by John Lash


from MetaHistory Website

Spanish version



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.

After the exhausting exercise of sorting through the Gospel of Philip to tease out the prevailing themes, the Reality of the Archons presents us with a more or less straightforward discourse on Gnostic creation myth. This is the first text on cosmology to be encountered so far in the reading plan. There are only five such texts in the entire corpus, Hyp Arch being the briefest, most accessible of the five.


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.

Introducing the translation by Bentley Layton, Roger A. Ballard writes:

The Hypostasis of the Archons is certainly the work of a gnostic teacher instructing an audience... The audience is a Christian Gnostic community, aware of material of both testaments and accepting the authority of Paul.

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.

"I have sent you this because you inquire about the reality of the authorities (Greek exousia)" could suggest that the Gnostic master has been asked to clarify or correct what Paul is believed to have said.


Cosmic Egotism

Hyp Arch begins in medias res. It jumps immediately to a decisive event in the Gnostic creation myth: the imposter god, who is blind, declares that he is the only god in the universe, but he is refuted by a divine voice that tells him he is mistaken.


Here the text offers a burst:

"His thoughts became blind"


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 Hyp Arch, the authorities or rulers are initially called Exousia, the term found in the writings attributed to Paul, but the name Archontoi occurs later in the text. The chief of the Exousia is not called by his usual name, Yaldabaoth, as occurs elsewhere in the NHC.


In Mystery teachings on the "planetary spheres" the Exousia are connected with jupiter and the force of envy (Greek phthonos).

Hyp Arch does not explain, as do other cosmological treatises, how the chief ruler was produced from "the abyss (Coptic NOUN)," here called "his mother (Coptic MAAY)."


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.

Sophia - here called Pistis Sophia, "Confident Wisdom" - established a heavenly world for the authorities,

"in conformity with their power," forming that world "after the pattern (typos) of the worlds that are above, for by starting from the invisible world the visible world was invented"


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.

Now a sublime event: the figure of "incorruptibility" is reflected in the realm of chaos where the Exousia emerge. In the compound formations of Coptic, "incorruptibility" is constructed from TAKO, "to corrupt, perish," with the prefixes AT-, "not," and MNT-, which functions like the English suffixe -tion: hence, MNTATTEKO, "ability-not-to corrupt." (The A in TAKO changes to an E, one of the many baffling orthographic irregularities in Coptic.) It is also called "imperishability."


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 cannot have.

Apparently the image of Imperishability resembles the human form, which the rulers, now called Archontoi, attempt to copy.


The Archons "laid plans" and said,

"Come, let us create a human (ROME) that will be from the soil of the earth (KAZ, variation of Greek ge, gaia)."

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,

"they did not know the identity of its power"


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 biosphere.

Sophia indwells the entire biosphere, but She is also present in it through the specific medium of the Adamantine or living white radiance, the Organic Light.


The mythology of Hyp Arch thus explains the basis of the central experience of initiation in the Mysteries: instruction by the Light.



The Forbidden Fruit

In the Gnostic version of Genesis, the rulers (Archons) forbid the primal parents to eat from the tree that would allow them to discern good and evil, and they impose the threat of death.


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,

"Adamas might not regard them (the Archons) as would a creature limited to dense, materialistic perception"


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:

they open his side and "build up his side with some flesh in place of her (Eve)," so that he is reduced from being a spirit-creature (pneumatikos) to the more modest status of soul-creature (psychikos).

Clearly, Adam is facing some bad moves from the Archons.

Note that the Gnostic Eden scenario is not merely a reversal of the Biblical scenario, presenting a false creator god who works against humanity. In the Gnostic version, Adam and Eve do not sin in human terms.


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 states.

The original forbidden fruit may well have been an entheogenic plant such as the sacred mushroom, amanita muscaria.

All this proceeds in Eden, the terrestrial paradise on Earth, but rather differently than the story goes in the Old Testament! And there is more Gnostic rewriting of the Judeo-Christian creation myth.


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:

And the Archons became attracted to Eve, the primal woman. They said to one another, "Come, let us sow our seed in her," and they pursued her. And she laughed at them for their witlessness, and their blindness; and within reach of their clutches, she turned into a tree, and left before them a shadowy reflection of herself.

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,

"and they defiled it foully"


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.

Both themes, the defilement of woman and the forbidding of entheogenic rites, are central to the dominator agenda of patriarchy.


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,

"Gnostics realized the true source of the constriction of patriarchal structures to lie in the demiurge," the false creator god

("Response to 'Sophia and Christ' in the Apocryphon of John by Karen L. King," pp. 177-186, in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, ed. Karen King).

This is certainly evident in the mythological revisions of The Reality of the Archons.

It would be consistent with the design of the Archons to make woman inferior to man, whom they have duped and stupefied. Gnostics taught that the pseudo-gods do indeed attempt this, but fail because woman becomes "the instructor" of man.


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.



Snake Medicine

The "carnal woman," TISHIME NSARKIKE, also called the sarkic Eve, is biologically bound woman, contrasted to the spiritual or "pneumatic" woman who is the instructor of the human race. In Gnostic myth, Eve, the Spiritual or Pneumatic Woman, is not the tempter of Adam but his liberator.


She is distinguished from the carnal woman, a creature bound to her biological nature rather than master of it:

Upon leaving the [carnal, biologically bound] woman, the Spiritual Woman enters the serpent and instructs the man and woman to eat from the tree of recognizing good and evil, against the Rulers' command.


This act of spiritual instruction is simultaneously an act of insubordination. Upon questioning Adam, the Rulers learn from him that woman gave to him from the tree and they curse her.
(Anne McGuire, "Virginity and Subversion: Norea Against the Powers in The Hypostasis of the Archons," pp. 239-258, in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, ed. Karen King)

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,

"the arrogant ruler cursed the woman"


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.

Hyp Arch ascribes the expulsion from Eden to the Archons, whose chief is Yaldabaoth, identified with Jehovah.


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 Rulers threw humanity into great distraction, and into a life of toil, so that humans might be occupied by mundane affairs, and not have the opportunity to be devoted to the spiritual life"


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:

"The primal mother became pregnant and she bore Norea. And she said, 'The spirit has beggoten on me a virgin (Gk parthenos) as an helpmate (Coptic NEBOETHEIA) for many generations of humanity"

(91.30 - 92.4).

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.

Seeking revenge, the Archons conspire to bring on the Flood and destroy the human race, but the "ruler of the forces," PIARCHON DE NNDYNAMIS, warns Noah.


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 Repenting Sun

This confrontation now turns violent.


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:

"I have been sent to speak with you and save you from being captured by the lawless ones. And I shall teach you about your origins"


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:

humanity is superior to the authorities, the Archons:

Do you think these rulers have any power over you?

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)

When Norea (or whoever is the interlocuter in this revelation dialogue) asks about the origin, nature and power of the Archons, Elelath replies with a version of the Sophia mythos, the Fallen Goddess scenario. Here Hyp Arch picks up on the initial theme that opened the text, but with further elaboration.


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,

"like an aborted fetus" which then produced a creature like "an arrogant beast resembling a lion"


I take the statement "it was from matter that it derived" to mean that this species was inorganic.

Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit. And he became arrogant, saying,

"It is I who am god, and there is no other apart from me."

When he said this, he sinned against the entirety, the Pleroma.


Here is Jehovah, the father god of the Old Testament, commanding that "thou shalt have no other god before me."

The command is insane, and it comes from an insane, delusional mind. An exact Buddhist parallel asserts that the root of all insanity, human and otherwise, is the concept of a fixed, abiding ego.

The myth continues, told in staccato phrases: the arrogant creature declares itself to be the only god in the cosmos, but it is reproached by a voice calling it,

"Samael, the god of the blind."

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 mandate.

The text now rapidly concludes with a series of spectacular mythic events.


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.

The conversion of Sabaoth is one of the grand events in the Sophia mythos. Elsewhere I have suggested that the symbiosis of earth and sun recognized in the Gaia hypothesis may be reflected here in ancient mythopoesis.


Hyp Arch says that,

"Sophia and Zoe set Sabaoth free and gave him charge of the seventh heaven, below the veil between above and below... He is set up above the forces of chaos (i.e., the planetary realm of celestial mechanics)"


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 power.

Elelath says enigmatically that Yaldaboth envied the sun, Sabaoth,

"and the envy became an androgynous product... and engendered Death, and Death engendered its own offspring"


This allusion requires an interpretation that would unduly prolong this commentary. We will return to the element of death in later cosmological treatises.

Finally, Norea asks is she is of the same matter as the Archons. Elelath answers clearly that her origin is in "the imperishable Light" of the Pleroma, but the Archons were generated outside the Pleroma and do not possess the "spirit of truth" (96.20).


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)