Conservatives are realizing we haven’t just lost a few arguments on social issues, global warming, or the economy. We wish. Rather, like something out of “The Matrix,” the very cosmic architecture that allows for argument in the first place has warped beyond recognition. We are witnesses to a logicide, the murder not just of discussion, but the possibility of any framework for discussion.
Some of us have been screaming in the wilderness about the effects our cultural Gnosticism is having on public discourse. (See here, here, here, here, and here, for starters.) It’s a very real thing, and you’d better get a handle on it if you want a roadmap for the future.
No less than Pope John Paul II said, “Gnosticism…has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or para-religion, in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian.”
Additional insights from political philosopher William Voegelin, existentialist philosopher Hans Jonas, and literary critic Harald Bloom reveal Gnosticism as a “theory of everything” explaining transgenderism, change-the-world utopianism, gay marriage, the erosion of borders, but also movements in conservative Christian circles like contemporary worship and the mega-church movement. It helps explain why media-induced phantasmia—manipulation through music, movies, and trending Internet memes—are the new authorities. It explains how the personality cult has become the default venue for social organization.
And it explains why we can’t do a damn thing about it.
Tripping Against Reality
Why? Because conservatives live, as Rush Limbaugh puts it, in Realville. Realville doesn’t matter to people who think the cosmos is a Dali landscape or the product of mental construction. You say “2 + 2 = 4,” they say, “My, what pretty curvy lines those twos are, but how rigid, enclosed, and exclusive that four is! And notice the phallic nature of that equal sign, with its patriarchal, lineal sequentiality!”
Think I’m kidding? Check out this claim that the invention of the alphabet ended goddess-worship and introduced patriarchalism. It suggests the invention of TV and other media has been wonderful, because its flickering light in the darkness emulates how information traveled in pre-literate days when cavemen gathered around the fire telling stories, worshiping goddesses…and stuff.
The glory of such a position is that, if anyone opens his mouth against such nonsense, he is ipso facto perpetuating the corrupt system. Of course, this is a classic petitio principii. But, silly us, there we go again, phallically using ideas possible only within certain logical constructs—Latinate, at that!—perpetuating the linguistic rape that defines Western history. It’s maddening, but it’s where we’re at.
The Roots of Logicide
As I studied for my book on this topic, I repeatedly thought, “These people have been telling us exactly what they’re doing all along!” Regarding logicide, for instance, Gnostics have from the beginning said destroying language prefaces tearing down the cosmic architecture for Realville.
Plato didn’t help things with his allegory of the cave, which suggested what we see and experience in Realville is an illusion. Neoplatonists ran with this idea and taught that the multiplication of being—individuation—is the result of a fall from “the One” into the many, and salvation happens when we realize the individuality of material beings is defective and pursue a mystical ascent back into the One.
For Plato and the Neoplatonists, however, individual material beings at least reflected higher beings. They were the beginning of a restored soul. Aristotle, with his focus on particulars, and Plato, with his focus on the One, could still discuss things in the School of Athens. They were monists: fall and return was part of the whole cosmic cycle.
Not so the dualistic Gnostics. They’ve left completely the cosmic setting of the School of Athens, the realm of dialectic (or dispute). For them, the material world—and its derivative individualism—was the creation of a lesser, fallen Demiurge.
Individuals, the results of the division of being, are essentially evil, deceptive, and corrupt. It’s because of individuation we have a fissured mind, a mind that constructs a cosmic architecture of particular beings, each with boundaries denoting its existence as distinct from all others. From a Gnostic perspective, this leads to the myth of “ego” versus “other,” the root of all evils that prompts other evils such as “male versus female,” “us versus them,” or “my property versus your property.” Both the Greeks and the Hebrews, with their centrality of the word and property-defining law, conspired in this cosmic crime.
If language denotes a one-to-one correspondence between multiple words and multiple beings, but the multiplication of being is evil, then the corresponding language is also evil. Letters are fetters. Here’s the kicker: If salvation requires escaping one’s individualized, flesh-and-blood person through discovering an abstracted, otherworldly higher Self, this salvation requires breaking the fetters of language itself. This occurs through supposedly supra-rational modes of communication like poetry, music, dance, imaging, mysticism, and even sex.
As Schuyler Brown perfectly summarized it, “Gnostics and orthodox [are] guided by two different root metaphors….The masculine Logos [and] the feminine figure of Sophia.” He continues, “In the Gnostic reading of Scripture, sexuality, not speech, is the root metaphor. The beginning of the cosmic process is not the divine word but an act of autoeroticism.” Thus the death of the Logos.
Straight from the Gnostic’s Mouth
The Gnostic “Gospel of Truth” describes the “knowledge of the living book” whose letters “are not vowels nor are they consonants, so that one might read them and think of something foolish, but they are letters of the truth,” which “surpass every form (and) sound.”
That sets the tone for a new sort of book-burning. Channeling many a New Age pastor, the Gnostic “Exegesis of the Soul” says, “[I]t is by being born again that the soul will be saved. And this is due not to rote phrases or to professional skills or to book learning.” This explains why the many crypto-Gnostic Millenarian and Anabaptist movements of the Middle Ages involved burning all theology books but the Bible. Why do you need a pastor with all his brainy book learning when your heart connects you straight to God?
Or there’s this insightful comment from the “Gospel of the Egyptians”: “iiiiiiiiiiiiii eeeeeeeeeeee oooooooooooooooooooooooo uuuuuuuuuu eee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa oooooooooooooooo oooooooooooo.” Isn’t that essentially the argument for gay marriage? Or was it my sermon notes from the charismatic service? (Donna Minkowitz rightly doesn’t see a difference.) When the Islamic Gnostic Sufis ask questions like, “Why is the sound of an onion?” we’ve officially exited Realville.
The Main Suspect for Logos’ Murder: Eros
Denying language, reality, and the one-to-one correspondence between the two has its advantages. Religions based in words, doctrines, liturgy, and names ritualize and therefore externalize the confession of its adherents, forcing them either to embrace or reject these in times of persecution. Confessing a name or even a doctrine can mean a Christian’s death. But when language is debased and you think your religion transcends all earthly forms, you can cloak your religion in non-rational ways, such as the love song.
This is what many scholars argue the troubadours did. They suggest the troubadour movement (the first literary movement to use the vernacular languages of France, Spain, and Italy) was sublimated Catharism, the major Gnostic movement of the Middle Ages suppressed by the Church. The poet singing his ached love song to a lady he’ll never get is the Gnostic passionately seeking the hand of his Sophia, who reaches out from the One to pull him out of this ugly world of earthly institutions, like marriage.
Have you ever wondered why the word “Romantic” means “vernacular languages based on Latin,” “passionate love,” and “a philosophical movement centered on poetry and transcendental ideas”? Or have you ever wondered why passion means both “the suffering Christ did on the cross” and “strong, amorous, sexual desire”? It goes back to those “root metaphors” of Logos versus Eros.
Romantic scholar Paul Davies doesn’t miss the connection. In his “Romanticism and the Esoteric Tradition” (1998), he catalogues the various intersections between Romanticism and the esoteric (Gnostic) movement. The foundational element in both is the failure of language, logic, and reason to accurately convey truth.
John Keats channels blatant Gnosticism when he writes, “There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions—but they are not Souls till they acquire identities.” Samuel Coleridge speaks of the “outlines, and differencings by quantity, quality and relation” and one’s “birth place” as the causes of a “relative individual” which is “an alien of which they know not.” That is, our very birth into individuality is an alienation from our “authentic Selves” of who we really are. So, if you’re born a woman in a man’s body…
What, then, of language? Language is a fallen universe of multiple words needed for a fallen universe of multiple beings. And it’s all bunk. As Coleridge said, the “very words that convey [our individuality] are as sounds in an unknown language.” Davies summarizes the Romantic point, explaining how poetry is the one acceptable form of language because it’s the “collapse of language.” He adds (in his own italics), “language only moves close to the Unity when its sequencing function is frustrated and it collapses, closes in on itself.”
Logicide and Collectivism
Do you see that “moves close to the Unity”? That ought to chill you, because it gives divine sanction to the quest for collectivism, in which individualism is lost as we return to our pre-fall collective condition. But don’t miss the role the collapse of language plays in the move to unity. As long as language is accepted as possible, sequential, illuminating, defining, and reflective of natural truths, it gets in the way of the move toward unity.
It is through language, after all, that differing opinions lead to differing positions, and thus the rise of nations, philosophies, religions, and denominations, all of which create a world of contradictory interests, and all of which can only work together under a regime of pluralistic federalism, in which truth is seen as (a) possible, (b) insufficiently attained by any one person, and (c) something to be pursued together with mutual humility and respect using language.
This is why the federal system of the forefathers was so brilliant, but also why it is intolerable to the Gnostic who claims to have transcended this corrupt, pluralistic situation and glimpsed the essential Unity. The idea is, You all flop around in your little culture-based truths and linguistic thought forms; I’ve glimpsed the pure truth and essential Unity of the cosmos. (See Reza Aslan.) Less other-worldly Gnostics then make this a political program: The pure truth of the cosmos is the Unity toward which History is leading, and those with secret knowledge (gnosis) will lead the way!
Federalism cannot suffice for the Gnostic, so the language upon which it depends must be collapsed. It must be deconstructed. It must be replaced by new paradigms of communication, all of which the enlightened use to manipulate the unenlightened—like music, archetypes, images, phantasmia, and passionate sentiments of love and emotion. It’s far easier to induce then rally a love-starved people behind an image or a song than to break things down into their doctrinal parts and engage them.
Friedrich Nietzsche laid the groundwork for the new gods and new cosmic architecture of the postmodern, deconstructed rabbit hole we live in today. He was reading transcendentalist (i.e. Romanticist) Emerson while writing “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” which proclaimed the death of God, but more to the point, the death of the logocentric cosmic architecture. He too looked back to the troubadours as prophets of a new age, proclaiming that “love as passion is our European specialty” and that the West “owes so much [to the troubadours] and, indeed, almost itself.”
Where Logicide Occurs Today
Reflecting on those words of Nietzsche, who woulda thunk that the current spiritual climate is a Western colonization of the human mind? This is the paradox the postmodern Left constantly runs into and won’t admit, but their multicultural, logos-transcending ideals are precisely the terminus of distinctly Western thinking.
On these terms, medieval catholic culture represents an occupation force in the West founded on Judaism (with its centrality of the word and talmudic reasoning) and Christianity (with its sacredness given the flesh through the incarnation of the Word). This Judeo-Christian cosmic architecture must come tumbling down if the grand product of Western thinking is to flourish. As one revolutionary put it, “Our revolution is not merely a political or social revolution; we are at the outset of a tremendous revolution in moral ideas and in men’s spiritual orientation. Our movement has at last brought the Middle Ages, medieval times, to a close.”
Oh, by the way, that was Hitler, whose view ex-fascist Hermann Rauschning re-worded thus: “[Were not the Jews] the protagonist of the independence of the spirit, and thus the mortal enemy of the coming age? . . . And was not the whole hated doctrine of Christianity, with its faith in redemption, its moral code, its conscience, its conception of sin, the outcome of Judaism? Was not the Jew in political life always on the side of analysis and criticism?”
Analysis and criticism, logic and rationality, words that mean things, beings defined by nature, institutions reflecting natural order, Realville, these are all part of the “spiritual orientation” passed on from the Middle Ages, and it’s coming to a close with the advent of the new age.
So it is that the revolution is all but complete. The analytical, logo-centric foundation which has brought about democracy, the dignity of the individual, federalism, the pursuit of truth, ideals of beauty (for the arts), and a basis for morality has been replaced by one in which image replaces word, paradox and play replace coherence and logic, collectiveness replaces individuality, and an abstracted Self replaces the physical person as the locus of identity and the source of “values.” Meanwhile passionate, erotic, achy longing promises liberation from the oppressive systems of this world—Eros is all that matters. (Ecce homo novus!)
The boundaries between beings become warped like an LSD-induced mindscape. Boundaries between male and female, my property and your property, our country and other countries, warp. The Internet and computer warp our very Selves, alienating them from a personhood understood according to flesh-and-blood human nature and neighborly contact. The flesh itself becomes nothing more than an incidental medium for our self-expression, a shell to escape at death and then incinerate. Aren’t human bodies a virus on Mother Earth anyways?
Logicide Severs Us from Our Founding
Marilyn Ferguson in her “Aquarian Conspiracy” (1987), forecasting the coming glories of the new age, explained the grounds for today’s logicide in Romantic terms: “Words and sentences have given us a false sense of understanding…Life is not constructed like a sentence, subject acting on object…Language frames our thought, thus setting up barriers.”
Gnostic antinomianism requires breaking all such barriers and rules, so it shouldn’t surprise us that there has been a war against the confining work of grammar itself. This was the sad tale told by David Mulroy, who references Peter Elbow’s influential textbook, “Writing With Power,” as one source of today’s logicidal evils. In it, for instance, Elbow suggests that “nothing helps [ones] writing so much as learning to ignore grammar.”
Such emphasis in today’s classroom surely helps explain the reoccurring complaint of college professors that today’s students lack basic comprehension and analytical skills. Mulroy himself did an experiment in his classroom in which he gave his students the assignment of summarizing in their own words a famous piece of writing. See if you can detect what famous words the following sentence is intended to re-phrase: “Cut your earthly bonds and wear the mantle of Nature and God. Wield the power and declare justly your ascension from man’s law. Then all shall bow before your might.”
That’s how one of his students summarized the prologue to the Declaration of Independence. His surreal summary was typical. Thomas Jefferson’s objectively clear words become nothing more than window-dressing for the student’s narcissistic, sub-Nietzschean will to power, a veritable metaphor for today’s Millennial. Who wants to bet that this student from the ’90s grew up and was nourished politically and philosophically from “The Daily Show”?
Name It and Shame It
Where does this leave us? We need serious discussion of this question. I don’t believe we stand a chance trying to beat logicidal maniacs at their own game. It would require conservatives fighting in Fantasyville with the weapons of Realville. You saw what happened to bullets in “The Matrix.”
Similarly, if we’re going to try to make our case with better music, movies, images, or more boundary-breaking sexuality, we will lose. It doesn’t come naturally to us. Movies like “God’s Not Dead” make the choir feel cool, but are a laughingstock to those outside. Same with contemporary Christian pop and most attempts of contemporary Christianity to use the tools of our Gnostic culture in the Christian cause, like using sex to sell a sermon series or using the music of U2 in a U2-charist service. The medium is the message, and the message fosters the Gnostic demons decaying our culture, which might explain why the strategy isn’t working and Christianity continues its decline in America.
I do believe, however, that you defeat Gnosticism by doing the one thing it hates more than anything else: name it, label it, define it, categorize it, and deflate its pretense to transcendent status. That’s fighting it on our turf (and that is what I am doing in this essay). Ever notice how what is hip and trendy is so until identified so? That’s because our American understanding of “cool” is to transcend whatever is considered conventional. As soon as a trend is recognized and named as a trend, it becomes conventional and thus something new to transcend. It’s a bunch of paradoxical, existentialist claptrap, but it drives hipsterism. But how do you pursue being cool when pursuing being cool itself is the convention?
Similarly, I don’t know how often I’ve listened to some Millennial explain smartly how he doesn’t subscribe to organizations or religions, but believes God transcends names and is this spiritual force out there that we all tap into in our own unique ways. I say, “Oh, so you’re ‘spiritual but not religious,’” or, “Yeah, that’s called a ‘none,’” or if we get philosophical, I say, “Ever hear of Gnosticism? Because that’s what you are.” Then I add, “By the way, did you know this is the fastest-growing religious identity?”
Their faces become crestfallen, because in the idiom of hipsterism, you might as well have just told them they belong to First Presbyterian Church in 1955 and love Pat Boone. And that can’t stand.
So simply naming the demon of Gnosticism should take some of the edge out of its popularity. Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the one thing Realville has on its side: reality. Reality is its own proof. You don’t have to prove gravity to a Wile E. Coyote who appears to defy it for a few seconds in Fantasyville.
Because reality is its own proof, language reflecting it is its own proof, as well. Language can’t be forced any more than redefining womanhood can be forced. Things settle down to their natural state. Biological clocks tick. Debt clocks tick. Things slowly return to normalcy when the phantasmic house of cards on which Fantasyville is built begins to fall. People wake up from the Gnostic-induced slumber and realize those barbarians at the gates have real knives, ready to manifest what an abortion culture really implies, that it encroaches upon the born.
Pixie dust, unicorns, and gender-confused Americans stoned on drugs, sex, media, and computer games have nothing ideologically to counter ISIS, Russia, or China, to say nothing of internal threats like the corrosion of marriage, family breakdown, suicide, a failing education system, or damaged children. Current attitudes on each of these issues are phantasmic bubbles waiting to break.
Nature will takes its course on these issues and a whole lot of other things. When it does, our culture will need a few sole survivors of Realville to explain what just happened. Unfortunately, if history is a guide, Rush may have to set aside his office of Realville mayor and assume the role of abbot for an Irish monastery circa 700 AD, preserving the remnants of civilization for a long distant future.