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Socialism, The Soul and
Subversive Spirituality



Society and Soul

The Enduring Tradition of Gnosis

Gnosticism as an Unacknowledged World Religion

The Theo-Political History of Gnosticism

Gnosticism and Global Geo-Politics

From New Age to a New Gnosis

The New Socialism as Social Gnosticism

The New Gnosis and the Global ‘World’

The New Gnosis and the Nature of ‘God’

The New Gnosis and the Geo-Politics of ‘Energy’

Contents continued

The New Socialism and ‘New Age’ Spirituality

The New Socialism as Spiritual Anarchism

The New Socialism as a  “World Revolution of the Soul”

'Third Realm’, ‘Third Age’ and the ‘Third Reich’

The New Socialism and the German Spiritual Underground

The Gnosis of Stefan George and Rainer Maria Rilke

The Gnosis of Friedrich Schelling

The Gnosis of Meister Eckhart

 The Gnosis of Friedrich Nietzsche

Marxism and the Gnosis of Martin Heidegger


Society and the Soul

Both social identity and soul identity are collective or group identities. Just as a people or ‘Volk’ is a multiplicity of persons and the body an organic multiplicity of cells so is the soul of the individual a unique and in-divisible multiplicity of selves – an organic ‘society’ of selves. This is what makes it so easy for people to identify their spiritual individuality with the ‘soul’ of a people or ‘Volk’ - understood as a living social ‘organism’. And just as the body is seen by science as having to defend itself against pathogens – ‘foreign bodies’ – in the form of microorganisms or toxins, so is the body of a people then seen as something in need of protection from ‘foreign bodies’ of a different sort – foreigners. Xenophobic nationalism and racism are forms of identity politics. Identity politics is in turn an expression of the mass psychology of identity which finds expression in religions and their god-concepts. The history of religion and its god-concepts is the history of society and its identity-concepts or self-concepts.

Judaism and other monotheisms are the historic source of a god-concept which reflects a concept of identity or selfhood as something innately bounded by the body of the individual, the borders of the nation, the biology of a race, or the blood ties, culture  and values of a people or Volk. From this developed the modern culture of ego-identity as such, the ego being the mental boundary we place on our bodily sense of self, and the mental borderline we place between ‘me’ and ‘not-me’. Together with the monotheistic belief in One God, goes beliefs in One and only one Self, One Body (no reincarnation), One Reality, One Law for all, One Nation, One ‘Son’ of God…or One Fuhrer. But any ‘One’ implies the reality of Others. The very concept of monotheism - the idea of God as a single being, even a supreme being, is atheistic – implying as it does that the divine is merely one being among others rather than the divine source of all beings. Judaism and Aryanism were both identity religions generating mirror-image forms of identity politics, whether Nazi or Zionist.

How is it then, that Nazi ideologists were nevertheless able to promote the idea of an age-long and world-historic struggle, not only between Aryan and Jewish identity, but between Aryan and Jewish religiosity and ‘spirituality’ as such? That is because it falsely identified the Aryan ‘race’ with an Indo-European and Asian religious tradition that does indeed stand in diametric contrast to all monotheistic religions. This is not simply because they are ‘polytheistic’ religions which recognise many gods. Nor is it simply because they recognise that the individual too has not just one but many selves - many lives and many bodies. It is because they implicitly reject the foundational concept of theism as such (whether monotheism or polytheism) - the concept of individual beings as bounded identities – and with it the concept of both gods or ‘God’ as bounded beings.

The Enduring Tradition of Gnosis


The ancient spiritual tradition known as gnosticism was the most politically subversive spiritual movement ever to emerge and challenge the ruling gods of the day and their earthly priests and bishops. The ‘Gnostic Gospels’ discovered at Nag Hammadi are ample evidence of this iconoclasm. The gnostic movement arose in the centuries around the beginning of the first millennium supplanting the ‘New Age’ style ‘pick-and-mix’ of religious cults and philosophies that had sprung up within the Alexandrian empire. Weaving together elements of esoteric Judaism and Christianity, and giving new expression to ancient mystery traditions in the language of Greek philosophy, the gnostics forged a new and radically dualistic religious philosophy, characterised by five fundamental distinctions:

1.      Between the egotistic and genocidal god of the Old Testament and that deeper spiritual source and reality which it arrogantly denied (“No other gods before me”).

2.      Between the outer human being that is ‘in the world’, and the inner human being – a being that is not ‘of’ this world at all, and gives each individual direct access to spiritual reality through inner knowing or gnosis .

3.      Between holy scriptures and symbols that merely represented spiritual reality and gnosis – the direct inner cognition of that reality.

4.      Between distorted ideas of salvation through struggle against sin, self-sacrifice, martyrdom and death on the cross, and salvation through struggle against spiritual ignorance or agnosis

5.      Between the seed of Cain and Abel, symbols of an unending war of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and the seed of Adam’s third son Seth – the bearer of authentic inner knowledge.

Gnosticism survived repression by the Roman Church, to leave traces in the mystical traditions of the Eastern Church, Judaism and Islam. It re-emerged in Europe in the heretical theology of Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme. Just as gnostic spirituality had first found expression in the language of Greek philosophy – whilst at the same time imbuing that language with an otherwise missing dimension of spiritual passion and depth – so did the resurgent gnosis now find expression in the language of German and German-Jewish philosophy and poetry. Whilst the heretical ‘Gospels’ discovered at Nag Hammadi provided decisive evidence of the early gnostic spiritual movement, the ‘Gnostic Gospels’ of our own time remain largely unacknowledged. Karl Marx’s profoundly spiritual critique of the false gods of capitalism is but one example of the re-emergence of an underground stream of wordless inner knowing or gnosis that has, in the last two centuries, been finding expression in entirely new frameworks of thought. Examples of latter-day gnostic philosophies are those of the twentieth-century German thinker Martin Heidegger, his Jewish counterpart Martin Buber and the ‘spiritual scientific’ thinking of Rudolf Steiner. More recently, gnostic thinking has found indirect expression in the experiential psychology of Eugene Gendlin, the writings of Peter Sloterdijk and  above all in the SETH books of Jane Roberts – SETH being a name with deep resonance and significance in the history of gnosticism. As we enter the first years of the third millennium AD, humanity finds itself in a similar position to that which it faced in the first centuries of the first millennium. Our New Age spirituality co-exists with the rampant religious and political egotism of a New Rome – US imperialism – whose only god is its own global economic and cultural hegemony. 

As Marx long ago predicted in the Communist Manifesto, the march of corporate capitalism would inevitably result in its globalisation, creating a global secular culture which would economically trample and militarily terrorise all traditional, regionally rooted spiritual cultures – whilst arousing in the process the most violent forms of reaction from them. In Europe and Russia this reaction to global capitalism took the form of racist Nazi militarism and Stalinist industrial feudalism. In China it took the form of a religiously enthused ‘Cultural Revolution’. It now takes the form not only of Islamic fundamentalism, but of reactionary Christian and Jewish fundamentalism. Now however, the underground tradition of gnosis and gnostic spirituality is destined to once again surface and fulfil its subversive mission – that of undermining the false gods of global capitalism, scientific materialism, religious fundamentalism and New Age eclecticism. The New Gnosis will once again be a subversive Sethian gnosis – one which
challenges a whole host of false gods worshipped in our time. ‘Globalisation’, ‘energy’ and the ‘eternal gene’ are just some of the clay-footed idols worshipped religiously in the current ideologies of global capitalism. These include economic hegemonism and competitive egotism, as well as the scientific and philosophical ideologies of genetic, energetic and linguistic reductionism – all of which constitute a new form of spiritual-scientific ignorance or agnosticism. These ideologies are not only in the high-tech temples of the global finance markets and bio-tech corporations – dedicated to the worship of Mammon or the Human Genome – but also in the healing sanctuaries of Neo Age ‘energy medicine’, in Neo-Nazi politics and Neo-pagan religions and in ‘narrative’ psychotherapy. 

Under the title “A World Revolution of the Soul”,
The Nag Hammadi Gospels were first published in Germany by Peter Sloterdijk, one of few contemporary thinkers to acknowledge the extraordinary significance of the gnostic tradition for our age. Commenting on Sloterdijk’s work, Wim Nijenhuis writes:

This [Gnosis] is a path followed by many philosophers and artists…Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Cioran, Beckett and Baudrillard. Without exaggerating, we may say that a discussion is underway regarding the dissidence potential of the language of Gnosis in the post-historical media age. Within this debate Sloterdijk's position is that a new 'epoch-making' revolution is possible, and that, analogous to Gnosis in the past, it must come from an individual revolution of the soul….Sloterdijk's thesis on unworldliness is that, for the first time in history, Gnosis has formulated a dualistic principle which makes it possible to live in this world without being of this world. The Gnosis investigation provides Sloterdijk with a set of instruments for making a diagnosis of our age which demonstrates that our culture displays signs of a sort of neo-Gnostic turn. After two hundred years of attachment to the world, many people are now turning away from it and thereby spontaneously following the second path of Gnosis.


Gnosticism as an Unacknowledged World Religion

Far from being reducible to a set of obscure ancient sects or doctrines that sprang up in the Near East at the turn of the first millennium, gnosticism was and remains an unrecognised world religion – the only world religion that is not a sectarian cult, reliant on institutional structures. Gnosticism has become an unrecognised world religion because it is the underground stream of spiritual knowing or gnosis from which all religions spring. There has always been a gap between individual spiritual awareness and the symbols provided for it by institutionalised religions. Today this gap grows ever wider, leading to ever more desperate and fanatical attempts to bring the individuals back into the fold of dogmatic communal fundamentalisms. It remains an underground world religion because it is not a communal ‘faith’ but a form of spirituality that gives precedence to individual spiritual awareness – an awareness that is above all an awareness of our own spiritual individuality. Gnostic spirituality isgnosis’ – a knowing awareness of our own innermost spiritual identity. This spiritual identity is both individual and inviolable – eternal. And yet it is capable of infinite expansion. For, it is not an unconscious ‘part’ of the everyday self we identify with in this life, but the very source of that self and of countless selves and countless lives. The life of our innermost spiritual being is not bounded by birth and death but is the source of such boundless potentialities of being as can never be fully embodied in any one life. It is the self that is never fully born or ‘actualised’. A self that is already ‘dead’ – for it has never ceased to dwell in the spiritual world. It is the self that is “in the world but not of the world”. Gnosticism is a form of spirituality that can be named in a word but not ‘defined’ in words. It cannot be defined, because its basis is gnosis – the wordless inner knowing that links each individual to their innermost spiritual being.

The Theo-Political History of Gnosticism

In his book subtitled “The message of the alien God and the beginnings of Christianity”, Hans Jonas presented an account of the subversive, socialistic religious tradition known as gnosticism, and of the historical background and cultural preconditions of its emergence. This is a story which offers remarkable parallels to our times. It begins with the decline of regional state religious cults such as those of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Jews. War and conquest and the expatriation of ruling elites starts to separate regional religious cults from their urban centres of state power. Mass migration of peoples leads these regional cults and religious cultures to not only spread geographically but eventually to transform themselves into global ideologies and world religions. Thus according to Jonas, the Egyptian exodus and Babylonian exile of the Israelites led to the emergence of monotheism as a world religion, the conquest of Babylon by Persia led to the spread of astrological fatalism, and the fall of the Persian empire led to the spread of magic and religious dualism from its erstwhile regional locus in what is now Iran.

To begin with, therefore, we have a migratory melting pot of ethnic cultures and religious cults detached from their regional soil. At the same time, however, another force is at work. Greece transforms itself under Alexander into a great imperial power which conquers the Near East. Through the Greek language and Greek philosophy it imposes its own Hellenic culture – a cosmopolitan culture in which individuals, no matter what their origins, are seen not only as citizens of a local polis or city state like Athens but of a grand rationally ordered cosmos. Greek language and Greek philosophy offer the older spiritual traditions of the Near East a powerful new language in which to conceptualise themselves. Thus the Hebrew Yahweh cult found expression as a universal philosophical and ethical monotheism. But along with the Hellenisation of Judaism went a general revival of all the old spiritual traditions of the Near East. The sophisticated and subtle Greeks begin to take an interest themselves in ‘the wisdom of the barbarians’. The result was a ‘New Age’ style marketplace of ancient mystery cults and religious philosophies – but all couched in the common currency of Greek concepts. What was missing in this marketplace however, was any concept of individual spirituality and spiritual individuality. The inner self was identified with the outer self or ego, and the monotheistic God of the Jews served as a divine superego, needed to keep man’s unruly libidinal nature under control.

The central message of Christianity was designed to correct this god-concept, to remind individuals that they were fleshly embodiments of their innermost spiritual being. This gnostic message soon gave way to something quite different - an identification of each individual’s divine essence or spiritual individuality with a single divine or divinely inspired individual – first Jesus and later Mohammed.

Alexander’s conquest of the East, however, not only prepared the ground for the Hellenic ‘New Age’ but gave birth, under the Roman empire, to a new Christian gnosis  - one that would ‘heretically’ reject the dogmas through which Christianity itself was eventually turned into an imperial state religion of Rome. The gnostic ‘heretics’ rejected both Graeco-Roman cosmos idolatry and what they perceived as the false god of orthodox monotheism – a Supreme Being that, like the Big Bang of today’s cosmologists – was the ‘cause’ (arche) of everything in the cosmos and its dominating power (archon) but had itself no deeper source or origin. The dogmas that the gnostics rejected however, were not as important as the gnosis that they affirmed – the inner knowing that is the heritage of each individual, re-linking them to their own inner being and to an entire spiritual world of beings. This spiritual world was not conceived as an astrological cosmos of planets and stars but as an inner universe made up of planes and spheres of awareness. The Greek language was rich enough to not only provide a medium of intelligent discourse and dialogue but also to resonate with a deeper type of knowing or gnosis – the “wordless knowledge within the word”. This was not the case with Latin. Through Latin translation Greek theosophical language lost all its inner senses and resonances. Hence people can still speak today of ‘gnosticism’ as a dualistic world outlook which treats the material world as an abomination, forgetting that the Greek language had no word for ‘matter’.


 Gnosticism and Global Geo-Politics

With the expansion of the Roman empire and the Latinisation of Christian thought, the culture of the Greek ‘West’ became sidelined – except in Russia - as a new Roman ‘East’ – leading to the split between the Roman and Byzantine church. Similarly, today’s European West, together with Russia, is no more than an ‘Eastern’ frontier to the new ‘West’ of the American global empire. Within this global culture wars continue to rage between religious and racial, ethnic and national particularism, on the one hand, and an ethical and economic universalism  or ‘globalism’ on the other – the latter now taking the form of an Americanised capitalist culture in which, as Marx long ago predicted, all genuine qualitative values give way to a single quantitative value – the dollar. In this war of universalist vs particularist  identities and values there is, despite the much vaunted ‘individualism’ of the West, no room for the individual, no spiritual understanding of individuality and the nature of individual values. Today’s Western ‘individualism’, dominated by the imperial culture of American global capitalism, is a spiritual sham. All deep spiritual values have been subsumed by superficial symbolic values attached to material commodities. And like commodities, individual identity has become private property – an identi-kit assembled from the global marketplace of brands and commodities, ethnic and ethical values. Coca Cola can be swapped for Mecca Cola, tee-shirts bearing the cross for those with a crescent or six-pointed star. Participation in the rat race can be alternated with periods in a Buddhist retreat or Ayurvedic health centre – at a price. In this way all sub-cultures are ultimately forced to prostrate themselves before the dominant global culture of technologisation and commercialisation, and indeed forced to partake of them – to brand and market themselves in order to ‘compete’. Not all the forces of Islam, either in the form of regional state religions or international religious movements, will be able to resist the imperial forces of global capitalism. For, like all of the other world religions it has not room for a deep individual spirituality of a new sort – one that cannot be reduced to a shared communal spirit or culture, religious or secular, regional or international, racial or ethnic. An authentic individual spirituality can only have its source in our own deeper spiritual individuality – the inner being we each bear within us and whose spiritual embodiment we are.  The same constellation of circumstances that gave birth to a gnostic spirituality in the centuries just preceding and following the birth of Christianity, are reflected in our contemporary world as we move into the third millennium AD. In place of a Hellenic cosmopolitanism and Roman imperialism we have scientific cosmos worship and American imperialism. In place of a Christian sacramental culture of communion we have a secular culture of commodification, commercialisation and consumerism. In place of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian East we have Syria, Iraq and Iran. In place of the ‘Near East’ we have the ‘Middle East’ – where Judaism has regressed to the status of a regional state-backed religion and where the Palestinians have become the new Jews of the ‘Holy Land’. In place of the revival of interest in ancient spiritual traditions that constituted the Hellenic ‘New Age’ we have our own –  a mix-and-match marketplace of second-hand spiritual knowledge lacking any philosophical or spiritual depth –  sold through the symbolic allure of ancient traditions or given a pseudo-scientific gloss in the jargons of quantum-physics. 

From New Age to a New Gnosis

In the centuries immediately preceding and following the birth of Christ, a multi-cultural mix of races co-existed under the political sway of the Roman empire and its vassals, along with a medley of spiritual mythologies and theologies – a medley mirrored in today’s New Age pick-and-mix assortment of ancient spiritual traditions and new fangled therapies. Then, as now, the main concern of the ruling powers of the day was only to ensure that no coherent spiritual movement emerged which in any way challenged their political authority or the military hegemony. But the spiritual key word of the day was not ‘therapy’ or ‘healing’ however, but ‘redemption’. This word did not mean salvation from sin but freedom from slavery to the ruling military-political powers and their religious servants – the so-called ‘archons’.  Thus it was that in closest secrecy, small circles of initiates formed covert spiritual ‘cells’ whose purpose was to quietly educate others in a new and coherent religious philosophy. This philosophy, unlike the ‘New Age’ style medley of gods and religions that preceded it, was indeed spiritually and politically subversive. Its sheer spiritual power was a covert challenge to the ruling military-political powers. For, it was capable of restoring a sense of authentic spiritual communion between individuals that transcended those ethnic, class and cultural divisions on which those powers rested. One outcome of the work of these initiates was the birth of a ‘Christianity’ which very soon deformed itself into a personality cult of saviour worship and redemption from ‘original sin’. Another, less visible outcome was the continued survival of a powerful underground spiritual tradition – the so-called ‘gnostic’ tradition. This tradition had begun with the secret cells of subversive spiritual teachers who taught that the key to ‘salvation’ lay neither in political rebellion nor in redemption from ‘sin’, but rather in overcoming spiritual blindness and ignorance. In place of this ignorance they offered knowledge or gnosis – not in the form of dogmas but in the form of direct spiritual experiences undergone by individuals through initiation. For those in the business of creating a new structure of spiritual-political and cultural-communal authority – the Church – gnostic Christianity became subversive heresy. The ‘official’ canon of Christian gospels were carefully selected to remove as many traces as possible of the gnostic message or ‘gospel’ that Christ had been chosen to publicly enunciate and embody. Direct knowledge of spiritual reality through individual experience was regarded as inherently suspect and replaced by official rites or ‘sacraments’ which merely symbolised the knowledge obtainable through initiation -  direct subjective knowledge of a spiritual world of soul. 


Science is the new religion.


Martin Heidegger


In today’s world however, ‘knowledge’ is something identified solely with academic studies and science, whereas religion is seen as a matter of ‘belief’ or ‘faith’, ‘culture’ or ‘community’. All claims to knowledge that fall outside its officially sanctioned sources – science and academia – are deemed to be ‘unscientific’ rather than ‘heretical’. Nevertheless, the very idea that there is such a thing as subjective knowledge is of course sheer scientific heresy in modern scientific terms. The fact that we no longer see any scientific truth in direct subjective experience – not least spiritual experience – is testament to the spiritual ignorance or a-gnosticism fostered by centuries of institutionalised Christianity. The official churches fulfilled the function of nurturing and sustaining a communal spirituality based on personal faith and sacramental rites. The underground ‘anti-church’ of traditional gnosticism focused on the enlightenment of the individual through initiation in secret societies.

The New Socialism as Social Gnosticism

The New Socialism is also a new gnostic critique of the ruling secular and social gods of our era, and of the economic cultures and scientific cults that support them. It calls into question the supreme god of capitalism – The Market. It also questions its subordinate gods - gods of ‘energy’ or ‘the eternal gene’. The New Socialism is a New Gnosis - a theo-political spear aimed at the foundations of global neo-conservatism and neo-imperialism, and challenging all four faces of its famous pyramid – the dollar, the idolatry and ‘i-dollartry’ of new technologies, the politically illiterate platitudes of New Age ‘spirituality’, and the historically illiterate ‘literalism’ of Christian fundamentalist bible-worship or bibliolatry – which now sees its own face reflected in the deathly clash of Islamic and Zionist fundamentalisms. In the words of Karl Marx, through theo-political critique “the critique of heaven is transformed into the critique of earth…the critique of theology into the critique of politics.” In New Gnostic theo-politics the critique of politics becomes once again a critique of old and new theologies and god-concepts. This particular work of theo-political critique, like those of Marx, does not take the form of a theoretical treatise produced as an academic end in itself. Rather, as Marx put it: “Its subject is its enemy…It no longer acts as an end in itself but only as a means. Its essential emotion is indignation. Its essential task is denunciation.” The “enemy” of gnosis is not a group of persons or an economic class, nor is it some social or spiritual power of ‘evil’. It is quite simply spiritual ignorance or agnosis – whether this takes the form of supposed scientific ‘knowledge’ or religious ‘agnosticism’. Far from being reducible to a set of obscure ancient sects or doctrines that sprang up in the Near East at the turn of the first millennium, gnosticism was and remains an unrecognised world religion – the only world religion that is not a sectarian cult, reliant on institutional structures. Gnosticism has become an unrecognised world religion because it is the underground stream of spiritual knowing or gnosis from which all religions spring. There has always been a gap between individual spiritual awareness and the symbols provided for it by institutionalised religions. Today this gap grows ever wider, leading to ever more desperate and fanatical attempts to bring the individuals back into the fold of dogmatic communal fundamentalisms.

The New Gnosis and the Global ‘World

The mythology regarding gnosticism has it that the gnostics rejected the material world. In fact what they rejected was the identification of reality with an artefact of the ‘demiurge’ – a ‘world’ posited and projected, manufactured and materialised by the ego. We know this ‘world’ all too well today – the artificial world of the global media and global markets. In this modern world it is no longer the gods but material commodities that are imbued with human qualities (‘Real Chocolate, Real Feeling’). Vedic and Buddhist religious philosophy – theosophy - saw the material world as ‘maya’ – a spiritual illusion. Like Marx however, the gnostics recognised that spiritual illusions can take on a worldly material reality of their own. In the past all authentic human qualities were projected on and personified by the gods. Today they are not projected onto but materialised as commodities – “Real chocolate. Real feeling”. In the past, relations between human beings were seen as dominated by relationships between the gods or cosmic bodies such as planets and stars. Global capitalism, as Marx anticipated, would replace such fatalism with something far more fatal. Human beings would become subservient to their own material products. Relations between beings would become dominated by relationships between things – global markets and consumer commodities. Technology has created a ‘virtual’ world of media images, designed to sustain, through clever marketing, the idolisation of the commodity. The global media construct a ‘world’ in which images substitute for immediate lived experience. Instead of astrologers seeking ‘signs’ in the movements of the planets and stars, shareholders look for ‘signs’ in movements of market prices in the stock exchanges of the world. Science, having supposedly vanquished superstition, has become the servant of global corporations all of which have the basic character and structure of religious cults, each with its own spurious corporate ‘cultures’, ‘philosophies’ and ‘values’. None of this can disguise the fact that within these corporate sects all the real human qualities of the employee are valued only in so far as they generate purely quantitative values. Valued only as a means to an end, all individual qualities are fundamentally devalued – valued only to the extent that they can be materialised as material commodities and measurable economic values – profit. The aim is not individual value fulfilment but “maximising the value of human capital”. In place of the Invisible Spirit of the gnostics is the invisible hand of the Market. In place of the gospel of gnosis, of inner self-discovery, we have the gospel of the marketeers: “Rediscover the real you with Radox”.

     In the beginning God created human beings. Now, however human beings are creating God. Such is the way of this world – humans invent gods and worship their creations. It would be better for such gods to worship humans.


These are not the words of the ‘atheist’ Karl Marx, but instead come from the Gospel of Phillip. By ‘world’ the early gnostics did not mean the natural world but the social world fashioned by the human ego. Like the ancient ‘world’ of the gnostics, the modern ‘world’ of global capitalist society is identical neither with the earth and natural world, nor the world of soul and spirit. ‘World’ today means only the worldwide, global market. The earth and its beings have been reduced to a worldwide stock of raw materials and exploitable ‘resources’ – human and animal, vegetable and mineral. The sea is seen as no more than a vast fish farm; animals are herded into concentration camps for processing into food; trees are merely raw materials for the timber industry. Human beings themselves are disposed of as a stock of human ‘resources’, of exploitable skills and labour power. The work of human beings in capitalist society consists in creating purely quantitative material values rather than giving creative expression to their innermost qualitative spiritual values – their innermost soul qualities. The values of global capitalism are purely symbolic values – brand values, monetary value and market value. It is not beings but brands that are honestly regarded as having ‘souls’ by marketeers. Everything of deep spiritual value in the soul life of human beings, and all deeply valued human soul qualities are perverted by advertising into hollow, flat-screen images of themselves – identified with material commodities which serve as empty symbols of those soul qualities. As Marx pointed out, the defining character of capitalism is the way in which relationships between human beings become transformed into relationships between things – commodities. All the unique inner qualities that individuals materialise in their creative labour are put into the service of producing standardised commodities – and valued only according to the market value of those commodities. This society is not ‘secular’ in any way – its basis is a religious idolatry of the commodity. Marx recognised in capitalism an imperial and inherently self-globalising economic culture – one in which all ethical values would be subsumed by ‘market values’, all relationships between human beings would be dominated by relationships between things – commodities and their prices – and in which obligatory wage slavery would be sanctified by the owners of capital as the highest form of social ‘freedom’.


The New Gnosis and the Nature of ‘God

In The New Socialism neither theism nor atheism is an option, for it is not a question of believing or disbelieving in God’s reality as an actual being. Monotheisms of the sort that would have us believe in the One God as an actual being, are actually a disguised form of polytheisms since they imply the possibility of other gods.


I am a jealous god and there is no other god beside me. But by making this announcement he suggested to the angels that there is another god. For if there were no other God, of whom would he be jealous?


The Secret Book of John


Any ‘monotheistic’ god that is seen as one actual being reduces God to one being among others. Such a god cannot be a ‘true’ God – the divine source of all beings XE "beings" . Theisms that would have us believe in God as an actual being are thus also a form of disguised atheisms. In gnostic theology, a-gnosticism XE "gnosticism"  is not an option either. The term ‘agnosticism’ has come to refer to the belief that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved. Gnosis makes the question of God’s existence or non-existence irrelevant. The fact that God does not ‘exist’ as an actual being in no way means that God lacks reality. Reality is not actual existence, for all actualities and all actual beings have their source in an infinite field of potentiality. This field of potentiality was known by the gnostics of the past as The Fullness or pleroma. For God’s ‘non-actuality’ or ‘non-being’ is no mere void or empty lack of being. Instead it is an unimaginable fullness, consisting of limitless potentialities of being and infinite potential beings. Potential reality by its very nature is nothing actual or objectively verifiable. Potentialities have reality only subjectively, in awareness. Gnostic theology is no arrogant claim to ‘know’ God’s reality as an actual being. It is the understanding that God is gnosis – a knowing awareness of potentiality that is not the awareness of any actual being but the source of all actual beings. For this knowing awareness of potentiality consists of those infinite potentialities of awareness which are actualised as individualised consciousnesses or souls.

The New Gnosis and the Geo-Politics of ‘Energy

It was Aristotle who first asserted the primacy of the actual over the potential, of being over becoming, of material actuality or ‘energy’ over creative spiritual potentiality – the true meaning of ‘power’.


Obviously then, actuality (energeia) is prior to both

potency (dynamis) and to every principle of change.


In his essay entitled Dynamis vs Energeia, Jonathon Tennenbaum of the Schiller Institute has exposed the scientific and geo-political consequences of this philosophical principle – a principle which obscured the very essence of energy (energeia) as self-actualising potentiality or power (dynamis).

Aristotle denies the possibility of a self-developing, or self-actualising potential that which Nicholas of Cusa later called the posse-est (posse corresponding to Plato’s dynamis).

The principle of the posse-est posits the reality of a domain of unbounded potentiality. Energeia is the self-actualisation of this domain – the principle of formative and transformative activity through which all things undergo continuous creation and are changed. Since Aristotle however, energeia has been identified only with ‘actuality’. The result is that what science now calls ‘energy’ is itself seen as an actual ‘thing’ or as a product of such actual things (for example oil). Seen as a product of the actual, ‘energy’ is necessarily limited by the ‘laws’ of thermodynamics and is therefore treated as a scarce resource to be fought over through geo-political wars. Tennenbaum recounts how, in the lead-up to the American Civil War, along with the advent of materialism “a scientific cult was launched by Lord Kelvin and the Thomas-Huxley-Herbert Spencer ‘X-club’ circles…” Around the turn of the nineteenth century this found expression in the “Energeticist Movement” of Willhelm Ostwald, which “advocated a World Government based on the use of ‘energy’ as the universal, unifying concept not only for all the physical sciences, but also for economics, psychology, sociology and the arts.” The so-called ‘laws of thermodynamics’ are in essence a theo-physical construct which represents the cosmos as a closed system comparable to a machine. This ‘dynamics’ negates the very essence of dynamis as the dynamic self-actualisation or ‘emanation’ (hypostasis) of an open and unbounded realm of potentiality (dynamis) – the pleroma of the gnostics. Dynamis – the autonomous self-actualisation of this realm – is not the working or effect of a pre-existing agent or ‘cause’ of action. The attachment of the Catholic Church to Aristotelian doctrine was necessary to justify the idea of God as a pre-existing agent of action in the form of a single actual being. The conceptual reduction of dynamis to energeia, of potentiality to actuality, went hand in hand with the scientific reduction of the cosmos to a closed system of ‘energies’, and the religious reduction of God to an actual being – a person or ‘trinity’ of persons.

The New Socialism and ‘New Age’ Spirituality

What essentially is our contemporary ‘New Age’ culture? It is a commodified and commercialised ‘spirituality’ that has replaced the spiritual powers and charismata of gnostic Christianity with the ‘charisma’ of scientific and/or esoteric symbols – whether the symbols of quantum physics or the I-Ching, or ‘tachyons’ or Tarot cards. The gods it worships are impersonal cosmic energies. Its sacraments are healing ‘technologies’. Its religions are ‘therapies’. Its ‘word’ is the marketing of holistic health products and services. Its festivals are trade fairs of ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’. It replaces the unction of the spirit with aromatherapy, sacraments with the rites and rituals of different healing practices, the baptism of water with colonic irrigation, the innate vitality of spirit with vitamin supplements, the speech or logos of the psyche with arid scientific theories of psychology. Just like orthodox medicine it identifies the psychic and spiritual inwardness of the human body or soma with the flesh or sarx - its outermost physical skin.  It promises to raise individuals  to a ‘higher’ spiritual level, in tune with ‘higher vibrations’ -  instead of helping them descend into the rumbling depths of their being. It seeks to ‘cleanse’ them of toxins and empty them of ‘negative’ emotions - whilst fearing the fullness of this depth - the pleroma. Its slogan is self-actualisation - a contradiction in terms – for what is ‘self’ if not the autonomous self-actualisation of a primordial field of potentiality, one that can never be fully actualised in any identity or ‘self’. It sees ‘energy’ as the medium of inter-relatedness between all things – forgetting that in doing so it acknowledges relatedness as something more primary than any thing – including ‘energy’. As subversive social gnosticism, The New Socialism rejects the agnosticism of New Age ‘energeticism’ in a most fundamental way – recognising that it is not ‘energy’ that connects things but connectedness that energises – the connectedness not of bodies in space but of beings. It is beings and not brains that think; beings that see and hear, not eyes and ears alone. Gnosis is knowledge of beings, not of things. For beings themselves have their source in a knowing awareness of potentiality that transcends all the actualities and certainties of the word and its scientific ‘knowledge’.


The New Socialism as Spiritual Anarchism

New Gnostic theosophy distinguishes between the realm of non-being or potentiality – that which the ancient gnostics called the pleroma – and the realm of being or actuality – known as the kenoma. At the same time it is  non-Aristotelian -  for it acknowledges the primacy of dynamis over energeia, the  potential over the  actual. It recognises all actualities as the autonomous self-actualisation of a primordial field of potentialities – the pleroma. From this point of view, action itself is essentially autonomous – it has no ‘first cause’. The Greek word arche, translated into Latin as causus – implied something independent of action that can be an initial starting point or ‘cause’ of action, and that therefore dominates and rules action. The notion of arche is an expression of human ego-identity, the ego being that part of us that experiences itself as an independent cause or initiator of action, whilst not knowing itself as one expression of action. This is an illusion, since all identifiable events or phenomena – all identities – consist of structures or patterns of action, and are the autonomous self-actualisation of a primordial field of potentiality. Since all action is self-multiplying, creating further possibilities of action, all structures or patterns of action – all identities – are inherently mutable and subject to transformation. The Greek verb archein means to rule or dominate, and the term archon is used frequently in the gnostic gospels to denote dominant political, social and spiritual powers – powers which seek to rule human action through laws and structures whilst regarding themselves as ‘first causes’ that are in some way above action and above the very laws and structures they impose – laws and structures designed to preserve the status quo. Ancient gnosticism on the other hand was political, social and spiritual an-archism – opposing the self-arrogated power of the archons and worship of an archigenitor. That is because gnosis undermines the very principle of arche – rejecting the idea of a ‘first cause’ of action, and rejecting all theologies which gave God the attributes of an archon and archigenitor – a supreme ruling power and ‘first cause’. In place of this Archigenitor they spoke of Autogenes, a name which suggests the principle of autonomously self-generating action or autogenesis – the ‘self-begetting’ and ‘self-begotten God’, and the autonomous, free and self-creating Self.


The New Socialism as a  “World Revolution of the Soul”

Religion and politics have always been and remain inseparable. The supposed separation of spiritual and secular power, ‘church and state’, merely sanctifies that other unrecognised world religion – that of the global money markets. The economic military and media power wielded by this religion is unparalleled.  It makes a complete mockery of democracy, a term which means nothing in societies in which it is not elected parliaments but unelected corporate managements that have the most impact on people’s everyday working lives. The gnostics of old struggled against worldly power of both church and state. They did not do so through parliamentary or extra-parliamentary action, martyrdom or mass demonstrations, militancy or armed revolution, communal mobilisation or media campaigning. They did so by recognising the innate spiritual power of each individual to ‘change the world’ by changing themselves – learning to be in ‘in the world but not of the world’. But a spiritual world revolution, a “world revolution of the soul” (Sloterdijk) is in essence neither an individual nor a social revolution. Fundamental social changes, economic and political, can only come about through a revolution in a third realm transcending the individual and the social. This is the ‘Third Realm’ of immediate human relations between individuals which Martin Buber called the ‘inter-human’. The spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of both the individual and society are all inseparable from the health of human relations within society and between individuals. A revolution in human relations however, can in turn only come about through the way in which we ourselves relate to other individuals. It demands that as individuals, we take unconditional responsibility for the manner in which we relate to other human beings, not relegating this responsibility to some ‘thing’ – whether our genetic programming, neurological functioning or childhood upbringing. It demands re-ligion in the most essential sense of this word – the capacity to re-link with our innermost spiritual self. For, only in that way can we knowingly re-link with the innermost self of other individuals. The New Gnosis is a ‘Third Evangel’ whose aim is to usher in a ‘Third Age’ in which neither the individual nor the collective but the ‘Third Realm’ – the realm of immediate human relations between individuals – creates the foundation of The New Socialism.


‘Third Realm’, ‘Third Age’ and the ‘Third Reich’

According to the political scientist and historian Eric Voegelin, it was the Pauline metaphor of the church as a collective spiritual body that laid the foundation for a hierarchical church organisation with the Pope as ‘head’ of this body. In his view however, it also created a prototype for Reformatory mass movements such as Puritanism, for intellectual movements such as Enlightenment thinking or German idealism, and for political mass movements such as Marxism and National Socialism – both of which Voegelin understood not as secular movements but as political religions. His essay “The Political Religions” was published in Vienna one month after the Nazi annexation of Austria. In a lecture entitled ‘Science, Politics and Gnosticism’ delivered at the University of Munich in 1938, Voegelin once again put forward the central thesis that religion and politics were inseparable. Above all he argued that the entire intellectual and political history of Europe, not least Germany, could not be understood without reference to one of its central religious undercurrents – gnosticism.


The idea that one of the main currents of European, especially of German, thought, is essentially gnostic sounds strange today, but this is not a recent discovery. Until about a hundred years ago the facts of the matter were well known…On this issue, as on many others, the learning and self-understanding of Western civilisation were not submerged until the liberal era, the latter half of the nineteenth century, during the reign of positivism in the sciences of man and society. The submergence was so great that when the gnostic movement reached its revolutionary phase its nature could no longer be recognised. The movements deriving from Marx and Bakunin, the early activities of Lenin, Sorel’s myth of violence, the intellectual movement of neopositivism, the communist, fascist and national-socialist revolutions – all fell in a period, now fortunately part of the past, when science was at a low point. Europe had no conceptual tools with which to grasp the horrors that were upon her…There was no science of the non-Christian, non-national, intellectual and mass movements into which the Europe of Christian nation-states was in the process of breaking up.


This, according to Voegelin was due to a failure to recognise their gnostic essence as ‘inner-worldly’ religions – not religions of man’s psychic ‘inner world’ but religions that demanded world revolution as a means of spiritual redemption from this world. For since according to gnostic tradition it is through his psyche that man is bound to the established world order, spiritual salvation must lead to the dissolution and transformation of this order. Its revolutionary spiritual mission can be guided neither by worldly exoteric knowledge nor by any God of this world, but only by a knowing that comes from man’s innermost spiritual being - that ‘Alien God’ of the gnostics that is not of this world and is the only means of overcoming man’s alienation from his inner being.

Voegelin, like the well-known scholar of gnosticism Hans Jonas, saw this gnostic ontology (from the Greek ontos – being) reflected not only in the communist political philosophy of Marx but in the conservative thinking of the twentieth-century philosopher Martin Heidegger, who for a brief time was a member of the Nazi party. Like the heresiologists of the past, Voegelin took it upon himself to not only describe but expose and excoriate these representatives of modern gnosticism - as if to shield Catholics from their influence and warn of the enduring but subversive historical undercurrent that gnostic heresy represented. What he ignores is the central role played by a distorted Pauline Christianity in this history – one which found expression in both the Eastern orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. At the same time Voegelin’s studies of European religious history reveal a quite different picture of gnostic spirituality and politics than the one he was so keen to paint. They do so by identifying one central figure in this history: Joachim of Flore.


Joachim was a Cistercian abbot and mystic who was born in 1132 at Celico, near Cosenza, Italy, and died in March 1202 at San Giovanni in Fiore, Calabria. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, Joachim wrote of a trinity of world ages or ‘realms’ corresponding to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.


In the first age the Father ruled, representing power and inspiring fear, to which the Old Testament dispensation corresponds; then the wisdom hidden through the ages was revealed in the Son, and we have the Catholic Church of the New Testament; a third period will come, the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, a new dispensation of universal love, which will proceed from the Gospel of Christ, but transcend the letter of it, and in which there will be no need for disciplinary institutions. Joachim held that the second period was drawing to a close, and that the third epoch (already in part anticipated by St. Benedict) would actually begin…in 1260.


A third and "Eternal  Evangel" – the evangelium aeternium of John’s Apocalypse – would arise, one in which the ‘spirit’ would prevail over the letter of the Word. In this sense a new gnosis, understood as the “wordless knowledge within the word”, would be born.

As Voegelin describes it:


The Third Age of Joachim, by virtue of its new descent of the spirit will transform men into members of the new realm with sacramental mediation of grace. In the third age the church will cease to exist because the charismatic gifts that are necessary for the perfect life will reach men without administration of sacraments. While Joachim conceived the new age concretely as an order of monks, the idea of a community of the spiritually perfect who can live together without institutional authority was formulated in principle.


For Voegelin, this principle belongs also to the very essence of what he calls “the Marxian mysticism” of the withering away of the state and the ideal of a communist society based on authentic individual freedom and fulfilment - one in which according to Marx, “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” Voegelin notes that “The basic pattern of a religious interpretation of history already was provided by the Pauline classification of world history into three areas: the heathen lex naturalis, the lex mosaica of the Old Testament, and the third, the Christian empire.” He also notes how the basic idea of a threefold or trinitarian classification of historical ages is reflected in Marxism, with its division of history in a primordial era of ‘primitive communism’, an era of class societies culminating in capitalism, and third-stage return to communism at a higher level of social, cultural and industrial development. The national-socialist idea of a Third Age, and with it a third stage of human society or Third Realm - the ‘Third Reich’- was in fact a late literary borrowing by the Nazis from a tract with that name published in 1923. It derives from a long tradition of theo-historical thinking, and one that long preceded Christianity itself. It found expression also in a Russian Orthodox understanding of Moscow as the spiritual centre of a Third Rome. In reality it is Washington - the Third Rome of the corporations – that has become the concrete capitalist shadow of a Russian spiritual capital.

Third Age, Third Realm, Third Reich, Third Rome. What have these to do with today’s ‘New Age’ spirituality? An equivalent to the ungrounded and uncentred spiritual eclecticism that characterised the Hellenic New Age, preceded the birth of Christianity and with it, the Roman Christian Empire. A Germanic equivalent of this New Age culture also flowered in the last decades of the nineteenth century, preceding the birth of National Socialism. This was not a neo-gnostic movement but a neo-pagan political religion - rooted in the worship of mythological Nordic gods. Under Hitler, himself health obsessed, vegetarian and a vehement anti-smoker, German New Age ‘holistic medicine’ became the national health policy of the Nazi state. The belief in ‘cleansing’ the bodily organism of toxins, foreign bodies and pathogenic genes was transferred to the diagnosis and ‘treatment’ of the social organism - the body of the Volk – through ethnic cleansing, racial hygiene, eugenics and genocide. Modern genetic medicine did not begin with Mendel or with Crick and Watson but with those German physicians and biologists. For it was they who proposed their own eugenically sanctioned murder of psychiatric patients as an ideal medical model for the ‘Final Solution’.

Historically it seems, the different ‘New Ages’ have always laid the basis for something to follow – proving a womb for either a new gnosis, or for new more insidious expressions of spiritual ignorance. According to Joachim each age is heralded by a prophet like John the Baptist and becomes focused around a spiritual leader and teacher – the first of these having being Abraham, the second being Jesus. Joachim took upon himself the role of prophet of the Third Age he anticipated. His historical dating of the birth of this age – 1260 – also just ‘happens’ to coincide exactly with the birth of the German mystic and social theologian Meister Eckhart, whose teachings did indeed constitute a new gnostic gospel, do indeed bear a timeless validity and carry a deep theo-political message.


…there can be no love where love does not find equality, or is not busy creating equality. Nor is there any pleasure without equality. Practice equality in human society. Learn to love, esteem, consider all people like yourself. What happens to another, be it bad or good, pain or joy, ought to be as if it happened to you.


Humanity in the poorest and most despised human being is just as complete as in the Pope or in the Emperor.


We are all in all, as God is all in all.


Meister Eckhart, translated by Mathew Fox

The New Socialism and the German Spiritual Underground

The geo-political conditions for the continued endurance of a gnostic tradition in Europe were laid in 9AD by what was perhaps the single most important battle in European history: the defeat in the dense Teutonburg forest of three entire Roman legions under Varus by the Germanic tribes led by Armenius or ‘Hermann’. This defeat not only established the Rhine as an unbridgeable geographical boundary of the Roman Empire. It also created an enduring linguistic, cultural and spiritual division between Europe’s Romanised West and its Germanic East. With the Christianisation of Rome, Latin became the dominant language of Roman Christianity, in contrast to the Greek of the Eastern church and German in the European East. This was significant, for Latin was an abstract, literalistic and rationalistic language entirely unsuited to communicating spiritual knowledge. The Germanic languages, on the other hand, had a spiritual nature closer to that of Greek - capable of evoking the sort of deep inner resonances necessary to communicate a “wordless knowledge within the word”. It is no accident that it was through the translation of the Bible into German that the Reformation took hold, and that the greatest of European Christian mystics – Meister Eckhart – wrote and preached in German. With the decline of ancient Gnosticism therefore, the spiritual centre of the gnostic tradition moved from the Near East to the European East, from Greece to Germany and Russia. The philosophy of Martin Heidegger and the theosophy of Rudolf Steiner can be considered the culmination of a long tradition of gnosis in Germany. The climate for this was fostered by the empire of Frederick the Great, who relinquished the crusade against Islam, was accused of heresy by the Pope, and whose court included Jewish and Islamic scholars. Gnostic religiosity found its clearest expression in the ‘heretical’ theology of Meister Eckhart (1260-1329). But it also permeated the poetry and music of German romanticism. Its historical significance can be seen in the circle that gathered round the mystical anti-Nazi poet Stefan George. Called ‘Secret Germany’ its most ardent disciple was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, an aristocratic descendant of the Hohenstauffen dynasty of Frederick the Great – and key figure in the July 20th  plot to assassinate Hitler.


The Gnosis of Stefan George and Rainer Maria Rilke


Let me stand at your verge

Chasm, and not be dismayed!


Where irrepressible greed has

Trampled down every inch of

Earth from equator to pole and

Shamelessly wielded relentless

Glare and mastery over

Every nook of the world,


Where in the smothering cells of

Hideous houses, madness has

Just found what will poison

All horizons tomorrow:

Even shepherds in yurts,

Even nomads in wastes -


…There in the sorest of trials

Powers below pondered gravely,

Gracious celestials gave their

Ultimate secret: the altered

Laws over matter and founded

Space – a new space in the old


                                    Stefan George Secret Germany



However vast outer space may be, yet with all its sidereal distances it hardly bears comparison with the dimensions, with the depth dimension of our inner being, which does not even need the spaciousness of the universe to be within itself almost unfathomable…To me it seems more and more as though our customary consciousness lives on the tip of a pyramid whose base within us (and in a certain way beneath us) widens out so fully that the farther we find ourselves able to descend into it, the more generally we appear to be merged into those things that, independent of time and space, are given in our earthly, in the widest sense, worldly existence.

Rainer Maria Rilke


 The Gnosis of Friedrich Schelling


Gnosticism in general allowed detailed investigation of the ideational world – and allowed philosophemes about God’s Being in general which…are no longer permitted, banning the spirit to the confines of literalistic systems and a theory of divine being put together from crass human conditions.


Friedrich Schelling


The Gnosis of Meister Eckhart


I have often said that

God is creating the entire universe

Fully and totally

In this present now.


Every creature is full of God

And is a book about God.

Every creature is a word of God.


All creatures flow outward, but nonetheless remain within God. Everything that is in God, is God.


God is a being beyond Being and a Nothingness beyond Being.


God’s being is my being

And God’s primordial being

Is my primordial being.


Because this Word is a hidden Word.

It comes in the darkness of the night.

To enter this darkness put away

All voices and sounds

All images and likenesses

In stillness and peace

In this unknowing knowledge

God speaks in the soul.


Meister Eckhart, translated by Mathew Fox


 The Gnosis of Friedrich Nietzsche


Zarathustra’s address to the ‘working class’:


Poor, cheerful and independent – that is possible together. Poor, cheerful and a slave – that is possible too.

Phew! To believe that higher pay could abolish the essence of their misery – I mean their impersonal serfdom! Phew! To be talked into thinking that an increase in this impersonality, within the machine-like workings of a new society, could transform the shame of slavery into a virtue! Phew! To have a price for which one remains a person no longer but becomes a gear!

Are you co-conspirators in the current folly of nations, who want above all to produce as much as possible and to be as rich as possible? It would be your affair to present them with the counter-calculation: what vast sums of inner worth are thrown away for such an external goal. But where is your inner worth when you no longer know what it means to breathe freely, when you no longer have the slightest control over yourselves, when you all too often become sick of yourselves, as of a stale drink, when you listen to the newspapers and leer at your rich neighbour, made lustful by the rapid rise and fall of power, money and opinions, when you no longer have any faith in philosophy, which wears rags….?


Friedrich Nietzsche  Thus Spake Zarathustra



Marxism and the Gnosis of Martin Heidegger

Both science and religions offer accounts of reality which suggest a pre-given order of things, divine or natural, an order consisting of already existing things or beings. Heidegger, in contrast, raised the darkest and most profound philosophical question of all – why any ‘thing’ or ‘being’, be it a god or energy, spirit or matter, is at all. The ability to question - in wonder, awe and terror - the very fact that things are opens up an abyss of nothingness, for the beingness or is-ness of things is of course no-thing in itself, no being, human or divine. Heidegger saw in the fact that human beings feared or felt no need to confront the fundamental question of Being as a form of pathology - the expression of a loss of reverence for the essential mystery of their own being and other beings. The question and the mystery do not go away but leave human beings with a basic anxiety in the face of death. Distracting themselves from this anxiety through everyday dealings with what is present and actual in their lives, deprives them of what the prospect of death itself can help recall them to. That is their own innermost potentialities of being - indeed their very potential to be rather than to merely exist.

For Heidegger, genuine relations to other human beings of the sort suggested by Martin Buber are unthinkable if, as human beings, we no longer know who we are – if we lack an authentic self-relation. To be a self however, did not for Heidegger mean ‘having’ a self which belongs to us but belonging to that self – belonging to the being who we most essentially are. By ‘knowing who we are’ Heidegger did not mean possessing a secure personal identity – an identity or ‘self’ that we ‘have’ or ‘own’ in the same way we have or own a car or a computer. Nor did he mean being able to represent who we are in thought, to describe or define ourselves in words or, in ‘post-modern’ terms, to construct an identity, invent or reinvent ourselves through a life story or ‘narrative’. For Heidegger, knowing ourselves was inseparable from being ourselves – thus the moment we take it for granted that we already ‘are’ ourselves we cease to know ourselves, for we lose sight of our innermost potentialities of being.


Self – does that not mean that we…already have ourselves in view and have the right feel for ourselves, are at home with ourselves? By what means and how is a human being certain that he is at home with himself and not merely with a semblance and a surface of what is his ownmost? Do we know ourselves – as selves? How are we to be ourselves, if we are not our selves? And how can we be ourselves without knowing who we are, so that we are certain of being the ones we are?


Heidegger understood ‘knowing’ itself not as a capacity to represent the truth correctly but as a specific relation to the truth. The question of what it means to ‘know ourselves’ becomes a question of what sort of relation it is that constitutes knowing. Is it for example, a relation in which we try to take an ‘objective’ stand outside ourselves and turn our own being or selfhood into a conceptual object or ‘It’? Heidegger, like Buber, thought otherwise:


Knowing is a relation in which we ourselves are related and in which this relation resonates through our fundamental bearing.


  Heidegger was not unaware of the ‘heretical’ religious implications of this type of knowing or gnosis and distinguished it sharply from ‘faith’.


…faith, especially in its open or tacit opposition to knowing

 – means holding-for-true that which withdraws from knowing.


Gnosis, which Heidegger termed “essential knowing” or “knowing awareness” - does not mean holding something to be true but rather holding oneself within the truth – letting it ‘resonate’ through and within us. Knowing is not a relation in which we ‘grasp’ for essential truth in concepts, appropriating and claiming it as private property in the form of representational concepts and propositions. It is a relation in which we ourselves are grasped or gripped by essential truth. We find ourselves in the grip of truth, and allow ourselves to be claimed, appropriated or ‘enowned’ by it.        


The ‘gnostic gospel’ of Martin Heidegger was set out in a long unpublished manuscript called Contributions to Philosophy, and subtitled ‘From Enowning’. The word enowning is a translation of the German Ereignis. Ereignis in German means an ‘event’ but the verb ereignen comes from the German words eigen and eignen – ‘own’ and ‘to own’. Heidegger’s use of the term Ereignis is variously translated as “appropriation”, “the event of appropriation” or “enowning”. By the use of the word he did not mean that ‘we’ as human beings ‘own’ or ‘reown’ who we are – our essential being - but rather surrender to being fully reappropriated or ‘enowned’ by it. For, as Heidegger emphasised “a relation to the essential can have its origin only in the essential.”


For Marx, the alienation of individuals from their own creative essence was a result of its exploitation and expropriation as labour. In a capitalist economy the employee’s labour power is merely a commodity to be bought and sold according to its market value. Its products are not the property of the employee but of the employer. According to Marx, freedom from the alienation of modern wage slavery could only come about through a social-economic revolution in which the means of production ceased to be the private property of the owners of capital, and the products of labour were made freely available according to need. Only by reappropriating their labour power could individuals fulfil their creative potentials freely and not as wage slaves. For Marx, the alternative – communism – was not collectivism but a fulfilled individualism no longer hampered and determined by collective economic forces. Hence his definition of communism as a society in which “the free development of each was the condition for the free development of all.”


For Heidegger on the other hand, no revolutionary transformation of human relations, economic or political, social or cultural, scientific or spiritual, could take place without a more fundamental event (Ereignis) occurring an event of ‘appropriation’ or ‘enowning’. Through enowning individuals would come to know themselves and others in an entirely new way. Instead of experiencing their own and other people’s identities as private property – a possession of their ego or “I”, they would themselves be ‘appropriated’ or ‘owned over to’ their innermost being. Heidegger understands gnosisknowing - as enowning. Enowning is itself an ‘enknowing’ of our being. But gnosis, as enknowing and enowning, is not a goal that can be achieved through calculated spiritual action, but something we give ourselves over to and let ourselves into. Enowning is something we submit to and undergo in the movement of awareness which Heidegger, following Nietzsche called going under – that movement of submergence which the gnostics called the ‘baptism of truth’.


The era of ‘The New Gnosis’ is for Heidegger an epoch of “going-under”. Christians and agnostics of all sorts can only quake at this era and see it as an ‘End Time’ or Apocalypse.


The epoch of going-under is knowable only to those who belong. All others must fear the going under… For to them going under is only a weakness and a termination.


In the Contributions Heidegger writes of those who belong to this era the knowers or gnostikoi as “The Ones to Come”, describing them as:


…the stillest witness to the stillest silence, in which an imperceptible tug turns the truth back, out of the confusion of all calculated correctness…” In a language steeped in gnostic tradition Heidegger writes of their ‘god’ as the “The Last God. The totally other in relation to gods who have been, especially in relation to the Christian God.


They reside in masterful knowing, as what is truthful knowing.

Whoever attains this knowing awareness does not let himself be computed or coerced.

Peter Wilberg


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