Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ever get the feeling that you've been bamboozled

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

This post is based on the intriguing new book by Geoff Shepard, who served in the Nixon White House.

Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot that Brought Nixon Down

“The system worked,” Carl Bernstein’s famous assessment of Watergate, turns out to be completely wrong. Powerful new evidence reveals that in the most consequential scandal in American history, virtually nothing worked as intended. The real Watergate scandal is how our Constitution and Bill of Rights were deliberately trashed in the successful effort to realign political power, drive President Nixon from office, and imprison his senior aides.

Here is a talk Geoff Shepard gave about the book at the Nixon Library:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

U.S. Healthcare Reform 101

This post relates to an excellent podcast dealing with healthcare in the United Stated:

Podcast:  Blunt Force Truth
Episode: 256
Title:      Who Really Benefits from the Healthcare System? – an Interview with David Berg
Link:      BFT Episode 256

In this episode, Blunt Force Truth interviews David Berg a Canadian physician who moved to the United States to practice and was perplexed by how healthcare works (or doesn't work) in the United States.

Canada VS the US - No Winners

In Canada, it was a fairly simple, government system where access is denied via lack of resources or supply. In this system, one does not make money particularly if one is wasteful.

In contrast, the US system was complex and denied access via this complexity and expense. It is a system where the only way to make money is via waste and administration.

Dr Berg does not think the Canadian system is the answer, While the Canadian system gets glowing reviews in their press, this is more propaganda than reality. In Canada, it is not cool (politically correct) to trash their system and the media is protective of it instead of being an objective critic of it. He points out that the current Canadian system lacks resources to adequately care for patients in a timely manner and that paying for private services out of your own pocket is illegal.

Dr Berg is also not a fan of the current US system. He feels that it is rigged against those who use or pay for it in favor of insurance companies, drug companies, healthcare providers and politicians. In terms of those who use are pay for it:
  • It is not designed to work in their favor.
  • It does not benefit them.
  • It is not optimized for patient care or outcome.

In fact the system was designed or evolved in favor of the owners (shareholders) of insurance companies, drug companies , healthcare providers and politicians who get contributions from them.

Critical Thinking 101

Berg posits those that currently game the system (Insurance, Healthcare, Drug companies) also control the narrative, a false narrative, that hinders users and payers from thinking clearly about the subject and finding solutions that benefit users and payers.

Affordable Care Act - Under a Critical Lens

Berg uses the Affordable Care Act to demonstrate how the narrative works against users and payers. The very name of the act is misleading. It was not affordable and did not result in better care for the vast majority of people so who did it benefit. What was its purpose?

We know that it did not really benefit most users or payers but, if one looks at whom it did benefit, it was actually a great success:

  • It was a great rallying tool for the Democrat base.
  • It showed their power in office.
  • It also greatly benefited their insurance and drug company donors.
This is a great obstacle to reforming the current system. Most people assume that healthcare is set up for the benefit of the users (patients) and people paying for it but this is not the case in the United States. This leads to people assuming that any reform is also designed to benefit these two groups which is also not the case. To make any headway, we first need to understand who is currently benefiting from the system and how they control the narrative.

Shareholder Bonanza

As an example of how the current system is benefiting shareholders rather at the expense of users and payers of healthcare, Berg uses United Healthcare as an example. While the US stock marketed as whole has rocketed up in recent years many healthcare related stocks like UNH have risen exponentially against it. So while in his words the DOW roughly doubled over a fairly short period of time, UNH stock rocketed up almost ten times.

Controlling the Narrative

Yet, we do not hear about these huge financial gains in the media. The media instead bombards us with stories about how healthcare providers are not making money and dropping coverage:

NYT - Sorry We Don't Take Obamacare, 2016-05-15 Sunday Review

The healthcare, drug and insurance companies benefiting from the system control the narrative and only want us to focus on where they are losing money not on the vast overall gains that they are making.

Profits as the #1 Problem

Most drug, healthcare and insurance is controlled by private companies who are legally required to maximize shareholder profit. The number 1 problem that these companies are trying to solve is how to make more money for their shareholders not provide better or more affordable care. When one looks at things via this perspective it explains why user and payers for healthcare are not benefiting from the current system.

Explaining the $80 Aspirin 

A good example of how this perception vs reality gap works is the Medical Loss Ratios implemented under the Obama Administration. The stated purpose of this was to raise the amount spent on patient care vs administrative costs by mandating that 80% of costs should be spent on care and limiting administrative costs to 20%.

Both critics on the right and left have acknowledged that all this did was to dramatically raise costs:

Here is criticism on the right:

National Center for Policy Analysis - Medical Loss Ratio Could Raise Insurer Profits

Here is similar criticism on the left:

Physicians for National Healthcare - Insurers use ‘medical loss ratios’ to cheat us

This situation has led to obvious questions from consumer like:

  • Why can I pay $300 cash for an MRI but insurance companies pay $3,000?
  • How does that make money for insurance companies?

The simple answer is that,if they are obligate to pay 85% towards patient care,then their incentive is to drive up costs in order to drive up costs.

A big way to drive up costs is to determine where healthcare occurs. Costs at a hospital can be up to 5 to 30 times higher at a hospital versus a general care facility so this has led to hospitals buy up imaging and testing where higher hospital rates are then applied.

When you get a bill from the insurance company they often show a negotiated rate that is still many times higher than what you would have paid cash to receive from a non hospital facility. This negotiated rate is another attempt to control the narrative and make you feel that somehow they have saved you money.

The $30 aspirin from a hospital is still the same 1 cent aspirin that we all can buy at the corner drug store, it just has a $29.99 hospital rent attached to it.

Mining CPT Codes

The real business of US healthcare is not providing patient care but mining CPT codes for profit. Hospitals focus on mining medical records (the raw material) for CPT (medical billing codes) that they can use to bill for services. This is their business and they are legally responsible for mining the most profit for their shareholders.

Free Market vs Healthcare

Is there a perfect correlation between the free market and health care? No because there is not a direct relationship between supply and demand. For example, a sale on appendectomies will not result in a rush on them. There is also the vast complexity of the current US system that hides its true cost. In general, we need to deal with the complexity that hides the true costs.

Right vs Privilege

Dr. Berg does not feel it is helpful debating whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. This is because everyone could obtain adequate health care if the waste and inefficiency of the current system caused by the current system is addressed. When pressed, he leans in the direction that healthcare is a privilege that all people should have access to once shortfalls of the current systems are fixed.

Not Working for You

There is the perception that healthcare in the US is not working only for the less well off but this is not true. The system is not working well for virtually anyone that uses it or pays for it.

Berg points out that 51% of workers make 15 thousand dollars or less and 38% of workers make 10 thousand or less. This means that healthcare not going to work for them

The current solution not working because it has not identified problem correctly. People who most need access have the least ability. Individuals are unable to access in any manner other than in a manner that benefits shareholders

We need to think about problem correctly. Most people start out throwing solutions out without identifying problem. Politicians are concerned with polls and their base, which is a valid concern for them, but does not solve problem for payers or users

Seven Step Process to Fix Healthcare

Dr Berg has identified a seven step process to reform healthcare. He has added and removed steps along the way but his main rule is to not add steps unless it overall adds benefit over complexity.

proactive, identify people with most needs and use it to anticipate needs to lower

steve jobs 1,000 songs in your pocket
just the ones you want

Step #1 Collect Data

Collecting data is just as important for health patient health and reducing costs not just collecting money. You can use it to create a patient plan to reduce costs. For example, if someone has asthma, you can use this knowledge to provide them with a ton of cheap inhalers to avoid emergencies.

#2 Engineer the Logistics

There are many things that prevent people from receiving healthcare such as lack of transportation, money issues, fear, language difficulties. One of the biggest issues is that most people cannot take off a day for a doctor visit and most jobs will not let you take just a few hours off at a time. Approximately 70% of medical problems can be taken care of over the phone and it is easy to provide 24 hours phone service for people.

#3 Routine Visits

Nobody should step into facility with being fully aware of what is needed. They should get tests and prescriptions ahead of time. Having an entity work with the patient and doctor in a collaboration can dramatically reduce costs by avoiding repeated exams and tests that are wasteful.

#4 Specialists

Partner with specialist to make sure they know what they are treating and have all the tests in place and a conservative plan that can be ramped up.

#5 Get Fair Price

Price needs to be negotiated based on the fair price not the typical insurance or hospital rate. The fair price is the price that an individual would pay cash for at a non hospital facility.

#6 Payment Assistance

You then need to work with vendors to qualify for their payment assistance programs. Most vendors offer payment assistance for services even for wealthy individuals. This payment assistance programs are based on the fair price which makes it doubly important to make sure that you have negotiated for a fair price.

#7 use insurance for any remaining cost

Universal Problem

Most insurance is not the appropriate kind. For example, high deductible insurance has been foisted onto most workers but it is not appropriate unless you are making an upper income.

Most people to not realize it but the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US is healthcare and most of the people going bankrupt have health insurance.

It is a critical error to assume that we need insurance for healthcare as it is one of the worst ways to pay for it. We assume that we need it for healthcare when we do not.

Dr Berg stresses that we all have a problem with the current system not just the poor. No one is equipped with the skills to navigate the current system, not just people with low IQ's.

Insurance companies, drugs manufacturers and hospitals have power to lay the blame elsewhere. It does not make sense for them to lower costs since does not benefit shareholders.

We need to understand these things before we can solve the problem.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Our Murder Weapon

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” - Neitzsche

Today's post focuses on the recent Waking up podcast by Sam Harris, #73 Forbidden Knowledge:

The Bell Curve

In the podcast, Sam Harris interviews Charles Murray, the author of the Bell Curve. The Bell Curve is one of the most controversial books of the past 50 years. The books deals with the growing importance of IQ and the partitioning of our society with the upper end consisting of an elite class of high IQ people who are isolated from the rest of society.

The Bell Curve was and still is controversial because, while not focused on race, it did address racial IQ disparities in a small section of the book, which is a taboo subject for many people in the US particularly for those on the left.

This controversy recently flared up again at Middlebury College where Charles Murray was invited to speak. Left wing protesters shut down the talk and ended up assaulting Murray and a Middlebury professor who was assigned to be at the lecture.

Sam Harris had his own run in with political correctness recently when Ben Affleck labeled him a racist for criticizing Islam (Yes, I know, Islam is not a race). This led him to question the vilification that Charles Murray had undergone for years after publishing the Bell Curve.

Thesis of the Curve

Charles Murray points out that his main thesis of the Bell Curve and his later work, Coming apart has nothing to do with race. His basis thesis boils down to several things:

  • The future is being shaped by the radical increase in the valuation of IQ (basic intelligence).
  • Our educational system is increasingly effective isolating and pulling intellectual talent into elite universities.
  • This high valuation and ability to isolate has created a cognitive elite that is increasingly powerful, affluent, culturally different and increasingly isolated from and ignorant of the rest of society.
Bell Curve Summary

While the Bell Curve has been demonized for delving into IQ differences between various races, it actually does not focus much on that topic.

  • The first 3 or 4 chapters focus on the nature of the cognitive elite and how it came about.
  • The next 8 chapters deal with the relationship between IQ and various socioeconomic factors such as:
    • Unemployment
    • Poverty
    • Educational Attainment
    • Crime
These initial chapters were restricted to non Latino whites to specifically avoid the heated issue of race. From there, the book addressed the nation as a whole and, from there, it briefly addressed race and IQ, which created the controversy surrounding the book.

Reality of G

Charles Murray asserts that in the decades after publication of the Bell Curve that the reality of g (broad mental capacity measured by cognitive tests) has had even more validation:

Grey vs White Matter

MIT Technology Review - Brain Images Reveal the Secret to Higher IQ, The integrity of neural wiring is a big factor in determining intelligence. It’s also inheritable.

New research suggests that the layer of insulation coating neural wiring in the brain plays a critical role in determining intelligence. In addition, the quality of this insulation appears to be largely genetically determined, providing further support for the idea that IQ is partly inherited

Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) - Study offers first genetic analysis of people with extremely high intelligence

The first ever genetic analysis of people with extremely high intelligence has revealed small but important genetic differences between some of the brightest people in the United States and the general population.

SNPs have been shown to be related to social behavior and mental function. Until fairly recently, we only knew of a handful of these relationships but our knowledge has rapidly increased this into the thousands.

In terms of science, it has further strengthened the points made in the Bell Curve, not overturned them.

IQ and Outcomes

Murray also points to studies conducted by people like Christopher Winship of Harvard that have confirmed the independent role of IQ on societal outcomes. This has been verified by sibling studies which offer a fixed effects analysis method of studying this since siblings with differing IQs are raised in an identical environment:

Meng Hu Blog - Income Inequality and IQ, by Charles Murray


The ideas surrounding G (general intelligence) are not new. They were initially developed around the turn of the last century by Charles Spearman. Spearman noticed that tests seemed to be clustering on something which was latter termed IQ. You may have better skills in one area of intelligence (reading vs math) but, in general, if you score above average in one area, you tend to score above in the other.

The Heaviness of IQ

Murray does agree that IQ is not the only factor in determining success. He mentions Steven Goldberg, a retired sociologist from City College NY, who said that IQ has the same role as weight for an offensive lineman. You need a certain amount of it to be successful but you also need other attributes like grit (deterrmination).

Genetic Amplification of IQ

IQ is highly heritable, 50 to 80 percent. Surprisingly, it more heritable the older we get. This means that it play an ever greater role over environment as we age. - Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings

 Intelligence is one of the most heritable behavioural traits. Here, we highlight five genetic findings that are special to intelligence differences and that have important implications for its genetic architecture and for gene-hunting expeditions. (i) The heritability of intelligence increases from about 20% in infancy to perhaps 80% in later adulthood. 

Nature not Nurture

As mentioned above sibling studies, have been used to confirm that IQ largely (but not exclusively) hereditary:

New Scientist - IQ is inherited, suggests twin study

Genes have a very strong influence over how certain parts of our brains develop, scientists in the US and Finland have found. And the parts most influenced are those that govern our cognitive ability. In short, you inherit your IQ.

Identical twins have identical genes, whereas fraternal twins sharing on average half their genes. The twins shared environments, means researchers can separate genetic and environmental factors.

While environment does play a factor, the role of environment decreases over time. Further, the role of environment is so complicated that we have yet to devise means of enriching environments that produce sustained IQ gains in children over time despite the vast amount of resources spent. Further, these efforts may actually be detrimental:

Washington Post - The big problem with early childhood education

Research in child development over decades as well as modern neuroscience clearly show that young children learn best when they are active. That means they get to put their hands on things, interact with other kids and adults, move a lot, create, play. But in the current school reform era, that’s not what is happening in too many classrooms. The emphasis is on “rigorous instruction,” and young children are forced to sit at their desks doing academic work — sometimes with little or no recess and/or sufficient physical education.

It is currently fashionable for some reason to believe that IQ related to environmental factors is good and that the piece correlated to genes is bad. This probably due to the feeling that we can fix environments but not genes. This is a false notion because the ability to increase IQ via environmental means is extremely difficult, particularly long term sustained gains. These mistaken beliefs have led to many failed policies that have had negative effects despite their good intentions.

The Big 5

A good example of the problems involved with manipulating humans via environmental factors can be shown in other areas besides IQ, areas like personality traits. The big five personality traits are:

  • extroversion
  • agreeableness
  • conscientiousness
  • neuroticism
  • openness
Like IQ, these are roughly 50% ascribed to environment. Environment can be divided into shared and non shared environments. The non shared environment plays a larger role in influencing the development of these traits and it is not something that we can readily manipulate. - Why are children in the same family so different from one another?

Lest the reader slip over these results, let us make explicit the implications of these findings: Upper middle-class brothers who attend the same school and whose parents take them to the same plays, sporting events, music lessons, and therapists, and use similar child rearing practices on them are little more similar in personality measures than they are to working class or farm boys, whose lives are totally different. Now, perhaps this is an exaggeration of the known facts, but not by much. Given the low correlations of biological siblings and the near zero correlations of adopted siblings, it is evident that most of the variance in personality arises in the environmental differences among siblings, not in the differences among families.

The Parent Myth

judith ridge harris wrote book on subject

The New Flat Earth Society

the left used to be boosterish towards iq
the SAT was invented for meritrocratic purposes
a way for kids for non exclusive backgrounds to get into ivy league schools
iq is a good way to indentify intellectual talent

The New Flat Earth Society

now ordinary people are comfortable with iq concepts
elites are uncomfortable, elites are flat earthers
iq test just test ability to take tests
cultural biased

Uncomfortable Truths

iq tests have predictive validity
for income, employment decisions
can test for bias
rate items for cultural loading
does SAT capture ability to do well in college
minorities do better on culturally loaded questions than purely abstract questions
there are systematic ways to interrogate the quality of tests
modern tests pass these with flying colors

now that the human genome has been
we can look at the subject in a whole new level
bluriness of race is noise in the signal
it will obscure differences not highlight them
if one says genese are not a componenet of IQ
then you need to prove that it is solely environmental
this is a high bar to prove

if genes and enviroment are a 50/50 split
if enviroment is caused by racial difference
then race would have to live in an environment

standard deviation then environment would need to be
1.5 below the mean
if you look at income, education, occupation, it does not make sense
it is not plausible

The Flynn Effect 

flynn effect
also identified by richard lynn in east asian tests
iq tests are renormed
iq scores have been gradually been rising
unknown why this is happening
is it a matter of increasing exposure to things what would help on iq tests
could also be partly an increase in g but probably not a lot

The Big Why?

why write book
important to recognize differences
cristina hoff summers education
the equality premise
that people only suffer adverse outcomes because of race or sexism has cause harm
problem with affirmative action
putting people in positions where they are set up to fail


social forces
higher education sucked intellectual talent from hinterlands and shuttled off to ivy league
intellectual talent more highly valued
plus natural human implulses
want to hang out with people like you
silicon valley
los angeles
seperation of classes worrisome
for a country like the us where

Preaching vs Practice

equality has always been valued
jonathan haight
deplorables comment
new elite class treats mainstream america with disdain and is isolated from it
new upper class in a lot of ways behave very well
belong to civic
because no code of values that they feel that they or others need to live up to
do not practice what they preach

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Course I'm respectable

Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough. -Noah Cross in Chinatown

 This post is based on an excellent RIYL podcast interview with artist, Josh Bayer by Brian Heater: 

RIYL - Episode #213 Josh Bayer 

Josh Bayer went to art school in the late 80's. His art teachers were part of the 70's abstract expressionist scene. Consequently, his education did not focus on techniques or fundamentals. He jokingly compares his schooling to the Art School Confidential Movie:

Making Crudity Work

While Josh would have liked to have had a more traditional art education, he does say crudity can and does work for certain artists. Art that is not interested in traditional anatomy or volumes. Art that is flat.

He mentions Laura Owens as an example of one such artist.

Another artist he mentions for his crude flat style is Michael DeForge:

Back to Black

Josh also mentions two other artists that went in a different direction. In this case, they hated traditional superheros and the direction that traditional comics had been headed. Instead, they focused on a heavy pen and ink style:

One of these artists is Charles Burns:

the other artist that he mentions is Gary Panter:

Crumb Contemporaries & Acolytes

Frank Stack

Paul Mavrides

Classic but Unfashionable

Josh mentions Ethan Van Sciver as an artist with a classic but, currently, unfashionable style:

Newspaper Style

Josh list many artists, who worked in what he termed as an expressionistic newspaper style. This is a style that he jokes using the China Town quote from the top of blog that is so old that it has finally become respectable.

Herb Trimpe

Al Milgrom

Tom Morgan

Sal Buscema

Milton Caniff

A Day In the Life

Josh mentions that George Orwell had a weekly newspaper column call, As I please, where he could write about whatever struck his fancy: - As I Please

Here are some artists whose comics follow this style by illustrating their lives and going in whatever direction their lives take;

Noah Van Sciver

Laura Weinstein

Back to the Basics

Josh eventually returned to school, the School of Visual Arts in NYC, to focus on the basics that he missed learning during his first go at school.

School of Visual Arts - NYC

He studied figure drawing under Phil Jimenez:

What drew him to the school was being able to learn from Thomas Hart

Comic Art Skill Set

According to Josh, many art schools skip on the fundamentals required to be a good comic artist. Comic artistry requires many fundamentals:

Understanding of ground lines
Knowledge of anatomy

...but the key skill that is often over looked is time management. Comic book artists need to put all these things together and get their work out quick and often dirty.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Gnosticism Part II - Your Own Personal Jesus

Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there 
Depeche Mode, Personal Jesus

Gnosticism - The Series 

Gnosticism is a multi-post series on certain strains of early christian thought that were declared heresies and suppressed. For centuries, little was known about these heresies except for what was published by orthodox critics. Fairly recent discoveries of ancient texts have shed amazing insight into the amazing diversity of early christian belief. Other posts in this series include:

Gnosticism Part I - The Eastern Jesus

Personal Jesus

In this post, we will examine Gnosticism from the view of its early critics to its modern reexamination. On the way we will uncover a Christianity that is more mystical and personal than its orthodox brethren.

Ancient Critics

Irenaeus - Irenaeus


satirized some of the more bizarre elements
elaborate cosmologies multistoried heavens

Modern Scholarship
Origins of Gnosticism

Early modern scholarship focused in exploring the origins of Gnosticism and fell into several main camps:

The Underworld of Platonic Thought

The first of the modern scholars focused on Gnosticism's ties to ancient Greek philosophy:

Adolf Von Harnack

The first of these was Adolf Von Harnack who sought to explain Gnosticism as a distorted, heretical, form of Christianity that sought to blend of Christian doctrine and Greek philosophy: - The Origins of Gnosticism

The modern study of Gnosticism begins with Adolf von Harnack, a theologian and church historian, who described Gnosticism as the acute Hellenization of Christianity. This meant that Gnosticism did not precede Christianity. However, Gnosticism was not a separate but concurrent religion alongside Christianity either. Rather, Gnosticism broke off from Christianity when radical Christians sought to blend Christianity with Greek philosophy and Hellenistic cultural constructs and models of understanding.

"Arthur" Darby Nock 

Later scholars, including the prominent Arthur Nock, expanded on the links with Greek philosophy, particularly Platonism:

Gnosticism Judaism and Egyptian Christianity by By Birger A. Pearson

Esoteric Platonism

These efforts centered on Gnosticism's place as one of many popular offshoots of Middle Platonic thought, Esoteric Platonism:

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Middle Platonism

They were veiled in mystery and secrecy, leading John Dillon to refer to them in the perhaps more apt phrase "the Platonic Underworld." We will be discussing three examples of this "underworld": Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and the Chaldaean Oracles. The writings comprising the Corpus Hermeticum, so-called because of its supposed derivation from the teachings of the legendary sage Hermes Trismegistus, bear the marks of a variety of philosophies, Platonism and Neopythagoreanism being the most prominent. Hermetic ideas are found in Christianity as early as the writings of St. Paul, and Gnostic elements are to be discerned in John's Gospel as well as in Paul. The earliest Christian theologians were Gnostics, and the most prominent among them, Valentinus, nearly became pope. The systems of the Gnostics, especially Valentinus, attempted (among other things) to solve certain problems of Platonic and related philosophies by employing mythological language, astrological symbolism, and elements of alchemy and ritual magic. Finally, the Chaldaean Oracles, a mysterious composition melding Platonic and Neopythagorean philosophy with a revelatory religiosity, was a major source of inspiration for later Neoplatonists.

Other resources: - PHILOSOPHY 234AA: PLATO LECTURE III: PLATONIC INTERPRETATION - Plato’s Cosmology and Achilles’ Shield Compared (Full)

Babylonian Mysteries

predates xstian critics

Wilhelm Bousset

Wilhelm Bousset traced Gnostic ascension beliefs to ancient Babylonian traditions:

Richard August Reitzenstein - Gnostics or Illuminati, The Origins of the Gnostic Movement

German scholars such as Gustav Widengren, Richard Reitzenstein, and M. H. Schraeder, who are largely ignored today, delved deeply into the prehistoric roots of Iranian religion known as Zurvan. This is the germ of the doctrine of cosmic duality attributed to the Persian prophet, Zoroaster, and spread throughout the world by the members of his religious order, the Magi.

Reitzenstein in particular intuited that Gnostic ideas were influenced by Persian duality, or Zurvanism, but he was unable to work out how. No one since his time has done any better. The investigation is complicated by the remoteness of Iranian religion, dating to the 6th millennium BCE.

Persian duality is the great enigma in the history of religions. So far no scholar in the world, not even Mircea Eliade, has cracked the Zoroastrian nut.

Zarathustra is said to have been older than Plato by 6,000 years. He learned universal wisdom from the Good Spirit, that is the excellent understanding. His name translated into Greek, Astrothutes, means “star-worshipper" (Plato Prehistorian, p. 211).

Judaic Christianity

derived from judaism
jewish heretics
1934 books

Existential Christianity

Hans Jonas - Hans Jonas’ ‘Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism’, and Ludwig von Bertalanffy

Jonas started to deal with religious topics, and specifically with Gnosticism, from the very outset of his philosophical career in the 1920s. After gaining recognition thanks to his remarkable philosophical-existential interpretation of Gnosticism, he returned to the modern age and its philosophical characters. Principally, Jonas discovered that modern philosophy up to Heidegger and Sartre suffered from a peculiar spiritual disease – namely, nihilism – that he had already traced in ancient Gnosticism and that he intended to reject. Therefore, Jonas’ acquaintance with ancient religion and thinking gave him a deep insight into the modern age and provided him with a first glimpse of what was later to become his biological philosophy. - What Is a Gnostic?

Another key figure in the reevaluation of ancient Gnosticism was Hans Jonas. A pupil of existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger in the 1930s, Jonas turned his attention to the wisdom of the Gnostics, and discovered in them an ancient relative of existential philosophy. Existentialism's pessimism about earthly life and high regard for experience as against theory thus found a forebear and analogue. Although critical of the Gnostics' apparent "nihilism," Jonas was, along with Jung, one of the most important figures to bring Gnostic teachings into modern perspective.
The linkage effected by Jung and Jonas between Gnosticism in the past and living philosophies in the present was of crucial importance and came very close to supplying gnosis and Gnosticism with vital, living definitions. The questions posed (and answered) by the ancient Gnostics revealed themselves now, not as outlandish and bizarre, but as earlier discussions of issues addressed in more recent times by Freud, Jung, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and many others.

originated existentially
an attitude towards existence
political apathy and cultural stagnation
plus influx of oriental religion into Hellenistic culture
plus alienation felt by many
plus longing for miraculous salvation
to escape political and social constraints
led to Gnostic worldview
pessimism about the world coupled with self transcendence
parallel between modern existentialists
Heidegger influenced his thinking

The Real Orthodox Christianity

Walter Bauer

gnostics were in the majority in early xstianity
this is in dispute as the gnostics referred to themselves
as the few "hoi polloi"
critics were e.w. turner and c.h. roberts
but he did open up new way of thinking about them
nag hammadi trove of 1945 showed
gnos was a widespread movement
derived from a variety of traditions
much of it distinctly xstian
a few were derived from only pagan sources
and may not be gnostic
others use jew traditions extensively

Impetus for Gnosticism

Impetus not Source 

Carsten Colpe

search for origins not fruitful
leads to infinite regresses of remoter origins
does not contribute much to understanding
led to search for impetus to create gnost rather than source

Robert M. Grant

gnos reaction to romans destroying jerusalem 70 ad
shattered traditional views

Gilles Quispel

experience of self
projected on to religious experience

typological explanation
specific kind of psych world view

E. R. Dodds

derived from mystical experience

Gershom Scholem

traces to esoteric currents in rabbinical circles
jewish gnos
current research not focused on a central theory
but detailed analysis
three strains
#1 relationship between gnos and hellen
#2 from a literary form perspective
#3 relationship with contemporary religous environment

current xstian represents small selection of specific sources
many others excluded
who made the decisions
for the first time we can examine from the heretics pov

ressurection as a political function
legitimizes authority of men
who claim to excercise exclusive leadership
as succesors of the apostle peter