Wooing the Whore of Wisdom (1)
I have probably read the entire Nag Hammadi Library at least twenty times. Not until the sixth or seventh reading did I begin—just begin—to develop a consistent comprehensive view of radical Gnostic heresy, especially the anti-salvationist features. After fifteen or so runs, combined with reading other non-NHL and non-Coptic materials and delving into around two hundred scholarly books on Gnosticism, I began to pull the vision story into a coherent narrative. At the end of the day, the story will have to stand on its own legs, no matter what anyone makes of Lash's reconstruction.
I implore you to recognize that this story is not my construction, a personal myth (although I am fully capable of producing personal myths). I don't expect anyone to take this story on faith, but I ask that it be given fair consideration. Savor it, discuss it, pass it around. Compare it to other narratives that are currently being promoted as master plots of the human situation. And ponder the claim I make as a comparative mythologist who has examined the entire repertoire of worth myth: namely, the Fallen Goddess Scenario is the sole coherent full-scale planetary myth produced by the human species so far.
Versions of the Sophianic vision story to date are five: 1, the synopsis in Not in His Image, 2, the extended elaboration of the narrative through several chapters of that book, 3 the summary of the fallen goddess scenario (FGS) on this site, 4, the rendering in an astronomical framework, and 5, the unfinished prose poem on this site. Each rendering follows the format of nine episodes, except the prose poem which comprises sixteen episodes. I have gone over the story line hundreds of times to bring it to optimal articulation and clarity, so that it can be taken up by others. The challenge of this unique myth is to learn the story by heart and then participate in it, live it out. My deepest gratitude goes out to all those who respond with passion and determination to this challenge.
In retrieving and restoring the Sophianic vision of the Mysteries, I have been faced with many daunting considerations. Throughout this complex life-consuming task, I have always been my own most severe critic. I doubt there is any objection to my rendering or interpretation of the myth that I have not inflicted on myself. The main consideration, of course, pretains to how much I may have invented or added to the myth. The second, equally daunting consideration pertains to the issue of viewing the myth as a metaphor or taking it more literally, as an imaginative account of events that actually happened. I will not be able to answer the objections that stem from these considerations to the total satisfaction of all parties. But to offer my best effort, I propose to be transparently honest on three points of the reconstruction: the additions, amplifications, extrapolations I have peformed in the process of restoring the myth. In this essay and the second part, I will address these three points.As for the second consideration, regarding confusion over the metaphoric or literal status of the vision story, it tends to get mixed up with yet another objection: namely, the objection to the animistic or anthropocentric language of the myth. In the astronomical rendering, I treat the mythological entity "Sophia" as an astro-theological term for a power-surge from the galactic core. Fine, this immediately puts the myth in a scientific framework. From this point on, Sophia can be considered as a torrent of cosmic energy or wave-form located in the core of the home galaxy of the solar system to which the earth belongs. That is a pretty good astronomical rendering of the myth. The problem is, once we proceed into further details of the myth, we are required to imagine that this torrential wave-form is not merely a form of cosmic energy, such as a gamma-ray burst, but a living entity that can perceive, feel, and intend. With the shift from energy to entity we veer away from the astronomical framework. With the attribution of human-like faculties to the torrent of galactic core energy, we land in the domain of cosmic animism. It is impossible to relate the myth in full without doing so, however, because the energy entity of the myth clearly possesses the ability to perceive, feel, and intend.
How can I justify the cosmic animism of the Sophianic vision story? Do you find it difficult to imagine how an "energy torrent" can be intelligent, self-aware, capable of perceiving, feeling, and intending? I can see why anyone would balk at this claim: an energetic wave-form possesses no sense organs. How can it feel itself and perceive anything else? And how can it be intelligent and intentional if it is merely a surge of electricity or a wave of stellar matter (whatever that is!).
Well, consider that an electrical current in an optical fiber can carry voices, pictures, and information, a vast and varied array of "intelligence." If the optical fiber is fed into a device configured to it, the signal stream can cause the device to behave in certain ways, making it pefrorm definite functions such as search and locate, as well as functions of a mechanical nature, robotic actions. Moreover, the information functions and commands in a signal stream can be transmitted across space without support of any physical medium except the atmosphere. Even disembodied, the signal stream can effect actions that demonstrate intelligence, design, choice, selection, and intention.
Now, if human beings can conceive, construct, and operate informational systems of this kind, what do you imagine nature at large might be able to do? Since it is nature that endows humans with the capacities required to conceive and create such systems, what range of capacities might nature itself exhibit, going right out to the cosmic dimension? The claim that natural processes in the cosmos that produced human intelligence do not possess their own kind of intelligence, and perhaps a superior kind, is untenable.
I, for one, can imagine that nature at the cosmic level may well be able to perform what it enables humans to perform,demonstrating the same faculties of perception, selection, design, and intention, but on an infinitely greater scale. It seems to me a blind dogmatical resistance to deny the operation of human-like faculties in the cosmic dimension, merely due to lack of so-called hard evidence of what might be happening emotively and sensorially in that dimension.
In further support of cosmic animism, consider the organic forms of slime mold, mycelia, and amoebic colonies. These living entities have no sense-organs yet they can perceive and repond to their environment, communicate with each other, and act intentionally, showing purpose that conforms to a design and preconceived aims. They are intelligent but have no brain as the apparent seat of consciousness. They perceive and respond without eyes or ears. If such intelligent organisms exist in nature, may it not be that some equivalent to them exists in the cosmic dimension among lava-like torrents of stellar material? A torrent of galactic core energy can be like a mass of slime mold, or the mycelium of a mushroom species, and behave accordingly. Wouldn't it be probable that such an energy-entity or intelligent, facultatively endowed wave-form would behave at infinitely higher, more complex and inclusive levels of intelligence, design, and intention than we do? And how might such behavior on the cosmic scale interconnect to our behavior in the microcosm?
Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Absence of proof of intelligent, self-aware, and sentient properties in energy currents circulating in the galactic core or ranging freely through interstellar space, does not prove the absence of such properties. The case of cosmic animism is open to investigation and merits close scrutiny. Unfortunately, the power of dogmatic denial often prevents us from even thinking about it with an open, inquiring mind.
I can tell you up front that I have added precious little to what can be found in those two resources, either in hinted form, in fragments, or broadly outlined. I have so far interjected only two features into the received narrative. First, the location of the Anthropos template in the galactic nebula M 42, a cosmic locale visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Orion. No text states that the Pleromic Aeons projected or "seeded" the Anthropos in the Orion Nebula. This is purely my addition. Second, the imagistic reflex of the Aeon Christos in the terrestrial atmosphere, an effect that manifests in the luminous intrapsychic phantom of the Intermediary, the Mesotes. Although the made-up word Mesotes occurs in several places in the NHC and elsewhere, no text states literally that it is an afterimage left by the intercession of the Aeon Christos (episode 8). Rather, it is described as a persisting aroma. The afterimage concept is my addition to the narrative.
You may wonder, What is the basis for these two additions? Answer: my first-hand observations as a disciplined experimental mystic working in cognitive ecstasy with heightened perception. I have encountered the luminous phantom (Honeycomb Light of the Christos) on more than one occasion, and I have observed the Orion Nebula countless times. As, I believe, did the ancient seers who produced this amazing planetary myth to describe events that really occurred in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The vision story they constructed from their mystical practices is not a fantasy or baseless fabrication but a veracious rendering of things they saw and learned over many generations of teamwork in the Mystery cells.As for the observational powers of those ancient seers who founded and directed the Mysteries, let me say this: the secret to their observing faculty was that they did not hallucinate when in a state of heightened perception induced by psychoactive plants or meditative trance techniques. Instead of hallucinating, the telestai used the increased intensity and scope of their faculties to deepen and extend perception — infinitely deepen and extend. Likewise did yogis who followed a millenial tradition of mind science in Asia. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (probably compiled around 200 BCE) lists eight siddhis or occult faculties of an accomplished yogi, including mahima, the capacity to see at a distance, all the way out to the galactic dimension.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 - 1952)
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda recounted his experience of samadhi (cosmic consciousness) in which he enjoyed mahima, preceiving the structure and movement of galaxies as if he were a witness hovering in the remote reaches of interstellar space. Yet he was standing firmly rooted on the earth, as were the Gnostic seers who called themselves "the standing ones" because they could handle such visionary faculties while remaining fully grounded and present in their physical bodies—not prone and passed out in a state of out-of-body transport. This also is my practice.
By amplification, I mean that I build on received textual content. You cannot imagine how I do this without being deeply conversant with the material. From a superficial view, it might look like I am recklessly fabricating things not to be found in the original sources. Not so. Believe it or not, I follow the rule of high rigor in my amplifications. I keep close to the bone of the textually based story content, even close to the marrow of the bone. My critics do not appreciate this procedure, and cannot, as long as they do not delve into the material deeply enough to see what constitutes rigorously delineated amplification, by contrast to loose, sloppy, textually groundless fabrication.
My amplifications can be seen in several features of the expanded rendering of the Sophia Myth, principally in four areas: the projection of the Anthropos template, the generation of the archons, the dynamics of Christic intercession, and the morphing of the Aeon Sophia into a planetary body. In fact, I do not add anything to the textual material on these events, I simply amplify what is in the materials. The amplifications do go beyond what the texts explicitly state, but they do not exceed, distort, or violate what the cited texts mean. Critics may protest that amplifications of this sort are merely disguised and dishonest fabrications, the texts do not mean what Lash says they mean, etc etc. That's fine, but let's hear this whining from someone who has read the NHLE at least a dozen times. And offer their non-amplified version of what these texts mean in the complex mythological imagery of the Sophia narrative.
The most controversial of my amplifications concerns the archons or preterrestrial species accidently generated by the impact of Sophia's power-surge. "Preterrestial" is my interpretation of the derivation of archon from the Greek archai, "first, from the beginning." The archons arose before Sophia morphed into the planet earth: hence they are a preterrestrial species. Granted, no text explicitly states, word for word, that archons arose before the earth was formed, but the plot-line of the myth clearly indicates this to be so. Prior to morphing into the earth, Sophia impacted the Kenoma, the elementary matter of the galactic limbs, and generated the archon species. Such is the story arc of the sacred narrative. My scenario of the rise of the archons remains closely referenced to the textual content. It is not a loose, fancy-free inference by any means. It is a grounded amplification.
The same holds true for my profile of the two types of archontic entities, the reptilian and the embryonic. The Greek loan word drakon occurs in NHC II,4, The Reality of the Archons: “in the form of a lion-faced serpent.” So much for the reptilians who, oddly, have faces like lions. The wierd Coptic word houhe, “aborted fetus,” occurs in NHC II, 5, On the Origin of the World: “a product in matter, like an aborted fetus,” as well as in the Greek-language paraphrase of Gnostic myth in book I, part 4 of Against Heresies by Irenaeus. The phrase, “a plastic form molded out of shadow” uses the Coptic word haibe for shadow, recalling the "mud shadows" of Castaneda. This word is also suggestive of the Grey ET—a chiaroscuro entity, as it were. Such are the slim pickings of Gnostic astral cosmology.
In my treatment of the drakonic and neonate types of the archons, I amplify the textual material that you find developed around these three terms which appear perhaps a dozen times in the surviving Coptic writings. You could object that I fabricate a huge case on three piddling words. Wrong, The case is present is not merely based on these words but on the way they are used and how the usage fits contextually into the overall story arc. No text literally states, word for word, that the abortion produced by Sophia's fall into the Kenoma spawned an alien species, as I tell it in restoring the myth. But NHC V, 3. The First Apocalypse of James (A Gnostic Catechism), does explicitly state the equivalent, regarding the archons:
If they are not "entirely alien," may it be allowed to imagine that they are in some sense alien? The implication is clear. Thus, to call the archons an alien species closely akin of humankind is an amplification rigorously tied to the textual sources. And so it goes. I believe that a fair assessment of my treatment of source materials will not reveal the crime of fictitious embellishment. I have no intention to embellish carelessly and defraud or mislead those who take an interest in this myth which, at this moment, is only available in my rendering. To what aim would I put over such a deception? My intent is to make the story accessible on its original and authentic terms. I do not achieve this aim to perfection, but then, given the appalling state of the source materials, who could?
Some parts of the Sophia myth are not preserved in either the Coptic or Greek writings, but only in the paraphrases of Church ideologues such as Irenaeus. The patristic writings belong to the dossier of the prosecution of Gnostic heresy and must be handled with caution, needless to say. The paraphrase of Sophia's fall in Irenaeus draws heavily upon Valentinian sources, which he attempts to refute. In the Valentinian compromise, the Christos plays an equal or superior role to Sophia, by contrast to radical Sethian Gnosticism in which the Aeon Sophia, the fallen goddess, is the sole redemptive agent in the cosmic process involving humankind. Nevertheless, Irenaeus fills in key episodes of the vision story that have not survived in Coptic or Greek writings attributed to various Gnostic sects. For instance, book I, chapter 4 of Against Heresies:
Note the spin: Irenaeus says that "the untimely birth" in the outer chaos occurred because Sophia, a female Aeon, acted without having been inseminated by a male counterpart. In the Sethian version, the untimely birth or cosmic abortion was due to the impact of her galactic core energy upon the Kenoma, the realm of finite potential. True, a factor of her fall was the rash impulse to act unilaterally and engage in dreaming on her own, without pairing with another Aeon as she did in the configuration of the human genomic template. This is not a violation of cosmic law, however. It is merely a departure from the usual operations of cosmic law. A Valentinian Exposition (NHC XI, 2) says, "It is the will of the Originator not to allow anything to happen in the Pleroma apart from a dyad, a dynamic coupling." But the will of the Originator does not constrain the Generators, who always remain free to act without a counterpart.
Another key patristic paraphrase describes how Sophia morphs into the planet earth (Ibid, VI, 2)
No such graphic description of the epistrophe or downscaling of Aeonic energy into a planetary body survives in the NHC or other writings attributed to Gnostics, either in Coptic or Greek. At I noted in Not in His Image (ch 14):
Finally, let's note another amplification of mine. This one comes in the form of a correlation: I make out Pleroma, the infinite plenitude, to be the core of our home galaxy, and Kenoma, or outer shadowy chaos or finite plenitude, to be the region of the spiral arms circulating around the core. In short, I transpose the astro-theological imagery into astronomical terms. What is my justification here?
A great deal of world-wide mythology encodes astronomical information: sidereal or stellar myth, as it is called. For instance, the myth of the Sampo or heavenly mill in the Icelandic national epic, Kalevala, encodes the precession of the equinoxes. Astronomical myth is widespread and has been vastly inventoried and analyzed. Gnostic mythology is no exception, and why should it be? In fact, ancient sources including the Antiquities of the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius assert that Sethian Gnostics were the earliest star-gazers and astronomers who mastered the science of the heavens before other peoples did. It is not at all improbable that seers in the Mysteries recognized the Pleroma to be the radiant nucleus of our home galaxy. Nevertheless, critics scream in protest against this correlation, claiming that "Pleroma" is a purely metaphysical term, or a metaphor that cannot be equated with celestial phenomena in space and time.
Against this objection I would point out that anyone who knows what they're talking about in metaphysics, knows that both/and is the operative syntax in that venerable genre: meta-phor and meta-physics are isomorphs. Translation of the Lashian spin here: the Gnostic Pleroma can be specifically the galactic core AND at the same time it can be a non-local metaphysical zone. It can be a place in your mind or a place in the physical cosmos where your mind arises, physically present to your body. Both, at once.
"What is here is there, what is not here is nowhere." Visvasara Tantra.
Having done my homework, I do not put much time, if any, into countering such arguments. I stay aloof of fisticuffs in the blogosphere, preferring to discuss with my cats, Rumi and Nikita, the baffling matter of why sheep have long tails.
Wooing the Whore of Wisdom 2: Extrapolations of the Sophia Myth
jll: 26 October 2010 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2015 by John Lash.