The Alien Life (Gnosticism)

I would like to briefly talk about the Gnostic idea of “the alien Life” as described by Hans Jonas in his book “The Gnostic Religion.”

The alien is the stranger in a strange land, the one who suffers the bewilderment of predicaments, somehow knowing that this world is not the true world, one’s true home. However, the alien getting caught up in this world, coming to grow too familiar with this world loses the sense of oddity that is this world, that is, loses touch with one’s true home by mistakenly attributing it to this world. The alien is at once of this world and not of this world, caught, divided. At once at home here, but also somehow aware of the kernel of a different world, a different and transcending life. The alien suffers this double-bind of having to particpate yet not being able to fully participate. Jonas writes, “In his alienation from himself the distress has gone, but this very fact is the culmination of the stranger’s tragedy (Jonas 50).” From a Gnostic standpoint, it is through the recognition of one’s strangeness (one being a stranger) that one can come to recover, to regain a footing in one’s true existential home. It is in this dwelling on the Real Life, on the Other side of Life that the alien transcends this world and, in doing so, can connect with the true alien Life. Jonas: “The recollection of his own alienness, the recognition of his place of exile for what it is, is the first step back; the awakened homesickness is the beginning of the return (Jonas 50).”

It is through this Gnostic idea of “the alien Life” that we confront our displacement, our reflective disconnection with this world. “The alien Life” is the struggle to regain a sense of one’s exile and an understanding of existential anxiety. For the Gnostic, there is another world behind this “kingdom of shadows,” another Life, one’s true Life.

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