Modern Gnostics and Modern Witch-hunts

“She turned me into a newt!” shouted John Cleese, as the Monty Python crowd cried that they had found a witch. Admittedly, as Cleese did, “I got better.” Remember witches burn because they are made of wood; wood floats on water; and as Graham Chapman pointed out, ducks also float on water. So if she weighs the same as a duck, then the defendant is a witch. The preponderance of her weight was evidence against her—her witchcraft would be no more.

The preponderance of evidence, i.e. determining one’s guilt if the evidence weighs more in favor of guilt than innocence (so at least above fifty percent probability), is thankfully no longer the current system of jurisprudence. The common law tradition has given us the gifts of presumption of innocence before the law until proven guilty and proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, the bewitching preponderance method still weighs the guilt in our academic show-trials (most infamously in cases of sexual assault). There is the 2009 case of the former UM football player Brendan Gibbons, who was arrested by campus police on charges of rape but no formal criminal proceedings were ever filed. Now having been “permanently separated” from the University, the public outcry has turned to athletic director David Brandon—already under fire for covering up concussions, let alone investigations of sexual misconduct.

In such instances, charges of rape and sexual assault must be taken with the utmost seriousness—hence there is in our judicial system a higher bar for the burden of proof. Yet our system, given its lacking such a standard and instead weighing things in the air, it seems should give us caution before we call out individuals as witches remembering we can often dress them up as one (for those who do not get this reference, watch the film Monty Python’s Holy Grail). Self-righteous self-pontification is a deeply human passion, and one which must be resisted.

This word of caution brings me to a recent opinion piece from The Michigan Daily that called for the probably soon to-be-fired “dave brandon and this institution that stands behind you, to be forced away by the battle cry of Womyn erupting beyond the size of the big house” ( One may notice the spelling of “Women” with “Womyn”—the letter “y” taking the place of the letter “e.” The author will use the word Womyn” since this “one letter difference” symbolizes feminine “agency and power to self-definition. It reclaims a term meant to define and constrain us. It highlights the separation of our existence from men. And at this moment, it importantly empowers all Womyn” (ibid). While this feminist brand of cultural Marxism may be reading politicized oppressive masculinity into simple etymology, it would be tragic if Women had to remove the wonderful letter “e” and replace it with “y.”

As an act of chivalry, allow me to take the letter “e” out of “men” and let women be women and myn be myn. Certainly this gesture may sound of benevolent sexism (to borrow a phrase from third-wave feminism), but myn deserve the punishment of “y.” Women and myn will have to rewrite the dictionaries to fully give back women their agency and complete separation from common humanity with myn. Myn have always been the lesser sex.

But why stop with gender pronouns one may ask? All grammatical distinctions are inherently political and oppressive of women. Why use even the word “We”? We myn should say “Wy” instead. Why wy? Because our self-righteous ideological pontification finds grammar to be oppressive. Humyn emancipation calls for the abolition of “e” from maly domination, so that all the other 50-plus Facebook gender self-identifications may be free from the maly use of “e.” The cult of selfy takes its fullest range: like athletic directors, words cannot longer be tolerated to oppress with “e”s and yvidences and procyssys.

The reader may also notice the smallest hint of irony—just a smidge from this myn calling for the fullest feminist emancipation of all humyn byings. I am what the philosopher Eric Voegelin termed a modern gnostic. Ancient Gnostics—they really knew a thing or two—were an early Christian heresy that believed the material world to be evil, the body to be a spiritual disease, and only certain knowledge (“gnosis”) could free us from the curse of an evil world created by an evil demiurge. Well, for modern Gnosticism, Glenn Tinder writes,

Voegelin sensed that this unwillingness to submit to the structure of reality, and to bear the evils of the world, was a kind of spiritual disease…It affected most modern political thinkers and movements, and, in his view, became the very essence of modernity. Modern Gnosticism differed from ancient Gnosticism in one crucial sense, however: rather than promoting escape from the world, it called for transformation of the world though human action. It was thus a revolt not only against the structure of things but against transcendence itself. (

A modern gnostic, whether of certain strands of radical feminism or types of cultural Marxism, revolts against reality itself—etymology, for instance.

Well, I would be a modern gnostic if I believed the male use of “e” to be evil and I had a special knowledge to liberate myself from grammar that refers to mankind as “homo”—a genus of animal that includes both male and female. But such nuances provide nuisances to modern Gnostics, as much as innocent until proven guilty, for football players or athletic directors, do to university witch-hunts.

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