The darkness of this world (2) 1

Continuing our series on contemporary Gnosticism, here is the second essay under the title The Darkness of This World. The first can be found here.

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The Darkness of This World

essays on

Our Gnostic Age

2

The Gnostic in ancient, medieval, and modern times, rejects “this world”.

To the Gnostic of the early centuries C.E., “this world” was the physical earth and everything on it, all created by an inferior god. He knew that somewhere, elsewhere, there was something immeasurably better, purely good, because he had a minute spark within him – gifted to him by a higher source of existence who was Goodness itself – which informed him through his intuition that it was so. This inner spark was his Gnosis (Knowledge). Having it, he was on to the scam that nature and the ignorant mass of mankind tried to put over on him. So he fought against the world, a saintly warrior for the Good. He fought against nature by defying it – refusing to beget children; and against civilization by reversing its values – declaring everything commonly believed good to be evil, and everything commonly believed evil to be good. His reward lay beyond and above this world. [1]

To the Gnostic of the Middle Ages, “this world” was not only this earth but also the Catholic (Universal) Church. Informed by that same Gnosis which guided the Gnostic of antiquity from within, he fought against Catholic doctrine and practice with the same refusals and reversals. To him everything the Church believed and did was evil; its priests were the servants of Hell. The Church would sniff him out, hunt him down, destroy his body with fire, but he would rise after death to the realm of the Good. [2]

To the Gnostic of our era, “this world” is the political-economic system of the Western nation-state. As a warrior for a never-yet-realized reign of the Good on this earth, he fights against the established order in theory and practice. He holds the values honored by custom and defended by law to be evil; the values they abhor to be good. He does not want to reform or improve the system; he wants it wholly overthrown. He is a revolutionary. He feels passionately that “this world” needs to be transformed.

Recently commentators have been writing about traditional Western values being inverted.

We live in a backwards world in which the decent are regarded as indecent, defenders of western institutions are considered as terrorists, correct naming is derogated and often prosecuted as slander and “hate speech”, violence is justified if committed by our enemies, unseasonable cold weather is interpreted as an infallible sign of global warming … It is a world in which Iran[3] chairs the UN Conference on Disarmament; and Syria [4] was recently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. … We have, for the most part, colluded in an agreement that upside-down down is right-side-up, backwards is forwards, and madness is sanity … [5]

In the essay quoted, David Solway cites a book by Melanie Phillips (whom I much admire for her courageous and percipient defense of many a just cause). It is titled The World Turned Upside Down. [6] She believes that the topsy-turviness – which she deplores – results from a loss of faith in “God” and detachment from the West’s “Judeo-Christian roots”. I have no doubt that Europe is becoming less religious. But I do not think Christianity (which is what is generally meant by “Judeo-Christian roots”) was good for the West, or its values ideal. Nor are they the values that are being inverted. The values that the Gnostic revolutionary scorns are those of the Enlightenment.

Enlightenment thinking was rational, skeptical, and humane. Gnostic ideology is emotional, dogmatic, and cruel.

Daniel Greenfield – the editor and writer chiefly responsible for the sustained excellence of Front Page Magazine – comments on a Time Magazine article typical of topsy-turvy thinking among media pundits:

News coverage has nothing to do with reality. Instead it is a deliberate inversion of reality in which the murderers are the heroes and the greatest threat comes from their victims. The bad guys are the good guys. The good guys are the bad guys. The slavery of Islam is freedom. The freedom of America and Israel is slavery because it has to be defended against the slavery of Islam. [7]

Such defiance of civilized values arose as a significant historical factor with the Romantic movement around the middle of the 18th century. The Romantics hated the Industrial Revolution, its “dark satanic mills”, its noise and ugliness. They did not care if it made life better for most people – which it did, however ugly and squalid living conditions were at first for the workers in the industrial cities. The Romantic movement was a backlash against the Enlightenment, against scientific and technological advance, against capitalism, against reality. Romantics dreamt of utopias: beautiful societies consisting of ideal human beings who would live for the happiness of their fellow creatures and share all material goods. And all they had to do to win such a world was, they believed, to destroy the world they lived in. Merciless brutality to living people would be justified by the creation of a heaven on earth inhabited by imaginary angelic beings.

Socialism, Communism, Nazism, Alinskyism, Environmentalism … all revolutionary ideologies spawned by the Romantic rebellion against the Enlightenment.

How do the revolutionaries know that after vast destruction their beautiful new world will be born? They know it. They are the Gnostics of the modern age.

They made revolutions in the twentieth century, whether by constitutional process or by violence. They took the reins of power and set about creating their new worlds, which lasted for years here and decades there; and wherever their utopias were, and in the name of whichever ideology they were governed, they stand out as exceptionally marked by terror, pain, cruelty, despair and death.

But the idealists learnt no lesson from the failure of their terrible experiments. The dreamers did not lose their faith. Instead of fading away, withered by disgust and contempt, the faith spread, and is becoming so prevalent that some observers – I among them – see it now as characterizing the West.

The Gnostics who dream on of destroying our civilization should not be ignored. What have they said and done? What are they saying now? We must pay attention. They mean it.

 

Jillian Becker   July 14, 2013

 

NOTES

1.These are the essays on ancient Gnostic sects in the The Atheist Conservative: How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion); Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes); The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus and Menander); 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. See also Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013.

2. These are the essays on Gnosticism in the Middle Ages: Hot in the land of Hum, October 14, 2010 (on the Bugomils); The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011 (on the Cathars). In the Bugomils’ case, their resistance was maintained against both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

3. Iran is working to become a nuclear-armed power, and has threatened Israel with total destruction.

4. The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, like his father before him, is notorious for the oppression, torture, and mass killing of tens of thousands of his own people.

5. David Solway, Living in a Backwards World, frontpagemag.com, July 2, 2013.

6. The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth and Power, by Melanie Phillips, Encounter Books, New York, 2010.

7.  Daniel Greenfield, Time Mag: Muslim Terror No, Buddhist Terror Yes, in The Point, frontpagemag.com, July 11, 2013.

  • liz

    Thanks for tracing the development here of how Gnosticism developed, and how the “new” Gnosticism of Leftism is so directly linked to the “old” Gnosticism of Christianity.
    Like a disease, when it was suppressed in one form it found a way to morph into another. The old form was tamed, but the new form is not constrained by the civilized bounds the old has conformed to. It may speak of “compassion”, just as the Church still does, but it has no qualms about persecuting “heretics”.
    And now the new form has joined with an old form that has never known the constraints, so that it gains power thru the alliance – Leftism joined with Islam.
    I hope I’m wrong, but they may take over, just as the Church did, for milleniums.