[A Late Night Fire-side Chat with Cinnamon Twist]
Why are you so obsessed with this Gnostic creation myth thing? It’s 2000 years old already! Get over it!
Twist – Uh well, yeah. I am obsessed. It’s true. I was obsessed long before I read Lash’s stuff on metahistory.org, although I have to say his take stoked my interest again, and opened up some new vistas. And I still don’t claim to really understand it. The myth, that is. Maybe that’s why I’m still so obsessed with it. At least in part.
But, if you’ll allow me to get all philosophical-like for a minute:
Uh oh. If you have to…
Twist: So let me get this out of the way first: I don’t believe in “resurrecting” Gnosticism circa 200 AD as a working religion that we should all adopt here and now. I don’t think we need any more religions – if we ever really did—a valid point of contention, there. But I think the encounter with this idea-complex somehow represents an essential moment for our emergent culture, whatever exactly you want to call it. The whole psychedelic eco-culture since the 60s still lacks some certain, uh, glues, let’s say. I hate to use the word foundational—
–but I will. In some ways, this culture still lacks the proper foundations. A lot of the pieces are there, but it’s still not quite anchored and fit together right. A lot of that anchoring has to do with walking the talk, but there’s a part that’s symbolical, has to do with cosmology, … a cohesive – if not coherent in a rigorous philosophical sense — cosmology.
Hey, I hear deconstructionists shrieking in the corners, pointing out the authoritarian drift of words like ‘foundational’ and ‘anchoring’.
Yuck. Well, what can you do? Deconstructionists are always getting upset. Every positing of a needed foundation represents someone’s Will to Power, I suppose. Maybe mine, in this case. Veiled or not-so veiled.
But, continuing… Archetypal dramas, stories – myths, these were the psychosocial glue for most of the cultures the world has known thus far. The reference frame, sources of transmitted wisdom, ethics, … Is ours necessarily all that different, despite all our rationality and techno-toys? Maybe, but I doubt it. I think even the most rationalistic, geeky people have layers to their psyches that are not even touched by logic and science. These other layers are what make whole human beings, with depth of feeling and sensitivity, and not just robots in flesh. Irrational, yeah, but also more human.
We are always interested in story. Our mind just works that way: people, conflict, comings and goings, petty intrigues and high drama. Petty intrigues AS cosmic drama!
We’re surrounded by plastic myths, by crap mythologies, as ToyLit would say. Our culture churns them out, endlessly. But we keep going back to them for something, something we’re hungry for. Beyond just the distraction factor.
But of course, we can’t just take the myths on like people used to. Modern, or post-modern myths, will be like springs we drink from, and selectively, but don’t necessarily believe in absolutely, in the naïve way some people used to believe in their religious or creation myths, for lack of any other knowledge frames. But maybe its possible they could still serve some kind of orienting function, transmitting some kind of existential cosmology – what some of us bring back from our encounters with The Other. Useful images, guiding memes, . . . pregnant puzzles. . . .That’s a proposition, I suppose, to be tested. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Fountain, Solaris, Stalker, . . . these are all definitely hitting that mythic chord… So much of the music of the 60s is mythic… Floyd’s Umma Gumma, FSOL’s Lifeforms, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, Gang Gang Dance’s God’s Money. . . the music side is endless. Maybe our myths have migrated to the musical realm. . .
Well, that’s cool. But what do you think of John Lash’s rewriting of the Sophia myth, equating Sophia with the living intelligence of the Earth, ala Margulis? Don’t you think that’s a little simplistic, a little rhetorical? Like he’s trying to turn deep ecology, eco-activism into a religion. Like you can heal the world just by believing in the Goddess?
So, I don’t know if I agree completely with Lash’s take on it, trying to equate the Greek goddess Sophia directly with Gaia the whole planet. It’s kind of an irresistible move, and other people are doing it too, less elegantly. I mean, unless you’re on a mega-dose of ayahuasca, you don’t really talk to the planet as a whole, do you? But maybe that answers the question.
So are you trying to use the Gnostic creation myth as a template or starting point for some kind of new, post-modern creation myth?
What can I say? You caught me red-handed. I don’t think of it so much as a template, or a starting point. But a necessary encounter. Do we really need new myths, or creation myths? I don’t know. Smart people like Erik Davis say no, we don’t. We’re beyond all that.
Yeah, I asked him at Burning Man 05. He didn’t think it was a good idea to have a “Gaia Mythos.” Even though he’s into Gnosticism. Neither did Pinchbeck. Chris Fuelling and Michael Gosney were a little more ambiguous on it though. *
As for me, I think there’s something
there. I think it’s emerging in bits and pieces, here and there, whether
we agree with it or not. I’m interested in experimenting with it. See
Gaiamythos? Did you get the domain name? That sounds like a hot brand?
Shit. I had gaiamythos.org, but I think I just let it lapse…!
But I was saying. . . somehow the Sophia story speaks across time to our time. Like Philip K Dick calls it, some kind of “plasmate” that was buried, and is now out & about, roaming and looking for trouble.
mean, it’s partly the getting away from what’s left of the whole
patriarchal framework and its approach to spirituality—discipline,
suffering, moral codes—
You mean its suppression of spirituality, don’t you? Isn’t patriarchy anti-spiritual by definition?
Um, yes and no. I guess. I mean, “spiritualizing energies” can definitely be generated by self-imposed suffering, discipline, morality. That’s the truth to Christian practice us touchy feely New Agers maybe don’t want to acknowledge. But when you exclude states of expanded feeling and awareness, ecstasy, bliss, whatever, you exclude dance, you exclude touch and sex, you exclude the plant-teachers, . . . well, you get what we’ve got. A fucking mess that works well for some humans, but destroys the rest of the planet.
OK, keep babbling.
…and Sophia was the absolute icon, emblem of the residue of pre-patriarchal, goddess-oriented cultures.
And think about the myth. Sophia bails from the Pleroma, for whatever reason. She’s lost, stunned, crash-landed, shattered into bits. She aborts this fetus that becomes Yahweh, and all his little archontic minions, mindlessly droning on, replicating. . . isn’t that a perfect description of industrial society and all its machinery, and robotic human behaviors? The biospheric womb giving birth to this other kind of thing, out of control, out of tune with its mother. . . glitchy spastic clanking non-breathing droidlettes minimalls tv hosts. . . fake fake fake… eating away mindlessly at that which produced it?
Dude, that’s intense. You’re scaring me.
the whole long period of suppression of all that, alongside the
suppression of entheogenic spirituality, has to be symbolically closed
by reclaiming this buried sensibility, at least for a little while. “The
Return of the Repressed.” That’s what I’m putting on the table.
Sounds good, but how?
By digging back into it, unearthing, cracking it open, sucking on it. It’s a kind of magickal act. We have to acknowledge the last coherent, relatively public moment of Western psychedelic culture before it was pushed deep underground for 2000 years. We have to do that, in order to move forward, and fully manifest what we’re dreaming, in good conscience, in good form.
Does that make any sense? That’s the way I’m thinking about it right now, the way I’m justifying to myself my compulsion.
No, not really. But keep talking. . .
But even understanding what the whole Sophia story was about isn’t so easy or obvious. There are layers to it, like all great myth. It’s an artifact of its time, of the concrete historical events of that day – the militarism of the Roman Empire, the sacking of Jerusalem, the cosmopolitan spiritual soup of Alexandria and the whole Near East for that matter, the embers of Egypt. I mean, it is funny how Dick had this perception of the equivalence of our time and their time, that of the Early Gnostic Christians. There’s something somehow poetically true in that, isn’t there? The archons were like the astral embodiment of brutal Centurions, Yaldabaoth a cosmic Nero, blind and crazy as a bat, lashing out at anyone who didn’t agree, and believing he ruled, or even created, the entire the known world. And here we’ve got our Bushes, our 911, neocons, our military-industrial complex, Department of Homeland Security, wars for whatever. . .
Sophia like some homeopathic
tincture of pre-urban lifestyles with greater communion with animal and
plant energies. And think of the feminist aspects of the 60s
counterculture. The body-language….
Huh? Twist, you’re losing it!
Sorry, it’s late and I’m a little drunk.
And what about their dualism? Don’t you think dualistic worldviews are part of the problem? Good vs. Evil, mind vs. body, etc.
The whole dualistic thing obviously captured the extreme split initiates experienced between their group mind-meld and ego meltdown on sacred substances, the dissolution of form into pure quantum radiance, contrasted with the narrow, stupid, harsh reality of daily Life in the Empire. The Light was entheogen-assisted Light, the sense of freedom and flow, versus reversion to conditioned habit, Loss of Seeing, Forgetting – that fueled the notion of our “waking life” as a prison, of the body as a prison of the light.
Lash even claims that most of the Gnostic groups were not even anti-body, that that’s yet another slur propagated by the Catholics. It’s hard to know for sure, given such little solid data. But it does seem pretty transparent, to me at least, that the Gnostics were most definitely drug-users. That whole bit about the Pleroma, the Abyss, the Depth, the Silence, the Aeons, it’s all blatantly an attempt to describe the peak of a “heroic” psychedelic trip (as Terrence used to say). The sense of structures flowering out of yet other structures, spiraling outwards and downwards, fragmenting, becoming hollow, static simulations of what birthed them.
The descent of Sophia from the Pleroma perfectly mirrors the descent of the tripper’s self from the unspeakable expansion into eternity back down to functional ego languagable thing mode. Lash is just a little more indirect about it. Any hardcore tripper can see it’s fundamentally a psychedelic description.
Does that mean their cosmology was
literally true? I dunno. Are all emanationist cosmologies just the
side-effect of entheogen use? If that was people’s best epistemological
tool at the time, why not?
Oops, we’re out of time. Gotta go! Thanx for listening! But if you know anybody with extra bucks who wants to fund an avant-garde staging of the Descent of Sophia, send ‘em my way.
–C. Twist, 11/30/06, NoHo CA.
Art by Lance Glover. firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally posted at RealitySandwich.
*Note: Apparently Mr. Twist was not aware of the irony of summoning a bunch of male philosophes to debate the viability of an emergent mytheme around the Great Goddess archetype. He refused to respond for comment.