Gnosticization of Morality – Part I

One of the great problems affecting our lived Catholicism now is the “Gnosticization of Morality.” The name refers to the heresy of Gnosticism. The reference is meant in a manner not of strict but rather of analogous resemblance. In Gnosticism, the spirit is considered to be good, even divine, and the body evil. The former is in the end one with the Divine Realm itself, and the latter one with the Evil Realm itself.

When it comes to moral prescriptions, then, Gnosticism does not adequately integrate bodily activity into its moral theory. Two moral trends emerge in Gnosticism. One trend is that, since the body is evil, one ought to avoid bodily activities as much as possible. In this way, one works to live more and more according to the spirit, awaiting the shedding of the corpse of the body. This is the spiritualizing trend. The other trend is that body and soul are separate realms, even in the one man. Therefore, what is done bodily is distinct from what is done spiritually. There are as it were two activities, two actors. These insights are then harnessed to opportunism, which aims to get whatever one can while one can. Since the realms are distinct, and since the body can as a matter of fact deal many sensible pleasures, the man who indulges in these pleasures harms not his soul. This is the hedonistic, materialistic trend.

Clearly, these trends are opposite. Neither trend recognizes bodily deeds as truly human deeds. Neither presents a portrait of virtue as bodily life. Neither presents the message of “Repent thou for thy bodily activity! Repent and conform thy bodily activity to the Law of God.” If the first trend offers “enlightenment” it is that of the Buddhistic departure from the world of time and space and matter. It is elitist. It does not transform the immanent things of the world. It is not concerned with justice. If the second offers “Enlightenment” it is that bodily life offers, for the strong, a time of pleasure and dancing. Let us eat and drink….