Gnosticism Notes

see MY WRITING  for explanation of this document


33 Nature of a ruling class, any ruling class. Voluntary restraint, a genuine example of social contract. As there are minimal rules necessary to any society, so there are rules serving to preserve the power and freedom of a ruling class. Law making is not felt as a negation of freedom. One is exercising one’s will, not submitting to control and restriction.

The illusion of the democratic republic, the dogma of equality.

Idea of enfranchisement into the ruling class. The myth of the republic, of equality. The emergence of a society in which something of the nature of a religious ideal flourishes. Genuinely irksome restriction.

Come equality and the will of all enjoys the power of tyrannizing over all. Instead of being all ruling class we are all lower class.

Freedom is seen in terms of power, i.e. of the exercise of will. Exercising power over a lower class is fully compatible with freedom A condition of equality is not, or rather the democratic republic is not. You do not have voluntary restraint, but a kind of voluntary tyranny. Our call must not be for equality i.e. for the release of the tyrannical will of anybody and everybody.

The mob can appreciate the pleasures of tyranny, But what has this to do with freedom?

Not power to the people but freedom. Not your merely human will, what you happen to desire. Giving you the power to do that will not bring freedom.

You think it is power you want, you think it is the feeling that you can exercise your will

Say you object to unjust law. You think that what is wrong is that you do not have a part in its making. You interpret it purely as an expression of will, of desire. Such a will  is dangerous and needs to be restrained if anything does. What can oppose it? The repository of cultural values, whatever that is, what we may call , talking largely symbolically the church. In reality the exercise of law making power is merely a bonus of freedom, not its essence.

But a major issue that needs to be considered is the avoidance of fascism.


The rebellion against a repressive view of human life. The church as a kind of cure. The problem becomes something other than a straightforward power struggle.  The important thing is for a philosophy able to resist the spiritual oppression to which we are subject, to resist Ialdabaoth.


  37 Modern Marxists, who do not care too much what doctrine dominates so long as there is some orthodoxy controlled by the intellectuals. Cultural relativity, you see, But the Gnostic believes that whatever the will desires that it may have. There is a level on which even the most insane desires are satisfiable. The magus is only satisfied with the most complete, with the highest. No avenue of knowledge may be left unexplored. Thus a most complete understanding is ultimately possible. Etc etc

50 “‘Optimistic’ Gnosticism accepts the universe as divine; God reveals himself in everything, and through his intellect man can become like God in order to comprehend Him. By a religious approach to the universe and by inscribing a representation of the universe within his own mens man can ascend and unite with God, ‘Pessimistic’ Gnosticism , on the other hand, rejects the world and evil and the material aspects of man and the universe are regarded as being a form of divine punishment. Man can escape the confines of the body (and incidentally any harmful celestial influences) through piety and asceticism; nature of which is perceived by mens, he mounts through the spheres to god” (Peter French)


  35& Matter is that which obstructs the possibility of adherence to the religion of infinite possibility. Ultimately it is unreal. Matter exerts prohibitions upon the thinking of certain thoughts. These prohibitions are intended to be absolute and final.

Take the statement ‘no man is an island’ this can be taken to limit the freedom of the individual mind. From another point of view it is simply a speculative possibility that is worthy of our consideration,

People are coming to lose respect for freedom of thought. It is thought far more important that the whole population should be well fed clad and housed than that thought and speech should be free,

One thing I like about religion is that it does provide a bulwark against some of the most dangerous progressive trends of any age. The trouble is that Christianity is such an exceptionally bad religion.

I use the Gnostic terminology because there is really none other to hand. No idea as such is in necessary opposition to the religion of infinite possibility. Matter cannot be put into words.



101 & The romantic movement, Bryon, Shelley, Blake, as a revolt against the principle  of authority, against Urizen, bears strong parallels with the Gnostic movement. The Jews were interesting to the ancient world as providing the one alternative to the classical consensus. They were regarded mostly with abhorrence. Gnosticism expresses both this interest and this abhorrence.

212 The Gnostic Aeons, how may we differentiate them from Satan? They are like Satan if their becoming self willed is a mark of originality and independence, a mark of more power than they would otherwise have. Consider the Trobriand Islanders Malinowski says that what Reich calls the invasion of compulsory sex morality originates from the desire to accumulate wealth. The cotemporary myth of the fall of man.

Wealth and the forbidden appeal represent desirables not allowed for in the state of innocent. The state of innocent cannot therefore be one of total fulfilment.

The self willed, however, is to be interpreted as one who out of weakness  cannot advance beyond a certain point, insists on having the cake when there is no reason why it cannot be kept and eaten. His sense of power gives him a boost, but it is a sad case, for it not only precludes him form greater fulfilment but from a greater sense of power also. He is too weak to reconcile the two. He springs from a very different kind of weakness form Satan’s. Satan is out for all out war if hopeless yet glorious like the charge of the Light Brigade. Self-willed does not exert himself to his maximum, he turns his back on the light and tries to avoid struggle, fostering a delusion. He forbids the knowledge of the possibility of reconciliation, because he is too weak to attempt it himself.



  101 Gnostic matter. Unreality of evil. Materialistic philosophy introducing a false seriousness into life, the Idiot God, Ass headed God. The earthbound thought imbued with religious significance. Prisons and madhouses. The banal opinion of society dominating its institutions. The threat, a phalanx of banal values imbuing a fear.

A fear is a fear but there are different ways of interpreting that fear in experience. The fear, however, being a fear, likes to present itself in its own interpretation, emphasising the badness of the feared, so that the fear comes to be associated with a fear of total defeat.

Thus the values of Peer Gynt’s trolls, acquire a hold over us by making a theoretical chink in our amour connected with a possibility that is fully conceivable and feared. But “Les Dieux aux plus cruel n'ont pas livre les sages”.

We fear that perhaps we ourselves are essentially fantasists, as the trolls tell us. This is not the case. What works for the good can work for the bad also. Think of the suffering of Pistis Sophia. The suffering is the suffering of despair i.e. of a totally constructed reality, that is to say that she sees no escape, not merely no physical escape  but no way of coming to terms intellectually or emotionally with what is happening. Damnation. Each outlook must allow for damnation, it is the total condemnation total wrongness.

193& Thought can, so to speak, underpin experience. When thought is free it really can do this, which is what Plato really means, it can create experience itself. ‘Matter’ in the Gnostic sense becomes the faeces  of necessity, as when the possibility of thought appears bound and restricted by practical considerations to a particular social and cultural framework.

Where in history do we find thought of the kind of which I am speaking? In the west, particularly in the platonic, neoplatonic and hermetic traditions. The renaissance magus practiced something very similar.

When one has to work hard at a job it seems very difficult to maintain an opinion with clarity. One seems to have too close a contact with people, views and opinions seem to be needed to fulfil more immediate ends than the creative generation of the fundamental forms of experience. Very often they are called upon to serve essentially petty ends, to do with personal advancement  and sociability. Such considerations amount to the faeces of necessity, when thought feels itself constrained in this way,

Monasteries are not the answer. One slued be in the world but not of it.



128& The game, played in itself, could be a joyful thing. But then in a supreme act of nobility and self sacrifice, one sacrifices joy, and then the Pistis Sophia is deeply sunk in matter. There is the mystery of the fall of the material world. God creates matter simply as the expression of his freedom. He is perfect, but so is his activity, so is the first matter, or the first created things, the angels. This while there is satisfaction with whatever is done. Then as one develops the patterns, one feels willing to forego, temporarily, a degree of the satisfaction that is enjoyed. What does a bit of pain matter?



47 Gnostic religion is natural to me as it was for Blake. Scholem describes Gnosticism as anti-Judaic. Blake and I. Paranoia concerning the judgments of the world. Urizen the oppressor. Satan. One totally crushed by an oppressing alien judgment.

60 Gnosticism as “the most profound and effective form of metaphysical antisemitism” (Scholem). Metaphysical antisemitism, attacking the essential idea which Judaism contains.



  107 A feeling that much of what I used to identify as my position may be left behind, not because it has been rejected but because it has been fully mapped out.

All part of the Gnostic struggle, I suppose. Much of the basic impetus for the Gnostic struggle comes from what might be considered paranoia, fear and insecurity. The moral forces in society threaten to undermine. One has to find a moral position of one’s own against the prevailing tendencies of society and the age. There are forces that threaten to demoralise you and you have to fight back. Once, however, you are secure in your position, certainly you want to promote it and to attack the negative forces, but you must be cool and rational rather than passionate about it.



3 And the socialists all felt a need to unite in a religious way, for a socialist religion. Once such a religion had been provided, which met the essential requirements of socialism, it would have been inconsistent to try to invent another. The urge for originality is bourgeois individualism, it is individualism and its divisiveness that is being opposed . Similarly it is wrong to look at Gnosticism as simply a deviation from the Christian church. Christianity became, like socialism, a drive towards a state religion. Gnosticism unashamedly empahasised originality and the exceptional man. Hence the Christians hate the Gnostics more vehemently than anything else. Hence, while there was no Gnostics church in the Christian sense,  there was a Gnostic tradition, and considerable sympathy between the apparently inconsistent schools.



166 Revolution, overthrowing authority of church and nobility. But there have been many anti-Christian aristocratic conservative thinkers. Lord Bolingbroke. For an adherent of the Gnostic Catholic Church wisdom is not in, does not adhere to, the crowd. Republicanism is not the only alternative to repressive tradition. . Republicanism . telling the individual that he is the only wise.

Neo-Platonism, Plotinus. Attempting to restore something that had gone far wrong.



289 The Marxist diversion that took up so much energy. Return to securing a place for the culture one wants to create.

The Gnostic myth.   Still perhaps a place for mythic thinking. Not wholly superseded by rationally spun philosophy as Hegel would have it. Perhaps we should welcome the efforts of Christian missionaries  including Anglican ones in China. Trying to bring the Chinese into the orbit of our civilisation.



186 Gnostic celibacy. Might not certain forms of celibacy not be an appropriate and suitable response to certain social conditions? On the most obvious level an epidemic of venereally transmitted diseases. Or feminist sexual colonization.

I.e. on sexual activity is society being charged with an unacceptable and inescapable value?

Gnostics and Manichaean’s.

I see great value in Gnosticism, but sexual asceticism is repellent.

…Now it could no doubt be said that what I advocate as freedom merely means something different. My sense of oppression is the sense of frustration I encounter in trying to promote my own values.


Objection that mine is the viewpoint of the priest who desires power for his class.

210 That is why something very obviously false and crude, like Soviet propaganda, may be less demoralizing and depressing than certain other, more insidious ideologies.

This is why one tends to come out in support of Satan and Gnosticism. God, Jehovah, or Nobodaddy, is the representative of religious or ideological orthodoxy. Conventional values.




132& Gnosticism. Cabbala. It is a regenerative type of philosophy. The value of the hypostases as concepts. Strictly speaking they are not scientific concepts. Consider the complexity of the Gnostic systems. There is a perspective, the only demand is that this perspective is possible.

The aim is not the elimination of all opposing viewpoints, but the creation of a viewpoint for which that will not be necessary. Fighting against the tyranny of thought and spiritual authority.



120 There is a war on, the fundamental Gnostic struggle, against Ialdabaoth.

143 Paganism is enlightenment, the renaissance papacy was Pagan, but it promoted superstition. How much did the values it lived by reach full articulate consciousness?

I think Burckhardt missed out a lot. He insisted on the domination of the polis over the individual life. Somehow this is compatible with intense individualism.

I think perhaps he had a dangerous and misleading thought here, which contributed to twentieth century totalitarianism.

When thinking of the heroic, what do we think of it? Something that affords a certain kind of satisfaction. By satisfaction I mean that without it we are to a degree dissatisfied.

There is an extent to which we are inevitably northern protestants,. We desire values to be fully articulated. We have a value of individual sovereignty..  We accept that it is possible to live, gain much pleasure and satisfaction without such a concept. But we could not or certainly should not, conceive of dispensing with it in order to do so.

Under ‘gaining much pleasure and satisfaction’ I include living heroically.

Consider what is our concept of the heroic.  Our heroic includes this articulation of individual sovereignty. We look at the past , but interpret it form out own point of view as an aesthetic phenomenon. Thus we look at Alexander VI and interpret him as a free spirit, an anti-Christian spiritual anarchist.

For other heroes we find defenders of liberty, like Milton’s Satan, Oliver Cromwell, William the Silent, John Wilkes, we like blasphemers, like the members of the Hellfire Club.

In fact we take Satanism, rebellion and obscenity very seriously. For some people, freedom is just the delight in naughtiness, for us it is a religion. We identify with Gnostics, in the fight against Ialdabaoth,

So the fascist attempt to create a race of heroes is misconceived.

Communism creates a hero in Solzhenitsyn but he is absent the system

The fascist way of life’s different from our concept to the heroic. In repudiating individual sovereignty quite consciously it ceases to be even aesthetically satisfactory, viewed form a distance.




97 Take a social system based on socialism, behaviourism or American liberalism. From our point of view we say that these philosophies are depressing. They see the low on the same level as the high. That which involves less power on the same as that which involve more power.

This is not objectionable on merely theoretical grounds. It sets up a moralistic judgment and tends to create a disagreeable confusion. To bar the natural outlets to the expression of the instincts, by filing them with false theory.

One knows full well that idea x cannot afford proper satisfaction. 

The whole movement of the egalitarian culture is that all ideas are on more or less the same level so that there is nothing significantly greater than x.

The effect of this is pessimistic, it is to destroy hope that proper satisfaction is available at all. It is to undermine one’s hopes of w y and z.

Presumably there are people who are content with this, for whom x is not disagreeably frustrating but actually satisfying.

One would not wish to suggest that there is anything in the essential nature of x itself that must cause suffering.

How much could one relativise merely a person’s desires?

Gnosticism, struggle attains compulsory belief and the grossness of the will.


41 Max Weber on the other hand, I dislike his work. I find sociological determinism  a deeply depressing, negative pessimistic doctrine except and insofar as it might descend to magical manipulation. Then it is primitive.

Weber despises Neo-Platonism, Mandaeanism Gnosticism etc as Salvationist religions of upper class intellectuals.

‘The need of literary academic or café society to include religious feelings in the inventory of their sources of impressions and sensations and among their topics for discussion has never given rise to a new religion

63 Different interpretations of the Christos.  “The vision of Christ that thou dost see/Is my vision’s greatest enemy”.

The democratic egalitarian Christies of the gregarious crowd. The Gnostic esoteric Christos of those who feel the primary thing is to escape the pressure of the gregarious crowd,

Esoteric Christianity and Satanism could come to terms.

Both offered a form of salvation i.e. enjoyment But the conditions of these are different.

The exoteric sort denies the esoteric has any meaning or point to it. It advocates mortification of such intellectual pride. Surrender to the collective spirit. The gregariousness of youth. The simplicities. If it feels painful to do so, that is  a pain that has to be endured in  a process of mortification.

The supposed sexual abstinence of the Gnostic, That may have been a symbolic myth. I  can conceive early Christianity as an orgiastic cult. Moonies today use sex to seduce men into the Unification church.

I picture women, beautiful dark haired women, tempting, inviting. Look at the pleasure you are missing. What you are renouncing.

And it must be renounced, must be rejected.

But only for a time. And the way it is rejected is not the way most people imagine It is not the self denial of the Christian saint. It s a psychological reaction which makes it impossible,.

76 The Gnostics clam that the existence of the illuminated class was good for society as a whole, a position which Weber emphatically denies. Weber is in danger of making such things as class barriers absolute.

Ways in which the illuminated may benefit the whole. Through education, through art. Through scientific discovery.

129 Think of this possibility. Man is God. But he has descended into matter for sheer playfulness. But in his playfulness he has made the possible mistake of cutting himself loose. Like the Pistis Sophia, that deeply moving allegory.

He enters in a world of pure possibility, and one of those is hell, the end of playfulness, the beginning of seriousness. No longer is he God. But he is trapped in a net of his own devising, in possibility he has himself spun out when on a higher place of existence. A self immolating God.



  267& The hope of restoration. The deeply reactionary hope. To overcome what seems to be radical wrongness in life, something firmly established but unbearably depressing.

The destruction on which every living thing as for so long been predicated.

To overcome this is gnosis, to achieve which requires an extreme act of aggression.

To offer the gnosis.

Communism is the extreme opposite of this Gnostic attitude.

Kabala, Provence, reappearance of the gnosis, the book Bahir.

Objections to Islam. Intellectual and spiritual freedom. That is because such freedom is effectively my god.


Luther Tetzel, the atheist view. Scandal, hypocrisy. Emotional intensity of ecrasez l’infame,

Conceivably reconciliation to Christianity may be possible, but only if the antichristian motive is not disregarded and trivialized.

Any acceptable form of Christianity must accept that Christianity is an outrage upon reason and morality, that the distinctively Jewish contribution to world culture is hateful and disgusting. The force of these perceptions must not be diluted.

Given this, much may be learnt from Christianity and from the Jews.

To believe in the gnosis. In a wisdom, a happiness that is secret and better than what is generally available.

Religious needs. For community. For a will that goes beyond immediate ends. Futility of life under medical materialism. To give it a purpose, even a bad purpose, as under communism.

293 Nietzsche and the gnosis.

The concept of the kind of person one most strongly opposes. The prohibitionist. Such a person is the enemy of the gnosis. This goes back to basic principles. The struggle is against spiritual despots. This struggle has the same emotional quality as that of early protestants against Rome.


Denial of the truth. What is perceived as the truth. We might identify truth with the will to power. Prohibitionism is rooted in a false psychological theory, a denial of possibility.


Identifying Nietzsche’s philosophy with the gnosis. Demonstrating the people like Paul Johnson are wrong, Showing in what their wrongness consists.


Ialdabaoth. He oppresses if you disbelieve in him. If you do believe in him, as with all the commitment of Allah, then he does not. Fundamentalist Islam is like a deliberate identification with Ialdabaoth. To see possibilities where others see manifestation of evil. A theory about theories a theory about beliefs. A belief about beliefs.

306 What I want out of life, the gnosis to which I aspire, the overcoming of an ever present sense of oppression. Personal psychological need, this Gnostic imperative. Added to a desire for this impulse to dominate.

358 Gnostics from Armenian mountains, old 2nd century heretics, driven out of Bulgaria, out into France Germany




Religion, tradition. Image of the Buddha. The Gnostic struggle. A myth that might even be better than the Buddha. For meditative and other purposes, artists to create images on many different levels.



243 Discontent. Money. Sex, work. So far the most basic motive I see as represented by the Gnostic myth. Resistance to ideas and thoughts one does not want to have. Phenomenal reality of any experience, based upon whatever presuppositions. Different possibilities created by ideas. Even to think some of the hostile possibilities is in a way dangerous.



21 Jung’s Freudian criticism of Nietzsche. Never having come to terms with the father image, he forms a new image in replacement of God, which is simply his deified self. Anti-Gnostic implications of psychoanalysis. Springs of psychic health as the imitation of the father. Dismissal of the Ubermensch as a narcissistic schizophrenic fantasy, ‘the false God of the schizophrenic#.

Feminists would replace imitation of the father by imitation of the mother, which is no better.


The Gnostic, the sexual deviant, the schizophrenic, all linked together, all united in their repudiation of establishment values. To need to repudiate establishment values a sign of inadequacy. But the ‘narcissistic fantasy of omnipotence’ takes the form of  a comprehensive scientific understanding of the value of all values, established and otherwise. The hatred of God and the Gnostic aspiration to something higher need not be unhealthy, or unhappier than conformity.

The warm glow of establishment approval. Those who possess it. Those like me who are obliged to live without it. Try and conceive it diagrammatically. The fantasy of narcissistic omnipotence may have something to commend it. It may succeed.

In accordance with that fantasy the values of the father may be judged and found wanting.

That is to say that maybe fantasy, rightly interpreted can provide a measure whereby values can be compared. It may be a hard path beset with dangers but a potentially very rewarding one.


Jung and the danger of magic and Gnostic heresy. These are seen as a retreat from healthy competitiveness into fantasises of egoistic omnipotence. The same criticism is made by society’s authorities of dissidents generally. Dissidence is interpreted as a form of schizophrenia

The dissident derives his alternative set of values, which he would prefer to see established, from within himself.. His proposals for an alternative culture are not necessarily unrealistic. To the extent you do succeed in the struggle to set up new values, you are 

25& A kind of culture, perhaps in which the magician receives social esteem.


‘the warm glow of establishment approval. The joining of a club, a friendly society of people who feel they matter.

Complacency of the approved.

It is a fact that values are subject to alteration. He who may not derive a sense of worth from successful competition within established values can play a higher game.

Acolytes of the demiurge try to conceal this knowledge because it could undermine their achievements.

None of this stuff is really altogether agreeable to have to discuss. It does not really bear upon the problem of getting into a virtuous circle.

All part of the struggle against the demiurge.

Schizophrenia is a real an very unpleasant condition. It is not the inevitable result of eccentricity and dissidence.

The demiurge and his insistence on the sole truth and reality of his judgements. While obviously he cannot completely extinguish the opinion that there is an escape from the omnipresence of his standard, he can easily succeed in implanting doubt in the mind,. So the prospect of salvation comes to seem a mere matter of opinion.. ‘is there and escape from demiurgic tyranny? That may seem at least an open question.

The demiurge sees no truth outside his scheme. His system of psychology protects the central truth of these values. For example, he may identify psychic health with conformity. (Identification with father, and through father with God are ways of deriving this.

He doesn’t accept the idea that there is a possible truth outside his system, a sound and healthy way of living outside the competitive structure of established values. The only alternative he can conceive are Schizophrenic values, i.e. fantasy values, false and imaginary values. unrealistic promises of competitive rewards. A kind of cheating, bringing magical fantasies in to try and steal the rewards of established values, without the fair competition.

Nietzschean and Gnostic psychology have a different scale of measurement.

It is not true that the only alternative to competitive conformism is narcissistic fantasy,


Concerning values there are objective truths to be discovered which may indeed bring competitive rewards in their train but not through orthodox or established channels.


In all magic there is recognised to be grave danger. But magic is not science by miraculous means. The promise of magic is of what can be achieved outside the established value system. Magic is simply unorthodox science.


The Gnostic truth. There is a reality outside orthodoxy and outside fantasy. The schizophrenic fails to make contact with such a reality or cannot retain the confidence that he has. He is subject to the very harsh judgement of the established values.   In trying to reject them he still clings to them.   




30 Regarding Gnostic gospels. Establishment of a new religion throughout the empire as foundation for life and culture, offering assurance of immortality.


37 Unsympathetic eras. The era of the Church Fathers with the concern to set up and establish orthodoxy.

The Gnostic literature that has manage to survive may speak more to us because it is concerned with freedom of thought.


130& Walter Bauer suggested that “in some Christian groups the Gnostics were the majority”. But I wonder if he might not be naïve in trying to focus on the real Jesus?


Apostle’s creed created to exclude Marcionites.


Tertullian on Valentinus. Accusing him of envy at not being a bishop. Typical accusations directed at heretics, accusing them of envy.

Pagels presenting Gnosticism from the more popular perspective actually makes it less interesting and its essence more so.

Orthodox Christians she portrays as Romans, pursing power.

Irenaeus, Tertullian. With the pursuit of naked power we can sympathise and it dos not have to be cynical. We put our own gloss on it. But “we are Semites in religion” said the Pope. This classical political value is allied with a Jewish one.


In philosophy we get it with Schelling who argues against a rationalistic God and for a more arbitrary one.


Orthodoxy and power.  The idea we now have a different culture  Like a non culture, like defeat for enlightenment


Tertullian. The interest of sheer power. Shallowness, trivialisation.

Gnosticism about something more than the self conceit of the congregation. What is our civilisation?

Pagels, as I thought, makes much of the feminist cause. Women able to prophesy. The equal rights idea, which I would say is anachronistic.

Pagels looking to Gnosticism for support for her own values of equal rights for women.

Pagels interesting idea that the Christian obsession with Christ’s death at the crucifixion comes from the experience of the early Christians under the Roman persecution and the need to face cruel death on their own accounts.

Pagels links Gnosticism to psychotherapy. One could treat Heidegger in a similar way.

Pagels is good. Books on Gnosticism often come up with interesting and different points of view,. Her real position is not entirely clear.

 Gnosticism she interprets in of religious experience. The sense of the active oppressiveness of orthodoxy is not altogether something she relates to.


Gnosticism as mythological base.