Gnosticism doesn’t matter. Gnosticism is irrelevant to today’s issues. The Gnostics are just long-dead mystic-anarchists who got crushed by more organized movements. Who cares about Gnostic thought?
And so forth.
I get these themes often in comment sections on my various internet channels.
In articles and podcasts, I’ve argued about the relevance of Gnostic ideas, including a spanning piece published in Graham Hancock’s blog.
I understand that we may have no meaty case studies, as the resurgence of Gnosticism is somewhat new and still not really newsy.
Wait. We do have meaty case studies in the last century on the impact of Gnosticism. They showcase instances when Gnostic philosophy was employed (and even weaponized) to create culture-changing movements that even made huge splashes in the news and public dialogue.
You can decide for yourselves whether these quasi-Gnostic groups fall on the positive or negative spectrum. I’m neither endorsing nor rejecting them. The Gnostic elements are blatantly there, though. Okay, not blatant, for Gnostic ideas work when hidden and mythical, becoming an electric undercurrent that energizes nascent spiritual brands. Most people don’t have ears to hear and eyes to see, so you gotta transmit Gnosis in allegory, art, and symbolism.
But Gnosticism worked effectively when it was a cornerstone of impactful movements, as I present to you now:
Here’s a brief explanation of the mythology of Scientology:
75,000,000 years ago, Xenu headed the Galactic Federation, which was an organization of 76 planets that had already existed for 20,000,000 years. The planets were suffering a tremendous problem with overpopulation. Xenu’s draconian solution to the matter was to gather large numbers of people, kill them, freeze their thetans (souls), and transport the frozen thetans to Earth, which they called Teegeeack. The thetans were left in the vicinity of volcanoes, which were, in turn, destroyed in a series of nuclear explosions.
Members of the galactic Federation eventually rebelled against Xenu, fighting him for six years before he was finally captured and imprisoned on a planet that today is barren desert. Within the “mountain trap” on this unnamed world, Xenu still lives.
We can easily see the Gnostic narrative of archonic forces trapping something akin to the Divine Spark in a material prison.
The article further explains what liberates humans:
Each human has his or her own thetan, which Scientologists purify through auditing until the practitioner reaches a state of Clear. While a Clear’s own thetan is now free of destructive engrams, his physical form is still inhabited by body thetans: clusters of these ancient, executed thetans.
Supporting the Gnostic bedrock of Scientology, at the Gnostic America Conference, academic Hugh Urban explained that founder L Ron Hubbard claimed in private that he founded a “Gnostic” religion. Hubbard also stated that Scientology wasn’t about faith but a special type of knowledge (Gnosis); and that a false god that created our universe.
What’s more, in early faith literature, Scientologists were told to introduce themselves with “We are Gnostics.”
In essence, Scientology seeks to make humans godlike (an operating thetan). This transformation also makes a person who is able to create his own universe and create illusions perceivable by others at will.
Sounds close to the central promise of Gnosis from Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio: Write your own Gospel, live your own Myth.
The difference is that my chambers are full of insightful guests instead of freedom-killing bullets.
Many of us will never forget our introduction to the Heaven’s Gate cult on March 26, 1997. On that day, the 39 members committed mass suicide in the attempt to release their souls for a salvific journey to an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale–Bopp. Many of us also came to learn about the odd religion founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles – and its central theology that our bodies were but vessels for our true selves that belonged to the stars (and oppressive alien overlords called Luciferians).
I think you see the Gnostic vibe in all of this.
Returning to the Gnostic America Conference, scholar Cathy Gutierrez gave a paper detailing the Gnostic sensibilities of Heaven’s Gate. This lecture included the idea that our bodies could be replaced by astral forms, strict aestheticism, and a concept of election where a spark of wisdom arises and saves the chosen. Furthermore, some humans gain the knowledge from benign aliens that we are trapped in our bodies within a false reality. And only the elect may enter the starry Kingdom of God.
As Chris Knowles writes in The Secret Sun: “In other words, Applewhite was preaching good, old fashioned Manichaeism.”
Knowles also states in his article:
Though I’ve never seen any evidence that Applewhite was reading Gnostic literature (though given the overlap between Gnosticism, UFO lore and conspiracy culture in the 90s, it’s difficult to imagine the Gate not stumbling upon it), the developing cosmology came straight out of Hypostasis of the Archons.
Knowles provides additional evidence that the theology of Heaven’s Gate claimed humans were enslaved, that all existing religions were corrupted by Luciferians, and the Earth needed to be recycled for ultimate purification.
I think you really see the Gnostic vibe in all if this!
For those of you suddenly afraid to pick up the Nag Hammadi library, Knowles does clarify:
Though the Gate held Gnostic tenets, it did so in a reductive, simplistic, literalist fashion more akin to the Fundamentalist milieu Applewhite and Nettle emerged from than the Sethians or the Ophites.
Heaven’s Gate never became a global religion like Scientology, but it sure captured (and continues to capture) the horrified imagination of the public.
What would today’s occultism and conspiracy world be without David Icke and his lizard people?
But what would Icke be without a Gnostic foundation that overtly talks about Archons? In his lore, Icke describes the Archons as shape-shifting reptilians from another dimension. As with the Gnostic Gospels, these fiends keep humanity enslaved, although some are Nephilim-esque hybrids posing as elite humans like the British Royal family.
Icke himself has given some pretty cool lectures on the Demiurge and Gnosticism, going in depth on their brutal control across space and time. The man knows his Sethian stuff even as he weaves it into his movement’s cosmology.
In truth, Icke’s cosmology is complex, evolving into a more allegorical form of Perennialism with less literal reptilian overlords (I’ll be dealing with all of this in a future interview with Gnostic scholar Matthew Dillon, so stay tuned). But it’s very Gnostic once you get your hands (or talons) dirty in it, as shown by this transcript from one of his videos. One section states:
The Archons were a manipulative force that operated outside of human sight, that was basically energetic form rather then what we call a physical form, but it could manifest as physical form through holographic projections. Those writings even talk on their own way about the illusory nature of this reality.
What these writings said is that this reality that we’re experiencing was not created by some divine force, but it was created by the Archons, and it was a fake reality. They manipulated by accessing the human psyche and manipulating human perception of reality.
Icke has been called many things by many people, indeed, but the reality is that his ideas have made a considerable impression on society. For example, data shows that 12 million Americans believe alien lizards rule humanity.
That’s enough to swing the Rust Belt towards a reptilian candidate in the next presidential election!
A Course in Miracles
I found useful insights when I read ACIM (no, I didn’t finish the book; is that possible?). I know friends and family that have greatly benefited from this 1976 work containing a curriculum aimed to assist readers in achieving spiritual transformation.
On the other hand, there is the argument that ACIM is just another product from the CIA’s MKUltra factory.
Beyond these two sides, ACIM possesses these very Gnostic elements:
- A Jesus that saves not by an atoning death but by bringing (again) a special type of knowledge (Gnosis) — in this case the Logos channeling founder Helen Schucman.
- The idea that the world is not real and humanity is separated from a supreme divine intelligence.
- A tyrannical Demiurge (which Schucman associates with the ego).
Moreover, in his book Love Does Not Condemn, Kenneth Wapnick makes the case of how ACIM draws from ancient Gnosticism. Schucman herself claimed one of her past lives was that of an Essene (a favorite but mysterious ancient sect that modern occultists like to connect to Gnosticism).
This is one of my favorite passages in ACIM:
Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh.
To me, this reveals how the divine fell into duality. It echoes the Gnostic idea of the Monad emanating in self-awareness until a “glitch” causes the material universe to become manifest (this includes the fall of Sophia and the rise of her son Ialdabaoth).
In my book, Voices of Gnosticism, Stevan Davies explains the core of the Gnostic origin-story (and it certainly relates to the theological foundation of ACIM):
Gnosticism is about discovering the way that God has turned into you, and then realizing that if you can describe how it is that God turned into you, you can reverse the process.
To the Gnostics and ACIM, the way of ascent is the same as the way of descent, the ole “we’ve gotta get in to get out” theme Peter Gabriel sang in “Carpet Crawlers.”
This section might be more of a speculation on my part, but I think it has some merit. Sure, Jung was influenced by Gnostic ideas, but could these ideas have made their way to the world of espionage, perhaps the death cult that is the CIA? As mentioned, the CIA might have given us Gnostic-lite in ACIM.
In The Devil’s Chessboard, David Talbot deals with the life of Allen Dulles, the infamous CIA director and one of history’s most psychotically evil individuals.
During World War II, Dulles was an OSS spymaster residing in Zurich, Switzerland. He connected with Carl Jung, both men “excited by the idea of forging a pioneering marriage between espionage and psychology.” Dulles stated that Jung’s ideas on the Nazis were vital in his war missions and mattered later when he took over the CIA. Jung even correctly predicted that a desperate Adolf Hitler would commit suicide rather than surrender himself.
Just as intriguing, Dulles’ mistress, Mary Bancroft, was a patient of Jung (and Dulles gleaned valuable intel from their meetings). In one session, according to Talbot, Bancroft related what Jung said concerning her lover, Dulles:
The opposite of love is not hate, he said. It’s power.
Jung was right about power-thirsty fiends like Hitler and Dulles – even if the latter mined his genius. In fact, Dulles formally called Jung “OSS Agent 488.”
So what do we do know?
Well, if you want to start your own religious cult with legs, then I suggest you leverage Gnostic ideas. I mentioned the influence of Icke’s views on our culture; and movements like Scientology and ACIM, at one point, possessed worldwide reaches with millions of adherents. It’s also possible the CIA harnessed Gnostic ideas before the English translation of the Nag Hammadi library in 1979.
Even before this last century, more refined Gnostic and Hermetic ideas were influential in the Renaissance and Enlightenment — and were significant building blocks to such esoteric traditions as Theosophy, Thelema, and the Golden Dawn. Urban stated at the Gnostic America Conference that no evidence exists that Hubbard knew of Gnosticism outside of the OTO or Theosophy. Even much earlier, I’ve argued how Gnosticism changed the ancient world.
One might counter that the traditions mentioned are still small potatoes compared to the mainstream religions of our days. But consider this: In this secular world, if Christianity or Islam started today, would they have the same success as Scientology or David Icke?
I wouldn’t bet your Kek sacrifice on this…
Regardless, the point is that Gnostic philosophy can make a difference and can make a change (and can make a lot of shekels, assist in bringing down fascists regimes, and be hip enough to appear on Family Guy). And this with these 20th-century movements simplifying Gnosticism — almost devoid of such notions as the fallen divine feminine, complicated cosmologies, and ecstatic soul-flights. But hey, like any transformative spiritual tech, Gnosis is a doubled-edge sword.
Now you know. Hopefully, you understand too that the double-edged sword that is Gnosis might be used against you the next time you’re looking for a spiritual alternative to your childhood religion that caused so much trauma.
That is power, right Carl?
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