A Gnostic Catechism
Encounters with Aliens in a Mystery School Text
Here and there the Coptic Gnostic materials contain passages that describe encounters with the ET-like beings, sometimes with explicit advice about how to handle these entities. What beliefs are implied in such testimony? And what are we to believe about such testimony? I will attempt to address both these questions in this brief topical essay.
For a first-hand look at the testimony, let's consider a passage from The First Apocalypse of James (NHC V, 3), a revelation dialogue in which an unnamed teacher (the "Lord" or "Master") confers secret knowledge upon a Gnostic named James:
Gnosis is a remembering of our origins. The student is instructed to remember the cosmic birthright of humankind, and to affirm its direct link to the Pleroma, the Source. Specifically, the student is taught to recall and repeat the key episode in Gnostic mythology, the fall of the Aeon Sophia, and thus effectuate a defence against the Archons. By recounting the myth of their origins, the student demonstrates initiated knowledge of the origin and identity of the entities s/he is facing.
Intentional recall of cosmic matters disempowers the Archons. This, at least, is a clear inference from the above passage. The tactic of remembrance accords closely with indigenous wisdom — consider, for instance, the saying of the Na-Khi, a Tibetan people of southeastern China: "One must relate the origin of the medicine, otherwise it cannot work its magic." Shamans heal, not only by their knowledge of the properties of plants, but also by their recounting the story of the plant. Likewise, Gnostics defeated the Archons with the "medicine" (occult power) of mythological recall.
The Coptic materials become increasingly relevant as we realize they do not merely present pedantic or recondite commentaries on a dead religion, but vital insights on the timeless spiritual dilemmas of humanity, insights as valid today as they were 2000 years ago. Describing the find at Nag Hammadi, Tobias Churton writes, "Had Mohammed Ali not broken open the jar, we would not be able to hear these things. In the truest sense of the word, these things are dynamite. One might have imagined headlines throughout the world..." (The Gnostics, p. 12)
But there were no such headlines, even in the tabloids. It took many years before the codexes were translated and still, even today, no scholar will allow that these rare Coptic codices contain reliable accounts of encounters with ET-like entities.
Ideological VirusIn another passage of The First Apocalypse of James, the Master refers to those people "who exist as the type of the Archons" (30:20). Gnostics were not only alert to the intrusion of the Archons, they were also acutely aware of the possibility of humans becoming totally "Archontized." This threat appears to have emerged in a particularly alarming way in that era to which Philip K. Dick often refers: the first century of the Common Era, when the Incarnation of Christ is said to have occured, according to Christian belief. Both the time and the place where Archontic molding of human character set in strongly are specified in the Nag Hammadi texts. In his Gnostic view of the human condition, Dick assumed that the spiritual life of humanity was arrested at that moment. It is as if the behavior of those "who exist as the type of Archons" locked into place in that era, and came to dominate all subsequent centuries — until the moment in 1945 when the Nag Hammadi texts were discovered.
In a close parallel to Philip K. Dick's vision of "the Empire," Wilhelm Reich saw the rise of a similar syndrome which he characterized as "the mechanico-mystical" complex. (See The Mass Psychology of Fascism.) Its signature is "authoritarian ideology," the mindset of fascism and patriarchal domination. Significantly, archon was the common term for "governer," or "authority" in Roman times. In some translations of the Coptic materials, archon (plural, archontoi) is rendered as "the authorities." Reich's analysis of what I propose to call the mystico-fascist complex focusses on National Socialism, the Nazi movement, which he experienced first-hand, but The Mass Psychology of Fascism contains ample referenes to Catholicism and the Holy Roman Empire, the millennial ancestor of the mystico-fascist program.
For more comments on this subject viewed in a contemporary vein, see Armageddon Politics.
In allusion to the fascist ideology of the "authorities", Philip K. Dick wrote: "The Empire is the institution, the codification, of derangement; it is insane and imposes its insanity on us by violence, since its nature is a violent one." (Valis, p. 235, citing entry 41 from "The Exegesis.")
This is purely a Gnostic insight, compatible with passages in the NHC and deeply resonant with Reich's views on the massenpsychosen of Roman Christianity. It might be argued that the Nazis were not Christians, but in fact Hitler imagined himself as a Grail Knight, modelled after Wagner's Parsifal, and the saviour complex of Judaeo-Christian belief is wholly transposed into Nazi racial ideology — hence the "Aryan Christ" identified, and, to some degree, embraced by C. G. Jung. The Holy Reich, published in 2004 by Richard Steigman-Gall, professor of history at Kent State University in the USA, argues that Hitler was sincere in calling himself a Christian, and reveals to what extent Christian ideology was embraced by the Nazi party and contributed to the advancement of their cause.
Wilhelm Reich warned that since the breakdown of the pre-Christian ethos of earth-oriented Paganism, "the biological core of humanity has been without social representation." (Ibid., p. xii). This is a staggering observation, to say the least.
The "authorities" exhibit the behavior of spiritual zombies, people who exemplify a baffling mix of mystical and militaristic fixations. (What I have called behavioral cloning is widely evident in both militaristic and mystical behavior, such as we see today in neocon religious realpolitik, although it is also embodied in the mass conformity of global consumerism and the rites of technophilia.) According to Reich, these fixations, focussed on the master fixation on a transcendent God beyond the Earth, arise from the repression and displacement of somatic sensations, especially sexual-genital feelings. Philip K. Dick agreed with Reich in observing that the mystico-fascist ideology grows like armor around people who adopt these fixations, either through indoctrination or intimidation ("conversion"). The mystico-fascist ideology operates like a virus, "imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes it enemies." (Valis, p. 235) The ideology of the authorities can infect even those who resist it. Hence it turns humanity against itself.
But it would appear that some Gnostics were immune to infection—not by accident, but due to their deliberate practice of orgiastic sexual techniques to produce immunity, and due, in equal measure, to their explicit teachings on the Archons and how to resist them, as seen in the above passage from The First Apocalypse of James. Gnostic observers on the ground when Christianity arose saw salvationist ideology exactly the way Philip K. Dick did: as a virus. An ideological virus, to be precise. Pagan intellectuals of the day even used that very term for the fanaticism of the converts.
Gnostics saw the tyranny of belief, of metaphysical fantasies that underwrite militaristic agendas, in the rise of early Christianity. We can only imagine what they would see today in the political religiosity of the American right.
What are we to make, then, of Gnostic beliefs about the Archons? It might be said that Gnostics believed that only by confronting what is insane and inhumane in ourselves, can we truly define what is human. In essence, to define humanity is to defend it against distortion. Gnostics asserted that the capacity for distortion of humanitas, or dehumanization, is inherent in our minds, but this capacity alone is not potentially deviant. Since we are endowed with nous, a dose of divine intelligence, we are able to detect and correct distorted thinking. We can master what Tibetan Buddhists call krol'pa, "thoughts that lead astray," mental fixations that turn us away from humanitas, our true identity. However, Gnostics also warned of an alien spin that can add a truly deviant element to our thinking. The effect of the Archons is not to make us err, but to make us, largely through dullness and distraction, disregard our errors, so that they extrapolate beyond the scale of correction.
The catechism on alien encounters in The First Apocalypse of James is not exceptional. A great deal of Gnostic teaching was dedicated to the theory of error I have just summarized. In a practical sense, Gnostic teachers in the Mystery Schools instructed the neophytes in how to face the Archons both as alien intruders, comparable to the Greys and Reptilians of contemporary lore, and as tendencies in their minds. The detection of Archontic intrusion in both these modes of experience seems to be unique to the finely nuanced noetic science of the Mysteries.
In the Gnostic view, human beings "who exist as the type of the Archons" are those who blindly follow religious ideologies of an insane and inhumane nature, for it is primarily through religious beliefs that the Archons intrude upon us. Behavior driven by such beliefs produces pathological personality fixations, resulting in the spiritual zombie. All scholars agree that some Gnostics condemned equally the Jewish origins of the Christian salvationist program, and the Pauline-Johannine program itself. Doing so, they did not spread a hate message against anyone. Rather, they attempted to expose what they perceived to be the hateful and deceiving message disguised in the Judeo-Christian ideology of salvation. At the source of this message, they detected the subliminal intrusion of the Archons into the human mind. Hence the thrust and preponderance (more than half of all surviving material, by my estimate) of politically and theologically incorrect passages in the Coptic materials.
Whether or not Gnostics were delusional about the Archons is a private judgement call. But a fair and open-minded reading of the Coptic texts will not yield much evidence for derangement on their part. The seers who exposed derangement were not deranged. They were sober and methodical in describing what they knew, and extremely conscientious in prescribing action to face the perceived threat. They believed that they really had identified that most baffling of all enigmas: the root cause of inhumanity in human nature.
What are we to believe about all this today? There is an issue of credibility here, of course — that is to say, we may consider the source of Gnostic teachings apart from their content. But Gnosis is by definition a matter of knowing and not of believing. It is about enlightenment, not faith. To give Gnostics credit for actually knowing what they claimed to know is only the first step. Beyond that, we must confirm what they knew by our own resources, our own faculties. This is the perennial challenge of Gnosis, the living, ever-renewing cognition of the human spirit.
Knowledge of that which is alive can alone banish terror.
Wilhelm Reich, The Function of the Orgasm.
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There is more commentary on The First Apocalypse of James in the Reading Plan.
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