I’m noticing a resurgence of interest these days in the whole counter-initiatory, gnostic paranoia, school of analysis out on the internets these days, and I suppose that’s natural when all the bleakest wet dreams of malthusians, libertarian psychotics and primitivists all appear to unfolding on schedule.
I can’t really point the finger, because I arguably played a major role in taking this stuff to another level. At least among left wing occultists, and spiritually minded social liberals. Let’s just call it the Jeff Wells school.
To me it’s just a bit of fun. Adds some color to the otherwise gut-wrenching parade of daily tragedies and cycling through the dukkha nanas of insight practice, so let us dance around a bit.
It’s important to remember that the core feature of gnosticism, at least the branch that concerns us here, is the predominance of dualistic themes of ignorance, and knowledge, evil and good, light and darkness, etc. The more modern re constructionist tendencies in the gnostic community tend more towards something that resembles mahayanna buddhism for Christians, only without the clear practice instructions, but that’s neither here nor there.
Historically gnosticism is absolutely and unequivocally an offshoot of the hellenistic philosophies. All you have to do is look at their terminology. “demiurgos” is straight out of platonism, for example. Their cosmology is likewise straight up neo-platonism, like most early Christianity. Modern scholarship leads us to believe that jesus himself was a hellenistic philosopher, not a judaic rabbi, or an independent flowering of some kind, so there’s no reason to think gnosticism is anything but another side branch of greek thought.
Where these derivations stray is that platonism doesn’t invest in dualism, which is basically a recipe for ideological trench warfare that goes nowhere. There is only the One, also known as the Good, and anything else is only absence of the good, or of oneness. There is no opposing force. Full stop.
So really the gnostic paranoid notion of evil, or the neo-traditionalist pattern of degeneration is only a perceptual phenomenon, not an actuality. Which is a safer and saner way of dealing with this stuff: as a perceptual filter, not an ontological reality.
To me, whether or not the most wildly depraved thing in the universe actually happens or not, is an open question. What isn’t open is whether or not people think that they happen, which in and of itself opens up some rather disturbing and interesting areas of inquiry. For instance: whether or not aliens actually exist, you have a profound number of people who really do think that aliens exist and interact with them, physically. That’s not a curiosity, it’s a psychic epidemic.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I thought I’d spend a little time on a more top-down view of this then you usually get, and march it down through a few layers until we get to the ground level.
So we start with the one, also known as the good. What makes things one unto themselves, and thus provides for their existence. What provides for existence is the highest good and hence the two terms are considered the same. And because it is “The One”, not “A One”, when you talk about it in this way, there is no other, and hence the one encompasses everything. Hence, everything is good. Period. It is the principle of absolute unity and non-duality.
Now, here’s where we get into gnostic territory: at some point the One decides to make something. Because it is the only thing that exists, and because it is good, it can only make something good, and can only use itself as a model for that making. It thus generates a copy of itself that will be the ‘idea in the mind of god’ that will serve as the model for creation itself, also known as the Logos, or the Word. In every case of a rational principle at work there must be intent, which requires a model for actions, or the ideal goal, thus the model must precede the copy, which in this case means the One must precede the logos, and the logos must precede the creation of the material universe.
But a funny thing happens when the one does this: because it possesses the quality known as Ousia, it is fully transparent to itself, it can turn on itself and know itself in all ways ( this is the analogous principle to mindfulness in humans) and thus can lend all of it’s features to the model, with a major and profound exception: Because as soon as there are two things, the creator and the creation, there is no longer “The One”, but rather two things that are “ones-unto-themselves”, so to that extent, neither one of them is any longer the perfect one, or likewise, the perfect good, at least when regarded in this way.
From the first perspective, nothing has actually changed, and “The One” is still the same, and indeed, the one lacks any qualities that would allow it to change in any way, as any change can only deviate from perfection. Complex eh?
So from our second perspective, there are now two things: the transcendant maker, also known as the demiurge, and the first creation, also known as the logos. Both are subordinate to the one, and can thus both be regarded as creations of the one.
So even here, at this early stage, there is no dualism, but a trinity. The One, the demiurge, and the logos. And every further step from the perfect one, no matter how perfect of a copy it is, can only be less and less a perfect good, because each new thing only introduces new division and new disunity. Just as when the one tries to reproduce itself and loses the quality of perfect oneness, because every copy can theoretically reproduce everything except that which makes a thing what is it is unto itself, every copy is slightly distorted from its model. Thus, the farther you go down this chain of perception, the less good there is.
This is where we get the illusion of evil.
to be continued…