Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bring on the Serpent Gods

Earnest, well-intentioned scholars like Elaine Pagels and Gilles Quispel worked very hard to bring Gnosticism back into the public consciousness in the past 40 years but presented a Gnosticism that I'm not sure the ancients would have necessarily recognized. 

The Gnosticism they put across in their books semed more a substitute for the worthy liberal Protestantism they were raised in, and didn't quite grapple with the fundamental weirdness of the ancient sects. Because if you read the actual texts you see that Gnosticism was more Protean than Protestant, more Unarian than Unitarian.

We looked at the Mandaean light beings and light-ships, and touched upon the flying cloud and pillar imagery of Gnostic texts like Revelation of the Magi and The Gospel of Judas and then brought the gonzo UFOlogy of John Keel into the mix. 

But there was another flying cloud passage from The Apocalypse of Adam that struck a chord with me:
And the eighth kingdom says of him that a cloud came upon the earth and enveloped a rock. He came from it. The angels who were above the cloud nourished him. He received glory and power there. 
Again, the flying clouds that land and hover and produce "angels" and what not. But something seemed familiar about this passage; Jacques Vallee, from Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact, wrote this about the manifestation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, some 30 years before the Nag Hammadi texts were discovered:
From a nearby cave or grotto came a golden-colored cloud. Soon after came an entity, described as a beautiful lady, who placed herself above a bush that was moving as if it were windy. At Fatima, there was a wind which "moved across the mountain without touching the trees." 
The Lady of Fatima consistently appeared in the top branches of a small tree, whose center shoots were found bent toward the east, as though tilted in that direction when the apparition departed. Lucia, of Fatima, was closely questioned on this point and stated that "our Lady's feet rested lightly on the top of the leaves." 
This event reminds us not only of Adam but also of the Revelation of the Magi. A cloud descends, produces a divine being who then instructs an earthling in the ways of Heaven. The Apocalypse of Adam wouldn't even be discovered for another 30 years so there's zero chance that the little Catholic peasant children of rural Portugal were LARPing ancient Gnostic texts for the lulz. 

What is especially important here is that the events at Fatima led to what many researchers call the largest mass UFO sighting in human history, the so-called Miracle of the Sun in 1917. Even more astonishing is that all of this became one of the most important events in modern Catholicism. 

As we've seen, the Queen of Heaven and mass miracles are nothing novel to the 20th Century; similar events during the Second Punic War led to the official adoption of the Phrygian goddess Cybele into the Roman pantheon, a goddess whose renown would come to outshine most of Rome's native goddesses and rival that of fellow import Isis herself.

Like Keel, Vallee doesn't labour under the Saturday morning cartoon reductionism of the Ancient Aliens crowd when it comes to these kinds of manifestations. Vallee sees all of this as something far more profound. 

Like the Gnostics, he sees these numinous intruders as ambassadors from another dimension entirely, nothing less than a slap in the face to our concept of being itself, stating that "the UFO occupants, like the elves of old, are not extraterrestrials. They are the denizens of another reality."

Slapping people's conceptions of the space-time continuum in the face, particularly when it's accompanied by remarkably lucid and consistent contact narratives, didn't make the ancient Gnostics any friends either. 

This episode from The Acts of Peter plays like any number of contact stories I've read in UFO literature, right down to a being who manifested appears one way to one set of witnesses and entirely differently to another (see: Hill, Betty and Barney). Note the "light as cometh in the clouds." 

Again, they're talking about a different kind of cloud:
And when all had prayed, the hall wherein they were shone as when it lighteneth, even with such a light as cometh in the clouds, yet not such a light as that of the daytime, but unspeakable, invisible, such as no man can describe, even such that we were beside ourselves with bewilderment, calling on the Lord and saying: Have mercy, Lord, upon us thy servants: what we are able to bear, that, Lord, give thou us; for this we can neither see nor endure. 
And as we lay there, only those widows stood up which were blind; and the bright light which appeared unto us entered into their eyes and made them to see. Unto whom Peter said: Tell us what ye saw. And they said: We saw an old man of such comeliness as we are not able to declare to thee; but others said: We saw a young man; and others: We saw a boy touching our eyes delicately, and so were our eyes opened.  
We're only scratching the surface here. But what I wanted to impart is that the Mandaeans' remarkable literature is by no means an isolated phenomenon, that it grew out of a culture steeped in a cosmic consciousness filled with all kinds of flying vehicles, most often described as "clouds" or "clouds of light." 

But as mentioned before, there is precedent for this language in the Hebrew Bible. Although artists beginning in the Middle Ages, depicted all of these "clouds" as clouds, the word seems to have another meaning here. As documented extensively by "Bible UFO" researchers, it appears throughout the Book of Exodus, referring to the Host of Hosts as he guided the Israelites through the Sinai as a "pillar of cloud". 

As quoted in the prophetic book of Nehemiah 9:19 : “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take."  

In the prophetic book of Daniel (7:13), this vision comes again, associated with Divinity. “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence." 

Evolution: From popular Phoenician Horus winged disk amulet 
to popular Gnostic Abraxas amulet
 But as Biblical historians have discovered with the Ugaritic religious texts which were unearthed in 1973, the language of the Hebrew Bible evolved from the older Canaanite religion of Ba'al. The Canaanite sky god is rather stunningly referred to as a "charioteer of the clouds." From the Ugaritic Baal and `Anat Cycle:
I say to you, O Prince Baal, I declare O Charioteer of the clouds: Now your enemy, O Baal; now your enemy you will smite. Now you will destroy your adversary. Take your eternal kingdom, your dominion of all generations.
The Ba'al literature is filled with heavenly hosts busy at work up in the un-cloudlike "clouds", tantalizingly reminiscent of the much, much later Gnostic texts. Of course, all of this will be taken for granted by ancient astronaut theorists, but we like to show our math here. 

And for good reason. The standard AAT exegesis might be the most direct path from point A from point B, but there's always been a major stumbling block for me; it just doesn't seem alien enough. 

It's just not weird enough to account for the strangeness these texts go to such great lengths to delineate. No one spent more time with their heads in UFO reports than Keel or Vallee and both of them ended up dispensing with the Man-from-Mars kind of thinking that still dominates UFOlogy and AAT. Why? Because there was too much evidence that you had to throw out in order to hammer that round peg into that square hole.

Take Synchronicity for example. Both Keel and Vallee were all about it, observing that Synchronicity followed UFOs around like a lost puppy. And the grand-daddy of all things Synchro, Carl Jung, began his career in the high and the weird with this text right here,  with the Mithraic Liturgy of the Paris Codex. 

There's been a lot of debate as to whether it's actually Mithraic, that it reads more like a Hermetic text, despite the shout-outs to Helios Mithras. Either way, this isn't technically a Gnostic text, but like the Nag Hammadi Library it is an important part of the Western esoteric canon and kicked off the occult career of one of our most important modern Gnostics.

But as we looked at a few years back, the Liturgy also reads a lot more like an abduction account, since this particular sundisk has doors and windows, what sounds like a rocket engine with exhaust pipes and beings inside it going about their business.  In short, it sounds like a kind of space shuttle than an interplanetary craft. 

Written at least seventeen centuries ago.

But the thing is, this whole experience starts with the abductee tripping balls on some kind of mixture of "herbs and spices." And according to Graham Hancock, this exact kind of experience is not unknown to ayahuasca shamans either. (Note: you might want to read the version of the liturgy with the visual aids here):
...It is impossible for me, born mortal, to rise with the golden brightnesses of the immortal brilliance ...Draw in breath from the rays, drawing up three times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in mid-air. 
You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things. 
For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies: the presiding gods rising into heaven, and others setting. 
Now the course of the visible gods will appear through the disk of god, my father...
As you might imagine with a flying disk that sucks up random humans, this disk seems to have an exhaust system.
...and in similar fashion the so-called "pipe," the origin of the ministering wind. For you will see it hanging from the sun's disk like a pipe. 
You will see the outflow of this object toward the regions westward, boundless as an east wind, if it be assigned to the regions of the East--and the other similarly, toward its own regions.
And surprisingly, the pilots of this disk seem rather alarmed at the ritualist's presence at first. But then seem to shrug and say, "oh, just another tripper. Back to work."*
And you will see the gods staring intently at you and rushing at you. So at once put your right finger on your mouth and say: "Silence! Silence! Silence! Symbol of the living, incorruptible god! 
Then you will see the gods looking graciously upon you and no longer rushing at you, but rather going about in their own order of affairs. 
This is really the freakiest ancient text I've ever read. And damn if this doesn't sound like a spaceship going into hyperspace. But that's crazy talk, right?
So when you see that the world above is clear and circling, and that none of the gods or angels is threatening you, expect to hear a great crash of thunder, so as to shock you. 
Immediately after you have said these things the sun's disk will be expanded. 
And after you have said the second prayer, where there is "Silence! Silence!" and the accompanying words, make a hissing sound twice and a popping sound twice, and immediately you will see many five- pronged stars coming forth from the disk and filling all the air.  
If you want to know why I believe this isn't just the Sun they're talking about, oh, maybe it's on account of the fact of THIS DISK HAS FRICKIN' DOORS. And a very noisy engine, I have to say. They might want to have that looked at:
"And when the disk is open, you will see the fireless circle, and the fiery doors shut tight." 
Say all these things with fire and spirit, until completing the first utterance; then, similarly, begin the second, until you complete the seven immortal gods of the world. When you have said these things, you will hear thundering and shaking in the surrounding realm; and you will likewise feel yourself being agitated.  
Then open your eyes and you will see the doors open and the world of the gods which is within the doors, so that from the pleasure and joy of the sight your spirit runs ahead and ascends. 
Now when they take their place, here and there, in order, look in the air and you will see lightning-bolts going down, and lights flashing , and the earth shaking...
But here's where things get interesting. Inside another set of doors in this flying disk up in space, are yet another surprise:
After saying this, you will see the doors thrown open, and seven virgins coming from deep within, dressed in linen garments, and with the faces of asps. They are called the Fates of heaven, and wield golden wands.  
Oh dear- the Reptilians have arrived.

Reptilians have become a bit of a cliche in modern UFOlogy, but it's not as if they're a brand new thing. According to at least one apocryphal Hebrew text, the Watchers were also Reptilian, you have all the feathered serpents of Mesoamerican mythology, and bringing us back on topic, the Serpahim/n were also serpent-like. 

This text comes from the Nag Hammadi Library and sports the portentous title, "On the Origin of the World." Needless to say, this "chariot" was probably similar to Ba'al's cloud chariot:
And before his mansion he created a throne, which was huge and was upon a four-faced chariot called "Cherubin"...Furthermore, from this chariot the seventy-two gods took shape; they took shape so that they might rule over the seventy-two languages of the peoples. And by that throne he created other, serpent-like angels, called "Seraphin", which praise him at all times.    
I needn't remind my readers that the ancient Egyptians placed serpents at the pineal gland on the head-dresses of royalty and so on, but please do note that one of the major Gnostic cults took their name from the Greek word for serpent:
The Ophites evolved in Egypt during the 2nd century AD and existed for several centuries afterwards. The name derived from the Greek 'ophis', meaning 'serpent', and relates to the great reverence which the Ophites had toward the serpent, a reverence inherited from traditional Egyptian religion, and which passed into Greek mythology in the stories surrounding Asclepios, the god of healing. 

 Mysteries abound. Of course, some of the earliest artifacts we have of a settled human culture are of the startling snake people of Tel al'Ubaid, the pre-Sumerian Mesopotamian culture who carved a number of snake-headed people who looked remarkably like the so-called "Reptilians" of UFO lore. 

This symbolism is well known to those involved in the AAT and High Weirdness research communities, and is all over the place in Sumerian culture, as well as other ancient cultures as well. To see it in Gnostic literature adds a new layer to a mystery that seems to deepen at every turn.

But the association with the Seraphin or Seraphim with serpents was also used in the Apocryphal Book of Enoch, which by sheer dint of coincidence just happens to sport that very same "cloud" UFO imagery we see all over the Gnostic literature. 

Which makes a strange kind of sense, seeing that a kind of UFOlogical imagery seems to link all these various apocryphal traditions together:
 39:1-3 And it will come to pass in these days that the chosen and holy children will descend from the high heavens, and their seed will become one with the children of men. In those days Enoch received books of zeal and of anger, and books of disturbance and of expulsion, and "mercy will not be upon them," said the Lord of the spirits. And at that time, a cloud and a whirlwind seized me from the face of the earth, and carried me to the end of the heavens.    
"The Book of Enoch" is a misnomer, it's actually several books cobbled together. And it's chock-full of what seems the freak-daddy UFO joyride of all time, with Enoch being given a tour of the Heavens and the Earth by the non-fallen Watchers. Note the uncanny description of a volcano here:
And they took and brought me to a place in which those who were there were like flaming fire, and, when they wished, they appeared as men And they brought me to the place of darkness, and to a mountain the point of whose summit reached to heaven. And I saw the places of the luminaries and the treasuries of the stars and of the thunder and in the uttermost depths, where were a fiery bow and arrows and their quiver, and a fiery sword and all the lightnings.  And they took me to the living waters, and to the fire of the west, which receives every setting of the sun. And I came to a river of fire in which the fire flows like water and discharges itself into the great sea towards the west. 
We'll be looking more at Enoch and the Watchers in the future, but as it happens there's good reason that both Jewish and Christian authorities rejected the books for inclusion in the canon - it's the same reason that the Freemasons were probably so fascinated with them. 

It seems that the Watchers were borrowed from Lebanese (read: Phoenician) religion, bringing us back to those mysterious pictographs that Jacques Vallee was so fascinated by. From Haaretz:
The myth of the Watchers, familiar to us mainly from Jewish texts, started out as an Aramaic myth in Lebanon. Most of its elements are best understood against the backdrop of Lebanese folklore and local artistic landmarks, which played an important role in historical memory as early as the Hellenistic period. 
Jews learned about the myth through apocalyptic circles, only then connecting it with the biblical story of the “sons of God and daughters of man” in Genesis 6.
It seems that certain Jewish mystics were fascinated by ancient depictions of flying men and sun-disks and folded them into stories they were hearing from the locals in Lebanon, and folded it all into the ancient tales of the Nephilim, marrying it to the ancient patriarch Enoch.
The ancient, engraved images looked to the later observer like a vestige from the world of the Watchers (Aramaic: ‘irim ), primordial angels who, according to popular mythology, descended to earth in hoary antiquity and bequeathed civilization to mankind. 
If you will, these are aliens, in a way resembling those recounted by Erich von Däniken in his pseudo-scientific book, “Chariots of the Gods.” 
Ahh, those chariots again.

One of the Phoenician flying disk pictographs that fascinated Jacques Vallee
This one depicts Melqart (known to the Greeks as Heracles) battling griffins
And as I've long suspected, the Watchers were someone else's gods who were literally demonized. 

Seeing as we started all of this with the followers of John, it's only appropriate to end it for now with a reference to Oannes: 
Babylonian mythology already told of ancient sages who were half-man and half-fish who emerged from the sea and bequeathed civilization to mankind. This old myth was revived in new garb in Lebanon, Syria and the Land of Israel in the Hellenistic period. In its Jewish form, the myth bore a new aspect: the Watchers conveyed forbidden knowledge, brought to human beings in an original sin. The bearers of the knowledge in the present version were not ancient fish who emerged from the sea but the mysterious angels who descended from heaven.
Forbidden knowledge? Well, that brings us right back to the very core of Gnosticism, doesn't it now?

We've only scratched the surface here- this is simply the start of a conversation. But it's an important start. I'll be continuing my study of these texts, having seen them now in a whole new light. Pun intended.

UPDATE: In a stunning turn, a recent news story on Al-Arabiya reveals that the Islamic Caliphate maniacs- current oppressors of the Mandaeans- confess to drinking blood. 
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shocked the world with its beheadings and mass killings and now an alleged member has declared that the group relishes “drinking blood.” 
Self-claimed ISIS militant Rabie Shehada, known as “the Palestinian slayer,” made the chilling statement in a video recently posted online. 
“I swear we are a people who love death for the sake of God just as you love to live. I swear we are a people who love drinking blood. We came to slaughter you,” he said in the video. 
“We love dying for God as much as you love life,” he also said in the brief footage. 
The 26-year-old militant is believed to be from Nazareth, a city in northern Israel with a predominantly Arab population, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

And from the ancient Mandaean prophecy:
"And men will be polluted and during that period man will drink the blood of fellow-man. All that is fair (will disappear) , (but), amongst Nasoraeans, he that is steadfast in and holdeth to these teachings and this great revelation will rise up by the path of believers and will behold the great Countenance of Glory."
Nazareth, Nasoraeans? Something is unfolding here.


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*The liturgy reminds me of the Star Trek episode "Homeward", in which Brian Markinson (X-Files, Caprica) plays a primitive villager who finds himself beamed aboard the Enterprise and experiences utter religious terror at the knowledge of a ship orbiting in space.