In a fitting bastardisation of astrophysics, the sun rose on the British colonial interest in the West, and finally set on it in the East, more than 800 years later. The first instance of English Crown control in Ireland in the late 1100s was the first step on the grand march towards, ‘The British Empire’—an endeavour later re-branded, ‘Globalisation’.
The chrestomathy of legions of imperial apologists, spilling their torrential logorrhea down through the pages of history, has fuelled the will to lebensraum of a long succession of monarchs, prime ministers and presidents—as writers in the ‘Gnostic’ and ‘Illuminist’ tendencies of thought have continually preached the overthrow of hereditary rule and hegemony.
The emergence of a writer, born in the city of Murcia in Al-Andalus in 1165, just as the nascent British Empire began flexing its muscles, heralded an altogether more benign influence on the world, but one which would go on to inscribe a pattern into the psyche of mankind just as deeply. The poet and theologian, Muhammad bin Ibn ‘Arabi would go on to write some of the most influential (and, arguably, the first deconstructionist) literature in history.
According to Ibn ‘Arabi’s, ‘Fusûs al-Hikam‘ (The Bezels of Wisdom), ‘the only thing that can contain god is the heart of the gnostic,’ and it’s a similar conception of the quest for inner transcendence that runs back and forth through mystical theology from Zoroastrianism to Mithraism to Kashmir Shaivism:
“The way to illumination is often described as consisting of three attainments: the Knowledge of Certainty, the Eye of Certainty, [and] the Truth of Certainty. The distinction may be understood by taking fire as the symbol of truth. To attain the Knowledge of Certainty is to know fire after having heard it described. To attain the Eye of Certainty is to know fire from seeing the light of its flames. The highest attainment, the Truth of Certainty, belongs to those who know fire from having been consumed by it.”
It’s this aspect of original Gnosticism that I would like to reclaim from the ancient Greco-Roman sect(s) who set about derailing the whole shebang by lashing the concept to wholesale piety from the second century of the Christian era onwards.
I object to having to choose ‘Agnostic’ in form-filling situations. It smacks of a lack of zeal, and of sitting on the fence; of hanging around to see if any better ideas come along.
That’s not what I think life should be about at all…
I’m advocating an affirmative belief in the reality of transcendental knowledge, and therefore would like the opportunity to officially describe myself as a ‘Gnostic’.
Intellectual fascists insist that the point we’re at now in the progression of knowledge and ‘reason’ is the be-all and end-all of the development of mankind—claiming exclusive hold over the legacy of the Enlightenment, and steadfastly turning away from the fact that their burgeoning ‘movement’ is being used to legitimise ‘corporate’ leakage into the realm of thought—as if the colonisation of every other literal and metaphorical space of modern life wasn’t enough.
If the now commonplace, and officially sanctioned, howls of derisory laughter at anyone’s spiritual quest to understand themselves and their place in the universe are seen to be endorsed by such heavyweights as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, then it becomes so much the easier to legitimise the denial and denigration of any possibility of even mental transcendence of the atomised structure of contemporary society. It makes all the more acceptable rejection of any alternative conception of life that dares suggest something other than a coldly-explicable binary system of corporate unity.
The supercilious mockery not only of organised religious thought, but of any spiritual dimension to existence has filtered rapidly down to the most ignorant and most powerful in the culture, and it is no longer just fashionable, it is ubiquitous.
This is not to say that this is Dawkins or Hitchens’ fault, not by a long way. They are the unwitting Nietzsches to a very large group of Hitlers, who claim this new creed as so far beyond reproach that any deviation from it can be legitimately rejected with scorn, ostracism and worse.
“The triumph of logic and rationality, the clever architecture of theoretical edifices, and the cunning methods devised for novice researchers do not make science. What they do promise is ascetic withdrawal from the world as we experience it with our senses.”
Railing against the intellectual complacency that persisted after the end of the Roman Empire, when the number of scribes dwindled under successive waves of Barbarian migration, they “who, through the mind, filled the blessed spaces with light”* advocated salvation through knowledge rather than blind faith, and it’s a tragedy that this is the very thing that Dawkins et al go to such lengths to do, despite how their work gets spun around to say exactly the opposite.
“The collapse of Rome, the greatest Western political and social institution of earlier times, ruling a quarter of all humanity, was accomplished by the incoming peoples who first sought refuge in the empire and, in so doing so, destroyed it. The incomers arrived as civilised barbarians—that is to say they were societies cast in heroic mould, with no city life, no intellectual tradition and no belief in the progressive accumulation of knowledge.”
The problem is that this time round, it’s not the incomers but the ‘indigenous’ inhabitants of the Empire, already entrenched, who have forgotten their intellectual tradition and have lost belief in the progressive accumulation of genuine knowledge.
The current fallacious assertion of so-called ‘knowledge’ over all has been hijacked in order to erect a new church of scientific fundamentalism which is just as ossified and proscriptive as the original principles it set about to to challenge. The unifying explanation for this is as old as the sands:
“…seeing the world not as a place to affirm but rather to control, the Shemites are unhappy with their nameless, wandering status…”
“Come let us [The Shemites] build ourselves a city and a tower …
Let us make ourselves a name,
that we not be scattered over the face of the earth.”
*Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, The Hymns of Zarathustra, 1952