A Toxic Religious Cult

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Eric Voegelin

[L]iberalism, socialism, communism, scientism, progressivism, identity politics, globalism, and all the rest—this Hydra’s head of modernist projects, however ostensibly secular, is united by … features that are irreducibly theological… [M]odernity is also an Oedipal phenomenon…. [T]he Gnostic lives in what Voegelin calls a “dream world.” … Nothing that happens is taken to falsify his beliefs, because any bad effects are interpreted as merely further manifestations of the evil forces, rather than reflecting any defect in the Gnostic’s belief system. … [T]he Gnostic posits a final victory of the “pure” over the evil forces that govern everyday reality.… As Voegelin famously put it, modern forms of Gnosticism “immanentize the eschaton”—that is to say, they relocate the final victory of the righteous in this world rather than the next, and look forward to a heaven on earth. … [C]onsider Marxism from the point of view of Voegelin’s analysis. Here the all-pervasive and near omnipotent evil that the Gnostic sees in the world becomes capitalism and the bourgeois power that it sustains. This power is taken to permeate every aspect of life…. Everyday moral assumptions are mere ideologies that mask the interests of bourgeois power, religion is a mere opiate to reconcile the oppressed to that power, and so on. … Critical Race Theory (CRT) is in exactly the same mold. … For CRT, the all-pervasive and near omnipotent source of evil in the world is the “racist power” of “white supremacy,” “white privilege,” and indeed “whiteness” itself. This racism is “systemic” in a Foucauldian sense—it percolates down, in capillary fashion, into every nook and cranny of society and the unconscious assumptions of every citizen. It is especially manifest in all “inequities,” which result from the “implicit biases” lurking even in people who think of themselves as free of racism. And it is to be found even in the most seemingly innocuous of offenses, which are in reality “micro-aggressions.” Even self-consciously “anti-racist” CRT adepts themselves are not free of racism, but must constantly engage in a Maoist-style self-critical struggle to root out and confess ever deeper and unexamined racist assumptions. … Other forms of woke Gnosticism have their own bogeymen—”patriarchy,” “heteronormativity,” etc.—which, like “whiteness,” are abstractions spoken of as if they were concrete demonic powers. … The gnosis that purportedly reveals all of this suffocating oppression is to be found in the writings of gurus like Kendi and DiAngelo, whose main difference from the likes of Marcion and Mani is the size of their royalty checks. … It is no accident that CRT adepts think of themselves as “woke.” For it is not rational argumentation that compels them but a kind of conversion experience, and Kendi, DiAngelo, et al. are essentially Gnostic preachers rather than philosophers or social scientists. … With wokeness suddenly flooding universities, high schools, the medical profession, the military, business, and seemingly everywhere else, we are seeing something comparable to the Arian crisis of the 4th century or the Albigensian crisis of the 13th century—the alarmingly rapid spread of a toxic religious cult that threatens the general sociopolitical order no less than it does the Church. As in these earlier crises, there are many Christians, already heterodox anyway, who are happy to cave in to the madness.

Edward Feser, “The Gnostic heresy’s political successors”


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