Updated: Dec 3, 2021
If you survey the right for a time you will encounter the term “Gnosticism” used in a dismissive way; to dismiss an idea or individual as Gnostic has become, as they say online, “a meme”; it basically means that the idea is very bad and will probably lead to concentration camps and mass death—usually, its use is followed up with a Chesterton quote. The peace has been disturbed, but we can pack away all this unpleasantness about Gnostics—perhaps to be dismissed with “the postmodernists”—and get back to the important point, noble but futile attempts to stop the left’s progress.
The man most responsible for this meme is Eric Voegelin; he developed the thesis that the 20th-century totalitarian regimes were all, in one way or another, Gnostic; consequently, we should dismiss Gnosticism altogether. Voegelin enthusiasts tend to be a bit dilatory in their acknowledgement that progressivism—the belief system that rules the West—also counts as Gnostic in Voegelin’s schema; perhaps that would involve uncomfortable questions about their own positions at various think tanks—better to safely condemn the long-vanished Communists and National Socialists; and then condemn anyone who disagrees with the current political system, lest it all end up in “Gnostic totalitarianism”.
When Voegelin says “Gnosticism” he might as well say, in fact, “German philosophy”, for the most part. As you are doubtless aware, Gnosticism means “to know”—to know God, specifically—and this can be contrasted to the orthodox Catholic position that Voegelin puts forward, a position set in Aristotelian amber by St. Augustine. The orthodox position is that we just have to have faith—we cannot know one way or the other—and the exercise of faith, under the Church’s guidance, constitutes what it means to be Christian.
Voegelin’s basic thesis is that the 20th century constitutes a punishment for man’s hubris; particularly, really, for Hegel’s hubris, since Marxism and National Socialism were both Hegel’s children; and Hegel was a Gnostic—not in the strict subjective sense that he was inducted into a Gnostic mystery school, but rather in the sense that he thought in a Gnostic way and was inspired by alchemy. The clash between the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany could seen, really, as two interpretations of Hegel duking it out in the East’s icy fastness—philosophy has consequences.
The way into German philosophy is through the Black Forest: the forest in Grimm’s fairytales wherein lies—amidst the cold and damp darkness and compacted pines—a clearing in which a light beam flashes down to provide sudden illumination. In short, the history of German thought—from Eckhart to Hegel to CG Jung—is a story where darkness is brought to light; and this is Gnostic. Gnosticism is actually a rather old idea; in fact, I would say it is the primordial religious idea: it is found in the first Western philosopher, Heraclitus, and it is found in the East’s Yin and Yang—and, as that famous latter symbol suggests, it is a process whereby darkness and light are reconciled; we draw up something from the darkness into the light, in the process dualism is overcome.
This situation, the coincidence of opposites, can be summed up in the statement by Heraclitus: “Couples are wholes and not wholes, what agrees disagrees, the concordant is discordant. From all things one and from one all things.” As Norman Mailer put it: an artist and a soldier must be both disciplined and spontaneous—and, in fact, it is their very discipline that allows for true spontaneity. This statement does not just apply to soldiers and artists; it applies to everything—the paradoxical reconciliation of opposites is metawisdom; indeed, it is to know the divine. As Hannah Arendt observed: real thought is to hold two contradictory ideas in your mind at the same time; anything else, as Heidegger would say, represents ratiocination, not thought in the true sense.
This is why Heraclitus refers to the bow, the bow is held in tension: “The name of the bow (bios) is life (bios), but its work is death.” The pun on bios (“life” and “bow”) itself encapsulates the coincidence of opposites (life and death; the instrument that causes death stands for life). To keep the bow in tension is the art of life—the goal is to produce a sweet sound from the tension, and the target is death. This refers to the tension found in the coincidence of opposites; the interpenetration between dark and light that leads to what CG Jung calls enantiodromia, a reversal and realisation that terminates in metanoia—a change of heart. So the challenge in life is to keep our bow taut; if everything is in tension we will come to know the divine.
What happened was that the German mystics in medieval times autonomously rediscovered the coincidence of opposites; and this was probably because at the time Germany was a relative backwater, not overly penetrated by sophisticated Christian theology. Germany was the darkness, the forest. Meister Eckhart, Jakob Böhme, Hildegard of Bingen, and others all thought about the coincidence of opposites. Their thought met up with other themes from Gnosticism and also from Kabbalah—a Jewish mystical system, equivalent to the East’s Tantra, that allows a person to gno the divine.
Hence Böhme—a relatively unlettered and uneducated man—began his mystical path when he glanced at light reflected in a glass of water; he claimed he saw all creation in this light-reflected moment, and then he fell silent for twelve years. The sentiment reflects William Blake, a later English mystic and Gnostic, who said: “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour.” For the Gnostic, the entire cosmos is knowable in a particular part: the macrocosm and microcosm—an idea derived from the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, “As above, so below.”
To see all creation in a glass of water or a grain of sand conforms to this Hermetic insight—a Mercurial insight, for Hermes is wingéd Mercury. The alchemist aims to attain the Hermetic caduceus—the staff often used to symbolise medicine today that combines wings with a serpent, above and below; itself a coincidence of opposites. Böhme’s interest in light conforms to an old notion in Kabbalah that our purpose is to recover light from profane matter, light has become entangled in matter and lost its purity—with the correct operations it will be recovered. Indeed, in contemporary physics light becomes entropic when entangled with matter; and there have been those, such as Arthur Young, who have sought to combine science and mysticism so as to establish that our purpose as humans is to recover light from its entanglement with matter in a very literal scientific sense—there really is a light of consciousness; the biblical statement, let there be light, can be experimentally confirmed.
Similarly, Hildegard of Bingen likened individuals to mirrors who reflect God’s greatness; and this accords with Buddhist ideas—Eastern religions are basically all Gnostic—as regards enlightenment. Enlightenment means to become a mirror, you polish the mirror through meditation; eventually the mirror vanishes altogether—it could said that “you” have identified with light. Hildegard’s emphasis on mirrors and Böhme’s interest in light would later reappear in higher German philosophy, especially in Leibniz. Indeed, speculative philosophy—the German tradition in philosophy—literally means “mirror-philosophy”; the word “speculation” derives from the Latin “speculum”, the Latin for “mirror”.
For Leibniz, reality’s ground is the monad; and the monad—represented by the alchemical symbol for the Sun, rather like the Hindoo bindi—could be said to project reality; just as in Kabbalah the Keter, the Crown, projects the unmanifest to create the material world. The unmanifest is represented by the mystery that is “0”—itself the same as the ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail and is a portal to eternity and is also a Hermetic circle; for Hermeticists magic circles are vital, whether in chalk or in cybernetics.
Gnosticism solves a problem that conventional religions frequently encounter: “Why did God create the world?” In the orthodox Christian account, as defended by Voegelin, God creates the world “just because”; he could as well not create the world if he wished; consequently, his decision to create the world seems capricious, or even cruel—and this is, in part, what CG Jung alluded to in his Answer to Job. “Why have you done this to me? What can I do to stop the pain? Why has anything been created at all?”
The Gnostic answer is that God creates in order to know Himself. It is not, as pantheists think, that everything is God—to think in that way loses the transcendent element; rather, we grow out from God in order that he can know Himself—just as in Hegel master and slave depend on each other for mutual recognition, so does the Father require the Son to know Himself. We live in a self-reflexive universe—we are the universe knowing itself—and this process is circular, we are on a long return circuit that will effectively see us become God; we move from undifferentiated consciousness to split consciousness and finally return at a higher stage to undifferentiated consciousness.
As TS Eliot puts it: “We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” The way back, he adds, is “through the unknown, remembered gate” and that is to say through zero, through the ouroboros—through the circle that is consciousness, the circle created when we perceive and are changed by what we perceive only to perceive again; the gateway to eternity, where all points meet. The separation and fallenness people feel is caused by the intellectual accretion that clouds perception—to cleanse the doors of perception means to use techniques, ways of knowing, to destroy the illusion that we are separate from reality; there is no struggle, you are God knowing Himself—or, in more neutral terms, the universe knowing itself; and in this process it becomes alive, it becomes a cosmos and we become cosmic man.
When Heidegger discusses time, for example, imagine that we have Being, our “isness”, as a viscous liquid—perhaps not unlike the red liquid bathed in fluorescent green that is found in lava lamps. Imagine this viscous liquid suspended in another liquid in a glass cylinder; within the cylinder is a circle with a hole in it—and on top is a vacuum pump. The pump draws the red liquid upwards through the gate, through the zero, and as it does so the liquid—Being—is elongated and takes on various organic shapes, not unlike the way the Eagle Nebula stretches upwards (as pictured above this article). All German philosophy—all Gnostic and Hermetic thought—contains this idea: the notion that a “thing”, a gateway, draws us upwards through an absence; we are stretched in organic forms towards the gate, towards zero.
The Gnostic project gels with philosophy because from the start—under the influence of Heraclitus, actually—Plato and Socrates asserted that philosophy seeks to allow a person to remember. This process, a philosophically Germanic process, whereby a person goes into the darkness to recover the light hidden in the dark—the dark hidden in the light—remains essentially Gnostic. You have forgotten what you really are—unmediated consciousness—and so we must reach down into the dark to recover what has been forgotten. As you have probably noticed, this all applies to Freudian and Jungian depth psychology—as it naturally would, since these are techniques steeped in Germanic philosophy; and, in a sense, the techniques are inherent to all philosophy.
This all sounds great, so why is Voegelin upset about it? Voegelin notes that for certain historical Gnostics—particularly the original, so to speak, subjective and self-identified Christian Gnostics—the association with matter as fallenness led them to identify existence itself with corruption and evil; consequently, the body must be scourged or, alternatively, complete indulgence is permitted because what happens materially does not count; existence itself is seen as evil—matter was created by a demiurge, a false God. Further, the techniques that Gnostics use to liberate consciousness from matter could be regarded as immoral; for example, the French poet Rimbaud recommended “derangement of the senses” in order to access consciousness more fully—perhaps this would include drug addiction or sexual excess.
In the Gnostic schema, the exoteric God that people worship is a false God (the demiurge); hence the promise in Hermetic thought is to become as this God, to become as YHWH. In a sense YHWH is supplanted, and in another sense not; for He is just a vehicle for the undifferentiated (for “0”). If the procedures are carried out correctly the Gnostic initiate identifies with the monad—with the vehicle that projects the undifferentiated light; he becomes his own YHWH. This is why the Mormons—heavily influenced by Freemasonry, an organisation that contains much alchemical knowledge—say that after a Mormon dies he will have his own planet to rule over; the religion is really a Gnostic initiation.
This whole process is “beyond good and evil”; for as Nietzsche suggested, ugly and resentful men—such as Socrates—invented the idea of punishment in the afterlife and “inner beauty” because they were themselves twisted and deformed on Earth; the idea that there is punishment and reward after death is “cope”—a way the resentful try to control more capable people. Those who undertake Gnostic initiation—undertake the coincidence of opposites—become as God, become a mediator for the light; as creators they are beyond good and evil—love is beyond good and evil, observes Nietzsche.
Voegelin’s argument is that this viewpoint—the idea that there is an elite initiatory experience only ever open to a few—that asks people to transcend good and evil leads directly to National Socialism, Communism, progressivism, Comte’s Positivism (“the scientific religion”), Freudian and Jungian psychology, and pretty much every negative mass movement to have afflicted the 20th century. These were all elite organisations with which disagreement was not allowed because the initiates had special knowledge and, further, these movements held that the world was fundamentally fallen—not necessarily into matter, but into some error—and that it would be “recovered” through action that would transcend traditional views as to “good” and “evil”. If the world is fundamentally disordered, it follows great destruction must be loosed upon it and the people within it—particularly against the uninitiated; hence the violence seen in 20th-century totalitarianism.
Essentially, these were Promethean movements that established man as God and so caused disaster; in particular, Voegelin notes that Socratic philosophy is a process but Gnosticism ends philosophy—it knows, so there is no more pursuit of wisdom. So technically Hegel is not a philosopher; he has—and this was his own view—ended philosophy with a complete system where he “just knows”; the Socratic dialogue is over. This was why Jung said that he “knew” that God existed, the Gnostic has nowhere else to go—he knows now. Consequently, in political terms there can be no discussion with Gnostic movements because the elite knows the answers; and this leads to oppression—there is no argument with the elite.
The Nietzschean-Gnostic riposte is that Voegelin is a resentful moraliser and priestly type who wants to keep the women, children, and feminine men cowed with tales of “good” and “evil” so that they never understand that reality is the universe knowing itself—and all the better for Voegelin. Indeed, Voegelin only wants a discussion because he wants to conceal reality—as Socrates the Ugly concealed reality with his tedious dialogues—and so preserve his ego and self-importance; for to know God is to annihilate the ego.
From the orthodox Christian perspective, the demand to become as God involves the murder of God; now, for Gnostics this is about the process whereby an individual transcends YHWH—in Greek mythological terms, moves beyond Jupiter (YHWH) to identify with the father he murdered (Saturn-Cronus; the old one, the really old one—the primordial and hidden God, “0”). It does not have to involve a literal murder—although Voegelin makes much of this idea, in my view to demonise Gnostics. For example, the Black Sun stage in alchemy is a stage that involves dissolution and destruction (arguably of the old God) but it leads on to creation; it is one stage, it clears the field to build—it is not necessarily a murder.
Voegelin makes quite a lot about God’s murder as a scandal; and this is because he does not really understand Gnosticism; he thinks that when Nietzsche says, “God is dead,” this is a lie—and all Gnosticism is an error built on this lie. He does not understand that this “murder of God” only refers to a preliminary stage whereby a person encounters the hidden God and then resurrects himself as YHWH—as an intermediary for the hidden God, for the light. For Voegelin, Nietzsche just lies: God cannot be destroyed, YHWH cannot be destroyed—actually he can, it is “0” that is indestructible; and we are after zero.
What Voegelin writes about God’s murder has relevance for recent events. Voegelin recounts a story about two alchemists, two Jews, who summon a golem—an artificial man; a clay man, I always imagine. The golem has a phrase—“God is truth”—etched on his forehead that includes the word “emeth”; upon activation the golem takes a knife and cuts away the aleph, the letter “e” in this transliteration, and turns “emeth” into “meth”; and this means “death” in Hebrew—just like the drug “meth”. Hence the Gnostic operation ends in the statement “God is dead”. The two alchemists are so horrified that they destroy the golem and are chastened as to their violation and interference in God’s kingdom and powers. This has become a recent issue because Mark Zuckerberg has just launched “the Metaverse”, the successor to Facebook; and many people observed that “meta” in Hebrew also means “death”—its formation is related to “meth” in the above story.
Hence Zuckerberg seems to have carried out an alchemical act with his new name; remember, names are integral to alchemy; within alchemy is the notion that everything has a true name, and if an alchemist can master a thing or person’s true name then that person or object will answer to them—you see this concern very much present in Nietzsche and his fascination with etymology, he was a philologist after all; and he also suggests that objects call out to us and speak to us. Nominative determinism is very real, so are magic words. So Zuckerberg’s “meth” is significant, as is the logo for his new company: a droopy infinity—a droopy Möbius strip; and perhaps this suggests an attempt to grasp eternity, albeit in a rather soggy and possibly perverted way.
For Voegelin, this would all be very suspect: Zuckerberg just killed God and put himself in His place—possible global tyranny might be about to follow. For the alchemist, the situation is a little more ambiguous; Zuckerberg might have carried out an alchemical act—possibly in a corrupted and misapplied form—that will grant him access to other layers in his consciousness. Whether or not this portends ill depends on how far you think consciousness should be managed by priests—by the Catholic Church, for example—and how far it should be left up to your own initiative, if capable, to alter your consciousness and seek union with the Godhead.
Generally, I would observe that Voegelin gives “the death of God” in Gnosticism a sinister complexion that it does not necessarily deserve, or only deserves because certain alchemical acts seem naturally sinister or Satanic; another phrase for “the death of God” would be “an ego death”—to liberate consciousness from the intellectual straightjacket imposed by society, parents, and your own rational mind.
The ground established, let us look at a particular Gnostic magician whom Voegelin—with good grounds, I think—opposes: GWF Hegel.
Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) is, at base, a grimoire—a magician’s spell book. This explains why people have so many problems with Hegel, and why they struggle to understand what he means. The text is initiatory; without initiation the content is meaningless. For example, Hegel’s ideas are often referred to as “a logic”; and his detractors will point out that there is nothing logical about his approach. Indeed, his works seem to simply be paradoxical wordplays, easily dispensed with.
The paradoxical wordplay is the point; for it is well-established that wordplay is a way to seek the Holy Grail; with wordplay the magician can peel back consciousness and access its deeper layers—as we saw with the Jewish alchemists and their golem, the words really are the point; the golem is actually created with words in the first place, for more details just consult the Gematria. In his works Hegel plays with words in apparently paradoxical ways to change consciousness.
As with all Hermetic texts and works, Hegel’s oeuvre is meant to mirror totality—macrocosm and microcosm. It is a technique to achieve the Absolute; and the Absolute is really what Hegel means by “God”—previous religious ideas about God being lower expressions that would eventually terminate in his philosophy. Since his system is total and a full stop, it follows that it must include the irrational, the illogical, and the paradoxical—it must even include the imaginary. So it follows that what is contained within Hegel’s works will often seem contradictory and peculiar, at least to the uninitiated—it is rational that it should be irrational, in parts.
Hegel’s magic was so potent that it summoned Marxism, National Socialism, and our own progressivism—the thought systems that dominated the 20th century and continue to guide us today. A great many men—Marx among them—have literally fallen under Hegel’s spell; thus his thought has been described, particularly by Schopenhauer, as a fever—in modern vernacular, a virus. Yet, given that he was a mage, it would be more accurate to say that people are possessed by Hegelian magic; and this makes sense, for once you have grasped and initiated yourself into Hegelian thought it will feel as if you can explain anything and everything—you have merged with the Godhead (the Absolute), after all. You are, courtesy Hegel, Godlike.
Hegel’s magic can be described quite easily, since every sub-system in his thought reflects the larger whole and vice verse; as above, so below. So I will explain Hegel via his account of History: we start in primordial unconsciousness; everything changes with the Greeks, whose theatre introduced the audience and spectator; with this division undifferentiated primordial consciousness splits, and so begins a long process whereby consciousness divides and reforms—higher and higher—through various civilisations and their ideas until it returns to the Absolute. The highest state is undifferentiated, just as the lower, except the process by which it passed through the lower stages means that it is new yet old; it returns to the beginning, and knows it for the first time—the circle of life.
The practical process by which each development in consciousness is achieved is the dialectic. The dialectic is best imagined as asexual reproduction; a cell splits in two to form a new cell, and the cell is identical to the old cell except it is different (in the immediate sense, it occupies different space and receives different stimuli). Now imagine the same process over and over again throughout history, with consciousness involved in split after split—just like a cell that divides. This is the dialectic; it is sameness yet difference.
Magic could be summarised as techniques—usually symbolic manipulation—that can be used to access consciousness at deeper levels than mundane life. So, for example, contemporary magicians use sigils—letters rearranged into pictures—to create symbols that encode desires into the unconscious and so let the mind get to work on a problem without conscious interference. Hegel’s Phenomenology—his other works—serve precisely the same role; and this is why his works seem so obscure and odd to people—you might as well try to decipher the scratches and curious symbols generated by an Egyptian priest. So in his works, Hegel—though mocked by conventional logicians, philosophers, and scientists—really undertook an enormous creative act, and he changed human consciousness; he created a new world.
This was implicit in his project all along, because he wanted a new mythology that would bring the wisdom of the philosophers to the masses and the masses up to the level of the philosophers; his project was aesthetic, for it implied that beauty would teach again—poetry would educate as it did in the past; and this is why, in part, we see in the fascist movements inspired by Hegel a fascination with the aesthetic experience. Incidentally, Hegel’s desire to create a new myth for the masses contradicts Voegelin’s assertion that a problem with Gnosticism is that it is too elitist; in a sense, Hegel was anti-elitist—he wanted to reconcile elite and mass, not impose an elite’s view by fiat. Of course, for people who work in the coincidence of opposites, you can cannot really say they are elitist or anti-elitist—they are what they are, no dualism here.
Hegel’s efforts in conjuration succeeded, for he summoned up Marxism, National Socialism, Italian Fascism, and even progressivism—modern progressives are “on the right side of History” because they are partly possessed by Hegelian magic; the idea that History tends towards a reconciliation, the Absolute, remains Hegelian. “You can’t fight progress, baby.” Perhaps not, but we can fight Hegelian magic; it is still far too true that “it’s Hegel’s world, you’re just living in it”—we could use a new spell, or three.
To apply Hegel to Hegel: contemporary America reconciles the opposites found in the USSR and National Socialist Germany; in a struggle to overcome the various contradictions in three rival political systems, a synthesis arose: contemporary progressive America. For progressive America is both hyper-nationalistic (“America, fuck yeah!”) as with Hitler’s Germany, but it uses this attitude in a feminine egalitarian cause (“We must invade Afghanistan…to help the oppressed transgender people there.”); the triad is complete. It was Francis Fukuyama—another Hegelian initiate—who announced “the End of History” whereby progressive America represented the most perfect state in History where all contradictions are resolved, just as Hegel thought with Prussia; and this paragraph exemplifies what a heady brew Hegelian magic can be when applied to politics—total explanatory power, just as Voegelin warned against…
Hegel’s grimoire was later adopted into a more famous magic book: Karl Marx’s Capital. The concerns in Capital are Hermetic: Marx charts capital’s circulations, its Hermetic circles—and he uses the alchemical numbers “666” and “333” to do so. Marx is, therefore, another in a long line of Kabbalists, except he was inducted by Hegel and not a Jewish magician. Marx actually perverted Hegel; but, as with all perverts, claimed this was a correction; he “stood Hegel the right way up”. What he did, in fact, was turn Hegel upside down.
In a sense, this is immaterial; Marx swapped consciousness (spirit) out for material processes, for the means of production and its development through History; but the basic magic remained. Marx’s Capital proved as seductive as Hegel’s grimoire—and was filled with its own novel coinages and wordplay. In the end two armies clashed, possessed by these respective spells: one thought that world History was spirit’s unfurling instantiated in Adolf Hitler and the other that it was the means of production in its movement to its full realisation as embodied in the Soviet Union; and both laid waste to millions.
Voegelin makes some true points, but I think his ideas can be corrected with reference to Guénon; a man who advocated gnosis, but who was not “a Gnostic”. Hegel thought that he could create his own grimoire—his own gnosis—without reference to any previous tradition; for Hegel there was no older or lost tradition from which to take inspiration, or to restore. He set out to begin his alchemical work from scratch; and yet, as Guénon would have firmly maintained, there is a large fragmentary tradition of gnosis—a tradition that includes most of Hindooism, Buddhism, Zen, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Mithraic rites, and Sufi mysticism.
So far as I know, Guénon did not have much to say about Hegel—certainly not as a Gnostic; but Hegel’s view that there was no lost tradition would have struck him as profane. With this granted, Voegelin’s critique of gnosis loses its force; for even in Gnostic or Hermetic terms, Hegel’s developments would be seen as what would be expected in the Kali-Yuga, in the Dark Age when true knowledge has been lost.
This would explain why, for example, Jung’s psychoanalysis did not turn into a hysterical mass movement, as with Communism and National Socialism—or even Freudian depth psychology. Jung based his work more in the traditional gnosis—as did the Anglican Buddhist Alan Watts—and so avoided any widespread pathology. Indeed, it is a weakness in Voegelin’s work that not all Gnostic movements turn into hysterical and oppressive mass movements—and that is because the problem is not gnosis, the problem is free-style magic and alchemy (and irresponsibility, basically the same thing). As with any technique, gnosis is only as effective and “good” as its practitioner; and from a certain perspective Hegel operated in the dark—he was a real sorcerer’s apprentice, he conjured a great many errant brooms.
Voegelin seems not to know this; for him it is all “Gnosticism”—and that is a very bad thing, because when people use concepts from it bad things happen. He overlooks the fact that, in many ways, “Gnosticism” has just been normal religious practice for mankind; it is the Abrahamic religions and Platonism that represent the aberration—and also a component in, from a Traditionalist perspective, the Kali-Yuga; a movement to a lower spirituality, faith without knowledge and morality without love.
So I am not with Voegelin, I think he failed to penetrate deeply enough into what Gnosticism actually is. He was, as with many people, desperate to understand why Communism and National Socialism had happened—he himself had been turfed from Germany by the National Socialists. He correctly identified a basic drift in German philosophy, towards the light in the depths, and then pinned the whole problem on Gnosticism. Really, Hegel invented his own mystery school; and that is an act that Gnostics as traditionally understood would have disagreed with. For example, not all Gnostics—here some draw a line between Gnostics and Hermeticists—thought that the demiurge was evil or that all matter was corrupt and needed to be destroyed; they had no Marxian or fascistic thirst to destroy the fallen world—although Voegelin happily imputes this to them.
Incidentally, Voegelin’s approach would also rule out experimental science; for when Voegelin speak about “science” and his own scientific thought he means Aristotle’s science, whereby everything is worked out from first principles through Aristotle’s logic. In this schema, everything has an end and purpose; everything is directed to the summum bonum (the highest good). Yet if this approach is taken, experimental science disappears; the “purpose” for everything can be worked out in your armchair with Aristotelian logic—case closed. The advantage in this approach is that man has a purpose—to serve and praise God—and yet the disadvantage is that it does not produce truths about reality.
Better to decapitate purpose and understand that it is superior “to be”—to identify with consciousness—than operate by delusion. Although Voegelin claims that the Gnostics were dogmatic and not interested in truth, his own adherence to Aristotelian logic and what amounts to Scholasticism in some ways recalls the worst accusations against the Church: the Dark Ages where knowledge was squashed because “we have everything we need in the Bible and the Church’s rituals and Aristotle.” Just have faith that all will be well, never know God, and do what the priests tell you—even as said priesthood becomes increasingly corrupt.
The problem with this approach is that it asserts faith over the truth or truths produced by experimental science; the teleology, worked out in your armchair, must trump what your “lying eyes” show you through experiments—an eye was created so you can see, not because evolution by natural selection periodically forms such organs under certain selection conditions. Personally, I would prefer the truth; and so Gnosticism and experimental science are interlinked—along with Freemasonry, as an alchemical organisation; although Freemasonry is not always opposed to orthodox Christianity.
Germany birthed the Reformation, birthed Luther, and so the Reformation was itself a Gnostic revolt—perhaps completed with Nietzsche, himself from a long line of Protestant preachers, and his desire to reach back to the old pagan gnosis; Apollo and Dionysus, opposites in tension. To me, the search for purpose and direction is a waste of time and a prison; you have already arrived, you already have consciousness—the point is; just know it. I think people like Voegelin know this really; they know that the summum bonum and judgement in the afterlife are chimeras, stories for women and children—even though there is another dimension to life.