08 Apr Do Archons rule the world?
In ancient and modern Gnostic literature, the ignorant and demonic ruling powers of the world of matter, created by the dark lord Ialdabaoth to help him maintain his dominion over human souls and keep them from escaping back to their home in the world of light were Archons. Many of the surviving Gnostic scriptures provide lists of the Archons, who range in number from 7 to 365; clear but complex symbolic links connect the archons to the seven planets known to ancient astronomy, while their opponents, the aeons of the world of light, correspond to the fixed stars.
Gnosticism is a diverse and poorly understood religious movement in the ancient Mediterranean world, Gnosticism first appeared in the cultural melting pot of Hellenistic Egypt within a century of the start of the Common Era and spread throughout the Roman world over the next 200 years. Even among religious traditions, which tend to draw their inspiration from far and wide, it was remarkably eclectic in its choice of sources. Greek philosophy, pagan mystery cults, Jewish and Christian theology and myth, Egyptian magic, and (quite possibly) ideas drawn from Buddhist missionaries, who were active in the Egyptian city of Alexandria by 200 BCE, all flowed together to create a series of radical religious viewpoints that overturned the conventional ideas of every other religion of the time.
Gnosticism was never a single religion, and attempts to construct a coherent doctrine out of the wild diversity of Gnostic belief fall apart in the face of the surviving evidence. A handful of core themes, though, run through nearly all Gnostic writings. The most important of these is a radical dualism that places spirit and matter in absolute opposition. The world of matter, in Gnostic thought, is a prison, and the powers who rule it are demons whose dominion over humanity is as brutal as it is unjust. The body, as a microcosm of the corrupt world of matter, is equally a prison, and the soul trapped in the body is like a living person sealed inside a tomb. The human soul has been lured into the trap of matter from another universe, a realm of light governed by timeless powers who wait for humanity to return from the material world, and these powers send messengers to call souls back to their true home. To Gnostic Christians, Jesus was such a messenger, an eternal being from the world of light who came to communicate the gift of gnosis (“knowledge”) to those ready to receive it.
Gnosticism remained a living tradition in the western world until the fourteenth century, when the last major Gnostic movement – the Cathar church in southern France – was crushed by military force. Gnosticism proved impossible to bury, however, and in the first decades of the nineteenth century, French occultists succeeded in reviving it. The Église Gnostique (Gnostic Church) of Jules Doinel, founded in Paris in 1828, launched a tradition of Gnostic churches in Europe and the Americas that remains active to this day. For more than a century, however, the Gnostic revival struggled to piece together what Theosophical writer G.R.S. Mead very appropriately termed “fragments of a faith forgotten.” All this changed in 1945, when Egyptian peasants from the village of Nag Hammadi found an ancient stone jar full of papyrus scrolls … If you believe the world and humanity is demonic would you try to save it?