Indeed you’ve read the title correct my friends, this post is only question one of The Magical Buffet’s patent pending ten question interview. Why only one question today? To put it bluntly, because I’m a jerk. Here’s why….
I got an email from Miguel Conner, host of “Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio”, the only topical and guest radio show on Gnosticism. He asked if I had any interest in his new book ” Voices of Gnosticism”, to which I responded, “Hecks yeah” (or perhaps something a bit more professional). After reading the book (So good! Buy it now!), I asked if he would be willing to do a 10 questions interview for The Magical Buffet, to which he responded, “Awwwww yeah” (or perhaps something a bit more professional).
So, how does that make me a jerk? It seems like a mutually beneficial arrangement, what jerk-like qualities are there to this? Well, the very first question I asked in the interview was, “Can you define for my readers what Gnosticism is? I’ll admit that I have a difficult time trying to come up with a brief definition that makes sense to someone who has never encountered it before.”
Miguel knew it wasn’t an easy request, and I knew it too….and it’s why I asked. See? Jerk.
However, my jerk-ish question yielded a wonderful, insightful, and entertaining response….that was two pages long. Thus far I’ve never edited down an interview, and I have no intention of ever doing that, especially to such an important answer. Consider this the background for the rest of the interview. And stay tuned because the other nine answers are not to be missed!
1. Can you define for my readers what Gnosticism is? I’ll admit that I have a difficult time trying to come up with a brief definition that makes sense to someone who has never encountered it before.
Gnosticism is probably harder to define than most religions because it’s still an academic field with vast uncharted territory; and then there is the problem of wading through the oceans of romantic misinformation that both mainstream and occult faiths have drowned the Gnostic ideology in. The Gnostics also loved to push the boundaries of both theology and philosophy–even creating parodies sometimes for their amusement—to the point they shrouded themselves in a cloud of mystery (even if they were actually very open about their belief systems). One thing you can be sure of—if the ink on a scripture was barely dry, the Gnostics would rewrite it; if a mythology or religious narrative was just spoken of, the Gnostics would deconstruct and reconstruct the plot; and if a dogma was conceived, the Gnostics would immediately reinterpret it. And often all three at once!
Stevan Davies, on our interview in Voices of Gnosticism, perhaps gives the best short answer:
“Gnosticism is about discovering the way that God has turned into you, and then realizing that if you can describe how it is that God turned into you, you can reverse the process.”
In his excellent book, The Secret Book of John: Annotated & Explained, Davies further describes Gnosticism as “developmental psychology, a descriptive Middle Platonic philosophy, and a cosmic mythology all rolled into one.”
To wit, unlike most faiths that urge one to find transcendence in the now or salvation in the future, the Gnostics contended that one had to voyage deep into inner and outer origins to either correct certain spiritual traumas or find missed doorways into the timeless dimensions. They believed the greatest origin was, of course, the Godhead. I think the Gnostics would agree with Tom Robbins who wrote “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Although ancient heretics would call it being resurrected into a Christ while still in the flesh, as the Gospel of Philip states. The Gospel of Thomas also puts the Gnostic ethos in good perspective:
The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us, how will our end come?”
Jesus said, “Have you discovered the beginning, then, so that you are seeking the end? For where the beginning is the end will be. Blessed is he who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death.”
Now the longer answer will be more complicated, and one has to bear in mind that there were many Gnostic schools of thought in history whose doctrines varied. Yet there is a framework that takes time to discern for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, as Jesus often declares in Gnostic scriptures.
So put on your theological seat belts, here we go:
The Gnostics posited that there was an ultimate existence beyond Heaven and Earth, a primal consciousness that detonated in awareness and rippled out in self-understanding. This Big Bang of supernal imagination and creativity is usually referred to as the Pleroma, the Eternal Realm or the Treasury of Light. The biology of the Pleroma (“fullness” in Greek) consists of Aeons, which although anthropomorphized in their mythos are better understood as modes of thought, firing synapses, or the circuitry of a transmundane motherboard. The Aeons owned such titles as Truth, Love, Forethought, Incorruptibility, etc.
At some point, there is a glitch in the divine mind, a sort of pre-Creation Creation. The severity can fall between something cute, like the Aeon Reason falling in love with and literally bungee divine into the lower realms, to an outright cosmic cataclysm, like universe imploding during God’s first attempt as portrayed in some Kabbalistic traditions. The most prominent cosmology is the fall of the Aeon Sophia (“wisdom” in Greek). The exact details vary depending on the scripture; but she commits the sin of desire, breaking from the harmony of the divine mind and thus plunging into the Void or Chaos. Sophia either becomes pregnant with or tries to hide her negative emotions. The end result is an abortion known as Yaldabaoth or the Demiurge, which the Gnostics commonly equated with the God of the Old Testament. Sophia’s unruly spawn doesn’t waste much time after inventing time, manufacturing his own Bizarro Aeons known as Archons (Greek for “rulers”, but more akin to godlike TSA-agents with very bad dispositions). Then they cut a lot of corners and take long union breaks in order to fashion this wonderful universe The true God has lost his wisdom and wisdom is lost somewhere in a galactic Kennedy airport…who you gonna call?
Whether by the effects of the celestial mind-fart in the Pleroma or by a rescue operation hatched by Sophia to redeem herself, slivers of her essence are mingled into the material world. These Divine Spark, as they are often referred to, generally are housed in humans; although some Gnostic sects believed every living and even unliving thing contained the Divine Spark. The problem is that because of the good cop/bad cop routine of Yaldabaoth and his Archons we have forgotten our ambrosial heritage. Instead of igniting our Divine Spark in order to overcome the powers of darkness and too many astral travel regulations, we have come to believe we’re just overdeveloped apes. In Gnosticism, ignorance in all its forms is considered the greatest of sins and conditions.
From an ethereal borderland, Sophia sings to our Divine Sparks to kindle bright so that we may remember where our true home lies and how to defeat Yaldabaoth. At the same time, the Pleroma sends Aeons clothed in mammal skins–Jesus Christ and Hermes Trismegistus being two of the most exalted ones–who descend into matter to remove the shackles of ignorance with their teachings. This is gnosis, which in Greek means “knowledge”, yet is more akin to a slow-burn acquaintance with the divine mind. Gnosis is taking the Red Pill. Gnosis is discovering you’re in The Truman Show and it’s time to find a more authentic reality. Gnosis is realizing you’ve been incepted and you better get out of the dream within the dream, and into complete wakefulness.
The battle lines are drawn—Sophia, the Aeons wearing mammal skins, and awoken humans on one side; the Demiurge, the archons, and ignorant humans on the other. It doesn’t get more exciting than this!
About Miguel Conner:
Miguel Conner is host of “Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio”, the only topical and guest radio show on Gnosticism and its brethren in mystical heresy, ancient and modern. He is the author of the critically acclaimed, popular, and Philip K. Dick-ish vampire epic, “The Queen of Darkness” (re-released as “Stargazer” in 2011). His articles, fiction, and reviews have appeared in such publication as “The Stygian Vortex”, “The Gnostic Journal”, “Houston Public News”, “The Extreme”, “The Cimmerian Journal”, “Examiner” and many others. He lives in the lawful dystopia of Chicago with his family, patiently waiting for the beginning of the world.
Miguel’s website is: http://www.thegodabovegod.com
Stargazer Novel homepage: http://stargazervampirenovel.blogspot.com