Edited Extracts from a longer piece by Miguel Conner which is available to read here ~
”Since its release almost a generation ago, Fight Club has evolved beyond cultish status as a civilization game changer and modern mythopoeia for the dreaming masses. It is certainly one of my favorite movies. I agree with The New York Times when it said Fight Club was a “cultural mother lode” and the “the defining cult movie of our time.”
But one intriguing (and mostly overlooked) aspect of Fight Club is that it is essentially a Gnostic Gospel of high heresy. And understanding this aspect of this vital film is vitally important for understand the social relevance of the Gnostics today.”
(First Conner summarises the ‘Five Rules’ of Gnosticism.)
The Gnosis Rule: Gnosis (from the Greek for “knowledge) is a special type of spiritual downloading from higher planes of consciousness. It is a revelatory process that educates us to our true, alien nature, while simultaneously exposing the synthetic nature of sensible reality. Gnosis is not your boilerplate mystic orgasm, but more of a slow simmer into scalding enlightenment.
“Salvific knowing, arrived at intuitively but facilitated by various stimuli, including the teaching and mysteries brought to humans by messengers of divinity from outside the cosmos.” ~ Stephan Hoeller
The Two-World Rule: We live in a counterfeit reality. Whether this counterfeit reality is benign or malignant is a matter of debate……Regardless, our spirit belongs elsewhere, in a half-remembered home beyond carefully constructed veils of illusion. Ignoring this truth results in negative existentialist conditions: alienation, loneliness, dissatisfaction.
The Gnostic Revealer Rule: A messenger of divinity makes contact with us, stirring within our hearts an astral recollection we may or may not pay heed to….The Gnostic Revealer doesn’t have to be human or even material, a reflex of the active imagination Jung wrote about—the protagonist’s projected thirst for psychic relief.
The Archon Rule: Cosmic forces or earthly agencies (or both) keep us from daring to discover our true nature as supramundane beings. The Gnostics never contended these entities were intrinsically evil, but they certainly enjoyed feeding off our ignorance or inner light. These Archons (Greek for “princes” or “rulers”) hate nothing more than an awakened individual, and they will go to any measure to maintain the status quo.
The Divine Wisdom Rule: A manifestation of the Divine Feminine archetype enters the fray between Archons and an arising soul. She can be the Gnostic Revealer, the awakened individual, or a didactic antagonist (or all three). However, she is decisively her own character with her own agenda, not necessarily part of the rubric of the storyline.
With these rules established, as well as some spoilers, let us to the Gnostic themes in Fight Club (and if you haven’t seen the film yet, ignorance is surely your bliss).
The plot of Fight Club centers around the grinding apocalypse of the main character, referred to as the narrator (played by Edward Norton). He may seem to gain decisive disclosure with each event of Gnosis, but he’s actually migrating across levels of understanding of himself and the world around him. In one scene, face beaten after a night of fight club, the narrator explicates the Bataan Death March that is Gnosis with this quote: “Yes, these are bruises from fighting…, yes, I am comfortable with that…I am enlightened.”
With this in mind, we can see how Gnosis continues to drip down the movie’s steep plot until the dam of reality breaks at the end.
The narrator lingers in a counterfeit reality known as Western Culture. He spends his time filling a void with sugary pursuits like ordering furniture from catalogues, while mechanically working a job that bolsters the plantation systems around him. This all results in the narrator believing he’s inflicted with insomnia, when in reality he is sleepwalking through life…
As the movie progresses, the narrator peels off the bondages of sleepiness. In fact, the process in which the narrator awakens can be related to the teachings of a Gnostic sect called the Valentinians. These Platonic Christians proposed that humanity was divided into three races: Hylic, Psychic and Pneumatic. However, an argument can be made that these races were more like modes of existence (considering that to the Valentinians all was a seed of potential where even the dreaded Archons could be redeemed, and no issue was beyond philosophical re-interpretation).
The three modes of existence can then be described as:
Hylic (Greek for “flesh”): A state of languishing in interests of the flesh.
Psychic Stage (Greek for “mind”): A state of blended matter and spirit, in struggle.
Pneumatic (Greek for “spirit”): A state of spiritual clarity.
The narrator in Fight Club undergoes these three modes of existence. At first he lingers in the Hylic mode, immersing himself in a consumer orgy, until his crumbling mental health sends him to the Psychic mode, depicted by his finding solace in various support groups at hospitals. But the emotional gifts of group therapy are not enough, ushering another state of crisis. The narrator gradually enters the Pneumatic mode, completely renouncing his former life and experiencing a complete freedom.
It’s obvious who (the Gnostic Revealer) is: Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt). It’s also obvious that Tyler’s presence and teachings fuel the narrator’s journey up the modes of existence and into a fierce state of self-awareness.
What isn’t that obvious is that Tyler is the narrator’s alter ego— an imaginary outcrop of all of his hopes and resentments. Tyler may not be material, but he is actually more real than the narrator…
Tyler and the narrator’s relationship correlates perfectly with the Gnostic and Hellenist concept of the Daemon (Greek for “helper”). In short, the Daemon is an individual’s discarnate heavenly avatar that aids the Eidolon, the individual’s material lower avatar. In myth and theology, the Daemon could take apparent human form and could indeed be a Gnostic Revealer.
This interplay of Daemon/Eidolon transpires often in the Nag Hammadi library, such as in Asclepius, where a hierophant instructs a pupil on the mysteries of the universe. In these writings, there is an electric sense that this is all one consciousness speaking to itself in a theatric stage constructed by the imagination.
Just as Daemon Jesus instructed Eidolon Paul to begin a Jewish Mystery Religion, Daemon Tyler instructs Eidolon narrator to begin a postmodern Mystery Religion called Fight Club.
The Archon Rule.
It is abundantly clear that Fight Club is a story about the struggle of a man against the oppressive systems of the cosmos….As with the Sethians, Fight Club is not just satisfied with a mere jihad on a bloated consumer culture and corrupt capitalism. The Gnostics exposed the gods of this world, identifying such figures as Jehovah of the Old Testament as a bullying and bureaucratic demon corralling humanity’s celestial aspect in matter.
Fight Club brazenly picks up this vibe, as seen with these quotes by Tyler:
“You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you, he never wanted you,
and in all probability he hates you?”
“Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”
“F**k damnation, f**k redemption. We are God’s unwanted children, so be it!”
(Enter the Divine Feminine)
As mentioned before, the Divine Feminine in Gnosticism serves many purposes in her assistance to humanity, truly a trickster deity with many (accessorized) masks. She is a dreamlike force irritating the order of the universe, a beckoning call from primordial states of existence. The Gnostics employed many enigmatic and luminary heroines in their accounts, including Sophia, Eve, Helen of Troy and Mary Magdalene.
Marla is a complex figure, busy on her own journey and rebellion, a perfect modern representation of the Divine Feminine Rule. In such writings as On the Origin of the World or the Secret Book of John, the Divine Feminine weaves in and out of the narrative, taking on different characters and characteristics, often as Machiavellian as the Archons. Marla does likewise, popping in and out of Fight Club in varied archetypal roles like the lover, the damsel in distress, or the wise crone.
In other Gnostic writings, the Divine Feminine in her aspect of Sophia is lost in the material realms, seeking to unify with her consort to attain redemption. In some accounts, her consort is an aspect of the Cosmic Christ, or the Divine Reason of the godhead. To put it simply and less allegorically: wisdom must consort with knowledge to forge any manner of individuation.
In Fight Club, we witness this sacred marriage. At the end of the film, Marla and the narrator (now one with Tyler), hold hands while witnessing the ostensible destruction of civilization. The symbolism is apparent: the false world disintegrates once an individual integrates with his Daemon to become a living Christ, and then harmonizes Divine Reason and Divine Wisdom that were all along housed in the universe that is his mind.”
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