The Secret pt VI

Contemporary Gnosticism: The Story we Find Ourselves In

The fascinating and prescient aspect of 'the Secret' isn't its content.  As we have breifly discussed, it isn't all that new, or insightful.  First, it is as old as Christianity (which isn't a bad thing).  Second, it advocates the dismally naive idea that we just need to find out what we want, want it more, and then the world will be a better place (which isn't a good thing).  The insight of 'the Secret' is its framing narrative, its packaging.

In point of fact, 'the  Secret' isn't alone in this, much of the contemporary gnostic discussion is framed in the same way, whether it is Dan Brown's 'DaVinci Code,' or Elaine Pagels 'Beyond Belief.'  The framing story always goes something like this: 'ancient wisdom of significant power has always been known to those iconoclastic few who attempted to share their wisdom with the masses, but were silenced and persecuted by conspiracies of powerful elites who were threatened by the democratic nature of that wisdom.'

Contemporary gnostics have managed to capture the popular imagination as the defenders of democracy and egalitarianism, as a persecuted minority, as an explosively radical and powerful movement, and as the purveyors of a hidden truth.  Setting aside the simple historical fact that gnosticism has never been all that radical, and never been persecuted, because it has never been politically dangerous to those in power, it remains a remarkable feat of marvellously succesful marketing!

It is, of course, historically false to see gnostics as radicals who threatened the status quo.  They were never persecuted for their claims in the way Christians were and are to this day.  It is the Christian narrative that threatens the political authority of nations with allegiance pledged to the sovereign hand of God.  (It is precisely this radical, explosive, subversive, power that is bleeding out of the church in the bastardized forms of faith that we see so prevalent in the West.)

It is the Christian narrative that provides the moral imperative for egalitarianism and democracy (although the Greeks were responsible for the political form).  Gnosticism was actually an elitist sect, with tiers of purity that formed a hierarchy, with those outside viewed as beyond the pale.  The Christians were the ones lifting up the poor and marginalized of society; admitting slaves and women to not only enter the fellowship, but to lead it; serving and helping their pagan neighbors.

The only claim the gnostics make that IS true is the claim to esoteric truth.  The Christian church has a long history of publicizing its creeds.  The gnostics like to hide theirs...

...in our final post we will look at just what this marketing angle has to say about our culture, and what that might mean for the church.

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