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Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief.

NOT IN HIS IMAGE: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief by John Lamb Lash. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006. xix + 441 pages, index. Paperback; $21.95. ISBN: 193149892X. The author (born 1945), who lives in Europe, has written a number of books, including The Hero--Manhood and Power. His biography does not mention his education or professional qualifications. He is principal author of, a project funded by the Marion Institute, Marion, Massachusetts.

This book's twenty-six chapters are grouped into four parts: how Gnosticism was suppressed, what Gnosticism is, the bad effects of its suppression, and the benefits its revival could bring. A picture ornaments the first page of each part. The book continues with an Afterword in which another writer, Derrick Jensen, lavishes praise on what Lash has accomplished, particularly in showing the evil nature of Christianity. Lash then provides 324 notes referred to in the text; next a glossary of unfamiliar terms and familiar ones used with modified, mystical meanings; and finally suggestions for further readings. Although the index has over six hundred entries, several times it did not lead me to a topic I wanted to find again.

Lash opens dramatically with the murder in AD 415 by a mob, urged on by fanatical Christian Peter the Reader, of kind and elegant Hypatia, a wise teacher of the knowledge cultivated by the Gnostics and the adepts of the Mysteries. This deed is but one of many wrongs perpetrated by humans deceived by sinister Christianity, which with Judaism and Islam, constitutes "salvationism: the totalitarian belief system that asserts divine intercession in human history, and imbues suffering with redemptive value ... assumes superhuman rescue of humanity from its problems and off-planet, remote-control authority on morals, and divine retribution." Those harmed and betrayed by this patriarchal system often succumb to the "insidious tendency" to become "emotionally attached and morally identified with those who harm and betray them," so that some victims become perpetrators in their own right. This victim-perpetrator bond is the "primary cause of the European genocide of the Americas." "Human nature is essentially good ... we need no exhortation or off-planet moral commandments to make us take care of each other and the earth."

Far from being a movement arising within Christianity, authentic Gnosticism was diametrically opposed to it, and early Christians ruthlessly destroyed Gnostic writings. Using the fragmentary materials that have survived, Lash has imaginatively reconstructed the myth of Sophia, originally a divinity with the Godhead at the galactic center, who "absorbs herself in dreaming, the cosmic process of emanation," and plunges outward, then "morphs into terrestrial form, becoming a planet herself, but an organic one, sentient and aware: the earth." Additional events in this myth account for the origin of evil and the emergence of humanity. Closely related is "Gaia theory ... loosely, the understanding that the earth is a living, sentient super-organism ..." No brief summary is possible of all the complex ideas Lash presents, into which he weaves concepts from science in bizarre ways: "variable 20-22-base systems such as the Celtic tree alphabet may be ... significant in indicating that the ancients had direct knowledge of the structure of life down to the molecular level"; "the organs and generic form of the human body are built in a creative programmatic-manner by the organizing power of the sun."

This lengthy book was tedious to read. I noticed several errors or misstatements which lessen its overall credibility. The book is an indication that the spiritual side of our lives are important, and that Christians need to live so as to make our Christian faith attractive. Both Lash and Jensen testify to being raised in Christian homes and becoming alienated. Readers may be sensitized to real problems. One is mistreatment of aboriginal peoples by churches, currently an issue in Canada with regard to residential schools. Another is the environmental crisis; while Christians seek a remedy in the context of faith, Lash asserts that Christianity is the problem: "Every reversion to redeemer theology and the ethics of Jesus undermines the quest for sacred ecology." Nevertheless, because twenty-first century Christianity is threatened much more by secular humanism than by the arcane mythology Lash offers, I believe ASA members will have little reason to read this book.

Reviewed by Charles E. Chaffey, Adjunct Professor of Natural Science, Tyndale University College, Toronto, ON, Canada M2M 4B3.
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Author:Chaffey, Charles E.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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