CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

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The 2002 CESNUR International Conference

Minority Religions, Social Change, and Freedom of Conscience

Salt Lake City and Provo (Utah), June 20-23, 2002

From the man-of-matter to the Man-of-Light : myth or reality ?

by Pierre Gohar, PhD
A paper presented at CESNUR 2002 International Conference, Salt Lake City and Provo. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author


 In 1990, in the Netherlands a work, was published entitled: "The gnostic mysteries of the Pistis Sophia". The author was Jan Van Rijckenborgh, who founded the Spiritual School of the Golden Rosycross, a school of gnostic philosophy, in 1924. The author produced a modern and dynamic commentary of this writing "Pistis Sophia" attributed to Valentinus, a gnostic master who lived in the second century. As underlined by H. Corbin in his book " The Man of Light in the Iranian Soufism", Pistis Sophia can be considered as the New Testament of the religion of the Man of Light [1].

The Pistis Sophia contains all the great gnostic ideas: the concepts of forgetting, calling, awakening, quest and return. The main character of the Pistis Sophia is light; the Pistis awakens and stimulates the disturbance that urges us to seek whereas the Sophia addresses the "inhabitants of the limit" of whom Paul speaks in the Epistle to Ephesians (3,19) so that they might be made free from the nature of time and space and may rise up to the "Kingdom of Light".


The gnostics always discern two light fields. The first one organises our entire universe of space and time. All biological and human life can be explained by these radiations. The second one, which is unknown, is the one that organises the universe of the gnostics, that "Kingdom of Light" which is not of this world, but to which the Gospel of John (18,3) alludes, and which Valentinus calls the Sophia.  Man is thus receptive to the light of this nature but also to the Light of the Sophia which inspires him a new desire. We can see in the Pistis Sophia that this desire is a prayer, a soul cry for another light: Be my saviour, o light; yes, save me and lead me up to your light ... Lead me and give me your grace by your mystery name. For the Gnostics, to cross the threshold of that door has always been the true purpose of human beings, the meeting with Christ.

The Man-of-Light

We've just briefly caught a glimpse of the duality of the gnostic vision of light. As we noted beforehand, the first light radiation field concerns our world and its influences are widely studied by all the sciences of nature. The man of science, be he a biologist or a physician, thus knows that light plays a determining part in the development of all the structures he studies or observes. None of vegetal, animal, or human is free from a constant relation to light. Light brings the necessary energy and heat to develop life. And in the heart of the atom itself, the photon -a fundamental component of light - is the vehicle of the electromagnetic interactions between the electron and the nucleus. Here, light confers cohesion to the atomic building. So, from the infinitely small to the infinitely great, light is a fundamental factor of development and organisation, without which the universe would be in the primitive state of the original chaos. For human, light is equally essential and science has reached, at the present time, a noticeable insight concerning the relationship connecting man and light.

In Germany, Professor Popp has shown that the light exchanges between a living cell and its environment are of utmost importance [2].
In these studies, light is not only a vehicle for heat and energy, but is mostly in terms of vector organisation. Pr Popp also sets as a hypothesis that the helicoïdal structure of DNA is consonant with that of an optimized antenna to capture, store and radiate the properties of electromagnetic fields that are typical of coherent light. Thus, we are entitled to ask ourselves if the different life forms are not structured and organised to capture and radiate light. That question is revolutionary: it radically turns upside down our scientific vision of the relationship between life and its environment in which the electromagnetic fields, such as the field of light radiations, play an important part. So one of the essential functions of biological life would be to receive and radiate light, which confirms Jan Van Rijckenborgh when he writes: what comes first are not the creatures, but the light-forces [3].

As for the mystic, he is, like the man of science, convinced of the fundamental action of light. But the characteristics of that light are not of the natural phenomena that we have just indicated. For the mystic, light possesses properties that are not quantifiable and the experience of its properties is exclusively an inner experience, which is the origin of many controversies concerning the reality of such experiences. However, we can note, throughout the literature of the previous centuries, a similarity in the testimonies of spiritualists who have been in contact with the Spiritual Light. We'll use the terminology "Spiritual Light" - similar to the Light of the Sophia that we spoke about in our introduction - to make a clear disctinction between it and the light radiation of our nature. It is with this Spiritual Light that has been confronted Jacob Boehme, a German mystic, in the 16th century when he related his first inner illumination: In that light my spirit at once saw through all things, and reckoned in all creatures, in the plants and the grass, what is God, and how he is, and what is his will. And at once too, in that light, my will felt carried, by a great impulse, to describe the being of God [4]. Then he adds: In that seeking and yearning the door opened before me so that I could see and learn in a quater of an hour more than if I had attended University for many years. This greatly astounded me, I didn't know how it could have happened and my heart began to praise God. This testimony of Jacob Boehme confirms that the inner experiencing of the Spiritual Light confers a knowledge that transcends and encompasses the one offered us by an exclusively intellectual approach. Here too, we can note that one of the fundamental properties of the Spiritual Light is information - other authors have chosen the term Word or Sound - and this information contains the whole development plan of the macrocosm, as Jacob Boehme attests in his writings. We could here, of course, also refer to the book of John in Revelations, which reveals in veiled terms the many transformations operating to enable the resurrection of the Man-of-Light. And also to the extraordinary experience Paul had on his way to Damascus, which is reported in Book of Acts: As he approached Damascus, suddenly a light shone all around him. He fell on his face. (Acts 9,3). And later in his life, referring to that episode, Paul notes: "I know a man in Christ who, 14 years ago - was it in his body? I don't know; was it out of his body? I don't know, God knows - was ravished up to the third heavens". The ecstasy that Paul knew brings us to the one shared by the disciple of Hermes Trismegistos when he meets the Spiritual Light. In the book Pymander from Hermes’ Corpus Hermeticum, which has been attributed to the neo-platonic schools at the beginning of the christian era, but of older inspiration, Pymander, the Spirit, appears in an vision where all becomes one light, serene yet exalted, the contemplation of which gives extreme delight. However, Paul adds a clarification concerning his ecstasy which reveals his true gnostic orientation: "I would glorify of such a man, but of myself, I would not glorify, unless of my weaknesses", making a very clear point concerning one of the highest mysteries of gnostic christianity: the mystery of man having two souls, of the dual nature of man to which Hermes also refers when he says: That is why, man alone is dual, namely, mortal as to the body and immortal as to the essential Man [5].

The two realities

That duality in man is the reflection of the duality that structures the universe. Various quantum physics experiments, more specifically the ones concerning the wave-corpuscle duality, underscore the fact that we don't know reality, and we cannot know it. The experimenters qualify that state of reality as "undetermined", masking behind that term the inability of our consciousness, in its present state, to gain access to the full knowledge of Reality. To lift the veil of this mystery, we must now turn towards the ancient myths and describe, in brief, the dual vision of the universe. In this vision, the Earth is perceived as a place of passage for man, the path of initiation to the state of becoming a Spiritual Man, a Man-of- Light, which is the only reason for the human adventure. If man fails in this trial, he then is condemned to reincarnation in the place of exile about which Empedocle, a greek philosopher before Socrates, testified in antiquity: Exiled from God, doomed to hate, to furious delirium, I wept and sobbed as I saw that strange place. I wept and moaned as I saw that dwelling which was strange to me. If man succeeds in building his light vesture, he is then ennobled to the status of citizen of the "Kingdom of Light" as, here too, the Pistis Sophia attests: When I saw the vesture which was sent to me ... I immediately wrapped myself in it. The light radiated from me in an extraordinary way, I rose up on High and arrived before the doors of heaven, prodigiously shining by virtue of the immense light surrounding me. The doors of heaven shook and all of them opened together. And as another echo of the rising of the Pistis Sophia, is the Gnostic, syriac poem of the "Hymn of the Pearl", dated 936 c.e., which describes the initiate rising into the original kingdom, clothed into a pure Light vesture. Here is an extract: "The vesture appeared all of a sudden then I saw it before me as a mirror of myself. I saw it all in me, and I was all in it, for two were we in division, but one again were we in a unique form. I put it on and climbed again to the Door of salvation and adoration" [6]. In various and numerous movements of spiritual thought, that other kingdom is considered a reality, we could even say the only reality, the realisation of which constitutes the whole of our life’s work. As an example, we could take the Cathar Brotherhood, an authentic Christian Church, which spread from the southwest of France, during the 12th century. It founded its whole system of initiation on this profound life-work: to awaken the soul and to bring it back into the Kingdom of Light through the "way of the stars" or, as an anonymous Cathar treatise expresses it: "But as they are many who care nothing about the other world and of other creatures, and are only interested  in this one - bad, vain, perishable - and who, as they came undoubtedly from nothingness will return to nothingness; we'll say, for us, that there is another world and other creatures imperishable and eternal, in which dwell our joy and hope." Other authors have also expressed, in the following centuries, in writings often condemned by religious authorities, their quest for this other Kingdom. Some of them include: Thomas More, author of "Utopia" written in 1516, Valentin Andreae, author of "Christianopolis" written in 1619,"Civitas Sol" (The City of the Sun) from T. Campanella in 1623 and Francis Bacon who had his major work, "Nova Atlantis", published in 1624. All these writings describe an ideal society founded upon Brotherhood, Freedom, and Equality. "With time will the hidden truth appear": this inscription in "Nova Atlantis" is an invitation, to the one who knows how to read beyond words, to discover that the "New Atlantis", is the spiritual continent - the other reality - on the banks of which the Soul, living anew, comes after its long exile in the darkness of our Spiritless world.

That other reality is totally unknown to science. But some works, like those of the french Professor Dutheil, show that the coexistence of two universes, which he calls "super-luminous" and "under-luminous", is plausible as long as we introduce the hypothesis in theoretical calculations of a speed faster than light. That hypothesis is incompatible with the theory of general relativity upon which a great number of modern physics developments have been founded since the beginning of the 20th century. In the superluminous universe, the fundamental component is information, time disappears and consciousness is omnipresent. Professor Dutheil explains, in his theory, the state of consciousness that occurs in near death experiences (NDE : Near Death Experience) [7].


We have just seen in writings - both ancient and modern - that descriptions of the quest for light and the ascension to the "Kingdom of Light" are numerous, even if the reader must consciously detect the specific criteria of gnostic thought. Numerous also are the signs which foretell the advent of a new science which will close the cartesian thought era and will open the era of a sacred science - widely exposed in the works of Jan Van Rijckenborgh - in which the man-of-matter will no longer be known as a simple biological mechanism but will be acknowledged as the forerunner of the man-of-light and which - as the gnostic work of the Pistis Sophia tells us - will lead the souls into the light of lights, to the place of truth and goodness, to the place where there is no more form, but a constant and ineffable light.


  1. Henry Corbin, L’Homme de Lumière dans le Soufisme Iranien, Editions Présence, 1971, p. 26 [back]
  2. Dr Fritz- A. Popp - Biologie de la Lumière - Marco Pietteur Ed., 1989 [back]
  3. Jan Van Rijckenborgh - Les Mystères Gnostiques de la Pistis Sophia - Rozekruis Pers Ed., 1998, p. 510 [back]
  4. Jacob Boehme - Confessions - Fayard Ed., 1973, p. 23 [back]
  5. Jan Van Rijckenborgh, La Gnose Originelle Egyptienne T.1, Rozekruis Pers Ed., 1991, p. 29) [back]
  6. The Hymn of the Pearl, Jacques Ménard, Cariscript Paris Ed., 1991 [back]
  7. R. Dutheil - L'Homme Superlumineux - Sand Ed., 1990  [back]

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