monk with a demon behind him

Most individuals are aware of the terms “Orwellian,” “Political Correctness,” “Thought Police,” or “Brave New World,” as well as the oppressive secular and religious systems throughout history that inspired them. Although assumed that these individuality-killing mechanisms are relatively modern constructs, the reality is that they are not only as old as Christianity but originated with Christianity itself.

Perhaps more startling is that certain factions of Christianity are utilizing these mechanisms even to this day.

In his book, The New Inquisition, Arthur Versluis, proposes that it was the heresy hunting of the early church fathers that spawned the very DNA for later totalitarian and police-state institutions. The blind disdain of these bishops for their theological opponents, mainly the Gnostics, added a hellish dimension to the manner societal control could be applied to its subjects.

Before the rise of the heresiologists, empires conquered almost solely for natural resources, slavery and prestige. For the most part, subjugated nations could keep their native faiths, customs and ideologies. Religious persecution within an empire usually arose when a certain priesthood or nobility—the earthly representatives of their specific gods—ignited some form of insurrection. The examples are numerous: the Egyptians allowed the Israelites and other enslaved races to exist as a culture freely; the Babylonians isolated the Jewish clergy from the masses in a sort of country club imprisonment; and the Romans were famous for religious freedom as long as both citizen and foreigner obeyed the laws, paid taxes and swore holy allegiance to the Emperor. Reward or punishment was generally applied because of the behavior of an individual or group.

Per Versluis, a seismic shift away from this attitude occurred in the second century CE when Christianity began to solidify itself as an organized religion instead of multiple, independent sects. Church fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons and Tertullian of Carthage saw the need to streamline the dogmas of their maturing religion to gain respectability within the Roman Empire. Dissent or autonomous speculation could threaten the very survival of Christianity (at least that was their rationale).

They drew a harsh line in the doctrinal sand, referring to their form of Christianity as “orthodoxy” (from the Greek for “right-thinking”). On the other side stood the Gnostics, who they labeled “heretics” (from the Greek “to choose,” in the context of independent thought diverging from standard norms). These respective categories were applied to members of their churches after rather cursory investigations. The demarcation spread to entire communities, as more “heretics” were exposed; and the term conveniently broadened to other sects, religions and even political principles.

In other words, an enemy was no longer defined by action, outward allegiance or even citizenship, but by their very thoughts. As the orthodox wing grew and copulated with the Roman government, volumes of texts were written on how to recognize, decipher and correct those who had made a choice away from “right-thinking.” Thinking for the first time in history could be criminalized by the state.[1]

This template for totalitarian control wasn’t fully perfected until the arrival of the Inquisition in the 12th century. Despite common perception, the Inquisition was not implemented to deal with Jews, witches or other minorities, but ironically against the Gnostics—the rebellious Cathars of southern France. With the blessing of the Pope and the greed of opportunistic nobles, heresy hunting became fully weaponized to counter the resilience of the medieval Gnostics.

Once the Cathars and their Catholic sympathizers were annihilated, this instrument of absolute control migrated to other forms of thinking that were not in line with the Church (and later many Protestant denominations). The practice of torture, kangaroo courts, planting evidence, coaxing neighbor to spy on neighbor, public executions only to make an example, among other techniques, were honed to the point fear was enough to make entire populations orthodox or “right-thinkers.”

Despite the advent of the Age of Enlightenment and democratic nations, history clearly reveals that the repressive formula of the early church fathers and medieval inquisitors was never abandoned. The New Inquisition offers the typical, infamous examples of authoritarian regimes and their thought police, such as the French Revolution corruptors, European/Asia Marxism, Nazism, and various spectrums of Fascism. Yet Versluis proffers evidence of intellectuals that influenced notorious despotic movements, directly or indirectly, who were very well aware of the heresy hunters and their methodologies (and certainly summoned the bogeyman of the Gnostics when needed).[2]

The question might arise on why the book is called The New Inquisition since thought-crime is an un-killable contagion that mutates and migrates to different hosts. The answer is the warning of Versluis that the heresy hunting virus is still considered a viable toxin by many in power even in free societies. The Satanic panic and Illuminatiphobia of the 1980s and 1990s in the West are two cases that fortunately did not evolve into literal witch-hunts. And, as Versluis points out, it is a dark irony that the main scaremongers of these two examples, Pat Robertson and Tim Lahey, were themselves members of the clandestine and presently active Council for National Policy[3]. In essence, this organization is a Christian Illuminati creating false Illuminati that are implanted in the minds of the population to create schisms and manufacture threats, thus making it easier to control public perception.

As mentioned, the grim truth is that the heresy hunting/Inquisition golem will never be destroyed, built in the infernal imagination of those who felt that the greater good meant a lack of free will and free thinking. The Gnostics took the first blows from this golem, and beyond countless millions have paid dearly because of nothing more than an idea to punish ideas.

Orthodoxy (“right-thinking”) can be contained by a fierce attitude of heresy (choice beyond the acceptable), as history has likewise revealed many times. But perhaps it will only get harder. The modern-day inquisitor no longer requires torture chambers or bribed neighbors when the Internet, electronic messaging, social networks and other media have made the public’s thoughts more accessible than ever. All it takes to contaminate liberty is one wedding day between a dictatorial belief system and the state. Overnight, an individual’s thoughts can be transformed into damning witnesses in a kangaroo court.

Or perhaps more appropriate, is Versluis’ exegesis of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, once he has captured a returned Christ and reveals to him what has become of civilization since his departure:

We are not working with Thee, but with him [the Devil]—that is our mystery.” WE, he continues, “shall be Caesars, and then we shall plan the universal happiness of man,” through “some means of uniting all in one unanimous and harmonious ant-heap.” The Grand Inquisitor is one who rejects transcendence and embraces immanence—that is, historical and worldly power—in order to “help” humanity realize earthly “utopia” through the obliteration of human freedom.[4]

Ideas can indeed change the world. But some ideas are best left in the infernal imagination of certain people, lest we get a brave new world and its golems.


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[1] Versluis explains this in detail in his introduction, pg. 3-11.

[2] Two examples Versluis give are Carl Schmitt (Chap. 6): German intellectual and proponent of Nazism who influenced Gobbles and Himmler, viewed himself as a latter-day Tertullian combatting modern Gnostics; and Eric Voegelin (Chap. 8), American scholar who saw a Gnostic conspiracy behind any radical movement, and to this day is a major influence on right-wing politicians and Christian fundamentalists.

[3] Versluis describes it as an elite group with only a few hundred members that meets three times a year and goes to great lengths to keep its agendas secretive.  Some of its members have been or are Ed Meese, Jerry Falwell, Oliver North and several members of the Heritage Foundation.

[4] Page 11.

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