The Puritan Case
The analysis of gnostic experiences has resulted in a concept of modernity that seems to be at variance with the conventional meaning of the term. Conventionally, Western history is divided into periods with a formal incision around 1500, the later period being the modern phase of Western society. If, however, modernity is defined as the growth of Gnosticism, beginning perhaps as early as the ninth century, it becomes a process within Western society extending deeply into its medieval period. Hence, the conception of a succession of phases would have to be replaced by that of a continuous evolution in which modern Gnosticism rises victoriously to predominance over a civilizational tradition deriving from the Mediterranean discoveries of anthropological and soteriological truth. This new conception in itself does no more than reflect the present state of empirical historiography and, therefore, is not in need of further justification. Nevertheless, there remains the question whether the conventional periodization has no bearing at all on the issue of Gnosticism; for it would be surprising, indeed, if a symbol that has gained such wide acceptance in the selfinterpretation of Western society were not in some way connected with the fundamental problem of representation of truth.
In fact, such a connection exists. The conception of a modern age succeeding the Middle Ages is itself one of the symbols created by the gnostic movement. It belongs in the class of the Third Realm symbols. Ever since, in the fifteenth century, Biondo treated the millennium from the fall of Rome in 410 to the year 1410 as a