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Remembering Laurent Murawiec (1952-2009)


"Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
(Douglas MacArthur)

LarouchePlanet sends its deepest condolences to Laurent's family and friends, to his ex-wife and daughter from his first marriage, to his widow and their daughter.


This book examines contemporary jihad as a cult of violence and power. All jihadi groups, whether Shiite or Sunni, Arab or not, are characterized by a similar bloodlust. Laurent Murawiec characterizes this belief structure as identical to that of Europe’s medieval millenarians and apocalyptics, arguing that both jihadis and their European cousins shared in a Gnostic ideology: A God-given mission endowed the Elect with supernatural powers and placed them above the common law of mankind. Although the ideology of jihad is essentially Islamic, Murawiec traces the political technologies used by modern jihad to the Bolsheviks. Their doctrines of terror as a system of rule were appropriated by radical Islam through multiple lines of communication. This book brings history, anthropology, and theology to bear to understand the mind of jihad that has declared war on the West and the world.

Laurent Murawiec taught philosophy, was a foreign correspondent, cofounded and managed a consulting company for geopolitical and geoeconomic affairs, and taught at the ''Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales''. He has served as a consultant for the French Ministry of Defense and as a Senior International Policy Analyst with the RAND Corporation and is currently a senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute. He is the author of La Guerre au XXIe siecle (2000 [in Chinese, 2004]), L’Esprit des Nations: Cultures et geopolitique (2002), La Guerre d’Apres (2003), Vulnerabilities in the Chinese Way of War (2004), and Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault Against the West (2005) as well as an acclaimed French translation of Clausewitz’s On War (1999).


Ch. 2 “An Elite of Amoral Supermen”

The Heresy of the Free Spirit

Not part of the turbulent urban masses, a clandestine movement of heretics
wove its web from one end of Europe to the other. No social revolutionaries,
its adherents formed the Heresy of the Free Spirit. They were Gnostics intent
upon their own individual salvation, but the Gnosis at which they arrived
was a quasi-mystical anarchism – an affirmation of freedom so reckless and
unqualified that it amounted to a total denial of every kind of restraint and
limitation. They were in a sense remote ancestors of Bakunin and Nietzsche.
The core of the Free Spirit lay in the adept’s attitude toward himself: He
believed that he had attained a perfection so absolute that he was incapable
of sin; as a result, he repudiated moral norms. The “perfect man” would
always draw the conclusion that it was permissible and even incumbent
upon him to do whatever was commonly regarded as forbidden. [...]
Here is an essential component of the etiology of self-appointed “elites”
and “vanguards” of the sectarian movements. Beyond the verbatim tenets
of what each may believe, what matters here is the how of their belief in
what they believe. There are invariants to a certain type of quasi-religious
ideology, and their effect tend to be very similar. [...]
The Free Spirit represents the ideal type of the intellectual construct common
to all millenarian, apocalyptical, eschatological schools. Traits characteristic
of the Free Spirit will be found in each and every such movement in
the future, regardless of the religion or culture of the geographic or ethnic
body upon which the ideology has settled. [...]
The Free Spirit was set apart from mankind. In practice, adepts knew that the
highest spiritual privileges were reserved for their own fraternity. They divided
humanity into two groups – the majority, the “crude in spirit,” who failed to
develop their divine potentialities, and themselves, who were the “subtle in spirit.”
They attained full absorption in God, not only after death, or at the end of time,
but now. The heart of the heresy was not a philosophical idea at all but an
aspiration; it was a passionate desire of certain human beings to surpass the
condition of humanity and to become God.
This belief system was nihilistic and megalomanic. The “supernatural
revelation” was apt to feed a paranoid, delusional outlook.


The believers consider themselves separate from and superior to the rest of
ignorant mankind, with considerable practical and ethical consequences.
First and foremost, Gnosticism is a doctrine of salvation: It is salvation
through “knowledge” (gnosis in Greek) or perhaps a series of doctrines,
all of which share a common core. As German philosopher Hans Jonas
states in his seminal work on the subject: The Gnostic systems compounded
everything – oriental mythologies, astrological doctrines, Iranian theology,
elements of Jewish tradition, whether Biblical, rabbinical or occult, Christian
salvation-eschatology, Platonic terms and concepts. Syncretism attained in
this period [the first centuries of the Common Era] its greatest efficacy.
[...] Gnosticism is a radical dualism: An unbridgeable chasm separates God
from the world and consequently God from man. [...]
The Gnostic “knows” that the world and himself are fallen, that the world
is an absurd mix of good and evil. “The world is no longer the well-ordered,
the cosmos, in which Hellenic man felt at home, nor is it the Judeo-Christian
world that God created and found good.” The world is wrong not just because
bad things are occurring. It is wrong in its principle, in the way it is organized.
[...] The means to do so: salvation will come from knowledge (gnosis); the
“Gnostics” are “the knowing Ones.” But “knowledge” is not a knowledge
by reason, a knowledge of rational objects, as was Greek philosophy. It
claims to “know” things unknowable, different from faith that has faith in
“things invisible” (Saint Paul). Gnosis is a “knowledge” of things unknowable,
it claims to be a knowledge of the objects of faith. Gnosis is not
scientific knowledge that works by approximation, experimentally, and produces,
in Karl Popper’s phrase, “falsifiable” truths (that are susceptible of
being refuted and proven wrong). Gnosis speculates and claims absolute
truth for its speculative assertions.
So much so that the “intentional violation” of the norms “paradoxically
contributes to the work of salvation.”67 The New Man created by the Gnostic
is a nihilist. The possession of the absolute key to absolute knowledge
cannot go without hubristic pride, arrogance, and conceit – the certainty of
thus being superior to all others. [...]
The “liberal” (in the European sense), “does not think ideologically. He
wishes to change reality, within limits, themselves variable. He never thinks
of substituting another reality,” whereas the Gnostic “is tempted to erect an
imaginary world which is the ideal double of a world decreed as absolutely
evil.” [...]
The Gnostic is the carrier of a pathological condition,
that of “a thinker who, in his revolt against the world as it has been created
by God, arbitrarily omits an element of reality in order to create the fantasy
of a new world,” which he, or his disciples, will often seek to bring about
by turning themselves into the “armed prophets of the new world.”
The Gnostic is the great recusant – he who denies any worth and validity
to the world as it is, who sets out to destroy it. The Gnostic creeds contrast to
its Elect – the New Men, the “Perfect” as the Cathar elite called themselves –
as a symmetrical opposite and elective archfoe: the radical evil, the creatures
of darkness, the absolute negative. Since this world is the reign of Satan

the prince of darkness, the creatures of darkness are the children of Satan
and deserve to be treated accordingly. Gnosticism will accordingly develop
figures of the archenemies who incarnate this evil. Reality is demonized; the
bearers of reality are satanized. They “represent absolute evil. Against it, one
may use means similar to those it employs, but whose finality inverts the
value.” Acts that are crimes if committed by the archenemy become virtuous
deeds if committed by the Elect: There are no objective values. [...]
German-American philosopher Eric Voegelin charted the underlying commonality
between the medieval movements and the twentieth century’s totalitarian movement,
fascism, communism and national-socialism. These mass movements were rooted in
ancient intellectual movements, specifically, he averred, in Gnosticism.
[...] Beyond the diversity of cultural, religious, and intellectual
idioms that these variegated utopias used and spoke, the homology is one
of contents, structure, and effects, reaching into real-world action. There
is thus a thorough homology between the medieval utopias, that arose in
the Christian world, the modern totalitarian utopias, and the current jihadi
utopia. [...]
Analysts who seek the “root causes of terrorism” ought to dig deeper than the surface.

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Page last modified on April 24, 2011, at 06:35 AM