top of page

Gnosticism, Abducted and Defiled

by Alexander Maistrovoy, Distinguished Guest Blogger

Author of Gnosticism Through the Prism of the Third Millennium

Recently, I spoke with my friend (a pretty erudite person) about the total moral and spiritual degradation of the West and its corrupted values. Who is guilty of such a sad phenomenon? "Sure, it's them… Mmm… Gnostics…" he said thoughtfully. "What!?" I was shocked. Why? "I read about it," he explained.

As it turned out, he read famous Catholic author Robert R. Reilly, based on the far-fetched conceptions of German American political philosopher Eric Voegelin. Voegelin managed to connect the unconnectable: Gnosticism and modern totalitarian murderous ideologies.

It wasn't so difficult to explain to my friend the absurdity of these ideas. But his example proves how easily the ideas of Gnostics (and their followers in the face of Manichaeans and then Paulicians, Bogomils, and Cathars) were perverted in history in the most disgusting ways and got popularity. It's not a new phenomenon, of course.

Supporters of various political ideologies try to use Gnosticism for their purposes, attributing Gnostic views to progressives (Wokes) or, on the contrary, supporters of right-wing conspiratorial concepts. Both of these have no relation to reality and are disgusting distortions of Gnosticism but have roots in recent history.


…In the time of troubles, at the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, interest in Gnosticism suddenly reappeared in the form of occult-mystic practices. It acquired extraordinary popularity in the circles of decadent and exalted intellectuals. However, this interest bore no relation to true Gnosticism. It was a mixture of mind games, fascination with mysticism, and gravitation towards thrills that were passed off as the pursuit of knowledge.

All kinds of hypotheses arose and multiplied about the secret succession between the Gnostics via Cathars with the Masons and the Knights Templar, about the hidden connection between the Gnostics and the mysterious 'Holy Grail,' about the Cathars as bearers of 'sacral knowledge' of the ancient Celts. There appeared new societies like the Universal White Brotherhood founded by Peter Deunov with his meditations, yoga, and dedication to the Himalayan Babaji (sādhu in Hinduism).

There appeared mystics and pseudo-mystics professing succession from Gnostics, the lovers of esoteric and the supernatural, magicians and mystificators who used Gnostic symbols and names with extraordinary ease but, in reality, emasculated the idea itself and never even took an interest in it. Some of them knew nothing about Gnosticism or were indifferent to it. This did not stop their followers from seeking and finding in their theories the 'Gnostic hermeticism' of which there were no traces. With her Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky wrote books Ancient Wisdom, The Secret Doctrine, and Isis Unveiled. Black magician and Satanist Aleister Crowley wrote The Book of the Law and The Thoth Tarot and was the Creator of the sect Ordo Templi Orientis. He called himself the Beast 666 and his daughter Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith. Rene Guenon consequently converted to Islam and developed a school of religious philosophy called the Primordial Tradition, a crazy and fancy eclectic mix of Daoism, Kabbalah, Hinduism, Buddhism, symbolism, and Sufism. All these people, who remarkably were associated with Gnosticism, bear the same relation to Gnostics as Earl Cagliostro or Prince Borneo.

However, using Gnostic terms and symbols to create the veil of mystery, they did not declare themselves followers of this teaching. The same cannot be said about the spiritualist Jules Doinel—the Bishop of Montsegur and primate of the Albigeois, Ennoia’s spiritual fiancé, Valentine’s incarnation, Tau Valentin II, the Bishop Ales and Mirepoix or about Jean Bricaud—Tau Jean II and Patriarch of the l’Église Gnostique Universelle.

It's hard to say what prevailed here: spiritual quest, pretense, affectation, narcissism, fashionable awe of miracles and the occult, self-deceit, or simply copying. Possibly a bit of everything. But not all these séances with visions, incarnations, Sophia's revelations, and engagements to ennoia were scanty and ridiculous parodies of Gnosticism as a well-constructed and deep philosophical-religious system.

Carl Jung, without doubt, took a keen interest in Gnosticism, and his treatise under a grandiloquent and pretentious name 'Septem Sermones ad Mortuos' described by him as 'Seven Sermons to the Dead, written by Basilides of Alexandria, the city where East and West meet' is the proof of this.

However, he was similarly wrapped up in the world of 'secret knowledge,' alchemy, myths, and occult symbols of antiquity and the Middle Ages. All this intricately coexisted in his brain, as well as in the brains of many of his famous contemporaries, including Martin Heidegger, with abominable quasi-scientific ideologies, such as race theory. In his journal, he printed extracts from Mein Kampf and supported Nazis. This was a strange and tasteless mixture of occultism, rationalism inherent in absolute irrationalism, and intellectualism with a mystical underpinning and had nothing in common with Gnosticism as a religious philosophy with its interpretation of the divine world, nature of evil and man as a hostage of a ruthless game of cosmic forces. Gnostic symbolism is no more than a shiny spangle on his intricate psychological constructions meant to give appeal and extend a thread from his explorations to the 'secrets of the ancient.'

We also observe the attempt to manipulate Gnostic teachings—absurd, contrived, and at times even disgusting. An example of this is the 'investigation' of Nazi archaeologist Otto Rahn employed by Himmler, who maintained that the Cathars were the bearers of the 'sacral knowledge' of ancient Celts that Judaism and Christianity had squashed.


Another example was Eric Voegelin's linking of Gnosticism with modern ideologies—communism and fascism—(I already wrote about him).

This trend continues in all sorts of theories and concepts associated with newfangled cultural theories. For example, the assertion that "Transgenderism is a revival of the ancient religious belief known as Gnosticism is becoming popular" - an absolute lie and hoax designed for ignorant people.

"Gnosticism, a religion that hasn't been taken seriously for 1500 years, has crept back into mainstream thought by disguising itself in new movements. The modern transgender and transhumanist movements borrow some of their most essential doctrines from the ancient religion. …Transgender ideology stems from the dualist philosophy of the Gnostics. In transgenderism, a person's feelings and beliefs about their identity reveal their "true" self, while the physical reality of their genitals or hormones can be false. Suppose a person believes to be a female despite having male reproductive organs. In that case, the will wins out, not the material reality", writes the author in his article "The Gnostic Roots of the Trans Movements."

It's hard to come up with more rhetoric than this. The Gnostic idea is that a particle of the Divine spirit (Pneuma) in the physical body can comprehend the Pleroma (the world of Divine fullness) and rise above the material shell and carnal instincts. But nowhere, in the wildest dream, did not a single Gnostic declare that a man could consider himself a woman (or vice versa), cat, dog, or dinosaur, and children at 5-7 years old must decide which gender to choose.

None of the Gnostics created a fictitious schizophrenic material reality. The material world was an ominous, undeniable, and cruel reality in which people lived and lived to this day.

"Genitals or hormones" were the least of the interests of genuine Gnostics; even more so, they had no intention of correcting the nature of their flesh.

The tragedy is that one can increasingly find pseudoscientific "research" on this topic today. Some stem from ignorance, and some deliberately attempt to undermine Gnosticism, but the result is the same. Ignorant and gullible people perceive these fabrications as the ultimate truth.

We also see countless attempts to prove that Gnosticism was characteristic of ancient civilizations, actual or fictitious, like the "Aryan race"; that primitive people possessed "gnosis"; that archaic cults were Gnostic.


Undoubtedly, when intricate intellect and an artificial hoard are at work, anything can be linked to anything. One can maintain that communism rests upon the ancient Egyptian cults, and as an example, it shows the embalmed Lenin in the mausoleum. One can attempt to prove that Northern Europe is the ancestral homeland of 'Aryans, 'that the primitive tribes of Africa and Australia believed in one God and that the ancient Maya civilization was part of Atlantis and connected to the Middle East. But this bears no relation to either religion or history.

Gnosticism in any of its versions never aspired to establish 'heaven on earth' as the authors of modern collective ideologies tried to do. On the contrary, peace and harmony were acquired by a Gnostic through an internal escape from the palaver of material existence to extreme individualization. Knowledge of a true, ultra-mundane deity and the search for pneuma in the soul was paramount. The purpose of a Gnostic was not to change this world, and least of all at the expense of mass destruction and humiliation of his kind, but to break through the boundaries of despicable flesh and find salvation in Pleroma.

Communism, Nazism, present-day postmodernism, and popular so-called "progressive" theories are all ugly and reduced to absurd derivatives of the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment about the liberation of humankind through relieving people of social manacles and endowing them with material goods on the one hand, and the cult of national state on the other. The Gnostic idea of raising humanity over the 'hitches' of the material world—mercantilism, race, gender, or social justice—has nothing in common with these primitive theories.

These manipulations compel us to settle upon another principal moment before looking at the philosophy of Gnosticism from the heights of more modern times: humanism and rationalism laid down in the dualistic movements from Gnostic and Mani's followers to the Cathars.

Equal in the Face of Evil

The Gnostic systems that existed throughout the centuries primarily differed in their extraordinarily careful, even touching, compassion for living life—not to kill a living being, not to cause pain to animals, and all the more not to torture or hurt one's nearest and dearest. These are all characteristics of the Manicheans, the Paulicians, the Bogomils, and the Cathars (Albigensian). The killing of animals and birds was the gravest sin for the Albigensian as before them the squashing of insects had been for the Manicheans, and knowing this, to recognize 'the heretic,' the Inquisition investigators would demand that suspects wring the necks of chickens. The Cathars had no leniency for the crimes or payoffs such as indulgence; the consequence of murder, mutilation, and insult was banishment from the community.

The second factor is a unique tolerance that was so unusual for the Middle Ages and human history in general. In these movements, we rarely encounter male chauvinism, typical of monotheistic religions. Let's remember Marcion, who allowed women to perform a christening rite on an equal basis with men, and the Bogomils' women preachers. The Cathars endowed women with full equality, allowing them to occupy the highest positions in the hierarchy of the Albigensians—' the perfect' (perfects).

The same attitude applied to the representatives of religious minorities such as Catholics and Jews. Long before the beginning of the era of freedom and Enlightenment, in Languedoc, Lombardy, and Toulouse, the Cathars established peace and an atmosphere of lenient tolerance for Enlightenment opponents. The Church put yellow crosses on the Cathars and yellow stars on the Jews, anticipating the idea of selection. They burned heretics in fires, tortured, banished, and demonized all who did not share their beliefs. During their rule, the Albigensians did not create anything like the Inquisition or force anyone to adopt their beliefs; neither did they hound and humiliate those outside their communities or agree to the bashing of the dregs of society. The subconscious fear of strangers was alien to them because a stranger was no more than the bearer of the divine spirit in a slightly different and maybe uncustomary shell than the one they wore themselves. Attachment to life with impending doom, pointless circumambulation, cold void, and worthlessness united all people in their eyes, irrespective of what they thought and believed in.

While in all European states and dukedoms, the Jews remained for centuries the people of second-rate quality and, worse yet, the devil's helpers and the accursed nation, in the lands of the Cathars, they were equal among all. In his book A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the historian Henry Charles Lea discusses the freedoms that were used by 'the sons of Moses' in the South of France, unprecedented in Europe not only in the twelfth century but in all the forthcoming ones, including thEnlightenmentnt. The Jews were allowed to own land allotments; they were free to choose any profession, including public serviEnlightenment honorary posts; and most importantly, they were not perceived as fundamentally flawed, vicious people doomed to suffering as the Church dogma kept maintaining. 'Southern France was almost the only stronghold of religious tolerance as … the very idea of religious persecutions was completely alien for the Cathars,' Lea wrote.

This is to be expected. What does it matter in which body a soul resides if the human body is 'the dungeon of evil' by definition? Can there be an advantage of one torture chamber over another, one dirty vessel over another? In any case, these vessels will be broken, and the origin of torment—' the Creator's closet'—destroyed.

What does it matter about people's delusions if the people are no more than delusions themselves? What does it matter how they believe in their God and what prayers they offer up to him if this God is a fallen angel, the origin of chaos, temptation, and suffering? Can humans who know the price of this frail world blame the miserable for their suffering and limitations?

The third and most significant point was that the dualists were much more rational than their enemies. They rejected miracles, omens, resurrection of the dead, prejudices, superstitious beliefs, and saints. They did not believe in sacraments or the worship of graves and icons. For them the conversations about 'the devil's scheming', incubi, and succubae were as absurd as the world itself ultimately was the devil's spawn. The Cathars could not use the expression 'it's the devil's work' because humankind should have realized this bitter truth since all physical and material nature was derived from the devil as it is. Unlike other Christians, Jews, and Muslims, they did not or could not believe that the Creator intervened in the business of His creations every minute, punishing, helping, blessing, warning, comforting, and being otherwise involved. The thought that the prayer containing a plea to stop a drought would touch the Almighty and urge Him to pour rain on the ground was laughable for them. The one who created hell and gave rise to the abyss under the name of the material world could not feel any compassion for His victims by definition. And His interference in the business of humans was devoid of any meaning. The residence of evil was created so intricately and carefully that it did not require the constant presence of the Creator.

Jean Duvernoy, the most influential modern researcher in the Cathars' history, brings as an example the sermon of the Cathar perfect Pierre Authie. Typical for the Albigensians (Cathars), it was mentioned in the Bishop of Pamiers Jacques Fournier's Inquisition records. Pierre Authie spoke disingenuously of the naive concepts of Christians and 'the care of Holy Father': 'It was not God who gave you a good harvest but the fertilization and watering of the ground,' he wrote. 'Why are you lying prostrate before this statue? Did you forget that it was Man who took a piece of wood and carved it with the help of iron tools?' he said in an attempt to bring pious Catholics to reason.

Finally, the last point: The Gnostic movement adherents understood human nature much better than other Christians did. Unlike Catholics, the Bogomils and the Cathars did not take the monastic vows in their youth; neither did they give their children away to monasteries because they realized that sexual desire in the young years is so powerful that it suppresses all spiritual aspirations and, if not realized, can morph into the most despicable perversions. They would practice abstinence-only when they mature in age after experiencing the joy of making love and creating families.

However, the main factor differentiating the world of Gnostics from that of their neighbors was that the dualism in the perception of the world led not to spiritual dissension but to harmony—individual and, subsequently, social. People felt a part of the brotherhood-sisterhood of the chosen without the division into religion, appearance, sex, race, and origin. People were hostages among other hostages of the triumphant evil, neither worse nor better than the rest. This combination—aversion to the world and concurrent quiet, unrevealed delight from belonging to the higher pure origin—gave rise to intense joy, somber composure, contempt for life, and anticipation of speedy parting with 'the worn shell' of a body.

Like other Gnostics before them, the Cathars did not leave the world as monks. They remained secular, not to improve the world, like Francis of Assisi, but to evoke it from their hearts. Like the bee—their symbol—they gathered bitter honey of knowledge from the inflorescences of the spirit growing from the depths of rotting matter.

The dust of history covered Gnosticism, and the sparkles of pseudo-mysticism gave it a grotesque and false shame. However, Gnosticism forever remained the religious philosophy that dared to explain God and the world, however pessimistic and even ominous the explanation.



bottom of page