The early church fathers hated on the Gnostics for pumping out gospels left and right, basically content farming the ministry of Jesus Christ. Irenaeus of Lyons is perhaps the most vocal one, accusing his theological foes of such indulgences as “being discoverers and contrivers of this kind of imaginary fiction.”
In essence, Orthodoxy claimed that the Gnostics were writing Jesus fan fiction.
But there is nothing wrong with that. In truth, there is something very right with writing fan fiction on any relevant, personal icon.
To understand this ostensibly odd view of spirituality, let’s look at our greatest modern myths: comic books. Comic book protagonists may not be factual, but their impact on our psychic reality is arguably more positive than any political, religious, or economic luminary in material reality.
Also, our culture has no problem rebooting comic book protagonists, Batman and Superman being two prime examples. In fact, our culture can’t get enough of their fan fiction in various manifestations. And every reboot of Batman or Superman is a clear reflection of civilization’s wellness, our immediate relation to the cosmos, and how each one of us can transcend our very selves (and into something more altruistic or at least fulfilled).
For example, the Adam West Batman reveals a psychedelic yet more innocent era on the verge of collapsing into bad taste and suburban desperation. On the other hand, Christopher Nolan’s Batman exposes an increasingly fascist society where self-importance is the apex of the human condition!
Same Batman myth. Different Batman fan fiction. Same and different and universal lessons that point to the timeless struggle of an individual against both inner demons and an outer world lacking sanity—and perhaps some element of ultimate purpose.
All of this really comes down to the Power of Myth. Joseph Campbell really puts it all in perspective when he discusses the four functions of myth:
Traditionally, the first function of a living mythology is to reconcile consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence, that is to say, the nature of life…life is a horrendous presence and you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that…a mythological order has been set to reconcile consciousness to this fact.
The second function of mythology, then, is to present an image of the cosmos that will maintain your sense of mystical awe and explain everything that you come into contact with in the universe around you.
The third function of a mythological order is to validate and maintain a certain sociological system: a shared set of rights and wrongs, proprieties, on which your particular social unit depends for its existence.
The fourth function of mythology is psychological. The myth must carry the individual through the stages of his life, from birth through maturity through senility to death. The mythology must do so in accord with social order of his group, the cosmos as understood by his group, and the monstrous mystery.
The quote may sound intricate, but reflect on the cultural and moral differences (and similarities) between the Adam West Batman and the Christopher Nolan Batman. And what they say about your relation to your inner and outer realities.
That’s what the Gnostics were attempting when they placed Jesus through a mythic lens. Myth is the language of the spirit; that history of meaning underlying a history of facts; that public dream made manifest.
As Jungian Scholar June Singer wrote in A Gnostic Book of Hours:
Myths are true expressions of our inner selves, revealed cryptically in image, symbol, and metaphor. They are something like dreams: rationally they may not ring true, but in a psychological sense they express people’s inner processes through the use of ingenious devices that conceal what must be concealed and reveal what must be revealed.
Myth is the ultimate fan fiction of the collective unconscious, and that’s the fuel the Gnostics were mining for, whether it was the legends of Jesus Christ, Simon Magus, Mary Magdalene, or even Zoroaster.
In truth, Orthodoxy employed the same fan fiction as the Gnostics, as we have no original accounts of any of the early Christian icons, and the narrations are full of fantastic storytelling.
On Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio, I always tell listeners this dictum: Write your own gospel, living your myth.
In other words, be the author of your own fan fiction, instead of the marketing, political, and religious ghost writers hired by wickedness in high places. The myths of our saviors—in their may reboots—reveal a lot about us as beings of uncapped consciousness; but I have a feeling our own stories untouched by hating angels will truly access one of the essential result of any Gnosis: liberating self-knowledge.
Create the story that is the fiction that is your meatspace life…or someone else will do that for you. Be the mythmaker. Be the fan fiction.
To end, I will leave you with the words of William Blake, arguably one of history’s greatest mythmakers:
I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.