Tag Archives: Nicholas F Gier

Spiritual Titanism

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives by Nicholas F Gier.

This volume that professes to be a work of “constructive postmodernism” is instead a decidedly modern sort of exercise, though one little-seen of late in the secular academy. It is in fact a piece of comparative theology, using a doctrinal framework–in this case, the objection to “spiritual titanism”–in order to compare various religious traditions and schools, and to judge which ones are superior. Gier takes his central concept from Heinrich Zimmer, whose Philosophies of India first set forth a “heresy of Titanism,” which Gier goes on to define as “a philosophical mistake with theological implications: a conflation of human and divine attributes,” and to characterize as “extreme humanism.” Gier proposes a Western tendency toward “technological titanism,” by which humans presume to unalloyed authority over material circumstances, which is supposedly mirrored by a similarly culpable “spiritual titanism” of Asian provenance. In contrast to the “conflation” of titanism, Gier praises the distinction he calls the “Hebraic principle”…”the greatest discovery of the ancient Hebrews, namely, the transcendence of God.” 

In all these points of general orientation, I find myself thoroughly at odds with Gier, and concurring instead with Feuerbach (a very apposite thinker whom Gier ignores), who wrote: 

“It is theism, theology, that has wrenched man out of his relationship with the world, isolated him, made him into an arrogant self-centered being who exalts himself above nature. And it is only on this level that religion becomes identified with theology, with the belief in a being outside and above nature as the true God. Originally religion expressed nothing other than man’s feeling that he is an inseparable part of nature or the world.” (Lectures on the Essence of Religion, 5th Lecture, p. 35)

Further, I can accept the utility, and in many cases, the wholesomeness of spiritual anthropocentrism, which Gier presents as a heinous theological shortcoming. 

Nevertheless, while disagreeing about the valuations involved, I certainly share Gier’s interest in the phenomenon of “titanism.” His individual chapters are all thought-provoking. The comparison of the ancient Greek titans and Hindu asuras is interesting in its own right, even outside of the larger philosophical argument, and it constitutes a significant contribution to comparative gigantology, especially as undertaken by Thelemites for whom the TEITAN 666 is the Prometheus of a New Aeon.

Gier exonerates Nietzsche from charges of titanism, and on the whole, I was sympathetic to Gier’s readings of Nietzsche, including comparisons to Taoist doctrine. The chapter “The Yogi and the Goddess” discusses Tantric goddess-worship as ameliorative to yoga titanism, and this particular argument suggests a way of redeeming Gier from what I take to be his relatively blinkered Anselmian theism, and putting his comparisons to work in the context of the model of attainment I prefer. 

Ultimately, Gier himself admits that the spiritual titan is comprehensible as a developmental stage, particularly in the context of Nietzsche’s Three Metamorphses (from Thus Spake Zarathustra), where the titan is the Lion, a stage finally transcended by the Child. This more initiatory perspective suggests the value in titanism per se, and reveals its connection to the sort of adeptship that Thelemites see as following from Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. But today’s attainment is tomorrow’s limitation, and the Adventure of the Abyss leads to the self-overcoming of the titan/adept in his marriage to Babalon. The failure in this regard is known in magical parlance as “black brotherhood,” but might be called “terminal titanism” in Gier’s lingo. [via]