We are seeing liberalism morph into totalitarianism
(Note: as of December 24, the discussion continues
, with two readers reporting on their research into gnosticism and Voegelin.)
The Democrats’ grab for total power—over the climate, over health care, over death, even over all future legislation, makes it clear that they are no longer ordinary liberal or progressive politicians. Rather, as Eric Voegelin would have put it, they are gnostic activists who seek to overcome the order of existence, which they see as false and alienating, and draw god-like power into themselves. As Voegelin wrote in his 1952 book, The New Science of Politics (p. 132):
A civilization can, indeed, advance and decline at the same time—but not forever. There is a limit toward which this ambiguous process moves; the limit is reached when an activist sect which represents the Gnostic truth organizes the civilization into an empire under its rule. Totalitarianism, defined as the existential rule of Gnostic activists, is the end form of progressive civilization.
- end of initial entry -
Kathlene M. writes:
To borrow from Shakespeare, “Something wicked this way comes.” Maybe it’s because I’m jaded this Christmas due to a few negative incidents
involving deceptively malicious people, but I detect a character shift
in the zeitgeist, at least where I live. It seems thugs and shady
characters are emboldened to harm or scam others. Since thug tactics
work so well for the White House and the Left, others are copying the
tactics. Evil people feel entitled to whatever they can get. It
makes me ask: Is our country, as it currently is, worth defending
anymore? Sadly I think not.
When Kathlene says, “Is our country, as it currently is, worth defending anymore? Sadly I think not” I have the impression that that was the Left’s plan all along. The Left has worked hard to make this country unloveable, so that even those of us who are able to love our country would stop loving it, we’ll throw up our hands at it all, and the Left’s victory will be complete. But no cause worth fighting for is ever lost. When the Party says, “2 + 2 = 5”, we say, “2 + 2 = 4!”
Yes, that’s the way the left operates. You’ve described it exactly.
It’s also described by Jesus in his prophecy of the last days in Matthew 24:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another…. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
That’s what the left does. It either portrays everyone as evil and corrupt, or it actually makes everyone evil and corrupt, so that people stop caring about other people. This is the death of society, which is then taken over by a tyrant or a gnostic sect.
LA adds (December 24):
The left’s portrayal of all existing social order as false, evil, and oppressive exactly matches the gnostic portrayal of the universe as false, evil, and oppressive. And once the members of a society have been “converted” by the leftist view into seeing their society—meaning each other—as evil and oppressive, their society loses all value for them and they become willing to let it be taken over by a totalitaran sect which will make it right.
Alan Roebuck writes:
I haven’t formally studied gnosticism; I know a little about it from Christian study and from its connection with liberalism. But it seems to me that gnosticism is misnamed. The word literally means “knowledge-ism,” yet it seems to me that what makes the gnostics what they are is their lack of knowledge.
Pseudo-Christian gnostics rejected much of the information about God contained in the Bible, and consequently had to make up their own distinctive pseudo-knowledge of God. And contemporary liberal gnostics claim that the classical knowledge of God, nature, man and society that make up what some have called the classical philosophical tradition is mostly null and void. Consequently they have to fabricate their own distinctive, liberal pseudo-knowledge, which they then must defend through lies and intimidation because it cannot be defended by appealing to reality and man’s common intuitive sense of it.
Furthermore, sensing intuitively that they lack real knowledge and are therefore supremely vulnerable and contemptible, they try to expiate their ignorance by plotting to control the entire world. It reminds me of a phrase that, I believe, Bertrand Russell used to summarize an anti-Nietzchean’s view of Nietzsche’s philosophy :”The power fantasies of an invalid.”
Agreed that gnosticism is misnamed and that this is a problem. “Gnosticism” is not the right word. It feeds the common, incorrect definition of gnosticism as secret knowledge. Secret knowledge describes one type of gnosticism, it doesn’t describe the essence of gnosticism, which is common to all types of gnosticism.
The essence of gnosticism is the attempt to overcome the natural and transcendent order of the world, which is regarded as false, by drawing all divinity into oneself. Once we understand this concept, all other aspects of gnosticism fall into place and make sense.
Thus Christianity says that the nature of reality is that God is transcendent to man. The gnostic thinks that man can be God.
Thus Heraclitus said that it’s the nature of all being that it perishes; things come into being and then go out of being. Gnostics deny this “perishing” aspect of being and think they can freeze the world in place in a final stage of history.
As Voegelin puts it, there are three primary modes of drawing divinity into oneself: (1) through intellectual knowledge of the hidden truth (whether the hidden truth of the “true” god, as in ancient gnosticism, or the hidden truth of the shape and end of history, as in modern gnosticism); (2) through mystical participation in the hidden truth, in which the divine enters fully into the person; and (3) through activist seizure of power over the world.
Ancient gnosticism is about finding the “real, hidden god” who is concealed by the false God of the Bible and his false creation. Modern gnosticism is about getting rid of God and the transcendent and making man into a god in some political transformation of the world.
Your definition of gnosticism as not knowing is clever and fits with a correct understanding of gnosticism. Since gnostics deny the reality of the real world and seek some other world, they tend not to know about the real world.
Anthony Damato writes:
Excellent identification (I think). But am a bit lost on the revelation of liberals, i.e., the Democrats, as “gnostics.” By that do you mean that Voegelin would think them followers of an imperfect God?
The Democrats’ grab for total power—over the climate, over health care, over death, even over all future legislation, makes it clear that they are no longer ordinary liberal or progressive politicians. Rather, as Eric Voegelin would have put it, they are gnostic activists,..,
How did you connect this idea? What sparked the connection to Voegelin, and your expansion of his idea to redefine what most people loosely call “liberalism”? Are you saying we are in a new age of gnosticism?
Ah, what do I know.
Let’s start by going back to the original impetus of gnosticism in the ancient world. The gnostic is radically dissatisfied with the world. He is not happy with this world, in which God is “beyond” us, in which our relationship with God is uncertain, there are full periods and dry periods, sometimes we feel God, sometimes we don’t. The gnostic wants a more complete and certain experience of God. He doesn’t want God to be outside him, so that he has to approach God through devotion, prayer, following Christ, and so on. He wants to possess God completely. So he rejects the biblical revelation of God, he turns against the God of the Bible, whom he sees as a fraud and a tyrant, he takes the side of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, who told the woman and the man that if they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, they would become as Gods themselves. This reinterpretation of the Garden of Eden story, in which the serpent becomes the hero, and God becomes the villain, is the original and classic gnostic experience.
In modern gnosticism, as in ancient gnosticism, man is radically dissatisfied with the structure of the world, he wants to change it radically and become its master. Various modern ideologies follow this basic form. So, for example, Marxism turns the Marxian man into a god/superman, knowing the only truth and exerting all power. Nazism, Randianism, Scientism, and many other ideologies, each constructs a single truth and gives its knowers and masters power over the world.
Liberalism begins less radically than other modern ideologies but becomes radical over time. Inequality, difference, the uncertainty of things, the perishing of things—these and other inherent aspects of existence make the liberal gnostic deeply dissatisfied. He wants a fuller experience of life, a fuller equality and oneness. He wants to master the world, and become its god.
And what is it that the liberals are seeking now? By gaining total control over health care, they seek to end all inequality and uncertainty in health care. By gaining control over the global economy and industry, they seek to end climate change and to end all inequality between rich and poor countries. By prohibiting (or making prohibitively difficult) future amendments or repeals of their signature legislation, they seek to freeze their own power into place. The liberals don’t like this world of freedom, inequality, insecurity, uncertainty, changing climates, cultural and racial differences, political disagreements, rotations of the party in power. They seek to construct a new world of certainty and equality, a new cosmos with themselves in charge. Plain old American Democrats have thus morphed—mentally at least, if not yet fully in practice—into gnostic totalitarians, wannabe gods of their own universe.
“Are you saying we are in a new age of gnosticism?”
Good question. The fourth chapter of Voegelin’s The New Science of Politics, which I was re-reading last night, is “Gnosticism—The Nature of Modernity.”
By this he doesn’t mean that all of modern Western civilization is gnostic, because modern Western civilization still has many classical and Christian elements, but that gnosticism has progressively taken over more and more of the civilization, and that the ultimate end point of modern, progressive civilization is gnostic totalitarianism.
When he wrote the book, in 1952, he said that American and England had the healthiest cultures of any Western countries (meaning that they embodied the most truth of man’s existence), and were fortunately also the most powerful. He thus felt that there was a fighting chance for the West to defeat the growing power of gnostic totalitarianism. Imagine what he would think of the West’s chances if he were to look at England now, and at the ruling party in America now.
I too have always regretted the loss of the term “gnostic” to the gnostics, just as I regret the loss of “sophist” to the sophists, and “naturalism” to the materialists.
Alan is right about the gnostics, ancient and modern, and about their “knowledge.” They all begin from a conviction of the world’s utter corruption, and thus of their own. They scorn the deliveries of their native exoteric traditions in favor of esoteric knowledge available only to the initiate. Likewise they scorn the tainted goods of a merely normal life of family, work, and worship in favor of extreme experiences they take to be purer and more genuine. While hoi polloi look to the east and see a great mountain, and are heartened, the gnostic initiates know that in reality there is no mountain: no objective moral framework to things, no objective goodness really instantiated in the things of this world.
Consistently applied, such skepticism devours itself: if the world is wholly corrupted, so are we wholly corrupted, and so is our knowledge wholly corrupted. So the gnostic initiate makes an unprincipled exception to his skepticism. In perfect contradiction to his own doctrine, he asserts his own knowledge (or, if he is a bit more sophistical, he dons a self-conscious irony and asserts his “knowledge”). This most basic unprincipled exception is the root of all the others he must thereafter make in order to prosecute his quotidian life. This fundamental act of bad faith puts the gnostic at war with himself, with his body, and with the world. He cannot depend upon anything; his uncertainty is total, and enemies lurk everywhere, a vast conspiracy. Yet he must, willy nilly, try to live. So he tries to “save the appearances” (Owen Barfield’s wonderful phrase), to pretend to knowledge and control. His life is a Potemkin village; he sees through the whole thing, even as he works with growing desperation to prop it up against the gale of the real.
That attempt must certainly fail. That it will is cause for hope; but it’s going to cost us, big time.
Kathlene M. writes:
When I asked “Is our country, as it currently is, worth defending
anymore?,” I raise the question that others have in previous threads
at VFR of whether we are slowing liberalism’s collapse by
participating in all its corrupted systems. But how can we separate
ourselves from it? It has infiltrated our churches, our schools, our
government, and our media. I don’t suggest that we should stop
caring about people and our country and that we should stop having
faith. We need to rebuild our country, one person and community at a
time. The left patiently did this over many years; we can do it too.
It will take great fortitude, faith and patience.
LA to Anthony Damato:
Did my reply to you on gnosticism answer your questions?
Anthony Damato replies:
I was very impressed with your reply, and did a little bit of research on gnosticism at the Catholic Encyclopedia, at newadvent.org. This discussion is worthy of further expansion.
I also read a little bit on the work of Eric Voegelin, I was only generally familiar with him from my university days. My first thoughts about his work in light of our discussion after reading a bit about him is that it makes sense that he would identify totalitarianism as the modern manifestation and destination of the gnostic quest, because as you’ve mentioned, gnosticism though not easily defined, has traits that deny certain truths about God, his nature, and our limitations as his creations. As shown by the definition given below, we can see the subject of gnosticism is not an easy nut to crack as it has itself morphed through the ages, and to try to assert the modern left’s likely solidarity with core gnostic beliefs requires a lot of knowledge on what gnosticism really is, which cannot be simplified. [LA replies: gnosticism is a complex, multisided, and difficult idea, but I believe that there is an essential idea of gnosticism, common to all varieties of gnosticism, which is capable of being explained in a concise and understandable way.]
Advent’s “general” definition of Gnostic:
A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour.
Voegelin fled the Nazis, to him, they were the natural evolution of a deficient ideology, an ideology that was opposed by the Catholic Church from the beginning. An ideology which as mentioned, evolved numerous heads though the centuries, all of which have as a running theme, projecting to God, human failings, attributing to man the power which rightly belongs to God alone. In its other manifestations, because gnosticism bears elements of skepticism, it denies God in a stealthy way by redefining what God is, what God has been understood to be. I also believe gnosticism may be related to humanism, which Pope Pius X discussed in length, also, as a side note, gnosticism was spoken of by St. Paul, he warned of the errors of their sect, and again showed the wisdom of the Catholic church, the Bride of Christ, in opposing it’s serious errors.
I don’t pretend to be a scholar, a serious scholar can study the relationship between gnosticism and modern Leftism or “progressivism.” Voegelin, and yourself, really nail it. But I can say that gnosticism as essentially rooted in Eastern theological foundations, and predating Christianity, represents a denial of Christian revelation, it is anti-Christian as the Church Fathers recognized, and would naturally evolve according to the prevailing socio-political trends of the ages, and bear the fruit of Nazism, Marxism, Maoism, and now Leftism.
Voegelin saw firsthand the destination of Nazism, which you point out he claimed was a natural product of “Gnostic activists”. Consider what Rep. Steve Cohen said in calling Jesus “a community organizer.” This might be a reflection of left/gnostic thinking that is only now made clear to me.
Brandon F. writes:
Thanks so much for educating me on Voegelin. This is a profound observation on modern politics. Wikipedia has a good synopsis of the gnosticism theory:
Voegelin on Gnosticism
In his The New Science of Politics, Order and History, and Science, Politics and Gnosticism, Voegelin opposed what he believed to be unsound Gnostic influences in politics. He defined gnosis as “a purported direct, immediate apprehension or vision of truth without the need for critical reflection; the special gift of a spiritual and cognitive elite.” Gnosticism is a “type of thinking that claims absolute cognitive mastery of reality. Relying as it does on a claim to gnosis, gnosticism considers its knowledge not subject to criticism. Gnosticism may take transcendentalizing (as in the case of the Gnostic movement of late antiquity) or immanentizing forms (as in the case of Marxism).”
Apart from the Classical Christian writers against heresy, his sources on Gnosticism were secondary, since the texts in the Nag Hammadi library were not yet widely available. For example Voegelin uses Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and the German philosopher Hans Jonas.
Voegelin perceived similarities between ancient Gnosticism and modernist political theories, particularly communism and nazism. He identified the root of the Gnostic impulse as alienation, that is, a sense of disconnection with society and a belief that this lack is the result of the inherent disorder, or even evil, of the world. This alienation has two effects:
The first is the belief that the disorder of the world can be transcended by extraordinary insight, learning, or knowledge, called a Gnostic Speculation by Voegelin (the Gnostics themselves referred to this as gnosis).
The second is the desire to implement and or create a policy to actualize the speculation, or Immanentize the Eschaton, i.e., to create a sort of heaven on earth within history.
According to Voegelin the Gnostics are really rejecting the Christian eschaton of the kingdom of God and replacing it with a human form of salvation through esoteric ritual or practice.
The primary feature that characterizes a tendency as gnostic for Voegelin is that it is motivated by the notion that the world and humanity can be fundamentally transformed and perfected through the intervention of a chosen group of people (an elite), a man-god, or men-Gods, Ubermensch, who are the chosen ones that possess a kind of special knowledge (like magic or science) about how to perfect human existence.
This stands in contrast to a notion of redemption that is achieved through the reconciliation of mankind with the divine. Marxism therefore qualifies as “gnostic” because it purports that we can establish the perfect society on earth once capitalism has been overthrown by the “proletariat.” Likewise, Nazism is seen as “gnostic” because it posits that we can achieve utopia by attaining racial purity, once the master race has freed itself of the racially inferior and the degenerate.
In the two cases specifically analyzed by Voegelin, the totalitarian impulse is derived from the alienation of the individuals from the rest of society. This leads to a desire to dominate (libido dominandi) which has its roots not just in the Gnostic’s conviction of the imperative of his vision but also in his lack of concord with a large body of his society. As a result, there is very little regard for the welfare of those who are harmed by the resulting politics, which ranges from coercive to calamitous (e.g. the Russian proverb: “You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet”).
Repeating the quote from Wikipedia:
“He identified the root of the Gnostic impulse as alienation, that is, a sense of disconnection with society and a belief that this lack is the result of the inherent disorder, or even evil, of the world.”
Is this not a glimpse into the heart of every radical liberal?
The discussion of gnosticism and its connection to liberalism is fascinating. If Eric Voegelin is right and the basis of gnosticism is alienation from one’s society, then the question has to be, what causes this alienation particularly since it appears to be a constant recurring theme throughout human history. Is it a biochemical mistake in the brain? Schizophrenics often see themselves as outside the world in which they live, as disconnected from society and also disconnected from themselves. They observe and watch their own thought processes and communicate with voices which only they can hear. These voices give them special information and instructions to act upon.
In bipolar manic depression the patient while in the manic phase believes himself capable of superhuman achievements. In the depression phase he sees life as utterly hopeless and without value. He vacillates between being in the Garden of Eden and being expelled from the Garden and God’s presence.
Both are biochemical illnesses. Perhaps liberalism is a form of brain chemistry derangement?
While gnosticism always represents a cognitive distortion, a misunderstanding of the nature of things, I don’t think it would be correct to call it a mental disease, except perhaps in extreme cases. There are different types and degrees of gnosticism. In its origins, though not in its extreme results, gnosticism is an understandable—though mistaken and destructive—human response to the difficulties of the universe in which we live.
Let’s look again at ancient and modern gnosticism. I may be repeating some things I said earlier.
The experience of all mankind and of all cultures prior to Judaism and Christianity was that man lives in a divine cosmos, where animal and plant life, the phenomena of fertility, the heavenly bodies and their cycles, are gods or the manifestations of gods. Voegelin says that this experience of a divine cosmos, a cosmos full of gods, is the primary experience of all mankind, and thus the origin and ground of all further human spiritual development, which takes place through a process of progressive differentiation of the primary experience. The first sentence of Genesis represents a decisive break with the primary experience, the discovery that the cosmos is not divine, but the creation of a God who is transcendent to it; or, to put it in Voegelinian terms, the differentiation between the immanent world and the transcendent God. This leap in being to a more spiritual conception of God, as great and significant as it was, also had the painful effect of de-divinizing the cosmos. The divine, instead of surrounding man in the phenomena of nature and the seasons, and being embodied in the actions of the divine king or pharoah whose actions replicate the order of the cosmos and bring it into human society, was now removed to a distance beyond immediate human experience. In being spiritualized, the divine became less immediately accessible.
Gnosticism represented a reaction against this, a desire to eliminate the uncomfortable and frustrating distance between man and God by making God immediately present, by absorbing God fully into oneself. The problem was that the divine to which the gnostics were seeking to unite themselves was no longer the cosmic-divine, which men no longer believed in, but the transcendent divine. So gnosticism involved the weird effort of trying to re-absorb the transcendent back into the immanent—the immanent which itself had only been brought into existence by the discovery of the transcendent, the immanent being the opposite of the transcendent.(Transcendence and immanence did not exist in the earlier, undifferentiated, cosmological stage of human society.) From this comes Voegelin’s famous idea that gnosticism immanentizes the eschaton, by translating the spiritual realization of the kingdom of heaven or the New Jerusalem into a material, historical transformation of the world. It’s probably fair to say that all forms of gnosticism, or at least of modern gnosticism, involve the attempt to absorb the transcendent into the immanent. Indeed, as Voegelin argues in chapter four of The New Science of Politics, “Gnosticism—The Nature of Modernity” (and as we can confirm for ourselves by just looking around us), much of modern civilization consists of that very activity.
Also, Voegelin says that there are potentially gnostic elements in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, if one takes the transfigurations of nature described respectively in Isaiah and in the Letter to the Romans literally, as actual changes in the structure of the universe, where leopards cavort with lambs, and where nature ceases to be perishing and becomes immortal, rather than as parables and symbolic expressions of spiritual experience, that would be a gnostic belief, and Voegelin warns against that.
Modern, political gnosticism is analogous to ancient, religious gnosticism. The transcendent God of the Bible created problems for man which the religious gnostics sought to escape by absorbing God into themselves and becoming gods, or by believing that the earth itself would become divine. In the same way, the ordinary conditions of life in historical human society—inequality, insecurity, uncertainty, death, the rise and fall of civilizations—created problems for man that gnostic intellectuals sought to escape by imagining a perfect world without inequality, insecurity, uncertainty, and the rest, a world that would be brought into existence and ruled by gnostic activists. Both ancient and modern gnosticism seem to have in common the belief in some literal transformation and divinization of the world, such as the end of the distance between man and God, the end of perishing, the end of inequality, the end of alienation, the end of the self-interested politics of nations, the end of climate change. Gnostics’ ignoring of the actual nature of the world and their belief that they can bring into existence their gnostic paradise is sympomatic of a profound distortion of cognition and reasoning which, if the gnostics gain political power, can lead to the destruction of society and the deaths of millions.
But, to return to your question, I do not think that this necessarily rises to the level of what we normally call mental illness. Look at all the liberals we know who believe absolutely wacky things about the world, but who in the conduct of their personal and business lives are rational and competent. Politically they are insane. Clinically they are normal.
For example, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and the neocons lived (and still live) in a gnostic fantasy that Muslims desire freedom and democracy and are capable of having it. Their entire foreign policy was based on the belief that they could construct such a world. Reason and facts could not get through to them. Their imperviousness to facts and reason that contradicted their belief system made them highly dangerous; but I don’t think it would be correct to call them mentally ill in the clinical sense.
Finally, it would be interesting to assemble a catalogue of modern gnostic belief systems, ranging from Bushianism to Randianism, from multiculturalism to global warmism, from global capitalism to global socialism, from Scientism/Darwinism to the liberal-Christian Cult of Man, showing the distinct way in which each such belief system fits the gnostic pattern.
I wrote above:
… the ordinary conditions of life in historical human society—inequality, insecurity, uncertainty, death, the rise and fall of civilizations—created problems for man that gnostic intellectuals sought to escape by imagining a perfect world without inequality, insecurity, uncertainty …
By chance I just came upon an item at Huffington Post which reports that William Clinton, speaking in early December in New Hampshire, “said the three huge problems that exist are inequality, instability and unsustainability.”
[Note: the following exchange between Ken Hechtman and me was posted
in the thread, “How China wrecked the Copenhagen deal,” which also deals with gnosticism. But it’s so relevant to this thread that I’m copying it here as well.]
Ken Hechtman writes:
“Wow, stunning to hear Ken Hechtman verifying from the leftist perspective our conjectures about liberalism being a species of Gnosticism. I would love to hear how he actually does draw the line from Roman gnostics to medieval chiliastic Cathars to Marx. Some flesh on that bone would be fascinating.”
I’ve been reading through your explanation of how moderate-left/liberal ideology is similar to gnostic theology. You really captured it better than I ever could. Unsatisfying as it might be, I will have to answer Kristor with, “What he said … “
I can give you one personal theological story with a gnostic spin to it. I was 17 or 18 and in junior college in Montreal. I wasn’t a member of the campus Hillel but I had friends from high school who were so I’d have lunch in their office from time to time. Once a week they’d have a rabbi come by and they’d take turns preparing a Bible study which he would then critique and lead a discussion on. They asked me to do one once. They never asked me to do another one after that.
I took Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel story. I cheated a little bit, kitbashing together a text from the Revised American Version and the King James Version. For most of the story I wanted the clarity and simplicity of ordinary language. The anachronisms in King James are too distracting. But nothing beats the poetry and power of “Nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do” from King James.
Then I said: “OK, don’t look at the words on the page. Hear them in your head. What do you hear? What’s the tone of voice? What emotion is it carrying? Is it the same wrath and indignation as in the Noah’s Ark story or the Sodom and Gomorrah story? No, it’s not. This is fear. God is afraid. He never specifically says that this is wrong much less why it’s wrong. He just feels threatened. If Man has his s**t together, He doesn’t need God. Only a weak and divided and confused humanity needs God. How do we know that? God said so. But there is hope. Today Man is exploring the heavens, cracking the code of Life, wiring up the planet so everyone can talk to everyone else again—God just slowed us down, He didn’t stop us. The Tower of Babel is being built again and we will see it done in our lifetime.”
And on that note, Merry Christmas.
You had this in your head when you were 18?
Your analysis of God’s concerns was very insightful, but then you got it all wrong on the most important point. You’re looking at God as though he were a human leader or tyrant afraid of being dumped and losing his power. That’s wrong. He is God, looking out for what is best for man. He knows that if the human race becomes unified into a single global community with no restraints on its desires, it will become demonic and begin worshipping itself as God. It is from this terrible fate that God is saving humanity when he breaks up Babel and sends people in different directions to form different nations speaking different languages.
You fail to understand this. In classic gnostic/leftist fashion,—exactly like the ancient gnostics, and exactly like Marx—you see God in human terms, as some kind of sinister bully whose rule must be broken. Far from understanding that it’s bad for man to try to replace God, to become like a god, or to imagine himself to be a god, you believe in man’s self-divinization, and you make such self-divinization of mankind the ultimate goal of politics. Again, exactly like Marx.
You told me years ago that as a result of the fall of Soviet Communism you stopped believing in Marxism, stopped believing in all “big truths,” and changed to a liberal position where your main concern was to prevent other people (e.g. conservatives) from imposing their “big truths” on you. But evidently this is not the case. You have not given up Communist-style “big truths.” You’ve just changed their form. You still believe in the Brotherhood of Man, as you told me last year, and in a single global government, as you mentioned earlier in this current thread. Except that instead of seeking to bring about the Brotherhood of Man and global government by means of Communism, you seek to bring them about by means of global open borders, global anti-climate change, global Cap and Trade.
Ken Hechtman replies:
I had a lot of Aleister Crowley and Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson in my head in those days. Plus a lot of acid. It helped. Also, I’d just escaped (some people might say “graduated”) from 12 years of Jewish school. If I was given the chance to whup a rabbi upside the head, I was going to take it.
I guess what you’ve described above is the “straight line” I was talking about. You look at these ideas and say “These are fallacies Western Civilization considered and dismissed 2,000 years ago.” I look at them and say, “These are currents that have been part of Western Civilization as long as there’s been a Western Civilization.” [LA replies: yes, and as long as there’s been truth, there’s been falsity, and as long as there’s been good, there’s been evil. That doesn’t mean that falsity is true and that evil is good.]
When I wrote up the “family resemblances” between the medieval heretic cults and the modern hard left sectarians in my last post, I wasn’t listing off positive qualities. I guess you could tell. But the way you describe the Roman gnostics, I’ll accept them as the good guys. If they held knowledge of good and evil above blind obedience, if they held communication above confusion, and cooperation above tribal strife, they had it right.
It’s remarkable how you switch from talking about overthrowing and replacing God with a single unified humanity and a single global goverrnment, to talking about preferring “knowledge over blind obedience,” and “communication over confusion.” In a one-man good cop / bad cop routine, you alternate between the most radical, revolutionary language and harmless sounding sentiments that any liberal would go along with. And this indeed is the way the left advances itself and wins support, by making bland and humane appeals to “communication over confusion,” and “cooperation over tribal strife,” that no decent person could oppose. But you yourself have shown us how such harmless sounding liberal sentiments are in reality a cover for the aim of creating a godless, global, all-powerful state.
Ken Hechtman writes:
I sent you those two quotes 25 minutes apart, but I wrote them 25 years apart. For me, that’s more than half a lifetime. I’m not as angry or absolutist as I was in 1985. I’m still not religious, but I’m not nearly as anti-religious as I was when I was 17.
Something else: When I (or the rest of the left) talk about “overthrowing God,” it’s a metaphor. To mean it literally, I’d need to believe a God exists. I don’t. So even if I take the Serpent or the Angel of Light as exemplary characters, I take them as exemplary fictional characters. Back in 1985, I accepted the premise that the text of Genesis 11 was literally true so that I could get in under the rabbi’s defenses and surprise him. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now. I still think it was a good little sermon, that’s why I remember it 25 years later. But today, I wouldn’t pretend to believe something I didn’t simply to annoy a rabbi.
Rick U. writes:
Merry Christmas Larry!
This is a fascinating discussion. Isn’t Islam a pretty good example of a Gnostic system since in its own way it promotes the idea of paradise on earth? While, it doesn’t contain the same reasoning as Western thought it is a system of rituals and traditions that purport to bring the believer closer to “God” (Allah) or at one with him, and thereby creates the same world of “equality” that the Western Gnostics envision. While Isalm is clearly more violent and repressive in its belief system—its purpose appears to be the same as the Gnostics by its claim as the perfect system to relate to God . I don’t profess to have a great knowledge of Islamic thought, but from what I have read it appears that Islam just takes a more direct (violent) approach to achieve the same outcome. So by characterizing Judaism and Christianity’s basic tenets as “changed and distorted over time” doesn’t Islam do the same thing as the Gnostics by claiming a more earthly and knowable form of God?
Edward replies to LA:
I did not mean to imply that liberalism is a full blown “clinical insanity” but rather that it could be a subclinical form of insanity.
Many people can function successfully in their business and still have mental illness. Liberalism appears to be a form of Freudian denial of reality, a desire to return to a childlike or infantile state where we are safe, secure within the protection of our family and especially of our mother who not only cares for us but controls us as well. This is the maternalistic or nanny state. Liberalism is a form of arrested emotional development where the person does not want to be responsible for their own life or mistakes. [LA replies: funny, but that’s exactly what leftists believe about conservatives! The difference is that liberals think that conservatives out of fear of life rely on daddy-god, while conservatives think that liberals out of fear of life rely on mommy-state.]
It is also possible that it arises not from a chemical imbalance in the brain but from a failure to have adequate contact with a father during the maturation period. Most fathers today work away from home and only see their children at night after returning home from work.
The father’s role is replaced by school teachers who are almost always women. The child does not see his father as a mentor, a protector and person of power, an authority, or as someone capable of dealing with life. With no one around who appears to lead and be capable of dealing with life, it can appear to the child that life is frightening and totally unpredictable and therefore without meaning. I don’t know but present these ideas as a possibility. [LA replies: I think there’s a lot to this. This would be worth expanding to an article.]
Several years ago I read an article about African elephants. The article said that when a herd of elephants loses its bull elephant the teenage male elephants go wild attacking everything in sight and in effect acting as juvenile delinquents. But when the scientists in the study bring another bull elephant from another herd, all of the teenage male elephants immediately change and behave normally again. Perhaps the lack of a father’s influence in our society is related to the progressive expansion of liberalism.
Perhaps it also to some extent explains the young male violence in black communities. Government programs that destroyed the black family in America might be one of the root causes of black violence.
Anthony Damato writes (December 25):
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 22, 2009 02:53 PM | Send
First, I would like to say that my wife and I both wish you a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for all the clarity you bring to what is today a confusing world by design.
Which brings me back to the Gnostics.
I see you wrote on Christmas Eve:
This is the nature of the age-old gnostic rebellion against the order of the world, which for the first time in history has gained political power in America.
Gnostic beliefs were beaten back by the efforts of the Catholic Church. They were rejected, denounced and shown to be a false and counterfeit construct whose errors are manifold. The reason fraudulent ideologies like this crumble in the face of Christian truth, is … Christ himself. As Lord of the universe, perfect God and perfect man, God’s truth is absolute. Christ’s teachings, perfect. He taught us everything we need to know to live more fully, he probably told us all that we could possibly understand as human beings.
I was thinking about the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. (God of God) light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
Don’t you think that in addition to the divinity of Christ, the Gnostic mind might also have a problem with the idea of glorifying and adoring the Father (and Son) so central in Christian faith? What is central to Marxism for example? The centrality of Man ALONE.
Today in church, I was reading John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The “Word” is Christ, and the world did not understand. The world rejected the light, Gnosticism rejects the light.
Many think St. Paul said the following in reference to Gnosticism (1 Timothy 6:20):
Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words, and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called. Which some promising, have erred concerning the faith.
Anyway, Larry, just some thoughts that may be of interest.