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Three Modern Gnostics

July 20, 2021

Walter A. McDougall’s “Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776,” examines the aspiration to control nature on display today in Jeff Bezos’s rocket fight into space.

The desire, even the will, to control nature underlies 20th and 21st century space exploration much as the Renaissance Hermeticists of the 15th century used “magic” to achieve that control.

In sum, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson reveal a very strong arrogance that permeates American culture.

Like Bezos, who today–July 20–launched his “Blue Origin” rocket from a field in Texas and Branson who, on July 11, launched “Virgin Galactic’s” commercial vehicle for space tourism, Elon Musk’s “SpaceX” is planning to launch a mission to Mars by 2022.

Musk’s “SpaceX” is designed to enable humanity to become a space-based civilization. He thinks big and is concerned about the future of mankind.  

In a YouTube interview conducted in 2013, Musk reveals a modern, scientific, man unhindered by theology, philosophy or a sense of human limits.

Unfortunately, Musk was preceded by thinkers similarly motivated to control nature.

The Renaissance Hermeticists developed a view of magic as a means to predict the future and control nature. You can read about them in Frances Yates’ study of Giordano Bruno or in my long out-of-print The Development of Political Theory and in a chapter from that study published at

The history of Renaissance magic is part of a long tradition of attempts to free us from our humanity in the realization that we are gods. 

We are not gods, of course, and we see in Musk, Bezos and Branson a glimpse of those 15th century magicians who aspired to transcend our mortality in Gnostic speculative knowledge that we are gods.

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