The gnostic vision that animated the Discovery Channel hostage taker

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

How does environmentalist hostage-taker James J. Lee sum up the intellectually low-grade, but emotionally high-powered Gnosticism that today dominates our social and cultural environment? Let us count the ways.

Lee was apparently fixated on a book, presumably for children, by environmentalist writer Daniel Quinn. According to the Kirkus review posted by Amazon, My Ishmael (a sequel to Ishmael) concerns “a telepathic ape who dispenses ecological wisdom about the possible doom of humankind.” The review tells us further that: “Once more, Quinn focuses on the Leavers and Takers, his terms for the two basic, warring kinds of human sensibility. The planet’s original inhabitants, the Leavers, were nomadic people who did no harm to the earth. The Takers, who began as aggressive farmers obsessed with growth, were the builders of cities and empires, and have now, in the late 20th century, largely run out of space to monopolize.” The rhetorical gimmick of My Ishmael is that Ishmael (a distinctly Muslim name), comes into telepathic communion with a twelve-year-old girl, Julie Gerchak, “who is wise beyond her years, having had to deal with an alcoholic, self-destructive mother.” Inspired by Ishmael, Julie conceives “an earnest desire to save the world.”

In this part of Lee’s fantasy-world, familiar mythic elements of the liberal worldview appear. There is the toxic male (in the form of “aggressive farmers”) who spoils the earth; there is a wise animal, with a Muslim name, whose mystic illumination of an adolescent girl (struggling with the challenge of her alcoholic mother—no father is mentioned) transforms that girl into a female messiah who acts to redeem the world.

I note the radically dualistic structure of Quinn’s view, with its absolute conflict of “Leavers” and “Takers,” which Lee seems to have made his own. Speaking of Quinn and not of Lee, the name Gerchak generally indicates Jewish background. I would guess that Quinn is borrowing from Kabalistic Gnosticism, in which a young female redeemer called the Shekina, figures prominently; but before the Shekina can act out her role in redeeming the world, she herself requires redemption—in this case by someone named Ishmael.

It is all so weird and perverse that one hardly knows what to say about it, beyond merely remarking it.

The description of Lee as “a homeless former Californian,” if true, would suggest that he was a mentally troubled person who, in a sane society, would be humanely institutionalized, but who, in the name of a spurious and counterproductive mercy, was discharged into the larger community, where his incompetence entailed his further misery and degradation, which then addle him all the more. I speculate, but not without a basis.

- end of initial entry -

Ben W. writes:

From the Lee manifesto (pdf):

Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.

The humans? The planet does not need humans.

” … and, of course, the Squirrels.” Notice the animals are capitalized, the way god used to be. Froggies?

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

This is a parenthesis to my earlier remark. There has been some “conversation” at VFR about meaningful coincidences. I noted, in connection with the James Lee case, that Lee apparently internalized the symbolism of Daniel Quinn’s book My Ishmael, which then motivated his incoherent wickedness. I note also that, a few days ago [LA notes: it was yesterday], Lawrence Auster posted at VFR the opening of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which begins portentously with, “Call me Ishmael.” Furthermore, Gnosticism is a theme of Melville’s novel, which compares Ahab’s obsession with the faith of “the ancient Ophites.”

LA replied:

Mr. Bertonneau,

As further proof of synchronicity, and thus of the falseness of the materialist view of existence, literally at the moment that your e-mail arrived, I was posting a comment making the very same observation that you just made.

See my comment at the end of the initial entry, “James Lee was convicted of smuggling illegal aliens.}.

Gintas writes:

I’ve had on my mind recently to read Moby Dick again, and then you post a passage from it. I just learned that the young ‘uns in homeschool today studied … whales.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 02, 2010 03:47 PM | Send

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