The last question is the toughest: Once our eyes are open to the absurdity of the world, what do we live for? It’s essentially the same question asked by Sartre and Camus in the midst of the Holocaust, but Hoeller’s reply is lit by that glimmer in his eye. He quotes the Gospel of Thomas:
“And Jesus said, ‘Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will be troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All.’”
Bishop Stephan Hoeller conducts Sunday services, and lectures at 8:00 p.m. on almost every Friday night of the year, at Ecclesia Gnostica, in its new location at 3363 Glendale Blvd. in Atwater Village. He is the author of Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing, The Gnostic Jung and The Fool’s Pilgrimage, and can be tracked down at www.gnosis.org.
The Fall of Man as seen from the Gnostic perspective
Once upon a very long time ago, when the very first Mommy and Daddy starred in the world’s first piece of Reality Programming, an unexpected snafu occurred, the sort that drives producers and program executives nuts. Mommy, whose name was Eve, began to act up. She began to question the so-called reality of her show, which was known by the title: GENESIS: In the Beginning.
Eve sat naked on her haunches beneath the forest canopy, alert as always to the sights and sounds of Eden, while Daddy, who was called Adam, snored bearishly at her side. Adam could not seem to get enough of the good things in the Garden, and spent much of his day in a somnolent state, occasionally muttering, in the peculiar argot of those times, “This is as good as it gets.”
Eve was not so sure. She had seen distorted faces reflected in dewdrops, heard urgent things in the whisper of the giant ferns. Unsettling things. She had sensed the presence of Others. And yet, there were no others, were there? Surely, the watchful eyes of the timid tree creatures could not alone account for her feeling that she walked in the shadow of another reality.
Adam’s belly was filled with the ripe fruit of the Garden; Eve’s belly was filled with Adam’s seed. She touched her swollen breasts, and it was then she heard her own name called from afar. She rose and followed the call to the depths of the forest, where there stood a tree whose alluring red fruit she had been warned in a dream not to eat. Dangling by its tail from a low branch was a creature with the body of a salamander and a face eerily familiar to Eve, a face not unlike her own.
“Who? Are? You?” the serpent mouthed.
“I don’t know,” said Eve, not having thought a lot about it.
“Why play along,” the serpent asked, “when you know the show is rigged? Why remain in prison when the cell door is open?”
“Where is this door?” asked Eve, innocently enough.
The serpent rolled its eyes upward, beyond the leafy canopy to the radiance above. Eve’s gaze followed, and lingered, and when she looked again at the tree, the shiny, red fruit was before her.
“Take. Eat,” said the serpent.
“Then I shall surely die,” said Eve.
“Only on television,” said the serpent. “Only to illusion.”
And Eve ate, and was amazed, and ran back to rouse Adam from his torpor, saying, “Try this! It’s amazing!” Adam, never one to resist a new treat, ate also of the apple, and when he had, turned to Eve and said, “Whoa.” He shook the sleep from his head, thumped his chest and roared, presumably to the show’s seldom seen Producer, ”Why didn’t you tell me it was a setup?” With a mighty groan, he stood, took Eve’s hand and said, “Let’s get dressed and get the hell out of here, honey. This is a sham.”
There were suddenly thunderous footfalls in the Garden, and Adam was sore afraid. When he came in dreams, the show’s Producer had always been a petulant screamer, forever reminding Adam of his contract and the dire consequences of asking too many questions. A nasal voice on a bullhorn honked through Eden, causing the forest creatures to tremble. “I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL IALDABAOTH, AND YOU TWO INGRATES WILL NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!”
And so began Eve and Adam’s long journey home.
—A. W. Hill