The darkness of this world (7) 1

The Darkness of This World 

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7

On May 5, 1818, there was born, in the Prussian city of Trier, one of those rare persons who change the course of history. He did not live to see his prophecies warp the world. He died in 1883, and the first earth-shattering event of which he was an effective cause came thirty-four years after his death: the Russian Communist revolution of 1917.

Karl Marx was the second child and eldest son of a prosperous lawyer. Two years before his birth, his father, Herschel Marx, had taken a step that must have amazed, even outraged, a good many of his Jewish co-religionists in his (overwhelmingly Catholic) home city, which for generations had had its rabbis from the Marx family: he was baptized by the Lutheran church, becoming Heinrich Marx. Protestant Christianity itself did not attract him irresistibly, but he wanted to play a full part as a citizen of (largely Protestant) Prussia. He was a man of reason who admired the products of reason: machines, engines, modernity in general. In 1824, overcoming his wife’s opposition to the move, he had his seven children (an eighth was yet to come) baptized into the recently established Evangelical Church of Prussia, Lutheran and Calvinist.

In his late teens, Karl fell in love with an aristocrat, Jenny von Westphalen, the friend of his older sister, and at about the same time decided to become a great poet. He wrote love poems to Jenny, and hate poems to the world.

The poems are bombastic, full of religio-romantic imagery. Little meaning can be found in them. But they do reveal the character and mentality of their composer. They are emotional, defiant, rebellious, destructive, swaggering, and express above all a hunger for power. Typical is this monologue from a verse drama titled Oulanem, the eponymous hero speaking: “Ha, I must entwine me on the wheel of flame,/ And in Eternity’s ring I’ll dance my frenzy! If aught besides that frenzy could devour,/ I’d leap therein though I must smash a world/ That towered high between myself and it!/ It would be shattered by my long drawn curse,/ and I would fling my arms around cruel Being,/ Embracing me, ‘twould silent pass away,/ Then silent would I sink into the void./ Wholly to sink, not be … oh, this were Life,/ But swept along high on Eternity’s current /To roar out threnodies for the Creator,/ Scorn on the brow! Can Sun burn it away?/ Bound in compulsion’s sway, curse in defiance!/ Let the envenomed eye flash forth destruction –/ Does it hurl off the ponderous worlds that bind?/ …… And we, we Apes of a cold God, still cherish/…… The viper so voluptuously warm,/ That it as Universal Form rears up/ And from its place on high grins down on us! And in our ear, till loathing’s all consumed,/ The weary wave roars onward, ever onward! ”

The young poet cast off the Christian God he had been lightly brought up to believe in, but he clung on to the concept of Satan and the powers of evil. He wrote, in a lyric titled The Fiddler: “Why do I fiddle? Or the wild waves roar?/ That they might pound the rocky shore, / That eye be blinded, that bosom swell, / That Soul’s cry carry down to Hell./ … I plunge, plunge without fail/ My blood-black sabre into your soul. / That art God neither wants nor wists,/ It leaps to the brain from Hell’s black mists/ … Till heart’s bewitched, till senses reel:/ With Satan I have struck my deal./ He chalks the signs, beats time for me,/ I play the death march fast and free.” “

With lines such as these young Karl expected to be recognized as a towering genius who would be listened to by a dumbstruck Europe. He intended through the power of his words to have an effect on history – a dire and destructive effect, apparently, while waves rolled onwards and pounded rocky shores. But his poems were received less favorably than he had confidently anticipated. The editors of periodicals to whom Karl sent a selection for publication returned them without comment. Indeed it seems that only Jenny von Westphalen was moved by them, especially by those dedicated to her. “Jenny! Do I dare avow/That in love we have exchanged our souls,/That as one they throb and glow,/And through their waves one current rolls?

His father would have liked Karl to take up some useful and lucrative career, in engineering perhaps, or science; something that would have involved him in the amazing developments of the age. Reason was pouring out inventions for the improvement of everyday life: gaslight on the streets, steam powered trains and ships, factories with machines that mass-produced goods. But such mundane things were of no interest to the young man of passionate poetic vision. He would never even visit a factory. Heinrich Marx and his son Karl stood on opposite sides of the post-Enlightenment divide between Reason, which fertilized civilization, and Romanticism, which poisoned it. …

 

The whole of this essay may be found on our Pages, added to the earlier essays under the same title. Access it by clicking on The Darkness of This World under the Pages heading at the top of our margin, and scroll down to 7, The Fiddler and His Proof

Posted under Articles, communism, History, Marxism, Philosophy, Religion general, Socialism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 26, 2014

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The darkness of this world (6) 0

The Darkness of This World

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6

The Enlightenment dethroned faith and crowned reason. And reason launched two of the most important advances of our civilization: Science, and the United States of America.

Science was enormously advanced by the philosophers of Reason. Locke, Hume, Spinoza, and Voltaire not only challenged religious certainties and so weakened the suppressive power of the Churches, but with their radical rationalism they positively impelled free enquiry into the laws of nature.

But at the same time, from the very heart of the Enlightenment, came the rot that would corrupt the new culture. Reason, which had struggled against the ignorant arrogance of the Catholic Church, was now, from the moment its golden age began, assailed by a new adversary, a new form of irrationalism that imitated the religious tyrannies it had overcome: Romanticism.

The rot is easy for us to spot because we know what it led to. It was in the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Voltaire saw it at the time, immediately. With typically wry and stinging humor he wrote to Rousseau: “I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours.”

Rousseau was holding up the pre-civilized, or “natural” man as superior to the civilized. He did not actually use the phrase “noble savage” but it sums up his idea. …

 

The whole of this essay may be found on our Pages, added to the earlier essays under the same title. Access it by clicking on The Darkness of This World under the Pages heading at the top of our margin, and scroll down to Our Gnostic Age 6

Posted under Articles, Gnosticism, History, Philosophy, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, December 8, 2013

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The darkness of this world (5) 0

The Darkness of This World

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5

Sensitive souls recoiled from the products of reason; from the iron mills of new industries with their grating noise, the vulgar crowds swarming into the cities and decking themselves out in the cheap finery they helped to mass-produce. Sensitive souls hated the cheerful optimism of the growing urban middle class, the healthy economy, and fat Britannia setting her imperial boundaries wider and wider across the world. Their reaction was to look inward; to seek emotional solace, become preoccupied with feeling; and often to find a perverted form of satisfaction in melancholy and illness. Such was the despondent though also rapturous mood, the sad sick spirit of nostalgia and unfocussed longing that spread over Europe like a miasma and came to be called the Romantic Movement. ……

The whole of this essay may be found on our Pages, added to the earlier essays under the same title. Access it by clicking on The Darkness of This World under the Pages heading at the top of our margin, and scroll down to Our Gnostic Age 5.

Posted under Articles, Gnosticism, History, Philosophy, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, December 1, 2013

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The darkness of this world (4) 2

Continuing our series on contemporary Gnosticism, here is the fourth essay under the title The Darkness of This World. (For the first three put Our Gnostic Age in the search slot.)

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The Darkness of This World

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4

In its defiance of religious and cultural norms, most New Age doctrine and practice (briefly described in the last essay) is comparatively mild. Far more savage messages have come from thousands of pop songs and rap “flows” since the 1960s. Cruelty and religious images are a large if not predominant part of their stock-in-trade. Themes of rape, murder, massacre, torture, Satan, devils, demons, sado-masochism, ultimate doom, universal destruction by nuclear bombs or climate apocalypse, terrorism, suicide, death, are common, hugely popular – and therefore enormously lucrative. Here are words from a rock song called Demons. It was sung by a group named Rigor Mortis – typically connoting something dreaded, in this case death: “We come bursting through your bodies, rape your helpless soul …we force you to kill your brother, eat his blood and brain, shredding flesh and sucking bone till everyone’s insane, we are pestilent and contaminate, the world Demonic legions prevail.”

Such songs could be, and sometimes are, interpreted as instructions to do evil. But then, almost any song could be – and was. Charles Manson, mass murderer and cult-leader of a mass-murdering group, declared himself profoundly stirred by a Beatles song called Helter-Skelter, into whose quite innocuous words about sliding down a fairground slide, he read a coded message about the coming of a final conflict between the black and white races. [1]

But songs, however gruesome, and even if sometimes inspiring real cruelty and murder, are not the source of the moral rot in twenty-first century Western culture.  Nor are the video games that require the killing off of humanoids in such profusion that they’re often blown away as copiously as brown leaves in a gale. Such popular indulgence in Halloween-like fantasy are analogous not to the old Gnostic cults themselves, but to imitations of their rites as pictured and misunderstood by less educated outsiders. The deliberate “sinning” of the Gnostics, with orgies and drugs, was performed for several reasons or excuses: to “use up sin” – ie. commit as much sin as possible in order to hasten the end of the world, on the assumption that there was a fixed amount of sin pre-ordained by the evil Creator, and when all of it had been committed his creation would be done for; or on the grounds that it wasn’t sin at all, only named so by the evil creator, and by defying him they were acting for the good; or on the grounds that true Gnostics – the “Spirituals”, or “Masters”,  or “Perfects” – were incapable of sinning and so were free to do anything they liked. Those who were fascinated by the cults but excluded from them – being despised by the Gnostics as “hylics”, “animal men”, creatures irredeemably belonging to the earth – caught rumor of the rites and misunderstood them to be ways of worshiping the Devil. [2]  The performance of “Satanic” rituals such as the Black Mass may very well have begun in imitation of Gnostic rites as imagined by “hylics” who hoped they would summon up the Devil to grant them occult powers. The Devil was supposed to be able and willing to sell such powers to any buyer willing to pay the price of his or her “immortal soul”. Sometimes the drug-intoxicated, orgiastic rites included human sacrifice. To the Christian churches such beliefs and rituals were not only heresy, they were blasphemy; and through the Middle Ages, when such blaspheming heretics were sniffed out by the moralists of almost any Christian denomination, they were punished with torture and fire; burnt at the stake as witches and “black” magicians. It’s certain, however, that they did far less harm, hurt and killed far fewer victims, than did the churches themselves.

No. The power to effect evil on a vast scale lies not with the many but with the few; not with the uneducated but with the educated; not with adolescent entertainers but with intellectual elites. Evil as, or for, a “higher good” becomes a force that deforms civilization only when it issues from the top of the tower. They affect the way teachers teach, students learn, and governments govern. They are professors, philosophers, priests, psychologists, writers, critics, film-makers, rogue scientists, politicians. They are the revolutionaries with a long reach. They could be called the legislative branch of the new orthodoxy. They write the laws of “political correctness”.

The executive branch whose members are responsible for disseminating the toxic ideas, are the powers that appoint the teachers at the universities; publish books and newspapers; choose the plays and the works of art that are to be presented to the public. They are the givers of grants and awards, the producers of films, the social-engineering bureaucrats.

A counter-culture with a mood of sustained rebellion has become dominant in the early twenty-first century in the West not as an imp daring to do mischievous things to provoke an old-fogey establishment, but as a loud, bullying, relentless thug. It rules in the academies and the press; it permits and cheers on the jolly viciousness of popular culture. And it has come to political power throughout the Western world. It is no longer an amusing adversarial movement confined to a demi-monde of the young, the envious and the frustrated; it is now the culture itself. It camps on the public square, wallowing in its own detritus. It stinks. It threatens. It crows triumphantly on its own dung-heap. It gloats over its crimes. It riots in the streets of the cities, smashing the windows of stores, setting fire to banks regardless of whether there are people in them. It burns cars. It shrilly demands much in exchange for nothing. And it legislates, and it taxes, and it makes war on small nations for no better reason than sentiment.[3]

It prevails. And it seems to have come upon the prosperous, brilliant, powerful West quite recently. It has called itself the Red Army of this or that; or Anarchists against Capitalism; or a movement for Hope and Change; or the Occupy Wall Street Movement… It entered the Parliaments of Europe late in the last century, and now it is in the White House of America. But actually it grew slowly through the last three centuries.

It began in Europe, it spread from Europe, and in Europe it became malignant. It began as a reaction to the Enlightenment, that marvelous long morning when the sun of Reason rose to its zenith in the eighteenth century, and the Age of Science gathered pace. Technology, the daughter of Science, gave birth – first in England – to contraptions, contrivances, devices and engines that spun wheels and let off steam and smoke, appalling those blessed or cursed with sensitive souls. Religion blanched. The power of the Churches drained away. Christianity itself declined, but with its fading came a nostalgia for its mystery, for its visions of dim glories, and even for its guilt and its terror.

 

Jillian Becker    October 31, 2013

NOTES

1. In August 1969, Charles Manson sent Susan Atkins with two other women and  Charles “Tex” Watson to a house in Beverly Hills to kill the actress Sharon Tate and anyone else they found there. Atkins states in her  autobiography Child of Satan, Child of God, that as they approached the house, “I was deeply aware of Evil. I was Evil.” She and her companions brutally murdered Sharon Tate and four other people with knives and a gun. “Tex” Watson said to one of the victims (according to Atkins), “I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.” Atkins wrote: “I was to learn later that this was the home of the beautiful Miss Tate and [her husband Roman] Polanski, who was out of the country at the time. … Polanksi had produced the controversial Rosemary’s Baby, a film about a woman who bore a child by Satan.”  Shortly before meeting Manson, she records, she had refused to participate in a ritual of Satan-worship conducted by Anton LaVey – occultist and musician, founder of the Church of Satan, author of The Satanic Bible, father of a son named Satan LaVey – because she believed in God. When she joined the Manson “family”, she thought that Manson “might be God himself; if not, he was close to him.” Her life with the Manson “family” was full off drugs and orgies which made her feel that she was “one with everyone”. “What Charlie taught us,” she said, “was love”. She bore a child which she insisted was not Manson’s, and named him  Ze Zo Ze Cee Zadfrack “for no other reason than that at the torn and twisted time it seemed like a good name”. (So it must be a coincidence, though an intriguing one, that the magic formula for gaining direct access to the highest heaven of the Gnostics, according toThe Book of Ieû is: aaa ooo zezophazazzzaieozaza eee iii zaieozoakoe ooo uuu thoezaozaez eee zzeeezaozakozakeude tuxuaalethukh. – Gnosticism: An Anthology by Robert M. Grant, Collins, London, 1961.)

2. A misinterpretation of Gnostic ritual as devil-worship probably accounts for some of the testimony given at the trial in France, in 1310, of the Knights Templar, a military branch of the Cistercian order specially founded “to protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land”. King Philip IV, known as Philip the Beautiful, feared their power and coveted their wealth. They were the international bankers of the age, as well as a considerable military force and an efficiently organized intelligence network. They owned vast estates in France. Their reputation as heroes of the Crusades, as warriors and carers of the sick and wounded, made them glorious in the eyes of the common people. Philip was determined to bring them down, to confiscate their lands and treasure, to extirpate them from his own realms and destroy the order wherever his power or influence could reach. The means he chose was to accuse them of heresy. On the night of October 12, 1307, every Templar in France, along with his servants and dependants, was arrested and imprisoned by order of the King. Two and half years later the trial began. Witnesses told of secret meetings behind locked doors, through whose keyholes they had seen and heard abominable rites. Almost all said that the Knights had denied Christ,  spat upon the Cross, and declared that it was right only to believe in “the Highest God”. Some reported that they had seen them pay reverence to idols and the devil. Some Knights, being broken by torture and unable to face the terrible punishment that awaited heretics, themselves “confessed” to performing such rituals. Though their legal defense was cleverly devised and persuasively presented, the verdict was a foregone conclusion. The last officers of the order  were burnt at the stake on March 19, 1314. Some historians maintain that all the accusations were false and the order was free of any taint of heresy, and no direct evidence has ever been found to prove the case one way or the other. But the more credible testimony of the witnesses strongly suggests that what they glimpsed and heard through keyholes was a Gnostic rite as had been practiced by the Cathars in the Languedoc region of southern France, of whom the  last few were then being hunted down and burnt to death by the Inquisition. But beside the possibly true witness accounts, tales were told of devil-worship, including the ritual kissing of the Devil’s behind, which were probably the stock-in-trade of common gossip in those heresy-obsessed ages of Catholic tyranny.

3. One example of sentiment at work in international affairs to brutal result arose out of the United Nation resolution known as “R2P” –  The Responsibility to Protect. It requires the strong and wealthy nations of the West to be guardians of vulnerable populations in any foreign state. It was invoked as a reason for French, British and American intervention in Libya in 2011, to overthrow the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, to the time of this writing, there has been no effective government in Libya. Rival Muslim terrorist groups control their fiefdoms, ruling arbitrarily and ferociously by a mixture of sharia law and vicious whim. The population is a lot worse off than it was under Gaddafi. An earlier example was the interference in the 1990s by the West – chiefly America – in the Balkans. The socialist governments of Western Europe and the Democratic government of the United States believed it was right according to leftist principles to make war only where the interests of their own countries were in no way served by it. The American and NATO soldiers who died saving Kosovar and Bosnian Muslims from alleged Catholic or Orthodox Christian oppression (so positively assisting Muslim terrorist groups in Kosovo), gave their lives not for their country, or freedom, but for the need of their leaders to feel good about themselves. The idea that it is the height of morality to sacrifice oneself (or one’s country’s soldiers) for others, particularly if the others are perceived as underdogs, derives directly and exclusively from Christianity.

 

Posted under Art, Articles, Gnosticism, History, Literature, Philosophy by Jillian Becker on Thursday, October 31, 2013

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On victimhood – real and imaginary 5

Today we post a new article among those we permanently display in our margin list of Pages.

It is an essay dealing with the subject of envy - not of those who are rich, successful, privileged, or powerful, but of the opposite: those who have been, or are, deprived, oppressed, humiliated, tormented and persecuted. 

It is titled The Envy of Suffering, and is written by Jillian Becker.

Here are two quotations from it.

The first is an example of victim envy:

In the early 1970s an American student told me that after being enrolled as a student in a Californian university in 1968, she had suddenly left and gone to Calcutta “in order to share the suffering” of the multitudes who had to live on the streets. I asked her how she had thought this would help them. She replied that the whole point was not to help them but to save herself from being “one of the privileged of the earth”. She “stuck it out”, she said, for three weeks, after which the American embassy had arranged for her to fly home.

The second is an observation on whole movements that have come into existence to remedy unreal victimization:

It can reasonably be supposed that there are few if any who actually want to be victimized. (Genuine victims are outside the scope of this essay and beside the point.) They want the role of victim, identifying themselves with a group that they claim is oppressed, or has been oppressed in the past. In America there are manifestly large numbers of women and blacks, for instance, who make this claim and choose this role.

The essay can be found here.

Posted under Articles, Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, September 30, 2013

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The darkness of this world (3) 2

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

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The Darkness of This World

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3

New Age religion is – according to taste and judgment – a rich diversity of “spiritualities”, or a junk-heap of irrationalities.

It arose in the West as an unplanned rejection movement against reason, science, capitalism, Western political institutions and cultural norms, often to the point of antinomianism. It started as a counter-culture, but many of its beliefs and practices have come to be accepted as normal. Most obviously it impacts the lives of almost everyone in developed countries through Environmentalism, one of the most successful of its superstitions.

New Age includes mythical, mystical, and simply fantastical cult ingredients. Its theorists draw on the occult and witchcraft; on religions of the Far East [1]; on the modern mystic faith of psycho-analysis (in particular the theories of C. G. Jung); on Richard Wagner’s mythology and mysticism [2]; on UFO legends; on “alternative” Western religious cults and systems – Scientology, Mormonism, Hare Krishna, Shamanism, pop-Kabala, Environmentalism. Among its assorted mysticisms and occultisms are: astrology [3]; fortune telling by tarot cards, I Ching, Ouija boards; spirit guides; processes of faith healing or imaginary empowerment through the use of crystals and pyramids; chanting, dancing, meditation, Yoga exercises. It was partly inspired by the hundred-plus years old, Orient-derived, Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, and its offshoots, including the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner with their theories of education, art, agriculture, and health.

As a religion rather than a life-style movement – which it has primarily become – New Age is loosely likened to the Gnostic sects of the 2nd century and the Middle Ages because it is mystical, esoteric, and challenging to the “revealed” religions. There are also specific similarities.

First, like the Gnostics of old, New Age acolytes revile the “God of the bible” (whatever they conceive him to be – Jehovah, “God the Father”, or the Trinity), and they “know” the “true God” by innate knowledge.

Second, as in the Gnostic cults, there is a hierarchy of classes in New Age doctrine. The divisions are according to “spiritual” ability. The highest class is that of the adepts, the Masters, who have attained “cosmic consciousness”. They know they possess the innate knowledge (gnosis) of the real God. Below them are Disciples, whose minds are open to New Age teaching but have yet to master it. At the bottom are the rest, “animal men”, unenlightened by the faith.

Third, those who have the gift – the Masters – can release, or bring to consciousness, or make effective, or bring into being (all of those effects are stated or implied at different times), the “divinity” they “know” is within them by achieving a state of ecstasy. And like the Gnostics of old, they do this by taking drugs and indulging in sexual libertinism. Each New Age participant’s “divine blood” asserts itself as the right guide to human thought and action. In a New Age orgy, “group-consciousness” reveals itself and exerts its will.

Fourth, in New Age as in old Gnosticism, believers rebel against ethical norms by reversing conventional values: what is generally accepted as good is held to be bad, and vice versa.

But in one important respect there is a difference between old Gnosticism and New Age. To almost all the old Gnostics, this earth and everything on it (except their inner spark of Knowledge) was evil, the creation of an evil God, so they were defying evil by doing what the ignorant masses called sinning; defiling their bodies to express scorn for the dirt they were made of [4]. But New Age holds the earth sacred, and sensual experience is a sacrament in itself, often the supreme sacrament.

The old Gnostics, to defy the Creator God, would destroy his earth to save man – or at least themselves. The new Gnostics claim to be God, at least potentially, and would destroy man – or at least a lot of other people – to save the earth [5].

Being a hotch-potch of beliefs – belief in almost anything that reason rejects – New Age religion inevitably contains contradictions. For instance, while some of its authoritative theorists hold that the divine dwells within the human species (even in the “animal men”, the general theory implies) [6], the earth is an external and separate goddess, “Mother Earth”, identical to her whom the ancient Greeks called Gaia. She has suffered “ecological wounds” through human industrial activity (thus the specie-sin of “anthropogenic global warming”), and she needs to be “healed”.

These different attitudes to nature between the ancient and the new cults entail different attitudes to sex. To the ancient Gnostics, everything material, including the human body, was evil, so they indulged in sacramental orgies of conventionally forbidden sex in order to defy the Creator God of this world and his commandments. But New Age orgies – similarly considered to be sacraments – are performed as acts of Earth worship. They celebrate the physical, not scorn it. [7] Sensual pleasure is a good in itself. The performance of communal rituals – chanting, dancing, sado-masochistic sex, all-gender-inclusive sex (with male homosexuality particularly stressed by Matthew Fox [8]) – advances the coming into being of a new synthesized God: “I” become God; “we” become God; Man, God, and Nature become One, and the one is the universal God, the “Cosmic Christ”.

New Age writing is full of vapid declarations expressed with stirring passion rather than semantic sense. It is verbal impressionism. Matthew Fox, for instance – one of the most widely read New Age writers, blends “the Cosmic Christ” with “Mother Earth”. The Cosmic Christ is an eternal Being who became incarnate in Jesus – so far in tune with at least some long-established Christianities – but is also (if not exactly “incarnate” by the actual meaning of the word, “made flesh”), one with Mother Earth. She is crucified like Jesus; and as such she is a symbol of the incarnated Cosmic Christ, or of the Cosmic Christ as Jesus crucified; or Jesus crucified is a symbol of Mother Earth crucified:

The appropriate symbol of the Cosmic Christ who became incarnate in Jesus is that of Jesus as Mother Earth crucified yet rising daily … like Jesus, she rises from her tomb every day [so not quite like Jesus] … wounded, yet rising, Mother Earth blesses us each day. [9]

New Age has had an effect on conventional religious institutions. Some of the established churches, Catholic and Protestant, have picked out bits from New Age to add flavor to their own offerings [10] – which may indicate how weary, stale, flat and washed out they must feel their own faiths to be. As for social and political effects, New Age cults contribute cumulatively to the character of the times, but most of them have had little or no effect on major events.

There are two exceptions. One is Liberation Theology (an emulsion of two opiates of the people, Marxism and Catholicism), which has had an historical effect in South America as an ideological cause of the rise of terrorist organizations.

Marxism comes into our purview. New Age harmonizes with Marxism easily, both being collectivist ideologies. In almost all its manifestations, New Age requires group practice. Its ultimate vision is of a single shared human consciousness (rather like the imaginary alien species called the Borg in Star Trek, whose every individual is one with the “hive mind”). The Catholic writer Teilhard de Chardin had a strong influence on New Age theory. In his book The Future of Man, he foresees “the end of a ‘thinking species’; not disintegration and death, but a new breakthrough and a rebirth, this time outside Time and Space. Man would at some future time ‘form a single consciousness’.” [11] ). New Age goes further yet: humanity will share its communal consciousness with the Earth. [12]

Marxism and magic (and pacifism and feminism), came together in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), starting in Britain in 1958 and continuing through the next three decades. Most of the CND protestors did not know that their leaders received funding from the USSR; they were simply the “useful idiots” of Lenin’s famous phrase. In the early 1980s a Women’s Peace Camp was set up on Greenham Common in Berkshire to protest against NATO cruise missiles being deployed at the RAF base situated there. The women would hold up mirrors to “reflect the evil” of the weapons back over the fence.

The other exception is Environmentalism, which has entranced half the population of the First World and pesters the whole human race.

Other than these, New Age cults, though numerous, are for the most part comparatively harmless and few will be mentioned in these essays. Most New Age leaders and followers don’t think of themselves as doing evil, only redefining what good is. Homosexuality was bad until the 1960s; so to New Age devotees it was super-good. Alternative medical practices were bad; so to New Age devotees they were super-good. One of the most egregious examples of New Age success, of how it has penetrated even some institutions that by their nature should be impregnable to cults of unreason, is that practitioners of “alternative medicine” are working alongside physicians and surgeons in Western hospitals. They may do harm, but they probably do not intend to.

What these essays are concerned with is the deliberate choosing of evil. They are not about common crime, nor the immoral things everybody does from time to time. They are about evil intended as such, and the intended evil is the willful harming of human beings. The doing of it is advocated by a self-elected elite – intellectuals who claim to have a vision beyond the understanding of the rest of us – with verbal violence to scandalize the conventional. They often rationalize it with sophisticated philosophical excuses, arguing for instance that it is necessary for the attainment of a “higher good” for the whole human race, including the uncomprehending masses. The “higher good” is different now, the excuses more sophisticated, more subtle and complicated than they were for the Gnostics of old. The sins are less ingenuous, the evil more profound and more extensive. In sum, the new Gnostics are far more dangerous and destructive than the old.

Not only is evil preached, simulated in theatre or performance art, solemnly celebrated in religious or quasi-religious ceremonies, it is also done in reality. While most of its priests and shamans confine themselves to gestures and make-believe, others do it.

 

Jillian Becker   September 5, 2013

NOTES

1. The re-interpreted oriental religions are chiefly Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism, and in particular the doctrine of reincarnation. The re-interpretations were brought to the West by Indian gurus (such the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, popularized by The Beatles). Some Westerners took themselves to the East to garner its wisdoms and returned home with a new name and guru status (such as Richard Alpert, a Bostonian psychologist who journeyed to India and returned as Guru Ram Dass – see Understanding the New Age by Russell Chandler, Word Inc., Dallas, Texas, 1988, p 63).

2. Wagner’s myths – Lohengrin, Siegfried, Parsifal – were superficially Christian and his heroes Christ-like redeemers. But he dilates at length in his massive prose writings on what is wrong with Christianity and Judaism, especially Judaism and even more especially Jews. He was of the opinion that Jews could only be redeemed by annihilating themselves. The Germans, he declared, needed to be “emancipated from the Jews”; “redeemed” from them by a real-life Parsifal. He praised pre-Christian polytheism. He praised the ancient Greeks for being “intuitive” – which means he loved the savage rites of their Dionysus worship, but ignored their fertile use of reason, their invention of logic and science. Reason, he opined, was a Jewish thing. He drew mostly on Nordic legends, which he considered quintessentially German. Among the ideas he passionately promoted were these: German heroes act out of feeling, not reason, being moved by “the god within”; the only god dwells within us and within nature; there is a “world spirit”, the quintessence of Being, which is within both Man (Germans, that is) and nature; “We are God” and “to become God we need only instinctive Knowledge of the Self” – the indwelling divinity; the taking of hashish releases the feeling of being divine. As poet-priest and prophet, he looked to the coming of a German leader – a Führer – who would mount a “destructive revolution to destroy our civilization”, a civilization which he despised as weak, unheroic, built by Jews. He died before his prophesied Führer was born, but Hitler was intensely inspired by Wagner’s operas from the age of twelve, when he saw one for the first time. It was Lohengrin. And there is a portrait of Hitler as Lohengrin, not (disappointingly) mounted ludicrously on a swan as the knight is in the opera, but on a black horse, in white Medieval armor, carrying the Nazi flag, his head in profile, scowling, unmistakable with his little brushy mustache.) The echoes of Wagner’s ideas in New Age are loud and clear. To hear a full discussion of them, go to a YouTube video titled: Wagner’s Musical Religion: Art, Politics, Genocide, in which two authorities on Wagner, Margaret Brearley and Robert Wistrich, lecture on his life and works and quote his words.

3. Astrology and the signs of the zodiac feature large among New Age superstitions. The New Age is also called “The Age of Aquarius”.

4. One exception among the old Gnostics was Epiphanes. He contradicted the usual Gnostic belief that this world is evil. All creation, he taught, belongs to all mankind. In his rituals, sexual intercourse was performed publicly as a sacred rite and called a love-feast. Drugs, especially aphrodisiacs, were routinely used. When he died at the age of 17, the islanders of Cephalonia, where his mother came from, built a temple to him and proclaimed him a god. His memory was also honored there with a museum which housed the many books he had found time to write in his short life. We have been protected from them by the Christian Church; but the Church Father, Clement of Alexandria, who was allowed to read them before they were destroyed, has left us brief summaries of their contents. Clement’s account shows Epiphanes to have been full of “back to nature” idealism; a lover of animals; an aesthete moved by the beauty of the earth and the starry skies, rather than one who condemned this world as a place of darkness. God lets the light of the sun and the stars, Epiphanes said, fall equally on all human beings. Even the beasts are blessed by the light. Each man and beast takes his enjoyment of it without depleting it for any other. The sun causes the earth to be fruitful and the fruits of the earth are for all. Beasts are exemplars of communitarian life, and being so they are righteous. Together they graze, equal, harmonious, and innocent. And so would we be had not the Law made transgression possible. The Law “nibbled away” the fellowship of nature. Righteousness lies in fellowship and equality, in sharing and caring, which is to say in mutual and general love. Into every male God put vigorous and impetuous desire for the sake of the continuance of the human race. No law can take that away. It is right and good for a man to enjoy sexually every woman he desires. That a law should say ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is laughable. And the very idea of marriage is absurd since all women naturally belong to all men. (For more see Erotic religion, The Atheist Conservative, January 24 2010.)

5. The anti-human campaign among Environmentalists will be the subject of a later essay.

6. In some texts it is “within everything”.

7. “All worship leaders need to be instructed … in body awareness and awakening’.” The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance by Matthew Fox, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1988, pp 216f – quoted in Matthew Fox and the Cosmic Christ, an essay by Margaret Brearley in Anvil, Vol. 9, No 1, 1992, p 44. I have relied on Dr Brearley’s meticulous scholarship, and with her permission taken my examples from her papers on New Age – and Matthew Fox in particular – so avoiding the punitive labor of reading more than a very few New Age texts myself. Most of the words and phrases marked as quotations come from this source.

8. “In practice Fox demands: worship in circles, ‘preferably on the soil of Mother Earth’ (Fox p 217); the centrality of Eros; and the breaking of divisions between body and mind using ‘rituals of the native peoples’. These would include sweat lodges in every church and synagogue, Sun dances with drumming, moon rituals, drinking the ‘blood of the cosmos’ and radically replacing the existing liturgical calendar. Fox seriously suggests, for example, that each Sunday could be devoted to celebrating a different organ of the body.” (Brearley, p 46]. “Fox cites the Hindu god Shiva, the creator and destroyer [as saying]: ‘The phallos is identical with me …. The phallos is … the symbol of the god’, and adds: ‘This is Cosmic Christ language …. There alone will men recover active respect and reverence for their own amazing powers’ (p 176). Fox teaches that one must ‘recover the sense of sacred phallos … by way of drumming, dancing and entering into the irrational processes … puberty rites … celebrating one’s chthonic wholeness in the company of male adults’ (p 177). ‘Love beds are altars’ (p 177) and the sense of lust should be recovered as power and therefore as virtue: ‘it takes courage to be lustful.’ (p 178) Mystical sexuality is an ‘important base for cultural renewal and personal spiritual grounding’ (p 179). … ‘[G]ay people need to lead straight people.’” (Brearley p 45)

9. Fox p 145 (Brearley p 44)

10. Although Matthew Fox writes such predictions as this: “Christianity as we know it now will not survive …. The issue is the survival … of Mother Earth” (Fox p 149) [Brearley  54], New Age doctrine has made “inroads into the Protestant and Catholic Church worldwide” and “creation liturgies inspired by creation spirituality are increasingly being used in cathedrals and churches”. (Brearley p 53)

11. Teilhard de Chardin, trs. N. Denny, The Future of Man, Collins, London 1969 p 302 (Brearley p 46).

12. Another leading New Age writer and spirit medium, David Spangler, also visualizes a “planetary spirituality” which “will be holistic, affirming interconnectedness and Gaia; it will be androgynous, mystical, global – with ‘world communion’ -, and will seek synthesis of person and planet. Above all, the New Age is a spirit, a ‘presence made up of the collective spirit of humanity, and the spirit of our world, of Gaia’.” [D. Spangler, Reflections on the Christ, Findhorn Publications, Findhorn 1981, p.84. [Brearley p 52]

Those dying generations (2) 8

Yesterday we discussed the dying out of the indigenous European peoples as their numbers halve with each generation. We asked why they are letting this happen, why fewer and fewer children are being born. We argued that it is hard to make a case that Socialism as an economic system is responsible for the death of Europe, or that materialism is responsible for it, or that the lost influence of the old-time religions account for it. But today we argue that Socialism as an ideology may have a lot to do with it.

*

As far as we can discover, the idea that a person should care less for himself than for anybody and everybody else, was introduced into history by the author of Christianity, St Paul.* It is not an injunction of Judaism, which does require its followers to “love [respect?] your neighbor as yourself” but not more than yourself. It has no precedent in Greek philosophy, nor in any of the Far Eastern religions which are intensely concerned with personal benefit. None of them are moral religions. True, Buddhism teaches tolerance, but in order to do yourself good, to help you personally on your way to bliss.

Christianity might seem to do that when it promises heaven to those who do good works. But “redemption” by good works was not St Paul’s idea. It was introduced into the Catholic faith later. St Paul taught that only the grace of Christ Jesus could save you. (And that was Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrine too.) So you must do good works, put others before and above yourself without expecting any reward on earth or in heaven. You must  accept that your life is to be hard, and that your afterlife may be even worse. But at least for the afterlife there is hope. Heaven is the aim. If you attain it, whether by grace or good works, there – only there – you as an individual being will find joy. This life is not to be valued.

It is a ruinous idea. It can mean, if taken to heart, that you should not strive for happiness, or even survival. It can mean that every time you supply a want of your own, however basic and essential – food, clothing, protection, information, healing – you will feel self-reproach. As total selflessness is impossible, it’s a recipe for failure and consequent shame, guilt, self-contempt, even self- hatred. It is against not just human but animal nature, since if  you do not eat and protect yourself you will not survive. If human beings were not innately selfish the race would have died out long ago. Indeed, it would never have arisen.

Christians might say that it’s okay, of course, to see to your own survival needs. Some might even grant you the moral right to supply them amply – just so long as you are also attentive to the needs of others. You only have to consider them more than yourself – liberal Christians might tell you – when that choice inescapably presents itself.

No doubt, in the everyday life of Christians, the injunction to care more for others than for yourself is honored more in the breach than the observance. But the principle remains. It is the essence of Christian morality.

Over some centuries it became the ideal of multitudes and persisted for generations. What follows logically from it? Nobody is judged according to his individual merits. Everyone is more important than you are not because of what he is or does, but simply because he is part of the mass.

To think like that is to think sociologically. And from the notion that the individual is of less account than the mass arises another: that the individual is of no account at all, and only the mass, the “community”, matters.

But the mass, the community, has no identity. It has no personhood. It has no aspirations. Where only the many matter, nobody matters.

The spread of Christianity had a lot to do with the fall of the Christianized Roman Empire. Just how much is voluminously debated. At the very least, the Christian doctrines of universal love and not resisting evil mitigated against vigorous defense when enemies struck. And for a thousand years, from the time Rome fell in the late fifth century, Christianity with its impossible injunctions and its terrors of Hell lay heavy on the peoples of Europe.

As the dominant ideology, Christianity faded with the fading power of the Church. The Renaissance and then the Enlightenment shifted the center of human concern from heaven back to earth. Once again, as in pre-Christian times, the proper business of men was with men. This life mattered again. The individual mattered again.

But the Idea – that terrible, misery-making, destructive idea that you must sacrifice yourself for the rest - did not completely fade away. It changed its host. It became the central idea of Socialism.

Socialism is the child of Christianity. Yes: the secular religion of Socialism, though it has no God, no heaven, is – in its DNA so to speak – Christian. As an ideology it received its central Idea from Christianity: the Idea that only the mass, the many, the community matters, not the individual and his personal life.

Christians may deny it – do deny it – but the Christian Idea is the Socialist Idea. We frequently read Christian apologetics claiming that Christianity created “the individual”, and by doing so made Europe great. Europe’s greatness, however, only began – for the second time since the fall of the Roman Empire – with the dispersal of the darkness that Christianity had spread over it. But then Socialism was born, and came into its inheritance. In its turn it became the dominant ideology of Europe.

Because the mass has no identity, no personhood, no aims or aspirations, Socialism is as anti-human as its mother. While its  goal is not beyond and above the earth, it is in the equally abstract, equally unknown, equally phantasmagorical Future.

Now the Europeans are dying out. Multitudes of them care nothing for their national culture and history. Some positively hate all that, and are happy to let Muslims take over their countries and govern them under a different, ancient, cruel law.

Can their death as a mass, as communities, be the end result of Christianity-Socialism? If they are no longer deceived that paradise awaits them either on or above this earth, for what should they live? Are the nations dying out simply because people can see no reason why they should go on existing?

 

* For the many substantiating quotations from the letters of St Paul, and the source references, see our post Tread on me: the making of Christian morality, December 22, 2011.

 

Jillian Becker   August 12, 2013

Those dying generations 16

In a Townhall article today, David Stokes comments on a Time magazine cover story titled  “The Child Free Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.”  The theme is interesting to us – the scarcity of children in most of the First World, particularly in Europe.

The author recalls a speech President Theodore Roosevelt gave in France:

Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. It was the crown of blessings in Biblical times and it is the crown of blessings now. The greatest of all curses is the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility. The first essential in any civilization is that the man and women shall be father and mother of healthy children so that the [human] race shall increase and not decrease. If that is not so, if through no fault of the society there is failure to increase, it is a great misfortune. If the failure is due to the deliberate and willful fault, then it is not merely a misfortune, it is one of those crimes of ease and self-indulgence, of shrinking from pain and effort and risk, which in the long run Nature punishes more heavily than any other. If we of the great republics, if we, the free people who claim to have emancipated ourselves from the thralldom of wrong and error, bring down on our heads the curse that comes upon the willfully barren, then it will be an idle waste of breath to prattle of our achievements, to boast of all that we have done.

That’s right. Theodore Roosevelt told the French that they needed to keep having babies.

At the time of Roosevelt’s speech, France was a major world power. Today—not so much.

And he ascribes a reason for the numerical decline of the French nation:

There is enough blame for such decline in global influence to go around, but the increased secularism of Europe, with its penchant for socialized everything, has certainly played a role.

By “secularism” David Stokes clearly means the increasing absence of religious belief in states that have long – if not always – been secular. It  is the absence or fading of religious belief that he blames (at least in part) for the dying out of Western nations.

Now more than 100 years later, there is an even greater threat to their cherished way of life. If only the French today would rediscover Teddy’s advice and reverse the birthrate trend—they might have a fighting chance. But such is the mindset of secularism, it is all about self and “fulfillment.” Issues of family, not to mention progeny are secondary, if thought about at all. Marriage is deferred—even eschewed. Children are planned—or better, planned around. And over time the birth rate in Europe has fallen far short of what is needed to keep up with the various demands of the future. In other words, the nations are aging. There are fewer children, yet more grandparents—a trend that will continue and accelerate.

All he says about the trend is true, but is he right about the cause?

He goes on, factually correct:

It takes a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman to keep a nation’s population stable. The United States is drifting away from that. Canada has a rate of 1.48 and Europe as a whole weighs in at 1.38. What this means is that the money will run out, with not enough wage-earners at the bottom to support an older generation’s “entitlements.”

But even beyond that, the situation in France also reminds us of the opportunistic threat of Islamism. It is just a matter of time before critical mass is reached and formerly great bastions of democratic republicanism morph into caliphates. In the United Kingdom the Muslim population is growing 10 times faster than the rest of society. In fact, all across Western Europe it’s the same. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on track to have Muslim majority populations in a decade or two. A T-shirt that can be seen on occasion in Stockholm reads: “2030—Then We Take Over.”

And he concludes:

A few years ago, Britain’s chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, decried Europe’s falling birthrate, blaming it on “a culture of consumerism and instant gratification”. 

“Europe is dying,” he said, “we are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it.”

The Rabbi was right, and so was Teddy.

Was the Rabbi right?

Why are the indigenous peoples of Europe and other parts of the First World dying out?

Why are the Europeans willing to let the Muslims take over their countries?

Is it because of socialism? 

On the one hand it can be argued that socialism discourages you from having children because the state – you believe  - will look after you in your old age. It will care for you if you fall ill. It will make it easy for you to house and feed yourself because, if you don’t want to work, it will give you money. No need for more wage-earners in the family.

And there is a strong streak of anti-human life in the ideology of the far left. Among environmentalists in particular. They say that there are too many people on the planet  - and angrily deny that the numbers are declining. Some even want there to be no people on the earth at all. They maintain that the absence of human beings would be better for shrimps and reptiles.

On the other hand, the socialist welfare state pays people to have children. In America, for instance, millions of women can have children without having a husband or wage-earner to help keep them because with every baby they get more money from the state. And the state also pays for the children’s education.

But then again, socialist economics don’t work. Sooner or later socialism brings an economy to disaster. Is it anticipation of dire poverty that keeps people from breeding? About half the voters in most western countries regularly vote for socialism, so that can’t be a compelling reason.

All this considered, the argument that socialism is to blame for the suicide of the West is not convincing. It may account for an eventual death by inanition, but not for the slow suicide.

Is it because of “consumerism”?

Perhaps. But what proof is there? Do anecdotes about individuals and couples saying they prefer to use their money for a high standard of living – cars, travel and so on – rather than on raising children, prove the case? Not unless they reflect the decisions of a majority, and who has collected and counted them?

By “consumerism” (the preferred term now for what they used to call “materialism” or “conspicuous consumption”) its critics mean comfortable living, good cars, travel and so on. In other words, they ascribe the fall in the birth-rate to prosperity.

Did prosperous people in past times not have children, or choose to have only a few? Not as far as we know. In Victorian times most families, rich as well as poor, were large. And since those who owned much had much to pass on and keep in the family, wealth may have positively stimulated reproduction.

But of course in the days when wealthy families were large, parents had servants to look after their children. Most people now, even if they can afford live-in servants, do not have them. So perhaps it’s not so much the desire for more luxurious living but the desire not to be “tied down” by children. Having to stay in with them at night. Not being able to go on holiday when you choose because of their school schedule. Not being able easily to part from their other parent when you’re sick of him or her.

Implied by the word “consumerism”  is another word: “capitalism”. Though not all who condemn consumerism may be aware that the one word is haunted by the other. As David Stokes’s column appears at Townhall, we may reasonably assume that he’s a conservative. American conservatives are not consciously against capitalism; they are against socialism, as we are. But too many of them are religious. Too many of them are Christians. It is Christian puritanism that inspires the strange prejudice  - if  not against prosperity as such, against the signs of it: high living standards, costly cars, expensive travel and so on. Only in theory, we observe. We confidently expect that most religious critics of “consumerism” have – or aspire to have – a high standard of living for themselves, own costly cars, and jet to their summer vacation on a cruise-ship or a multi-starred hotel. They are seldom in fact less materialistic or less self-indulgent than the “secularists” they scorn. And they are not against having children. The American fertility-rate – which is the measure of population stability, or increase, or decrease – has until very recently been stable while Europe’s declined.

But what of religion? Is its absence the cause we are looking for?

Is it because of “secularism”?

By “secularism” David Stokes clearly means the fading of religious belief in states that have long – if not always – been secular. And it is the absence or fading of religious belief that he blames for the dying out of Western nations.

Such is the mindset of secularism, it is all about self and “fulfillment.” 

Is there no self-fulfillment in having children? Don’t many feel that having a child is more self-fulfilling than anything else?

It does seem to be the case that fewer people are religious, or most people are less religious in Europe now. How did religion formerly keep the birth-rate up?

The mainly Catholic countries used to have  bigger families because birth control was forbidden by their Church. So perhaps now that the Roman Church has lost much of its power, more Catholics use contraception. But that explanation doesn’t affect the traditionally Protestant countries of northern Europe, and there too the indigenous  populations are shrinking. (And one thing Christians who bemoan the dearth of children seem to forget is that St Paul recommended celibacy. Marry if you must, he taught, but it is better to remain unmarried and chaste like him and Jesus Christ. Not a formula for re-populating Europe.)

The bible states that Jehovah enjoins the Jews to be fruitful, to multiply. And  Israel is one of the few Western countries where the population is increasing – although Israel is a secular state. Perhaps the old religious injunction continues to have a subliminal effect.

So if socialism is not the reason why the people of the West are ever more unwilling to have children, nor “consumerism”, nor “secularism” – what is?

We don’t know. Nobody does.

But if the suicide of the West means the loss of our civilization – which it very well may – it will be a great tragedy. One of the greatest tragedies of history.

 

Jillian Becker   August 11, 2013

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.

*

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.

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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