Editor’s note: Part 1 of this essay was published on September 28th and can be read here. This essay is adapted from Behold the Messiah: Proclaiming the Gospel of Matthew (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road, 2019 [forthcoming])
Gnosticism and Religion
Contemporary Gnosticism, then, is a totalizing ideology that brooks no opposition and tolerates no dissent. Now ideologies pretend to be philosophies, but they’re not. A philosophy, in principle, is flexible; it reacts to Truth. It can adjust itself as its adherents use their reason to wrestle with the ultimate Reality it attempts to approach. A philosophy is not doctrinaire. An ideology, by contrast, is inflexible, believing it has the ultimate Truth of Reality. Its adherents do not engage in deep, rational reflection, for their ideology is a projection of their deepest desires. They simply think they know with absolute certainty that they’re right because their feelings about their identity and their picture of the universe is so strong. Philosophies involve convictions, but one of those convictions is the freedom to explore Reality and adjust one’s philosophy as needed. Ideology, by contrast, believes the answers are already known, that there’s nothing left to explore, and so it coerces belief in others.
Contemporary Gnosticism therefore employs all sorts of techniques in service of coercion, from mass media to law. It wants to separate humans from all tradition and social locations (family, community, and so on) which serve as natural points of opposition. Separated from tradition, family, culture, and nature, the individual becomes a subject of the State facing the stick of coercion. But there’s also a carrot. Like all ideologies, contemporary Gnosticism entices postmodern men and women with promises of a perfect utopia, a heaven on earth in the here and now, if only we trust elites to run with their plans for us. Gnostic ideologues promise to rip heaven down to earth, to force the eschaton now, but quite apart from Jesus. As such, ideology is idolatry: the State replaces Jesus, forcing a false heaven for the true one, the kingdom of heaven his Second Coming will bring. In short, elite sophisticates replace God.
Gnostic ideologies therefore deceive. The result is that the individual is set against nature. The order of the cosmos philosophy seeks and finds is replaced by the false order asserted by the ideologue. Disorientation results; on a practical level, subjects of totalitarian societies, such as ours is becoming, are pulled between what they perceive to be the truths of nature and what the State asserts must be the truth. In totalitarian societies, such as communist eastern Europe in recent memory, people either become true believers in the ideological system, or they come to realize that they are living under an enforced lie. Those who take the red pill either suffer under the lie, or join the resistance.
That’s the totalizing way of the sexual revolution: most people believe in men and women, but that’s fast becoming a belief that will get one written out of polite society and penalized by the law. Those of us who recognize the lie either keep our heads down (which for some may be a justified, advisable, prudential path), or engage in acts of subtle or overt resistance.
Finally, like ancient Gnosticism, our contemporary spirit of the age seeks to reimagine Jesus as a mascot for its ideology. Modernist Christianity, rooted in the Enlightenment, sought to adapt its understanding of Christian faith to the latest knowledge in secular domains—the sciences hard and soft, as well as philosophy and ethics. It therefore was, and is, embarrassed by the miraculous and the sacrificial, both of which belonged to an unscientific premodern age. And so modernist Christians sought to save the faith for modernity by purifying it of all that modernity rejects. What is left over is ethics; Jesus is preserved as a great moral teacher of enduring relevance through demythologization, that is, stripping away the miraculous and sacrificial myths that grew up around his legend and going behind the Gospels to find a historical Jesus congenial to the spirit of the age. Even here, however, with regard to ethics, Jesus was understood to teach what the Enlightenment believed anyway, and so Jesus was remade in the image of (say) the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant.
So too now in our postmodern age. We make a malleable Messiah in our image, a tolerant, inclusive Jesus, a breaker of all boundaries who does so purely for the sake of transgression, and all those who would insist on maintaining religion’s traditional rules and rituals are written off as rigid, pilloried as Pharisees. Far from seeing him as our Master, the postmodern age makes Jesus our mascot, the one who affirms our favored causes and affirms us in our deepest selves, where we find ourselves defined by our severest desires.
But that means we’re trapped; in our desire to escape from all constraints, we’re constrained by desire. We’re trapped by our very selves, slaves to our passions, even making them the determiners of our very identity. Trying to find an escape from our bodies, we find ourselves trapped even deeper, by the passions that define our very selves. And as St. Augustine famously said, “What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction?”
St. Augustine’s solution to self-entrapment in one’s own passions is the gospel: God, both the Creator outside of us creatures and yet also inside us, closer to us than we are to ourselves, comes to us in Jesus Christ to reorder or disordered passions and restore us to our true selves found truly in Christ.
This, I think, is the way of St. Matthew, who in his Gospel tells how the God of Israel came to us in Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), to give us back our truest selves, to rightly order our passions, to form us body and soul to be like Christ himself through Christ’s own power. He gives us the gifts of his new messianic Law and indeed himself in the sacraments, in and through the Church he founded. Following the broad way that leads to destruction, we can remain slaves to the self, or following the narrow way that leads to life, we can become servants of Christ.
The Appeal of Gnosticism
If Gnosticism is so bad, why have so many people through the ages found it so appealing? The Gnostics tell a captivating counterstory to the Christian story of salvation history, and Gnosticism allows one to reject traditional Christianity while still claiming the name. In the time of the early Church, as we have seen, the Gnostics proclaimed that a wicked creator god trapped divine spirits in the evil of material bodies, and so for them salvation consists of the escape from the body and indeed all of material creation, an opportunity provided by the higher kind and loving god, the father of Jesus Christ. That god sends the divine Son to appear like a man to teach the spiritual elite, the pneumatics, the secret to spiritual liberation.
The Gnostic story is compelling then and now because it squares with historic human experience. For most people, life is hard, and often miserable. Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher of the 1600s, described the fundamental essence of human existence as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” For most of human history, this has been the case. Ancient skeletal remains reveal over ninety percent of humans suffered from malnutrition. Famine and plague were regular threats. Many children, perhaps more than half, died in infancy, and many women died in childbirth. And this is not merely the situation in the ancient or medieval world. In Florence at the height of the Renaissance, sixty-one percent of children died before their first birthday. And we need say little about twentieth-century disasters, as they are well known. The year 1918 saw over one hundred million people die of influenza; five hundred million people were infected out of a world population of 1.8 billion. The two World Wars saw about seventy million dead, and Communism is blamed for another seventy million deaths. Stable food supplies and radically decreased mortality and morbidity resulted only recently in the postwar boom in the United States and Western Europe.
And so Gnosticism is appealing to the degree that one finds the world horrible, for it explains extreme pain and suffering in a coherent but extreme way, and promises a way out. Suffering is not our fault, but rather the Creator’s, and salvation is not found through suffering but is defined as escape from suffering and all that causes suffering.
The desire to explain and escape suffering is why various flavors of Gnosticism are so appealing today. Think of modern people, often affluent and pampered members of the upper classes, uttering statements like, “I wouldn’t want to bring a child into this horrible world.” That’s Gnosticism speaking, and that Gnostic attitude undergirds our contraception and abortion regime. Or think of popular televangelists who present a heretical Christianity promising freedom from suffering, health, and wealth in the here and now. That too is fundamentally Gnostic.
Confronting the Gnostic Empire of Desire
How, then, do we confront the Gnostic Empire of Desire? The Church has confronted Gnosticism before, especially in the time of the Fathers and in the middle ages during the Albigensian crisis. First and foremost, to use a healing metaphor, we need have an accurate diagnosis, knowledge of what the malady is, so that we might provide the remedy. Hopefully the foregoing has provided that diagnosis.
We then need, like the early Church, to proclaim our message without fear. But what might that message be? The more I teach, and the more I reflect on the situation of the Church and the world today, the more I think (for what it’s worth) that in some ways we need to talk about God the Creator as much as we talk about Jesus. The Father in the Trinity is in a sense prior to the Son, as he begets the Son, but the Creator is certainly prior to Jesus Christ. Further, talking of Jesus alone runs the risk of leaving people today with their inherited assumption that Jesus was a prophet and good teacher. Even when we do proclaim that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, people today do not have a sense of what and who God is. All Christian theology, I think, is really aspects of the doctrine of creation (which suffers the Fall, which is redeemed, and which is transformed at the eschaton), and the living God of the Bible is best contrasted with the divinities of the ancient world by understanding him as sovereign Creator. The Christian message is more than forgiveness of sins; that’s an instrumental good ordered to the intrinsic good of sharing in the divine Trinitarian life forever.
This will help with the next important thing: we have to make sense of pain and suffering and perceived evil. There is here both a conceptual, theological dimension and an existential dimension. (As the late Rich Mullins once sang, “And I know that it would not hurt any less/Even if it could be explained.”) For Gnosticism is appealing because it offers a radical solution to the perceived badness of the world. We need to move people from thinking of God as a “supreme being” who then is really perceived too much like us, just a greater version of us, himself operating from within space and time, to a vision of God as Creator outside of space and time, indeed the Creator not just of things visible and invisible but space and time itself. Understanding St. Augustine’s Confessions is indispensable here; we may not need to have everyone we address read it, but it is incumbent upon the apologist to know his or her classical theism, for understanding God rightly solves all conceptual problems. (Frank Sheed’s works, of course, offer accessible, if dry, introductions to the classical Catholic conception of God.) Put differently, we need to help our audiences move from a brute anthropomorphism to an allegorical understanding of Scripture that allows and nurtures a proper conceptual understanding of God.
The Gnostics are accidentally correct in one assumption: this world is not our ultimate home (as Plato and Jesus both taught). Pain and suffering affects people deeply because they believe that this world is more certain than the next world, and so they better find their happiness here. And of course that’s not possible: even the wealthy hurt in this realm, and no one can find true happiness apart from God. As C. S. Lewis observed:
If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic. (God in the Dock, “Answers to Questions on Christianity” [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014], 41)
Good theology helps here: this world is not our home, and the deeper one accepts that, the more sense this world makes. It’s a fallen realm of sin, sickness, and death, and it’s meant to be an opportunity for us to begin our return to God.
Finally, there is the way of martyrdom. Given the way culture, politics, and business is going, it will be ever harder for faithful Christians to avoid the LGBT+ juggernaut, Gnostic at its core, and it will mean white martyrdom for many of us. For many corporations are beginning to evaluate employees in part on the basis of their commitment to diversity, and mainstream opinion will soon come to regard those not fully on board with the juggernaut as the same as racists and segregationists since the LGBT+ movement has claimed the mantel of civil rights. Martyrdom is often the way of the faithful in this world, which is not our home, but it has also been the way of winning others to Faith in the Creator, the Triune God.
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The scenario Dr. Huizenga presents of the “Gnostic Empire of Desire” is underscored by the work of Dr. Julian Strube of Heidelberg University in Germany tracing the effect of the socialism, modernism, and “esoteric thought” of the early nineteenth century on today’s religious environment. As my own research has revealed, many otherwise orthodox Christians (not just Catholics) accept as a given some assumptions that came out of “the New Christianity,” “Neo-Catholicism,” “the Democratic Religion,” or any of the other seemingly numberless labels by which socialism and modernism were known before the current terms came into common use.
Catholic social teaching, in fact, developed as a discrete discipline in response to the “new things” of socialism (which is not particularly social), modernism (which is not particularly modern), and the New Age (which is not particularly new). Henri de Saint-Simon, who invented the New Christianity, and whose followers established the Church of Saint-Simon, formulated what many authorities accept as the fundamental precept of all forms of socialism: “The whole of society ought to strive towards the amelioration of the moral and physical existence of the poorest class; society ought to organize itself in the way best adapted for attaining this end.” (“Saint-Simon,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 19: 14th Edition, 1956, Print.)
Saint-Simon’s principle obviated traditional concepts of the natural law and even the existence of God; David Émile Durkheim, who was strongly influenced by Saint-Simon’s theories, construed “God” as a “divinized society,” and misleadingly labeled his system “solidarism.” Father Heinrich Pesch’s correction of Durkheim’s errors have ironically been taken as confirming them, with the result that Pesch’s solidarism has been taken as a version of Durkheim’s with a Christian whitewash. As Fulton Sheen observed in “God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy” (1925), Saint-Simon’s ideas put collective man in the place of God.
The work of Monsignor Luigi Aloysius Taparelli d’Azeglio was similarly hijacked. The socialist principle can be summarized as “the end justifies the means.” Even the principles of natural law, the capacity for which defines human beings as human beings, can be set aside to achieve the goal of a presumably better society.
In contrast, Taparelli’s principle is that the end does not justify the means. Everything, even (or especially) social improvement and the general welfare, must be subordinate to the natural law as understood in Aristotelian-Thomism, i.e., in Catholic belief, to God.
By applying Saint-Simon’s principle to Catholic social teaching, what results is a self-indulgent fantasy that Dr. Huizenga accurately terms the “Gnostic Empire of Desire.”
Wonderful article, again. And compact wording that is quite good enough–Huizenga stresses more the Father, and the Father as Creator, and then writes that “the Father in the Trinity is IN A SENSE prior to the Son, as he begets the Son, but the Creator is certainly prior to Jesus Christ.”
Nicaea limited this sense of “prior,” and as Aquinas explains (with Huizenga), the Creator is not so much an entity who then creates (the Creator), but that in his absolute simplicity (absent any such composition), He IS the very ACT of existence (as in “I AM who AM”). In his absolute simplicity the Supreme Being is not a greater “being,” as we might imagine, in composition with the separate act of creation, but rather the Creator IS the very act of “IS”ing that underlies (spatial imagination!) the composite existences of all existing things as known through our senses. God is what he does and does what He is and yet He creates freely (“God is love” 1 Jn 4:8), not as necessary emanation as with the Greeks.
For the Triune Oneness, the Church uses the term circumincession: “the indwelling of the three distinct Persons of the Blessed Trinity, the Father being whole and entire in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and each one in the other as well as in the Father.” Of this revealed simultaneity, St. Hilary says this: “One power, (which) brings all things into being, one Son, through whom all things come to be, and one gift of perfect hope.”
Gnosticism fades in comparison. With Huizinga, we can notice that even the sacrifice of the Mass, itself, is directed not to Christ but (by Christ) to the Father: “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”
“we need to talk about God the Creator as much as we talk about Jesus.”
Our Father has life in Himself and He is Timeless.
Jesus tells us that he came (was sent) “To save that which was lost” this statement implies a former state. My understanding of lost is that we are lost in time and place; we all carry a divine timeless spark within us, we are more than a physical being.
Some who read this post will have experienced one or more “Timeless Moments” during their lifetime of different intensity, these Timeless Moments vary in context as they pertain to each individual, but their essence is the same for all of us, often commencing with a glimpse of beauty (including insights pertaining to the beauty of Truth) that catch our senses (Consciousness), we lose the perception of our physical self, as if instantaneously we are drawn into the harmony (Singularity) of our Fathers Creation.
Our senses are now liberated and appear to no longer be tied to our earthly (bodily) needs , the beauty of our Fathers Creation intensifies as our senses (Consciousness) perceive reality on a different level, we feel that we are no longer separate but in harmony within our Fathers (Consciousness, Spirit). I believe that this harmony
(Oneness/ Timelessness) was lost at The Fall (Commencement of time within man’s Psyche), been symbolized by breaking trust with our Father, in eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.
Adam in self-awareness (Separation from the divine, The Tree of Life) now sees the full reality of his wretchedness, the apex of which is death. Now barred from the (Wondrous) Tree of Life which previously he had not been, the residue of this understanding remains within all of mankind, as he has a yearning for eternal life (To eat once more from the Tree of Life).
The fruit of tree of life is Now no longer barred from mankind, for he can now see that the dead wood of the Cross has been transformed into the Tree of Life, its fruit Jesus Christ (Who has been given Life within himself by our Father) hangs there and cries out
“Take and eat”
I wondered out from no not where
My spirit as the clear morn air
With glint of morning light I was your delight
I danced with the morning breeze, played the leaves upon the trees
The grass was my pleasured bed the flowers feathered for my head
The clouds were but my cloak, my face shone with the Sun
I was you lover I was you son
I was Adam before the deed
I was the tree the sky the breeze
I was the garden I was Eve you the sower and I the seed
The black bird entered the wondrous tree in dry branch entwined he
With yellow eye and crack of wing all was lost nothing still
I had become as separate thing
Your seed polluted by that black squawking, squealing, squeaky thing
I heard you weeping for you son O loving Father what I done
On broken branch I entered time in downward spin
Tumbling bush fly and weed, polluted seed and sprouting horn into spike and thorn I was born
“Father”, You the Breeze followed with the morning dew, promising to make all anew
Before the day was done you would again embrace your son
You nailed your own heart to a dry piece of wood
Bleeding profusely droplets of precious love
Tenderly watering your seeds of love
Blessing the heart that willingly receives that heart to shall surely bleed, scattering fly and weed
Father I am the new watered seed, lifting me gently with you breeze
The husk shall fall and I shall run with squint of light gleam of morning delight
Tossing feathered flowers from my head
Lifting my cloak from my dewy pleasured bed
Skipping and dancing with the breeze
Frolicking the leaves, hovering above the trees
Again I am Adam also Eve
In the garden with the breeze, with the bright glance of the morning sun “Father” your song is sung.
We have now what could be described as an opportunity of a timeless moment, that is one of a new spiritual awakening within the Church as Our Lord Himself has given the laity the means to confront an ongoing manifestation of evil within the church, by calling the elite to account, for collusion with the breaking of the Second Commandment.
So why do they not do so?
See the link
kevin your brother
Addendum to my post above,
CCC 390 “The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques. The Catechism states, “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents”
I suppose that our knowledge in relation to this statement will always be outside of our understanding, as in, the reality of an earthly mind, but as I have stated above
“everything appears to be in harmony on the spiritual plane, as in timeless moments”
Also from my intuitive reflection above
“On broken branch I entered time in downward spin, tumbling bush fly and weed, polluted seed and sprouting horn into spike and thorn I was born”
This statement emanated from a previous given visual/verbal understanding, and then written in heightened language, extract from what I wrote in context to the above, many years prior:
“Then at last I found the seed, falling from a mountain with speed taking, with it all who were deceived. Above the clamor and the din, I heard a thunderous voice ring Never shall you be let in wander eternally for this sin”
But for clarity, the thunderous voice I heard actual said “OUT” while I observed many in terror, tumbling and falling/fleeing down a gloomy mountain side, one of whom turned to me and said “we must wander eternally for this sin” while at the same time a very large boulder tumbled at great speed past us, and while doing so sprouted a spiral (Horn) of its own Matter
So my ‘personal’ (and I stress personal) understanding of the ‘Fall’ is that we fell into the primeval mud, so to say, in context, with Satan’s fall/expulsion from the ‘spiritual reality’ of heaven.
But do these speculations help one live a life of faith in God?
Especially as now we have been given the Word incarnate accompanied by the risen Christ.
For further reflection please see my posts via the link
From one of my posts via the link above, which I believes relates to “Aquinas says the senses do not deceive and sense perception is First Principle of all knowledge” Extract from the post:
“These words have haunted me from childhood
“Even if a man should rise from the dead you would not believe”
My reaction to these words, as a child, was to ask the Father this question, but ‘what if a man /woman knew that they were a spirit, a living soul, would this make a difference’? For many years I have been on a long search, to find the answer to that question and for many of those years I did not realize that I was doing so.
This created a state of consciousness (At times) within my dreams that is known as lucid dreaming, this state is often found to be exhilarating by those who experience this type dream and because of this they become self-absorbed and do not study its structure.
In Part One of the above article; see my Post via the link
I give a link to drawings, that attempt to demonstrate what the early Greeks understandings were of the Truth, and spirit/soul on the Spiritual plane. While also within the drawings provided, what the early Egyptian knew of
“Dream Structure” that incorporates their understanding of the divine spark /soul via consciousness, held within the confines of that structure.
kevin your brother
A great article that I believe relates nicely to these fine article on Gnosticism (and Marxism)…in the Church today.
“The Gnostics are accidentally correct in one assumption this world is not our ultimate home. Pain and suffering affects people deeply because they believe that this world is more certain than the next world, and so they better find their happiness here. And of course that’s not possible” (C. S. Lewis). The Bhudda would disagree with Lewis jettisoning suffering through annihilation of self and Nirvana. “I wouldn’t want to bring a child into this horrible world. That’s Gnosticism speaking” (Huizenga). So the Gnostic idea has ancient roots. If the non Gnostic Princeton ethicist Martha Nussbaum doesn’t believe in an afterlife she finds desire the answer, a therapeutic counter narrative to Aquinas’ “belief disease” (Nussbaum in Therapy of Desire). Although even Nussbaum finds answer to suffering in Christianity’s focus of passionate love of God rather than creature giving needed temperance to human love and avoidance of abuse attached to obsessive love. Suffering one’s passions in this very human context has a transcendent value that Nussbaum may prayerfully one day intuit. That perhaps reaches beyond CS Lewis treatise on suffering enfleshing Huizenga’s “Finally, there is the way of martyrdom”. Suffering cannot be understood apart from the Son of Man who sanctifies and elevates what Gnosticism disdains. Although Jesus of Nazareth appeared in time and place through Mary his identity remains a Mystery insofar that he is true Man true God. We cannot relegate him as secondary to the Creator. He is the revealed Creator Word the divine Second Person of the Trinity. The very anchor of our faith and knowledge of God. Not a secondary person to the Creator Word. We must with the Apostle and John of the Cross acknowledge that in Christ the fullness of the divinity is forever manifest as are the unfathomable riches and depth of the mystery of God. Ever accessible never fathomed fully. What atheist/agnostic Nussbaum identifies in Christianity’s passionate love of God corresponds to the Word who suffered for remission of sin that we might have life. It is the Word raised upon the Cross that draws reciprocity in passionate human love that gives meaning and definition to human suffering.
Another contributing factor to the rise of Gnosticism IMO? Darwinism and even Neo-Darwinism as fact (more than simply “compatible” with Faith) in the Church.
While the Church since Pius XII? sees “no incompatibility” between Faith and “evolution” (which can also be like expressing a belief in “change”)…why has Darwinism itself been unofficially? “baptized” and less so views expressed in Meyer’s “Darwin’s Doubt?” More specifically, is even a more genetically aware Neo-Darwinism that plausible (mathematically) really vs….a more teleological view in intelligent design? BTW I do realize there is no enforced? view in the Catechism…
We have Church leaders and even local parish priests tossing around (in various ways, implicitly or directly) Freud, Darwin…and Marx. And we wonder about the rise in “Gnosticism?”
Nussbaum, a part of the Academy, knows very well it’s OK to be an “Aristotelian” as long as things don’t get really… teleological. But I have to say I have read even conservative Catholic authors bending over backwards to have “no incompatibility” with Darwin.
In short, my concerns here are the Church’s role in helping to promote contemporary “Gnosticism.”
Right Joseph Martha Nussbaum famously denied Aristotle held to moral absolutes, which is preposterous if anyone studies The Philosopher seriously. For example in regards to moral excess and defect and the virtuous mean he said some acts such as murder have no mean. Christopher Kaczor wrote a Thomist article issue 61 1997 titled Exceptionless Norms in Aristotle?
Both very good and informative articles. It brought to mind the insights of Eric Voegelin and his chapter, “the Gnostic Revolution–the Puritan Case in The New Science of Politics. He writes: ” a clear epoch in Western history is marked by the Reformation, understood as the successful invasion of Western institutions by Gnostic movements. The movements which hitherto existend in a socially marginal position–tolerated, suppressed or underground–erupted in the Reformation with unexpected strength on a broad front, with the result of splitting the universal church and embarking upon their gradual conquest of the political institutions in the nation states. 19th and 20th century modernist thinking that has entered into the life of the Catholic Church is nothing more or less than a form of Gnosticism, as is contemporary American thought (if there is any) in grotesque secular forms.