Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fragments of an Alien Faith: Ancient UFO Religion

Paging Dr. Clelland....

We looked at the remarkable literature of the Mandaeans, who are currently in exile from their native lands in Iraq. Their religious texts are filled with beings and ships of light as well as the very clear, lucid and oft-repated insistance that they are just vistors here, that their true home is on another world, a more perfect world.

In many ways, the Mandaean literature is the most striking (for its directness, if nothing else) but is not by any means unique. 

Gnostic literature on the whole is filled with arcane references to strange lights and clouds and strange clouds of light, as well as any number of celestial abductions, ascensions and encounters. 

The problem is that you get the impression that Gnostic culture was visionary in the traditional sense (read: entheogenic), and they may have inherited their liturgical methodology from the Mystery religions they rubbed elbows with in cities like Alexandria and Tarsus. 

You very much get the sense there is core experience unique to Gnosticism, a culture of contact if you will, that these Knowers did indeed know something because they were experiencing it out at night in the Egyptian or Judean or Syrian deserts. Roughly the same kind of experience our more contemporary Gnostics experienced out in the Mojave desert.  

Which is to say that when a scholar like Pagels states that the Gnostics didn't need a church to experience God, they just needed to go off into the desert, she's correct. She's just leaving an important detail out. 

But the Gnostics' experiences took them to a realization that neither the Mysteries nor religions like Christianity ever contemplated. The Gnostics' minds were so blown that they came to believe that they were were beings of light trapped in meat suits on a miserable alien planet. And they meant this quite literally.
The fundamental difference that separates the Gnostics from their contemporaries is that, for them, their native `soil' is not the earth, but that lost heaven which they keep vividly alive in their memories: they are the autochthons of another world. 
Hence their feeling of having fallen onto our earth like inhabitants from a distant planet, of having strayed into the wrong galaxy, and their longing to regain their true cosmic homeland, the luminous hyper-world that shimmers beyond the great nocturnal barrier. 
Their uprooting is not merely geographical but planetary. And to treat them as aliens in the political or civic sense - which is what happened - could be nothing but an absurd misunderstanding, like giving a Martian a temporary residence visa. 
- The Gnostics by Jacques La Carriere
This realization made them outcasts among outcasts, rebels among rebels. To them Christ was one of many emissaries from the Light-World, who came to awaken the Gnostic to their true identity. In short,  humanity were alien prisoners of a mad Demiurge who created the cosmos (the physical world in the Greek) so he could play God.
Of the profusion of gnostic experiences and symbolic expressions, one feature may be singled out as the central element in this varied and extensive creation of meaning: the experience of the world as an alien place into which man has strayed and from which he must find his way back home to the other world of his origin. 
Eric Vogelin, Collected Works: Science, Politics and Gnosticism
So it is exactly this cosmology that we see in the writings of the Mandaeans (who we studied recently here), who long outlived the other sects of the early Christian era; the Sethians, the Valentinians, the Carpocratians, the Ophites, the Manichaeans, and on and on. 

But perhaps it's because their writings had a more terse and compelling ring, that they were able- in the tradition of the best Biblical authors- to put across their message in a strong, simple and compelling fashion, lacking the kind of circular indulgence that makes a lot of the Nag Hammadi library a tougher slog. 

Remember that these Uthras are angelic light beings who exist in a very tangible fashion on Earth, acting as emissaries of the Light-World, assisting and protecting the Knowers:
To your first earth, ascend, to the place from which you were transplanted, to the fine abode of the uthras. Bestir yourself, put on your garment of radianceand put on your resplendent wreath. Sit on your throne of radiance, which the Life set up for you in the Place of Light. Rise up, inhabit the skinas, among the uthras, your brothers.
As a reader pointed out,  Uthras to the Flatwoods Monster

And here- untold years later- are we able to read one of the most stunning descriptions of a spaceship we have in ancient literature, one of several in Mandaean literature and one we can be grateful the producers of Ancient Aliens have not discovered yet. Note that it travels to the "shekinahs", or the divine dwelling places of the Almighty, which the Mandaeans quite explicity state repeatedly are on another world:
Life knotted for me a noose and built for me a ship that fades not,—a ship whose wings are of glory, that sails along as in flight, and from it the wings will not be torn off. 
'Tis a well-furnished ship and sails on in the heart of the heaven.  
Its ropes are ropes of glory and a rudder of Truth is there to it. Sunday takes hold of the pole, Life's Son seized the rudder. They draw thither to the shekÄ«nahs and dispense Light among the treasures. Thrones in them they set up, and long drawn out come the Jordans upon them. 
On the bow are set lamps that in the wildest of tempests are not put out. All ships that sight me, make obeisance submissively to me. Submissively they make me obeisance and come to show their devotion unto me.
Lamps that the wildest of tempests will not put out. Well, we have those now, don't we? They certainly aren't anything a late Bronze or Iron Age people had any experience with.

That's the Mandaeans. But you can't throw a rock without hitting a lightship in a Gnostic text. Perfect example is the recently published Revelation of the Magi, a Syrian text dated to the second or third century.  Here we get a much different take on the Star of Bethlehem. 

And by different take, I mean…well, how many stars do you know that descend to Earth, enter caves and then produce "a small and humble human" from inside?
And when we [the Magi] bathed in the Spring of Purification with joy, and we ascended the Mountain of Victories as we were accustomed, and we went up and found that pillar of light in front of the cave, again a great fear came upon us.  
12:3 And again, we saw that heaven had been opened a like a great gate and men of glory carrying the star of light upon their hands. And they descended and stood upon the pillar of light, and the entire mountain was filled by its light, which cannot be uttered by the mouth of humanity. 
12:4 And (something) like the hand of a small person drew near in our eyes from the pillar and the star, at which we could not look, and it comforted us. And we saw the star enter the Cave of Treasures of Hidden Mysteries, and the cave shone beyond measure.  
12:5 And a humble and kind voice made itself heard by us, which called out and said to us: “Enter inside without doubt, in love, and see a great and amazing vision.” And we were encouraged and comforted by the message of the voice.  
12:6 And we entered, being afraid, and we bowed our knees at the mouth of the cave because of the very abundance of the light.  
12:7 And when we rose at its command, we lifted our eyes and saw that light, which is unspeakable by the mouth of human beings.  
13:1 And when it had concentrated itself, it appeared to us in the bodily form of a small and humble human, and he said to us: “Peace to you, sons of my hidden mysteries."
"My hidden mysteries." Huh. I'll bet.

The Gospel of Judas, another well-publicized, recently unearthed Gnostic text, is also filled with the kinds of luminous cloud imagery you see in a lot of Gnostic texts. In Judas, the clouds runs the gamut, from the Mega-Cosmic to the merely cosmic.

The Gospel boasts a creation treatise, with the "Self Generated" either existing within a cloud or forming the cloud itself. Either way, the cloud seems to be an angel factory, as the Self-Generated uses this "cloud" to create an entire cosmology. 

What becomes clear as you read Gnostic literature is that these clouds are not the same clouds as the ones up in the sky that cause the rain and what-not; this is an entirely different reality for which "cloud" seems to be the best metaphor available:
And a luminous cloud appeared there. He said, ‘Let an angel come into being as my attendant.’ A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud. Because of him, four other angels came into being from another cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated. 
This cosmology appears in other Gnostic texts, in even more sci-fi/heavy metal-friendly renderings, such as The Gospel of the Egyptians.
After five thousand years, the great light Eleleth spoke: "Let someone reign over the chaos and Hades." And there appeared a cloud whose name is hylic Sophia [...] She looked out on the parts of the chaos, her face being like [...] in her form [...] blood. And the great angel Gamaliel spoke to the great Gabriel, the minister of the great light Oroiael; he said, "Let an angel come forth, in order that he may reign over the chaos and Hades." 
Then the cloud, being agreeable, came forth in the two monads, each one of which had light. [...] the throne, which she had placed in the cloud above. Then Sakla, the great angel, saw the great demon who is with him, Nebruel. And they became together a begetting spirit of the earth. They begot assisting angels.  
Even more metal is this apocalyptic Rapture in The Apocalypse of Adam, in which the Gnostic faithful are spared God's wrath when plucked from Earth in those interesting "clouds":
For rain-showers of God the almighty will be poured forth, so that he might destroy all flesh [of God the almighty, so that he might destroy all flesh] from the earth on account of the things that it seeks after, along with those from the seed of the men to whom passed the life of the knowledge which came from me and Eve, your mother. For they were strangers to him. 
Afterwards, great angels will come on high clouds, who will bring those men into the place where the spirit of life dwells.  
Which brings us back to Judas. Later a mysterious "cloud" descends and Judas enters into it for reasons unclear since the text is so heavily damaged. Later Judas apparently re-emerges and does his assigned duty and betrays Jesus so his mission may be completed. 

Again we see the Gnostic focus on "external realms" (read: outer space) that we first saw in the creation myth of Hypostasis of the Archons. Oh, and the cloud:
Judas said to Jesus, “Look, what will those who have been baptized in your name do?” Truly [I] say to you, Judas, [those who] offer sacrifices to Saklas [...] God [—three lines missing—] everything that is evil. 
“But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.
 And then the image of the great generation of Adam will be exalted, for prior to heaven, earth, and the angels, that generation, which is from the eternal realms, exists. 
Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.” 
Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud, and he entered it. Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud… 

Compare this language to the Magi description and realize that these texts are emerging from similar cultures at roughly the same time. I really hope an intact version of The Gospel of Judas is found one day, because I have a feeling there's a lot more information about these "clouds," so-called, lost in all those gaps.

Now, what interested me about all of this was my previous reading of John Keel, who wouldn't blink at any of this. As to the "clouds," with their various and sundry behaviors, Keel would tell you that's par for the course. 

From Operation Trojan Horse on UFO sightings:
Most of these were of luminous objects that behaved in peculiar, unnatural ways. The great majority of all sightings throughout history have been of "soft" luminous objects, or objects that were transparent, translucent, changed size and shape, or appeared and disappeared suddenly. Sightings of seemingly solid metallic objects have always been quite rare. The "soft" sightings, being more numerous, comprise the real phenomenon and deserve the most study. 
As to the endless citations of impossibly cosmic lightclouds flying around and descending and picking up passengers in the Gnostic texts?    
Everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient scriptures of the Orient, and the records of early Egypt to the modern messages of the psychics and contactees and the thousands of inspired books indicates that mankind was directly ruled by the phenomenon for many centuries. The god-king system established a universal theocracy which enabled ultrater­restrials posing as gods and superkings to supervise human events.
Well, that's Keel for you, Mr. Hyperbole. 

But there was a passage in the Apocalypse of Adam, which is a Nag Hammadi text undiscovered until 1946 and unpublished until several years after that, that rang a certain bell with me. A certain manifestation of the Godhead that may ring a bell with you as well.