Modern cinema, especially in science fiction epics like Star Trek and Star Wars, is a dramatic reflection of human psychology and mythology. We find images of the conflict of good and evil often grossly simplified but often based on ideas and beliefs that go back centuries and millennia. Such has happened to the mythology of various versions of Gnosticism, especially since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts in 1945. Archons have starred in Star Trek, and the theme arises with any evil empire such as that which was led by Darth Vader in Star Wars. Much of the imagery is also based on the old SS symbolism in the Nazi era, down to the shape of the battle helmet.
Based as they are on real human instincts and fears, films are made for our entertainment. I enjoy watching them just like anyone else. I too enjoy the latest James Bond films and went with a nephew a couple of days ago to see the new Star Wars blockbuster that goes on for two and a quarter hours. In the James Bond mythology, the nemesis is a dark criminal conspiracy, the earliest and most recent being known as SPECTRE with Blofeld in command. The Star Wars theme is that of The Force which has a good side, represented by the Jedi Knights and the Dark Side represented by Darth Vader and the Empire. Indeed, such dualistic themes appeal to modern humanity just like in other forms in the past.
Knowledge of evil forces goes right back in history, and there are traces in the Book of Genesis as in the Nag Hammadi texts. The mythology differs, but the main lines are striking in their similarity, as with all religions in the world. We are all familiar with I am become death, the destroyer of worlds, quoted from the Bhagavad Gita by Oppenheimer.
I will go into greater detail of Valentinian mythology and its contrast and similarities with Genesis in another posting, so the idea of this little phalanx of beauties is going to seem a little out of context – so be it. In Gnostic mythology, archons are seven in number, and roughly correspond with the demons or fallen angels in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The word ἄρχων is a Greek title for lord or ruler. It is the present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning “to rule”. The is where the words hierarchy and monarch come from.
Many words are derived from this Greek etymology. In Hierarchy, ἱεράρχης is the high priest, therefore rule by the priesthood – even though the word now describes any ordered human authority structure. In the Church, we have archbishop, archdeacon, arch-pillock, all sorts to describe the top brass! The monarch is a single ruler, the king or queen of a country. Anarchy is the absence of a ruler. There is also the archive which these days means a collection of documents that need to be kept and occasionally consulted, but the name is properly associated with the official building and facility in which the documents are kept, for example an establishment like Somerset House in London which holds a copy of my birth certificate and that of millions of others.
There are reflections of this mythology in Greek, Roman and Nordic mythology and in the names of the planets in our solar system (remember that Saturn was believed until recently to be the outermost planet). In some polytheistic religions, the names correspond with their gods. We are going to discover that the greatest deception by an evil spirit is to have us believe that he is our god! And that goes a very long way…
Who are these Archons? Good question. This is why I divide this posting into two parts, one to outline the ancient mythologies that conveyed the idea from ancient times up to now, and then a more modern assessment.
In Gnostic mythology, we are going to come up against something we Christians are not going to like, a total and complete change to the meaning of Christ because the “orthodox” basis of redemption and salvation are totally blown away. The spirit who created the world and us was not God. The fracture (original sin) is not the doing of man, but was a part of a botched and faulty creation. Nevertheless, man was left with a “spark” of divinity of which under certain conditions he could become conscious, or gain knowledge. This for Christian gnostics would have been the mission of Christ rather than paying a debt on behalf of humanity.
It goes something like this. God did not create anything, but various beings emanated for that one Godhead. One was Sophia. Something went wrong and the result was a grotesque parody of God called Yaldabaoth or Yahweh, alias the Demiurge. This usurper would then have created the seven Archons, earth and the life we know. Strangely the names given to these seven spirits (Christ once mentions seven spirits) are attributed to the Old Testament God: Athoth with the face of a lion, Eloaios with the face of an ass, Astaphaios with the face of a hyena, Yao with the face of a seven-headed snake, Sabaoth with the face of a dragon, Adonin with the face of an ape and Sabbataios with a face of shining flames of fire.
We use the name Sabaoth in the Sanctus at Mass, and Adonai is often used by the Old Testament Jews as a title for God. The seventh name resembles the day of rest, the Sabbath. We find the seven days of creation, and these seven beings who govern the world. We need to be careful about numerical symbolism because it doesn’t always go as we expect it to go!
Mythology personalises many things as we find in all religious traditions, whether they are monotheistic or pagan. On the other hand, are gods and demons entirely spiritual? To ask the question differently, does matter exist? What about mulitiverses and different frequencies like on the radio? Our modern myth of aliens and flying saucers shows our perception of things that appear and disappear, perhaps because they come into our “frequency” as “interference” for a very short time. I have never seen a UFO, but those who have truly experienced something and were not lying. Are archons aliens from another planet? That is another good question, because we don’t know. We are talking about things outside our limited experience, just liken the limited frequency band of light that we can see with our eyes.
There is something else that has been exploited by modern cinema: mythological beasts and half-humans, chimeras and biblical beings that perished in the Flood. Our modern knowledge of dinosaurs and fossils confirms that the mere Earth goes far beyond our knowledge and understanding. There are hieroglyphics in Egypt and South America that suggest ancient civilisations, machines like modern aeroplanes and helicopters, absolutely straight lines and buildings that could not be constructed with our technology. The Chariots of the Gods (link to a whole load of fascinating documentaries in Youtube) has done much to arouse our imaginations. We tend to get saturated with information and reject the lot if we’re not careful! The upshot of this is the striking parallel between Gnostic “demonology” and modern “Ufology”
It would seem that, in Gnostic mythology, the Archons came into being because of an anomaly in the cosmic order. They cannot create and their “world” is barren and lifeless. The creative movement of what we perceive as matter would have originated with Sophia via the Demiurge, and life with the spark of divinity by Sophia’s life and awareness. This would be in accord with modern astronomy in that most of the solar system consists of inorganic chemistry, but organic chemistry reigns on Earth. The earliest historical records in Mesopotamian cuneiform writing in the form of mythology, predating the Old Testament, would go back about three thousand years. The stories relate the arrival of a non-human species called Annunaki. There may be a connection with the Nephilim in the Book of Enoch, the giants I mentioned in my earlier article on Original Sin. There are also Prometheus and the Titans of Greek mythology who attracted the attention of some of the Romantic poets. Prometheus has also won the attention of modern film producers.
Perhaps, what Christianity calls original sin is not something of the moral order, but bad DNA, something that causes the genetic degradation of our species. Humans or some humans would be the chimera progeny of the archons and human women. But, let’s not forget we are talking of symbolic mythology rather than historical literalism! There is now a twist in the plot. There is a description of an ape-like hybrid race of slaves, which might have been Neanderthal man. It would seem that the Nazis did not invent eugenics! Again, the cuneiform record is a myth. Neanderthal man is extinct.
It is perhaps at this point that Adam and Eve enter the picture. Eve would have refused to be inseminated by an Archon, and gave rise to a genetically unaffected humanity – but there are things that don’t match… Some modern mythologies are almost more fantastic than the Gnostic or Biblical narratives! One is the “reptilian agenda” according to which the secret leaders of the world are “shape-shifting” reptiles. One exponent of this theory is, or has been, David Icke. This extraordinary character merits an article to himself, and we tend to think of him as a complete nutcase. He doesn’t look very mentally ill when we listen to him speak and reason. What’s up? I spent several hours last night listening to a fascinating interview, and I found him quite plausible on beginning to understand where he was getting it all from. He went from an intuitive stance to one supported by his newly-discovered knowledge of Archons in Gnostic mythology. Could it be that some beings that appear to be human in our own time are not? David Icke needs to be heeded and critically examined by informed minds rather than dismissed as insane.
One thing Icke seems to do is to modernise Gnostic mythology and present it in a form to which we can relate. Try this from quantum physics – the idea that the universe is a kind of hologram in waveform information. Matter is only an illusion created by conscious energy. I first saw a hologram in a science class when I was at school, one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. You break the plate and you don’t get so many pieces of the picture but smaller complete pictures. You do the reading to find out how they work! Our universe as a hologram would be an analogy, because it involves wave frequency rather than laser light.
I find Icke’s theories about the British Royal Family and other surviving royal lines tedious, and to be faced later on in a different frame of mind. I won’t go into his conspiracy theories, though I find the one about the Rothschilds and the big world bankers plausible. What would characterise modern Archons would be the traits of psychopathy, not only those of serial killers but also of any person devoid of shame, remorse or empathy – something we see all the time in political leaders, ruthless businessmen, army and police, banking and even the Church. “Death” symbolism abounds in official structures and covens of devil worshippers. We are made aware of this through many films like End of Days with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many actors who play evil characters often feel “strange” on returning to their own personalities. Evil is almost like a kind of “virus”.
I remain deeply sceptical about the reptilian idea, unless the reptilian quality is entirely in the personality and nothing physical or visible. Many studies I have read about psychopathy describe those individuals as intrinsically evil. My own mind is divided, because I wonder where the free will to sin goes. Is there a dark side to us in such wise as we would become Nazis or serial killers in the right/wrong circumstances? In comes the idea of predestination, and so many things can follow… Then there are the organisations like governments, banks, the Vatican and many more aspects of The Establishment. Paedophilia is a scourge in many institutions, and in some cases reveals the existence of conspiracies and cover-ups. We are rightly disgusted by Jimmy Savile, Ted Heath and more than a few Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops and priests. These are characters we trusted and thought were good men. We no longer have confidence in our own judgement, and feel defiled and “raped” as much as the innocent victims. Paedophiles are vampires, feeding on the energy, vitality and innocence of their victims.
We are faced with a dystopian future in this perspective. Transhumanism is another nightmare: the idea of our being enhanced with mechanical body parts and electronics or something that will work by light or quantum energy or whatever. We would eventually became robots and slaves through the misuse of technology. The theme goes right back to Mary Shelley’s vision of Frankenstein on the basis of knowing an Italian doctor called Galvani who experimented with electricity. This name gave rise to the word galvanise – making dead or living muscle contract and move, or plating zinc onto mild steel with electricity to stop it from rusting.
We have to be very careful with conspiracy theories, because some people can become obsessed in a very unhealthy way. But, in history, many conspiracies were real, as were for example the Nazis. Their evil is overshadowed by some people in the world today. Now we see things going so wrong in the world, much more so than in 1914 or the 1930’s. What strikes our minds is that everything seems so coordinated between what should be mortal enemies. Currently, going outwards, we have Syria and Daesh, then Turkey and Iran, then Russia and the United States. I keep reading articles in the alternative media about the US government and big business having interests in protecting the jihadist terrorists whilst pretending to fight them. Open one eye and it is all coherent and unified in evil. Open the other and we are in a morass of confusion and cognitive dissonance. Red pill or blue pill? Just as we are about to dismiss something as the ravings of a lunatic, it leaps out of the mainstream press in black and white. What the hell is happening? Are humans intelligent enough to bring about such a “perfect” dystopia?
The key really seems to be our understanding of reality. A schizophrenic doesn’t have anything wrong with his brain. He hears and perceives things we don’t. Why? Tune your radio onto a station, then tune increasingly away, and then you will get faint and increasing interference from other frequencies. Your schizophrenic is able to tune in onto frequencies we “normal” people can’t. When we call physical reality or matter seems to be an illusion, a hologram. Our “frequency” is one of billions or an infinite number. This principle works for radio waves, but also light. We can see only a very narrow band of light frequencies. We can enhance this handicap with electronic devices and machines – but only to an extent. That’s mainstream science. Frequencies or reality and consciousness must work in the same way. Heaven isn’t up in the sky, but on a different “frequency”. If we could tune in, we would be able to see or hear it or whatever. Like on the radio, frequencies can be so close together that you get interference – therefore the voices heard by schizophrenics, visions and mystical experiences like the children of Fatima. The evil entities behind the evil people of this world also operate in a frequency that is very close to our own. I mentioned UFO’s above that appear and disappear for some people. If the frequency approaches our own, we can “decode” or sense it. It becomes a part of our experience. I have to admit that I find this theory convincing.
With our scientific culture, our eyes are opened when we discover that people from the time of Christ understood by analogy what we understand by other analogies. We find a different version of the Christian narrative and the reason why Jesus came among us, and it wasn’t about negotiating with a cantankerous guy with a beard in the sky about paying an infinite debt of everybody’s sin with his life. The Archons occupied an important part of this “alternative” message. For the ancients, the Archons were manipulative forces that could not be seen or heard. We would talk about energy and holographic projections as an analogy.
One amazing thing about Archons, like demons in traditional Christian mythology, is that they cannot create. They have no original thought. They are only capable of imitation or plagiarism. They ride on the backs of others and are parasites. We all come across humans who “feed” off other people’s emotions and creative energy. They are “psychic energy vampires“. In a small way, a person can drain another person of his or her energy. The macrocosmic version is manifested in things like taxation, the pressure to work in boring jobs for just enough salary to prevent strikes. The big boys feed off the ordinary folk whether they are liberals in private business or the Socialist state. David Icke compares these entities to computers. It would seem that Big Brother in Orwell’s mind is a computer, not a human being like Stalin. The archons would need human help for their agenda, because they cannot remain for long in our “frequency”. Another characteristic is that they have “Asperger’s Syndrome”, bound as they are to rigid routines and automatisms. (I have known a few people suffering from this neurological condition on the autism spectrum, and they are good and morally upright people – I use some of the symptoms of AS as an analogy.) When we see something in our world that isn’t human, but operates like a machine, a faceless bureaucracy, we begin to be able to put a name to it. They are structured and predictable, like German soldiers in a war film.
We tend to “turn off”, because this thing is so much bigger than we are, and we feel so impotent, even if we “wake up”.
There’s another idea of David Icke that I find interesting, the notion of genetic manipulation. This would not be merely a product of our own science and technology, but another part of the Gnostic narrative. In the Book of Genesis, there is the notion of incest and its effect of genetic quality. The Flood would have been sent to destroy what was irreparable, but the problem was not completely solved. The fault is not only physical but also spiritual. Another notion is one of junk DNA (this article giving something of an update). It is a kind of language conveying information by means other than speech, at the basis of speech and our ability to understand language. Among animals, we have all seen swarms of insects, starlings and fish in the sea. Everything is based on vibrational wave forms. If genetic engineering (by archons or modern scientific humans) can alter this “junk DNA” by programming it according to their own agendas, then they manipulate us at our various physical and intellectual levels.
One thing that really resonates with me, with my interest in Romanticism, is Icke’s theory that people other than us were more guided by the heart than the intellect, and that we have “gut reactions” in the part of the body where we feel anxiety. The orientals talk of chakras in the body, of which the highest are the heart and the head. The lowest are where the lowest emotional vibrations are communicated, like fear, frustration, anxiety, guilt and depression. Energy vampires feed off these negative emotions, spirits as well as low humans. We have to admit that most humans, glued as they are to TV and their smartphones, go through their lives without an original and creative thought. Without the heart, which is much more than a pump for circulating blood, we no longer have intuition or innate understanding. The Romantics reacted against the excesses of the intellect. In our mindless and soulless time, we deal with morons too. Reactions to situations are no longer intuitive or rational, but emotional. That is dangerous and what leads us into the hands of our manipulators. Icke sees this as a cause of our response to provocation. For example, in response to a jihadist atrocity, the reaction says “Let’s deport and kill all Muslims” – Holocaust 2.0. Great! Isn’t that exactly what the bastards want of us, so that they can kill more of us and start World War III between Russia and the USA?
The reasoning goes on. The more we respond with this negative energy, the more the archons will feed. St Paul knew who they were: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places“. They feed on our negative emotions. I have had the experience of getting angry with something, and the person I am with reacts disproportionately and irrationally. Their reaction has fed on mine. That is how it works. We also experience the same thing on the Internet with trolls. We don’t see the person. We don’t know who it is, because the identity is concealed. But, the bad energy comes through. Exorcists will tell you that if you lose your temper during an exorcism, you’re in very serious trouble!
What can we do? What can one man do against an army? We can try to fight them, but we will continue feeding the “beast”. It is like dealing with a nagging wife. There are ways of disarming the situation by not feeding the emotions. How that works with governments and faceless bureaucracies, I couldn’t imagine. Perhaps get out while the going’s good like the Syrians tried. Where do you go? All we can really do is work on ourselves from within – and that is within our control and possibilities.
Another thing that guides my thinking is the way we see the world, through all the bad news from the mainstream media or through the higher creative faculties within us. We need to have a spiritual life involving different kinds of prayer and meditation, art, playing a musical instrument, thinking upwards and following inspiration. Like the hologram, each of us is like a little piece that shows the whole of humanity. The conflicts of Russia and the USA are our own conflicts of duty or belief. We all seem to work together like the school of fish or the swarm of starlings all synchronised and ordered in their flight. We humans laugh together, are sad together, worry about the same things. Yet at another level, one would think we had absolutely nothing in common. Telepathy becomes that much more credible when we see ourselves following the hologram analogy.
Can our changing ourselves really change the world? Prayer is sometimes called positive energy and putting out high-frequency positive vibrations. We should try it. Sodom would have been spared for the sake of ten good men or even one. We seem to find the old Chinese proverb attributed to Confucius:
If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nations. When there is order in the nations, there will peace in the world.
We often fail to recognise the enemy because of our loyalties to our country and our Church, our desire for self-identity. Living in France for many years, I see the way my native England has gone. I finally discover that I am nostalgic, not for England, but for something of another world. I discover that my Patria is nowhere else than within me. The England I knew is gone like my own childhood.
In do believe that Christ chose his words carefully. He addressed God as Father, referred to the God above gods as Father, not by the names given by the Old Testament. I surmise that he may have made a distinction between God the Father and that twisted parody mistaken by some for God (and who claimed to be God) who advocated cruelty and killing. It is my hope that a Christianity of the future will shake off these fetters and discover the God of love, beauty and consciousness. For my part, I am resolved to read the once-missing Scriptures (Nag Hammadi) with an open mind, and discover a new world of freedom, light and truth. A part of this work is knowing our enemy and answering with the high road of the heart, not with the bitterness on which archons and sick humans feed.
We may have to suffer from a dystopian world for a long time yet, but we can shorten these times by refusing to feed it. We have first to wake up as St Paul exhorts us at the beginning of Advent. We need to be conscious and disconnect from the programme that is set out for us to obey. We have to find ourselves and be ourselves.
Well, Father, I must say I think this is a very carefully thought out and presented posting requiring considerable research on the part of the reader into your links and reflection. There’s a lot in it! I began watching a 1987 BBC 4 part film on The Gnostics at one of the links you put up in the earlier posting and found it a very digestible introduction and scene-setter for further study. In book form I have Jean-Yves LeLoup’s Gospel of Thomas, and Bart Ehrman’s “Lost Scriptures”. So far I have read The Gospel of the Nazareans, the extant extracts of the Gospel of the Ebionites, the extant extracts of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and the extant extracts of the Gospel of the Egyptians. I think my plan is to read all the works, get a general sense of the scope and tone and then start reading some history and commentary (Pagels etc), and explore some of the early Fathers, before going back to them.
I think the signs of disintegration of the old Christian order we see may be signs that not only must we not be afraid to draw widely from the wells of human thought and poetry to renew the spiritual forces, but that we must do so.
I do think that watching documentaries is an excellent way to whet our appetites and get us ready for serious reading of authors like Stephan Hoeller, Elaine Pagels and Jean-Yves Leloup – and then the texts themselves. I will go about it like when I was at university, collate the bibliographies and lists of what I already have in my library, and then set out a reading and note-taking programme as if preparing for a seminar or an examination. Blog articles can be the student’s essays. Alongside this will be our day to day lives, the high points of which being things like a hike in the mountains or a vigorous sail on the sea. The Romantics did not underestimate the importance of our contact with nature. We also need to practice spiritual hygiene in the same way as we prevent disease and infection by hand washing and isolation from contagious pathogens. There’s the foundation. For us to build and encourage others to do so for their own freedom and happiness.
It is interesting how in Revelation 1:5 Jesus Christ is called “the Archon of the kings of the earth” and in Hebrews 11:10 God is called “the Technites and Demiurge” of the looked-for City.
The sort of Gnosticism summarized would seem to fail to do justice to these, and imagine a kakodemonic content for these superlatively positive terms.
C.S. Lewis, in his ‘Ransom cycle’ of science fiction novels makes interesting positive imaginative use of ‘Archons’ as naming planetary intelligences who are associated with the tutors and governors of Galatians 4:2-3.
I too find some of the stuff I have read strange and seemingly incompatible with classical Christianity as based on Jewish prophecy and archetype. Conservative Christians seem quite happy with a demiurge god who is ready to cry “Commies, boy? Let’s go geddem!” Joking apart, we are looking at competing mythologies, neither of which come anywhere near the reality of an unknowable God. Perhaps God is unknowable when he is seen as totally transcendent and outside ourselves.
The Galatians quote seems to be an analogy of a Gnostic view of redemption (was St Paul a Gnostic?) – freedom from the forces imprisoning and oppressing man, but it needs reading in the context and with the help of exegetical commentaries.
Before Elaine Pagels entered upon her career as a Gnostic defender, advocate, and promoter, she wrote two scholarly books: *The Johannine Gospel in Gnostic Exegesis* in 1973 and *The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters* in 1975. These are careful scholarly works; in them, Pagels frequently notes how Gnostic exegetes had to work hard to avoid or even reverse the clear meaning of many passages in John’s Gospel and Paul’s epistles.
I published an article on Pagels and her oeuvre in a festschrift honouring Bishop Flemestad on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. When the piece was finally published, I packaged up my collection of books by Pagels, and sent them to our host, Fr. Chadwick.
Your article is indeed a salutary reminder that we can’t remake Christianity according to taste, expediency or currently fashionable ideologies. Gnosticism isn’t something to replace classical Christianity, but can only be an undertow for those who seek more than any church could give them. Berdyaev was right in saying that a Church based on pure Gnosticism would not have survived beyond the first couple of centuries. A literalist reading of Gnostic mythology would cause more harm than the literalist reading of Genesis. I am not a “professional exegete”, and I am only scratching the surface. We may find Elaine Pagels to be intellectually dishonest. I would prefer to read her books (which I am doing so at the moment, thanks to your having sent me the books) and try to form an idea. Another writer who interests me, despite being an independent bishop, is Dr Stephen Hoeller. He has his own axe to grind and his own boutique to service, but I find his style interesting. David Icke is interesting, but he is intemperate and something of a demagogue. For me, he shows how the “common man” can react to information and eke some truth out of it. One serious author to read is Jean-Yves Leloup.
I suppose the goal is to find the aspects of Gnosticism that survived in mainstream Christianity (presumably by not being understood as such, especially if in the liturgical texts) and work on those rather than the way-out mythology of Valentinus. Christianity does need a break from conservative and liberal materialism!
I remember one time browsing the ‘new arrivals’ in the Oxford Theology Faculty Library and encountering two book-length studies on the verses including the word ‘stoicheia’ (like Galatians 4:3) – !
More vaguely still (though I probably have notes on it – somewhere!), I once read some digest of a discussion on the possible origins of Gnosticism largely following on from (reaction to and interpretation of) Plato, e.g., especially the treatment of the Demiurge in the Timaeus.
That reminds me, in turn, of the various interesting Gnosticism-related essays in Hans Jonas’s Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), especially “The Soul in Gnosticism and Plotinus.” Of not unrelated interest in that collection is “Against the Stream: Comments on the Definition and Redefinition of Death”, in which he anatomizes a kind of materialist soul-body dualism in which ‘the brain’ occupies the position of ‘the soul’. Perhaps it would be interesting to compare that with Voegelin’s discussion in terms of ‘Gnosticism’ (in Science, Politics and Gnosticism) of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-century ideologies in which the source of any meaning is seated in human consciousness and thence projected into the universe.