WHAT ISN'T GNOSTICISM
A few things you should know...
To say what something is not is to say what something is - if not a full definition, then at least an outline, a boundary, demarcation, the creation of fences and borders. So, as we bring you along as a witness to this brief struggle of 'What is not Gnosticism', we ask for your patience and understanding if this seems oblique or appears to be dancing around the issue. It’s an important topic, but we don’t want to reify our own world view and biases as the one true GNOSTICISM.
We believe that for Gnosticism to be a force in this world, we need a vast variety of Gnostics and groups coming from a plethora of viewpoints. We need Jungians, occultists, artists, mainline mystics, high church denominational Gnostics, Bloomian literary theorists, scholars, and more! More!! More!!! And we need to respect and learn from each other, no matter what protean form the Gnosis takes for us and how we apply it in our lives and communities.
However, Gnosticism is powerful - the brand and name carry intriguing connotations, the mythologies grab people’s imaginations, it’s obscure and underground while simultaniously being massively influential. So bad actors steal the term Gnosticism and/or some of the myths and ideas, so they can make a quick buck, start cults, spread conspiracies (or even hate speech), or for other nefarious ends. For those of us that love the Gnosis, we have a moral duty to divert new seekers from falling for these scams, and to fight against them to preserve the good name of this thing we love so much.
Here’s the goods - there are a few dangerous, crazy, or scammy groups, trends, and individuals banking on the G word. We feel compelled to share them and we hope you keep the conversation going and let both us and other Gnostics out there know who we need to avoid!
1. Conspiracy Culture: Look, conspiratorial themes are essential to Gnosticism, it’s a cosmic conspiracy! But lizard people, JFK, brain parasites, and QAnon are not Gnosticism. Folks, we all believe plenty of absolutely bonkers things, just crazy ass conspiracies that should probably have us all locked up. Will we ever tell you about them here?... no. Do we think it’s Gnosticism?… no.
There are podcasters, authors, and groups that’ll call their conspiratorial rantings “
'Gnosticism' and charge you a recurring fee to get the ultimate truth through their exclusive member’s only website. We live in the age of the conspiracy theory and it’s a smart grift for unethical people to make a buck, but don’t fall for it.
2. Anti-Semitism: many of us subscribe to the academic theory that Gnosticism began as a Jewish movement, it was never then and is not now antisemitic. But some racist groups and bigots have latched onto the incorrect idea that the Gnostic 'Demiurge' is the 'Jewish God' and try to use Gnosticism to spread their hate.
I know in the 21st Century calling anyone who disagrees with you a Nazi is the default, but there’s people doing real Nazi shit out there and calling it “Gnosticism"; this is more than BS: fight it when you see it.
3. UFO Culture: This could be lumped in with the conspiracy stuff, but deserves it’s own listing as it’s shockingly common online. It’s 'Ancient Aliens' applied to Gnostic mythology: the archons are aliens, the visions and miracles in gnostic texts are ancient people describing tech they don’t understand, humans are actually aliens trapped here, and so on and so forth.
4. Cults: There are some cults influenced by genuine and authentic occult streams and teachings that use the name Gnosticism, but have taken the teachings and perverted them into a system of exploitation. There’s a famous sci-fi cult I won’t name as they’re extremely litigious (you know who I mean...) who don’t use the name or terms from Gnosticism, but steal some of the mythology as it can be so affecting. Some of these are extremely dangerous, while others will leave you a little messed up and with an empty bank account.
Friends, most of us are a joiners. We want to be a Gnostic with other Gnostics and do Gnostic-y things with them in a religious setting. Maybe you’re like that too or maybe it’s not your bag… but if it is, do a lot of work and research before getting involved with a group and read about cult tactics like love bombing. Please know that many (the majority?) of cult members are highly educated and anyone can be sucked in.
This is just scratching the surface and could be (should be?) a whole website on its own. But I’ll close on a positive note: Gnosticism is coming back and growing because the world needs it. If you’re reading this then you have a role to play—there are as many Gnosticisms as there are Gnostics and our diversity is not a weakness, it’s a strength.