Classical Gnosticism taught that human beings were celestial entities trapped by the insane, sadistic Demiruge on a prison planet, simply to soothe his wounded ego. The entities were emanations from the Pleroma, or the Fullness, and were cast out due to a terrible cosmic abortion.
Christian Gnostics taught that Christ was a purely spiritual being who was sent to liberate the prisoners of the "Blind Idiot God" and his Archons by bringing them the knowledge of their true nature and identity.
AstroGnosticism teaches us that human beings were the result of alien consciousness- itself a vastly potent spiritual energy- grafted through whatever means onto the biology of advanced primates. That human beings are trapped on a planet to which their intelligence and consciousness is not merely maladaptive but in fact anti-adaptive, since trying to exist in an admittedly beautiful yet unimaginably destructive biosphere leads to depression, insanity, mass murder and habitat destruction.
The most potent vehicle for the AstroGnostic narrative seems to be the unassuming, usually low-budget sci-fi film. A classic early example is the Mormon sci-fi opus The People, starring none other than Captain Kirk and Ka-Hathor-y Lee Hecate. This story, based on the Zenna Henderson novels, is deeply informed by LDS folk mythology, of a people whose natural superiority (based on the fact that they are stranded aliens) made them targets for persecution from their shaved ape neighbors.
A more successful AstroGnostic franchise are the Witch Mountain films, the two made in the 1970s and the recent, rather overblown remake. Those films are centered on the danger the two fallen angels face from a national security state intent on exploiting the children's powers towards their own ends. The remake didn't seem to resonate the way the original Escape film did, precisely because its expensive bells and whistles distracted from the quiet intimate realism of the original.
Audiences- and most certainly, producers- have become extremely literal-minded, maybe another thing to blame on George Lucas. Now that Hollywood is controlled by accountants and not storytellers (many of the old-time moguls were genuinely in love with movie magic, whatever else their faults) there's no room left for the subtle, insinuating narrative. Everything must be literal, explicit and immediately explained.
Which is why yet another classical AstroGnostic narrative, John August's The Nines, went straight to video, despite having Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy as its stars. The Nines might be one of the most potent AstroGnostic narratives out there, as well as one of the most explicitly Christian Gnostic variants thereof.
"You're not who you think you are" is also the message of Earthling, a lost classic Outer Limits episode in all but name. Judith, a young high school teacher, experiences a devastating accident (and miscarriage) coinciding with a mysterious cosmic event that also effects a space shuttle mission.
Upon returning to work Judith meets a precocious new student named Abby, who takes on the hippy /free spirit persona, complete with old Volkswagen van. Abby is also a sexually aggressive lesbian, or presents herself as such, and attempts to seduce Judith while drinking with her extremely creepy father (played by Peter Greene, best known as Pulp Fiction's Zed) at a bar frequented by her teachers.
While raw erotic tension crackles in the air like a Wimshurst generator, Abby begins to reveal her and Judith's true nature, and the true horror of their predicament. They don't belong here, they are trapped here and Judith is the one they are all counting to set them free. The documentarian intimacy of the scene gives it a dark rush, since we're not sure if any of this is true or Judith is alone in the middle of nowhere with a dangerous psychopath.
Abby plunges Judith into a netherworld filled with insanity and murder and pregnant children, which puts Judith at risk of losing her job and her husband. As with any effective AstroGnostic narrative, the protagonist is unsure whether her revelators are telling her the truth or that they are all murderous lunatics caught in the grip of a collective delusion.
Judith watches in horror as Abby attempts to murder a girl she tries to seduce. She sees Abby's father and another "alien" bury an apparent murder victim at their remote farm compound. But Judith soon develops horn-like tumors on her head as the others have, a sign that their host bodies can't handle the alien presence inside them.
Concurrently we see the devastating mental breakdown of the sole remaining survivor of the shuttle mission, the attempts to break through his amnesia with creepy hypnosis techniques, and his strange family (his father is played by William Katt, veteran of another AstroGnostic drama, The Greatest American Hero)
It all gets pretty graphic, but at the same time it all reminds me very much of classic Outer Limits as well. I don't know if writer-director Clay Liford was consciously channeling classic Stefano-era TOL, but if he wasn't then Earthling is all the more remarkable for doing so. Earthling captures the desolate mood of old-time Outer Limits in a way the X-Files obsessed 90s revival never did.
The very premise of the film draws directly back to Stefano's subversive Cambridge Five allegory, "The Invisibles," without that episode's rather unsubtle anal-rape analogs. We have settings recalling episodes like "Architects of Fear", "Man Who Was Never Born, and "The Mice". And of course we have the dangerous sapphic chemistry of "Bellero Shield" and "Forms of Things Unknown" (though today that's not nearly as shocking as it was in the early 60s). We even have the Allyson Ames-styled random radiance in the form of Jenny Shakeshaft's tragic character.
Some videogame damaged fanboys complained about the no-budget effects in Earthling, but that's yet another link to classic Outer Limits, as is the abstruse, modal soundscaping.
It's unfortunate that films like this seem to fall between all of the cracks and end up going over the heads of pretty much everyone. But at the same time it makes their existence all the more valuable in that people who get it really get it. There's a growing body of these little undiscovered treasures out there, maybe it's up to the people who understand what is being communicated to educate those who don't but should.