by John Lash

December 2004


from MetaHistory Website


Several texts in the Nag Hammadi collection describe the cosmic origin of the Archons.


The most complete version is in The Apocryphon of John, found in three drafts in the NHL and also in a non-NHL source, the Berlin Codex. In the scholar's edition of the complete NHL in English, all four versions are printed in parallel, arranged in two columns on facing pages. The story of how the Archons arise in the cosmic order, due to the precipitous plunge of Sophia, and how they intrude upon humanity is not told in great detail, but it is told adequately.

The Apocryphon of John also describes the aims and tactics of the Archons, the way they act relative to humanity. A keyword for this activity might be intrusion. In the language of comparative mythology, this situation constitutes an intervention scenario. As Gnostics saw them, Archons properly belong in the extraterrestrial realm of the planetary system exclusive of the Earth, and so they are intruders in the biosphere.


The threat of Archontic intrusion into the human realm is clearly stated in the Sophianic origin myth. Yaldabaoth, the head of the Archon hordes,

"did not obey the place from which he came."

(The Apocryphon of John, 12:10, cited in Alien Dreaming).

This problem is inherent to the foundational story of our species.



We, also, are like the Archons, subject to the same cosmic principle of self-regulation.


If we, as a species, "do not obey the place from which we came," we risk losing our place in the cosmic order. Gnostic teachings on the Archons are beautifully conceived so that at no point can we blame the Archons for what we do. Nevertheless, the Archons do exist independently of us, and do exert a significant influence on our behavior and outlook. They are both aspects of our mentality and independent alien entities.


The both/and proposition typifies the noetic finesse of Gnostic wisdom.

The Sophianic origin story is a narrative of events, a cosmological script as such, while the interpretation of how the Archons affect humankind is commentary, a diagnostic treatment of the story and, to some extent, an extension of it. Unlike the origin story, Gnostic views on Archontic intrusion are not found in any single text, and even where they are found, they are often garbled and incomplete. Nevertheless, the main outlines of intrusion are clear enough. contains numerous passages on the ET/UFO enigma, treated in the perspective of Gnostic teachings.


Here and there I equate the Archons with contemporary ETs, those "alien" entities who seem to flit in and out of our world, particularly the Greys and Reptilians widely associated with UFO sightings, encounters, and abductions. There is, as everyone knows, a vast mythology developing about these entities.


My aim here is to show what is unique in the Gnostic story of the Archons and analysis of their activities.

In this essay I would like to summarize the cosmological narrative, the Sophianic origin myth with emphasis on the Archons as alien life-forms. In a companion piece, How We Are Deviated, I "profile" the Archons more closely, with the aim to elucidate their motives and tactics, as described in various Gnostic texts.


A Cosmic Abortion

The central event in Gnostic cosmology concerns the Aeon Sophia, a divinity in the Pleroma (astronomically speaking, the core of our galaxy, or any galaxy). In the scenario of the Fallen Sophia, the Aeon plunges from the cosmic center and produces a massive perturbation in the realms of elementary matter, the encircling limbs.


This mythological event may be envisioned in a way consistent with modern cosmological physics: The erratic surge of a plasmatic stream from the galactic core exites the elementary matter in the limbs, producing a spate of inorganic life-forms.


They are called Archons (from the Greek archai, "prior, from the beginning") because they arise first, before the sun and the planetary system as a whole.

Archons are humanoid creatures of inorganic composition, but alive and aware in their own way. Their first habitat is the region where the galactic limb has been impacted by the "shoot" of plasma from the core. (Astrophysicists now surmise the existence of such shoots by the evidence of thread-like tunnels extending from the core, or central bulge, into the limb-structure.)


This agitation occurs in the region of Orion, the most well-known and easily recognized of all the starry constellations. The Archontic entities so produced are of two types,

  • neonate (or embryonic, resembling the human fetus)

  • drakonic (resembling reptiles or lizards, but still humanoid)

The rudimentary forms of these entities can be traced in fractal patterns around the Mandelbrot Set. (See Alien Dreaming.)

Gnostics called this event "the generation of the Archons," or "the generation of error," because they equated the Archons with the human tendency for error - a curious trope, to be explained below, concerning the Gnostic theory of error, and in the profile of Archontic intrusion in How We Are Deviated.


In a bizarre image, the fractal Archon generation is compared to,

"an abortion without any power of its own. Like a shadow it came into existence in a vast watery substance... And Sophia hovered over the chaotic matter, which has been expelled like an aborted foetus."

(On the Origin of the World, 99: 5-10, 20-25)

The Gaia Mythos describes how the Aeon Sophia is stunned by the spontaneous generation of these entities, for this event was not foreseen in her "Dreaming" of a world-system out there beyond the Pleroma.


The Archons arise from the impact of a deific force-field that automatically configures the chaos of the raw elements, the dema, rather in the way a sound-current configures fine sand on a flat surface (the "Chaldni forms"), or a magnet configures iron filings into a graceful rosette. This pattern-forming dynamic is the autopoesis of the Gods, great living currents that surge through the Dreamtime.

The Archons emerge first in the neonate form, and then a further mutation ("tail-dropping") produces the drakonic type. The Apocryphon of John describes how the Aeon Sophia hides the chief Archon in a luminous cloud, so that the Pleroma does not see the "abortion" she has unwittingly produced.


With this image, the mythology points directly to an event described in modern astrophysics.

The Birth of the Sun

In modern astrophysics, the sun, the central star of our planetary system, is said to have been produced by an explosion in the interior of the Orion Nebula.


In the area mythologically pictured as Orion's sword, or the "Phallus of Osiris," is a dense molecular cloud, a cradle of star-birth. The sun was literally ejaculated from this region. The stellar explosion has two effects: it propels the newborn sun on a trajectory upstream in the third galactic limb, and as the sun advances, its spinning motion acts like a turbine, pulling elementary matter into a vortex. The vortex gradually flattens into the "proto-planetary disk."

According to the current model of solar evolution, this disk is to be imagined as an immensely wide, flat ring composed of elementary matter with the sun, roaring like a blast furnace, positioned at its center.


Gradually the raw elements separate, and the ring differentiates into bands of agglomerated particles that condense into individual planets. The conditions of this process are such that, just by chance, the Earth evolves from a density-band located at a unique position, neither too far from the Sun, not too close to it. This location affords the precise conditions needed for the development of the biosphere. The conditions required for organic life do not arise from the other bands.

Such is the modern cosmological narrative, but the Gnostic mythos of planetary evolution differs on a few key points.

Gnostic seers who observed the cosmos at large saw all events as part of the ongoing miracle of consciousness. They realized that the power we possess to be aware of the cosmos is not a unique subjective property of humans but belongs to the very dynamics of the universe. Hence, they regarded everything that happens "out there" beyond the Earth to be an expression of awareness and sentience operating in higher dimensions.


To them, the explosion of the sun in the Orion Nebula was an event witnessed and felt by cosmic powers, even by the Sun itself.


In their "visionary replay" of that event, Gnostics used mythological language to describe the emergence of our planetary system as if it were a sentient process, felt and witnessed by cosmic presences - but for the seers who developed this myth, "as if" was "as is." They did not anthropomorphize, falsely projecting human qualities into a non-human world, but they attempted to describe the sentient, self-aware qualities of the cosmos at large.

Gnosis is living knowledge of a living universe.

In the Gnostic scenario, the eruption of the Sun in the Orion Nebula is an event beheld by the Aeon Sophia and the legion of Archons She has produced due to the premature side-effect of Her impact.


At first the Archontic entities are merely ripple-like formations in the dense elementary matter arrays, the dema (the chaos of atomic and sub-atomic particles).


They are initially formed like crinkled filigree on a skin of metals, but when the sun erupts in the Orion Nebula, it exerts a powerful vortex effect upon them. The material of the emergent Archons becomes organized around the spinning solar vortex, then flattened into a vast rotating plate that differentiates into distinct bands. (Here the description follows current theory.)

None of this happens without awareness, however. The cosmos in formation is witnessed and sensed by the powers forming it. (What is the instrumentality for this act of witnessing, the organs for sensing on the cosmic scale? I would say it is a cluster of resonant shells, rather like the higher-dimensional structures proposed in String Theory.)


As the proto-planetary disk forms, the Archons are absorbed into it. They are inorganic beings whose physical composition matches the inorganic chemistry of the planets, apart from the Earth. As the disk develops, the chief Archon, the reptilian type called Salkas, Samael, or Yaldabaoth, witnesses its formation and erroneously assumes that he is the creator of the emergent system. It is as if the chief Archon sees himself mirrored in the emergent solar disk, and then takes that system as his product.

Opening his eyes, the chief Archon saw a vast quantity of matter without limit, and he became arrogant, saying,

"It is I who am God, and there is no other power apart from me."
The Hypostasis of the Archons, 93:23.

This is the primordial error of the Archontic mentality: to mistake the witnessing power for the power to form what is witnessed.


Hence, the emergence of the Archons, a cosmological event, is intimately identified with the "generation of error," a noetic event. Cosmic-noetic parallelism is a mark of Gnostic visionary science, as I have elsewhere noted.


However, it is not entirely unique to Gnostic teachings. It also occurs in Buddhism.


In The Insanity of God - A Buddhist Cosmological Narrative (forthcoming in "Believe It or Not"), I consider a rare Buddhist creation myth that presents an exact counterpart to the Gnostic scenario of the Lord Archon, Yaldabaoth.

Simulated Order

Assuming the arrogant pose of a solar deity, Yaldabaoth falsely believes himself to be the only god in the entire cosmos. Thus, for Gnostics, the identification of Yaldabaoth with Jehovah of the Old Testament, a deity who suffers from this very complex of cosmic egotism, is a foregone conclusion, prefigured in the Sophianic origin myth.


Being blind, he cannot perceive the Pleroma (galactic core), nor does he recognize Sophia, the cosmic current that surged from the core and produced him in the first place.


He becomes infatuated, bloated with grandiosity, causing Sophia to feel shame and want to hide him from the sight of the Pleromic Aeons.

"She cast him away from her radiance, so that no one among the immortal ones might see him... She joined a luminous cloud with him, and placed a throne in the middle of the cloud."

(Apoc John BG 38, 1-10)

The Aeon Sophia is that cosmic current whose impact organizes the dema and produces the Archons.


This happens because She acts unilaterally in Her plunge from the galactic core, but Sophia does not unilaterally cause the birth of the Sun. This is a process continually occurring in the galactic limbs, due to the physics of the limb structure itself. In an action that might be compared to a mill wheel grinding stones, the galactic armature churns and refines elementary matter, constantly producing star-birth, the promise of new worlds of experience.

The key to the unique status of our planetary system is the convergence of Sophia's impact with the nebular expulsion of a newborn star. The material of the Archons is incorporated into that material vortex that forms around this star, and Sophia herself fixes the chief Archon centrally ("enthroned") in the center of the proto-planetary disk ("luminous cloud").

Overseen by Yaldabaoth, the Archons now proceed to fabricate the planetary system from the inorganic elements of which them themselves are composed. As they have no intentionality (ennoia) and no creative capacity (epinoia) of their own, they can only do this by imitation.


The Apocryphon of John (II, 10, 24-25) describes how the Lord Archon,

"produced for himself cyclic worlds (orbiting bodies) from the luminous spark that still shines in the sky."

Thus, he draws upon the vortex power of the central star, the newborn Sun, to organize the matter swirling in the proto-planetary disk. Yaldabaoth originates nothing, however. He can only copy the model of the Pleroma, without even knowing that he does so:

And he was amazed by his own arrogance, for he seemed to beget material powers (exousiai, "authorities") out of his own solitary power, but after the patterns of the imperishable Aeons... And so there came to be a stereoma ("firmament") corresponding to the cyclic formations of the Pleroma.
(II, 10, 26-28, and 12, 25)

Gnostic teachings constantly emphasize that the Archons are imitators who cannot produce anything original, yet they arrogantly claim they can.


The Lord Archon is called antimimon pneuma, "counterfeit spirit." (Apoc John III, 36:17. The term occurs several times in different texts.) The cosmos he produces is described by the Coptic term hal, "simulation."


The vast planetary system of the Archons is a stereoma, a virtual reality projection in simulation of a higher dimensional pattern.

Typically, the Archontic framework of the planetary system

has been depicted by "armillary bands" that surround the Earth.

(Illustration from A. Cellarius, Harmonia Macrocosma, 1660.)

Taken in many esoteric systems (Hermetics and Rosicrucianism)

as the preeminent image of cosmic harmony, the model of the planetary spheres

reflects a mindless imitation of divine design, not the living reality of the cosmos.

Yaldabaoth, the presumed all-mighty creator God, really creates nothing; instead, he copies from "archetypal" patterns in the Pleroma. The planetary stereoma of his making is like a plastic copy of an abalone shell. Only someone who does not know the reality of the abalone shell, and what living miracle of nature is required to produce it, would accept the plastic substitution.


Here again, the cosmic-noetic parallel applies: Archons simulate in the cosmos at large, and they also simulate in the human mind. This is a key indication of their effect, a clue to their subtle intrusion tactics.

The main cosmological texts in the NHL, On the Origin of the World, The Hypostasis of the Archons, and The Apocryphon of John, are consistent in describing how the solar system arises as an inorganic simulation of the living pattern of the eternal Aeons.


Here is further insight into "the generation of error."


One might be excused (but just barely) for mistaking plastic for pearl, but it would be terrible ignorance indeed to be unaware that it takes an entire ocean and a living, symbiotic biosphere to produce a pearl. Yet such is the ignorance of the Archons that they cannot comprehend the living miracle of divine order, rooted in the Pleroma, even when they are imitating it.

The stereoma of the Archons is truly a grandiose accomplishment, rather like the many-roomed Venetian palace of a Mafia don afflicted with religious grandiosity and a militaristic sense of the command chain:

Now the prime parent (archigenetor), the master breeder of the Archons, since he commanded vast orbiting worlds, produced heavens for each of his offspring... beautiful dwellings, and in each heaven Yaldabaoth produced glorious decor, seven times excellent: thrones and mansions and temples, and also chariots and celestial virgins... consigning to each one its own heaven-like realm, and providing them with mighty armies of gods and commanders and messengers and overseers, in countless myriads, so that they might all serve and be served.
On the Origin of the World, 19.

Readers familiar with the archetypal psychology of C.G. Jung will recognize in this passage all the elements of the heaven archetype common to the mainstream religions: heavenly mansions, celestial armies, cloud chariots, virgins on order, choirs of angels arranged with military precision.


The stereoma is loaded with spiritual kitsch. If anyone needs evidence of how the Archons can infect human imagination, here it is, seven times excellent.


"Divine Deceit"

It may come as a shock that so much of what human beings have imagined as heaven is an Archontic fantasy, or would be so regarded by Gnostics. It is rather as if our idea of heaven (the realm of the Afterlife) were based on a Disney theme park. There is indeed something Disneyesque about the Archons, and there is in turn something distinctly Archontic about the Disneyfication of our world. (For some astute observations on this point, see Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred).


It is worth noting that Walt Disney began to reach the mainstream in the early days of American television with remarkable films on nature, such as The Living Desert.


At a certain moment, however, Disney turned from nature to fantasy. He proposed that the construction of Disney World in Anaheim, near Los Angeles, be overseen by a team of "imagineers." The result is that some people today who visit Disney World are so impressed by the simulacra, they cannot tell if the hippos in the river are real or artificial.

From a Gnostic viewpoint, Disney might be accused of the error of Yaldabaoth:

"he did not obey the place from which he came."

Rather than stay within the boundaries of nature, and learn from what is to be observed there, he decided to make nature over in simulation. This is exactly what the Archons did by imitating "the pattern of the imperishable Aeons."


But consider the results.

Whether we are considering heaven or Disney World, we are confronting the effects and artifacts of human imagination, as well as of Archontic imagination, the genius of artificial intelligence. The simulacra of the Archons can so convincing that we fall under the spell of believing that the entire planet can be turned into a technological theme park, and even believing that such a world would be better than the one we already have.


Such beliefs are typical of the Archontic subterfuge that Gnostics detected, first, in their visionary survey of the cosmos at large, and second, in their astute observations of how human behavior is driven by religious fantasies and delusional beliefs.

Elsewhere in this site I have cited the master principle for the Great Work, stated in the Theatrum Rosarium, a compilation of alchemical lore from the 17th century:

In all thine operations, let the Work be guided by nature, according to the slow progression of metals in the bowels of the Earth. And in thine efforts, be guided in all ways by the true and not the fantastic imagination.

Fine words, these. But how can we tell the true from the fantastic imagination? The language of the alchemical principle states in the first part of the formula what must be assumed in the second: true imagination follows nature, false imagination deviates from it.


This deviation is the signature of the Archons, but it is typically human, or, I should say, typical of our species' arrogance, to presume that we can imagine a world better than the one nature provides. And even if we do improve on the natural world, we ought to do so with alchemical rigor, making sure that what we invent is based on close observation of how nature works.

Alchemists collecting the morning dew.

Mutus Liber ("The Silent Book"), 1677, La Rochelle.

From Alchemy & Mysticism by Alexander Roob, p. 380.

The human tendency to be seduced by the fantastic imagination was deeply understood by Gnostics who detected therein the intrusion of the Archons into our minds, and indeed, into the biosphere we inhabit.


Of course, we recognize today - some people do, at least - that the Disneyification of the world, more currently disguised in technomaniac pretensions, presents a serious deviation for humanity. Perhaps a terminal deviation. The enthrallment of artificial intelligence is now widespread and massively impacting every aspect of our lives. In the near future, if not already, it may be impossible for the large majority of human beings to discern what can be truly, livingly imagined, from disembodied fantasy.

This is the "Divine Deceit" we face as the ultimate test of our own divine potential.

By putting a Gnostic slant on these matters, I am not saying anything new, nor making any observations that have not already been made (by the likes of Jerry Mander, Theodore Roszak, or Jeremy Rifkin, for instance), but I am framing the entire issue in a cosmic perspective.


Although it takes exceptional smarts and loving patience and, yes, "the true and not the fantastic imagination," to get behind this Gnostic material, I believe the effort is worth what it asks of us. The spell of the Archons is indeed strong, but it can be counteracted by a consummate strength we find in ourselves, deep within our Sophianic endowment. This strength has to be claimed and cultivated, however.


It does not arise by itself but it is sparked and sustained by initiated effort.

After a lifetime of involvement with experimental Gnosis and the Sophianic mythology, I am convinced that therein lies the power not to be found in ordinary knowledge, nor derived from even the best observations of the most sensitive minds of our time. More than ever we need the noetic finesse of the Gnostic initiates who lived the Mystery, learning directly from the Earth Goddess.


In the cosmic perspective of Gnosis we may at last discover the secret sense of who we are and what we are facing on this lonely planet.