by John Lash
revised 11 October 2010 Andalucia
Approaching Gnosticism is rather like
entering a sharp curve on a mountain road: you’re wary of the
maneuver, but intrigued by the promise of a spectacular sight around
the bend. This short essay is intended to get us around the bend.
Many people attracted to Gnosticism are apt to be put off by the
difficulty of defining it. The problem of definition is so bad it
can almost immediately spoil interest in the subject .
It must be said, we’re in good company with the problem. To date
there is no scholarly consensus on how to define Gnosis or
Gnosticism. The definition proposed at the
Messina Conference in 1966 (conference
on The Origins of Gnosticism) has not proven useful, and is now
disregarded. Yet that definition carries erroneous notions about
Gnosticism, disinformation deriving from attacks on Gnostics by
Christian ideologues 1600 years ago, and continues to have currency.
To make matters worse, the lack of a clear consensus hides the fact
that routine assumptions are always applied to Gnosticism, as if
scholars did agree on how to define it.
These assumptions concern both the
historical origins of Gnosticism, and the Gnostic worldview.
The earliest scholars (who are no longer cited) regarded Gnosticism
in the broad sense as a monumental spiritual movement of Asiatic
origins, long predating Christianity. There is now a slight tendency
to return to this view.
See, for instance, the Introduction by
James Robinson in NHLE 1990:
“This debate seems to be resolving
in favor of understanding Gnosticism as a much broader
phenomenon than the Christian Gnosticism documented by the
Most scholars writing today, however,
insist that Gnosticism was the mystical philosophy shared by a loose
confederation of cults that sprang up between 50 and 350 CE in the
milieu of early Christianity. In this view, Gnosticism was a
marginal and even parasitic movement that only existed in response
to genuine religious impulse of Christianity.
Karen King argues that Gnostic
views were merely differences of opinion among early Christians who
debated the Gospels, the identity of Jesus, the doctrines formulated
by Saint Paul and Saint John the Divine, and so on...
This argument is particularly misleading because the emphasis on
difference tends to conceal the real issue, which was dissent.
Certainly, many different views on Jesus
and his message were discussed in the communities where Christianity
arose, but this atmosphere of tolerance was not due to the generous
spirit of the first Christians, as King would have us believe.
Tolerance was the mark of the
Pagan religious attitude, and the more Christianity came into
power, the less tolerance there was in the classical world. But the
Church ideologues who condemned Gnostics as heretics were not merely
intent on eliminating diversity and difference so that they could
impose uniform totalitarian doctrines (as they eventually did).
They were far more intent on eliminating
dissent, especially the informed dissent of Gnostics from the
Mysteries, such as
Hypatia, who argued brilliantly against
The totalitarian belief system that
asserts divine intercession in history, and imbues suffering
with redemptive value. Includes Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam, the three dominant
superhuman rescue of humanity from its problems and off-planet,
remote-control authority on morals, and divine retribution.
(From the Glossary in
Not in His Image)
Proposed term in
metahistorical discourse for belief-systems that place
the responsibility for the fulfillment of humanity
outside itself, usually in the hands of a superhuman
creator deity, such as the Father God of the Abrahamic
All three religions that trace their origins to the
Biblical Patriarch Abraham present salvationist
programs, with slight variations: Judaism, Christianity
(Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, and more), and
Islam. For a concise evaluation of this schema, see the
Every religion consists of four components:
a set of rites
For instance, the religion
of the ancient Hebrews consists of the "sacred
narrative" in the Old Testament (recounted in the Torah,
the first five books of the Bible), the rites practiced
by the adherents, the ethics proposed by the spiritual
leaders or authorities (such as the Ten Commandments,
said to be dictated to Moses by Jehovah), and the
ideology implied in or attached to all the preceding.
Any theme or mytheme that forms part of the structure of
a religion will find expression in some or all of these
modes. For example, the theme of atonement. The OT
narrative tells the story of the atonement of the Jews
in various episodes, most notably the atonement that
followed their escape from Egypt. This episode, taken
for an actual historical event, becomes the basis of
rites of atonement to be periodically practiced.
The episode (which is
exemplary or paradigmatic, in the sense that Mircea
Eliade applied to myths) presents the model for rites
and also the framework for ethical practices. Finally,
an ideology is contained in or attached to the ensemble
of narrative, rites, and ethics.
Usually, the ideological
component consists of a set of beliefs relating to
supernatural things, to God or the "Divine Plan," and to
other notions which, because they are not normally
subject to verification by direct personal experience,
are taken as a matter of belief. For instance, the
belief that God protects those who practice rites of
atonement is an ideological premise.
Salvationism, the dominant religious belief-system on
the planet, consists of all four components, but the
innermost, driving dynamic of salvationist doctrines
resides primarily in the ideology, the unverifiable
beliefs attached to the system. As noted in this site,
Gnostics who observed the rise of the Christian
salvationist program out of Jewish sectarian ideology
(primarily, the cult of
the Zaddikim) and protested against what they saw as
erroneous beliefs, did not attack anyone who held
beliefs those beliefs, but they attacked the beliefs
that were held.
In turn, Gnostics
themselves were physically attacked, and the Mystery
Schools where they preserved a millennial tradition of
initiatory teaching were destroyed. The destruction took
centuries, beginning in the time of the adoption of
Christian as the state religion of the Roman Empire, and
continuing into the Middle Ages.
I point all this out, once again, at the risk of
becoming tedious, not only to signal your attention to
the greatest untold story of Western civilization - i.e., the destruction of the Mysteries and the sacred
heritage of Europan indigenous wisdom, of which the
Mysteries were the finest flowering - but also, and even
more pointedly, to indicate that
Salvationist religion cannot, and did not, succeed in
prevailing on the planet by peaceful conversion or by
the persuasion of its intrinsic and irresistible truth.
Constantine, who made Christianity the state religion of
the Roman Empire, was no fool, nor was he a devout
Christian. Even his biographer, Eusebius, clearly fudges
the account of Constantine's "conversion," attributed to
a vision of the Cross in the skies. (Once again, this
incident has been interpreted as an ET/UFO sighting,
thus linking salvationism to the perennial presence of
alien entities on Earth, and suggesting their possible
intervention in human religious experience.)
It was politically
expedient to make Christianity the state religion,
because the new faith conferred supernatural authority
on the governing powers. We see the clear and consistent
extension of this political ploy in the arrogant
religious fascism of the American government under
presidents Bush, although the root of this tyranny may
be traced back to antecedent sources.
In short, I am saying that salvationist religion is not
a religion in any true sense of the word: it is
political ideology in the disguise of religion.
Christianity was nothing but this from its conception.
It did not become perverted into mystico-fascism, for it
was originally conceived as such.
Salvationism prevails in
world events, and tyrannizes the minds of millions of
people today, as it has through the last twenty
centuries, because it has the ideological components of
a totalitarian control system in which the ultimate
source of control is unquestionable and beyond
accountability. Beyond human conscience and correction.
The main ideological components of
Judeo-Christian-Islamic salvationism are:
Creation as the
handiwork of a male deity, the Father God, rather
than as an ever-ongoing process involving divinities
of both genders.
The supremacy of the
male Father God who is also conceived as a judge and
The derivation of
moral codes by God's dictation to chosen messengers
- who are always men, of course (Abraham, Jacob,
Moses, Jesus, Mohammed). This masculine bias is the
signature of "revealed religion," the
academic-theological term for salvationism.
The repression of the
Feminine, evident not only in the elimination of
Pagan Goddesses from the Old Testament, but also in
the misogyny of the New Testament, promulgated by
Saint Paul, and the sexual apartheid of Islam.
Dominion of humanity
over the Earth, declared by the Father God who
creates the human species "in His image." This
ideological issue sets up a social control system
defined by the mandate to consume and ravage the
Earth. In effect, global consumerism is totally
consistent with the Biblical ideology of human
The dogma of the Fall,
sin and redemption.
The incarnation of
divinity in human form—affirmed in Christianity,
denied in mainstream Judaism but not in the
apocalyptic ideology of
the Zaddikim, and denied again in Islam which,
however, ascribes to a single holy book, the Koran,
the status attributed to Jesus Christ by Christians.
The corrupt nature of
sexuality and the natural world - an attitude
falsely attributed to Gnostics by early Christian
ideologues, in a clever and largely successful
attempt to disguise their own sex-hating and
world-rejecting tendencies by attributing them to
the diabolized Other.
The Divine Redeemer
complex, common to all three variants.
resurrection of the body, in the special case of
Jesus Christ, and in the general case of the
resurrection of humanity in the end time.
Eternal punishment and
damnation for sinners and infidels.
the apocalypse at the end of history.
The efficacy of
vicarious rites of atonement (Jewish festivals, the
Catholic Mass, the Islamic Haj, etc)
Take all this away and
what do you have? Not much, for there is not much to
salvationist religion when the ideological dynamic is
But it might be protested, Is any form of genuine
religion possible without these elements? Certainly.
Genuine religion devoid of salvationist elements existed
widely in the Pagan cultures of Europa, and it was
demonstrated, and still just barely is, in the
indigenous spiritual wisdom of native peoples such as
the Australian aborigines, and native-mind cultures in
the Americas, the Arctic, and Polynesia.
To some extent, but not
completely, Asian metaphysical systems such as Dzogchen
and Vedanta are free of salvationist elements. Gnosis,
the path of direct knowing of divine matters, was a
method of illuminism, contrasting in a profound way to
salvationism by its emphasis on experience over
authority, learning over doctrine.
In Gnosis no doctrines were sacred or beyond question,
nor should anything presented in the form of Gnostic
teachings today be so taken. The knowledge cultivated in
the Mysteries was testable by direct experience, and
indeed, the initiators insisted that neophytes learn for
themselves the basics of experimental mysticism.
Each generation of mystai
extended the process of ongoing revelation and
elaborated on the wisdom developed by those who had
preceded them. Gnostics were prolific writers, and
although they did not hold anything produced by an
individual author to be sacred, for them teaching and
learning were a sacred commitment.
"God is discourse"
says a Gnostic saying.
The discourse they pursued
was open-ended, innovative, expansive.
All the elements of the above list depend on enforcement
by authorities, such as Pope and President, who present
themselves to be the representatives of the supernatural
powers who underwrite the salvationist program.
In the Gnosis of the
Mysteries, there were no such intermediaries between the
initiate and the supreme experience of initiation:
encountering the Gods and exploring the wonders of this
world, Earth, and the cosmos beyond. The purpose of the
Mysteries was to teach how to know Gaia and co-evolve in
The purpose of salvationist religion is social control.
ET/UFO interventionist scenarios represent a special
class of salvationism. In the narratives recorded on
cuneiform, Sumerian scribes produced the earliest
surviving record of a salvationist program in which
the Anunnaki, intervene
in human evolution.
However, not everything
written on clay tablets needs to be taken for true, does
King's praising view of the rich
diversity of early Christianity fudges the real issue: it was the
dissent of the educated heretics, not merely different views in the
Pagan community, that so threatened the Church's rise to power that
brutal measures were taken to eradicate Gnostics and destroy all
There is so little evidence left of the Gnostic movement that
scholars find it difficult to believe it had vast scope and
autonomy. Some scholars like Birger Pearson, who sees
Gnosticism as an heretical offshoot of Judaism, view the
movement more sympathetically on its own terms, but still consider
it to be largely derivative.
Pheme Perkins, writing from deep
within the Christian fold, is unusually bold in indicating the pre-,
non- and anti-Christian elements in Gnostic writings. Others also
suggest pre-Christian and Pagan origins, but without developing
their arguments because (as explained below) they cannot do so
without going outside their special fields of expertise.
Gnostic studies are so completely bogged down in specialist debate
on obscure issues that no one pays attention to the unique and
alarming message contained in Gnostic texts.
I propose three definitions of Gnosis, psychological, inspirational,
and evolutionary, or shamanic...
The psychological definition is:
As such, it is a path of
questioning and learning, open-ended and unlimited in scope.
The evolutionary aim of Gnosis
is to realize human potential so that we can co-evolve with
all species and serve Gaia’s purposes.
In his massive Gnostical treatise, “The Exegesis,” science
fiction writer Philip K. Dick says that Gnosis,
He believed that Gnosis enables
the self-repair of “memory retrieval” circuits that exist
uniquely in the human species, but have been damaged. This
accords with my view that humanity provides a
memory-circuit for Gaia.
Dick assumes, as I do, that Gnostic teachings and practices
were preserved in the Mysteries:
“The ancients possessed
techniques (sacraments and rituals) used largely in the
Greco-Roman mystery religions to induce firing and
retrieval” of the memory circuits. He notes that these
techniques had a restorative value for the individual,
but Gnostics also “correctly saw the ontological value
to what they called the Godhead itself, the total
That is, Gnostics recognized
that these practices were not for self-glorification but to
contribute to the healing of God, or Goddess.
("The Exegesis," quoted in Valis, p. 108ff)
consistent with the Gnostic assertion that we, the human
species, are intimately involved with the "correction" of
the Goddess Sophia.
The inspirational definition is:
In other words, Gnosis is to the
religious experience of humanity what deep ecology is to our
rapport with nature. This is close to the evolutionary
Gnosis is a way of encountering the Sacred as it is known to
the powers that inhere in the natural world, i.e., the
animating powers of the earth and the cosmos at large.
Nearly all scholars maintain that Gnosticism arose historically with
Christianity, but I take a different view, as follows:
Gnosis was a
spiritual path of millennial duration, closely related to, yet
distinct from, well-known traditions of Pan-Asian mysticism,
including Indian yoga and Buddhism.
Gnostics were telestai, initiates
in the Mystery Schools who broke their vows of anonymity to come out
in the open and protest Judeo-Christian doctrines of Salvationism - doctrines that provide the ideological frame for the
Because the initiates emerged into the
public eye during the first centuries of the Christian Era, scholars
assume that Gnosticism must have been devised then and there.
I also depart from orthodox scholarship in looking outside the genre
to develop an historical profile for Gnosticism. No scholar would
say that Gnostics were from the Mystery Schools, because there is a
disciplinary fence between Gnostic studies and Mystery School
studies. Thus, Elaine Pagels insists flatly that there is no
evidence (by which she means textual evidence) of such a link.
But pioneer researchers, such as
Theosophical scholar G. R. S. Mead, assumed Gnosis to be
the core teaching of the Mysteries.
“Gnostic forms are found to preserve
elements of the Mystery-traditions of antiquity in greater
fullness than we find elsewhere.”
(The Gospels and the Gospel , p.
This statement was written in 1901.
Even the earliest evidence on Gnostics, such as the polemics of
Hippolytus, state that the "heretics" drew their views from the
Greek Mysteries. This link to the entheogenic cult of the Eleusinian
Mysteries confirms my view that Gnosis was a refined form of
psychedelic shamanism, a visionary path dedicated to the Earth
Goddess. Such links are totally ignored by Gnostic scholars.
There is ample historical evidence for cross-cultural exchange
between Gnostics and Asian mystics, such as Brahmins and Buddhist
monks. From the 4th Century BCE Alexandria was a melting-pot where
diverse cults met and mixed. The Church Fathers attest the presence
of Druids and Brahmins in Egypt at the dawn of the Christian Era.
Gandhara art from the Hindu Kush
demonstrates the fusion of Greek and Indian cultures from the 4th
Century BCE, and Buddhist scholars such as David Snellgrove
and Paul Williams see Gnostic ideas affecting early views of
In a hallmark essay published in 1967,
renowned Buddhist scholar Edward Conze outlined 17 key
similarities between Buddhism and Gnosticism. But
comparative studies of this kind are totally out of fashion today,
and comprehensive historical perspective on Gnosticism is
The result is, a fog of ambiguity. On approaching Gnosticism, we
naturally want to locate and label this movement, to get a sense of
where Gnostics were coming from, culturally, historically, and
geographically. Not a chance. Narrow-mindedness and denial dominate
the subject. We must approach Gnosticism knowing beforehand that its
origins are under-researched and misrepresented.
To make matters worse, my claim that Gnostics came out of the
Mystery Schools throws the entire issue into perplexity, because no
one knows what went on in the Mysteries! When I make this link, I
set myself up to explain what the Mysteries were, which is
about as difficult as explaining what Gnosticism is.
(Actually, it is not so difficult, but building an adequate picture
I cannot fail to link Gnosticism to
the Mysteries, even if this leaves people in bafflement. These
abstruse matters are crucial to recovering the lost spiritual
heritage of Europe (i.e., the West), and it takes a lifelong
commitment. It is not just an obscure episode in history we’re
contemplating here. What Gnosis really was, and what happened to it,
determined the most decisive shift in the moral and spiritual life
of Western civilization.
The story of the Gnostics is the crucial
missing chapter of that part of our collective story.
No scholar today regards the actual content of Gnosticism to be
worthy of discussion. The message of the Gnostics is lost in endless
debate over the textual meaning of the surviving materials. Scholars
assume that Gnostic texts are valuable for what they tell us about
the origins of Christianity, period.
But using Gnostic texts to legitimate
Christianity is contradictory to its radical message. The Gnostic
protest against Judeo-Christian religion is written clear and large
in the surviving materials, chaotic and fragmentary as they may be.
I use what I call the “Lego method” (see
below insert) of Gnostic scholarship to select those elements from
the surviving materials that build into a consistent and coherent
message, distinct from Judaic and Christian doctrines.
Lego method of Gnostic scholarship
My technique of selecting
from a wide range of textual materials those passages
that support a preconceived view or scenario.
In my comments on reconstructing the Fallen Goddess
Scenario, I explain how I intentionally select material
compatible with the Pagan (i.e., pre-Christian and
non-Christian) message the Gnostics. This method could
be applied in any area of scholarship and research, but
it works particularly well with the Gnostic materials
because they are so scanty and incoherent. No single
text presents a full picture of the Gnostic creation
myth. Nor does any single document from the Coptic
codices present a consistent statement of Gnostic views.
Pro- and anti-Christian
statements can occur in the same text. To build a
platform of anti-Christian views, I select from numerous
texts the passages compatible with that outlook. I do
so, however, in a completely transparent manner,
admitting what I'm doing.
Scholars also use the lego method on the extremely
difficult and obscure material of the Coptic Gnostic
literature. Unlike myself, however, they do not have, or
do not admit to having, a specific intention to
reconstruct a particular outlook or scenario. Thus they
do not put together particular lego pieces to make an
animal or a tree. Rather, they are content to sort
through the lego pieces and arrange them in piles.
Then they label the piles,
using such complicated rubrics as "a Jewish-Christian
post-resurrection discourse in a Gnosticizing milieu,"
and write long treatises on what the labels mean.
Scholars also use the Lego method,
putting together selected pieces of text to highlight a specific
doctrine or viewpoint, but without admitting they do so, or why they
do so. They take no interest in recovering the message of Gnosticism
on its own terms.
My intention in reworking the Gnostic materials is fourfold:
First, to show what is valid in
the Gnostic protest against the patriarchy and the
Second, to describe the rich
spiritual heritage of pre-Christian Europe, destroyed in a
centuries-long rampage of sexual, spiritual and intellectual
Third, to restore and redevelop
the Sophia myth, treating it as a story to guide the human
species toward a sane and sustainable future
Fourth, to propose a corrective
view of certain paranormal aspects of human experience,
based on Gnostic writing about the Archons
This is quite a tall order, I know.
Nevertheless, I believe that nothing less than this is acceptable
where genuine experience of Gnosis is concerned. There is huge
responsibility involved in knowing what Gnostics knew.
I am convinced that the way for the
human species to co-evolve with Gaia can best be discovered, and
perhaps only discovered, on the visionary path of Gnosis.
The disinformation regarding Gnosticism has persisted for 1600
Needless to say, it is not easy to dispel. (A difficult but
important book that has tackled this problem is Rethinking
“Gnosticism” - 1996 - by M. A. Williams. The author shows that the negative hype
attached to Gnosticism is unfounded and the evidence routinely cited
to support it, unreliable.)
The presumed contents of the Gnostic
worldview are routinely derived by selecting from the pathetic heap
of surviving texts certain elements that are not even the prominent
factors in those texts, yet are favored by scholars because they
carry assumptions that cast Gnosticism in a negative light, just as
the Church Fathers intended.
These assumptions usually are stated in
language like this:
Gnostics regarded nature and the
material world as flawed, corrupt, if not downright evil. They
believed that the human soul belongs to a higher world, but has
fallen captive to the realm of the senses, and so must extricate
itself and return to the Source, the Light.
Gnosis is the recognition of the
presence of the Higher Self, the spark of Divinity trapped in
matter, but only an elite few can realize this awareness
and liberate themselves from the enslavement of this world.
(Loose paraphrase of the Messina declaration.)
Not surprisingly, the online Catholic
Encyclopedia repeats the disinformation introduced by the Church
fathers in the 3rd Century.
It says that Gnostics,
"held matter to be a deterioration
of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity,
and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of
the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit,
which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the
appearance of some God-sent Savior."
With the exception of the phrase in
italics, this statement comes pretty close to the notion of
Christianity as a religion of trans-worldly escapism.
Scholars use the term “anti-cosmic” to describe "religious
pessimism" and the world-hating attitude ascribed to Gnostics. But
these attributions are manifestly wrong.
They cannot possibly reflect what
Gnostics believed, because they contradict in two flagrant instances
the sacred cosmology of the Mysteries:
First, the claim that Gnostics
regarded the material world as "a deterioration of spirit"
and a place of enslavement for the "divine sparks" cannot be
true. The paraphrase of Gnostic cosmology found in
Irenaeus (Against Heresies, Book 4, Ch. 2) says that the
earth we inhabit was formed from the body of the goddess
Sophia, the supreme divinity in the Gnostic worldview.
If the very substance of the
material world is the embodiment of this divinity, how can
it be considered evil, degenerated, and worthy of rejection?
Furthermore, Gnostic texts such as the Apochrypon of John
state that Sophia, in order to achieve the "correction" by
which she becomes realigned to the gods in the cosmic center
(the Pleroma) depends in some sense on humanity. This being
so, how can humans be viewed as "divine sparks" that have
fallen into blind enslavement in matter?
The genuine Gnostic teaching
states that we are not in essence divine sparks but we have
a spark of divine intelligence, nous, by which we can
recognize the fallen goddess and participate in her
"correction." Our mission is not to escape from the world,
but to take part in its transformation, extending even to
the cosmic level.
Second, the claim that " the
whole universe a depravation of the Deity," or to put it
otherwise, that the material world is a creation of the
Demiurge, who is a false deity, also cannot be true.
Several cosmological texts explicitly state that the
Demiurge cannot create anything, but only imitate the
workings of the true gods, the Aeons of the
Pleroma - and imitate them badly, at that.
(The kind of imitation involved
here might be compared to a kaleidoscope that uses pieces of
colored glass, i.e., inorganic material, to replicate the
organic complexity of the seeding, budding, and blossoming
of a sunflower.)
The texts are explicit on this
point: the Demiurge lacks ennoia, intentionality.
Saklas, the blind god, suffers a delusion that allows him to
think he creates the cosmos, but it is really Sophia working
through him that permits this delusion. What he does
"create" in his weird way is the stereoma, the planetary
system exclusive of the earth, sun and moon - the "hebdomad"
of the seven planets.
Clearly, the pseudo-deity cannot
and does not create the earth, because this planet is
uniquely the metamorphosis of Sophia herself.
In his book
The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the
Dead, Gnostic revivalist Stephen Hoeller notes
that the surviving writings do not condemn the earth (KAZ in Coptic,
from the Greek ge) as such, but the cosmos (Greek kosmos), the
In The Sophia of Jesus Christ (NHC
III), KAZ occurs next to cosmos, stating a clear distinction between
the earth and "the world" as we conceive it. The world or system is
our conditioned perception of the earth, or human reality on earth.
Hoeller's distinction agrees with the observation of Jacque
Lacarriere that Gnosis is about deconditioning our minds to
perceive reality as it is, rather than as we assume it to be.
The illusion of this world, the earth,
is not in its own nature, but in our perception of it. But such is
the nature of the human mind that we live in the perceptual frame we
construct, rather than in the reality it frames.
Disinformation on what Gnostics believed runs side by side by
slander about how they behaved. “Antinomian” is the scholarly terms
for the Gnostic’s alleged claim that in rejecting this world, they
stood beyond its laws; hence they were free to ignore social and
sexual mores. Gnostics were condemned by early Christians for
gross immorality, including orgiastic sex magic, Pagan rites of
"snake worship," and worse.
The very suggestion that Gnostics were
“anti-Christian” puts them in cahoots with the Anti-Christ. The
treasure of Nag Hammadi is heavily booby-trapped. There are so many
taboos and negative projections around the subject of Gnosticism
that struggling for a clear orientation to it may look like more
trouble than it’s worth.
I have never known a subject able to push people’s buttons as fast
and hard as Gnosticism does. I believe this is because by its nature
Gnosticism confronts us with our conditioning. (This is also the
view of Jacques Lacarriere.) Yet without such a
confrontation, we can never be free to know our own minds.
We need “disinhibiting instructions” to
penetrate the layers of lies that have been implanted in our minds.
After thirty odd years of research and reflection, I am convinced
that they had the key knowledge we need to shatter the historical
framework of the patriarchal/dominator agenda, and thereby undermine
that agenda for good and all.
Gnostic ideas assume a central and
imperative role in Metahistory.org because they present the
best chance we have to break away from the death-grip of the Western
The unique knowledge Gnostics tried to impart to the world at large
concerns the identity of
Jehovah, the "father god" of Judeo-Christian
religion. Gnostics claimed that the supernatural being
billions of people take for God is insane and actually
working against humanity. The core teaching specifies that
Jehovah is really an alien entity, not just a bad idea or a
It also specifies that Jehovah and
his minions, the Archons, used the Jewish people to make
an intervention into the human race.
The Archons deviate us from our humanity
through religious beliefs. Salvationism (i.e., reliance on a
superhuman savior) germinated in the Jewish apocalyptic sect of the
Zaddakim and went pandemic in Christian ideology centered on a
transhuman messiah, Jesus Christ.
In short, Gnostics warned that Judeo-Christian religion is a
deviant program implanted in the human mind, like a computer virus.
Salvationism is an ideological virus, and its origin is not
human. This is the core teaching of the gnostikoi, “those who
know about divine matters.”
Search where you will, I don’t think you
will find this message anywhere else.
Gnosis is the knowledge of how we are deviated, by what, and for
So much for the bad news, the spooky part of the message. But
Gnostics also had sublimely good news to impart. They had a
beautiful message about what guides us, the insuperable power of
knowing that inheres in us and cannot be deviated. (This I call the
wisdom endowment, or Sophianic endowment.)
They presented a grand cosmic story in
which humanity is intimately allied with the Goddess Sophia of
the Pleroma, she who becomes Gaia.
This story describes how
Jehovah and the Archons were
produced by the “fall of Sophia,” before our world was created by
Her embodiment. Then, when the earth emerged, it was captured in the
planetary system, habitat of the Archons. Gnostics taught
that these inorganic entities influence us by a kind of
They use the power of suggestion when
our attention is dulled by fatigue or over-stimulation. Gnostic
texts contain vivid accounts of first-hand encounters with Archons,
and they explain the motives and methods of the alien forces in
But the message of Gnosticism is not "Blame it on the Archons."
Far from it. The core teaching of Gnosis specifies that this alien
species is not an autonomous force of evil that works against us.
The Archons represent error, not 'evil.'
They do not
cause mistakes in our learning process, but they affect our thinking
so that our mistakes go undetected and extrapolate beyond the scale
of correction. If we cannot correct our minds and redirect our
actions, we cannot participate in Gaia’s process of alignment with
the Pleroma, the celestial gods.
Hence the Archons present a special test in our effort to recognize
and actualize our divine endowment.
And the Archons are, after all, our cosmic cousins, the offspring
of Gaia-Sophia, though in a different way than we are. They are
not the only extra-human species with which we have contact on
earth, but they are unique in their predatory role. Gnostics taught
that not all that happens in our minds originates there.
This is an occult observation,
compatible with the most advanced theories of noetic science today.
It is, I would say, the single most important concept in the entire
field of cognitive psychology. It explains how humans can be
programmed to act in deviant and destructive ways, contrary to good
sense, compassion, gut emotion, personal conscience, and their sense
Since the agents of the global
program of domination (the "Illuminati")
use occult techniques of
mind control, understanding the
Archon thesis of the Gnostics can alert us to how we are being
The implications of “Archon theory” are
profoundly practical and far-reaching.
All this strange business concerning Jehovah and the Archons
is written large and clear in Gnostic texts, but ignored by scholars
for obvious reasons.
If we also ignore this scenario,
dismissing it as a bizarre fantasy, a religious psychosis, or a
remnant of Pagan superstition, we lose the opportunity to develop a
coherent culture myth that connects humanity to its cosmic origins
and to the future of the planet itself.
Knowing how we are deviated could be the
best thing that ever happened to us, spiritually speaking.
Sometimes, you have to put sanity
(see below insert) at risk to find out what it really means to
This is the startling message of R.
D. Liang, who insisted that our very capacity for experience can
be destroyed by conditioning that alienates us from what we
To understand behavior
in the sense peculiar to metahistory, it is helpful to
follow the proposal of R. D. Laing and
distinguish 'behavior' from 'experience':
I see you, and you see
me. I experience you, and you experience me. I see
your behavior. You see my behavior. But I do not and
never have and never will see your experience of
me... Experience is man’s invisibility to man. [At
the same time] it is more evident than anything.
Only experience is evident. Experience is the only
Our behavior is a
function of our experience. We act according to the
way we see things... Natural science knows nothing
of the relation between behavior and experience. The
nature of this relation is mysterious.
Although stated in the
sometimes trying language of paradox typical of Laing,
the contrast between experience and behavior is clear
enough: behavior is what we can observe each other
doing, but experience is what happens to us inside the
This distinction becomes even more emphatic when framed
in the context of belief. Belief drives behavior, but
often belief is not based on experience and so does not
reach or reflect the intimately lived dimension of human
existence. Indeed, the very nature of belief precludes
the necessity of experience. I can believe, for
instance, that Jesus sits on the right hand of God in
heaven, and simply by believing it I do not have to
experience it, do not have to put it to the test or
search for evidence to prove it is so. I believe it is
so, that’s all, and that is sufficient to cause me to
act in a certain way based on the belief I hold.
In the normal manner of expression, we do not usually
apply the term belief to something we experience
directly. We say we know something is true when we have
experienced it to be so. Belief pertains where rational
proof or verification by evidence is lacking, but
“experience is the only evidence.”
This means that if we can
experience something directly, evidentially, we are free
from having to hold beliefs about it. Laing warns: “If
our experience is destroyed, our behavior will be
destructive.” (p. 28) It might be said, “if our capacity
for experience is destroyed,” our behavior will be
affected in a negative way. Indeed, this may be a huge
Like a signal flare, Laing’s distinction highlights an
insight crucial to metahistorical inquiry: what is most
subjective about us, that upon which both our personal
identity and our sense of humanity depend, is a capacity
to experience that can be destroyed. Factoring this idea
into the primary assumption of metahistory (namely, that
belief drives behavior), we may begin to comprehend that
behavior is driven by belief precisely because the
capacity for experience has been superseded by the
willingness to believe without the evidence of direct
Considered in this light,
beliefs in and about God (or anything else) may be
derived from the incapacity to experience what God
actually is. Someone who can experience God in a direct
and evidential way no longer needs to hold beliefs in or
The English word behave traces back to Middle High
German, sich behaben, literally “self be-having or
be-holding.” To behave is to have a view of yourself
behaving in a certain manner, and probably to derive a
sense of self from the behavior so enacted. This notion
is not entirely trustworthy, however.
It represents a concept of
human identity that has been challenged in modern
psychology relating to abuse and addiction. One of the
guiding principles of recovery therapy is that you are
not your behavior, although you are responsible for your
behavior. Laing would probably concur with the semantics
here. Consistent with his distinction, it can be said
that you are the subject of your experience, not the
result of your behavior.
If you are truly living
from experience, from the unlimited capacity to grow,
learn and evolve, then you will be continually
transcending the limits of behavior. In conventional
terms, the most obvious sign of behavior is habit,
custom, the usual way of doing things. It represents a
form of conditioned response induced or programmed from
outside. Such conditioning works against the innate
capacity for experience.
Laing says that experience is “intrapsychic.” Someone
standing before Niagara Falls may be expected to have a
certain response, to act in a customary way: take
photos, make oohing sounds, and so forth. This behavior
is programmatic and predictable, yet the fact remains
that an infinite variety of human experiences could
occur in the presence of Niagara Falls.
“My psyche is my
experience, my experience is my psyche.” (p. 21)
Behavior is the
conditional form experience assumes when acted out and
shared with others. It is what happens to the psyche,
but not what the psyche experiences happening in itself.
To live in behavior and
identify oneself with behavior is to become alienated
from one’s own experience, yet this emphasis on behavior
(custom, habit, preprogrammed activity) is precisely the
mark of belief-driven activity. People who hold the same
beliefs will act in the same (predictable, customary)
ways, and they will identify strongly with those ways.
Their behavior will
prevail because their capacity to experience has been
severely compromised, if not destroyed.
Alienation is also a theme that
informs the best work of Philip K. Dick, the science fiction
writer whose genius is currently recognized worldwide due to
cinematic adaptation of his books.
Relating the work of R. D. Liang,
Philip K. Dick and others such as
Wilhelm Reich to the Gnostic
message, helps us to realize its contemporary power.
The surviving Gnostic texts, thought to be Coptic translations of
Greek-language originals, are scant and derivative. These materials
are too fragmentary and incoherent to reveal the full scope of what
the Gnostics had to say, although all the essential clues are there.
It is unrealistic to expect the average seeker to plow into these
obscure materials and come up with a clear understanding of the core
teaching of the Mysteries.
After hundreds of readings of the
Nag Hammadi codices and related
materials, I can attest to how extremely difficult it is to extract
a coherent message from these pitiful remains.
Nevertheless, from these flakes of
papyrus a powerful visionary system can be inferred. Everything that
goes into my reconstruction of the core teaching of Gnosis is based
on specific clues in the Coptic codices, although I do not always
cite the textual clues because the proof process regarding these
materials is tedious, meticulous and exhausting.
It’s much easier to find the core teaching in ourselves, in the
intuitive knowing of our hearts where humanity dwells and our
species' bond to Gaia is rooted.
When all is said and done, approaching Gnosticism involves an act of
faith, but not blind faith in received doctrines and supernatural
There is another kind of faith, indicated by Gnostics by
“confidence in the
You have to believe that you can discover innately whatever you are
seeking to know
through an external quest for knowledge.
Philip K. Dick believed this was so.
This conviction informs his best
writings, especially the
Valis Trilogy, a masterpiece
permeated with genuine, first-hand, re-invented Gnosticism. Dick
said that the discovery at Nag Hammadi in December, 1945, was not
merely a find of documents, but the release of a living impulse,
something he called “the plasmate.”
“the living information slumbering
at Nag Hammadi century after century…The plasmate had gone
hiding at Nag Hammadi and was loose again in our world.”
It is a spiritual impulse charged with
numinous content, a core teaching that lives and regenerates within
those who learn it.
This knowing within is Gnosis, not the
assurance of a divine self, but the awakening of a faculty of higher
cognition, a faculty that gives insight transcending the human
condition. Whoever touches that core teaching is touched by divine
revelation. An ever-new, ever-true, ongoing revelation.
There is no better way to approach Gnosticism than through the eye
of the heart, where this revelation is perpetually in birth.