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)

Christian Magicians: The Gospel and the Magical Papyri

(The above image is taken from Asterion Mage’s Occult Art Website)

In Johnny Mercury, we explored many different connections between John the Baptist with Mercury/Hermes as well as other wisdom gods and Zodiacal signs. Simon Magus’ and Jesus’ connection with Egypt were also explored. In this post, we will explore more aspects of ritual magic and its relationship with Christianity, the rumors of Templar faustian pacts with the devil Baphomet, and how it all relates to Faustus, the man who would trade his soul to the Devil for universal knowledge and ritual black magic. As many other scholars have pointed out, the legend of Faustus comes down to us directly from the myths and legends associated with Simon Magus. And it is Simon Magus who also gives us the lore associated with the Holy Grail and alchemy.

As we point out in the book, Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, Jesus was accused of possessing the spirit of dead John the Baptist as a “familiar” servitor spirit. Ancient Christians were also accused of being sorcerers who utilized the spirit of Christ, as well as daimons to perform their miracles (see Celsus’ “The True Doctrine”). On this issue, Morton Smith in Jesus the Magician writes:

If a magician could call up and get control of, or identify himself with such a spirit, he could then control inferior spirits or powers. (In third-century Smyrna, Christians were believed to do their miracles by just such necromantic control of the spirit of Jesus, because he had been crucified.) More frequent are spells by which spirits of the dead are themselves given assignments. Particularly interesting in relation to Mark 6:14 is a prayer to Helios-Iao-Horus to assign to the magician, as perpetual “assistance and defender,’ the soul of a man wrongfully killed. This would establish approximately the sort of relation Jesus was believed to have the soul of John. In the light of these beliefs it seems that Mark 6:14 should be understood as follows: “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead <by Jesus’ necromancy; Jesus now has him>. And there <since Jesus-John can control them> the <inferior> powers work <their wonders> by him (that is, by his orders).” A little later, after Jesus had been executed, the Samaritan magician, Simon, was similarly thought to “be” Jesus. The Christians, of course, maintained that the spirit of which Simon did his miracles was not Jesus, but merely a murdered boy.

Later Morton Smith continues discussing the ancient Christian tradition of magic:

One of the greatest figures of antiquity, a man of incalculable influence of the thought and history of the western world, himself claimed to be possessed by, and identified with, the spirit of an executed criminal, and to do whatever he did by the power this indwelling spirit. By its power he could even hand over his opponents to Satan. This man and his claims are known from his own correspondence—he is Saint Paul, who asserted, “I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20), and “I dare speak of nothing save those things which Christ has done through me, by word and deed, by the power of signs and miracles, by the power of <his> spirit, to make the gentiles obedient” (Rom. 15.19). He wrote the Corinthians about a member of their church that, “Being absent in body, but present in spirit, I have already judged <the offender> … uniting you and my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus, to give this fellow over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh” (1 Cor. 5.3ff). If Paul thus proves the possibility of ancient belief in such a relationship as that supposed to have existed between Jesus and the spirit of the Baptist, he also provides the strongest evidence that this was not, in fact, the source of Jesus’ power.

Christian and Johannite sorcery, as Morton Smith writes, was quite a staple, even around the time of Paul. Mark 6:14 tells us that Herod claims that John the Baptist has risen from the dead and that Jesus has his powers. This sort of thing could be done by necromancy and would be dangerous, since according to sources like the Greek Magical Papyri the demon of a man killed violently is powerful and easy to control. As stated above, Morton Smith says the end of Mark 6:14 could be translated, “the inferior powers work by his orders,” implying that Jesus now possessed John as his daimonic slave, just like how King Solomon controlled 72 demons under the authority of a magical ring engraved with the divine name of Sabaoth. In the Acts of the Martyr Ponius (13.3) it said that Jesus was a mere man who died as a convicted criminal under Roman and Jewish decree.

For you have heard that the Jews say: Christ was a man and he died as a “biothanes” (convicted criminal).

Unsurprisingly, as Smith mentions, there are reports of magicians vying for control of Jesus’ spirit following his crucifixion now that he died as a “convicted criminal” as a type of familiar spirit, and was readily accessible through invocations. Interestingly, the earliest depictions of Jesus are as a magician. Jesus was commonly depicted as resurrecting Lazarus with the use of a magic wand. The image below is an ancient Christian amulet depicting Christ with a magic wand.


Then there is the infamous magical cup, which reads “DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS” or “Chrestos, the Magical One” or “magician”. The inscription on the cup is meant to bind the spirit being evoked, so CHRESTOU must be in reference to a benign spiritual force that can tame lesser spirits. Chrestos means good one, as opposed to Christos, which means anointed one. I’ve noticed a few scholars have a tantrum over this issue in that something from ancient antiquity references Christ as a magician, or more specifically, a demon-summoner. As I stated earlier, on another post about Simon Magus, a “goistais” would be closer to a necromancer/nigromancer than an ordinary magician, as the term implies someone who calls up infernal spirits! It’s where the term “goetia” comes from. They’re from the same root. The earliest inscription to Christ is of one who evokes demons. That’s great. I love it.

All of this brings us to yet again, Simon Magus. If the recorded accounts by the church fathers (including the Clementines) of Simon are accurate, he was quite the evil dude. If he’s a cipher for Paul, we could get conspiratorial and say that the archons inspired the orthodox to create him to hide the real Paul and snuff out Gnosticism. It could very well have been either. There are undeniable parallels between the two, like Simon offering Peter money for the Holy Spirit, just like Paul offered Peter, James, and John money for the poor when he went to Jerusalem to announce his apostleship to the church in Jerusalem. However, it’s not implausible, either, to say that Simon may have been a first-century Aleister Crowley who imitated Jesus and feigned to be God with Satanic occult powers, just as Satan imitates the Holy Spirit. The Clementine Homilies (XXI) tells us this exactly:

He having disciplined himself greatly in Alexandria, and being very powerful in magic, and being ambitious, wishes to be accounted a certain supreme power, greater even than the God who created the world. And sometimes intimating that he is Christ, he styles himself the Standing One.

One thing I have a hard time believing is that Paul was involved in sorcery. He’s so condemning of anything that operates outside faith. The only hint of possible diabolism in Paul is when he hands the Corinthian man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, as quoted by Morton Smith. This would make sense, considering Satan is considered one and the same with Samael, the angel of death or the destroying angel, according to 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. That always read weird to me, and I’ve always been curious if he simply meant that he was to be ostracized from the church, or if he performed some sort of magical curse that the Devil might torment the man until he repented. In the church fathers, Simon is described as working with different types of spirits, as well. But one can hardly imagine Paul conjuring Satan to curse somebody. It just seems quite out of character. It’s an odd little verse, that one is (1 Corinthians 5).

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. … As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

This is reminiscent of the sacrificing of two goats—one for the Jewish god Yahweh, and one for the fallen angel, Azazel (Leviticus 16:10). Similarly, St. Cyprian was a pagan magician who converted to Christianity. Legend has it, according to some of the grimoires attributed to him, that he was tormented by Satan for the rest of his life. We are also reminded of Doctor Faustus and his pact with Mephistopheles, who is a constant reminder of the torments that await him on the other side in later versions of the story, Faustus. (More on this in a following post). And yet, in Galatians 5:19, sorcery is listed as being a part of the “works of the flesh” and those who practice such things “will not inherent the kingdom of God.”

Morton Smith reports in Salvation in the Gospels, Paul, and the Magical Papyri, that Paul’s crucifixion mysticism can be seen quite close to that of the Greek Magical Papyri:

First, how do we get the spirit? If immediately when we hear the gospel and believe (Gal 3:2), then, since the spirit is Christ, we should at once become participants in Christ’s death and resurrections and new life. How, then, can we account for Paul’s description of baptism as a magic rite by which one who has already believed is at least made to share the death and resurrection of the god (Romans 6:3)?

Another question raised by Paul’s account concerns the consequence of receiving the spirit. If the baptized believer adheres to the Lord so that the two become one and he thenceforth lives no longer as himself, but Christ lives in his body (1 Cor 6:17; Gal 2:20), then to whom is Paul talking when he urges his converts to side with the spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:16; Rom 7:14-25)?

Getting spirits is one of the major functions of the magic of the magical papyri. Without counting, I should guess that about 70% of the longer texts in PGM deal with ways of getting spirits and things one can hope to do with their help. In many of these rites the magician, to control an inferior spirit, declares, especially at the climax of a spell, [69] that he “is” a greater one: Iao, or the headless daimon, or Moses, or some other supernatural entity (PGM 5.110, 145, 147; et passim). These identifications are even more transient than Paul’s No consequences are drawn from them save for that which they are asserted—to compel the obedience for the inferior power.

As we said, most of the magical papyri are concerned with salvation in the synoptic sense—attaining, improving, or perpetuating our good life in this world. Consequence, when they call up spirits it is usually for one or another particular task, most often prophecy. These are strictly “ministering spirits” which must be kept in their place and made to obey (PG 1.80; 3.288; etc.), as Paul insists that “the spirits of (sc. Called up by) the (Christian) prophets are to be subject to the prophets (1 Cor 14:3). It was for dealing with such spirits that the gift of discerning (i.e. Distinguishing, knowing the nature of spirits” was important in Paul’s churches (1 Cor 12:10; 14:29). Here, too, the spirits spoke through those who called them up—that is why they are called the “spirits of the prophets,” i.e. of those who through whom they speak. The practice was evidently like that of modern “mediums” and represents another form of combatively brief, auto-hypnotic “possession”.


There are Jewish accusations made against Jesus in Babylonian Talmud, of cutting magic Egyptian marks into his flesh, which could be a reference to either scarification or tattooing. (Matthew admits that Jesus was visited by magi (magicians) and lived in Egypt, although only in his infancy.) Magicians of the time did write spells on their flesh and instructions for doing so are found in magical papyri of the time. Paul tells us he was tattooed or branded with the marks of Jesus in this way, as well (Galatians 6:17). The spirit of Jesus Christ is specifically invoked in the Greek Magical Papyri as well under the name of the Marcionite “Chrestos” or the good one, while also calling upon Helios (although some think the mention of “Chrestos” is a Christian interpolation). Here is Eleni Pachoumi’s translation of the text from An invocation of Chrestos in Magic. The question of the orthographical spelling of Chrestos and interpretation issues in PGM XIII.288-95:

Releasing from bonds. Say; ‘Hear me, Chrestos, in tortures, help in necessities, pitiful in times (throughout the years), who died violently, very powerful in the world, who created compulsion and punishment and torture. Twelve days hissing thrice eight times, say the whole name of Helios from Achebycrom. ‘Let every bond, every force be released, let every iron be broken, every rope, or every strap, every knot, every chain be opened, and let no one subdue me by force, for I am’ (say the name).

Jesus is described in the PGM as “the god of the Hebrews” as well. In Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power by Marvin Meyer & Richard Smith, they list two spells taken from the PGM which also specifically calls on the Markian exorcist power of Christ in explicit terms, in the Spell for Protection Against Evil Spirits:

[Christ! I adjure] you, 0 lord, almighty, first-begotten, self-begotten, begotten without semen, [ • • • ) as well as all-seeing are you, and Yao, Sabao, Brinthao: Keep me as a son, protect me from every evil spirit, and subject to me every spirit of impure, destroying demons-on the earth, under the earth, of the water and of the land-and every phantom. Christ!

In another spell, called the Spell for protection against headless powers, it reads:

0 angels, archangels, who hold back the floodgates of heaven, who bring forth the light from the four comers of the world: Because I am having a clash with some headless beings, seize them and release me through the power of the father and the son and the holy spirit. 0 blood of my Christ, which was poured out in the place of a skull, spare me and have mercy.




In Mark 3:7-12, it presents unclean spirits or demons as being subservient and under the authority of Jesus, who have no choice but to acknowledge him as the Son of God. Perhaps this is where Christian magic, found in the PGM, is based on:

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idume’a and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

Please note that in the above quotations, Iao or Yao is invoked. This term is often used interchangeably with that of Abraxas. We’ve already seen how the Ophites, among many other Gnostic and Christians sects were accused of being a secret society involved in diabolical rites by their Roman enemies. Another sect, who revered the figure of Abrasax or Abraxas, were also considered to be perhaps, the first secret society within the framework of early Christianity, anticipating the much later Templars, Rosicrucian’s, Freemasons and Illuminati. We discuss this in Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled but here is some more juicy gossip. The early Church Father Irenaeus, who flourished late second century CE, wrote as quoted by Charles William King in The Gnostics and Their Remains:

“The disciple[s] of Basilides remain unknown to the rest of mankind… and nevertheless must live amongst strangers, therefore must they conduct themselves towards the rest of the world as beings invisible and unknown. Hence their motto, ‘Learn to know all, but keep thyself unknown’ and for this cause they are accustomed to deny the fact of their being Basilidans [Basilidians or Basilideans]. Neither can they be detected as Christian heretics because they assimilate themselves to all sects. Their secret constitution, however, is known to but a few, perhaps one in a thousand or two in ten thousand…  Their doctrine is contained in a sacred book, and likewise in Symbolic Figures. The Supreme Lord, the head of all things, they call Abrasax, which name contains the number 365.” (Quoted in King, pp. 262-263.)

There are also many engraved gems bearing the symbolic figure of Abraxas, which worked as sacred amulets and talismans, and also served as secret tokens, the possession of which allowed the bearer into clandestine gatherings of followers of the Abraxas cult.

It is said that the Great Work of the magician is to recognize that they are in fact, an immortal daimon, awakening from the lower, mundane world, and arising to become as Heraclitus would say, “One and the same thing, present [in us] living and dead and the waking and the sleeping and young and old….” Philosophers such as Empedocles and Parmenides, would declare themselves immortal daimons, because of their connection with certain Orphic deities, in that they become the “children” of that deity. According to many scholars, the Stele of Jeu or the Rite of the Headless One from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is an exorcism or sanctification rite. Such imagery of a “headless one” reminds us of the decapitated John the Baptist, as well. And yet, we see another spell that calls upon Jesus to protect the user from the evils of the “headless powers.” Acharya S in Christ in Egypt, also equates John the Baptist with the “headless god” that is also equated with Set/Seth, who apparently has a demiurgical role in creation. This is delineated very neatly in the Rite of the Headless One. First, you call on that god:

I summon you, Headless One, who created earth and heaven, who created night and day, you who created the Light and the Darkness; you are Osonnophris whom none has ever seen; you are Iabas; you are Iapos; you have distinguished the just from the unjust; you have made female and male; you have revealed seed and fruits; you have made men love each other and hate each other.

Then you identify yourself:

I am Moses your prophet to whom you have transmitted your mysteries celebrated by Israel; you have revealed the moist and the dry and all nourishment; hear me.

“I am the messenger of Pharoah Osoronnophris; this is your true name which has been transmitted to the prophets of Israel. Hear me, ARBATHIAŌ REIBET ATHELEBERSĒTH ARA BLATHA ALBEU EBENPHCHI CHITASGOĒ IBAŌTH IAŌ; listen to me and turn away this daimon.”

Then you lay down the request:

I call upon you, awesome and invisible god with an empty spirit, AROGOGOROBRAŌ SOCHOU MODORIŌ PHALARCHAŌ OOO. Holy Headless One, deliver him, NN, from the daimon that restrains him, ROUBRIAŌ MARI ŌDAM BAABNABAŌTH ASS ADŌNAI APHNIAŌ ITHŌLETH ABRASAX AĒŌŌY; mighty Headless One, deliver him, NN, from the daimon which restrains him. MABARRAIŌ IOĒL KOTHA ATHORĒBALŌ ABRAŌTH, deliver him, NN, AŌTH ABRAŌTH BASYM ISAK SABAŌTH IAŌ.
“He is the Lord of the Gods; he is the Lord of the Inhabited World; he is the one whom the winds fear; he is the one who made all things by command of his voice.”
“Lord, King, Master, Helper, save the soul, IEOU PYR IOU IAŌT IAĒŌ IOOU ABRASAX SABRIAM OO YY EY OO YY ADŌNAIE, immediately, immediately, good messenger of GodANLALA LAI GAIA APA DIACHANNA CHORYN.”


It is the Lord of the Gods, the one whom the winds fear, which is full of aerial daimons. And yet here is this Headless One, who not only can control gods and daimons around as he chooses but he is the one who made all things by command of his voice. Even the Gnostic-slandering and hating Neoplatonists like Plotinus would admit that the sublunary realm of the world, bound up by fate and providence, is a mixture between God and daimonic, and the passions are the daimonic part, “And so [the All] is a God when that [the highest divine soul] is counted in with it, but the rest, he [i.e. Plato] says, is a great Daimon, and the passions in it are daimonic.”


“I am the Headless Daimon with sight in my feet; I am the mighty one who possesses the immortal fire; I am the truth who hates the fact that unjust deeds are done in the world; I am the one who makes the lightning flash and the thunder roll; I am the one whose sweat falls upon the earth as rain so that it can inseminate it; I am the one whose mouth burns completely; I am the one who begets and destroys; I am the Favor of the Aion; my name is a Heart Encircled by a Serpent; Come Forth and Follow.”

Preparation for the foregoing ritual: Write the formula (AOTH ABRAOTH BASYM ISAK SABAOTH IAO) on a new sheet of papyrus, and after extending it from one of your temples to the other, read the six names, while you face north saying, Subject to me all daimons, so that every daimon, whether heavenly or aerial or earthly or subterranean or terrestrial or aquatic, might be obedient to me and every enchantment and scourge which is from God. And all daimons will be obedient to you.

The magician as the Headless-One embodies his divine qualities while commanding those daimons that afflict the soul (either his own or another’s) to come out, and rather than dismissing them, he commands them to follow him. This is all reminiscent of Zosimos and in his advice to a lady, Theosebeia in Final Quittance, Fest. p. 367, ll. 24-27.

“But be not thou, O lady, [thus] distracted, as, too, I bade thee in the actualizing [rites], and do not turn thyself about this way and that in seeking after God; but in thy house be still, and God shall come to thee, He who is everywhere and not in some wee spot as are daimonian things. And having stilled thyself in body, still thou thyself in passions too—desire, [and] pleasure, rage [and] grief, and the twelve fates of Death. And thus set straight and upright, call thou unto thyself Divinity; and truly shall He come, He who is everywhere and [yet] nowhere. And [then], without invoking them, perform the sacred rites unto the daimones,—not such as offer things to them and soothe and nourish them, but such as turn them from thee and destroy their power, which Mambres taught to Solomon, King of Jerusalem, and all that Solomon himself wrote down from his own wisdom. And if thou shalt effectively perform these rites, thou shalt obtain the physical conditions of pure birth. And so continue till thou perfect thy soul completely. And when thou knowest surely that thou art perfected in thyself, then spurn . . . from thee the natural things of matter, and make for harbour in Pœmandres’ arms, and having dowsed thyself within His Cup, return again unto thy own [true] race.”

So, what is going on here? Zosimos is clearly appealing to the Hermetica in his advice on being baptized or “dowsed” with Poemandre’s cup. It relates directly to rebirth as described in Corpus Hermeticum XIII (with the 12 tormentors of the zodiac which must be transcended), as well as the symbolic cup or krater of knowledge of the Demiurge in Corpus Hermeticum IV (where the enlightened ones immersed themselves). Here is what the scholar Kyle Fraser has to say about this in Zosimos of Panopolis and the Book of Enoch: Alchemy as Forbidden Knowledge:

Zosimos here shows his familiarity with the folk legends of Solomon as a magus and exorcist, who holds divine dominion over daimons. One wonders whether he has read the Testament of Solomon, in which Solomon describes how he harnessed the powers of the daimons, with the aid of their angelic superiors, in order to complete the construction of the Temple. Solomon, through the divine power of his ring, commands each demon, in turn, to reveal its name, its distinctive activity, its planetary or zodiacal designation, and the angelic or divine power that thwarts it. So long as he maintains a pious relation to God, he is able to control the demons, through their divine superiors, and harness their powers for sacred ends. But when his piety is compromised, and he sacrifices to pagan gods, his control over the demons is lost, and he becomes enslaved to them: ‘. . . my spirit was darkened and I became a laughingstock to the idols and demons.’ (Testament 26.7-8).

As K. von Stuckrad argues, one sees in the Testament a monotheistic response to the problem of the malevolent astral powers. Of special interest is the manner in which the Egyptian decan gods are demoted to daimons, now held under the dominion of the Jewish angels and, ultimately, the Jewish God (Testament, 18). If Zosimos does have this Solomonic tradition in mind, then he may be suggesting to Theosebeia that the daimons which are attempting to control and seduce her can, in turn, be controlled and made subject to the spiritual work of the alchemist—just as Solomon was able to harness the daimons toward the spiritual ends of the Temple.

As we noted in previous posts, being a “Son of God” was not a Jewish title but a magical one, insinuating that those who bore the title were magicians or theurgists who sought apotheosis. It also implies the one who bares this title was a supernatural being cloaked in human form, performing miracles by his own divine power. This is how Zosimos sees the Son of God as well as “becoming all things for holy souls, that he may draw her forth from out the region of the Fate into the Incorporeal [Man].” It also denotes doceticism. And without the salvific role of the Son of God in man, much like the role of Hermes in the Hermetica, Hans Jonas puts it succinctly in The Gnostic Religion:

In a rather late source, we even encounter, as the contrast-term to spiritual man, the expression “demonic man” instead of the usual “psychic” or “sarkic” (fleshly). Each man, so the text explains, is from birth possessed by his demon, which only the mystical power of prayer can expel after the extinction of all passions. In this voided state the soul unites with the spirit as bride with bridegroom. The soul which does not thus receive Christ remains “demonic” and becomes the habitation of “the serpents.”

If Paul is to be believed, he placed something not terribly Jewish called “the spirit” before the Law (Romans 7: 6; 2 Corinthians 3: 6). Even the rituals of baptism, exorcism and prayer have their roots in ritual magic—specifically in Egyptian magic, as Morton Smith reveals, again in Salvation in the Gospels, Paul, and the Magical Papyri:

In Egypt sanctification was effected by drowning; even an animal or an insect could be “made an Osiris” by being properly drowned, mummified, and worshipped (PGM 1.5 [hawk]; 3.1 [cat]; etc.). This may be the background for the equation of baptism with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—a problem generally neglected, but not negligible. Immersion in water does not resemble crucifixion at all, nor burial closely, so the probably pre-Pauline interpretation of baptism as a means of acquiring Jesus’ spirit/nature through participation in Jesus’ death by crucifixion and burial, is odd. The deification points to Egypt, and the earliest connection between Christianity and Egypt may be Rabbi Eliezer’s report, about A.D. 80 (?), that Jesus had gone to Egypt and learned magic there. I argued in Jesus the Magician (1978), p. 48, that this was supported by Matthew’s legend of the light into Egypt (made up to “explain” Jesus’ having been there; it is also supported by the many Egyptian elements in Jesus’ magic, particularly the Eucharist, to which the closest parallel is in the Demotic Magical Papyrus (DMP).

Indeed, deification of the magician was a stable in Egyptian religion, as testified in the Pyramid Texts, to the Coffin Texts, to the Book of the Dead. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul goes on to boast about the visions and revelations from the Lord:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of it I do not know, but God knows. And I know that this man — whether in the body or out of it I do not know, but God knows — was caught up into Paradise. The things he heard were too sacred for words, things that man is not permitted to tell.…

In the Mithras Liturgy, we see an immortalization or deification rite, where the magician in a postmortem journey translates into the heavens:

Draw in breath from the rays, drawing up three times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and (540) ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in mid-air. You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things. For in that day (545) and hour you will see the divine order of the skies: the presiding gods rising into heaven, and others setting.

In Paul, we see that the gifts of the spirit of 1 Corinthians 12 (miracles, discernment of spirits, spirits of knowledge and wisdom, prophecy, tongues, interpreting tongues, healing, demon exorcism, baptized in a spiritual body under the headship of Christ, etc.) are quite similar to that of those described in the PGM. But as Morton Smith notes, the most important element of Pauline Christology lacking in the PGM is the reference to life after death, which brings us to Faustus, who, like Paul (under the authority of Jesus, strangely enough) in 1 Corinthians 5, makes a deal with the Devil.


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


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!

Erotic Philosophy

Last year, I wrote a 45-page academically-oriented paper, Eros, Orpheus and On the Origin of the World for the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition on the Greek god, Eros and his influence on the Orphic religion and Gnosis. Of course, in the process of actually researching and reflecting, you come across a lot of information, and some information didn’t wind up in the actual paper. However, there is some more interesting tidbits I thought was worth exploring further.

Philosophically speaking, Eros was conceived as Beauty that leads naturally to knowledge of the eternal Forms (God or the Pleroma) collectively as all eternal objects are interconnected, and recollection naturally proceeds from one object to another. This recognition of Eros meant the upward ascent or trajectory from the Cave of shadows (the world of matter) to the form of the Good. It was the realignment from the visible to the intelligible world. Diotima, the wise priestess philosopher describes all this in the Symposium (210a-212b). Diotima rhetorically asks:

[211e] But tell me, what would happen if one of you had the fortune to look upon essential beauty entire, pure and unalloyed; not infected with the flesh and color of humanity, and ever so much more of mortal trash? What if he could behold the divine beauty itself, in its unique form?

Indeed, this is the crux of all Platonic or erotic philosophy. In a way, Plato would answer this question, in the Republic (515c4-516a1).

Consider, then, what being released from their bonds and cured of their ignorance would naturally be like, if something like this came to pass. When one of them was freed and suddenly compelled (énagkãxoito) to stand up, turn his head, walk and look up toward the light, he’d be pained and dazzled and unable to see the things whose shadows he’d seen before…if we pointed to each of the things passing by, asked him what each of them is, and compelled (énagkãzoi) him to answer, don’t you think he’d be at a loss… And if someone compelled (énagkãzoi) him to look at the light itself, wouldn’t his eyes hurt, and wouldn’t he turn around and flee towards the things he’s able to see, believing that they’re really clearer than the ones he’s being shown? He would.

And if someone dragged (ßlkoi) him away from there by force (b¤&), up the rough, steep path, and didn’t let him go until he had dragged him out (§jelkÊseien) into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be pained and irritated at being dragged.

Socrates emphasizes that the youth of the kallipolis (the ideal city) will be surrounded by beauty, and that this will evoke in them a virtuous eros for the beautiful. Moreover, in book 6 of the Republic, his depiction of the philosopher as stargazer in the ship concludes with an affirmation that the real philosopher is driven by an eros that can only be satisfied by communion with true being, much like how a an attractive body would engage in intercourse with another beautiful body.

Zephyrus, the progenitor of Eros along with Iris, is described by Alcaeus (VII-VI centuries BCE) as “golden hair Zephyr” (Hymn to Eros, fragment V, 327).

Zephyrus, the progenitor of Eros along with Iris, is described by Alcaeus (VII-VI centuries BCE) as “golden hair Zephyr” (Hymn to Eros, fragment V, 327).

Even more interesting is how Diotima distinguishes philosophers from sages and senseless fools by also stating that Eros or Love is a daimonic spirit, half-way between immortal divinity and perishable, foolish mortality in the Symposium (203b-204d):

When Aphrodite was born, the gods made a great feast, and among the company was Resource the son of Cunning. And when they had banqueted there came Poverty abegging, as well she might in an hour of good cheer, and hung about the door. Now Resource, grown tipsy with nectar—for wine as yet there was none—went into the garden of Zeus, and there, overcome with heaviness, slept. Then Poverty, being of herself so resourceless, devised the scheme of having a child by Resource, and lying down by his side she conceived Love. Hence it is that Love from the beginning has been attendant and minister to Aphrodite, since he was begotten on the day of her birth, and is, moreover, by nature a lover bent on beauty since Aphrodite is beautiful. Now, as the son of Resource and Poverty, Love is in a peculiar case. First, he is ever poor, and far from tender or beautiful as most suppose him: rather is he hard and parched, shoeless and homeless; on the bare ground always he lies with no bedding, and takes his rest on doorsteps and waysides in the open air; true to his mother’s nature, he ever dwells with want.

And as that which is supplied to him is always gradually flowing out, Eros is never either without resources nor wealthy, but is in between wisdom and lack of understanding. For here is the way it is: No one of the gods philosophizes and desires to become wise—for he is so—nor if there is anyone else who is wise, does he philosophize. Nor, in turn, do those who lack understanding philosophize and desire to become wise; for it is precisely this that makes the lack of understanding so difficult–that is a man is not beautiful and god, nor intelligent, he has the opinion that that is sufficient for him. Consequently, he who does not believe that he is in need does not desire that which does not believe he needs. (203E-204A)

The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1879)

Note that the sage is considered synonymous with that of a god. Diotima is saying that fools are unconscious of their lack of wisdom, even though they think they are wise and are full of hubris (i.e. delusional). On the other hand, philosophers are acutely aware of their lack of wisdom and are constantly searching after her like desert nomads thirsting after clean water. The philosopher is the intermediate stage between sages and fools. Like the philosophers, daimons were also considered to be intermediate beings, and have a share of divinity although their divine nature is conjoined with a soul and a body, capable of perceiving pleasure and pain.

For Diotima, the daimon 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. This is the Christ of the Hermetic tradition essentially. Diotima was from Mantineia in the Peloponnese not far from Corinth where Paul was said to evangelize. It was apparently an ancient argument among the Greeks whether to pray to Gods or to an intercessor. The savior figure of Jesus Christ as a supernatural, docetic and otherworldly being could also be considered a daimonic being as I go into great detail on this in my much longer essay, linked above.

As explained by the Middle Platonist Plutarch in On Isis and Osiris, 360 d13-e23, consequently, the daimons, like humans, are moved by appetite, and are capable of both good and evil. In one sense, daimons bridge the gulf or distance between the earthly and the heavenly. In another, daimons were also considered to be responsible for the incarnation of souls into the enslavement into flesh, matter and Fate. The Corpus Hermeticum explicitly states that daimons are responsible for humanity’s enslavement in the cycles of birth, life and death under the authority of fate. Fate to a Gnostic, however, did not exist and was illusory like matter. The more Orthodox minded Christians however, were obsessed with Fate and the Apocalypse or the End Times.

In the above scheme, we can see the parallels between the three-fold scheme of the Sage, philosopher and the fool in comparison with the tripartite anthropology or the three natures motif that we often find in Gnostic and Valentinian writings, with the pneumatic (spiritual), the psychic (soul), and hylic (matter). The Catholic Church Father Irenaeus gives us the Valentinian doctrine of the three natures in Against Heresies, 1.7.5:

“They conceive, then, of three kinds of men, spiritual, material, and animal (soul), represented by Cain, Abel and Seth. These three natures are no longer found in one person, but constitute various kinds of men. The material goes as a matter of course into corruption. The animal, if it choose the better part, finds repose…in the intermediate place; but if [choosing] the worse, it too shall pass into destruction. …

But they assert that the spiritual principles which have been sown by [Sophia], being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls…at last attaining perfection, shall be given as brides… (referring to the Bridal Chamber), while the animal souls rest of necessity with the Demiurge in the intermediate place (referring to the Valentinian notion of the repentance and salvation of the Demiurge).

And again, subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and others by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the spiritual seed; the evil by nature are those who are never able to receive the seed”

Even in the Apostle Paul, do we find this same basic three-fold structure in 1 Corinthians. 2:14–15:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judges all things…”

And once again in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?

Here, Paul distinguishes the spiritual man from the natural man, and lastly the fleshy man, the last of which Paul expressly condemns. He points out the flesh is actually the source of all jealousy, strife and evils of humanity. Likewise, Plato in Phaedo 66b would claim that the body is the source of all “troubles”:

For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost.

“Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth: and all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves: then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live, but after death…”

Obviously, in Paul, Socrates and Plato, the Gnostic deprecation of the flesh and the fallen world of matter is merely the next logical development in their theology based on the foundation of the former. The Cynics, Epicurians, and Stoics also had their own philosophical variation on these anti-cosmic themes. The Gospel of Philip makes an exegetic claim in that Eros builds up, where as Knowledge “puffs up” based on Paul’s 1 Corinthians 8:1:

He who has knowledge of the truth is a free man, but the free man does not sin, for “He who sins is the slave of sin” (Jn 8:34). Truth is the mother, knowledge the father. Those who think that sinning does not apply to them are called “free” by the world. Knowledge of the truth merely makes such people arrogant, which is what the words, “it makes them free” mean. It even gives them a sense of superiority over the whole world. But “Love builds up” (1 Co 8:1). In fact, he who is really free, through knowledge, is a slave, because of love for those who have not yet been able to attain to the freedom of knowledge.

Eros, in some way is depicted like a Demiurge figure, in the way it is described as to “build up” much like how Eros is described in an Orphic Fragment:

First I sung the obscurity of ancient Chaos, How the Elements were ordered, and the Heaven reduced to bound; And the generation of the wide-bosomed Earth, and the depth of the Sea, And Eros (Love) the most ancient, self-perfecting, and of manifold design; How he generated all things, and parted them from one another. (Arg. v. 12.)

Returning to Diotima, the wise priestess equates Eros with that of a philosopher:

…Eros is—necessarily—a philosopher; and as a philosopher he is between being wise and being without understanding. His manner of birth is responsible for this, for he is of a wise and resourceful father, and an unwise and resourceless mother. Now the nature of the daemon, dear Socrates, is this; but as for the one who you believed to be Eros, it is not at all surprising that you had this impression.

In a way, Socrates is much like Eros, in that he is a mediator or “mid-wife” of souls remembering their divine origins akin to Eros’ relationship with Psyche in the satirical novel, the Golden Ass. Socrates, however, appears at the same time as someone who goes out of his way to say he has no wisdom and yet is also deeply admired by his students and others like for his guidance and discourse. In this way, Socrates himself was a daimon!

The Stoics, likewise, held that the Sage was god-like and unaffected by the cycles of Fate or any sort of difficulty that might inevitably arise nor were they dazzled by any good fortune or luck that might come their way. These kinds of people to the Stoics were indeed very rare, like fine gold and regarded non-sages as guile-less fools, slaves to vice and their misfortune (the vast majority of the human race). The Stoic philosopher Arius Didymus in the Epitome of Stoic Ethics, had this to say about the division between sage and non-sage, indicating there are two races of men:

It is the view of Zeno and his Stoic followers that there are two races of men, that of the worthwhile, and that of the worthless. The race of the worthwhile employ the virtues through all of their lives, while the race of the worthless employ the vices. Hence the worthwhile always do the right thing on which they embark, while the worthless do wrong.

Clearly, Arius minces no words about calling the non-sages a race of worthless animal men who follow only the demands of the flesh. Much later, the Gnostic Hermetic alchemist, Zosimos in On the Letter Omega (5.41-46), mixed Gnostic ideas with Stoic ones where the true philosopher is liberated from cycles of pleasure and pain:

Hermes and Zoroaster maintained that the race of philosophers is superior to Fate, because they neither rejoice in her blessings, for they are masters of pleasure; nor are they thrown by her evils, since they live an inner existence; nor again do they welcome the beautiful gifts she sends, since they focus on the end of evils.

I could add the Neoplatonist Proclus’s commentary on Eros in the mix but perhaps it would be too much to digest. Looking back on all this information, Gnosticism was never a philosophy but rather sage wisdom reserved for its unshakable, spiritual race of initiates and anyone else being beckoned by the call. The winged Eros, as a god, daimon and philosopher clearly has influenced many ideas found in both Christianity and Gnosis, and I only hope the philosopher within you will continue on the tireless trek after Sophia.