Q Anon

Jodi Doering, an emergency room nurse in South Dakota, was overwhelmed Saturday night. Her patients were dying of COVID-19 yet were still in denial about the pandemic’s existence.

…’Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real,’ Doering said, adding that some patients prefer to believe that they have pneumonia or other diseases rather than COVID-19, despite seeing their positive test results.

Washington Post, November 16, 2020


Elstun W. Lauesen

The spectacle of a mass devotion to both Donald Trump and conspiracy theories; to both a False Prophet and false information, is the most terrible and dangerous phenomenon to emerge during the Trump era. 

While Joe Biden can celebrate being the highest vote-getting presidential candidate in history, Donald Trump can honestly claim to be the second highest vote-getter in American history. And this is despite the numerous facts publicly known about him, any one of which would be a devastating scandal for any other candidate.

Donald Trump is a proven fraud, thief, liar and adulterer, and that is only the beginning of the list. Yet despite these (and many more) moral and legal transgressions nearly 74 Million Americans voted for Donald Trump. 

Why is that? How can that be?

The answer to these questions is critical for us to explore. But we must explore these questions without cynicism and with an open-mindedness that will be difficult for us progressive citizens of a secular society. 

The task before us is as challenging as exploring the esoteric phenomenon surrounding credible eyewitness accounts of a haunting or a case of demon possession. Most of us would dismiss the former as a case of self-induced hysteria along with some wiring defects; the latter we would attribute to a severe psychological disorder. But the phenomenon of the massive cult of Donald J. Trump requires a deeper dive into the subject than most of us cynics on the left can muster. 

Frankly, up until recently, I was too easily willing to attribute the conspiracy-mongering world of the Trump base with a snarky “the Stupid is Strong” or “Dunning-Kruger Dolts”. But dismissiveness does not adequately explain what is going on. Not all the Trump cultists are stupid. Some followers of QAnon are highly educated, intelligent people. 

There is something else going on here; something other than the salesmanship and sleazy grifting of Mr. Trump. There is a deep tonal minimalism beneath the cacophonous opus of chaos that one hears emanating from Trump-World.  

One man may have the analysis I have been looking for and I want to share it here in the Press. 


Jeff Sharlet is a professor at Dartmouth College and an award-winning Journalist. In a Vanity Fair article published last June, Mr. Sharlet produced a startling analysis: Donald Trump is the most important religious cult figure of our time. 

In his Vanity Fair piece, Mr. Sharlet interviews many Trump supporters in a variety of settings. He accompanied them to rallies and talked to them casually and on the street. A few common themes connected them all. 

  • There is an engagement with an online world of conspiracy theories;

  • They limit their data input to sources that they trust (‘pro-Trump’);

  • They all recognized and acknowledged the character flaws and moral deficiencies of Trump;

  • They all view him (more or less) prophetically. Religious supporters liken him to Old Testament Kings who were flawed but helped to fulfill the prophecies of God. Secular supporters will merely say that he is an “imperfect vessel” carrying the message of war against the “Establishment”;

  • And they all see Trump at war with the “Deep State” whose agents are funded by Jewish Billionaires like George Soros and Tech Billionaires like Bill Gates. 

So the most important common thread among all Trump supporters is that the “surface contradictions of Trump the Man” only proves the divinity (or “depth”) of Trump’s purpose as the Leader (or “Chosen One”). 

This immediately inoculates Trump’s followers from the rational arguments of secularists and good-government types who point to Trump’s crimes of fraud and potential charges of rape and his corruption. “…he is not perfect”, they will reply with a shrug. 

According to Sharlet, there are two Christian-adjacent ideas for these claims. The first is the so-called “prosperity gospel”: the notion that, among other things, positive thinking can manifest positive consequences. Even electoral victory in the face of electoral loss. But the problem with prosperity gospel, like day-and-date rapture prophecies, is that when its bets don’t pay off, it’s glaringly obvious.

The other strain of fringe Christianity — dating back nearly two millennia — is flourishing. Jeff Sharlet says an ancient heresy, Gnosticism, can help us understand the unifying force of pseudo-intellectualism on the right. Sharlet explains how a gnostic emphasis on "hidden" truths has animated QAnon conspiracies and Trump’s base.

The most famous gnostic text is called “Thunder-Perfect Mind”. It is in the form of a monolog by the Divine and lays out the riddle of the universe as an esoteric and contradictory force:

For I am knowledge and ignorance.

I am shame and boldness.

I am shameless; I am ashamed.

I am strength and I am fear.

I am war and peace.

The Thunder, Perfect Mind [1]

As a former philosophy major in college and one who had once steeped himself in the texts of comparative religion and the studies of the esoteric movements of the Enlightenment, I was profoundly surprised by the thesis of Mr. Sharlet. 

The QAnon movement—and it is a movement—provides the spiritual undergirding of the Trumpian phenomenon. I have referred to this movement as a real-world Role-Playing Game (RPG) before. But like the Dungeon Masters in “Magic” or the Archons who rule the Shadowlands in the World of Warcraft, the rules of the game remain hidden and must be discovered by playing the game. Thus “Q-Drops” salt the path of action by the players in game environments like 8-Chan and Q-active Subreddits. 

Gnosticism, itself, grew out of the heresies of the first few centuries of the first Millennium C.E. 

The authority of the Roman Church depended on its relationship with secular authority (e.g., The Roman Emperor, Constantine) and the dependence of the masses on the Episcopal polity of the Bishops. Literate and scholarly heretics like Plotinus questioned that authority. There was an anti-authoritarian streak that ran through the emerging empowered classes of the Roman Republic and a strong anti-orthodoxy growing among the literate Jewish communities in the empire. 

Gnosticism is heretical in that it predicates that belief should be “directly revealed” thus by-passing the Church. It also dismissed the didactic learning of the Priest-cast as illusory—or in the lexicon of today’s Trump Gnosis, “Fake News”. Perhaps the most radical view of the Gnostic’s cosmic view is the relationship of Christ to God. Christian Gnostics (Gospel of Thomas) view Christ as an Archangel who “intervenes” in the affairs of man and this imperfect material world. Such a view contemplates humanity and human events as a great cosmic game in which mortals are manipulated by demi-urges and spiritual actors. To understand the “true” Divine Path that will yield rewards, one must understand divine clues—not through scholarly learning, for that is deceptive—but through instinct and intuition, i.e., “The Gut.”

This construct explains why Mr. Sharlet sees Trumpism and its religious adjunct, QAnon, as a new Gnosticism for our Age. 

Consequently, QAnon adherents and Trump devotees are not subject to the influence of reason and facts, which they see as the product of a Shadowland designed to make them question their faith. 

The Deep State is what the early Gnostics would have referred to as the Church, the Bishops and the “Authority” that seeks to suppress “True Knowledge” that will rip the curtain from the Illuminati. 

In fact, according to Mr. Sharlet, the characteristic of Gnostic thinking that best serves Trump is this: events on the ground and the evidence on exhibit can directly contradict your personal view while not contradicting it. When you are a Trumpean (or a QAnon RPG player), you see on a dimension that transcends the mere interplay of worldly facts; you see things through Divine eyes from which the veils have been ripped. 

And here we are in the 21st Century at the convergence of Gnosticism and Technology. Through YouTube, 4-Chan and 8-Chan and numerous closed forums, the Trumpean does not have to rely on experts. In his Vanity Fair article, Sharlet interviewed people at the Trump rallies who had become “experts” through their own dedicated research. Consequently, they owned their knowledge; they had earned their knowledge, and it was now embedded in their DNA. This is a condition that meets the classical definition of “memetics”, a term coined by Richard Dawkins.

Conclusion: The Storm

With Donald Trump out of office, the Gnosticism that viewed him as the “Chosen One” and “God’s Messenger” will not go away. What may have been an invention of the Russian GRU has taken on a life of its own. QAnon — including numerous folks that Mr. Sharlet interviewed at the Trump gatherings — talks about “The Storm”. The Storm, like the Gnostic passage The Thunder, mentioned above, invokes a divine cleansing; a converging of the forces of destruction to make a place for the creation of a new order. The old order must die for a new order to arise. 

With the seeds of the new Gnosticism scattered throughout the land, they will take root and grow, like the Nordic Yggdrasil Tree, to release Niohoggr, the dragon, and Dainn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Durapror, to destroy the false and make way for the regeneration of the new. 

These seeds are the seeds of neo-fascism. These seeds shall grow and yield a bitter fruit for our nation and our state. There are clearly elements of this destructive force in the Save Anchorage group and within the Republican Party of Alaska. 

Donald Trump may be out of office, but the seed that has sown in the wind shall reap a whirlwind. 

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