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All Gnostics are Left-Hemispheric, but Not All Left-Hemispherics are Gnostics

The difference between political gnosticism and cultural gnosticism

This is a great 2,900-word July 4th tribute/assessment of the United States at UnHerd, a magazine that impresses me more every time I click on its masthead.

From the conclusion:

Today’s America, caught in a war between the demands of national coexistence and absolutist obsessions with racial sin, is a place that the country’s Puritan ghosts would easily recognise. . . .
The current American revolution, by contrast, represents another outbreak of the Puritan spirit, which is guilt-ridden and self-obsessed, and at the same time determined to realise the kingdom of heaven on earth. At once deeply and inherently American, it is also opposed to what has been the American social and cultural order of the past three centuries. It is a mistake to believe that the Puritan ghost can ever be satisfied, especially through compromise. Puritanism is a revolutionary, iconoclastic and totalising movement, whose truths are religious and uncompromising. The question for Americans now is which of the country’s two founding visions they will choose: that of the country’s rationalist Enlightenment Founders, whose imagination of a great, continent-sized American nation has already been achieved, or the wilder visions of its founding saints.

I really like that last passage. It highlights a stark point I have increasingly been emphasizing: Modernity is, by definition, one where the left hemisphere holds hegemony.

But not all left-hemispherics are the same.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of left-hemispherics. The gnostic and the non-gnostic. All gnostics are left-hemispheric, but not all left-hemispherics are gnostics. That being said, because the left hemisphere is the psyche of gnostics, any person governed by his left hemisphere is "gnosticish."

I separate today's left-hemispherics into two categories: "political gnostics" and "cultural gnostics." The former were the Puritans and are the Marxists among us, the kind to be resisted with berserker fervor. The latter is our rationalist neighbors and friends, unwitting dupes of the Marxists perhaps, but still our friends, just trying to make it in a world that has fed them a long line of left-hemispheric bulls*** all their lives.

"Political gnostics" are the gnostics that Voegelin analyzed. "Cultural gnostic" is a term I created to distinguish gnostics' fellow travelers who think like them but aren't really gnostics, so in that sense, it's misleading even to refer to something like "cultural gnostics," but it's also helpful because it draws a parallel to their counterpoints in other religions (e.g., "cultural Catholics" who aren't really Catholic).

And why aren't cultural gnostics really gnostics?

Because they lack a cause.

To be a gnostic, a person must be governed by his left hemisphere (with the inherent demand for certainty) PLUS it needs a cause.

The cause could be political (like it was with Fascism) or it could be religious (like it was with the ancient gnostics) or a blend (Puritans) or something else.

And what triggers a person to embrace a cause?

I don't know, but I suspect that people who feel the tension of living in the metaxy are most inclined to "fall" for causes. The metaxic tension is unpleasant: it stretches a person between transcendence and immanence. A person naturally wants to eliminate it. One way to eliminate it (the improper way) is to lop off one of the poles. Then a person is no longer stretched.

And if the person is left-hemispheric, he can then direct his energies entirely to that pole and feel like he's gaining (or can gain) a measure of control over it, which leads to salvation.

According to the author quoted at the beginning of this Briefly, history and current affairs show that America has two options at this point: political gnosticism or cultural gnosticism.

I'm afraid he's right, but we need to prove him wrong. We need to re-establish the right hemisphere's hegemony in our own lives and maybe, just maybe, help instill it in those around us.

Only then can the true revolution occur, and if it's truly right hemispheric, we might be able to do it without violence.

The Three Ideals of the Enlightenment
Isaiah Berlin summarized the Enlightenment ideals in these three premises, which Enlightenment thinkers held with religious-like fervor (to David Hume’s amusement and, later, to Dostoyevsky’s disgust): 1. Every genuine question can be answered. If it can’t be answered, it’s not a genuine question.…