My eye was drawn to this article by the headline. I really dislike the word “woke”. Personal thing you know. I find it kind of queer. Not in the new homosexual use of the word, but the old-fashioned, actual meaning. Then I continued with the article because I found its topic of Gnosticism to be interesting. Somewhere along the way I got an odd feeling in my gut as I read.
For those of you who have not heard the term Gnostic before it’s a religious belief from around the 2nd century, though it has roots much older. The name might sound familiar if you know the word “agnostic”. Gnostic basically is a Greek word referring to knowledge, to know. To be “A-gnostic” means not to know. The Gnostic individual knows. What do they know? Well, that might be for another day, but suffice it to say they know stuff that they think explains the world. Mixed in with that is their own view of heaven and God and under-gods, and that sort of thing. As you can imagine the Catholic church considered it heretical and banned it, and burned the scrolls about it, though of course some survived. It really began as a Jewish tradition, moved into Christianity, was influenced by Platonic understanding, and the thing really to know about it is that it’s actually much older, in my opinion, than anyone really admits. We find seeds of it in other cultures and religions going quite far back and in Eastern religions as well.
I must admit that there are times that I read something and feel that what I’m reading is “bull crap” before I have fully articulated why. Call it a gut instinct, call it experience, call it discernment, call it inspiration, but I seem to know that what is being presented his hokum. I get that feeling when I read this article. First off, the author has written a book on this subject so I get the impression he’s seeing what he wants to see. It’s not that he’s wrong entirely, the base concept he’s pitching is sound. It’s just that I think he takes it too far.
There are two areas where I think he gets it right. First, people will always be religious. Period. Even those who claim they aren’t, are. It’s just that people associate religion with churches and gods and that’s not at all what it means to be religious. The second thing he gets right is that in every religion there is a process where the acolyte works to obtain the higher knowledge promised. This represents two distinct prizes for the individual. Knowledge is power so they feel powerful for knowing something not everyone does. The second is that having this knowledge allows a person to perceive his or her place in the world.
So, if he’s right on this, why do I feel in my gut that he’s full of crap? There’s an expression that someone is “too smart by half”. It’s a way of saying someone feels smart and superior to others in way of intellect but actually falls short but is unaware. All of don’t know stuff, but we tend to know we don’t know and are honest about our shortcomings. The too smart by half crowd likes to strut and peacock around.
Where he loses me is when he tries to use this perceived neo-Gnostic religion as a reason to avoid multiculturalism. When I read the below I said to myself, “self, aha!” because I felt I had discovered the reason for all his sophistry.
“Everything Boils Down to Culture Unless You’re Woke. Multiculturalism is a theological tenant in the leftist religion, for which the insights of sociology are canonical. Sociology has concluded that culture is the basis for the beliefs, values, behaviors and norms of any people.”
I get culture. Meaning I get how important it is. I understand very much how it drives behavior. I also do feel it’s fine for a person to love his or her own culture. Perhaps even to think it is superior to others. We should understand that someone from France is going to think their culture is better than the !Kung Bushman of Africa. We should also expect the inverse to be true. As long as we keep in mind that our belief that our culture is better isn’t shared and we don’t expect others to share it, then we’re okay in thinking it.
In my opinion though learning from and mixing with other cultures is a benefit. I don’t believe in cultural appropriation. I think we can rob and snag anything we want from any other culture, enfold it into our own, and make ourselves better as a people. This, of course, has always been the way of it. For heaven’s sake you stick a tree in your house at Christmas. You don’t think that’s Christian do you? No, that’s not. But we took that from another culture and now it’s ours. Good on us.
When I read people saying other cultures are bad, we should not mix, then I just hear someone who is afraid that their own culture isn’t good enough or crying about how change is bad. Though American culture certainly is unique, it is also a mix of western culture and very western culture. If there is a far east, then there is a far west. America, is the far west. We aren’t the same as just ordinary western culture. Though we share much in common we aren’t identical. Part of this is because we created our own culture stemming from how our country came into being, but also because we took cultural aspects from those who moved to this country and from those who were already here not to mention the salves we forced to come here.
There is a lot in this article that I agree with, a lot of ideas that are psychologically sound. Maybe, in the end, it boils down to the author’s delivery (sarcastic and pompous) but I still think that hiding in his words rests the kind of bigotry that I don’t get along with.
Salvation occurs as the Gnostic awakens (ahem!) to the prison house he is in and breaks free (violently if need be) from his prison.