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Reich, Noetics and the Metahistory

Comments on the Cosmos and Consciousness Conference
Attended by Joanna Harcourt-Smith

Reading Joanna's account of the events of the second conference on Cosmos and Consciousness, I was struck by the close and strong affinities linking metahistory to the key themes of that event. In Dark Matter cosmology presented by Rudy Schild, in the overview of noetic sciences presented by James O'Dea, and in the work of Wilhelm Reich presented by Michael Mannion, I find familiar aspects from the heart of our discourse.

Core Material

I must confess that a shiver of delight went through me upon hearing that Rudy Schild spoke "poetically" of large-scale cosmic structure in terms of medusas and jellyfish. The poetry of the Gaia Mythos introduces just this vision. The galaxy is a plasmic medusa! What I am calling "plasma" is a name for that marvellous and mysterious viscosity that astronomers are now exploring. Mass-free, high-porosity plasma—imagine something like fire-extinguisher foam, but radiant, alive, sentient, intelligent, and possessing ennoia, a will of its own—fills the galactic core, and the Aeons, the cosmic gods, are living currents in this "nougat mesh."

In the Gaia Mythos, the "white darkness" of the galactic core (the Gnostic Pleroma) is a wellspring where luminous white plasma and black light are merged. The whiteness is the "Veil of Isis" and the black light is "Osirian Ore," something like liquid onyx. Both are terms from the Egyptian Mysteries whose adepts directly perceived the cosmos as the galactic level. More revelations about light, darkness and matter are due to come as the Mythos unfolds.

My descriptions in the prose poem are drawn from long reflection on Asian metaphysics, not to mention years of contemplating the sky, so it is purely subjective, you might say; yet I believe these mystico-poetic expressions will prove to be compatible with the most advanced findings of astrophysics— if science is indeed on the track of the living universe. From what I gather from Joanna's synopsis, Dr Schild is working with discoveries that verge on the evidence of ancient experimental mysticism. Truly an exciting prospect.

Applied Gnosis

Even in the brief synopsis Joanna provided, the language of James O'Dea bathes me with the sweet flush of sanity. His grasp of noetics is grounded in the simple reality of being human, as I wish our discourse to be. The reality is, we cannot fully know who we are in human terms unless we tap a transhuman knowing, cardia gnosis, the divine intelligence seated in the heart. (This is, of course, the current message of Joseph Chilton Pearce, whose lifework we also embrace and champion in this site.) If James O'Dea speaks eloquently, his finesse is due to that simplicity we attain when we are willing to forge through to the other side of complexity. Over there, the contradiction dissolves, and we are able to be simple and complex at the same time. "The heart fields of attention" he describes are complex, highly individuated, but the recognition we find for each other through those fields is simple, elementary.

I have often struggled with the difficulty of reinventing Gnosticism for application in Metahistory.org. The very term "Gnostic" is deeply tainted, and I have often been tempted to abandon this project entirely. Yet I know in my deepest intuition that Gnosis is essential for the way ahead, for developing the worldview centered on Gaian participation. Gnosticism (i.e., the tricky historical phenomenon with its impossible load of academic baggage) may be cooked, but Gnosis is just starting to simmer. I smell the fine herbs of Gaian intelligence in the mix, and I taste the ecstasy of a long-lost certitude.

It is all too easy to mistake the Gnostic message. Informed that Gnostics regarded intellect as divine, many people will be put off immediately. But Gnosis is not an intellectual path as such: it is full-body knowledge with a crucial intellectual component. For Gnostics, "intellect" was nous. In this faculty, they perceived a dose of divine intelligence. The Greek word nous is of course the basis of "noetic." Gnosis was and still is the path of the noetic sciences, the discipline by which the mind expands its boundaries as the mind-body link is cultivated. It is the consummate art of cognitive ecstacy. On this path lies the timeless trajectory of human potential that we must plot carefully, lovingly, to keep the species on track, aligned to Gaia and "all our relations." In great measure, the content of Metahistory.org is a like a Mystery School curriculum for experimental studies in noetics.

I think I speak for others on the metahistory team when I wholeheartedly concur with James O'Dea that application of the noetic sciences will largely determine the human future in a genuine Gaian perspective. Metahistory is an introduction to applied Gnosis, but the program is open-ended, not prefabricated. There are various ways to recognize the "innate divinity" of humanity, but the one way that was sacred to the telestai, the initiates in the Mystery Schools, was to develop our heat-centered intelligence in co-evolution with the Magna Mater. They called themselves telestai because they saw the goal, they envisioned the aim (telos) of human experience in a precise manner. Today, by recovering that vision, we can find our way safely and sanely into complicity with Gaia's purposes.

Surrender to Life-force

Through Michael Mannion of the Mindshift Institute, Metahistory.org has already secured its strong alliance with the work of Wilhelm Reich. Ever since we posted Michael's essay in "Invited Views," I have wanted to expand this connection in clear and explicit terms. Reich's criteria for knowledge were purely Gnostic (see below), and his trenchant critique of belief-systems was uniquely metahistorical. In pointing to the deadly resistances rooted in character armor, Reich anticipated one of the key concerns of our discourse: how to get beyond the resistance to question belief. This issue is no less potent now than it was in Reich's day. He lived through the full frontal impact of European fascism, only to die in the hands of the American authorities. We currently are facing the rampant pandemic spread of what he called "the emotional plague," and perhaps even the toxic (i.e., terminal) phase of that disease.

To ironize, I would say that Reich would feel right at home with us in 2004.

For myself, the Reich connection has a deeply personal aspect. When I was growing up in coastal Maine in the 1950s, Reich was not far away in Rangeley, experimenting with cloud-busting and detection of DOR (deadly orgone). His last book was about ETs and UFOs, a subject I am now developing in a Gnostic perspective on this site. When I discovered Reich in my twenties, he instantly became a major influence on my worldview and personal code. There was, of course, the sharp tang of "sexual revolution" in the air. Reich was often hailed as a champion of sexual freedom—not for its own sake, but as a measure of capacity for surrender to the life-force. This notion was totally compatible with my own sexual inclinations. The Function of the Orgasm was my Bible for a while, but I was equally stunned by The Mass Psychology of Fascism (suggested reading under Eternal Conflict in our Themes) with its lucid exposé of the "militaristic-mystic" complex that has determined the rise of civilization.

From Reich's masterpiece, Character Analysis, I learned how mental fixations and attitudinal resistance (often disguised in moralistic postures) are rooted in character armoring. This lesson helped me understand the difficulties I often faced in the astrological consultations I did, off and on, for some 25 years. "No analysis of the psychological problem without prior analysis of the resistance," was the rule Reich proposed. I could not always follow the rule, but it certainly alerted me to the problem of working with people who resisted what they asked me to tell them!

Teaching a course on Gaian-oriented alchemy in Santa Fe in the 1980's, I took a line from Reich for a guiding dictum: "Sensation is the greatest mystery of natural science." This statement is purely Tantric, of course. It also signals the Gnostic element in Reich's methodology. In Ether, God and Devil, Reich set out the guidelines for "organ sensation as a tool of natural research." This is consistent with the full-body illuminism of Gnosis. Reich wrote (p. 20): "The scientist will increase his errors in proportion to the neglect of his own system of sensations and awareness," thus countering the idea that scientific knowledge cannot rely on sensory and subjective input from the human witness. I relied on guidelines like this in my attempt to introduce "a eucharistic science of the senses," a kind of prelude to psychoecology.

The Gnostic element in Reich is seen, first, in his confidence in the senses, and second, in his unique and daring approach to error. Mystery School adepts who were consecrated to Gaia-Sophia, were confident they could access Her through the naked instrument of the body and senses, but they were also keenly aware of how certain mental patterns deviate us from such access. Ether, God and Devil contains many statements that sound startlingly like the classroom discourse of a Gnostic teacher:

    Irrationality and illusion are revealed by the intolerance and cruelty with which they are expressed. We observe that human thought systems show tolerance as long as they adhere to reality. The more the thought process is removed from reality, the more intolerance and cruelty are needed to guarantee its continued existence.

    The inner logic of erroneous thought systems is comparable to the inner consistency of a paranoid delusion.

    The great errors in human thought-systems are connected with the concept of the static-absolute and with guilt.

    My task will be limited to searching for the common principle guiding the typical human erring. [My aim is] to introduce a new viewpoint and to test its qualifications for limiting the field of unnecessary human erroring.

Reich's insistence on sensory body-knowledge and his concern for mental error (deviation, in Gnostic terms) are complementary. Gnostics taught that nous in the human species affords a wide range for error: therefore we can experiment, extrapolate, play, and learn, in ways other animals cannot. Because our species can err more lavishly, we can learn on a grand scale. But if our mental errors go undetected and uncorrected, they can extrapolate beyond the scale of correction, and deviate us from our proper course of evolution. For this reason, Gnostic teaching emphasized the act of correction, in two aspects: the Goddess Sophia, embodied as Gaia, is engaged in correcting Her alignment to the cosmic center, and our participation in this process depends on doing our share to detect and correct mistakes in our reasoning.

When unchecked error builds into a belief system, it becomes, as Reich notes here, equivalent to a system of paranoid delusion. As our species' deviance goes uncorrected, the mainstream religions now begin to exhibit this profile. In The Mass Psychology of Fascism (published in 1933!), Reich wrote:

    In reality, the religious man has become completely helpless. As a result of the supression of his sexual energy, he has lost his capacity for happiness as well as the aggressiveness necessary to deal with life's difficulties. The more helpless he becomes, the more he is forced to believe in supernatural forces that support and shelter him. Thus, it is not difficult to understand that in some situations he is also capable of developing an incredible power of conviction, indeed, a passive indifference toward death... The tendency of fanatically religious people to injure themselves and behave masochistically confirms what we have said... Here we have the root of the passive ideology of suffering of all genuine religions.

Reich's intention to "perceive the large outlines that shaped the errors in the human animal" could well serve as the mission statement for Metahistory.org. This aim is simultaneously Gnostic, noetic, and metahistorical. In this site, we explain that cruel and irrational behavior typical of the emotional plague is guided and sustained by beliefs, even when those beliefs carry a reflex clause that insists on love and tolerance. I do not think I need to overstate the matter by indicating by example from current events just how trenchant are Reich's indications in the passages cited here.

Reich asked: "Why does man hate every new, correct thought? Surely his life would be better, and not worse, if he thought correctly. Does man think at all? Or is correct thinking a special talent?" The answer he gives to this huge WHY? is: the errors that alienate us from our bodies become anchored in character armoring and resist being challenged. Perhaps correct thinking is a special talent, one that requires a special method practiced by an elite few, the gnostokoi? It seems unlikely that humanity at large is disposed either to work through resistances and to develop capacities for error-correction. This does not mean that Reich's work is doomed to die out, but it probably indicates that it can only be sustained within a special teaching environment, such as IONS now offers.

I could go on, but suffice it here to say that I am deeply encouraged by the strong, self-evident alliance between metahistory, the noetic sciences and the work of Wilhelm Reich. Together, these three elements present a solid formula for practical and visionary work in the diseased and tormented societies of our time.


jll DEC 04







Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.