Gnostic symbols. Image Source: MISTÉRIOS DE RENES-LE-CHÂTEAU.
How are the astrological symbols and messages of Asia's Lunar New Year relevant to Millennial life? The Year of the Goat or Sheep encourages conformity and pacifism, conciliation and acceptance of authority, but allows for creativity and a healing of past wrongs. These values oppose the confrontational and competitive alienation of the Millennial mind, which calls for leaders, not followers.
What is the origin of this confrontational alienation? This spring, Pacifica Graduate Institute in California is pondering the central myth of our time in a debate on Carl Jung's Red Book. I would argue that the Millennial myth derives from the Enlightenment era's hyper-rationalism, and an associated arrogance inflated by mechanistic advances in industry, science and technology.
A mystical depiction of Sophia from Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, Altona (1785). On the top left stands the 'Son of the Virgin,' who sees with Oculus divinis, the divine eye, over heavenly concerns of faith and theoretical knowledge; on the top right, Sophia stands under the heading, 'Justice.' She sees with Oculus naturae, the earthly eye of nature. At the centre are alchemical notes on the conflicting behaviour of the elements, with Sophia's 'practice' on the bottom right, in the fields of physics and philosophy. Image Source: Wiki.
The Enlightenment's rationalist secular humanism came hand-in-hand with modernity's improvements in living standards, increasingly liberal laws and a broadening grasp of human rights. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Enlightenment trends challenged the hegemony of organized religion. The era stressed a conflict between materialism and spiritualism. Rationalists focused on instruments of action and considered states of being in terms of means of doing things. The Enlightenment created the terrible overconfidence that we can rationalize and deconstruct anything, and always find a higher, secret level of understanding which allows us to control nature.
These attitudes are all aspects of gnosticism, an early Christian heresy which has enjoyed an immense modern resurgence. Catholics call it a "para-religion." Gnosticism is everywhere! Loosely described as the worship of gnōsis (γνῶσις), or knowledge, it has underpinned a post-Enlightenment cult of secular rationalism. It is the source "social pathology of the political religions," and critics believe that gnosticism is the foundation of the modern and Postmodern '-isms,' including Marxism, Leninism, anarchism, liberalism, nationalism, fascism, progressivism, psychoanalysis, positivism, Zionism, National Socialism, feminism, multiculturalism, masculism, and one might add - weird new atheisms, terrorism and Islamism. Modern libertarians might not be gnostics, except when they're in the bedroom. Even modern physics has not escaped. Conservative gnostic critic Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) argued that gnosticism was "an anticosmic rebellion against reality." The Imaginative Conservative repeats Voegelin's dismissal of gnostic magical thinking and modern utopianism:
Thus, while gnosis is rooted in knowledge, it transcends - and in the final hour attacks - the rational or intellectual. A deep intuition liberates gnostics, sparking their signature conflicts between good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, rationalists and anti-rationalists. Through these conflicts, gnostic adherents climb to ever-more-sophisticated levels of mystical understanding. From these beliefs comes the central myth of our time: the four-fold Enlightenment illusion of rationalism, of higher knowledge through conflict, of control of the nature, and of human power over the earth.Gnosticism had three primary features: a strong feeling of alienation stemming from a sense that some essential aspect of one’s own humanity remains unfulfilled, a revolt against the conditions in the world that purportedly caused this alienation, and a belief in that esoteric knowledge and political will is sufficient to overcome these conditions. In short Gnosticism is the belief that human beings have the power to transform both themselves and reality into some sort of magical utopia.
This megalomania of planetary dominion was not the gnostic intention, but it is its real outcome, because the quest for knowledge knows no bounds. A sympathetic description by gnostic proponents, here, emphasizes progressive inner spiritual growth. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy observes how gnosticism uses a complicated sexual mythology to exalt higher learning, and move beyond dualistic conflicts to third levels of transcendence:
"In spite of the diverse nature of the various Gnostic sects and teachers, certain fundamental elements serve to bind these groups together under the loose heading of 'Gnosticism' or 'Gnosis.' Chief among these elements is a certain manner of 'anti-cosmic world rejection' that has often been mistaken for mere dualism. According to the Gnostics, this world, the material cosmos, is the result of a primordial error on the part of a supra-cosmic, supremely divine being, usually called Sophia (Wisdom) or simply the Logos. This being is described as the final emanation of a divine hierarchy, called the Plêrôma or 'Fullness,' at the head of which resides the supreme God, the One beyond Being. The error of Sophia, which is usually identified as a reckless desire to know the transcendent God, leads to the hypostatization of her desire in the form of a semi-divine and essentially ignorant creature known as the Demiurge (Greek: dêmiourgos, 'craftsman'), or Ialdabaoth, who is responsible for the formation of the material cosmos. This act of craftsmanship is actually an imitation of the realm of the Pleroma, but the Demiurge is ignorant of this, and hubristically declares himself the only existing God. At this point, the Gnostic revisionary critique of the Hebrew Scriptures begins, as well as the general rejection of this world as a product of error and ignorance, and the positing of a higher world, to which the human soul will eventually return. However, when all is said and done, one finds that the error of Sophia and the begetting of the inferior cosmos are occurrences that follow a certain law of necessity, and that the so-called 'dualism' of the divine and the earthly is really a reflection and expression of the defining tension that constitutes the being of humanity---the human being.
|Image Source: Technoccult.|
"The Supreme Divinity, the Monad, the Father, is called Bythos (Depth or Profundity), who is encompassed by Sigê or Ennoia (Silence or Idea). Through Sigê, the first Syzygy of Aeons, Nous/Alêtheia, emanated from Bythos. These gave birth to the second Syzygy, Logos/Zoê, which brought forth Anthrôpos/Ekklêsia. These first eight Aeons were termed the Ogdoad. Logos/Zoê then brought forth another ten Aeons, termed the Decad, while Anthrôpos/Ekklêsia brought forth another twelve Aeons, termed the Dodecad. The entire scheme of the Aeons is shown below."
The family tree of Aeons, or timeframes defined by different conceptual drives or emanations, in the gnostic belief system. Notice the Christian theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, are gnostic emanations that are higher than Sophia. Notice also that 'happiness,' the constitutionally-promised virtue of the American people, is also an emanation that precedes Sophia. Source: Heremetic.com.
Sophia is an Alice-in-Wonderland character, always seeking knowledge that is beyond her, surrounded by - and unwittingly creating - hostile forces. Image Source: Mari Shimizu via Sociedade Lewis Carroll de Brasil.
Sophia (Greek Σοφíα, meaning "wisdom"; Coptic τcοφια tsophia) was the last female emanation who supposedly appeared around the time of the onset of Christianity. Her story draws heavily from earlier texts by Syrian and Egyptian gnostics. From Gnosticism, Christianity, and Sophia:
According to one Gnostic myth the shaping of the material world was the result of Sophia, who was often decribed as an emanation of eternal light, an "immaculate mirror of God's activity," and as "the spouse of the Lord." Through her desire to "know the Father", she was cast out of the Pleroma (the gnostic heaven) and her desire gave birth to the God who created the material world. Although she was eventually restored to the Pleroma, bits of her divinity remain in the material world.
The inferior God created by Sophia's desire, also referred to as the Demiurge, is the Creator God of the Old Testament. Due to his inferiority, he is not seen as good but rather an evil, angry, violent God. It is the fault of this God that the world is in the mess that it is, and due to the fact that he created it, the world is evil. The higher transcendent God is not a creator of the material world, and instead is a nurturer of the spiritual. The only hope for humankind, while locked in this evil shell of a body is to spiritually transcend this world and deny the body.
Writer Phil Tucker casts Theletos as a Millennial amnesiac hero, a god-become-man, who has forgotten his gnostic divinity and can't find his lost wife: "Into this world falls our hero, Theletos, one of the prime Aeons from up on high, voluntarily casting himself down into Iadabaoth’s nightmare in order to rescue his partner, Sofia, mother of the demiurge but lost within his creation. In order to avoid the attention of the fallen Aeons, he divests himself of his power, his gnosis, and as a mortal haunted by total amnesia walks these hellish streets, seeking his love, seeking to save her, but learning as he goes that to do so will require his facing not only the fallen Aeons, but ultimately Ialdabaoth himself." In this depiction, Theletos resembles the amnesiac hero of the film, Memento (2000) from neo-gnostic Gen X director, Christopher Nolan. Image Source: Flicks.
"Gnostic Romance: extremely rare image of Jesus and Magdalene dancing, from the Paris Eadwine Psalter, 12 C AD." A gnostic glossary calls Magdalene: "the true receiver of the inner teachings of Jesus." Image Source: Metahistory.org.
So where is Sophia's matching complement? Why does she run amok? A gnostic drama arises in the search for Sophia's missing husband, Theletos, who is the guardian of Slavery and Prophecy, and the judge between Free Will and Fate. Most Christian gnostics see Sophia as the mother or bride of Christ. Some Millennial gnostics believe Theletos was Christ and Sophia was Mary Magdalene.
Nimrod, Variation IX from the Enigma Variations (1898-1899) by Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934). Video Source: Youtube.
Others argue that Sophia's rolling stone boyfriend Theletos is really Nimrod, the man who set his will against God. Theletos and Sophia might be the crazy rebel kids in a previously placid universal order, the pair who keep breaking up and making up, cheating on each other, ruining everything, and themselves, in the name of their higher love. As with most romances, the madness goes on and on. The New Testament account of Lucifer may draw from the view of Theletos as dark rebel and of Sophia, cast out of heaven for her transgressions. Wiki:
According to some Gnostic texts, the crisis occurs as a result of Sophia trying to emanate without her syzygy or, in another tradition, because she tries to breach the barrier between herself and the unknowable Bythos. After cataclysmically falling from the Pleroma, Sophia's fear and anguish of losing her life (just as she lost the light of the One) causes confusion and longing to return to it. Because of these longings, matter (Greek: hylē, ὕλη) and soul (Greek: psychē, ψυχή) accidentally come into existence. The creation of the Demiurge (also known as Yaldabaoth, "Son of Chaos") is also a mistake made during this exile. The Demiurge proceeds to create the physical world in which we live, ignorant of Sophia, who nevertheless manages to infuse some spiritual spark or pneuma into his creation.
Some Millennial gnostics say Lucifer is the child of Theletos and Sophia. Others say: no, no, no. Once Theletos's and Sophia's saga was projected onto Lucifer, Lucifer became a strange new Millennial romantic hero, a rebel with a cause, a grand Illuminant who tried to craft an alternate order, using the Free Will which God granted him. This exciting story of rebellion and creativity may explain why the International Association of Exorcists (yes!) reported to the Pope in November 2014 that the popularity of Satanism is on the rise.In the Pistis Sophia, Christ is sent from the Godhead in order to bring Sophia back into the fullness (Pleroma). Christ enables her to again see the light, bringing her knowledge of the spirit (Greek: pneuma, πνευμα). Christ is then sent to earth in the form of the man Jesus to give men the Gnosis needed to rescue themselves from the physical world and return to the spiritual world. In Gnosticism, the Gospel story of Jesus is itself allegorical: it is the Outer Mystery, used as an introduction to Gnosis, rather than being literally true in a historical context. For the Gnostics, the drama of the redemption of the Sophia through Christ or the Logos is the central drama of the universe. The Sophia resides in all of us as the Divine Spark.
The joy of Hermes: a depiction of gnostic ideas, balancing the powers of female Moon (left) and male Sun (right). Image Source: Gnostic Teachings.
Tomorrow, the blog returns to the gnostic myth of our time: the four-fold Enlightenment illusion of rationalism, of higher knowledge through conflict, of control of the nature, and of human power over the earth. The blog will ask if the message of Asia's Lunar New Year resolves some of the tensions created by this Millennial gnostic myth.