The Creation Story of Sophia
Part II: Via Negativa (continued)
Reflections on Sophia and the Archons
“I have much more sympathy with Sophia than with the demiurge but faced with the reality of both my sympathy counts for nothing.” Carl Jung (1)
The Mythos of Sophia
John Lamb Lash (2) claims to have read thousands of creation stories and has written that this gnostic story of Sophia is one of the most advanced and detailed creation stories that exists. Furthermore, he (as do I) believes that this complex gnostic story of origins is more than a mere myth but is rather an attempt to describe real phenomenon which lies generally too far outside the average range of human consciousness to easily grasp. Because of this, he calls this the “Mythos” of Sophia, to distinguish it from a fictional or purely fanciful myth.
On Sophia’s Fall
Sophia fell from the heavens and, upon being trapped by these lower gods, lost her Light and fell into lower dimensionality, into the spiritually absent density of matter. This is a profound archetypal motif, which pervades so many spiritual traditions, this idea of Light or spirit being bound within matter. It also brings in the modern field of quantum physics where the very nature of what we see as reality itself comes into question. Indeed, what is matter when the more we look at it, the more we see just empty space?
Is Sophia merely an archetypal figure, a troubled superwoman of mythical status, or is she a real deity, a true-to-life conscious being? Like the archons, I think we can consider that she is both and not conclude that she is one or the other. She represents, much like Christ does, something that is both archetypal and real.
Sophia is a mythological motif that represents our true inner nature buried deep within us, as the story will point to in later sections. She is the quintessential expression of the soul’s dive into the hardship of life. Sophia indeed is referred to as the world soul, Jung’s anima mundi, the soul of humanity. Lash posits quite literally that Gaia, this earth, is actually Sophia bound in matter. (I hold this idea lightly, not knowing if this is true or not, as compelling as this idea is.)
Sophia is, like so many fairy tales, the girl who has dreams but is instead cast out or kept in the basement, a Cinderella of the stars. Sophia is quintessential youth, joy, the desire for truth, and unrestrained passion. But as the archetype of initiation will have it (3), naive youthood needs to be tempered in the trials of the soul’s journey. A youth filled with charm and charisma can fly towards the sun, but if left to continue her flight, at some point her creative spark gradually turns into pompous grandiosity, such as what happens to many who have ignored the hard lessons of the soul’s passage.
Some might throw out the whole idea of Sophia’s fall as being a product of patriarchal myth making. Yes, the scales of balance have long been tipped in favor of men and clearly, the hand of male favoritism has its fingerprints in these texts, particularly in the later, more Christianized texts, where Sophia is increasingly absent, and replaced either by Jesus himself or by the “church”.
Sophia is a double figure. She is a high and original divine feminine figure of creation, called Pronnoia, the great emanation. And she is also like a daughter, a complex figure who brings trouble to a more pure image of the divine mother. We might want to cling to a vision of Sophia as creator goddess in all of her majesty, but I am finding, despite resistance even on my part, that this second section of the story, Sophia’s Fall, is just as important as her initial grand entrance.
There are so many cross references within the texts that include this theme of the Fall of Sophia, that constitute a core of the earliest traditions of Gnosticism, that I believe that this is part of something that, I am suspecting, arose in a first century new dispensation, prior to the rise of Gnosticism. Like the sudden appearance of the Mayan’s creation story, Popul Vu, there was no specific antecedent of this complex Sophianic myth of origins prior to first century and, for centuries following, many variations were written, extending out from that point in time, until her story gradually disappeared behind the brighter lights of the Christian orthodox narrative.
This brings us to a very important question. Is Sophia to be blamed for a cosmic mishap that is possibly taking humanity aeons for to dig out from? Some texts clearly say yes, explaining that she did something that did not include the masculine aspect in the process of creation and therefore the whole project went awry. The Pistis Sophia is a long expose of Sophia’s grappling with the lessons of her folly. This is hard to swallow in this modern era when it is harder to go along with the story that it was a woman, Eve not withstanding, who might ultimately be at fault for humanity’s failings. However, if we are to take a closer look, we may not want to be so quick to blame Sophia.
Sophia did not fall but she came specifically to “prepare” to “build bodily dwellings”.
John Lamb Lash believes that Sophia was on a mission to implant this local neighborhood of the universe with a seed of the divine, a mission that ran into problems.
As a figure who the Gnostics believed was incarnationally related to the offspring of Adam and Eve, known as Seth, Jesus Christ is credited with being the voice speaking in this most remarkable Gnostic text, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth. This text, I believe, is possibly one of the closest texts to the original expressions of what I am calling the Deep Christ, in the new dispensation of first century, as we will explore later in this web series.
“For those who were in the world had been prepared by the will of our sister Sophia … because of her innocence that has not been uttered. And she did not ask anything from the realm of all, nor from the greatness of the assembly, nor from the pleroma, when she previously came forth to prepare lodgings and places for the son of light and the fellow workers. She took materials from the elements below to build bodily dwellings from them. But having come into being in an empty glory, they ended in destruction in the dwellings in which they were.”
This puts a whole different context to this idea of the “fall”. Jesus himself is saying that Sophia went ahead to “prepare lodgings and places for the son of light” as a sort of logistics event scout for a project that involved far more than just herself. This does not sound like an accident nor a result of folly. “She took materials from the elements below (earth?) to build bodily dwellings from them.” This is indicating that Sophia came to this lower dimensional reality and took the more dense elements of matter as part of a broader plan to seed the divine human template here on earth. This is extraordinary and offers a revision of what is most commonly found in the Gnostic texts that effectively blame Sophia for her grandiose folly where she acted without her consort and as a result, creating the archons.
Perhaps it is like how a story can change over time, much like the game of telephone. Instead of Sophia coming with a distinct and noble purpose, the story devolved into her being the one who left home without her husband and then got into a heap of trouble. Putting blame on her is understandable in light of the deeply entrenched patriarchal culture that was so prominent in that era.
Regardless of whether her problems were the result of folly or a failed mission, what is most consistent in the texts is that she became trapped by these lower “gods” called archons. The plight of Sophia’s enslavement, therefore, is the central plot line of the whole Christ drama as is being described in these Gnostic Sophianic texts.
As will hopefully become clearer as we make our way through these mysteries, this is a story of profound importance to an understanding of, ultimately, who we are and where we lie in the whole mystery of creation.
The Problem of the Archons.
“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – St. Paul. Ephesians 6:12
St. Paul is a strange character in the mystery thriller of the Deep Christ. Was he really a gnostic-leaning purveyor of the Christ teachings as many, including Valentinus and Marcion claim? Did St. Paul actually believe in the archons? Here in Ephesians, Paul seems to be making a rare but distinct reference to this idea of dark otherworldly rulers. Maybe the New Testament didn’t completely censor Paul’s reference to this part of the creation story of Sophia.
The word archon comes from the Greek word which means ruler or head of a group. The word was commonly used in ancient Greece in reference to a person’s position as a political leader.
In the first few centuries CE, the word archon took on a whole different meaning within the gnostic system. The gnostic use of this term refers to leaders or heads of the lower heavens (aeons), sometimes seen in relation to the seven inner planets of our solar system. A key feature of their rule could be described, in a nutshell, as having exploitative abuse of power and we humans are mere pawns in their game.
So what are the archons within this gnostic model?
All indications are from the texts is that they are indeed real. One text in the Nag Hammadi Library which makes a strong point of this is called The Hypostasis (or the fundamental reality) of the Archons that presents the later part of this Sophia creation story, the gnostic version of the tale of Adam and Eve.
In the Pistis Sophia and the Secret Book of John, Jesus talks quite specifically about the archons, including the lead archon, “Yaldabaoth, of whom I have spoken unto you many times.” (PS1:31). He is not talking in general about some ancient mythological gods who display fantastical attributes. Rather, he is talking about real creatures with specific features, as seen apparently from his own first hand encounters with them. “Lion-faced Light-power”, (PS1:31) “one half is fire and the other darkness” (PS1:31), “eyes were like lightning fires which flash.” (Apoch of John).
How can we make sense of this?
Elaine Pagels is a preeminent gnostic scholar who contributed to the Robinson edition of the Nag Hammadi Library. Her book, The Gnostic Gospels, which she wrote shortly after the publication of the Nag Hammadi Library (1978), was for many people the first introduction to this strange and long forgotten gnostic movement.
However, nowhere in The Gnostic Gospels does Elaine Pagels mention the archons. Was she censoring this information? I think not. Rather, especially in the early days of the release of the Nag Hammadi library, she chose rather to bypass a topic that is incredibly difficult to fathom, perhaps hoping that she could buy some time while people worked to grapple with easier parts of these gnostic scriptures. So odd is this “reality” of the archons that it is easiest to ignore them altogether, much like what the 4th century emerging Roman Christianity clearly decided to do.
The problem is that in the whole Sophianic cosmology of the gnostic system, archons are key players. In other words, in this deepening mystery play, it is almost impossible to separate Sophia from the archons. As we shall see, the core themes of this cosmology, including Sophia, Jesus’ descent, the divine spark, Eve as a Sophianic intervention, Seth as offspring of Adam and Eve, all revolve around what could be called the “problem of the archons.” Indeed, some believe that the meta view of some of the ancient struggles of humanity, as is suggested by Jesus in the gnostic scriptures, are the result of the archon’s indomitable rule, that in an invisible way, might best be described as an illusional “matrix.”
Archons and the Problem of the Conspiracy Theory Rabbit Hole
John Lamb Lash suggests, as do others, that the archons, as they are described in the texts, are reptilian alien creatures. This of course opens a Pandora’s box of controversy.
The whole subject of extra-terrestrial aliens has been pushed to the fringes of modern culture, ever since the “weather balloons” crashed in Roswell in 1948. Some say that the decision was for the government to have a policy of denial against acknowledging the possibility of extraterrestrial life and that this policy has been adhered to into the present (although the story is cracking with official military sightings being published in New York Times). When Carl Jung wrote about Flying Saucers he worked with them as an archetypal image, such as one might encounter in a dream. He didn’t necessarily write them off as fiction, however, noting that eyewitness accounts from highly trained Air Force pilots are hard to ignore.
If archons exist, whatever they might be, then they clearly reside outside the normal spectrum of human observation and awareness. Are they physical, non-terrestrial or etheric? Who or what are they and where do they reside?
For anyone brave or foolish enough to climb into the “conspiracy” rabbit hole, there is plenty of recent discussion about this to be found. But there is no need to go there, I believe. In fact, the whole phenomenon of the conspiracy rabbit hole is a significant problem in itself and one which the status quo is quite upset about, and for good reason. In the last 15 years, social media and what I call “alt media” or a sort of anti-journalism arena, is causing a significant impact on the balance of norms in both news and human relations. Indeed, the issue of archons can intersect with some of the worst of the worst of conspiracy theories, something which I believe may be one reason the whole creation story of Sophia has not found traction or attention in much of human culture.
At the same time, the solution, I believe, is to not just overlook this phenomenon or to try, like Elaine did in her first book, to just ignore it. Because mainstream culture is unwilling or unable to consider the idea that humanity is being ruled by some extra-physical mythic-like overlords, the whole topic therefore gets tossed out into the jungle of conspiracy theory where the whole topic can fly off into high gear with crazy speculation, where basic norms of critical thinking are left far behind.
Therefore I am proposing a way to find some stable and reasonable ground to stand on in the face of both the dystopic “reality” of the archons and the instinct to just ignore them altogether.
The Pre-Verbal Model of Grappling with the Problem of the Archons.
In the first couple of years of life, a child has little to no language development. In the earliest phases of their development, typically few memories are retained, partly due to the lack of language development. If a child has an intense experience such as a trauma, then as the child grows, that event will have no place in their conscious memory. There may be somatic memories or subconscious hints that point to that trauma, but it is overall not available in their conscious mind. The only clue that there was even a trauma is in how it might impact a person in the present, such as with irrational fear responses, phobias, or psycho-somatic symptoms. Here the pre-verbal trauma can be addressed, in terms of the present time effects of that initial trauma. There is much research in this area, Stanislov Grof being just one of a number of pioneers.
In this way, we could see archons as lying outside of typical conscious awareness and memory of human history. If they are real, then we have no memory, no context and no conscious framework for understanding them let alone being aware of how they are impacting us. All we can do, if they are real, is to see the effects that they are having on us.
To talk about whether archons are real, who they are and what they are up to is like talking about the specifics of a birth trauma which is typically beyond the average conscious mind to recall firsthand. And so, in general, I find that it is best to not get carried away trying to focus one’s mind’s attention on something that is basically impossible to prove or disprove.
This is not to push archons out into the realm of being fictional mythological creatures. It is not to deny that there is some evidence that they are real. Though I once saw a bright light in the night sky whose movement was highly irregular, I certainly have never seen a reptilian-like alien being or had any conscious contact with any otherworldly overlord being.
That being said, there is much we can do to bring to more focus to the effects of the archons, whether we are willing to consider them as real or not. So for the purposes of this web series, at least for now, let us put the questions of who, where, and what are the archons aside. Instead, we will continue with the mythos of Sophia, and, most importantly, look into the significance of all this on we humans at this point in time.
Perhaps it is best to just refer to what the Gnostic Jesus told his students, as recorded in the Pistis Sophia.
“Lord, tell us: In what way shall we fight against the archons, since the archons are above us?” Then a voice called out to them from the (Savior) saying, ‘Now you will fight against them in this way, for the archons are fighting against the inner man. And you are to fight against them in this way: Come together and teach in the world the salvation with a promise. And you, gird yourselves with the power of my Father and let your prayer be known. And he, the Father, will help you as he has helped you by sending me.'” (Letter of Peter to Philip, Robinson, 1978, p. 435-436)
- Jung, Carl G., Letters Vol. II 1951-1961. Princeton Press, 1976. To Erich Neumann written on 1/5/1952.
- Lash, John Lamb. Not in his image. Chelsea Green Publications: White River Junction, VT.
- Henderson, Joseph. Thresholds of Initiation. Asheville, NC: Chiron Publications. 2005.