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Aug 02, 2010



This assumes that we, of this unfortunately icky reality, would be able to create a virtual environment closer to the Forms than our own reality.

So far, I haven't seen any virtual worlds I would want to live in.


Yes, that's right. I am taking for granted that fighting a dragon in WoW makes people feel closer to the Ultimate Form of Hero-Fighting-Evil than does, say, securing the Johnson account for Bigby, Inc. As acts, they can both be metaphorically related to some higher purpose of good triumphing over evil, but fighting a cartoon-and-AI dragon requires less heavy lifting inside the brain. If you're a Gnostic, you'd rather fight the dragon. IMHO, of course.


If you read Plato, he says that art is just an illusion made out of an illusion. And most of the Christian Gnostics, iirc, were intent on the denial of the body and the senses. So I'm not sure Gnostics or those devoted to ideal forms beyond the realms of the senses would be too keen on the virtual. Indeed, they might be especially contemptuous of it.

The set that might like it the best would be the hedonists, I think, since they live for the pleasures of the senses.

From an ethical standpoint, though, I suppose that hedonists and gnostics are somewhat alike in that neither of these ideal groups is really fond of community or politics. They're both oriented toward a particular brand of escapism.


If you're making a virtual world in the real world, it's still part of the real world, therefore it still sucks. You can have fun from pretending it's not real, but the only way you're going to get a religion out of it is if you claim it actually IS a different (possibly spiritual) reality.



By the way, if you're interested in this kind of thing you might want to take a look at the 1998 book TechGnosis by Erik Davis. There are some excerpts from it (along with other essays and writings by Davis) on the TechGnosis web site.



I'm not sure that the Cultural Revolution is a particularly good example of Gnosticism in action. Whatever one thinks of Mao, one would have to recognise that his political philosophy was not concerned with an attempt to move towards an eternal ideal that existed outside of the material conditions of life, but rather was a dialectical analysis of how the social forces present at that particular time in history were interacting. A deeply flawed analysis as it turned out, but one that was firmly grounded in the material conditions of the real world, that, as you say, Gnostics would have little time for.


Yes, I was sort of puzzled by that Mao link too. I thought maybe you were just trying to extend your category to other forms of idealism.


(Sorry, I've been away)
The link to Mao was intended as a reminder that many of the most brutal regimes have resulted from a conceit by the leaders that they had access to special knowledge that motivated their power. Mao's political philosophy may have focused entirely on the movement of material forces, agreed. But in thinking this, Mao was also convinced that he knew something that others did not. He felt that what he knew was so true, and so important, that implementing its prescriptions was worth killing untold millions of innocent people. He (and indeed all fans of central control) are confident that society can be improved by the unilateral decisions of a Knowing Person In Charge. That Knowing part is a Gnostic move. Hitler felt he knew better; Stalin felt he knew better; Mao felt he knew better; and even our democratically elected and ostensibly rule-bound leaders tend at times to feel that they know better as well, taking on not only the loyal opposition but the very rules and traditions that have defined the game.

In the digital age, those who believe they know better can freely indulge their impulse to redesign the game.


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