There are two distinct ‘Creation myths ’ at the heart of Western civilization

Two myths which tell the same basic story but in two very different ways. One of these myths we learn about practically ‘from the cradle’, whilst the other has been very thoroughly repressed.

The Creation Myth we all know about is of course the standard one in the Book of Genesis – in the beginning there was nothing, just a ‘formless void’, and then God created the universe, out of nothing, ex nihilo. Whether we happen to literally believe this story or not, it is nevertheless very easy to understand the basic principle of the thing. The idea is nothing if not straightforward: beforehand there was zilch, nada, nothing and afterwards – astonishingly – there was everything…

Two-Myths-afraidThis is a story everyone can understand. Even if we don’t happen to be a believer, the chances are that we wouldn’t find it too hard to accept some version of it – perhaps the scientific ‘big bang’ theory, which in its commonly understood form comes down to much the same thing. The other creation myth – the suppressed one – isn’t at all so easy to understand – it is in fact particularly hard to understand since it doesn’t fit in with the way in which we usually think about things. There are a number of versions of this myth, but the one we’ll give here is the Gnostic one – Gnosticism being a early form of Christianity which was declared heretical and thus driven underground over one and a half thousand years ago by the dominant, ‘orthodox’ form – which is the only type of Christianity most of us know about.

In the Gnostic myth, one of the Aeons, Sophia (an Aeon being a lower emanatory form of the Divine Source) creates the physical universe inadvertently, by mistake. She creates in error – as it were, whilst trying to do something else, and the implication is that this isn’t necessarily such a good thing! The way this unfortunate accident happens is that she was attempting to create another Aeon, only instead of carrying out this act with a ‘co-creator’ (which would be the usual way) she tried to do it all on her own. What she creates turns out to be some type of monstrous abomination of a creature, which she throws over a nearby wall and leaves to die. The creature – known variously as the Demiurge or Yaldoboath or Samael, turns out to be a force to be reckoned with however and in no time at all he creates the physical universe and then lays claim to it – sealing it off from the higher worlds and setting himself up as the One True Creator, the Supreme Being, the Ultimate Boss of the Universe…

This story – in comparison with the account given in Genesis – sounds bizarrely convoluted (if not to say downright perverse) and we might be forgiven for thinking that this is the reason it has been more or less ignored for the last two thousand years! A moment’s reflection however will show that this obscure tale of how the universe was created has vastly more psychological relevance to this high-tech 21st century age of ours than the orthodox one.

In order to appreciate this ‘relevance’ all we need to do is think about the key elements of the story – according to the Gnostic Creation myth the world we live in is a deceptive fabrication created by some agency which is utterly inimical to us, for the purpose of deluding and trapping us, so that it can carry out its dark agenda…. What’s more, we’re expected to be properly grateful for being allowed to exist in this way and to demonstrate our dutiful loyalty by ‘doing our bit for the system’ to the limit of our ability! We are also required (most importantly of all!) to never question the motives or intentions of the ruling authority, no matter what. To do so would be unpatriotic in the extreme…

Who can say that this scenario doesn’t have any relevance to our present age? What we’re talking about here goes beyond mere ‘relevance’ – it seems to hit the nail right on the head. It is pretty much a factual account of what is going on in our world today! Coming across this myth for the first time we’re likely to get a strong feeling of déjà vu – we know it before we hear it!

There is of course a majority of folk to whom the above account of the ‘False Creator’ and his ill-gotten ‘Empire of Lies’ wouldn’t make any sense at all. This fact is in itself interesting from the perspective that we’re exploring here because what we could say that the Orthodox myth represents the ‘psychologically naïve viewpoint’ on things, whilst the Gnostic view exemplifies the psychologically sophisticated point of view – the view which doesn’t automatically accept everything it is presented with. More succinctly, we could say that the Orthodox (or exoteric) myth reflects the unconscious or compliant state, whilst the Gnostic, esoteric one reflects the conscious state, the waking state, the ‘questioning’ (or ‘philosophical’) state of mind.

This being so, it hardly comes as a surprise to find that the Gnostic myth lacks in ‘mass appeal’, just as it isn’t surprising to learn that it has been widely suppressed by the authorities that rule this world for the last few thousand years. And yet the story of the false creation that we’re talking about here hasn’t been totally suppressed. The sense of déjà vu that we might experience when we hear it isn’t just because it resonates with some deeper awareness – it also connects with a particular strand of contemporary culture. The territory is familiar – we have encountered it in a modern setting. We could be talking about The Matrix film, or perhaps The Truman Show. In fact we are talking about The Matrix; we are talking about The Truman Show! We could also mention The Golden Compass, a film whose Gnostic content has been so watered down that it’s hardly noticeable, and yet it’s still there. In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials  trilogy (from which the film is taken) what we might call the ‘Gnostic theme’ couldn’t be more obvious: in this story the world is ruled over by the Magisterium, a planet-wide ultra-powerful version of the Church. It is the Magisterium’s self-appointed job to control all aspects of life, to keep mankind firmly in the dark and firmly subjugated, as is always the way. In the course of the trilogy an unlikely rebellion takes shape, a revolt which eventually challenges the authority of the Boss himself, the ‘Ancient of Days’…

Another novel which comes to mind in this context is Ian McDonald’s Brasyl, in which an all-powerful multiverse-wide version of the Magisterium keeps a very big secret firmly under wraps – the secret that no one but the elite must be allowed to know being that the universe we live in isn’t real at all, but an nth generation computer program which simulates the physical universe since the physical universe itself has long since ceased to exist.

Another author who is particularly linked with Gnostic themes is of course Philip K Dick. The hallmark of PKD’s work is that apparent reality can be peeled back and peeled back, and then peeled back yet again – as often as one dares to do so! If the naïve mind’s proclivity is to blankly assume that whatever reality seems to be is what it of course must be, then Dick’s mind is the ultimate antithesis of this! An example of one of Dick’s more overtly Gnostic novels is Radio Free Albemuth in which the USA is being crushed under the totalitarian regime of Ferris F. Fremont – which seeks to control the population absolutely – which is an idea that’s not just science fiction! All sources of information are under state control – the only exception being an alien satellite in orbit around Earth, from which issues a precious but precarious trickle of information about what is really going on. A battle is being waged for freedom – a battle in which all the advantages seem to lie with the ‘dark side’. The biggest obstacle is that we don’t even know that we are slaves; in another of Dick’s novels, The Divine Invasion, the protagonist has this to say –

What a tragic realm this is, he reflected. Those down here are prisoners, and the ultimate tragedy is that they don’t know it; they think they are free because they have never been free, and do not understand what it means.”

The format and details of the Gnostic myth don’t matter when it comes down to it – the mythologem itself is a dart of pure concentrated consciousness entering into the darkness of the everyday mind. The mythologem is a revelation: once it explodes within our minds we will never see the world in the same way again…

By Nick Williams | Staff Writer