just as much as they would you.

    You’re quite correct that this would be a sloppy line of reasoning. This however is not the reasoning I am employing. What I am saying is that both members of the golden horde and some modern people ride horses. Therefore both groups share something in common, while at the same time being distinctly different groups.

    The modern Gnostic church has no monopoly on the ideas they ride, any more than the golden horde were the only people to ever ride horses. Traditionally, Gnosticism is born out of other religions. The spiritual schools of the Gnostics, both ancient and modern, share some ideologies with many Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. It would be sloppy reasoning as well to state that the contemporary modern Gnostics are Buddhists. That’s not to say that they don’t both ride horses. In fact, they ride many of the same theological, and methodological horses.

    I was a member of Ananda Marga for several years. I practiced advanced tantric meditation and studied the philosophy of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. This school is anything but an official contemporary Gnostic church. None of the Nag Hammadi texts are ever mentioned or studied. Ananda Marga is from the Hindu traditions, and a Gnostic enterprise.

    It is Gnostic in that, and this would be my broad definition, it offers self salvation through a method of realization (i.e. gnosis that all things are divine consciousness; duality is an illusion). It places God in the creation, and claims the possibility of total “liberation” from the self, in the here and now, as an ontological perfection of the soul, via their particular “secret system.”

    How religious Gnosticism translates into the “secular world” is through Marx and Nietzsche. Obviously both of these thinkers were less than friendly toward religion. You will not see Nietzsche state he is a Gnostic who reads aloud the Nag Hammadi texts at Gnostic services. However, Nietzsche found some relevance in Buddhism. “Buddha makes no promises and keeps every one of them.” (Twilight of the Idols and the Antichrist) What Fred was referring to was the Buddhist concept that you can know in the here and now, in opposition to the Christian concept of faith. Nietzsche was not a Buddhist, but he was a Gnostic in his idea of the superman. In this light, his Thus Spake Zarathustra can be rationally considered to be a secular Gnostic text. Nietzsche does not have to convert to Buddhism, or the Gnostic Church to partake in the idea that man can be overcome. This is the horse I am referring to, not the name of the stable. I’m not arguing that Marx and Nietzsche were members of the Gnostic church. What I’m saying is that they shared with the Gnostics the idea that the ground of being can be altered through man’s efforts. Of course, these modern Gnostic intellectual and political mass movements ended in disaster; as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and many others claimed it inevitably would, regardless of possible good intentions behind the attempt.

    I think your attempt to limit Gnosticism to those who read the Nag Hammadi text and attend Gnostic religious services is rather shortsighted. It’s like saying only people who live in our stable actually ride horses. I also do not understand all this upheaval over what “true” Gnosticism is. Why not simply stand on what you believe? Why is there such a problem with acknowledging that there are fundamental differences between Gnosticism and classical Occidentalism?

    I know what Gnosticism is, not simply by what I have read in books. I have been a practitioner of two well established schools of Gnostic teachings, first hand. Voegelin simply articulates aspects that I found on my own; I don’t need Voegelin to tell me what Gnosticism is. I’m rather surprised that Gnostics would spend so much time trying to claim they are not what they are. It’s everyone else in the world that is deceived and confused I guess.

    Having actually studied the Gnostic texts, and after many years of personal practice in Gnostic schools, I must be much more ignorant than I ever thought, if I am so far off the mark as to what Gnosticism is.

    This being the case, it would be in my best interest to stop making statements about Gnosticism and start asking questions so I can understand. These three come to mind:

    Do Gnostics, as you define them, think that humanity can come to a point in time where things like starvation and war will be no more? If so, how will this come to pass?

    Do Gnostics, as you define them, think that an individual can come to a point in their spiritual development where they can become free of all attachments and illusions of reality? If so, how can one achieve this? What should be done with the ego?

    Would Gnostics, as you define them, consider it unfair and disingenuous to take note of other schools of thought, belief systems, and political philosophies that might answer these same questions in a similar manner, thus tending to show a common theme that runs through all despite other differences? What name should be given to this common theme, should it actually exist?

    May the peace and blessings of the One be upon us all.

  4. Teófilo said

    Thank you, Madcap, for the headsup. I’ve been seeing the hits coming from Summer Harvest for a while, but kept quiet. I made some comments today on Vivificat. Good job on strengthening the connections between ancient Gnosticism with Voegelin’s analyses.

  5. […] “Madcap” and Teofilo de Jesus have, with their awesome rhetorical stylings and masterful wielding of Voegelin’s cutting-edge political ideologies, managed to uncover the TRUE PLANS of the Gnosticks! They’ve cut through our disguises; we’re obviously not a few thousand peace-loving, church going religionists, we’re actually the VANGUARD of the IMMANENT ESCHATON, taking up the causes of Nietzsche and Marx and conspiring to rid the world of the God-fearing, supplanting them with our own twisted version of reality. Since we’ve been so readily ferreted out, we can finally reveal…. […]

  6. […] July 6th, 2007 There’s been some banter on a few sites — like here and here — about Nietzsche and Gnosticism. Since most of this interpretation of Nietzchean thought is […]

  7. […] Link to original article. […]

  8. I have outlined some ideas on the previous topic, mostly regarding the intersect of ontology, political philosophy and Gnosticism here:

    http://naturalibus.blogspot.com/2007/07/prissy-wigs-bad-hair-gnosis.html

    I appreciate your writing on Aquinas, although you will no doubt guess that my view of “good” vs. “evil” is a tad different. The Gnostic view of “evil” is described as the absence of Wisdom, a.k.a. – ignorance. But that’s a whole other ball of wax.

    Peace be with you.

  9. Andrew Smith said

    JPuma is adament in his ignorance and shall ever remain so. He has wasted 12 years of studying Gnosticism (as per his biography). His whole obsession is against the Voegelinian group, and he has blinders on for anything else. I pity him!

  10. Joe said

    Thanks for a very interesting debate, Madcap. To clarify what appears to me an often-made mistake concerning Voeglin’s claims about Gnosticism: to my knowledge, he never did claim that the attempt to “immanentize the eschaton” is characteristic of Gnosticism in general, but only of the modern variants of Gnosticism. Later, he claimed that this attempt to immanentize the eschaton by the modern variants of Gnosticism is due to an agglomeration of Gnostic with Hermetic and alchemist influences. He also referred to a scholar who regarded Hermeticism as the ‘positive variant’ of Gnosticism, and appears to have considered this a possibility.

    What he did claim to be characteristic of the Gnostic movement in general, is that the Gnostic person “reaches the borders of transcendence,” but he doesn’t repent in faith (turn the soul around) to bridge the gap between the transcendent God and man. Rather, he chooses to bridge the unbearable gap speculatively (imaginitively). This imaginative speculation can assume many forms. A new conceptual system (cosmos) can make the gulf of transcendence appear less radical, and therefore to appear more tolerable. (For example, Gnostics often substituted a theory of “emmanation” for the intolerable, traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo). To reiterate: what Voegelin seems to me to have identified as characteristic of the Gnostic movements is the attempt to bridge the unbearable gap of transcendence through speculative imagination, rather than through repentence, and a restoration in in the openness of faith. (This is perhaps what comes through clearly when the Gnostic systems repudiated the idea of “radical transcedence” as due to ignorance, the which could be healed through a new gnosis concerning our “real” condition.)

    In Hegel’s case, he claimed to be only clarifying what Christ came to do, when in fact he was eclipsing the revelation of Christ with a radically different, speculative one. He created a system in which transcendence was denied, and everything that was formerly ‘beyond’ our comprehension was now knowable. Hegel accomplished this imaginateve feat by speculating that ‘mind itself’ was the ground of all existence, and upon realizing this, he claimed, we would realize that everything that was formerly symbolized as beyond our experience would now be made knowable to us. Other speculators rejected the ground of being which Hegel postulated (mind-itself) as nonsense, but they substituted another ground of being, while keeping the form of the ‘scientific system.’ For example, Marx substituted the immanent being of material dialectics for it, and created ‘scientific’ communism. Other thinkers substitute the mysterious life force of biology & evolution for the ultimate ground of being (which is postulated by some radical kinds of ‘scientific’ behaviorist theories.) These are known as ideologies, and an ideology is precisely what its name implies: the logic of an idea. A thinker can speculatively postulate some ultimate ground of being, and then claim that everything else follows logically, ‘scientifically’, from this idea. That is why Voegelin claimed that the modern variants of ideologies are desendents of Hegel’s master ideology. He perfected the form of the ‘system’ which postulated a particular ground of existence, that seemed plausible enough to eclipse our real existence in relation to transcendence, and then everything else would follow logically from this.

    To reiterate: a new ground of existence is first established, all then other sectors of our experience are explained in light of that: our social, historical, and personal existences are then completely understood in light of the new ground of being, while the transcendent God of the Christian mystics is denied as ‘unscientific’ in the same way that the ancient Gnostics denied the idea of a transcendent God was a result of ignorance. By putting the Gnostic claims in the format of a new, scientific system, they acquired a new, imperialistic power to become influential.

    The general loss of our experience of transcendence in the public sphere, the evocation of a “secular” society that denies public recognition to any claims about man that cannot be confirmed by the methods of science, is, according to Voegelin, largely a result of the influence of these imperialistic, Gnostic systems, (ideologies) that speculate about the nature of man under the new guise of ‘science,’ and whose main concern has always been to eclipse our existence in-between ignorance and knowledge, imaginatively replacing it with one in which, real, ultimate knowledge is possible.

    The imperialist style remains power in our universities because teaching a psychology which includes the experiences of transcendence would be denied as ‘unverifiable’ scientifically, and ridiculed by gnostics who are intent on denying them status, and they would also be branded as posing a danger to our separation of church and state. Unfortunately, all this leaves room the influence of ideologies to flourish because, since the ultimate grounds they postulate have scientific-sounding names like ‘evolution and biology’, they appear not to breach it.

    This is a lot to compress into a short post, but I hope it helps in some way.

  11. madcap said

    Joe,
    Thank you so much for your input. You hit the nail on the head…

    “What he did claim to be characteristic of the Gnostic movement in general, is that the Gnostic person “reaches the borders of transcendence,” but he doesn’t repent in faith (turn the soul around) to bridge the gap between the transcendent God and man. Rather, he chooses to bridge the unbearable gap speculatively (imaginitively). This imaginative speculation can assume many forms. A new conceptual system (cosmos) can make the gulf of transcendence appear less radical, and therefore to appear more tolerable. (For example, Gnostics often substituted a theory of “emmanation” for the intolerable, traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo). To reiterate: what Voegelin seems to me to have identified as characteristic of the Gnostic movements is the attempt to bridge the unbearable gap of transcendence through speculative imagination, rather than through repentence, and a restoration in in the openness of faith. (This is perhaps what comes through clearly when the Gnostic systems repudiated the idea of “radical transcedence” as due to ignorance, the which could be healed through a new gnosis concerning our “real” condition.)”

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