Demiurge

The Megas Aeon Podcast #4 – Kyle Burris – Melek Taus, the Yezidis & Gnosis

In this episode, I interview a fellow researcher, Kyle Burris, who is well acquainted with the enigmatic angelic figure of Melek Taus of the mysterious Yezidi people in Iraq. We discuss who Melek Taus is, his connection with the God of Israel Yahweh, Lucifer, Jesus Christ, Hindu Devas, the Enochian Watchers, Zoroastrianism, Sufi Islam, the ancient Sumerians and Aleister Crowley. We also discuss some of the Gnostic sounding doctrines of the Yezidis as well as their current plight at the bloody hands of the Islamic State/Daesh. Buckle your seat-belts Dorothy because your ignorance, is going bye bye–somewhere over the peacock angel’s rainbow!

Outro music: Therion – Melek Taus.

Biblical Exegesis: Nicodemus’ Mistake

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“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him: Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (John 3:1-2).

The phrase “A ruler of the Jews” indicates that Nicodemus symbolized an àrchön, which is the exact word used in the Greek original. An àrchön is the Gnostic technical term for any power or agent of the Demiurge, to whom John 12:31 refers with the words: ho àrchön toû kòsmou toùtou, “the ruler of this world”, whose agents, in Paul’s words, are hoi àrchontes toû aiônos toùtou (“the rulers of this aeon” – the kòsmos) of 1 Corinthians. 2: 6, 8 (there in the genitive). Therefore also Nicodemus’ name may be significant, for Nikòdëmos means “conqueror of the people”, and the Demiurge is the one who “conquers” people and keeps them in slavery through the power of his heimarmènë, the Fate (karma). This means of slavery is called the “counterfeit spirit” in the Apocryphon of John.

The Jewish Pharisees, in John’s Gospel, symbolize the hylic class of human beings. The Law of Moses according to Paul also symbolized the flesh and was thus crucified on the Cross. The Gospel of John attaches fundamental importance to the cross and through it Christ throws down the Prince of the world. It is the cross that for Paul and John, it must be looked upon in order to be saved, just as the bronze serpent was looked at.

The Demiurge rules within the shadows, and therefore moves in the darkness. Not by chance then Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night”. It is an apt description of Nicodemus’ life and all those who live within the cave of matter. Man is a prisoner of this cave, or the box of time-space continuum. Now how can any demiurgic power, or any man under the demiurgic rulership, understand the nature of what shines beyond its sphere?

First of all, such power or man cannot but reason in terms of heimarmènë, of cause and effect, ignoring that space and time do not exist beyond his world of cause and effect. He believes that he can recognize a divine incarnation (an Avatara) from the “signs” He does. He thinks he can measure the divine dimension as he would the ability and the cleverness of a juggler. Jesus does not waste his time in explaining him the difference. He just points at Nicodemus’ blindness (because of the darkness he moves in) and at the condition necessary to overcome it:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born ànöthen, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”(3:3).

Anöthen means both “anew” and “from above”. Naturally Nicodemus understands it in terms of time (“anew”) and of “reincarnation” which indicates his carnal thinking:

“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”.

Nicodemus is one of those who believe that one can reach the infinite by adding step to step, or that eternity is an infinite summation of days. He believes that finally his heimarmènë will produce the uncaused. Now Jesus tries to open Nicodemus’ eyes:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”

(The words “of the water and” are missing in many ancient manuscripts). And Jesus explains the difference between the heimarmènë-bound world of matter and that of Spirit’s freedom:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you: You must be born (ànöthen). The spirit (Pneuma) blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes”.

And finally He makes it clear what ànöthen really means:

“No one has ascended to heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man (the Anthröpos) (ho hyiòs toû anthròpou)”.

Here “the son of the Anthropos” is the Pneumatic (spiritual) element in man. Anöthen means a vertical movement intervening in the horizontal chain of cause and effect in time and space, which is the schêma, the latter being unable to stop itself. The laws of cause and effect are also very much a big concern in later Hermetic texts. Although this scene is not mentioned in Heracleon’s (a Valentinian teacher) fragments as preserved by Origen, he does give some interesting insights into another scene that is somewhat reminiscent of the scene with Nicodemus. Here is one example taken from these fragments:

Fragment 20, on John 4:21 (In John it says, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.’”) The mountain represents the Devil, or his world, since the Devil was one part of the whole of matter, but the world is the total mountain of evil, a deserted dwelling place of beasts, to which all who lived before the law and all Gentiles render worship. But Jerusalem represents the creation or the Creator whom the Jews worship. . . The mountain is the creation which the Gentiles worship, but Jerusalem is the creator whom the Jews serve. You then who are spiritual should worship neither the creation nor the Craftsman (Demiurge – my emphasis), but the Father of Truth. And he (Jesus) accepts her (the Samaritan woman) as one of the already faithful, and to be counted with those who worship in truth.

As we can see, allegory was a common teaching tool that many early Christians and Gnostics were engaged in. Even Hellenistic Jews like Philo Judeaus of Alexandria was heavily invested in this allegorical methodology but applied to the Old Testament. Another example of this can be seen in the Valentinian teacher Theodutus’ fragments as preserved by Clement of Alexandria:

XXIV. For we are of the earth. . . . Caesar is the prince, for the thee being, whose earthly image is the old man, to which he has returned. To him, then, we are to render the earthly things, which we bore in the image of the earthly, and the things of God to God. For each one of the passions is on us as a letter, and stamp, and sign. Now the Lord marks us with another stamp, and with other names and letters, faith instead of unbelief, and so forth. Thus we are translated from what is material to what is spiritual, “having borne the image of the heavenly.” [2]

Stay tuned for more small posts like these in the tradition of the Biblical Exegesis.

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…

The Stranger’s Battle Cry: Reloaded

(This article was also published on the former Palm Tree Garden, under the same alias as “AeonEye”.)

In the first installment of my article, “The Stranger’s Battle Cry,” I explored in great detail one particular excerpt from The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, in which Christ himself is seen as both a revealer of salvific knowledge to the spiritual regents that are the Gnostics, and a judge of the self-professed and false “Christians” who would take the tragedy of Jesus’ death on Calvary and resurrection as a wholly carnal and thus erroneous article of faith. In so doing, they would assert their anti-Gnostic attitudes, and their theocratic dominion over the keepers of the sacred mysteries and knowledge deemed unfit to evangelize to the profane and uninitiated. It is they who despised the Gnostics as heretics. The Gnostics considered themselves the true Christians, the custodians and guardians of a special knowledge and insight into what they believed to be the true message behind Christ’s ministry. In this installment, I will explore the message of the Treat. Seth. and other mysteries that were brought up previously in brief, but will explore and extrapolate even further.

The Gnostic religion itself had become its own distinct theological movement, almost independently of the narrow Christian notion of a “heresy”, by its adoption of Platonic dualism. By embracing Greek philosophy, it introduced numerous doctrinal variations to Christianity that would also bear fruit as vastly different to traditional Christianity (which would prove to fuel the fire against them as the authors of “Satanic”, iconoclast heresies). And, Gnosticism easily adapted Christian language and concepts into its rich mix of Greek and Oriental thought, as Gnostic language is inherently “soteriological” that is, it is distinctly mystical and poetic in its juxtaposition of paradoxes and emphasis on the transcendental. R. Mcl. Wilson writes in Gnostic Origins:

…the discovery of the Gnostic library at Nag Hammadi in 1945 has made it clear that the movement with which we are dealing was something much wider than a Christian heresy.” Later on, the author reiterates his point and introduces some new ones, “That we have to deal with something much wider than a Christian heresy is plainly evident, but that prior to the impact of Christianity upon the Hellenistic world there existed a regular Gnostic movement has not yet been conclusively shown. It is indeed possible, but as yet our available resources take us back only thus far and no further. The presence in pre-Christian times of elements which were later to be incorporated in the Gnostic theories is not in question, but it would seem more appropriate to classify these elements as pre-Gnostic, rather than as Gnostic in the proper sense.(208)

The tenuous claim that Gnosticism was a pre-Christian religious phenomenon is at the very least debatable. There are certain claims that Gnosticism developed out of a cauldron of a pre-Christian Jewish milieu by a few scholars as a sort of Jewish heresy instead of Christian one. Yet, even this explanation has problems. Many point to the Apocalypse of Adam being incontrovertible proof for such a claim. A more precise dating would point to the first or more conservatively, the second century, only to be later revised in a Gnostic lens. While there are certainly pre-Christian elements from the ancient world that the Gnostics would use in their religion, the claim as a pre-Christian movement remains inconclusive and prematurely presumed as much. Gnosticism can be defined quite easily and it really is not pre-Christian, except for the terminologies and a few key Platonic concepts. Why is it not pre-Christian? Because, it is essentially the original Christianity. (For a more in-depth exploration of this topic see Edwin M. Yamauchi’s scholarship and David Brakke’s The Gnostics.)

In the wild collage of Gnostic mythology, much of it is focused on the inherent harsh insanity and absurdity interwoven into the cosmos. The main crux behind the message from these spiritual sojourners is that the perception that man does not belong to the misbegotten world of forms and appearances, lacking in autonomy and permanence. The world is often equated with a decaying corpse or garment that must be discarded. (Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said, “Whoever has come to understand the world has found (only) a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world.” Logion 56). Man is a creature belonging to another realm of a higher divine fire, temporarily entombed in the gloom of corporeal being. This kind of religiosity was reflective of the inherent nihilistic and negative evaluation of the cosmos and human existence contrasted with the yearning for a spiritual reality. Gnosis begins as recognition of the soul’s “dire straits” of its predicament and the “escape route” from the fetters of dark matter and into the original unity of light. It is in essence, anti-cosmic mysticism. In order for this to occur, pistis (faith) and praxis (action), must both be utilized to cultivate an in-dwelling knowledge as a platform for salvation. This cultivation of knowledge is achieved through an interior and unknown dimension which reveals a fundamental and supreme aspect of the self, impervious to the limitations of time and space nestled within the spiritual seed. This realization is likened to a luminous lamp, dispelling the darkness of ignorance and unconsciousness. It is not simply a redemptive work, but one of illumination.

Allogenes echoes this sentiment:

There was within me a stillness of silence, and I heard the Blessedness whereby I knew my real self…..And I turned to myself and saw the Light that surrounded me and the Good that was in me, I became divine.

This realization results in a recollection or, anamnesis embodied in self-knowledge which is based on a drive for self-exploration of the furthest recesses of the soul and the world. Gnosis is not an end-point or purposeful result but an on-going process, an inner-alchemical change from the darkness within into pnuematic gold of spiritual rebirth or resurrection—a growth into releasing the manacles of the world. The spiritual essence is in itself anti-matter. This allows one to ascend to a higher understanding of reality, hence “eternal life,” of immortality. Without this knowledge, the soul is fallen in its own delusions of vanity and worldly cares, steeped within the dark abyss which is opposed to the Supreme Goodness of the One. The Hypostasis of the Archons proclaims an existential error that is innate in the human condition:

 Moreover, they threw mankind into great distraction and into a life of toil, so that their mankind might be occupied by worldly affairs, and might not have the opportunity of being devoted to the holy spirit.

So powerful is this “muck of matter” that even if the Soul merely glances in its direction, it is able to seize it, pull it down and drown it in the quicksand of its bottomless darkness. The ordinary human existence without self-knowledge is, at worst, spiritual death. In this state where mankind is unknowing of his predicament as the “walking dead”, the unconscious slaves to the hierarchical fallen psychic powers that hold secret domination over the lower souls of the human race. These chaotic demonic powers of the stars, the lords of fate surround the universe on all sides. The over-all multi-layered universe contains various concentric spheres, occupied by the authorities, archons, angels and demons which leave no space or gap unoccupied so that there is a slight crack to escape the tyranny of the rulers.

In classical Gnostic mythology, the creator of the world was by in large regarded as a Satanic figure. This is clear from his depiction in his outer appearance (a lion-faced serpent), from the “psychic” nature attributed to him and, above all, from the stories about his actions against spiritual humanity (although he isn’t always successful in this regard). The transgressive reading of the Old Testament (the entire Biblical Canon, really) was used to illustrate this point by transforming it into a tale of nightmarish horror and tragedy. The traditional account supposedly given of the God of Israel is incomplete, for he is not the just and protective Lawgiver of Abraham, but in actuality, an irrational and even malevolent agent to whom cosmic evil may be attributed while opposed to spiritual virtue.  A couple examples of this become rather apparent when the Old Testament itself does not depict a God who is wholly good, but in fact has evil spirits at his command and wreaks terrible havoc on his enemies. (1 Kings 22.22). The material world that he put together isn’t peaches either. At the legal God’s express command, the world is a place of thorns and thistle, pain and death. (Genesis. 3.14-19)

This focus on mitigated dualism—the struggle between spirit and matter, mainly served to explain evil and error in the world and cosmos at large by tracing it back to an accident and fracturing in the divine realm. The supreme deity remains absolved of any complicity in the creation of a deeply imperfect world; the folly of subsidiary deities or emanations are, by and large, ultimately responsible. These subsidiary emanations are, in and of themselves, less hostile forces than tragic and sympathetic characters in this unfolding cosmic drama. This tragic story of the disturbance and fall of the divine realm into the abyss of matter profoundly impacts the pathos of mankind in all its metaphysical, epistemological and psychological sophistication and complexity. Not only is there an inherent struggle or duality inherent in the cosmos, but to make matters even more complicated, this tense dynamic also exists within the soul. The spiritual seed’s dimension is divine by default.

In Excerpta ex Theodutus, this “breath of spirit” is likened to the “marrow” of the soul, the principle that brings life to the body:

So Wisdom first put forth a spiritual seed which was in Adam that it might be “the bone,” the reasonable and heavenly soul which is not empty but full of spiritual marrow.

In the same paragraph, there also exists a “hylic” stain within the psychic soul, that contains the divine breath:

This is called a “tare” which grows up with the soul, the good seed, and is also a seed of the devil, since it is consubstantial with him, and a “snake” and a “biter of the heel” and a “robber” attacking the head of a king.

This devilish seed is made of the same substance that is of the Devil, which according to Irenaeus in Against Heresies, was made from grief of Wisdom:

They further teach that the spirits of wickedness derived their origin from grief. Hence the devil, whom they also call Cosmocrator (the ruler of the world), and the demons, and the angels, and every wicked spiritual being that exists, found the source of their existence.

This “tare” or appendage of evil spirits are attached the psychic soul. This semi-spiritual organ places man in-between daily, mundane life and transcendent layers of reality. It is also the means that enchains the spirit to the lower-world, providing a battlefield on which wars, rivalries and struggles are fought out by the Devil and his legion of demonic powers as well as the holy angels of God. Demons penetrate and claim dominion over the soul, lacerating it with passions in which they make a haven for confusion, fear and terror. The soul according to the Tripartate Tractate is “double-natured”, inclined to do good but fighting the urges of the material that is by default designed to “sin”.

This is repeated in the Exegesis of the Soul:

Indeed, it is in order that he might know who is worthy of salvation that God examines the inward parts and searches the bottom of the heart. For no one is worthy of salvation who still loves the place of deception.

Elsewhere in the same text, it describes how the soul that descends into a body falls into the clutches of the “wanton creatures” that “passed her from one to another” and continued to “defile her”. The soul in this state is akin to a “whore” and a “prostitute” to the rulers who gang-bang the souls of the living within the deficient cosmos and the world.

Hans Jonas in The Gnostic Religion, goes even further to illustrate this point:

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.

Again, Jonas continues in the same paragraph:

This is the basic condition of human insufficiency. “What is God? unchanging good; what is man? Unchanging evil” (Stob. Ecl. I. 277. 17). Abandoned to the demonic whirl of its own passions, the godless soul cries, “I burn, I blaze . . . I am consumed, wretch that I am, by the evils that possess me” (CM. X. 20). Even the opposite experience of spiritual freedom is one of receptivity rather than activity: “the spiritual part of the soul is immune against enslavement by the demons and is fit to receive God into itself” (CM. XV. 15). (282)

In the Corpus Hermeticum XI, it asserts that the universe is completely evil—so evil, in fact, that it is impossible for God to dwell within it. According to that text, both man and the cosmos are completely evil:

Mind conceives every mental product: both the good, when mind receives seeds from god, as well as the contrary kind, when the seeds come from some demonic being. {Unless it is illuminated by god,} no part of the cosmos is without a demon that steals into the mind to sow the seed of its own energy, and what has been sown the mind conceives – adulteries, murders, assaults on one’s father, acts of sacrilege and irreverence, suicides by hanging or falling from a cliff, and all other such works of demons.

Not exactly the most popular message, especially in the contemporary, secular world. It is this unregenerate, natural state of the soul which by the grace of God can only be changed through the indwelling of the Son, sanctifying the dark, stony heart in gleaming regenerative light. Yet, how can embodied soul be in the “exile” of shadowy alienation from the Absolute, find their true selves and return “home”? The “way to return home” means that there is a distinct realization the soul is indeed exiled, experiencing a sort of “poverty” or “lack” of the world, longing to possess that which is “lost”, that is the fullness of being. Contemplation that begins at a “soul-deep” level is key in grasping the soul’s ambivalent predicament. The true story begins at the heights above all heights, at the most primordial of origins.

The Supreme God is named as the ground and space behind all spiritual being, the fountainhead of its heavenly, immortal family tree. Because of its immeasurable and unfathomable depths, it is given several names such as the eternal “silence,” “the broadest depth,” “before the beginning,” etc. In Kabbalistic terms, this non-existent God exists in pure potentiality within a hidden ineffability called Ein Sof (“limitless”). This unnamable deity generates “aeons” or “eternals” in cascading successive waves of a divine family tree (similar to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and the sefiroths as a bridge between the finite and infinite realms). In a sense, these aeons are different attributes of God, forming hermaphroditic pairs of male and female god-forms (syzygies) until there are 30 in all which comprise the divine realm, the Pleroma. They are often depicted as bright luminous beings which mirror the lower forms of human bodies in a much more glorified expression, beyond normal mortal comprehension.

All of these successive aeons long for their ultimate progenitor. The further away the aeon is from the origin, the weaker it becomes. The outpouring and overflowing light descends from density to density in a process of emanation in the sense that each succeeding lower order of reality is not a full manifestation of what preceded it. Instead, the process is rather like a chain of progressively diluted projections of divine spirit—think of the way one feels less and less heat the further one steps away from a fire. The last of these aeons, called Sophia (“Wisdom”), boldly ascends towards the supreme deity in an attempt to comprehend it in a misguided but well-intentioned folly, but fails miserably and consequently suffers for undertaking such a daunting task. Hell paved with good intentions?

Due to Sophia’s hysterical distress, the origins of human suffering arise from her inability to know what is unknowable, and she gives birth to an amorphous substance that crystallizes into an independent entity, the Demiurge, who is described in various sources as the fearsome leontomorphic deity Ialdabaoth which have various meanings, but a popular one would be, “the child of chaos” and even “Lord of Hosts.” He is wholly a product of emotion, which is, in modern occult parlance, an “astral” substance. In another variation of this myth, Sophia becomes haughty in her confidence and emulates the creative power of the Great Invisible Spirit—an act which catapults into divine disaster. Sophia’s mistake was mainly that she copulated (or masturbated) without her mate and the consent of the Holy Spirit. She, in essence, imitated the Father who generated the first aeonic couple. The Apocryphon of John indicates:

Our sister Wisdom, however, by virtue of her nature as an aeon, conceived an idea on her own; and through the thought of the Spirit and the first knowledge she desired to make manifest an image from herself, although the Spirit had not allowed her this nor permitted it, nor had her marriage partner, the male virginal spirit, agreed to it.

The result of her attempt at self-generation was an impregnation, and the birth of her blind, bastardly, golem child of chaos. When Sophia realizes her mistake and makes a face-palm at the sight of the deformity of her offspring, she starts to wail in hysterics at the ghastly sight of her aborted child. In her devastation, she relegates him to the abyss far from the true heavens where she can wean him from his innately corrupt nature, but to no avail; he matures into a lion-faced monstrosity, demanding constant worship and attention. Her frustration soon turns into suffering which eventually actualizes prototypes of human emotions—the “passions”—such as fear, grief, and anger, crystallized into the elements of cosmic matter, which in Platonic understanding was completely passive and receptive to the ideal—“a space of the possible,” or a reflections of the light as imperfect copies of the true reality. The very fabric of the cosmos is shaped by the tears of Sophia. Matter in this sense was ultimately seen as having no real substance, but is given the appearance or illusion of reality by the spiritual reflected in it, much as the prisoners enchained in Plato’s Cave view the shadowy reflections, brought on by the burning embers of torches set aflame behind them, as the only familiar reality they know. Platonists failed to account for the origin of the primal matter where the Demiurge creates the universe, so many Gnostic groups attempted to “fill in” the gaps of their pre-cosmic story.

The Demiurge himself is by in large ignorant of a higher spiritual reality (i.e. the Platonic realm of forms and ideals) and impulsively creates the “kenomic” or the empty, lower, visible universe out of his mommy’s passions,  modeling it after a dim reflection of the aeons of light that he sees reflected in the element of the dark waters of chaos. Irenaeus reiterates this point in Against Heresies:

The corporeal elements of the world, again, sprang, as we before remarked, from bewilderment and perplexity, as from a more ignoble source. Thus the earth arose from her state of stupor; water from the agitation caused by her fear; air from the consolidation of her grief; while fire, producing death and corruption, was inherent in all these elements, even as they teach that ignorance also lay concealed in these three passions.

The Apocryphon of John indicates that Ialdabaoth fills up his fiery realm of chaos by mating and copulating with Madness—in a grotesque imitation of the Unknowable God and Forethought in the original union which sprouted the divine order of the Aeons. This unholy union results in the “begetting” of the authorities of the rebellious angels:

that are under him along with the twelve angels, and each of them as an aeon, after the pattern of the incorruptible ones.

These twelve angels or rulers are divided in so that seven rule the numbers in heaven and the five remaining angels preside over the fathomless abyss and the chaos of the underworld. It is also said that Ialdabaoth was blind and insane; an incompetent pretender who is moved by the impulses of his irrational soul and only capable of producing deceptive semblances or a simulacrum of the ideal forms.

In the exegetic text On the Origin of the World, it is this substance, which is referred to as a “shadow” or “darkness” outside of the eternal realm, “deriving from the aforementioned Pistis,” from which the gods and angels of men, and their slaves (mankind), originated. In a way, the Demiurge acts as a cosmic alchemist, forming a type of order out of chaos, however flawed that “order” might have been. The creation of the universe from matter—itself the product of divine suffering—ensures that human experience is infused with suffering. Sophia, in this respect, is also seen as a proto-demiurgical figure, providing the means and materials for the cosmic artisan to build the vast prison that is the cosmos. Although the substance of the material cosmos itself harbors pain and corruption, contrasting itself with the goodness and perfection beyond, it is still fundamentally patterned after the beautiful astronomical system of the upper world of light, mirroring a higher beauty. In a twisted way, this mirrors the magical words contained in The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:

That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above, corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.

This also goes for the human body which is shaped out of the reflection of the divine-lightened figure of the immortal androgynous man (the Adam Kadamon in Kabbalistic terms). The significance of this story is that the origins of human pathos, a subject that is often of intense focus in Gnostic literature, is not one of divine agency or intention, but one of divine suffering resulting from Sophia’s hubristic but noble intellectual curiosity and profound love for the primal origins. Her son’s unconscious creative impulse to imitate the perfection of the higher aeons is another set-back in eternity. The emergence of worldly evil arises from a “deficiency” (a word often used by Irenaeus to describe the Gnostic reference to the disorderly realm of this world) from Sophia’s descent into hysteria and chaos. It’s as if the cosmos were a warped Alice in Wonderland with “Wonderland” being the fractured mirror world of the Aeons.

In Against Heresies, Irenaeus reports:

They claim that the duodekad, in connection with which the mystery of the passion of the defect occurred, and from which passion (they maintain) the visible world has been made, is clearly and manifestly to be found everywhere. (Against Heresies 1.24.3)

To Irenaeus, the notion of the Lord God being an accidental by-product due to the folly of a female divinity was the epitome of lunacy and blasphemy. Imagine the look on his face when the Gnostics would declare themselves as being superior to the creator god! As mentioned earlier, Sophia was also seen as a proto-demiurgical figure who “gives birth” to not only the satanized-form of the Demuirge (who eventually becomes synonymous with Jehovah of the Old Testament thanks to his boastful arrogant proclamation of being the only god in existence) we see in Gnostic mythology the metaphysical goo that binds multi-verse in its stark inglorious and paradoxical beauty.

Her passionate lust to create without the consent of the upper regions sets a very interesting precedent. In the Second Treastise of the Great Seth, Sophia is described as a lustful Prunikos (“harlot” or “whore”):

For those who were in the world had been prepared by the will of our sister Sophia – she who is a whore – because of the innocence which has not been uttered. And she did not ask anything from the All, nor from the greatness of the Assembly, nor from the Pleroma. Since she was first, she came forth to prepare monads and places for the Son of Light and the fellow workers which she took from the elements below to build bodily dwellings from them.

Karen L. King in “Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism” elucidates on the figure of Sophia as the “Holy Harlot.” King spells out the etymology behind the word “Prunikos” as a lewd, impulsive person or untamed nymphomaniac. This would fit rather well with some of Sophia’s capricious actions mentioned throughout various Nag Hammadi tractates. Throughout her book, King stresses the sexual and carnal symbolism inherent in Gnostic myth. John Douglas Turner, in “Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition”, finishes this tale of divine drama:

In deep grief and sorrow over her error, Sophia begins part two of the drama by offering a prayer of repentance to the divine realm whose order she had unintentionally violated. Her prayer receives a positive response, but it is clear that her former status can only be restored once the deficiency in her creative activity has been corrected; until then, she must be content only to be elevated to the “Ninth,” above the realm of the Archon she brought into being, but not yet to the divine realm. (74)

As a result from this “mistake”, the material cosmos, though a dim production and reflection of the divine, is the furthest removed from God as a lower level of reality. Immersed in the chaos of passive matter, the pneumatic element sown by Sophia into the powers of the Demiurge, finds itself in an alien environment, as a Stranger, exiled and wingless, whose true home is elsewhere. The creation of the material world “happens” as a consequence of a fall, accident or a rebellion. The stark beauty of nature is purely because of the Spirit that flows through it and the Logos that organizes it. Otherwise the material strata is “dead.” It is a illusory shadow and has no existence of its own. It is the strata in which actual existence reflects. When Sophia fell, her distress polarized her and her tears solidified into a chaotic, unorganized mess and the origins of the Gnostic disdain for the cosmos. It is safe to say that any admiration the Gnostics had for nature, particularly the Christian-Gnostic teacher and theologian Valentinus, was that the true beauty rested in the Spirit and Word which reflected in the material strata, not the material strata itself.

Sophia’s “sin” like Lucifer in the War in Heaven, was one of pride and unregulated desire or lust to bolster herself into and above the infinite depths of the Unknowable One without proper understanding, assistance or initiation. She had a glimpse of something better than she was able to imagine, and she wanted it for herself.  Philosophy in itself has an inkling of something greater, an ultimate reality perhaps, but cannot in itself properly perceive it without a proper revelation. Error is thus given form, which had been better it not come into being. Yet, when these errors do arise, the ultimate reality orders everything at will to bring good out of evil. Philosophy can be refined and purified, and all the disorder will ultimately be transmuted into universal harmony. To the Gnostics, this was done accomplished by the redemptive work done by the Cross of Light.

Everything that unfolds from this tragic event needs to be reversed so that the original state can be restored. Yet, there exists a hidden plan for the restoration involving a “panspermia” or “seeding” humanity with a flash of divine light, the pneumatic “germ”, which by default places mankind superior over the craftsman of the material world. Overcoming this disabled condition requires nothing less than the soul’s experiential goal of self-transcendence through transformative philosophy and the intervention of a higher being.

This dramatic incident triggers a plan of action from the higher-forms to send down their emissary, a sort of divine superman. Mission Target: To crucify the world! (The Gospel of Phillip) The Savior Aeon in same text of the Treat. Seth asserts:

And I subjected all their powers. For as I came downward, no one saw me. For I was altering my shapes, changing from form to form. And therefore, when I was at their gates, I assumed their likeness. For I passed them by quietly, and I was viewing the places, and I was not afraid nor ashamed, for I was undefiled. And I was speaking with them, mingling with them through those who are mine, and trampling on those who are harsh to them with zeal, and quenching the flame. And I was doing all these things because of my desire to accomplish what I desired by the will of the Father above.

In essence, the immortal Illuminator or Revealer (Christ and Seth are also interchangeable names for this savior) descended to the lower worlds to shape-shift his likeness into that of one of the bizarrely frightening, bestial forms of the Archons (the successive wicked progeny of the Demiurge), in order escape their notice and subvert their stupefying power over the Pneumatic elect through spiritual amnesia. This shape-shifting theme is also repeats in other texts of the Nag Hammadi which I won’t list all in its entirety. Christ is nearly equated to a trickster deity, yet his devious actions aren’t instigated against mankind, but rather against the “rulers and principalities”, the jealous powers of the cosmos (often referred to as a “laughing stock” in the Treat. Seth along with many of the familiar Patriarchs of the Old Testament). On the Origin of the World echoes this sentiment:

Thus did the world come to exist in distraction, in ignorance, and in a stupor. They all erred, until the appearance of the true man.

The Savior, who is likened to the image or revelation of the Father, is generated from the harmony and joy of the higher aeons as their “fruit.” The Savior’s revelation in the eyes of the recipient exposes the false pretenders who in their true forms are terrible theriomorphic beasts who exercise control over the visible world of time and space. They are the implacable tyrants and and controllers of all aspects of human existence. It is the Savior who sets up the final deliverance of the human race from their yoke. Through the defeat of the archons, Christ’s descent into the upper and lower astral realms of the “shadows” would spell the fate of the souls of “fruit-bearing trees” (as mentioned in the Apocalypse of Adam) in their redemption from their former state as “creatures of the dead earth,” under the authority of the Archon of Death. Moreover in On the Origin of the World, the worldly visible church is itself likened to “the modeled forms of perdition,” since matter is in itself perishable and illusory due to the intermixing of the seed of the pneumatic (“light”) and the psychic and hylic (“darkness”) substances.

Furthermore, the same text explains how the descending Logos shakes the thralldom of the satanic rulers of fate:

Now the Word that is superior to all beings was sent for this purpose alone: that he might proclaim the unknown. He said, “There is nothing hidden that is not apparent, and what has not been recognized will be recognized.” And these were sent to make known what is hidden, and the seven authorities of chaos and their impiety. And thus they were condemned to death. So when all the perfect appeared in the forms modeled by the rulers, and when they revealed the incomparable truth, they put to shame all the wisdom of the gods. And their fate was found to be a condemnation. And their force dried up. Their lordship was dissolved. Their forethought became emptiness, along with their glory.

We see the same sentiment expressed in The Sophia of Jesus Christ:

I have struck off the chains…I have broken down the doors of the pitiless and humiliated them…I have revealed to you the name of the Perfect and the whole desire of the mother of the angels. I came to reveal to you that which exists since the beginning. I came because of the pride of the archigenitor and his angels, who say, ‘We are gods!’ to condemn them by revealing to everyone the God who is above the universe. Trample under foot their sepulchers! Let their yoke be broken, that mine may be exalted.

The Second Treatise of the Great Seth:

For the Archon was a laughingstock because he said, “I am God, and there is none greater than I. I alone am the Father, the Lord, and there is no other beside me. I am a jealous God, who brings the sins of the fathers upon the children for three and four generations.” As if he had become stronger than I and my brothers! But we are innocent with respect to him, in that we have not sinned, since we mastered his teaching. Thus he was in an empty glory. And he does not agree with our Father. And thus through our fellowship we grasped his teaching, since he was vain in an empty glory. And he does not agree with our Father, for he was a laughingstock and judgment and false prophecy.

And in the Triorphic Protennoia:

I am their Father, and I shall tell you a mystery, ineffable and indivulgeable by any mouth: Every bond I loosed from you, and the chains of the demons of the underworld I broke, these things which are bound on my members, restraining them. And the high walls of darkness I overthrew, and the secure gates of those pitiless ones I broke, and I smashed their bars. And the evil force, and the one who beats you, and the one who hinders you, and the tyrant, and the adversary, and the one who is King, and the present enemy, indeed all these I explained to those who are mine, who are the Sons of the Light, in order that they might nullify them all, and be saved from all those bonds, and enter into the place where they were at first.

In the Hypostasis in the Archons it also asserts:

He said to me, “Until the moment when the true man, within a modeled form, reveals the existence of the spirit of truth, which the father has sent. Then he will teach them about everything, and he will anoint them with the unction of life eternal, given him from the undominated generation. Then they will be freed of blind thought, and they will trample underfoot death, which is of the authorities, and they will ascend into the limitless light where this sown element belongs.

Even more so is the similar Gnostic sentiment echoed in St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom (Sophia), which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The notion that the gods of men were in actuality malefic imposters of darkness was a unique one to the Gnostic religion and one that no doubt infuriated many pagans. The god’s insistence that they assert to be the first beings in existence was a claim that the author of On the Origin of the World refuted outright. Why was this? This was because there is indeed a higher, spiritual hyperspace above their normal vision, placed in the Empyrean. It is this world that the Gnostics lay claim to as the “Seed of Seth” or the “Gnostic Race” that spring forward in a cry for battle for the Word and against the demons of forgetfulness with gleaming swords of light. It is they that will eventually “withdraw” to their true spiritual roots. Similarly, those belonging to the realm of darkness will be thrown to the abyss and “dissolved”.  No longer is the light (spirit) thrown and intermingled in the flux of dark matter. It is this apocalyptic notion that is purely alchemical in its symbolism where the good and spiritual is separated from the corrupt and perishable. The Apocryphon of John indicates that it is the Gnostic Race that that have devoted themselves exclusively to Incorruptibility “without anger, or envy, or  fear, or desire, or insobriety.”

Sophia in Sethian and Valentinian cosmology is responsible for the divine catastrophe. She also birthed the Demiurge. Yet, the fall and redemption of Sophia is an allegory for the fall and redemption of each individual. Mankind is violently thrown into and held in captivity by the lower powers in the darkest pit of ignorance and death. Gnosis is a recital of redemption. The knowledge and internalization of this story already signals a reversal of bonds of fate. It is this knowledge that sets mankind above the cosmic prison and set limitations, giving a radical sense of freedom and liberty that is completely “acosmic”. The ascent is integral to the Gnostic worldview. Cosmology as a history of an imprisonment, and the divine descent as a fissure in the prison wall, point toward a need to escape. The Illuminator arrives to awaken the scattered lights frozen in the dark. These spiritual seed contains the “blueprint”, of the image of God. To be “born again” is to transform into this glorious image of the solitary light, transcending beyond the cold and ruthless machinery of cosmic fate. This was the spiritual password used to transcend into the next world. In order to transform to this “perfected” state, one must live a life of righteous piety emulated Jesus’ example in the Gospels. Although the sojourn to the spirit is full of tension, pain and confrontation—an inner alchemy—it is indeed what separates the darkness from the light. This mystical union of the soul (symbolized by the fallen Sophia) transcends the sharp duality of the cosmos, the subject and object, the knower and known; it is the escalation of spirit in the unity of the One.

For those who have toiled in the devastation of the abyss of existence on the path to the light of self-knowledge, like Sophia, and have risen to understand her message, it is she and her consort who descended to the depths of hell where the archons and demons dwell who were eventually swallowed and trampled in order to triumphantly rise again. In the union between Christ and Sophia, the masculine and feminine, the higher and the lower, an androgynous union is formed within the “bridal chamber”, the “bedroom” of the One. United, they seek to console the spirits of heaviness, the lost, the broken and the lamenting, to be released from their bondage and transcend the duality within and inherent to the cosmos, and to glimpse into, and take part of, the dynamics of the One. They wage a secret war against the demonic rulers who seek eternal enslavement, inviting fear and misery. It is both aeons that invite us to examine ourselves, to take part and bite into the sweet flowing juices of the fruits of the tree of life.

The Second Treatise of the Great Seth closes with this:

Now these things I have presented to you – I am Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who is exalted above the heavens – O perfect and incorruptible ones, because of the incorruptible and perfect mystery and the ineffable one. But they think that we decreed them before the foundation of the world, in order that, when we emerge from the places of the world, we may present there the symbols of incorruption from the spiritual union unto knowledge. You do not know it, because the fleshly cloud overshadows you. But I alone am the friend of Sophia. I have been in the bosom of the father from the beginning, in the place of the sons of the truth, and the Greatness. Rest then with me, my fellow spirits and my brothers, forever.

The Chimera Androgyne: The Esoteric Mystique of Baphomet and Abraxas (Part 2)

Part II. Abraxas

The ancient image of the Mithraic lion-headed serpent is first found at the start of the Christian-era who is sometimes depicted as crowned or surrounded by a halo or streaming rays indicating its inherent solar and magical nature. This image is called a Khnoubis or Chnoubis, carved on old gems and amulets. Hebraic names such as “IAO”, “Adonai”, “Sabaoth” and the Gnostic corruption of “Ialdaboath” are also found on these gems for superstitious purposes. Chnoubis was also synonymous with Abraxas, Ophis and Knuphis. Such names are ascribed to the public, builder-god, the “Demiurge” which is the Greek, Platonic term for “half-architect”, the “lord” and author of the structure of the material world.

In ancient magical texts such as the Greek Magical Papyri often invoke images of Chnoubis which were used for the purpose of warding off malevolent demonic influence as well as stomach aches by knowing and memorizing many different names of spirits in life and after death in efforts to banish them and overcome the cosmic rulers that guard each succeeding realm of the “astral realm”. The Greek Magical Papyri also provides the means to summoning of demons for various anti-social purposes of the magician (such as making thievery invisible, sending dreams, winning favors in both men and women, inflaming lust in the person of desire, killing, etc.)

In the Middle Ages, Abraxas was also known as the king of demons, a title similar to gods of other cultures such as Shiva of Hinduism. In the Dictionnaire Infernal (Demonographia), Abraxas was spelled “Abracas” as one of the many demons for the purpose of invocation similar to the usage ascribed in the Greek Magical Papyri. In many Gnostic texts, the Demiurge was also associated with the element of fire, besides bearing many Chimeric qualities as the Apocryphon of John indicates:

And when she saw (the consequences of) her desire, it changed into a form of a lion-faced serpent. And its eyes were like lightning fires which flash. She cast it away from her, outside that place, that no one of the immortal ones might see it, for she had created it in ignorance.

In the Pistis Sophia, the Demiurge isn’t at all by any means a handsome fellow as he’s depicted as a fiery yet dark lion-faced demon, residing within the Dante’s Inferno-like chaotic underworld of Hades where he and his forty-nine demons tortures the wicked souls who end up in such a horrible place in boiling rivers of pitch-black darkness. In the Gospel of Judas, “Nebro” (meaning rebel angel) Yaldaboath’s henchman and himself also dwell in Hades or hell as one of the twelve angels to come “into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld]”. He comes from heaven, his “face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood”. The mythological Chimera found in the Homer’s Illiad was also described with similar features:

…a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.

The Gnostics had taken biblical theology into new, previously unknown territory by merging it with Platonic thought. Yet after this infusion, neither biblical theology or Platonic thought looked the same after. Plato had his benevolent Demiurge, a creator god from Timaeus. This Demiurge worked hard to create the best possible world as a reflection of the the Ideal realm. For Plato, matter is neither inherently good nor evil. It remains neutral. Matter in Timaeus is originally featureless and passive like the darkened, still waters of an isolated pond. It’s primeval and existent even before the four basic elements. Receptive matter is considered to be the “mother” while the “father” Demiurge becomes the active agent to mold it after the image of eternity as an imitation. The world he created was the best that could be given the fact that it was a reflection of the higher world in the realm of matter. The soul can work to be freed from matter by pious living, and upon death, ascend back to the Good.

The Sethian Gnostics on the other hand conceived the world as wholly disastrous and shitty by a retarded and spiritually blind creator, called Ialdaboath. The Gnostics’ obsession with theodicy or the problem of evil and its source became reflected on their myths. Like many Jewish thinkers of their time, the Gnostics posited a hierarchical duality between the Supreme God and the demuirgical angel. Yet their identification of the Demiurge with Satan become a much more radical and even “misotheistic” (hatred of the gods or the belief that god or the gods aren’t good but are in fact malevolent, bent on making the lives of their creation as miserable as possible) interpretation of the creator god. This malevolent demon-king was the warring, belligerent opponent to the Pleroma, the higher collective realm of the spiritual “aeons”. Because he was the one who created the world, it is a world of suffering and imprisonment. The Sethians had linked the story of Satan’s fall from Paradise with the Demiurge. Ialdabaoth in Gnostic literature was the aborted and accidental birth of Sophia, creator of the sensible cosmos and was eventually relegated as the blasted lion-faced fuck writhing within the bowels of Tartarus.

The only hope for freedom of the soul is for a redeemer to come and instruct it how to get out of the cycle of imprisonment that contains it through Ialdabaoth’s rule and destroy Ialdabaoth’s army of angels and demons by the means of spying, even shape-shifting into their bestial forms and destroying their yoke over the slave race of mankind. The Savior was essentially a betraying double-agent to the archons. No amount of righteous living is going to free the soul from the clutches of the Demiurge. Only a savior angel or “Illuminator” more powerful than the malicious Ialdabaoth could liberate the soul from the iron shackles of the cosmos. This is completely different to Plato’s myth. The archons are of course, the fallen or jealous angels who are battling the forces of the Stranger God and its emanated revealer who seek to reveal the fruit of gnosis to mankind which is held in captivity by the “god of the aion”. The daimons or demons are another inferior and subordinate class (to the gods) of malicious creatures created from a different substance than the angels. According to Irenaeus, the Gnostics taught that angels and demons (including the Devil) were crystallized from the tears of the fallen Sophia:

They further teach that the spirits of wickedness derived their origin from grief. Hence the devil, whom they also call Cosmocrator (the ruler of the world), and the demons, and the angels, and every wicked spiritual being that exists, found the source of their existence. They represent the Demiurge as being the son of that mother of theirs (Achamoth), and Cosmocrator as the creature of the Demiurge. Cosmocrator has knowledge of what is above himself, because he is a spirit of wickedness; but the Demiurge is ignorant of such things, inasmuch as he is merely animal. Their mother dwells in that place which is above the heavens, that is, in the intermediate abode; the Demiurge in the heavenly place, that is, in the hebdomad; but the Cosmocrator in this our world. The corporeal elements of the world, again, sprang, as we before remarked, from bewilderment and perplexity, as from a more ignoble source. Thus the earth arose from her state of stupor; water from the agitation caused by her fear; air from the consolidation of her grief; while fire, producing death and corruption, was inherent in all these elements, even as they teach that ignorance also lay concealed in these three passions.

Similarly, in the the little known text called The Paraphrase of Shem, reveals a mythology featuring a “cosmic” Womb which gives births to the cosmos, including both angels and demons. The text is very erotic, with sexual images everywhere, used to explain how this cosmos came into being:

And in order that the demons also might become free from the power which they possessed through the impure intercourse, a womb was with the winds resembling water. And an unclean penis was with the demons in accordance with the example of the Darkness, and in the way he rubbed with the womb from the beginning. And after the forms of Nature had been together, they separated from each other. They cast off the power, being astonished about the deceit which had happened to them. They grieved with an eternal grief. They covered themselves with their power.

A good example of this is the Paraphrase of Shem, which is one of the few extant Gnostic treatises which contains a three-principled system of origins as opposed to one. The author likens the cosmic catastrophe to sex. Perhaps the author didn’t like sex very much. The author of this text is probably the same of the same cult of “Sethians” or “Sithians” Hippolytus talks about in Refutation of All Heresies. These Sethians held to three originating cosmic principles, rather than one or two. Shem is a text from one such group. The author of Shem hypothesizes three different principles: light, darkness, and spirit.

There was Light and Darkness and there was Spirit between them. Since your root fell into forgetfulness – he who was the unbegotten Spirit – I reveal to you the truth about the powers. The Light was thought full of hearing and word. They were united into one form. And the Darkness was wind in waters. He possessed the mind wrapped in a chaotic fire. And the Spirit between them was a gentle, humble light. These are the three roots. They reigned each in them­selves, alone. And they covered each other, each one with its power.

Most other groups such as the Manicheans and Marcionites held a two-principled system: light and darkness, good and evil. The rooster-headed Anguepede (chimera) under his name Abraxas was also considered to be a combination of the seven planetary powers that consists of the archons discussed earlier. Abraxas and Chnoubis were also considered to be roughly equivalent to the Agathodaimon, the “good spirit” of fortune and health by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They were often represented as serpents. Abraxas, according to Gnostic myth, was a redeemed archon who rose above the Hebdomad to rule over it as an intercessory figure between the Pleroma and the world of matter.

Abraxas became a figure of veneration for many Gnostics such as those who followed Basilides. This astral god was feared by the ancient people because he controlled the universe. He ruled it and our fates. He usually has a leonine head or a cock-head, solar rays, and also serpentine form as both forms are interchangeable for Abraxas. Abraxas was however, often depicted as a bizarre mixture of man and beast, with the rooster’s head representing the dawn of understanding (roosters of course being the animal that traditionally greets the dawn) and a sense of vigilant wakefulness; the body of a man represents the embodied logos, the human capacity for understanding and growth; the snakes represent prudence and energy; while the whip and shield symbolize the dynamism of the life force and wisdom (the great protector) respectively. This fierce and terrifying astral lord goes by many other names as well.

Some Gnostics equated Abraxas with Ialdabaoth, Saklas, Samael, Nebruel, Michael, Elieli, and Judas. He was also equated with IAO, Chnoubis, Abrasax, etc. Abraxas appears in only a few instances throughout the Nag Hammadi codices in such Sethian texts such as The Great Book of the Invisible Spirit, The Apocalypse of Adam, and Zostrianos as basically a minor Aeon or angel that works in tandem with Sophia and the “four spiritual lights” to rectify the error brought on the rise of the “deficiency” in the fetters of the material.

Abraxas was also interchangeable with the deity-archon Sabaoth (meaning host), which according to the Gnostic mythology presented in On the Origin of the World was the son and offspring of Yaldaboath who would eventually rebel against his father in a great war, repent of his “sins”, and side with his grandmother, Sophia-Achamoth. The archon would be elevated “above the seventh heaven” or the “Ogdoad” and enthroned, surrounded by ministering angels and Cherubim within a mansion that is “huge, magnificent, seven times as great as all those that exist in the seven heavens.” According to Ireneaus in his work detailing his indictment against varies heretical schools of thought, Against Heresies, he lays out Basilides’ (possibly the inventor of Abraxas) system of thought pertaining to Abraxas’ domain:

They hold that their chief is Abraxas; and, on this account, that word contains in itself the numbers amounting to three hundred and sixty-five.” Abraxas or Abrasax becomes a de facto ruler of the “364 kingdoms of spirits (plus himself)” due to the fact that his name has a high numerical value that equals to 365, the number of days in the year.

G.R.S. Mead in Thrice-Great Hermes discusses the possible connection of Abrasax or Abraxas to the celestial spheres of the cosmic rulers of fate:

The name Abraxas, which consisted of seven elements or letters, was a mystery-designation of the God who combined in himself the whole power of the Seven Planets, and also of the Year of 365 days, the sum of the number-values of the letters of Abraxas working out to 365. This mysterious Being was the “Year”; but the Year as the Eternity, also conceived of in a spatial aspect, as the Spirit or Name that extends from Heaven to Earth, the God who pervades and full-fills the Seven Spheres, and the Three Hundred and Sixty-five Zones, the Inner God, “He who has His seat within the Seven Poles—ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ,” as the Papyri have it, and also without them, as we shall see. (402)

Tertullian in Against All Heresies also discusses Abraxas in the account of Basilides’ system as his chief deity:

Basilides affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, by whom was created Mind, which in Greek he calls Nous; that thence sprang the Word; that of Him issued Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom; that out of these subsequently were made Principalities, powers, and Angels; that there ensued infinite issues and processions of angels; that by these angels 365 heavens were formed, and the world, in honour of Abraxas, whose name, if computed, has in itself this number. Now, among the last of the angels, those who made this world, he places the God of the Jews latest, that is, the God of the Law and of the Prophets, whom he denies to be a God, but affirms to be an angel. To him, he says, was allotted the seed of Abraham, and accordingly he it was who transferred the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt into the land of Canaan; affirming him to be turbulent above the other angels, and accordingly given to the frequent arousing of seditions and wars, yes, and the shedding of human blood. Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.

It’s almost as if Basilides becomes a worshiper of a Demiurgical figure—that being Abraxas. There is much speculation about the etymology concerning Abraxas which vary from meaning “holy word” or “blessed name”, although it still remains cloudy at best. It is also suggested that Abraxas is derivative of the Arimaic magical word “Abracadabra” meaning “I create as I speak”. Like Baphomet, Abraxas seems to be a concoction of different mythological symbols such as the two Indian cobras for his legs as represented in the above depiction. Irenaeus, in describing the followers of Basilides, claimed in Against Heresies:

These men, moreover, practice magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious art. Coining also certain names as if they were those of the angels, they proclaim some of these as belonging to the first, and others to the second heaven; and then they strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, and powers of the three hundred and sixty-five imagined heavens. They also affirm that the barbarous name in which the Saviour ascended and descended, is Caulacau.

Plotinus, the father of Neo-Platonism also maintained similar descriptions of the Gnostics as “magicians” and “sorcerers” by using the barbarous names of the Ineffable in his polemic in the Ennead 2.9, Against the Gnostics: Against Those That Affirm the Creator of the Cosmos and the Cosmos Itself to Be Evil:

In the sacred formulas they inscribe, purporting to address the Supernal Beings — not merely the Soul but even the Transcendents — they are simply uttering spells and appeasements and evocations in the idea that these Powers will obey a call and be led about by a word from any of us who is in some degree trained to use the appropriate forms in the appropriate way — certain melodies, certain sounds, specially directed breathings, sibilant cries, and all else to which is ascribed magic potency upon the Supreme. Perhaps they would repudiate any such intention: still they must explain how these things act upon the unembodied: they do not see that the power they attribute to their own words is so much taken away from the majesty of the divine.

Plotinus resented the Gnostics’ demonization of Plato’s Demiurge, the creator of the material cosmos. Plotinus believed the Gnostics had corrupted the original teachings of Plato to suit their world-views. In fact, Plotinus goes as far as to mock the Gnostic creation story of the fall of Sophia and the aborted Demiurge as surpassing “sheer folly.” Plotinus also took issue with the Gnostic’s neglect on their pursuit of virtue, maintaining themselves as beyond reproach of the laws of the world which were extrapolated and fueled by hypothetical rumors of their supposed hedonistic and libertine tendencies.

For they manufacture these doctrines as though they were not in contact with the ancient thought of the Greeks; for the Greeks knew, and spoke clearly without pomposity, of ascents from the cave, coming closer and closer by gradual stages to a truer vision.

This was a problem for Plotinus, who thought these Platonizing Sethians or Gnostics were mucking-up his philosophical circles with their static dualism, world-hatred, and defamation of the creator. Plotinus pretty much caricatures the Sethians as rubes for practicing magic. Needless to say, Neoplatonists didn’t like Gnostics very much. The Sethian Gnostics themselves weren’t a unified movement, but rather a diverse set of small cult communities—like the Borborites, Archontics, Ophites, etc. According to the Apocryphon of John, it says that everyone will have the opportunity to be saved, so that could mean that one essentially becomes part of the seed of Seth by undergoing Sethian conversion rituals. Yet, perhaps still in these instances neither Plotinus nor Irenaeus were lying about the Gnostics’ ritual magic tendencies since even their choice texts indicates this as a reality.

This all becomes rather apparent when one reads Ancient Christian Magic  as a catalog for superstition. It is replete with magical spells including love, money, healing and spells for revenge. These Gnostic practitioners more than likely invoked the name of Abraxas among other barbarous, secret names of God for their rituals and prayers. Yet, interestingly enough, most people practicing magic in the middle ages and the Renaissance were Catholic priests and brothers, so magic is surprisingly close to Catholicism. The NHC text On the Origin of the World mentions a compendium of demons attributed to King Solomon, so it’s possible that some Gnostics practiced early Solomonic magic:

Then Death, being androgynous, mingled with his (own) nature and begot seven androgynous offspring. These are the names of the male ones: Jealousy, Wrath, Tears, Sighing, Suffering, Lamentation, Bitter Weeping. And these are the names of the female ones: Wrath, Pain, Lust, Sighing, Curse, Bitterness, Quarrelsomeness. They had intercourse with one another, and each one begot seven, so that they amount to forty-nine androgynous demons. Their names and their effects you will find in the Book of Solomon.

“Their effects” probably meant the abilities they could be compelled to use if summoned, something like the Goetia. Another example of spells and incantations that were employed by the Gnostics is provided and supported by Karen King in What is Gnosticism? who has argued that the demonic correspondences to human body parts (highlighting the inherent corruption of the human body) listed so thoroughly is the long recension of the Apocryphon of John which was intended for use in rituals to heal the sick or injured. Some other of the Church Father’s (especially Epiphanius’ account in the Panarion, literally meaning “medicine chest” for poisonous heresies) accusations of the Gnostics was much more scandalous—much of it dealt with their alleged antinominan, lurid and pornographic-like accounts of secret Bacchic and Dionysian-like “swinging orgies” of their “agape feasts”. These orgiastic rites supposedly included the sacramental consumption of sexual fluids and even more unsavory practices that include the Eucharistic infanticide of an aborted embryo—not so dissimilar to the ones practiced in the higher degrees contained in the Ordo Templi Orientis. Epiphanius accusingly writes:

Their very liturgy they defile with the shame of promiscuity, consuming and con-taminating themselves with human and unclean flesh…. … [At their feasts:] They set out an abundance of meat and wine, even if they are poor. Having made their banquet from this and so to speak filled their veins to satiety, they proceed to arouse themselves. The man, moving away from the woman, says to his woman, “Arise, hold the love feast with your brother.” And the pitiful pair, having made love… then proceed to hold up their blas-phemy to heaven, the woman and the man taking the secretion from the male into their own hands and standing looking up to heaven. They hold in their hands the impurity and pray, … And then they consume it, partaking of their shamefulness, and they say, “This is the body of Christ and this is the Pasch for which our bodies suffer and are forced to confess the passion of Christ.”

They do the same with what is of the woman, when she has the flow of blood: collecting the monthly blood of impurity from her, they take it and consume it together in the same way. Although they have sex with each other, they forbid the begetting of children. They are eager for the act of corruption not in order to engender children, but for the pleasure … But if … the woman becomes pregnant, then listen to something even more dreadful which they dare to do. Extracting the fetus at whatever time they choose to do the operation, they take the aborted infant and pound it up in a mortar with a pestle, and, mixing in honey and pepper and some other spices and sweet oils so as not to become nauseous, all the members of that herd of swine and dogs gather together and each partakes with his finger of the crushed up child … They dare to do other dreadful things as well. When they fall into a frenzy among themselves, they soil their hands with the shame of their secretion, and rising, with defiled hands pray stark naked. (86)

That’s a spicy meatball! Epiphanius’ lurid accusations against the Gnostics as practitioners of baby consumption and sacrifice is somewhat unique but not unlike those made against the Jews throughout the Middle-Ages as “blood libel”. Similarly, accusations of child sacrifice were made against Aleister Crowley because to his “Bloody Sacrifice” chapter in Magick in Theory and Practice due to the fact he plainly without symbolic gesture tells us that blood sacrifice of a young boy is the most important and effective magickal technique available to the magician:

[a] male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.

It is often said that Crowley’s references to “child sacrifice” were ghastly euphemisms to masturbation in a magical ritual. If this is the case then, this is indeed a “symbolic” failure on Crowley’s part. Later on Epiphanius describes and recounts the myth of the lewd Sophia or “Prounikos” (it seems like Epiphanius got it mad-confused with Sophia and Barbelo’s roles here) where she sets out to “reabsorb” and collect her living sparks of power that was stolen from her retarded son, Ialdabaoth and his legion of archons. She appeared to the archons in a beautiful and lustful form, seduced and quite literally, fucked the “living daylights” out of them, and when they had an emission she took their sperm, which contained the power originally belonging to her. Epiphanius repeats this in further detail:

For these angels went to war over the power from on high—they call her Prunicus, but she is called Barbero or Barbelo by other sects—because she displayed her beauty < and > drove them wild, and was sent for this purpose, to despoil the archons who had made this world. She has suffered no harm, but she brought them to the point of slaughtering each other from the lust for her that she aroused in them. And detaining her so that she should not go back up, they all had relations with her in each of her womanly and female bodies—for she kept migrating from female bodies into various bodies of human beings, cattle and the rest—so that, by the deeds they were doing in killing and being killed, they would cause their own diminution through the shedding of blood. Then, by gathering the power again, she would be able to ascend to heaven once more. …

But others honor one “Prunicus” and like these, when they consummate their own passions with this kind of disgusting behavior, they say in mythological language of this interpretation of their disgusting behavior, “We are gathering the power of Prunicus from our bodies, and through their emissions.” That is, < they suppose they are gathering > the power of semen and menses. … For if they say, “Prunicus,” this is just a belch of lustfulness and incontinence. Anything called “prunicus” suggests a thing named for copulation, and the enterprise of seduction. (2) For there is a Greek expression which is used of men who deflower slave women, “He seduced so-and-so.” And the Greek swindlers who compose erotica also record the word in myths by saying that beauty is “seductive.”

Despite the strong erotic and sexual symbolism used in Gnostic myth, for the most part, the accusations were often made without merit since many texts such as the Pistis Sophia (of the Bruce Codex) explicitly condemns the literal practices described above in the strongest terms. The caricature the Apostolic Fathers would draw up as slander against the Gnostics isn’t exactly an original phenomena that started with them as certain antinomian libertine currents have always existed alongside mainstream religion so it is probable that a few of these cults embraced these practices through sexual ritual and initiation, yet were lumped in the Gnostic milieu by their enemies.

These rituals of sexual magic were embraced by the Barbelite practitioners (identified by Epiphanius) while condemned by outsiders, both Gnostic and orthodox. Since some libertine Gnostic groups such as the Barbelites would consider the desirable “light-seed” inherent in the sperm and menstrual blood to be ingested in obscene rites, in a similar manner like Crowley did, then it would make perfect sense to engage in sexual ritual because it corresponded to their mythologies. Their “light” contained in their sexual emissions would be released back to the Supreme God in order to bypass the reproductive systems that perpetuated the materia by adding more bodies and souls under the wrath and authority of Jehovah, the blind and insane fallen angel and slave-master of the world. Many religious sects have been accused of perversity by their opponents yet it is more than likely sexual rites similar to the one described above probably happened more or less.

The biggest difference however between the ancient Gnostic’s and the Neo-gnostic, occultists of today, is their rejection of the material world as a product of corruption and evil which cannot be saved. This point of view also distinguished them from Christians, Jews and pagans alike. Yet, many neo-gnostics who have undertaken the label also attempt to psychologize the Demiurge, because a central tenet of New Age is that material existence is inherently good, so the idea that creation is the product of a lesser, flawed being is repugnant to them. Carl Jung in his seminal, The Seven Sermons of the Dead refers the figure as an “emergence” of form from the hidden depth of the Godhead as opposing and ultimately complimentary powers that become one in a sort of ying/yang tandem emobdied in Abraxas:

Abraxas is the god whom it is difficult to know. His power is the very greatest, because man does not perceive it at all. Man sees the supreme good of the sun, and also the endless evil of the devil, but Abraxas, he does not see, for he is undefinable life itself, which is the mother of good and evil alike…Abraxas is the sun and also the eternally gaping abyss of emptiness, of the diminisher and dissembler, the devil. The power of Abraxas is twofold. You can not see it, because in your eyes the opposition of this power seems to cancel it out. That which is spoken by God-the-Sun is life; that which is spoken by the Devil is death. Abraxas, however, speaks the venerable and also accursed word, which is life and death at once. Abraxas generates truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness with the same word and in the same deed. Therefore Abraxas is truly the terrible one. He is magnificent even as the lion at the very moment when he strikes his prey down. His beauty is like the beauty of a spring morn.

Abraxas in this sense was seen as one of the many symbols Jung would use as the ancient doctrine of of “Coincidentia oppositorum” or the “unity of opposites”. Jung’s gnostic vision of 1916 with his bipolar Abraxas, which is written in the persona of Basilides, has virtually nothing to the actual teachings of the historical Basilides. Jung erroneously claimed that Abraxas was the embodiment of the Monad, where as the ancient heretics viewed Abraxas as a lower aeon or even an archon. Abraxas, like Baphomet, becomes a “syzygy” of an alchemical pair conjoined of good and evil, darkness and light, Christ and Anti-Christ, God and the Devil to the point where the figure transcended such dualities. Aleister Crowley also invokes the immensely complex and contradictory deity in the Gnostic Mass, evoking a certain ancient aura in the barbarous names of the god-forms he lists:

IO IO IO IAO SABAO KURIE ABRASAX KURIE MEITHRAS KURIE PHALLE. IO PAN, IO PAN PAN IO ISCHUROS, IO ATHANATOS IO ABROTOS IO IAO. KAIRE PHALLE KAIRE PAMPHAGE KAIRE PANGENETOR. HAGIOS, HAGIOS, HAGIOS IAO.

Here, Crowley perpetuates the magical tradition of chanting the “voces magicae” and “nomina barbara” in a similar fashion that the ancient Gnostics would conceive in their secret rites. Abraxas in ancient, classical Gnosticism was more or less a positive aeonic figure (minus Basilides’ version of the astral lord) while Abraxas in the romantic occult world was a synthesis of dualities—of good and evil. This is symbolic of the considerable discrepancy between the western esotericism and occultism that seek a union of opposites versus “Gnostic” systems that seek to separate light from darkness. This issue is muddied even further by the likes of Carl Jung, who erroneously creates an association between Gnosticism through his doctrine of “Coniunctio Oppositorum”. Although to be fair, there weren’t very many available “Gnostic” texts during his time in order to properly develop his views.

This union of opposites when viewed from a classical dualist mystical lens becomes in actuality a tragedy that gives rise to human suffering and all the world’s horrors. The Classical Gnostics by several estimates (by judging choice texts) were “mitigated” or less severe in their view of duality with spirit being the original unity while matter being a shallow imitation of the higher forms. In this estimation, the light is seen as the only eternal principle while the world of matter is simply a passing shadow, a temporary set-back or foul-up in the scheme of infinity that will eventually be rectified. A more radical interpretation of dualism would be that light and darkness existing as co-eternal yet independent principles with their own domain in a constant dueling of powers  found in the Manichean religion.

The light-dark opposite is for the most part rejected by western occultists due to its association with mainstream Judeo-Christian traditions which they consider deficient (e.g. the designation of ancient dualist religions and all previous religions in past civilizations, since they follow the supposed “LVX formula” as belonging to the troglodytes or cave-dwellers of “Old Aeon” in Thelema, for example). But the fact remains that the ancient Gnostics and many other groups (the Medieval Cathars, Manicheans, etc), considered themselves to be foremost as Christians and concerned with contrasts of sin and righteousness. To embrace the classical Gnostic tradition means to embrace their dualistic perspectives. It’s simply impossible separate such perspectives from Gnosticism with disdain as many occult and new age practitioners do. Aleister Crowley in Liber XC expresses the same sentiment as Jung’s “Coniunctio Oppositorum”, stating:

Many have arisen, being wise. They have said ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with it.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down into the darkly splendid world and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say lest you seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells. But since one is naturally attracted to the Angel, another to the Demon, let the first strengthen the lower link, the last attach more firmly to the higher. Thus shall equilibrium become perfect. I will aid my disciples; as fast as they acquire this balanced power and joy so faster will I push them.

Baphomet carries a great deal of occult significance—from its original inception in the romantic era and even into this day, yet the origins of the enigmatic figure stem from deficient and sensationalist misunderstandings and demonic imagery which hardly deserves any adoration or praise. Abraxas likewise too sinks back into this occult sensationalist mire despite its nuanced inception. Occultism is a “hidden practice” or “craft” that only those who are initiated deserve to study in all its glory, intently. Neither occultism nor its views on the “unity of the opposites” are necessarily “bad”, as it is simply another way of experiencing an altered state of consciousness. The Chimeric figures of Baphomet and Abraxas both represent these “altered states” of occult consciousness to varying degrees. Everything from the astral body, the working of aeonic angels and archonic demons, to the “balance of genders” as symbolized through the “Androgyne”, these two symbols carry a great degree of esoteric importance. Occultism does however contain a very dark, elitist undercurrent that cannot be ignored, fostered in the bourgeoisie halls of the privileged elite.

 Master everything, but give generously to your servants, once they have unconditionally submitted. (Crowley, Magic: Book 4, 278)

Ritual magic has long since been associated with learned elites, especially with its origins in Europe. This is especially true during the medieval era where the occult became synonymous with unsavory and often repulsive practices involved with “black magic”, which goes without saying with its verbose flowery language that makes up many of their ego-fueled rituals. Modern, “watered-down” occult magic also seems to give people a sense of empowerment in a world in which they are powerless. That is not to say that all forms of magic are in itself useless and authored by the Devil as many ancient theurgists and Gnostics would profess otherwise since what is termed “high magic” is aimed at recovering a perfect knowledge of the transcendent signature left within the deepest layer of being—the Spiritual Seed.