In the course of teaching on Gnosticism in several different classes, I once had the idea that Scientology was a kind of “reverse Gnosticism” — you have the secret knowledge, etc., but instead of identifying the foreign particles (in the case of classical Gnosticism, truly divine; in the case of Scientology, somehow coming from aliens) within oneself as the true self that must escape from the earth, you identify the foreign particles as a problem to be gotten rid of so that life on earth can procede smoothly. Something roughly parallel seems to be at work in the fringe “mass suicide” school of environmental thought — the transcendent element that distinguishes humanity from the rest of nature is not exalted as the highest and most wonderful thing, but is viewed as a dangerous disturbance that must be gotten rid of or at least minimized for the sake of the earth.
Looking for a more serious and mainstream example, one might also throw in the valorization of “the body” in various humanistic disciplines, reflecting the logic of Foucault’s famous quotation, itself a reversal of the logic that underwrote Gnosticism and so much of Hellenistic and Christian thought: “The soul is the prison of the body.”
Does this seem to be a useful concept? Can you think of other examples? What might be causing the emergence of “reverse Gnosticism”?