January 8, 2010


Note: Most of these aphorisms about Gnosticism come from Nuevos Escolios, and can be found at this page. The importance of Gnosticism to a proper understanding of democracy and the modern world in general for Gómez Dávila can probably best be seen in Textos I, pp. 55-84.

Authentic atheism is a blank page; Gnostic atheism hides a text written in invisible ink.
The Übermensch is the recourse of a nonconformist atheism.
Nietzsche invents a human consolation for the death of God; Gnostic atheism, on the other hand, proclaims the divinity of man.

The Antichrist is, probably, man. (#502)

Humanity is the only totally false god. (#1,781)

The only attribute that can without hesitation be denied man is divinity.
But that sacrilegious pretension, nevertheless, is the ferment of his history, of his destiny, of his essence. (#1,908)

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God, another who believes he is a god. (#1,386)

“To have faith in man” does not reach the level of blasphemy; it is just one more bit of stupidity. (#2,929)

The two poles are the individual and God; the two antagonists are God and Man. (#2,646)

The particular creature we love is never God’s rival. What ends in apostasy is the worship of man, the cult of humanity. (#2,986)

Humanizing humanity again will not be an easy task after this long orgy of divinity. (#2,539)

Freedom intoxicates man as a symbol of independence from God. (#2,652)

The atheist devotes himself less to proving that God does not exist than to forbidding Him to exist. (#2,065)

Gnosticism and Christianity start from the same point, but go in different directions.
From the same definition of the human condition, Christianity infers that man is a creature, while the Gnostic infers he is a god.

The Gnostic is a born revolutionary because total rejection is the perfect proclamation of his divine autonomy.

The Greek roots of the Gnosticism of late antiquity are not to be found in Platonic dualism, but rather in Stoic monism.

Christianity and Gnosticism shared the question. Feeling “allogenous” was a common characteristic.
The state of “alienation” is an historical constant, but becomes more acute in times of social crisis.
“Alienation” is the ground in which either a Romantic Christian or a democratic Gnostic answer germinates.

Something is modern if it is the product of an initial act of pride; something is modern if it seems to allow us to escape the human condition. (#2,833)

Eroticism and Gnosticism are the individual’s recourse against the anonymity of mass society. (#2,501)

The French Revolution has been the highest wave of the Gnostic tide.

Transcendence becomes dualism, and dualism becomes Manichaeism, where egalitarianism eclipses the very notion of hierarchy.

Where mystical process is conceived as an assumption, not as a Gnostic restoration, deification is merely the hyperbole of someone in ecstasy.

“Justice” is a Gnostic notion.
It is enough for the fallen god to reclaim his own.
We Christians beg for mercy.

Lamartine is the best example of unconscious Gnosticism flowing into democratic humanitarianism.

Democratic atheism does not dispute the existence of God, but rather his identity. (#2,089)

Appetites, greed, passions, do not threaten man’s existence so long as they do not proclaim themselves rights of man, as long as they are not ferments of divinity. (#2,140)

Either man has rights, or the people is sovereign.
The simultaneous assertion of two mutually exclusive theses is what people have called liberalism. (#2,219)

The regnum hominis, with the preaching of which Bacon inaugurated the modern world, is not a parody of the regnum Dei, but its Gnostic version.

A god is only enchained by ignorance. A god remains fallen only so long as he does not know he is a god.
Aufklärung is the circumspect translation of gnosis.

Goethe is a pantheist; Hegel is a Gnostic. Pantheism is a slope, but only Gnosticism is an abyss.

Classical literature is obviously not prelapsarian, but happily it is pre-Gnostic.

Only skepticism and faith immunize against Gnostic pride.
Whoever does not believe in God can [at least] have the decency of not believing in himself.

Primitive religions are ingenuous anthropomorphisms; Gnosticism is a satanic deimorphism.

Orphism and Rousseau occupy a similar position in history.
If both, on the one hand, provided the impulse for the democratic movement and Gnostic religiosity, both, on the other, created a favorable atmosphere for religious sentiment and the reactionary attitude.
It is difficult to explain Burke without the Rousseuean climate or Plato without the Orphic climate.

Dehellenizing Christianity turns it into a sect.

Dionysism, Gnosticism, Enlightenment—foam on the highest waves.

That the French Revolution was essentially a religious phenomenon was only seen with clarity by Joseph de Maistre and Michelet.

Modernism ingeniously finds a way not to present its theology directly, but rather through profane notions that imply it.
It avoids announcing to man his divinity, but proposes goals that only a god could reach, or rather proclaims that the essence of man has rights which assume he is divine. (#2,090)

By fusing Neoplatonism and Zoroastrianism, by identifying evil and matter, the Gnostic automatically divinizes the spirit.

Pelagianism has at root a Gnostic definition of the soul.

The dogma of the natural goodness of man formulates in ethical terms the Gnostic’s central experience.
Man is naturally good because he is naturally god.

It is not against the “arguments” of yesterday’s and today’s “scientism” which Christianity must be defended, but against the Gnostic poison.

Gnosticism can be dualist or monist.
Gnosticism is a theory about the nature of the soul.

Just as virtue provokes the libertine, Christianity stimulates the Gnostic perversion.


  1. For those interested in more information about the nature, history, and influence of Gnosticism in modern politics, I would recommend starting with Eric Voegelin. Two works of his are especially relevant: "The New Science of Politics" (1952) and "Science, Politics, and Gnosticism" (1968).

  2. When reading about Gómez Dávila's view on Gnosticism, it is important to remember that he criticized not only Communism and Nazism as manifestations of Gnosticism, but also liberal democracy. Another thinker who made this point was the late Christopher Lasch.

  3. For those readers who are interested in the history of Gnosticism in the Middle Ages, I recommend Norman Cohn's classic, "The Pursuit of the Millenium" (1957). The book's subtitle is "Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages."

  4. The obscuring of the faith in creation is a fundamental part of what constitutes modernity.

    As I survey all the perplexing shifts in the spiritual landscape of today, only these two basic models seem to me to be up for discussion. The first I should like to call the Gnostic model, the other the Christian model. I see the common core of Gnosticism, in all its different forms and versions, as the repudiation of creation.
    --Joseph Ratzinger, "The Consequences of the Faith in Creation" (1979)

  5. For a short but excellent introduction to the essence of Gnosticism and the difference between its ancient and modern variants, see "Crunchy Pope, Part Two: Against Gnostic Economics," by Mark Shiffman, and published on Front Porch Republic.