Eric Voegelin published a book titled "The New Science of Politics", in 1952.
I present here some of the ideas of Voegelin, so far as I have understood them. (His is a difficult book to read). Unfortunately, Voegelin is no longer with us to correct errors in which I may have incurred. In what follows, I express what I have gathered from reading Voegelin.
The general belief which prevailed among the populations of Europe, after Constantine declared that Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire, was that the kings that governed the various nations of Europe represented a cosmic order. The worldly, temporal authority of kings proceeded from God, and that is why it was said of them that they were "kings by the Grace of God". The ecclesiastical authority rested with the papacy, pursuant of the idea of a corpus mysticum, whereby the papacy was the head and the arms and legs representative for the kings, and all people lived under the Civitas Dei, God's civilization on earth.
This was the general belief shared by the European nations. Of course, the kings were involved in endless wars, and they did not behave in a saintly fashion most of the time - very few of them merited sanctification by the Catholic Church, the center of the Faith shared by all Europe. Notwithstanding the behavior of their kings, that in numberless cases was not beyond reproach, the belief shared by the European nations of the Middle Ages ( from around 400 AD to around 1450 AD) was that their kings were kings by the Will of God. As an example, for centuries the kings of France received their authority from God, through a ceremony at the Cathedral of Reims, in which they were anointed with a sacred balm.
The kings of the Middle Ages gave little thought to the economic condition of their subjects. Kings took it for granted as an inevitable fact, inherent in earthly existence, that there should be a few wealthy individuals, a number of tradesmen and merchants in the towns and cities, and a multitude of hungry poor people scattered in the countryside, dressed in rags and surviving winters in their squalid huts, where infant mortality was the rule rather than the exception.
Around the years 1100 to 1200 in Northwestern Europe there began an incipient industrialization of the production of textiles which offered transitory jobs, depending on exports of cloth. The workers had been formerly the feudal subjects of land-owning lords and had counted on year-round support from their lords; but they had emigrated to the cities and sought employment in the budding cloth-making industries. From time to time, they were unemployed and suffered accordingly.
As a result of the stress of temporary unemployment, an increasing number of disorderly gatherings began to take place, made up of people rebelling against the prevailing state of society. Numerous fascinating accounts survive, of heretical priests who rose up from time to time, and who were able to gather crowds of poor people by claiming to have had a divine revelation, whose message was, generally, that those who followed the visionary leader would shortly be the heirs of all the wealth presently in the hands of kings, aristocrats, the high clergy and the rich people, and that all these hateful sinners were very shortly going to be destroyed by the redeeming wrath of God. These revolutionary uprisings were violently suppressed by kings and princes, under the authority of the Catholic Church.
These heretical leaders can be grouped under the concept of Gnostics. The term "gnostic" is derived from the Greek gnosis, which means "knowledge", because these rabble-rousers led their followers to believe that they had some special knowledge, obtained through a personal revelation, regarding how things should be in this world. One peculiar characteristic of the preaching of these disturbers of the peace, was their frequent recourse to favoring sexual license among their adherents.
Voegelin defines the Gnostic Revolution as follows: "The Gnostic revolution has for its purpose a change in the nature of man and the establishment of a transfigured society." (Op. Cit. page 152)
The various attempts on the part of the Gnostics to change the earthly order of things, from the natural order born of human nature itself, for a better order, as preached by the Gnostics, were defeated one by one, up to a time which we can set at approximately the year 1500.
Around the year 1500, the Gnostic Revolution was victorious in Europe.
In my opinion, this Revolution was strengthened by the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1452 in Strasburg. Very shortly, an event without precedent took place: thousands of men, who had never before had a Bible in their hands, were reading the Bible and thinking and talking about what they read.Very wisely, the Catholic Church has never, down the centuries, been in favor of the laity reading the Sacred Scriptures, for the simple reason that each person reading the Bible can form a personal opinion about the meaning of what he reads. That is exactly what took place: around 1500, the Gnostics burst out victorious, in diverse groups that followed the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures as interpreted by their leaders, all proposing social changes, the distinctive seal of Gnosticism.
The first "best seller" in print was In Praise of Folly by Erasmus of Rotterdam, published in 1511. This humorous classic, that poked fun at some absurd practices of the Church, set all Europe laughing - and we know how destructive laughter can be. Erasmus' intention was to have the Catholic Church begin to reform itself, but perhaps what he got was to accentuate the rift between Catholicism and the Protestants who sought reform, without obtaining it. The Pope himself was moved to laughter by Erasmus' work, but the opposition to Reform, on the part of what we might call the "Deep State" of the Catholic Church, proved too strong for him.
The fact is that after 1452, thousands of books were available that had never before been in the hands of literate people. After Gutenberg's first printed publication, the Bible, there followed a great number of books that were read not only by the clergy, but by all literate people.
The Gnostics are "those who know" and those who follow them are the fanatics; the word "fanatic" originates in the Greek "fainein", which means "to appear". Thus, fanatics are "those who have seen the truth" as set forth by the Gnostics, who say what it is. A hymn that stirred the blood-lust of fanatics of the North, during the American Civil War, has these telling words:
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on."
The religious fanaticism fostered by the Gnostic John Calvin in the XVI Century led to the Puritan Revolution in England in the XVII Century - a Gnostic rebellion that is an excellent specimen of its type. The Protestant Puritans, fanatics dedicated to change the ways of this world, from what they are and have to be, to how they believed they should be, provides us with the purest example of Gnosticism in action; the Puritan preachers caused an uprising among a good part of the population of England, and set them against their king, Charles I.
The rebels called themselves the "Saints", according to their interpretations of the Jewish Old Testament, and adopted names taken from the Old Testament. They were the "Saints" and the "Pure" - for which reason they were called "Puritans". All those who were not "Saints" were, according to their lights, wicked people who deserved destruction. The Puritans succeeded in dethroning King Charles I of England, and in 1649 had him beheaded. A republic was established: the "Commonwealth"; the leader of the rebellion, Oliver Cromwell, was elected Dictator of the new State, and lived in regal style the rest of his days.
At length, the English recovered their sanity and reestablished the Crown, with Charles II, son of Charles I, as king. Cromwell's head, mounted on a pike, was exhibited for many years in Westminster Hall, London.
133 years later, in 1793, the French Gnostics overthrew their king, Louis XVI; he and his beautiful wife Marie Antoinette were beheaded on the guillotine.
The XVIII Century saw the arrival of "The Age of Reason"; the French intellectuals had become Gnostics, but with the Gnosticism of the Modern Age, which began with them, and which derives its authority not from a supernatural revelation, but from the novelty of Science and the scientific method, which is Positivist. Positivism is the method appropriate for the investigation of physical truths or perceived regularities, based upon controlled experimentation, but it is a totally inadequate method for the study of the innate capacity of humans to choose what they wish to do, and to the related capacity of humans to initiate action, unmoved by any prior motion. Cicero (died 43 BC) took note of this, and said that each human was a primum mobile, an "unmoved mover", which characteristic humans shared with the gods.
The intellectuals of the French Revolution were Positivists and their ideas regarding Politics and History were faulty, as based on the wrong Science: they were pseudo-scientific, and their ideas regarding the improvement of the world, from what it is and has to be, to something better, marks them as Gnostics.
The majority of the intellectuals of France were of the opinion that the keen understanding of their most eminent thinkers would surely give rise to a better world, if they would only apply their talent and make the "scientific" changes necessary to do away with the problems that had beset the French for centuries. (One example of the boundless pride of the French intellectuals, was their attempt to create artificial money: the Assignat; this simulated money gave rise to a frightful price inflation in France. Their Gnostic heirs in the XX Century have followed in their footsteps, but on a world scale.)
The French Revolution of 1789 marked the enthronement of the pseudo-scientific Gnostics as lords of this world. For this reason, those who say that the French Revolution is alive and well in 2017, are stating a fact. The world is in the hands of pseudo-scientific Gnosticism and since the XVIII Century we remain in modernity, The Age of Reason. Reason and Science are supposed to eliminate all suffering inherent in human life. It is only a question of arranging matters in the right way, according to the Gnostic thinking prevalent in the Modern Age.
Karl Marx was a full-fledged Gnostic: according to Marx, the world will inevitably be a better place because History (According to Marx, not God but "History" determines human affairs) will cause the disappearance of private property and will establish Socialism. All those selfish individuals who gather wealth unto themselves and cause the impoverishment of the lower classes, such as businessmen, bankers and landowners will vanish; the "Saints" who will inherit the Earth will be the workers in industry and in the fields. The final "transfigured society" will come into being under Communism, where each man will have forgotten himself in his unselfish work to improve the wealth of the collective, and will receive in return, sufficient means to sustain his life, and no more. Marxism is thus a Gnostic program, precisely because it proposes "a change in the nature of man and the establishment of a transfigured society".
The Gnostics who run the various governments of the world and their nations have found that their Gnosticism is opposed by the various political groups who cannot accept their pure program, because the aims of Gnosticism collide with the various problems of real life, that vary from one society to another: therefore, Gnosticism has had to adapt itself to circumstances that vary from one nation to another, but all these diverse political-economic programs share the same essence: they aim a change in the nature of man and the establishment of a transfigured society.
Gnosticism has two objectives, as we have pointed out: 1. A change in the nature of man, and 2. the establishment of a transfigured society.
How do these objectives manifest themselves, in Western Gnosticism?
The implicit objective of Western Gnosticism, with regard to a change in the nature of man, is that all humans shall forget about any restriction with regard to their desires, notably, and once again, centuries later, sexual desires, and that they shall live their lives free of all moral impediment, since morality, according to the Gnostics, is something artificial and un-definable by Science, and arises from what they consider as arbitrary values and that vary according to the material conditions of life of the various social groupings. Everything that presents an obstacle for humans in their pursuit of their desires - except perhaps murder and outright theft - is approved by Western Gnosticism. This has probably given rise to the collapse of the birth-rate in the more "advanced" societies of Western Gnosticism, for having children certainly presents a burden to the satisfaction of selfish desires.
With regard to a "transfigured society" - the second objective of Western Gnosticism - its aim is that everyone shall live free of any worry about food, clothing, housing, education of children, medical attention, and sustenance in old age. All these things will be provided to everyone in a society organized by Gnostics. In other words, the pseudo-scientific Gnosticism of the West seeks to establish the "Welfare State".
Of course, both of these aims of Western Gnosticism are unattainable, because they are opposed to the reality of the human condition, which unalterable.
Western Gnosticism now faces a formidable rival: Islamic Gnosticism.
Islamic Gnosticism is a religious Gnosticism based on a revelation supposedly received by Mahomet from Allah, the God of Islam, which was written down in a holy text, the Koran. Its religious force contrasts sharply with the pseudo-scientific Gnosticism of the West.
With regard to a change in the nature of the human being, the religious Gnosticism of Islam proposes a change completely opposed to the change proposed by Western Gnosticism: it imposes an iron discipline on the conduct of man and woman, according to specific rules for each sex. Islam is a religion for men; women hold a very secondary place, always in subjection to the male head of the family; punishment for women who disobey the rules of Islam is very severe. Islam does not tolerate that each person shall live his life according to his personal lights and desires. There are established rules for life - thanks to the Koran - including what should and should not be eaten, and a month of each year - Ramadan - when all Muslims must fast during daylight hours. There are compulsory rules regarding the way women should dress. Muslims are forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages and to lend money. There is compulsory prayer, five times a day. In Islam, the laity giving their own interpretation of the Koran is not tolerated. The punishment of such heretical crime is today well-known. One can come home from a day of pious activity or a day of murderous onslaughts: salvation is only for people adhering to the rules.Islam presents a defined compulsory program for the daily life of the Muslim, in which it differs absolutely from Christianity, whose primary focus, with regard to a Christian's life, lies in the spirit which animates him.
With regard to society, Islamic Gnosticism does not have any particular regard for the importance of prosperity and the welfare of the population, and accepts as natural and inevitable that some Muslims will be wealthy and others will live in misery, contrary to our own social justice warriors, who deny this part of reality. Heaven to a Muslim is a rather de-spiritualized state of affairs and is laced with materialistic and hedonistic pleasure: men being rewarded by seven virgins in heaven! There is no Islamic government sponsored or government inspired welfare program to improve the conditions of life in Islamic society; Islam does however, favor charity on the part of wealthy Muslims, in favor of the less fortunate members of their religion. As a religion for men, Islam preaches holy war against the Infidels (i.e. non-Muslims) who must be either conquered or exterminated: Islam does not tolerate "peaceful co-existence".
Faced with the religious Gnosticism of Islam, the pseudo-scientific Gnosticism of the West is at an important disadvantage, because the West has accepted as rightful everything which may give pleasure to the human being, and this has produced a weak, dispirited and even nihilistic population dedicated to instant material gratification a.k.a. hedonism. In Europe, pseudo-scientific Gnosticism has caused a disastrous fall in the birth-rate, that in the next 40 or 50 years, if this trend continues, will bring about the disappearance of the European nations. Thus the way is clearly open for Islam to take over all Europe, because Islam promotes limitless children for the Islamic family.
Economics was originally a branch of the Humanities, because it was the study of human action; that is to say, a study of the behavior of the human being in choosing values.
The first economists were not Gnostics; they did not propose "economic programs". They were simple observers of the ways in which human beings behave in the furtherance of their lives. One of the first and the most well-known was Adam Smith, author of "The Wealth of Nations", in whose pages he noted that what led to the prosperity of a nation was to allow human beings to act freely, as long as there was no harm done to others. That which restricted human action - including the actions of interest-groups of businessmen directed to restricting the competitive liberty of others - was an obstacle to the creation of general prosperity.
However, early in the XX Century, Economics as one of the Humanities began to morph into something quite different: it turned into a Gnostic technology, to be used by the State to further its program for the transformation of society. This new "Pseudo-Scientific Gnostic Economics" proposes compulsory measures that are to be applied by the State, in order to transform national activity in such ways, that the result will be the prosperity of the "transfigured society".
The word "transform" is part of the language of Gnosticism: Society must be "transformed" - from what it can be in a natural state, into something else which the Gnostics think is preferable. At the same time that Western Gnosticism encourages humans to pursue all sorts of pleasures, Gnostic Economics establishes the methods by which humans are to be hemmed-in, so that they have no other option but to act in the way that the Gnostic economists think best.
Among these means of passive coercion - that is to say, coercion by the elimination of alternatives - one of the most important is the legal elimination of real money of gold or silver. Gnostic money has no physical existence; it is entirely imaginary and expressed in digits or papers that represent digits. Gnostic money can be created in any quantity required by Gnostic economists (the Keynesian tribe) and applied to whatever ends appear to be attractive. This Gnostic "anti-money" is a fundamental element of the program to change the nature of the human being and transfigure society: to turn it into something akin to the Earthly Paradise, according to the Gnostics - or into a Terrestrial Hell, according to those that value human freedom.
The objectives of Gnosticism are essentially unattainable, because it is impossible to change the nature of the human being, and it is just as impossible to achieve a transfigured society. All Gnostics share this trait: the denial of reality.
Great questions remain unanswered: How and when will humanity rid itself of this Gnostic Plague? How and when may humanity have rulers that will respond to the Cosmic Order of the Creator, that acquiesces in the human state of affairs without calling for a new heaven on earth? And finally, another great question that remains open: How are we to defend ourselves from the powerful religious Gnosticism of Islam?