[VESTA, 2003]

Review:

 

From NEW AGE

To NEW GNOSIS

 

The Contemporary Significance

of a New Gnostic Spirituality

by Peter Wilberg

New Gnosis Publications

© 2003

 

Paperback 195 pages

£11.99

 

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 PUBLISHER’S SYNOPSIS

The Old Gnosis was a form of subversive theo-politics. This took the form of a spiritual critique of the ruling gods of the era – the gods of both Old and New Testament ‘orthodoxy’, of Greek paganism and Roman imperialism. Along with this spiritual critique went political opposition to the priestly and political powers or archons, which represented these gods and their theologies.

The New Gnosis is a theo-political critique of the ruling secular and cultural gods of our era, and of the social-economic cultures and scientific cults that support them. It calls into question the gods called ‘energy’ and ‘the eternal gene’, the New Age cult of ‘energy medicine’, the medical cults of ‘human genomics’ and ‘nanotechnology’ - and the global corporations and stock exchanges, which promote them. New Gnosis is a spiritual-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.

 

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From NEW AGE To NEW GNOSIS may be the most informative & valuable document of Modern Gnosticism available.

 

Author Peter Wilberg presents a historical analysis of Early Gnosticism as being an ethical & revolutionary spiritual movement opposed to all forms of State Religion and Political Hierarchy. From there he proceeds to propose a New Gnosis encompassing the Early Gnostic scriptures combined with the teachings of Jane Roberts (SETH SPEAKS), Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Gurdjieff and others. The main theme that recurs throughout is an uncompromising critique of the myriad eclectic & materialistic “New Age” cults & shallow philosophies. Peter Wilberg also takes on such Modern Gnostic icons as psychologist Carl Jung with the same brilliant & unrelenting reasoning that characterizes the author’s criticism.

 

One of the remarkable aspects about NEW GNOSIS is the depth of material presented in an easily accessible book for the general reader—combined with solid theoretical investigation that should satisfy even the most ardent Gnostic researcher. The format is presented in an engaging series of interrelated short articles that can also be read separately.

 

For readers unfamiliar with Jane Roberts & the Seth Material; briefly stated Jane Roberts initial book SETH SPEAKS first appeared in 1972 and was an immediate hit with the 60’s “Age of Aquarius” Generation. The book was supposedly “channeled” by the entity Seth. The basic premise of the work is that what people generally know as the personality or ego is in fact merely the tip of a much deeper spiritual reality or entity that encompasses many other human personalities. This is one of the ideological foundations of the spiritual relationship or gestalt-oriented philosophy promoted by Wilberg as being at the center of the New Gnosis.

 

The author quotes Martin Buber in this regard:

 

The individual is a fact of existence in so far as he

steps into a living relation with other individuals. The

aggregate is a fact of existence in so far as it is built

up of living units of relation.

[P.4]

 

Defining “Gnosis,” Wilberg writes:

 

Gnosis is an inner knowing that belongs to our inner most being,

but that can only be deepened by deepening our direct inner relationship to other beings.

[P. 5]

 

With a classic Marxian historical analysis, PW concisely suggests the subversive basis of Early Gnosticism:

 

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

transcend the ethnic, class and cultural divisions on which those powers rested.

[P. 2]

 

We are in complete agreement with the author’s assessment that the primary aspect involved with the phenomenal success of the ancient Judaeo-Christian cultural conquest was the written “Word” (the Aramaic of the heretical Christian Cult having been translated into Greek.)

 

And therein, too, with the marriage between Apostolic Christianity and decadent Roman Imperialism, lay the source of future misunderstanding.

 

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 world as

an abomination, forgetting that the Greek language

had no word for ‘matter.’

[P.8]

 

This may well be the case, but undeniably almost all quarters today, both academic & other, insist upon the dualistic nature of Gnosticism, often tracing its evolution to the Zoroastrian Cult of Fire & Darkness.

 

One of the books used to compare the views expressed in FROM NEW AGE TO NEW GNOSIS, is the more conservative GNOSTICISM: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing by Stephan A. Hoeller. In that work Hoeller equates Gnosticism more to Buddhism than Wilberg’s relational concept. Like the Buddhists, Hoeller argues, Gnostics perceived the world as inherently evil, a dark realm dominated by pain, fear & death. The darkness of the world included the established religions and the only truth & solace were to be found by finding the Light from within. Certainly this reflects traditional Early Gnostic dualism with a definite escapist coloration. Hoeller then goes on to justify the rejection of almost all forms of social activism (including Environmentalism) as a traditionally valid Gnostic position

 

Wilberg also parallels Gnosticism with Buddhism (“The Gnosis of Japan,” P. 52), but emphasizes “we are linked not only to the otherness of our own innermost being but to the inner being of others.” This Gnosis overcomes passive dualism, replacing it with a proactive, relational concept.

 

In all fairness (particularly to Buddhist Philosophy), Hoeller does emphasize the role compassion plays in Buddhism, which, of course, unequivocally embodies relational value.

 

[NOTE: The Manichaean branch of Gnosticism mirrored many aspects of the compassionate Buddhist perspective. Certain Manichaean initiates were so concerned with the sanctity of life that when they went out walking they held canes with tiny bells attached at the end in order to ward off hapless insects that may otherwise get stepped on. This practice may seem hypersensitive, but compared to the brutality of contemporary humanity directed against other living beings, it is an admirable sensitivity.]

 

Another point of dramatic departure between the views of the two writer’s is Wilberg’s interpretation of an anarchistic Gnosticism incompatible with the idea of a physically organized Church with attendant hierarchy, vestments, rituals, etc. [P. 29], whereas in NEW LIGHT ON THE ANCIENT TRADITION [“The Gnostic Church Reborn” pgs. 176-178] Hoeller perceives the continuance of externalized structure as verifying the strength of Gnostic Tradition. Wilberg advocates relational Gnosis in defiance of structure; Hoeller perceives not just the value of relationship within structure, but also its’ validation. Obviously these are not minor points of philosophical contention.

 

Is it possible for “real” Gnosis to contain diametrically opposed criteria for its existence?

 

Therein lies the paradoxical dilemma of defining Modern Gnosticism.

 

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A few selections from NEW AGE TO NEW GNOSIS:

 

THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF GNOSTICISM (Pgs. 15-16), the author comments on the egotism of contemporary spirituality & capitalism:

 

Only the Gnostics recognized 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…

 

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 employees are valued only…as a means to an end…profit.

 

And on P. 18:

 

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…

sanctioned by the owners of capital as the highest form of social ‘freedom’.

 

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AEONS AND AWARENESS GESTALTS (Pgs. 76-78):

 

The New Gnosis understands this alien being (or daemon—Ed.) – the inner

human being – as a trans-human, trans-personal, trans-physical gestalt of awareness

…vast pyramid gestalts of awareness. The ‘gods’ were never identified…with God…but known as

aeons. The word aeon referred both to an eternal spirit being and to a distinct sphere or dimension of

awareness. Hierarchies of aeons were visualised as concentric spheres of the spiritual world.

Not all aeons were seen as having incarnate form, some were regarded as sending

messengers or emissaries to mankind…

 

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INITIATION INTO THE GNOSTIC MYSTERIES (Pgs. 105-108).

 

In this and subsequent sections to P.116, the author develops the integral tenet in Sethian Gnosis; that is, there is a hidden knowledge behind the word, a spiritual tonality or dimension beyond the sound.

 

Commenting on the puzzling “barbarous names” found in so many original Gnostic texts:

 

For the initiate, inner sounds were means by which the soul’s own inner

bodily shape and tone could be altered with the inner voice, bringing it into

resonance with higher spiritual beings. Simple vowel and consonant sounds

were understood as an inner language – “the nomenclature of the gods and angels.”

Hence the emphasis…on the subtle soul qualities of different types of sound –

vowel, consonant and semi-vowel, monothong and diphthong, and the

different combinations thereof that constitute holy names.

 

[NOTE: Students of western occultism may perceive an obvious connection between the esoteric foundation of the Early Gnostic “barbarous names” and the allegorical/alchemical texts of the Medieval "Grimoires" (small books or tracts of Ritual Magick) & Mystery Schools, particularly those based on the so-called “Enochian System.” Aleister Crowley often utilized these “principles of sound & semantics” in his vast collection of writings. The Book of Lies is a notable example of AC’s expertise regarding this subject.]

 

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THE NEW YOGA AND THE INNER BODY (Pgs. 151-154):

 

The aim of the Old Yoga was re-unite the individual with their own

deeper self – their divine inner self. The aim of The New Yoga is to re-unite

our own inner self and inner body with the inner selves and inner bodies of others.

That way we experience the true nature of divinity itself.

 

Divine consciousness is not a being. It is the very dimension of inner

connectedness or ‘union’ (yoga) linking the inner self and inner bodies of all

beings, human and trans-human.

 

Divine knowledge or ‘gnosis’ (veda) is direct knowledge of this

5th dimension – a divine field-continuum of awareness

transcending space, time, matter and energy.

 

The doorway to this dimension is our inner body.

For, inner awareness of our bodies is at the same time an awareness

of our inner body – a body which is not an ‘energy body’

but an awareness body.

 

The inner body is our inwardly felt body.

But this inwardly felt body is not merely our physical body

as we feel it from within. Instead the very opposite is the case –

our outer physical body is…the outwardly perceived form

our own inwardly felt body, its materialised body image.

As a field body our inner body has no fleshy boundaries.

It is our true and eternal inner form, the ever-shifting shape

and boundary of our larger field of awareness.

 

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The quotes and comments above represent a fraction of the knowledge gleamed from NEW AGE TO NEW GNOSIS. Although the primary theoretical basis of Peter Wilberg’s exposition is based on SETH SPEAKS—and readers are encouraged to investigate that controversial work—NEW AGE TO NEW GNOSIS is also based on sound historical materialist research & analysis and stands independently as a shinning document of Modern Gnosticism. We applaud the author’s courage to confront not only the demons of Capitalist Globalization, but also his unrelenting rejection of the false gods of “New Age” obscurantism and pseudo-science.

 

 

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[See also, REVIEW: DEEP SOCIALISM]

 

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Review: JEFarrow
Updated 11/07