In 1891, Herman Melville published his final book, a collection of poems entitled Timoleon . I want to focus on one of these poems, which initially seems quite mysterious. But it can be understood, if we appreciate the prevailing historical views of the time about heresy and sectarian religion. I also want to touch on a theme that I will be exploring in more detail in coming posts, namely the wide-ranging influence of Theosophy in these years. The Melville work in question is entitled Fragments Of A Lost Gnostic Poem Of The Twelfth Century , and that title itself is truly odd. Here is the (brief) full text: Found a family, build a state, The pledged event is still the same: Matter in end will never abate His ancient brutal claim. … Indolence is heaven’s ally here, And energy the child of hell: The Good Man pouring from his pitcher clear But brims the poisoned well. Whatever we think of the poem as literature, there is one major stumbling block, namely: did Gnostics actually exist in the twelfth century, or anywhere near that period? Did Melville think that they did? If so, was he wildly ignorant of the actual […]