Believe it or not, I once was pope of a Gnostic church. I know that sounds like a mad person making an absolutely ludicrous statement, but unfortunately (and yet, as shall hopefully be show) fortunately, too, the statement is true (insofar as I am capable of approximating that elusive thing called Truth). There were precious few in our mail-order congregation, but most of us shared a deep, almost obsessive interest in forerunners and rivals of Christianity, and especially the Hindu and Buddhist tantrics and the Gnostic sects, both Judeo-Christian and antinomian, both pietistic and libertine. We were certain that one of our saints was Aleister Crowley, the man the Murdoch press of the era labeled "The Wickedest Man on Earth," since, having read much of his writings, we concluded he was, instead, "The Most Misunderstood Man on Earth." Smack dab in the middle of one of Crowley's "Masses" -- the one central to his praxis, and still performed in Thelemic temples the world over -- there was a passage devoted to the "Collects," in which he rattles off a concatenation of famous and obscure freethinkers, agnostics, atheists, sexual supermen, bad popes, occult writers, ceremonial magicians, alchemists, and assorted other anti-heroic characters from the history of progressive pioneers, people who swam against the flow, men such as Nietzsche and Francis Bacon, Paul Gauguin and Goethe. It was Crowley's Liber XV, the mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.
To those who have no interest in knowing anything further about an ecclesiastic gnostic Catholic church, having head enough of holy masses after all, I hasten to add that no mass is any better or worse but thinking makes it so: those who think Crowley silly to mock the Roman Church in his ritual might do well to recall, or read, something of the history of Gnosticism in the ancient world (clue: the author of Acts only chastised Simon Magus because he was jealous of the latter's lovely, enchanting spiritual writings, works I have myself sampled thanks to small metaphysical publishers of such material). In my own investigations of Gnosticism I saw one abiding theological tenet: the Demiurgos. The guy who created this world was an asshole. Almost all Gnostics, including the Judeo-Christian sects, believed that the creator of the universe invented gross evil, which is to say, everything that makes up matter.
He was a demiurge and nothing more. Some sects, including my own, saw the God of Abraham and of Paul as Pure Evil, those made villains in both Old Testament and New being the actual heroes. That is, to Gnostics, Cain, Korah, and especially Judas. To Cainites, Abel is the quintessential worshipper of Jaldabaoth, the true name of the Abrahamaic deity. Because sex with one's spouse is the only kind acceptable to many Christians (and then in the missionary position), some Gnostic rituals included polymorphous perversity, the spouse being the least desirable partner; a filthy toothless hag the best. We actually published a Gospel of Judas months before the authentic one came out from Madison Avenue to great fanfare. Our ad for the monograph was rejected by Billy Graham's Christianity Today. I was proud.
Eventually, it dawned on me that I was drifting in a star current to the shores of a serious agnosticism when it came to the mainstream monotheistic faiths. The Gnostic view makes perfect sense if one can excuse the dualistic view of things, if only because the "left hand path" Gnostics viewed the God of Genesis, the God of the televangelists, the God of the Herd and its fearful, fatalistic, dark world where God is an inverted Daemon. Yaldabaoth (or, sometimes Ialdabaoth) rules this planet and rebellion from such faiths as believe in some form of him is almost one's moral duty. Being a follower of Crowley can be an uplifting experience if it is understood as a moral philosophy like that of Theravada Buddhism, or it can be, as in some Mahayana, peopled with the same old bugaboos as the Jews, Christians, and Islamists.
Many say that Crowley's "Do what thou wilt" was a mere excuse for excess. But I had to go through Crowleyan Gnosticism to arrive at the realization that all religions are cosmic jokes. They could not be anything else. More and more people are learning each day that Yahweh-Jehovah-Allah really is Yaldabaoth. Gnosticism is the last stop before the Mass of the Atheist. When getting into Gnosticism you realize that their scriptures are more appealing, literarily and spiritually, you should pardon the latter term. We are only now recognizing that the parts left out of the Bible might impart a far more helpful, less stern, more compassionate, less judgmental deity than the one seen in the O.T. and even the N.T. (that complete farbrication of the fevered mind of Saul/Paul of Tarsus, the arch misogynist and self-flagellating homosexual masochist). And yet you eventually understand that myth, superstition, and fear guided the authors of all religious works, and that this included the Gnostic Gospels.
My favorite is the Gospel of Thomas, which suggests that we are divided for love's sake, for the sake of union: "...when you make the inner into the outer...you shall enter the Kingdom," &c. There has to be a reason why the Gnostics were excluded, and it just might be that these folks were actually closer to the truth about the legendary person they mutually worship, whether fact or fiction, corporeal or fantastical, &c. The Gospel of Thomas suggests that androgyny is divine and that becoming androgynous is the key to eternal happiness, as the kingdom really is within. There is no god but Man. There is equivalence, of course, in the Secret Gospels of the Alchemists, the seekers after the Divine Androgyne. This is so "New Age" early Christians could not have appreciated such writings as they did not "fit" into the scheme of things "Christian," just as the son of a famous evangelist claimed recently that Mormons are not Christians. Pot calling kettle ecclesiastical purple. Once one finds out that the Bible was thus bowdlerized, one comes to it only to find titles for novels in Ecclesiastes, King James only, please.
The son also rises, and the sun also sets.....