In the Knowledge That Frees
Reflections on Metahistory.org as a Teaching
The sentence cited at the top of this text (John 8:32) is one
of three or four lines in the Gospels that might have
been pronounced by a genuine Gnostic seer. Personally, I do not
believe that Jesus of
Palestine was a Gnostic, or a mystic, or a hippie healer,
and I would advise strongly against making him out as such. Isn't
it odd that Jesus, who presumably saves the world, has to be
saved over and over again, continually rescued from misunderstanding,
continually justified, rectified, reconstructed, re-interpreted,
re-legitimated? Might this not be because that personage, upon
whom a world faith stands, is not legitimate, and never was?
People today who still suffer the illusion that Jesus
taught anything might be well served to take a little time and read
some Asian philosophy, for instance, the Dalai Lama's book Dzogchen:
Heart Essence of the Great Perfection, a transcription of his
public talks. Now there is some teaching. Mamma Mia!
Through Metahistory.org, I am teaching what I regard as lost knowledge of the Mystery Schools of pre-Christian antiquity.Those whom early Christians called gnostikoi in a derogatory sense (i.e., "know-it-alls") would have called themselves telestai, "those aimed for the goal, the ultimate purpose of human experience." Gnostics were experimental mystics, seers and shamans of both sexes, who taught what they learned from exploring the psyche and the cosmos at large. They were "adepts," masters of occult skills such as clairaudience and lucid dreaming, and they were also the educators of the ancient world before Christianity imposed its irrational fear of learning, a fear that plunged Europa into the Dark Ages. They comprised the faculty of many diverse local cult centers, from Egypt to Ireland, from the tip of Iberia deep into Asia. As I have often said, fishing in vain for a laugh from the crowd, the telestai were a faculty (i.e., a corp of teachers and advisors, like collegiate deans ) who had faculties.
The network of the Mystery Schools was a widespread mosaic whose member groups were unified by common dedication to the Magna Mater, the Earth Goddess. Through Metahistory.org I am attempting to teach about the Goddess, to present Herstory as an alternative to history. Today we call the Magna Mater "Gaia," but in this name we apply to the Earth Gnostics saw a divinity who pre-existed the physical planet: the Divine Sophia, an Aeon in the Pleroma or cosmic company of Gods. The teaching I present in Metahistory.org is a Sophianic message, consistent with the sacred tradition of the Mystery Schools. Hence, the importance of Mary Magdalene, or the Magdalen, on this site, for she was recognized by Gnostics as a good-enough human reflection of the Sophia. The Magdalen was not a single, historical person, however. Rather, she is a timeless numinous presence in the human psyche, the guiding Muse of humanity. The Sophianic content of Metahistory.org can be expanded in many directions, but essentially there are four key factors in this teaching:
Two, the cosmic pre-existence of the human species. This concerns "the singularity" of the Gaia Mythos: mythologically, Atu Kadmon.
Three, the origin and activity of the Archons, inorganic entities who intrude upon life on Earth.
Four, the nature of liberation: Gnosis is cultivation of the truth that frees.
I have intentionally listed these factors so that the two mythological elements are framed, above and below, by what I will call the educational elements. The two mythological factors come out of my imagination, or, if you prefer, my training in mythopoetic expression, and they are supported by research in Gnosticism, Asian mysticism, and comparative mythology, as well as by a lifetime of personal experimentation in mystical and paranormal states, both with and without the use of psychoactive plants. The mythic factors of the teaching have to be presented in narrative, in a story form. I do this in the Gaia Mythos, with loads of commentary relating to modern astrophysics, Asian metaphysics, etc, as explained in Sharing the Gaia Mythos and Sources of the Gaia Mythos. So much for the mythological factors, two and three.
To educate means to systematically educe, "draw
out." One is the founding factor
of Metahistory.org in its educational aspect. The teaching starts
with the introduction of nous, the dose of divine intelligence,
and explains how it works. Nous is the foundation of the teaching,
because it is the faculty to which the teaching appeals. The
Sophianic endowment, or wisdom endowment of the human species,
is that which is to be drawn out, educated. In effect, I am introducing nous,
the noetic faculty, so that nous can be claimed and
cultivated through the learning process here proposed.
Four is the final or flowering factor of the remote education process—remote in the sense that it is not taught personally, face to face, but through the vacant medium of the Internet, through "cyberspace." Liberation from mental error (mostly enshrined in scientific and cybernetic pretensions), from religious ideology, and from cultural conditioning, is the threefold aim of this entire process. Gnosis is what you get from evolving nous. This is the ultimate flowering of human potential, as Gnostics understood it. Everything they did in the Mysteries was directed toward this aim. Nous is human smarts, sapience, the way of seeing life on this planet that fits into the way life works. If this is not as plain as the gnoses on your faces, I don't know what is.
It could be said that the material on this site is extremely pedantic, verbose and intellectualized. Even worse could be said of it, and has. Some of the content is—let's face it— terrifyingly MENTAL. Take "Metacritique," for example. What does this horror have to do with the sublime, Goddess-oriented message of Gnosis?
Well, Metacritique is the crust of the Sophianic message. A crust is teeming with enraged Herukas, blood-drinking Dakinis, and tutelary deities who will tear your beliefs away from you as if they were tearing off masks embedded in your face and crutches that have grown to be part of your torso. You may want to skip the ordeal of metacritique entirely. Fine, but do so at your own risk. You may find that you cannot be liberated from your beliefs as easily or readily as you might think. It takes a gruelling process to strip off belief, believe me. Assessing belief (by examining the behavior it produces), defusing belief (by disassembling the rationale around it), and dereasoning belief (by stripping away the reasons for which it was acquired) are the three essential methods of Metacritique. I dare all comers to subject even one belief they hold to the threefold test, and see what's left when the Herukas are done picking over your bones.
Metahistory.org teaches belief change and alignment. It is fine and courageous to change from an insane, inhumane belief to a sane and compassionate one, but there is more to this challenge. To shift from one belief to another is like training for another process in which we change the way we think about all beliefs. In this site the fundamental nature of belief itself is up for discussion. The process of stripping belief down to the absolute bare minimum is truly a striptease leading to what Buddhists call "seeing in naked awareness." This is where the teaching goes.
The less you believe, the less you need to believe. But this striptease does not have to lead to a cynical impasse of believing in nothing at all. You would be amazed how many beliefs you can forgo and live normally, sanely, productively, compassionately. In this site I am gambling a lot on the assumption that what we believe about human potential grounds and verifies all other beliefs. Example: It is one thing to believe in life after death, and accept whatever is told to you about how that plays out; and it is quite another thing to believe, not only in the human potential to survive death, but in the capacity to know about the experience first-hand, or learn from first-hand witnesses, rather than rely on unconfirmable beliefs.
Humanity can be taught. I do believe it can. And if humanity (the species) can be taught humanitas (comprising the empathic, ethical and imaginative gifts of the species), then we ourselves, one person at a time, can prove how little we need to believe and how much we can know, if we dare to be aware.
There is a trick to learning humanitas, however. It takes imagination to claim and actualize our ethical capacities. To be truly human we need to imagine humanity, the species we are, in a different way. My pretension is to teach things known in the Mysteries, sublime and fantastic things that stagger the imagination. For this I use mythology because I have come to realize that myth contains a record of the long-term experience of the species. The information is encoded in a high-compression format like WinZip. It expands in the mind under certain conditions of concentration, given you have the key to release the code. This does take a lot of training. After more than 40 years devoted to the study of myths, I am now writing one. That is to say, I am decoding narrative passages in the species memory and translating them, with some extrapolations, plus jokes and hidden seduction notes, when I can get away with it. To be the author of a myth is one of my leading pretensions.
Here is a narrative passage: the human species, before it emerged on Earth, was seeded in a nucleic template in the Orion Nebula. People may ask me how I know this? I could explain to the end of the Kalpa and it would not be clear to anyone who does not aspire to the experience by which I access such material: shamanic recall. You must have a love affair with the Muse... but let me also add this: Adventurous seers can dance in some pretty scary places, but none is more frightening than the proximity of the galactic nebulae. The din emitted by the churning of elementary metals is raw and raucous, more horrific than anything you can imagine, and yet it is hauntingly attractive, like the drone of sympathetic strings on a sarod. The drone pounds into your blood and detonates ecstatic pulsations. The pulsations convert into veins of clairaudient hearing, dense and luscious tonal clusters that flow into language like grapes pressed into wine.
It is difficult to experience such things and live (as Rilke, the clairaudient poet, knew so well), but it is far more unfortunate to live without experiencing them.
The initiates in the Mysteries were privileged to have such experiences, and they could be arrogant about it, but their arrogance was balanced by humility. They kept the balance by imparting what they learned through the privilege of having acquired supernatural faculties. Everything taught in the Mysteries can be reduced to three permutations of nous:
dianoia, metanoia, epinoia
Dianoia is clear reasoning, thinking through (dia-) things in a sober, systematic way. It includes being critical, but not in a rational, reductive sense, not in Cartesian terms. With dianoia critical thinking is simply the cutting edge of common sense.
Metanoia is thinking beyond (meta-) what you know, pushing the envelope of conditioning to go beyond whatever paradigm rules your awareness. In the imperative mood this Greek word becomes Metanoite! "Think beyond what you know." "Reform your mind." In the folk-tales known as the New Testament, a sexed-up guru named John the Baptist declared this message to the Pagan world, but translators immersed in salvationist ideology believed they should translate Metanoite as "Repent." As Leonard Cohen declares in his song, "The Future," "When they said, 'Repent, repent,' I don't know what they meant." Metanoia has nothing to do with the concept of sins that require repentence. This is false direction. It is about becoming more open and aware, overcoming ignorance and mental conditioning.. "Ignorance is the mother of all evil," says The Gospel of Philip. You do not repent ignorance.
Metahistory.org could as well be called Metanoia.org, but with that we are again back in the dilemma of seeming to be "academic"; i.e., pedantically intellectual. The problem with Metahistory.org is not that it is academic, but that it presents the challenge to learn with love, learn to evolve and co-evolve, and the reality of our time is that this capacity has been murdered in many, many people.
Epinoia is the pure directive power of imagination, the true saving power in Gnosis. The Apocryphon of John tells how the Aeon Sophia, when She realized the problem that humanity would face with the Archons, invested "the luminous epinoia" in Zoe, the life-force, so that in our biological make-up we would carry an imaginal component. If this is not one of the most wonderful things ever to be learned on Earth, I don't know what is. It is a privilege to teach what one learns.
Imagination, when you actually put it into practice, involves making vows, keeping agreements with transhuman powers, venturing into the Nagual, head-butting Archons in pitch blackness on the way, cutting shifty deals with the Dead, dicing with Hermes, appeasing 90 million screaming Shri Yantrika dakinis with a single word, dancing to the roar of Silence, wandering rapturously in Gaia's Undies. Some of the more precious knowledge to be acquired in the cosmos has to be ritually negotiated. Imagine the screaming of 90 million Shri Yantriki dakinis who demand that you pronounce the sublime and sacred name of the hidden sun deity who secretes amrit in your armpit, a name I cannot disclose except to say that it resembles the Spanish word for almond. This is what you will face before you are shown what Sophia saw when She beheld the Anthropos hung like a wisp of colored breath in the pinweel armature of the galactic limb.
I started out talking about pretences, and I'm not done yet. (I make no semantic distinction here between pretensions and pretences.) I've got a fair load of them, but perhaps less than I might appear to have. I like to keep them right out in the open, rather than have you discover them after you get to know me better, if you ever do. (Which is unlikely.) To keep track of pretences, it is a good exercise to write them down on slips of paper and keep them in a Cracker Jack box behind the couch. The exercise don't work unless you use a genuine Cracker Jack box.
Facing pretences is the dealbreaker, I guess. Socially speaking, anyway. I have been told that some people are terrified of me because they sense I will clout them in their pretences. Like Socrates, I have an innate bent for shattering other people's pretences, and I can be rather perverse in how I do it, too. However, I rarely do it unkindly. But it is, I admit, a special and sane sensation to shatter pretences in a ruthless way, to be seemingly unkind, as if I were kicking the crutches away from someone who falsely believes they are crippled and yet desperately wants to dance.
Make no mistake here: It is not my pretence to be a sort of Zen Master who whacks people on their pretences with the intent to liberate them, etc. I just do it to amuse myself. Or often out of sheer desperation.
Lorca says that the Duende shatters all the styles, all postures, so that pure spontaneity can display itself. I miss that shattering sensation, sometimes. The chance to act ruthlessly in social situations rarely arises because people are so good at hiding their pretences.
I guess the worst pretence of all is to claim to be human. You may find this statement a bit extravagant, but I have good precedent for it. To my knowledge three direct transmissions of Enlightenment were effectuated by the historical Buddha, Siddharta—three, and three only. After his Enlightment under the Bodhi Tree, Siddharta discoursed to countless people, but only in three instances did direct and instantaneous, unsurpassed enlightenment occur between himself, the living Buddha, and a listener. In one instance, Siddharta held up a daisy to the audience, and one disciple, who was called Mayakasyapa, achieved immediate liberation. This incident is sometimes called the "Flower Sutra," because Sidharta delivered the complete discourse using a flower.
In another instance, upon hearing the Buddha deliver the shortest of all sutras, Shariputra was immediately enlightened. Siddharta said, "Form is void and void is form." That is the entire sutra, called the Heart Sutra. Hydraya is the Sanskrit word for heart, or heart-knowledge. This transmission can be explained — get this: yet another Lashian pretence in blatant display — by picturing an exchange of looks that accompanied the succinct pronouncement of the identity of Form and Void. By shifting his eyes as he spoke, and matching his look to what he spoke, Siddharta conveyed to Shariputra a this-that nuance to go with the words: "Your form, my void, and my form, your void." Shariputra got enlightened through the interplay of look and language.
In the third instance, Siddharta was out begging with some other monks when one of them, Subhuti, noticed that the Buddha's posture and attitude were odd, so that even though he was begging like the others, sitting cross-legged in the dirt, holding a bowl and proffering it to passers-by, he was in reality doing nothing of the kind. Later, Subhuti had the chutzpah to bring up what he saw, or thought he saw. Siddharta praised the "subtle perception" of the monk. Subhuti's comment occasioned the Buddha to give a glittering discourse called the Vajracchedika Prajna Paramita Sutra, the "Diamond Sutra."
There is a famous commentary on the Diamond Stura written by Zen Master Han Shan of the Ming Dynasty (16th C). It is called the "Diamond Cutter of Doubts." This commentary was translated into English in 1959 by Upasaka Lu Ku'an Lu. (Ch'an and Zen Teaching, Vol. II, Ryder & Co, London, 1961) It was my privilege to read discourse and commentary for the first time in San Francisco in 1968. In this sutra, Siddharta teaches this:
What Subhuti saw, without knowing that he saw it, was that Siddharta was begging without the pretence of begging. Indeed, without any pretence at all. Because Subhiti had the "inceptive Bodhi," the germ of an enlightening moment, Siddharta was able to take him personally in hand and show him that once you see through pretences, you can see beyond them totally. Ultimately, the world becomes transparent, but you also become transparent to yourself. Siddharta personally tutored the fortunate monk on this realization. And so Subhuti came to realize complete enlightenment.
Reading the Diamond Sutra for the first time, I was staggered by the suggestion that everything I held to comprise my ego, my being a member of the human species, my personality, and even my life itself—were all just pretences. A pretence is not what you suppose you might be, or desire to be, but what you suppose you are. Whatever you suppose you are. The first time I received this teaching it knocked me breathless, and the effect lingers. The Diamond Sutra teaches that all suppositions of what we are, are lakshanas, pretences, empty postures. A more liberating insight than this, is hard to imagine.
I won't pretend to be able to develop this commentary any further, but I will say that the realization of the lakshanas is instantaneous, or not at all. To anyone still waiting for that instant to dawn, I say, Have a nice day.
How do we get past the pretence of being human? Well, that is a guestion for a Gnostic Master—which I don't claim to be, by the way. However, since there are no surviving Gnostic Masters, I feel obliged to give it a shot.
One of the primary concerns of Gnostics who taught in the Mystery Schools was how to preserve the transpersonal integrity of the Great Work, coevolution with Gaia. Initiation with psychoactive plants was and still is a wonderful technique, because it makes it so easy to temporarily dissolve the personal ego. The telestai found, however, that it was also necessary to focus human imagination on a transhuman reflection—note I say, a transhuman reflection, not a superhuman model—in order to keep the ego within its proper bounds. To this end, they taught the difficult subject of the cosmic pre-existence of the human species. Of course, they perceived this as a fact of the cosmos in the first place, and they observed it time and time again in altered states. But they also realized the necessity of teaching about the Anthropos template, not only because it is a true and real component of the living cosmos, but because such a teaching is salutory. It reduces and regulates the social ego.
You may now understand how horrified the Mystery teachers were when they saw the Christian ideologues peddling the Jesus/Christ complex and passing it off for the single and supreme example of divine humanity. That pretence has brought humanity to an evil pass. I would give a lot to shatter that pretence—not that it would make a difference, but just for the joy of seeing it crash.
Now it could be argued that Lash, due to a personal grudge against the best person who ever lived on Earth, wants to start a private cult by getting people to believe in his schizophrenic fiction, Atu Kadmon. That's a cheap shot, but inevitable, of course. I call upon the good faith of all who cruise these pages, to accept that I am not asking anyone to believe me. In fact, I prefer that you don't believe me, but, at the same time, don't dismiss this "fiction." Allow yourself to consider it, to contemplate it. You may believe that Earth evolved from the inorganic cosmos and humanity arose on Earth by natural selection, or you may believe that humanity emerged before the Earth and arose with it. There are the ultimate choices in religious belief. Just be clear on what you choose.
With the occult belief in the cosmic pre-existence of the human species, comes a story, but not the usual religious tale. This belief has been preserved in esoteric and underground movements such as Hermetics and Kabala, but not well preserved. Over the centuries, it has become polluted and distorted, almost beyond recognition. It has to be extracted and reimagined now in a Gaian perspective... There is something magical in this occult belief, for it allows the power of imagination to rise into perception. If you imagine that humanity emerged before the Earth and arose with it (that is, with Gaia), then you can sense how humanity is arising still, now, coemergent with Gaia.
To understand what it is to be human by knowing it through Gaia, is to coemerge into humanity with the sentient awareness of the Earth itself. Alone, or believing we are alone in the cosmos, stranded like a pod of stunned dolphins on this lonely planet, and knowing not that the atmosphere is breathing us, the very ground we walk is alive, and the planet entire is feeling back to us, pouring its sentience into our bodies at every moment, we cannot know what it means for the species to be here.
The tragedy we live on the global scale is that humanity has lost its own reality, its self-defining quality. The human species has become unreal to itself. If there is one key element that can correct this situation, it might come through Gnosis, it might be found in the knowledge that frees: the reclaiming of our true cosmic identity.
jll: 1 January 2005 In Flanders Fields
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.