Yes, Gnosticism is the problem

As this writer argues, Modern Gnosticism is a problem.

It is a point I have touched on myself at this blog previously.

I have also recently commented on the fact that a mixture of puritanism and feminism seems to have entered the thinking of ordinary Christians; which I diagnose as a form of the ancient Gnostic heresy.

A quote from the first-named blog post:

“We’ve lost the pure mammalian reality of life in flesh suits – we don’t know how to touch other humans in non sexual ways, so we keep animals so we have *something* to touch, and our sex drives go off their rockers.  Women used to groom one another, men used to roughhouse.   Simple touch – a country dance, the rituals of chivalry, a game of tug of war – those things used to remind us (delightfully) of the difference between the sexes.  And humans need touch, from cradle to grave.   But we lost that casual touch, and now we don’t know how to touch at all.  Suddenly you have to give consent for a kiss…”

I think that is an astute set of comments.

Modern Westerners have rather few what I call  “elemental” experiences. That is, genuine, unmediated contacts with human and animal nature, and with the elements. An elemental experience that I have always remembered was being on a commercial fishing boat about to leave port in the evening, with the engine thumping beneath our feet, the glare of the decklights, and the ancient scene being played out of deckhands saying goodbye to the girls on the wharf.

But most of the time these days we are paper-pushers of some kind, and the experiences we have tend to be “canned” for general consumption.

As the above writer implies, sex, typically unconnected to childbirth, has become one of the few elemental experiences left for modern man and woman. The writer also mentions folk dance, as something that used to allow for a certain amount of elemental feeling, of connection with previous generations, of a suitable environment in which to touch other people, especially the opposite sex, with no harm taken.

I think this is part of the charm of this video, which I have posted before. There is an elemental, yet innocent, aspect to this. These days, all of this would be politicised through the lens of gender (or even transgender) politics. But there is a forgetfulness of self about this spectacle, which must have taken the dancers out of themselves and put them in contact with an extensive “folk memory”.


This seems appropriate as well as seasonal:


Here is another nice video I just found:

8 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the link and the commentary, Julian. This has been simmering in the soup pot in the back of my head for a while.


  2. She knocked it out of the park with this one for sure. I appreciate your additional thoughts as well.


  3. Interesting post. Re ‘elemental experiences,’ I’m reminded of Arthur Koestler’s theory about what he called the Tragic and the Trivial planes of life. His friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary, explained the concept thusly:

    “K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.”

    I think a significant motivator of political extremism is the desire to move from the Trivial to the Tragic plane.


  4. The post also reminds me of a passage in Koestler’s sadly-neglected 1950 novel The Age of Longing:

    “Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.”


    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on December 20, 2016 at 2:05 am

      Thanks for that quote and the comments. They really add something.

      I like this ” If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.”

      The modern malaise or accidie or whatever one wants to call it seems to be rooted in the fact that most people don’t face many moments requiring real heroism. Or even endurance. So one is left with “first world problems.” I saw a great deal of hysteria on Facebook, especially among the liberal poets who are so numerous there, about the election of Trump. It is as if they want to dramatise their situation under this president, even though one can be fairly certain that their relatively comfortable lives won’t be affected in reality.


  5. I kind of think we do have all those things and the other examples she mentions in her post. We do have non-sexual touching, we do have the breaking of bread between friends and laughter!

    Of course there is a, I suppose you’d call it ‘gnostic’, way around this, a kind of way of turning a dinner party into a kind of competition – I dunno, virtuously making a point about your voluntary dietary restrictions or something like that. But simple human bodily pleasures keep on breaking through.


  6. Posted by RichardP on December 20, 2016 at 5:25 am

    Julian says “Modern Westerners have rather few … unmediated contacts with human and animal nature, and with the elements. An elemental experience that I have always remembered was being on a commercial fishing boat about to leave port …”

    I also remember a boat experience from when I was in Jr. High School. A group of men and the son of one and his friend (me) went out to sea to fish – to the ocean across the sand bar that is at the mouth of the Columbia River. The sand bar was always covered with dangerously rough water. Out to sea, one of the men had a heart attack. I remember the palpable fear of the men as they navigated that boat back across the rough waters of the sand bar – trying to be as gentle as they could for the sake of their friend. If memory serves correctly, he survived the passage back and was whisked to the hospital, where he recuperated.

    A more earth memory of animal contact; I worked for a dairy farmer while in high school. I was with him one day when one of his cows was sick and couldn’t get up. He needed to move her out of her stall so he could clean it. He took a heavy chain and fastened one end around the cows tail where it connected with the body. Connected the other end to his tractor, put it in gear, and slowly pulled the animal clear of her stall. I was appalled, but learned then and there that cows tails are strong enough to do that with.

    Folks that live around farmers or fishermen (or probably millworkers and others) have a different understanding of “life” than those raised in the city.


  7. Posted by RichardP on December 20, 2016 at 5:30 am

    A more – earthy – memory of animal contact:


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