Gnosticism: The Enduring Heresy and Menace to Western Civilization

When people discuss the core foundations of Western Civilization they usually point to two primary contributions which are labeled Athens (Greek philosophy and the idea of cognition and rationality) and Jerusalem (Judeo-Christianity and the monotheistic faith in a transcendent creator God as opposed to pagan pantheism).

“The tradition of the West is embodied in the Great Conversation that began in the dawn of history and that continues to the present day. Whatever the merits of other civilizations in other respects, no civilization is like that of the West in this respect. No other civilization can claim that its defining characteristic is a dialogue of this sort. No dialogue in any other civilization can compare with that of the West in the number of great works of the mind that have contributed to this Dialogue. The Spirit of Western Civilization is the spirit of inquiry. Its dominant element is the Logos. Nothing is to remain undiscussed. Everyone is to speak his mind. No proposition is to be left unexamined.”

Robert Maynard Hutchins, The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Education.

Logos is an ancient Greek term. It means reason as expressed in human speech. The Greeks believed reason to be the controlling principle in an orderly, harmonious universe (cosmos).

The faculties of reason (conceptual thought) and language (propositional speech) are what distinguish human beings from other creatures.

Accordingly, man is described as “the rational animal.” As philosopher Mortimer Adler points out in his book, The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes:

“. . . man is the only talking, the only naming, declaring or questioning, affirming or denying, the only arguing, agreeing or disagreeing, the only discursive animal.”

Philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand develops this idea further in her book, For the New Intellectual:

“Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food, and the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch – or build a cyclotron – without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think.

“But to think is an act of choice . . . Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs, or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival – so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think.’

“Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think – not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment . . . Non-thinking is an act of annihilation, a wish to negate existence, an attempt to wipe out reality.”

Human beings are capable of abstract thought, the transcendence of their immediate environment, and the emancipation from the perpetual present.

In one of the most important books of the 20th Century, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, historian Carroll Quigley elaborates on this crucial idea of abstraction:

“Both man and universe are dynamic, or changeable in time, and the chief additional complexity is that both are changing in a continuum of abstraction, as well as in the more familiar continuum of space-time. The continuum of abstraction simply means that the reality in which man and the universe function exists in five dimensions; of these the dimension of abstraction covers a range from the most concrete and material end of reality to, at the opposite extreme, the most abstract and spiritual end of reality, with every possible gradation between these two ends along the intervening dimensions that determine reality, including the three dimensions of space, the fourth of time, and this fifth of abstraction. This means that man is concrete and material at one end of his person, is abstract and spiritual at the other end, and covers all the gradations between, with a large central zone concerned with his chaos of emotional experiences and feelings.

“In order to think about himself or the universe with the more abstract and rational end of his being, man has to categorize and to conceptualize both his nature and the nature of reality, while, in order to act and to feel on the less abstract end of his being, he must function more directly, outside the limits of categories, without the buffer of concepts. Thus man might look at his own being as divided into three levels of body, emotions, and reason. The body, functioning directly in space-time-abstraction, is much concerned with concrete situations, individual and unique events, at a specific time and place. The middle levels of his being are concerned with himself and his reactions to reality in terms of feelings and emotions as determined by endocrine and neurological reactions. The upper levels of his being are concerned with his neurological analysis and manipulation of conceptualized abstractions. The three corresponding operations of his being are sensual, emotional or intuitive, and rational.

“The sequence of intellectual history is concerned with the sequence of styles or fads that have been prevalent, one after another, as to what emphasis or combinations of man’s three levels of operations would be used in his efforts to experience life and to cope with the universe.”

Early Christianity, influenced by Greek philosophy, borrowed the term “Logos” as a symbolic representation for Jesus Christ. Logos was the divine wisdom manifest in the creation, governance, and redemption of the world. It was identified with the Second Person of the Trinity.

“In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not. There was a man, one sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him. He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light. It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God; to those who believe in His name; who were born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And we saw His glory – glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father – full of grace and truth.”

The Gospel of John 1, 1-14

With this Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian intellectual inheritance (in addition to the various elements offered by the barbarian Germanic tribes and the Muslim world) Western civilization has developed as “logocentric” or reasoned speech-centered.

From the time of the Protestant Reformation, particular emphasis has been placed upon the written word as a means of transmitting and recording knowledge, away from the earlier “art of memory” or oral tradition of classic Greek and Roman antiquity.

But there has been a third constant element, sometimes hidden or underground and considered “heretical” or unorthodox, that has existed as a component of Western Civilization which we may label as Egypt (in reference to the Nag Hammadi Gnostic manuscripts found there in 1945). This is the esoteric set of occult belief systems described as “the perennial philosophy” primarily encompassing variations of Gnosticism and Hermeticism emphasising a special form of “knowledge” or Gnosis known only to a select elite of initiates.

These arcane subjects of Gnosticism and Hermeticism are some of the most important and impactful areas of study in world history, with tremendous consequences both ancient and modern few non-initiates can fathom. It has fascinated a wide range of dedicated scholars with which many readers are familiar such as Eric Voegelin, Frances Yates, D. P. Walker, Norman Cohn, James Billington, James Lindsey, Stephen McKnight, Michael Burleigh, Murray Rothbard, Norman Cohn, Henri de Lubac, Thomas Molnar, John Gray, Glenn Alexander Magee, Terry Melanson, and F. A. Hayek who have documented the emergence of ersatz gnostic political religions and this elitist scientism as outgrowths of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

Over two years ago I sat and reflected very hard after almost fifty years of intense thought, observation and reading about politics what the Left was really all about. I wanted to go beyond the superficial labels and rhetoric to the ultimate ontological reality — that which deals with the nature of being.

Leftists, ultimately can be traced back to ancient pagans, particularly the Gnostics, who did not believe the Universe was created by a transcendent Other (which we call God). They are in total revolt and total denial of the very facts of Creatology and Cosmology. Like their Gnostic forebears, they hate the material creation of the Universe by this false “God” (whom the Gnostics called the Demiurge.)

This is most profoundly found in the writing of Karl Marx, who was a militant atheist who hated and was envious of “God” for creating the Universe. Marx, in his unfathomable, maniacal megalomania, wanted to destroy “God” and the world in which he lived and recreate a new world in his image.

From the seductive serpent in the Biblical Garden of Eden to Marx and his delusional followers, the essential message of the Left to humanity is believe in and follow us in our path of destruction and “You shall be as gods,” and create an athesied paradise of a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. This is the goal of the neopagan pantheist Left and its syncretistic, egalitarian vision of a Sophianic Millennium — the deification of humanity.

Murray Rothbard’s Karl Marx: Communist as Religious Eschatologist, recognizes all this and is therefore the most definitive analysis and destructive weapon against the ideas of Marx and the Left. Rothbard traces the malevolent historic legacy of the Left as no one before. Particular note his brilliant discussion of Reabsorption Theology.

Christianity and the West have been at war for hundreds of years with a succession of gnostic political religions and mass movements seeking to impose brutal elite rule and mastery of their subject peoples. These sinister efforts have been responsible for untold death, destruction, and misery. Over one hundred million persons alone perished in the 20th Century as a result of these murderous totalitarian gnostic regimes.

The study of the construction of pseudo-secular gnostic religions has been one of the principal obsessions of my life since I heard Gerhart Niemeyer of Notre Dame lecture on it in 1975 at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Western Summer School at Thomas Aquinas College. Niemeyer was a keen student of Eric Voegelin on these matters, as was Murray Rothbard. Today the leading popularized scholar in this area is the great James Lindsey.

I believe understanding this 2000 year battle between orthodox Roman Catholic Christianity and Gnosticism is the ultimate key to unlocking the history of the previous two millennia.

This is the penultimate menace that Western Civilization, and especially the United States, faces today. This is what has motivated the destructive riotous mobs of thugs and looters in the streets, the craven willfully ignorant “cancel culture” corporatists, the seditious professoriat in court academia, and the prestitutes in the establishment regime media.

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5:04 pm on May 25, 2023