Tobias Churton produces film, notably a documentary entitled The Gnostics. As editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today, he is presumably an expert in the field of alternative, non-deistic, philosophies.
This book catalogs Gnosticism as an historical movement (though it isnít) and as a catch-all term for a lot of other things that it is not. Yet it was something once, as a religious phenomenon that pre-dated Christianity, sought to co-opt it and got slapped down by it.
Gnosticism is, of course, the opposite of a-gnosticism, a word more familiar to the general public. Gnostics do believe there is a God, or a god, or gods, but they are less sure than, say, a mainstream Baptist that deity has any direct oversight of human endeavor or interest in it. Gnostics have traditionally been pietists, suspicious of the flesh, who seemed to feel that they had to make their own way through this vale of tears without the intervention of G-o-d. Their methods range from the most severe, as in the case of the Essenes who lived in the desert and wore their robes til they fell off, to the rather elaborate rituals and less than pious antics of the bizarre Alistair Crowley, surely the most colorful character in the annals of this non-religion.
Churton is thorough as he moves through history, explaining and seeking to link, as well as one can, groups and movements as diverse as the Troubadors, the Freemasons, the anthroposophists, the ecologists, and John Lennon. Itís his book and he can do what he likes, but I found the lengthy tribute to the aforementioned proto-Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show arcana of Crowley excessive, and the relative short shrift given to such an enlightened soul as William Blake un-fair and un-cool.
I might grant the author some credence to his notion that John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix were on to something, but would counter that mainly what they were on to was drugs, and enlightenment cannot come through a drug-befogged consciousness. Neither man had taken the steps to purify himself that would constitute a sincere spiritual preparation or a realistic path for others to follow.
But these are petty issues. The book has taken a big bite of a bigger subject, and it will provide good Gnostics or those who call themselves by that name - and those who donít - much to argue about, which is kind of the point of being a Gnostic. In my humble opinion.