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…
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.
“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.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
“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).
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.
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.
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!”
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…