Gnosis gno-sis no-ses intuitive awareness of spiritual truths, in relation to esoteric knowledge

In my film Gnosis, there are two parallel tracts of thought that can be followed; both its cosmology and its narrative. As a narrative, it follows the path of The Artist, and Art, inserting both the author and the material as characters in a story about the relationship between the two. As a cosmology, it is an invented universe inspired by philosophy and science; viewed and reinterpreted through the lens of art.

Within modern particle physics it has become apparent that the universe is built upon the spontaneous breakage of underlying symmetry. Whether through baryogenesis or the possibility of T symmetry at the quantum level, the universe is measured through opposing scales that simultaneously depart and approach from a cohesive singularity. Similarly, Neoplatonic philosophy envisions a cosmos in which all of reality is the continuous emanation of the Monad, cascading through varying degrees of hypostasis which serve almost as philosophical phase spaces for the expansion of higher matter collapsing into lower dimensions. Later in history, Kabbalah would argue for a dynamic system, in which emanation both flows out from the Godhead as well as receives input from the emenations, serving as a complete circuit of simultaneous creation and feedback.

All of these complex ideas serve both as the foundation of the Day One chapter, and of the Gnosis film’s cosmology. Interpreted from the line in Genesis, “And God divided the light from the darkness,” here we see the separation of the complete whole into the film’s two main characters; The Artist, and Art which is the entirety of physical space separated from the Artist. Lost in the existence of individuation, the Artist begins its journey manipulating physical space in search for Self Image, as its counterpart is the only true way to return to the whole.

    On Day Two The Artist takes this initial separation between themself and Art, Black and White, these two fundamentals, and creates further degrees of complexity symbolically represented as color. This visualization is inspired by the line “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament…” The term firmament is used to describe the dome that separates heaven from earth. This idea of waters above and waters below, only distinguished by a subtle and invisible barrier made me visualize layers within digital art software, and I wanted to depict the expansion of color as such. This creation of color as a hypostasis between Art and the Artist should be thought of more as an exploration into new territory driven by the Artist’s search for Self Image. The line art of day one was a simple stick figure, and a failure in the eyes of the Artist. This initial sketch can be thought of as a phase space, the fullest limits of Day One’s limitations, where in order to try again a new axis of variation needs to be reached; like a flatlander reaching into the third dimension. Even with color though, a stick figure is still a stick figure.


A common motif within ancient cosmogony, especially those from Mesopotamia and Egypt is the idea of the primordial waters, a representation of potentiality from which all of creation emerges. Within modern physics, the ninth dimension is thought of in a similar way; a mass of atomic foam from which every potential reality exists simultaneously in a superposition that collapses into lower dimensions once they form determined variables. The transition into Day Three similarly pulls from the iconography of solid foundations arising from the waters. “Let the waters under heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear…” From this line I’ve reinterpreted land to be physical, three dimensional form, with the iconography of green wires in the film harkening to analog computer graphics. “Let the earth put forth grass…” This command for vegetation is not the creation that some might assume, but the command for the barren earth to be fertile and produce. This connotation of impregnation is furthered by the penetration of the Artist’s finger, digging into the earth. Wriggling tubes of clay intermingle and gush out from the earth, a geyser of meat and flesh. The Artist takes this three dimensionality and applies it to the skeleton of their sketch, detail temporarily transforming Art into the perfection of the Vitruvian Man, only for it still to be a false image of its creator.

    So far the development of the world in Gnosis has mainly been a linear march from the abstractness of potentiality to the solidity of figural form, and this is the Artist’s intention. However in Day Four there is a regression back into more abstract ideas, representing an overall slip of confidence in the Artist’s own abilities, and showcasing the first warning signs of the loss of control over Art. The line “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years…” ultimately is referring to the creation of celestial bodies, which were used in ancient times for both the tracking of the calendar the practice of divination via astrology. The idea of the measurement of time leading to order and science led me to visualize man made symbols, letters and numbers, images with meaning behind them. This idea continues the pattern of increasing complexity within the film’s world, with time and meaning being new artistic mediums for the artist to explore. But it is in fact, still a disappointment to the Artist, as progress doesn’t seem to be progressing the way they would like it. And as Art continues to spiral further and further away from the Artist’s vision, it leads to burnout.

    Day Five is a day of overstimulation, disgust and carnage. The Artist’s hands remain still, their own frustration and disillusionment manifesting through the violence of Art all around them. This day is inspired by the line “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures… And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, the green plants for food…” which I’ve simplified to be all animals. Here God instructs the animals to eat plants, only giving them permission to eat each other after the flood. While this is to suggest a peaceful pre-sin existence, in the world of Gnosis I have reinterpreted this allowance to be the day consumption was created. This is the first day energy is transferred from one living thing to another through the dissolution of “a living soul” and so I have used this imagery to represent the breaking point of the Artist, who’s character arc runs parallel to a very personal matter of my own;

I constantly find myself caught in a state of duality. There’s the awe inspiring gratitude of being human; to be a creature capable of such abstract thought and creativity. It is human biology to create and I need to create to be human. And then there is also the nature of the artist; cynical self doubt, lack of inspiration, frustration of my own shortcomings. I feel it is my purpose to create, I’ve felt that my whole life, and yet coming into this senior project for the first time in my life I questioned whether I had anything to say, and it terrified me. And that terror inspired me.

    The idea of the Self Image as the Artist’s main goal comes from the line Genesis, “And God created man in his own image…” But the Artist is not a god, and if anything its closest parallel would be that of the Gnostic Yaldabaoth, an abomination which falsely believes itself to be god and the creator of the physical world. The Artist is a flawed creator and because of that everything it creates is in that sense flawed. And in the end the greatest flaw of the Artist is to have forgotten that, and to have seen themself in any way a commander of Art that expects more from it and themself. So it is on Day Six, once the Artist has stepped away, that Art finally has space to be. It renders itself in the perfect Self Image that the Artist had been seeking, because ultimately Art and the Artist are dualities of equal significance. As characters, their personalities were inspired by the cosmological principles of yin and yang. The Artist, Yang, active existence. Art, Yin, receptive emptiness. And in a similar manner, their growth is dependent on one another.

On the Sixth Day, parallel to the day in Genesis in which God created man, the world of Gnosis develops its humanity. Qualities such as kindness, patience and forgiveness are themes I wanted to evoke on this day, when the figural Self Image has finally been achieved. This is the day that not only Art achieves human form, but the Artist becomes humanized as well, both in depiction and as a redemption of character. And as the two reflections embrace, I also take time to reflect as the artist of the film, in a sort of frame narrative sense. Flashes of the development process of Gnosis flashes on screen. It’s a film about art, but it is also itself a piece of it.

Day Seven is the day of rest, a peace that comes from the relationship between Art and the Artist, as they return to singularity. 

If Gnosis is the awareness of universal truth, and the universe is art, then my Gnosis is the knowledge that for all the time and energy I put into shaping pieces of the world into art, it equally has the ability to shape me as well. Gnosis is knowing that your art loves you, just as much as you love it.

Click below for to see the post on the storyboards

Images from the gallery of the 2023 Central Michigan University Animation Showcase