Alan Moore’s Promethea: Countercultural Gnosis and the End of the World

in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


Alan Moore’s Promethea (1999 to 2005) is among the most explicitly “gnostic,” “esoteric,” and “occultist” comics strips ever published. Hailed as a virtuoso performance in the art of comics writing, its intellectual content and the nature of its spiritual message have been neglected by scholars. While the attainment of gnosis is clearly central to Moore’s message, the underlying metaphysics is more congenial to the panentheist perspective of ancient Hermetism than to Gnosticism in its classic typological sense defined by dualism and anti-cosmic pessimism. Most importantly, Promethea is among the most explicit and intellectually sophisticated manifestoes of a significant new religious trend in contemporary popular culture. Its basic assumption is that there is ultimately no difference between imagination and reality, so that the question of whether gods, demons, or other spiritual entities are “real” or just “imaginary” becomes pointless. As a result, the factor of religious belief becomes largely irrelevant, and its place is taken by the factors of personal experience and meaningful practice.

Alan Moore’s Promethea: Countercultural Gnosis and the End of the World

in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies



AspremEgil The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse 1900–1939 2014 Leiden / Boston Brill

BaudrillardJean Simulacra and Simulation 1994 University of Michigan Press

BradenGregg et alii The Mystery of 2012: Predictions Prophecies & Possibilities 2007 Boulder Sounds True

CusackCarole Invented Religions: Imagination Fiction and Faith 2010 Farnham / Burlington Ashgate

DavidsenMarkus Altena The Spiritual Tolkien Milieu: A Study of Fiction-Based Religion 2014 Ph.D. Dissertation University of Leiden

DebordGuy French Orig. 1967 The Society of the Spectacle 2000 Detroit Black & Red

DeConickApril D. The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today 2016 New York Columbia University Press

FischerCraig “Review Essay: Charmageddon! Or the Day Aleister Crowley Wrote Wonder Woman” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 2005 6 122 127

Flannery-DaileyFrancesWagnerRachel “Wake Up! Gnosticism and Buddhism in The Matrix” Journal of Religion and Film 2001 5 2 (no pagination)

GreenMatthew J.A. “ ‘She Brings Apocalypse’: Sex, Imagination and Redemptive Transgression in William Blake and the Graphic Novels of Alan Moore” Literature Compass 2011 8 739 756

GreyAlex Net of Being 2012 Rochester Inner Traditions

HanegraaffWouter J. New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought 1996/1998 Leiden Brill and Albany: State University of New York Press

HanegraaffWouter J. “Fiction in the Desert of the Real: Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos” Aries 2007 7 85 109

HanegraaffWouter J. CusackCarole M.HartneyChristopher “ ‘And End History. And go to the Stars’: Terence McKenna and 2012” Religion and Retributive Logic: Essays in Honour of Professor Garry W. Trompf 2010 Leiden Brill 291 312 Pages

HanegraaffWouter J. HanegraaffWouter J.KripalJeffrey J. “Under the Mantle of Love: The Mystical Eroticisms of Marsilio Ficino and Giordano Bruno” Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism 2011 New York Fordham University Press 175 207 Pages

HanegraaffWouter J. Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture 2012 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

HanegraaffWouter J. Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed 2013a London Bloomsbury

HanegraaffWouter J. AspremEgilGranholmKennet “Entheogenic Esotericism” Contemporary Esotericism 2013b Sheffield Equinox 392 408 Pages

HanegraaffWouter J. SegalRobert A.von StuckradKocku “Trance” Vocabulary for the Study of Religion 2015 Leiden Brill 511 513 Pages

Hoff KraemerChristineWinsladeJ. Lawton LewisA. DavidKraemerChristine Hoff “ ‘The Magic Circus of the Mind’: Alan Moore’s Promethea and the Transformation of Consciousness through Comics” Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels 2010 London Continuum 274 291 Pages

KhouryGeorge The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore: Indispensable Edition 2008 Raleigh TwoMorrows

KripalJeff Mutants & Mystics: Science Fiction Superhero Comics and the Paranormal 2011 Chicago The University of Chicago Press

LabateBeatriz Caiuby Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond 2014 Oxford Oxford University Press

LeadbeaterCharles Webster The Devachanic Plane: Its Characteristics and Inhabitants 1896 London Theosophical Publishing Society

LiddoAnnalisa di Alan Moore: Comics as Performance Fiction as Scalpel 2009 Jackson University Press of Mississippi

LockeSimon “Spirit(ualitie)s of Science in Words and Pictures: Syncretising Science and Religion in the Cosmologies of Two Comic Books” Journal of Contemporary Religion 2012 27 383 401

MartinTim “Everything and Moore” Aeon 2014 October 17 ( (online publication: no pagination)

MooreAlanWilliamsJ.H.GrayMick Promethea 1999–2000 La Jolla DC Comics Book 1 (# 1–6)

MooreAlanWilliamsJ.H.GrayMick Promethea 2000–2001 La Jolla DC Comics Book 2 (# 7–12)

MooreAlanWilliamsJ.H.GrayMick Promethea 2001–2002 La Jolla DC Comics Book 3 (# 13–18)

MooreAlanWilliamsJ.H.GrayMick Promethea 2003 La Jolla DC Comics Book 4 (# 19–25)

MooreAlanWilliamsJ.H.GrayMick Promethea 2005 La Jolla DC Comics Book 5 (# 26–32)

MooreAlan “Fossil Angels” Abraxas 2011 2 182 195

MooreAlanBabcockJay ChristensenWilliam “Magic is Afoot” Alan Moore’s Yuggoth Cultures and Other Growths 2007 Rantoul Avatar 117 137 Pages

MyersFrederic William Henry Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death 1903/2011 Volume I Cambridge Cambridge University Press reprint

NarbyJeremy The Cosmic Serpent: dna and the Origins of Knowledge 1998 New York Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Putnam

OwenAlex The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern 2004 Chicago The University of Chicago Press

PartridgeChristopher The Re-Enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities Sacralization Popular Culture and Occulture 2004 London T & T Clark

PasiMarco “Varieties of Magical Experience: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Occult Practice” Magic Ritual and Witchcraft 2011 6 123 162

PossamaiAdam Handbook of Hyper-Real Religions 2012 Leiden Brill

RobertLouis “Le serpent Glycon d’Abônouteichos à Athènes et Artémis d’Éphèse à Rome” Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 1981 125 513 535

SalamanClementvan OyenDorineWhartonWilliam D. The Way of Hermes: The Corpus Hermeticum 1999 London Duckworth

SellarsSimon “Hakim Bey: Repopulating the Temporary Autonomous Zon” Journal for the Study of Radicalism 2010 4 83 108

ShanonBenny The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience 2002 Oxford Oxford University Press


Kripal 2011.


Kripal 20118–16.


Kripal 201115–16; with reference to Moore and Babcock 2007 131.


Cf. Green 2011.


Khoury 2008.


Moore and Babcock 2007125.


Pasi 2011143–160.


Robert 1981.


Moore and Babcock 2007126.


Moore and Babcock 2007126.


Moore and Babcock 2007127.


Moore and Babcock 2007128–129.


Hanegraaff 2013b. In this article I draw a distinction between Entheogenic Religion in a strict sense (defined by the use of psychoactive substances) and in a wider sense (referring to the use of other techniques for altering consciousness such as specific breathing techniques rhythmic drumming ritual prayer and incantations and so on). For a short systematic overview of these different types of trance induction and their relevance to religion cf. Hanegraaff 2015. Entheogenic Religion becomes Entheogenic Esotericism if these entheogenic experiences are interpreted in terms of previous traditions currently classed under the “esotericism” rubric (for a short overview see Hanegraaff 2013a 18–44).


Moore and Babcock 2007127.


Moore and Babcock 2007128with reference to Narby 1998. Ayahuasca is a famous entheogenic agent from the Amazon region (see e.g. Shanon 2002; Labate and Cavnar 2014).


Asprem 2014.


Di Liddo 200999.


Davidsen 2014.


Possamai 2012.


Cusack 2010.


Cf. Hanegraaff 2007.


Baudrillard 19941.


Martin 2014; Moore 2011189.


E.g. Fischer 2004124with reference to Linda Santiman.


Hanegraaff 2011.


Cf. Locke 2012391–394.


See Owen 2004198.


Myers 1903xviii; and cf Promethea # 32 about the Promethea moth Callosamia promethea.


Braden et al. 2007; cf Hanegraaff 2010.


Debord 2000.


Sellars 201085.


Leadbeater 1896.


Fischer 2005126.


Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 47 47 19
Full Text Views 10 10 9
PDF Downloads 4 4 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0