In our difficult time, only few can distance oneself from frightening reality. How does Gnostic experience allow us to relate to social problems?
The Gnostic systems primarily differed in their extraordinarily careful, even touching, compassion for living life—not to kill a living being, not to cause pain to animals, and all the more not to torture or hurt human being. These are all characteristics of the Manicheans and the Paulicians, the Bogomils and the Cathars (Albigensians).
In these organised movements we almost never encounter male chauvinism, so typical of all religions. Let’s remember Marcion who allowed women to perform a christening rite on an equal basis with men, and the Bogomils’ women preachers. The Cathars endowed women with full equality, allowing them to occupy the highest positions in the hierarchy of the Albigensians—‘the perfect’.
The same attitude applied to the representatives of religious minorities such as Catholics and Jews.
During their rule, the Albigensians did not force anyone to adopt their beliefs; neither did they hound and humiliate those outside their own communities.
The subconscious fear of strangers was alien to them because a stranger was no more than the bearer of divine spirit in a slightly different and maybe uncustomary shell than the one they wore themselves.
What does it matter in which body a soul resides if the human body is ‘the dungeon of evil’ by definition? Can there be an advantage of one torture chamber over another, one dirty vessel over another? In any case, these vessels will be broken, and the origin of torment—‘the Creator’s closet’, as Marcion said, —destroyed.
Dualism in the perception of the world led not to the spiritual dissention, but to harmony—individual and, subsequently, social. People felt a part of the brotherhood-sisterhood of the chosen without the division into religion, appearance, sex, race, and origin. People were hostages among other hostages of the triumphant evil, neither worse nor better than the rest. This combination—aversion to the world and concurrent quiet, unrevealed delight coming from belonging to the higher pure origin—gave rise to intense joy, sombre composure, contempt for life, and anticipation of speedy parting with ‘the worn shell’ of a body.
In other words, we are all experimental mice in the laboratory of the Creator. And what difference does it make, whether we are black, white or gray mice if we know the value of this world and its ruler.
I believe this unique spiritual and social experience more than anything suits us today.