Scientism as Neo-Gnosticism

25 February 2021

 

Editor’s Note: This article is also available in Spanish translation.

In this recent interview, Br. André Marie Villarrubia and Dr. Wolfgang Smith discuss the central theme of Three Scientistic Heresies,  a digital booklet specifically written by Dr. Smith for Catholic priests — though available to all — free of charge.


Br. André Marie
:  Welcome to Reconquest, on the CRUSADE Premium Channel, part of the Veritas Radio Network. This is Brother André Marie, coming to you from St. Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire. Our websites are Catholicism.org and Reconquest.net. You can find me on social media, just search for Brother André Marie on any of the big social media platforms and you’ll find me.

This evening’s episode is Episode #265, and it’s “Scientism as Neo-Gnosticism,” and my guest is Dr. Wolfgang Smith. It is, in fact, my great honor this evening to interview a man that I think is a living legend. Dr. Wolfgang Smith is a venerable Catholic thinker who is at once a mathematician, a physicist, and a philosopher of substantial gravitas.

Dr. Smith graduated at the age of 18 from Cornell University, with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, physics, and philosophy. Two years later, he took on an M.S. in theoretical physics at Purdue University, after which he worked at Bell Aircraft Corporation on formulating the theoretical foundation for the solution to the re-entry problem.

After receiving a Ph.D. in mathematics from Colombia University, Dr. Smith held professorial positions at M.I.T., U.C.L.A., and Oregon State University, until his retirement in 1992. His quest for a deeper wisdom led him to study and ponder many of the world’s great philosophical and religious texts.

His many published books include Teilhardism and the New Religion, Cosmos and Transcendence, Theistic Evolution: The Teilhardian Heresy,1This is actually the title of the 2012 republication of the aforementioned, Teilhardism and the New Religion  (1988). —Ed. Physics and Vertical Causation,  and his soon to be published work, The Vertical Ascent: From Particles to the Tripartite Cosmos and Beyond.

Dr. Smith was the subject last year of a wonderful documentary film narrated by Rick DeLano, The End of Quantum Reality.  Listeners may recall that I interviewed Rick on Dr. Smith’s work in Episode 218 of Reconquest.

Now, most recently, my esteemed guest has published a digital booklet that is primarily intended for priests. It’s entitled Three Scientistic Heresies.  Its three parts are entitled “The Heresy of Evolutionist Scientism,” “The Neo-Gnostic Infiltration,” and “The Heresy of Eschatological Imminence.”

Our interview this evening will focus on the second part, which is why we’re calling this episode “Scientism as Neo-Gnosticism.” So, let me say at the outset that there is a link at Catholicism.org and at Reconquest.net from which you can download a free version of this digital booklet, and I encourage all to do so, especially priests. Good evening, Dr. Smith.

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Dr. Wolfgang Smith:  Well, good evening, Brother André Marie.

AM:  It’s very good to speak with you, and I’m very grateful for you to take the time to do so. I’m going to dive right in to the content, because there’s so much to the content that I’d like to cover in the show.

I’m going to read something from your booklet, from chapter two, a little excerpt here. You say this: “The fact is that in the hallowed name of Science, we have fallen prey en masse  to an ideology.  It behooves us then, in the wake of this recognition, to take the next step: i.e., to investigate that underlying ideology itself.”

Then, skipping ahead: “It turns out, namely, that what underlies and secretly ‘drives’ the modern world proves in fact to be a kind of religion: a religion ‘turned upside-down’ one might say, which in fact reduces to that ancient and protean counter-religion known to historians as Gnosticism.

Now, my question is, you refer to this neo-Gnostic heresy as Scientism. You call it scientistic belief, which you then contrast with scientific fact. Now, as a man of science, a mathematician and a physicist, you clearly see the value of authentic scientific inquiry. So would you please briefly contrast scientific fact from scientistic belief?

WS:  Yes, indeed. The fact is that in the name of science, certain beliefs have gained not only currency, but a kind of unquestioned authority in our civilization. Most people, even scientists themselves, seem to be convinced that these theories, these scientistic beliefs, are factual — that they are based upon evidence, and that they are simply true and verified facts of science, when they are not this in the slightest degree.

The most important example would be evolutionism in any of its various modes, beginning with Darwinism — the idea that species arise through a process of mutation and natural selection. From that premise, promulgated in 1859, right up to Einsteinian astrophysics, you have the idea of evolution — the idea of things coming into existence from basically elementary particles through a kind of chance.

This is basic to our contemporary Weltanschauung.  And, first of all, it is untenable — the evidence is against it, not in favor of that at all — but more importantly, it so happens that the idea of evolution is really the central myth of neo-Gnosticism. By neo-Gnosticism, I mean the form that Gnosticism has assumed in post-medieval times.

So, when I discovered that — which was comparatively recently — I realized why this idea of evolution seems to be sacrosanct, why it is maintained almost universally in our modern world, despite the fact that (a) there’s no evidence whatsoever in favor of that, on behalf of that theory; and (b) there’s decisive evidence against it.

So, this made me realize that, as St. Paul has said, “our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities, and wickedness in high places.” So, I think this is very important.

AM:  Okay so you think that demons are helping to sustain this sort of scientistic religion, this counter-religion, this anti-religion?

WS:  Absolutely. And if it were not for that fact, it would not have nearly the power that it actually has.

AM:  So, we’re not against science, we’re against scientism?

WS:  Absolutely.

AM:  Okay, and one thing that I’ve learned from you, Professor, in reading your book on vertical causation — where you say that metaphysics has to retain its proper place above physics — is something that my own mentor, Brother Francis, taught years ago, and that is that if you don’t have a sound philosophy, including a sound metaphysics ([and,] of course, logic first) — if you don’t have those things in place, and a sound cosmology, the data that you get from the empirical sciences is not something that you can make sense of.

So, you have the advantage of being, of course, a philosopher as well as a mathematician and physicist, so you can apply the metaphysical principles to even the most current quantum physics and so forth, and make sense out of it, whereas those people who are totally immersed in that realm of physics really can’t make sense out of it.

WS:  Yes, you’re absolutely right. The contemporary philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, is such that science and physics really don’t make sense.

AM:  Uh-huh. Now, you used the word — I should say, for the benefit of my audience — you used the German word Weltanschauung,  which I may have butchered, but that means worldview—

WS:  No, you pronounced it perfectly.

AM:  Okay. That means worldview, right?

WS:  Yes, exactly.

AM:  Okay. It’s a word that I know you like to use, both in writing and in speech. […] It’s one of those wonders of the German language, where they take a complex thought and make it one word.

So the next thing that I’d like to ask you about comes a few pages later, and you’re talking here about what it is that constitutes Gnosticism. So you’re setting the pace to show how scientism is neo-Gnosticism, but in order to do that, you have to talk about Gnosticism itself, historically. Classical Gnosticism, as you call it.

So you say this, Doctor. You say: “In brief, classical Gnosticism comprises four  essential elements: first, a radical devaluation of the cosmos; secondly, a grievance against an oppressive status quo; thirdly, an eschatological aspiration taking the form of a ‘mystic journey’ perceived as an escape from the status quo; and finally, the stipulated possession of the ‘Gnostic secret’ which supposedly enables this liberating act.”

I’d ask you to sort of unpack that for us, but particularly in light of this: all four of those things are sort of dark mirrors of true religion, and even to some degree true philosophy. So, I’d like you to step our listeners through those four central points of classical Gnosticism, but in such a way that we can contrast them with whatever there is in true philosophy or true religion that they ape or counterfeit. Does that make sense?

WS:  Yes, it makes sense, indeed. Well, to begin with, the devaluation of the cosmos. I must say that the devaluation of the cosmos that is currently in vogue is really its reduction, if you will, to quantum particles, which don’t even exist. I mean, this is a very radical devaluation of the cosmos.

More generally, the devaluation of the cosmos that has been characteristic of contemporary progressivist culture is really the evolutionist idea that everything comes from below. This is an exact inversion of true religion, which recognizes that it comes not only from above, but even more, ultimately it comes from God Himself, who is the creator of the cosmos, in all its three ontological planes.

AM:  Now, Doctor, in classical Gnosticism, of course, this devaluation of the cosmos was kind of an inverted thing from what we have now, right? I mean, they disparaged matter, and they spoke of spirit — you know, sort of abstract spiritual principles — and that leads them to want to take this mystic flight away from the cosmos into this mystery realm.

WS:  Yeah, that’s an important point you just made. The way the devaluation of the cosmos was formulated in ancient times was very, very different from the post-medieval devaluation. As a matter of fact, the ultimate post-medieval devaluation of the cosmos is materialism: namely, the reduction of the universe to matter, however conceived.

I mean, actually, if you think about it metaphysically, you realize that matter is in fact something below existence. It is something that needs to be combined with form in order to produce even the lowest manifestations of existence.

So, by our materialism, we have devalued the cosmos in an extreme form. And incidentally, this is not the way this devaluation worked in classical times, in early Christian times. These four characteristic points were conceived quite differently.

AM:  I see. Yeah, so whereas today’s neo-Gnostic is a materialist, the ancient neo-Gnostic was sort of an anti-materialist, right?

WS:  Well, I don’t know if I would call it that, but it certainly took a very different form, and the most conspicuous difference between ancient Gnosticism and neo-Gnosticism or post-medieval Gnosticism is this: that the Gnostic [liberation] in ancient times was conceived as a kind of flight into a higher world. It was basically a mysticism that the Gnostic gurus were promulgating.

Now, in post-medieval times, according to common belief, there are no more higher worlds. So, this posed a very serious problem for the Gnostic: how does one fly into higher worlds when there are no more higher worlds to fly into? And it is this problem that was resolved in a very ingenious way: as I explain in my chapter, it was solved by a rotation of the cosmic axis from above  to ahead.  In other words, from the vertical to the horizontal direction, pointing into the future.

In a word, instead of higher worlds that were conceived mystically or metaphysically, the neo-Gnostic conception is of an Eschaton […] conceived in futuristic terms as a better world which we need to construct. So evolution, therefore, is of the essence, because in neo-Gnosticism the higher worlds are produced  by way of evolution. So evolution becomes, thus, the central myth of neo-Gnosticism.

AM:  You’re listening to Reconquest on the CRUSADE Premium Channel, part of the Veritas Radio Network. This is Brother André Marie, coming to you from St. Benedict Center. I’m interviewing Dr. Wolfgang Smith, and we’re talking about Scientism as neo-Gnosticism.

So, Dr. Smith, you mentioned the Eschaton. Just so that our listeners will understand, Eschaton — that’s the Greek word that we get eschatology from, which is the study of the last things — so it’s our end, or the goal towards which we aspire. And anciently, of course, Gnostics, just as true Christians, aspired to some sort of a heaven, right? Some sort of a salvation, some sort of liberation from our present existence to something better.

So you’re saying that they lowered the Eschaton essentially 90 degrees. Instead of going up to something transcendent, we’re going ahead  to something in the future. I think you put it this way at some point in the book. You said that “futurity replaces transcendence.” Futurity replaces transcendence. Everything’s in the name of the future.

WS:  Exactly. So therefore evolution becomes the central myth, because the future, as conceived by the Gnostics, is something that we need to build ourselves. In other words, from a Darwinist point of view, evolution ends with the biosphere: well, in neo-Gnosticism evolution does not  end with the biosphere. The biosphere is just an intermediary stage. Evolution continues on a collective plane, and in fact it eventually becomes political, it involves the formation of super-organisms, so to speak. So, the Eschaton is, in a sense, a man-made thing in neo-Gnosticism.

AM:  Okay, thank you, yeah— {crosstalk} I’m sorry…

WS:  I wanted to just add to that a very, very important fact — very, very important for the Catholics especially to understand: namely, that historically the great neo-Gnostic guru of our time was none other than [Pierre] Teilhard de Chardin.

AM:  Yes.

WS:  He epitomized this neo-Gnostic outlook. And if you read his voluminous writings from the standpoint of what I call neo-Gnosticism, you see that the fit is perfect.

AM:  Uh-huh. Now, of course, Teilhard de Chardin, most of my listeners will probably be aware, was a Jesuit priest who was very much a progressivist. He was both a man of science —supposedly — as well as a man of religion — again, supposedly.

A friend of mine once told me that he fooled all the scientists into thinking that he knew theology, and he fooled the theologians in thinking that he knew science. I think that was just a funny oversimplification.

But you spend quite a bit of time on Teilhard, and since you brought him up, I’ll fast-forward through my questions to him. So, Teilhard had this crazy idea, which he calls a law, and he acts as if this is some sort of fundamental principle of science, which he says is a “great” law. And that is that from complexity emerges consciousness.

So he takes evolution, going presumably from nothing, then to something — subatomic particles, then to atoms, then to molecules — and eventually, with more and more complexity, you get life. And then with more and more complexity, you get consciousness.

So, he gives you this principle, which you basically… I think you treat it very well in here, and you said that this law of complexity/consciousness: this is the neo-Gnostic “secret” of the Teilhardian enterprise, so that that fourth element of Gnosticism — the Gnostic secret, the secret knowledge that will give you the key to this mystic flight from the status quo — it’s that principle. Could you expand on that a little bit, on how it is that Teilhard says that, and what’s so abominably wrong with that principle?

WS:  Well, yes. His principle of — what does he call it? — complexity/consciousness. First of all, let me say that [in] both a scientific and a philosophical sense, the idea that consciousness emerges out of complexity is totally unfounded, and it actually makes no sense at all.

But leaving that aside: in Teilhard’s synthesis — in his neo-Gnostic philosophy — this principle of complexity/consciousness really plays the role of the Gnostic secret. I’m willing to believe that Teilhard de Chardin actually conceived of it in that way — that [it] is a principle: the fundamental principle of the evolution which, first of all, brought into existence the animal species — including the human — and secondly, brought about higher organisms: for example, the political and economic structures in the world [which] Teilhard conceived as [constituting] actually a kind of hyper-biology. I mean, it is [a question of] organisms of a higher order. That’s how he thought about it.

And then, in his eschatology, he was convinced that mankind would sort of evolve itself right into the New Jerusalem! That was his conviction, that ultimately it is not really God who creates us and creates the universe, but it is we ourselves, having evolved, take evolution into our own hands at a certain stage; and in so doing, we ourselves construct the world to come, which is conceived in futuristic terms.

AM:  So this is what he calls the Omega Point, or the Point Omega, where we go to this end, but it’s not an end that’s transcendent in the skies. It’s an end that’s off in the future, and we eventually evolve into God, don’t we? I mean, isn’t that how he has it?

WS:  Yes. Yes. Yes, absolutely. In other words, if he had clearly stated what was in his mind, the Catholic world would have regarded him instantly as a heretic. They would have completely rejected his teaching. Even the more liberally-minded Catholics would certainly have done so.

So, part of his success — which was fantastic, phenomenal — part of his success is that people didn’t really fully understand what he was saying. I remember that after acquainting myself with neo-Gnosticism, when I then reread some of the essays by Teilhard de Chardin: for the first time in my life I realized how dreadful they are, because [they are] not remotely compatible with Christian teaching. In fact, [they are] overtly anti-Christian!

AM:  Now, Teilhard… he wrote the book called The Future of Mankind.  He also wrote a book called The Phenomenon of Man which I think The Phenomenon of Man  is his sort of opus magnum, right?

WS:  Yes, I think it’s the most central of his works.

AM:  Now, those were published, respectively, in 1964 and 1965. But in one of those books he writes this — and I guess that was in English translation, so I’m not sure when he originally wrote his French work — but in one of those books, he writes this, about the nuclear bomb! I mean this is something that is at least morally questionable. We don’t need to talk about the morality of the nuke, but certainly what was done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these were not morally justifiable acts. But [concerning] the very invention of the nuclear bomb, the atom bomb, he said this:

“Was it not simply the first act, even a mere prelude, in a series of fantastic events which, having afforded us access to the heart of the atom, would lead us on to overthrow, one by one, the many other strongholds which science is already besieging? The vitalization of matter by the creation of super-molecules. The remodeling of human organisms by means of hormones. Control of heredity and sex by manipulation of genes and chromosomes.” This is very timely! “The readjustment and internal liberation of our souls by direct action upon springs gradually brought to light by psychoanalysis. And the arousing and harnessing of the unfathomable intellectual and effective powers still latent in the human mass.”

So he’s talking almost about what’s now called transhumanism. He’s talking about the scientific manipulation of genes and hormones, and basically altering man — presumably in order to advance his evolution and press him on towards the Omega Point.  And this is all — what he’s arguing — is the result of science, of the splitting of the atom.

WS:  Yeah, it’s true. Incidentally, all of these things which he cites in this rather repulsive outburst that you’ve just read, [are] in fact completely disproved by now. No reputable scientist believes in any of these possibilities, which Teilhard in these passages sees as a tremendous advance […] in the direction in which the whole thing is moving.

But this is one of those passages, rather rare, where Teilhard, as it were, forgets himself, and goes into a kind of almost satanic rant, which any remotely Christian reader cannot but find quite repulsive.

AM:  Uh-huh, yeah. So, I know Teilhard had some moral problems — I mean, we don’t need to go into that. But he was quite a charlatan. I mean, he propagated scientific frauds, and got himself in trouble with his Jesuit superiors. At least, he got his writings banned. They couldn’t be published, but they were secretly circulated in Jesuit novitiates and houses of formation, and he helped to corrupt an entire generation of Jesuits. Before Vatican II, he did this.

WS:  Yes, yes.

AM:  Okay, so I would like to get back to some of the discussion that you had in this section about immanentizing the Eschaton. In what I consider one of the most fascinating sections of this study, you utilize the insights of Dr. Eric Voegelin to explain how it is that the notably non-transcendent ideology of scientism — which is totally immersed in this world and in the material — can be considered Gnostic, or at least neo-Gnostic.

Now I’m going to read what you say on page 21 of your booklet — excuse me as I flip around — but I want to read this for the benefit of the audience, and perhaps you could comment on it a little bit. You’ve already touched on these points, but I want the audience to hear your text:

“Under such auspices Gnosticism is still, of course, conceivable as a sub-culture or a counter-culture in opposition to the prevailing Zeitgeist.” The spirit of the age. “But how — in a civilization that abjures transcendence — could there be a Gnosticism within  the cultural mainstream? How, indeed, could one speak of a ‘flight from this world’ when this world had in effect become all that exists? To do so the ancient doctrines needed evidently to be interpreted in a new key: a contemporary Gnosticism, to be conceivable, calls evidently for a new hermeneutic, a new way, that is, to envision the Gnostic ‘flight.’ And so in fact it does. As Eric Voegelin points out, the requisite reinterpretation was in fact achieved through what he terms ‘the immanentization of the Eschaton’: in place of an Eschaton transcending the ontological confines of this sense-perceived world, the modern Gnostic envisions an End to be realized on this very ontological plane” — in other words, in this world, right? — “within the confines of human history. To speak in geometric terms, there has been a rotation of 90 degrees, turning the ‘above’ into the ‘ahead’: eschatology has thus been transformed into a kind of social activism, a ‘social engineering’ if you will.”

Now, Doctor, there’s a lot in that paragraph. I kept rereading it. I should point out that Eric Voegelin was a German professor who fled… He taught, I think, at the University of Vienna, and he fled Austria when Hitler invaded, and he taught at LSU, which is where I went for several years—

WS:  Wow, what do you know!

AM:  —in Louisiana, where I’m from. But he died in 1985, and I wasn’t at LSU for another four years. But Dr. Voegelin made some interesting remarks, and of course William Buckley famously popularized Dr. Voegelin’s insights and turned it into the imperative, “Don’t immanentize the Eschaton.” Because Dr. Voegelin saw this as the political reality that the Communists and the Nazis had in common, that they decapitated the Gnostic idea so that there’s not this transcendent upward motion, but there’s only this motion ahead.

So all of these varying, these vying political ideologies had that one thing in common, that they all argued for what they would do in the name of the future. Not in the name of tradition — not in the name of some philosophical tradition — but all in the name of the future. So it’s “futurity,” right?

WS:  Yes.

AM:  So, when I was reading this… Now, I haven’t read the book that’s soon to be published — obviously, since it’s not published yet — but you have another book you’re working on in addition to this. And I started to realize that there’s a common element here between the book that you published some years ago — maybe it was just last year, maybe it was two years ago — and the book that you’re working on now, or at least what you’ve got in this particular booklet. And that is that you talk about vertical causation in the earlier volume, and here you’re talking about vertical ascent. And I think your new book even has “vertical ascent” in the title.

So, I guess what I’m asking is, are you tying in these ideas? So you’re objecting to the neo-Gnostic and scientistic immanentizing of the Eschaton. I’m assuming that you would propose instead a vertical ascent, as the name of your upcoming book says. And it seems to me that this is a logical complement to the subject of your previous volume on vertical causation.

So, does this point to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Logos, being the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end? I mean, this is what our Lord says in the Apocalypse. Is that what you’re heading towards?

WS:  Well, my latest book — which incidentally was finished quite a while ago, and if it were not for COVID, it would have been in print about three months ago, but as it stands … I think the softcover edition is already in print, and the other will be shortly.

But when I speak of the vertical ascent, I am referring in the first place to cosmology. And the recognition which I document in my book, The Vertical Ascent,  is [to the effect that the cosmos is] “tripartite.”  Now, I believe that this idea of the tripartite cosmos is very ancient, and was universally recognized by the high ancient philosophical cultures, whether of the East or of the West.

And what it amounts to is this: the cosmos comprises three ontological planes. The lowest, which I call the corporeal,  is subject to the bounds of space and time. Then there is an intermediary,  which is subject to time alone […]  And incidentally, this has been almost completely forgotten in the West; but it’s real, I can assure of that! When I was traveling in India, I saw things which would be inexplicable if it were not for the existence of this intermediary realm.

And then […] on the third level — the highest level — you have an ontological plane […] subject neither to space nor to time, and this is what St. Thomas Aquinas calls the aeviternal  world.  Plato called it the [intelligible] world. This is really the realm from which vertical causation emanates; and incidentally, it turns out that you can’t understand physics without knowing about vertical causation, because it turns out that the act of measuring a quantum system is accomplished not by the ordinary — what I call “horizontal” causation, a causation that acts in time — but it is in fact accomplished by vertical causation, which is instantaneous.

AM:  Which implies the Aristotelian concept of form, right, substantial form?

WS:  Yes. Yes, it does imply that in the sense that what distinguishes the corporeal level, which measures, from the quantum level, which is the measurable,  is the fact that the corporeal world is constituted by substantial forms. It is substantial form that gives being, and the corporeal realm is just the lowest realm of actual being. The intermediary realm is higher, and the aeviternal is the highest.

AM:  All right, so when you have these three planes, there is a connection between vertical causation, which is the beginning, and then vertical ascent, which is the end, right?

WS:  Well, by vertical ascent I simply mean the recognition of this tripartite structure, or the recognition of what might be called verticality.

AM:  I see.

WS:  The point is that verticality has been, as it were, eliminated from the contemporary worldview: everything is particles, everything is, in a sense, on the lowest plane. And [the “vertical ascent” has to do simply with] the fact that there is  a verticality, and […] that man himself is tripartite. This tripartite cosmology that I just mentioned is a cosmic analogue of the tripartite anthropology: namely, the fact that man [himself] consists of corpus, anima, spiritus.

AM:  Okay.

WS:  Totally forgotten, and it needs to be rediscovered if we are to make sense out of the world, and sense out of our own life.

AM:  Okay, so when you talk about the tripartite anthropology, you mentioned soma, psyche, and pneuma:2Soma, psyche, pneuma  are the original Greek terms corresponding to the Latin corpus, anima, spiritus, respectively.  In English: body, soul, spirit. —Ed. body, soul — or animating principle, right? — and then spirit, which gives us our higher faculties, intellect and will?

WS:  Yes.

AM:  Okay, so that’s essentially a Platonic idea, right? Or that’s a Platonic view of man, the tripartite… St. Augustine held that, right? I mean, that’s an Augustinian idea as well.

WS:  Yes, St. Augustine did.  St. Thomas did not quite, because he assimilated intellect to psyche:  he regarded intellect as a faculty of the soul. I think he did that, not because he didn’t know better, but because, after all, he was writing for seminarians: he was writing, therefore, on what, in ancient parlance, would have been called an exoteric  level.

One of the remarkable differences between the early Church and the later Church is […] that the early Church was very much cognizant of the fact that the teaching, which goes back to our Lord, actually divides into two different kinds or levels. There is the catechetical teaching, which is for everyone, and which is written down; then there is a higher teaching, which could be called the oral tradition — or it could also be called esoteric — which is not for everyone. And it is very, very important, for the health of the Church, that both of these teachings are disseminated: that it’s not one or the other [but] that the two coexist. And it is unfortunate that, in later times, this balance was lost.

AM:  Now, are you talking about what the Greeks called mystagogy?

WS:  No, I’m not.

AM:  Okay.

WS:  Well, at least I don’t think so. Perhaps I don’t understand the term. But one of the classic sources which enlightens us on this issue […] is a book by Clement of Alexandria called the Stromata,  where he speaks very explicitly about the fact that there is not only a written or catechetical tradition, but there is also an oral tradition, which was transmitted, first to some of the actual disciples of our Lord, and thence made its way down, and that this came to him also, Clement, from his teacher, Pantaenus. Pantaenus gave up the head of the—

AM:  —the Catechetical School—

WS:  —at around 200, and retired. And so there were these two separate traditions. Incidentally, St. Paul refers to it very clearly, and so does our Lord: the day before His Passion He said to His disciples […]: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but you could not bear it now.”  This is a reference to this other tradition — which is not for everyone — and which is associated very much with St. John the Beloved Disciple, as distinguished from St. Peter the Rock, upon which Christ founded His church.

So anyhow, I just wanted to mention that there are these two traditions, and that, when St. Thomas assimilated intellect to the level of anima,  he was speaking in terms of the exoteric tradition, and not in terms of the oral or esoteric.

AM:  I see. I see. So I’d like to go back, then, and talk about this paradox that you bring up of scientism as neo-Gnosticism. You ask yourself this question: How can the cosmos be devalued when it has, in fact, been elevated to the prime reality?

So, scientism… these materialists in our present age, how can they concurrently devalue  the cosmos while they’re saying that the cosmos itself — as we see, this material realm — is the only or the prime reality? Now, you give an answer to that in the booklet, but would you care to give us an answer orally, how it is that that’s settled, that paradox?

WS:  Well, I think it is answered by the fact of what I call the trichotomous cosmos, because the corporeal plane is the lowest of the three levels: so it derives its reality from the intermediary. Incidentally, the intermediary is the plane on which you have the substantial forms. So the reality that we see here on the corporeal actually derives from the intermediary, and the intermediary derives its reality in turn from the aeviternal. And so, when you reduce the cosmos to the corporeal level [… it] is the ultimate devaluation.

AM:  Eric Voegelin calls this, I think, decapitating the universe  or something like that. He talks about this decapitation where we devalue being.  As soon as you make being — which is one of the transcendentals — as soon as you make being  not transcendent, you’ve devalued the entire cosmos.

WS:  Absolutely. Basically you reduce it to non-existence, because being  does not originate on the corporeal level. Whatever being  exists on the corporeal level derives from the intermediary, the level on which you have substantial form. And the intermediary actually gains its being  from the aeviternal.

AM:  Okay, so there’s something that descends from above, and there’s presumably an ascent back up, and that’s the true Eschaton, right?

WS:  Yes — well actually I should mention this: that the true Eschaton, for the Christian, is transcendent in relation to the tripartite cosmos as such. In other words, the Parousia  is actually the “end” of time in both senses: namely, the “termination” and also the “purpose” of the creation. In other words, the authentic Christian Eschaton is beyond the aeviternal realm even.

AM:  I see. Okay, so when you talk about the tripartite existence, you’re not talking about the supernatural? The supernatural is above that?

WS:  Well, you know, you can use the term supernatural in more than one sense. The supernatural, in the full Christian sense, certainly is transcendent vis-à-vis the cosmos: utterly transcendent. But there is a supernatural in relation to the corporeal — namely, the intermediary realm is already, in a sense, supernatural in relation to the corporeal, because it refers to a higher ontological level.

AM:  Uh-huh, okay.

WS:  And beyond that you have the aeviternal: these are actual cosmic realities! They can be entered, and this is of course what the ancient sciences were all about: instead of interesting themselves about the corporeal level, much of it was concerned with the intermediary; and the truly  wise people of ancient times were very much concerned with the aeviternal.

So, this is all, in a sense, “supernatural” — but not in the Christian sense. In the Christian sense […] the word should be used only in relation to the truly transcendent realm, which is what Christianity calls the Kingdom of God:  this  is the supernatural!

AM:  Okay so unfortunately, Doctor, we’re winding down. I knew this would happen. I wasn’t able to ask everything I wanted to. So, just to repeat, you’re interested in getting this booklet — which I highly recommend, I read it and got a lot out of it — you’re interested in getting it primarily into the hand of priests, and if anybody would like to get a copy, you can get it for free. You can follow the link that I’ll put up. I’ve already put a link up on Catholicism.org, and I will put a link up on our Reconquest.net page, so that people can get it.

Well, Doctor, I’m very grateful to you for taking the time to talk with me this evening, and I hope a lot of people get this book and read it. It’s very important.

WS:  Well, the whole outreach to the priests is very, very dear to my heart, because they are heroic people: they’ve dedicated their life to God, and we need to give them all the help we can to protect them from all the misinformation pretending to be science, which is actually satanic, and has already wrought great havoc within the Church. So, we must try to help the priests to free themselves from these impediments.

AM:  Well, thank you, Doctor. You’ve been listening to Reconquest on the CRUSADE Premium Channel. God bless, and Mary keep you.

 

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References
1 This is actually the title of the 2012 republication of the aforementioned, Teilhardism and the New Religion  (1988). —Ed.
2 Soma, psyche, pneuma  are the original Greek terms corresponding to the Latin corpus, anima, spiritus, respectively.  In English: body, soul, spirit. —Ed.