My controversial relationship with the divine

In regards the existence or non-existence of a god, or several gods, the most one can be, realistically speaking, is an agnostic. Gnosis is a Greek word for knowledge; therefore, agnosticism means lack of knowledge. Believing or not in one (or several) deity (deities) is a question of faith. The verb "believe" and the substantive "belief" do not mean the same as "knowledge", regardless of how much an individual's faith is based on some great conviction or personal certainty—the person doesn't know, she believes; it can be a powerful belief, but thare's a difference between the person's belief and Gnosis.

The most ancient days, by William Blake

So those who believe and those who don't believe end up being agnostic in some sense. Even the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries Gnostics, heretical groups with whom I identify myself due to my pessimism, still needed faith in order to start their journey towards knowledge. In spite of the necessity of faith, their initial faith was based on a perfectly logical conclusion: a benevolent and omnipotent God would never create a reality so perverse and imperfect as ours—therefore, this universe of matter can only be the work of the Demiurge, an ignorant or malevolent artificer (the version vary between Gnostic sects, of course).

But the Demiurge wouldn't be the supreme source of everything for the first centuries Gnostics. The supreme being of the Gnostics—the God above godis distant, incognoscible and pure, since it is far away from the defects of the physical realm. It is from it that all else emanates, but because it is an impersonal divine, his lower emanations—the Demiurge and its Archons—ended up forging the material universe to which we are chained to. It was up to men to elevate themselves via rituals towards a non-material reality, and in this way get closer to the supreme source. 

Normally I declare myself as an "atheist". But what I think is a little bit more complex than that. Within a purely naturalistic vision, a supreme being would be the universe, its physical and mechanical laws. But I don't venerate those things. If I were to declare a metaphysical belief, it would have to be something close to the Gnostics, since they didn't venerate matter, nature or its physical laws. It should be clear that, although I declare myself a unbeliever when I'm questioned about, I certainly am not an unbeliever in the same vein as Richard Dawkins and the so called New Atheism movement that started around the 2000s. I name those "religious atheists".

It can be said that most contemporary atheist believe that man is the measure of all things and that it is possible to have an eternal technical, scientific and human progress. These beliefs make them as religious as the most fanatical and blind fundamentalists. One of the most common criticisms to modern and contemporary atheism has always been the following: "the human being needs to believe in something higher than himself". I disagree with this belief, because I see "religious atheists" believing in something bigger then themselves: they believe in humanity's will to power. The way I see it, both the fundamentalist and the romantic humanist are wrong. Both are extremely optimistic.

I dot consider myself the measure of all things, nor do I see myself as part of temporal chain of betterment—on the contrary, I recognize the unbearable insignificance of my life in the universe. I didn't stop believing the judeo-christian god years ago in order to believe in the magnanimous potency of the human being. I think man is nothing, insignificant, fearful, full of himself, clueless in relation to his pitiful situation—a situation he will never be able to get out. He fights in vain in order to obtain control of a universe that is malignantly indifferent to his presence, creating ridiculous illusions to sustain himself. The newest human illusion (and potentially the most terrible of all) is the illusion of an infinite progress that one day will make us all gods through science and technology.
The sentiment of importance and the exacerbated confidence that atheists—and I exclude myself from the group here—have when it comes to mankind and matter is sad. However, the positivity of disbelief is restricted to the religious atheists, believers in eternal progress and in humanity's will to power. Besides this group, there are also mystical unbelievers, people like Cioran and, in a certain way, Schopenhauer. They were unbelievers who felt lost instead of feeling good after losing their faith—or after discovering they never had it to begin with. They didn't see the possible non-existence of something else as a liberating fact, like religious atheists do, but as a terrible possibility. For the mystical unbeliever, being alone in this chaos is terrible. It is as if we were in Hell and there was nobody to rescue us. 
 This is when allegories become important. I don't have access to sources of knowledge that prove the veracity of a incognoscible God that is distant from us and above the Demiurge who built the world from matter. But I believe this is the best equivalence I can make from my philosophical diagnosis that reality and existence are terrible. It is certainly much better than the notion that we are capable of building a paradise on Earth and in space using our reason.
Therefore, when I declare myself as an atheist, I refer to the common conceptions of god, which I do not share: a personal god who interferes supernaturally in the world in favor of some, who judges us based on moral codes from the Bronze Age. When I say I am an unbeliever, I'm not referring to the impossibility of some supreme source. In fact, it is the opposite: the possibility of escaping this hell is incredibly tempting to me. So tempting that I can't do anything other than consecrate myself to the incognoscible being who will free me from matter, the God above god, who pitied the exile of men in the world and opened different paths for them to reach Gnosis—this is my metaphysics.

By Fernando Olszewski

(This post was first published December 2nd, 2018)