Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Gnostics of the World, Unite!

The New Republic's Michael Crowley is reporting that Mitt Romney's favorite novel is a tome by L. Ron Hubbard. Crowley thinks this is "amazing". I find it less so, since Mormonism and Scientology are both made-in-America Gnostic religions with science fiction undertones. Gnosticism appeals in America because of its individualism and sense of narcissism.

Traditional Gnosticism believes in a Platonic metaphysical dualism that sees the world and all of creation as evil. Since creation is evil, it cannot have been created by a benevolent God. No, the creator is an evil God, a demiurge, often identified with the God of the Jews. Beyond all this lies a greater God, a good God. And here is the crux: within every human being lies a "spark of the divine" that is itching to be re-united with this greater God and escape the confines of the evil materialistic world. And how to escape? Escape comes through knowledge, gnosis, often hidden esoteric knowledge available only to a select few.

Both Mormonism and Scientology have imbibed key aspects of Gnosticism, in that they see the difference between God and creation as one of degree, not of kind, and view humanity as returning to some kind of equality with God. Mormonism views God not as an uncreated supreme being who created everything out of nothing (the Christian view) but as (in the words of Damon Linker) "a finite being who evolved into his present state of divinity from a condition very much like our own and then merely 'organized' preexisting matter in order to form the world". Pious Mormons hope to be "Gods" some day, in charge of their own planet. Scientologists believe that there are trapped "thetans" (immortal spiritual beings) inside every human body yearning to escape. This, in particular, is no more than traditional Gnosticism with some science fiction thrown in for good measure. No wonder Romney likes it!


Franklin Jennings said...

Excellent post. I wish you had spent more time fleshing out why you think gnosticism appeals so much here. An historian I know once summed it up the best yet for me: "Gnosticism has secrets that will make you more powerful and successful; the Church only has Mysteries, which leave you feeling rather small."

Anonymous said...

MM: Speaking of the New Republic -and sorry this is off topic - but you have to read the Jonathan Chait piece "Character Flaw" in this week's (May 7) issue. It's priceless.

Morning's Minion said...

Yes-- just last night-- Chait is always excellent.

Antonio Manetti said...

Did anyone see the recent PBS documentary on Mormonism?

Although the doctrine strikes most as truly bizarre, the documentary made the followers appear to be the epitome of upright, wholesome, family-oriented rectitude.

Chris said...

I didn't see the PBS show on Mormonism but this reminds me of the belief that a Mormon marriage joins people "for eternity". Mitt Romney grew up near me and I remember when his brother Scott got married. It was the Wedding of the Year with tons of press. The bride converted from Catholicism to Mormon and they were married "for eternity" at the temple in Salt Lke City. They eventually divorced and both are now married to others. So how do they get around the "married for eternity" thing? Is that belief shucked out the window when a marriage fails or are they supposedly joined for eternity to someone they can no longer stand? It would be interesting to know how that's supposed to play out. I only ask because the Romneys were/are extremely devout high profile Mormons.

Dorrin MacBillion said...

Famous Satanics of history, notably Adam Weishaupt and Alasdair Crowley, were apostate Catholics who translated their profound knowledge of the Holy Catholic Church into gnostic rites. I think it's important to remember that gnosticism has always been linked to Satan's attack on the Eternal Church -- witness the Manichaeans.

O Blood and Water, which hast gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in Thee!