On the Fruit of Knowledge and the Precession of the Ages

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gnostic Notebook: Volume Four: On the Fruit of Knowledge and the Precession of the Ages by Timothy James Lambert.

Lambert The Gnostic Notebook: Volume Four: On the Fruit of Knowledge and the Precession of the Ages

Reviewed on the basis of a complimentary copy received from the author. (Nevertheless, this review contains only my usual biases.)

In this fourth volume of his Gnostic Notebook series, Timothy James Lambert starts in earnest to apply the tools assembled in the first three volumes to the project that he initially forecast. Most of On the Fruit of Knowledge consists of a somewhat digressive exegesis of the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus in terms of the astrological symbolism of equinoctial precession. Lambert begins with the Age of Leo and works forward to Aries. This topic is one to which I have myself given serious attention, although I have prioritized a modern Hermetic symbol system, rather than the “Gnostic” biblical one–with its occasional odd reference to the I Ching–deployed by Lambert. (My work is in part reflected in an essay available online.) The broad outlines of our conclusions on the topic are not too dissimilar.

Throughout this work, Lambert emphasizes the ruling planet of the sign of the vernal equinox. He also includes, as a supplementary characterization, the other sign traditionally ruled by the planet in question. Thus for the Age of Taurus he stresses the symbolic attributes of Venus and also the second Venusian sign of Libra. In my experience it is more customary and more sound to orient to the vernal equinoctial sign of the age and to its complement in the autumnal equinoctial sign–which for Taurus would be Scorpio.

In a few cases, he makes some questionable leaps or contradicts himself. For example, having identified the eruption of Santorini (ca. 1628 B.C.E.) as the ultimate cause of the various plagues of Moses’ Egypt, he suggests that the guiding pillars of cloud and fire of Exodus 13 were “the active volcano in the distance, marked by its massive plume by day and lit by the glow of the molten lava at night” (129). Yet earlier, he had noted accurately, “It is unlikely that the volcanic plume being from a volcano over seven hundred miles away caused the darkness as reported in [Exodus 10:21-29]” (118), and it is no more probable that the lava’s glow would be visible at such a distance. On the whole, I think he is a little more rationalizing than the biblical narrative demands. Still, I share his essential recurring suspicions about ergot-based pharmacopoeia and venereal germ intrigue among the ancient Hebrews.

There is some fuzziness in the chapter on the Age of Gemini regarding regarding the angels or “Sons of God” who had productive congress with the daughters of men. Lambert quite forthrightly raises the question of the objective nature of these entities, and seems dismissive of Sunday School notions about them. But he doesn’t give a clear answer of his own. Are we to suppose that they were merely specially inspired humans? Spirits of psychedelic plants? Extraterrestrial intelligences? I wonder.

If you have already made an unprejudiced exploration of the first books of the Hebrew Bible with an eye to their significance in the evolution of human culture and consciousness, then this book may be a quick read on the whole. Easily half of the text consists of review of key passages from that scripture. If you have not made such study, it may be a challenge, and many of the author’s asides are likely to puzzle you. In any case, the overall thrust of the treatment is to emphasize a hidden Hebrew lore that Lambert takes to have been perpetuated in the Christian tradition represented by the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptics. He sees this tradition as countered and concealed by the Platonizing Johannine school expressed in the Fourth Gospel and the Apocryphon of John.

The principal theological divide between Lambert’s Thomasines and Johannines is essentially one of serial monotheism versus absolute monotheism. According to the Gnostic Notebook, “Jehovah” is simply a title for the presiding god of the age, and so the Marcionite concept of a Christian god distinct from the Hebrew god is extended with multiple iterations going back through the ages, a notion supposedly affirmed within Thomasine circles. The Johannines, by contrast, had a Platonist opposition to the idea that the true God could be in any way subject to change. Thus the Apocryphon of John removes God from creation entirely, abstracting Him out of the field of tangible existence, and devolving the creator role onto a debased Demiurge spawned from the menses of Sophia (164-6). Exoteric Christianity, according to Lambert, split the difference, maintaining that a single continuous God changed His character from age to age. Though Lambert doesn’t remark the fact, a vivid albeit superstitious elaboration of this doctrine can be found in modern Dispensationalism.

When viewed in the astrological terms advanced by Lambert, the precession of the equinoxes can in fact be seen as the evolution of single deity, the godhead being the sun in its changing relationship to the earth and the fixed stars. In early Platonism, the sun is closely identified with the true world and with the Demiurge, a more benevolent figure than the (Johannine) Gnostic Demiurge. An exploration of esoteric heliolatry that makes an interesting counterpoint and/or supplement to Lambert’s work is the admirable Jesus Christ: Sun of God by David Fideler, with its emphasis on neo-Pythagorean elements in Christian scripture.

Lambert does not advance under this cover to present his view of the Age of Aquarius, which he dates from 1914. (What’s a decade’s difference in twenty-one-and-a-half centuries?) Perhaps he will make some disclosures in that direction in his next volume, where he promises to treat “deeper and darker secrets” of Thomasine Gnosticism, including those contained by the Gospel of Phillip. [via]

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