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This article is part of a series on Gnosticism
The influence of Gnosticism in popular culture has paralleled a wider increase in interest in the subject in the modern world since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945. Numerous works of literature, as well as music, film, and television, have shown this influence.
- Harold Bloom explores Gnosticism in his novel The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy, and, with William Golding, traces Gnosticism in American beliefs in The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation. In his book Genius, he makes introductory reference to Gnosticism as "the religion of literature". He also uses gnosis as a basis for reading poetry in his book Agon.
- Authors Jorge Luis Borges and Emil Cioran both make reference to Gnosticism in their work.
- John Crowley's novel Ægypt draws on Hermetic Gnostic traditions employed by Renaissance alchemists and magical thinkers as well as a Gnostic conception of history as malleable by human understanding.
- Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code draws on Gnostic scriptures and modern re-interpretations of those works as well as an alternate history of Christian faiths along the lines of that presented in Holy Blood, Holy Grail
- The works of Russian/American novelist Vladimir Nabokov deal with Gnostic themes, especially his novel Invitation to a Beheading.
- Several works of science fiction author Philip K. Dick draw on Gnosticism, especially VALIS and The Divine Invasion.
- Herman Hesse refers to gnostic doctrine, particularly in the novel Demian.
- The author and philosopher Umberto Eco deals with Gnosticism, particularly in his novels Foucault's Pendulum and Baudolino. In the former, a character describes the Gnostic creation myth at length.
- Gnosticism figures heavily in The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy.
- Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy draws heavily on gnostic ideas.
- In her book The Secret Magdalene, Ki Longfellow explores the birth of gnosticism in her treatment of the lives of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. There is a strong thread of gnosticism running through her second novel, Flow Down Like Silver, Hypatia of Alexandria.
- Robert Charles Wilson's work has gnostic themes, particularly in his 1994 novel Mysterium.
- Cormac McCarthy's works contain elements of what have been considered 'Gnosticism'.
Comics and illustrated narrativesEdit
- The universe detailed in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series is broadly gnostic in cosmological structure, detailing the existences of seven archetypal figures that, at various times, control human action (their designated areas of power are reflected in their titles): Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Delirium (who, at an unknown time in the past, was called Delight). These figures are likened to gods yet, being representative of human abstracts, ones that are not worshipped nor which are subject to the ebb and flow of belief; indeed, gods and goddesses from a wide variety of pantheons are acknowledged as their inferiors and, in some senses, subordinates. However, at the same time it is implied that the seven figures are intermediaries, acting on the behalf and at the behest of another, superior agency; though the exact identity of the figure that presides over them is ultimately unknown, it is implied that it is a primal creative force or God.
- In the Marvel Comics universe, the origins of Earth are described using gnostic mythemes, including the notion of a subordinate creator of the universe. This view of the creation of the earth was expounded in the back-up features of the 1989 annual editions of their comics, all part of the "Atlantis Attacks" crossover.
- Alan Moore, acclaimed writer of From Hell, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Promethea, converted to Gnosticism in the late 1990s. His work, typically of Gnostic interests, demonstrates a keen engagement with the often-ambivalent relationship between subject and reality, consciousness (especially altered and enlightened states of consciousness) and revolt against constrictive systems of control. In Watchmen, Moore appears to explore (or at least evoke) the concept of Voegelin's 'Immanentization of the Eschaton' through a central character in the series, who hatches a monstrous plot to save the world through the fabrication of an alien invasion. Promethea explores Gnostic issues even more directly, though the vehicle of Kabbalistic, alchemical and other esoteric framing devices.
- Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles draws on Gnostic mythemes (particularly those of Manicheanism), both in terms of overall structure and also through occasional direct reference. Morrison's other works, such as Animal Man and The Filth, also possess frequent moments of structural cohesion with Gnostic worldviews, though these make no direct reference.
- Kaori Yuki's Angel Sanctuary posits YHWH (the creator, hegemon of Judaism & Christianity) as the main, chief antagonist of the entire series, indicative of Gnosticism.
Film and televisionEdit
- Such films as Dark City, The Gladiator, The Fountain, The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, The Game, The Truman Show, eXistenZ, The Island, and Vanilla Sky can be compared to Gnostic cosmological myth in the presentation of a world that is illusory, that is created with the intention to deceive or restrict its inhabitants, and that is not configured to humanity's benefit save through the illuminating realization of its falsehood. Ultimately, the key to unravelling the illusion and perceiving reality without obscuration resides in a form of self-knowledge or enlightenment (often this perception is concurrent to a 'return' to a material or extended reality that persists beyond the illusion).
- The MTV animated science fiction television series and subsequent movie, Æon Flux, contains many Gnostic ideas.
- The stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the feature film of the musical makes reference to a pseudo-gnostic myth throughout; therein, the Gnostic reverence for the androgyne as symbolic of superior spiritual realities is contrasted with the protagonist's sexual and gender difficulties. Additionally, one of the main characters in the film is named 'Tommy Gnosis'.
- In the anime (movie and series) and manga Revolutionary Girl Utena, there are Gnostic themes and visual symbolism. Much focus of the film's focus is directed to the dichotomy between light and dark and the interplay between the two though, at its heart, it is a passionately post-modern fairy tale. The operation of the colour scheme and drives of the individual characters harkens towards the search for a "true will" similar to that presented in Aleister Crowley's Thelema doctrine.
- The anime series, movies, and manga Fullmetal Alchemist contain strong Gnostic elements. In the series, it's towards the latter half. The movies contain the strongest influences of the animation, and the manga contains heavy Gnostic influence throughout. This can be attributed to the influence of Gnostic thinking on certain real-world Alchemic systems.
- The popular science fiction show Stargate SG1 arguably demonstrated Gnostic elements in its later seasons, including the classical gnostic notion of evading or circumventing the constrictive material self in order to ascend to a higher state of existence. The parallels increased during the ninth season, with the introduction of the Ori, a race of ascended beings that deceive and oppress humanity for the purpose of deriving energy from humanity to fuel their level of ascension. However, the argument of outright Gnosticism in Stargate is extremely dubious at best, as there are many systems of spiritual belief that include a form of ascension. Also the theme of the Ori can be taken as a repetition of the original 'false gods' theme of the series simply taken up to a higher and arguably more intense level. Notably the Ori crusaders bear a stark resemblance to the Goa'uld.
- The finale of the 2005 series of Doctor Who, "The Parting of the Ways", draws heavily on Gnostic allegory. The Emperor of the Daleks, like the Demiurge, believes himself to be God. Rose breaks open a sealed compartment and looks into a bright light, the 'time vortex', which enters her and gives her omniscience, a gnosis - becoming effectively a goddess like Sophia to destroy the "false God". In foreshadowing, the episode "The Long Game" also alluded to Gnostic themes, through an alien being, a Demiurge, ruling a global news satellite through a human Editor, or archon, keeping the Earth isolated and somnolent through manipulation of information.
- In her book Piece by Piece, Tori Amos explores the influences and experiences that have shaped her compositions. In the first two chapters she explores the Gnostic belief that Mary Magdalene wrote the fourth Gospel of the apostles; this research had a profound impact on her subsequent 2005 album, The Beekeeper, especially the songs "Original Sinsuality," "Marys of the Sea," and "The Beekeeper".
- Musician Bill Nelson was interested in Gnosticism in the mid-1980s and his album Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights includes songs with titles evocative of Gnostic concepts. The dedication of the album reads "I offer this work to my fellow initiates as a testament to the Gnosis and a confirmation of The World Within."
- The Gnostic poem "The Thunder, Perfect Mind" inspired companion albums by Current 93 (Thunder Perfect Mind) and Nurse With Wound (Thunder Perfect Mind).
- Thom Yorke has said that themes in the album Amnesiac were inspired by Gnostic creation myths.
- The art of William Blake is arguably expressive of a world-view that finds several parallels with gnosticism. Though it would be incorrect to state that Blake consciously sought to depict gnostic themes, several of his mythic figures, such as Urizen (as he is presented in the famous Ancient of Days) find correspondence in Gnostic myth; one might also note Blake's distrust of materialism, as expressed in such paintings as his portrait of Isaac Newton and, less overtly, his illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy.
- The Legacy of Kain series of games has many Gnostic elements, particularly in the character of the Elder God, as revealed in the most recent game in the series, Defiance.
- The Kult tabletop role-playing game draws heavily upon Gnostic belief, with explicit references to the world as a prison created by the Demiurge and run by Archons.
- White Wolf, Inc.'s Mage: the Ascension and its successor Mage: the Awakening both depict worlds with pliable realities that can overcome by those with sufficient willpower and enlightenment. The latter in particular reflects Gnostic beliefs and features powerful beings known as Exarchs who wish to suppress humanity's knowledge of the truth about reality and instead have them lead deluded lives.
- The video game series Silent Hill presents several Gnostic themes, including the concept of the material world as Hell, in contrast to a superior, paradisial plane of existence, though inverted as the material world is shown to be normal, even pleasant, while the paradise is a world of flames, rusted surfaces, mutilated corpses, demons, and torment.
- The PC strategy game Alpha Centauri contains what is an essentially gnostic storyline. Trapped in an alien world, the human race struggles to survive against an ignorant god (the planet). In the end - if the player's faction acquires enough knowledge - humanity becomes one with this god to achieve perfect gnosis and "Ascend to Transcendence".
- ↑ Leo Daugherty (1992). "Gravers False and True: Blood Meridian as Gnostic Tragedy". Southern Quarterly. http://peter-mclachlin.livejournal.com/115239.html. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- Emerson, John Phildickian Gnosticism, a series of articles discussing the Gnostic influences upon the writings of Philip K. Dick.
- Flannery-Dailey, Frances & Rachel Wagner, "Wake Up! - Gnosticism & Buddhism in The Matrix", an essay on Gnostic and Buddhist influences on The Matrix.
- Klock, Geoff, X-Men, Emerson, Gnosticism, an essay discussing Gnostic influences on The X-Men