by John Lash
from MetaHistory Website
P 161 NHLE. NHC II, 4. 7 pages, intact
Also called The Hypostasis of the Archons, and The Reality of the Rulers.
Cosmological treatise presenting the
Gnostic version of Genesis, CORE: the Sophia mythos, the generation
of the Archons, the rape of Eve, the madness of Yaldabaoth, the
conversion of the Sun, and other mythological features.
Hence it is a good place to delve into the cosmological material. It directly follows Gos Phil in Codex II, and it is followed by On the Origin of the World, another cosmological treatise - a rare instance in the NHC where comparable texts are bound together.
This is typical of the assumptions scholars allow themselves when they regard Gnostic materials as out-takes of early Christian writings.
It is true that the opening paragraph uses language found in the Pauline letters, Collosians and Ephesians, but who is to say that Paul himself did not originally derive that language from Gnostic circles?
In any case, the language was in circulation, and the manner of citing Paul, the "great apostle," says more about the audience addressed than about the teaching addressed to them.
Here the text offers a burst:
That humans can think in a blind manner, ignorant of the nature of their thoughts, and oblivious to the self-obscuring effect of the thought process, is a standard teaching in Buddhism and noetic sciences, but Gnostics added to it a bizarre twist, associating it with an arrogant act of cosmic egotism.
They taught that processes in the human
psyche are enmeshed with events in the cosmos at large ("cosmo-noetic
parallelism"). In our minds we are implicated in the folly and
arrogance of the chief ruler.
In Mystery teachings on the "planetary spheres" the Exousia are
connected with jupiter and the force of envy (Greek phthonos).
The word NOUN indicates that the chief
authority and his legion arise from the realm of elementary matter,
chaos, the abyss. This is what we call quantum fields, the
(presumed) inorganic matrix of organic life.
The "worlds above" are in the Pleroma, source of all "archetypal" patterns of manifestation. The Archons cannot invent anything. Everything has to be done by Sophia, an Aeon from the Pleroma.
Other texts say that the chief ruler does create his own heaven world, the planetary system, by imitating the patterns of the Pleroma, but if he is blind, how can he see those divine forms?
This passage assumes that Sophia tricks
the imposter god Yaldabaoth into thinking that he is doing what she,
the genuine Divinity, does for him.
This (to us) abstraction is presented as a living, witnessing awareness, even though it is not given a divine or angelic name, such as Elelath.
Strangely, this abstract presence,
presumed to be in the Pleroma, produces an image in elementary
matter ( MOOY, "waters"), and the Exousia desire it, but are unable
to attain it. We are told they can desire it because they have soul,
but not spirit. This is the closest the NHC comes to asserting that
the Archons have soul, an inner life of some kind. They can long for
and pine for something, but they then fall into envy for what they
The Archons "laid plans" and said,
It is unclear if they model a man, male, or the human form (perhaps androgyne?), because the Coptic ROME is used interchangeably for man and human.
87.30 says that they modeled the human form after the "image of God," or "divine apparition." Immediately we learn that the image is female, because the Archons now determine "to see its male counterpart."
They first mold a female form or matrix and then produce from it a male form which they infuse with their breath, but the male form is unable to stand upright. This incident recalls indigenous creation myths that describe a botched attempt to produce the human form - for instance, in the Popol Vuh.
The Archons blow furiously but are unable to animate their pseudo-human creation, for,
Now comes a remarkable passage.
The spirit of the Pleroma, observing that "the soul-endowed (psychikos) human form" is unable to attain its true stature, sends a part of itself from the "Adamantine Land" into the struggling creature. And "man became a living soul," PSYCHE ETONE. The term ETONE also appears in the Mystery name, "the living Jesus," as we have noted.
By "living" Gnostics meant something like "everlasting," rather than merely "alive." (This recalls the distinction between zoe, the immortal life force, and bios, the force of biological life-forms, eludicated by mythologist Karl Kerenyi in Dionysos.)
Adamantine Land or Adamantine Earth is a striking term that recalls Buddhist teachings on the Adamantine or Diamond (Vajra) Awareness.
Such awareness resides in the Pleroma,
yet because Sophia is united with the Earth, the divine presence of
the Pleroma pervades the Earth. With support from the Aeon Sophia,
Adamas ("earth-creature") now rises upright and demonstrates
spiritual power by naming the animals. The male and female types of
humanity (ROME) live in an Edenic world, a natural paradise, the
The mythology of Hyp Arch thus explains
the basis of the central experience of initiation in the Mysteries:
instruction by the Light.
The story carries an extraordinary spin, for we are now told that the Archons are allowed to make this interdiction so that the primal parents will disobey, eat the forbidden fruit, and consequently acquire powers of heightened perception.
Enlightenment comes from eating the forbidden fruit, so that,
When the Archons realize that the tabooed knowledge gives Adam power to detect them for what they truly are, they contrive to plunge him into a stupor, blocking his higher perception.
To do so, they perform a grotesque operation:
Clearly, Adam is facing some bad moves
from the Archons.
They do not merely disobey the commandments of the creator god, but they access powers of cognition that expose the creator god. In short, they exhibit spiritual superiority over the Archons, and it is for this that they are "punished" by the Archons intent to plunge them into a stupor.
The spell put on Adam does not diminish his ordinary awareness, it blocks his capacity for heightened awareness.
If this interpretation is correct, it
shows that Gnostics were aware that the Archontic powers, and their
human representatives, harbour the intention to deprive humanity of
the experience of heightened awareness, that is, cognitive ecstasy
typical of shamanic practice with entheogenic plants. In fact, the
program of patriarchy, right down to our day, has always opposed
experimental contact and communion with Sacred Nature in altered
Eve is not affected by the deep sleep imposed on Adam. She calls him out of his stupor. Seeing her, he recognizes that she is "the mother of the living," TIMAAY NNETONE, as well as the "physician" who protects life. The Archons are deeply upset because Eve has defeated their plan to stupefy Adam, so they turn their attention to her.
Here The Reality of the Archons presents a version of the alien interbreeding myth from the Sumerian cuneiform tablets:
Contrary to the widely held view that the cuneiform stories prove there was alien intervention in human genetics in prehistory, this Gnostic text (and not only this one) denies that the Archons succeeded in their intention to rape the primal woman, Eve.
They did, however, lay claim to an image of woman,
The text oddly specifies that "they defiled the stamp of her voice." What can this mean?
In cosmological terms, it is difficult
to say what the Archons are doing here, but in psychological terms -
which, let's recall, always run in parallel with cosmic events in
the Gnostic vision of human reality - it suggests that womanhood
becomes defiled, defamed, and denigrated. This is exactly what has
happened with the rise of patriarchal religion: the distinctive
voice of woman, her authority to speak for herself and for the
Goddess, has been defamed and defiled.
Kenneth Rexroth, who traced the origins of Gnosticism back to "the Neolithic or even earlier," stated that devotion to the "redeemer goddess" in the Mysteries accounts for the strong and distinctive "anti-patriarchal emphasis of most Gnostic texts" ("A Primer of Gnosticism," in G.R.S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, p. xiii).
And Gnostic scholar John D. Turner notes,
This is certainly evident in the
mythological revisions of The Reality of the Archons.
The instructor assumes the form of a snake.
The text plays on an Aramaic pun between snake and instructor. The "female instructing principle" is Kundalini, the Serpent Power. This power is an internal faculty of blissful innate knowing, or cognitive ecstasy. The rulers acted from jealousy when they forbade access to the tree of knowledge, precisely because the fruit of the tree releases the Serpent Power.
The myth (90.10) suggests that
originally this power belonged to snakes, or was carried by
reptiles, but was taken from them and transferred to humanity.
She is distinguished from the carnal woman, a creature bound to her biological nature rather than master of it:
The Sarkic Eve and her male counterpart are soul creatures who lack the higher insight of psychosomatic enlightenment.
Due to their "lack of acquaintance" they feel shame, being "naked of the spiritual element (pneumatikon)," but they do not forget what they have seen in gnosis, acquaintance with divine matters.
When Adam tells the Archons that Eve alerted him to their influence,
Then they turned and cursed the snake, not realizing that it was the form in which they themselves were modeled - a striking reference to the "reptilian" or drakontic form of the Archons.
The "curse upon the snake" is their
response to the serpent instructor, Kundalini, by which humans can
resist and repel alien intrusion, and heal the traumas caused by
Archontic aggression. Kundalini is snake medicine.
This is consistent with Old Testament narrative, but in the OT Yahweh-Jehovah is regarded as the stern creator god who justly punishes humanity for disobedience, while here the creator god is a demented alien who retaliates against the first parents for exercising their gnostic powers of higher perception.
Jehovah's attitude is not benign, and can in no way be construed as a chastisement that leads to human betterment.
The narrative continues with a straightforward telling of the Cain and Abel story, then it adds a uniquely Gnostic element. Seth and Norea are born of the primal parents.
Seth is the head of the lineage of Revealers.
Norea is the type of spiritual woman who carries the undefiled power of Eve:
Understood in its original, Pagan sense,
a "virgin" is not a woman who has no sexual experience, but a woman
who has not borne children due to sexual intercourse, and thus she
retains an untapped, virginal power.
In Mystery code, the Dynamis are the planetary spirits of mars. Being planetary (extraterrestrial) entities, they would be classed among the Archons, but here, curiously, they are seemingly allies to humanity. Norea, the wife of Noah in the traditional narrative, recognizes that the Dynamis are alien powers, "rulers of the darkness," and she reminds them that they were unable to defile Eve, although they were able to stupefy her male counterpart, Adam.
She exposes them and asserts her
connection with the higher powers of the Pleroma.
The Archons, here called the "lords of unrighteousness," try to attack Norea, the female instructing principle.
In response to Norea's plight, the great angel Elelath, who is called sagacity (Coptic MNTSABE), descends to aid and instruct her. The great angel announces:
At passage 93 Hyp Arch shifts into something like a revelation discourse.
Almost certainly, a second and independent text has been spliced to the cosmological dissertation we have been following so far. This other text continues to the end of the document, Passage 97.
The great angel makes an assertion common to Gnostic teachings in the NHC:
None of them can prevail against the root of truth (Coptic ME, also "heart": "the truth in your heart").
For on its account, the Revealer appeared in the final ages, and
these authorities will be restrained. They cannot defile you and
that generation [allied to the Revealer] for you dwell in
incorruption, immortal and virginal strength, superior to the Rulers
and the chaos of their world. (93.20-30)
In rapid language, piling image upon image, the Revealer describes how the Aeon Sophia, by projecting herself without a consort from the Pleroma, produced an anomaly in the realm of chaos, something,
I take the statement "it was from matter that it derived" to mean that this species was inorganic.
Here is Jehovah, the father god of the Old Testament, commanding
that "thou shalt have no other god before me."
This is a reference to the blind Patriarch Samuel of the Old Testament.
It was Samuel who introduced the
institution of divine kingship to the Israelites, even though this
notion was alien to their traditional beliefs. Gnostics were keen
political observers who saw in Jewish theocracy a ruse of the
Archons. Hence the Archontai, who are cosmic or extraterrestrial
entities, are closely associated with human "authorities" who
dominate the social order, using the theocratic pretence of divine
The Aeon Sophia charges the inorganic realm of the Archons with animating power, and their ruler then proceeds to construct an Archontic heaven, consisting of seven realms (the Hebdomad). This is the planetary system exclusive of sun, moon, and earth. The chief ruler is again confronted, this time by Zoe, another daughter (i.e. aspect) of Sophia, who calls him Saklas (Aramaic, "fool") and Yaldabaoth.
Zoe breathes a super-surge of her force, divine life-force, into the ruler's face, and casts him down into Tartaros, "below the abyss" (95.10).
This event is witnessed by the Sun,
Sabaoth, who undergoes a conversion. Although the sun is produced
from inorganic matter (his mother) shaped by the Archontic forces
(his father), this celestial body, acting as a conscious cosmic
entity, now decides to forsake the Archons and unite with Sophia.
Hyp Arch says that,
On his right is Zoe, on his left, "an
angel of wrath." This arrangement indicates that the solar force is
symbiotic with life, but also capable of annihilating it by wrath,
excessive force, as seen in solar eruptions. In the repentant sun
who serves Her, Gaia (the earthbound Sophia) reserves a lethal
This allusion requires an interpretation
that would unduly prolong this commentary. We will return to the
element of death in later cosmological treatises.
Those who know the difference "exist deathlessly in the midst of mortal humankind" (96.25).
The great angel concludes with a prophecy and a promise, asserting the triumph of humanity over error and the deceitful power of the Archons. The "sown element" (sperma) is the radiant template of humanity that was emanated from the Pleroma and seeded on earth (i.e., via panspermia).
The true identity of the human species is cosmic, divine, preterrestrial.
Those who know themselves in the
perspective of this identity are "Children of the Light" (97.10)