Oct 30, 2021Liked by N.S. Lyons

This was a fantastic read -- enjoyable (if not, exactly, uplifting), from beginning to end. Your writing, and this is a compliment, reminds me a lot of Scott Alexander's. You might be quickly becoming one of my favorite essayists.

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Oct 29, 2021Liked by N.S. Lyons

What I find interesting is how much the Cathars had in common with the Brothers and Sisters of Red Death, a Russian sect (not related to the Soviets in any way) some seven hundred years later.

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Did you learn all this stuff in college, or what? And how come nobody else knows it? I haven't thought about the gnostics since that Elaine Pagels book.

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I’m not sure if this is about Gnosticism specifically so much as it is about ideology in general. “The world is not as it seems – there is a deeper, realer, world that is awaiting you if you just look” is the elevator pitch for pretty much every ideology. All ideologies have Gnosis – that is what makes them ideologies.

The only thing that is consistent within Gnosticism and seems to meaningfully differentiate it from other ideologies is its fairly aggressive dualism. But if the article was mainly about opposing dualism, then I would expect it to at least mention either monism or non-dualism. Given that the article does not seem to be about dualism and non-dualism, it seems to boil down to the observation that a very common pattern in history is dueling ideologies each claiming they have access to the true reality, and that the other ideology is blind or misguided.

There doesn’t appear to be a clear alternative to this state of affairs. “Return to reality” sounds good, but he that is without ideology among you, let him first cast a stone.

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Oct 29, 2021Liked by N.S. Lyons

Another brilliant piece. My 30 yr. old son touched on many of these same revelations today at lunch, instead of Clown World he calls it The System and warns the mere act of defining our revulsion and revelations will lead us back to The System (Gnostic resorting) as it did with BAP, apparently.

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Oct 29, 2021Liked by N.S. Lyons


So... perhaps a study group for St Irenaeus? But more seriously -- Catholic or Orthodox?

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Very interesting indeed.

I’m in my sixties, Catholic, and saw the emergence of “control culture” manifested in abortion “rights.” This right to kill in order to completely control natural healthy biological processes redefined pregnancy as a pathological process complete with redefining offspring as “invaders” then the redefinitions continued with “political correctness” which emerged in full force in academia of the 1980s. “You must control your speech to not offend my ears.” The resulting fragility (finger snapping because applause is violence) among young people paved the way for Covid hysteria to become dogmatic.

It’s tragic, but no one sees it as such because nobody remembers what tragedy is.

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I'm going to Vespers today. It feels like my only center anymore in a world gone mad.

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Gasping from this explosion of erudition ... I love the modesty of not citing Sartre´s Huis Clos.

But then, what remains? For someone not using Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc.? Is all this stuff real?

Would it make equal sense that the Culture War is merely a conflict between competing Judaeo-Greek-Christian values like liberty, caring, rights and obligations, in conjunction with primordial desires such as needs for freedom and protection?

I feel like a country bumpkin and reformed paleo-Marxist thinking: All these crazy fools have too much money from the state. If they had to earn their living in a free economy without state subsidy - our tax money - they would turn sober quickly. With an overall tax rate below 10% and privatisation of all state tasks back to where the West was in the Gilded Age, the state mainly legislating without much budget to spend, any Gnostic would spread his word solely by Freedom of Speech. Without state authority subjecting others to his gnostic beliefs, normal people wouldn`t care as long as he respects their basic liberties. Compared to the Deep State, is gnosticism a real problem?

Is that "based"? Old school? Simplistic and unintelligent?

Maybe, but most idiocies of the last 100 years come from state-subsidized "intellectuals" of the university. Let them live on incomes in a free market, and 95% of modern nonsense is gone.

I think I have gone off track. Is the Deep State an expression of gnosticism? Compared to the Deep State, gnosticism is less important because the Deep State is about real power over everyone´s life whereas gnosticism in comparison smells of kids from bad schools having too much time and money for their own good.

Of course, the phenomenon of the Cathars refutes me. But then, the Other World mattered more to our predecessors than it does to us. And there was more upheaval (sic) then, with up to 4 popes, Canossa, wars of forming nations all over Europe, the rising bourgeoisie building all those splendid High Gothic catehedrals, and an intermediate warming (more children surviving on that small lot of land, needing to wander off?). I lack the knowledge to put Albigenses into perspective, unfortunately.

As powerful as this article is: Maybe gnosticism as a spiritual and intellectual global tendency hasn´t really had that much power as an historical force, therefore could be put into perspective?

I am grateful for this article, and the comments. In deep appreciation of each article of this author, I hesitate to follow the suggestion that gnosticism be a major force. Pythagoras and Plato show that gnosticism is a spiritual "logical possibility", but hardly ever fully describes the character and work of an individual.

Thinking about nature and climate is natural to man, but only the extremist ignores all other aspects of man and universe and becomes a climate extremist. Is the gnostic just one more extremist? Is then extremism the issue? The un-willingness to keep different concepts floating?

Mind, soul, reason, and body have their beauties and truths, which often conflict with each other. Gnosticism points to the fact (fact?) that man longs for transcendency, the wandering star or the eternal God, and gets lost in this world without his personal beacon to concepts outside of him, beings other than himself. When gnosticism is not extremism, it may be that which reminds us of this longing; this understanding that This World is not enough without that Other World.

Could one argue that gnosticism is one step forward from manichaeanism?

Is QAnon in all its crudity somewhere in the middle of all this?

Doesn´t this fit nicely with Wang Huning´s book on America?

Would a tillerman after harvest, a framer after finishing the house, an entrepreneur after work ever come home to wife and kids with such ideas? Are we psychologically, emotionally, even physically made for the world the advanced West has created? Are we up- or un-rooted?

Whoever criticizes Marxism mostly doesn´t condemn the human desires for security or to provide for others. He only criticizes the extremism of subjecting all other human values, aptly described in the Scriptures and elsewhere, to security only, provided by an authoritarian state (that then solely decides what providing for others is and is not).

Thank you very much. Inspiring as ever.

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Kojève was right—we want to be seen. We must, in the parlance of the moment, be represented, acknowledged, given a platform. With Christ we are seen (and loved) and incorporated into a meaningful whole. With Man we are seen, separated and discarded into obscurity (or a furnace).

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Hilarious! Escape the demiurge by liking and commenting, thus feeding it!

Bloggers proclaiming a return to bronze-age life, online! Hit the like button if you want to escape Clown World! That IS Clown World!

As soon as some fucking snake convinces you that a garden is a prison, it's Game Over. Nature always bats last, and the longer she waits, the bigger her bat gets. Pow. Out of the stadium.

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Interesting that you did not mention Eric Voegelin, who wrote about the gnostic nature of modern mass political movements back in the 1950s. If you are not aware of him, he is a writer you might like.

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There is so much to say, alas the comments are not the place. You are right that some modern ideas are Gnostic but only because the traditional religions (taken broadly to include Marxism, etc) are more Gnostic that we (others) suspect and progressive religion is the direct heir.

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Thanks for a thought provoking essay. It is interesting to note that most Eastern religions largely avoided the fanaticism that has culminated in what is called "scientific gnosticism". My own recollection of the original gnostics conjures up a Christian movement away from the dogmatic doctrines of a male dominated clergy toward spiritual enlightenment ( perhaps influenced by manicheaism). This I believe developed out of the trinity, a concept that many of the early church hierarchy viewed with suspicion. After all, what was this holy ghost?...a vehicle of divine inspiration...or, a potential heretical force that could lure the flock to intellectual aberrations from church doctrine? Fast forward to the 12th Century...Abelard didn't only have his genatalia lopped off because he had a carnal affair with the niece of Notre Dame's canon; his heretical views on the glorification of the holy spirit refused to conform to church orthodoxy.

Although gnosticism would develop into weird cults( e.g. Catharism) it also morphed into individual spiritual values though meditation and reason, that in some ways mimics Buddhist and Confusian ritual. Nevertheless, it is cults that become prominent because they are subject to mass influence and interpretation. The post-Darwinian era gradually heralded science at the expense of established religion. The age of rapid communication(including the internet) could only enhance growing ideological cults, cults that were almost subliminal and secular, under the influence of the new gods of science as interpreted by mass media.

So it's not surprising that scientific gnosticism and the BAPism you refer to here appear to be mirror images of each other. The media has already divided its audience into cults. A political hierarchy of neoliberalism may have replaced the religious hierarchy of former times but the media has lured them toward the bug zappers of analytic thought and spiritual development. Gnosticism may have once been a mind liberating concept, but in the age of AI and trans-humanism, the cult of science has only led to greater conformity.

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Brilliant piece, a cornerstone of my understanding. In you’re a piece about Ray Dalio he speculated that it is too close to call: chaos or a new formulation. The crown prince of late stage capitalism thinks there’s a 50% chance that our social order will disintegrate. What other proof do you need? Gnosticism all the way down, the new reality, postmodern “socially constructed reality “ it is all going to implode. We are set to fail, our inventions are our undoing, a conflagration is unavoidable.

Have a nice day.

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To summarize:

Gnosticism (embodied awareness/spirituality/mysticism) might have originally been ok in nomadic tribes, non-state societies, but after the end of the ice ages, it became an impediment to cultural evolution in rising of city-states and empires.

Anti-Gnosticism (contemplative awareness) was the result of cultural evolution in city-states and empires.

Techno-economic disruption of complex societies typically results in regression to earlier "tribal" social forms (Max Weber?, Koestler), such as prison gangs or the "band of brothers" warrior thing.

The author's descriptions of various forms of Gnosticism appears to follow the theory of cultural regression.

In the case of the Cathars, the author does not include the fact that all sorts of bad stuff was going on in the Catholic mainstream, to the point that some of the Ecclesiastic order itself called for a halt to the use of religion as justification for civil war:


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