Conceptualizing Ancient and Contemporary Awakenings: An Analysis of Themes of Social Structures and Individualism in Ancient Gnosis, the New Age, and the Modern Day
Haverford College. Department of Religion
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
In this thesis, I analyze the claim that April DeConick makes in The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion From Antiquity to Today that the New Age was inspired by ancient Gnosis. DeConick disregards broader scholarly conversations in defining these two movements, which distorts the fact that she mischaracterizes ancient Gnosis as a fully individualistic faith. A comparison between a Valentinian Gnostic text, The Gospel of Truth, and a New Age text, Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy, demonstrates the heavy emphasis that ancient Gnosis placed on the shared mythos and social structure, in contrast with New Age individualism. Furthermore, a discussion of what a Gnostic church may look like today, in comparison with the real-life Ecclesia Gnostica, exposes the tension between today’s New Age-influenced religious landscape and the religious communities of ancient Gnosis. This work clarifies the unique distinguishing features of the two movements, as well as illustrating the danger of making broad comparisons between religious traditions in vastly different cultural situations and historical eras.