Egypt

Johnny Mercury: John the Baptist in Egypt

Originally posted last year on Miguel Conner’s Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio site.

As the transit of the sun by the planet Mercury on May 9 draws closer, one may wonder the lore associated with Mercury and how it relates to other religions such as Christianity. The cosmocrator, Mercury, does relate to one particular figure—John the Baptist. John the Baptist is a peculiar, eponymous hero that appears many times not only in Christianity and the Gospels, but also in Gnostic, Mandean, Freemasonic and last but not least, connected to Egyptian sources. In the Gospel of John, he is depicted as a witness, a herald, a dedicated servant or a “Prophet-King” for the Light of the Logos, personified as Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John goes out of its way to make sure the reader doesn’t confuse John the Baptist with the Messiah. In John 3:25-30, we see this distinction between Jesus and John being brought out in the controversy over purification between John’s disciples and a Jew. After this, Jesus withdraws from the whole argument (4:1) and from baptism itself since something greater than water is coming, being the baptism in the Spirit, which Jesus provides after his death and resurrection. John is adamant in saying that Jesus alone, and not the baptism is enough to take away the sins of the world. We see later that through the death of Jesus, are water and Spirit united (the means to be born again: 3:5), for out of his pierced side flowed, both water and blood (19: 34), united by the Spirit in the water of baptism and the wine of the Eucharist (cf. 1 John 5:5-8).

“An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.  They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

“He must become greater, but I must become less.” This is John’s swan song, his last word in the gospel. It is also the formula under which John operates in the entire gospel, as well. His witness abides, but John slips off the stage. His death of beheading isn’t even mentioned. There is a more interesting theory behind John’s parting words. The late, departed and always controversial mythicist author, Acharya S aka D.M. Murdock, in Christ in Egypt, has this to say on the subject:

Anubis is somewhat confounded or identified with the god Ap-uat as the “opener of the ways,” while, again, Apuat/Wepwawet is also “identical with Osiris.” Like Anubis, Osiris too was the opener of the way, being born at the beginning at the Egyptian New Year, when it occurred at the summer solstice with the inundation of the Nile. However, since Wepwawet has been identified with Osiris, who in turn has been identified with Jesus, this comparison between John and Anubis becomes increasingly apparent, as Anubis would represent the summer solstice and Osiris the winter, while John the Baptist was supposedly born at the summer solstice, six months before Jesus, who was purportedly born at the winter solstice, according to popular tradition dating from at least the third century onward and taught to billions of people worldwide since then.

This juxtaposition of John and Jesus as the sun at summer and winter solstice brings vividly to light the meaning of the enigmatic remark made by “the Baptist” at John 3:30, previously mentioned: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” As the sun passes through the summer solstice, the days begin to decrease in length, until the winter solstice, when the day’s increase again. This peculiar remark, which would not seem to be applicable to a human being, is all the more interesting in view of the fact that it appears only in the gospel of John, again the most Egyptian of the canonical texts, likely written at Alexandria for an Egyptian audience. It may thus serve as evidence that the writer of the gospel was aiming to usurp Anubis with the Jewish “prophet.”

In keeping with the interchangeability of gods within mythology, Anubis is identified not only with Thoth but also with Osiris, his father, depending on the myth. Osiris and Anubis alike not only were associated with the afterlife but also symbolized both the star Sirius and different aspects of the sun, Osiris frequently representing the sun at night, while, like Horus, Anubis was the sun at the horizon, whether rising or setting.

According to Plutarch…Anubis is the horizon itself, representing the line between light and dark. He may thus also be considered “twilight.” As the baby whom she suckles with her finger, Anubis (the horizon) is Isis’s “attendant,” who accompanies her when she seeks her own newborn son (the rising sun). In addition, like Osiris, Anubis is the “god of the dead or the night god.”…

Anubis is further the “‘giver of Sirius,’ the starry opener of the year,” corresponding to the summer solstice, which just happens to be the traditional nativity and feast of John the Baptist… Indeed, St. John’s Nativity or Feast occurs on June 24th, the last of the three days the sun “stands still” during the summer solstice. Like John, who was said to be born six months before Jesus, Anubis was born shortly before Horus. The connection between John the Baptist and Anubis becomes more pointed when it is realized that, while John’s fest days is on the summer solstice, Anubis actually represents the personification of the summer solstice…

The curious, and perhaps even tenuous connection between John and Anubis, is nonetheless trumpeted by Acharya S, who draws extensively on nineteenth century researchers like Gerald Massey, among others. It still remains to this day that Egyptian parallels are viewed with suspicion by most mainstream scholars (e.g. parallelomania). Gerald Massey, as it turns out, has many interesting things to say throughout his work, especially in his Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ. Here is put a tiny glimpse in his work:

The words of John, “Jesus wept,” are like a carven statue of the “Afflicted One,” as Remi, the Weeper. Ra is also the God who “makes the mummy come forth.” Jesus makes the mummy come forth in the shape of Lazarus; and in the Roman Catacombs the risen Lazarus is not only represented as a mummy, but is an Egyptian mummy which has been eviscerated and swathed for the eternal abode. Ra says to the mummy: “Come forth!” and Jesus cries: “Lazarus, come forth!” Ra manifests as “the burning one, he who sends destruction,” or “sends his fire into the place of destruction.” “He sends fire upon the rebels,” his form is that of the “God of the furnace.” Christ also comes in the person of this “burning one”; the sender of destruction by fire. He is proclaimed by Matthew to be the Baptiser with fire. He says, “I am come to send fire on the earth.” He is portrayed as “God of the furnace,” which shall “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” He is to cast the rebellious into a “furnace of fire,” and send the condemned ones into everlasting fire.

All this was natural when applied to the Solar-God, and it is supposed to become supernatural when misapplied to a supposed human being to whom it never could apply. The Solar fire was the primary African fount of theological hell-fire and hell.

Of particular importance to uncovering the theological identity of this baptism is its description as an external physical purification, whose efficacy is also preconditioned by inner spiritual purification. Such practices did not exist in mainstream Judaism, and in fact developed on the fringes of Jewish religion, like Qumran (perhaps with the Essenes) and continued by Jewish-Christian groups in the first century (A.D.) onward. However, such practices actually originate in Egypt. In the Hermopolitan Pyramid Texts (Sarcophagus Chamber: East Gable, Utterance 211:132), we read:

“Unas is conceived at night, Unas is born at night, for he belongs to the Followers of Re who are before the Morning Star. Unas is conceived in the Watery Abyss, he is being born in the Watery abyss. He has come, he has brought your bread which he has found there!”

Unas, was, in actuality, an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, the ninth and last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. Unas was also the first Pharaoh to have the Pyramid Texts carved and painted inside the walls of the chambers of Egypt as well. These texts identify Unas with Ra and Osiris, who were meant to help Unas reach the afterlife. Unas is said to be born at night in the watery abyss, and belong “to the followers of Re, who are before the Morning Star.” Gnostic texts like On the Origin of the World also depicts the Demiurge, Ialdabaoth, “moving in the depths of the waters of the abyss.” The title “Morning-Star” (Lucifer) here probably refers to Horus. Furthermore, Unas brought the “bread” in the “watery abyss” which brings to mind John the immerser, and Jesus’ words about being born again through “water and spirit” while bringing the Eucharistic “bread out of heaven.” (As pointed out further onward). 

astrom2

The English word “messiah” is a corruption of the Hebrew mashiach, which came to mean “anointed,” referring to how Egyptian Pharaohs and kings were invested and consecrated as royalty. At death, it may also refer to one is embalmed and prepared for mummification to survive in the netherworld. The root meaning of being a messiah meant to be like a “Moses”, a king, leader, way shower-to-freedom, and emissary to God. In the Old Testament (2 Samuel 2:14), we see King David, being anointed as a “Son of God.”

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.”

Psalms 2:6 says similar things. Thus the Gospel of John draws a parallel between Moses and Jesus specifically to state that Jesus is messiah, by God’s anointment and appointment. And it says Jesus is superior to him in a few verses. Although Jesus in the Gospel of John builds on Moses’ tradition with allusions to the raising of the bronze serpent (just like the caduceus of Enki, Asclepius and Hermes is said to be raised), Jesus declares himself and his heavenly substances as superior (6:32):

“Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, the bread out of heaven is not given you by Moses; no, the real bread out of heaven my Father is giving you. For the bread of God, is the one coming down out of heaven and giving life to the world.”

Acharya S, throughout Christ in Egypt, point out other similarities between Anubis, as being the “preparer of the way of the other world”, just as John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord, and a connection between the Old Testament and the New (as a return of Elijah in which John denies being), as being the last Prophet-King and the first Christian saint. According to the arch-heretic Marcion, John proclaimed a Jewish messiah conversant with the Old Testament creator-God and had not expected a messiah like Jesus at all (Jesus as the Only-Begotten Son of the God above Jehovah). And so, John belonged to the old dispensation because of the connection between him and Elijah (Tertullian, Adv. Marcion, IV, 18). This wasn’t an attack against the Baptist cult, but rather a projection of Marcionite interpretation of the New Testament.

Acharya S further writes:

“Anubis is also the messenger of the gods, equivalent to the Greek god Hermes or Mercury, the counterpart of the Egyptian lunar god Thoth or Djehuty/Tehuti. Moreover, like Thoth, whose emblem is the Tau or T, Anubis is “never without a cross,” specifically the life-giving ankh, one of the holiest symbols in Egyptian religion. As related by the ancient writer Iamblichus (c. 245-c. 325 AD/CE), “The cross with a handle which Tot [Thoth] holds in his hand was none other than the monogram to his name.”

The connection between the ankh and the cross of Jesus is made more apparent when in Matthew 10:37, Jesus tells his disciples, “And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” Luke and Mark have similar variations of this passage. St. Paul is also said to be “crucified with Christ” often in his crucifixion mysticism. The Egyptian cross could be what Jesus is referring to in his commandment above. The ankh was a sign of royalty and life, whereas the cross of Christ was a symbol of debasement and sacrifice (but transformed into the means for “eternal life”).

6a00d83451c1ce69e201156f94ac72970c-800wi

One might also consider that the reason for such a strong connection between the Fourth Gospel, John the Baptist, Anubis, Hermes and the Egypto-Hermetic religion might be because John was initiated in Egypt, just as his son/disciple Simon the Magician was said to be. This would make sense considering there are so many similarities between the Corpus Hermeticum and the Gospel of John, too. In the Gospel of John, we see that Simon the Rock (Simon Peter) is said to be the son of John the Baptist, as well.

We must also remember that Mercury is Hermes, who was also depicted as a psychopomp—the god who guides dead souls through the netherworld. As it follows, John is following the tradition of the “wisdom god” via Hermes, Aquarius, Anubis, Oannes, Enki, etc. The last god, Enki, the Sumerian water god of creation and agriculture, is said to provide two streams of Living Waters from his shoulders. The baptism of the initiate is said to herald the anointing of God’s supernatural power via the Holy Spirit, but also given the means to successfully separate or cross over from the world of flesh and into the world of spirit, and thus be saved. This is the meaning behind the allegory of “crossing the River Jordan.”

enki_a24

It has been often been speculated that John was involved with the Essenes: his with this description in Mark 1:6, as being clothed with camel hair with a leather belt about his waist, and eating locusts and wild honey, as do the themes of repentance and purification. The Clementine writings, the Homilies and Recognitions also play an important part of the lore concerning John. In Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, we discuss how the Clementines and the Babylonian Talmud show how Simon Magus and Jesus were both initiated in Egypt. Simon was known to pass on “the Christ” in discipleship succession—a practice that would be eventually adopted by Catholic Church through the apostolic succession of Bishops, Popes, etc.

Irenaeus (A.H. 1, 23.5) says that Simon initiated his disciple Menander, and as he passed the anointing holy spirit to his disciples—Saturninus and Basilides, which were both Gnostics. The Clementines also capture the idea that John the Baptist was hailed and considered to be the original “Christ”. Their enemies, however, would interpret this spirit as being a demon. This is actually what the unforgivable sin is according to Jesus (Matthew 12:30-32): blaspheming the holy spirit as demonic. Acts 8 also seems to be an early polemic/parody against this Simonian/Johannite practice, with Peter appropriating it, while Simon is seeking to “purchase” the powers of the Holy Spirit.

Here is more of what we have to say about it all this, in our book, Baphomet:

“In The Clementine Recognitions (1.54) and (1.60), it is described how some disciples of John felt that he was a more apt owner of the title “Christ” than Jesus:

Yea, some even of the disciples of John, who seemed to be great ones, have separated themselves from the people, and proclaimed their own master as the Christ. But all these schisms have been prepared, that by means of them the faith of Christ and baptism might be hindered.

. . .

And, behold, one of the disciples of John asserted that John was the Christ, and not Jesus, inasmuch as Jesus Himself declared that John was greater than all men and all prophets.

In John 8:48, Jesus is accused of being a Samaritan magician in control of a demon:

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. And I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”

It should be noted that Jesus doesn’t deny being a Samaritan (as Simon was), but only having a demon. This must be significant since in an older, primitive text may have had Christ admit that he was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were also associated with witchcraft. One must keep in mind that The Babylonian Talmud also named Jesus as a sorcerer who studied magic in Egypt, just as Simon is said to have done in the Clementines. They were probably trained by a Hermopolitan priesthood (the likely authors of The Pyramid Texts). This may account for the twelve missing years in Jesus life. When he finally returned to face the Temple hierarchy, he was a highly educated young man full of heterodox ideas—a savvy, mystical antagonist, just as John was. In The Babylonian Talmud, specifically in Tosefta Shabbat 104b, we find an obscure figure by the name of “Ben Stada” or “Ben Sattadai” who is said to have had the “witchcraft of Egypt” (i.e. magic spells) tattooed on his flesh. (Some scholars have identified Ben Stada as Jesus Christ, but this is a point of contention.)”

Elsewhere in the Clementines, John is paired opposite Jesus in a series of “syzygiai” or pairs, in league with such characters as Cain, Esau, Aaron, Simon Magus and the Antichrist (Hom. 11, 17; cf. Recog. III, 61). The old Egyptologist, E.A. Wallis Budge, suggests that Horus is the embodiment of “He who is above” and Set of “He who is below,” (in their eternal struggle) thus holding a significance to “As Above, So Below” much like how John’s arms are depicted (pointing up and down) in Leonardo da Vinci paintings, as well as Baphomet.

In Hom. III, 22 John is referred to as one “born of a woman” and therefore of the feminine (fallen) order, whereas Jesus, as the Son of Man, is masculine (heavenly)—a familiar Gnostic idea. Both the Homilies and Recognitions connect John with the rise of the Gnostics Dositheus and Simon Magus, as well as being connected to the Jewish sects that opposed the Apostolic church—the Sadducees, Samaritans, Scribes/Pharisees, and the Baptists (the last of which would morph into other cults like the Simonians, Dositheans, Mandeans, etc.) While this might be pure speculation, since some of Simon Magus’ titles include “Standing One” and the “Great Power of God,” we might also find its origins in the Pyramid Texts (Utterance 222, saying 199).

“Stand up upon this land [which came out of Atum, the spittle] which came out of the Becoming One! May you become over it, may you be high over it, so that your father sees you, so that [Re] sees you!”

Jesus is called the “Word/Logos of God” or more accurately, the “Reason of God”. The Logos translates to “reason.” The Logoi are also principles of reasons in Platonic material, as a plural of the Logos. The Logoi also refer to the Platonic Forms related to the Gods. Theurgical tokens and symbols as used by Neoplatonists like Iamblichus use as manifestations of these divine powers. These symbols may exist in the forms of a lion, a rooster, or heliotrope, all of which are representations of Helios and Apollon.

Iamblichus also interprets Greek and Hermetic gods like Dionysus and Asclepius as manifestations of the sub-lunar Demiurge (the craftsman of the world, below the moon). The initiated theurgist was said to have the Logoi filled in their souls. In magical rituals dedicated to Mercury, such as a consecration of a talisman, the Logoi or element of that deity is said to “empower” the object, much like how a Catholic Priest is said to bless “holy water,” the Eucharist, etc., through the laying of hands via Holy Spirit power. One may think of the Logoi as “daimons” who draw the Hermetic god’s power to the magician.

We will return to ritual magic and Johnny Mercury. But for now, let us gaze at Leonardo da Vinci’s “Baptism of Christ.” Notice how John the Baptist is depicted as the Zodiacal sign of Aquarius (the figure who pours water), and Jesus is depicted as the sign of Pisces with the shape of his hands.

leonardo

Advertisements

Biblical Exegesis: The Three Phoenixes in Paradise

Phoenix by Fabelwesen

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

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

Illustration of Apis - the Sacred Bull of Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossus

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

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

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

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

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

Chnoubis

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

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

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

Harpocrates

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

Horus

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

Double-headed Phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more installments of Biblical Exegesis.