Friday, December 12, 2014

Ancient and Modern Gnosticism

Every dog has its day, so they say, and it looks like Gnosticism, an ancient approach to spiritual experience, may be having its day, once again.

Of course, despite the best efforts of the early Catholic Church, Gnosticism never really disappeared, but its reappearance over the centuries has been fleeting and sporadic.

Why, as we march into a new millennium, is this hidden stream of quasi-Christian mysticism triggering a fresh interest among both spiritual seekers and readers of popular novels?

Dan Brown’s mega-bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, surely shares part of the credit.

This publishing phenomenon, which sold over 6 million copies, took a simmering interest in the Knights Templar, the Divine Feminine, alleged secret societies such as the Priory of Sion, the Holy Grail, and the question of the historical Jesus, and stirred these ingredients together with a generous dollop of Gnosticism.

The result was a blockbuster thriller that unexpectedly caught the popular imagination. Despite the fact that at least two other previous thrillers, The Da Vinci Legacy by Lewis Perdue (1983), and Kingdom Come (2000) by Jim Hougan, had overlapped much of the same territory, lightning struck Brown’s novel and sparked innumerable dinner-table discussions of heretofore-arcane topics such as Mary Magdalene’s real relationship to Jesus.

But the success of The Da Vinci Code is just the culminating phase of a gradual public awareness of Gnostic matters that extends back at least a century to the great Occult Revival of the late 19th century.

At that time, Gnosticism slowly re-emerged from the shadows, nudged by the French occultist Eliphas Lévi, and propelled along by Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, French neo-gnostics such as Papus and Jean Bricaud, and researchers such as G.R.S. Mead (whose pioneering discussion of the Gnostics, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, was for many decades one of the few sourcebooks on the subject for general readers). 
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1 comment:

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