Saturday, January 13, 2007

You can't make this stuff up

The catalog entry for a book due out in May from a major publisher:
There is a tremendous thirst today for finding the hidden truths of Christianity--truths that may have been lost, buried, or even forbidden by institutional religion over the last two millenia. Among the most compelling of these lost traditions is Gnosticism, which has survived in many (sometimes secret) forms and under many names, such as Egyptian desert mystics, Jewish Kabbalists, the Knights Templar, Freemasons, New Age Spirituality, and in the novels of Philip K. Dick and Dan Brown.
First, the outlines of the problem of the blending of Hellenistic rationality (actually Neo-Platonism) and metaphysics. I'm still trying to figure out if they meant to reference the Desert Fathers in that listing at the end; but certainly "New Age Spirituality" is a mishmosh of every kind of metaphysical grab-bag thinking one can imagine. But what really got me was the link to Philip K. Dick (who used all manner of hallucinogens and psychoactive drugs) and Dan Brown (of whom the less said the better, IMHO.)

Were he still au courant, the only person missing here would be Carlos Castaneda. On the other hand, this is the excerpt from the book:
Sought or unsought, honored or dishonored, gnosis will always be with us. It is both our birthright and the destiny to which each of us will sooner or later be called.
Remember what I said about the bastard child of Platonism and Romanticism? Go back and underline it.

There's nothing wrong with this kind of thinking. But it is just wrong, nonetheless. The whole point of gnosticism, after all, was that it was secret; that it drew a sharp line between "you" and "them," and "they" were the poor, benighted ones who would never walk in the light as you, who had the gnosis, walked in the light. A light they couldn't even see, because they lacked the gnosis (a Greek word meaning "knowledge," by the way; and not necessarily esoteric knowledge). I mean, the whole idea of a mystery cult is that it's a mystery!

But, of course, that doesn't sell books to a mass audience, each one of which has to be convinced they are unique. And they are; but it's not because of the gnosis.

No comments:

Post a Comment