Reading Revelation and The Apocryphon of John, I am reminded of how four-color the gnostic material can get. It is as lurid and dramatic after their own fashion as any pulpy comic. Heck, the madcap world into which Jack Kirby projected his superheroes has much in common with that of the gnostics, composed as it is of a confusing panoply of alien worlds and cosmic powers entangled with the more mundane happenings of Earth.
I am reminded, too, that there are phases in my work when it feels like I could launch into those sorts of worlds. When I was younger, I could get entangled in them. It wasn’t exactly spiritual, almost obsessional, manifesting as fiction writing through which I would elaborate other world. The fiction these bouts produced were as baroque as Kirby or the gnostics, though I imagine less elegantly executed.
Even now, in the process of pursuing my work, I will have spells where the work will flower into complex knots of history, myth, dream, and fiction. The difference between then and now is simply that I don’t invest much into those flowerings. They happen, I let them happen, and I enjoy them, but I know that with a little time they will fade and I will back to the core of my work.
Besides their pleasing headiness, they also serve a purpose. Much spiritual work is subtle, it occurs beneath the level where concepts can be easily applied to them. In these flowering moments, it is easier to get a sense of what it is that is developing at this lower level. They are something of a diagnostic, containing in the configuration of their petals and the quality of their scent a clue as to the state of the work and sometimes even a clue as to where the next phase of the work must go.
At their most perfect expression, they are themselves the vessel in which the next phase of the work will transpire. The spirit images dancing around the stamen become the models through which the next mysteries will be mediated.
Still, all of those flowers will fade and I will return to sifting through dirt and leaves, walking in the woods, praying in front of shrines, listening to the flashes of spirit, and feeling their rippling beneath my skin. Names will fade, voices will fade, but the raw course of the work will remain.
I’m a strange sort of gnostic, I guess. I don’t see my work as aimed precisely at getting home, but of manifesting in this material world a destiny intended to operate upon this world, upon this black iron prison. To do that, you need material that communicates with the grosser substance of this world, you need the exquisite monsters to carry the code. Less a matter of salvage and escape and more a matter of terraform and save.
You have to be careful because the prison seeks to capture and these rich dreams can lead us down the road to becoming lotus eaters. Caution ought not turn us toward resentment.