Omens of Millennium – Harold Bloom’s Gnostic Sermon

Monday, September 3rd, 2001

Published 17 years ago -

Omens of Millennium

Harold Bloom

Review By Dan Geddes

See also reviews of Bloom’s Book of J, Anxiety of Influence, and Western Canon.

See also Elaine Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels.

Omens of Millennium – Key Passages



Prelude: Self-Reliance or Mere Gnosticism

Chapter 1. Angels

Visions of Angles

Their Current Debasement

Metatron, Who Was Enoch

The Catholic Angelic Hierarchy

The Fallen Angels

Angels, Miracles, and America

Chapter 2. Dreams

The Answering Angel

Sigmund Freud’s Dream Book

Prophecy and Dreams

Chapter 3. Not Dying

The “Near-Death Experience”

Shamanism: Otherwordly Journeys

The Astral Body: The Zelem

Immortality and Resurrection

The Resurrection Body

Chapter 4. Gnosis

The Hermetic Corpus: Divine Man

Christian Gnosticism: Valentinus and Resurrection

Sufism: Angel of Earth and Garment of Light

The Kabbalah: Metatron, and the Lesser Yahweh

The Kabbalah: Luria’s Transmigration of Souls

Chapter 5. Millenium

American Centuries

Gnosis of the World To Come

Coda: Not by Faith, Nor by the Angels A Gnostic Sermon

Books Of Note

Omens of Millennium attempted to show how contemporary manifestations of millennial longing—prophetic dreams, visions of angels, and “near-death” experiences—have their more “authentic” origins in the Gnostic traditions, whether Jewish, Christian, or Islamic.

Bloom posits that America is “obsessed” with angels, prophecies and other millennial omens, and that Americans are, ironically, Gnostic without knowing it. He trumpets Gnosticism as a more authentic tradition of images and beliefs than both the current New Agey claptrap and orthodox religion.

In fact, much of if not most of Omens of Millenium is a loose history of the salient images in the Gnostic traditions of Christian Gnosticism, Jewish Kabbalism, and Islamic Sufism. Normative Judaism, Christianity, and Islam owe an immense debt to Zoroastrianism, which introduced the concepts of cosmic dualism (good vs. evil on a grand scale), the end-time, and the resurrection of the dead. These elements were lacking from pre-exile Judaism, but were accepted in time for the inter-testamental Jews (perhaps the same as the Essenes) to convey them to Christianity.

These origins help to show the accidental nature of much of what became normative Judaism, but Bloom even states that Gnosticism is perhaps the original Judaism—what the J writer (the original writer of Genesis) was conveying (Yahweh as Anthropos), and that this Gnostic strand in the J texts was eventually redacted away by centuries of normative editing. Such speculation about now redacted texts is necessarily untestable, but is nevertheless thought provoking.

Not only is Gnosticism perhaps more historically authentic for Bloom, but it is also more plausible and offers greater comforts than the big lies of orthodox religion. Orthodox religion, with its Neo-Platonic notions of an all-powerful and all good God is irreconcilable with the horrors of the modern world. Gnosticism offers a vision of returning to the original fullness, a source of comfort. Gnosticism is in many ways elitist, but it is also universally acceptable for those who seek its path.

It is necessarily hard to evaluate the truth of such a book, which makes a great deal of passing claims, often without evidence, or on the basis of Bloom’s considered opinion as a reader of the texts. Also, the book asserts that the divine, whatever it is, is best conveyed in Gnostic terms. I can’t pretend to evaluate the truth of these claims.

Bloom’s opinions on the intensity of Americans’ belief in the millennial omens are largely unsubstantiated, and derive mainly from his own experience (he does throw in a few statistics). Bloom’s theory that the American religion is essentially Gnostic (apparently the thesis of Bloom’s The American Religion), is again surprising and difficult to prove, but perhaps ultimately persuasive. Bloom is at his strongest as an interpreter of the texts and their historical contexts; he is able to induce much from little and make it persuasive in his commentary on religious history, and the place of Freud in framing the issue of dreams for all who follow him.

The most difficult part of the book to evaluate for veracity are the tenets of Gnosticism itself, which necessarily believe in a world other than ordinary reality, utterly unverifiable by the standard empirical means. In some ways Gnosticism appeals to me as an alternative to orthodox religion with its omniomni God, Judgement Days, and bizarre contradictions. Gnosticism also has the allure of literary elitism. But when trying to understand and evaluate its tenets, especially, say the theory of Anthropos, it seems like a large-scale delusion. I don’t find it compelling in any sense that the universe and the body of the God-Man were once co-terminous. While it is certainly impossible to prove that it is not the case in any suprasensible realm, it seems more plausible to me that this is a primitive wish, something from childhood when we believe our Fathers to be omnipotent and Godlike, is not an auspicious beginning to belief system. Again, it is wholly possible that the eyes of children are clearer and less uncorrupted than ours, but this particular belief is implausible to me.

I do not leave this book “believing” in Gnosticism, but leave wanting to know more about religious history, and how religions evolved. Perhaps Gnosticism was wrongly extirpated. Compared to the many other Christian traditions, it is more tolerant, this-worldly, and literary.

It’s somewhat surprising to see the great critic Bloom so convinced of Gnosticism. But the book contains a wealth of ideas. It is very synthetic, finding linkages between the disparate traditions of Kabbalism Gnosticism, and Sufism, as well as secular thinkers. The style is somewhat informal and chatty, especially when Bloom comments on contemporary trends (the New Age movement, etc.). At times seems concerned with present developments, but his love is certainly for past thinkers.

23 May 1999

See also reviews of Bloom’s Book of J, Anxiety of Influence, and Western Canon.

See also Elaine Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels.

Omens of Millennium – Key Passages


From Durrell: holds that man has declined into philosophical materialism, a belief which Bloom rejects in the book.


2) Bloom a Gnostic: a seeker of God within, rather than an external God.

2) Present book “informed by scholarship,” but “not a scholarly work.”

2) Book seeks to illuminate the fusion of 4 contemporary concerns: angelology, prophetic dreams, “near-death” experiences, and the approach of the Millenium.

3) the American Christ is the “Jesus of the Resurrection, rather than of the Crucifixion or the Ascension.”

3) a “complex of ideas, images and inner experiences” lies behind the “fusion” of these millennial concerns.

4) “it is fruitless to literalize or to dismiss spiritual experience.”

4) “what we now call psychology and cosmology also were one.” [in ancient times]

4) poetic imagination works in the void between sense experience and the intellect.

5) “literal or empirical sense itself is a metaphor for a lack of vision.”**

6) very few angels in the Hebrew Bible until Daniel 165 B.C.E., which Bloom believes was Zoroastrian in influence.

7) “Zoroaster can be said to have invented the resurrection of the dead.” As well as hell, and the resurrection of the body.

7) Zurvanism, a revision of Zoroastrianism, influenced St. John’s Revelation.

8) “Hebrew Bible knows nothing of an evil principle independent of God. Satan in the Book of Job is an authorized accuser, sanctioned by Yahweh…It is in the Pseudepigrapha, from Enoch on, that Satan truly begins his dazzling career as a rebel against God.”

8) Zoroaster’s vision anticipates Enoch being transformed into Metatron, the “lesser Yahweh.”

9) Spenta Armaita, a feminine archangel, represents the astral or resurrection body of each of us, manifesting herself to the soul on the dawn that follows the third night after our death.” [like Christ; my italics]

9) the image of a primordial person (Anthropos), “both male and female, earlier than Adam and Eve, unfallen and quasi-divine, angelic and yet higher than the angels, a nostalgic dream yet also a prophecy of millennial or messianic splendor, blazing in fiery light” lies at the center of angels, near-death experiences, and the millennial yearnings.

10) many contemporary angelic, prophetic dream, or near-death experiences take on “debased forms.”

11) “Images have their own potency and their own persistence; they testify to human need and desire, but also to a transcendent frontier that marks either a limit to the human, or a limitlessness that may be beyond the human.” [Sounds a little like memes.]

11) Whatever their role in “reality,” the angelic world is a fit place to study ourselves.

Prelude: Self-Reliance or Mere Gnosticism

14) “Seeking God outside the self courts the disasters of dogma, institutional corruption, historical malfeasance, and cruelty.”

14) Shakespeare’s importance in getting us to know ourselves (and therefore God)

14) Bloom suggests this work is his “Self-Reliance,” his own spiritual autobiography. He cites William Blake and Hart Crane as important early influences.

16) Bloom’s “mere Gnosticism” is to be empowered by eloquence and vision, like Emerson’s self-reliance.

17) “mere Gnosticism” must be distinguished from self-worship.

17-18) Al-Hallaj (Sufi) was executed for crying out: “I am the Absolute Truth!”

18) Bloom invites us to remember our earliest conceptions of ourselves as a way as a starting point for mere Gnosticism.

[If there was something “magical” about our first sense of ourselves (and I actually remember such a moment, from when I was 4 or 5 years old, standing in my parents’ dining room, before the bookcase, and being struck by the uncanny sensation that “I was Daniel W. Geddes.”) is it because it really is true, and later covered over by traditional conceptions which deny this gnosis, or is the sensation itself indeed child-like and fresh, but not necessarily true and important? I’m apt to believe there is something magical about it, but I want to anticipate arguments against it. Perhaps it is better to spend time trying to recall that earliest sense of myself, rather than already lose it in argumentation.]

18) “Kierkegaard fiercely insisted on the difficulty, the near impossibility of ’becoming a Christian’ in what purported to be a Christian society.”

19) “A transcendence that cannot somehow be expressed is an incoherence; authentic transcendence can be communicated by mastery of language, since metaphor is a transference, a carrying-across from one kind of experience to another.” [So when people give up describing religious experience as “beyond words” we should only deplore their lack of communicative powers]

20) transcendence is a climbing beyond the material universe and ourselves; perhaps getting in tune with the angelic realm.

21) self-affirming spirituality is usually considered heterodox.

21) it makes sense that gnosticism, with its emphasis on knowing that you know, attracts men of arts and letters.

22) C.S. Lewis (“Mere Christianity…one of my least favorite books”—Bloom) associates Christian surrender of the self with not seeking literary originality. This is the opposite of the Gnostic and literary quest for immortality.

23) Gnostic knowing (of God, and God knowing you) vs. faith whether in Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

23) the obscenity of the thought of a omnipotent, omniscient God who allowed the Holocaust to happen.

24) the creativity and imagination required for Gnostic experience are threatening to orthodox religion; gnosticism is an elitist spirituality, which helps explain its marginal number of adherents.

24-25) Bloom’s 1965 depression leads to a discovery of gnosticism in Hans Jonas and Emerson.

26) “…Gnosis is the mind’s direct perception, a pure movement and event that simultaneously discloses a divine spark in the self, and a sense of the divine degradation even there.”

26) Bloom experienced the Gnostic dread of having been thrown into existence, a world where God is so removed as to be an almost nihilist concept.

29) Zoroastrianism’s strong influence on the New Testament: a dualistic struggle between supernatural forces of good and evil, a struggle ending with the establishment of the Kingdom of God; the Devil, fallen angels, resurrection of the dead.

30) Gnosticism a protest against apocalyptic faith

30) “Prophetic religion becomes apocalyptic when prophecy fails, and apocalyptic religion becomes Gnosticism when apocalypse fails, as fortunately it always has and, as we must hope, will fail again.”

[Consider how the Old Testament prophecies, whether about the Messiah or the Destruction of the Temple, get revivified as apocalypse.]

30) Gnosticism obliterated by Catholic persecutions, lastly the Albigensian Crusade, which wiped out troubadour culture.

31) “It is yet another irony that our erotic lives, with their self-destructive reliance upon the psychic disease called “falling—or being—in love,” that should be a final, unknowing heritage of the last organized Gnosticism to date.”

Chapter 1. Angels

Visions of Angles

37) all major religions have angels

38) different beliefs regarding whether angels have material bodies

38) Milton’s Satan is the greatest portrait of an angel in literature

38) Milton’s angels are sexually attracted to each other

39) “For Milton, angels were a mirror into which all of us gaze, and behold neither ourselves nor an absolute otherness, but a middle region where self and other mingle.”

39-40) Angels according to Boehme, Swedenborg, Blake, and Joseph Smith

41) “Our ultimate heritage from Zoroaster… is our sense of a possible end-time. Before Zoroaster, all religions envisioned time as being cyclic, perpetually to return upon itself.” [Cf. Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence in Thus Spake Zarathustra. Nietzsche’s Zoroaster preaches eternal recurrence.]

Their Current Debasement

43) lowering of intellectual standards concomitant with debased forms of angelic expression

Metatron, Who Was Enoch

44) 1st draft of Genesis, Exodus written during David’s time, so depictions of Yahweh mirror that of David, a lone warrior-god with a few messengers. After the Babylonian captivity, when Jews beheld the vast bureaucracies of the Babylonian kings, books of the Bible (especially Daniel) depict a God ruling over the heavenly hosts of angels.

46) Enoch, a man who was caught up into heaven and became Metatron, or the “lesser Yahweh” is the key figure in the entire history of angels.

46) Joseph Smith identified himself with Enoch

48) 3 Enoch. Enoch’s skin becomes a fiery light and his bodily dimensions stretch to cover creation. Cf. Anthropos. [Cf. In Joyce’s Ulysses where the city is described as being a man]

49) Metatron becomes Idris in Islam, the Sufis eventually identifying Idris with the Greek Hermes, who was the Perfect Nature of man and God. Metatron an angel of reintegration for the Kabbalists.

50) Bloom says Metatron is the archangel of our moment. [Bloom’s exact belief on what angels are is (necessarily?) difficult to pinpoint]

51) Even the Shekhinah (the feminine element in Yahweh) serves Metatron, who is a “magnificent metamorphosis “of a mortal man into the lesser Yahweh, later reduced after Acher shouts: “There are indeed two powers in heaven!”

53) Kabbalistic formula is “Enoch is Metatron”

53) The other angels complain that one “born of a woman,” with a visible “white drop.”—semen.

The Catholic Angelic Hierarchy

55) “Our capacity to love is often founded on romance, which is necessarily the realm of imperfect knowledge; angels, like God, love with perfect knowledge.”

56) Struggle in early Christianity between those who stressed the importance of angels (James and his Jewish Christians, perhaps Gnostics) and those who stressed Jesus’ resurrection above all else (Paul)

57) angels were once agents of terror (the frightful cherubim, blocking the way back to Eden); now they are seen as soft, baby cherubs. Italian Renaissance painters changed their image.

58) Dionysius the Areopagite’s The Celestial Hierarchy, a decisive influence on Aquinas and on Catholic thought, especially in regards to angelology. His hierarchy (he may have invented the term)

  1. Seraphim
  2. Cherubim
  3. Thrones
  4. Dominations
  5. Virtues
  6. Powers
  7. Principalities
  8. Archangels
  9. Angels

60) (brief) list of angelic appearances in the Hebrew Bible

62) Paul dislikes angels because he wants Jesus to be the only mediator between God and man.

The Fallen Angels

62) Apuleius on Socrates’ daemon, a spirit neither human nor angelic, invisible but material like the gods.

62) Apuleius: everyone has an individual guardian and genius

62) Hebrew Bible has no fallen angels. The “morning star” of Isaiah 14: refers to the King of Babylon

64) Christian commentators expanded the serpent of Genesis into Satan.

65) The Satan of the New Testament is “truly an original invention.”

65) The idea that Satan’s fall precedes the creation of Adam comes from Augustine’s The City of God.

65) Augustine’s “most original notion” is that the purpose of the creation of man is to replace the fallen angels.

65) Augustine also invents the idea that all men forever were stained by original sin

66) Perhaps Paul believed that the Resurrection made angels superfluous.

67) In the Hebrew Bible Satan is not a proper name. We find ha-Satan “the Satan,” a court title akin to prosecuting attorney.

67) Odd that a figure like Satan would gain importance in a strict monotheism

68) John’s Revelation depicts a hitherto unseen war in heaven

69) Augustine invents Satanic psychology: envy and pride

69) [Bloom again mentions “our current national obsession with angels”. Is this true? This doesn’t strike me as true].

Angels, Miracles, and America

71) angels have not appeared as much since the Enlightenment, when the laws of nature were either discovered or invented (or imposed, as Blake said)

74) ***J.H. Van den Berg: “If nature is understood to be the reality of science—in other words, a reality distilled from the other, total, general, daily reality by a narrowly circumscribed, uncommon, acquired, and in every way artificial, point of view—then, indeed, miracles involve things so far removed from their common nature that they can no longer show the presence of God.”

74) importance of traditional wisdom literature on gnosticism, angels, etc., as a standard against which new claims about these phenomena should be measured.

75) tension in angelology between monotheism and the elevation of other heavenly bodies to a status rivaling God’s

75) ancient pattern that gods of other faiths are demoted to angels or demons

75) “The solitary eminence of Yahweh prevented the Jews from developing a full-scale, overt mythology, though there are many traces of such polytheistic inventiveness before the resurgence of the “Yahweh alone” spirit that seems to commence with the prophet Hosea in the 8th century B.C.E.”

76) rise of angel belief in America despite Paul’s influential strictures against them.

77) “…ancient, medieval, and modern Gnosis all seek to answer an authentic and lasting spiritual need, which is to reconcile time and death with out intimations of immortality.”

77) an anonymous midrash holds that Jacob claims he is greater than Moses because he wrestled with the angel and won. Moses replies that the angels were afraid of him after he himself rose to heaven. This shows the enduring enmity between man and angels, angels’ jealously of man.

78) one tradition holds that Moses is higher than the angels

79-80) the power of Mormon angelology in illuminating America’s fascination with angels.

Chapter 2. Dreams

The Answering Angel

86) Joseph Karo’s “Answering Angel” is a man-made angel, who dictated the Kabbalistic masterwork, the Zohar.

86) Hayim Vital, another disciple of Isaac Luria, believed that every word we utter creates an angel.

88) The Answering Angel had to pass tests of veracity to establish his credentials

88) This conception of man-made angels threatens God’s role as the creator

88) the Safed rabbis also replaced Enoch with Elijah as the lesser Yahweh

88) “…Kabbalists read not only the words but the letters, and the spaces in between the letters and the words, and interpretations of these gaps also brought forth angels.”

89) “The Talmud says that a dream is only one-sixtieth part prophecy…”

89) “The quasi-automatic speech of a maggid is not altogether different from current Pentecostalism…”

[what is the relationship between “maggid” and “meggido” root of Armageddon.?]

[If it seems odd to say that man creates angels, it doesn’t seem so odd to say that man creates dreams.]

92) a wise rabbinical adage: “There is no dream without worthless things.”

92) “All dreams follow the mouth.” [What does this mean?]

93) Freud disparages dreams, (practically speaking) lumping them with will irrational illnesses; Jung honors the dream

94) Rabbi Hisada: “An uninterpreted dream is like an unread letter.”

94) much theology agrees with Freud in disparaging the dream

95) Nietzsche: dreams themselves are a mode of interpretation

95) Nietzsche: “…that our moral judgements and valuations are only images and fantasies concerning physiological processes unknown to us, and a kind of habitual language to describe certain nervous irritations? that all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown text, one which is perhaps unknowable but yet felt?”

96) Freud rejects this attack on the authority of our own consciousness

97) Francis Crick believes that dreams are the brain’s method of getting rid of the day’s irrelevant material: we should not necessarily try to remember our dreams

98) Bloom wants to affirm the ancient link between angels and dreams.

99) Shakespeare associates dreams with stage representations; both are shadows

99) Duke of Clarence’s dream in Richard III the longest dream in Shakespeare.

101) association is the key element in dreams and in dream interpretation

102) Freud probably picked up associationist psychology from John Stuart Mill—still an associationist—whom Freud translated. Locke the father of associationist psychology

102-103) In societies, like India, where selves overlap more readily, so too can dreams: the dreamer can dream the dream of someone else

104) In a psychoanalytic context, “telepathy is induced by the analyst’s manipulation of transference, which makes the analyst in what, in India, might be considered a medium or even a god.”

104) dreaming a dream simultaneously dreamed by another is a crucial element in some cultures, including Indian and aboriginal. [Cf. also the sensation of “intersubjectivity”—sharing the thoughts of others—during an LSD experience]

Sigmund Freud’s Dream Book

[For Bloom, Freud is a blocking agent, skewing our contact with the rich dream traditions of the past]

105) Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams perhaps most influential work of the 20th century

105) Alexander Welsh argues that Freud’s lasting contributions are the idea we are bound by the contingencies of personal history and his persuasive method of analyzing personal narrative

105) Freud wrongly reduced all dreams to the disguised fulfillment of a repressed wish

106) Freud wanted to become a secular prophet by denying the prophetic importance of dreams

107) Counter-transference is the land-mind of psychoanalysis and Freud never wrote his much-promised work on the subject

108) Freud had a hypnotic influence on his patients; Freud probably  influenced the telling of his patients’ dreams so that they were Freudian before being uttered.

108) “…an authentic occult relation governed the analytic session.”

108) Freud’s greatest wish fulfillment was his own intellectual ambition

108) Freud can’t help to mention in The Interpretation of Dreams that when Freud was born a peasant woman proclaimed that a great man had come into the world. So much for the great demystifier.

109) “Freud’s creation is a mythology, reared upon the central myth of the drives of love and death.” In this he resembles the pre-Socratic Empedocles [whose only cosmological elements were love and strife]

109) Freud’s darkest insight, that we are each are own worst enemy, he probably learned from Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.

110) Freud’s work magnificent so long as you do not try to seek any scientific validity within it

111) Wittgenstein thought Freud’s work pre-theoretical; it is “speculation”

114) Freud: Our infancy utterly overdetermines the rest of our life.

Prophecy and Dreams

117) Free association inevitably calls up sexuality—hence in the inevitably of transference

118) Freud rejected prophetic dreams not only because of his scientism, but because there was “nothing to tell” because of our overdetermined natures.

119) Talmudists and Kabbalists believed that dreams were prophetic only to the degree they were correctly interpreted; hence the importance of dream interpretation, as in the Talmudic adage:: “Dreams follow the mouth.”

119-120) Zohar: complex levels of dreams must be reflected off the Shekhinah (God’s feminine aspect)

121) The form of each and every individual thing is preformed in the Shekhinah

122) “We  die solitary deaths, but dream communal dreams, which is the true subject of this book…”

122) “Freud’s greatest power is to persuade us that we are lived by forces beyond our wills, and by desires that we may never recognize, and by images that we have internalized.”

123) “Nietzsche’s eternal question: ’Who is the interpreter, and what power does he or she attempt to gain over the text?”

123) “Freud absolutely declined to see that to interpret is to prophecy.”

Chapter 3. Not Dying

The “Near-Death Experience”

127) Raymond A. Moody’s Life After Life  the seminal book or modern near-death experiences.

128) Bloom’s humorous skepticism about Moody’s work

132) Kenneth Ring’s Life At Death (1980) continued the tradition.

133) Bloom’s own “near-death experience”

135) near-death experience industry is “worthy of a major satirist, if only we had one anymore.”

Shamanism: OtherworLdly Journeys

136) a shaman believes he can break down the barrier between heaven and earth. Dream prophecy is one power of a shaman

135) The Greeks spoke of seeing dreams rather than having them, making them sound inherently visionary

137) Greek shamans distinguished between the soul and an occult self (daemon)

137) “strife between divine self and natural soul is crucial to all shamanism” as taught by Pythagoras, Empedocles and Orpheus

137) a belief in an older, divine self is the basis of all Gnosticism

138) The ecstasy that accompanies the shaman’s otherworldly journey is the authentic mark of a gnosis.

139 hallucinatory mushrooms (one called soma) lie at the origins of Hinduism

140) orthodox Christianity shies away from the 40 days Jesus spent with his disciples after the Resurrection; Americans prefer the resurrected Jesus, a shamanistic Jesus who was resurrected in a divine ecstasy.

141) “Central to shamanism are its mysteries: flight, levitation, gender transformation, bilocation, and animal and bird incantations.” These are done in order to restore the undying self of the dead.

141) “Interpenetration of dream-account and quest-narrative is the norm; both are forms of romance, in the technical sense of a marvelous story that depends for its effect upon imperfect knowledge [my italics], upon the enchantment of the unencountered.”

142) The common ground of shamanistic dreams and voyages is the ultimate human desire; survival in confrontation with death.”

142) “Resurrection for these [the Catholic and mainline Protestant churches] does not follow the pattern of Jesus, whose ascension in those traditions was viewed as a kind of promissory note for the vast resurrection someday to come, or perhaps more as a first installment.”

142) Catholic feminists are “the authentic shock troops of the New Age.”

144) Innate divinity at the center of shamanism, Pythagoreanism, Orphism, Gnosticism, Spiritual Enthusiasm

144) “An immense society governed by psychopharmacology is not privileged to judge ecstatic religion, whether its own or of past time and place.”

144) Dreams foretelling otherworldly journeys and reincarnation are almost invariably associated.

144) Bloom says the current out-of-body experiences are so impoverished because we lack any sense of innate divinity, and an “incapacity for spiritual ecstasy.”

The Astral Body: The Zelem

146) various conceptions of the astral body; cf. the Greek word ochema meaning both astral body and vehicle or chariot; our souls were sowed in the stars by the Demiurge: some souls are placed in bodies, other in planets, forerunning astrology

147) Henry Corbin, a Sufi scholar, articulated a his sense of a “reality halfway between the empirical and the divine worlds,” a primary influence on Bloom’s book.

147) Resurrection body is sometimes described as one’s angelic counterpart

148) Hurqalya is the Sufi angelic realm, containing both a heaven and a hell, “where the past is not yet completed and so can be altered, and where the present and the future are always intermixed, so that resurrection is both here and to come.” All of the Omens of Millenium can be found in Hurqalya

149) If you can see the Emerald Cities of Hurqalya, then you will see the “state of the image” of the Resurrection Body.

149) ** The Kabbalah calls this image zelem, which is the word used in Genesis when we are told that God created us in his own image.”

149) Ibn `Arabi: God uses left over clay from Adam to create the palm tree and the Earth of True Reality, Hurqalya, which contains a universe for each of our souls. Each soul has an image in which it contemplate itself, and so resurrect itself.

150) God must have a similar Image or likeness: cf. Genesis 1:26 when God makes man in “our own image.” (our being the Elohim).

150) The Kabbalistic zelem came to be regarded as the principle of individuation within each of us. For Scholem (152) the fact that it individuates us makes it more authentic, even if we only perceive it during death.

Immortality and Resurrection

152) Indian tradition is consistent that the inner self is indestructible

154) Again, early Israelite traditions had no notions of the immortality of the soul; Daniel and Enoch represent Indo-Iranian influences

156) Zoroastrianism’s key adept is that all of us have a “guardian angel,” a kind of prototype of ourselves.

156) Henry Corbin calls the place where we confront our angel “imaginal”—meaning nor imaginary or imaginative but in Hurqalya, where resurrection takes place.

156) This imaginal world holds our intimations of resurrection and immortality

157) perpetual ambiguity in the West between the ideas of immortality and resurrection. Immortality of the soul was a Greek idea: they didn’t conceive of a resurrection because the soul was immortal anyway. Resurrection is a Zoroastrian idea developed by the intertestamental Jews and Jesus. Jesus believed his body would be resurrected after judgement by God

157) Bloom finds Greek immortality and Jewish/Christian resurrection incompatible

157) In New Testament death is “last enemy” while for Socrates death is a “friend”

158) For early Christians the soul was not intrinsically immortal; the dead bodies of the faithful would rise on “the last day.”

158) St. Paul was influenced by Plato more than Jesus; Paul seems to believe more in the immortality of the soul than Jesus

158) Early Jews didn’t believe in either immortality or resurrection. The original J writer of Genesis saw death as a finality.

159) Jewish Christians of Jerusalem may have held the Resurrection to be an inward rather than “Pauline historical event.”

159) Again: why does the New Testament tell us so little about the 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension?

159) Gnostic and Koranic view: Resurrection was Docetic, subjective, seen according to the merit of the observer

160) Why do Christian scholars choose Paul over James the Just, Jesus’ brother and the obvious inheritor of his legacy?

160) Ebionites: descendants of Jewish Christians led by James the Just, influenced Islam

160) Jewish Christians rejected Paul’s doctrine of the incarnation whereby Jesus is at once God and man, a 2nd Adam replacing the fallen Adam

161) Gnostic Jesus needs no descent from David or Virgin Birth; no Passion; he is an illumination, close to the Jesus of the Koran, who is identified with the angel Gabriel, who revealed the truth to Muhammed.

162) The Adam of the Anthropos myth is immortality; our return to him, and him to us, is resurrection

The Resurrection Body

162) Christian asceticism associates the body with death, as the evil flesh. Asceticism was a way toward resurrection

164) the debate over the nature of the resurrection body: is it material?

165) “Contemporary Catholics and mainline Protestants alike say they believe in resurrection, yet they generally mean a survival that involves some wraithlike entity.”
166) “The Gospel of Thomas may well include authentic sayings of Jesus not available elsewhere.”

166) Jesus, sounds Gnostic: “whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”

166) Contrast of Augustine’s spiritual body subject to obedience to Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas speaking of the intoxication we feel having heard his words

166) Bloom on the validity of the imaginal world

170) “Love, interpreting the body of the other, participates in a divination or insight that should be called “prophetic.””

170-71) Corbin on the four aspects of the human body: apparent body, spiritual flesh, astral body, angelic body

Chapter 4. Gnosis

The Hermetic Corpus: Divine Man

177) Hermetism fever during the Italian Renaissance: it was thought that the Hermetica preceded Moses; it was probably 1st century

177) Hermeticism the basis of alchemy and the occult

177) Hermetism believes in Anthropos, the original Man.

178) Gnosticism an experiential mode of religion seeking to abolish ignorance in order to learn the origins of Man

179) A Gnostic Creation story: immortal man becomes bound by love and sleep.

Christian Gnosticism: Valentinus and Resurrection

182) Gnosis is the deep self’s knowing of God, and God of the deep self.

183) Mysticism is not gnosticism, because mysticism is an intense form of faith

183) “You…come to see that originally your deepest self was no part of the Creation-Fall, but goes back to an archaic time before time, when that deepest self was part of a fullness that was God, a more human God than any worshipped since.”

[Yes, but I truly don’t understand what this means. I presume that the Creation-Fall are not here considered historical events. Was there a man who created the universe? Or is this metaphorical, that part of us retains a primordial pre-Fallen memory? In what sense does that make us immortal? …The best sense I can make out of it is that there is a parallel universe, a kind of full, all white light universe, which is true; the sensory world of birth and death is illusory, and less real than the world of light. Maybe.]

184) Gnosticism is distinguishing the psyche or soul from the true, deep self.

185) Bloom believes that Gnosticism began with the Jews who transmitted it to the early Christians through the Jewish Christians.

185) Gnostic Christianity begins with Jesus himself

185) Some Jewish traditions placed a divine Adam higher than the angels

186) early heresiologists called Simon Magus, an contemporary of John the Baptist and Jesus, the first Gnostic

186) Failed Prophecy becomes interpreted as apocalypse, and failed apocalypse becomes Gnosticism

187) Valentinus of Alexandria (100-175) outstanding figure of early Christian Gnosticism

188) Valentinian Resurrection: occurs during this lifetime, it is an awareness that leads to reunion with the original fullness: “While we exist in this world, we must acquire resurrection.”

193) Valentinus’ 3 part division of man: our bodies die, our individual souls survive, our inner spark returns to the Pleroma. The individual soul can only ascend after receiving a “spiritual body”

195) Valentinus taught that many of us were already resurrected, an elitist teaching

Sufism: Angel of Earth and Garment of Light

195) Origins of Sufism: God makes a primordial covenant with all of humanity-to-be before the creation of Adam

196) Hallaj, a Sufi martyr, identified knowing the Koran with resurrection

196) Description of Hurqalya, the Celestial Earth

198) There is an ease of movement between this world and the world of light, just as this is an ease of transition between our dreams and our waking images, or our reveries and return to reality.

The Kabbalah: Metatron, and the Lesser Yahweh

202-3) Enoch-Metatron predates formal Kabbalah, but always with direct and implied rabbinical censure

204) Perhaps the J writer’s terse “And Enoch walked with Yahweh and Yahweh took him, for he was not.” was once longer and redacted to show that Enoch and God equally were pre-Creation contemporaries.(The Gnostic formula is “Enoch is Metatron.”)

205) Moshe Idel: Jewish Gnosticism may be older than normative (Platonized) Judaism.

205) “central argument of this book: Was God originally anything more than Adam Kadmon? Is not the J Writer’s Yahweh more a man than an angel, even as he also is more an angel than God? The Gnostic myth of the Anthropos evidently was part of an archaic Jewish religion, censored out of existence in the redacted Hebrew Bible, but surviving in the figure variously called Enoch, Metatron, Hermes, Idris, or what you will.”

206) The many guises of Metatron: the Shekhinah, the rainbow after Noah’s flood, the back of God, Ezekiel’s chariot, the cherub at God’s throne, the phallus of God—images that normative Judaism could neither assimilate easily nor stamp out of the tradition

The Kabbalah: Luria’s Transmigration of Souls

207) ancient Jewish sages more concerned with Israel’s redemption than individual resurrection

208) “The Hebrew Bible has no separate sense of the soul as apart from the body.” Platonic influence altered the Jews’ original monistic conception of man; eventually they accepted Aristotle’s tripartite division

209) Bahir, (1175-80), earliest extant Kabbalistic work, perhaps owed much to Islamic Sufism as other sources; it teaches gilgul (literally, “rolling over”), transmigration of souls

210) If Adam, David, and the Messiah were three incarnations of the same soul, which body would ultimately be resurrected?

211) Ah, soul sparks can light the life of many bodies

211) Isaac Luria (1534-72) further developed the theory of sparks

212) Luria: Since all our souls were once part of Adam’s, his fall sent soul sparks flying everywhere—curiously akin to Augustine’s original fall.

213) Luria: parents and children almost never share the same sparks—except that Cain and Abel inherit Adam’s

214) Luria’s sparks opened a Pandora’s box; the anarchy of the sparks leaves no central focus for our transcendental aims; it led to abominations like Messiah Shabbatai Zevi’s apostasy

215) Perhaps Kabbalah could not overcome its syncretistic roots

Chapter 5. Millenium

American Centuries

219) “Fundamentalism…insists the Bible is inerrant, while for the most part declining the difficult labor of reading and interpreting its text.”

220) Jewish apocalyptic writings betray their Zoroastrian origins; there are no denunciations of Persia as there are of Bablyon, Greece and Rome

220) Antiochus Epiphanes was the provocation for Daniel’s prophecies about the “abomination of desolation”

221) Pharisees absorbed a bodily resurrection of the dead (after a last judgment) from the Zoroastrians which they passed on to Christianity; but many Jews still do not believe in this

222) Why do comfortable American middle classes (not being dispossessed) await the violent apocalypse? [Perhaps because they sense they live in an increasingly secular society, and wish judgement visited upon the “wicked” that surround them]

223) American apocalyptic movements since 1800; the Millerites

224) Joseph Smith taught that there are many gods, “the highest God himself was once the man Adam.”—just like Gnosticism

Gnosis of the World To Come

225) Hebrew prophecy was always partly moral admonition

226) If we know our deep selves, and so the Fullness, we might know what we once were and will become—hence have some knowledge of the future

226) “This short book, Omens of Millenium, has been written in the ancient conviction that “what makes us free is the Gnosis.”

227) “The most authentic omen of the Millenium could be named as our emergent dream of a guardian angel of personal resurrection, since the three most pervasive of current omens—angels, dreams, not dying—meet in that composite image.”

227) orthodoxy in all religions have suppressed the imaginative individuals, those in this book as well as Eckhart, Boehme, Swedenborg, Law, and Blake

228) The Essenes may be the same group as those that followed James the Just or the Dead Sea Covenanters, or both

230) Again Bloom asserts the fundamental Gnosticism of the American Religion

Coda: Not by Faith, Nor by the Angels
A Gnostic Sermon

Bloom follows this poem:

What makes us free is the Gnosis

of who we were

of what we have become

of where we were

of wherein we have been thrown

of whereto we are hastening

of what we are being freed

of what birth really is

of what rebirth really is

233) many are Gnostics without really knowing it

235) Gnostic reliance on inward knowledge rather than outward belief; Gnosis means knowing someone or something, but not necessarily knowing that

235) Knowing God is always reciprocal and mutual

236) Bloom: Gnosticism arose among Hellenistic Jews about a century before Christ; they were trying to revive earlier strands of Judaism that believed in an pre-Creation, primordial Adam-God, whose body took up the entire cosmos

of who we were

237) Before the fall, we were a part of God. We need to inwardly join these inner and outer realities, but not through psychoanalytic methods

of what we have become

239) We are trapped in the kenoma, a realm of fruitless production, trapped by demon-angels

of where we were

240) That is the original Fullness, the Pleroma

241) The Gnostic God is an androgyne, thereby “improving” upon the strictly male Godhead of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity

of wherein we have been thrown

242) having been thrown describes the hopelessness of our condition in separation from God

of whereto we are hastening

243) our psyches have thrown us into this abyss

244) The fall of man was also a fall from God, himself cast into a different kenoma abyss; Time “an envious shadow” fell into our world

of what we are being freed

245) freed from the religion of the false Yahweh

246) For Gnostics, the “Creation” was really the fall, the division, and orthodox religion lies us to us when it describes the creation as a benign act. The God of Creation is dehumanized and debased

of what birth really is

247) Jesus (Gospel of Thomas): We were never created, so no need for an end-time. Knowing one’s inner spark is more important than knowing one’s natural parents

of what rebirth really is

249) rebirth intimately tied with resurrection, but not necessarily of the traditional Christian variety

249) The Jesus of Thomas is resurrected in this lifetime

250) Gnostics were shocked at the early church’s worship of the cross, an instrument of torture which couldn’t have affected the spark of the fiery Jesus

251) Gospel of Philip:  Christ “first arose and then he died.”

252) Gnostics hold orthodox God accountable for introducing death into the world

253) Bloom: “In those moments [of knowing the deep self] you do not know death.”

Books Of Note

20) The Perennial Philosophy—Aldous Huxley (Bloom says it’s about “self-abnegating spirituality”

25) The Gnostic Religion—Hans Jonas

39) The Left Hand of Darkness—Ursula K. Le Guin (“wonderful fantasy novel”)

47) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments—James H. Charlesworth, ed.

See 1 Enoch, a “savage reading experience”

62) The Golden Ass—Apuleius (“a splendid romance”)

97) Secrets of Sleep—Alexander Borbely

102) Dreams, Illusions, and Other Realities—Wendy Doniger (O’Flaherty)

101) Interpretation of Dreams—Freud

105) Freud’s Wishful Dream Book—Alexander Welsh

131) The Greeks and the Irrational—E.R. Dodds

138) Shamanism—Mircea Eliade

150) The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism—Henry Corbin

155) Elysion: On Ancient Greek and Roman Beliefs Concerning a Life After Death—G. Wilson Knight (“my favorite of all modern literary critics”)

187) Gnostic Scriptures—Bentley Layton (“best translation of the ancient texts”)

210) On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead—Gershom Scholem

220) When Time Shall Be No More—Paul Boyer (“most acute study of the prevalence of prophecy belief in modern American culture”)


See also reviews of Bloom’s Book of J, Anxiety of Influence, and Western Canon.

See also Elaine Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels.

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