The whole practice of Kimetikos can take a while– a few weeks, actually. It’s best to focus on one step at a time, and not to advance to the next level of the Premiseless Imperative without first having completed the bodily redemption. Still, if you want to skip Kimetikos and jump right into the next section, nobody’s stopping you. Whatever works, right?
So, our next series of posts will be dealing with Anagoge, the Ascent through the Spheres and renunciation of the Archons which will bring about the redemption of the soul. If you’ll recall from our post on Archons, Gnostic spiritual development can exist on two levels, which we’re calling psychological (original, I know) and hypostatic. This is based on the premise that we’re interacting with Living Information in various forms, which can manifest both internally (psychological) and externally (hypostatic). As this is the case, we need to address both aspects in order to proceed to real self-knowledge.
We’re going to start with some exercises that may seem a little odd, or simplistic, or pointless, but like I said, if you’re following along, you have to do them. The reasoning behind each exercise will become clearer as we proceed, even if the activities come across as pointless individually.
Shall we continue? Okay, then the first thing you have to do when you’re ready to start the process of Anagoge is to admit that you are a sinner. Seriously, it’s the most important first step you can take. Well, you don’t have to think of it in those terms. It’s probably more appropriate to say that you should admit that you’re imperfect, that you don’t know everything. You can’t ever, ever get gnosis without first realizing that you’re not. In fact, you will never be perfect, not while stuck down here in the World of Forms.
Let’s go over this again: gnosis does not, I repeat, does not make you perfect. Even the most enlightened beings in the universe have flaws. Why? Because they’re still human! If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have needed enlightenment in the first place. Trust me; even Jesus was a little arrogant sometimes and could be really mean. In fact, some of the most unenlightened people we’ve ever seen have been more like the universal ideal of “perfection.” Hitler may or may not have been a vegetarian. I’d bet my bottom dollar that Tomas de Torquemada prayed devotedly every day and every night. Of course, both Hitler and Torquemada believed they had a plan, that they KNEW what was right. Socrates, on the other hand, is most famous for claiming that he didn’t know anything, and Jesus had doubts about his mission even when he was hanging from that ol’ wooden cross.
Still, didja ever wonder whether there’s any value in all of that self-desecrating that religious-types are always going on about? I mean, some of the best and noblest of the Saints– Francis of Assisi, for example– always go on and on about how miserable they are in the eyes of God, how they are worthless sinners who mean nothing to anyone, how they deserve every horrible thing that happens. What’s the deal with that? It’s sure unappealing.
But, when you think about it, this attitude has some pretty decent psychological value if you’re looking for communion with God. We’ll talk about this idea a little bit more in an upcoming post, but for now, the Cliff’s Notes version is that in order to achieve enlightenment, we need to consider the scale of things. If the True God is infinite, then the conscious residents of the universe (like you and me) are very nearly infinitely small. That means that on the surface, we’re pretty insignificant in the Grand Scheme. Our ability to know anything beyond how hungry or sleepy or horny we are is about nil. We’re a speck, a dust-mote– when faced with the Infinite Glory and Perfection of God, groveling is too good for us!
We’re exceptionally limited in physical range and abilities. For instance, we get sick and die. We create waste and our waste smells disgusting. We can’t fly, or even breathe underwater! We’re completely unable to shapeshift, generally speaking, and we have a nasty habit of killing one another for really stupid reasons. We trust contentless morons to govern our affairs, and aren’t concerned for a moment that we’re turning the planet into a bone yard. Compared to the Infinite Glory and Perfection of God, we’re essentially dirty bags full of blood, bones and pus.
The original word for sin in Koine Greek is “Hamartia,” a term from archery which means “missing the mark.” In this sense, we’re not only dust specks, we’re also all horrific sinners. Any one of us who realizes our own imperfection should have no trouble acknowledging his or her role as a terrible sinner. We’re often mean to people for no good reason. We’re confined to this teensy, tiny planet in the middle of a vast universe, and we can’t even take care of it! (A strong argument can be made that modern Western civilization has produced an entire society of sinners; final judgement awaits further deliberation.) We should be thanking God every single day that we don’t vanish in a blink of universal quantum self-correction.
Imagine you had kids who went around the neighborhood cutting down all of the trees, stealing your neighbors’ food, pooping in the street, hitting strangers with rocks, calling people names, forcing animals to drink bleach. You wouldn’t stand for it! Those horrible kids would be sent off to boarding school, or eaten! How lucky are we, then, that we don’t get swept away by a metaphysical shrug of God’s elbow!
Okay, pause. Let’s take a breather so the reactionaries can calm down for a moment. Let’s remember what it says in the Gospel of Truth: “Don’t take error too seriously.”
You see, a lot of people don’t realize that this ‘self-mortification’ stage is just a stop on the side of the railroad, and get stuck thinking that God is one hell of a nasty sadistic voyeur. There’s a good reason for this: although it can be pretty beneficial to realize that you’re nothing more than a teensy, tiny imperfect ripple in the fabric of space/time if you’re looking to know yourself and God, it can be really easy to control you if you mistake the sin stop for the final destination. Too many unscrupulous (and some quite scrupulous) individuals realize that it’s easy to make people look at their own imperfections. After they do that, their overly introspective victims are easy to manipulate with promises of protection, or even correction.
That’s why the ‘get to know your imperfection’ stage is only the first stage on this little journey. We won’t be spending too much time here. But, it’s a really good idea to start this way, because we need to empty some of our puffed-up ego masks in order to proceed as swiftly as possible. The reason we’re doing this right now probably isn’t all that clear at the moment. It seems a little out of place to start by declaring ourselves worthless. As we continue, though, it’ll become pretty obvious why we’re doing this.
In Gnostic myth, we call the rulers of those crappy little parts of ourselves “the Archons.” Although we might like to picture them as weird, giant, many-tentacled beings who dwell in the shadows under our desks and in our closets (and there may be something to this), for the purposes of our exercise we’re going to confront the Archons who dwell in the shadows in our psyches. As you know by now, Gnostic scriptures contain long grocery-lists of Archonic beings– for instance, here’s another chunk of the Secret Book of John:
“The four chief demons are: Ephememphi, who belongs to pleasure, Yoko, who belongs to desire, Nenentophni, who belongs to grief, Blaomen, who belongs to fear. And the mother of them all is Aesthesis-Ouch-Epi-Ptoe. And from the four demons passions came forth. And from grief (came) envy, jealousy, distress, trouble, pain, callousness, anxiety, mourning, etc. And from pleasure much wickedness arises, and empty pride, and similar things. And from desire (comes) anger, wrath, and bitterness, and bitter passion, and unsatedness, and similar things. And from fear (comes) dread, fawning, agony, and shame. All of these are like useful things as well as evil things. But the insight into their true (character) is Anaro, who is the head of the material soul, for it belongs with the seven senses, Ouch-Epi-Ptoe.
It doesn’t matter where these names come from, just that they exist. You can’t face something down without naming it, and knowing something’s name can give you super-crazy power over it. By identifying our own imperfections, our own “Archons,” and recognizing them, we take the first step towards transcending them.
So, here’s our first exercise. Invest in a nice notebook and pen that you’ll use exclusively for these exercises (there’s a bit of writing we’ll be doing). You’ll be ripping some pages out of it, so a perforated one is best unless you don’t mind ripping pages out of a good one. Again, don’t use this notepad or pen for anything other than Anagogic practice.
Find a dark room, and maybe play some music that makes you feel very sad. Now, sit down with your pen and notebook and make a list of as many things about you that are imperfect as you can. Don’t stop before you reach 100, but try for 200 or even 500. They can be physical flaws or flaws of character, specific events or general concepts. It doesn’t matter how general or specific they are. They could be as specific as “mean to my brother on March 7, 1976,” or as vague as “too much hatred in my dark heart.”
Take your time– you can do it in more than one sitting if you need to, as long as you have at least 100 listed. It’s important to come up with lots of them and to PUSH yourself, because by the time you start getting down towards the end of the list, you’ll REALLY have to dig down within yourself to come up with imperfections. Don’t stop until you hit one hundred, but go even further if you can.
Now, go through that list and read it, aloud, inserting “I am” before each one (if it isn’t already there). It doesn’t matter if your housemate/significant other/dog thinks you’re insane, just do it. As you do it, verify to yourself that these items are imperfections. Now, sit back down, and rank these imperfections in order, from least imperfect to most imperfect.
Beginning with the least imperfect, ask yourself, what were/are the repercussions of each one? How did each of these imperfections figure in your life story. Jot down TWO sentences for each one as though you are your own “Inside the Music”-style biographer. Now, visualize yourself as a person who actually has all of your imperfections, but all at once. Draw a picture of that person, even if it’s just a stick figure. Write your full name above the figure, but backwards. This person is your Evil Twin– s/he looks like you, talks like you, wears your clothes, has your likes and dislikes, but represents everything about you that you hate, and that you feel is unworthy of God. Now come up with a very brief story about your Evil Twin, about how h/er life is different than yours, again writing it down.
You have just completed one of the most basic of Gnostic activities– you’ve developed a personal mythology, a story about the Archons who created your Evil Twin. (Given that this is the case, ask yourself the following question: “who is the Demiurge in this myth?”)
Take these pages– your imperfections, your ranking, your picture, your story, and put them into an envelope. This envelope is your Evil Twin; write your name on it, backwards, and hide it somewhere out of the way or difficult to get to. We’ll need it again at some point, so don’t destroy it.
Finally, once you’ve hidden your Evil Twin, congratulate yourself for successfully completing the exercise, and (this is important) go drink a glass of water.
Don’t let this exercise leave you feeling down in the dumps. Remember, these parts of yourself aren’t you. They’re the Archons, and the Archons are who we’re here to defeat. If you start to feel empty or bad after doing this exercise, drink more water and go do something you enjoy, or talk to a friend. This should be cathartic, not depressing.
Oh, something I forgot to mention in the introduction: you’ll probably want to keep a journal if you’re doing these exercises. It’s a good idea to finish each one by writing down a few brief notes about it– how you felt, what you experienced (if anything), etc. Don’t expect to feel something profound during every exercise; you’ll eventually get to it. You might not feel anything at all, especially in these early stages.
Then again, gnosis could hit you at any time during these exercises. Always pay STRICT attention! In fact, next we’ll work on cultivating your attention, because it’s very, very important.