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Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief Paperback – November 1, 2006

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Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review-

Gnosticism is a label applied to a collection of religious ideas that has long exerted a certain appeal to public intellectuals and controversialists, ranging from the theologian Marcion in the 2nd century AD to literary critic Harold Bloom in our time. What attracts them, I suppose, is the conviction that the highest truths are available only to a small circle of initiates -- the Greek term gnostokoi can be translated as "those who understand divine matters, knowing what the gods know."



The latest to unfurl the banner of Gnosticism is John Lamb Lash, who describes the Gnostics of the ancient world as "the elite of Pagan intellectuals" and declares that their writings are "the explosive charge that can blow the institution of the Faith off its foundations, for good and all." By "the Faith," he means the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition in its entirety, and he intends to do nothing less than convert his readers into latter-day Gnostics.



Lash, whose publisher describes him as "an exponent of the practice of mythology," rejects much of the contemporary scholarship on Gnosticism. For example, he dismisses the work of Princeton historian Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels, because she places the texts discovered at the Egyptian archeological site of Nag Hammadi within the context of early Christianity. Such an approach, he insists, "has hampered understanding of who the Gnostics were, and why they protest so vehemently against the rise of Christianity."



Lash seeks to rescue Gnosticism from the dustbin of Christian history and restore it to its rightful place amid the splendors of pagan antiquity. To signal his admiration for the fecund religious imagination of paganism, he capitalizes the word "Pagan" as if it were a single faith rather than a phantasmagorical assortment of beliefs and practices. But he does point out that Gnosticism itself shouldn't be described as a religion or even a sect, if only because gnostokos was "the generic term for any person learned in divine matters." Above all, he insists that Gnosticism represents the path toward "spiritual deep ecology," symbolized by today's adherents of the Greek earth goddess Gaia.



Not in His Image is perhaps best compared to Robert Graves' The White Goddess, an earlier and only slightly less eccentric effort to find and explain the linkages among the fantastic variety of religious experiences in the ancient world. Like Graves, Lash is a self-invented scholar who has read widely and thought deeply. (He is the author of Quest for the Zodiac, The Hero and The Seeker's Handbook, and the co-founder of metahistory.org with a former wife, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who lived with Timothy Leary in the 1970s. And he is general executor of the estate of Jack Kerouac's daughter, Jan, to whom he also was once married.) He confidently issues pronouncements about what he calls "the wholesale genocide of Pagan culture" and prescriptions for the spiritual salvation of the world.



Lash offers this work as a corrective to the "scholarly specialization" that condemns the Gnostics to "an obscure and uncertain place on the margins of the history of religion." Along the way, he seeks to repudiate what he sees as the pigheadedness of the academic establishment. Thus, for example, he condemns biblical scholars who do not see the continuities that Lash detects between the early Christians and the religious community at Qumran. He calls them "Zaddikites," but they are better known to the lay reader as the custodians of the Dead Sea Scrolls: "They fail to realize that the message of love in the charming miracle tales of the New Testament is a sugar coating on the bitter cyanide of Zaddikite ravings."



But Lash is not concerned merely with scolding biblical scholars. His goal is to melt down the religious and philosophical ideas of antiquity and recast them as a serviceable faith for our world. In place of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, which he links to "the religious schizophrenia of the ancient Hebrews" and which he flatly condemns as "annihilation theology," he proposes that we embrace Gnosticism and what he dubs "Gaian ethics," which he describes as "not a call to faith in God, but faith in the human species."



Lash is capable of explaining the mind-bending concepts of Gnosticism and pagan mystery cults with bracing clarity and startling insight. At moments, however, he slips into a kind of New Age rant as baffling as any mystical text. "What we seek in 'Gaia theory' is a live imaginal dimension," he writes in one such passage, "not a scaffolding of cybernetic general systems cogitation." Or: "Gnosis, taken as a path of experimental mysticism, and the Sophianic vision, taken as a guiding narrative for co-evolution, can provide the spiritual dimension for deep ecology independently of the three mainstream religions derived from the Abrahamic tradition."



Even he acknowledges that his book can be "a long haul and a lot to follow" and that his line of reasoning "demands exceptional concentration from the likes of us, many of whom cannot stay in the moment for three minutes at a time."



Lash's arguments are often lively and entertaining, even when they aren't convincing. When he contends that Celtic civilization spread to the far corners of the ancient world -- "An apocryphal legend claims that John the Baptist was a Celt," he writes, "and Mary Magdalene was Circassian, half Celt, half Jewish" -- he is reduced to citing the film "Lawrence of Arabia" to support the proposition that "Celtic half-breeds survived in the Levant down into the early twentieth century."



And when he considers what he calls the "sci-fi theology" of the ancient Gnostics, he comes uncomfortably close to affirming that the otherworldly "Archons" of Gnostic myth were authentic extraterrestrials.



"It is worth noting that the first great UFO wave of the twentieth century occurred in the summer and fall of 1947 when Jean Doresse was in Cairo examining the Nag Hammadi Codices, at the very moment the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found," Lash writes. "This was also the year that the CIA was founded, with the dual intention (according to UFO conspiracy buffs) to co-opt alien technology and cut a deal with the aliens, allowing them to experiment covertly on human subjects.... In fact, a CIA agent named Miles Copeland was dispatched to Damascus to examine and photograph some of the first scroll fragments to be unearthed."



At one telling moment at the outset of his book, Lash describes how his life was transformed when, in early adolescence, he was reading a copy of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra in the back seat of the family car on the way back from an orthodontist's appointment in upstate New York. "I swore to finish what Nietzsche had begun," he declares. "I vowed to think through and live out his critique of Christianity to the end."



With Not in His Image he keeps that vow. But when Lash invites us to embrace the "high strangeness" of what he calls the "ET/Archon" hypothesis "with the Gnostic theory of alien intrusion" -- "the stranger it gets, the more sense it makes," he insists -- he passes wholly through the looking glass.





(Jonathan Kirsch)

"John Lash's Not In His Image presents a fascinating view of meanings in a sacred history long--and wrongly--suppressed. It demands profound correction of what Western civilization has been taught to call religion. It is a book that should be read by everyone."--Barbara G. Walker, author of The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Feminist Fairy Tales, and others.



"This remarkable book introduces a Gnostic approach to Sophia-Gaia, the feminine wisdom principle embodied by the earth, vividly soliciting us to embrace Her revival for our survival. When the human race revered the fertility of the earth, the perennial philosophy of human kindness and good sense, as embodied in the common laws of indigenous people the world over, was equally prominent in ancient Europe. Gyncentric societies did not know the taint of sexual apartheid; mystery cults were participatory, experiential and peaceful. The erudition and mindfulness of the Pagan world have been hugely underestimated, since the onslaught of patriarchy, symbolized by the flood, destroyed a much larger civilization than we have been lead to believe. Initiated in antediluvian times with the arrival of misogynic sky gods, it took the three monotheistic religions to achieve the undoing of the sophisticated way of life of our forebears. In Gnostic terms, evil came from outside of the matrix of the earth, from another dimension or parallel universe. Entities of this parallel dimension managed to insinuate themselves into our world. It may come as a shock to many, that the Gnostics held Yahweh to be such an entity, facilitating the promotion of the perpetrator-victim ethos of Salvationism, held to be an abomination and a fateful error. John Lash presents the stark contrast between the tenets of retribution and exploitation - of the feminine ­, and the ethos of illuminism, with its emphasis on personal experience and communion with nature, within the framework of a vast body of knowledge, reaching from the classic authors of antiquity to present-day proponents of eco-science and eco-spirituality. A fascinating read."--Susanne G. Seiler, Gaia Media News. Basel, Switzerland



"Sometimes a book changes the world. Not In His Image is such a book. It is clear, stimulating, well-researched, and sure to outrage the experts. Take it from a scientist: the 'experts' are often wrong. In fact, a hallmark of breakthroughs is that they are usually well-researched and outrage 'experts.' Science shows the importance of trusting clear thinking about direct evidence. This book is full of both. Get it. Improve not just your own life, but civilization's chances for survival." --Roger Payne, Ph.D., MacArthur Fellow, president of Ocean Alliance, author of Among Whales



"John Lamb Lash's Not in His Image is a rare achievement, combining impeccable scholarship with remarkable visionary insight. In a breathtaking tour de force, the author provides a profound analysis of the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their connections to the patriarchal system. He identifies the deep roots of the intrinsic problems of these three religions-- perpetrator-victim emphasis and salvationist ideology--and points out their relationship to the alienation and agony of modern humanity. This book is a must for everybody who is trying to understand the psychospiritual currents underlying the present global crisis." --Stanislav Grof, M.D., author of Psychology of the Future and The Cosmic Game



"Not In His Image is a brilliantly subversive and provocative work of scholarship and passion that overturns everything you ever believed about Christianity. The gnostic mysteries have found a new and eloquent champion in John Lash." --Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods



"An extraordinary and profound book. Not In His Image a blessing, and a warning that we must cease taking the terrible advice of Christianity … and that we must instead re-inhabit our own joyful, painful, mortal, beautiful bodies and fight for our lives and for the lives of those we love. This book points the way home."--Derrick Jensen, from the afterword



"What we know about the divine comes by way of three paths--through the spectacle of nature, through the testimony of spiritual seekers, and through our own inner experience, as in meditation and mystical communion. John Lamb Lash seeks to renew our understanding of all three paths, and thus to renew our sense of the divine. In particular, he challenges the otherworldly creeds that have come down to us in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and to recover the earth-based religions that preceded them. Those ecologically wise religions flourished, he reminds us, not only among the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere but also in ancient Europe. By reclaiming this pagan heritage, he argues, we can begin to cure the pathologies of genocide, war, and environmental degradation that afflict the modern world." --Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe



"Not In His Image is a stunning book. It should cause quite a furor. Lash's historical and anthropological erudition are breathtaking." --Colin Wilson, author of Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals: 100,000 Years of Lost History and The Outsider



"John Lash's heretical book is a precious act of spiritual disobedience that seeks to save the world from Salvationism. Lash opens new ground between myth and ecology, and helps one feel what the planet feels. He proposes direct knowing and moving beyond belief, and advocates animism as a proposition to test. He leaves the future open and in need of human imagination. Humanity is implicated in the future of the living planet, but Lash exercises caution when making suppositions about our role as a species. This book is learned, courageous, and full of insights. Some may find it challenging and even shocking, but it is an important read for those interested in life on earth. It is made for readers to chew on, rather than believe."--Jeremy Narby, anthropologist, author of The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge and Intelligence in Nature: An Inquiry into Knowledge

From the Publisher

"Sometimes a book changes the world. Not In His Image is such a book. It is clear, stimulating, well-researched, and sure to outrage the experts. Take it from a scientist: the 'experts' are often wrong. In fact, a hallmark of breakthroughs is that they are usually well-researched and outrage 'experts.' Science shows the importance of trusting clear thinking about direct evidence. This book is full of both. Get it. Improve not just your own life, but civilization's chances for survival."

--Roger Payne, Ph.D., MacArthur Fellow, president of Ocean Alliance, author of Among Whales

"Not In His Image is a brilliantly subversive and provocative work of scholarship and passion that overturns everything you ever believed about Christianity. The gnostic mysteries have found a new and eloquent champion in John Lash."

--Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods.

"What we know about the divine comes by way of three paths--through the spectacle of nature, through the testimony of spiritual seekers, and through our own inner experience, as in meditation and mystical communion. John Lamb Lash seeks to renew our understanding of all three paths, and thus to renew our sense of the divine. In particular, he challenges the otherworldly creeds that have come down to us in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and to recover the earth-based religions that preceded them. Those ecologically wise religions flourished, he reminds us, not only among the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere but also in ancient Europe. By reclaiming this pagan heritage, he argues, we can begin to cure the pathologies of genocide, war, and environmental degradation that afflict the modern world."

--Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe

"Not In His Image is a stunning book. It should cause quite a furor. Lash's historical and anthropological erudition are breathtaking."

--Colin Wilson, author of Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals: 100,000 Years of Lost History and The Outsider

"John Lash's heretical book is a precious act of spiritual disobedience that seeks to save the world from Salvationism. Lash opens new ground between myth and ecology, and helps one feel what the planet feels. He proposes direct knowing and moving beyond belief, and advocates animism as a proposition to test. He leaves the future open and in need of human imagination. Humanity is implicated in the future of the living planet, but Lash exercises caution when making suppositions about our role as a species. This book is learned, courageous, and full of insights. Some may find it challenging and even shocking, but it is an important read for those interested in life on earth. It is made for readers to chew on, rather than believe."

--Jeremy Narby, anthropologist, author of The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge and Intelligence in Nature: An Inquiry into Knowledge.

"John Lash's Not In His Image presents a fascinating view of meanings in a sacred history long--and wrongly--suppressed. It demands profound correction of what Western civilization has been taught to call religion. It is a book that should be read by everyone."

--Barbara G. Walker, author of The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Feminist Fairy Tales, and others.

"John Lamb Lash's Not in His Image is a rare achievement, combining impeccable scholarship with remarkable visionary insight. In a breathtaking tour de force, the author provides a profound analysis of the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their connections to the patriarchal system. He identifies the deep roots of the intrinsic problems of these three religions-- perpetrator-victim emphasis and salvationist ideology--and points out their relationship to the alienation and agony of modern humanity. This book is a must for everybody who is trying to understand the psychospiritual currents underlying the present global crisis."

--Stanislav Grof, M.D., author of Psychology of the Future and The Cosmic Game

"An extraordinary and profound book. Not In His Image a blessing, and a warning that we must cease taking the terrible advice of Christianity ... and that we must instead re-inhabit our own joyful, painful, mortal, beautiful bodies and fight for our lives and for the lives of those we love. This book points the way home."

--Derrick Jensen, from the afterword

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193149892X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931498920
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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As I'm sure many others did, I purchased this book after hearing the interview with John Lash on Coast to Coast with Ian Punnett. Punnett was critical of Lash, stating that his book did not reflect a tolerant attitude towards people of faith. After reading the book though, I believe that Lash's attitude towards the Christian world is ultimately one of compassion. The book is essentially a lamentation for a paradise lost to all of humanity. But it's the in-depth examination of HOW the Gaian Paradise of the Gnostics/Pagans was lost to Christianity that is the most riveting (and incendiary) part of this book. From the ancient Hebrew cult called the Zaddikim come the origins of what Lash calls "The Redeemer Complex", of which there are four components: the creation of the world by the male creator god; the selection of the righteous few to fulfill a divine plan; the mission of the creator's son (the messiah) in the plan; and the final, apocalyptic judgment in which the world is destroyed so that the righteous can be saved by the accomplishment of divine retribution. Unlike the Pagan divinities, this salvationist creator god is a wrathful, vindictive "off-planet landlord". The earth is void of any divinity and is simply spinning dead rock from which resources may be extracted. And so, this anti-human, corrosive ideology is rightly labeled by Lash as a peculiar kind of mental virus. And as Christianity comes on the scene, the virus goes pandemic.

But what of the Christian virtues of love, charity and good will? Lash illustrates how this was never what the Gnostics were against when they wrote of the destructive influence of the Christian Cult.
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Format: Paperback
I first encountered the work of John Lamb Lash through his website, (...), when he posted a series of pieces on "2012" -- the end of the Long Count of the Mayan Calendar -- from astrological and historical perspectives. In his essays, he defined the characteristics of various "end-time tribes" that were embodying aspects of futuristic consciousness. I began a dialogue with him on this subject, and he sent me his new book, Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief (Chelsea Green, 2006). This work is a tremendous achievement that reframes the debate about monotheism, offering a radical perspective on the destructive effects that have been unleashed by religious ideologies over the last two millennia.

Not In His Image attacks the salvationist theology of the Judeo-Christian tradition from a Gnostic perspective, making a devastating critique of the moral conditioning and deep-buried suppositions of this heritage, which has shaped the modern Western psyche. As substitute, Lash presents a counter-myth and alternative cosmology drawn from the tradition of Gnosticism, featuring the goddess Sophia, who plunged from the Pleroma to become the physical and generative Earth, and the Archons, soulless off-planet entities who use the human propensity for error to lead us into increasingly destructive deviations from our evolutionary path.

The populist and academic conception of Gnosticism considers it a radical offshoot from Christianity that was stamped out as the Holy Roman Empire gave way to the Dark Ages. Lash has a different perspective. In his view, the Gnostics were the inheritors of the wisdom and initiatory training of the Mystery Schools that flourished across the Classical World.
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Format: Hardcover
John Lash has very lucidly cleared the dust off of our religious history to reveal the true nature of the Gnostics. More tellingly, he reveals the true nature of Abrahamic religions and Salvationist Doctrine, and the toll this patriarchal view has taken on our society.

While many people attempting to leave their fundamental backgrounds behind have tried to give Jesus and the Gospels a facelift, Lash suggests the entire program be altogether scrapped. He delves deeply into what the Gnostics, or telestes, as they called themselves, had to say about their ecstatic religion. Strangely, reading the words of their enemies seems to show them in an equally refreshing light.

This is a truly scholarly work, and yet it's accessible to the lay person as well. The occasional dryness is necessary given the topic. If you have any interest at all in understanding how Western religion has brought us to this dark place filled with war, intolerance, and bigotry, read this book. You may be surprised to find it's not a deviation from religion, but a natural outgrowth of it.
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Prospective readers will do well to examine all customer reviews here; buy this book, and then think a bit more for yourself. This is a book that I have waited over fifty years to read -- and it was only published in 2006.(!)

If you're like me, here you will find the confirmation of many things you already Know; the explanation of certain things you have deeply wondered about; and the tying together of yet other things that once seemed quite unrelated. And example of the latter is what Gurdjieff called the several varieties of "Hasnamuss" and the different types of psychopathic personalities that have recently come under broad general discussion.Particularly interesting is the idea that the more powerful psychpaths are able to convert normal people into a secondary grade of psychopath. Is there a one-to-one correspondence here between "hasnamuss and "psychopath?" And are these the souls that the Archons "steal by night" as Jonh Lash mentions?

There's an old adage that when studying new ideas it's wise to attempt to connect each one to at least two other things you already know about. This establishes a broad and tripod-like understanding, not to mention the obvious aid to memory.

What are two other topics that would best be studied in conjunction with "Not In His Image," by John. L. Lash?

Well, since nobody in his right mind would buy into salvationist non-sense, we must assume that people who claim to be salvationists are either cunning psycopathic opportunists and manipulators or people who are so naive, unobserving, and unthinking that they have been converted into neurotic sheeple by the above-referenced psycopaths. So a study of Political Ponerology is certainly called for!
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