Perhaps an example of the degree of how fake our own three-dimensional world is would be the theory that we don't even inhabit a material world at all. This is what has come to be loosely known as the "Matrix" or "Simulation Argument." In this theory, which I have discussed before here in some of the "nature of reality" posts-all you see around you-and you yourself are an illusion created by a vast supercomputer -or something very much like one. Many people might be tempted to laugh at the "Matrix" theory or "Simulation Argument"--and I don't like the idea myself-but the idea that our world is projected by a hugely powerful computer (again computer might be too weak of an analogy-but the idea it evokes is appropriate) solves an uncomfortably large number of problems in modern physics. The "Bottom Layer" site on my blog under the "great links" section goes into this in great detail and will guide anyone interested through the intricacies of the theory much better than I can.
Whatever the true nature of our world is, there are many reasons Gnosticism intrigues me. There are two major reasons that come to me immediately all the time. Remember the three types of human personalities discussed in a prior post? The pneumatikoi or "spirituals"-people who have awakened to their real divine nature through gnosis. The psychikoi or psychics, whose soul-nature may be guided by faith, but who will still need exceptional effort to gain enlightenment. Lastly, there are the hylikoi or hylics ("materials")-these people are only aware of matter, material things. They only belong to matter and because of this they don't have any chance of enlightenment. From the spiritual point of view they are already dead. I find this categorization very interesting, for what it says to me is that there are varying degrees a person is "stuck" in matter-the gross, physical material world.
I am not saying that this way of classifying people is one-hundred percent correct by any means, but aspects of the three states remind me of myself and other people. I do feel that there is some aspect of my being that is not attached to this world- a little spark here and there-a little light that is both divine and "me" at the same time. I really do feel that I "have" a body and don't feel as if I am "only" a body. There are even times that I have dreams where I feel I am really somewhere else and not just a sleeping body whose matter based brain's neurons are discharging and creating an inside movie.
The problem is that these insights and intuitions seem to occupy about one to two percent of my reality and the other 98 to 99 percent is concerned with surviving- mentally, physically and psychically in this world. There is also another face to the "surviving" aspect. At first this opposite aspect of surviving-to do more than survive-to enjoy various pleasures seems good or even great but many times I wonder if the pleasure principle, the things that give us joy in the world-of course pain is pleasure to some but lets not go there:-) chains us to the gross material world much more effectively than the painful and unpleasant aspects of life.
On the surface this might seem a stupid way to put it, as no one generally likes pain. But think how often in your daily routine you become obsessed-many times-first and foremost with money. Will I have enough money to pay my bills? Will I be "downsized" or let go from work? And to many these days-even in the so-called "modern" or "progressive" nations of the world- Will I be homeless soon? or "What bridge am I going to sleep under tonight? What I am basically trying to say is that for a species which supposedly craves pleasure and despises fear and pain, many people seem to live in a constant state of fear or free-floating anxiety (even when there is no need) -this will also be a very important idea in future posts here in relation to the archons or "rulers"- many Gnostics believes the archons or rulers of our material realm "feed" of psychic energy. A junkie putting a needle into his or her arm and getting the huge (and false -and sometimes fatal) initial rush of pleasure might be the equivalent of Steak Diane with a baked potato and a Caesar salad to an archon. The millions of lives ended or ruined by Hitler and Stalin (not to mention many others) might be like a bacchanalian Roman orgy-and a seven course meal. And perhaps a person having their first smoke of the day is just a Philly Cheesesteak or cheeseburger to them. In other words the archons- the rulers of this world-who serve at the pleasure of the Demiurge -feed off any type of human emotions-but in some Gnostic thought -agony -which there is so much of in this world-is the most exquisite for them.
Tobias Churton in Gnostic Philosophy talks about the history of some of these ideas on pages 23 to 24: We now come to a key Gnostic conception, one that caused consternation to the enemies of Christian gnosis in the second century A.D. Insofar as the Demiurge claimed to be the highest God, then the Demiurge, the awful creator of the material universe, was, for the Gnostics a false god. The Gnostic had seen through his deceptive handiwork, and, free of it by virtue of knowledge, could "look down" on it. Enemies of the Gnostics regarded this posture as one of insufferable arrogance. The radical Gnostic could reply that such a position was as nothing compared to the supreme destructiveness and arrogating offense of the Demiurge-himself the blind god who knows no higher than himself.
In their Secret Book (Apocryphon) of John, written sometime in the second century A.D., we hear of how the Demiurge, here called Ialdaboth, took counsel with the archons and created seven planets-hence the false god's claim to "have none before him." (The zodiac provided the image for the grim fetter that held humans in ignorance, or agnosis: that is, "without gnosis").
I would also like to go to pages 40 and 41 from the same book to give some information about the "Unknown God And The Demiurge: The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus wrote polemics against those who taught of two gods; at the same time, Philo himself called the Logos (the divine instrument of creation) "a second god," "archangel," "Lord," and "Name."
"After Philo's time, Jewish rabbis complained of heretics (minim) who believed that God had a representative who bore his name, Jao (an abbreviation of YHWH, the proper name of God) or Jaoel. These Jewish heretics said that this figure sat on a throne next to God's and was called Metatron. Metatron became a significant figure in what Gershom Scholem called "Jewish Gnosticism," which contains much of what is now generally referred to as the Kabbalah."
"Some dissident Jews, called Magharians, said that all anthropomorphic names in the Hebrew Bible referred not to God, but to the angel Metatron, who created the world. In the Gnostic Apocryphon of John, which is dated before A.D. 185, something like this angel appears as the Demiurge, or "the archon who is weak," with three names: Ialdaboth, Saklas, and Samael... "
"Come," says Ialdaboth in a terrifying parody of the Genesis account of the creation of Adam, "let us create a man according to the image of God and according to our likeness, that his image may become a light for us." Having made a "luminous" man, the archons recoil in jealousy, for their combined efforts have made a being greater than themselves individually: "And when they recognized that he was luminous, and that he could think better than they, and that he was free from wickedness, they took him and threw him into the lowest region of all matter".
"This is hard-core Gnosticism, where the false god has become a perfectly sinister deity. The philosopher Hans Jonas, for one, has doubted it could possibly be the work of Jews-especially since its knowledge of Hebrew scripture seems limited to the Book of Genesis, which certainly did fascinate Gentile readers. In a short and typically clear paper of gnosis, Professor Quispel observes, "Only people who had been brought up to believe every word of the Bible, and to cling to the faith that God is one, and yet found reason to rebel against Law and Order may have been inclined toward the Gnostic solution: God is one and the Bible is right, but Anthropomorphisms like the handicraft of a creative workman and personal lawgiving are to be attributed to a subordinate angel".
"Perhaps Quispel is right, but there is all the difference in the world between a subordinate angel and the vicious, scheming, sinister bunch of archons who make Man on to kick him into the dark dungeon of matter, there to all but tread the life out of him. This was the disturbing revelation of the cosmoclastic Gnostic texts such as the Apocryphon of John."
I hope to have the next article here as soon as possible. This series might be somewhat more difficult to do because I would like to use many different sources for it. I wish I had known I would stay on this subject for so long because I would have done it very differently. If anyone is confused about anything please let me know in comments or emails. My basic questions when I think of Gnosticism are: Is this world of matter we are in inherently evil? Is there any good in it at all? Or is the gross, material world indeed more like a prison than anything else? And why-if the material world is absolutely no good-why and how did we come to descend into it? And-what is the best way to regain our "real" spiritual nature-or to "break out of prison"? Thanks again for all of your wonderful comments! The next time I am online I am going to try to get caught up with everyone's work on their blogs and other things. This should be fairly easy to do because I don't think this series can be rushed in any way from here on out-especially as I want to use seven different books and other sources for it, and don't want to confuse anyone by needlessly rushing it-and if I already have please let me know. All the best to anyone stopping by!