Christ

The Megas Aeon Podcast #3 featuring Miguel Conner – Abraxas, Westworld and the Voice of Gnosis

In this episode, I interview the one and only Miguel Conner, the host of Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio. We discuss many different topics including Miguel’s spiritual experiences in the Santo Daime cult and with the Gnostic deity, Abraxas while comparing them to my own encounters with the spirit world, including the likes of Jesus Christ, Baphomet, demons, and other spirit visitors. We also discuss his spiritual practices, his insights into HBO’s Westworld and its parallels with Gnosticism and current events, his favorite Gnostic figureheads, the Yezidi’s Melek Taus, and much, much more! Enjoy.

Outro music: Westworld – Main Title Theme (Vector Squad Remix)

False Gods, Divine Charlatans and Hermetic Hustlers (Part 2)

tumblr_l85um8XZkL1qd17d2

Daimonic Doubles Revisited

The concept of the “twin” or even “divine twin” is a common one that also appears in antiquity. This is a notion that a person has within a transcendent dimension, or a “heavenly counterpart”, or what in various modern magical “secret” orders call the “Holy Guardian Angel”. This being is analogous to the “daimonic”, “Eidolon” double of Greek and Platonic literature. The twin concept can also be seen in the dichotomy between Simon Magus and Paul, Simon Magus with Peter in the Clementine literature, as well as the struggle between Paul and Peter in the epistles. Even in the Old Testament, we have Cain who slays Abel which echo the Roman-Sabine legends of Romulus and Remus, Egyptian ones like Osiris and Set, the astrological sign of Gemini, as well as the Greek Castor and Pollux.

In a way, we can see this in Paul’s letters when he speaks of “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” in Galatians 2:20. This indicates that a spirit being called “Christ” had possessed Paul, after his conversion. The old ego of Paul was removed as a new, higher ego emerged, whose vital principle is Christ Himself. In the Acts of John 55, an unnamed elder approaches John and, after a brief discussion, states,

“Now I know that God dwells in you, O blessed John! For he who tempts you tempts the one who cannot be tempted.”

This is more pronounced in the Gospel of Thomas, where the apostle Judas Thomas, is said to have been the “twin” (Didymus) of Christ. Is it to be assumed that if any of Christ’s disciples were to truly grasp his teachings, who would be a more likely candidate than his own twin? Much of the Gospel of Thomas that would have invoked great displeasure from the Church Fathers, with lines like:

“I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”

Such statements indicate a sort of panspermatic type of panetheism, similiar to what is found in Manichaean texts of the countless, innumerable light sparks of the First Man who would battle against the primeval forces of Darkness. These light sparks were said to be interspersed throughout the wicked cosmos, much like how it is described in ancient Orphic texts with Zeus exacting revenge against the murderous Titans who tore and consumed the body and limbs of Dionysus. Both of these cosmological stories echo the ancient Egyptian myths of Osiris depicted as a divided god, murdered and torn apart by his brother Set, the god of storms and foreigners, only to be restored again by his consort Isis. In this instance, we find the primordial, violent origins of mankind and his conflicted nature: one being the divine Dionysus, and the infernal Titanic elements being his flesh.

“(The Lord), talking to me, said: I am thee, and thou art Me; wherever thou art, there I am. I am sown everywhere” (Gospel of Eve, Erbetta, p. 537 – Bibliogaphy).

The words “sown everywhere” of the latter quotation is very important, for it corresponds to a fundamental Valentinian teaching. Each soul’s substance comes from Sophia, but its living Center, the Spirit, is a fragment, as it were, of the very Life of the Son as Christ. This fragment is called either “Spark” or “Seed”.

“After the psychical body had been formed, a male Seed was placed by the Logos in the chosen sleeping soul. That Seed is an outflow of the Angelic Being, so that there would be no Lack (Hystérëma).” (ExTh 2: 1).

In any case, the rest of the Gospel of Thomas is just as enigmatic if not down right bizarre, even for Biblical standards (and there is certainly weirdness abound in the traditional canon).

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

Clearly, Jesus is invoking alchemical and Hermetic language in the context of an initiatory process of Gnosis. We also saw this language used in the Gospel of Philip as I quoted in my previous article. This process is clearly internal, without the need or aid of outside churches, priests, or prayers for forgiveness (not that the concept of repentance is non-existent in Gnostic literature as it most certainly is). Let us cross compare with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, as legend has it was found or even written by the great magician and healer Apollonius of Tyana (we will get to him in another post):

It is true without lie, certain and most true. What is Below is like that which is Above. And that which is Above, like that which is Below, serve to bring the wonder of the Universe into existence. And as all things originate from One thing, from the Idea of One Mind: so do all created things originate from this One thing through adaptation. Its father is the Sun, its mother the Moon.

The Wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the Earth. It is the father of all existing things in the entire Universe. Its inherent virtue is perfected when it is changed into Earth. Separate the Earth from the Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, repeatedly with great skillfulness. It rises from Earth to Heaven, and falls back down again to Earth, thereby containing within itself the powers of both the Above and the Below. Thus will you obtain the glory of the entire Universe. Every darkness will leave you. This is the greatest strength of all, because it conquers every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing. In this way, was the universe created. From this proceeds wonders, of which herewith is an example. Therefore, I am called the three-times glorified Hermes, because I possess all three parts of true understanding of the whole Universe. What I have had to say about the operation of the Sun is completed.

What is amusing to see is how not only does Jesus and Hermes seem to be espousing the exact same doctrine but in that Christ is being somewhat more explicit in his use of Hermetic language than even old Hermes himself, the spiritual father of the alchemical and occult arts and sciences. What is quoted above reads very similar elsewhere in Thomas, such as “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war,” and this one, “I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I’m guarding it until it blazes.” All of this sounds a lot like what Hermes describes as “Separate the Earth from the Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, repeatedly with great skillfulness”. Judas Thomas even goes as far to say that, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.” Strong words! The death that is being emphasized here is spiritual death i.e. ignorance or what the Gospel of Truth calls “oblivion”.

Another source for the divine twin is in Manichaean literature, wherein it is said that the prophet Mani was twice visited by his divine twin, heavenly companion or counterpart called Jesus the Light, echoing the divine double sentiments expressed on the Gospel of Thomas. In the Cologne Mani-Codex, Mani tells us this life-changing experience when he meets his divine double:

“…guarded by the might of the Light-angels and the exceedingly strong powers, who had a command from Jesus the Splendour for my safekeeping…They nourished me with visions and signs which they made known to me, slight and quite brief, as far as I was able. For somethings like a flash of lightening he came…”

This being who came to Mani like a “flash of lightening”, he regarded as a manifestation of his own higher identity and often referred to as his “Light-Self” and his al-Taum, “the Twin”. When Mani was 12 years old the Twin appeared to him in a vision and informed him that he was to be responsible for transmitting a great teaching to mankind. In order to do this, he would have to leave the Elchasaitans, a Jewish-Christian sect he was once a part of. All of these sources seem to carry down a tradition, or at least echo the secret doctrine of Christ taught to his inner circle of disciples. Henry Corbin, in The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, writes about the “divine twin” in the context of Manichaean, Islamic and even Medieval Cathar concepts:

“…the heavenly Partner (qarin) or Twin (taw’am) is the dominant figure in the prophetology and soteriology of Manicheism. It is the angel who appears to Mani when he is twenty-four years old and announces that it is time for him to manifest himself and bid men hear his doctrine. “Greetings to you, Mani, from myself and from the lord who sent me to you.” The last words of the dying Mani alluded to this: “I contemplated my Double with my eyes of light.” Later, in their psalms, his community sing: “We bless your partner-Companion of light, Christ, the source of our good.”

Mani, like Thomas in those same Acts which include the Song of the Pearl, has Christos Angelos as his heavenly Twin, who informs him of his vocation, just as the prophet Mohammed was to receive the revelation from the Angel Gabriel (and the identification Christos-Gabriel is by no means unknown in gnosis.) Now, Christos Angelos is the same in relation to Mani (in eastern Manicheism the Virgin of light is substituted for Christos Angelos), as is the taw’am, the “Heavenly Twin,” in relation to each of the Elect respectively and individually.

It is the Form of light which the Elect receive when they enter the Manichean community through the act of solemn renunciation of the powers of this world. At the passing away of one of the Elect, a psalm is sung in praise of “thy heavenly Partner who faileth not.” In Catharism it is he who is called the Spiritus sanctus or angelicus of the particular soul, as carefully distinguished from the Spiritus principalis, the Holy Spirit referred to in invoking the three persons named in the Trinity.”

Much like Thomas being the twin of Jesus, Hermes was the Greek personification of Djehuti or Thoth; here we see an older order of things taking on a new raiment but underneath the same old meanings. Thoth was one of the earlier Egyptian gods, thought to be scribe to the gods, who kept a great library of scrolls, over which one of his wives, Seshat (the goddess of writing) was thought to be mistress. He was associated by the Egyptians with speech, literature, arts, learning. Even the very word “thought” comes from the name Thoth. He, too, was a measurer and recorder of time, as was Seshat, the female counterpart to Thoth.

thoth_hermes_mercury1

Believed to be the author of the spells in the Book of the Dead, he was a helper (and punisher) of the deceased as they try to enter the underworld. In this role, his wife was Ma’at, the personification of order, who was weighed against the heart of the dead to see if they followed Ma’at during their life. It is interesting that the word “Ma’at” is the Egyptian equivalent to wisdom or philosophy. Thus “Philo” is related to feelings of love while “Sophia” is also wisdom thus we have “Philosophy” which actually means the “Study of the love of Ma’at”. The word “matrix” comes from Ma’at (the feminine principle, synonymous with Isis, the progenitor of life) Ra (the Egyptian sun god) X (Roman numeral ten) as well as “mother” and “womb”. To see through the Matrix is to be born again (using Johannine language), to be given a rebirth from darkness to light.

Also, Ma’at derives from Mu’at, which means “to direct, to steer, to give direction; to offer, or sacrifice.” Ma’at is basically the personification of self-initiation although, she herself has little personality and is ore of an abstract ideal. Thoth was also the one who made calculations concerning the heavens, the stars and the earth; the “reckoner of times and seasons”, the one who “measured out the heavens and planned the earth.” He was also the scribe to the company of the gods and was considered the voice of Ra, much like how Enoch-Metatron was considered to be the voice of “God”, or the second or “little” YHWH in the apocryphal Enochic literature. Metatron is also called “co-occupant of the Throne” and in 2 Enoch 44:5:

I have arranged the whole year. And from the year I calculated the months, and from the months I have ticked off the days, and from the day I have ticked off the hours. I, I have measured and noted the hours. And I have distinguished every seed on the earth, and every measure and every righteous scale. I have measured and recorded them.

Thoth was not just a scribe and friend to the gods, but central to order—Ma’at—both in Egypt and in the Duat. He is described in the texts as:

“Self-created, he to whom none hath given birth; the One; he who reckons in heaven, the counter of the stars; the enumerator and measurer of the earth [cosmic space] and all that is contained therein: the heart of Ra cometh forth in the form of the god Tehuti.”

Thoth, here, represents the heart and tongue of Ra, reason and the mental powers of the god and the utterer of speech. Thoth also resembles the Gnostic Aeons like Autogenes, in how they are “thought” of as “self-generated”. This is why Paul in Acts 12:14 is called Hermes, “because he was the chief speaker.” It has been suggested that Thoth is thus the equivalent of the Platonic Logos. Many are his epithets: his best known being “thrice greatest”—in later times becoming Hermes Trismegistus as mentioned by the Emerald Tablets of Hermes.

03_11_hermes_from_thasos_web

The title “thrice great” or “three times blessed” recalls the concept of the Trinity, and even the doctrine of the three natures. The three natures doctrine was regularly espoused by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 and Paul in his epistles. Simon Magus is called the “Great Power of God” in Acts 8:9 and is said to be the author of the Great Announcement as quoted by Hippolytus in the Philosophumena or Refutation of All Heresies. Later Gnostic literature like The Three Steles of Seth and the Trimorphic Protennoia otherwise known as The Three Forms of Forethought use this title many times. Even in Hindu literature, does the three natures doctrine appears in the form of the “sattvas”, “rajas” and “tamas” as explained in the Bhagavad Gita.

Thoth is the inner spiritual recorder of the human constitution, who registers and records the karmic experiences and foretells the future destiny of the deceased, showing that each person is judged by himself– for Thoth here is the person’s own higher ego; as regards cosmic space, Thoth is not only the cosmic Logos, but its aspect as the intelligent creative urge inherent in that Intelligence. Since Thoth was the god of wisdom, and espoused knowledge along with wisdom, this moon deity was balanced. When one dispenses knowledge without the wisdom of speaking at appropriate times, they are considered a blabber mouth. Patience is born out from wisdom. With the application of wisdom and self control, we learn to not to be bedazzled or blinded by this new found light of knowledge and learn to discern what his helpful to our growth and what is merely entertaining. This is when consciousness begins to expand. With wisdom, one can seek to counsel with both the ignorant and the learned just as Jesus did with those considered as the “dregs” of society, such as prostitutes, the blind, the lame and even lepers in the Gospels.

Sitting at the base of the spine is the reptilian brain or what scientists today identify as the R-Complex. It is the part of us that deals fight or flight, fear, aggression and survival of the fittest. Thoth was associated with the bird Ibis; thus the wisdom of the Ibis swallows up the reptile and wisdom over powers aggression and knows when to strike. Thoth is considered the hand and voice of “God” and a counselor of the divinities. The word “Yod” from the Kabbalah (which means to receive) is the Hebrew word for “hand”. The Yod is also the letter for the number ten associated with the Jewish deity Yahweh or in the Chaldean and Gnostic variant IAO.

IAO, accordingly, is not prayed to as a personal god, but more often wielded as a quasi-supernatural force—through the pronunciation of the name itself in magical operations. These operations are described in great detail by the PGM or the Greek Magical Papyri. Hermetic magicians invoked IAO simply because he was supposed to be “god of this world”—the creative Demiurge (also according to the Gnostics!)—who was therefore highly potent in workings designed to cause changes in material  reality, in this world—the Kingdom of Matter. The meaning of IAO is incompatible, however, with the orthodox understanding of Yahweh, who were more interested in appeasing this god’s demands than becoming one. By invoking IAO, one could help ensure that things being willed become manifest in the objective universe as a matter of “natural course”because it is being channeled through the universal creative framework presented as IAO. IAO was also used as sort of a “password” to ascend through the planetary spheres of the cosmic rulers. IAO was also associated with benevolent Archons like Abraxas and Sabaoth. On example can be see in the PGM III. 75-80, where it states:

“I conjure you, the powerful and mighty angel of this animal in this place; rouse yourself for me, and perform the NN [deed] both on this very day and in every hour and day; rouse yourself I for me against my enemies, NN, and perform deed” (add the usual), “for I conjure you S~TH by IAO SABAOTH, and by the great god, IAEO” (formula), “AEBIOY~ ~YOIEEA CHABRAX PHNESKER PHIKO PHNYRO PHCHO BbCH / ABLANATHANALBA

The ancient Phoenicians depicted the number ten as the head of the Ibis. This is where we get the “Ten Commandments”, the laws of the Torah, supposedly written by Moses. The Law of Moses also has many strong parallels to that of Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead, where it states the dead must face 42 judges and must answer 42 questions:

Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . . I have not reviled the God. I have not laid violent hands on an orphan. I have not done what the God abominates . . . I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer. I have not caused anyone’s suffering . . . I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste. I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields. I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance. I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage… I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water. I have not quenched a fire in its time . . . I have not kept cattle away from the God’s property. I have not blocked the God at his processions.

The voice of God as we found out earlier is known as Metatron in the 1 Enoch and Kabbalistic sources. Enoch-Metatron also have strong parallels with Hermes-Thoth as well. Most importantly, Thoth was a clerk of the Halls of Judgment and named a means for it called the Scales of Thoth, where the heart of the initiate is weighed against a feather “of Truth” to find how truly “heavy or light” it is.

10430375_658262840950256_3245340359425927887_n

It is Thoth who equips the dead with efficacious means of protection against the dangers of the Beyond. When the dead has to enter into the presence of the Great Tribunal of the gods, Thoth leads him in, makes pleading for him with the Judges, weighs his heart in the scales against the feather of Ma’at, and, in the end, records the verdict. The details of all this ritual and ceremonial are familiar in the literature of the Book of the Dead: What Thoth once did for Osiris, the same must he do for every dead Egyptian since the Osirian ritual was the standard and guide for all funerary ritual in Egypt. The priests who took part in funerary celebrations regarded themselves as incorporation’s of the Osirian gods. The Book of the Dead make several allusions to mortals achieving immortality or divinity through theurgy and funerary magical ritual. Osiris, the divided and resurrected god of the underworld is also portrayed as one of these judges of the afterlife.

esculap2

Asclepius Absconded

As we’ve seen in Part 1, Hermes was just as legendary as the Simon Magus of the Clementine writings and the apocryphal Acts. One very Hermetic text, Asclepius seems to anticipate this comparison:

And so, Asclepius, what a great miracle is man, a being worthy of reverence and honor. For he passes into the nature of a god as though he were himself divine; he is intimate with the order of daemons, knowing that he is sprung from the same origin; he despises that part of his nature which is human, for his hope is in the divinity of the other part.

Asclepius, as we know from previous articles was also often considered synonymous with Jesus in the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Nicodemus. Like Asclepius, Christ was the Son of God and of a mortal woman. The details surrounding Christ’s birth also resemble the birth saga of the divine Asclepius. Both figures walked the earth as mortals. And both gained a reputation of being healers. Furthermore, both healers were killed and resurrected to divine status. In the case of Asclepius, he was so successful in his healings and resurrections on people like Hippolytus that this caught the attention of gods like Zeus, who expressly forbidden the act of healing. Zeus struck Asclepius with a thunderbolt, killing him instantly. The Latin Church Father Tertulllian cites the lyric poet Pindar in Apology, Chapter 14, and comments that Asclepius,

“deservedly stricken with lightning for his greed in practicing wrongfully his art. A wicked deed it was of Jupiter–if he hurled the bolt–unnatural to his grandson, and exhibiting envious feeling to the Physician.”

Another version of his death holds that Hades became angry at Asclepius because he kept bringing back people from the dead. The lord of the Underworld believed that no more dead spirits would venture to his realm, and thus asked his brother Zeus to dispose of him. Because of this Apollo became so furious at Zeus’ actions that he killed Cyclops, the one eyed monster who made lightening for Zeus. Because of this Zeus banished Apollo out from Mount Olympus but later allowed Asclepius to enter back into the divine realm. And Asclepius was also resurrected and allowed back into the realm of the gods and all was well on Mount Olympus. In another variation of the story, Zeus was also alleged to have placed the body of Asclepius among the stars following his death, as the constellation called Ophiuchus, which translates to “The Serpent Holder.”

Engraving by Sir James Thornhill

This “Serpent Holder” sounds very close to what John 3:14 says about the “Son of Man”:

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

The speculations concerning the Christian Trinity were dangerously close to the speculations about Asclepius, who was third from Zeus, the second being Apollo. The syncretic god Serapis was also considered synonymous with Asclepius and was even depicted as a snake, with the head recognizable as Serapis. Serapis was also associated with Osiris, Isis and Harpocrates. Could these references of Jesus and Moses being connected to serpents also reflect that they may also be associated with the Serpent in Genesis and the Garden of Eden? Furthermore, could the Gnostic-Ophite and Manichaean speculations of the Serpent being sent by Sophia or even Jesus “the Splendor” be based in scripture and not just in speculative inverted fancy? There are paintings, sculptures and vase etchings that depict the eleventh labor penance for the demigod Hercules, who stands next to a tree with a serpent named Ladon, guarding the golden apples of immortality, in the Garden of Hesperidies, tended by maidens and nymphs. This recalls the stories of Genesis 3 and even Gilgamesh, both of which include the legendary search for immortality associated with a serpent.

IMG_1546

This also has strong applications to the Caduceus, the twin snake staff of Hermes. This also relates to Agathosdaimon, the “good spirit of abundance” and Tyche Agathe, the first of which was associated with the Orphic Deity Phanes Protogenos. Agathosdaimon was also portrayed as a serpent in coins, monuments, figurines, reliefs, lamps, etc.

hesperides-golden-apple-tree-of-life-greek

Glykon was also depicted as a serpent with a human-like face. In the writings of the satirist Lucian (Alexander the False Prophet 24), we see the con-man Pseudo-Alexander, who claimed that the made up serpent god, Glykon was a reincarnation of Asclepius! This, of course, was a parody of Agathosdaimon, Asclepius as well as Serapis. Glykon could may also be a parody of the lion-headed serpent, Ialdabaoth.

By now he was even sending men abroad to create rumours in the different nations in regard to the oracle and to say that he made predictions, discovered fugitive slaves, detected thieves and robbers, caused treasures to be dug up, healed the sick, and in some cases had actually raised the dead.

glycon

The emperor Julian the “Apostate” or Philosopher (Roman Emperor 361-363 and half-brother of Emperor Constantine the Great!), although raised a Christian, eventually saw Christianity as a betrayal of the Greco-Roman tradition and desired a return to traditional forms of worship, upon his ascent to power. Moreover, his attempts to compete with Jesus Christ, was somewhat frustrated. Julian attempted to use Helios, or Sol Invictus against Jesus of the Christians but it didn’t really pan out. Julian in the Heroic Deeds of Constantius, 59B, writes about the role of the Emperor:

For law is the child of justice, the sacred and truly divine adjunct of the most might god, and never will the man who is wise make light of it or set it at naught. But since all that he does will have justice in view, he will be eager to honor the good, and the vicious he will, like a good physician, make every effort to cure.

In this likening himself to a physician, he may not have intentionally recalled Asclepius, Julian was relatively unpopular, especially with the Christians. By employing a figure like Asclepius, a benevolent and universally loved healing figure of the pagans, Julian found a suitable rival to that of Jesus Christ. Celsus in Contra Celsus by Origen, provided a similar polemic against the Christians, like Julian, who believed the Christian religion destroyed the foundation of Greco-Roman tradition and culture. Julian like Celsus argued against the Christians and that of Christ’s miracles in which he regarded as inferior and the work of a low-class magician, no better than the phony charlatan religion ascribed to Glykon and his prophet, Alexander.

So Julian mocked the Christians for being duped into a false faith by a charlatan healer. His criticisms against the Christians are, interestingly enough, very similiar how the Church Fathers campaigned against the heretics being the Gnostics and other groups. And yet, Julian also had some very “Gnostic” views himself in his criticisms of Biblical theology. By calling Christians “Galileans”, he refused to acknowledge their name, and belittled Christianity as a mere localized, regional cult as stated in Against the Galileans, eventually recovered by the Christian Bishop, Cyril of Alexandria in the fifth-century in his refutation, Against Julian. Even after hundreds of years had passed from the time of Julian’s death, Cyril felt that it was necessary to refute the claims of Julian. In Against the Galileans, 375, 61, Julian writes about Asclepius as being superior over Christ and the doctrines of the Christians:

Asclepius, having made his visitation to earth from the sky, appeared at Epidaurus singly, in the shape of a man; but afterwards he multiplied himself, and by his visitations stretched out over the whole earth his saving right hand. He came to Pergamon, to Ionia, to Tarentum afterwards; and later he came to Rome. And he travelled to Cos and thence to Aegae. Next he is present everywhere on land and sea. He visits no one of us separately, and yet he raises up souls that are sinful and bodies that are sick.

Celsus makes a biting critique of the Christian doctrine of Jesus or the “Word being made flesh” and also strangely mirrors of Julian’s remarks of Asclepius “multiplying himself” to “raise up souls that are sinful and bodies that are sick”.

Again, if God, like Jupiter in the comedy, should, on awaking from a lengthened slumber, desire to rescue the human race from evil, why did he send this Spirit of which you speak into one corner of the earth? He ought to have breathed it alike into many bodies, and have sent them out into all the world. Now the comic poet, to cause laughter in the theatre, wrote that Jupiter, after awakening, despatched Mercury to the Athenians and Lacedaemonians; but do not you think that you have made the son of God more ridiculous in sending him to the Jews?

Celsus also describes the ancient Christian cult as a diabolic secret society made up of sorcerers!

It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of miraculous power. And it was by means of sorcery that Jesus was able to accomplish the wonders which he performed; and foreseeing that others would attain the same knowledge, and do the same things, making a boast of doing them by help of the power of God, he excludes such from his kingdom.

This is, of course, very similiar in how the Church Fathers like Ireneaus in Against Heresies, describe Gnostic heretics like Simon Magus, Marcus the Magician, and Carpocrates, who were all said to use love charms, familiar spirits, demons, and dream-senders. All were different classes of daemon. Hippolytus repeats the claims about Simon Magus in his 6th book in Refutation of All Heresies. Origen even accused the Persian Magi of using familiars as well. By the Middle Ages, witches were accused of summoning demons to aid them in their practice of and skillful progression in magic ritual. Cunning folk were said to summon fairies to work for them. Some witches’ familiar spirits were animals as in ancient Greek tales. For the most part, the magicians would try to convince the power of a god to work for them, while the daimon would be something the magician would absorb and own at will. A daemon was seen as a demigod–an independent and immortal being, but not as powerful as the great gods of the official national cults. In Roman terminology an entity similar to the daimon was the genius–a familiar spirit inherited along genetic lines in the family or gens.

The genius in Roman culture was the soul of a person that guided their actions and dictated what they were good at or destined to do. There were good demons and bad demons. The good was the “noble spirit” or agathosdaimon as mentioned earlier, and the bad was a “malevolent spirit” or kakodaimon. As far back as we can trace in Greek mythology, the daimon was a good force while the keres is the early form of the kakodaimon, which flew out of Pandora’s box. For Plato and Socrates, the daemons were the spirits of Atlantis.

In Hesiod’s Five Ages as found in Works and Days, he lists the ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze, Hero and Iron (our present age). In the Golden Age ruled over by Cronos or Saturn, good and beautiful humans and gods mingled together freely without a care in the world. When men died (although they did not age and maintained youthful appearances), their spirits became “guardians”. Plato in Cratylus 398a, says that these wise daimons are:

“…called holy spirits under the earth, noble, averters of evil, guardians of mortal men.”

In the Symposium, the wise priestess, Diotima tells Socrates that the daemon acts as an intermediary between gods and men, existing in an intermediate state or nature. This is like Hermes, the messenger of the gods, or Thoth. In Dionysian rituals, wine was drunk in propitiation ceremonies much like the Eucharist, to the genius of the dead. In the fictional best selling trilogy His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, daemons are undoubtedly an element which make his story leap off the page and stick with its readers. In the story, everyone has a daemon. They are the person’s soul in animal form, a shape-shifting companion who eventually settles into one form to symbolically represent their personality.

In Germany, the doppelganger was said to be the harbinger of death and the double of a person. In ancient Egypt, the Ka or “Twin Soul” was much like the genius or double. The Jews saw this as idol worship and when the LXX was translated from Hebrew in to Greek, the word for idol was changed to demon. The Jews thought that men were being worshiped when in fact, men were revering the inner divinity that was in them but outside and separate from them. This same concept appears in the Gospels of Luke and Thomas when Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God being inside of us and in the Gospel of John and the Psalms of David when it says, “ye are gods”.

The Gospel stories and the accusations against Simon Magus bear many of the stamps of the Apology of Socrates in which Socrates is accused by Meletus of being a corrupter of the youth and teaching men to follow spirits and demigods rather than the Olympians. Jesus is made into a bastard son of God and Simon a corrupter of Justa’s adopted sons Aquila and Nicetas in the Clementine Homilies. Jesus like Simon is accused of being a Samaritan possessed by a daemon! Socrates tells Cratylus:

“And I say too, that every wise man who happens to be a good man is more than human (daimonion) both in life and death, and is rightly called a demon.” (Plato, Cratylus)

As time wore on, the demon took on negative connotations in 4th century Christianity as well as early Islam. The Satan or Jinn figure was a fiery demon that one made a bargain with in order to receive a certain desire or wish and gave up their soul (genius?) in the process. Plato speaks of the daemon of Socrates in the Symposium, Phaedrus, Cratylus, and the Apology of Socrates as a mostly positive figure that helped Socrates with mundane things. Hesiod and Homer spoke of the daimon as well. Even the books of Judges and Kings in the Bible have a familiar spirit of Samuel which is not a ghost either.

The agathosdaimon by the mid third century in the time of Origen and Tertullian, was now seen as the guardian angel and Simonians were accused of worshiping angels, which is the very thing they were actually against! These angels were associated with the stoicheia, or the elemental powers i.e. “four elements” that Paul warns against worshiping in Galations 4:3,9 and Colossians 2:8,20. In fact, Paul equated the Greek and Roman gods with these daimons, which he considered to be lesser and potentially malevolent beings of the lower realms of the cosmos (1 Corinthians 10:20). The first thing the converted Gentiles needed to do, according to Paul, was to stop worshiping these beings and stop participating in Greco-Roman sacrifice, which in itself was a hugely radical statement since sacrifice to the gods was such so intimately connected with everyday life!

Irenaeus associates these practices such as raising familiars with the art of exorcism, something Jesus is known to have done a lot of. The most famous of which was the raising of Lazarus of Bethany in the Gospel of John. In the Gospels there are about nine major exorcism incidents involving Jesus, and his disciples go on to perform the same miracles in Acts and in the Apocryphal Acts. The very act of exorcism was against Jewish custom and law. It was a Canaanite practice of the witch of Endor which Saul and the Israelites of the North also practiced.

Six of the nine exorcisms occur in both Mark and Luke, one only occurs in Matthew, one only in Luke, and one exclusively in Matthew and Mark. There are three resurrection events. One is found in the synoptics (Jairus’ daughter), one in Luke (man of Nain), and one in John 11:1-4 (Lazarus). Note that there are no exorcisms in John’s gospel oddly enough. The Jesus of the synoptics is much more of a miracle working magician as noted many times by the enemies of the Christians in Celsus and Julian. It seems to me that as time wore on magic (both theurgy and goetia) became more hated as women became more looked down upon in the church as testified by Tertullian’s views on women being the “gateway of the Devil”. After all, the greatest magic back then was that of child birth not that of walking on hot coals!

In any case, Asclepius’ life very much mirrors the story of Jesus. Asclepius was originally seen as a mortal. According to Homer, Asclepius was a man as well as a great physician. He dies, and appears again in dreams, and, according to some of his devotees, he is alive again! This is very similar in how the use of a “dream sender” working magic is in the Acts of the Apostles 18:9-11, when Jesus (“the Lord”) appears to Paul in his dream to instruct him. The same thing happens in the Gospel of Nicodemus when Jesus sends a dream to Pilate’s wife. And of course, Simon Magus and his followers were skilled in sending dreams to “whomever they wished”, as well. Asclepius becomes a god equal to Zeus, much like how Jesus ascends to heaven to be a god equal to that of his Heavenly Father. Justin Martyr takes notes of these parallels in 1 Apology 22:

“And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius.”

The similarities between the story of Ascelpius and the gospel about Jesus are thus undeniable. The promises of health and everlasting life to the Asclepian devotee is similar to the promise made by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. This rivalry between the Church Fathers like Justin Martyr and Origen and the pagan philosophers like Julian, Celsus and even Philostratus who wrote about the adventures of Apollonius, explains this tense relationship between the two sides, being Christianity and the ever fading paganism of Greco-Roman civilization.

Origen, in his very long winded criticism of Celsus’ refutation of Judaism and Christianity writes about all of these multiple, competing messiahs and saviors, in which Lucian was mocking in his own satirical writings with the figure of Alexander, the false prophet. Take your energy pills and vitamins because this is a dozy of a quote:

But, according to the Jew of Celsus, countless individuals will convict Jesus of falsehoods, alleging that those predictions which were spoken of him were intended of them. We are not aware, indeed, whether Celsus knew of any who, after coming into this world, and having desired to act as Jesus did, declared themselves to be also the sons of God, or the power of God. But since it is in the spirit of truth that we examine each passage, we shall mention that there was a certain Theudas among the Jews before the birth of Christ, who gave himself out as some great one, after whose death his deluded followers were completely dispersed. And after him, in the days of the census, when Jesus appears to have been born, one Judas, a Galilean, gathered around him many of the Jewish people, saying he was a wise man, and a teacher of certain new doctrines.

And when he also had paid the penalty of his rebellion, his doctrine was overturned, having taken hold of very few persons indeed, and these of the very humblest condition. And after the times of Jesus, Dositheus the Samaritan also wished to persuade the Samaritans that he was the Christ predicted by Moses; and he appears to have gained over some to his views. But it is not absurd, in quoting the extremely wise observation of that Gamaliel named in the book of Acts, to show how those persons above mentioned were strangers to the promise, being neither sons of God nor powers of God, whereas Christ Jesus was truly the Son of God. Now Gamaliel, in the passage referred to, said: If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought (as also did the designs of those men already mentioned after their death); but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow this doctrine, lest haply you be found even to fight against God. There was also Simon the Samaritan magician, who wished to draw away certain by his magical arts. And on that occasion he was successful…

In the next post, we will explore some interesting parallels between the life of Apollonius and that of Paul and Simon Magus. Stay tuned!

Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 1)

It is you who are the tree of knowledge, which is in Paradise, from which the first man ate and which opened his mind; and he loved his female counterpart and condemned the other, alien likenesses and loathed them. – On the Origin of the World.

At the very beginning of the Bible and the Torah, we are presented with the idea of the origins of mankind in the Primordial Garden of Eden that we first see in Genesis. The traditional Orthodox reading of this story, of course, presents the age-old legend as literal evidence for the claim of mankind’s original sin and subsequent fall from primordial perfection and divine grace, as if God was still holding an eternal grudge against mankind for eating a fruit that he created in the first place, and still cursing mankind and the world for a multitude of generations after the fact. From this disobedience to God, alienation was given rise from the creator and humanity was once again condemned under the Law that God later gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai. In this reading, humanity is specifically condemned because of their inherently wickedness due to their rebellion and disobedience. And so the story goes, God had to send his innocent Son to die a cruel death to shed his blood to atone for the transgressions of a sinful and destitute humanity. Yet, beneath this callous, misanthropic reading lies a deeper layer of spiritual truth.

Another feature of the Garden of Eden episode which is often taken for granted, but does not exist in the text, is the idea that the serpent being synonymous with the Devil, the same serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thereby precipitating the expulsion of the primal heavenly couple from Paradise. This interpretation actually only comes much later with the Book is Wisdom (2:23-24) reveling in this version:

For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.

Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, writes in Against Heresies 5.23, which started the ball rolling for the Orthodox exegetic interpretation:

But that God was true, and the serpent a liar, was proved by the result, death having passed upon them who had eaten. For along with the fruit they did also fall under the power of death, because they did eat in disobedience; and disobedience to God entails death. Wherefore, as they became forfeit to death, from that [moment] they were handed over to it.  

In the Revelation of John 12:9, the serpent is equated with the Devil or Satan:

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

In the same text (which can be dated to be written after 96 A.D. according to Eusebius’ quotation of Irenaeus’ testimony), it interestingly equates Jesus Christ with Lucifer, the Latin word for “light-bearer” which stems from the “Latin Vulgate” Bible, produced by Jerome, commissioned by Pope Damascus in 382 A.D. In Revelation 22:16, “Jesus” proclaims that: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Of course, the Latin “Lucifer” (“Lux Ferre”) was associated with the planet Venus, which is called “Phosphoros”, the “morning star” or “dawn-bringer”, who was both a minor god in Greece and Rome, who according to the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, was a:

…son of Atlas, who was fond of astronomy, and once, after having ascended Mount Atlas to observe the stars, he disappeared. He was worshipped with divine honours, and regarded as the fairest star in the heavens. (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.)

Lucifer was also known by the Greeks as the Titan Prometheus, the son of Iapetus. (As a side-note compare this description of Phosphoros with Isaiah 14: 13-14: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most high”).

It is also interesting to note that the word “Heylel” a Hebrew word with both positive and negative connotations, but in context of the Isaiah quote as the adjective “boaster” for Satan which became strangely mistranslated by Jerome as “Lucifer”.  Jehovah also boasts in Isaiah 45:7 as crediting himself as being the creator of both light and darkness.

According to Eusebius’ Church History (Chapter XXV), the historian points out that many early Catholics and Christians had rejected the Revelation of John:

Some before us have set aside and rejected the book altogether, criticizing it chapter by chapter, and pronouncing it without sense or argument, and maintaining that the title is fraudulent. For they say that it is not the work of John, nor is it a revelation, because it is covered thickly and densely by a veil of obscurity.

It was the Catholic Fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian who made the text acceptable by quoting it. But outside of the Catholic Church this text was not popular among other sects and mystics. In fact, it is almost with certainty that groups such as the Gnostics had also rejected this text and the traditional reading of such concepts as the Serpent being synonymous with the Devil, and Jesus Christ being associated with a luminous and bright planet in the sky. Christ being associated with the light bearer, of course, isn’t too far from the Gnostic understanding of the Logos (“My mission was to illuminate the world so that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness.” – John 12:44-50)

But, the term “Lucifer” being Latin, wasn’t ever a typical word that was employed in the many streams of Gnostic Christian thought. It goes without saying that traditionally, Christians have often used “Lucifer” or “Satanically” inspired as a puppet to scapegoat anything that doesn’t line up with the traditional narrative. Even doctrines such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence are typically used by the Orthodox narrative to scare one into believing that there’s no alternative to their god.

One very provocative Gnostic text which survived through the Nag Hammadi Codices and reflects the kind of innovative thinking those such as the Gnostics were willing to interpret the Genesis account, is The Testimony of Truth. In fact, with a careful reading, there really isn’t any need for “re-interpretation” or “inversion” as the adherents of Gnosis (Greek for “knowledge” and “science”) are often accused of doing. First, let’s read what the original Genesis account tells us about the episode of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:3:

 But God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” But the serpent said to the woman, “you will not die, For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like god, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sowed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

Over at Enemies, the author succinctly observes:

If “God” is all-powerful, then why did He need to test Adam and Eve at all? Wouldn’t a real supreme being already know what was going to happen? Why did the serpent seem like the only one who really understood what was going on? And who was God talking to when he fretted that Adam had become “like one of us“? (Genesis 3:22)

The author of the Testimony of Truth brings up very similar points as an exegesis of Genesis myth:

But God came at the time of evening, walking in the midst of Paradise. When Adam saw him, he hid himself. And he said, “Adam, where are you?” He answered (and) said, “I have come under the fig tree.” And at that very moment, God knew that he had eaten from the tree of which he had commanded him, “Do not eat of it.” And he said to him, “Who is it who has instructed you?” And Adam answered, “The woman whom you have given me.” And the woman said, “It is the serpent who instructed me.” And he (God) cursed the serpent, and called him “devil.” And he said, “Behold, Adam has become like one of us, knowing evil and good.” Then he said, “Let us cast him out of paradise, lest he take from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”

But what sort is this God? First he maliciously refused Adam from eating of the tree of knowledge, and, secondly, he said “Adam, where are you?” God does not have foreknowledge? Would he not know from the beginning? And afterwards, he said, “Let us cast him out of this place, lest he eat of the tree of life and live forever.” Surely, he has shown himself to be a malicious grudger! And what kind of God is this? For great is the blindness of those who read, and they did not know him. And he said, “I am the jealous God; I will bring the sins of the fathers upon the children until three (and) four generations.” And he said, “I will make their heart thick, and I will cause their mind to become blind, that they might not know nor comprehend the things that are said.” But these things he has said to those who believe in him and serve him!

The author of the Testimony of Truth clearly designates the serpent as a positive figure, telling the story from the view of the serpent. The text also distinguishes Christ as the “Son” or messenger of the “unknown Father” which is distinct from the “Lord God” of Genesis or the Lawgiver which was equated by many Gnostic groups such as the Sethians, Naasenes and the Valentinians with the Demiurge or the “Craftsman” who fashioned the cosmos from a chaotic pre-existent “prima materia”. The Marcionites held a similar position, but lacked the speculative and imaginative cosmologies that were a staple in later Gnostic mythology, but held both the creator god as a lesser god and the Good, Supreme God as distinct, but co-eternal beings in a constant state of antagonism (we see this idea carried into the later doctrines of the Manichaeans and the Cathars). The Demiurge did not derive from the Supreme God by emanation or by a fall of another aeon.

Marcion, much like his Gnostic predecessors denied that the God of goodness could have created the cosmos of corruption and entropy. Therefore, in his place, the creator god was assigned as author of the physical universe, while treated as an inferior being, not good, but only just. He is also the author of evil (as Isaiah 45:7 boldly asserts), as he is as much a lover of war (Exodus 15:3), erratic blood-lust in his constant demand for animal and human sacrifice, rejoicing in death (Deuteronomy 28:63), condoning slavery including sexual (Exodus 21:1-11), commanding the Israelites to rape, pillage and destroy at a moment’s whim (1 Chronicles 21, Deuteronomy 3, Joshua 6) all the while contradicting his own commandment of “Thou shalt not kill”. At his express command, the world is turned into a place of pain and “thorns” (Genesis 3:18)

He only executes the law without mercy or compassion when it is convenient for him at the slightest infraction, as he is always punishing the nation of Israel for being wayward and folly against his word. His king-like jealousy and pride, and his great appetite for praise and sacrifices is what motivated many early Christians to interpret “the Lord God” as either an ignorant but just creator or at worst, a malicious and belligerent demon called “Ialdaboath”.

Jesus mentions this adversary as a “father of lies”, confirming the Testimony of Truth in John 8:44:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murder from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus’ reference to the “father of lies” as Yahweh/Jehovah can be made, even though orthodox exegetes interpret it as the snake, because it was Yahweh who said that they would die if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, whereas the snake said that they wouldn’t—and of course, as we know, they didn’t. All that they Serpent said is that they would become as gods, which Yahweh confirms when he says, “Look, they have become as gods. Now we must remove them from the garden, lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever.” The night preceding his crucifixion, the Johannine Jesus says in John 12:31-33:

Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince (archon) of this world will be cast out.

The prince or “archon” is a direct reference to the Demiurge, the “god of this aion” as Paul calls him 2 Corinthians 4:4. Before, the creator God said to both Adam and Eve “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” On the other hand, the Serpent said pointedly: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The author of Genesis does not say that “they both died”. The text simply states as a matter of fact that: “the eyes of both of them were opened”, like the Serpent had said. Later, the creator complained to his mysterious companions: “And now man has become as one of us, to know good and evil.” The creator god was the one who had lied. He said that Adam and Eve would die if he ate the fruit, but neither died. Instead, the Serpent was telling the truth. As a matter of fact, the creator himself ended up agreeing that the Serpent was right! The creator Lord God had proved himself to be a chronic liar as well as plagiarizer. To the Gnostics, the entire stratum of material creation was a failed and botched attempt to imitate an unknowable world of light. Likewise, the “Good Book” or “Word of God”, which being the Bible itself is based principally on pre-Biblical Babylonian and Egyptian texts. (More on this later in the series.)

The Naaseenes (their group name was transliterated and derived from the Hebrew word for “serpent” nachash: הנחש) or “Ophites” in particular where known for revering the serpent as a chief symbol of the Savior. The Catholic Father Hippolytus reported at length on the Naassenes in his treatise The Refutation of All Heresies, 5:1-5. In it, Hippolytus had focused more attention on another sect called the Peratea, which also revered the serpent. Their doctrine of the serpent was based on John 3:14: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” Thanks to this quote, groups like the Peratea equated Christ with the Serpent as Hippolytus reports:

No one, then, he says, can be saved or return (into heaven) without the Son, and the Son is the Serpent. For as he brought down from above the paternal marks, so again he carries up from thence those marks roused from a dormant condition and rendered paternal characteristics, substantial ones from the unsubstantial Being, transferring them hither from thence.

Hippolytus also confirms the Gnostic take on Jesus’ remarks in John 8:44 of:

“Your father is a murderer from the beginning,” he alludes to the Ruler and Demiurge of matter, who, appropriating the marks delivered from the Son, generated him here who from the beginning was a murder, for his work causes corruption and death.

St. Augustine of Hippo in Adversus Haeresis, 46, 147-153, claimed that the Manichaeans had also taught that “Jesus the Splendor” or the “Third Messenger” was the Serpent that illuminated the minds of both Adam and Eve of their predicament and their divine origins. Before the arrival of the Serpent in the Garden, man was in a state of ignorance and was blinded to his true position—as automatons in blind servitude to their creators. This is confirmed by an unnamed Manichean text in which the 8th century historian, Theodor Bar Konai quotes:

Jesus the Splendour approached sinless Adam and awoke him from the sleep of death, that he might be delivered of innumerable demons… Then Adam examined himself and realized, who he was.

This knowledge would make man aware that Eden wasn’t paradise at all, but just the opposite—a place of captivity. The true Eden was somewhere else entirely. (“They said, Eat, meaning, do so in a leisurely manner. But in fact their pleasure is bitter and their beauty is perverse. Their pleasure is a trap, their trees are a sacrilege, their fruit is deadly poison, their promise is death,” – Secret Book of John). Adam was distinctly rendered as a hapless and lifeless creature of dirt, incapable of rising. The Demiurge breathes in an animated, worldly soul which does little to stir him up, up until the Serpent opens Adam’s eyes and feed him through Eve’s instruction (take that Tertullian’s misogyny!), the fruit of gnosis (knowledge), in which the scales were dropped from their eyes and suddenly remembered their divine origins.

The images of the Serpent, Fruit and Tree of Life (the Qabalah in all its many variations are based on this symbol) and Knowledge became symbols of initiation, higher knowledge and immortality. To secure salvation, mankind was encouraged to break through the realm of the flesh and rise by a sort of ecstatic and immediate Divine Vision. In Gnosis, God was the ultimate, nameless and unknowable being and realm, perfect in fullness or Pleroma. This God is similar to the God posited in Aristotle’s Metaphysics which held him as an “Unmoved Mover” in pure potentiality without form—infinitely removed from the finite and beyond reproach in its ineffable perfection. He was only able to flow out in emanations or aeons having the highest approximately to the divine nature—the Logos being one of them. In the poetic Psalm, Summer Harvest, which is authored by possibly a student of Valentinus, these “aeons” are mentioned: “Fruits manifest themselves out of the Depth.”

The Secret Book of John goes into great detail on how mankind was created by the “rulers”, since its author(s) seem to link material creation and the fall as the same event:

The human being Adam was revealed through the bright shadow within. And Adam’s ability to think was greater than that of all the creators. When they looked up, they saw that Adam’s ability to think was greater, and they devised a plan with the whole throng of rulers and angels. They took fire, earth, and water, and combined them with the four fiery winds. They wrought them together and made a great commotion. The rulers brought Adam into the shadow of death so that they might produce a figure again, from earth, water, fire, and the spirit that comes from matter, that is, from the ignorance of darkness, and desire, and their own false spirit. This is the cave for remodeling the body that these criminals put on the human, the fetter of forgetfulness. Adam became a mortal being, the first to descend and the first to become estranged.

In the Valentinian Fragment 1: Adam’s Faculty of Speech, the theme of the creation becoming superior to its creators also becomes apparent:

 Something like fear overcame the angels in the presence of that modeled form (i.e. Adam) because he uttered things that were superior to what his origins justified, owing to the agent who had invisibly deposited a seed of higher essence and who spoke freely. So too in the races of worldly people, human artifacts become objects of fear for their creators – for example statues and images and everything that is made by human hands as representing a god. For Adam, modeled as representing humanity, made them stand in fear of the preexistant Humanity; for precisely the latter stood in him. And they were stricken with terror and quickly concealed the work.

The theme of the creation surpassing its creator becomes apparent in many Gnostic texts. Even in the Manichaean text, the Kephalaion 64, it characterizes the human body, as a microcosmic mirror of the universe at large, as a key to the secrets of the cosmos. Despite the fact that the angelic rulers modeled Adam after the divine beings, being the Messenger and the Virgin of the “Father of Greatness” in the primal watery abyss—in essence, the creators of the physical body, they still act in ignorance without knowing what they are making. In fact, the physical body does not operate in the way it was meant to function—as a servant and prison for light. Instead, the body becomes a battleground of both the light and darkness, making the body even more apt to liberation as it is subject to continued imprisonment.

It should be noted that not all Gnostic texts had a consensus of the serpent being divine or good. In fact, the Secret Book of John holds the Serpent and the “First Ruler” being the Demiurge as part of the same order, unlike other texts (such as On the Origin of the World, Hypostasis of the Archons, etc). After all, Ialdaboath is often depicted as a malformed lion-headed serpent with glowing eyes flashing with fire.

The savior laughed and said, “The snake instructed them to eat of the wickedness of sexual desire and destruction so that Adam might be of use to the snake. This is the one who knew Adam was disobedient because of the enlightened afterthought within Adam, which made Adam stronger of mind than the first ruler. The first ruler wanted to recover the power that he himself had passed on to Adam. So he brought deep sleep upon Adam.”

Despite the condemnation of the Serpent in the Secret Book of John, the author makes a curious link to sexual desire and knowledge. In Genesis, it states, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Interestingly, in the Gospel of Philip, being naked wasn’t a reference of being in pure spirit form, but rather (ironically) being clothed in material flesh:

Some are afraid lest they rise naked. Because of this they wish to rise in the flesh, and they do not know that it is those who wear the flesh who are naked.

It seems as though the knowledge the author of the Secret Book of John is referring to is one of carnal, sexual knowledge. This would make sense since the Hebrew word “yada” meaning “to know” is also used as a term “to have sex with” and it is something the author of the Secret Book of John specifically condemns for a very important (but not so obvious) reason. This reoccurring theme of sexuality, knowledge and the Serpent will be covered more in-depth in Part 2.

(“Christ On the Tree of Life.” by Giovanni da Modena)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. – John 15, 1-2.

The early Christians, including the Gnostics were trying to get across the idea that Christ was the “true” serpent that came down from the Pleroma in a Promethean-like fashion to give mankind true, eternal life (from the fruit taken from the “Tree of Life” a symbol also associated with Christ as pictured above) so that they not taste death and to undo the deception of the adversary, the Demiurge/Jehovah/Zeus. The Demiurge wishes that man remain ignorant of his origins or his great destiny, forbidding all contact with the higher world. Ultimately, the aim of the creator god is to align mankind as the reflection of the creator rather than something far grander.

To liberate the spirit (nous) from the human condition, prisoner of matter, the Unknowable God had sent down the Logos, Jesus Christ as an injected tiny particle that first took on the form of a snake in the Garden and then later on during the Passion, the nature of a slave or a man in a docetic fashion (“being made in human likeness” – Philippians 2:7), infiltrating the hellish kingdom of created matter (or darkness) while teaching the Fullness of the Gospel, the Good News of the Stranger God in that all of mankind awaken to their divine origins as sparks of His Divine Light.  As it follows, the liberation of every soul is really a liberation of God. Every experience on earth is His experience, for He is All. The Logos is the message of Salvation embodied, and taught it through his parables throughout the Gospels. It is the fruit of knowledge that allows the Gnostic to divest them from the condition of slavery to the light of freedom. The Gospel of Truth makes a similar statement:

In schools he appeared, (and) he spoke the word as a teacher. There came the men wise in their own estimation, putting him to the test. But he confounded them, because they were foolish. They hated him, because they were not really wise.

Later on in the Old Testament we find the reference of the serpent in a positive role, confirming the idea that the Serpent was a beneficiary rather than being demonized as a bringer of sin and death as the Orthodox traditionally interpret.

“The Crucified Serpent” by Nicholas Flamel.

“Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” – Numbers 21:8

A biblical story of the Old Testament found in Numbers, accounts for the symbolism in this drawing. The story regards a journey of the Israelites from Mount Hur to the land of Edom, led by Moses. After a significant time goes by the Israelites become discouraged and begin to openly doubt and blaspheme Moses and their God. Doing what he does best, Jehovah inflicts great suffering on his “chosen people”, sending a plague of serpents to the Israelites, which in turn poisons and kills a great many of them.

When the Israelites realize that they have brought divine wrath upon themselves and blasphemed against God, they ask Moses to pray for mercy and to pray for the disappearance of the serpents. Moses does this, and God in turn tells Moses to “Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole”. If they do this, God assures Moses that “every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live”.

“Moses and the Brazen Serpent.” by William Blake

Naturally, the symbol of the crucified serpent became popular with the Gnostics and later with alchemists and occultists alike to relay secret and esoteric concepts. The Serpent, being the wisest of all creatures was not only a symbol of Christ but also a symbol of Sophia (Wisdom), the lowest rung aeon of the Pleroma. The parallel between the healing power of Christ and the Cross and the healing power of the Israelite’s brazen serpent became inexorably linked. By taking a creature potentially known for its venomous bite, and turning it into a symbol of healing and knowledge as seen ranging from the staff of Asclepius or Hermes’ caduceus to the logo of the medical profession (a reference for the Logos being a “healer”), the Gnostics also saw in it the depiction of mankind’s ability to transform itself, shedding off its old skin and former base, destitute nature to become vessels of divinity and purity, worthy to be called “Children of Light”.

Evolutionary forces alone are insufficient to bring about spiritual freedom. Physical existence combined with ignorance of their true origins, their essential nature and ultimate destiny become the stumbling block. The Messengers of Light break through the barrier of truth and imperishable and into the perishable and corruptible to assist humanity in their quest for the multifaceted and primordial current of Gnosis. Although no-one likes dualism, it, however, ripples throughout many Gnostic systems of thought, splitting the person of man, the effect of a double creation of being divinity and dust, divided between good and evil, light and darkness, knowledge and ignorance. The crucified serpent is a Gnostic symbol for change being the liberation from the flesh and the attainment of knowledge.

Catholic Fathers such as Irenaeus compared Gnostic systems, and gnosis, with the Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge in Eden in a critical manner, going so far as to suggest that ignorance be preferable over knowledge (under the pretense of “charity”), which is, of course, the underlying message of the Demiurge and his fellow authorities:

It is better and healthier then, to be simple and ignorant and to come close to God through charity, rather than to think to know many things and after many adventures of thought to be blasphemous against God. (Against Heresies. 2, 26, 1.)

Jesus Christ, however, held a different opinion on the matter if you read Matthew 10:16. Here, Christ invites Christians to be like serpents, which would in essence be “Christ-like”:

Behold, I am sending you as lambs among wolves; be therefore crafty as snakes and innocent as doves.

Part 2 forthcoming…