by John Lash
The Human Role in Gaia's Dreaming
The icon for the Gaia Mythos is a coco de mer with cosmic detailing: sun and moon motifs with the
emergent earth indicated by a cross. There is a story that goes with
this image, a story crucial to our understanding of what it means to
inhabit this planet, Earth.
The Gaia Mythos, an evolutionary myth of
Earth, encodes some closely guarded secrets of the Pagan Mysteries.
Yet this story is no elite affair, and the "secrets" it contains are
open to anyone with the will and capacity to comprehend it.
To love to know, and to love what you know, is the Gnostic way.
The story of the
Fallen Goddess is only found in Gnostic materials,
and even there it only survives in fragmentary form.
this story is a cosmogony - a description of how a world system or
cosmos originates - but it is more easily treated as a cosmology,
the description of how a world system operates, based on how it
Fortunately, the slim evidence for Gnostic cosmology is
supported by an array of classical lore, cross-cultural mythology,
and indigenous wisdom.
In Greco-Roman mythology, for instance,
the theme of "the marriage of Ouranos and Gaia" asserts a special
link between the celestial realm and Gaia, the living earth. Ouranos,
the Greek word for "heaven," refers to the Pleroma, the realm of the
gods, or, in astronomical terms, the galactic core.
The mythic "marriage" of the
Earth is consistent with the Gnostic scenario of the Aeon Sophia who
plunges from the galactic core to be metamorphosed into the planet
we inhabit. Sophia is exiled from the Pleroma and "grounded" in the
terrestrial domain, but precisely because of the unique conditions
under which earth was formed, our planet remains intimately linked
to the cosmic center, the galactic core itself.
I have argued elsewhere in this site that a great deal of mythology
can be read as astronomy. (This can be done without going as far as
Santillana and von Dechend who propose in
Hamlet's Mill that myth is
nothing but encoded astronomy.) The transposition of myth into
astronomy is, of course, a creative act that requires the use of
imagination - hence, an exercise of mythopoesis, intentional
The Gnostic creation myth provides a
unique set-up for such an exercise because it presents just enough
enticing clues to whet the imagination and make us try to picture
what happened to the Pleromic Goddess, Sophia. What we know today
about the large-scale structure of the galaxy, the birth of the sun,
the formation of the planets, and the current position of the solar
system in the galactic limbs, presents a unique opportunity to
re-evolve Gnostic cosmology into a visionary model of our own
Doing so, we come to participate
empathically in the experience of the Earth Goddess, Gaia-Sophia.
As suggested in
Sharing the Gaia Mythos, the purpose of humanity in Gaia's life-process may reside in on our capacity to remember Her
Story. Metahistory involves not only a critique of history
and the beliefs encoded in it, but also a creative recalling of the
mythic dimension of our own species story.
In this respect it should
be clear that the reason for converting the mythico-mystical
language of Gnosticism into the concepts of modern astronomy is not
to use science to legitimate Gnostic vision, but to link our current
picture of the cosmos to an ancient seminal visionary experience
whose slight traces can be discovered in Gnostic writings.
Even with clear correlations, however, it is extremely difficult to
construct a coherent version of the Fallen Goddess scenario.
Considered strictly on the basis of surviving texts, there is no
"Gnostic cosmology," or almost none. The textual material is in some
instances - in most instances, it must be said - corrupt and
Nag Hammadi "library" is a pitiful
heap of remnants, like a handful of glass shards from a shattered
These documents were translated into Coptic from
"Greek originals," scholars say, but there is no way to know if
Greek texts themselves were actually first-hand Gnostic writings.
After countless readings, I am inclined to see these texts as study
notes, and in rough and incomplete form. The Coptic reads like a
slapdash translation made by scribes who did not altogether
understand what they were translating.
Fifty fragmentary documents whose content is largely incoherent and
maddeningly inconsistent - this is all that remains of what once was
countless thousands of parchments and codices, including many works
on geology, astronomy, and mathematics, known to have been written
by initiates of the Mystery Schools.
To fill in what is missing or badly
preserved in the Coptic treatises from Nag Hammadi, we must turn to
paraphrases found in the polemics of the so-called Church Fathers
who opposed the Gnostics. For the scenario of Sophia's fall and
subsequent embodiment as Gaia, for instance, we have to rely on
Irenaeus, a Christian bishop who wrote Against Heresies around 180
A full-scale narrative describing how Sophia becomes Gaia cannot be
developed without making huge inferences.
The Fallen Goddess
scenario relies at key points on extrapolating broadly - and, one
might say, boldly - from the slim evidence on hand.
The thirteenth packet of the Nag Hammadi library consists of eight
papyrus leaves, a mere sixteen pages.
It is the only codex (book of
bound leaves) found without a leather cover, and uniquely, but for
one other codex (II), its pages are not numbered. The texts are
incomplete, and the first two leaves appear to have almost been
burnt. They are not charred around the edges, but smoke-damaged.
The Arab family whose sons found the
codices in a cliffside cave in December, 1945 are known to have
burned some leaves to heat water for tea. During the 4th century CE
when the cache was buried, fanatic ideologues called the "Church
Fathers" demanded that all Pagan and Gnostic writings be burned. The
first pages of codex XIII seem to have quite literally been snatched
from the flames.
Gnosis is the knowledge that frees. Because this knowledge is
precarious, so is freedom.
The sole complete text in codex XIII is
Trimorphic Protennoia, a
title rather grandiosely rendered as "The Threefold Divine First
Thought." The scribal hand that copied it resembles that of codex
II, but is a more rapid, cursive version, as if it were written in a
rush. The experts suggest that it may have been written by two
hands, that of student and instructor. (CGL5V, V, B2, p. 362. For my
system of references see Gnostic Materials.)
This opinion accords
with my own (non-expert) view that the Coptic treatises are student
notes, or notes dictated by masters to novices. The materials found
under the cliff of Jabal al Tarif may indeed be "Cliff Notes" (the
trade name in England for study guides to classic works, such as
those of Homer and Shakespeare).
The structure of Trimorphic Protennoia is distinctive. It builds like a fugue
in two voices, first-person and third-person. The longer, dominant
passages are called "first-person aretologies."
These declarations use "I" for a
supernatural agency that declares its traits and actions:
I am the thought that dwells in
the movement that underlies all that endures,
She in whom everything resides, the first-born of all those
who exist in the presence of the All.
I dwell in those who came to be.
I move in everyone and I delve into them all.
I walk uprightly and those who sleep, I awaken.
I am the sight of those who dwell in sleep.
I am the invisible one within the all.
It is I who counsel those who are hidden...
(Trim. Prot. 35: 1-25)
The character of the aretologies is
lofty and poetical. The content is visionary, so this kind of text
is called a "revelation discourse."
Alternating with the aretologies are
passages in the third-person, apparently intended to indicate the
student's comprehension of the discourse, or perhaps they are the
master's notes interpolated to help the student comprehend. The
subject of Trim. Prot. is the central theme of Gnostic cosmology:
the descent of the Aeon Sophia into the chaotic realm beyond the
bounding membrane of the Pleroma.
Her plunge is described in three
distinct stages or increments:
First - Protennoia is the
voice of the First Thought who descends first as light into
darkness to give shape to her fallen members.
Second - Protennoia is the
Speech of the Thought who descends to empower her fallen
members by giving them spirit or breath.
Third - Protennoia is the
Word or Logos of the Thought who descends in the likeness of
the powers, assumes a human appearance, introduces the
illuminatory baptismal light of the Five Seals and restores
her members into the light.
(NHLE 1996, p. 511,
commentary by John D. Turner)
Protennoia means "primary mind
intention," or First Thought, as the scholars have it. This word is
packed with uniquely Gnostic nuances. "Proto" means both "first,
primal or primary" and "generative."
Protoplasm is the biological
basis of all life-forms.
A prototype generates all later and
subsequent types. Ennoia is a compound of en-, "intent, will," and
noia, a variant of nous, "intelligence, mind, consciousness."
Greek word nous defines in all Gnostic teachings the special
endowment that Sophia and the Pleromic gods confer upon humanity.
Our wisdom endowment is nous, a dose of divine intelligence, the
power to know what gods know. Nous is a faculty, not a mark of
identity. Granted, whoever cultivates nous becomes in a sense
"god-like," but in no sense is nous a "divine self," the possession
of which allows us to consider ourselves to be gods.
The object of Gnostic spiritual practice is not to see ourselves as
gods but to see as gods see.
Scholars working in teams over decades apply meticulous care to eke
out the meaning of obscure texts such as Trimorphic Protennoia.
They endlessly scrutinize the variations of grammar, spelling,
handwriting. They write papers and sometimes entire books on a
single treatise. They hold symposia to discuss the historical and
philosophical background of the Gnostic materials, usually with the
aim to learn more about the origins of Christianity, rather than to
understand what the Gnostics had to say in their own terms.
The result of all this work on the literal meaning of Gnostic texts
is that the message they contain is overlooked, if not entirely
lost. No scholar today regards the original message of Gnosticism as
valid subject matter. This is the strange impasse into which Gnostic
studies have led over the last fifty years. About one third of the
writing in Metahistory.org is devoted to recovery of the original
To recover and reconstruct the story of Gaia-Sophia, we must
consider what the Gnostics may actually have known about cosmic
matters. The assumption that Pleroma, meaning "fullness, plenum,"
refers to the core of any galaxy, is the first step in allowing that
Gnostics had real-world astronomical knowledge.
In short, we infer that Pleroma means
galactic core (but not only that), so that we can develop certain
imaginative clues in the Coptic material.
(It could be argued that
Pleroma is purely a metaphysical locus outside time and space which
ought not to be "reified," made into a concrete thing. For my
response to this objection, see 'reality' in below insert.)
Is not necessarily what
you believe it to be, although what you believe ought to
reflect your reality, the truth of your experience as it
really is, rather than as you would like to believe it
As explained in Sources of the Gaia Mythos, I draw upon
Asian metaphysics, especially emanation theory, to
develop the narrative and commentaries. The key
principle of emanation theory is that all being and
things exist through other beings and things.
the Pleroma is a locus outside time and space, it can
still be a galactic core because in emanation theory
whatever transcends time and space still manifests
through the features of time and space.
Philosophically, this view is called radical immanence.
In Tibetan Buddhism, it is called noumenalism. It must
not be confused with the Platonic duality of the Eidos
(Ideal Forms) and their inferior and illusory
appearances, shadows on the wall of the cave.
view the appearance of the Real, Ultimate Reality, is
ultimately real. Only the operations of the perceiving
mind, apt to mistake itself, cause the Real to be
regarded as unreal.
Scholars do not make such inferences because the limits of their
discipline do not allow them to suppose that genuine astronomical
knowledge could be encoded in mystical writings.
Obliged to stick to
the textual evidence, they ignore the question of what kind of
evidence might be provided by direct mystical experimentation, the
practice of Gnosis, transcendent insight.
Yet if scholars today do not have
experience comparable to that of the Gnostic seers, how can they
discover what these obscure texts might be indicating? Lacking the
evidence of experience, the experts are constantly forced into
omissions. For fear of making false inferences, they make none that
cannot be textually supported.
No scholar would do what I am here attempting with the Gnostics
materials. But for that matter, no scholar could do what I am
attempting. If there is a profound world-changing message in
Gnosticism, as I believe there is, it has little chance of reaching
the world at large through the filters of scholarly exegesis.
Discerning the message Gnostics were trying to give is my overriding
Thus I extrapolate, as best I can. I
extrapolate carefully but vastly, because the scope of Gnostic
visionary wisdom was vast, as far as I can tell. My inferences are
based on a lifetime of experimental mysticism, as well as thirty
years' study of the materials and an equivalent period of
involvement with mythic cosmologies, modern astronomy, astrophysics,
and naked-eye sky-watching.
I am not alone in attributing profound astronomical knowledge to the
Gnostics. Jacques Lacarriere, a comparative mythologist and cultural
historian, has written the single most accessible book on
Gnosticism, demonstrating a complete departure from the usual
dismissive treatment. Granted, the book The Gnostics is a poetic
meditation, rather than a scholarly exegesis such as one finds in Pagels and King.
Yet Lacarriere presents brilliant
insights that enable us to appreciate the spirit of Gnosticism as
such, on its own terms, rather than as a footnote to Christianity.
He asserts that knowledge of the cosmos among the Gnostics was not a
product of fantasy, or "metaphysical" speculation, but derived from
observation of the sky, that is, from encountering the real,
For the Gnostics, the sky is “the first source
of knowledge”; astronomical perspective was “implicit at the very
starting-point of their thought.” (p. 16) I couldn't agree more.
Lacarriere also extrapolates Gnostic material in ways conventional
scholars would find unacceptable. He proposes that Gnostic seers
could look into many worlds, and so were able to detect certain
cosmic factors specific to the world-system we inhabit. As we shall
see, Gnostics taught that our world is aberrant, anomalous.
How could they have known this if they
did not have something non-anomalous to compare it to?
say that these other worlds, presaged and divined by Gnostic
speculation, in fact represent what modern astronomy calls nebulae,
spirals, and extra-galactic clusters.”
Some Gnostic texts
assert that there are many Pleromas. We know today that there are
billions of galaxies.
The story of the Sophia Aeon concerns
one Pleroma in particular, the core of the galaxy that harbors the
solar system in its spiral arms. The mere suggestion that mystics
who lived 2000 years ago could have had concrete knowledge of events
specific to our galaxy is, of course, outrageous.
concept shows a dark doughnut-shaped ring deep in the
core of a galaxy encircles what appears to be a
supermassive black hole
Constellation of Virgo
How all the more outrageous it will be, then, if what they knew
turns out to be true.
As noted above,
is concerned with the central
event of the Gnostic world-vision: the descent of the Goddess
The role of the human species in the life of Gaia is set up
by the triple descent of Sophia from the Pleroma, especially in the
To show how this occurs, we need to
convert the mystical and theological shorthand of Trim. Prot.,
summarized in Turner's paraphrase (above), into cosmological terms.
The general outlines of the Gnostic origin myth will then become
Then, by inference, we can begin to explore the role of
humanity in Gaia's Dreaming of the world we inhabit:
Sophia's passion causes Her to plunge through the Pleromic membrane, rather than emanate through it and remain
centered in the galactic core, as Aeons normally do. Upon departing
from the core, She confronts novel conditions of elemental matter in
the galaxy's outer limbs. Automatically, She begins to organize
these elemental fields.
"The First Thought descends first as
light into darkness to give shape to her fallen members."
I have proposed that the Aeons are
massive currents. We may imagine them as immense pulsations of light
in a mass-free state, torrents of "luminous emulsion" (Lacarriere,
pp. 36, 83).
Aeonic currents are alive, coherent and
self-organizing. The Coptic materials use the metaphors of
"fountain" and "spring" for the Pleroma, and "torrent" for the
When this torrential outpouring encounters elemental matter (in
scientific terms, unorganized atomic states), it configures that
matter into organizes states and processes. The mere presence of
Sophia in the outer limbs imparts order to the chaos of the
Today the process of spontaneous ordering is recognized as
a universal function in nature. It is called autopoesis.
"self-making." Extremely chic notion in avant-garde
biology and complexity theory, though perhaps
Self-organization is now recognized to be a
prominent feature of terrestrial nature at all
levels, and of the cosmos at large. In Gnostic
language the autopoetic function is called Autogenes,
"self-generating." (Pronounced Awe-TOE-gen-KNEES.)
As the biospheric system is understood so far, Gaia
is autopoetic. It is widely accepted that the Gaian
system, the biosphere, is autopoetic.
This may sound
like a lofty pronouncement but James Lovelock
himself plays it down:
usually condemned to lead urban lives, but I
find that country folk still living close of the
earth often seem puzzled that anyone should need
to make a formal proposition of anything as
the Gaia hypothesis."
(Cited by Jon
Turney in Lovelock & Gaia, p. 52-3)
At the cosmic level,
autopoesis is the configuring action that arises
spontaneously in the presence of a living cosmic
current or Aeon. When this torrential outpouring
encounters elemental matter (in scientific terms,
atomic states), it configures those states.
presence of Sophia in the outer limbs organizes the
chaos of the elements (described in the
beginning in Episode 9.)
As Her impact deepens, the chaotic fields of
elementary matter in the galactic limbs not only become organized,
they become animated, taking on a life of their own. In other words,
Sophia's life-force is transmitted to the chaotic matter in the zone
She has entered.
"Protennoia is the Speech of the Thought who descends to empower her
fallen members by giving them spirit or breadth."
In this phase,
Sophia actually produces a rudimentary world-system, but this is not
yet the planetary system that will emerge when She has fully
metamorphosed Herself into the earth.
This is the most complicated
episode in the Gnostic origin myth, for it involves a kind of
pseudo-creation, indicated by the Greek word stereoma: a
stereoscopic projection, like a hologram.
This hologram will eventually condense
into a planetary system including the earth that revolves around a
central star, the sun.
The stereoma is the virtual world of the Archons, a species of
inorganic beings produced by Sophia's impact upon elemental matter
before She metamorphoses into the earth. The name Archon comes from
the Greek root archai, "before, preceding." (Adjective: Archontic.)
The Archons are so called because they and their world
the organic structures of life on earth emerge.
From Greek archai,
"origins, beginning things, prior in time."
classical Mediterranean world, archon was commonly
used for the governor of a province, or, more
loosely, any religious or governmental authority.
Hence the plural, Archons, is often translated in
Gnostic texts as "the Authorities." (There is no
Coptic word for Archon, so Gnostic texts use the
Greek term in Coptic transliteration.)
Pronounced Ar-kon. Adjective, Archontic (Ar-KON-tik).
In my usual habit of attempting the impossible, I
propose three definitions, or three levels of
In Gnostic cosmology, Archons are a species of
inorganic beings that emerged in the solar
system prior to the formation of the earth. They
are cyborgs inhabiting the planetary system
(exclusive of the earth, sun and moon), which is
described as a virtual world (stereoma) they
construct by imitating the geometric forms
emanated from the Pleroma, the realm of the
Generators, the Cosmic Gods.
The Archons are a
genuine species with their own proper habitat,
and may even be considered to be god-like, but
they lack intentionality (ennoia: self-directive
capacity), and they have a nasty tendency to
stray from their boundaries and intrude on the
human realm. Archons are said to feel intense
envy toward humanity because we possess the
intentionality they lack.
The Gaia Mythos describes how the Archons were
produced by fractal impact in the dense
elementary field arrays (dema) of the galactic
limbs, when the Aeon Sophia plunged unilaterally
from the galactic core. See especially Episode
10. This event is also described in detail in
Level Two: Noetic-Psychological
In Gnostic psychology, the noetic science of the
Mystery Schools, Archons are an alien force that
intrudes subliminally upon the human mind and
deviates our intelligence away from its proper
and sane applications. They are not what makes
us act inhumanely, for we all have the potential
to go against our innate humanity, violating the
truth in our hearts, but they make us play out
inhumane behavior to weird and violent extremes.
Left to our own
devices, we would sometimes act inhumanely and
then correct it, contain the aberration.
Obviously, we do not always do so. In the
exaggeration of our insane and inhumane
tendencies, and in extreme, uncorrected deviance
from our innate intelligence, Gnostics saw the
signature of an alien species that piggy-backs
on the worst human failings.
Hence, Archons are psycho-spiritual parasites.
Yet as offspring of the Aeon Sophia, they are
also our cosmic kin.
As inorganic entities of two types, embryonic
and reptilian, Archons can at moments penetrate
the terrestrial atmosphere and terrorize humans,
although there is no reason or order to these
forays, for the aliens cannot remain for very
long in the biosphere and, anyway, they have no
master plan to accomplish here. The ontological
status of the Archons is dual: they exist both
as an alien species independent of humankind,
and as a presence in our minds, rather like a
set of programs operating in our mental
environment. The risk they pose by invading our
mental software is far greater than any physical
risk they might pose by erratically breaching
Working through telepathy and suggestion, the
Archons attempt to deviate us from our proper
course of evolution. Their most successful
technique is to use religious ideology to
insinuate their way of thinking and, in effect,
substitute their mind-set for ours. According to
Judeo-Christian salvationism is
the primary ploy of the Archons, an alien
Our capacity to discern alien forces working in
our minds is crucial to survival and
co-evolution with Gaia who, as Sophia,
accidentally produced the Archons in the first
place. (This comment belongs to Level One, the
cosmological definition, but as so often happens
with Gnostic teachings, noetic and cosmic
elements tend to merge.)
By recognizing and
repelling the Archons, we claim our power,
define our boundaries in the cosmic framework,
and establish our purpose relative to Gaia, the
indwelling intelligence of the planet.
Level Three: Sociological
In the Gnostic view of human society, the
Archons are alien forces that act through
authoritarian systems, including belief-systems,
in ways that cause human beings to turn against
their innate potential and violate the symbiosis
of nature. LIVE spelled backwards is EVIL, but
the Archons are not evil in the sense that they
possess autonomous powers of destruction, able
to be applied directly upon humanity.
They are agents of
error rather than evil — but human error, when
it goes uncorrected and runs beyond the scale of
correction, turns into evil and works against
the universal plan of life. Gnostics taught that
the Archons exploit our tendency to let our
mistakes go uncorrected.
Because the Archons need human complicity to
gain power over humankind, any one who assists
them can be considered a kind of Archon, an
accessory. How do humans assist the Archons? One
way (suggested in the Level Two definition) is
by accepting the mental programs of the Archons
— that is, adopting the alien intelligence as if
it were human-based — and implementing those
programs by actually enforcing them in society.
Another way is by actively or passively
conforming to the agendas so proposed and
Jacques Lacarriere suggests that Gnostics
detected the humanized face of the Archons in
all authoritarian structures and systems
that deny authenticity and self-determination to
the individual. He argues that Gnostics
recognized "the fundamentally corrupt character
of all human enterprises and institutions: time,
history, powers, states, religions, races,
nations..." (The Gnostics, p. 24)
not because we make errors, but because the
errors we make go uncorrected and extrapolate
beyond the scale of correction. Lacarriere says
that Gnostics reached this conclusion “out of
rational observation of the natural world and
human behavior.” Ultimately, they asserted the
“contention that all power – whatever kind it
may be – is a source of alienation... All
institutions, laws, religions, churches and
powers are nothing but a sham and a trap, the
perpetuation of an age-old deception.” (p.
This may seem like
a dark view of human affairs, but given the
evidence of history (not to mention current
events), it cannot be said to be unfair or
The nature and actions of these weird
entities were closely guarded secrets of the Mysteries.
the Archons and interpretation of their relation to humanity was an
occupational challenge for Gnostic seers. Archontic activity is a
key factor in the Fallen Goddess scenario.
(More below on this
bizarre development below, and in the companion essay that follows
"Protennoia is the
Word or Logos of the Thought who descends in the likeness of the powers..."
This vague and baffling language means
that Sophia, the supra-material Aeon, reproduces Her own attributes
in a material world: She gears down ("descends") and in a manner
conformable with the elemental powers She encounters in chaos, the
zone outside the Pleroma.
As an Aeon, She is an inconceivably
massive current, alive and conscious, but by merging into the dark
elemental matter of the galactic limbs She becomes transformed "in
the likeness of the powers (those elemental forces)," and
consequently plunges into semi-unconsciousness. In terms of cosmic
physics, Her plasmatic currents convert into mass, and that mass
eventually becomes the earth.
Sophia "morphs" into a planetary body.
One of the difficulties in recovering the Gnostic origin myth is
that textual accounts of this critical phase of the story are lost.
Descriptions of the conversion of Sophia's passions into the
material earth, which certainly existed in written versions, have
been almost entirely eradicated. The most complete version of this
event is not found in the Coptic sources but in the polemical
writings of the Church Fathers.
To protest what they regarded as the
ornate complication of Gnostic cosmology, the Fathers had to
paraphrase the material they so detested. The most complete
description of Sophia's devolution into a planetary body is found in
Against Heresies by Irenaeus.
Chapter IV of Book One of this immense
tome is entitled "Account Given by the Heretics of the Formation of Achamoth, Origin of the Visible World from Her Disturbances."
Achamoth, a corruption of the Hebrew Hochma, "cosmic wisdom," is a
Jewish term applied by Gnostics to the Fallen Sophia.
The collection of Achamoth's passions they [the Gnostics] declare
was the substance of the matter from which this world was formed.
From her desire to return to the realm where Her life originated,
every soul belonging to this world derived its origin.
things owe their beginnings to her terror and sorrow. From her tears
all that is of liquid nature was formed. From her smile all that is
lucent in nature. From her grief and perplexity, all the corporeal
elements of the world.
(Ch. V, 2-3)
Compare this account to the legend of the
Thompson Indians, cited in
the Commentary on the Prelude of the Gaia Mythos:
At first Kujum-Chantu, the earth,
was like a human being, a woman with a head, and arms and legs,
and an enormous belly. The original humans lived on the surface
of her belly [The legend recounts how the Old One] transformed
the sky woman into the present earth.
Her hair became the trees
and grass; her flesh, the clay; her bones, the rocks; and her
blood, the springs of water.
(Charles H. Long, Alpha: The
Myths of Creation, p. 36-37.)
Time and time again, Gnostic visionary
teaching is corroborated by indigenous lore.
This makes sense if we regard Gnosticism
as an advanced or highly formalized brand of shamanism, a visionary
method of high sophistication that arises from the same ecstatic
encounter with Sacred Nature as shamanic practices in native
cultures around the world.
The Call to
Such is the expanded paraphrase of Trim. Prot. (Trimorphic
Protennoia), transposed into
Where do we go from here?
The third phase of
Sophia's descent is still in progress, for the cosmic Aeon, departed
from its normal sphere of activity, now persists as the living
earth. Here we must extrapolate again in order to form some notion
of humanity's role in Sophia's experience.
In the third stage, Sophia's long process of incarnation shifts
toward a co-evolving phase. With the emergence of the human species
on earth, the Protennoia "assumes a human appearance." This does not
mean that God, or more precisely, the Goddess, appears on Earth in
human form, but that the appearance of humans on Earth is a
particular expression of the Goddess intelligence.
Let's recall that Her name, Sophia,
means "wisdom." In humanity, a particular form of cosmic wisdom is
germinating. In some way we have yet to grasp, Sophia evolves life
on earth, not for human purposes, but to invite human participation
in Her story. We participate through cultivating the wisdom
endowment She has implanted in us.
In other words, we are endowed by Gaia-Sophia with the capacity for
co-evolution. However, what we lack is a clear conception of what
co-evolution is and how we might pursue it. We lack a motive.
In all other species on earth, cosmic wisdom is also present, of
course. In many ways it is more perfectly and harmoniously displayed
by non-human creatures. In fact, indigenous wisdom states that we
humans are kin to all species and depend for our survival on
non-human allies, such as "power animals" who can show us how to
apply Sophianic intelligence because they are, in many ways, better
at it than we are.
Native American teachings state that,
"our humanity remains incomplete and
unhinged' until we have received such empowerment from
(Andy Fisher, Radical
Ecopsychology, p. 111)
All too often we feel tragically alone
with what we know. We falsely believe human intelligence is superior
to all other forms, a freak phenomenon. In the Gnostic perspective,
the status of the human species is not one of superiority but of
uniqueness, because we have a special responsibility in responding
to Gaia's call to co-evolution.
(More on this delicate point in the
How We Are Deviated, the third part of the
trilogy that begins with Coco de Mer, parts One and Two, and
includes the essay here underway.)
NHC XIII informs us with enormous brevity how Sophia, upon becoming
the Earth, offers a special opportunity to humanity.
the illuminatory baptismal light of the Five Seals." This means that
from the original Pleromic light which She was and still is, Sophia
makes available a kind of extract, consisting of five potentials or
The language here is deeply mystical,
using a kind of insider jargon from the Mystery Schools. The "seals"
refer to five powers inherent to nous, the divine intelligence.
These powers are:
heightened perception ("hyperception"?)
is acquired through training of paranormal faculties such as
clairvoyance and clairaudience.
The initiation program of the
Mysteries was set up to produce and test these powers in the
neophytes. The Mystery Schools were universities
for the practice of noetic sciences, the cultivation of
If humans claim and cultivate their Sophianic endowment, the Goddess
will be able to "restore her members into the light." In other
words, what Sophia does through humanity is somehow crucial to
re-evolving Her connection of her own capacities ("members") to the
Pleroma. This is what Gnostics taught about human involvement in Her
"redemptive" process. The Mystery School term for this process is
Apocryphon of John says:
"And our Sister Sophia is she who
came down in innocence in order to correct her deficiency."
(NHC II, 1, 23: lines 20-22)
Elsewhere this process is called
Sophia's "rectification." As Sophia realigns Herself with the
Pleroma, humanity is, somehow, deeply implicated in the process.
(For more on this tremendous prospect, see correction in
Just think about it! What a tremendous prospect the
Gnostics have left us. We are involved in how the
intelligence of the earth is consciously integrated into
the larger scheme of the galaxy. We ought not to get too
inflated about this fantastic prospect, however. After
many years of reflection, I am convinced that
Gaia-Sophia can achieve correction even if we fail in
our opportunity to participate in the process.
If She cannot achieve it
with and through the human species, She will find
another way. This is my humble opinion, anyway. (I
suspect that Gnostics ardently debated this question.
Some believed that human participation was indispensable
to Sophia's correction, while others believed that our
involvement was only accessory, and, lacking it, Sophia
could manage re-alignment to the Pleroma by other means.
I leave the issue open....)
According to the Gnostic origin myth found in
Trim. Prot., Sophia's
opportunity to achieve Her correction with some kind of
unique involvement by humanity is pre-disposed by Her
descent. The most we could say, perhaps, is that our
co-evolutionary role in Sophia's correction is
consistent with Her story from the outset, and if we
miss the chance She presents to us, the failure in our
part of Her experiment will change that story.
In a nutshell, this is the supreme teaching of the
vision, the redemptive cosmology of Gnosis.
Given all this background, what are we to make of the obscure
proclamations in NHC (Nag Hammadi Codex) XIII?
Truth be told, there is almost no
cosmological content in Trim. Prot.! The text consists of rough
notes on a "revelation discourse" in which a Gnostic visionary
recalls or recapitulates the descent of the Goddess, but not in a
Phases of Sophia's engagement in the
extra-Pleromic realm are described, but not graphic cosmological
stages as such. The discourse has to be transposed imaginatively to
produce a vivid cosmological picture story.
Such revelations have been called "visionary recitals" by
Corbin, a scholar of Sufi mysticism whose most well-known work is
Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi. Corbin coined the
term "imaginal" to emphasize that what the genuine mystic sees is
not imagined (i.e., falsely invented), nor is it merely imaginary (a
product of psychic activity, detached from the real world). Rather,
he or she see a visionary as opposed to a sensorial "reality."
Several texts in the NHC are visionary recitals that provide vital
clues to the Gaia Mythos. These texts probably represent
transcriptions of notes taken by students on lectures given by
initiates who reported their experiences in altered states. The
notes would have enabled classes of upcoming students (neophytes) to
"review" what their teachers saw in visionary states, as a
preparation for exploring those states in their turn.
Literally, "review" means to re-view or
re-see. If successful, the training of the neophytes led them to
re-see what had already been witnessed and transmitted by their
teachers. Each re-seeing was consistent with initiatic experience
and, at the same time, enriched with new content, for the
manifestation of the Divine to the human mind is an open and ongoing
Hence the co-evolutionary project of Gnosis.
Opponents of the Gnostics accused them of writing too many books and
inventing all manner of complications to explain the cosmos and the
human condition. They rejected the possibility of rich,
ever-evolving revelation. For the Church Fathers the revelation of
the Father God through Jesus Christ was a one-time-only event, and
the story was simple and stable. (Upon close analysis, it is
anything but, but that is another issue.)
Because Gnostic method left revelation
open, its practitioners were involved in a continual process of
rediscovery and re-imagination, encompassing the entire course of
evolution. They accessed "cosmic memory" to review over and over
again the descent of the Wisdom Goddess and refine their
understanding of how humanity emerged in Her Dreaming, and how we
are implicated in Her "correction."
To be Gnostical today means to continue this process of
The cosmic detailing of the
Coco De Mer, the icon for the Gaia
Mythos, pictures the original Dreaming of Sophia.
Episodes 5, 6
and 8 of the Gaia Mythos, we see the conditions that prevailed
before Sophia plunged beyond the Pleroma, taking Her Dreaming with
Her into the lower world.
To summarize briefly those Episodes:
Episode Five describes how Sophia
acted within the Pleroma, paired with another Aeon, Christos, to
prepare the emanation of the singularity and produce a new
existential world in the outer limbs of the galaxy.
In Episode Six, a sacred boundary is defined and sealed, so that
the Aeons can remain within the core as their emanation pours
outward, like the shaft of a searchlight. The result is a mortal
emanation, Atu Kadmon - the template for the human species. It
is deposited in a molecular cloud in the third zone of the
spiral arms, in the Orion Nebula.
Episode Eight describes how Sophia is fascinated by this
template. While the other twelve Aeons who fashion the boundary
withdraw into the interior of the Pleroma, She, the thirteenth
Aeon, remains at the border, gazing outward at the luminous
emulsion hung in the galactic limbs. Eventually, She is lured
through the bounding membrane of the core, and the Goddess
Now we must try to imagine what Sophia
dreams as She contemplates the template of Atu Kadmon, the Anthropos,
before Her plunge.
While She is still within the proper limits of
the Pleroma, She produces the Dreaming of a world to come. Yet She
does so in an anomalous manner, by Herself, without pairing off and
sharing Her vision with another Aeon.
This is, not a violation, but a
departure from the usual operations of "cosmic law."
"For it is the will of the
Originator not to allow anything to happen in the Pleroma apart
from a syzygy."
(NHLE 1996, p. 486. Syzygy,
pronounced SIZZ-uh-GEE, means pairing, coupling.)
The will of the Originator does not
constrain the Generators, the Aeons who always remain free to act
without a counterpart.
Let's imagine that in the original moment of Her Dreaming, Sophia
previews a world order that might arise for Atu Kadmon, the human
species, but this is not in fact the world order that does arise
from Her descent. The material of Trim. Prot. and other texts, as
well as the polemic paraphrases, all agree on one crucial point:
when Sophia plunges from Pleroma, the effects that She produces in
elementary matter are weird and unexpected.
She has an initial vision of a world
order, yes, and presumably She retains it on Her descent, but the
world system in which She becomes enmeshed does not entirely and
consistently reflect Her original moment of Dreaming. Sophia's trimorphic protennoia, the threefold primal intent of her
Dreaming, was skewed by unforeseen conditions outside the Pleromic
The Coco De Mer represents - pictures graphically - the triple world
system Sophia originally intended to emanate.
In Her solitary dreaming Sophia imagined a threefold world order far
out in the galactic limbs - a planetary system consisting of one
star, a planet and a moon, but this was not the system that arose
due to Her fall.
Gospel of Philip contains a famous
one-liner that describes this bizarre development:
"The world came about through a
(NHC II, 3, 75.1)
This much-quoted line has been used against the Gnostics who are
accused of hating and rejecting the material world (nature, the
earth) because they regard it as an inferior, flawed creation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I submit that it is just this, the mistaken character of our world,
its deviance from the original Dreaming of Sophia, that engaged the
Gnostics in empathy with the earth and the Goddess embodied in it.
Seeing cosmic events in affectively charged vision, they realized
that Sophia's fall subjected Her to gravitational forces that do not
apply to the mass-free hyper-porosity of Aeonic currents in the
"What haunts them [the Gnostics] is
the intolerable awareness that this inhibiting matter is the
result of an error, a deviation in the cosmic order."
The line from Gos. Phil. could be called
a proposition of "high strangeness."
This term is often applied to
ET/UFO lore, and it may prove relevant to Gnostic teachings as well.
In the "Afterword" to the 1996 edition of the Nag Hammadi Library in
English, Gnostic scholar Richard Smith compares the visions of
Gnostic cosmology to science fiction, and relates the Sophia Mythos
to numerous books and films in that genre.
Among others he cites Philip K. Dick,
whose Valis Trilogy is a retelling of the Fallen Goddess scenario.
Dick himself attributed his involvement with the Sophia Mythos to a
mystical experience he underwent in March 1974, at the age of 46,
when a ray of light released a massive download of information into
his mind. This experience is consistent with Gnostic illumination
resulting in the "visionary recital." Dick's wrote down his in a
200,000 text (as yet unpublished) which he called "The Exegesis."
Throughout the Valis trilogy Dick explores the question of how the
wisdom of Sophia can assert itself in the fallen world She has
produced, thus liberating humans from their distorted perception of
Dick was convinced that gnosis is special knowledge of our
delusional state, revealing how we are deviated. In Valis he
attempts to show that only Gnosis can save us from being victims, if
not accessories, to the evil and insane patterns of behavior that
arise in and around us, not because we are sinful by nature, but
because we are ignorant of our true nature.
Gnostic cosmology includes some outrageously strange propositions
that work beautifully as science fiction plots.
may be just what we need to get to the ultimate truth about the
human condition on this troubled planet.
Let's suppose that Sophia's original Dreaming of a world outside the
Pleroma persisted, even through the world-system She came to be
enmeshed in was not the one She initially imagined. In effect, She
ended up living in two systems at once.
And humanity, the embodiment
of Atu Kadmon, is right in there with Her.
Philip K. Dick described the bizarre two-world scenario of
the Gnostics in the brilliant metaphor of "a two-source hologram." (Valis,
p. 178) Holograms (or holographs) are quasi-objects produced by an
arrangement of laser beams and mirrors that project into three
dimensions a flat image registered on a plate.
Imagine the hologram
of a house, projected from an image on one plate, superimposed on
another hologram of a similar but structurally different house,
projected from another plate.
Both holograms merge to produce a
setting whose inhabitants may feel disoriented without knowing why.
They may sense, for instance, that they both belong and don't belong
in the setting. In some ways they feel quite at home, but in other
ways they do things to their habitat that are inconsistent with
their survival in it. For the moment the analogy needs no further
Before Her plunge Sophia imagined a world outside the
"Triple-Formed Original Thought." This is the world order She
intended before She fell into chaos.
It is a system composed of
a star (sun)
a moon, the satellite
of the planet
This is the most simple example of a
world system that can arise within the known laws of cosmic physics.
The planet requires a satellite as an "out-rider" or armature so
that it can develop conditions for life that will not be overwhelmed
by the immense force of the solar body, the mother star.
world-order thus produced is gourd-like, with the sun and moon
forming the "husk" of the system, and the planet (Earth) the juicy
pulp - as the Coco De Mer icon shows.
(The gourd analogy is a cosmological
trope that plays an explanatory role in other contexts as well. In
Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep,
Dolores LaChapelle has
described how the gourd may be viewed as the first instrument of
humanity's civilizing activities.)
The world order previewed by Sophia in the original moment when She
gazed from the galactic core out to the spiraling limbs does not
come to be, but Her vision persists.
Despite the deviant world
system brought about by Her fall, Sophia's original undeviated
vision persists and allows for correction of the world system we
inhabit. The correction is achieved, in part, through human
co-evolution with Gaia's purposes.
This is the essence of Gnostic
teaching on redemptive cosmology.
The Coco De Mer is a picture that both triggers and anchors the
memory of this teaching. Knowing this to be so, and experiencing it
empathically and imaginally, engages us in Sophia's correction. Our
responsibility to the earth depends on our involvement in a
supra-earthly vision - our total, experiential, even visceral
As Dick's protagonist says, regarding
the bizarre notion of the two-source hologram:
"But intellectually thinking it is
one thing, and finding out it's true is another!"
(Valis, p. 179)
Gnostics taught that the cosmos we
inhabit came about by an error, an anomaly, and we are involved in
how it is being corrected.
The Coco De Mer icon re-center us in
Sophia's Dreaming so that we can grow into an understanding of our
role in Gaia's cosmic realignment, Her way home to Her source.
By visualizing the three-body world, we orient ourselves imaginally
to Gaia's Dreaming.
This image reminds us to distinguish Earth from
the rest of the planetary system. Gnostic texts always refer to the
cosmos (kosmos in Greek) as distinct from the earth itself (ge
in Greek) . (In both cases the Coptic words, which I cannot
reproduce here because they do not convert in html, are direct
transcriptions of the Greek words.)
The kosmos produced by Sophia's initial
impact in the realm of elementary matter is not the home planet we
inhabit, not the planet Earth, for the Earth was formed differently
from the rest of the planetary system. This concept is fundamental
to Gnostic cosmology. It is of course complete nonsense in
scientific terms. It is "high strangeness" all dressed up in a
mystic veil of fantasy. Let's consider this weird notion for a
moment, just to see where it takes us.
The "mistake" cited in the
Gospel of Philip was not the act of
solitary Dreaming by the Aeon Sophia, but the unforeseen impact of
Her plunge from the Pleroma. Her tumultuous descent into the
galactic limbs produced conditions that resulted in the emergence of
a planetary system distinct from Earth.
This is the kosmos we inhabit,
of the Archons who arose first, before Earth did. In the language of
materialistic science, the cosmos outside Earth is the realm of
inorganic chemistry. One of the great mysteries of science is how
the organic, the living, arises from the inorganic, the non-living.
(Theodore Roszak quotes an anonymous
version of modern cosmology:
"Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas
which, given enough time, turns into people."
In Alexandria 5, p.
The question of how life arose from the
lifeless can be answered quite directly in Gnostic terms, but it
also needs to be reframed, because it is not quite the right
question. Inorganic matter is also alive, albeit in its own way.
real question is, How do the living structures of inorganic
chemistry relate to the structures of organic life?
tantamount to asking, How do the Archons, who are inorganic beings,
relate to humans, who are organic beings?
Much of Gnostic writing was concerned with this question of the two
orders of life, organic and inorganic, terrestrial and
yet the issue of the Archons is entirely disregarded by scholars. It
is not even dismissed as superstitious nonsense, but is merely
passed over in silence, deemed unworthy of comment.
By distinguishing rigorously between the earth and the
extra-terrestrial planetary system, Gnostics were proposing a
conceptual model of organic and inorganic worlds. The planetary
system as such, the cosmos, does not provide a realm where humanity
can live, only the home planet does. All this is true to the facts
of astronomy and biology as we understand them today.
So far the outrageous theory stated in
the one-liner from the Gospel of Philip carries reasonable
information. It makes perfect sense in terms of what we know about
the physics of the solar system. The catch is, modern astronomy does
not allow that Earth's genesis was different from that of the other
Gaia Hypothesis, now more commonly known as
Gaia Theory, first
emerged in 1976 with James Lovelock's reflections on the contrast
between the lifeless atmosphere of mars and the life-filled
atmosphere of Earth. It is clear, then, that Gaia Theory is a
reliable homologue to the Sophianic mythos that distinguishes
between the lifeless solar system and the life-bearing Earth.
Gnostic cosmology is visionary and
mythic, not scientific in the modern sense of the term, but a great
deal of Gaia-compatible science can be extracted from it, as we
of the Beautiful
The Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) is
a tall palm tree native to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
"The flowers are borne in enormous
fleshy spadices (spikes), the male and female on distinct
plants. The fruits, which are among the largest known, take ten
years to ripen; they have a fleshy and fibrous envelope
surrounding a hard nut-like portion which is generally
two-lobed, suggesting a large double coco-nut.
The contents of
the nut are edible as in the coco-nut. The empty fruits (after
germination of the seed) are found floating in the Indian Ocean,
and were known long before the palm was discovered, giving rise
to various stories as to their origin."
Although the mature nut, the largest in
the plant kingdom, immediately suggests female anatomy, the
morphology of the Coco de Mer is bi-sexual.
Coco de Mer with
Male Coco de Mer inflorescence
Shapes suggestive of both male and
female structures occur on separate Coco de Mer palms, but the
strange bi-lobed nuts were discovered long before the palm itself,
leading to mythical attribution of magical or self-propagating
powers, typical of the Sacred Feminine.
Coco De Mer - Mature
Type "coco de mer" in Google and the first entry you will see is a
pornographic site with video streaming guaranteed to satisfy your
most extreme desires.
A little further down the line there is Coco
de Mer, "an up-market ladies erotic fashion and toy shop" in Covent
Garden, a finalist in the 2002 Erotic Awards in the category for
Now there's a concept that invites some
ripe reflection. (More on this issue below.)
In southern India, where
Coco de Mer nuts often wash ashore, the
sleek, wet, glistening object is enshrined in the inner sanctum of
temples and "worshipped as in image of the vulva of the Goddess."
Tantra: Indian Cult of Ecstasy, p. 23) What kind of
perception is required for such a natural object to be taken for a
The erotic-religious crossover occurs frequently in
Asian traditions: consider the yab-yum, the icon of mating gods, in
Tibetan Buddhism, or the lingam and yoni in Indian Tantra.
Yet it would be totally wrong to regard
this act of visualization as due to overheated sexual drive, or some
kind of "primitive" fascination with human genitalia. In fact, this
crossover occurs predominantly in the most intellectually
sophisticated forms of Asian metaphysics, Indian ("Hindu") and
Tibetan Tantra. In the Indian systems the highest stage of
consciousness attained by yoga and meditation is Sat-Chit-Ananda,
"being-conscious-in-bliss," and in Tibetan Buddhism the pure
awareness at the source of the cosmos is Rigpa.
Both are represented by erotic imagery.
Apparently the mode of perceiving the world most compatible with the
highest attainment of pure awareness is erotic and sensuous, but not
So what's the difference? And how does the distinction between
erotic and sexual bear on our quest to participate in the Dreaming
For those who click on
www.coco-de-mer.co.uk for some
minutes of titillation via video streaming from the grey void of
cyberspace, there is certainly no such distinction, but for those
who would have their moments of extreme delight in physical
embodiment, conjoined with Gaia, the difference may be a survival
The Coco de Mer is a highly erotic
object, but not necessarily a sexual object. Sexual allure is a
special case of erotic impact.
Caitlin Matthews observes that,
erotic nature of Sophia has been tidied away as not consistent with
her virginal stereotype," by which she means of course the Virgin
(Sophia, p. 25)
For centuries, the desexualized Virgin
Mother has both co-opted and concealed the erotic aspect of the
Goddess in Western religious tradition.
Mary Magdalene restores the erotic component to our notions of
divinity, and this is the source of her impact on mainstream
religious sensibilities today. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the Mother of
God is identified with the Hagia Sophia, "Divine Wisdom," and given
the name Theodokos, "god-bearing," to signify that she was, not
merely the mother of the human instrument of God, Jesus, but she
herself was an instrument of God.
There is no room for Mary Magdalene in
this scheme of Marian glorification.
Margaret Starbird is a current
writer on Magdalene who would like to correct "a disastrous flaw in
Christian doctrine" and restore the Goddess to Christianity. She
points out that in 1997 Pope John Paul II strongly considered naming
the Virgin Mary "Co-Redemptrix" with Christ. (The Goddess and the
Gospels, p. xiv-xv.)
This was clearly an attempt to compete
with the Virgin of Greek Orthodoxy, and, at the same time, to cut
out Magdalene, depriving her of the co-redeeming role she clearly
shares with Jesus, according to Gnostic materials.
"The erotic shock is the way of
revealing beauty in the world," writes Matthew Fox in
Coming of the Cosmic Christ
( p. 172).
This assertion suggests that beauty
reveals itself in the world in the manner of divine intervention, a
theophany comparable to the Incarnation.
Granting that this could be
so, we must capitalize both Beauty and Eros. These words merit
capitalization as much as Christ and Holy Ghost.
And what if Eros is the Holy Ghost? This is likely to have been the case for Gnostic religion, if
certain clues found in the polemics of the Church Fathers are to be
Recounting the Gnostic creation myth,
Irenaeus says that the "mother" who produced both the Archons and
the human world,
"they also called Ogdoad (the 8th), Sophia, Terra,
Jerusalem, Holy Spirit, and, with a masculine reference, Lord."
5.2: Book One, Ch. 5, section 2 of Against Heresies.)
The identification of Sophia with the earth could not be more
explicit, but upon deeper reading it appears that Gnostics
considered the Holy Spirit to be, not Sophia herself, but a
particular expression of the Goddess in Her terrestrial form.
Another Church Father, Tertullian, is more explicit and (seemingly)
precise in his paraphrase of Gnostic cosmology than Irenaeus.
Consistent with Christian denial that
nature could be spiritual, Tertullian ridicules the Gnostic
identification of Sophia with "spiritual essences" and the
Meanwhile you must believe that
Sophia has the surnames of earth and of Mother - 'Mother-Earth,'
of course - and (what may excite your laughter still more
heartily) even Holy Spirit. In this way they have conferred all
honor on that female, I suppose even a beard, not to say other
Against the Valentinians, Ch. XXI
Yet he reports (correctly) that "in
Achamoth, however, there was inherent a certain property of a
spiritual germ, of her mother Sophia's substance," which the
fallen Aeon was able to impart to the world below.
(Ibid., Ch. XXIV)
The "spiritual germ" deposited in
the Earth is Eros.
To humanity Sophia imparts the germ of
nous, spiritual mind.
This is our wisdom endowment, the intuitive
intelligence of the heart that enables us to know what it means to
be human. Sophia imparts a special power to the earth, as well as to
humanity (Anthropos in Gnostic terminology). The fact that She
becomes embodied in the earth does not mean that all Her force is
exhausted in telluric physics.
As an Aeon, She is greater than any
planet. Her deific power remains in excess of its physical
manifestation. In short, Sophia is able to imbue the physical Earth
with supernatural properties.
The most potent and pervasive of these
properties is Eros as described codices II, 5 and XIII, 2 (On the
Origin of the World, found in two versions in the Nag Hammadi
The earth was purified on account of
the blood of the virgin (parthenos). But most of all, the water
was purified through the likeness of the Pistis Sophia, who had
appeared to the prime parent in the waters... Out of that first
blood, Eros appeared, being androgynous.
His masculinity is Himeros, being
fire from light. His femininity, innate to him as well, is the
soul of blood, the solution of the Pronoia... He is very lovely
in his beauty, having charm beyond all the creatures of chaos.
Then all the gods and their angels, when they beheld Eros,
became enamored. And appearing in all of them Eros set them
(NHL II, 5, 108.25 - 109.25)
Here again is a fragment of Gaian
creation myth, an account of formative events framed in mystical and
It would take too long to translate the passage
line for line, but let's note that "the blood of the virgin" readily
suggests volcanic magma, present from the earliest formation of the
"The water purified through the likeness of the
Pistis Sophia" may be mythic shorthand for the purge of oxygen from
the primordial seas.
This momentous event occurred over a
400-million-year stretch of time from 2.2 billion to 1.8 billion
In the Archean period preceding this event, the oxygen
associated with the forming earth was locked deep in the oceans.
There was hardly any oxygen in the open atmosphere at all. Due to
the action of a microscopic entity, the
cynobacterium known as
blue-green algae, oxygen was massively purged from the ocean and
shifted into the atmosphere.
The algae catalyst,
"swarmed in the photic zone, the
region illuminated and irradiated by the sun and extending to no
more than 100 hundred meters below the ocean surface."
(Lynn Margulis, What is Life?, p.
As a result of this massive shift,
photosynthesis was possible, and life on earth entered its most
lavishly productive phase, which persists to this day.
How does this activity indicate an effect of "the likeness of the
Sophia?" Well, the action occurring in the photic zone of the ocean
was bacterial, and confined to a ultra-thin layer of the primordial
seas, but the effect of the sun interacting with the algae in this
layer was similar to the growth of a culture in a petri dish.
recall that Aeons are hyper-porous, mass-free currents with
autopoetic powers, and as such the mere presence of an Aeon in a
field of atomic matter confers order upon chaos.
The "likeness of the Sophia" was her
autopoetic effect, a mirroring of Her form, for cynobacteria were
the first life-forms to emerge as a direct reflection of Sophia's
Flame to Flame
To enter imaginally into the Gnostic vision of the Fallen Sophia, we
must conceive that the Aeon is forming into the earth, and forming
the earth, at the same time.
She is the dancer and the dance. The
part of Sophia that remains an Aeon, mass-free and non-devolved,
impresses its life-force into the materializing earth. One could say
that with Sophia Her soul defines Her body.
The Coptic texts and polemics make this
distinction by using "Achamoth" for the part of the Aeon that
materializes. (In some versions of the myth, Sophia does not
entirely depart from the Pleroma, but a part of Her "substance"
extrudes and materializes. I have chosen to follow the versions in
which Sophia is entirely externalized.)
The bisexuality of Eros recalls the Tibetan
yab-yum (below) and mythic
intuitions of the sexes associated with the Coco de Mer.
genders of Eros are described in vivid ways: the masculine
(electrical) aspect is "fire from light," and feminine (magnetic)
aspect is "the soul of blood."
Here the Gnostic cosmology refers to
human biological features which are coeval with terrestrial events.
"Fire from light" is the electrochemical
component in the human organism, the hidden fire compressed in the
lightning-like spinal current of Kundalini. The "soul of blood" is
plasma, the watery component of our blood, yet because the blood
carries iron, this watery component is charged with magnetism
The interplay of the two genders of Eros ("fire from light," the
male, and "the soul of blood," the female) generates the soul-life
"And the first soul (psyche) loved
Eros, who was merged with her, and she poured her blood upon him
and the earth."
As the Gnostics saw it, human blood was
formed coevally with complimentary elements in the planetary body.
Earth and psyche, body and soul, co-evolve together from the
earliest stages of life on earth.
Orig. World describes how Eros pervades the physical world:
"Just as from a single lamp many
lamps are lit, and one and the same light is there, but the lamp
is not diminished. And in this way Eros came to permeate all the
beings created from chaos, and was not diminished."
(109: 10 - 15)
Here Gnostic emanationism makes a
perfect match with Tantric cosmology.
Woodruffe explains that at,
"every stage of the emanation-process prior to real evolution
(sensuous and physical processes)," Shakti, the supreme mothering
power, "remains what it is," whilst ever producing new features of
In Parinama or Evolution as it is
known to us on this plane, when one thing is evolved into
another, it ceases to be what it is. Thus when milk is changed
into curd, it ceases to be milk. The evolution from Shiva-Shakti
of the pure Tattvas is not of this kind...
It is a process in
which one flame springs from another flame. Hence it is called
"Flame to Flame." There is a second flame but the first from
which it comes is unexhausted and still there.
(Shakti and Shakta, p. 180.
"Shiva-Shakti" is the Divine Parent. Tattvas are emanational
stages in Hundu Tantric cosmology.)
Now imagine that we have a force in us,
a kind of alternating current that plays between the blood and the
nervous system; hence it carries a rhythm, directly sensed in the
pulsing of the blood, and an electrical charge, an internal buzz of
These are, physiologically speaking, the gender
functions (masculine and feminine energies) of Eros incorporated
into our bodies.
Yet imagine as well that the Erotic
components installed in our organism do not operate
self-referentially, as if in an empty field. On Earth, we are
immersed in an immense sea of electromagnetism, the macrocosmic
counterpart to the bipolar Erotic forces locked into our body
Tantrics teach that Kundalini exists in
two forms: it assumes a compressed form in the human body, and a
telluric form, Maha-Kundala, the massive "serpent power" of the
earth. (The suffix -ini, like "eeny-weeny," means "small,
The Erotic charge in our bodies is imparted by the electro-magnetic
field of the earth and responds to it, constantly. We are not given
a limited dose of Eros and then left to our own devices, helpless to
do anything as it gets used up and finally runs out. We are
Eros never runs out because the
flame-to-flame dynamic permits constant renewal, or recharge. It does
run down, however, if we are not consciously receptive to the
process. Just think of a certain kind of excitement you can feel
that becomes more charged the more you express it. This is the
euphoric hit of Eros. It operates flame-by-flame.
Erotic euphoria is not diminished by
imparting or sharing it, but by our closing ourselves off to receive
it in the first place.
Just as from the midpoint of light and darkness Eros appeared, then
at the midpoint of angels and humanity the sexual union of Eros was
consummated, so that from the earth primal pleasure came to blossom.
(Orig. World, NHLE 1990, p. 178. Italics added.)
In Gnostic creation myth, Eros is the Holy Spirit that fills the
earth and enthralls humanity, rather like the flaming Paraclete was
said to descend upon the disciples of Jesus at Pentecost. The Holy
Spirit sent by Sophia is unmistakably Erotic. (More than one scholar
has noted that the Pentecostal scene in the Gospels is a modified
version of Pagan orgiastic rites.)
This is not love, or even Love
with a capital L, but Eros as such.
Unfortunately, the Greek word
eros found in Plato and other classic
literature has traditionally been translated as love. The correction
of this semantic glitch is not difficult to make if we go directly
back to the source for a fresh understanding. The source in this
case is a woman called Diotima, a seeress and midwife from Mantinea
in the Peloponessus.
By Socrates' own account, reported in
Plato's Symposium, she was his initiatrix into "love matters" (ta
Diotima is famed for telling Socrates
Daimon megas, kai gar pan to daimonion metachu esti theou te
"Eros is a mighty daimon, for its
power mediates what is divine and what is mortal."
(Symp. 202 E)
This pronouncement sounds close to the
Gnostic text already cited:
"at the midpoint of angels and humanity
the sexual union of Eros was consummated."
This specific feat of
"sexual union" is not of man and woman, nor even of Eros with
another deity, but of the two-gendered force of Eros, the polarities
that come together in the telluric field of electromagnetism and in
the human form, co-actively.
We exist bodily in that divine sexual
embrace, as if we were pressed between Gods making love.
And that is not all Diotima taught Socrates. Their dialogue goes on
for some thirty pages in the Symposium. It culminates in the famous
description of the four stages of beauty, leading from the physical
to the ethereal, but this eloquent passage is a Platonic
extravagance maladroitly tacked on to the wise woman's instruction.
(The instruction ends at 210 A, but the
Platonic elaboration, lifting beauty out of the sensorial world and
thus legitimating the quest for extra-terrestrial transcendence in
Western culture, continues to 212 B.)
Eros in the Gnostic creation myth is a
Gaian attribute, totally grounded in the earth and the realm of the
"The erotic shock is the way of
revealing beauty in the world."
It could be said that the Coco de Mer is
enshrined as an iconic form of the vulva of the Goddess precisely to
preserve the capacity for this Erotic shock, and to test it. If,
upon beholding this object, you do not feel the shock, you may be
unplugged from Earth!
What a great way to check out your Gaia
Socrates felt the shock of the Beautiful, to
kalon. He recognized
that beauty in the natural world is really supernatural. His
initiation into the Mysteries of Eros with Diotima was the highpoint
of his spiritual life, leaving him with a message he never forgot.
But this is not the message that comes from the Platonic dialogues,
except through a rare crack in the gleaming carapace of Hellenistic
When Socrates proposes that "Eros is
a part of the beautiful (to kalon)," Diotima corrects him with
Gnostic precision, saying "No, love - that is, Eros - tes
genneseos kai tou tokou en to kalo.
In English: "Eros is an esthetic
bent, the passion for engendering and expressing the Beautiful."
This is in Symposium, 206E, but you will
never find it translated that way because the inveterate error of
translating Eros as "love" has blind-sighted generations from the
realization that Eros is the passion for the Beautiful.
passion, the "esthetic bent" as Diotima called it, is intimately
linked to our capacity for love.
Love and Eros enhance and complement
each other at every turn. Love includes the capacity to embrace and
transmit the Beautiful.
When we receive Eros, or when we let it pour through us toward
others, we feel pleasure. What then is the relation of this pleasure
to the experience of loving and being loved? The pleasure is like a
trainer or simulator for love. It teaches us, as Diotima taught
Socrates, that love, when it's true, feels good and not otherwise.
The priority of pleasure is essential to the Pagan philosophy of
love. Grounded in the senses and the natural world, Pagan
sensibility saw the educative and admonitory value of pleasure in
showing how love feels and how it functions at the bodily level.
Symposium 201 D through 210 A is a view
of carnal wisdom lavishly encrusted with insights about the magical
or "daimonic" attributes of the Holy Pagan Trinity: Beauty, Love,
Eros is at the center of this Trinity, but Eros is not
love. If it were it could not be at the center, "the midpoint of
light and darkness," where Orig. World puts it.
The love we experience on Earth is not only a source of human
bonding, it it also a key catalyst in the cosmic designs of the
Goddess who has infused our world with Eros, for our pleasure.
"From the earth primal pleasure came to blossom."
We are to the
earth as pollen to the flowering Godhead. We are the sacrament of Gaia's remembering. This is what Gnostic religion looks like: a path
through love to the supreme pleasure that never abandons the earth,
but allows us to transcend everything that separates us from Her.
All the Mysteries were consecrated to
the Magna Mater.
I haven't shopped at
Coco de Mer in Covent Garden, so I don't know
what friendly arrangements they have made for the erotically
I do know, however, that there is great
need for such arrangements in the society of our time.
Obsessed with Sex and Oblivious
They Died of Excess and Deprivation
...could be the epitaph for Western
society in the 21st century.
Obsession with sex takes two forms: pro
and con. Puritan prurience is as much a sexual disorder as
nymphomania. (It could be and has been argued that these two
syndromes need and feed each other.)
Today most of the excess is simulated, a
faking of sexual dis-inhibition, a craze of vulgarity, not a
celebration of the Beautiful. We must wonder, Is it possible to
restore Erotic sensibility to a decadent species? This is like
asking how to rejuvenate spoiled fruit.
Paul Shepard has argued that our species' essential rapport with the
habitat, its erotic and animistic bond with Sacred Nature, was
preserved by rites of passage, including the vision quest and
seasonal ceremonies honoring the Goddess. In Nature and Madness he
explains how adolescence is the key period when the erotic bond to
nature can be educated.
It is already there in the child, but
needs to be nurtured in the adolescent for two main reasons: to make
sure the empathic bond with nature is carried ahead into adult life,
and to prepare the adolescent to acquire and live with a social
identity without sacrificing that empathy to other, all-too-human
concerns. In other words, the purpose of initiatory rights in
nature-based societies of the past was to prepare the individual to
avoid the conflict of nature and nurture that we all face by virtue
of living in a social order made up of human dependencies and
In the Mysteries the social identity of the neophyte, the focus of
the self-regarding person, was temporarily dissolved so that the
individual could experience "wide-field" cognitive ecstasy in the
presence of the Other. This technique of ego-loss is a logical - no,
an organic extension of the adolescent initiatory rites described by
Shepard and others.
Today there is nothing equivalent, and
it seems highly improbable that such a system for adolescent and
adult initiation could be re-established in our time.
apparently has tried to do just this by introducing young boys to
animistic rites on a remote island near Tasmania... His first-hand
experiences are recounted in
There are many ways of holding the ego sacred: insistence on "family
values," for instance.
The glorification of personal success, for
instance. The control of others, often disguised by benign posing,
for instance. Toxic infatuation with the myth of romantic love, for
instance. It may seem a stretch to describe these familiar syndromes
as ways to sanctify the ego, but I don't think so.
The problem with perceiving how we hold
the ego sacred is that this particular form of sanctification goes
far deeper than we tend to look, or care to look. Self-concern
usurps spiritual power and stymies Eros.
Proposed term for human
narcissism, borrowed from
Castañeda who called it
The Power of Silence,
don Juan describes a shift of the assemblage point that
applied for the entire human species, resulting in a
movement away from silent knowledge toward self-concern.
Silent knowledge is the generic human capacity for
knowing the world via our deep intuitive link to the
cosmos, but self-concern short-circuits this link.
Self-concern may be equated with the rise of narcissism
during the Arien Age. In one of his more striking
observations, Rudolf Steiner said that human forebrain
circuits matured in the 6th century BCE. The result was,
Greek rationalism, but a side effect of the rational
emphasis is intensification of self-consciousness.
Because rationalization is
an abstractive process, a mental act that puts us at a
distance from what we are thinking about. Applied to
nature, this faculty distances us from the external
world and erodes the sense of participation. We are
onlookers to nature, rather than involved with it.
Applied to human nature, this faculty tends to produce
an infinite regress: the self observing the self
observing the self observing the self... There is really
only one level, one permutation, of self observing
itself, but there appears to be infinite nested levels
of self-observing. Narcissism is a black hole of
The true avatar of the Piscean Age (begins 120 BCE) is
not Christ but Narcissus.
Or perhaps Christ is
From Castañeda we learn that ancient humanity could
master many forms of magic and technology through silent
knowledge. This involves selfless communion with the
cosmos, by which we come to understand directly how it
works, and then, later, we work out mentally how it
Greek rationalism reversed
this activity, so that we began work out how things work
before we knew, in silent knowledge, how they work. This
shift lead to a brief flare of heightened mental
achievement, the Golden Age in Greece and globally, the
Age of the "Masterminds" such as Gautama, Mahariva, Kung
Fu Tze, Pythagoras, and others— but the flare quickly
faded. Try to think of anything significant that
happened in Greece after 300 BCE. Do you detect a void?
Unfortunately, Hellenistic philosophy, an outgrowth of
the rationalist emphasis, helped to build up the
Christian redeemer, and so Jesus Christ became the focal
point of human self-concern. Humanity is encouraged to
see Christ as if viewing itself in a mirror, but we are
really the tormented Narcissus contemplating his own
The Christic reflection is
deviant and inauthentic, as I have argued elsewhere.
"As the feeling of the
individual self became stronger, man lost his
natural connection to silent knowledge. Modern man,
being heir to that development, therefore finds
himself so hopelessly removed from the source of
everything that all he can do is express his despair
in violent and cynical acts of self-destruction."
The Power of Silence,
War, for the spiritual
warrior, is the struggle against the overweening power
"Self-pity is the real
enemy and the source of man's misery. Without a
degree of self-pity for himself, man could not be as
self-important as he is... Once the force of
self-importance is engaged, it develops its own
momentum. It is this seemingly independent nature of
self-importance that gives us a false sense of
Ibid., p. 171
"The position of
self-reflection forces the assemblage point to
assemble a world of sham compassion, but of very
real cruelty and self-centeredness. In that world
the only real feelings are those convenient for the
one who feel them."
Ibid., p. 174
"It was self-reflection that disconnected mankind
from the spirit in the first place."
Ibid., p 179.
Although Don Juan does not
comment in an historical vein, I would situate the shift
to self-reflection - which I am calling self-concern -
in the 6th century BCE.
Personal empowerment is
totally inconsistent with Erotic sensibility. If love is about
sharing, Eros is about surrender.
One could balance a long meditation on
In the Mysteries the culminating experience of initiation could be
induced easily and quickly, but it took years of preparatory work
before that experience was accessible. For initiation to be
undergone in a way that assured that the content of illumination
would be retained, a long process of depersonalization was required.
The moment came in the Piscean Age
(starting circa 120 BCE) when concern for personal salvation became
dominant throughout the Roman Empire. The Mysteries, being unable to
satisfy this concern, had to come up with a new agenda, or phase
The initiates did come up with a new agenda for initiation,
customized for the intensified self-concern of the times, but the
extreme hostility from the early adherents of the salvationist
faith enshrined in Christianity snuffed out the light of Pagan
All forms of sanctification of the personal self, from the most
banal ("Don't hurt my feelings or you will be regarded as a bad
person") to the most insidious ("I am righteous and imposing in my
faith in God, although I will never say so up front because I am too
humble"), inhibit the person who enacts them. In a society of such
individuals, repression is the norm.
Where self-concern reigns, envy
prevails - and let's note the Gnostic warning that envy is the
signature of the Archons. Envy and generosity cannot coexist, but
generosity comes naturally with surrender to Eros.
Coco de Mer is a litmus test for this surrender.
In a politically correct society we are obliged to speak of the
"seeing-impaired," and the "movement-impaired," so it might be
helpful to add the "feeling-impaired." Those who suffer from this
condition differ in a radical way from other impaired people,
however. Someone who is seeing-impaired might pose a few problems on
a dance floor.
But because she knows she is seeing-impaired, the
blind dancer can learn to make her own space and dance beautifully
without bumping anyone. Or perhaps even dance with others,
rhythmically and intuitively connected to the group, flowing with
the same music, caught in the shared euphoria.
But imagine a blind person who does not admit she is blind. Instead
"I can't see what's out there," she
insists there's nothing there. Then, when she runs into
something she says, "That hurts me, that's difficult, it gets in
This is pathological behavior. Such is
actually the case with the feeling-impaired, for it is symptomatic
of this disease that the individual who feels inadequately, or not
at all, denies their lack of feeling and attributes the problem of
emotional impairment to others.
In effect such a person says,
" I can't feel anything about the
Beautiful, so it doesn't exist."
The feeling-impaired are victims of
The Trap of
De-centered from Eros, teetering continually between excess and
deprivation, uprooted from empathic rapport with Sacred Nature,
alienated from our authentic selves by the very social identities we
assume to define ourselves, deviated in our religious instincts by
the "blackmail of transcendence," shackled with guilt, driven to
shame by the media-fuelled craze for desirability, success and
celebrity, intimidated by the constant lies and threats of political
gangsters, enslaved by work that does not engage our genuine talents
- the teachers of the Mysteries would have a challenge on their
hands, were they to tackle the human condition today.
After two thousand years of ever
deepening narcissism, the species may be bottoming out on
self-concern. In an article entitled "The Death of Intimacy"
(Guardian Weekly, September 24-30, 2004), Martin Jacques observed
"we are becoming less and less
intimate with the human condition itself."
In "an ego-market society," where "life
becomes shopping," there is a danger that we will lose our humanity
in our obsession with our selves. The mirroring menace of
self-concern is the Sphinx of our time.
As we face this menace, what
Diotima taught Socrates may be more
important than ever. In the Symposium, the wise midwife relates a
folk legend to explain the birth of Eros:
On the day Aphrodite was born, the
gods celebrated a feast. Among the guests were Poverty (Penia)
and Resource (Poros), son of cunning (Metidos). Penia stood went
around begging until she saw that Poros, drunk on the gods' good
wine, had passed out in the garden. Then Penia devised to lay by
his side and have intercourse with him.
Thus she conceived Eros.
Hence it is that Eros from the start has been the aid and
instrument of Aphrodite (sensual pleasure), erastes on peri to
kalon kai tes Aphrodites kales ouses: "a devotee of Beauty, for
the pleasure of the senses is beautiful."
(203 C, Paraphrase and
Just imagine it! Eros is the child of
lack and resource!
How fitting for us, who live a harried
existence between those extremes.! How pertinent, and poignant, is
this legend for a world being destroyed by those extremes. Perhaps
the Pagan fable can provide some guidance to those among us who
ardently desire to bridge those extremes, both as they exist in the
world at large (good luck, all), and within ourselves as individuals
(this comes first, of course)....
The moral of the story here is: to serve Aphrodite, balance what you
lack with what you have in excess, reconcile your deprivation and
your gifts. Resource (the inner wealth of human potential) is the
son of Cunning, Metidos. This term is used in Homer for the
"many-wiled" Odysseus, polymetis.
Humans are many-wiled creatures,
endowed with many gifts, but our deprivations, en masse or in
singular cases, can impede us from offering our gifts, or even from
knowing we have them to offer. The key to the marriage by which we
escape this tragic fate is Aphrodite, a goddess born from the foam
of a god's severed genitals (another tale).
She is the patron of sensual pleasure.
Let's recall the Holy Trinity of Paganism: Love, Beauty,
With Eros at the center.
If we are Erotically disabled, the entire
trinity collapses! Diotima told Socrates that Eros is a mediator. We
may imagine that Eros, central to the Trinity, effectuates the
dynamic exchanges between the three components. The flow of energy
around the Trinity is euphoric. The moral signature of Eros is
All this is inherent to the fable, but
the Piscean Age is ruled by another charming tale, the story of
Narcissus. When the narcissistic virus of self-concern runs rampant,
infecting our eyes, our taste and our touch, and corrupts the
unconditional love that dwells in the depths of our hearts, the
Coco de Mer is the cure for narcissism, a glorious fruit that that
induces bliss and lures us out of the trap of self-concern.
The mystique of
Magdalene complements our growing awareness of Gaia.
It fosters our dawning cosmological vision. The timing could not be
better, or closer - but she is the Belated Muse, the consort who
comes late but never too late. Are we ready to receive her?
The correction on Eros is essential if
the lure of Magdalene to be seen for what it is.
Eros is not love, but the passion for transformation, the passion
that transfuses and transfigures all forms, sweeping one
form-thing-being through another, interfusing self and other, human
and divine, perpetuating the eternal mystery of these brief
encounters. The learning frame for this mystery is our relation to
Sacred Nature, the divinity-in-residence, Gaia-Sophia, the Hostess
with the Mostess.
And the fruit of our learning is Beauty begotten of Love. Gaia’s
priorities are esthetic. This is what the Coco de Mer shows us.
is what Socrates learned from Diotima.
It would be fitting to close with some words from
Audre Lorde, Black
lesbian feminist, activist, and poet:
There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or
otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a
deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our
unexpressed or unrecognized feeling...
We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused, and
devalued within western society. On the one hand, the superficially
erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority; on the
other hand, women have been made to suffer and to feel both
contemptible and suspect by virtue of its existence.
It is a short step from there to the false belief that only by the
suppression of the erotic within our lives and consciousness can
women be truly strong. But that strength is illusory, for it is
fashioned within the context of male models of power.
The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of
our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to
which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For
having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and
recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no
less of ourselves.
Beyond the superficial, the considered phrase, "It feels right to
me," acknowledges the strength of the erotic into a true knowledge,
for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light
toward any understanding. And understanding is a handmaiden which
can only wait upon, or clarify, that knowledge, deeply born.
erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.
Excerpted from "The Uses of the Erotic"