If you’re an artist and you’ve been in the game long enough, you tend to notice central themes that keep manifesting themselves in all of your work. As I finish the final act of my screenplay for my Paul Pope project, I’ve noticed a certain type of character that keeps materializing in different forms in all of my work, including Lilith. It’s called an archon, and not only is it in all of my writing, it’s also found in the constitutions of my very favorite characters in fiction.
In its simplest terms, an archon is a being - it may be a god or an alien - that may have been formed before the universe. There are three categories of archons: the first is the cosmological, which means they were formed before the creation of the Earth and tend to interfere with matters of human existence. Cosmological archons also tend to be inorganic, and often appear as cyborgs in fiction.
‘Tetsuo the Iron Man’
The second category is a noetic-psychological archon, or catalysts that play upon our hard-wired tendencies to act inhumanely. Noetic-psychological archons can manifest themselves as parasites, either alien or reptilian.
The last of the archons are the sociological archons. Like the cosmological and noetic-psychological archons, socilogical archons prey upon the moral fallibility of men, but through an authoritarian / governmental/ religious structures.
The unifying thread in all of these categories are that the archons are agents of destruction, beings that require human complicity to gain power, to prey upon the tenet that humans are fundamentally corrupt. They “live” amongst us and may or may not be human, or even alive for that matter.
It’s a grim manifestation to dwell upon but it’s fascinated me for decades. In high school I took AP European History and we were required to read a 1,000+ page biography of Adolf Hitler, and somewhere in the recesses of my brain I kept thinking an impossible thought - what if Hitler wasn’t even human? It seemed incalculable that one man could be capable of such abject terror; I found that Hitler had more in common with Vlad the Impaler than any other human on the planet. Maybe he was the walking dead? A cyborg from another planet?
As ludicrous and blasphemous as it seems, the idea that archons walk amongst us fascinated me and gave me nightmares. They began to pop up in my writing and artwork - strange characters who represent something far more amorphous and large, beings that straddle the line between live and dead, destruction and rebirth. The title character in Lilith is such a character - an archon / archangel that is capable of immense destructive power, and yet is hooked into the fundamentals of human nature, including love. In my Paul Pope script I have a character that is the manifestation of pure evil, and he may or may not even be of this Earth. I leave it up to the viewer for that.
In film, television and literature I find these archons popping up. For research I’ve been dissecting the scripts for The Wire, and my archon emerged in the form of Omar Little. Omar is not a classic archon (in that he *SPOILER* is intriguingly murdered by a child) but he seems to represent some greater universal force, he is neither good or evil, and he seems to materialize anywhere, coming out of the shadows to dispense his interpretation of justice. It’s a similar construct to Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and likewise Judge Holden in McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I think of HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Roy Batty in Blade Runner. Insanely powerful and operating on a different cosmological level, and each with their own laws of creation, death and afterlife. Oh and they’re seemingly indestructible, indefatigable, and immortal. They are like gods. Or demons. Or both.
The archon is a fascinating character construct for a filmmaker because it is liberating - I don’t need to explain its origins or how it functions - it simply does. Its intrigue is its ambiguity, and it will always keep us guessing. I like the mystery of it all. It also serves as a mirror to our own inexplicable behaviors. Why do we hurt others when we believe ourselves to be fundamentally good? Are there forces operating beyond our comprehension? Is the world of our consciousness and being flat or spherical? The archons are metaphysical quasars, sitting on the edges of our perceived existence, signposts to the last remains of what we might think we understand of ourselves.
In our writing we need our Atlantis, our Xanadu, Valhalla, El Dorado, Annwn, Lyonesse or Shambhala. We need our point and goal of exploration that stokes the fires of our imagination and turns us from mere observers into scouts, travelers and prospectors. Writing must be that journey into the great unknowns, and for me, my Atlantis - my white whale - is the archon. I will continue to pursue it because once I find it, I know that so many of my questions will have possible answers. Likely nothing definitive, but a contribution to our defining of the greater unknown. It’s that goal of discovery which is the fuel for every word committed to paper, and it is essential for our art to move forward.
So what’s your archon?