Friday, 1 May 2009
Not In His Image--- book critique
I remember reading about the book, Not In His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief, quite a while ago, and I was put off buying it. I can't remember exactly why--most likely a big reason was the author -- John Lamb Lash -- claiming ancient Gnosticism was earth and body friendly--disregarding all other sources I had researched, and others I had not, that said the reverse.
Later, when I got into a site called Metahistory, and I began reading articles by the author of the book, I am critiquing, I tended to dig what he said in the articles, which were on different themes................
And then eventually a few months ago, I order his book and really looked foreward to it. It was a challenge to my pre-existing knowledge from my research, but I was willing to take that challenge
See, I was under the impression that Gnosticism included very much a belief system that was believing the world and body was a trap, and aim of the intitates was to get back to some kind of eroticised spirit world. I couldn't dig that at all, and had read a very good long essay that greatly argued against it which I had shared about. I really gelled with what the author said. I am not of course opposed to erotic spirituality, but not at the expense of material reality. Not positing some separate realm away from earth and the organism said to be trapping the 'spirit'.
To summarize, the previous essay I had read, prior to reading Lash's theories,titled From Orphism to Gnosticism*, it is said that it was the Orphics who kind of took over the more primal Dionysian religion, and imposed an oppressive dogma which later influenced the Gnostics, and Christianity. And is also stressed, amongst other things, that the more original Goddess-connected Dionysian religion had a freer open interpretation of ecstatic experience. Hence the initiate could integrate their own personal--though sacred--interpretation of the experience usually inspired with sacred medicine/sacraments, whereas with the growth of Orphism, their myth became far more dogmatic, and oppressive, and was the first to be written down! They also 'diluted' the sacraments. And the rituals became more and more formalized.
Lash was saying that this was not so, and claiming to be himself a Gnostic, argues that Gnosticism has been widely misunderstood. He is really a loner with this theory--as far as I'm aware. BUT his interest in all things psychedelic swayed me to hear him out, and so began to read his book with excited expectations!
Its got a great cover.
So I began reading it, and I like the beginning, because he explores how the Christian religion creates a "victim/perpetrator" syndrome where both sides 'need' each other in some sorry self destructive game, and this game is justified by the claim that the Judaic-Christian-Islamic 'God' intends it. And that this self-destructive belief system is in large part the reason for the sadism, and inevitable Holocaust against the indigenous peoples this mindset encountered. I could very much understand that.
Then I put the book aside for quite a while, because of other interests, and recently went back to reading it again.
Lash then starts writing about the Gnostics initiates who he claims had special powers and could see microsopically, and other siddhas and being able to commune with an amorphous light which is a manifestation of 'Sophia' the 'fallen Goddess' which is also Earth.
And he rates the 'romantic' love of nature, trees, clouds, etc as less than this initiated 'superior' communication contact with this white light.
Well, as soon as I continued reading it all was becoming clear that what Lash was laying out was exactly what I had read before, only with a slightly different guise ...I couldn't relate with that at ALL! I felt very let down, because up to this I had been quite seduced by Mr Lash, but this ideas to me were a huge let down. Everything I hate.
The idea of a select few who are in contact with 'an event only known by a few initiates with superhuman awareness and powers'--thus implying that natural deep reverence for the actual events of nature---the moving clouds, trees swaying in the wind, birds singing and flying...flowing water, and the joy one sensually feels through interelation with all this Mystery, and so on---that this wonder is somehow inferior to the 'Gnostic intitates' contact with some talking white light....?
Then he begins explaining the Gnostics cosmological mythos, and claims planet earth is 'trapped'...And when I read that I said --in my head--"HAH!"---its just the same old shit! All his talk about Gnosticism being misunderstood, when he is basically just saying same thing, but being an apologist for it, with the use of 'different' terms, and trying to pretentiously match up modern science to back up this nonesense
On the surface, Lash seems to be liberating us from the Christian oppressive mythology--which of course subconsciously still affects the so-called secular world, its vision, but instead he replaces one toxic mythology with another one! One fraught with even more paranoia, if possible. Because not only is the Earth said to be 'trapped', etc, but he claims the 'Archons'--which are created by Sophia by mistake-- are equivalent with the modern reported 'Greys' whose intent is to beguile and further entrap us.
I stopped reading, as I had read enough.
I have better ways to spend my time, like learning guitar and looking and feeling the slow moving clouds, the fresh green shoots and blossoms, the birds, the shadows........the whole changing Mystery~~~including myself
I see the resolving of crises differently than Lash, and those who want to set down yet more dodgy myth, and/or carry them on.
I am seeing it.
I mean rather I am seeing A solution as when indigenous wisdom meets modern reason and insights. I think this synthesis will be inevitable.......................and thats a good thing. Its well worth exploring freely
* I wanted to link this post to the the essay, From Orphism to Gnosticism, but under the link from Google is a warning that downloading the site can harm my computer. I find this intriguing. Are forces out there not wanting people to read it??!
Anyway, it is up to you if you care to Google that title, and download the site.
I had never had trouble before, and made quite copious notes. It is a shame, because I would like more people to read it than Lash's take on the subject.