The Gnosis of Gods and Monsters

The Gnosticism of the West is rooted in the same spiritual assumptions which inspired the Buddhist traditions of the East, primarily the existence of an immanent state of enlightenment, one which awaits only self study and the realization of the natural and inherent divinity of all sentient beings. The faiths around which Gnosticism developed, however, were not only aggressively authoritarian but, more importantly, reinforced both the necessity of and a justification for stronger and equally authoritarian systems of law and order. This ensured the sometimes over zealous opposition of a host of local authorities and governing bodies, who, in the enlightened eyes of the Gnostics, became simply another obstacle standing between Gnostics and their all important Gnosis, which, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept, is nothing less than a personal experience of one’s own divinity.

            Even the spiritual context of Judaism, which modern Christians see as completely compatible with the message of Christ, was, to early Gnostics, simply another illusion of outside control that undermined the liberating message of their Savior, who came “not to affirm the law but to abolish it,” and to reveal that “the true kingdom of God is within.” This essential liberatory message has been mangled and destroyed so thoroughly that today the crucifixion of the Savior, a tragedy which some Gnostic sects choose to flat out deny, is actually celebrated as an affirmation of the central Christian message, being a blood offering necessitated by the inherent guilt and imperfection of man.

            The torrid love triangle which exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has been collapsed into a dangerous Trinitarian reductionism which now claims that these three distinct forces are, in fact, all one in the same. Thus the false Christ of today’s faiths never had to slug it out with the Father in order to salvage the savaged first thought of the divine, the fallen and captive spirit of the goddess Sophia. No, they’re all in it together, looking down on you in judgment and disgust.

            Such poisonous affirmations of our helplessness and inadequacy in the face of greater creative forces beyond ourselves have served not only to cut down and neutralize the very spirits which Gnostics originally sought to strengthen and liberate from such control, but have also made us terrified and distrustful of the dark shadows cast by our own monstrous potentials. The greatest problem Gnostics face today lies not in how to unleash the powers latent in every human being, but in the fact that our guilty assumptions of inadequacy have twisted the current state of man to a frightening degree, breaking the boundless spirits of children who can then never grow into true adults, and creating a race of beings fit only for commerce but never conquest; bourgeois and appetitive, to be sure, but never really volitional or free, except, perhaps, when they are at their most judgmental and cruel.

We are like giants that have been raised as dwarves, with no concept of how to properly wield such enormous powers even when their presence within us is somehow affirmed. I’d like to believe that this is because we currently know only the tyranny that has made us small, and have no real models for the heroic nobility which could show us how to be great, but it’s possible that the capacity for expressing benevolent divinity has simply been bred out of most people. If that's the case, then true Gnosticism must remain underground not simply to protect the Gnostics from the masses, but to protect the masses, having been rendered completely unfit for actual Gnosis, from themselves.

This may have always been the case. A great deal of the Gnostic teachings have been destroyed, so that, ironically perhaps, we have only our own wisdom and intuition to guide us through history’s darkness towards the light of the truth; that, of course, and the arguments against Gnosticism which were made by the very people who destroyed it. One of the most common charges laid against the Gnostics by these Church authorities was that of elitism, claiming that Gnosticism was a tale told in two parts, one intended for the masses and then another, secret, teaching, intended only for a select few.

Along these lines, we know that the Gnostic Valentinius taught that there were basically three different types of people in the world. Most people, he claimed, were “hylic,” or material, in nature, meaning they were consumed by bodily and appetitive desires, with very little innate aptitude for, much less interest in, intellectual cultivation. Unfortunately, the capacity for such cultivation was a basic prerequisite that had to be met before one could even hope to find Gnosis.

This was not a problem for those who possessed a “psychic,” or mental, nature, who Valentinius claimed were centered primarily on things of the mind and could be taught certain philosophical truths that would elevate and ennoble them. However, although such a capacity was necessary, this potential for cultivation alone was not, by itself, sufficient for one to become a true Gnostic.

That privilege was restricted to those who possessed what Valentinius called a “pneumatic,” or spiritual, nature, which would allow them to actually feel and direct the various forces that were a lost birthright of these truly spiritual being who’d somehow become enslaved by the Archons who rule this world. This select few, according to Valentinius, were the only ones who had any chance of breaking free from the bonds which held the rest of us under the control of a tyrannical Demiurge and His realm of illusions.

            Again, this is far too bleak an outlook for any religion that might hope to have some sort of appeal among the masses. What’s worse, such blatant elitist pretensions can only be expected to draw violent reprisals from many of those holding power, who would understand, if only deep down, that this movement’s concept of salvation was being denied them. In the end, such teachings spelled disaster for the Gnostics who were tactless enough to express them openly, but at least these ideas still exist today for those with the ears to hear them and the wisdom to understand what is heard. Namaste.

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