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Welcome to fully automated luxury gnosticism Many of us are giving up on our bodies

They're literally nobodies. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/MG21/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue )

They're literally nobodies. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/MG21/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue )


September 23, 2021   6 mins

Is in-person human contact now a luxury good? You might be forgiven for this impression, at least in elite coastal America, after seeing the photos from New York’s $30,000-a-ticket Met Gala last week.

In one already-notorious image Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic representative for New York City, sports a gown that trailed multiple banners bearing the legend EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN. Maloney smiles, unmasked, at the camera. Behind her stand serried ranks of female serving staff, dressed in black and wearing identical black Covid masks.

In the earliest days of lockdown, this class-inflected freedom from hygiene theatre was the preserve only of the ultra-rich. While ordinary people were saying goodbye to dying relatives over Zoom, Kim Kardashian flew her entire feudal entourage to a private island for a birthday party.

A year on, those Met Gala images attest that hugging-as-privilege has now trickled down to the merely upper crust: regular celebrities, politicians, the founders of Black Lives Matter. But at the same time, those benefiting from the new elite right to in-person contact are pushing the opposite for everyone else: disembodiment as liberation.

This dream has been long in the making. We should greet it with all the enthusiasm we’d muster for a gift-wrapped bouquet of scorpions.

This is easier said than done. Pretty much everyone younger than I (born at the fag-end of the ‘70s) has grown up seeing themselves animate a CGI avatar on-screen, in any one of countless computer games — just as they’ve grown up conducting much of their social lives online.

If this is your normal, it’s not a big step to imagine a ‘self’ that has nothing to do with a physical body. This idea received big-budget cinematic treatment in the 2009 fantasy Avatar, featuring a crippled ex-soldier who gains a new life in a prosthetic body. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the movie was a smash hit, triggering such an outpouring of nerd emotion it spawned a new insult: ‘Avatards’.

But the dream of freeing human consciousness from the human body isn’t an internet-age invention. Back in the chaos of the first centuries AD, long before Christianity was codified into religious orthodoxy, esoteric sects and strange rites flourished. One such was the body of thought that came to be known as ‘Gnosticism’, from gnosis or ‘knowledge’. What survives of their thinking suggests that for Gnostics, the material world was intrinsically evil and the task of humanity was to escape it.

The early gnostics were scattered by heresy-hunters, but their dream of becoming beings of pure spirit lived on, famously via the Cathar sect in Southern Europe through the 12th to 14th centuries. The Catholic Church was not keen: in one notorious massacre at BĂ©ziers in 1209, the papal legate Arnaud Amaury is said to have told his men: “Kill them all — God will know his own.”

Despite such persecution, the idea of liberating the human soul from squalid materiality persisted stubbornly underground. It survived in Rosicrucianism, which in turn made its way into strands of esoteric thinking that still flourish today in weird corners of the internet. But if esotericism is now largely the preserve of Very Online cranks, the Gnostic longing to become creatures of pure consciousness has gone supernova.

Early pioneers of the internet imagined ‘cyberspace’ as a place of liberation from all the pesky constraints of the material world. I remember thrilling at this ‘cyberpunk’ vision, as imagined by authors such as William Gibson in the 1990s. As Gibson depicted it, in ‘cyberspace’ a growing proportion of human life would be wholly unmoored from physical reality: an endlessly creative zone of gods, monsters and infinite possibility. In the recent words of cult sci-fi author Zero HP Lovecraft: “We imagined ourselves as samurai sword VR pirate pioneers”.

In this worldview, as for the crippled hero of Avatar, the imperfect nature of physical bodies is little more than a drag on self-actualisation. I’ve argued previously in these pages that this opinion helps power the increasingly radioactive debate about ‘gender identity’. But this is only one of the ways that what seemed in 2009 just a fantasy for nerds, is now mainstream politics and culture.

Witness two new reality TV shows (or perhaps more accurately unreality TV shows) whose core premise is that selves can be separated from their bodies. Like The Voice, Fox’s new show Alter Ego showcases singing talent over physical hotness. But this comes with a twist: instead of singing from behind screens, Alter Ego performers will compete via CGI avatars.

This comes hot on the heels of Sexy Beasts, where contestants don elaborate prosthetic makeup before going on a blind date. The conceit is that by concealing their actual faces, their true selves will be better able to shine through.

The common factor behind both these shows is the idea that by working a human ‘self’ loose from its embodied presence in a physical body, provides ever greater freedom to be our ‘true selves’. In a promo video for Alter Ego, one of the singers explains his desire to perform via alter ego: “There’s something about how I look behind this alter ego,” he says, “that I feel like it’s held me back”.

In 2018, Aaron Bastani promised that automation would create a world of super-abundance for everyone, leading to a socialist horn of plenty and liberation from work via ‘fully automated luxury communism’. Today, that’s morphing into a dream of emancipation not just from work, but from our very bodies: fully automated luxury Gnosticism.

But this dream has a sting in the tail. For many adolescent girls now, what holds them back isn’t their bodies but the impossibility of living up to the image they project online. Reports are emerging of teenagers so dependent on tweaking their selfies with Instagram ‘filters’ they become unable to interact with people in person.

Even Facebook’s own research now shows that life lived through too-perfect selfies is toxic for teenage girls. Meanwhile, for those whose jobs by definition can’t be unmoored from their bodies, the push for disembodied life has still more unsettling implications. Because no matter how loudly you promise that luxury Gnosticism will be fully automated, someone still has to take out the bins, stack the dishes and care for those who can’t care for themselves,

Their existence is a painful reminder that while Covid has accelerated the rise of the robots, even prompting the launch of a robot Covid nurse, we haven’t yet managed to automate blue-collar workers out of existence. Instead they’re increasingly downplayed: there’s a new presumption of mandatory, masked facelessness for the lowest-status people whose roles regrettably require them to show up to work in person. Lockdown’s abrupt reminder of how radically we depend on manual workers did not prompt a new appreciation of the working class.

Meanwhile, the middling strata — the so-called ‘Zoom classes’ — forms the key target audience for unreality TV shows that present virtual life as liberation. And for some, the shift to remote working has indeed been a net positive. For those with space for a home office, and families already formed, going virtual can be liberating — while there are still plenty of reasons to log off and focus on real life.

But for those who are single or less professionally established, the bleak reality of ‘remote work’ is less bucolic. This is the group for whom fully automated luxury Gnosticism offers the greatest temptation: when IRL life looks like sitting on your bed in a shared house, with an incipient case of laptop burn and one of the top 10 most popular girlfriend apps for companionship, why would you ever want to log off?

“I believe we are living in the cyberpunk dystopia,” writes Zero HP Lovecraft, “and it’s way less metal than everyone thought it would be.” It’s tempting to imagine that Britain’s thus far more moderate approach to Covid restrictions — it feels like everyone has unmasked for autumn — will save us from such baroque extremes as we saw at the Met Gala. But we shouldn’t be over-confident: whether it’s quinoa or statue-smashing, what starts among the American elite has a habit of percolating out to the American imperial province that the United Kingdom now indisputably is.

At the start of the pandemic, we imagined embodied, in-person human life might grow more valued as a result of the disruption. And indeed it has: but not for everyone. That endlessly creative world Gibson imagined is now romanticised and sold back to us by the people commissioning unreality TV. The right to remodel our ‘meat avatars’ is politicised as the new front for civil rights. The danger of taint by other physical bodies is a key public-health message. But how you experience fully automated luxury Gnosticism depends on where you sit in the class hierarchy.

At the bottom stand masked, anonymised servants, clad in face coverings and uniforms until they can be automated out of existence. In the middle sit the Zoom classes, for whom virtual life can be a perk or a nightmare. For the lucky ones, it’s a chance at family life, but for others it’s more like an endless, lonely shift as (in Zero HP Lovecraft’s bitter phrasing), “pointless argument vegetables growing in walled gardens, harvested for the benefit of robots that serve us ads”.

And even as tech and media elites sing the praises of luxury Gnosticism for the rest of us, they’re reserving unconstrained, in-person human interaction as a privilege for themselves. Whether this emerging political order comes dressed as civil rights, TV entertainment or public health, we should see it for what it is: an assault on the humanity of all but the aristocracy.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

When I saw the images of the met gala, I was hoping that the subject of AOC would be tackled – well maybe next time. An excellent article addressing so many current topics from the requirement of hypocritical masking for the ‘workers’ and the very mixed blessing that is working from home – and much more.
By the way, AOC paid this enormous amount of money to don a white dress with huge red lettering down the back saying Tax The Rich. Clearly she doesn’t understand hypocrisy and maybe she honestly hasn’t studied tables of who pays the most tax.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

If you would like to swing over to Politifact you will learn she borrowed the dress. New York elected officials are regularly invited to the Met Gala and it doesn’t cost them a cent. They are there to follow cultural events in the city – and in this case; to make a statement. AOC’s district is the most deprived in the city.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Do you honestly think that AOC pronking around the Met Gala with a bullshit message on her dress (whomever it belongs to) is going to uplift her district?
However the money goes around, we all know how the game gets played when the the moneyed and famous roll into town with their woke lecturing.
If you are interested in facts, go and check out who pays proportionately the most taxes.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

I wonder if the generous person who lent AOC that dress will be wearing it at another gala anytime soon? Perhaps at the next fundraiser for Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Is it really necessary to defend everything on the left, no matter how awful? If you’re not embarrassed by AOC you remove yourself from the company of reasonable people.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago

Thanks. Much gnosis here, as usual, but ancient Gnosticism was almost the opposite of what’s described.

The ancient Gnostics regarded the material world as so utterly fallen and imprisoning that it had to be escaped entirely. The idea that salvation might come via avatar perfections, meat or virtual, would have been dismissed as laughably ignorant – utter unknowledge.

What became Christian orthodoxy held that earthly reality could be redeemed, though not by perfecting it, but in a new creation of heavenly reality.

Hence Paul writes that flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of heaven, and that our terrestrial bodies, obviously subject to death and decay, will pass to celestial bodies, of glory and power, like the angels – as Jesus suggested too.

What might this mean for now? The inability to imagine life involving anything beyond material manifestation – be that enhanced, extended, redeemed or otherwise – condemns us to a flatland of scarce resources in which the winner tends to take it all.

Ironically, Christians who insist on a material bodily resurrection, and techno-utopians who hope science can bring this about, are much nearer to each other than they like to think. And not because they’re Gnostics, but because they aren’t.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

Precisely. Which is why techo-utopianism (without the incumbrance of actually bothering to understand what tech is as opposed to what effect tech has) so much resembles codified religious orthodoxy. Aaron Bastion is typical. Or Rutger Bregman, a buffoon of the first water, waffling mindless techno babble is another example.

Last edited 2 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Oliver Elphick
Oliver Elphick
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

Don’t mix Paul up with Gnosticism. He stresses the physical resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15) Flesh and blood means our current sinful, decaying bodies. The resurrection is of a spiritual body, certainly physical, as was Jesus when he rose from the dead and at something to demonstrate to his disciples that he was not a ghost, yet now an immortal body animated by the Holy Spirit and free from sin.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago
Reply to  Oliver Elphick

I’m taking a lead from David Bentley Hart and his translation of the New Testament, which precisely challenges this received wisdom: ÏƒÎŹÏÎŸ means what it seems to mean in Paul and, when not smoothed over in translation, a relative dualism shapes his cosmology and that of all first century Jews…

Oliver Elphick
Oliver Elphick
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

The meaning of ÏƒÎŹÏÎŸ (flesh) varies according to the context, like most words. Paul was a Jew, thoroughly trained in Rabbinic teaching before Jesus turned him round. For the Jews, the resurrection was absolutely physical; but they did not expect it until the end of the age. Paul knows that Jesus was raised in the body, and if that did not happen we have no hope.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

A case could be made that both you and Mary are correct. In the book ‘Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition’ for example, Yates talks about two types of Gnostics. One believing matter is evil (this type being your more typical Gnostic, and possibly with sub types corresponding to what you and Mary are saying.) And the second type even held that “matter is impregnated with the divine life, the stars are living divine animals, the sun burns with a divine power, there is no part of Nature that is not good for all are parts of God”. The two camps were united by a shared belief in the importance of Gnosis in the sense of direct experience of God (Which at least in CoE, is still experienced briefly by some contemporary Christians during Holy Communion). The two camps weren’t as opposed as some might think – in ancient times folk were more right brained and comfortable with paradox. Similar to how ‘via negativa’ & ‘via arrirmativa’ Christians would still have much in common.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Thanks and I think that’s right, yes. David Bentley Hart is my source and he makes much of how the value of, and need for, gnosis was shared widely in the ancient world. The difference was over whether the sublunary sphere was regarded as eternally lost or redeemable, which Paul was convinced became possible because of the gnosis that came with the descent of Christ, casting aside the powers and principalities that otherwise ruled the world in death.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

Indeed, DBH is a great source I think. And thanks for the reminder that “our struggle is not against flesh & blood.”

robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

I do not know much about Gnosticism other than what is given in the book “Mystic Christianity” by Atkinson. However, I am prepared on the basis only of my little knowledge taken from that book and my instinctive sense of truth to observe that I believe it unlikely that Gnostics believed that the world was “utterly fallen and imprisoning that it had to be escaped entirely”. This would be a very partial oversimplification probably by the early Christian church (and actually beliefs more in keeping with the fire and brimstone teachings of that earthly church itself) to make Christianity more palatable to pagan converts to make it more earthly/physical so that Christianity could become a world religion. I believe that the Gnostics were the inner circle of Christian thinkers who preserved those inner teachings of Jesus but who were betrayed or sacrificed so that Christianity could “progress” as a world religion.
At the risk of provoking wider debate or controversy, it does appear, however, that Buddhism in what I have heard of its teaching did believe that existence was suffering and that we should escape it by the 8 fold and path and noble truths. This idea of Buddhism is actually, however, totally at variance with my view of Buddhists who I believe are some of the most gentle and patient of individuals and some of their teachings are mind blowing so there may be some oversimplification and exaggeration going on there too.

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells
Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago

As ever you take a flensing knife to human vanity. Depressing, but ever necessary in every age.

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
2 years ago

It is no wonder that Gnosticism is so popular today amongst those who self-ID as progressive, as it is all about looking into oneself and realising that the knowledge you contain is special – it’s narcissism with a halo. And this ultimate truth that only special-you understands is being withheld from the common man by dark forces – a conspiracy which allows you to play the role of a truth-warrior whilst blaming all ills on the inherent evils of the dark side – everyone and everything that isn’t you. It is a religion of elites who think they know better than the rest. There is no belief in original sin and so nothing to unify humanity or encourage humility – it is anti-socialist, anti-democratic, and yearns for an authoritarian leader with shared principals.
It never managed to properly catch on amongst the humans, but these current bipeds . . . I’m not so sure they’ve inherited the immunity

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Sorrenti
Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 years ago

Liked the shout-out to Zero HP Lovecraft 🙂 Another excellent article, Mary – you are quickly becoming one of my favourite writers on Unherd.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

Yes, she combines interesting subject matter with a mastery of the craft of writing good prose.

Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
2 years ago

Thank you for a thought-provoking article. I hope there is a way to stand up to this madness, though I have no idea what it might be. Indeed, as the genie is now out of the bottle, it will take some extraordinary feat to wrestle it back in again.

john.havenhand63
john.havenhand63
2 years ago

“it’s not a big step to imagine a ‘self’ that has nothing to do with a physical body”. I agree. The assumption that conscious mind is reducible to the grey material we call brain is rarely challenged – although Sheldrake amongst a few others has made a good case.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

It is easy to imagine a ‘self’ that has nothing to do with a physical body and this is implicit in most religions. It is very hard to even imagine a causal connection between the “material” science deals with and something that is not material. Accordingly science only deals in the material and has made enormous progess in doing so. (I did not find anything helpful in Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion)
Science has established that all known inputs to the brain cause a conformational change to transmembrane proteins and information flows between cells mostly rely on the secretion of signalling molecules causing conformational changes to transmembrane proteins (ion flows mostly being within cells). I anticipate an explanation will be found for how the brain holds information if the sequence of protein interactions are followed meticuously, leading to a suprisingly simple explanation for how the brain works.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Hawksley
robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

I can’t help thinking that if we were all reducible to no more than grey matter with consciousness relying on the actual firing of connections for character etc without a hidden more subtle hand of self behind it all maintaining balance, then every time a footballer headed a ball they would become a noticeably different person.

Alan B
Alan B
2 years ago

Well, our techno gnostic “elites” also created the coronavirus and that’s sure a reminder of embodiment!

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
2 years ago

Wasn’t the Met Gala just an expression of the narcissism and hypocrisy of the elite attendees, and the treatment of the mask clad workers a demonstration of their contempt for the lower orders?
Trying to analyse this in the context of the Gnostic movements that existed centuries (millennia) ago just doesn’t wash – I’m sure that most of those at the Met Gala (and the others referred to in the article) have never heard of Gnosticism. The article is just an academic exercise for the over educated – the same way that some commentators always refer back to Marx and Engels to analyse modern day phenomena of which Marx and Engels had no idea.
I accept that the works of the ancient philosophers has some relevance to modern society (I used the words narcissism and hypocrisy above and know where they came from). But explaining the Met Gala doesn’t need such knowledge – it was just a bunch of rich, arrogant, entitled celebrities showing off on a grand night out whilst being waited on by poor people who had to keep in the background and show deference to their superiors. 

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
2 years ago

I think this is an all-important point (that the personnel spoken of have most likely never heard of Gnosticism, etc) which the likes of Tank-top Mary and her ever expanding ilk would rather not have to consider…

Last edited 2 years ago by Don Lightband
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Little did I know that when ABBA were winning the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ in 1974 that the band would end up fully automated luxury gnostic, like. What a world we’re in.

Melanie Mabey
Melanie Mabey
2 years ago

Thank you for this article (and the other excellent articles you’ve written) I’ve been coming across the subject of gnosticism a lot recently it would seem we’ve been fighting this beast for generations


‘The sane centre never would have stood for this arrant recklessness. The world community is not fooled, though. More and more, they recognize the USA as a national borderline personality, capable of any monstrous act.The third head of this monster is the one aflame with identity politics. It arises from a crypto-gnostic wish to change human nature to escape the woes and sorrows of the human condition — for example, the terrible tensions of sexuality. Hence, the multiplication of new sexual categories as a work-around for the fundamental terrors of human reproduction as represented by the differences between men and women. Those differences must be abolished, and replaced with chimeras that enable a childish game of pretend, men pretending to be women and vice-versa in one way or another: LBGTQetc. Anything BUT the dreaded “cis-hetero” purgatory of men and women acting like men and women. The horror’
.James Howard Kuntler August 2018

‘Woke is an ideology that grew out this big ideological tree.. this thing keeps generating evil Communism Nazism all of this sh*t all came out of this, American exceptionalism – manifest destiny was part of this – the name of this thing is gnosticism. The name I’ve given to this Kingdom (ideological tree) is scientific gnosticism. Where does gnosticism come from? my guess is that gnosticism is a human disposition’ James Lindsay September 2021

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The fag-end of the 70s, you say? Ah, the Fully Automated Gnostic end of the 70s. When things was in their infancy! When friends were electric! A new wave end to the decade so.
The Static Seventies gave way to the Ex-static Eighties.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Like the allusion to the 1979 Gary Newman song. He said in an interview that the electric friends he had in mind were sex bots. They’ve been written about for centuries, in 1979 you could buy very primitive ones. Now there’s dozens of manufacturers of much more advanced types, and as per the link in Mary’s article , a top 10 round of of free virtual girlfriend apps. I hope all incels get to know about those.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

I would like to think that such technological developments might bring the odd incel out of his shell a bit, but surely it would need some form of accompanying physical interface or console to solve his problems.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Al M

For some incels I’m sure you’re right. We’re getting there. Probably another year or two before half decent physical AI sexbots will be cheap enough for a reasonable % of Incels to afford them. Then another few years before we have studies showing how helpful sexbots are compared to the free apps. Then maybe in the 30s the more enlightened goverments might start providing physical SBs to incels for free.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

Another excellent piece, Mary! Do not worry – the appreciation for manual labor will come to a sudden rise again, possibly very soon.
Uploading human consciousness has been a dream for a long while. Especially with people’s self-confidence decreasing due to heightened expectations paired with a distorted self-perception, it is becoming more and more attractive. But we are not “returning to beauty” by making everybody virtually beautiful. No, we are much rather giving in to mental illness, playing a perverted charade of life, a game of shadows cast by other shadows unworthy of what it used to mean to be “human”.
There are some who have warned of this development for a long time. For Alex Jones, the uploading of consciousness is a way for the elites to “get rid of useless eaters”, as the person who is uploaded essentially dies, but “turns into” an online copy who their relatives can interact with. Of course, that is going to be software, not a human. Others have warned of “a drug” that takes away the human soul forever – makes us soul-less after birth – and that may very well be the digitalizing of our existence. Even if we do not get uploaded and die, we still lose the opportunity to deal with adversity that under normal circumstances allows us to re-forge our soul, using the heat of hell’s fires and the hammer blows delivered by the tragedy that is a natural part of life.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

Another excellent piece, Mary! Do not worry – the appreciation for manual labor will come to a sudden rise again, possibly very soon.
Uploading human consciousness has been a dream for a long while. Especially with people’s self-confidence decreasing due to heightened expectations paired with a distorted self-perception, it is becoming more and more attractive. But we are not “returning to beauty” by making everybody virtually beautiful. No, we are much rather giving in to mental illness, playing a perverted charade of life, a game of shadows cast by other shadows unworthy of what it used to mean to be “human”.
There are some who have warned of this development for a long time. For Alex Jones, the uploading of consciousness is a way for the elites to “get rid of useless eaters”, as the person who is uploaded essentially dies, but “turns into” an online copy who their relatives can interact with. Of course, that is going to be software, not a human. Others have warned of “a drug” that takes away the human soul forever – makes us soul-less after birth – and that may very well be the digitalizing of our existence. Even if we do not get uploaded and die, we still lose the opportunity to deal with adversity that under normal circumstances allows us to re-forge our soul, using the heat of hell’s fires and the hammer blows delivered by the tragedy that is a natural part of life.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Fantastics article Mary. You might get a different idea about the Cathars though if you were to read the excellent & very short essays  ‘A Medieval Epic Poem’ + ‘The Romanesque Renaisance’ by Simone Weil. She felt the Cathars were more grounded, and a real examplar of Christian civilisation and fraternity that’s never been equalled.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

Mary Harrington for PM!

robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago

I am aware that writers on Unherd may produce tongue in cheek articles to provoke comment.  Many terms seem to be abused in modern use and it appears that into this category I can place “Gnosticism” (unfair press) and also I would say “mindfulness” which has surprised me in its widespread use as being almost synonymous with meditation (perhaps my failing). I actually thought that “mindfulness” (practical everyday centring of the family person while they go about their everyday business) and “meditation” (“thus far and no further” – ascetic hermit recluse) were actually pretty much opposites. One being top down (thus far and no further) and one bottom up (growing as an individual unforced from grass roots but giving themselves the best chance by keeping as centred as possible as normal citizens and hoping that they will grow naturally, gradually, organically exposed to the rays of the sun).
I am certain that Mary cannot possibly truly believe the ideas on Gnosticism which she sports in this article. As a highly educated woman she simply must be better versed in the origins and principles of Gnosticism (even if it is just to have an inkling that their origins might be deeper than she is representing). The spirit/matter thing is not as simple as just shelling peas. Therefore, I have probably taken the bait.
However, on the subject of Gnosticism and “God Transcendent” (God Absolute or God the Father in Christian parlance), and “God Imminent” (God Manifest or The Holy Ghost in Christian parlance) I would refer the author to the work “Mystic Chrisitanity” by William Walker Atkinson (Yogi Ramacharaka). It is a book which could pretty much be read to a child and yet is still profound.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=mystic+chritianity&ref=nb_sb_noss

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells
robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago

I have just updated my thoughts having read Mary Harrington’s article “There’s nothing inclusive about erasing women”. The excellent reference “Mystic Christianity”, which I have referred to in my previous comment in the final paragraph, and given definitions as they appear in that book regarding “God Transcendent”(God the Father) and “God Imminent”(God Manifest). I would venture just to suggest that a more correct or modern definition (taking on board the “erasing women” aspect would be as follows for what is called the Holy Trinity in Chrisitanity (just my thoughts though – definitely not the “Gospel”):
1)     God the Father – (aka more broadly “God Transcendent”)
2)     The Holy Ghost would become God the mother or even nature – (aka more broadly “God Imminent”). There are probably many already representing this as true on the internet and even in Greek mythology.
3)     God the Son would become God the offspring – Jesus (and others including humanity and possibly all creation)
The above definition also ties in with Astrological symbolism which for Venus with feminine qualities is the circle of matter or earth above the cross of spirit and which for Mars with masculine qualities is the cross over the circle.  For me it further ties in with Hermeticism and “magic” in that the male/female principle is present more broadly in the process of creation. So all you old codgers out there still have hope of doing something and may not be past it. I believe that we have yet to see magic (which is only making that which is actually Esoteric into the Exoteric – a scientific process – think perhaps making more of the 90% of the submerged iceberg visible, exoteric or known to science and using the laws thereof in advance of its adoption in science or broad humanity) or yet to see conscious genius (only random so far). We have yet to see what Jesus talked about in saying “greater works than these shall ye do”.

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Whoa! This is way over my boomer head! I can’t help thinking of some old science fiction narrative–Fahrenheit 45, I think it was–and the disappointing realization that “soylent green is people!”
Sounds pretty sinister, I know, but now my mind is perhaps settling into the idea that this ersatz www beast is actually spreading a viral epidemic of multiple-personality schizo.

robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago

I am in no way knowledgeable about esotericism (including Gnosticism) or religion and, regrettably, only have a smattering of knowledge but esotericism is close to my heart.
I regard Mary’s article as being one of rage against the COVID world that has emerged and that she is pummelling Gnosticism almost as a hope that the master will indeed appear.
In Googling the meaning of Gnosticism I see that it believes in the redemption of sprit from matter. As such it appears to believe in the very basics of existence as I see them. Science believes in the big bang and implosion. I understand that it is Hindu religion that believes in the days and nights of Brahm, breathing in and out, which I consider to be the big bang (outbreathing) and implosion (inbreathing). Gnostics believe in the redemption of spirit from matter (inbreathing or rediscovery of true nature) – I am not clear whether they also hold to the incarceration of spirit in matter (outbreathing) but it should logically follow.  Hermeticist talk of “God imminent” and “God transcendant” and in the Kybalion laws of existence much like the Newtonian laws of the physical world are given. The first “law” recorded in the Kybalion is that “All is mind”. Effectively we are held in the mind of “God transcendant” and all existence including every grain of sand is essential and part of “God imminent” (“even the poor doll humanity“).  Being held in God’s mind (God transcendent) is the modus of existence in the outbreathing and inbreathing in which God transcendant is saying to God imminent “entertain me – surprise me on your path of return – weave for me the most beautiful tapestry ever this time”.  The attitude which has been exhibited by humanity in reaction to COVID “appears atrociously ugly” and not a tapestry which I would like to offer or have any part in.

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells