Gnostic Inversion: Navigating the “Mundus Imaginalis”

One could say I’m an inverted Gnostic of sorts, except that in my own view the ancient Gnostic’s literalized or ontologized their perceptions and thought of the Real. Following Plato they sought to escape this ‘world’ – the literal universe of evil as they termed it, whereas for me there is no transcension of this realm: this is it, there isn’t any supernal paradise of light sitting on the other side of that great abyss of darkness and night; and yet, what we discover is not a literal dichotomy or separation as in Plato’s two-worlds theory of a supernal eternal realm of Ideas and a mundane and evil realm of delusion, but rather it is our Mind’s, our Brains that have locked us into a perception of the world controlled by political, social, cultural, religious, and philosophical malfeasance. The world in-itself is not evil, what is evil is the dominion of our minds and hearts under regimes of power in high places that have constructed an Iron Prison of thought and feeling to trap us and suck our desires dry for their own sustenance and pleasure.

It is against the rulers of this dark prison world of mind, the Oligarchs, Plutocrats, philosophical and religious overlords of our ideological realms of acceptable thought and truth, spin doctors of political and social crapology, we fight and resist in this new gnosis. We seek to exit this system of lies, bullshit, and deceit even as we unravel and destroy its symbolic hold over our lives. For years I struggled against the separation of religious and secular forms that entrap us to false infinities: to a metaphysics of defeat and despair, pessimism and doom. Most of the world is oriented to trap us in a sense of despair and doom to make us dependent and needy, so that we will allow the State to supervene in our lives and offer assistance and numbing drugs, pharmaceuticals, therapies, etc. to realign us to its prison system and put us back asleep, provide us a perfect road to oblivion becoming in the process robotically compliant to the work and labour of creating surplus value for the wealthy and powerful. What these fat cat wannabee Archons of bullshit seek above all is a hypernormalised society of stupids they can suck dry for their own sadomasochistic pleasures… who the hell wants that?

It’s time to exit the zoo of this dark world, make our way toward a fucking real planet where people can learn to give a shit again about themselves and others, stop pounding each other with bombs and death; stop hustling the innocent and needy migrants into cages; stop colluding with a system of Death that has made us all into zombie maniacs…

Gnostic Inversion: From Literal to Figurative Breakout

People tend to confuse my use of the ancient Gnostic mythos with its literal religious extremism of ascetic or libertine valences.

I tend to agree with many fantastic, weird, and horror tale writers that there is as Ibn Arabi once suggested an ‘Mundus Imaginalis’ – a site of no site outside our brains filtering processes where our language and thought perceive the traces of an imaginative realm not bound by our human all too human prison of consciousness. Not unlike modern quantum physics that models these invisible processes beyond the threshold of our ability to know with symbolic relations (i.e., in the case of physics with mathematic models that then may take decades to prove, etc.). It’s this in-between realm between what we perceive to be and what ‘is’ that what Zizek-Lacan term the Real is confronted – any realism is confronted by what resists us rather than by any logic or systematic effort on our part to construct it. The Real is that which is invisible to our empirical relations to the world accept as it impinges on those factual facticities.

Mundus Imaginalis

Henri Corbin (1903 – 1978) a Sufi scholar coined the term “Mundus Imaginalis” to explain to Westerners the Sufi account of a territory that exists between the physical, sensory world and the spirit world (which Plato saw as consisting of ideal forms, but which some conceptualize as formless). This intermediate world has its own consistent topography, but is also constantly influenced and shaped by the physical and the spiritual worlds.

In my own account there is no Platonic world of forms, Ideas; there is as dialectical materialism suggests the appearance of appearance in which form and formless interject into each other influences which are neither the one or the other but commingle in this intermediate realm to produce something of a Third Relation. Ideas (forms) arise with appearances as in quantum mechanics particles arise and vanish contiguously.

At the border of consciousness we become entangled with what is not-conscious (i.e., what our brain filters out and we cannot thereby perceive as ‘real’). It’s on this border in-between that we commingle with the Outside in the ‘Mundus Imaginalis’ influenced by and influencing each other.

Corbin also used the term “active imagination,” which he may have got from Jung, or may have developed simultaneously. It is a method of perception and exploration that is supposed to straddle the physical world and the Mundus Imaginalis, allowing interplay between them. That our brains through evolutionary processes have closed the door on most of what is, giving us only what we need to survive and propagate we struggle to understand the forces, things, entities outside that filter. It’s the negotiation between form and formlessness, the navigation of the Outside which resists us; this strange realm of intermediation in which reality as it is against the reality we know and perceive that structures the Real.

Against any naïve realism the current crop of speculative realists suggest that the world is not as it seems, but is much more non-human than we can even imagine. We’ve allowed our all-too-centered human concerns for survival and propagation to bind us to the genetic codes and filters of our brain’s basic and integral function as an evolutionary process. In our own time this is being questioned, and doors onto advancing out of and past our own minimalistic brain functions through external process of self-fabrication and self-evolutionary processes of experimentation may one day take us far beyond the embedded state of our physical being as humans. What David Roden in his disconnection thesis projects through every widening exits of Wide Humans into the singularity of some posthuman other (of which we cannot know or speak at present).

To me the use of Gnostic mythos as philosophical allegory rather than a literalist belief in actual entities beyond our perception. I use it as a tool to unlock our ideological constructs and mental prisons that those in power seek to use to control society. Whatever the religious use of it was is beyond me, I use horror and the weird as tools to embrace an alternative vision; and, although it appears to accept the dictum of a malevolence behind the curtain so to speak, this should not in my mind be taken ‘literally’, but figuratively as a trope of the mind’s quest to break through the ideological prison or Matrix we are currently trapped in.

Gnostic Novels and Horror

Lawrence Durrell is one of the most overt Gnostic writers in mainstream literature, both is Alexandria Quartet and his later, post-war The Avignon Quintet he used major themes from this heterodox realms of gnosis. As in this statement from Monsieur, or The Prince of Darkness:.

Man is in a trap … and goodness avails him nothing in the new dispensation. There is nobody now to care one way or the other. Good and evil, pessimism and optimism–are a question of blood group, not angelic disposition. Whoever it was that used to heed us and care for us, who had concern for our fate and the world’s, has been replaced by another who glories in our servitude to matter, and to the basest part of our own natures.
–LAWRENCE DURRELL, Monsieur, or The Prince of Darkness

A few authors whose works present a Gnostic mythos:

John Crowley’s Aegypt Cycle
Malcom Lowery’s Under the Volcano
Doris Lessing’s Shikasta novels
David Lindsey’s A Voyage to Arcturus
Cormac McCarthy’s dark Southern Gothic and his Western Lands works
Collen Clements five-volume Biography of Lucifer
Beyond that one can find it used either overtly or in parody/gest in many horror writers…

Many of the horror writers have taken a left-hand path or Luciferian gnosis by way of the negative ecstasy of infernal paradises etc. into their works, inverting the underlying a-cosmic schemes of the actual historic Gnostics for a more secular and materialist mysticism of the immanent-transcendence variety (horizontal rather than vertical). Following in the footsteps of those 19th Century fabricators of the occult, satanic, and decadent late romanticism these writers would offer a vision not of some supernal city of light and peace, but rather a dark hinterland of cosmic night described by John Doe in Thomas Ligotti’s The Frolic:

“We leave this behind in your capable hands, for in the black-foaming gutters and back alley of paradise, in the dank windowless gloom of some intergalactic cellar, in the hollow pearly whorls found in sewerlike seas, in starless cities of insanity, and in their slums . . . my awestruck little deer and I have gone frolicking.”

This sense of finding in the sewers of nightmarish wastelands and deliriums of the backwater slums of the universal decay a world of awe and wonder filled with the dark pleasures of a sadomasochistic cosmos. This is the kenoma or vastation of he Luciferian nightmare realm of paradise’s inferno…

Though it has gone largely unrecognized in the critical literature on Bataille, dream and the unconscious are intimately related to the sacred in Bataille’s thought. Understanding this connection requires an account of Bataille’s conception of the sacred as an ambivalent force that, when accessed through sacrificial acts, engenders an ecstatic loss of self. Th is loss of self corresponds with Bataille’s idiosyncratic notion of sovereignty, which is related to an escape from the “servile” world of instrumental reason—the sphere of the profane. (Jeremy Biles, Negative Ecstasies)

It’s this need for self-sacrificial loss of self in the ecstasy of horror that seems most poignant in Ligotti’s oeuvre as well. The horror of consciousness is central to his horror, and the various angels of approach to the annihilation of our ego-based relations seems central to many of the themes in Ligotti’s tales.

One feels it in Ligotti’s The Shadow at the Bottom of the World:

In sleep we were consumed by the feverish life of the earth, cast among a ripe, fairly rotting world of strange growth and transformation. We took a place within a darkly flourishing landscape where even the air was ripened into ruddy hues and everything wore the wrinkled grimace of decay, the mottled complexion of old flesh. The face of the land itself was knotted with so many other faces, ones that were corrupted by vile impulses. Grotesque expressions were molding themselves into the darkish grooves of ancient bark and the whorls of withered leaf; pulpy, misshapen features peered out of damp furrows; and the crisp skin of stalks and dead seeds split into a multitude of crooked smiles. All was a freakish mask painted with russet, rashy colors—colors that bled with a virulent intensity, so rich and vibrant that things trembled with their own ripeness. But despite this gross palpability, there remained something spectral at the heart of these dreams. It moved in shadow, a presence that was in the world of solid forms but not of it.