My Interview with Cyd Ropp, PhD

We discuss fundamentalism as a fractal pattern permeating our institutions.

Dr. Cyd Ropp, PhD, is an author, speaker, and a Gnostic sage of the first order. She holds degrees in Psychology, Education, Counseling and a PhD in Classical Rhetoric (the study of ancient manuscripts). Her papers, published in both academic and popular journals, have won many awards, and she taught at  university for six years before launching her own career as a writer and podcaster. Her vision of  individual units of consciousness nested in in a sea of universal consciousness is one which I share, and her commentary on fractal patterns caught my eye because I too use fractal imagery in my writing. I highly recommend Cyd’s books and podcasts.

Audio courtesy Cyd Ropp

Cyd’s two insightful blogs can be found through the below links:

https://asimpleexplanation.blogspot.com

https://newgnosticgospel.blogspot.com

Cyd’s wonderful books can be purchased through either Lulu.com, or Amazon:

https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bluebirdbooks

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Cyd+Ropp&ref=nb_sb_noss

My Interview with Steve Seven

“Defeating the Archons”

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I have the pleasure of being  joined in the Zoom Room by New Testament scholar Steve Seven. Steve is a prolific author, a psychotherapist, a mythologist and an expert on the psychology of both Freud and Jung. You can find out more about Steve at  https://spiritualinstinctpress.com/.

In both Part 1 and Part 2 we discuss “Defeating the Archons”.

In Part 1 we define terms. Who (what) are the archons, the Elohim, demons and daemons, gods and angels.  How does archontic influence play itself out in the physical realm? We discuss possible solutions, such as “parallel structures” and community-based governance operating within and alongside the empire of the archons.

In Part 2 we discuss deception programs, the importance of multiple sources of information, the quest for autonomy, the importance of inner work as an indirect strategy influencing the outer world.

Part 1

Part 2

(C) Adrian Charles Smith 2021

A Hermetic Prophecy for Our Time

Image: Shutterstock

Ancient prophecies point to a time when the sacred will not be honoured, accepted, or believed in, thus generating chaos in a world “bereft of the presence of its deities” (Hermes). Materialism fills the spiritual void, causing disintegration, deception, crime, war, and environmental degradation. Their idols are their possessions, and their magic is technology; “they worship the work of their own hands” with no reverence for the mystery and wonder of the Cosmos.  The earth, with all its resources, is considered mere pre-production inventory, not a living presence or animating goddess (Sophia), worthy of reverence. Science and technology reinforce the paramount importance of production—we all have our parts to play, so that we might feel successful and receive approval, fulfilling our purpose as cogs in the great wheel of materialism. In the end, having done our duty, we are discarded like so many worn-out parts, no longer fulfilling any purpose or function.

In the tragic/comedy film “About Schmidt” a sense of emptiness in Schmidt’s retirement leads him to re-visit the office to see if he can be “useful.” Once there, he finds his entire life’s work  neatly packed in cardboard boxes on its way to the incinerator, as a new generation of middle management finds a better way. No, it really isn’t pretty what a world without pity can do.

As well as offering the only life worth living, the religion of scientific materialism even promises a kind of technological immortality, called, “transhumanism,” a vain belief which ignores an immutable law of the universe—entropy. Everything returns to dust, even the most sophisticated artificial life form.

And this leads me to the prophecies of the thrice great (Thoth) Hermes as delivered to his pupil, Asclepius, in the Hermetica:

Do you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven, or, to speak more exactly, in Egypt all the operations of the powers which rule and work in heaven have been transferred to earth below?

Nay, it should rather be said that the whole Cosmos dwells in this our land as in its sanctuary. And yet, since it is fitting that wise men should have knowledge of all events before they come to pass, you must not be left in ignorance of this: there will come a time when it will be seen that in vain have the Egyptians honoured the deity with heartfelt piety and assiduous service; and all our holy worship will be found bootless and ineffectual. For the gods will return from earth to heaven; Egypt will be forsaken, and the land which was once the home of religion will be left desolate, bereft of the presence of its deities.

0 Egypt, Egypt, of thy religion nothing will remain but an empty tale, which thine own children in time to come will not believe; nothing will be left but graven words, and only the stones will tell of thy piety.

Darkness will be preferred to light, and death will be thought more profitable than life; no one will raise his eyes to heaven; the pious will be deemed insane, and the impious wise; the madman will be thought a brave man, and the wicked will be esteemed as good. As to the soul, and the belief that it is immortal by nature, or may hope to attain to immortality, as I have taught you, all this they will mock at, and will even persuade themselves that it is false. No word of reverence or piety, no utterance worthy of heaven and of the gods of heaven, will be heard or believed.

And so the gods will depart from mankind, a grievous thing!, and only evil angels will remain, who will mingle with men, and drive the poor wretches by main force into all manner of reckless crime, into wars, and robberies, and frauds, and all things hostile to the nature of the soul.

Yet, Hermes foresees an end to this Matrix and an escape from this “desert of the real” by a dramatic re-ordering of all things, “a new heavens and a new earth” as predicted in the Book of Revelation. Hermes calls it a “new birth of the Cosmos”:

But when all this has befallen, Asclepius, then the Master and Father, God, the first before all, the maker of that god who first came into being, will look on that which has come to pass, and will stay the disorder by the counterworking of his will, which is the good. He will call back to the right path those who have gone astray; he will cleanse the world from evil, now washing it away with waterfloods, now burning it out with fiercest fire, or again expelling it by war and pestilence. And thus he will bring back his world to its former aspect, so that the Cosmos will once more be deemed worthy of worship and wondering reverence, and God, the maker and restorer of the mighty fabric, will be adored by the men of that day with unceasing hymns of praise and blessing. Such is the new birth of the Cosmos; it is a making again of all things good, a holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature; and it is wrought in the process of time by the eternal will of God. For Gods will has no beginning; it is ever the same, and as it now is, even so it has ever been, without beginning. For it is the very being of God to purpose good.

In all corners of the globe, the remnants of ancient civilizations, much older and more advanced than previously known, speak of a piety and reverence for nature and connection to Spirit, which is almost incomprehensible to the modern mind. It is as though they occupied a parallel universe, one viewed by them in a manner which we can barely understand.  From the Great Pyramid of Giza to the living stones of Sacsayhuamán, their piety is written in the stones, some weighing 350 tonnes and placed with a precision that modern science has great difficulty explaining; and all this to honour the sacred and the divine. The production and consumption of endless “stuff” did not interest them; the cycles of the heavens and communion with Spirit did. For them, the veil between dimensions was thin.

In Cuzco, Peru, in 1589, Don Mancio Serra de Leguizamo — one of the last survivors of the original conquerors of Peru—wrote in the preamble of his will, the following:

“We found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise [manner] that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor were there immoral people. The men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests, mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were there lawsuits respecting it… the motive which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by our evil example, the people who had such a government as was enjoyed by these natives.”

Leguizamo left all his worldly goods to help the Inca people.

Not all the New World was found in this condition, where indeed some tribes worshipped cruel gods demanding human sacrifice, but this was no more the whole story of indigenous culture than conquest and exploitation is the whole story of European civilization.  Every civilization, every tribe and every individual has a dark side or shadow, and in fact, the brighter the light the darker the shadow. Perhaps “the new birth” will be a coming together of all the tribes of the earth, the contribution of each elevating the whole.

 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

 And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

 And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.(Isaiah 2)

The Hopi Indians had a word in their prophecies for a world of consumer driven madness, devoid of Spirit.  They called it Koyaanisqatsi.  Koyannis means “corrupted” or “chaotic” and the word qatsi means “life” or “existence.” The Hopi called it “crazy life” or “life out of balance.”  A documentary film of the same name presents this concept in artistic form and can be accessed by using the link below.  The film helps us to visualize ourselves encased in an artificial environment that has replaced the original. Nature is only a resource to keep the artificial world alive.

If we dig precious things from the earth, we will invite disaster (Hopi prophecy)

(c) Adrian Charles Smith 2021

Revelations on my Return from the Underworld

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It is Friday, April 2, in the year of our demiurge 2021, a Good Friday, as fate would have it. My wife and I have finished a meal of fish chowder and I am feeling good, except for a mild discomfort in my abdomen. The discomfort grows to an acute pain extending in an ever-tightening band from front to back. Sometimes the pain subsides, only to come back like the turning of the screw.

Hours go by without relief. I try numerous remedies, including extra-strength pain killers, but nothing helps. After 24 hours of increasing and unbearable pain and no sleep, I surrender to the inevitable and we call an ambulance. I know that a blocked bowel can be life threatening and that  sometimes cancer causes the blockage.  The bumpy road to the hospital provokes heavy vomiting and I feel better for a while but the pain soon returns.

At the hospital I am given morphine. Two nurses appear and, through the nose, insert a tube into my stomach. The tube won’t go through the nasal passage, causing even more pain. They tell me how sorry they are as they push harder, switching from one nostril to the other. I am moved by their compassion and their courage to do what is needed, however difficult. 

One more night without sleep, this time in a hectic, well-lit and bustling triage area. In the morning a surgeon appears, a black African of kindly disposition, notifying me of impending surgery. He tells me I am garnering a reputation in the hospital as a real troublemaker. I burst out laughing. I can still laugh. That’s good! Where there is laughter there is hope.

As I revive from surgery, that same kindly voice is telling me that no blockage was found despite the CAT scan results clearly identifying one. The surgery had been, in that event, only exploratory, a far less invasive procedure. I would next be given a camera pill to swallow, which will, in theory, work its way to the blockage and then stop, all the while transmitting images to technicians.

It is Saturday, April 3, and I am transferred from triage to the main hospital, a shared room with three other patients.  Sitting up in a bed across from me is the perfect image of General George Armstrong Custer. When Custer speaks, which is often, his voice carries halfway across the ward. He plays loud movies on his entertainment system and keeps complaining that he has no access to the Disney Channel. He constantly asks the nurses for help, but none of them are able to solve his technical problems.

Custer is in a really bad way, something he does not seem to realize. He gets in loud arguments with his wife and sons about when he is going home, but he requires 24-hour attention. His wife tells him, “I am really stressed out about it” but he keeps on minimizing the situation. He will live in the garage to avoid the stairs, he says. His wife starts to leave, wishing him good night. He starts talking again and she says good night one last time. The phone rings and it’s number one son. “Your mom’s mad at me,” Custer says. “She stormed out — didn’t even say good night!”

Custer plays his 3AM movies at full volume. The nurses tell him to turn it down. “I can’t hear anything,” he says. “Well, use earphones then!” Custer never surrenders. “They hurt my ears,” he responds.

So this is what it’s like, I find myself thinking, this descent into the underworld. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat or drink and if I bend my arm it sets off an alarm on the IV machine. All I can do is observe. I think of holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. Everything is taken away from you, he says, except one thing — the power to choose your state of mind.  I close my eyes and let the situation be what it is.

My throat is sore and my mouth so dry I can barely speak, so the nurse brings me a cup of crushed ice, which I must administer sparingly to avoid the ‘no fluids’ order.  I am amazed at how much joy can be derived from a few pieces of crushed ice.

A young nurse visits me frequently, always asking, when she leaves, “Is there anything I can get for you?” I know there is nothing she can get for me and she knows it too but it’s her way of saying I care, I want to help. She has an elaborate tattoo on her forearm and hand, a pink and yellow floral pattern interlaced with light green vines. I come from a generation where tattoos were for merchant seaman and dockworkers, the flotsam and jetsam of the high seas, those who  frequented seedy, smoky waterfront bars in Halifax or Saint John. I could never understand why anyone would want a tattoo, least of all a young woman; but barely visible amongst the vines on her arm is this powerful word — LOVE. I am moved almost to tears. I could tell this gentle soul was born for this line of work. Her every instinct was only to help, to make things better.

How good it is to be wrong! Being right is so dreadfully overrated. How pleasant to observe one more foolish prejudice burned in the crucible of my own experience, this silly thing about women and tattoos. Being wrong can be liberating when it frees the slave from his own stupid opinion. Our capacity to get things wrong is simply enormous.

Saint Paul was chastened by his vision to not call anything clean or unclean. In his former life as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he had been full of judgments and definite opinions.

I’m beginning to see gnosis as the end product of a process of refinement, the burning away of false judgments, erroneous thinking, and miscalculations to arrive at the pearl of great price.

I have had my bellyful of thinking I’m right, and old Custer is driving this home for me. I reflect upon the various Custer decisions of my life, and the lengthy postmortems in the wake of them. What’s the point of being right if it does nothing for the advancement of your own soul? Surely this is gnosis — nothing to do with correct doctrine. Gnosis is an epiphany. It moves you to your core. Who cares about being right or wrong?

An amazing thing happens after midnight on Saturday. The camera which is supposed to get stuck does not, completes its run without incident. On Sunday morning the order comes through: I may resume eating and drinking. Roxanne arrives later with a care package. It’s now Sunday. There will be more time in the hospital for observation, but the crisis is ending.

The surgeon tells me they do not know what caused my problem. There was no mistaking the CAT scan and blocked bowels do not unblock themselves, he tells me.

So there it is, three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, disgorged (discharged) at last – exhausted, chastened, but renewed. Could this be a metaphor for life itself? Our life’s experience exhibits an intelligence all its own, almost like a dream, full of hidden meaning. We have strayed too far from the centre of things, to a place of confusion and suffering, and now we are finding our way home aided by the deepest levels of the unconscious.

Hardly the Easter celebration I had in mind, but I emerge the better for it.

(c) Adrian Charles Smith 2021

Hermes: Guardian of Natural Law

Lady Justice, or Themis (Shutterstock)

The founders of the American republic, and their forebearers across the sea, were influenced by gnostic/hermetic philosophy when they created their systems of government. For them, constitutional law, English common law, and ancient tradition served as a defense against the abuse of power by government.  

Gnostics had a similar mistrust of Church authority and ecclesiastical decree. The hermeticists placed a high value on individual expression and personal freedom, with government as guarantor of both public and private rights.  Individual gnostic opinions varied, but they were united by a philosophical approach which fostered tolerance, freedom of expression, and creativity. Church authorities sought to limit that expression by imposing a single unifying narrative.

Because divinity was seen as a light emanating from within, the “divine right of kings” shining from above was rendered obsolete.  Without popular consent and participation, government is fire, “a dangerous servant and a fearful master” (as George Washington is reputed to have said).  Government is force, not reason, and the coercive power of the state can be deployed at any time to deprive citizens of their freedom, and hence the need for safeguards – a system of checks and balances.

From earliest times, the jury system was designed to place the fate of an accused in the hands of his peers, and not some tyrant. The ancient writ of habeas corpus (let us have the body) meant no one should disappear without a trace. If arrested, the accused must be brought before a judge and not simply vanish.

Article 9 of the English Bill of Rights 1688 ensures that no one could be arrested and charged with sedition for words uttered in Parliament.

That the Freedom of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament.

This system was based on a balance and separation of powers. No single organ or branch of government (legislature, judiciary, executive) should be allowed to dominate the others.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Legal philosophy asks the central question, what is law? There are two schools of thought.

One school, called legal “positivism” says it is “the command of the sovereign,” the so-called “command theory.” It is called legal “positivism” not because its adherents are positive; in fact, they are quite miserable. Positive, in this context, means, that which is posited or put forward by some authoritative body.

The second school, the one I favour, says law is morality.  This is often called natural law or the principles of natural justice. That’s not to say all laws are moral, far from it; but for law to be considered law (conceptually), there must be some minimum moral content to distinguish it from the orders of the mafia boss. The most important moral principles embedded in this concept of law are strict impartiality and equal treatment before the law.  When these things are absent, a judge might wear the robes of his office, but he has become a mere puppet, a politized surrogate for party or ideology.

In 1770, a lawyer named John Adams risked his career successfully defending British troops charged with murder after Bostonians were killed during a riot, the so called “Boston massacre.”  John Adams was an American patriot, and the colony was on the brink of rebellion. Nevertheless, he looked beyond the mob outrage, setting aside his own internal leanings and examined the facts on their merits, without reference to popular opinion or political partisanship. That’s impartiality; without it, we have no law, only force. John Adams was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence and went on to become America’s second president.  

“Lady Justice” (Themis, Titaness of divine law and justice) is seen wearing a blindfold while holding a beam balance with a sword in her hand. The blindfold is a symbol of impartiality. She is an allegorical personification of the moral force in the judicial system.

An example will serve to illustrate legal positivism and natural law. I refer to the so-called “Nazi informer cases.” In Nazi Germany, the quickest way to get rid of an unwanted spouse was to report them to the police for saying hateful things about Hitler.  That was enough to make that person disappear forever. No trial, no evidence, no right to a hearing, no habeas corpus, no innocent until proven guilty; but a conviction and death sentence based solely on the testimony of the complainant. I will return to this concept shortly.  Post-war authorities sought to prosecute the informants because their actions and intent were the moral equivalent of murder. The positivists objected. Law is the “command of the sovereign.” Hitler was sovereign and the complainants were the ultimate solid citizens, faithful servants of the state.

The law functions as a dynamic tension between these two opposing views, but natural law is the gift of Hermes and we take it for granted at our peril. “Lady Justice” is the female side of this duality, and legal positivism the male.  The reality of law, in practise, is an integration, the latter providing certainty, the former seeking justice in individual cases.

Today there is an increasingly widespread acceptance of unrepresentative, unaccountable, supranational governance and a corresponding relaxation of that ancient call for eternal vigilance; but such vigilance is needed now, more than ever.

Trojan Horse (Shutterstock)

Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a military industrial complex acquiring unwarranted influence.  He was referring to corporate interests seeking to replace representative government as the dominant institutions in society. This condition is now well advanced. It is common to speak of corporate rule or corporatism.

Joel Bakan, Professor of Law at Queen’s University, gives a detailed account of this in his book The Corporation (see my Recommended list). Professor Bakan interviewed Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare, who developed the now famous Hare Test of psychopathy used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychopathy. In the interview, Robert Hare diagnoses the corporation as a psychopathic entity; not employees of the corporation, but the corporation itself which, in law, is a separate legal person.

The diagnosis might help to explain why we are relaxing our much-needed vigilance. The psychopath is a master of deception. They know how to put themselves in a good light. They often rise to the top and may be seen as solid citizens or pillars of the community. This accords with descriptions of the archons (rulers) in The Secret Gospel of John – “And their triumph is in deception (apaton), leading astray, for their own structure is without divinity.”

 A handful of corporations control the major media which allows them to steer narratives to their advantage. Corporations seek to undermine the sovereignty of the nation state and associated constitutions, destroy culture, concepts of natural law, or anything else which stands in the way of absolute power. To this end they will use Trojan horse concepts, speak in terms of “sustainable development” or “equity, diversity and inclusion” which in the hands of normal people would be worthy objectives.

The Trojan horse stands outside the city gates a god-like marvel which offers protection and favour. The Trojans see no threat; the Greeks have fled. They invite it in, not knowing what lies within the belly of the beast. Who would not want to grant dictatorial powers to pious benefactors promising a utopian future – if you really believe it?  (Link to “mask of piety”)

I have written extensively about the erosion of natural law principles, but I give one more example here, one which is highly representative of a much larger trend.

Harry Miller is visited by the police, which is surprising in Britain, since recent public notices had requested that crimes like burglaries and break-ins should be reported online, owing to staff shortages. (About one third of such crimes are not investigated at all.) Harry, a retired police officer himself, wants to know the reason for this unanticipated personal attention. Harry had been engaged in an online Twitter debate over the Gender Recognition Act and someone was offended.  One of the officers tells Harry, “We are here to check your thinking.” Harry asks, “Since when has Orwell’s 1984 become an operating manual for the police force?” The officers do not know who Orwell was, neither do they understand the concept of a “thought crime.”  Harry wants to know why they refer to the complainant as “victim”? Of course that’s because his status as victim has been pre-determined in advance — no evidence needed, no trial, no innocent until proven guilty, no due process. As with the Nazi informer cases, it’s simply enough to complain. They assure Harry that his offence is not a crime, but rather a “hate incident.”

Afterward, Harry had to move heaven and earth to get a copy of the police report, but was surprised, when it arrived, to read at the top of the page, CRIME REPORT. This is the document which would show up in a background check making it impossible to get a job or a position of responsibility. Harry sued in the High Court and won. The judge compared the actions of the police to the Gestapo or the Stasi, inimical to the common law. That was good news for Harry personally, but it was raised at the trial and upheld that the police had behaved properly in accordance with the instructions of the College of Policing. Those instructions were not challenged at Harry’s trial, so thousands of people, who lack Harry’s resources to bring a High Court action, continue to be treated this way. It is now possible in Britain to be convicted of a crime, some carrying a prison sentence, based solely on the testimony of the complainant. This abuse of power has strong institutional support.

When the Titanic struck that iceberg in the cold North Atlantic sea, everything seemed OK at first, apart from a sight vibration, but the view from the promenade deck was different from the view in the engine room.  The Harry Miller case, and others like it, take us down to the engine room, beneath the surface of apparent normalcy.

Every civilization or culture, except a dying one, honours its ancestors and its traditions. Perhaps the strange death of western civilization is not a natural process but rather a controlled demolition.

“Thomas More: …And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–and if you cut them down…d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”
― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Offense is in the eye of the “controller” (The Times, London)

Adrian Charles Smith (c) 2021

War in Heaven

Image: Shutterstock

I sometimes wonder what it must have been like for Jews living in Germany circa 1935. As the storm clouds gathered, some must have thought, Let’s get out while we can. Others, however, would ignore the warning signs, labelling their more prescient neighbours as paranoid. Those others, much later as prisoners, were handed soap on their way to the “showers.” Even then, they may have continued to underestimate the peril.

History is a long, sad record of human imprisonment, punctuated by a few precious interludes of relative peace, prosperity and freedom. Do we delude ourselves that such imprisonment could never happen here?

 How thin are the walls which separate a well-ordered world from lurking chaos. (Carl Jung)

Now we face a “new normal” where civil liberties, the rule of law, democracy and privacy are threatened. We see before us the spectre of big tech censorship, robotics, AI, transhumanism, the singularity, total surveillance, a digital currency linked to social credit scores, and “the great reset.” Churchill described “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime…”, one made more sinister by the technology of his day.  Technology has grown exponentially since then and we will soon reach the singularity, a point in time when exponential growth in technology takes on an infinite value. How much greater then the need for eternal vigilance in the defence of freedom?

Imagine a dystopian future where there is no place to hide, no place to flee. America used to be a beacon for the world, a place of refuge for “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. In medieval times one could always retreat to Sherwood Forest to escape the evil barons, but not now. The technocrats of the future will have us all flagged and tagged.

Both traditional Christianity and Gnosticism proclaim we are in a war – a spiritual war. If it is a war, then it is a “wizard war”, a term used by Churchill to describe the deciding factor in WW2, intelligence and counterintelligence. The Allies won that war because they cracked the German naval code, called Enigma after the device that created the code. “Intelligence” means knowing what is true in the face of overwhelming lies and secrecy. It means discerning truth from falsehood, looking beneath the surface of accepted narratives.

The Secret Book of John describes how the demiurge enslaves humanity: “His power is in deception leading astray.” Therefore, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” (Descartes) Doubt all the soothing words of re-assurance by those who hide behind a mask of piety. Doubt the official line.

The demiurge is the great counterfeiter, the creator of virtual realities, a liar from the beginning and the father of it, as Jesus said; but “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

The big lie of the demiurge is that we are helpless and cannot resist. “Resistance is futile,” say the Borg. The truth, according to The Secret Book of John, is that we are more powerful than he and that his triumph depends on concealing from us the knowledge of our true identity. Gnosticism is liberation through gnosis or knowledge. Therefore, know who you truly are. The creative imaginative power of human intelligence is but an iteration of the divine creative intelligence which brings all things into being.

Holocaust survivor and author Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) won his private war with the Nazis, but the weapons of his warfare were not carnal but spiritual (as the New Testament tells us). In the camp, “plum tasks” with perks and benefits were offered to inmates, in return for undisclosed assignments. Victor always refused these rewards because he knew a liar when he saw one. Beware the Nazi bearing gifts. Those who volunteered did not get what they bargained for and frequently did not return. Even at the end, as liberation approached, the Nazis said, come with us, we will take you to the Allies in return for clemency.  Victor refused to leave the camp in those final days. Those who accepted the offers were never heard of again. He survived the camp by refusing to believe the lies and by activating his divine creative intelligence in the pursuit of his own dreams; in his case, the completion of a significant academic paper.

The fight against the demiurge begins once we stop believing the official line. The demiurge and his archons depend, for their very survival, on our belief, our intention and our engagement with them. (Secret Book of John) We are no longer food for them when we turn instead to our own dreams and our own creation. This is how we win. 

The first casualties of war are the credulous.

“These are the days which try our souls”, says Thomas Paine. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” (The American Crises)

© Adrian Charles Smith (2021)

Integrating Opposites II

Image: Shutterstock

This is a revised version of an earlier post.

We often experience the world as a struggle between competing opposites: conservative vs liberal, objective vs subjective, male vs female, right brain vs left brain, the inner life vs the outer life, the active vs the passive, and so on.

In the study and practise of Tai Chi I have observed a dynamic tension between opposing forces: advance and withdraw, rise and sink. After many years of diligent practise, you can master the rise without losing the sink or you can withdraw but remain a coiled spring prepared for the advance. Mastering integration ignites explosive power (Tai Chi is a martial art).  It’s not a question of rise or sink, advance or retreat; it’s more a case of rise and sink both happening together so fast as to achieve integration. The interaction of opposites could best be described as a marriage, not a binary choice or a conflict but integration.

A simple practical example will serve to illustrate. First assume a firm stance, left foot forward right foot behind at a 45-degree angle leaving a channel in between. Allow a partner to put his/her hand in the middle of your chest, exerting gradual pressure with a view to pushing you over. Try to stop him/her from pushing you over. The immediate instinctive response is to resist, rise to meet or push back. Note how easy it is to knock you off balance. Now try a different strategy. The more your partner pushes the more you sink into the push, a very counterintuitive response. It might take some practise but you will begin to notice how immoveable you have become. You are relaxing into the push and absorbing the energy of it, ready to give it back.  This is the power which arises from the integration of opposing forces. Alternatively, try pushing on a large tree or telephone pole as hard as you can. Then try it again while sinking into the push and note the difference. The tree or the pole may not budge much, but you can feel the strength in your push; moreover, the results are achieved with much less effort or strain. This accounts for the graceful effortless appearance of Tai Chi when the principles are internalized. Tai Chi integrates non-doing with doing. The Western mind has a hard time with the non-doing part. Chi is the lifeforce energy. The principle is — “energy follows intention.” The masters can exert great power with very little muscular effort by allowing the energy to do the work.  

Practices, like Tai Chi, foster the mind, body, spirit connection. A flexible mind fosters a flexible body and a flexible body fosters a flexible mind in a continuous feedback loop. A flexible mind and body fosters a flexible, open and non-resistant spirit, one open and receptive to an expanded state of consciousness. The Tai Chi philosophy seems to be reflected in the New Testament passage, resist not one who is evil.  The Tai Chi way is nonreactive. A constricted and contracted hose will not allow much water to flow.

Integration is the key but fundamentalists invariably identify with one pole or another creating an adversarial relationship between opposites. The totalitarian strategy of divide and conquer adds fuel to the fire.

From my office window, when spring arrives, I will survey a pleasant scene of forested hills, pastures slowly turning green, and below them, a vast expanse of wetland where ducks and geese are returning from their winter refuge. Soon our farm pond will come alive with tiny goslings and ducklings eagerly following their mothers. It’s a scene of perfect harmony which could not exist without a balance and reconciliation of opposites: death and decay vs renewal and rebirth. Neither should prevail over the other. Both work together for good and what we observe with pleasure is the outcome of integration. Likewise, the most beautiful paintings are a combination of light and dark.

In the latter part of my book, A Prison for the Mind, I identify postmodernism as a fundamentalist belief system, one which has become the prevailing orthodoxy of our time. One of the doctrines of this new religion is that there is no such thing as objective reality. This sets the philosophy on a collision course with Enlightenment principles – a worldview which asserts that there is an objective reality discoverable through reason and the scientific method. Enlightenment principles are summarily dismissed (by the extremists) as the product of a white male patriarchy, a view itself that’s overcome with bias. Here we see the battleground of the subjective (postmodernism) vs the objective (rationality). How can they be reconciled?

I didn’t get too far in my expose of postmodernism before I realized, yes, I too am a postmodernist; I only reject the counterfeit version, used wrongly for political purposes—to foster totalitarianism, censorship and societal subordination to a global technocracy. Nevertheless, we do not understand the world through reason alone and in this sense, I am a postmodernist. We have a left brain which is rational and a right brain which is artistic — the realm of the poet, the mystic, the musician and the painter. A whole person must function with both hemispheres without one dominating the other.

Image: Shutterstock

In the early part of my book, I identify personal experience (subjective) as the only thing we can know for sure and the inner journey as an avenue to certainty (very postmodern). Finding truth in the outer world is difficult because it’s like a carnival funhouse Hall of Mirrors. It’s hard to tell what is real and what is illusion. Observing the outer world, we are confused and unsure, and thus vulnerable to counterfeit offers of comforting certitude.

Here’s where I think the counterfeit version of postmodernism gets it wrong. I refer to a teaching story about a village of blind people trying to figure out what an elephant is. One holds the tail and says it’s a snake. Another holds the leg and says it’s a pillar, another holds the trunk and says it’s a hollow tube; but no one has the vantage point to see the whole elephant even with the use of scientific instruments. The extremists say there is no elephant. I say there is one but difficult to discover (difficult but not impossible). If there was no elephant, then nothing would be objective and therefore nothing in the outer world could be described as true or false. If nothing is true, then science has no place, there would be no such thing as a lie and research would be pointless (i.e., no truth to be found).

You can have your own subjective insights without imposing them on others or using them to ignore verifiable facts or lobbying to have your subjective perceptions enshrined in law. All these things the faux postmodernists attempt. Subjective and objective must walk hand in hand, recognizing their respective spheres of influence. A police officer might follow a hunch or rely on intuition (subjective) to solve a murder but a conviction can only be upheld by evidence gathered and proven in court. Many scientific breakthroughs began as dreams or flashes of insight but these must also be subjected to the rigours of the scientific method.

The great mathematician Ramanujan, from Madras India circa 1915, with almost no formal education, claimed that the Hindu goddess Namagiri would appear in his dreams, delivering mathematical insights, which he would write down when he awoke. He described one of them as follows:

While asleep, I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood, as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.”

The Cambridge University mathematician Godfrey H. Hardy, who worked with Ramanujan,  said that if mathematicians were rated on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100, he himself would be worth 25, J.E. Littlewood 30, David Hilbert 80, and Srinivasa Ramanujan 100.

When Ramanujan first arrived at Cambridge he insisted that his mathematical insights just came to him or were dictated by God (subjective) but professor Hardy, recognizing his genius, worked with him to provide objective verification based on principles acceptable to the scientific community. This was a very fruitful partnership. The word genius comes from the Latin word of the same name, meaning, “guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth” or “innate ability.”

We become much more effective as a result of integration and the world is more peaceful place without the either-or mindset of fundamentalism.

The amazing life of Ramanujan was made into a feature film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, which I highly recommend. (See Recommended Viewing section for movie trailer.) It is so inspiring to watch the two camps, the logical and the intuitive begin at odds but end in harmony.  Reconciliation of opposites is needed now, more than ever.

(C) Adrian Charles Smith, 2021

Gnosticism & the Divine Feminine

In the early centuries of the Christian era, different attitudes towards sexuality emerged in gnostic and orthodox circles, opening a great gulf between them over what it meant to be a Christian. The orthodox community began to accept the domination of men over women as divinely ordained in social life, family life and in the churches. Orthodox churches accepted as genuine the pseudo-Pauline letters of Timothy, Colossians and Ephesians, where “Paul” insists women are to keep silent in the churches and to remain obedient and submissive to their husbands. In the orthodox gospels, the Saviour ordains Peter to commence an unbroken line of apostolic succession. Jesus says,  “upon this rock (Peter) I will build my church”; but in the gnostic gospels of Phillip and Mary Magdelene, any successor would surely  have  been Mary Magdelene and not Peter; for it was Mary Magdelene who was Jesus’ most intimate companion, one who received from him special teachings. The rest of the disciples, especially Peter, were deeply offended. The Gospel of Phillip reveals the rivalry between the male disciples and Mary Magdelene.

“— the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdelene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth” ; and herein lies, in symbolic terms, the basis of gnostic spirituality, arising as it does from joy, passion, romance, ecstasy, celebration, love and intimacy – the lifeforce itself. In such a setting, doctrinal correctness and obedience to authority cannot inspire or command loyalty. This is why authoritarian structures go to such great lengths to suppress the divine feminine.

For the early orthodox Christian Church, true believers were identified by external criteria, first and foremost – acceptance of Church authority and doctrine. For gnostics, however, Christians were identified by an ecstatic union with the Divine, for which romantic love is but a metaphor. By embarking on the inner journey in solitude, we are introduced to all the world in an amazing correspondence of experience as though each individual, on his own, has tapped the same vast reservoir of gnosis.

George Orwell’s classic work, 1984, reveals the antipathy of all authoritarian structures to the notion of romantic love, which was outlawed in the fictional Oceania where Winston and Julia must conceal their romance, meeting only in secret.

But they were caught and found guilty of “sexcrimes”, which in Newspeak meant the sex act performed with love and passion. The only authorized version was “goodsex”, which meant sex for reproduction only, with no pleasure. After their torture, the lovers could meet openly because they no longer had feelings for each other. They freely discuss their “sexcrimes”, “thought crimes”, and other “treacheries.” No need for the Party to keep them apart any longer. As for Winston, the war with Eurasia was now his main concern. No place at all for his own dreams, like falling in love or fleeing to the country.

This ecstatic union of souls is depicted in the music and poetry of the medieval troubadours. These worshippers of love touched the depths of the collective psyche. The word “troubadour” was derived from the French trovere which meant “to compose” but also “to invent” or “find.” Any instructor of art would want his student, as soon as possible, to sing his own song or write his own poem. The empire, however, does not react well to individual expression.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell writes, “Love was a divine visitation, and that’s why it was superior to marriage. That was the troubadour idea.” Society seeks to manage passion within certain bounds to serve societal purposes, a stabilizing influence with the man as head of the household, his wife and children under control, a microcosm of the empire itself. But true romantic love cannot be managed or contained.

To further emphasize the schism, Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, is central to gnostic mythology, but in the orthodox community, the divine feminine existed only as a weak and watered-down version of both gnostic and pagan mythologies.

According to gnostic myth, Sophia, goddess of wisdom, strays far from the Pleroma (the fullness of God), but without Divine sanction and in the absence of her male consort, the Christ. Sophia cannot help but create, so in her great distress, she gives birth to a flawed, lesser deity, called Yaldabaoth (demiurge), who with the divine light received from his mother, creates material reality, an imperfect refection of the higher realms.  Both Sophia and human beings are now trapped in the false reality of the demiurge and his Archons (rulers).  Sophia herself is embodied in the living earth but the flawed nature of the demiurge is also woven into the fabric of creation. Sophia repents and God takes pity on her by tricking the demiurge to breathing Sophia’s light into the human creation. 

His mother’s divine power left Yaldabaoth. It entered the psychic human body. Yaldabaoth’s demonic forces envied the man. They had given their power to him. His understanding was far greater than that of those who had created him. And greater than that of the chief ruler himself.

(The Secret Book of John, Stevan Davies translation, pages 105-107)

Human beings now have the pivotal role in Sophia’s restoration.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Gnostic scholar, Dr Joanna Kujawa (visit Recommended Viewing/Reading) encourages restoration of the divine feminine as essential to escaping the false reality of the demiurge. Mary Magdelene is yet another version of Sophia, as are the ancient goddesses, Inanna, Isis, Ishtar and Persephone. According to Dr Kujawa, all these goddesses are portals between life and death, ignorance and gnosis. We see, for example, Mary Magdelene present at the tomb of Jesus, co-incident with his resurrection. The feminine is our portal into this world and our portal between this world and the next. Sophia is the goddess of resurrection which, metaphorically, includes the transformation of consciousness while we are alive. That transformation takes place through an expansion of consciousness, not possible when operating with the left-brained, male-dominated, linear mind alone. The linear mind is perfect at organizing life on the material plane – building hierarchies, empires, bridges, spaceships; crucial to the work of police detectives, paramedics, plane crash investigators and when arguing in court. But it can be inflexible, fear-based, contracted, limited in vision, clinging to the status quo; and preferring the hard nosed “desert of the real” to the fluidity and uncertainty of the transcendent. The divine feminine, by contrast, is based on love, intuition, comfort, joy and when “perfect love casts out fear”, we are free at last from the confines of our mental prison.

A contracted fear-based consciousness perceives a world which really is not there. An expanded open consciousness will see “a new heavens and a new earth” which was always there but not perceived.  It is the goddess which will cleanse the doors of our perception.

This is confirmed in the gnostic texts and reiterated by the romantic poets.

The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but you do not see it (Gospel of Thomas)

According to the Secret Book of John, “human beings erroneously believe they are embedded in a material world when in fact they are spiritual beings, and the material world is not really there at all.”

 (Stephan Davies Annotation page 106)

Likewise, the poet Wordsworth, recalls his early childhood bliss but laments the gradual loss of an elevated level of perception.

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream the earth, and every common sight, to me did seem apparelled in celestial light, the glory and freshness of a dream”

These early childhood memories of the celestial realms are soon crowded out by the cares of this world.

“Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy.”

(Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood By William Wordsworth)

By contrast, another of the romantics, William Blake, sees the work of the demiurge in nature.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp, 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp! 

When the stars threw down their spears 
And water’d heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
(The Tyger by William Blake)

Nevertheless, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he also emphasizes our perceptual limitations.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

(William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)      

This is reminiscent of Plato’s cave dwellers, sitting with their backs to the cave entrance, seeing only shadows on the wall and mistaking this for reality.

A few years ago, I had a powerful dream more significant to me now than it was then. It was one of those dreams, more real than real with an enduring impact. I am paddling my kayak along canals in what appears to be an ancient city. The water is still and calm, the canals are straight, meeting at right angles. The buildings are imposing, made of large granite blocks and tall Corinthian columns. But there are no people around and the environment feels sterile. I make a turn into one canal where the water is flowing, albeit slowly. Soon the scene changes dramatically, as I battle a raging torrent in a breathtaking natural environment. Everything around me is now alive, wild water and towering waves, forest, fields and mountains; but I am very afraid.  Soon, however, I feel a strong reassurance that I cannot die, and this allows me to go with the flow. Fear turns into exhilaration as the waters form a luminous blue and white tunnel all around me. At the end of the tunnel is a bright light.

Could this have been the goddess opening a portal and providing the comfort and re-assurance to enter it?  In retrospect, I think so, and this was her message – trust, allow and surrender.

(C) Adrian C. Smith 2020

Hermeticism and the Transformation of Consciousness

Egyptian God Thoth

In Hermetic tradition, the Egyptian God Thoth, the Ibis-headed god with a writing implement in his hand, was considered the font of all wisdom; a man-god revealing to the Egyptians their knowledge of astronomy, architecture, geometry, medicine and religion. From this advanced knowledge, wonders emerged, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Greek name for Thoth is Hermes, otherwise known as Hermes Trismegistus, the “Thrice Great Hermes”, the greatest of all priests, the greatest of all philosophers and the greatest of all kings.

The Egyptians were not materialists, so spiritual understandings and principles were not excluded from their science. Therefore, chemistry blended into alchemy, the notion that anything could be transformed, including consciousness.

The Principle of Mentalism, central to Hermeticism, embodies the idea that “All is Mind.” Everything that happens arises from a preceding mental state. For anything to exist, thoughts had to form first, which then manifest as physical reality. This ancient concept is confirmed by some of the most famous modern physicists.

Physicist Max Planck said, “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force —. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Planck, the originator of quantum theory, received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1918.

Cambridge physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington,  wrote, “The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal Mind … To put the conclusion crudely — the stuff of the world is mindstuff.”

During WW1 Sir Arthur collaborated with Albert Einstein to prove Einstein’s new theory on gravity. This was made into an excellent film, Einstein and Eddington. (I have posted a link in the Recommended section.) Eddington was renowned for his ability to explain relativity in understandable terms, and his lectures on this topic were compiled in a book, The Mathematical Theory of Relativity, which Albert Einstein suggested was “the finest presentation of the subject in any language.”

Albert Einstein himself, as well as Stephen Hawking, have described science as an attempt to understand the mind of God.

Copernicus made his momentous claim that the sun, not the earth, was the centre of our solar system, after studying hermeticism.

The Principle of Mentalism is the first of seven Hermetic principles. “The All is Mind; the Universe is Mental”, The Kybalion (a hermetic manuscript). Implicit in this view is the notion that the material world, including our compulsions, addictions, moods and attitudes, is plastic to our thought.  Human beings, viewed as individual holographic expressions of an all-encompassing Mind, may have more influence over ourselves and over the world than we can possibly imagine.

This brings us to the Sixth Hermetic Principle, the Principle of Cause and Effect.  The world, and our reaction to it, are the effects of thinking. Can we move mountains with our thinking?

In The Matrix, Neo asks Morpheus, “What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?” Morpheus replies, “No Neo, I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.” Perhaps we are ready once we realize who we truly are — an aspect or fragment of the Divine.

But the prevailing philosophy of determinism says that we have no choice, that we are victims of circumstances, mere pawns in the game of life, that our choice is an illusion; but the Hermeticists, rising to the plane above, learned to master their moods, compulsions, obsessions as well as the world around them by operating from a higher plane of existence, rising above what appears to be a deterministic prison. They became players, rather than being played by their internalized demiurge or tossed to and fro by the will and intentions of others.

Change your thinking and change your world. Sounds easy but we all know it is not. The transmutation of base metal into gold, an allegory for mental mastery, is not easy but still possible.

Psychiatrist Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search For Meaning, was a holocaust survivor. His story tells us we might not always dodge the bullet, but we can still retain mental mastery. He did not dodge the bullet when he lost everything in the camp. In the camp everything was taken away, except one thing, the power to choose one’s mental state. He chose to find meaning in the completion of an academic paper and this act of will saved his life. He did not dodge the bullet but, in the end, he did not have to. He survived to find out “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” (Nietzsche); yet he has the humility to admit, “the best of us did not survive”. 

On one occasion when I was discouraged about something, I picked up a book to see if I could find some words to make me feel better (a very crude from of divination). My eyes immediately fell upon a verse from Milton’s Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

If Victor Frankl could find meaning in Auschwitz, why then is there misery in mansions? The answer lies in the power of the mind to create within itself a heaven or a hell and to do so regardless of external circumstances.

The passage had quite an impact. After a while I put the book down and turned on the television. At that precise moment, someone was reading that very passage. Another of those astonishing synchronicities Jung wrote about, meaningful co-incidences in a meaningless world. In a meaningless world, we cancel the deficit of meaning by rising to the higher planes (pleroma) of our transcendent mental capabilities.

(c) Adrian Charles Smith 2020

What is Gnosticism (to me)?

Codex-VII
Gnostic Gospels

The standard definition of fundamentalism includes strict adherence to inflexible doctrines, either religious or secular. Such doctrines are variable and transitory, being in the nature of opinions, theories, or  propositions, improperly elevated to the status of absolute truth by a priestly caste which benefits in status and power.  Where there is knowledge (of the propositional kind), it will pass away. All truth claims eventually fail.  In my book I often refer to the Wizard, the founder of our church/cult, who had his own definite ideas about what constituted “wholesome entertainment”, and this was taken as absolute truth by we impressionable students. No one dared say, “I disagree with him about that” or, “that’s just his opinion”. In Sedona Arizona, I discovered a psychiatrist with a huge following, highly regarded by various New Age authors, who claimed to have discovered an avenue to the absolute truth on any subject using a technique called muscle testing. But all his “discoveries” sounded more like his own generational worldview. This seemed to be an updated, re-packaged and highly innovative repetition of the same old story.

 The fundamentalist insists – I know! But so does the Gnostic, so what’s  the difference? The Greek word Gnosis means knowledge but when Gnostics confidently say they know, they speak about a specific kind of knowledge – that of their own experience. Fundamentalism, can be seen as the slavish adherence to the thoughts and opinions of others. It is a false claim to Gnosis, destined to fail, and therefore a counterfeit of the real thing. Fundamentalists are also prone to accept the revelations of others as absolute truth, but for the Gnostic, there’s no such thing as a second-hand revelation (Thomas Paine).   All revelations can only be in the first person. The Wizard, for example, claimed to be a modern-day apostle and this personal revelation was accepted without question.  I see Gnosticism as anti-fundamentalist, representing a complete u-turn from my former life, but I also tried to salvage whatever remained relevant and meaningful from the past. This meant continuing to be a Christian but in a very  different way.

A critic once described clinging to Christianity and embracing Gnosticism as “rolling the same old turd up a different hill” but I disagree with that interpretation. For a fundamentalist, to embrace Gnosticism is a revolutionary act, but there are two kinds of revolution.  One kind sweeps away all that went before creating a blank slate. I would put Mao’s Cultural Revolution in that category or the French Revolution of Robespierre, otherwise known as “the reign of terror”.  These revolutions created an outcome even worse than the old regime. Another kind of revolution seeks to preserve the best of that which went before, recognizing that nothing is all good or all bad, black or white, all true or all false, but rather some combination of the two. These latter revolutions tend to stick because they are anchored more in reality. Moreover, psychologist Carl Jung, a self-avowed Gnostic, having studied the spiritual traditions of many cultures, concluded, in the end, that it’s best to frame your understandings in terms of your own cultural heritage, as this is more understandable to you.

For some years after I left fundamentalism (or thought I had), I would read a favorite author or listen a lecture but If I heard something that didn’t seem right to me, I would unconsciously adopt that idea as my own, even though I didn’t believe it. I think I did so in order to resolve an internal discomfort, as though that person had let me down in some way and I wanted to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Without realizing it, I was elevating that person’s opinion and depreciating my own. It seemed to resolve itself into a binary choice, reject that person entirely or embrace all that he/she had to say. Now that I am more aware, I can make a conscious effort to reframe the experience by saying to myself, I agree with this person on many things but disagree on others. I really appreciate his book/lecture even though I have a different view in some areas.  Giving away your responsibility is the fatal flaw of the fundamentalist. The most important lesson of my  life could be expressed in this way: Do Not Defer To Others.  Fortunately, Gnosticism is a philosophy which supports that approach.

Carl Jung compared Gnosticism to the psychological process he called “individuation.” Full personhood requires access to our own subconscious and, ultimately, the collective unconscious. In so doing we  bring forth our true, authentic selves.  Authenticity requires expelling “the foreign installation” (Carlos Castaneda).  The foreign installation is an idea planted in your head which is incompatible with your true self. It is often planted there by some parasite which wants to control you and program your mind to benefit itself.

Having once escaped the grip of fundamentalism, I came to embrace Gnosticism, which I consider more of a philosophical approach than a replacement  religion. To the philosopher, the universe is a mystery to be continuously explored but exploration is only possible once you get out of prison. For the literalist, life holds no mysteries because the answers are already known. Gnostics make no truth claims, but only speak of personal revelations and insights which are true and meaningful for them.

“We run with those who search for the truth but avoid those who have found it.” Miguel Conner

Gnosticism is philosophy combined with mythology. Listening to a Gnostic, you never really know if they speak literally or figuratively.  A Gnostic might speak as though certain things are literally true but symbolism is the only thing that matters. For the Gnostic, the exodus myth is about the transition from slavery to freedom and as such, not only true but profoundly true. Viewed in this way, why would it matter if the Red Sea actually  parted? Devoid of meaning, it would be reduced to nothing more than an impressive  magic trick.  I remain agnostic about those  things which I have neither seen nor heard myself. I wasn’t there, so I can’t  know for sure, but why close the door on anything?  Miracles are possible. To insist too much, one way or another, is to be fundamentalist. Religion insists you must accept implausible things on faith or face damnation.  The Gnostic says,  “bring forth what is within you” and what is within you will save you.  We already have all the internal resources we need to save ourselves. The challenge of this particular saying, from the Gospel of Thomas, is that it does not tell us what to believe but to find the truth for ourselves and from within ourselves.

thomas gospel
Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas was a lost gospel discovered in 1945, together with other such gospels, hidden in earthen pots inside a cave in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The Gospel of Thomas was at variance with The New Testament Gospel of John which required the hearer to believe the testimony of others – believe it or else. The mere fact that the Gnostic gospels, known collectively as The Nag Hammadi library, were hidden, reveals that they were considered heretical.

If the divine light is hidden in everyone, then salvation is universally available to all, regardless of time and place. This was at variance with the orthodox view that only by accepting the testimony of  a particular  few at a particular time, those who witnessed Jesus ascend into heaven, could we then be saved. The literal resurrection of Jesus, therefore had a political dimension, to fix authority on those who had witnessed it.

It’s hard to define Gnosticism with precision because there is no uniform set of doctrines to sign up to or identify. There’s an old saying: put two Gnostics in a room alone and if they both agree, one of them is not a Gnostic. Yet there was much greater unity amongst Gnostics than in the structured, ordered  world of the fundamentalist. Theirs was a unity of the Spirit.

Gnostic teachers encouraged their followers to paint their own portrait, write their own gospel and live their own myth. This annoyed the orthodox Church to no end because it denied their authority. Such an approach would be administratively unworkable. Sound administration required uniformity – one Church, one faith, one doctrine. Of utmost importance to them was, you could say, bums on seats. Ever increasing attendance figures was the measure of success. Success required spreading the word. Gnostics, on the other hand, were not interested in spreading the word or in playing a numbers game. In fact, they preferred to keep their Gnosis secret except amongst those who were receptive to it.  No need to spread the word indiscriminately and no need to become a martyr in the coliseum to demonstrate solidarity with the Saviour.  Gnostics were not interested in quantitative measurements, only qualitative ones, the quality of their interactions.

The orthodox Bishop Irenaeus complained bitterly that the Gnostics had nothing to rely on but their own intuition. The implication is clear: don’t  trust your own intuition, trust ours instead. Trust and obey.

“Create your own system or be enslaved by another man’s.” William Blake

The Gnostics had a unique mythology centred on the divine feminine, which I will address in future posts; for now, I will summarize what Gnosticism means, not in terms of doctrine or mythology but by briefly describing who Gnostics are. Gnostics are first and foremost heretics, always rebelling against an ossified status quo. Gnostics are also mystics, individualists, philosophers, artists, shamans, mythologists and visionaries.

(c) Adrian Charles Smith, 2020