Sunday, July 02, 2006
Hypostasis of the Archons II
The reason I typed “The Hypostasis of the Archons” into my mobile phone to send to my ex was that she had asked me about Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code.
I’d said that Dan Brown was sort of onto a half-truth in his book. Not that Jesus ever married Mary Magdalene (there’s no indication of that anywhere in the literature) but that the feminine has been systematically exorcised from Christianity over the centuries and that certain forgotten forms of the religion (such as the one given voice in the various texts contained within the suppressed Nag Hammadi library) were much more sympathetic to the notion of a female form in the deity.
This is clear in The Hypostasis of the Archons, where the feminine side of the deity is given a name, as Pistis Sophia.
In my last entry about the Hypostasis of the Archons I said that when I’d first read the text on the internet a kind of shiver of recognition went through my whole body. This happened several times, in fact. Firstly when I read the line in the first paragraph - “our contest is not against flesh and blood; rather, the authorities of the universe and the spirits of wickedness” (which I understood to be a declaration of empathy for the plight of suffering humanity) - and then again when I read the line in the second paragraph - “Their chief is blind; because of his power and his ignorance and his arrogance he said, with his power, ‘It is I who am God; there is none apart from me.’”
I must say, my first thought at this point was, “George W Bush”, and I laughed out loud.
It was the line about power and ignorance and arrogance that made me think that.
What it actually recognises is a relationship of power, which is currently personified in the figure of the so-called Leader of the Free World. At the time of the writing of the book it would have meant the Roman Emperor, who was worshipped as a god.
The Archons are the ruling economic and political elites and also the powers of darkness that they worship. In the modern world we would refer to these as “market-forces”.
I was also simultaneously aware that this figure - the blind chief Samael - represented a corresponding psychological construct, creator of a false world: the ego. Or not the ego as such (which is simply a self-protective and focussed aspect of the mind) but a particular destructive, possessive form of the ego - the ego as property - which claims to own all it sees, and which diminishes the world in the process.
Thus the Hypostasis of the Archons is a psycho-political narrative of immense contemporary significance.
The Roman world - the world that it was born from - is mirrored by our own world.
Many of the things that we would recognise in our own world - bureaucracy, patronage, class, relations of dominance and subjugation, even Big Brother in the form of the gladiatorial games (including the cult of celebrity) - all of this began in those times.
The Romans were much like us.
They were as cynical, as lazy, as inclined to “taking the easy way out”, as morbid, as stupid, and as spiritually confined as we are.
At the same time, they were as sophisticated, as industrious, as committed, as humane, as bright and as potentially free as us.
There was as much relative misery in their world as in ours. There was less misery as a whole - despite slavery - because there were less of them to be made miserable. But the levels of abuse and exploitation were similar. The misery of the slave in Roman times was generally no worse than the misery of the wage-slave in many parts of the world today.
They were also, unlike us, exclusively organic, so there was comparatively less damage being done. For example: they were not burning fossil fuels at anywhere near the level that we do.
Nevertheless, within the limitations of their technology (limitations of scope, but not of kind) the Romans were committing huge, often irreparable, damage.
In a sense, our world represents the triumph of the Roman world over the many other kinds of world that existed at the time... the triumph of Roman consciousness over the many other kinds of consciousness. George Bush inherits the political mantle perhaps - he and his ilk - but the rest of us are burdened (or indoctrinated) by the psychological inheritance.
Samael, the god of the blind, represents the eyes with which we now view our world, that is, blindly, in ignorance.
Karl Marx had a good word for this process. He called it ideology. Samael represents the ideology of the power and ignorance and arrogance of the military-economic machine that dominates our outer world and which we subsequently internalise as self-repression.
Thus he creates a false world. “His thoughts became blind. And, having expelled his power - that is, the blasphemy he had spoken - he pursued it down to chaos and the abyss, his mother, at the instigation of Pistis Sophia. And she established each of his offspring in conformity with its power - after the pattern of the realms that are above, for by starting from the invisible world the visible world was invented.”
The third time I had the shiver of recognition came with the following words: “As incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters, her image appeared in the waters; and the authorities of the darkness became enamoured of her. But they could not lay hold of that image, which had appeared to them in the waters, because of their weakness - since beings that merely possess a soul cannot lay hold of those that possess a spirit - for they were from below, while it was from above. This is the reason why ‘incorruptibility looked down into the region (etc.)’: so that, by the father's will, she might bring the entirety into union with the light.”
It was the image of the goddess reflected in the waters that caused a resonance in me. The goddess as “incorruptibility”. The idea of the “authorities of the darkness” becoming enamoured of her, but being unable to lay hold of her. They fail to lay hold of her firstly because they are looking in the wrong place. (What they are looking at is merely a reflection.) But secondly, because she is the image of incorruptibility and cannot, therefore be “laid hold of”. She is beyond objectification. She is beyond property. She is beyond measure. She is beyond price.
I could see the image at the time. Indeed, I can see it now. And I could see the blind, false god, jealous of her truth, reaching out to touch her shimmering image in the dark waters.
This image sent a message to me, from a past that is not as long ago as we like to imagine, about the true nature of our world, as a reflection of another world. Sometimes, even, I can sense that other world - not so far away - as a world of immense, intense almost unbearable beauty; as a world of true kindness; as a world of friends, not strangers; as a world where the exploitation of class has never existed; as a world which glows with its own inner light, where the works of art and nature are forever intertwined in an elaborately playful dance of sheer delight. The naturalising of the human. The humanising of nature. Where there is no longer a “them” and “us”, nor a “me” and an “it”. Just you and I, I and thou, the world and its lover. For ever and ever. Amen.
You never knew I was a priest, did you?