Wesley – re your blog today, “Good Grief: Now It’s Pea Personhood”
[http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2012/05/01/good-grief-now-its-pea-personhood/] — a real reductio ad absurdum:-)
What is really behind “movements” like this is gnosticism, especially ancient gnosticism (based on ancient mythology). Various forms of gnosticism have been around since 5000 BC, and reappear in cycles throughout history (especially when traditional institutions are beginning to fail and collapse). It parallels the History of Philosophy courses that I taught for 15 years, so I need to explain these gnostic myths to the students in my classes (shock! They already knew the “myth” stories, but didn’t know to call it “gnosticism” or its ancient roots).
It is the same source of dictums as today’s futurism, transhumanism, etc. – not new! They all share a pantheism and are poly-theistic. (For Pythagoras, for example, the whole cosmos is just one whole living breathing organism.) Everything in the cosmos “emanates” from the original All or One (depending on the myth) — and all these “pieces” are simply parts of the ultimate One or All and thus “divine” (even peas!); they are also all physically joined (hence, the pantheism). So individual things in the universe are not really “individuals”, but rather just “pieces” of the original ultimate One. Lots of problems with gnosticism, very anti-Christian and anti-Catholic, and has been blooming all over the place over the last few decades. I noticed it all over the several universities where I taught, in the elevators, on cork boards, meetings announced over the intercom, etc. It is, in fact, what is behind all this unethical genetic engineering, synthetic biology, futurism, transhumanism, etc., that we see today. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a good article on “Gnosticism” that I used in one of my early articles (first one listed):
— “GNOSTICISM, the Heretical Gnostic Writings, and ‘Judas'” (April 9, 2006), at:
— “Historic roots of human genetic engineering: REASON, Duke, and parahuman reproduction – 1972” (July 11, 2004), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irvi/irvi_34winstonduke.html
— “’Gnostic Soup’”: Pagan fertility gods, IVF, Hollywood, cloning/genetic engineering, bioethics, transhumanism, libertarians, drugs, eugenics, etc.” (Nov. 7, 2005), at:
What is interesting to me is what you said about Switzerland. We’ve been going there for about 9 years now, mostly in the Alps for hiking. But I have been aware of certain very gnostic sects in Switzerland, especially in the low/lake areas near Montreux and Lausanne – rarely heard from usually. In fact, there is a large temple up in the mountains above Montreux that houses a sect called the White Templars. They also have a temple somewhere in Canada, and you might remember several years ago that dozens of these people committed suicide in Canada because they thought the end of the world was coming. Why the Swiss, who are so business-like and mostly very Christian and religious have tolerated these gnostics is beyond me, and it is very startling to see the reference to the Swiss committee report that you noted — although the Green Party is rather influential there! I’ll have to talk to some of our friends about this over there this summer.
In short, all this “nature worship” and “Earth worship” stems from the ancient gnostic myths noted above. “Peas” are “persons” because they are parts of the ultimate Person or god and therefore “divine”. It is all over the place, but people just refuse to understand their presence, their appeal, and their power, around the world. Most Eastern religions are also grounded in gnosticism, so there is a huge part of the world that would be sympathetic to these gnostic nature worshipers.
Whatever, 🙂 Great article!
[Dr. Dianne Irving’s professional activities include teaching positions at Georgetown University, Catholic University of America, and The Dominican House of Studies. She represented the Catholic Medical Association of the United States, and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, at the Scientific Conference in Mexico City, Mexico, October 28, 1999 and presented a paper on “The Dignity and Status of the Human Embryo”. Dr. Irving is a former career-appointed bench research biochemist/biologist (NIH, NCI, Bethesda, MD), an M.A. and Ph.D. philosopher (Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.), and Professor of the History of Philosophy, and of Medical Ethics.]