Gnosticism, thus, has produced something like the counter-principles to the principles of existence; and, in so far as these principles determine an image of reality for the masses of the faithful, it has created a dream world which itself is a social force of the first importance in motivating attitudes and actions of Gnostic masses and their representatives.Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics
The dreamworld of Voegelin’s Gnostics may be glimpsed while watching the Democratic presidential debates. Listen to their absurd fantasies — of global warming and coastal flooding, of erasing national borders and spending trillions on programs to impoverish us all. Where indeed will the money come from? Indebted to the hilt, this can only accelerate the erosion of prosperity and bring about an unprecedented economic dislocation; but, hey, it’s all good, because, from thereon and after we can blame capitalism and sexism and racism — and move forward in agreement to build real socialism, or communism, or the Green New New Deal, without airplanes or cows or cars or free speech. God help the poor fool who objects.
Yes. The Democrat candidates are all predicated on this same dreamworld. They are all Gnostics, in Voegelin’s sense of the term. They are all dedicated to “counter-principles.” How better to explain it?
Voegelin was a very learned man. He knew what he was talking about, even if his mode of expression was scholarly. He was trying to express insights which the unschooled have no words to express. So he invented his own vocabulary, borrowing the term “Gnostic” to relay his idea of the thing which is, even now, making war on the spiritual and intellectual underpinnings of the most advanced civilization ever built by humans.
Gnosticism as a counter-existential dream world can perhaps be made intelligible as the extreme expression of an experience which is universally human, that is, of a horror of existence and a desire to escape from it.
Escapism can be a dangerous thing. A rich and successful society, made pathologically soft by decades of success, can take its permanence for granted; may mistake its neurotic impulses for the true order of things; may erect a false self-interpretation on an inheritance no longer understood; adopting instead a new pattern of conduct which promises to unravel the fabric of civilization itself.
What follows, by necessity, is a decline in civic morality, a blindness to obvious dangers, and — says Voegelin — a reluctance to meet those dangers with seriousness. He added: “It is the mood of late, disintegrating societies that no longer are willing to fight for their existence.”
The Gnostic dream world on stage at the Democratic presidential debates reflects this same process of unraveling — of an unserious regard for dangers, of neuroticism and existential hubris. Voegelin wrote:
In gnosticism the non-recognition of reality is a matter of principle; in this case, one would have to speak of an inclination to remain aware of the hazard of existence in spite of the fact that it is not admitted as a problem in the gnostic dream world; nor does the dream impair civic responsibility or the readiness to fight valiantly in case of an emergency. The attitude toward reality remains energetic and active, but neither reality nor action in reality can be brought into focus; the vision is blurred by the Gnostic dream. The result is a very complex pneumopathological state of mind….
Non-recognition of reality, he says, is the first principle of the Gnostic. Actions which the prudent consider morally insane are undertaken because they are considered “moral” by the dreamer. According to Voegelin, “The gap between intended and real effect will be imputed not to the Gnostic’s immorality of ignoring the structure of reality,” but to the immortality of those who do not share the same mad dream.
The method of the morally insane is to invert responsibility. Their failures are always someone else’s fault. Thus, Stalin’s economic failures were not blamed on socialism’s faulty economic assumptions but on the moral guilt of wreckers, saboteurs and spies; that is, anyone who did not share in the Gnostic madness of communism. Therefore it is logical that Stalin’s secret police would shoot the engineers and experts whose reports reflected knowledge and wisdom that the communist might find threatening.
Voegelin noted, “practically every great political thinker who recognized the structure of reality, from Machiavelli to the present, has been branded as an immoralist by Gnostic intellectuals….” The Gnostics have even made a “parlor game” out of labeling Plato and Aristotle “fascists.” It should not surprise us, therefore, that the Gnostics decry the wisdom of the past as evil.
When dangers appear, you can bet the Gnostics will take the wrong course of action. They will engage in manifold “magical” operations — cursing the wicked, pronouncing anathemas, resolutions, appeals to mankind, etc. They might even outlaw war.
Are we laughing yet?
The Gnostic represents political insanity. Just listen for twenty minutes to Elizabeth Warren. Every time she opens her mouth, the judicious wince. “Gnostic politics,” said Voegelin, “is self-defeating.” More than that, he warned that it inevitably leads to continuous warfare. He stated:
This system of chain wars can end only in one of two ways. Either it will result in horrible physical destructions and concomitant revolutionary changes of social order beyond reasonable guesses; or, with the natural change of generations, it will lead to the abandonment of Gnostic dreaming before the worst has happened.
Does this have a familiar ring? Do we remember Hillary Clinton’s call for a “no fly zone” in Syria — against Russian air units! The dreamworld of the Gnostic does not merely invade social policy. It has interpenetrated national security policy, too.
We must not forget that each step in our overseas involvement empowers big government. It also empowers the transformation of liberalism into communism. Voegelin noted:
If liberalism is understood as the immanent salvation of man and society, communism certainly is its most radical expression; it is an evolution that was already anticipated by John Stuart Mill’s faith in the ultimate advent of communism for mankind.
Western society, warned Voegelin, “is ripe to fall for communism….” And who would deny our steady leftward progress? Look at the Democrats running for the White House.
May God have mercy on us.