The darkness of this world 3

 The Darkness of This World

essays on

Our Gnostic Age

1

French philosophers in the last century advocated the deliberate doing of evil. Why? Maybe they were helpless instruments of the Zeitgeist. Maybe they were insane.

There was a time long ago when dozens of philosophers, or mystics, or religious teachers, did the same: they taught that this world is evil, and the moral thing to do in an evil world is disobey its moral laws.

Their cults arose and flourished in the 1st and (mostly) the 2nd century C.E., and their doctrine came to be called “Gnosticism” by post-Renaissance historians. [1] It may not be the best name for it. It is derived from their belief that some human beings are capable of escaping this evil world and entering an eternal sphere of pure goodness by being blessed with an inner knowledge of the otherwise unknowable Godhead who dwells there. This intuitive knowledge they called, in Greek, the Gnosis.

The reversing of conventional values so characterized the old Gnostics that they might be called “reversalists”. It was their reversal of values, not their doctrine of intuitive knowledge, that made them dangerous in the ancient world. And as certain recent thinkers propound just such a reversal of values, the word Gnostic is applied to them. Modern Gnostics (or “post-modern” as many of them prefer to call themselves) have had a significant and baneful influence on our age.

In this series of essays we will be looking with a hard and critical – not to say merciless – eye at a selection of influential Gnostics, including French philosophers, Austrian actionist artists, Teutonic terrorists, English entertainers, and American academics.

 

Jillian Becker   June 23, 2013

NOTES

1. See our posts on some of these Gnostic cults:

The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus, and Menander)

How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion)

Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes)

Mani and Manicheism, May 9, 2010

Valentinus, February 14, 2011

Holy snakes, March 24, 2013 (on the Ophites)

The sinning Jesus, the laughing Christ, and the Big Bang of Basilides, April 6, 2013

Also see:

Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013

Posted under Articles, Ethics, Europe, France, Gnosticism, Philosophy, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, June 23, 2013

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  • liz

    Sounds really interesting!
    Amazing how harmless religion can appear on the surface, but once you begin to examine it closely, all kinds of worms start crawling out of it.
    To quote George Smith – “While ostensibly offering man a reprieve from the suffering in life, Christian ethics, like Christian theology, creates many of the problems that it later offers to solve…and fails miserably in its attempt to find a solution.”
    So much confusion and damage done by the simple mistake of identifying a god threatening hell as the source of morality, rather than basing morality on objective facts about what actually benefits man in the real world.

    • Jillian Becker

      liz – would that be George Smith who translated Gilgamesh?

      It’s a penetrating observation.

      We like your own remarks very much too.

      Thank you for the comment.

      • liz

        It’s the George Smith who wrote “Atheism: the Case Against God”. (Sorry for not providing the reference!)