Part #4: Gnostic Myth -
Literally fucking everything.

A Non-Exhaustive review.

optimisticDuelist
Aug 4, 2017 · 14 min read

It’s honestly kind of weird to me how skeptical people are on this point, so before we dive deeper, let’s recap the sheer breadth of references to Gnosticism in Homestuck.

For starters, no less than three–up to potentially five–of the human kid’s chumhandles reference Gnosticism. You’ve got the stunningly obvious ones, Jade and Roxy: gardenGnostic & tipsyGnostalgic are as direct as it gets.

Then there’s Dirk’s chumhandle, timaeusTestified, which references Timaeus, a philosophical dialogue by Plato that named and described the Demiurge, the architect God who shaped the material world. The Gnostics would later adopt this idea for Yaldabaoth, the evil ruler of physicality.

And given the number of references to Gnosticism seen here, Occam’s razor suggests two others are likely specifically Gnostic references, too:

Dave’s turntechGodhead references, well, the Godhead. Seemingly a general name used for the “Unknowable, Unseen” nature of a variety of Gods across different traditions, Godhead is one of many terms used for Abraxas in Gnostic myth.

And Jake’s golgothasTerror, commonly understood to be a reference to Christian myth, also easily reads Gnostic. Golgotha is the hill Jesus died on, but Jesus is as prominent a figure in Gnosticism as he is in Christianity.

Moving away from the simple chumhandles, Jake himself suggests quite a bit of Gnostic influence–particularly through his reflection of the mythological image of Abraxas, much as Lord English reflects the mythology behind Yaldabaoth.

There’s a pretty direct link in the ABRACADABRA reference from Jake’s BARK book (for which Abraxas is already considered a potential root word), but it’s also worth considering the way Carl Jung’s 7 Sermons to the Dead describe Abraxas. Two references are of particular interest to us.

It is the monster of the under-world, a thousand-armed polyp, coiled knot of winged serpents, frenzy.

The first is this, due to the similarity of language. Jake’s Angel-emanating Hope bubble could certainly be described as a coiled knot of winged serpents, for one thing. But more interestingly…

It is the lord of the toads and frogs, which live in the water and go up on the land, whose chorus ascendeth at noon and at midnight.

Abraxas is described as the Lord of frogs, specifically for their amphibious qualities. This puts new shades of meaning on Jake’s establishment of The Consort Kingdom, as it makes him literally lord of the amphibians.

Some esoteric elements of Aspect relationships make way more sense when parsed through a Gnostic lens, too–just as Ying-Yang philosophy can help us make sense of the Class system.

Light and Void’s status as complementary Aspects is more obvious once you consider Gnosticism’s dualistic divide between the World of Light/Ideas and the World of Darkness/Matter.

And Equius’ Void powers manifesting as super strength makes a lot more sense when you consider that in Gnosticism, the Physical realm was synonymous with the unimportant, the deceitful, and especially with Darkness.

On top of that, I’d argue that the Christian “biting of the fruit” imagery involved with the Alchemy tutorial also leans towards a Gnostic interpretation, as opposed to a more typically Christian one.

After all, biting the fruit doesn’t damn John to penance and suffering, as the Christian myth of Adam and Eve does to its protagonists. Instead, it begins an endless climb towards Enlightenment, as Sophia’s descent to physical reality does in the Gnostic myth.

And speaking of that Gnostic myth, Homestuck re-enacts it not once, but twice. Two different characters play out the role of ‘Sophia’, the Gnostic Aeon of Wisdom who attempts to interact with ‘the Unknowable’, and accidentally creates the evil God with absolute power over the physical world–Yaldabaoth.

In their acts of transgression against the boundaries of reality, these characters also create figures identifiable as “Yaldabaoths”–Gods who have complete mastery over the physical world, but cannot engage with the world of ideas.

The first of these characters is Dirk, who happens to have Yaldabaoth for a Denizen…although he never meets him, and in fact, loses his Denizen along with his planet in Collide.

Dirk’s act of creation without a partner results in AR/Lil Hal, who attains cyber-omniscience and orchestrates the events of Unite Synchronize. Just as Caliborn is linked to Jigsaw, AR is linked to Hal 9000, from

2001: A Space Odyssey, also a mastermind figure with complete control over the surroundings of his victims.

Also like Caliborn, AR is set apart in the narrative by his inability to grow up instead of by an outright blindness to abstract thought. Eternal immaturity seems to be the mark of a Yaldabaoth figure in Homestuck, rather than a complete inability to perceive ideas.

Consider that Equius and Gamzee are similarly stuntedEquius through his existence as a ghost, and Gamzee through being just That Big A Douche I Guess. Or, if we want to be specific, religious idolatry so intense it stagnates his growth as a person.

The common denominator between all components of Lord English IS that stagnation. The same stagnation Bastian falls victim to under AURYN’s power. The same stagnation that drives Giygas to madness, and Pokey to the exploitation of the Nowhere Islands, countless other worlds, and ultimately,
to The Absolutely Safe Capsule.

Which brings us back to Lord English. Calliope is the second Sophia-figure to play out the Gnostic Creation myth–with Caliborn as the Yaldabaoth she produces, also marked by a link to Yaldabaoth as his Denizen.

In her case, the “Unknowable” element she attempts to breach is the playing of Sburb itself–which she identifies as a foolish act that allowed Caliborn access to the power to become Lord English in the first place. Aranea even describes Sburb as a game Cherubs were never meant to play.

And now that we’re here, let’s unpack Lord English as Yaldabaoth a bit more. Along this series, we’ve seen a number of archetypal Lord figures that Caliborn seems to be drawn from: Bastian, Giygas, Pokey…

But there’s one that we haven’t discussed yet.

“I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,”

-Exodus 20:2–6, King James Bible

YHWH, Yahweh, The Tetragammatron: The Lord God of Christian tradition.
Yaldabaoth as originally envisioned by the Gnostics was not just a random evil God, but explicitly a criticism of the spiritual movement that would eventually consolidate into mainstream Christianity as we understand it.

As such, Lord English borrows quite a bit from the Abrahamic God of Christian tradition. Down to his very name, in fact. After all, the Bible’s first introduction to God is…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

-John 1, King James Bible

And words factor strongly into our own Lord’s construction of artifice and suffering. Doc Scratch’s precise lies of omission, The Condesce’s indoctrination of the masses through subliminal messages, movies and fiction informing the biases and self-loathing of Dave, Karkat, Jake, Dirk and almost every other character…

Culture is one of the antagonists’ most powerful tools, and that culture is transmitted through language. Indeed, you could say a common Languagea common Word–is the only thing truly binding all our protagonists together, across timelines and universes and bloodlines and species.

Lord English indeed. And even Lord English’s very existence mirrors the
Abrahamic All-Father, distributed as it is in a structure reminiscent
of a Holy Trinity.

You have Lord English as Father….

Caliborn as Messianic, Dark-Enlightenment Bound Son….

And Lil Cal as ever-present, indecipherable but suggestive Holy Ghost.

Moving back towards Lord English’s Yaldabaoth influences with this new context, I think it’s worthwhile to revisit the Realistic Red-Yellow Sun I’ve previously argued acts as a stand-in for his influence.

The sun is the mark of the nature of a Universe, and the Sun Dave sees when traumatized by his physical surroundings is the same as the one Terezi sees when being blinded by Vriska, and which all Trolls except Kanaya are noted to suffer the light of. It is bright red-orange, angry and hot and suffocating, a spiral of red in the sky that–

Wait. Wait a minute. A red spiral?

Yep, a red spiral. Pretty much the exact red spiral on Caliborn’s cheek before predominating, in fact. Caliborn even depicts the sun in that exact way in his rendition of Dave’s rooftop Ascent, marking the reality of Homosuck with his personal symbol.

He even does it on the exact same page as John bemoaning the mangling of their own story. And let’s not forget that John’s primary conflict during this whole section is the simple, astonishing shittiness of the reality that Caliborn has constructed.

Caliborn’s main form of aggression towards the characters isn’t any particularly hostile overture towards any one of them, but rather the construction of the inherently flawed and horrible reality they are all striving to escape from.
Just as with Yaldabaoth’s subjugation of humanity.

And the nature of their escape is, fittingly, best exemplified with the sequence in which John finally masters his powers. Typheus floods the chamber in Oil, encasing John in the raw, physical reality of his own imminent drowning. Suddenly, John’s existence is focused entirely on the material plane…and simultaneously, John is drowned in darkness.

Jade tells us that the only way for John to truly free himself was to imagine a third option, outside the binary–Die or Escape–presented to him.
Her language is specific: John needed not to “find” or to “notice” a third option, but to “Conceive” it: To Create, or bring into being.

And the moment he comes to that realization and begins thinking in terms of the World of Ideas, he is suddenly encased not in Darkness, but in overwhelming Light. John reaches Enlightenment over his world, and so masters his physical circumstances. Jade even references John achieving mastery over an explicitly “Confining” reality!

And the duality of that wording–The “Confining” reality and the “Conception” of Ideas–brings us to a final Gnostic symbol, and to the nature of our Protagonists’ final victory over Lord English.

And that is the symbol of the Cosmic Egg.

A motif that recurs in many of Homestuck’s influences.

The Childlike Empress enters a Cosmic Egg in order to force Bastian into saying her name, thus ending the old iteration of Fantastica and giving birth to the one Bastian will give form and texture to in the second half of the book.
In The Neverending Story, the Egg is both the jail cell of the world, and it’s origin.

Mother 3 features not one, but two Cosmic Eggs. You have the Egg of Light, an Egg containing all manner of true secrets about the world–including memories of the apocalypse scenario that led to the creation of the Nowhere Islands.

But it can be said that the Nowhere Islands themselves are an Egg, trapping the Dark Dragon within. To awaken the Dark Dragon is to destroy the Islands–the shot featured above of it’s back rising from within them is, after all, the final shot of the game. And yet, to do so is necessary for a free world to be born.

Now, Cosmic Eggs are by no means explicitly Gnostic symbols (though I could easily argue both The Neverending Story and Mother 3 are pretty Gnostic works in and of themselves). But there’s a particular concept in Gnostic literature relevant to understanding Homestuck’s relationship to the image.

A concept quoted to excellent effect in the following clip, which I highly suggest you watch:

But here’s the original quote anyway, since I trust you’ll find it relevant:

The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.

Max Demian, from Demian by Herman Hesse

The birth of a bird requires the destruction of its own world–and such an act is apocalyptic, no matter how confining the bird’s reality.

And this sentiment certainly pervades Homestuck. Dave has an egg as his Cruxite item. Calliope and Caliborn are born from a literal Cosmic egg.
Trolls and Humans alike must destroy the eggs of their home worlds to be born into Sburb, and Ascend to Godhood.

But we can go further than that, right? Surely there’s a symbolic egg in this story worthy of all my pretentious as hell build up? Of course there is. In fact, there’s likely two, though, in the end, they are one and the same.

The first of these is the Cueball, which has it’s origins in Caliborn’s God Tier clock. It seems to be a sort of ticking pendulum item, but by breaking off the timer it’s linked to and destroying his clock, Caliborn gains a permanent, unconditonal immortality, and invulnerability to all things
except Cueball-infused weaponry.

Such as the weaponry Jade has Dave make in the Pre-Retcon timeline. She claims to get her intel from the Condesce and identifies the Cueball as an item Lord English is somehow vulnerable to.

Dave, however, has a different idea:

And as it turns out, Dave’s impulse is also pretty on the money!

After all, the nature of Lord English’s indestructibility is tied to a certainty that he will never, ever change. Lord English will not grow or have any ideas other than what he had already decided on in his youth–befitting his status of Childlike Emperor and Yaldabaoth.

The egg, by contrast, is a symbol of inescapable change. The Cosmic Egg is the promise of apocalypse–that nothing is eternal, and that eventually, every world ends so another can be born. Seeing as that is a premise Caliborn so strongly rejects for himself, it is a reasonable element to counter him with.

Turns out Dave is right in identifying it as an egg! The Cueball that is Doc Scratch’s head does, after all, get used as a Literal Egg again and again
Lord English asserting his dominance over both the Cueball and Calliope in his hatching from Doc Scratch.

But in the end, the Cueball reaches Lord English in a different way.
He turns out to be able to stop the physical reality of the Cueball, but not the fundamental idea of it. In fact, in his attempts to do so,
he ends up creating it.

Because the true Cueball turns out to be the Ultimate Juju–in other words,
the Story of Homestuck!

Tex Talks has already made this case for Act 7, but it’s worth repeating because the visual language is so clear and simple. Before the Juju manifests as the House shape, it materializes as a simple white orb–indistinguishable from the Cueball.

And Vriska, standing straight and rigid like a Cue Stick, uses it like one–the Juju slamming down a shockwave and unleashing–something–at Lord English, something that will presumably pocket the 8-balls in the Black Hole that has just been created behind him, and thus ending Lord English’s Game of Billiards.

And all the while, the domain of Paradox Space that all of our characters have been trapped inside? The game space that Lord English spent countless strange eons creating? All of that falls apart around us–his world meeting it’s Apocalypse right as Lord English’s being is finally hit with the symbol of Rebirth.

And the Beta kids trapped inside the Juju shine and buzz within, the metaphorical Bird fighting its way out of its shell. It’s not just them, either. The Dreaming Dead in the Void, in need of a savior?
The Alphas, Waiting once again at the end of the Masterpiece?

The Betas may have been physically trapped in the Juju, but the entire cast has been trapped in the egg known as Homestuck from moment one–fighting to be free of the tyranny of Lord English’s constructed narrative. Struggling to be born.

Until now. All that’s left to find out is whatever the Epilogue has to show us–the resolution of the conflict between Terezi and Vriska, the way that our Heroes go from living happily on Earth C to facing down Caliborn in the Masterpiece, and most hopefully…

The nature of the world about to be born. Will we see a black End Screen, as Mother 3 gave us? Will we chart the new forms of Fantastica, as Bastian once did? Or are we in for something entirely different?

I honestly don’t have a fucking clue. But I’m excited to find out.

That’s all for now. I love you.

Keep rising.

Thanks to @betweengenesisfrogs for pointing out the link between Lord English and Cosmic Eggs! I would not have figured this shit out without you.

Also thanks to banditAffiliate for writing about Lord English’s obsessive displays of dominance over his two weaknesses–Calliope and the Cueball.
Fantastic stuff!

[Master Post]

[Patreon] [Hiveswap Discord]

Keep rising.


Originally published at revolutionaryduelist.tumblr.com.

optimisticDuelist

Written by

A Nonbinary latino psych major who wants to break the world's shell. he/him or they/them. https://www.patreon.com/optimisticDuelist

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