Alchemy

Bringing Down the Heavens

The following excerpts are taken from G.R.S. Mead’s classic 1900 Fragments of a Forgotten Faith. In the book, G.R.S. Mead takes the reader on a guided tour through the history of heresy, by discussing key fertile crescent backgrounds and baptismal waters that gave birth to Gnosticism and Christianity in all their shades of glory. The following is taken from the section, “Gnosis According to Its Friends.” The Book of the Great Logos According to the Mystery, is a Gnostic text in fragmented form, from the Bruce Codex found by James Bruce, a travelling Scottish man who happened on it in upper Egypt, in 1769.

The Bruce Codex also features other Gnostic mystery texts like The Pistis Sophia and the Books of Jeu (IAO). The text itself presents Jesus Christ as an Illuminator and a universal Gnostic Savior, which isn’t all that different than the version of Jesus present in the Gospel of John. In fact, this version of Jesus has more to do with the Jesus presented in the Apocryphon of John (hence the emphasis on being attributed to John the Baptist), than other versions of Jesus as more of a Jewish Messiah, like we see in say the Gospel of Matthew.

Regarding the edited text: I reorganized the text to make it easier to read, so that is has a more logical and structured flow of ideas and quotes in accordance with the assigned title. The following version will feature underlines of the text that I want to highlight as well as some of the commentary that Mead offers on Jesus and his secret, mystery teachings that he passes on to his disciples. More underlines will be provided in the rest of the post. In many parts of this mystery text, there are also strong parallels with Hermetic literature as well, in particular with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes and the Corpus Hermeticum. After this, we will go into other connections as per the Knights Templar and Mete (Baphomet) and other related observations. 

Those with ears let them hear!

And Jesus saith: “I have loved you and longed to give you Life.”

“This is the Book of the Gnoses (pl.) of the Invisible God”; it is the Book of the Gnosis of Jesus the Living One, by means of which all the hidden mysteries are revealed to the elect. Jesus is the Saviour of Souls, the Logos of Life, sent by the Father from the Light-world to mankind, who taught His disciples the one and only doctrine, saying: “This is the doctrine in which all Gnosis dwelleth.”

Jesus saith: “Blessed is the man who crucifieth the world and doth not let the world crucify him.”

Jesus saith: “Blessed is the man who knoweth this [Word] and hath brought down the Heaven, and borne the earth and raised it heavenwards; and it [the Earth] becometh the midst, for it is a nothing.’

The Heaven is explained as being the invisible Word of the Father. They who know this–(who become children of the true Mind)–bring down Heaven to Earth. The raising of Earth to Heaven is the ceasing from being an earthly intelligence, by receiving the Word of these Gnoses (pl.) and becoming a Dweller in Heaven. Thus will they be saved from the Ruler of this World, and he will become the midst (that is to say, perhaps, that they will be above the Ruler and no longer subject to him as heretofore; he will be a “nothing” to them, that is to say, have no effect on them). Nay, the evil powers will envy them because they know Him, that He is not of this world and that no evil cometh from Him. But as for those who are born in the flesh of unrighteousness (and are not children of the Righteous Race, those of the second birth), they have no part in the Kingdom of the Father.

Thereupon the disciples are in despair, for they have been born “according to the flesh” and have known Him only “according to the flesh.” But the Master explains that not the flesh of their bodies is meant, but the flesh of unrighteousness and ignorance.”

The apostles answered and said, “Lord, Jesus, Thou Living One, teach us the Fullness and it sufficeth us.”

Now, let us compare this with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes:

“Thou shalt separate the Earth from the Fire, the subtle from the coarse, gently and with much ingenuity. It ascends from Earth to heaven and descends again to Earth, and receives the power of the superiors and the inferiors. Thus thou hast the glory of the whole world; therefore let all obscurity flee before thee. This is the strong fortitude of all fortitude, overcoming every subtle and penetrating every solid thing. Thus the world was created. Hence are all wonderful adaptations, of which this is the manner.”

I give the following commentary on all of this (minus the first excerpt) in my essay “The Gods of Imagination: Alchemy, Magic, and the Quintessence” which can be found in The Gnostic 6: A Journey of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality by Andrew Philip Smith. Here is one pertinent excerpt from my paper (if you want to read the entire paper, I suggest purchasing the book):

The famous axiom of “What is Below is like that which is Above sounds very close to what is described in the Gospel of Philip (Codex II), which records Jesus Christ performing initiation rites that sound much like that one of the Hermetic mystery schools of Alexandria, Egypt: “The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber. […] he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in the place.” The correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm, the inside and the outside of the totality of creation, is made explicit. This is reflective yet somehow different than Platonic thought: that the manifest world is merely a shadow of a greater truth, an ideal that can never be found in our daily reality.

Everything in creation, accordingly has its root in the transcendent, or the “One Thing.” The Emerald Tablet itself teaches in veiled language how to produce the alchemical Elixir of Life or “Quintessence,” the “Fifth Element,” that which is born from the “One Thing.” The father of this final product is the sun and the mother being the moon, which “defeats all subtle things and permeates all solids.” The sun symbolizes the fire; the moon, water; wind, air; and the earth, obviously, the Earth. The first three elements also correspond to sulphur, salt and mercury.

The Sun gives its life-giving rays throughout the solar system in a cyclical manner while providing its solar seeds into the Earth so that they may be “perfected.” All of these come from the One as adaptations, splitting off into specialized roles. The first three principal aspects of the One gather together to form the Earth. The three principal elements are separated out from the fourth element and purified and then recombined to form a new type of Earth, being the Fifth Element or the “Cosmic Quintessence.” That is the key to understanding all alchemy. The “Hermetic art” of alchemy itself as a mirror for psychological or spiritual transformation has a long tradition, going back at least to the time of Zosimos and way before that.

“Separate the Earth from the Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, repeatedly with great skillfulness.” This corresponds to the alchemical axiom of the Latin “Solve et Coagula,” meaning dissolve and coagulate or reconstitute. Any alchemical operation will involve these two fundamental steps. This process involves purging the influence of the lower and solidifying the influence of the higher and crystallizing it as a permanent substance on Earth. This process dissolves all of the impurities of matter and darkness until all that is left is the “true image” or the true expression of the “One Thing.” In this instance, we can see how Plato was using ancient, Hermetic-like ideas when he wrote in Timaeus 28a6, about how the divine Craftsman (the “Demiurge”), imitated the unchanging, eternal model above and imposes a mathematical order on the pre-existent primal chaos to generate the cosmos we know. The Demiurge, in this instance, can be seen as a cosmic alchemist or initiator who dissolves and perfects the chaotic realm into multiple structures and shapes based on the Eternal Forms above.

The alchemist raises the subtle into Heaven, from the below to the above, and allows it to descend again by dissolving one’s “wish” then coagulating it again after it has been above. The alchemist allows that creative imagination to descend into the Earth and bring with it the perfected substance. By the power of the “One Thing,” it becomes so. In the Corpus Hermeticum, Poimandres the Man-Shepard (1), we find this idea of ascending into the higher spheres, where the material body is dissolved into light and ascends.

“…To this Poimandres said: “First, in releasing the material body you give the body itself over to alteration, and the form that you used to have vanishes. To the demon you give over your temperament, now inactive. The body’s senses rise up and flow back to their particular sources, becoming separate parts and mingling again with the energies. And feeling and longing go on toward irrational nature. Thence the human being rushes up through the cosmic framework…”

To repeat what the Emerald Tablets of Hermes tells us, “The unique is of all the strengths the strongest strength. It defeats all subtle things and permeates all solids. In this way, the cosmic was created.” An alchemist might argue that this “strength” or force is that of the Philosopher’s Stone, the Pearl of the Great Price, the Divine Hermaphrodite, the Astral Fire, the Elixir of Life, being the “perfected” (Greek: teleios). These objects and symbols represent something that has completed the work of the alchemical process, called the Great Work (Magnum Opus). The final product can be called materialized spirit and spiritualized matter or what Carl Jung called the “coniunctio oppositorum.” It is the solid, unchanging realization of the above, which stands firm and “unshakable.” The spiritual is ironically represented as a physical object; the alchemical offspring or manifestation of the divine itself. The Philosopher’s Stone has completed the journey, which encases both worlds of “perfected” matter and spirit in its alloy.

One can emulate this process and apply it by becoming “co-creators” of manifestation through the imagination since man is created in the “image of God” and is able to define reality as Adam named the animals in the Garden of Eden. 

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The idea of “bringing down the heavens” also reminds us of Mete (an incarnation or aspect of Baphomet and Dionysus). Mete is supposedly a wisdom/mother-goddess figure with connections with Sophia-Achamoth, which appears on Templar artifacts. However, Mete appears to be much more demonic and chthonic than holy–which in some ways, reminds us of Hekate because she too was depicted with three faces as was Baphomet was rumored to be depicted as a Templar idol and touch-point for divination with spirits. This is where things turn dark. In our book, Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, in the chapter “Baptism of Wisdom,” we examine Joseph Von Hammer Purgstall’s work, especially in his comparison of the Knights Templar with the Gnostic Ophites and their orgy magic and veneration of the serpent from Eden, the later of which is almost universally condemned by both the church fathers, Jewish philosophers like Philo, and pagan critics alike.

The way Hammer‐Purgstall thought that the Templars saw it, these impious deeds of debauchery would not have counted against them in the afterlife. Rather they would earn them brownie points. He believed that this was illustrated by one of the images he found:

“On the left side is exhibited the end of a Templar’s life, already dead and lying on the ground, with the Archangel Michael holding a judgment scale and weighing his deeds. The scale, on which were placed apples, desserts and other blandishments of the senses, and by which the Ophitic Templar’s life is represented, descending to the earth, shows that the judgment of Michael favors him, because in order to hinder Jaldabaoth, he tries to depress the other, ascending, part of the scale. . . . The . . .serpent, called by the gnostics, Michael, carries out the details of judgment in this way: thinking, in the day of judgment, about the life of the Templar, or Gnostic, he accepts all of his disgraceful deeds as good works. In this way [goes] the cycle of a Gnostic’s life.”

The goal of all these impieties may have been, as we have suggested, nothing less than the toppling of the heavenly order. This may explain, then, several of the images presented by Hammer‐Purgstall which involve a bearded and breasted figure (Mete, or Baphomet, according to him) holding a set of chains—one in each hand, seemingly attached to and hanging down from the sky. Hammer‐Purgstall had said these represent “a chain of aeons . . . of the Gnostics,” “the hermetic chain of the Neoplatonists, and “the gods’ chain in Homer.”

This Gnostic, Hermetic, and Neoplatonic “chain” appears to be the chain of causality, and of the interconnected hierarchies of creation. Since in Gnostcism, each aeon corresponds to an archonic entity, and each Archon corresponds to one of the seven “classical planets” (the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn), and each planet was, in antiquity, believed to rule over one of the seven heavens (viewed as being spherical and concentrically stacked inside each other like a Russian doll, with the Earth in the middle), one can imagine this as a chain running from the center of the Earth, through the sky, then up through each of the seven heavens and all the way up to the Pleroma on the outside, where the real “Father” resides.

As bat-shit crazy as it sounds, all of the infamous raunchy rumors and accusations of infanticide against the various Gnostic groups issued from the church fathers, had a specific end goal: to bring about the apocalypse or the annihilation of the cosmos, and end the natural order of things. This was because the world or cosmos was seen as entirely hostile and evil to the Gnostic (just as the Christian is said to be), as it was, naturally, the other way around.

Another way of look at this issue is that the so-called “Gnostic apocalypse” was that the Kingdom of God would eventually manifest in the world (while bringing an end to the current world system), even though it remains invisible to earth-born people, as it states in the Gospel of Thomas. Most of these groups were actually ascetics and were pious (but for different reasons than the Orthodox church). Some existed in between the two extremes (asceticism and libertinism). The cult of Carpocrates were more than likely libertine. And yet, even their libertinism certainly wasn’t abnormal for greater pagan civilization. For Christianity, yes, but there were plenty of pagan philosophers who advocated that sort of lifestyle. Zeno of Citium, the father of Stoicism, supposedly thought likewise (that man should run around like dogs and randomly have sex in the streets as they pleased).

Morton Smith in his controversial and much disputed discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark, the early church leader, Clement, attempts to discredit claims by the Carpocratians that Christ and Lazarus, a young man whom he had just revived from the dead, had been seen naked together at night with Lazarus being initiated into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. This is what some scholars might refer to as the “Gay Magical Jesus Hypothesis.” Please see Craig A. Evan’s Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt, for the low down. (Long story short: he too, like many other Christian apologist scholars, think its a hoax perpetrated by Morton Smith.)

Morton Smith is also responsible for writing Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?, in which I plan to write an in-depth review at a future time. But for now, let’s enjoy some made up juicy gossip about the Jewish source for Jesus’s divine magical powers, taken from the Toldot Yeshu. The resemblance between this text and the anti-Jesus legends of the Talmud, the Cabala, and the Mandaean Book of John (Sidra d’Yahya) and Book of Adam (Codex Nasarous), are all at once apparent.

After King Jannaeus, his wife Helene ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraved the letters of God’s Ineffable Name. Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished. Therefore, the Sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge. Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings. Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.

Yeshu came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment. As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret. But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing. Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.

Epiphanius in the Panarion tells us wild tales of the Carpocratian swinging, bisexual orgies and escapades in efforts to escape the realm of astral fate and reincarnation.

4:3 By recklessly giving their minds to frenzy they have surrendered themselves to the sensations of countless pleasures. For they say that such things as men consider evil are not evil but good by nature17—nothing is evil by nature—but are regarded as evil by men.

4:4 And if one does all these things in this one incarnation the soul will not be embodied again to be cast down once more. By performing every action in one round it will escape, freed and with no more debt of activity in the world.

4:5 Again, I am afraid to say what sort of actions, or I might uncover a trench like a hidden sewer, and some might think that I am causing the blast of foul odour. Still, since I am constrained by the truth to disclose what goes on among the deluded, I am going to make myself speak—with some delicacy and yet without overstepping the bounds of the truth.

4:6 The plain fact is that these people perform every unspeakable, unlawful thing, which is not right even to say, and every kind of homosexual union and carnal intercourse with women, with every member of the body18

4:7 and that they perform magic, sorcery and idolatry and say that this is the discharge of their obligations in the body, so that they will not be charged any more or required to do anything else, and for this reason the soul will not be turned back after its departure and go on to another incarnation and transmigration.

But, it isn’t entirely implausible that there were libertine Gnostics who did those sorts of things. There are Christians who do similar things today, so why not back then? In the book, we also discuss one specific part of The Pistis Sophia, which contains a condemnation of ingesting semen, and since that’s a Gnostic text, it would appear that even the ascetic Gnostics themselves were aware of this practice.

Thomas said: “We have heard that there are some on the earth who take the male seed and the female monthly blood, and make it into a lentil porridge and eat it, saying: ‘We have faith in Esau and Jacob.’ Is this then seemly or not?”

Jesus was wroth with the world in that hour and said unto Thomas: “Amen, I say: This sin is more heinous than all sins and iniquities. Such men will straightway be taken into the outer darkness and not be cast back anew into the sphere, but they shall perish, be destroyed in the outer darkness in a region where there is neither pity nor light, but howling and grinding of teeth. And all the souls which shall be brought into the outer darkness, will not be cast back anew, but will be destroyed and dissolved.”

pp. 322-323 (G.R.S. Mead Translation 1921)

The accusations of secret rituals/black mass has its origins (ironically) in Roman attempts to discredit early Christians/Gnostics and Dionysian cults (especially in Celsus in the True Doctrine). The trope evolved and absorbed by the Orthodox and used it against the heretics later on that continued to evolve from Irenaeus to Epiphanius to Constantine and finally by the papacy between the 10th and 12th centuries in the infamously bat-shit crazy papal bull Vox in Rama of Pope Gregory IX, which was directed against German heretical Bogomils who were accused of a “Luciferian” devil-worshiping heresy while made edicts to torture and kill all black cats because of their association with Satanic Bogomil rituals and even as an incarnation of Satan himself. (This may also be connected with the leontocephalus [lion-headed] gods, like Mithras and Ialdabaoth, in the ancient world.)

Yes, slander against the Gnostics and later Cathars and Bogomils were on the same level of accusations of devil worship, unnatural vices and heresy, against the Templars. In most cases, however, they are more than likely evidence-free fabrications, which were only “proven” by confessions extracted under torture (which were later recanted). There is little evidence of them doing so, however, despite much later accusations from 18th and 19th century scholars, from the French Revolution onward. So, like their earlier Gnostic brethren, the Templars, too, were deemed a threat to the Catholic Church, scapegoated, sacrificed as the “other” (Azazel) and were wiped out, through stake-fire and blood. In other words, while the Templars, perhaps held to secret doctrines and rites–perhaps they too, fell as victims of the Orthodox rumor mill that led to the Grand Inquisition of torture and sacrifice of all heretics.

While the connection between the Ophites and the Templars remains tenuous at best (as per Joseph Von Hammer-Purgstall’s writings), there is evidence the Templars did practice some sort of composite secret Johannite (John the Baptist as the “true Christ”) heresy that may go back all the way to the Mandaeans, the cult of Abrasax and Basilides, as we discuss in the book at length. Jules Loiseleur in his 1872 book, La doctrine secrète des Templiers, rejected Hammer-Purgstall’s pet theory that they were secretly Ophites and instead replaces it with his own construct of them being secretly Luciferian Bogomils…

Nesta Webster goes into all this more in depth in chapter 3 of Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, where she also writes about the frenetic connections between the Bogomils, John the Baptist, the Templars, Freemasonry, and Jewish Babylonian witchcraft (I placed ellipses in between the various excerpts taken from the third chapter of the book). However, I cannot, in the right mind, agree with her overall assessment of Gnosticism as a whole, among other subjects. I would cover more about the Bogomils but her lurid summary of their supposed blasphemies really takes the cake–more than I care to expose here. (You can read it for yourself in the book).

If the Templar heresy was that of the Johannites, the head in question might possibly represent that of John the Baptist, which would accord with the theory that the word Baphomet was derived from Greek words signifying baptism of wisdom. This would, moreover, not be incompatible with Loiseleur’s theory of an affinity between the Templars and the Bogomils, for the Bogomils also possessed their own version of the Gospel of St. John, which they placed on the heads of their neophytes during the ceremony of initiation, giving as the reason for the peculiar veneration they professed for its author that they regarded St. John as the servant of the Jewish God Satanael.(75) Eliphas Lévi even goes so far as to accuse the Templars of following the occult practices of the Luciferians, who carried the doctrines of the Bogomils to the point of paying homage to the powers of darkness:

“Let us declare for the edification of the vulgar . . . and for the greater glory of the Church which has persecuted the Templars, burned the magicians and excommunicated the Free-Masons, etc., let us say boldly and loudly, that all the initiates of the occult sciences . . . have adored, do and will always adore that which is signified by this frightful symbol [the Sabbatic goat]. Yes, in our profound conviction, the Grand Masters of the Order of the Templars adored Baphomet and caused him to be adored by their initiates.”

The Sabbatic goat is clearly of Jewish origin. Thus the Zohar relates that ” Tradition teaches us that when the Israelites evoked evil spirits, these appeared to them under the form of he-goats and made known to them all that they wished to learn.“–Section Ahre Moth, folio 70a (de Pauly, V. 191).

What is the explanation of this choice of St. John for the propagation of anti-Christian doctrines which we shall find continuing up to the present day ? What else than the method of perversion which in its extreme form becomes Satanism, and consists in always selecting the most sacred things for the purpose of desecration? Precisely then because the Gospel of St. John is the one of all the four which most insists on the divinity of Christ, the occult anti-Christian sects have habitually made it the basis of their rites.

So Mote It Be

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And finally, there are also more compelling parallels between Jesus of the Gospel of John and Hermes himself, that I have not seen anyone else bring up. The Corpus Hermeticum XI (22), presents Hermes as an initiator and revealer of the divine mysteries to his student/son Tat.

[22] “And do you say, ‘God is unseen’? Hold your tongue! Who is more visible than God? This is why he made all things: so that through them all you might look on him. This is the goodness of God, this is his excellence: that he is visible through all things. For nothing is unseen, not even among the incorporeals. Mind is seen in the act of understanding, God in the act of making.”

“Up to this point, O Trismegistus, these matters have been revealed to you. Consider all the rest in the same way – on your own – and you will not be deceived.”

In the Gospel of John, we read Jesus Christ’s words:

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21 KJV

The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) reads:

20 At that time [when that day comes] you will know [for yourselves] that I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.

21 The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]

The Names of God Edition (NOG) gives us the third translation:

20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me and that I am in you. 21 Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

One can go to many translations and you will find the word “manifest” as meaning to reveal, to disclose, show, take off the cover, pierce the veil, to show plainly, etc. This is just one verse of many that the Christian must have a full revelation of Jesus Christ. In essence, Christ is the divine spirit that manifests in the believer and reveals the gnosis. Jesus Christ himself is this Gnostic knowledge. It this knowledge that makes the unregenerate, regenerate, that heals the spiritually sick sinner, opens the eyes of the blind, and drives out the strongman and his legion (Matthew 12:29). This is the rebirth process that both Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John and Hermes in the Corpus Hermeticum discuss at great length as well.

Phanes, the Orphic mystical god of creation and regeneration, also comes from the Greek phainein to shine, (in passive) appear or reveal. Phanes is also equated with Eros and sometimes Mithras, who either emerges from Aion’s silver egg or the dark abyss to “bring forth” and “to bring light” to the universe, just like we see in Genesis and 2 Enoch creation accounts as well as the prologue from the Gospel of JohnThe Derveni Papyrus refers to Phanes as:

Πρωτογόνου βασιλέως αἰδοίου∙ τῶι δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀθάνατοι προσέφυν μάκαρες θεοὶ ἠδ̣ὲ θέαιναι καὶ ποταμοὶ καὶ κρῆναι ἐπήρατιο ἄλλα τε πάντα , ἅ̣σσα τότ’ ἦγγεγαῶτ ’ , αὐτὸς δ’ ἄρα μοῦνος ἔγεντο.

“Of the First-born king, the reverend one; and upon him all the immortals grew, blessed gods and goddesses and rivers and lovely springs and everything else that had then been born; and he himself became the sole one”

In the Corpus Hermeticum XIII, we read:

A secret dialogue of Hermes Trismegistus on the mountain to his son Tat: On being born again, and on the promise to be silent [1]

“My father, you spoke indistinctly and in riddles when talking about divinity in the General Discourses; claiming that no one can be saved before being born again, you offered no revelation. But after you talked with me coming down from the mountain, I became your suppliant and asked to learn the discourse on being born again since, of all the discourses, this one alone I do not know. And you said you would deliver it to me when ‘you were about to become a stranger to the cosmos.’ I have prepared myself, and I have steeled my purpose against the deceit of the cosmos. Grant me what I need and give me – whether aloud or in secret – the being born again that you said you would deliver. I do not know what sort of womb mankind was born from, O Trismegistus, nor from what kind of seed.” [2]

“My child, is the wisdom of understanding in silence, and the seed is the true good.”

“Who sows the seed, father? I am entirely at a loss.”

“The will of God, my child.”

“And whence comes the begotten, father? He does not share in my essence [ ].”

The begotten will be of a different kind, a God and a child of God, the all in all, composed entirely of the powers.

Tat in the rest of the discourse becomes increasingly frustrated with his dad Hermes because of his mystical “riddles” and gobbledygook, in effort to know how to be reborn. Finally, Hermes yields a solid answer to Tat, telling him to renounce his flesh, the world and the “tormentors” inside it (i.e. evil spirits that induce ignorance, various lusts of the flesh and oblivion). This is very similar to how Jesus in many instances in the Gospels conducts exorcisms and cast out demons while in the Pauline literature, Christians are rebuked and required to “crucify” their flesh and “deceitful lusts”.

“Leave the senses of the body idle, and the birth of divinity will begin. Cleanse yourself of the irrational torments of matter.”

“Do I have tormenters in me, father?”

“More than a few, my child; they are many and frightful.”

“I am ignorant of them, father.”

1 John 3:1 tells us something similar to Hermes’ words:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

To “behold” means to look upon, to see what is revealed. The beholder is granted the Divine Vision and the inner man is transformed from the inside out through divine love. The “beholders” are also referred to as initiates of theurgy in Neoplatonism via Iamblihcus, as well. And yet, as we’ve already seen in Porphyry, he actually revered the figure of Jesus Christ, as much as he argued against the Christians of his time. However, much of his work has been destroyed thanks to Emperor Constantine’s edicts and only survives in fragments preserved as quotations by the Church historian and forger, Eusebius.

The great Romanian historian and religious scholar, Mircea Eliade, in The Quest for the “Origins” of Religion, tells us some fascinating lore regarding the connection between ancient Christianity and Hermetic religion.

In 1463, a year before Cosimo’s death, these translations were complete. Thus Corpus hermeticum was the first Greek text to be translated and published by Marsilio Ficino. Only afterward did he start working on Plato. This detail is important. It sheds light on an aspect of the Italian Renaissance ignored or at least neglected by the historians of a generation ago.

Both Cosimo and Ficino were thrilled by the discovery of a primordial revelation, that is, the one disclosed in the Hermetical writings. And, of course, they had no reason to doubt that the Corpus hermeticum represented the very words of Hermes the Egyptian, that is, the oldest revelation accessible-one which preceded that of Moses and which inspired Pythagoras and Plato as well as the Persian Magi. Though he exalted the holiness and the veracity of the hermetic texts, Ficino did not-and could not-suspect himself of not being a good Christian. Already in the second century the Christian apologist Lactantius considered Hermes Trismegistos a divinely inspired sage, and interpreted some Hermetic prophecies as fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Marsilio Ficino reasserted this harmony between Hermetism and Hermetic magic on the one hand and Christianity on the other. No less sincere was Pico della Mirandola, who considered that Magia and Cabbala confirmed the divinity of Christ. Pope Alexander VI had a fresco teeming with Egyptian-that is, Hermetic-images and symbols painted in the Vatican! This was done not for aesthetic or ornamental reasons; rather, Alexander VI wanted to mark his protection of the exalted and occult Egyptian tradition. Such an extravagant interest in Hermetism is highly significant. It discloses the Renaissance man’s longing for a “primordial revelation” which could include not only Moses and Cabbala but also Plato and, first and foremost, the mysterious religions of Egypt and Persia. It reveals also a profound dissatisfaction with the medieval theology and medieval conceptions of man and the universe; a reaction against what we may call “provincial,” that is, purely Western Christianity; a longing for a universalistic, transhistorical, “mythical” religion.

For almost two centuries Egypt and Hermetism, that is, the Egyptian magic, obsessed innumerable theologians and philosophers-believers as well as unbelievers or crypto-atheists. If Giordano Bruno acclaimed Copernicus’ discoveries enthusiastically, it was because he thought that the heliocentrism had a profound religious and magical meaning. While he was in England, Giordano Bruno prophesied the imminent return of the magical religion of the ancient Egyptians as it was described in Asclepius. Bruno felt superior to Copernicus, for whereas Copernicus understood his own theory only as a mathematician, Bruno could interpret the Copernican diagram as a hieroglyph of divine mysteries.

 

Hermes_mercurius_trismegistus_siena_cathedral.jpg

More as it develops…

 

Gnostic Exegesis in Revelation 12

For anyone who is familiar with the multicolored panorama of ancient Gnostic doctrines from different schools and mystery cults, Revelation 12 seems to stand out the most from the Revelation (or Apocalypse) of St. John the Divine. It has the tell-tail signs of being inserted into the main text, since chapter 13 appears to follow chapter 11 without any need for the 12th. Revelation itself follows from a vast tradition of apocalyptic literature. One website goes on to summarize this form of literature, succinctly:

“The Book of Revelation is really an interpretation of earlier apocalyptic prophesies, specifically the Book of Daniel. It was most likely written within a few years after the death of Nero in 68 C.E. The author therefore is not believed to be the author of the Book of John, written three decades later. John speaks of a loving God which is in stark contrast to the vengeful God of Revelation. The author of Revelation was not fluent in Greek and is believed to have been an Aramaic speaking resident of Palestine, possibly a wandering prophet.”

Whoever wrote the rest of Revelation had a very favorable interpretation of the Old Testament and Jewish Christianity and had a lot of ax-grinding against the heretics and the Roman political state. And the author appears to have rejected Paul entirely. The letter to the seven churches that prefaces the actual apocalypse chastises those “who claim to be apostles but are not” and those “who claim to be Jews and are not.” Those were two contested issues about Paul during that era, that is, whether or not he should be considered an apostle and where or not he was actually Jewish. This is some what ironic because the letters of Paul and an apocalypse written by someone who despised him wound up in the same canon of scripture. Even the saying of “the deep things of Satan” of Revelation 2:24 seem to be a direct parody of Paul’s “the deep things of God” per 1 Corinthians 2:10.

The first part of Revelation also condemns eating meat sacrificed to idols and fornication, both practices which the author attributes to a sect call the Nicolaitans, which had a very Gnostic-influenced theology, although the details on their theology differ greatly when comparing the different accounts of the Church Fathers and more shady sources like Psuedo-Tertullian. According to the Church Father, Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.26.3; 3.10.6), the first “successor” of Simon Magus, was indeed Nicolas of Antioch. The antinomian doctrines taught by the Nicolaitians are in Revelation’s (2:12,15) letter to the church in Pergamos in which Jesus apparently hates with a passion:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword . . . Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.’

Of course, Paul was originally the one who taught it was acceptable for Christians to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols so long as it didn’t offend another Christian. Paul obviously never condoned fornication, but what the author of Revelation may imply by fornication is Gentile influence upon Jewish Christianity, which would again point to Paul, who also may also be referenced as the “false prophet” per Revelation 13. This corruption or “fornication” can also be paralleled with how the Church Father Epiphanius claimed Marcion seduced a young orthodox virgin, which could be read as a metaphor of Marcion’s corruption of the young Christian Church as claimed by Bart Erhman in Lost Christianities.

The author of Revelation understood Jesus in light of Jewish Messianism. That is, he believed that Jesus, upon his second coming, would fulfill all of the messianic prophecies that he failed to fulfill during his ministry, which included declaring war against the entire world, establish a messianic kingdom and fortify Jewish Christian preeminence over the whole world. Revelation, however, echoes many Gnostic sentiments as well as Egyptian, Babylonian and Zoroastrian concepts and mythology as we will see. While this is in no way a comprehensive review of Revelation, it is a result of drawing some certain parallels I’ve noticed to other Biblical and non-Biblical mythologies, when going through certain parts of the text. the-great-red-dragon-and-the-woman-clothed-with-the-sun-1810

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. The gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Revelation 12 begins with the Mother archetype characteristic of Wisdom or Sophia so prominent in Gnostic theology who is also pregnant. She is the celestial prototype or counterpart of the Virgin Mary, mother of the son of God. Naturally, the divine Mother can be traced back to the Egyptian Isis and appears many times in Jewish Wisdom literature such as Proverbs and in the the apocrypha such as the Book of Wisdom and the 1 Enoch. In the context of this text, the Woman may very well represent the moon which reflects the light of the sun while ruling the tides that guide the woman’s menstrual cycles. There is also a reference to the Virgo constellation of the Zodiac because of the obvious astrological language used in the divine Mother’s description. guadalupe2 In Greek mythology, the pregnant goddess Leto is pursed by the dragon Python. She escapes to an island where she gives birth to Apollo, who later kills the dragon. Nearly every Mediterranean culture had some variant of this type of combat myth, pitting monster against champion. However, from a Gnostic perspective, there is an even deeper significance to this chapter. In the following passage, the element connects with the apocalyptic passage with Gnosticism, specifically the Sethian and Ophite branches is the enthronement of the son, who escapes the monstrous dragon. Another great beast also appears in the next chapter in 13:1 stating:

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”

What is striking about this passage is the similarity of the beast’s description with the snake-faced seven-headed dragon archon and anguipede mentioned in the Apocryphon of John, Iao. The term Iao is also on many magical amulets, especially with the Basilidean astral god, Abrasax from the the Greco-Roman and the Renaissance periods. slide163 James M. Robinson in On the Genre of Mark and John, compares Revelation 12 with the various Kingdoms featured in the Sethian Apocalypse of Adam of the Nag Hammadi Library. In particular, he compared the fourth Kingdom passage with the great dragon pursuing the child of the Mother.

The fourth kingdom says of him that he came from a virgin. […] Solomon sought her, he and Phersalo and Sauel and his armies, which had been sent out. Solomon himself sent his army of demons to seek out the virgin. And they did not find the one whom they sought, but the virgin who was given them. It was she whom they fetched. Solomon took her. The virgin became pregnant and gave birth to the child there. She nourished him on a border of the desert. When he had been nourished, he received glory and power from the seed from which he was begotten. And thus he came to the water.

Here, the virgin is pursued by the vilified magician, King Solomon and his army of demonic spirits but the virgin barely escapes their clutches and gives birth to her male child who receives power and glory when he “came to the water” which could be a possible reference to Jesus who receives the power of the Holy Spirit when he is baptized and anointed with the Christ spirit, as an “adopted” (hence the doctrine of Adoptionism) Son of God, as mentioned in Mark 1:9-10. In the Gnostic terminology, “male” is the synonym with “pneumatic” or spiritual, as “female” is synonym with “psychic”. The male child in the Apocalypse of Adam is an obvious reference to the Illuminator, the same great spiritual power that the “the god of the powers” or the Demiurge, asks, “What is the power of this man who is higher than we?” In Revelation 12: 7-9, the defeating and casting down of the dragon, Satan, to earth by the archangel Michael, has a possible parallel in the struggle between the armies of angels and the armies of Solomon over the virgin in the fourth kingdom of Apoc. Adam, and in the battle between Jesus and the beasts in Mark 1:13 and Satan/Devil in the temptation stories. So why in the world is Satan and his hosts of principalities and powers cast down to earth at the end of time? Because as St. Paul puts it in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

In other words, Satan and his angels were active in the lower heavens when they crucified the “Lord of Glory” (e.g. Jesus Christ) in 1 Corinthians 2:8. But in the End of Days, Michael, the archangel and his angels will cast the Devil down to earth.

Isis_suckling_Horus

The story of the divine child, who, together with his divine mother, is threatened by an evil power, yet is rescued and finds safety in the wilderness until the evil power is destroyed can very much be interpreted with a Gnostic lens. And naturally, the divine mother and child archetype is one that repeats in almost every ancient culture around the world, beginning with Isis and her son Horus, and possibly before that. The divine Mother, being Sophia, who also gives birth also suggests a connection to Eve, and the divine male child, being Seth, who (with his seed) is caught up to the aeon or put in a holy dwelling place and stays up there for a time, thus overthrowing the powers, i.e. the dragon archon who brought the great flood as mentioned in the Gospel of the Egyptians. And at the end, a voice or Logos, i.e. Seth, announces the arrival of final salvation much like the divine call of Revelation 12: 10-12.

Revelation 12 could also reflect the activity of Sophia who becomes pregnant with her passions, from which appears the Archon, i.e. the dragon/lion-headed hybrid mutant Ialdabaoth. As seen in On the Origin of the World, the dragon, Ialdaboath and his fellow archons pursue Epinoia or Eve-Zoe, but she becomes an eagle on the tree of Gnosis (like the Savior Jesus in the Apocryphon of John) and in another account, Eve-Zoe transforms into a tree, thus eluding the pursing lustful Archons. The primeval couple is kicked out of paradise, but produces Seth and his seed where they are taken to the ethereal wilderness, after which the Archons bring the flood, a belligerent act of war against the Gnostic offspring of Eve, which parallels Revelation 12:15-16, where it states:

Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

The woman who is pursued by the dragon, sprouts eagle’s wings, which has parallels in the bird of Kingdom 2:

And a bird came, took the child who was born, and brought him onto a high mountain. And he was nourished by the bird of heaven. An angel came forth there. He said to him “Arise! God has given glory to you.” He received glory and strength. And thus he came to the water.

Another parallel is with the descending dove featured in Mark 1:10 and the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews where the child is lifted to Mount Tabor. This entire basic mythological structure between Revelation 12 and the Apocalypse of Adam, can also be applied to the Gospel account in Matthew of Jesus’ birth to Mary and their flight to Egypt from Herod. This pattern can also be seen in certain aspects of the Isis-Osiris-Horus cycle as well as stories of Zeus and his mother Rhea Silvia hiding him from his blood-thirsty father Titan Kronos, Perseus and Danae, and Jason and Diomede. Ancient Greek harpies were also said to be the winged female agents (sometimes depicted with talons) of Zeus that snatched away people who would dare reveal the secrets of the Olympian gods.

The idea of a woman with eagle wings also appears in Native American and Aztec legends as the Bird Goddesses, Ix Chel and Itzpapalotl. The symbol of the Eagle was also associated with the soaring spirit over the mundane and base material concerns. It also represented a state of grace achieved through a series of initiations to receive personal, spiritual power through the essence of Shamanic Eagle medicine. There are also strong parallels with Revelation 12 and even the rest of Revelation with the final segment of the Gnostic On the Origin of the World. The woman clothed with the sun is no longer the victimized divine Mother in distress, trying to elude the wrath of the evil powers but is now the one engaged in the pursing against them!

The stars of the sky will cancel their circuits. And a great clap of thunder will come out of a great force that is above all the forces of chaos, where the firmament of the woman is situated. Having created the first product, she will put away the wise fire of intelligence and clothe herself with witless wrath. Then she will pursue the gods of chaos, whom she created along with the prime parent. She will cast them down into the abyss. They will be obliterated because of their wickedness. For they will come to be like volcanoes and consume one another until they perish at the hand of the prime parent. When he has destroyed them, he will turn against himself and destroy himself until he ceases to exist.

The Simonian text, Concept of Our Great Power also has many strong apocalyptic undertones spread throughout. It even has an Anti-Christ/Beast figure.

Then when the times were completed, then wickedness arose mightily even until the final end of the Logos. Then the archon of the western regions arose, and from the East he will perform a work, and he will instruct men in his wickedness. And he wants to nullify all teaching, the words of true wisdom, while loving the lying wisdom. For he attacked the old, wishing to introduce wickedness and to put on dignity. He was incapable, because the defilement of his garments is great. Then he became angry. He appeared and desired to go up and to pass up to that place. Then the appointed time came and drew near. And he changed the commands.

Then the time came until the child had grown up. When he had come to his maturity, then the archons sent the imitator to that man in order that they might know our great Power. And they were expecting from him that he would perform for them a sign. And he bore great signs. And he reigned over the whole earth and all those who are under heaven. He placed his throne upon the end of the earth, for “I shall make you god of the world”. He will perform signs and wonders. Then they will turn from me, and they will go astray.

So, the archons finally go to war at the end of the “Logos” – “… when the times were completed, then wickedness arose mightily even until the final end of the Logos.” Compare this to Revelation 12:7, when again, Michael wages a war against Satan, who is depicted as a chaos dragon, much like Tiamat of the Mesopotamian religions.

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

It is also interesting to note the same dragon beast that pursues the divine mother is also rode upon the Whore of Babylon of Revelation 17 and 18 or the “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth”, which could be interpreted as the the barbarous “Achamoth”, the name of the “fallen” form of Sophia. Sophia who fled to the “wilderness” (which could also be interpreted as the primeval fall from the Pleroma into the material chaos and the subsequent abortion of her monstrous “child of chaos”) is also called “Echamoth” according to the Gospel of Philip:

Echamoth is one thing and Echmoth, another. Echamoth is Wisdom simply, but Echmoth is the Wisdom of death, which is the one who knows death, which is called “the little Wisdom”.

Another curious passage from Revelation 17: 9 tells us that Whore of Babylon sat on seven heads, which could be a reference to the seven rulers who rule over the seven heavens that is listed in the Apocryphon of John.

And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sat.

It also shares ideas of Proverbs 9:1, where it states Wisdom was said to have built a house for herself, and to have set up “seven pillars” a possible reference to the Hebdomad, or the Hellenistic seven heavens or the seven celestial planets or powers of the Apoc. John. This might be a stretch but one can easily see how the “seven heads” and “mountains” could connect to Gnostic cosmology. The fate of the wanton prostitute isn’t a pretty one as she falls prey to her own wiles and is ultimately destroyed by divine fire by the God of judgement and wrath per Revelation. 18:4-8:

‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Pour her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

William_Blake_whore_babylon The Freemasonic scholar Manly P. Hall in the Secret Teachings of All Ages, claims the whore of Babylon is basically a degenerated and vilified version of the “divine mother” archetype when he writes (p. 188):

Here also is introduced a symbolic figure, termed “the harlot of Babylon, “which is described as a woman seated upon a scarlet-colored beast having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet and bedecked with gold, precious st Here also is introduced a symbolic figure, termed “the harlot of Babylon, “which is described as a woman seated upon a scarlet-colored beast having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scones, and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations. This figure may be an effort (probably interpolated) to vilify Cybele, or Artemis, the Great Mother goddess of antiquity. Because the pagans venerated the Mater Deorum through symbols appropriate to the feminine generative principle they were accused by the early Christians of worshiping a courtesan. As nearly all the ancient Mysteries included a test of the neophyte’s moral character, the temptress (the animal soul) is here portrayed as a pagan goddess.

The Whore of Babylon also fits very well with the dark crone mother figure of Lilith of Kabbalistic lore as well. The Greek Titan Saturn-Kronos (in the guise of the “Son of Man,”) also makes an appearance in the Revelation 14: 14-16, when it states:

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

reaping_the_harvest-p9875698 Behind the Roman Saturn is the Greek Kronos, naturally. And behind those two is the Phoenician El, a name familiar with and associated with YHWH, the god of Israel. The “Son of Man” or Jesus Christ takes on this role of the reaper of souls at the apocalypse. This Son of Man figure also appears much earlier in the Book of 1 Enoch as well. The rest of Revelation also owes a lot of its inspiration from Enochian literature as well. An entire dissertation could be done on this subject alone!

“And they shall be terrified, and they shall be downcast of countenance, and pain shall seize them, when they see that Son of Man Sitting on the throne of his glory. And the kings and the mighty and all who possess the earth shall bless and glorify and extol him who rules over all, who was hidden…”  – 1 Enoch 62:5-6 “And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule the earth shall fall down before him on their faces, and worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man, and petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands… And He will deliver them to the angels for punishment, To execute vengeance on them because they have oppressed His children and His elect. And they shall be a spectacle for the righteous and for His elect: They shall rejoice over them, Because the wrath of the Lord of Spirits resteth upon them, And His sword is drunk with their blood.” – 1 Enoch 62:9-12

So here, we have Enoch refer to the sword of wrath that the Son of Man will wield on His Father’s behalf. Among the many times that Jesus spoke of the Son of Man, He was likely using this term to identify Himself or with another celestial figure in the Son of Man spoken of in 1 Enoch and Daniel. This is especially evident in the following Scriptures:

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” – Matthew 16:27 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” – Matthew 25:31

Kronos isn’t the only Greek deity to appear in Revelation. We also see the solar deity Apollo appear as an inverted archetype of the Angel of Destruction, Apollyon who is the chief ruler of an army of locust demons in Revelation 9:8-11:

The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

It’s rather interesting that the Revelation author would choose to make Kronos be the good guy (through the Son of Man) while invert the beauty, order and goodness of Apollo into an angel of the bottomless pit. Though Apollo was known as a god of prophecy, law and purification, in his earliest accounts, he could place plagues on mankind as well as cure them. This occurs in Homer’s IIliad, when Apollo creates a nine-day deadly plague on the Achaean army and their cattle.

The description given to Apolloyon’s army of locust demons sounds eerily similar to that of the legendary creature of Persia, the Manticore (the “maneater”). This predatory monster is said to be mutated mixture of a man’s face with a lion’s face and body, along with a scorpion’s tail and bat wings. 127285_-Elder_Manticore-final2 James Davila in Melchizedek, Michael, and the War in Heaven, writes about the YHWH’s connection with the Archangel Michael from Revelation:

The origins of this reflex of the myth are extremely ancient. An Ugaritic text (CTA 5.1.1-5) alludes to a battle in which the god Baal defeated LTN, clearly the same creature as the monster Leviathan in the Hebrew Bible and later literature. In the restoration period or later, the apocalyptic section of the book of Isaiah (chs. 24-27) refers to the same myth–in almost the same words, but the battle is projected into the eschatological Endzeit and has Yahweh as the protagonist (Isa 27:1). This eschatological form of the tradition is developed further in Revelation, first by the replacement of Yahweh by Michael, and second by the use of the more generic term “dragon” (DRA/KWN) instead of the name Leviathan. As Richard Bauckham has noted, the picture of the dragon is significantly developed by its identification (perhaps by way of Isa 27:1) with the serpent of Genesis 3 and then, by extension, with the devil or Satan.

This Satan dragon serpent archetype can actually be traced back to the Egyptian “Lord of Chaos” Apep, who is depicted as a serpent, the embodiment of chaos and the enemy of the light and order of Ra, Ma’at and Thoth. Thoth or Tautus was nothing more then the title of an educated linguist and secret society member, who claimed himself to be the embodiment of the Egyptian Logos. Ra, as well as Horus, are also portrayed as often struggling against the darkness and chaos of this serpent, much like how Michael struggles against the Serpent and Dragon, Satan. One can see how this chaos myth repeats itself over and over again, traced back to the Egyptian religion which precedes Christianity and Judaism by thousands of years! apep-papyrus-of-hunefer

The war in heaven motif can also be traced to the Titanomacy which can be found in Homer’s Illiad where Hephaestus was cast down from the heavenly threshold by Zeus. Hesiod’s Theogony also recounts that the gods, after defeating the Titans, hurled them down to Tartarus, beneath Hades for their rebellion. Finally, according to Patristic literature, the arch-heretic Cerinthus is often associated with Revelation. The Latin Church Father Tertullian in Against Marcion 3.13, understands Babylon as the city of Rome:

…Egypt is sometimes understood, in His sense, the whole world as being marked out by superstition and a curse. By a similar usage Babylon also in our (St.) John is a figure of the city of Rome, as being like (Babylon) great and proud in royal power, and warring down the saints of God. Now it was in accordance with this style that He called the magi by the name of Samaritans, because (as we have said) they had practised idolatry as did the Samaritans. Moreover, by the phrase before or against the king of Assyria, understand against Herod against whom the magi then opposed themselves, when they refrained from carrying him back word concerning Christ, whom he was seeking to destroy.

Eusebius quotes from a work by Dionysus of Alexandria, bishop of Alexandria, saying that there were many who rejected the Johannine (John) authorship and authority of Revelation, and actually hated the book in Church History (7.25.1-2).

Some indeed of those before our time rejected and altogether impugned the book, examining it chapter by chapter and declaring it to be unintelligible and illogical, and its title false. For they say that it is not John’s, no, nor yet an apocalypse (i.e., an unveiling), since it is veiled by its heavy, thick curtain of its unintelligibility, and that the author of the book was not only not one of the apostles, nor even one of the saints or those belonging to the Church, but Cerinthus, the same who created the sect called ‘Cerinthian’ after him, since he desired to affix to his own forgery a name worthy of credit.

It is worth noting that, according to the good bishop, Dionysius (yes, there were many bishops named after the Greek god of wine), a certain heretic Cerinthus believed in an earthly kingdom of Christ was filled with material pleasures including fornication and great marriage feasts. Here we have only scratched the surface with all the inner workings of Revelation and I suspect there is much more hidden and coded Gnostic parallels and Gemetria (the Assyrian art of assigning numerical values to words) contained in this seemingly “illogical, unintelligible and false” text, like in the city of New Jerusalem that shows up at the end of the apocalypse, which has strong alchemical and Hermetic traits. Gemetria is something I’ve been toying with for a while now and I may pursue it further in my research.

Biblical Exegesis: The Three Phoenixes in Paradise

Phoenix by Fabelwesen

[…], so that in their world it might pass the thousand years in Paradise – a soul-endowed living creature called “phoenix”. It kills itself and brings itself to life as a witness to the judgment against them, for they did wrong to Adam and his generation, unto the consummation of the age. There are […] three men, and also his posterities, unto the consummation of the world: the spirit-endowed of eternity, and the soul-endowed, and the earthly. Likewise, the three phoenixes <in> Paradise – the first is immortal; the second lives 1,000 years; as for the third, it is written in the Sacred Book that it is consumed. So, too, there are three baptisms – the first is the spiritual, the second is by fire, the third is by water. Just as the phoenix appears as a witness concerning the angels, so the case of the water hydri in Egypt, which has been a witness to those going down into the baptism of a true man. The two bulls in Egypt possess a mystery, the sun and the moon, being a witness to Sabaoth: namely, that over them Sophia received the universe; from the day that she made the sun and the moon, she put a seal upon her heaven, unto eternity. — On the Origin of the World.

While I touch on the concept of the Phoenix very briefly in an upcoming, academically-minded essay that explores the nature of the Greek god Eros (as mentioned in the same text of Orig. World), I didn’t get a chance to go in-depth so without further ado, I will do just that in this edition of Biblical Exegesis. On the Origin of the World is one of the more innovative texts found in the Nag Hammadi Library that just does its own thing without any real connection to any other text, except for Eugnostos the Blessed and Hypostasis of the Archons. As noted by other scholars, the On Origin of the World is almost certainly composed in Alexandria, Egypt: this is suggested not only by the mention of some typically Egyptian matters (phoenix, irrigation, bulls) and the remark that only Egypt resembles the paradise of God, but also by various ideas that can only have their background in Alexandria, the ground which sprung up other well-known arch-heretics like Valentinus, Basilides, and many esoteric Hermetic cults.

Illustration of Apis - the Sacred Bull of Egypt

In the above passage, animal metaphors (in a positive context) are abound. Here the phoenix is mentioned as well as the two bulls of Egypt, which are connected with the sun and the moon. Most likely, these bulls are the Mnevis ox, associated with Atem-Ra/sun, and the Apis ox, associated with the Osiris/moon. These creatures are used as baptismal symbols. The Phoenix was indeed an emblematic image for some Gnostic groups and their baptismal concepts as hinted in the above excerpt. The Phoenix is also associated with the three natures or the three types of man, specifically in context of the excerpt.

Likewise, the three phoenixes <in> Paradise – the first is immortal; the second lives 1,000 years; as for the third, it is written in the Sacred Book that it is consumed. So, too, there are three baptisms – the first is the spiritual, the second is by fire, the third is by water.

The immortal Phoenix represents the spiritual man that is destined to return to the Eternal realm of the three-fold anthropology we see repeat in not only in the Nag Hammadi Codices but extrapolated from the Parable of the Sower in Matthew, Thomas, Mark, and in the Apostle Paul’s Romans and 1 Corinthians. The second refers to the “psychic man” (half-way in between the spiritual and material realms) and the third being the “choic” or hylic (material) man, holding no spiritual ground and is “consumed” as if he never existed because matter was conceived as ultimately transitory and non-eternal. Western alchemy makes use of the Hellenic elements, being Water, Fire, Earth and Air, which can ultimately be traced to the Stoics. The author distinctly uses two of these elements in reference to the three baptisms.

The Phoenix itself is a well-known alchemical symbol for transmutation and resurrection from the death of the old self and into the new. In about 300 AD, the Hermetic and Gnostic adept, Zosimos of Panoplis provided one of the first definitions of alchemy as the study of:

The composition of the waters, and the movement, and the growth, and the removal and restitution of bodily nature, and the splitting off of the spirit from the body, and the fixation of the spirit on the body are not operations with natures alien one from the other, but, like the hard bodies of metals and the moist fluids of plants, are One Thing, of One Nature, acting upon itself.

It was also a well-known symbol for the sun. According to Achilles Tatius, who wrote Leucippe et Clitophon in the 2nd century, he described the head array of the phoenix in terms of being connection with the sun in the form of a rayed nimbus—much like the solar crown of the Statue of Liberty. According to his report, the phoenix prides itself that the sun is its Lord.

Colossus

In Greece, the sun god Helios was represented with the attribute of the rayed nimbus from end of the fifth century B.C. on. Before, he was depicted with a solar disk above his head.

Other writers such as Hesiod, Hecataeus, Antiphanes, Ezekiel the Dramatist, Manilius and others have written extensively on this mythological bird. According to Manillus, the  phoenix dies on a fragrant nest after having lived 540-years, and from its bones and marrow a worm arises which rapidly becomes a young and then an adult bird.

In other versions, the worm would rise from the ashes of the cremated phoenix but people like Epiphanius (in his work Ancoratus) found this conception to be illogical and had the worm develop to a mature phoenix in three days (to make the myth more suitable as a symbol of Christ) from the partially destroyed remains of the bird. The first act of the new phoenix is to carry the entire nest with its contents to the city of the sun near Panchaia, where it places its burden on the altar.

Further in the patristic tradition, the Phoenix was symbolic of the Resurrection of Jesus as mentioned by Clement of Rome, Tertullian and Lactantius. The Christian Church Father, Clement of Rome specifically repeats this story in Chapter 25 in The First Epistle, connecting it to the Resurrection of Christ and his believers.

Of course, the Phoenix has its origins in ancient Egypt as there are striking Egyptian colors used throughout this incredible treatise as the Egyptian bird Benu. In the vignettes of the Book of the Dead and on many monuments, the benu is shown as a heron-like bird with long legs and a pair of long feathers projecting horizontally from the back of its head. The benu with the solar disk is also found in Egyptian papyri. In fact, the solar disk was a more common solar attribute given to other various animals connected with the sun, like Hathor, the cow goddess, for instance along with the Ram god Chnum, the Apis bull, and the crocodile. The only solar disk giving off rays that occurs in Egyptian art is the one used as a symbol of the sun. It was in this way, the heretical King Ekhnaton had his god Aton represented in Amarna.

Chnoubis

On many magical amulets in the Greco-Roman period used against stomach diseases, the multi-rayed crown or nimbus was found, usually in connection with the lion or leontocephaline figures like Mithra or Chnoubis, who is almost always depicted has being a man, a man covered by a snake, a serpent, or a dragon with a lion’s head. The Jewish god Yahweh is also often depicted as being a lion-faced anthropormorphic being, who was the lord of lightening, thunder and wind. From ancient times, the lion too was associated with the sun: in Heliopolis, it was said that a pair of lions were worshiped as animals of the sun as mentioned in Aelian, XII, 7. In the Book of the Dead, the dead man who identified himself with the sun god could say:

“I am he who crosses the heaven, I am the Lion Re”.

On an amulet featuring the god of silence, Harpocrates, he is depicted as riding on a lion with a large nimbus around its head which six or seven double rays spread out.

Harpocrates

Other bird-like figures such as Horus with a falcon’s head is shown with a  solar disk. One can easily see how the solar disk iconography of Egypt influenced the Catholic imagery of the halo around Jesus’ head.

Horus

In a more spiritualized form these themes acquired great importance to the Chaldean theology of Julian the Apostate, Proclus, and others. The noetic (metaphysical) sun god draws the souls upward and in this function he is called “the one adorned with seven rays”. The number seven was considered to be a sacred number, representing perfection of the life after death awaiting the purified souls in the sphere of the planets and of the sun. Through this context, such ideas were associated with the seven rays of the phoenix, symbolic for life after death or immortality. The seven rays associated with Chnoubis could also represent the seven heavens of chaos along with the “Seven Angels that Made the World” per the Gnostic teacher, Saturnilus of Antioch. Ialdaboath, the first archon and world-creator, has the body of a dragon and the face of a lion—an image identified with not only the sun, but also the planet Saturn-Cronos = Chronos, all-generating Time.

Double-headed Phoenix

According to the famous 33rd Freemasonic author, Manly P. Hall, he writes in the Secret Teachings of All Ages about the two-headed Phoenix:

The symbol of the self-born, who is the androgynous phoenix in the esoteric symbol. The double-headed phoenix is the prototype of an androgynous man, for according to the secret teachings there will.

Plato used the androgynous Primeval Man to explain heterosexual love, just as the undivded male and female primeval people serve to clarify homosexual and lesbian relations. For Plato, the earliest Kabbalists, the Manichaeans (with their First Man) Philo of Alexandria, and the author of Poimandres, the first human being was exclusively androgynous, who also mirrored the Kabbalistic Adam Kadmon who was also conceived as androgynous. While the Primeval Man may have its origins in Plato (Symposium), there is no question that his formulation of the idea that love and sexuality are expressions of the split character of man for which man himself is solely responsible, had a far-reaching influence. This myth implies that the original, undivided, and perfect individual did not know sexuality. But Plato does not go as far as the author of Poimandres, who states that sexual desire is responsible for man’s mortality and death. Similar sentiments are expressed in On the Origin of the World and the Gospel of Philip.

The bisexual phoenix is mainly a symbol of eschatological man arisen from the dead, for whom male and female coincide, and who has had returned to him his original, perfect unity. In Paul’s statement that in Christ there is neither male nor female (Galations 3.28), one could easily interpret this to mean that Paul taught a doctrine akin to the bisexual origins of humanity. These concepts of the Primeval Man does much to clarify the ideas attached to the bisexuality of the phoenix. In the Old Testament, Psalm 102 (LXX) was connected with rejuvenation and resurrection in the myth of the phoenix, and in Exegesis of the Soul the quotation concludes with the words, “Your youth will be renewed like an eagle’s.”

“Praise the lord, O my soul, and, all that is within me, (praise) his holy name. My soul, praise God, who forgave all your sins, who healed all your sicknesses, who ransomed your life from death, who crowned you with mercy, who satisfies your longing with good things. Your youth will be renewed like an eagle’s.”

The Slavic Book of Enoch (15:1) also mentions the Phoenix (and in other places in the same text) in very strong-endearing terms, much like Orig. World:

Then the elements of the sun, called Phoenixes and Chalkydri break into song, therefore every bird flutters with its wings, rejoicing at the giver of light, and they broke into song at the command of the Lord.

Towards the end in the quoted excerpt of On the Origin of the World, it also mentions how the sun and the moon were witnesses to the repentant archon Sabaoth. “Heaven” in context of the excerpt, can also refer to the physical heavenly bodies and astrology. The author of this text seems to have a much more positive (or at least ambiguous) outlook on material life because the text often refers to many physical attributes in creation (the heavenly bodies, the animals, the Garden of Eden, even the material body of Adam) in endearing, even romantic terms because of their association with the feminine Wisdom figure of Sophia. On the Origin of the World seems to be alone in this regard.

Animals and “animality” are still, however, mainly used as negative designations and that comments on real animals are only disgressions from the real issue of the majority Nag Hammadi texts, which is spiritual salvation. In the struggle of salvation, animals are doubly losers, both because they will not be saved and because they are used to describe nature, materiality, desire and sexuality. In other words, the whole inherent fabric of the material world is deeply negative. It is not that animals in themselves are evil, but are merely used as adjectives to describe the most basest of human traits.

Internal passions were described as animalistic while external powers – planetary rulers or demons – were conceived of in the shape of animals or animal hybrids. Many texts like the Apocryphon of John and patristic sources like Origen (Against Celsus) mention and preserve the notion that cosmic powers were animal-headed beings – the obvious example being the lion-headed serpent, Ialdaboath. The Nag Hammadi texts preserve the notion of a desperate struggle to leave the world of the beasts and bestial aspects of physical reality behind in favor of a spiritual one. Some scholars interpret that Celsus’s discussion of the Ophite Gnostics in the True Doctrine, that their initiates would wear animal masks to presuppose their connection to the Mithriac mysteries.

Not only is the use of animals given shapes and bodies to evil powers but to also brand other people and their gods as beasts. In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, opponents were characterized as “unreasoning beasts” and “dumb animals” which were obvious references to the persecution done by the Orthodox (Catholic) Christians of the time, whom the Gnostic author mocks with disdain much like the author of the Gospel of Judas.

The path of Phoenix isn’t ever an easy one and it is the last stage of becoming divinized, in which the initiate attains immortality as symbolized by the Philosopher’s Stone or the “Pearl of the Great Price”, the spiritual core of his being. It can often be an arduous path full of hardship and struggle but is is also one of healing and transformation. And the author of On the Origin of the World manages to condense different concepts and ideas in a harmonic chain that one could write a several-volume exegesis on this one text alone!

Stay tuned for more installments of Biblical Exegesis.