The post-war renewal of interest in Gnosticism rests on the foundation of an earlier revival that began in the late nineteenth century and built to a pitch during the decades encompassing the First World War and its aftermath. The first original Gnostic texts began to surface and engage debate at this critical time when the canons of the Western tradition, its faith in reason and progress, were coming under severe attack and increasingly regarded as sterile and exhausted. Christianity too was widely denounced as a bankrupt institution that had supplanted the vigorous true faith of the primitive church with pablum for the masses. In this context of a waning tradition, figures on the cultural vanguard began looking for alternative roots in the rejected chapters of history, in those marginalized domains the Western tradition had attempted to suppress and erase. The rediscovery of original Gnostic texts fed this hunger. Pioneering intellectual leaders such as C. G. Jung, Hans Jonas, and Gershom Scholem rehabilitated the once-despised heretics and promoted them to honored precursors of analytical psychology, existentialism, and revolutionary messianism. Ripples from the recovery of a Gnostic imagination and sensibility also extended into the writing of Melville, Yeats, Pound, Artaud, Kafka, Hesse, Nabokov, Lawrence Durrell, and others, and into popular esoteric schools as well. The first wave of the modern revival of Gnosticism emerged from this dynamic matrix.
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