A Heresy for the 21st Century: The Gnosticism of Modernity

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Pieta or Revolution by Night 1923 by Max Ernst 1891-1976 Pieta or Revolution by Night 1923 Max Ernst

Before progressing further with the study of Gnostic influences in the 20th and 21st Century, we must first consider what elements of a heresy formulated in the 1st Century AD hold relevance today, two millennia later, in an increasingly secular world with an unprecedentedly advanced technology. Obviously a Gnosticism divorced from its ancient and medieval religious milieu is going to be markedly different from the original, indeed on a number of occasions is it avowedly atheist and secular, however this adaptability is a sign of its continued power to haunt the imagination.

  • Paranoia-the worldview of Gnosticism is deliriously paranoid. The whole universe is a vast cosmic conspiracy concocted by a deluded and evil Demiurge, who employs archons to make sure we keep in line and don’t realise the horrific truth. Through gnosis you could achieve awareness that you were trapped inside…

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How to Grow Old: Bertrand Russell on What Makes a Fulfilling Life

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As I getting towards the door of 64, it’s nice to have a look at what the philosophy tells about it. I feel somehow experienced as a look back in my life in which I had got so many traces. They aching now and then but also I perceive them as my acknowledgement.

via; https://www.brainpickings.org/

“The worldviews of people in the first half of life are generally rooted in the external world. In contrast, the worldviews of people in the second half of life tend to be rooted less in the physical or mundane and increasingly in the nonphysical or metaphysical (or spiritual).” Dr Carl Gustav Jung

“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.”

How to Grow Old: Bertrand Russell on What Makes a Fulfilling Life

“If you can fall in love again and again,” Henry Miller wrote as he contemplated the measure of a life well lived on the precipice of turning eighty, “if you can forgive as well as forget if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical… you’ve got it half licked.”

Seven years earlier, the great British philosopher, mathematician, historian, and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) considered the same abiding question at the same life-stage in a wonderful short essay titled “How to Grow Old,” penned in his eighty-first year and later published in Portraits from Memory and Other Essays (public library).

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Bertrand Russell

Russell places at the heart of a fulfilling life the dissolution of the personal ego into something larger. Drawing on the longstanding allure of rivers as existential metaphors, he writes:

Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

In a sentiment which philosopher and comedian Emily Levine would echo in her stirring reflection on facing her own death with equanimity, Russell builds on the legacy of Darwin and Freud, who jointly established death as an organizing principle of modern life, and concludes:

The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things he cares for will continue. And if, with the decay of vitality, weariness increases, the thought of rest will not be unwelcome. I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do and content in the thought that what was possible has been done.

Portraits from Memory and Other Essays is an uncommonly potent packet of wisdom in its totality. Complement this particular fragment with Nobel laureate André Gide on how happiness increases with age, Ursula K. Le Guin on aging and what beauty really means, and Grace Paley on the art of growing older — the loveliest thing I’ve ever read on the subject — then revisit Russell on critical thinkingpower-knowledge vs. love-knowledgewhat “the good life” really meanswhy “fruitful monotony” is essential for happiness, and his remarkable response to a fascist’s provocation.

“Behold, I am the prophet of the lightning!”

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The Surrealist Junky

West_-_Benjamin_Franklin_Drawing_Electricity_from_the_Sky_(ca_1816) Benjamin West – Franklin drawing electricity from the sky (1816)

“I love all those who are like heavy drops falling singly from the dark cloud that hangs over mankind: they prophesy the coming of the lightning and as prophets they perish. Behold, I am the prophet of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud!”

– Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

***

conductor enraptured

beckoning forth the glorious maelstrom

to o’erthrow the ages

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Black Dot|نقطه سیاه

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A Voice from Iran

A professor came to class and asked his university students to get ready for an unexpected exam. The students got a little scared because they were not prepared.

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The professor put the paper on everyone’s desk and said: “Now turn over your papers. You have 60 minutes to answer.”

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Everyone turned their papers and saw a blank page with a black dot in the middle. They were so confused and looked at the professor, wondering what he expected them to write. It just seemed so crazy.

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The professor said: “Write about what you see in this page.”

60 minutes passed and everyone handed in their papers.

The professor started reading each one of the answers. Every student explained the situation of the black dot in many different ways.

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The professor said; “I wanted to exam the way of your thinking. None of you wrote about the white part of the…

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A Heresy for the 21st Century: Nobodaddy

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The_Ancient_of_Days-William Blake 1794 The_Ancient_of_Days-William Blake 1794

The strange, visionary genius of the English poet and painter William Blake, one of the touchstones here and the feature of a number of posts including The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Proverbs of Hell, Auguries of Innocence and Tyger Tyger, is of such depth and complexity that it has invited any number of interpretations, including, somewhat improbably in my opinion, becoming a standard bearer for atheistic humanism. That Blake espoused an idiosyncratic, Hermetic form of humanism is beyond dispute, however Blake was deeply religious, albeit in a unorthodox and heretical fashion, and was vehemently opposed to the materialistic atheism that was beginning to emerge during the Enlightenment, a period where quantity began to supplant quality.

Suggestions for possible sources of Blake’s dense and highly personal mythology have ranged from Neo-Platonism to Buddhism and although Gnosticism is mentioned in the melange, it has been…

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