Article 27: Gnosticism: The Nest of the Antichrist

Gnosticism: The Nest of the Antichrist

"You shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:5)

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Gnosticism, written by Fr. John Peter Arendzen, contains the following assessment of this heresy’s virulent assault upon early Christianity:

“When Gnosticism came in touch with Christianity, which must have happened almost immediately on its appearance, Gnosticism threw itself with strange rapidity into Christian forms of thought, borrowed its nomenclature, acknowledged Jesus as Saviour of the world, simulated its sacraments, pretended to be an esoteric revelation of Christ and His Apostles, flooded the world with apocryphal Gospels, and Acts, and Apocalypses, to substantiate its claim. As Christianity grew within and without the Roman Empire, Gnosticism spread as a fungus at its root, and claimed to be the only true form of Christianity, unfit, indeed, for the vulgar crowd, but set apart for the gifted and the elect. So rank was its poisonous growth that there seemed danger of its stifling Christianity altogether, and the earliest Fathers devoted their energies to uprooting it.”

The above passage speaks of a heresy which, in the depths of its intellectual perversities, possessed incredible power over the human mind, and which exerted an enormously destructive and poisonous influence upon Christian faith itself (the reader may better understand this if he considers that Arianism may be considered to have its roots in Gnosticism). And yet, this same article from the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that Gnosticism only exerted a strong influence for a couple hundred years, was dead by the Fifth Century, and that “Gnosticism died not by chance, but because it lacked vital power within itself” (the Catholic Encyclopedia is not alone in this assessment – this is the common view held by very many Catholic historians). There seems to be a great contradiction here. How could anything so powerful, and seductive to the human spirit, die so quickly and easily?
It will be my purpose in this article to prove that the opposite is the case – that Gnosticism has always been very much with us; that its fundamental perversion of Catholic truth has always been very present and active among many writers and thinkers within the Church; and that, contrary to being a heresy which is non-existent or waning at the present time, it now represents a rapidly expanding culture of perversion of Catholic truth which is in preparation for the embrace of Antichrist.

The Gnosticism of the first few centuries of Christendom has always posed a dilemma to the Catholic historian. On the one hand, there has existed a significant consensus among Catholic scholars over the centuries that there is something which a good number of powerful early heresies possessed in common which justifies their common designation as “Gnostic”. On the other hand, because of the great diversities and varying degrees of complexity characteristic of these systems of thought, this “something” which they all possessed in common has seemed extremely difficult to formulate with any precision or simplicity. For instance, after stating that Gnosticism is most characteristically “the doctrine of salvation by knowledge”, Fr. Arendzen offers the following attempt at a more complete definition:

“A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter [through the attainment of right ‘gnosis’] and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour.”

I would contend that the above definition, while containing much that penetrates into the Gnostic mindset, is likely to confuse more than enlighten simply because it fails to penetrate to that root heresy which is the source of all the rest of the errors generated by Gnosticism over the centuries. This root heresy I would formulate as follows:

“Gnosticism is any system of thought and spirituality which, while asserting the reality of One, Infinite God or Supreme Being, explicitly or implicitly denies the Catholic truth of creation ex nihilo.”

All of the intellectual perversions which we have come to associate with the many forms of Gnosticism are the fruits of this ignorance or rejection of creation ex nihilo. As we shall see, the apparent disappearance of Gnosticism around the Fifth Century is an illusion, and this illusion is due to its shedding of the grosser forms of ancient pagan cosmologies, and its syncretization with Platonic and other forms of Eastern Idealism.

The Gnostic Dilemma

Any religion or philosophy which posits the reality of an Infinite God (which term we shall use here to include any Infinite Being, even if that Being is considered Impersonal) is immediately faced with a profound dilemma – how to explain the existence of a finite universe, and especially the reality of lesser spiritual beings such as man. It is after all integral to the definition of an Infinite God that there can be no being outside of Him, since any such “other” would set limits to God’s Infinitude. This is just as true of monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Judaism, as it is of non-theistic forms of Monism such as Advaita Vedanta.

The only solution to this dilemma which does not involve either blatant self-contradiction (which as we shall see comes in many forms), or the absurd position of denial of the finite universe (Advaita Vedanta, Parmenides) is the Catholic doctrine creation ex nihilo (creation from nothing). It is a truth which historically has never been part of any system of natural philosophy or religion, and only became known to man through God’s Revelation – both through the Old Testament Revelation to the Jews (2 Machabees 7:28), and through the Catholic Magisterium (especially the Fourth Lateran Council).

The reason that creation ex nihilo is able to solve the dilemma mentioned above – namely, how it is possible to believe in the reality of the finite world without compromising the Infinity of God – is two-fold:

First, it is absolutely true, under the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, that nothing exists outside God. This is extremely difficult for modern man, including Christians, to accept, but it is entirely scriptural. Colossians 1:16 matter-of-factly asserts, “For in him [Christ] were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by him and in him.” And Paul declares to the Athenians, “For in him we live, and move, and are….(“ Acts 17:28).

St. Thomas writes:

"I answer that, God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident; but as an agent is present to that upon which it works…Now since God causes this effect in things not only when they first begin to be, but as long as they are preserved in being; as light is caused in the air by the sun as long as the air remains illuminated…. Therefore as long as a thing has being, God must be present to it, according to its mode of being Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly." (ST I, Q. 8, A.1).

The created being and existence of all things is both initially and continuously the fruit of God’s creative power and “work”, and therefore there is nothing which possesses being outside of God. All of creation, while it is “distinct” from God, yet in no way is separate from God, and therefore does nothing to compromise His Infinitude.

Second, since we were created out of nothing, our created being is in no way to be ontologically identified with God, or as being “part” of God, or as an “emanation” of God, or of containing anything in its nature which is divine. Our existence is wholly “by God and in God”, but this “in” God has nothing in it which speaks of us as possessing even one iota of the divine nature. We are truly created out of nothing, and this “out of nothing” precludes us possessing anything divine in our nature. It also makes absolutely inappropriate any use of the concept of “emanation” when speaking of creation in its relationship to God. We need be deeply suspicious of the thought and writing of any person who claims to be an orthodox Catholic while at the same time employing any language which speaks of “emanations” from God. And this is true no matter how vociferous may be his or her claim to believing in creation ex nihilo.

To summarize (and emphasize): it is only the Catholic doctrine of creation ex nihilo, when properly understood, which enables us to understand that while being absolutely ontologically distinct from God, we are in no way separate from God. Without this clear understanding of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, the fundamental relationship between man and God necessarily becomes distorted and perverted, and the long trek of Gnosticism down through history, in all its varied forms, begins.

The “classical” forms of Christian Gnosticism of the earliest centuries comprise a vast array of syncretizations between Christianity and various forms of pagan and pre-Christian Gnostic cosmologies and mythologies. A number of theories have been propounded concerning the ultimate source of Gnosticism – India, Egypt, Syria, Persia. The solution to this question of origins matters nothing to our present inquiry. In fact, it would seem that the basic intellectual perversions integral to Gnosticism reach to such a depth of man’s fallen nature as to indicate its presence, in one form or another, in every culture which has managed to conceive of an Infinite God or Absolute.

All forms of Gnosticism are pantheistic. As Fr. Arendzen points out in his Catholic Encyclopedia article, all the early forms of Christian Gnosticism postulated what really amounts to some sort of “decay” in the Godhead (thus the contradiction inherent in these systems) in order to account for a finite world existing alongside an allegedly infinite Being. In effect, early Christian Gnosticism filled the “space” between God and man with a bewildering company of emanations or births of lesser beings which account for this “decay” away from the Absolute, and thus the existence of a finite world. And since the finite world’s existence is due to births or emanations from the Godhead, all of creation itself, and especially man, must be considered to possess at least a “spark” of the divine at the root of its nature (thus the pantheism). The entire concept of salvation then becomes a matter of “return” of the entire cosmos to the Godhead – this return being achieved through what is usually a secret or esoteric gnosis or knowledge of this divine origin.

It is immensely important at this point of our analysis to realize the radical opposition of the Gnostic concept of “knowledge” as a means of “deification” from the truly Catholic concept of knowledge as the “Way” of salvation. The Gnostic path is one of interior realization of the divinity within. The Catholic Way is one of knowing Christ, confessing Faith in Christ, and receiving the grace from above which, with our cooperation, effects interior transformation and sanctification. Gnostic salvation, in other words, comes from below, while Christian salvation is received entirely as “gift” from above.

It should also be noted here that it has always been the devious tactic of Gnostics to quote Luke 17; 21 – “For lo the kingdom of God is within you” – in defense of their concept of “gnosis” which views deification as a knowledge which removes the “veils” uncovering divinity within man. St. Thomas and the early Fathers provide explicit refutation of this view. In the Catena Aurea, Thomas offers several commentaries on the meaning of this concept of the kingdom of God or Heaven being within us. Concerning Luke 17: 21, He quotes Venerable Bede:

“Or the kingdom of God means that He Himself is placed in the midst of them, that is, reigning in their hearts by faith.”

And in the commentary on the parable concerning the kingdom of heaven being like a mustard seed (Luke 13: 18-21), he quotes St. Ambrose:

“And in another place, a grain of mustard seed is introduced where it is compared to faith. If then the mustard seed is the kingdom of God, and faith is as the grain of mustard seed; faith is truly the kingdom of heaven, which is within us.”

In other words, the “kingdom of heaven within us” lies precisely in that act of faith with its corresponding virtues which in its spiritual dynamics moves in a direction diametrically opposed to the deification proposed by Gnosticism. Salvation is a matter of surrendering to the grace and knowledge descending from above, rather than the Gnostic asceticism and knowledge seeking to uncover a “light” within – even if this light be deceptively equated with Christ or the Holy Spirit. As Paul writes, “For Satan himself transformeth himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

Gnosticism Transformed and Accepted

Classical Gnosticism, with its many “lesser” divinities ( Demiurges, Sophia-goddesses, Aeons, etc.) attempting to fill the void between the Infinite God and man in order to obfuscate the inherent contradictions present in Gnostic theology and cosmology, was obviously too crude and pagan to survive long in the light of Christian intelligence. But the core principles of Gnosticism – those perversions of intelligence which profoundly distorted the basic orientations of the human soul to God – possessed the power and subtlety to infect Christianity at its deepest levels, and to do so over all the ensuing centuries with increasing power and pervasiveness.

As I have pointed out, all forms of Gnosticism are rooted in an explicit or implicit denial of creation ex nihilo. It is most characteristic of Christian Gnosticism that this denial is implicit. Very few Christians, especially Catholics, would propose outright denial of the truth that God created everything out of nothing. But the implicit denial ofcreation ex nihilo, despite explicit and professed acceptance of this defined dogma by virtually all Christians, can be fully operative in vast numbers of Catholic minds and hearts through the denial or distortion of principles integral to this doctrine’s integrity.

The most basic belief of Gnosticism – and this it shares with orthodox Catholicism – is the Infinitude of God. It would seem almost a necessary conclusion of any sort of matured human thought that a God who has any limitations whatsoever is not worthy of human belief. But it is after this initial point of agreement with Catholic doctrine that Gnosticism begins its plunge into manifold and immensely destructive errors in regard to both God and man. The first of these errors to gain widespread acceptance by otherwise orthodox Catholic thinkers is that the Essence of God is totally Unknowable by any created being.

We must remember that in Gnostic thought the created world always represents something un-Godly – a decay away from the Absolute. This is why Gnosticism is always associated, either explicitly or implicitly, with some degree of Manichaeism. But there is a corollary of this theological coin. In order to protect the Infinitude and, so to speak, the “Purity” of God, His Supreme Essence must be made totally unapproachable by man.
We find ourselves here at the true crisis point in any religion or philosophical system which is seeking the ultimate fulfillment of the human heart and mind in union with an Infinite God – how to accomplish this union without compromising God. We shall explore the Catholic position further on. Right now, we shall focus on the road necessarily (inherently) taken by Gnosticism.

Since, according to Gnostic logic, the Supreme Essence of God must remain absolutely remote, untouchable, unapproachable, and unknowable; and since Gnosticism, in spite of this, is absolutely committed to the claim that it offers an esoteric road to the “divinization” of man (and therefore an alleged real union with God): then, accordingly, all of this necessitates that a Divine Division must be made between the Essence of God (Unknowable and Unapproachable), on the one hand, and His Attributes, Energies, or Operations, on the other – the latter indeed being subject to human gnosis, and to which Gnosticism claims to offer the Way. In other words, a kind of Divine Duplicity must be made within God Himself between His Essence and His Attributes or Energies. And, having been forced to abandon all of its cruder cosmologies, Gnosticism, which many an historian had concluded had been extinguished, finds itself, ironically, in a profoundly enhanced position to enter “by arts entirely new” into the heart of Catholic thought. This process begins historically with that branch of philosophy known asEschatology (which is concerned with man’s final end), and moves from there into Mystical Theology.

The process begins with the Eastern Fathers, including men such as St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Damascene, and St. Maximus the Confessor, all of whom taught the absolutely unapproachable and unknowable nature of God’s Essence. Man’s final union with the Divine consequently consists in union with the Divine Attributes or “Energies,” and never in that vision of the Divine Essence which Catholic Dogma terms the “Beatific Vision”. The truth of this assessment of the thought of the Eastern Fathers is verifiable for any who wish to do the research, and can easily be verified by consulting various websites (especially the Eastern Orthodox – they are proud of this fact). The following quote is taken from an article titled Notes on the Palamite Controversy and Related Topics, written by Orthodox priest John S. Romanides, and published in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review (Winter, 1960-61). Fr. Romanides was Professor of Dogmatic Theology at several universities, and for a long time the representative of the Greek Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches:

“The Fathers are emphatic in denying the possibility of any vision of the divine essence not only in this life but also in the next. The East Roman Fathers deny vision of the divine essence even to angels. This denial of course means that the Latin notion of beatific vision is rejected outright.”

It needs to be added that this error, while having very serious future consequences (as we shall see), does not entail denial of the holiness of these men or prevent their Sainthood (we must especially consider that this doctrine had not yet been defined – it was defined by Benedict XII in the Constitution Benedictus Deu in 1336). It simply means that even the best of men and Saints can make some very serious mistakes in both thinking and action, and that these errors can prove ruinous as their implicit consequences unravel down through time.

The eventual fruit of this error (which postulates the absolutely unapproachable and unknowable Essence of God) was the Eastern Schism. It is necessary for us at this point to spend some effort in trying to understand why this is so.

It has been the false conclusion of many historians that the reasons for the separation of the Eastern Churches were primarily political – the fruit of geographical, civil, and religious division and competition. These factors certainly augmented, and did much to solidify, the division between East and West, but they do not reach to the primary cause of this tragedy. The Eastern Schism has its roots in what can only be considered a profoundly different mindset from that of the West. Its efficient cause therefore lies in theological error.

By the time of the final break in 1054 (but also fully evident in the Photian Schism in 867), this theological division was most deeply entrenched in the denial of the Filioque (the Catholic doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son). It is revealing that modern Catholic theologians tend to treat this denial as inconsequential, while their counterparts in Eastern Orthodoxy treat it as the theological divide from which all other differences take their sustenance. As we shall see, it is the denial of the Filioque which provides the theological “door” through which Gnosticism is able to enter deeply into Eastern Christian thought. In order to understand this connection, however, it is first necessary to offer some considerations concerning the identity of the Trinity with the Supreme Essence of God, and the relationships which exist between the Three Divine Persons within the Godhead.

The most immediate effect of making the Essence of God unknowable and unapproachable is the undermining of belief in God as Person. It is ingrained within us, easily recognizable in our language, that the concept of “person” is intimately associated with knowability. When we speak of someone as being personable, as possessing a strong personality, a difficult or obnoxious personality, or even a hidden personality, we are intimately associating the concept of person with some-such knowability. The Essence of God, in other words, cannot be totally unknowable, without implicitly and intrinsically denying Personhood to God. This, in turn, necessarily creates an absolute divide between God’s Essence, and any notion of a Trinity of Divine Persons.

The self-contradictory position of the Church Fathers mentioned above becomes especially evident when we consider the Divine Person of Jesus Christ. If God’s Supreme Essence be totally unknowable, then there is no logical way in which we can assert the identity of Christ with this Supreme Essence. We do well at this point to contrast this view of the Eastern Fathers with that of St. Thomas:

“Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable.” (ST I, 12, A.1).

Since, in accord with the fully Catholic understanding of the Godhead, the Trinity is to be identified with the Essence of God, then the knowledge which we have received through Divine Revelation concerning the Trinity is a very real, even though finite and not comprehensive, knowledge of God’s Essence. This knowledge is certainly not the same as seeing God’s Essence – something which is reserved to the Beatific Vision – but it is true knowledge nevertheless. And since we are created in the image of God, the relationships which exist between the Three Persons of the Trinity is reflected in the constitution of every human being. Any error in Christian belief which distorts the proper relationships between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is therefore bound to breed disastrous fruits in both the natural and supernatural realms of man’s existence.

By revealing the relationships which exist between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the Trinity also establishes the absolutely necessary relationships that must exist between Being, Truth, and Love – on the Divine, as well as the human levels. God the Father, as the principle source of all Being, generates the Word as the Truth Who is the fullness of Knowledge of His own Being. The Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (Filioque) as the Love which unites Them. The Holy Spirit must proceed from the Son because Love must proceed from Truth. Love that does not proceed from truth always opens the Gates of Hell, a fact to which human experience gives ample testimony. The world is now saturated in “loves” bifurcated from truth.

We need mention here that the liberation of the Holy Spirit from the Incarnation, through the rejection of the Catholic doctrine concerning the Filioque, has had immense effects upon Eastern Orthodox positions in reference to all sorts of Catholic doctrines: rejection of God’s Absolute Divine Simplicity or Oneness (as we shall see, absolutely impossible in light of Palamite theology concerning the ontological distinction between God’s Essence and His “Energies”), rejection of purgatory; rejection of the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption; rejection of Transubstantiation; rejection of grace as something “superadded” to man’s substantial human nature, rejection of the Catholic doctrine on Original Sin; rejection of the doctrine concerning sanctifying grace, and of the concepts of merit, and the distinction between mortal and venial sin; rejection of the Papacy, rejection of the Church’s teaching on contraception and divorce (and, of course, there is no unanimity even in these rejections – there can be no unanimity where there is no Papacy or Magisterium). In other words, denial of the Holy Spirit’s procession from Christ has resulted in the denigration of the concept of Dogma, and the rejection of innumerable Catholic doctrines.

But Jesus Christ is not only the Truth generated from God the Father. He is also Truth become Incarnate. The procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son is also therefore now intimately tied to His Humanity. And since the Holy Spirit is the Divine Person appropriated to our interior life and sanctification, the Divine Love which proceeds into our souls from the Son Who is Truth Incarnate can only be fruitful within us if we follow this spiration which returns to Jesus, and follows Jesus, through His humanity. This is the Way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and of incorporation into His Mystical Body. It is what in Catholic spirituality is titled The Imitation of Christ.

The consequences of denying this procession of the Holy Spirit from Christ therefore tends to undermine every aspect of the Faith which is in any way tied intimately to the Incarnation. This comes severely to fruition in the Eastern Schism – the rejection of the penultimate continuation of the Incarnation in the Roman Catholic Church and the institution of the Papacy. But it is present in the Eastern Churches much earlier.

It has been rightly noted that all of the early Christological heresies – Arianism, Nestorianism. Monophysitism, etc. came “out of the East”. All of them, at their root, involve Gnostic principles. This is especially evident in Arianism, the most destructive of all. Arius, like all Gnostics, could not conceive of Jesus Christ as being One in Essence with the Father, and therefore made him into something akin to the Gnostic Aeons, etc. who are removed from being One with the Father.

Eutyches, the author of the Monophysite heresy, simply brought Gnosticism to bear from the opposite direction. God could not possibly unite to a human nature because such a nature, being finite, would compromise His Infinitude. It was necessary therefore to claim that in Christ the Divine Nature fully absorbed all that was human, leaving only the Divine.

Nestorius, on the other hand, offered his solution to the Gnostic dilemma by claiming essentially that there were two Persons in Christ. The Divine Person could thus remain untouched by the human, and Mary was not the Mother of God, but only of the human.

All of these Christological heresies have one thing in common – they “dissolve” Jesus Christ of the fullness of union of human and Divine Natures. St. John writes”

“By this is the spirit of God known. Every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard, that he cometh, and he is now already in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3).

The spirit of Antichrist is, in other words, the spirit of Gnosticism. And even though Gnosticism largely lost the battle in the realm of dogma, and these doctrinal victories were won in Church Councils with the aid of many Eastern Fathers, the evil spirit of Gnosticism remained virulent, and finally came to fruition in the denial of the Filioque. As we shall see, it is this heresy which enabled the translation of Gnosticism from grosser, and what might be considered “exterior” cosmological and Christological heresies, into the interior of man – in the form of a spirituality and mystical theology which undermines the Incarnation, inverts the spiritual life, and prepares the way for the ascension of the Antichrist.

The Transformation of Gnosticism into Mystical Theology

Even before the controversy concerning the Filioque, the interiorization of Gnostic principles in the spiritual life of Christianity becomes powerfully evident in the rise of Iconoclasm. A short examination of this heresy will us help penetrate into the depth of that religiosity which finally erupted in the denial of the Holy Spirit’s procession from Christ.

The Iconoclastic heresy, while certainly long-festering in the Eastern mindset, first erupted into confrontation with Rome in the year 730 with a vehement exchange of letters between the Eastern Emperor, Leo III, and Pope Gregory II, and culminating with a threat from the Emperor to depose the Pope. The persecution reached full proportion in the following year with a declaration issued by the emperor stating that whoever refused to destroy images, or paid honour to them, was a rebel against the State.

The complicated history of this heresy, and its formal condemnation by the Second General Council of Nicaea in 787 is indeed tortuous and involved fifty-three years of formal schism of the See of Constantinople and the hundreds of sees dependent upon it from Rome (for further examination of this history see Phillip Hughes: The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils 1325-1870). Nor did Nicaea II manage to extirpate the heresy – it would rage on after the Council, with attendant persecutions on and off, for at least another 55 years until the death of Emperor Theophilus in 842 and the subsequent deposition of the Iconoclast Patriarch John the Grammarian. There then ensued 25 years of peace between the Eastern Churches and Rome until the intrusion of Photius into the See of Constantinople and his excommunication of the Pope in 867 for, among other things, teaching the alleged heresy of the Filioque.

As we have seen, the Filioque – the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son – is a doctrine absolutely necessary, not only for maintaining the primacy of Truth over love (and all things pertaining to the will), but also the integrity of all that comprises the incarnational nature of our Faith. The denial of this Dogma, and its virtual universal acceptance in the Eastern Churches, required a spirituality deeply compromised in respect to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, This preparation for the Filioque heresy was largely accomplished, not only through the earlier Christological heresies, but also through Iconoclasm.

It is Catholic doctrine that all things created by God are good, and in fact show forth the manifold goodness and perfection of God. They in no way constitute any sort of decay away from the Divine, nor do they in themselves detract from God. Detraction and evil are present only through the free wills of angels and men falsifying the goodness of God’s creation.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, of course, raised the goodness of all of creation, and especially man, to an exalted new level. This means, of course, that it raised all of man’s faculties, and their legitimate operations and arts, in service to love and worship of God. Christ, Our Blessed Mother, and the Saints all possessed visible form and flesh. And even those spiritual realities such as God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, and also such things as the virtues, require a certain amount of representation, imagination, and visualization in order to “make them flesh” for the sake of man’s growth in the spiritual life and in imitation of Christ. God, in other words, did not make man’s imagination, and his legitimate pursuit of artistic creativity, for the pursuit of fantasy.

The primary effect of Iconoclasm upon the human soul, therefore, is the destruction of that spirituality centered in the Incarnation and humanity of Christ, and the turning to a spirituality which is Manichaean, de-personalized, subjectified, and interiorized. It terminates, in other words, in the classic spirituality of Gnosticism which seeks the God within.

It should be noted also that the spirit of Iconoclasm did not end in the East with the alleged triumph over the Iconoclastic Heresy. It became enthroned in a much more subtle form in the Iconography which, in its two-dimensional, stylized, non-realistic, representations of Christ, His Mother Mary, and the Saints, and in its deeply-set aversion to three-dimensional realism, also constitutes a retreat from the fullness of the Incarnation. Just as in the Eastern Liturgy, where Jesus is made present behind the Iconostasis screen, and this act is hidden from the faithful, so in Eastern iconography all that is truly “flesh” in the Incarnation must be obscured in order to move away from a spirituality centered upon following the Incarnate Jesus Christ, to one centered upon the Spirit within man. The key to accomplishing this radical inversion of Christian spirituality was the “liberating” of the Holy Spirit from Christ and the primacy of the Incarnation. Thus the denial of the Filioque. All the implicit consequences of this “liberation” come to fruition in the Mystical Theology of the 13th century monk, priest, and eventual Archbishop of Thessaloniki Gregory Palamas.

Palamism: The Culmination of Eastern Christian Gnosticism

The Gnostic-inspired division between the Essence of God and His Attributes, Energies, or Operations, and the subsequent denial of the Filioque, come to fruition in a theology which, in denying the procession of the Holy Spirit from Christ, places the Holy Spirit within creation, and especially within man, from the beginning. This denial of the Filioque thus becomes the primary means by which Pantheism enters into the spirituality and thought of the East. Its final culmination in the thought of Gregory Palamas (1296- 1359) (Palamism is unquestionably the dominant theology in contemporary Eastern theology, both Byzantine and Russian – it was embraced by a series of Eastern Councils in the 14th century) involves a progression through many thinkers – including the Eastern Fathers already mentioned, Pseudo-Dionysius (to be examined below in my analysis of Western Gnostic spirituality), Isaac the Syrian (7th century), Photius, Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022), and Michael Cerularius (Patriarch of Constantinople during the Schism of 1054). It is unnecessary for us to examine this process, but only to be aware of the continuous and growing presence of these Gnostic tendencies.

I have more extensively examined the nature of Palamism in my article Never the Twain Should Meet: The Radical Divide Between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Theology. It is necessary here only to repeat that which clearly demonstrates the descent of Gnostic principles into Eastern spirituality and Mystical theology, and some of the consequence which ensue.

It is first necessary to examine in the thought of Gregory Palamas the culmination of the Eastern distinction between the Essence of God and His “Energies”:

"all these [the Divine Energies] exist not in Him, but around Him." (The Triads, p. 97 - all quotes from Palamas are taken from The Triads, translated by John Meyendorff, published by Paulist Press).

"But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical." (Ibid.).

"The superessential essence of God is thus not to be identified with the energies, even with those without beginning; from which it follows that it is not only transcendent to any energy whatsoever, but that it transcends them 'to an infinite degree and an infinite number of times', as the divine Maximus says." (Ibid., p. 96).

Since the Essence of God is unapproachable and unknowable, then man’s knowledge of God becomes possible only through “communion” with the Divine Energies. This is where a “liberated” Holy Spirit (Who logically must not be identified with the Essence of God) fulfills His function:

“The essence of God is everywhere, for, as it is said, 'the Spirit fills all things', according to essence. Deification is likewise everywhere, ineffably present in the essence and inseparable from it, as its natural power. But just as one cannot see fire, if there is no matter to receive it, nor any sense organ capable of perceiving its luminous energy, in the same way one cannot contemplate deification if there is no matter to receive the divine manifestation. But if with every veil removed it lays hold of appropriate matter, that is of any purified rational nature, freed from the veil of manifold evil, then it becomes itself visible as a spiritual light, or rather it transforms these creatures into spiritual light.” (Ibid., p. 89).

As John Meyendorff (translator of the Triads, and possibly the most influential Palamite of the 20th century) writes:
“The true purpose of creation is, therefore, not contemplation of divine essence (which is inaccessible), but communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world.” (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology p.133)
This is so because the Divine is part of man's nature from the beginning of his existence:

“This concept of salvation {Palamite] is itself based upon an understanding of the human being which views the natural [this is Meyendorff’s own emphasis] state of man as composed of three elements: body, soul, and Holy Spirit….The Spirit is not seen here as a ‘supernatural’ grace – added to an otherwise ‘natural,’ created humanity – but as a function of humanity itself in its dynamic relationship to God, to itself, and to the world.” (Meyendorff, Catholicity and the Church, p.21).

The perversion of Christian thought which began with the denial of the Filioque is now complete. The Holy Spirit, in the words of the much acclaimed Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev, has become the pantheistic “Soul of the World”. The believer’s vision is now turned inward through an asceticism and practice of prayer which seeks to release the Divine Light and “Energies” within. This is epitomized in Hesychasm – the centuries-old practice of prayer, approved by the Orthodox Church, and constituting the entire waking life of the monks of Mount Athos (and others). It consists in ascetical and psychosomatic practices (including breathing exercise and certain postures), the withdrawal from all sensory experience, the stilling of all interior sensation, imagination, and thoughts, and the constant repetition of the “Jesus Prayer.” The ultimate purpose is experiential – the achieving of the experience of Divine Light – the “Uncreated” Light which Eastern Orthodox theology claims to be the same light surrounding Jesus at the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is, in fact, the most important Feast for Eastern Orthodox spirituality.

The Eastern Orthodox of course attribute this experience of “Divine Light” to Divine grace. But, as in so many things with Gnostic spirituality, the word “grace” does not mean the same thing as it does in Catholicism. Vladimir Lossky, who rivals Meyendorff for the title of the most important Eastern Orthodox author of the 20th century, writes the following about the Eastern understanding of grace:

“The Eastern tradition knows nothing of ‘pure nature’ to which grace is added as a supernatural gift. For it, there is no natural or ‘normal’ state, since grace is implied in the act of creation itself.” (Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 101)

“The notion of a state of grace of which the members of the Church can be deprived, as well as the distinction between venial and mortal sins, are foreign to Eastern tradition.” (Ibid., p.180).

In other words, grace, the Holy Spirit, and Deification are present in creation from the beginning, and access to salvation lies through that gnosis which is able to uncover it within. Just as the original temptation offered to Eve was that she could possess a knowledge independent of God, so the “Gnosis” of Eastern Orthodoxy is proposed as a birthright rather than a supernatural gift added to man’s nature from above.

It remains for us to understand the role of Christ in Eastern Orthodox theology. The premier image of Christ in Eastern Iconography is the Pantocrator – Christ in Majesty. Christ is truly the God-Man Who accomplished our redemption and is triumphant. The Iconography of the Pantocrator is not intended to be just a representation, but a spiritual doorway through which we perceive not only the majesty of Christ, but also our own deification. It is a means to the contemplation of the divinity within ourselves and all of creation. It is a vehicle of Light which is intended to replicate the deifying experience of the Apostles Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration on a “high mountain” (an image of the “mountain” of Gnosis).

Christ thus earned redemption for man, but this redemption is not to be attained through an imitation of Christ, but rather through the interior action of the Holy Spirit Who does not proceed from Christ. As Lossky writes:

“The cult of the humanity of Christ, is foreign to Eastern tradition….The way of the imitation of Christ is never practiced in the spiritual life of the Eastern Church.” (Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 243).

This statement should absolutely astound anyone of true Catholic sentiment. I have found no assessment which better illustrates the profound and impassable divide between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

One last thing deserves mentioning. Eastern Orthodoxy is not a religion of children or simple souls. It is one of wizened old men with grey beards. Children cannot practice Hesychasm. And yet our Lord says to His disciples: “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” In Eastern Orthodoxy, there is no Bernadette of Lourdes or Lucia of Fatima in intimate colloquy with Our Lady, no Jacinta or Francisco, no Juan Diego being addressed by the Mother of God as “my littlest child”. There is no Catherine of Sienna in dialogue with God the Father, no Apparitions of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, no Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal, no Francis receiving the Stigmata. There is little or no evidence of human or Divine personality, no lifting of mind and heart in love to God and receiving grace from above.

“The Way of the Imitation of Christ is never practiced in the Eastern Church.” St. Francis is, of course, considered the most profound example of this Imitation of Christ in the West. Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical on Francis titled Studiorum Ducem, called him “the Second Christ”. In 2008 I attended, and gave lectures, at the week-long Trialogos Festival in Estonia, the theme of the conferences being the relationship between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. There, the Russian Orthodox representative gave a lecture in which he stated that the Eastern Churches considered Francis to be mentally ill. No single statement could better illustrate the irreconcilability of Catholicism with Eastern Orthodoxy.

Union with the Eastern Orthodox is now the premier goal of Catholic Ecumenism. If such is accomplished it may indeed be a marriage which will form the nest for the birth of Antichrist. The West, in its present betrayal of its own Magisterial tradition, is now providing its own, quite unique, forms of Gnostic perversions to the building of this nest. It is to an analysis of the progression of Gnostic spirituality in the West that we now turn.

Platonism: The Foundation Stone of Western Gnosticism

Western Christianity (Catholicism), possessing as it does an Infallible Magisterium and the Papacy, provided a much greater resistance to Gnostic principles. It will be my purpose here, however, to prove that we are now in a stranglehold of Gnostic spirituality which far outstrips any which existed in the early centuries of the Church.

We could in fact run a sort of imaginary line down through the history of the Catholic Church (we will not here be dealing with Protestantism) separating Gnostic-tainted philosophy, theology, and spirituality from that which is truly Catholic. What this largely entails since the 13th century is a choice between Platonism and Thomism. But even before Thomas, this distinction between a spirituality which reaches upwards in imitation of Christ, as contrasted with that which seeks an illumination from within or below, is often starkly evident.
The History of Western Gnosticism is more complex than that of the East. It entails the unraveling down through the centuries of three fundamental intellectual aberrations, all of which are to be found in Plato.

The first of these consists in what is commonly called Platonic Idealism. The word "Idealism” is singularly appropriate since it denotes the fact that Plato taught that the Ideas of things are more real than the existing things themselves.

These Ideas exist ultimately in pure Forms which are completely separate from phenomena, but from which (somehow) the illusory shadow-land of our phenomenological world is derived. The penultimate Form is the Good, which is also the One from which all the other Forms are derived. In Plato’s Idealism we are therefore again confronted with the first principle of Gnosticism: the existence of an Absolute, completely separate and untouched by the world. There is no real explanation given by Plato for the decay away from the Ideal world (all men were once there – Plato definitely believed in the pre-existence of the human soul in complete union with this Ideal world) into the shadow-world of phenomena. Although there is some reference in Timaeus to the demiurge and to created gods, this is usually not considered something that can be taken seriously in Plato’s philosophy. We are left in other words with the same basic dilemma as exists in all forms of Gnosticism: how to account for a “decayed” world of finitude and phenomena somehow coming forth from an Absolute which is Infinitely perfect.

The second Gnostic principle integral to Plato’s philosophy is that Gnosis or “salvation” is not accomplished through receiving truth and grace from above, but is rather a Dialectical Process –an evolutionary process of uncovering that which is within. At this point we move from Plato’s metaphysics to his epistemology. The entire thrust of the Dialogues is upon revealing the dialectical process by which man is enabled to ascend from the delusional world of phenomena to the real world of Ideas. This obviously entails an ascent of gnosis.

As already mentioned, Plato believed that all men pre-existed in the real world of pure Forms or Ideas. Plato’s concept of gnosis is therefore established in the principle that all real knowledge is recollection (a process of “return”). The “ascent” to Gnosis is, consequently, a descent into remembering what man knew before he suffered a fall away into entrapment in a body and into the world of phenomena. This “recollection” is realized through a dialectical growth in knowledge ascending through four different levels: 1) the illusory world of phenomena; 2) knowledge of the physical sciences; 3) knowledge of mathematics; 4) all of this “dialectic” culminating in the final stage which is constituted as an intuitive, contemplative knowledge of the Pure Forms or Ideas.

In The Republic, Plato details the social engineering necessary in order that this evolutionary and hierarchical structure of gnosis might be reflected in an orderly society. All children are to be taken away from their parents in infancy and raised by the State. Depending upon abilities revealed in childhood, they are to be permanently assigned to one of the three classes , corresponding to the threefold structure of the human soul – rational, “spirited”, and appetitive. Even the elite – those who are born with the highest rational qualities to achieve such gnosis in this life – must be taken away from their homes in infancy and rigorously trained and elevated in knowledge through the four stages, this process hopefully culminating in true contemplation of the Ideas at about the age of 60, at which time they become worthy of the position of “philosopher-kings”. The vast majority of men never ascend above the first stage in this life, and of course those in stages 2 and 3 also do not reach true gnosis. Plato therefore believed in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation). In the Dialogue of Phaedo, Socrates even speculates that a villain in this life might come back as a wolf, or that a good citizen who never learned philosophy, but yet lived a disciplined life, might return as a bee, an ant, or a human being. The entire process to human fulfillment is thus to be seen as deeply embedded in evolutionary thinking concerning the ultimate destiny of the human soul.

The third principle, intimately tied to the second and providing the dynamic which leads to this dialectical, evolutionary growth in gnosis, is that of dialogue. All of Plato’s philosophical works come to us in the form of Dialogues. The Socratic Dialogue is maieutical. This term describes a teaching method based on the principal that truth and salvation is not something which is received from above, but rather must be born from something that is within man. The term is derived from the Greek word for obstetric. Truth is a birth accompanied by labor.

The essence of the Socratic method is therefore a dialectical dialogue in which opposing views are discussed on a specific issue in order to engage in a process of critical thinking which gives birth to a synthesis, which is constituted by an intuitive, contemplative gnosis of the Truth already existing within man. Presumably, all of this culminates in Gnosis of the One (the Good), this effecting the final Gnosis and liberation of the human soul.

It is characteristic of most Thomists that they see only Platonic Idealism, and not also the other two Platonic principles which I have mentioned above, as constituting the source of Gnostic thinking present in Catholic thought down through the centuries. This eviscerates our understanding of the depths of destruction inherent in Platonic thought, obscures our ability to perceive the three distinct expressions of Platonic Gnosticism as they present themselves in individual thinkers and movements, and undermines our ability to penetrate to the historical depths of our present crisis. As we shall see, it is in fact the merging of these three foundational aberrations in Catholic thought which culminates in Modernism, and the coming to fruition of Gnosticism in the West. This, in turn, is preparing the way for a merging of Catholic Gnosticism with that of the Eastern Orthodox, a union which, I believe, will facilitate the coming of Antichrist.

Neo-Platonism: The Culmination of Non-Christian Platonism

It is Neo-Platonism which carries the first principle of Plato’s thinking to its inevitable, logical conclusion. Neo-Platonism is worth examining here because it provides the transitional concepts by which Platonism is transformed into a false Christian Mysticism which has infected large portions of the Church since its earliest centuries.

The founder of Neo-Platonism is considered to be Ammonius Saccas, a porter on the docks of Alexandria, who left no writings. He is known to have been the teacher of Plotinus (205-270 AD), who was Neo-Platonism’s first systematic teacher, and the author of the Enneads.

Plotinus’ system emphatically begins with Platonic idealism. The world of the spirit – of mind – is definitely more real than that of matter. This inevitably leads to the postulating of an Absolute which is Infinite, and which is God. God, since He is Infinite, must exceed all the categories of human thought. He is beyond both Being and Non-being, beyond Existence, and beyond Mind – He cannot even be said to be self-aware, since this involves distinction and duality. We may, however, apply to Him the attributes of Oneness and Goodness (as in Plato).

Plotinus’ God is not a Creator. Rather, it is in the very nature of Goodness to necessarily diffuse Itself – this resulting in emanations from the One in a descending order of beings possessing less and less of the One. The cycle of emanations begins with Divine Intellect (Nous), which is the image of the One, but at the same time is constituted as being more than One since it contains within itself the multiple ideas and archetypes of things. Thus, multiplicity, distinction, and limitation enter into reality. From this initial diffusion and differentiation is produced the World-Soul, which then contains the principles and forces for successive differentiations, from the human soul all the way down to matter

Man, as a spiritual being trapped in flesh (which is to be equated with darkness and unreality), must seek liberation and salvation through denial of all things physical and a return through Gnosis, which is at the same time an ascent through the intellect leading to contemplation of, and union with, the One.

It should also be mentioned that there is much in all of this which smacks of Advaita Vedanta, the highest, monistic form of Hindu philosophy. It is known that Plotinus journeyed to Persia with the army of Gordian III in search of the philosophy of Persia and India. It would seem fair to conclude that Neo-Platonism therefore represents the first great infusion of philosophical Hinduism into Western thought.
Several prominent and influential Neo-Platonists succeeded Plotinus: Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus. Proclus (412-485 AD) is of special importance for us here because it is with his philosophy that we see clearly the uniting of the concept of a cyclic dialectic with the extreme Idealism of Neo-Platonism. Proclus taught that all emanation from the One is serial, and therefore involves a cyclic movement emanating from the One and finally descending down to matter which is the antithesis of the One. The third term of the dialectic – synthesis –, is then accomplished through a Gnostic ascent to final union of all existence with the One.

And, as we shall see, it is through the agency of Proculus’ writings that Neo-Platonic Gnosticism streams into Christian theology in the thought of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

Pseudo-Dionysius and Christian Neo-Platonism

The primary source for the development of modern Western Gnosticism is Psuedo-Dionysius the Areopagite (who, for the sake of brevity, I shall simply refer to as Dionysius). It is necessary here to spend significant space in examination of his influence and thought.

We must begin by realizing that Pseudo-Dionysius was an imposter. He certainly deserves to be in-the-running for the greatest con-man in Western intellectual history.
Dionysius claimed to have witnessed the eclipse of the sun at the time of the Crucifixion, to have been a contemporary of the Apostles, a disciple of St. Paul (the Dionysius mentioned in Acts 17:34), to be writing to the Apostle Timothy, and to have stood by at the dead body of Our Blessed Mother along with the other Apostles.

It is now known with certainty that Pseudo-Dionysius lived and wrote no earlier than the 6th century, and possibly into the beginning of the 7th. The questioning of his "apostolicity" began around the time of Erasmus (16th century), and the fraudulent nature of his claims was finally determined with certainty only at the end of the 19th century by two independent researchers who discovered that virtually whole sections of his writings had been lifted from the Neo-Platonist Proclus (Fifth Century). No mention of Dionysius or his writings is to be found before the end of the 6th century.

It is interesting that in his Wednesday General Audience of May 14, 2008, Pope Benedict claimed that Dionysius’ posing as a contemporary of the Apostles was an "act of humility." Here is an example of such “humility” in action in regard to his claim to have been present at the death of Our Lady (from chapter III of The Divine Names):

“For even among our inspired Hierarchs (when, as thou knowest, we with him [Dionysius is here speaking of his alleged teacher, Hierotheus] and many of our holy brethren met together to behold that mortal body, Source of Life, which received the Incarnate God, and James, the brother of God [sic] was there, and Peter, the chief and highest of the Sacred writers, and then, having beheld it, all the Hierarchs there present celebrated, according to the power of each, the omnipotent goodness of the Divine weakness): on that occasion, I say, he [Hierotheus] surpassed all the Initiates next to the Divine Writers, yea, he was wholly transported, was wholly outside of himself, and was so moved by a communion with those Mysteries he was celebrating, that all who heard him and saw him and knew him (or rather knew him not) deemed him to be rapt of God and endued with utterance Divine”.

Pope Benedict’s assertion that Dionysius’ weaving a fabric of such specific lies (not only about himself, but also about his alleged teacher Hierotheus) concerning one of the most sacred events of our Faith did so “out of humility,” is preposterous to the extreme. Dionysius must be judged to have been an immoral (and seemingly blasphemous) fraud.

The entire Middle Ages was deceived into believing that Dionysius was a contemporary of the Apostles. It therefore becomes obvious why his writings became almost obligatory material for serious treatment among all theologians and sacred writers of that time. St. Thomas references him over 1700 times. The amazing thing is that he does so in such a way as to free his concepts from the Neo-Platonic and Gnostic errors which are so prevalent in his writings. This should not seem surprising. Thomas does the same for the Platonic errors and deficiencies in St. Augustine’s writings, and many of the errors of other Eastern Fathers. In regard to Dionysius, it would seem apropos to analyze one example which glaringly demonstrates such treatment of Dionysius on the part of Thomas.

Possibly the most glaring example of this attempt to offer an orthodox treatment of Dionysian thought is to be found in Thomas’ treatment of the Divine Names in Question 13, article 2, of Part I of the Summa Theologica. The subject of the Divine Names is central not only to the question of what sort of knowledge we may possess of God, but also to the nature of God Himself.

Arguing against the position that names cannot be applied substantially to God, Thomas writes:

“Therefore we must hold a different doctrine – viz., that these names [such “positive” names as one, good, wise, living, being, etc.] signify the divine substance, and are predicated substantially of God, although they fall short of a full representation of Him….Therefore the aforesaid names signify the divine substance, but in an imperfect manner, even as creatures represent it imperfectly. So when we say, God is good, the meaning is not, God is the cause of goodness, or, God is not evil [in other words, these names are not just apophatic (negative), but rather constitute positive knowledge of Who God is]: but the meaning is, Whatsoever good we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God, and in a more excellent and higher way.” (ST I, Q.13, a. 2).

“There are some names which signify these perfections flowing from God to creatures in such a way that the imperfect way in which creatures receive the divine perfection is part of the very signification of the name itself as stone signifies a material being, and names of this kind can be applied to God only in a metaphorical sense. Other names, however, express these perfections absolutely, without any such mode of participation being part of their signification, as the words being, good, living, and the like, and such names can be literally applied to God.” (ST I, Q.13, a. 3).

Now, in the same article quoted immediately above, St. Thomas replies to an Objection in which his imaginary opponent employs Dionysius’ statement from The Celestial Hierarchy that these names “are more truly withheld from God than given to him.” In other words, they are not applied substantially to God. Thomas, on the contrary, denies the Objector’s interpretation of Dionysius, and writes that what Dionysius “shows” is that these names “are denied of God for the reason that what the name signifies does not belong to Him in the ordinary sense of its signification, but in a more eminent way.”

Thomas is here simply wrong about Dionysius’ views. Dionysius is repeatedly emphatic in his work The Divine Names that all names applied to God’s “Super-Essential Essence” are either apophatic (totally negative – “God is not this, not this….”) or apply only to his manifestations or energies, and never to his “Super-essential” Essence. In other words, they are not applied either literally or substantially to God. The following two examples (there are a great many more) are from Chapter I of Dionysius’ The Divine Names:

“It [Super-Essential Essence] is the Universal Cause of existence while Itself existing not, for It is beyond all Being….”

“Thus, as for the Super-Essence of the Supreme Godhead (if we would define the Transcendence of its Transcendent Goodness) it is not lawful to any lover of that Truth which is above all truth to celebrate It as Reason or Power or Mind or Life or Being, but rather as most utterly surpassing all condition, movement, life, imagination, conjecture, name, discourse, thought, conception, being, rest, dwelling, union, limit, infinity, everything that exists.”

Postulating a totally unapproachable, unknowable, unnamable Divine Essence (or “Super-Essential Essence) is only the first step of Dionysius’ Gnosticism. As with all forms of Gnosticism, the imperative is next to give an explanation for the existence of a finite universe which exists outside of God’s undifferentiated “Super-Essential Essence”. Here is Dionysius’ offering to this genre, from Chapter II of The Divine Names:

"And that the subject of our investigation may be clearly defined beforehand, we give the name of Divine Differentiation (as was said) to the beneficent Emanations of the Supreme Godhead. For bestowing upon all things and supernally infusing Its Communications unto the goodly Universe, It becomes differentiated without loss of Undifference. For example, since God is super-essentially Existent and bestows existence upon all things that are, and brings the world into being, that single Existence of His is said to become manifold through bringing forth the many existences from itself [this is in direct contradiction to creation ex nihilo, and obviously redolent with Pantheism], while yet He remains One in the act of Self-Multiplication.

This “manifestation” of the “Supreme Godhead…from itself” into innumerable forms of finite “differentiation” creates a very unsatisfactory state of finitude which expresses itself in the Gnostic “yearning” (present not only in all of creation, but also in God) and searching for return. The Gnostic system is thus circular – it necessitates a “return” through “gnosis”, or “Knowledge. The following is from Chapter IV of The Divine Name:

“Let us once more collect these powers into one and declare that there is but One Simple Power Which of Itself moveth all things to be mingled in an unity, starting from the Good and going unto the lowest of the creatures and thence again returning through all stages in due order unto the Good, and thus revolving from Itself, and through Itself and upon Itself and towards Itself, in an unceasing orbit.” (Dionysius claims to have taken this from the Hymns of Yearning, a work which he attributes to Hierotheus – his alleged teacher, who was transported into ecstasy as he stood beside the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Thus is completed the Gnostic circle of emanation and return.

It remains to emphasize one extremely important addition which Dionysius makes to Gnosticism.

It is only logical to postulate that if all of creation is involved in a dialectical process of emanation and return, then the emanations which are a necessary “diffusion” of God’s Goodness necessitates a “Dialectic” within the Essence of God Himself. The One “Super-Essential Essence” of God (Thesis) necessarily diffuses goodness in the form of creation of finite being from Itself which ultimately results in the material world (Antithesis), and which in turn follows a cyclic path of return to the One (Synthesis).

To this “Divine Dialectic”, Dionysius, following in the footsteps of his alleged teacher Hierotheus, gives the name Yearning. Thus, from Chapter IV of The Divine Names:

“For the Yearning which createth all the goodness of the world [we must firmly keep in mind that for Dionysisus creation ex nihilo is synonymous with emanation from God Himself], being pre-existent abundantly in the Good Creator, allowed Him not to remain unfruitful in Himself [thus Creation was a necessity for God, and out the window goes any notion of the total gratuitousness of God’s creation], but moved Him to exert the abundance of His powers in the production of the universe.” (10).

To subject God to such necessary passion in the production of the universe from Himself, and to then place within God a Divine Yearning for the return of all things to Himself, is to posit Dialectic at the very center of His Being, to identify Being with Becoming, to destroy the total gratuitousness of God’s creative act, and to place at least a “spark” (or as de Lubac would have it, an “Ikon”) of the Divine at the center of each created thing. This, of course, results in a kind of Pantheistic soup of Divine Yearning and Dialectical evolution in which both God and all of creation are immersed – in the words of Dionysius, “…a Motion of Yearning simple, self-moved, self-acting, pre-existent in the Good [God], and to the Good, with unerring revolution, never varying its centre or direction, perpetually advancing and remaining and returning to Itself.” (14).

This evolutionary Dialectic, coming from within God and returning to Him with “unerring revolution”, is totally destructive to the Catholic concept of Divine Revelation which sees it as having been fully received through Jesus Christ, being closed upon the death of the Apostle John, and contained in Dogmatic formulas the meanings of which are not subject to change – all of this imaging the unchangeable nature of God, and the non-evolutionary status of human nature from Adam and Eve right down to the last persons living in this world. Any philosophy-theology which posits Dialectical evolution and becoming at the center of both God and creation cannot but demand that Revelation and Truth also be made subject to the same evolutionary process. This is the price that must be paid if we chose to disparage St. Thomas, and instead opt for a Platonic – Neoplatonic – Dionysian form of spirituality.

I strongly suggest at this point a reading of my article The Restoration of the Supernatural: In Accord with the Teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas in order to be able to obtain maximum clarity in regard to the choice that must here be made. I would also recommend my article The Quintessential Evolutionist, which clearly reveals the maximization of the errors of Dionysian Evolutionism in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger. Also worthy of note is the fact that, like Dionysius, Pope Benedict also placed Yearning or Eros in the depths of God’s Being, as demonstrated in two passages from his encyclical Deus caritas est:

“God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape.” (#9).

“God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being; but this universal principle of creation – the Logos, primordial reason – is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love [emphasis mine].” (#10).

The Pope thus denies the premier distinction laid down by St. Thomas to the effect that God “loves without passion.” We must keep in mind that the attribution of passion to any being is to subject that being to yearning, desire, and need, and therefore to incompleteness and dependence. To say that God has passion has the effect of profoundly confusing the ontological distinction, absolutely central to Christianity, between the Creator and His creation. It is also extremely telling that the footnote to the Pope’s statement that God’s love “may certainly be called eros” refers us to Dionysius the Areopagite’s work on The Divine Names.

As I have pointed out, the entire Gnostic enterprise, by denying or failing to understand creation ex nihilo, necessarily concludes with positing the source of man’s sanctification and deification within himself – in the evolutionary and dialectical growth of a divine spark within man. As such it is simply the reaffirmation of original sin – “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And it is the perfect negation of the magnificent summation of true sanctification and deification to be found in the following words of St. James:

“Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.”

This passage sums up everything. God is not subject to change, alteration, passion, yearning, evolution, dialectic. Every supernatural Gift is vertical – coming down from God through gifts superadded to man’s nature. The Way to God therefore lies not through communing with spiritual forces, energies, graces (yes, they get away with also calling it “grace’) which is naturally within us, but through that being “lifted up” by Christ, in Christ, through Christ, and to Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit given to us in Baptism.

All this is most profoundly defended by the theology and metaphysics of St. Thomas which, in offering us a clear understanding of creation ex nihilo, frees our understanding of the Divine Essence from in any way being subjected to the dialectical “Decays”, “Emanations”. “Manifestations”, or “Yearnings” of all the various theologies poisoned by Gnostic thinking.

It is always the case with those who wish to detract from Thomas that they come to the point of protesting that Christianity did not have Thomas for over 12 centuries, and therefore certainly does not need him now. Such facile reasoning fails to take into account that it is Dionysius (and others) who could not bear the simplicity of Christ’s teaching as exemplified in the teaching of St. James given above, that it was they who have formulated the theological and philosophical gyrations which seek to bypass this simplicity (and the vertical dimensions of our Faith), and that St. Thomas was therefore a great gift of God to counter their intellectual perversities at every crossroads of human thought.

The Penetration of Dionysian Theology and Spirituality
Into Catholicis
:

It was not until the 9th century that the thought of Dionysius began its massive penetration into Western Christianity. The following summary 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia will serve to give an adequate estimation of this influence upon medieval thought:

“”About the year 858 Scotus Eriugena, who was versed in Greek, made a new Latin translation of the Areopagite, which became the main source from which the Middle Ages obtained a knowledge of Dionysius and his doctrines….The works of Dionysius, thus introduced into Western literature, were readily accepted by the medieval scholastics [I have already explored the most probable reason why this was so – Dionysius’ fraudulent claims of being “Apostolic”]. The great masters of Saint-Victor at Paris, foremost among them the much-admired Hugh, based their teaching on the doctrine of Dionysius. Peter Lombad and the greatest Dominican and Franciscan scholars, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas [I again must interject with what I have said earlier – Thomas re-interpreted Dionysius], Bonaventure, adopted his theses and arguments. Master poets, e.g. Dante, and historians, e.g. Otto of Freising, built on this foundation. Scholars as renowned as Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln and Vincent of Beauvais drew upon him freely….The great mystics, Eckhardt, Tauler, Suso, and others, entered the mysterious obscurity of the writings of Dionysius with a holy reverence.”

The degree of influence on these (and many others) of course varied immensely. There are vast differences in the use made of Dionysius by such divergent, and opposed, figures as Eriugena Thomas Aquinas. Bonaventure, and Eckhardt.

John Scotus Eriugena, in the words of philosopher John Glenn, taught that: “The First Nature (Uncreated Nature that Creates) is God, the all perfect, who transcends all knowledge. God is so perfect that He does not even know Himself: for if He knew Himself, His knowledge would be determinate, and in so far limited, and the idea of limit connotes imperfection. All things are from eternity substantially contained in God. God does not produce things by pure creative act: if He did, the things produced would be new even to God, and to know them would mean an increase in the perfection of God’s knowledge – an obvious impossibility…. All things are necessarily contained in God, and proceed from Him by substantial emanation or outpouring [pantheism].”

St. Thomas, as we have demonstrated, re-interprets Dionysius in an orthodox manner.

St. Bonaventure, while not to be considered in the extreme camp of an Eriugena or Eckhardt, yet rejected Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics (and therefore the only real foundation of the doctrine creation ex nihilo), and quite emphatically conceived of creation as emanation from God, Thus, “This is our entire metaphysics: emanation, exemplarity, and consummation, that is, to be illumined by rays of spiritual light and to return to the Most High (Collationes in Hexaemeron) .”

The overt pantheism of an Eriugena or Eckhardt is readily condemned by the Church. But the vast extent of Gnostic-type thinking is not usually expressed in such extremes, but rather comes in more “diffused” forms, penetrating deeply into the heart of the Church through men who have reputations of sanctity, and even sainthood, but whose theology is permeated with Gnostic sentiments. As examined in my article St. Francis: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You, St. Bonaventure, in his rejection of Thomistic-Aristotelian metaphysics, and his embrace of Platonic-inspired theology, is a premier example. This is such an important point for understanding the depths of penetration of Gnostic theology and spirituality that I believe repetition (with slight changes for context) taken from the above-mentioned article on St. Francis to be of great value here:

Following is the explication of Bonaventure’s view of creation as given by Zachary Hayes:

“In the first book of his Sentence Commentary, Bonaventure expressed a vision of creation that remained with him until the end of his life. Drawing on and expanding the scriptural image (Eccles 1:7) of a river which flows from a spring, spreads throughout the land to purify and fructify it, and eventually flows back to its point of origin, Bonaventure presents the outline of his entire theological vision. In sum, the contours of the Christian faith are cast within the neo-Platonic circle of emanation, exemplarity, and return as this philosophical metaphor is reshaped by the Christian vision of faith.” (P. 61-62).

There are at least two things very disturbing about all this, both of which are centered in the Gnostic, Neo-Platonic concepts of the circle of emanation and return.

The word emanation, when used in any way to describe the essential relationship between created realities and God, necessarily carries overtones of Gnosticism and Pantheism, no matter what gyrations one passes through in order to “Christianize” it. The word itself connotes “to come forth from, or issue from something else as a source.” It is impossible to find a good definition of this word without encountering both these elements: “coming forth from” and “source.” Emanation is the classic word used to describe the pantheistic coming out of all finite realities from the Monad or Godhead. It may disingenuously be used in such a way as to try to identify it with creation ex nihilo, using the rationale that this is justifiable because the created thing did not exist before this time and was therefore “nothing.” But this simply doesn’t work. The act of creation is not a movement out from the ontological Being of God, but rather an act extrinsic to God’s Supreme Being by which He exercises His infinite power and intelligence to create truly from nothing. It is this which is denied in the concept of emanation.

The second element in St. Bonaventure’s disturbing theology and cosmology is the circular concept of emanation and return – also a concept profoundly integral to Gnosticism. It necessitates the concept of evolution – a word the etymology of which is very close to that of emanation. It literally means to “roll out.” What it entails in Bonaventure’s metaphysics and cosmology is an ascending growth in the status of human nature itself through an evolving process of emanation and return. In Bonaventure’s metaphysics, this demands a view of the soul which negates the unchangeable substantial form of the soul. He certainly taught that the soul was created in the image of God, but this image is set upon a path of historical development by the dynamics of historical, evolutionary ascent.

St. Thomas embraced the hylomorphic constitution of any and all created substances, such that any individual substance is the result of the Divine act of creating from nothing – this act involving the union of prime matter with one substantial form. From this substantial view of the human soul ensues, as I have already pointed out, his doctrine concerning the unity of the soul, and the non-evolutionary status of human nature at all points of human history.

Bonaventure, on the other hand, rejected this unicity of substantial form, and posited what is called “universal hylomorphism.” Again, from Zachary Hayes:

“Instead of accepting the doctrine of the unity of form, Bonaventure drew from R. Grosseteste and the Oxford Franciscans a form of light-metaphysics. According to this view, creatures are, indeed, composed of matter and form, but not necessarily of a single form. According to Bonaventure, the first form of all corporal beings is the form of light. Light in this instance is designated by the Latin word lux and is distinguished from lumen (radiation) and color (the empirical form in which light is perceived).”

In other words, we are here dealing with a spiritual “light” which emanates from God (and specifically, in Bonaventure’s metaphysics, from Christ) which is the moving force in the cycle of emanation and return. Even physical matter, according to Bonaventure, possesses to some degree this lux.
Hayes continues his analysis:

“This theory of light implies a rejection of the Aristotelian theory of the unity of form which would be favored by Aquinas [not just “favored,” but absolutely integral to Thomistic metaphysics]. In fact, Bonaventure argued in favor of a plurality of forms in a position similar to that of Avicenna, Avicebron, and Albert the Great. If light is understood to be the first and most general form, then, besides light, each individual being has a special form. It follows that each being has at least these two forms [and human beings have at least three forms, since Bonaventure denies that the soul can be the substantial form of the body, a position which he labeled as “insane]. The theory of the plurality of forms in Bonaventure involves a distinct understanding of the function of form. The function of form is not merely to give rise to one specific being [in other words, it does not serve to determine an essence which remains substantially unchanged through all “accidental” change]. But precisely in forming a specific being, it prepares or disposes matter for new possibilities. There is, indeed, such a thing as a final form. But this is arrived at only at the end of a process involving a multiplicity of forms along the way

Put simply, Bonaventure’s theology and metaphysics entails that the human soul itself is involved in an historical, evolutionary process. Bonaventure adopted Joachim of Fiore’s view of the seven stages of human development and history. This is why he compromised and betrayed St. Francis way of Poverty. It simply could not be lived by the Franciscan Order as a whole until the Seventh (Seraphic) Age.

St. Francis, on the other hand, possessed the simplicity and trueness of heart to understand that the full living of his way of Lady Poverty did not require an historical evolutionary process to come to fruition, but could and should be lived by all his friars right then and now. It simply required a return to his Rule. His implicit theology and metaphysics were therefore not that of Bonaventure, but rather of that of St. Thomas.

Human nature does not evolve. The nature, the choice, and the possibilities are the same for any man or woman at any point on the historical timeline. Any application of the Dialectic to understanding either the Nature of God or the nature of man is totally false, and destructive to both the unchangeable Nature of God and the integrity and continuity of human nature.
We are left with the fourth example of Dionysian-Gnosticism I have mentioned: Meister Eckhardt.

When I was immersed in Advaita Vedanta (the extreme Monistic form of Hinduism) in my youth, the name Meister Eckhardt surfaced frequently. He was often cited as the Christian counterpart of Vedantic philosophy. The common view was that Christianity as practiced by the uninformed masses is a kind of dualistic theism (involving a real distinction between God and man), but even in Christian tradition there is to be found a ray of the fullness of truth: that truth being best personified by the thought of Meister Eckhardt.

In the year 1329, with the edict In Agro dominico, Pope John XXII condemned 28 articles containing Meister Eckhard’s teachings – 17 were condemned as “heretical, and 11 as “evil-sounding, rash, and suspected of heresy”. Among those condemned as heretical are the following:

Condemned article #1: “And when asked why God did not create the world first, he answered that God was not able to create the world first, because He cannot make things before He is; therefore, as soon as God was, He immediately created the world [thus, the implied concept of “necessity” in God’s creation of the world].”

#2: Likewise it can be granted that the world existed from eternity.”

#6: Likewise anyone by blaspheming God Himself, praises God.”

#10: “We are transformed entirely in God, and we are changed into Him; in a similar manner as in the sacrament the bread is changed into the body of Christ; so I am changed into Him because He Himself makes me to be one with Him, not like (to Him); through the living God it is true that there is no distinction there.”

#13: “Whatever is proper to divine nature, all this is proper to the just and divine man; because of this that man operates whatever God operates, and together with God he created heaven and earth, and he is the generator of the eternal Word, and God without such a man does not know how to do anything.”

#14: “A good man ought so to conform his will to the divine will that he himself wishes whatever God wishes; because God wishes me to have sinned in some way, I would not wish that I had not committed sins, and this is true repentance.”

15: “If man had committed a thousand mortal sins, if such a man were rightly disposed, he ought not to wish that he had not committed them.”

All this from a man who held high positions in the Dominican Order (Prior of the Dominican convent in Erfurt, Provincial of the Province of Saxony, Vicar-General of Bohemia, and Prior in Strasburg)), and held professorships in Paris, Strasburg, and Cologne. He was hailed as a great mystic, and has had an immense influence on many souls.

In preparation for our examination of Gnosticism’s culmination in Modernism, I wish to point out here the great attraction which the denial of the principle of non-contradiction holds for many souls seeking a bogus mysticism. There is a deep longing, natural to fallen human nature, to “go beyond” the hard distinctions between good and evil, light and darkness, truth and error, love and hate, purity and impurity into a realm and a state of being which is beyond such prescriptions and dualities. The reason why Eckhardt could say such things as “If man had committed a thousand mortal sins, if such a man were rightly disposed, he ought not to wish that he had not committed them”, is that such Gnostic thinking is rooted in the principle that God is beyond all naming, all being, all virtue, all distinctions whatsoever (including any ultimate distinction between God and man). Since all things come from God and return to God, all merges into One. Further, since man’s ultimate salvation and destiny is beyond all such distinctions, and lies rather in absorption into, and unity with, the One, then the Way to this Oneness lies through negation of all such considerations. The ultimate victim, therefore, is the most fundamental principle of all being – the principle of non-contradiction. This, of course, is true not only of Eckhardt, but also of all such Gnostic mysticism, and especially that of Dionysius, who penned these words about the “Divine Unity”:

“Its Subsistence beyond Being, Its Godhead beyond Deity, Its Goodness beyond Excellence; the Identity, surpassing all things, of Its transcendently Individual Nature; Its Oneness above Unity; Its Namelessness and Multiplicity of Names; Its Unknowableness and perfect Intelligibility; Its universal Affirmation and universal Negation in a state above all Affirmation and Negation….” (The Divine Names, Ch. II, 4).

This is the sort of Mystical Mush in which post-Christian civilization, in its self contradictory, simultaneous rush towards both Godhead and self-annihilation, delights.
The great tragedy of all this is that it amounts to a denial that man is created in the image of God. We have no need to make God into something that is beyond One, Being, Truth, Purity, and all the rest. We only need to understand that Infinitude does not entail being Infinitely Beyond, but simply Infinitely More.

The Marriage of Gnosticism and Modern Science

The reader may remember that Plato posited 4 stages in his ascent to Gnosis. The first stage is knowledge of the world around us as we experience it with our normal senses and intellect. This world, according to Plato is almost totally unreal – a mere shadow-land. The second stage – that of the natural and analytical sciences – is more real, being constituted as a movement away from the illusory world of phenomena and into the world of intellectual abstraction, and analysis. The third stage, constituting a further advance towards the true reality of pure forms and ideas, denuded of all matter and flesh, is that of mathematics. The Fourth, of course, is the contemplative- intuitive Gnosis of pure Form.
It is very tempting to believe that such a philosophical world of advancing movement away from gross material reality upwards into the analytical intellectual realms of science and mathematics, and culminating in intellectual contemplation of the Absolute, constitutes a system of thought quite compatible with Christian theology, philosophy, and spirituality. After all, is not the world of the intellect and ideas much closer to the spiritual realm than is flesh? It is precisely this consideration which attracted many of the Early Fathers to Platonism. It was a “clean” world in comparison to the lascivious grossness of the Pagan philosophies and cosmologies, and the apparent massive contradictions of this world

But Platonism, on the contrary, is the complete inversion of true Christian philosophy, and the antithesis to Thomism. Under Thomistic metaphysics and natural philosophy, the created world is fully real. Every substance is a real union of substantial form and primary matter that is only reducible to God’s creative and sustaining power (I have explored this more fully in a number of articles). All other categories of being, involving such things as its quantifications, qualities, relations, etc., are also real, but are to be considered accidens (accidents) inhering in this irreducible substance. It is these accidents which are the sole objects of scientific and mathematical analysis. Scientific analysis has no access to the category of substance. What any particular thing truly “is” as constituting substance is “above” (meta) the quantifications of mathematics and physics. Therefore, in claiming that science and mathematics attain to a deeper perception of reality, Platonism inverts physical reality by positing that accidental being is more real than substantial being, with the consequent result that man’s mind enters upon an epistemological path which is delusive and inverted.

Virtually all “civilized” men are now immersed in this fundamental epistemological error, and scientific and technological “progress” have become the universal milieu that binds them to this delusion. Science, in other words, has become the dominant and all-pervasive tool of Gnosticism.

As long as such science (I will henceforth include mathematics within the domain of science) remained in infancy, so-called Christian Gnosticism largely ran a parallel course to its reductive effects upon human thought. But with the advent of the Renaissance, Christian Realism was severely challenged by such reductive science, and through succeeding centuries was beat back into increasingly defensive positions, largely made possible by either the total abandonment, or perversion, of Thomism. And it was in the midst of this carnage that the marriage between Gnostic Idealism and Scientific Reductionism was consummated.

Descartes:

In order to understand the full significance of Descartes and his place in the rise of Modern Philosophy (Descartes is called the “Father of Modern Philosophy”), it is necessary that we first understand something concerning the basic Catholic state of mind which had prevailed over Western Civilization from the time of the Apostles until the Renaissance. This is easily summarized.

In regard to the natural world, man’s knowledge of it was regarded as corresponding to objective reality. There might exist deficiencies in the senses and other parts of man’s makeup which could distort, or fail to perceive, this reality (we think of such things as blindness, deafness, or even something like a high fever). But generally speaking, what God created was real being, and God created man with the intellectual light to perceive reality as it truly existed.

Man, because his knowledge was finite and partial could certainly make mistakes, but this did not undermine either the substantiality of creation or the basic reliability of his perception of it. As an example of such “mistakes”, we might consider the widespread belief (including that of St. Thomas) during the Middle Ages in spontaneous generation of living things (worms or maggots) out of non-living “putrefied” matter (organic garbage). This has often been used by the enemies of philosophical realism to undermine the God-given reliability of human perception. The problem, however, lay not in the reliability of human perception (those worms really did crawl out of that matter), but in the judgment which was made upon partial and limited knowledge. St. Thomas and all his contemporaries did not see flies laying their eggs upon such matter, and therefore were not capable of coming to the correct conclusion.

Even more important, as concerns the spiritual world and higher truths regarding God and man, knowledge was anchored in the Faith. It was therefore rooted in the belief that certainty regarding these spiritual realities was a gift of God’s grace. This certainty was not necessarily dependent upon the understanding of the mind, but upon a grace-inspired act of the will which surrendered both intellect and will to God as He revealed Himself. Thus, St. Thomas defines the act of faith as: “an act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God….” (ST, II-II, Q.2, A.9). And, unraveling what this entails in regard to the question of certainty in regard to our knowledge, he further writes:

“In faith there is some perfection and some imperfection. The firmness [due to the command of the will, inspired by God] which pertains to the assent is a perfection, but the lack of sight, because of which the movement of discursive thought still remains in the mind of one who believes, is an imperfection. The perfection, namely, the assent, is caused by the simple light which is faith. But, since the participation in this light is not perfect, the imperfection of the understanding is not completely removed. For this reason the movement of discursive thought in it stays restless.”

In other words, certainty, in regard to all the higher truths regarding God and man, is not something which has its foundation or origins within man, and therefore cannot be erected upon any act of knowing originating within man.

Now, let us turn to Descartes and his philosophy of, and method for attaining, certitude.

There is an enormously seductive appeal which mathematics holds over the human mind. It is the one area of natural human intelligence and knowledge where absolute surety would appear to reign. It is clear, concise, “pure”, and free from self-contradiction and self-delusion. The effect of mathematics upon Pythagorean philosophers was such that they could declare – quite literally – that “all things are number”. For Plato, it was the last stage in the ascent of the intellect before it stepped over the edge of this shadow world and into the Divine world of Pure Form. Such is the delusion of human hubris. The fact is that the domain proper to both mathematics and physics lies entirely in the realm of accidental being. Neither can approach to knowledge of the substance of any created being, and certainly not that of God.

By trade and training, René Descartes (1596-1650) was a mathematician and physicist (the science most aptly characterized as the mathematical analysis of physical realities). His entire philosophical endeavor was founded upon attempting to discover a “method” which would offer him a subjective certainty in regard to truth which images the same sort of certainty offered by self-evident elementary mathematical concepts. He rejected Scholasticism (especially the Thomistic-Aristotelian concept of “substantial form”), he rejected the appeal to authority as a reliable source of true knowledge, and he rejected the surety of experiential knowledge. He even theoretically rejected the surety of self-evident mathematical concepts in order to be able to claim “universal doubt” as the launch-pad of his inquiry into truth.

Before examining Descartes’ method, however, it is necessary to examine another side of his life and thought which is little known. Descartes claimed to be a devout Catholic until his dying day. The truth of this claim is debated among scholars – whether this is to be considered a true ascent to Catholic teaching, or merely a pious fraud. Considering what follows, it would appear that the latter is much more likely.

Descartes claimed to have had a mystical experience, and believed he had received divine revelation and sanction of his system. During the night of Nov 10, 1619 (when he was 23 years old and still searching for his vocation) he had three dreams which he claimed had been predicted to him before retiring, and which “the human mind had no share in them”. Descartes was absolutely convinced that these dreams were a visitation from the “Spirit of Truth,” and that their content confirmed his “method” for attaining to all the treasures of knowledge. (the content of these dreams can be found in Alexander M. Schlutz, Mind’s World: Imagination and Subjectivity from Descartes to Romanticism, p. 59 ff.).

The “method” embraced by Descartes began with the absolute refusal to accept anything as true of which his mind, under its own power, was not absolutely certain. He thus claimed to begin with a “universal doubt.” Since “authority” was to him the weakest argument for accepting truth (“authorities” obviously differed and contradicted one another), his method necessarily rejected Divine Revelation and the authority of the Church as the source for certainty in truth. And, of course, he rejected that such certainty was the fruit of a faith which, in turn, was a gift of God’s grace. As such, he completely inverted the Catholic understanding of supernatural truth, and man’s ascent to it. As a necessary consequence, certitude must now come from within man.

After allegedly eliminating all other sources of knowledge, the one thing Descartes discovered in which he possessed absolute certainty was the reality of his own thinking. And since he could not separate this thinking from his own being he further possessed absolute certitude of his own existence as thinker. Thus, the famous Cartesian starting point of all his metaphysics and epistemology – “Cogito ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”). Upon this he erected all other knowledge, including surety in relation to the existence of God and the reality of His creation.

Briefly summarized, once Descartes had established the absolute certitude of his own thinking existence, he proceeded to discover the existence in his mind of an idea of a perfect, infinite, Good Being Whom we call God. And since, according to his reasoning, a finite cause (such as his own mind) could not conceivably be adequate to explain the presence of this idea, then God must actually exist as the cause. From this he derived the validity of our real knowledge of this world. A good God would not deceive us by creating us with a basically unreliable perception of the world.

There is of course a great deal of complexity (including circular reasoning) in all this, with which we need not be overly concerned, or even respectful. Descartes’ “proof” of the existence of God, for instance, is simply a variant of the ontological argument of St. Anselm (Neo-Platonist), and has been largely rejected and rightly ridiculed by both Catholic and secular scholars alike. In addition, his claim that it is impossible to deny one’s own distinct existence on the basis of the principle “I think, therefore I am”, has been contradicted by millions of Monists who deny the ultimate reality of any duality or multiplicity. As we have seen, a man like Plotinus could even consider it an illusion to posit self-awareness in God, since this assumes a duality in the Absolute which is self-contradictory.

Descartes' claim to fame as the “Father of Modern Philosophy” is therefore not based on any of these particular aberrations of his method or system, but rather on the subjective turn which he gave to all philosophical (and theological) certitude. This the world has taken very seriously, as have the great majority of Catholic thinkers. Certitude is seen as something which comes from within man. We thus have the modern equivalent of original sin by which Adam and Eve sought to replace God as the source of certitude in knowledge – “You shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” With the philosophy of Descartes, in other words, we have landed “heads-down” in the world of Modern Gnosticism. We have also been immersed in an ocean of philosophical relativity and chaos – this constituting the history of philosophy since the time of Descartes (and in many respects, since the rejection of Thomism as early as the 13th century).

There is an additional aspect of Descartes’ philosophy – usually referred to as “Mind-Body Dualism” or the “Mind-Body Split – which is integral to the march of Gnosticism and Modernism down through the ensuing centuries. Descartes taught that there were only three substances in the Universe – physical realities, thought, and God The substantial nature of all physical things consisted in quantification and motion. The entire substance of the physical world was thus reducible to what could be measured – this obviously directly contradicting the Thomistic view that all quantification involves “accidents” which do not in themselves reach down to understanding the substantial nature of anything.

All that was not “physical” in human experience, on the other hand, was reducible to “thought”, which constituted Descartes’ second type of substance. Thought (including everything in the mind which is not measurable – such realities as the idea of God, truths about God, morality, and even consciousness itself) was seen to constitute an entirely distinct realm of substance existing within man. It is to this subjective realm of thought that much of Christian philosophy, in retreat from the assaults of reductive science upon any article of the Faith which in any way involved physical realities (think of the Bible, especially the creation account in Genesis; consider the doctrines of Transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, Mary’s Perpetual Virginity and Bodily Assumption, and even the Resurrection) would retreat during the next 400 years. Obviously this was bound to create a kind of schizophrenic dualism in every Catholic who succumbed to the virtual universal ambience of such scientific reductionism.

Moreover, since the act of faith was reduced to the subjectivity of individual thought, and since human thought is itself always subject to change, growth and alteration, then truth itself must become an evolutionary phenomenon. And severely compromised, and even destroyed, is the entire vertical and unchanging nature of truth and faith, so aptly encapsulated in the words of St. James: “Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.”

Between Descartes and Pius X’s Condemnation of Modernism:

A period of approximately 300 years separates Descartes from Pope Pius X and his condemnation of Modernism. This space of time is replete with the aberrations of many philosophers. I believe they deserve scant attention.

It might seem a defect in scholarship to make such a leap. “After all”, it might be objected, “is not Modernism directly linked to such thinkers as Kant and Hegel? Is not the Modernist view of truth “Hegelian”? Is it not Dialectical, and therefore a substitution of becoming for being? Is not the Modernist faith also appropriately considered a product of “Kantian Phenomenalism” because it is reduced to trying to find the validity of faith within human consciousness itself, at the expense of objective truth?

The answer, of course, is yes. What few people realize, however, is that both Kant and Hegel are basically “old hash”. As we have seen, the dialectical view of truth, the concept of reality as being rooted in dialectical becoming rather than substantial being, is absolutely integral to Platonism, Gnosticism in all their forms. The following summary of Hegel’s dialectic should be startling for anyone who believes that Hegel brought anything substantially new to the history of human intellectual folly:

“His starting-point is the concept of pure, absolute, indeterminate being; this he conceives as a process, as dynamic [think of Plotinus’ necessary diffusion of the Absolute, or Dionysius Yearning within the Absolute Super-essential Godhead]. His method is to trace the evolution of this dynamic principle through three stages: 1) the stage in which it affirms, or posits, itself as thesis; 2) the stage of negation, limitation, antithesis, which is a necessary corollary of the previous stage; 3) the stage of synthesis, return to itself, union of opposites….” (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Dialectic).

The above might have been written by Proclus.

And from the same article – this time concerning Kantian Dialectic:

“While Scholastic philosophers understand by reality that which is the object directly revealed to, and apprehended by, the knowing mind…idealist or phenomenalist philosophers assume that the direct object of our knowledge is the mental state or modification itself, the mental appearance, or phenomenon {thus, all those modern philosophies which are aptly grouped under the common appellation Phenomenology], as they call it; and because we cannot clearly understand how the knowing mind can transcend its own revealed, or phenomenal, self or states in the act of cognition, so as to apprehend something other than the immediate, empirical, subjective content of that act, these philosophers are inclined to doubt the validity of the ‘inferential leap’ to reality [objective truth]….”
Thus, the worlds “out there” – both God and creation – become shadow-lands, and what remains is Gnosis within.
We have seen it all before.

Modernism:

What Pope St. Pius X so brilliantly analyzed in Pascendi Dominici Gregis as the heresy of Modernism should be seen as the synthesis and culmination of 2,000 years of Gnosticism eating away at the heart of the Catholic Church. All the elements of Gnosticism are present, and can be summed up in a short space.

We must begin by realizing that the Modernist is not an atheist, nor does he deny the reality of faith. It is the nature of his faith which is heretical. This faith is rooted in what Pius X designates as agnosticism, and which he explains as follows:

“According to this teaching, human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that appear, and in the manner in which they appear: it has neither the right nor the power to overstep these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognizing His existence, even by means of visible things.”

Hence, both God and the substantial nature of the created world are inaccessible to objective human knowledge. Thus the term agnosticism, which literally means “not knowable.” We live, in other words, in a shadow world as far as objective knowledge is concerned. Such modern agnosticism is largely attributable to the subjection of the faith to modern science.
The Pope goes on to say:

“However, this Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernists; the positive part consists in what they call vital immanence.”

With the road to external, objective Revelation closed, the Modernist is then forced to find the source for his faith within himself. This is discovered in what is called the “religious sense.” In turn, the religious sense must emanate from some source, and the Modernist proceeds to discover this to lie in a “need of the divine” hidden deeply within human nature. Again, from Pascendi Dominici Gregis:

”…this religious sense possesses, implied within itself both as its own object and as its intrinsic cause, the divine reality itself, and in a way unites man with God.”

We are here fully in the world of Gnostic emanation. Man cannot possess the divine reality itself within his nature unless that nature itself is a decay or emanation away from God. As Pius X recognizes, Modernism is thus deeply imbued with pantheism. At the same time this pantheistic presence of divinity within man necessarily denies creation ex nihilo, which as I have pointed out is the prerequisite doctrine in order to prevent ontological confusion between the Supreme Being of God and the finite being of his creation (this is a point not made by Pius X, but it is a necessary consequence).

It is not necessary to detail here all the aberrations in faith which the Pope unravels as consequences of Modernism: such things as the necessity of spiritual evolution, evolution of dogma, the complete undermining of the sacramental system, the destruction of belief in Biblical inerrancy and the concept of Tradition, denial of the One True Church, etc. Once the “knowledge” which comes from above is denied objective validity, then interior Gnosis triumphs, and all else fails.
The Catholic intellectual world is now largely a sea of Modernists, Phenomenologists, and those who believe that Truth is a matter of dialectical-evolutionary development. It is a dreary world, filled with new words and concepts which flee any attempt to make them possess substantial meaning. Such does not satisfy the human heart. It is not surprising therefore that many of these philosophers and theologians are often found to be in a flirtatious relationship with such things as Palamism, the bogus “mysticism of people like Meister Eckhardt, the New Age Movement, Centering Prayer, Yoga, Vedantic Hinduism, and Buddhism. Having denied Christ and His Truth, and having retreated into the dullness and banality of their own interior phenomena, it is perfectly understandable that they should long to plunge deeper into the hidden world of unknown “spirits”.

Dialogue: The Final Refuge of Western Gnosticism:

As demonstrated in my analysis of Plato, the ascent to gnosis requires a dialectical method which is maieutical – a process of dialogue which uncovers, or gives birth to, Truth that comes from within. There is no evidence in any of Plato’s Dialogues that any of the participants ever achieved that contemplative union with the Divine One which is the goal of Plato’s dialectical ascent. There are, however, the following “truths” born of such dialogue: the unreality of the world; the supremacy of the State over all things both spiritual and temporal; the destruction of parenthood and the family, infanticide and euthanasia for those who are born deformed, or who become “useless” to the State, and the total embrace of eugenics in order to breed a superior race. Such are some of the fruits of Socrates’ descent into “recollection” of our divine origin. The Platonic Dialogues are pathetic not only in regard to any claim of such a method being able to attain to divinity or human perfection, but also even to the understanding of natural truth with any consistency.

The Catholic Church is now in a similar state of pathos, having turned its gaze away from the “truth that comes from above”, to that which comes from dialogue with that which is below. It wanders the byways of the world seeking encounter and dialogue, and hoping that the “Spirit” will magically arise out of such “ecumenism” – the “Spirit” of Unity, of Peace, of Justice, of a New and Vital Truth. Such appears to be the final consummation of that Original Pride of life in which Adam and Eve sought a Gnosis coming from within, rather than that Truth which is given as a free Gift from above.

Concerning the basic posture which the Catholic Church must now take towards the world, possibly Joseph Ratzinger put it best (and most pathetically):

"As things are, faith cannot count on a bundle of philosophical certainties [thus Thomism is sent entirely packing] which lead up to faith and support it. It will be compelled, rather, to prove its own legitimacy in advance by reflecting on its own inner reasonableness and by presenting itself as a reasonable whole, which can be offered to men as a possible and responsible choice. To say this is to imply that faith must clearly adjust itself to an intellectual pluralism that cannot ever be reversed, and within this intellectual climate must present itself as a comprehensible offer of meaning, even if it can find no prolegomena in a commonly accepted philosophical system. That means, in the end, that the meaning which man needs becomes accessible in any case only through a decision for a meaningful structure. It may not be proved, but can be seen as meaningful." (Faith and the Future, p. 74-75).

This Gnostic legacy of dialogue and descent then comes to fruition in Pope Francis, who in a video message to message to his fellow Argentineans on the Feast of St. Cajetan, said:

“Am I going to go out to convince someone to become a Catholic? No, no, no. You are going to meet with him, he is your brother! That’s enough! And you are going to help him, the rest Jesus does, the Holy Spirit does it.”

As analyzed in my articles The Descent into Darkness: Pope Francis and the Deconstruction of the Human Heart, and “’I know Not the Man’: Pope Francis, the Natural Child of Benedict XVI, this demands effective silence in relation to the truths of Christ – especially such “hard” moral teachings as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and the receiving of communion by divorced and remarried persons. To those drowning in moral corruption and intellectual and spiritual chaos, such missionary discipleship (Pope Francis’ key phrase for the “New Evangelization) offers a love that confirms them in sin and error because it embraces them in a silence which conceals that which is necessary to heal the soul. This is the ultimate sin against the poor – offering them food for the body while refusing them the Bread of Christ.

Most of all, however, such “dialogue with the world” requires the effective abandonment of any claim to absolute Truth, and especially any claim by the Catholic Church to be in sole possession of the fullness of that Truth. It demands, in other words, the renunciation of Divine Authority.

The Nest of the Antichrist: Union of Gnosticism East and West:

It is clear from Scripture that the Antichrist will exercise virtual total temporal and spiritual power over the world. The spiritual power obviously takes precedence, since it provides the moral authority and force necessary for all the rest.
The following nine paragraphs are reproduced here (with slight alterations) from my article The Final Decay:

Possibly the most mysterious passage of the New Testament is to be found in St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, in which he discusses the coming of the Antichrist. It reads as follows:

“And now you know what withholdeth [the coming of the Antichrist], that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.”(2 Thess 2:6-7).

Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Hippolytus, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John of Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustine of Hippo were unanimous in seeing “he who now holdeth” to be the Roman Empire and the Caesars who ruled this empire. The Roman Empire represented the moral force of law which prevented the “man of lawlessness” from ascending to power.

The pagan Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. The moral force of the Roman Empire, however, did not cease. This principle of continuity in the history of the Roman Empire was delineated with profound perspicuity by Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Cum Catholica Ecclesia:

“It is therefore, by a particular decree of Divine Providence that, at the fall of the Roman Empire and its partition into separate kingdoms, the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ made the head and center of his entire Church, acquired civil power. Certainly, it was by a most wise design of God Himself that in the midst of so great a multitude and variety of temporal princes, the Sovereign Pontiff enjoyed political liberty, which is so necessary for him to exercise his spiritual power, his authority, and his jurisdiction over the whole world.”

If the Church Fathers and Pope Pius IX are right, then there is only one solution to this mystery concerning the identity of the one who holds back the Antichrist. It is now the Papacy. The Pope must, in some sense, be “taken out of the way” in order for the Antichrist to rise to power.

We might be tempted to conclude that such a “taking out of the way” of the Pope should be interpreted physically, but I believe this to be an inadequate explanation. Quite a number of Popes have been taken away from Rome and/or held prisoner by precursors of the Antichrist, and yet the moral force necessary to restrain the ascension of Antichrist remained intact.

Nor can this “taking away” be meant to signify that for a period of time the Chair of Peter is unoccupied. First, we have the assurance of Our Lord that both the Church and the Papacy upon which the Church is founded will endure to the end of the world. Second, the world has already experienced extended Papal interregnums, and during these periods the moral force of the Church and the Papacy has always proved sufficient to prevent the rise of the Antichrist.

All of this should tell us that what we are dealing with here is the possibility of the moral force of the Papacy being eliminated or diminished in such a way as to create a sufficiently pervasive spiritual vacuum into which the Antichrist will be able to gain entrance and ascend to power. It is this spiritual vacuum which I detailed in all my articles concerning the philosophy and theology of Joseph Ratzinger. It is this vacuum which has become even more evident in the Papacy of Pope Francis.

As we have seen, the spiritual power, authority, and jurisdiction of the Papacy have already been severely diminished, largely through the teaching (or failure to teach) and policies of recent Popes. There remains, however, one final, severe blow which Papal authority may yet suffer – the price that will be paid for union with the Eastern Orthodox.

There are many things the Eastern Orthodox will never renounce, this side of some miraculous intervention by God. They will not renounce their Gnostic mystical theology; they will not renounce pluralism in regard to so many doctrines which are binding on Catholic consciences; they will not accept a Primacy of Peter which recognizes Papal Infallibility in the defining of Doctrine, nor will they recognize Papal Universal Primacy of Jurisdiction.

Most of the theological and doctrinal differences can somewhat easily be ignored, or glossed over. Pope John Paul II employed the concept of a Church which will once again “breathe with two lungs” when unity is achieved with the Orthodox. The image conveyed by this metaphor is that the Catholic Church for centuries has been puffing along on half the oxygen it really needs, and that fullness of vitality and life will only be achieved through this union. With this possibility in sight, who wishes to quibble over small things? After all, of what real importance is the Filioque to Catholic theologians or hierarchy – it is never given serious attention. And as for the other doctrinal problems they are seldom, if ever, mentioned.

The only issue given serious consideration as a barrier to Catholic-Orthodox unity is the role of the Papacy. In his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II acknowledged his responsibility of finding “a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.” This amounted to an invitation to employ Jesuitical casuistry in exploring concepts and terminology which, while not directly contradicting defined Catholic doctrine regarding the Papacy, would yet make union with the Eastern Orthodox possible.

Pope Francis has greatly impressed the Orthodox world. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople attended his installation – this has never happened since the Great Schism in 1054. Pope Francis has conspicuously and insistently referred to himself as the “Bishop of Rome”, rather than some such title as “Bishop of the Universal Church”, which would serve to indicate his Universal Jurisdiction. During an ecumenical prayer service to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Pope said, “We can say that the journey of ecumenism has allowed us to come to a deeper understanding of the ministry of the successor of Peter, and we must be confident that it will continue to do so in the future.” Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land, scheduled for May 1, is centered upon meeting with Bartholomew I in order to discuss ecumenism.

Union with the Eastern Orthodox would have profound effects in every area of Catholic life and belief. There would be a large infusion of Palamite-Gnostic theology and spirituality into the Church. Increased de-emphasis of the role of doctrine (if that be possible) would be a necessity. The Orthodox Church has possessed no central authority for doctrinal unity since the close of the 7th Ecumenical Council in the year 787. And even the doctrines of these first seven councils are open to pluralistic interpretation, since there is no central authority to decide these issues. As I have pointed out in the first part of this article, a great many Catholic doctrines are denied – the reality of original sin, the concept of grace added to nature, the necessity of the possession of sanctifying grace for salvation, the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and right down to the indissolubility of marriage. Union will require a great deal of Silence – a Dark Veil will be placed over the Magisterium.

It is the Papacy, however, which is the greatest of all stumbling-blocks to union. Orthodoxy will not accept the Papal Primacy as taught and defined by Vatican I. Unity can be achieved only if the Papacy is effectively reduced to a “Primacy of Honor” or a “Primacy of Love”. Eastern Orthodox patriarchs and bishops would not accept submission to his supreme authority. And because they would not submit, the bishops of the Catholic Church would feel totally justified in following the same course. The moral force of the Papacy, in other words, would be effectively destroyed.

And then the Antichrist will come. He who “holdeth” will have been taken out of the way.

These end thoughts concerning the Papacy and the Antichrist are, of course, “mere speculation”. It may indeed not happen in the particular manner proposed here. Nevertheless, I believe I have accurately portrayed the face of evil which will confront us. I offer the following short work of fiction to illustrate the choice which we will then be called upon to make.

Excerpt from:

The Inaugural Address of the First President of the World Union:

Contrary to popular analysis and thinking, the worldwide Crisis which we face – one which is poised to destroy all human life – is not one which finds its ultimate cause in any combination of political, economic, national, or racial factors. Thanks to the exponential growth of knowledge in the various fields of physical science (including neuro-psychology), and also in the realms of behavioral sciences such as psychology and sociology, we now know with certainty that the various forms of individual and collective violence (war) which have plagued man since antiquity are not fundamentally due to any factors which lie in his exterior life.

The real cause of all forms of violence and injustice lies within man. It is constituted by a kind of "original sin" which is the essential root of all his destructive tendencies, and which, if it is not transcended, will be the cause of his final and total self-destruction. We are now at that juncture in human history where we must realize that we possess only two choices. We ignore this truth and perish as a species, or we face up to it, and take those measures necessary to insure our collective transcendence beyond this fundamental flaw in human nature.

What is this flaw, this "original sin"? We must first realize that it is not constituted by any of the ideas, feelings, desires which are the natural fruits of the almost infinite variety of human life. All these are simply expressions of life, energy, and creativity in its natural evolutionary expansiveness and growth. They are therefore also expressions of that fundamental charity and openness towards others which constitutes the very opposite of that exclusiveness which leads to selfishness and violence. It is of course true that our desires can come into conflict with one another, but these conflicts are relatively minor expressions of selfishness, entail minimal degrees of violence and civil disorder, can be seen as the normal consequences of humanity's "growing pains", and are controllable through the ordinary means of our legal systems. In other words, such conflicts are not part of that fundamental threat to humanity of which we here speak.

No, the power that destroys life on a massive and unacceptable scale lies not in growth and expansion, but rather in contraction. It can only consist, therefore, in whatever exists in human consciousness and thinking that prevents this growth and evolution. Further, this "original sin" must also be seen as the genesis of all those forces in human personality which are diametrically opposed to openness to other persons and thus to their particular variations in thinking, belief, and values. It is this fundamentally anti-social flaw, ensconced deeply in man's present nature, which must be transcended and eliminated if mankind is to survive beyond the present crisis.

It becomes obvious, therefore, that the original sin of man lies in Absolutism – that fundamental pride of life by which an individual or group claims the possession of a Truth which is static and unchangeable, a Truth which is not subject to the universal laws of growth and evolution, a Truth which excludes the validity of the opinion and beliefs of others, and a Truth therefore which logically excludes and denigrates the personhood of others. In one word, original sin consists in Dogmatism. Dogmatism can simply be defined as any claim to Absolute Truth which is exclusive of any other truth, and is not open to evolutionary growth, change, and dialogue.

It is important at this point to be very clear on one absolutely essential point. No belief, opinion, religious idea or form of worship (except those which involve human sacrifice or are by their very nature exclusive of the dignity of others) is to be condemned for its substantial content. The Constitution of the New World Union embraces all religions and is committed to the defense of complete freedom of religious belief and expression. Without such freedom the Great Dialogue of Ideas which is essential to the evolution of the human spirit can only experience suffocation. Nothing, and we repeat nothing, of the great ideas of the entire gamut of world's religions, philosophies, or ideologies, is to be considered suppressed. They may all be considered as profound expressions of human consciousness and desire on its way to that Omega Point which is now mysterious to us, but will be the final fulfillment of all evolution and growth.

It is not, in other words, any particular idea or belief in itself that is the source of our present quandary. The problem lies not in ideas themselves, but in what man has done with them. It is, as we have said, at that point where dogma is promulgated, where truth becomes fixed and absolute, that all irresolvable divisions between men and all large-scale forms of violence are generated.

We must further realize, however, that such Absolutism and Dogmatism is rooted in a profound philosophical error. If the real and health-fulfilling depths of human life are rooted in growth, expansion, evolutionary ascent, fluidity, flexibility, openness, and the humility which is the constant companion of these virtues, then the opposite of these virtues finds its most concrete expression in a philosophical view which views the world in relationship to the idea of fixed and determinate substances.

It is, in fact, the metaphysical view of substance, which has been the primary inhibitive factor in the growth of the human spirit. It has also therefore been the primary factor in generating the schizophrenic departure of the human mind and heart from the realities which have been revealed to us through the beneficence of science. It is now known with absolute certainty through analytical physics that the whole concept of substance is a myth, and that all realities – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – can be explained in terms of the movement and flow of atomic, sub-atomic, and quantum forces which themselves are not even subject to the term "substance." The fundamental fabric of human existence must, therefore, be seen as constant change and paradox. The very "substance" of individual personality, and the existence of each one of us as distinct individuals, is identical with that continuous state of flux which is the very negation of the conventional ideas of permanence and substance.

There are, of course, certain religions and philosophies in the world which are already largely in accord with this inescapable knowledge of reality. We might here mention Hinduism and Buddhism. Seeking that final identity of the human spirit with the Spirit of the All, and rejecting all absolutes in this life as forms of maya (illusion), these religions have always embraced rejection of Dogma as necessary for their own belief in transcendence and for that mystical union with the Absolute which is beyond all the deceptively apparent substantial realities of this life.

There are other religions which obviously are destined to have to work harder towards this integration. We must be frank, and especially mention Christianity and Islam in this regard. There is a great deal in each of these major world religions which speaks of absolutism and exclusivity. After much examination by the World Council of Churches and other groups, however, we have become convinced that these great world religions can also be essentialized to allow them to accord with the principles of human growth and evolution. This process of essentialization simply demands that we look deeper into each of the doctrines which appear to speak of absolutism – that we be open to the movement of the human spirit which is able to penetrate to the real locus of human aspirations which are beneath the surface of these dogmatic encrustations, and that we be willing to release this spirit in terms of new essentializations and interpretations.

All this will, of course, take time and the collective creative effort of all of mankind. We cannot deny, however, that after sustained study of this issue by the greatest creative minds in the world, we are intensely hopeful of the outcome. Much of our collective optimism comes from the realization that we can afford to be patient. We are fully aware that these reformulations and interpretations, and the release of the creative energies which have been forced to atrophy behind such concretizations of Absolutism and dogma, will take some time. Such is only natural, simply because healing, growth, and maturation always demand time and patience. The absolute pre-condition for such a process, however, cannot be delayed. We must begin at once to reverse the direction of humanity in order that the powers of destructive Absolutism may not reach that critical mass which is bound to destroy us all. We must, in other words, accomplish the fundamental act of conversion Now.

In order to initiate this process, the World Council has therefore unanimously passed a resolution that every person in the world be required to sign the following simple Act of Conversion:

Act of Conversion:

I………………………. renounce all claims to possession or knowledge of Absolute Truth, either in relation to ultimate reality or moral action. I firmly resolve to commit myself to the principles of dialogue with, and acceptance of, the opinions and beliefs of others on our common journey towards our common destiny.

Signature: _______________________

At this point of great crisis for mankind, refusal to sign this oath and act of conversion cannot be considered a legitimate option. We fully accept that necessary growth always involves purgation. Therefore, beginning at the age of reason (which we mandatorily set at the age of seven), those who refuse their signature must be euthanized using the most humane means available to modern technology. Those who sign, but later are found to commit violations of this oath, will be subject to the generally mild punishments of existing anti-hate crime legislation. They will also be required to retake and sign the Oath. Second offenders will be required to suffer the stiffer penalties assigned for such reoccurrences, and again required to retake the Oath. It will be mandatory that all proven third-time offenders be euthanized.

These regulations are designed to reflect those principles of both mercy and justice inherent in our evolutionary ascent towards the Omega Point of human destiny.