I've been putting off writing about Breivik's massacre. For one thing, I've been a tad pressed for time. For another thing, this is one of those stories that has more tentacles than a Japanese high school.
Right now, let's study just one facet of the story. Anders Breivik has been connected to fundamentalist Christianity and to a shadowy revival of the Knights Templar. He has also linked himself with Gnosticism, the ancient Christian heresy.
The Templar link appears to go to a far-right British group called the English Defence League, run by someone calling himself Richard the Lionhearted. "Richard" is actually one Paul Ray -- at least, so says the Telegraph
. He lives in Malta, the traditional home to the Knights Hospitallers, a rival group to the Templars.
By contrast, the Washington Post says that Breivik's neo-Templar order calls itself the PCCTS. I don't know what those initials are supposed to stand for. If you go to http://www.pccts.com
, you'll see this intriguing message:
DISCLAIMER (25-7-2011): WE ARE IN NO WAY CONNECTED TO THE IDIOT IN NORWAY! THIS WEBSITE WAS BUILD IN 2010 TO SHOW THE WORLD HOW EASY IT IS TO START A CONSPIRACY! CARIPS.COM ALSO IS PART OF THE HOAX!! THIS PROJECT IS PART OF QFF - QUO FATA FERUNT - HTTP://WWW.QUOFATAFERUNT.COM - AND QFF IS A CONSPIRACY / ALTERNATIVE MEDIA WEBSITE /FORUM
THE PAIN AND SUFFERING THAT THIS IDIOT HAS CAUSED IS ENORMOUS. OUR HEARTS GO OUT TO ALL THE VICTIMS, THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS, LOVED ONES AND FRIENDS.
Did Breivik fall for a hoax?
Almost needless to say, the real Knights Templar would never have countenanced the murder of children. There are a number of self-styled neo-Templar orders in the world today -- these guys
, for example. Also these folks
. I certainly hope that the Norwegian madness will not make people suspicious of harmless fraternal organizations.
The Gnostic connection troubles me.
I became interested in Gnosticism long before the topic became trendy. I've read most of major scriptures which the world deems holy -- but at this stage of my life, the only scriptures I would care to re-read would be the "heretical" (and sometimes impenetrable) Gnostic works. Anyone who wants to encounter the literary equivalent of the last ten minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey
(with a little David Lynch tossed in) should read The Gospel of Philip
. Trippy as it is, it's also one of the most thought-provoking agglomeration of words in the history of language.
Alas, a staggering amount of nonsense has been written about the Gnostics in recent years. Dan Brown's famous book gives the impression that Gnosticism was all about sex, even though most members of the sect tended to be ascetics.
Properly, we should speak of "sects" in the plural -- of Gnosticisms
. In the second century, there was no Gnostic Pope, no central authority, no agreed-upon canon of scripture -- just a number of diverse groups spread around North Africa, the Near East and parts of Europe. They could not easily communicate with each other. Indeed, Michael Allen Williams' Rethinking Gnosticism
argues that the ideas and philosophies categorized under the term "Gnostic" were so very diverse as to render the word itself useless.
We may, I think, fairly say this: In the second century (or earlier), there arose various forms of Christian mysticism. Most of these schools were spiced with far-eastern concepts and Neoplatonism. No-one can say how much of this mystical tradition harkens back to anything Jesus actually said.
In the Middle Ages, a Gnostic revival occurred in the form of Catharism, whose adherents called themselves "Good Christians." This belief system was popular in Occitania (the south of France), which was so called because the people there said Oc
instead of Oui
. Early in the 13th century, a crusading army led by Simon de Montfort wiped out the main Cathar stronghold -- a land grab disguised as a religious crusade. (Bush revived that trick in 2003.) The religion survived in various small pockets of southern Europe for many years. Some say that secret Cathars in Italy helped to inspire the Renaissance. As late as the 1840s, when Bernadette was a little girl, there was a Cathar parfait
living in the vicinity of Lourdes; he claimed to be the very last of his kind. I don't think that she met him.
In the late 19th century, a strange man named Jules Doinel -- a fascinating "footnote figure" whose life I have been trying to piece together for years -- encountered some ancient Gnostic documents and established a new Gnostic church. Doinel was one of those guys who made it his business to know everyone who was anyone -- that is, anyone with a taste for the outre. His acquaintances included hoaxer extraordinaire Leo Taxil and Father Bérenger Saunière, the key figure in the bizarre tale of Rennes-le-Chateau.
(Although much nonsense has been written about Saunière, his link to Doinel should be uncontroversial. Everyone agrees that the priest had a keen interest in local history, and Doinel was the archivist at Carcassonne.)
Doinel's Gnostic revival sparked a renewed interest in the Cathars, and very soon a formidable amount of fictionalized history hit the bookstores. Stephen O'Shea's excellent A Perfect Heresy
offers a fine chapter on the mythology of Catharism which sprung up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Naturally, this mythos intrigued surrealists like Joseph Delteil. It also transfixed a Nazi adventurer named Otto Rahn, another fascinating footnote figure.
Although Rahn was in the SS, I remain unconvinced that he was ideologically committed to the Third Reich. He may simply have given Nazi doctrine lip service in order to go hunting for the Grail (or for the wild goose) on Hitler's dime. It is said that he committed suicide in Austria in 1939, after leaving the SS. Many people think that Himmler had him killed.
Even before Rahn, Gnosticism had attracted the attention of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a mystical scalawag with a penchant for faking paranormal phenomena. She also wrote massive (and partially plagiarized) hermetic tomes, in which she would concoct history out of whole cloth. In his book Gnosticism
, Stephan Hoeller (whose broadcast lectures first awakened my interest in this subject, back in the early 1970s) labels HPB an important figure in the modern revival of Gnosticism. Unfortunately, he soft-pedals her arrogance and con-artistry -- not to mention her racism. Her magnum opus Anthropogenesis
(part II of The Secret Doctrine
) outlines HPB's racist theory of evolution, a theory which became surprisingly popular in weirdo circles.
HPB's writings were one of the "sleazo inputs" which informed the mystic ravings of a German named Deitrich Eckart. Eckart, in turn, became an intimate of Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf
is dedicated to Eckart.
It's important to understand that the original Gnostics had no interest in racism; indeed, they would have found the very concept absurd. Gnosticism probably originated in Alexandria, one of the most pluralistic societies in the history of our planet. Alas, thanks to Blavatsky and Rahn, Gnostic ideas became admixed with dangerous claptrap.
If the initial news reports are true, if Breivik embraced the "Gnostic" mantle -- well, now you know why an oddball of that sort would feel attracted to that philosophical tradition. Please do not
blame the massacre on the anonymous author of The Gospel of Philip
; he is innocent.