The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part Three

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Continuing to read Pellicani’s study of Gnosticism and its impact over the centuries as part of an internal mechanism through which disaffected intellectuals have gained control of an equally disaffected proletariat against the power brokers of institutionalized Church and State. At the heart of it he sees a sense of alienation and resentment fostered by poverty, exclusion, and misery that has allowed a small cadre of intellectual elites to revitalize a chiliastic and revolutionary form of Christian Messianism that no longer seeks like the Catholic Church comfort and haven in the afterlife and Kingdom of God in Heaven, but rather seeks to remake this world into the Kingdom of God on Earth as a new Eden and Paradise. He’ll provide a litany of historical examples from the Cathari, Taborites, Anabaptists, and Puritans:

From the Puritan cultural revolution on, politics was conceived as a soteriological practice, dominated by an eschatological tension toward the Kingdom of God on earth, therefore as a calling, whose methodical objective was to overturn the world in order to purify it. The slogan originally used by the Taborites and the Anabaptists was revived: “Permanent warfare against the existing, in the name of the New World.” 1

This notion of permanent warfare reminds one of Trotsky’s notion of permanent revolution, which is an underlying aspect of Pellicani’s reactionary theme. Pellicani is no friend of the Left and seeks to show by way of undermining the anti-capitalist and anti-institutional theme the very reason for the failure of these different movements over the past few millennia. More and more what was once a spiritual gnosis and awakening to an acosmic revolution against the powers and rulers of the cosmic order in Gnosticism has slowly evolved into a cosmic and worldly, Manichean dualism of alienation and resentment against literal power and rule in the name of political not spiritual revolution; all under the guise of a prophetic and chiliastic apocalypticism. In the future I’ll do a segment on Left leaning treatments of gnosis and Gnosticism in politics, etc. (Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, et. al. ).

Pellicani recognizes that with the rise of mercantile capitalism out of the old feudalism, along with the slow breakup of the authority of Church and Monarchy new power relations were formed that allowed for centuries of deep seated hatreds and rebellions that had festered in resentment to come to head. Protestantism would be the outcome of this new turn toward gnosis or the inner man, that would allow for the old resentments to be rechanneled by these rebellious elites into worldly social movements. He’ll outline the five stages of the Puritan strategy that were key in reinstating a gnostic institutionalism that allowed it to gain a foothold against the Church and Monarchs: 1) creation of a moral order of “permanent indignation” against corruption and evil; 2) creation of a critical attitude in the masses that demonized the institutions of State and Church that had been corrupted and were culpable; 3) creation of a revolutionary order to incite the masses against the present order and invent a new world, a “kingdom of saints”; 4) creation of a post-revolutionary society of saints, a utopian dream-state; and, 5) expunge those who opposed the new order as affiliated with the Anti-Christ and to be excluded from the New Jerusalem.

Pellicani spends only enough time for his polemic to tread across these various movements and historical events to bolster his own argument against revolutionary ideology to support his own ongoing reactionary stance. At the moment I don’t have time to go over all the other various works dealing with the chiliastic vision or its ties with the underlying threads of Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Renaissance humanism and science, magical and esoteric works, along with memory systems etc.  Norman Cohn (see his: The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages) and others have gone over such territory in detail. Many of these religious ideologies would become secularized during the Enlightenment and Romantic/Socialist periods (of which I’ll have more to say in coming posts).

Such would be the Puritan Revolution which would end in failure with Cromwell in England, while wreaking havoc in other states across Europe; yet, in the long run, it had proven its viability to forge the nexus of a new ideology in religious and political institutionalism that would 150 years later find a new and willing populace to enact its permanent revolution in France and America in other forms.

I’ll continue with that segment in my next installment… previous ones below:

The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part One
The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part Two


  1. Luciano Pellicani’s Revolutionary Apocalypse: Ideological Roots of Terrorism (2003 by ETAS, R.C.S. Libri S.p.A., Milan, Italy)

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