Getting Real at Christmas Time

By Jim Tonkowich Published on December 18, 2022

‘Tis the season to read Christmas poetry … and to grade senior theses. And it turns out that “The House of Christmas” by G. K. Chesterton and “The Age of Gnosticism: Transgenderism, Transhumanism, and Human Identity in the Digital Age” by Wyoming Catholic College senior, Abigail O’Brien fit together beautifully.

Gnosticism, though ancient, is a hardy perennial in the garden of human thought. Today it’s everywhere.

What is Gnosticism?

From the Greek word gnosis (knowledge), Gnosticism is salvation by special, esoteric, expert knowledge. In his book The Making of the New Spirituality, James Herrick defines Gnosticism as “the belief that secret knowledge — gnosis — allows certain highly disciplined individuals to transcend the limits of time and the physical body.” Key to Gnosticism is the notion that true human value and identity are found not in the body or even with the body, but in mind or spirit alone.

The second century Valentinians and Marcionites as well as the Albigensians in the twelfth century and the Theosophists of the nineteenth focused on mysticism and bodily discipline to liberate the spirit from physicality. Today’s Gnostics rely on technology. As Miss O’Brien notes:

In the digital age, there arises a novel expression of this gnostic temptation that has always been with us. We are more deeply enchanted by the idea of absolute supremacy of the mind, because the possibility is that much closer. Modern technology has allowed for man to start separating his mind from his body, and ultimately digital technology begins to allow him to exist as disembodied mind. Transgenderism and its progression into transhumanism seem like new issues, but really they are a timeless problem with a particular manifestation.

In her thesis, Miss O’Brien traces the disembodiment made possible by digital technologies beginning with social media where everybody presents a cultivated persona. We want to make the right impression. And, pushed only a little bit, social media and virtual worlds allow us to go beyond a good impression to be whoever we wish.

Dishonest Relationships

A psychologist interviewed on Mars Hill Audio told host Ken Myers about a man deeply upset because he spent inordinate hours online in a virtual world where he had chosen to be a lesbian. What should he do? When the psychologist suggested he unplug, he responded, “What? And leave all my friends?” Leaving his dishonest relationships with his disembodied friends — who may or may not have been as dishonest about their identities — was unthinkable.

Of course, in using the word “dishonest,” my worldview shows. From a digital Gnostic worldview, he can and should be anyone he wishes to be without distress or guilt because there’s nothing dishonest about it. He’s bravely refusing the limits of physicality and biology.

Transgenderism and Transhumanism

Hence the connection with not only transgenderism, but the near deification of transgenderism. Trans people are pioneers, the courageous few who, with the help of modern digital and medical technologies, transcend the physical and biological reaching new height of freedom beyond the merely human.

This leads Miss O’Brien to the next logical step: transhumanism, freedom from any physicality. The core beliefs of transhumanism, she writes, are that we need to unite ourselves “with technology to progress, that homo sapiens are obsolete, that man should no longer exist in a physical body, or that he should upgrade his physical self to better suit his needs.” Ageing, death, procreation, and babies will be things of the past once we no longer have these “meat avatars” to cart around and care for. Technological gnosis will set us free.

Why would anyone believe and act on all this? Because we humans are not at home in our physical bodies and not at home in this world. Our bodies breakdown and will one day quit. And between disasters and disease, want and war, the world is an unhappy place.

In his poem, “The House of Christmas,” G. K. Chesterton acknowledges:

For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

We were made for something else.

Made for Something Else

Chesterton does not to give into the primal temptation — “You shall be as gods” — by recommending disembodiment through gnosis, but rather:

A Child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam,

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home …

God Has Given Us a Home

Rather than reject physicality, God who had no body, no death, no disease, no limits at all limited Himself in a human body becoming utterly helpless and needy, the child of a poor homeless couple and subject to all the sadness in our unhappy world. Yet it was precisely in joining us in our homelessness that He gives us a home.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

The incarnation of God the Son invites us to get real at Christmas time. So have a blessed and merry Christmas joining the homeless Child and making yourself at home.


James Tonkowich, a senior contributor to The Stream, is a freelance writer, speaker and commentator on spirituality, religion and public life. He is the author of The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today and Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life. Jim serves as Director of Distance Learning at Wyoming Catholic College and is host of the college’s weekly podcast, “The After Dinner Scholar.”

React to This Article

What do you think of our coverage in this article? We value your feedback as we continue to grow.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Like the article? Share it with your friends! And use our social media pages to join or start the conversation! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, Instagram, MeWe and Gab.

Is the Devil in the Details, or is God?
David Jeremiah
More from The Stream
Connect with Us