The Promise of a Lonely Planet
Two: The Passion of Sophia
One thing I would say about Gnostic cosmology — May this comment be helpful to those who struggle with its density and difficulty — is that the stranger it gets, the more sense it makes. Such, at least, has been my experience over 30 odd years of delving into these recondite materials. Gnosticism has been called science fiction theology, and I cannot think of a more apt characterization.
But what if the science fiction elements in Gnosticism turn out to be "true fiction" — fact in a fantastic disguise? Well, I guess it could be said that all I'm doing in this site to recover the original Mystery teachings of the Gnostics is to prepare people for that eventuality. It could be the most liberating revelation of our time. It could be the breakaway from reliance on faith and fantasy toward the living proof of enlightenment.
"So also that you receive divine empowerment, but unless you receive it through knowledge, you will not be able to find it at all." The Apocalypse of Peter.
"Since the universe is actually composed of information, then it can be said that information will save us. This is the saving gnosis which the Gnostics taught. There is no other road to salvation." Philip K. Dick. Valis, p. 236. Entry 44 from "The Exegesis."
The stereoma is not alive as we are, but it is animated in a peculiar way that might be compared to computer animation. The virtual reality zone of the Archons is a fabrication of inorganic chemistry which they inhabit and keep running, like custodians who live in the structure they maintain. Archons can be imagined as fully employed cyborgs, extraterrestrial worker-drones in charge of the "celestial mechanics" of the solar system.
The solar system exclusive of the Earth, that is.
Having looked at how the Archons convert the proto-planetary disk into a full-blown planetary system by imitating the designs of the Pleroma, it is time to look at what the Aeon Sophia is doing while all this transpires. As I have explained elsewhere in the site, Gnostic accounts of how Sophia becomes metamorphosed into the Earth do not survive in the paltry Coptic materials, but are found in the paraphrases of the Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus:
The ensemble of her passions was the substance from which the matter of this world was formed. From her desire to return to the infinite life of the Pleroma, every ensouled creature belonging to this world, and even to the world of the Demiurge [Lord Archon], derived its origin. All other things owed their being to her terror and sorrow. From her tears, all that is of the liquid realms was formed; from her smile, all that is lucent; from her grief and perplexity, all the corporeal elements of this world. ( Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book One, IV. 1-3. My italics.)
In a development parallel to, but independent of, the Archontic simulation that produces the planetary system, there arises the planetary embodiment of the Goddess. The Aeon Sophia is a living, self-aware current of high-porosity, mass-free radiance, Organic Light that acquires mass and convolves upon itself, spinning into a foetal ball. As the Sun spins elementary matter into the whirling banded plane of the proto-planetary disk, Sophia forms an independent center, a node of organic life opposed to the inorganic planetary shells. This is how "the earth has consolidated itself through Sophia." (On the Origin of the World, 103: 1).
The paraphrase of Irenaeus contains some clues on how Gnostic seers (whom we may now recognize as genuine scientists in their own right) might have perceived the difference between organic and inorganic matter: they distinguished "animal substance" from "matter" as such. (Against Heresies I, 5) Curiously, the former, organic matter, is said to be right-handed, and the latter left-handed. In chirality, the property of handedness, Gnostics seem to have detected abiogenesis: the organization of organic life on an inorganic basis. This is one of the great unsolved mysteries of natural science. The Gnostic distinction recalls the insight of Louis Pasteur, who believed that chirality, seen for instance in the left-hand spin of the DNA helix, conceals the ultimate secret of life.
As one anonymous wit observed, "Hydrogen is an odorless, invisible, inorganic vapor that gradually turns into people."
How, then, can the organic arise from the inorganic? In our world system, due to the anomaly introduced by the generation of the Archons, all organic forms, from flatworms to human bodies, are seated on an inorganic base—or so it appears. The chemical elements present at the formation of the solar system are all inorganic—hydrogen, nitrogen, helium, carbon, iron, etc.— yet they produce and sustain a vast array of organic life-forms. In Gnostic science, this is explained by the fact that a living planet, the Earth, is captured in an inorganic field and is thus subject, to an extent, the laws of that fields. The stereoma is like a scaffolding but not merely a passive one. The extraterrestrial planetary frame does not merely enclose the Earth in an inorganic grid, it mingles with terrestrial physics. The living planet is like the yolk-albumin component of an egg, and the planetary system is like the shell, composed of calcium. The total chemistry of the egg is one process, even though shell and innards have their own chemistry. So it is with abiogenesis in the planetary system where the Earth is seated.
This analogy is particularly apt. Let's recall that eggs are oval-shaped, not spherical. Likewise, the complete planetary system that emerges from Sophia's metamorphosis within the frame of the Archontic stereoma is an oval structure, having two foci or nodes: Sun and Earth. The proto-planetary disk with a living planet incorporated is an oval or egg-shaped plane, rather than a circular disk. Around the Sun-node the planets are spun from a mix of inorganic components. Around the Earth-node cohere the rudiments of a solid orb with a unique atmosphere. Gnostic myth clearly describes how the elements of the biosphere are formed from the sentient life of the Aeon Sophia, independent of the Archontic stereoma. It may not be just "by chance" (and how lucky for us!) that the Earth is positioned neither too close to the Sun, nor too far away.
If Gnostics were right, astrophysicists in the future may come to consider that the proto-planetary disk was ovalesque rather than circular. Not such a huge surprise, really, since the orbits into which the planets eventually settled are known to be ovals, not perfect circles. The Earth does not revolve around the Sun in a perfect circle, but in an ellipse. This was the momentous discovery of Johannes Kepler—or was it merely his recovery of what Egyptian astronomers (i.e., Gnostics seers on the Nile) knew, as Kepler himself insisted?
An organic world captured in an inorganic planetary system: this is how Gnostics saw the Earth. As we might expect, then, the Sun, the central star of the planetary system, has an exceptional role to play in the Fallen Sophia scenario. Let's recall that a sun-star and a moon-satellite figured in the threefold triple ennoia, Sophia's original Dreaming of a world outside the Pleroma. This is how She preconceived a special habitat for humankind and the myriad species. In the Aeonic Dreaming, the mother star is symbiotic with the Earth and its satellite, the Moon. What the Aeon projected on the cosmic level we on Earth experience as a given.
we do not feel ourselves integrated into a planetary system, but into
a three-body cosmos. Sun and Moon are constantly present, tangible and
visible. They mark the rhythms of life, impacting us in many ways, down
to the cellular level. The planets cannot be said to do likewise, for
they are not immanently and intimately active in all life-processes,
even in our conscious living habits, as Sun and Moon are.
In The Apocryphon of John, the Sun is called by a name from the Mystery Schools: Sabaoth, pronounced SAH-buy-ot. The Gnostic cosmological treatises describe how, early in the evolution of the solar system, the Sun-star becomes aligned in a special way with the emergent Earth. In the idiom of the myth, this event is called the conversion of Sabaoth. This occurs in a three-way interaction between the Aeon Sophia, Yaldabaoth, and Sabaoth. As we have already seen, Yaldabaoth declares himself to be the sole creator-god, lord of all he beholds. Seeing his image in the light of the newborn Sun, he declares himself the sovereign power in the cosmos."After the founding of the planetary world, Salkas said to his angels, 'I am a jealous god, and apart from me nothing has come to be." (The Gospel of the Egyptians, 58, 25-30) "He came to have authority over matter, and Sophia withdrew into her own interior light." (On the Origin of the World, 8.)
But other witnesses and participants in these cosmic events see things differently, especially Sabaoth, the emergent mother star. One cosmological text, On the Origin of the World, treats this event more extensively than any other.
Saying this Sophia revealed her image in the cosmic waters, and then withdrew into her interior light.
Now when Sabaoth, the son of Yaldabaoth, heard the voice of the Aeon Sophia, he sang praises to her and condemned his putative father [the chief Archon]... He praised the Sophia because she informed him of the Child of Light ("the immortal man") and its radiant Power. Then the Aeon Sophia stretched out her finger and poured upon Sabaoth some of her own radiant Power, to be condemnation to Yaldabaoth. When Sabaoth was illumined in this way, he received great authority against all the Archons, the forces of chaos. Since that day he has been called "Lord of the Vital Forces." (Orig World 25-27, with paraphrases.)
Well, if scientists eventually come to recognize the nature of plasmatic surges from the galactic core, as they seem on the verge of doing, it might be theoretically conceivable that such a current, engaged frontally with an emergent sun, could alter the chemistry of the nascent solar orb. Stars are continually being born in the nebular regions of the galactic limbs, but not all of them are frontally affected by a raw plasmatic surge. This appears to be the unique cosmic event described in the conversion of Sabaoth.
The original emanation of the Aeon Sophia, trimorphic protennoia or "three-formed intent", is to produce a three-body system, the most simple and elegant model of planetary evolution: star-planet-satellite. Due to the planetary domain of the Archons having formed from the unforeseen effects of cosmic impact, the three-body world is captured in a seven-body system, consisting of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, plus Sun and Moon. These seven bodies are collectively called the Heptad.
In the Heptad, only the first five bodies belong exclusively to the Archontic realm. Due to the "conversion of Sabaoth," the physics of the Sun are integrated closely with the terrestrial biosphere. Thus, Sun, Moon and Earth reflect, although in a compromised manner, the three-formed intent of the Aeon Sophia, the pure autopoetic focus of that current, as it were. Sun and Moon remain dominated by inorganic chemistry, yet they are intimately integrated into the organic chemistry of the biosphere. The Moon emerges during the same period that ""the earth has consolidated itself through Sophia" (just cited), and acts as a counterweight to the Heptad. With its pearl-like rotundity, the Moon represents the condensed end of the original "shoot" of cosmic plasma from the galactic core. Imagine a molten bubble of foam-like Pleromic plasma condensed and ossified, absorbing inorganic elements that would otherwise have penetrated the biosphere and loaded it down too heavily.
In other words, the Moon was formed rather like the pearl in an oyster.
A grain of sand irrirates the oyster which then secretes a milky fluid
that hardens into a pearl. In the bizarre perspective of Gnostic science,
the Moon was not ejected physically from the Earth, as the current, admittedly
shaky theory of lunar formation asserts. Instead, the Moon was distilled
from the biosphere by an act of secretion, a slow discharge of inorganic
elements. It makes sense, then, that the Moon and it cycles remains intimately
linked ("structurally coupled" in the jargon of systems theory)
to all life-forms on earth. The material of the lunar mass was
extracted from the earth-mass, but the form, the living patterns
of the lunar node of the three-body world, were retained. This is consistent
with Sophia's retention of her original ennoia, the Dreaming
that patterns a three-body cosmos: star-planet-satellite, Sun, Earth,
Observing the Planets
We all participate organically in the dynamics of the three-body cosmos, but it takes a deliberate act of attention just to recognize the planetary cosmos. Most people cannot tell planets from stars, and once it is pointed out, it still takes considerable training to appreciate fully. During the many years that I gave sky-watching tours in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I had to repeat the elementary facts of planetary motion over and over again. After I had pointed out a planet in the sky, and described its position relative to the background constellations, I had to explain carefully how the planet's position would change in the course of a month, a year, ten years. Fortunately, the classes I led had the opportunity to observe the planets for months at a time under the crystal-clear skies high in the Sangre de Christos mountain range, the southernmost end of the Rockies Chain.
But even repeated observation is not sufficient when it comes to understanding the planetary realm beyond the three-body cosmos we inhabit. It is necessary to combine direct observation with a rather complex process of visualization, for as the planet-bodies are perceived, their cycles must be simultaneously conceived. In the classes I held in Santa Fe, we regularly spent a good part of our time looking at diagrams of planetary movement, such as the retrograde cycle of Mars. For a group exercise—one could almost say, a group meditation—I proposed that we carefully compute the key moments in such a cycle, and pay conscious attention to those moments as they were transpiring, to see if we might detect any corresponding patterns in the events of our lives, or any psychological "currents" that might be associated (not causally, but through symbolic parallels) with the rhythms of the planets. It was a daring and sometimes revealing experiment, by no means easy to pull off. It took considerable training for the participants to be able to follow how a planet moves over several months. Without diagrams constantly on hand (usually stuck on the fridge), they would not have been able to keep up the exercise.
Considerable practical difficulties are involved in learning the planetary system. Both long-cycle and short-cycle observations are problematic in their own ways. Of the two most rapid planets, Mercury and Venus, the first is too close to the Sun to be frequently or easily seen. Venus is a spectacular sight, and her cycles, including the retrograde shifts that bring her close to the earth, are by far the easiest to follow. But the short-cycle advantages of viewing Venus do not permit good observation of how she moves relative to the stable background of the constellations. For this one needs to track the long-cycle planets, Jupiter and Saturn, whose slow trek through the constellations can be observed in meticulous detail. However, long-cycle viewing requires month-by-month regularity in sky-watching sessions, not to mention the right atmospheric conditions. Mars presents the best mix of short-cycle advantages (rapid and easily detectible motion) and long-cycle advantages (tracking the planet's passage through the constellations).
I realize that it may seem arbitrary, if not purely artificial, to distinguish
the Earth-Moon-Sun system from the planetary system in the way I am proposing.
This is one of those weird notions that comes out of Gnostic teachings,
or what's left of them. But as I have already noted, the stranger it
gets with Gnosticism, the more sense it makes. From years of teaching
people how to observe the skies, I am convinced that getting in synch
with the planets is, and can only be, a forced experience. No
matter how comfortable you become with planet-watching, it remains a
highly orchestrated act. Compared to the semi-conscious ease with which
we synch into the cycles of the Sun (i.e., the seasons) and the Moon
(week-month intervals),participating in the planetary system is awkward
and arduous. And beyond computing and tracking the planets, the experience
of empathic contact with these far-off orbs is hard to muster.
The word planet means "wanderer," or in a literal sense, "deviant." It derives from the Greek word plané, "error, deviation, going astray." Plané (pronounced PLAH-nay) is one of a half dozen key terms in the Gnostic texts. It is always used to describe the action of the Archons: "And they steered people who had followed them into great troubles, by leading them astray with many deceptions." (Apoc John II, 29, 30 - 30, 10.) Plané is "leading astray," or "deceit," although the Greek word apate is used in a more specific sense for the latter.(A Gnostic nuance: leading astray differs from deception in that the former occurs when natural or innate tendencies are misdirected or exaggerated, whereas with the latter a specific element or tactic of deception must be applied to those innate tendencies, and as such it comes from outside.) The Coptic equivalent to plané is sorem, but this term is rarely used. Apparently, the Greek was preferred because it directly associates error, the Archons, and the planetary realm.
Gnostics used another Greek word, heirmarmene (pronounced High-MAR-muh-KNEE) for the rigid system of control associated with the planetary regions. They taught that such control, displayed in the clockwork regularity of "celestial mechanics," was hostile to human life and contrary to the living pulsations of the three-body cosmos. Scholars translate heirmarmene as "the rule of fate," and they label the Gnostic view of the planetary spheres as "astral determinism." So much confusion and misinterpretation surround this subject that it difficult to get a clear fix on how Gnostics actually understood "the rule of fate." Here again is an example of how Gnostic scholars might improve their grasp of their subject by looking outside their own field.
Consider this brief passage from The Apocryphon of John:
For from that fate (heirmarmene) which the Archons devised, came forth every sin and injustice and blasphemy, and the chain of forgetfulness and ignorance, and every severe command with serious sins and great fears attached to it. And thus the whole world was made blind in order that we may not know the One which is beyond all this ... And because of this chain of forgetfulness those who are enmeshed do not see their own errors, for they are bound with the measures of times and moments, since fate has rule over everything that is so measured. (II,28, 21 -35. My italics.)
Gnostics undoubtedly taught about karma, and they seem to have framed their ideas about it in a celestial metaphor that included the Archons as psychological "drivers" who enslave us to habitual and unfulfilling patterns of behavior. Tibetan Buddhism also uses an elaborate metaphor for karma enmeshment: the "wheel of life," comprised of the Three Poisons, the Six Realms, and the Twelve Nidanas. This model can be correlated point by point to the astrological paradigm of signs and planets. In my opinion, the Gnostic heirmarmene and the Tibetan wheel of life are two versions of the same teaching on karmic determinism. For Gnostics the Archontic realm of the planets was a cosmic reflection of the forces of habit that drive human beings into blind and unfulfilling behavior. The system of fatal error reinforces itself, and that is the rule of fate, the tyranny of the Archons..
In Buddhism we escape from the wheel of karma by awakening to the mind nature or Buddha Nature, but Gnosis proposes a different path. In Goddess-based spirituality, we transcend our behavioral bondage by flowing ecstatically into the great continuum of life, connecting to the planetary body of Gaia.
If the passions of Sophia have congealed and morphed into the elements of the biosphere, as Gnostics taught, then the empathy we as human beings can feel with nature must be resonant with what She feels. To genuinely feel nature is to recognize that it feels back. And how it feels back. We might coin a term here: feelback, the emotive dimension of feedback. And indeed, the feelback of Gaia toward us does feed us, does nurture us. It keeps us alive every moment of our lives—and who knows, the magnificent tendrils of Her love may be what loops us into this planet in the first place, and then back out again.
In Hindu Tantra the serpent power compressed in the human body is called Kundalini, literally, "little Kunda." The big Kunda is the massive coiling telluric power of the Goddess. In the hilarious exploits of Castaneda and his "sorcerer's party," this force is called "the Tumbler." I have seen it at loose along the flanks of the Sierra de Libar in Andalucia, causing a vast stretch of the mountain chain to writhe. The sensuous abandon of the Dragon current expresses the bliss of the Earth as it dances nakedly in space. The sorcerer takes this current into the glow of h/ir eyes.
It is hard to see such things and live, but it much worse to live without seeing them.
Elsewhere in this site, I have proposed the term biomysticism for the practice of loving communion with Gaia.The term might be objectionable in view of the Reichian slant that I like to give to all matters concerning our communion with the Goddess. With Gnostic acumen, Reich detected in mysticism a displacement of biological and affective forces into a disembodied Beyond. Biomysticism is the opposite: the reclaiming of the feeling-knowledge in our bodies, the sweet strong somatic surge that comes up from the soles of our feet and churns into a warm ball in the solar plexus, as if the tummy were a honey-pot basking in the sun. We live because we are perpetually plugged into this delicious current, the Tumbler, Mahakundala, and not because we are simply given a finite dose of life-force that gradually runs out. If we knew how to receive the earth force in gratitude and reverence, consciously, intentionally, each moment, we would not have to die as we do but we could shed our skins like snakes, as the old initiates did. Gaia's feelback makes us morphically immortal.
Even when we attempt to flee from natural bliss, we are pulled back into it. It could be argued that even the Christian mystics, who verge on disembodiment in their unnatural lust to reach the Beyond and see the face of God, are tricked by Eros and so fall back into the embrace of the Goddess. The ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila has often been compared to orgasmic rapture. Teresa was a hot dame, but more vividly erotic you cannot get than Hildegard of Bingen, who converted her vision of the Divine into music and paintings. One image in particular presents graphic evidence of massive feelback bliss. (From Scivias, in the Rupertsberg Codex, 12th Century.)
It would be hard to imagine a more vivid, perfectly detailed image of the female genitalia, complete with a fringe of foliate adornment. Everything is revealed: the starburst clitoris, the vermilian labia, inner and outer, the pinhole of the urethra discreetly depicted as a crescent Moon, the tunnel of the vagina furrowed with ruggia (for that slippery grip), the opening to the womb, the stem of the cervix, a cache of ova waiting to be fertilized. This is biomysticism in action, evidence that the highest revelation of God is indistinguishable from the miracle of our natural functions.
And there is more, for Hildegarde's "vision of the cosmos" (Roob) is also a neat demonstration of the three-body world, Sophia's original Dreaming. Egg and oval set up the overall composition. Sun, Moon and Earth are beautifully aligned on a vertical axis. This is all there is, all there needs to be. The sacred figuration of the womb of Gaia is stamped anatomically on the body of all women of the human species, and through that gate we all come into life, we emerge into the greater womb, the biosphere. It is all there in Hildegarde's vision, including even the subliminal trace of a three-headed demon—the three-chambered brain, squawk-box of the human ego?
I do now know much about the life of Hildegarde of Bingen, who lived from 1098 to 1179, but I suspect that it was not fabulous in sensual terms—at least not as far as overt sensuality and sexual experience were concerned. It simply could not have been so. Little Hilda was a sickly child "given into the service of the Church" by devout parents, and she lived constantly in the fearful, repressive atmosphere of the nunnery. Yet from well before adolescence, Hildegarde was having visions that she dared to relate to those around her. Something stirred inside her and produced a huge outpouring of pictures and musical inspiration. Others wrote down her words and visions for her. These renditions were "interspersed with salutary admonitions to live in the fear of the Lord (Catholic Encyclopedia)." Of course they were.
Among the works left to posterity by Hildegarde of Bingen are hundreds of letters fifty allegorical homilies, a list of nine hundred words in an unknown language, seventy hymns with melodies, a manual of nine books on plants, trees, stones, fishes, birds, reptiles and metals, a medical treatise, and, of course, the Scivias, the records of her visions. One of her poetical books is the "Liber divinorum operum," a "contemplation of all nature in the light of faith. Sun, moon, and stars, the planets, the winds, animals, and man, are in her visions expressive of something supernatural and spiritual, and as they come from God should lead back to Him." Why, thank you, authors of the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia. This is just what I have been trying to say. Almost.
The yonic imagery of Hildegard of Bingen and the luscious contours of the Coco De Mer are displayed in Metahistory.org because they match the message of the site. If it is true that about 60 percent of all traffic on the Internet is pornographic, lusting cybernauts can now get their kicks from the real thing.
Sensuous beholding of the Earth produces the feelback effect, and this in turn fosters what Inga Muscio outrageously calls "a cuntlovin' attitude." In his introduction to her book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Deep Ecologist Derrick Jensen wrote:
If we are to survive, we must reclaim our planet from those corporations which—and people who—are destroying it. But even before this, we must reclaim our own bodies and our hearts from that same grasp.
Tenderness is the essence of the cuntlovin' attitude, and in what we learn through ecstasy, through surrender and sensuous beholding, we may come to realize that a supreme strength inheres in tenderness, sublime healing power that comes through our connection to Gaia-Sophia. We do not die, today, not merely because we do not cease to live, but because we are perpetually healed into life. The inpouring is constant, and in the feelback it becomes conscious. Love that and see what follows.
Where religion affects our lives, there is always lots of talk about love. Personally, I detest this. Especially when the love talk tells us that "God's love" is operating in our lives. God loves you. Jesus loves you. And they want us to love each other. If there is anything good in this kind of talk, it is hugely overweighed by the use of such language as a pretext to hid a multitude of evils, transgressions against body and mind alike. Love talk is the perpetrator's favorite foil. I say let's practice kindness and shut up about love, shut the fuck up—unless there is something funny or sexy to say, unless there are love secrets to impart.
Just think of Hildegarde. Even with the curse of religion on her soul, she went into massive feelback. Erotically handicapped by her time and surroundings, she became what many of her gender might aspire to be: not the Madonna or even Madonna herself, but a genuine mystical woman, her intimate anatomy bursting with stars.
Somewhere I said that loving Gaia is the height of human destiny. This
is one of my love secrets. To learn from the Gnostics about the passions
of Sophia is both a high challenge and a humbling experience. A challenge
because the mythos engages our powers of attention and imagination at
a genius level. No one evolves in this story who does not love to learn.
And it is humbling because it sets us up for feelback, however and whenever
it may come. As we venture into the mythos, shifting ever deeper into
body-knowledge, we become biomystically gifted and erotically giving,
generous as the gods themselves. If generosity is the signature trait
of Divinity, rather than love—well, that wouldn't be such a bad
deal, would it?
jll Winter Solstice 2004 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.