Of the profusion of gnostic experiences and symbolic expressions, one feature may be singled out as the central element in this varied and extensive creation of meaning: the experience of the world as an alien place into which man has strayed and from which he must find his way back home to the other world of his origin. "Who has cast me into the suffering of this world?" asks the "Great Life" of the gnostic texts, which is also the "first, alien Life from the worlds of light." It is an alien in this world and this world is alien to it. "This world was not made according to the desire of the Life." "Not by the will of the Great Life art thou come hither." Therefore the question, "Who conveyed me into the evil darkness?" and the entreaty, "Deliver us from the darkness of this world into which we are flung." The world is no longer the well-ordered, the cosmos, in which Hellenic man felt at home; nor is it the Judaeo-Christian world that God created and found good. Gnostic man no longer wishes to perceive in admiration the intrinsic order of the cosmos.
Readers of Cormac McCarthy will be well used to his use of alien to describe the harshness of existence. The various concordances produced by John Sepich show the following uses of the word in his texts:
Outer Dark 3
Blood Meridian 13
All The Pretty Horses 8
The Crossing 8
Cities of The Plain 4
No Country for Old Men 1
The Road 5
Some sample usages from Blood Meridian:
The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night. p. 46
Along the wall opposite crouched figures seeming alien to the light who watched the Ameicans with no expression at all. p. 101
The judge stepped into the sunlit doorway and executed upon the stones a series of steps with a strange precision and he and the fiddler seemed alien minstrels met by chance in this medieval town. p. 190
The instrument of salvation for Gnostics is knowledge - gnosis. But Voegelin cautions:
Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless. The structure of the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it. The attempt at world destruction will not destroy the world, but will only increase the disorder in society.
Or, put another way, a dangerous self-indulgence. Voegelin identified the totalitarian regimes he fought as a young man (he had to flee Nazi Germany after trenchant criticism of the regime) as political gnostic movements. They seek to establish a superman, a carrier of the fire, a possessor of the divine spark. Again, recognisable phrases to the reader of McCarthy.