How Gnosticism explains some of today’s Problems


Slide courtesy of Michael Heiser

I mentioned Gnosticism several times in my articles about wokeness and Marxism. In case some might ask, why do you pick on it, aren’t you discriminating against another religion, you bigot? On the contrary, I believe that I’ve learned a lot about Gnosticism that shows it to be more problematic than traditional Christianity and that it relates to many problems in the modern secular world like wokeness and Marxism.

Gnosticism is thought to have its roots in Neoplatonism or post-Plato’s philosophy and other ideas, including pagan ones. Then these ideas mixed with Christians beliefs in the 1st century AD. I do assume that many permutations or branches of Gnosticism exist and that many Gnostics do not hold the violent beliefs that I will later describe, but I believe that I am covering the core beliefs to a fair extent of accuracy. My main sources are James Lindsay of New Discourses and theologian Michael Heiser.

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Let’s contrast Gnosticism and Christianity first.

Traditional Christianity – the belief that God’s creation of the material world is good; it is man’s rebellion against and separation from God that causes evil, so God came down as Christ to fix things. Also, man is not God, does not become God, and can never be God.

Gnosticism – the “True God” is just a force (use it, Luke), not a person. This force then “emanated” Aeons, beings that developed will. The lowest Aeon, Sophia, gave birth to the evil being called the Demiurge. The Demiurge created the material world, which had pain and suffering, and humanity. Therefore, the material world is evil and must be purged. But somehow, either Sophia or the Demiurge placed the “Spark” of God within humanity. Each Spark of God has to escape the created world, return to the Pleroma (the “Heaven” of Gnosticism?) and be reabsorbed into the True God.

In other words, man is God already and has to uncover the Spark within. The material world, being evil, is a prison. Uncovering the Spark is the way to escape it and become God again. Sometimes, the method of uncovering is to undo or destroy the material world. The ancient tradition of alchemy or Hermetic tradition sought to accomplish this by purifying with fire. Alchemists were seeking to transmute substances because they thought they could forge things that could be used for creating a Utopia. Later, alchemy got mixed with Gnosticism and became a way to uncover the Spark of God.

Another idea in Gnosticism is that the Serpent in the garden is the good guy and man’s eating the forbidden fruit was a good thing, because the Serpent imparted knowledge that supposedly helped humanity. So what knowledge is this?

Gnosis or “Secret Knowledge”

The term Gnosticism is based on the word Gnosis, which means the receiving of special or secret knowledge from the divine realm. A human who receives Gnosis might be able to release the shard of God from within them and attain divine power. In some movements, like the New Age, they think that finding God within oneself will unlock powers that they can use to alter the material world. But Gnostics also recognize that not everyone will be able to do so. There will be Gnostics and there will be non-Gnostics. Or, “enlightened” versus “unenlightened.”

I will bring up the question, how will the “enlightened” treat the “unenlightened?” This will be the springboard onto the problems that I see in Gnostic thought:

One: Us vs. Them

Gnosticism leads to chauvinism or discrimination. Believing that one has “secret knowledge,” “enlightenment” or anything that gives him a sense of superiority will make him treat the “unenlightened” badly. It leads to the belief that they are worthy of ruling over others. For me, it just comes from the backward tribalist attitude when a power-hungry person claims that he has the right to rule over others because he is just better than them.

Likely crossing the minds of “enlightened” people is the view that “unenlightened” people will be hindrances to reaching perfection, such as a perfect society. So this will lead to…

Two: Kill the Thems

Since Gnosticism’s belief is that the physical world is evil, some will come to the conclusion that it should be deliberately destroyed. And what is part of the world? Other people. So it will lead to some people believing that they should kill other people to cleanse the evil (while actually leading to the murder of innocents).

Nazism for example seemed to carry this out. As is often taught, the belief was that Jews and other “untermenschen” – subhumans – can pollute bloodlines and prevent the creation of the Aryan superman. To address this, the solution was to exterminate the “untermenschen.” (Friedrich Nietzsche conceived of “ubermenschen” or overmen; while different from the Nazis’ ideal, it still had the concept that man can become a super being and replace God, which I believe is why Nietzsche said “God is dead”)

But the idea of superior and inferior races is analogous to Gnostics and “unenlightened.” If you were “untermenschen,” then you would likely be considered “unenlightened” as well. Adolf Hitler was influenced by Gnosticism and mysticism since he read the works of Helena Blavatsky, one of those self-proclaimed “enlightened” who was most likely a fraud. Blavatsky supported the idea of Aryan Race superiority. Many mystic and occult belief systems at the time pushed the idea that some races are superior to others.

Another version is that “enlightened” people often think that their methods need ALL people to be on their program or be the same as them, or else the program will not work. This is also what Marxism and Communism requires, that all of them be the same or they will never achieve perfection (Why the commies say “true Marxism has never been tried”). Those who fail to cooperate are obstructions; if they cannot be “reeducated,” they are to be eliminated.

As I explained in an earlier article, in Hegelian thought (according to James Lindsay), the recovery of God’s spark from humanity goes through the dialectic process. This will involve culling and killing of people (“History uses and then discards people”). This is because those who are not conducive to the dialectic journey back to the “true God” have to be eliminated. The Hegelian process is alchemy practiced not on objects such as metals but on people.

Basically, if you’re studying how some of the greatest murderous demagogues develop and come to power, study the history of mysticism, including Gnosticism.

Oneness versus the right of many “Ones”

What I personally dislike with Gnosticism is that it gives rise to Anti-Individualism. Since the material world is evil, the reality of humans having individual wills, different tastes, different ideas and different opinions, is evil. It leads to the belief that suppressing the individuality of others is a step to Heaven. But in traditional Christian belief (these days, that is, being informed by rationalism and modern scholarly study), individual will is the established creation. Anything that tries to erase it is wrong, even sinful. That’s one reason Marxism hates Christianity (“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity” – Antonio Gramsci)

I have the impression that some Gnostics tend to embrace socialism because abolishing private property seems to agree with the Gnostic goal of removing individuality and merging everyone into a Oneness. Communal property is close to the idea of Oneness. But, as I would always argue, our individuality is an inalienable right and is the basis of human rights. If you believe in human rights, you cannot believe in Gnosticism. I say that individuality is not evil and it is more of a blessing, something that makes life more meaningful and enjoyable. Non-oneness of all things is not wrong and is the order.

CS Lewis also wrote in The Screwtape Letters that the devil is the one who wants to absorb everything into himself, not God. Because, simply, if you want to absorb everything into yourself, you are uncreating or destroying things. That is the true evil. (As an aside, I remember fictional properties having something like Gnostic Oneness, namely Marvel’s Eternals merging into a Uni-Mind, look that up; and the old Transformers the Movie line ‘Til all are One’)

Marx et al.

The connection of Marx with mysticism seems laughable to some. However, many sources, including Marxist sources themselves, connect Marx to Hermetic tradition. Glenn Magee and Cyril Smith are two such Marxists. Philosopher Eric Voegelin was probably the first to see a connection between Marx and Gnosticism. There’s a video that says Hegel, from whom Marx derived his ideas, was a mystic. And, here’s something Lindsay noticed: Marx reworded passages from the Corpus Hermeticum, a major Hermetic work, for his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which makes for an interesting bit of plagiarism. Last, Socialism dot Org in its entry on Dialectic Materialism says that “all matter is interconnected and interdependent.” Or, all is one. Sounds like Gnosticism. (Plus note Socialism dot Org’s heading: “We must seek to understand the laws of… nature in order to change them.” That seems to be a desire to change reality)

Now some will point to Christianity’s violent history in modern times. However, this violence is understood as Christians having deviated from their faith and so their acts cannot be attributed to the religion itself. When the wiping out of some (not all) Canaanite peoples by Israelites is brought up, the context of the time needs to be understood. A tribe is defending itself from various hostile peoples who are descendants of half-demon/half-humans such as the Nephilim. In that context, there was justification for elimination of those peoples. This context however does not apply today.

I do agree that Gnosticism was not developed out of malice and it more likely came out of debate over the problem of evil and suffering. However, the solution of declaring the material world evil and something to be undone throws out the baby with the bath water. Also, challenging reality proves to be unwise in many respects, since of course, humans can never alter it. Christianity accepts the limitations of reality and that only God can alter it. Plus, Christian doctrine, understood correctly, does not see Christians as having special knowledge or powers; the Bible sees all believers as equal under God, all equally sinful and needing repentance and redemption. Further, Gnosticism has a sort of spoiledness, an attitude that says I absolutely deserve comfort as I define it, so if reality denies it, it is evil. This is the kind of attitude that leads to atrocities.

Marxism and Wokeness of course won’t call themselves Gnostic. But the patterns and premises are very similar. In Gnosticism, the real world is evil. For Marxism and Wokeness, these are the capitalist world or the “liberal order,” the world as we know it. Reality itself is oppressive according to Gnosticism. Marxists and Woke say that the world we are in now is all oppressive. The cause is the capitalists or “Un-woke” people who are analogous to the evil Demiurge or Archons. To solve all this, Gnosis is needed; under Marxism and Wokeness, this is called “critical consciousness.” If you have Gnosis/critical consciousness, you should be in power. Those in power who do not have this consciousness must be overthrown, whether by violence or by other means (such as creating fake charges or gaslighting to have them removed). Those with “critical consciousness” will take over and will bring about Utopia. But they must have absolute power to make this possible; those who challenge them, even if these were “fellow woke” who actually wake up and realize that they are doing wrong, are to be eliminated.

Gnostic to Trans

To expand more on the woke aspect, let’s use trans people as the example. Since the material world is a prison, then trans people were born into the wrong body or a body that traps them. A doctor who looks at a baby’s genitals and “assigns” a gender based on them is doing so as an demiurgic or archonic prison guard. So when gender dysphoria happens, it is seen as the urge to break out of the physical prison. The person undergoes sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers or other attempts to change the reality. It can be seen as a type of Gnosis or attempt to gain it. But it has been revealed that the trans person had actually been bombarded by other people, probably woke doctors, activists and involved businesses, to change sex. So there are certain actors manipulating young people into gender reassignment, actors who might have Gnostic beliefs. Or, as the “conspiracy theory” goes, transgender operations are a kind of castration. Reproductive abilities and even sexual pleasure can be lost after sex change operations, so it is suspected to be part of eugenics.

Back in my first Hegel article, I mentioned the concept of the Soviet Man, which is a development of Marx’s Social Man. Only later on did I realize that it was quite the same thing as the Aryan Superman. So Marx and the Soviets were also thinking that humans could soon develop into beings that could transcend physical limitations or rule over other people who have not developed their kind of mind.

Another takeaway for me is that modern Gnostics will blame others if they can’t get to Heaven or create Heaven on Earth. That is in great contrast to Christianity that says each of us is self-responsible on our journey to Heaven. And, Christians are not supposed to bring Heaven to Earth on their own terms. Only God does that.

Apart from Blavatsky, other trails of Gnostic ideas of “man is God” and “we have the power to alter reality” went into to the Word of Faith and New Thought movements, as well as the modern New Age movement and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. On the secular side, you have the World Economic Forum, “sustainability” (In the current iteration being used by the United Nations, this “sustainability” or “environmentalism” bears the idea that humanity can actually take control of natural processes as if they were gods, because those leading the efforts, like Greta Thunberg, are “enlightened” enough to achieve it; so anyone who is seen as not supporting this program will be punished by an oppressive social credit system), Transhumanism, Critical Race Theory, and more.

In Lindsay’s video on Social-Emotional Learning, he said that SEL is related to mysticism because the organization that promotes it, the Fetzer Institute, is a New Age organization (And the Fetzer Institute is based in the UN building, of all places). Another recent video by Lindsay saw Gnosticism in Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, saying that destruction of colonizers by the colonized people is a step to a type of Gnosis (sounds like Marxism too).

Lindsay expects totalitarianism and eventually genocide from all this because pushes for utopia often lead to the snuffing out of innocent lives. Or, at best, it would lead to great emotional distress for many (such as those who regret gender transitioning). Thus, it should be resisted.

The idea that some people can be more special than most and thus deserving of some privileges is always dangerous. No wonder God forbid humanity from eating the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; it is actually the tree of “I claim to have knowledge that you don’t have, so I should be god over you.”

Quoting Heiser on the topic:

“I’ve read enough esoteric material and western esotericism to know that the short path to sounding intellectual is to spout streams of barely intelligible ideas. That way, you come off as the possessor of elite knowledge: ‘If you were as brilliant as I am, you’d understand what I’m saying.’ Gnostic literature is filled with that sort of thing. Just read it. My point is not that they were dumb or on acid. It’s that calling them leading intellectuals of the ancient world is silly. In terms of the New Age crowd, it’s hard for them to take reasoned discourse and make it sound like mystery and mysticism to convince you they’re deep.”

9 Replies to “How Gnosticism explains some of today’s Problems”

  1. Do you realize that the “sameness” you’re talking about and “individuality” are meaningless – as you describe them?

  2. I would eat from the tree of knowledge (even at the risk of death) if it means it’s the only way to know what life is about.
    To me that’s what self-responsibility entails. And to know good and evil necessarily means that we are to be in the midst of both and everything in between.
    “As the tiny seed of an oak tree holds an entire tree within, so also within you lies Life in its entirety.”

      1. If what I think and do affect the course of events-the reality I live in, then I would assume that because of this ability to access, handle and control information from direct and indirect experience, and then to use it to affect the present and future-I dare say that somehow I can be omniscient and all that goes with that idea that some consider to be heresy.

        1. I would say humans are limited and cannot change reality. When you work and take responsibility, that is not altering reality, but working within it. You can only alter yourself but you can’t change other people’s minds. Wanting to change other people’s minds is one of the premises of totalitarianism. You may access, handle and control information, but only in a limited fashion and is never omniscience.

        2. What hope is there if we say we can’t change reality?
          Now if you mean altering reality as in fiction like concept, then that’s another level of discussion.

          To be alive implies the prospect of deterioration and of death. Creation occurs where boundary and potentiality meet. If in my state of limitation/descent is how I acquire the so-called free will, and by having free will I can have a part in creating reality, then somehow in me also lies a state of boundlessness that enables me to do so.

        3. Ah, I see. I still think we can’t change reality as gods or those with reality-changing powers do, but I think we can be the captain of our own fates, though it’s more like individual rights, we have the right to resist other people’s desire to captain our fates for us. Those guys who think they can run our lives better than we can, those are the ones who are unrealistic and messing us up. If we want to change our own personal realities, to a point we can indeed do that.

        4. I don’t think we can control other people’s minds, but we can be an influence. To a degree we are constantly doing that whether we like it or not. I agree that each of us is a center of perspective. We are our own witness. But that has to reconcile/balance out/unite with the fact that our lives merge from interaction. Our fates are bound together by the space we live in.

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