Gnosis

The Megas Aeon vs The Magician and the Fool #16 – Simon Magus and the Standing Ones

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In this episode, I am joined by Domonic and Janus as we do a crossover, roundtable podcast on the myths, legends, magic, and mysticism associated with that bad-boy Samaritan and father of all heresies, Simon the Magician. We also explore the Gospel of John, the Clementine Homilies, Helen, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritans, the competing Orthodox Church vs. those heretical pesky Gnostics, the obscure Celtic legend of Mug Ruith, the Essenes, and much, much more! Part 2 coming soon!

This is a mirrored episode from the Magician and the Fool podcast, which you can find here: http://bit.ly/2plpRFw

Christian Magicians: The Gospel and the Magical Papyri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen,

Amen,’

Amen!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then you identify yourself:

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

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

Then you lay down the request:

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

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

Then:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 5)

{So, I decided to return to this series after a very long hiatus and conclude my thoughts and research into the Eden creation story. Excuse the lateness.}

In Part 4, we explored the Gnostic understandings of the flood myths and how it correlates to the Fall of Sophia and the Descent into Chaotic Matter. Eden and Atlantis were also compared to each other and it seems both places might have been one and the same. We also looked at the Persian prophet Mani’s insights into the Tree of Life, the creation of Adam and how it related to his soteriology. There are other matters that I’ve addressed but will re-examine them under a different lens. When you research this kind of stuff, you are often confronted with new information that adds to what you’ve written or forces you to reconsider.

As I have recounted in this series, the serpent to the Gnostics was a symbol of duality. Since the expulsion from paradise was ordained by the Old Testament God, the Gnostics demanded that the snake be re-installed in paradise. This wise messenger of the good “Alien” God who was sent to “open the eyes” of the first couple through gnosis was naturally cursed and punished by the Demiurge. At the same time, texts like the Apocryphon of John seem to condemn the serpent as being a part of the same order as the chief archon, Ialdabaoth. Why is there such a differences of opinions on this point of the Genesis myth that reappears later in Gnostic texts? We will see exactly why soon enough.

Cursing the Gods.

Returning to the idea of the “fall of man”, there seems to be a cognitive dissonance in how many people read the Genesis account as well as how many throughout Church History has come to interpret the story as a source of shame for the human race. For example, we read that Jehovah, or the “LORD God” told Adam, “The day you eat of the tree you will surely die” (Genesis.3:4). And yet Adam ate of the tree and he did not die or even “fall”. It can hardly be called a “fall” when his intelligence was elevated to that of the gods! (Genesis 3:22) And so, we see Jehovah say to His council of gods, “Behold man has become as one of Us, knowing good and evil.” The serpent (the most crafty creature on earth) told the truth when he told Eve Jehovah would not carry out his threat. Let’s allow the Bible speak for itself when we see Adam, live to be 930 years old and begat many sons and daughters. No mention of the fall in Genesis. And we see Jehovah who lies to Adam but the God of the New Testament cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). It’s not until Augustine does Adam truly “fall” and produced the “Original Sin” of disobeying Jehovah.

This doctrine of “Original Sin” or the “Sin Nature,” indeed, was the invention of St. Augustine, who believed that the great multitudes of the human race belong to eternal damnation along with a very hostile attitude towards sexuality–even extending this misanthropy to unbaptized children. This seems to be a strange mixture of Manichaean doctrine along with the Orthodox influence of Ambrose who converted him from the Manichaean faith to Catholic Neo-Platonism along with Tertullian sanctioned doctrine. The Latin Church father (and later heretical Montanist convert, in a twist of irony) Tertullian would also express similar sentiments in stating that man was not merely weakened, but depraved as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience to the Creator God in the form of his “consupiscence” (to covet) for the forbidden fruit of Knowledge. This idea repeats itself in what John Calvin espoused heartily in the sixteenth century as the heinous doctrine of “Total Depravity.” Tertullian in On the Apparel of Women, Book 1, also makes clear the scorn and prejudice of early Church fathers towards Eve, sexuality and her descendants:

And do you not know that you are [each] an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that [forbidden] tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is, death – even the Son of God had to die.

And so here we have a clear example of the Orthodox loathing of the female and the feminine in the form of Eve. While spending the rest of this post to researching doctrinal matters concerning Original Sin, etc. is tempting, looking back at the Genesis account and other works that fill in the blanks, will prove to be far more fruitful, pun intended… In the Clementine Homilies (3.9.1), the heresiarch and place holder for Paul the Apostle and Marcionite/Gnostic Christianity, Simon Magus, claimed that Adam was born blind. Many Jewish Rabbis also asked if Adam and Eve were blind as well. Even Saint Augustine said that most people thought Adam was blind as well (City of God 14.17). All throughout the Clementine literature, Simon and Peter goes head to head in a debate of whits of how they interpreted the Genesis tale. This idea of Adam being born blind comes from Simon when he tells Peter (CH. Homily 3. XXXIX):

Therefore also Adam, being made at first after his likeness, is created blind, and is said not to have knowledge of good or evil, and is found a transgressor, and is driven out of paradise, and is punished with death. In like manner also, he who made him, because he sees not in all places, says with reference to the overthrow of Sodom, ‘Come, and let us go down, and see whether they do according to their cry which comes to me; or if not, that I may know.’ Thus he shows himself ignorant. And in his saying respecting Adam, ‘Let us drive him out, lest he put forth his hand and touch the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever;’ in saying Lest he is ignorant; and in driving him out lest he should eat and live for ever, he is also envious. And whereas it is written that ‘God repented that he had made man,’ this implies both repentance and ignorance.

Later on in the same text, Simon and Peter go back and forth in their debates over whether Adam was indeed born blind and ignorant:

Whatever sayings of the Scriptures are in harmony with the creation that was made by Him are true, but whatever are contrary to it are false. Then Simon said: How can you show that the Scriptures contradict themselves? And Peter said: You say that Adam was created blind, which was not so; for He would not have pointed out the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to a blind man, and commanded him not to taste of it. Then said Simon: He meant that his mind was blind. Then Peter: How could he be blind in respect of his mind, who, before tasting of the tree, in harmony with Him who made him, imposed appropriate names on all the animals? Then Simon: If Adam had foreknowledge, how did he not foreknow that the serpent would deceive his wife? Then Peter: If Adam had not foreknowledge, how did he give names to the sons of men as they were born with reference to their future doings, calling the first Cain (which is interpreted ‘envy’), who through envy killed his brother Abel (which is interpreted ‘grief’), for his parents grieved over him, the first slain?

Scholarship generally posits that Gnosticism is a late, post-Christian development. In other words, it is simply a dualistic Christian heresy that posited a mythological system of emanations of aeons, a redeemer figure, the disparagement of matter, and a “Stranger” God. These elements are indeed post-Christian, and exist in the NT as well. Yet, the core element of Gnosticism is seeking salvation through gnosis or hidden wisdom, rather than through simple belief or justification through faith, sacrifices to God, a vicarious redeemer, etc. This type of gnosis precedes Christianity and can be found in Orphic, Egyptian, Indian and Buddhist mystery religions as well. Also, many of the Christian gospels contain various Gnostic elements in which I detail here. They are all about seeking and finding hidden gnosis, hinted in the parables of hidden treasure in Matthew, as well as other parables like the found pearl, the captured fish of the great price, the parable of the sower, etc. The Gospel of Thomas is the epitome of this type of gnosis. This is the core teaching of Gnosticism and an even more “authentic” Christianity. Unfortunately, few researchers look at Gnosticism in this broader way.

There are scholars like Gershom Scholem, who have linked pre-Christian Gnosticism with Jewish mysticism – particularly that with the Merkabah type, and other ascent texts that belong to heterodox Jews of the Second Temple Period. Texts like these are those that belong to the Enochian tradition, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and perhaps texts like the Ascension of Isaiah (although the last seems more likely a Simonian text). All of these texts deal with the Gnostic ascent to God and the writers of these texts, perhaps saw themselves as possessors of this secret knowledge to ascend the stars like angels and would eventually become divine themselves, which was an anathema to Orthodox Judaism. This is probably where the later Gnostic writers took their inspirations from, along with Pauline crucifixion mysticism. Scholars like C. Fletcher-Lewis also noticed some of these Gnostic elements in the Dead Sea Scrolls, like the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, in which he writes in Heavenly Ascent and Incarnational Presence: A Revisionist Reading of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice:

“….much of the language within the Songs, though not all, refers to the Qumran community members who now have a heavenly, angelic and divine identity.”

Looking at the Nag Hammadi writings, there seems to be some Christianization or “sanitation” of older non-Christian writings, which shows that the Gnostic vision preceded Christianity. So, Gnosticism wasn’t a late aberration of Christianity as it is commonly maintained. R. van den Broek writes in The Present State of Gnostic Studies:

[T]he Nag Hammadi Library contains several gnostic tractates which are certainly non-Christian. These writings show that Gnosticism did not arise as a Christian heresy.

In a way, heterodox Judaism and even Samaritan mysticism gave rise to heterodox Christianity (Gnosticism). We see a competition of theologies begin in Genesis, or a dual tradition of normative and heterodox theologies develop at the same time, together. It can be argued that the Yahweh tradition developed was a reaction to this type of hidden knowledge already in existence back then, in a religion of those who would “ascend to heaven” (Isaiah 14:13).

In Isaiah, the fall of Lucifer is mirrored in Greek tales of Icarus and even that of Simon Magus who falls from his flights to impress Nero thanks to Peter’s meddling and prayer that God ruin the whole show even though apparently Peter didn’t have these same crazy cool powers himself. Adam’s fall is blamed on him because he dared to reach out and consume the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Tower of Babel story also has misguided Babylonians attempting to build a very tall tower that reaches the heavens but is foiled by Yahweh and his angels. And so, the Gnostic initiative is always “out of bounds.” And this is exactly the focal point of contention between Simon Magus and Peter in their debates in that there is a higher power above the creator.

pharisee

We also see Jesus of the Gospels constantly oppose the Pharisees and their rites and customs and even denies them that they are the chosen people and claim they “belong to your father, the devil…” (John 8:44)! Jesus also commanded his followers to seek sincerely without outside aide or approval from any external “authority” (such as a priest) or divine agent (the denial of blood atonement and a vicarious redeemer). Jesus’ original teachings are clearly rebellious and esoteric, in the sense that they are private, hidden and not seen by outsiders. This all conforms to a secret knowledge that comes from within where the hidden Christ manifests. Perhaps this is the real reason why Gnostic writers were critical of the biblical God and even critical of the serpent as well as being part of the same team with Yahweh like the Ophites did. And this is also the reason why some scholars view Gnosticism as a gentile betrayal and corruption of Judaism.

And yet, they weren’t exactly the only ones to take offense to aspects of the Paradise story, along with other Jewish texts. First, many philosophers like Philo, Plutarch, Celsus, Julian the Apostate had all thought that the anthropomorphous appearance of the biblical Creator didn’t really jive well with the more refined, philosophical idea of God that we see in Middle Platonic thought. This God was purely transcendental and above human reasoning and matter. He was an Ineffable God of the Gnostics and above the demiurgical God, the creator and rule of the physical and perishable world.

The Church Father Origen charges Celsus in Contra Celsus with spreading nasty rumors about how Christians are nothing more than feeble minded impious magicians and makes no distinction between the Christians and the Ophites because there was no such distinction to be made in the second century apparently. They also held Yahweh “accursed” just like how he cursed Adam, Eve and the serpent. According to Origen, these Ophites wouldn’t let anyone into their meetings unless they first curse Jesus, or at least the Judean version of Jesus that we can see in Ebionite/Jewish Christianity. This also reflects the kind of misotheism that was prevalent around that time period in which the Epicurean philosophers also were engaged in in their constant questioning of the gods and their subjects’ piousness and religiosity of their subjects.

The ruler of those named ‘archontics’ is termed the ‘accursed’ god. Who would venture to use such language—as if there could be an “accursed” divinity! Yet the God of the Mosaic cosmogony is termed an accursed divinity, because such is his character, and worthy of execration in the opinion of those who so regard him, inasmuch as he pronounced a curse upon the serpent, who introduced the first human beings to the knowledge of good and evil.

What could be more foolish or insane than such senseless wisdom? For what blunder has the Jewish lawgiver committed? and why do you accept, by means, as you say, of a certain allegorical and typical method of interpretation, the cosmogony which he gives, and the law of the Jews, while it is with unwillingness, O most impious man, that you give praise to the Creator of the world, who promised to give them all things; who promised to multiply their race to the ends of the earth, and to raise them up from the dead with the same flesh and blood, and who gave inspiration to their prophets; and, again, you slander him!

The Apostle Paul himself claimed that those who followed the Mosaic Law was cursed in Galatians 3:10, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Paul also said that Christ redeemed his Church from the “curse of the law” and also said, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Heretics like Marcion and Simon Magus do not hesitate to highlight the supposed ignorant, and vicious character of the wrongdoings of the demiurgical God by referencing Genesis, along with other biblical texts. The sacrifices to God in the Old Testament also match with other pagan deities in which their followers worshiped and offered libations and sacrifices to appease them and in exchange to material favors. The old tribal gods of pagan and Mesopotamian cultures always operated by making pacts and covenants. Jehovah made a covenant/pact with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Moses. They worshiped him and burned offerings to him, and in turn, they received his protection and material blessings. But everything with the Hebrew god was centered around law, not mercy.

Kircher-Diagram_of_the_names_of_God

The Israelites had to observe specific days and provide specific offerings as payment for the things that they gave him, and they were never in permanent security with him. If they slipped up, they were punished, and had pay back what was owed in more severe ways. And this is exactly how many Faustian pacts with demons also operate under as seen in Goetic texts that belong to the Solomonic tradition. In fact, names ascribed to the Hebrew god are used invoke both angels and demons!

They are names that are ascribed to various archons that are listed in Gnostic texts and in refutations of them by the Church Fathers. These various archons also have serpentine and dragon-like like shapes, much like Ialdabaoth and perhaps this is why the serpent is condemned in the Apocryphon of John. We also see this in the conceptions of the Seraphim as indicated by various biblical, apocalyptic Enochian literature as well. We also see serpentine and even dragon like features in Yahweh himself! Here are some supporting verses.

Zechariah 10:8: I (Yahweh) will hiss for them (Jews), and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.

Isaiah 5:26: And he (Yahweh) will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.

Smoke coming out of Yahweh’s nostrils (sounds very dragon like):

Psalm 18:8, 2 Samuel 22:9: There went up a smoke out of his [Yahweh] nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

Yahweh spews fire from his mouth!

2 Samuel 22:9 (ESV): Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.

And look, Yahweh has wings:

Psalm 17:8 (ESV) Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

So, Yahweh has wings, spews fire from his mouth and can breath fire and hisses. Doesn’t that sound exactly like a dragon and the Gnostic’s description of Ialdaboath as a lion-faced dragon? And according to Revelation 12:9, Satan is also depicted as a dragon. John 8:44, also hints at this reality, that the Devil is fathered by the Jewish god. Saturninus and Carpocrates, who were both contemporaries with one another and Simonian heretics, also spoke about Satan, but separated him apart from the band of world creating angels. Apelles and Severus, who were both associates with Marcion, both distinguish between the Devil and the Demiurge, who also taught that the Devil was the son of the Demiurge and that there was enmity between the two. The idea of the Devil indeed had a father was pretty hard to overcome by the part of the Church Fathers and in large part, they failed to address the pressures and difficulties made by the heretics. For example, we see Jerome who claimed that the father of the devil was the dragon Leviathan, also named as an archon by Celsus in his description of the Ophite diagram.

Revelation-Chapter-12-The-Woman-and-Dragon

The devil could not be a creation of God, or is a son because that would be supremely blasphemous and also contradictory because he is the son of a father who is a liar, and God is truth. Celsus also thought that the Christian concept of Satan was blasphemous. The Clementine Homilies (19:9) also explores the idea of the Devil being a creation of God:

But, as you said, if the evil one is created either he has been begotten as an animal, or he has been sent forth substantially by Him, or he has been compounded externally, or his will has arisen through composition; or it happened that he came into existence from things non-existent, without composition and the will of God; or he has been made by God from that which in no manner and nowhere exists; or the matter, being lifeless or living, from which he has arisen was outside of God; or he fashioned himself, or he was made by God, or he is a relative thing, or he ever existed: for we cannot say that he does not exist, since we have agreed in thinking that he does exist.

And Simon said: Well have you distinguished all the methods of accounting for his existence in a summary manner. Now it is my part to examine these various ideas, and to show that the Creator is blameable. But it is your business to prove, as you promised, that he is free from all blame. But I wonder if you will be able. For, first, if the devil has been begotten from God as an animal, the vice which is his is accordingly the same as that of him who sends him forth.

We see Simon asking all kinds of tough questions to Peter. This series of dilemmas embarrasses the chief of the Apostles in no small degree. He struggles to find any meaningful answers and gives what is probably the most half-assed, asinine answer in the history of all apologetics and it all starts with Peter.

I agree with you in believing that there is a prince of evil, of whose origin the Scripture has ventured to say nothing either true or false. But let us follow out the inquiry in many ways, as to how he has come into existence, if it is the fact that he has come into existence; and of the opinions which present themselves, let us select that which is most reverential, since in the case of probable opinions, that one is assumed with confidence which is based on the principle that we ought to attribute to God that which is more reverential…

In other words, Peter struggles to show that the true God cannot be the cause of evil, and that the scriptures has not chosen to explain the origin of the Devil. Simon isn’t satisfied with this evasive answer and ends by informing Peter that “If matter is equal to God both in duration and in power, and is also hostile to God, it produces of itself powers which are hostile to the will of God.” The Testimony of Truth also noticed this supreme contention between Simon and Peter as per the origins of the devil.

And in one place, Moses writes, “He made the devil a serpent those whom he has in his generation.” Also, in the book which is called “Exodus,” it is written thus: “He contended against the magicians, when the place was full of serpents according to their wickedness; and the rod which was in the hand of Moses became a serpent, (and) it swallowed the serpents of the magicians.”

Job 1 is all about measuring piety of Job in efforts to see if Job will indeed curse Yahweh. In this text, Yahweh and Satan seem to be virtually indistinguishable. They are openly in league with each other and Yahweh takes on Satan’s advice to test Job to see if he really is pious when all of his blessings are taken away and replaced with curses. Yes, Yahweh listens to the advice of Satan! Carl Jung in his book, Answer to Job, suggests that God is completely devoid in understanding of the human condition and therefore needs to incarnate in order to complete himself. In a sense this is a perfect metaphor for the process of gnosis. At times this God acts loving and merciful, so long as his edicts are obeyed. If they’re not, well, hell is to pay. 

The troubling thing for the writer of Job and for us is that Job is extremely pious and is blessed because of this. He is the quintessential icon of righteousness. He is man of justice. Job is the defender of the widow and the orphan. Job feeds the hungry and lends of his resources to those in need. When Job wrongs another man he pays restitution willingly and then some. Job is kind, generous and compassionate. And then God takes a big shit all over him. Job demands an accounting from God and rightly so. Except that God never does that. We can paraphrase the voice from the whirlwind quite simply. “I am God…shut the fuck up!” This is the voice of the Demiurge, the god of the whirlwind. Yahweh is on par with other pagan gods, like Zeus as well. So Yahweh punishes both the rebellious and the innocent without mercy. With stories like this, it really is amazing that a text like Job even made it into the cannon at all!

Returning to Simon and Peter’s discussion on the origins of the Devil and matter, both points of contention are equally fascinating and well worth the read, much like all of the Clementine literature. The discussion seems to mirror the points of contention between the Orthodox and the heretical, one insisting that God is blameless and perfect, while the other insisting that the Creator is completely at fault for producing evil and the Devil. Isaiah 45:7, indeed does support this view when it states, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” At one point, Peter goes so far as to say that Simon is even worse then the Devil (CH 19.6)!

Peter said: But you, as being wicked, and hating God whom you have not known, utter blasphemous words. And Simon said: Remember that you have likened me to the author of evil. And Peter said: I confess it, I was wrong in comparing you to the evil one; for I was compelled to do so, because I have not found one who is your equal, or worse than you. For this reason I likened you to the evil one; for you happen to be much more wicked than the author of evil. For no one can prove that the evil one spoke against God; but all of us who are present see you speaking daringly against Him. And Simon said: He who seeks the truth ought not to gratify any one in any respect contrary to what is really true. For why does he make the inquiry at all? Why, I ask? For I am not also able, laying aside the accurate investigation of things, to spend all my time in the praise of that God whom I do not know.

This is also the view in which the Ophites held in how Ialdabaoth created calamity through his serpent, according to Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.30.5).

This son is Nous himself, twisted into the form of a serpent; and hence were derived the spirit, the soul, and all mundane things: from this too were generated all oblivion, wickedness, emulation, envy, and death.

Later on, Sophia decides to take things into her own hands to counter Ialdaboath’s “crooked” serpent with a serpent of her own!

But their mother (Sophia) cunningly devised a scheme to seduce Eve and Adam, by means of the serpent, to transgress the command of Ialdabaoth. Eve listened to this as if it had proceeded from a son of God and yielded an easy belief. She also persuaded Adam to eat of the tree regarding which God had said that they should not eat of it. They then declare that, on their thus eating, they attained to the knowledge of that power which is above all, and departed from those who had created them.

As I said earlier in the series, this seems to match up with the Hypostasis of the Archons‘ account.

Then the female spiritual principle came in the snake, the instructor; and it taught them, saying, “What did he say to you? Was it, ‘From every tree in the garden shall you eat; yet – from the tree of recognizing good and evil do not eat’?” The carnal woman said, “Not only did he say ‘Do not eat’, but even ‘Do not touch it; for the day you eat from it, with death you are going to die.'”

And the snake, the instructor, said, “With death you shall not die; for it was out of jealousy that he said this to you. Rather your eyes shall open and you shall come to be like gods, recognizing evil and good.” And the female instructing principle was taken away from the snake, and she left it behind, merely a thing of the earth.

More interesting is that Eve seems not to be all that surprised that a snake is chatting it up with her about eating forbidden fruit that would eventually open her eyes, and be “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4). Another author makes a good case that the serpent was in actuality, an angelic being, forced to help Adam and Eve tend to the garden.

Actually, there is a great deal of other ancient evidence which suggests this serpent was a serpentine, or serpent-like, angel who previously fell from grace.(1) As mentioned in Giants of Scripture, there were angels fashioned around the same time as the creation of Adam, in order to help him out. We get a hint to this in the Bible: And again, when He (God) bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. Hebrews 1:6 (KJV)

When they discovered how much preferential treatment God had given the man, these angels complained to God.(2) We also get a hint to the conversation of these angels to the Almighty, in regards to their dissatisfaction of Adam: Psalms (KJV) 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honor. 8:6 Thou madest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands…

God would not put up with their dissension, and caused them to fall – they lost their positions as heavenly angels and were condemned to serve Adam.

This would also support the Ophite view in how there were angels in the garden and they had sexual intercourse with Eve, and she begat half-angelic/half-human offspring much like what we see with the angels descending to earth to have intercourse with the daughters of men around Noah’s time.

…the others coming and admiring her beauty, named her Eve, and falling in love with her, begot sons by her, whom they also declare to be the angels.

Not all extra-biblical texts seem to have a positive view on the serpent either. The Apocalypse of Moses, for example, describes in some detail in how Satan persuaded the serpent to serve as a vessel though which he could speak to Eve and tempt her. This meant that Satan possessed the serpent! In the Hypostasis of the Archons, the spiritual woman, or Sophia enters to speak with Eve instead. For the Gnostics it was a good thing for Eve to eat the fruit of Gnosis. On the Origin of the World states that Eve, being the “female instructor of life” was found to be the wisest out of all the beings in Eden and was subsequently called “Beast” by the authorities, being the archons.

The Apocalypse of Moses is more orthodox in its view that eating the fruit was a death sentence for man. The world became defiled with this knowledge, in which many authors in the ancient world seem to think was also a sexual knowledge and fornication as a means to tempt and “beguile” Eve, which meant seduce. The fall of man was a result of this unholy sexual union with satanic children born as a result. It is interesting to note that most of Eve’s punishments and judgments revolve around sex and childbirth. Could all of this be related to this angelic/human seduction and fornication?

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This meant that Satan or what in Medieval Kabbalistic texts call “Samael,” had sexual intercourse with Eve and begat children like Cain and Abel. There is also a strong Kabbalistic tradition of Samael and Lilith always longing to have sexual intercourse. Tracy Twyman writes about this:

Because Samael and Lilith (a.k.a Leviathan and Behemoth) are constantly longing for each other, they found a way to mate via an “intermediary” called “Tanin’iver” (“Blind Dragon”) or “the Groomsman.”

She goes onto quote the Treatise of the Left Emanation and also writes:

This “Tanin’iver” is a “slithering serpent” without eyes who somehow enables the castrated Samael to have sex with Lilith. But if he were to “manifest fully,” then the destruction of the universe, which happens whenever these two “truly” mate, would come about anyway. So whatever Tanin’iver does for them, it has the capability of being just as good as the real thing. But mercifully, right now, it is not, or else we would all be dead.

In other words, the serpent is both a symbol of liberation from ignorance and at the same time, a symbol of sexual union, seduction and even destruction as I have demonstrated earlier in the series. The serpent is also strongly associated with being symbolic of Christ himself and Jesus in the Gospel of John (3:14-15) certainly thinks this also:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Christ is also depicted in terms of being a vegatative image, like the Holy Rood, the Tree of Life and the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Jesus is the fruit of eternal life, which was on the second forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. Many other pagan gods of the ancient world were depicted as nature deities as well. When man ate of the fruit of the first tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he was expelled from the Garden. The Garden is the place of unity, and non-duality like how the Pleroma is depicted in texts such as the Gospel of Truth. You eat of the fruit of duality, and you are on the way out into the wastelands of material reality.

The tree of returning to the Garden is the tree of immoral life, where the I and the Father are one. When Yawheh threw man out of the Garden, he put two cherubim at the gate, with a flaming sword between. At many Buddhist shrines, the Buddha is often depicted sitting under the Boddhi tree of immortal life, there are also at the gate, two guardians–similar to the guardian Cherubim that guard the Tree of Life. In these vegetation traditions there is the notion of identity behind the surface display of duality. Behind all these manifestations it the one radiance, which shines through all things.

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Gnosis. What is it?

The word “Gnosis” can be the object of a gross misconception, unless properly understood. “Gnosis” is knowledge; but this knowledge is no collection of pieces of information about metaphysical facts. Excerpta ex Theodoto is very clear on this subject:

“Since the Father was unknown…He emitted the Only Begotten Son through His own Enthýmësis — for so He knows Himself — as Spirit of Knowledge (Pneûma Gnôseös). So He who has proceeded from the Father’s Enthýmësis has become Gnosis, and this is the Son, for through the Son has the Father been known (7:1)”.

The Only Begotten Son is the Noûs, here said to have been emanated as “Spirit of Knowledge”. His “feminine” counterpart in the syzygy is Truth, and ExTh 7:2 says that from Truth emanates the “Spirit of Love” (Pneûma Agàpës). Thus, while we find it stressed that “Gnosis” means the Knowledge of the Father, we are taught that Knowledge and Love, Gnôsis and Agàpë, are like the two faces of a coin in the Son. There is no Gnosis without Love. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:2, he claims about the futility of both faith and knowledge without the right attitude of heart:

“Though I understand all mysteries, and all knowledge (gnosis); and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing”.

Gnosis is also described as a “science” according to Theodotus (35):

So also scientific knowledge (gnosis), shedding its light and brightness on things, shows itself to be in truth the divine wisdom, the pure light, which illumines the men whose eyeball is clear, unto the sure vision and comprehension of truth.

The proper appreciation of what Gnosis is holds the key to the correct understanding of what “the New Covenant” means–to a Gnostic at least.

“And he took the bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying: This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

“Do this in remembrance of me” (toûto poieìte eis tên emên anàmnësin): does “this” refer to the repetition of a meal, or–gnostically understood–to the continuation, in the life of a disciple, of the self-sacrificing attitude–the Pneûma Agàpës— of a Son of God?

The Teachings of Silvanius, a largely Christian Orthodox writing with some Gnostic and Stoic influence, writes about knowledge:

Do not become desirous of gold and silver, which are profitless, but clothe yourself with wisdom like a robe; put knowledge on yourself like a crown, and be seated upon a throne of perception.

In Luke 11:52, Jesus denounces the Pharisees and gives them a bitter warning about hindering access to the “key of knowledge”, the same “keys of the kingdom” supposedly given to Peter:

“Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.”

In Proverbs 4:13, it makes another stark warning in guarding Wisdom’s keys of the Kingdom.

Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.

Proverbs 3:18 also compares the key of Wisdom to the Tree of Life of Eden:

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Man is the keystone of the whole cosmic arch, and really, every sentient being, in which they have been entrusted with possession of the divine light, which is the soul. In essence, man is light. The soul is not made by the demiurge and is not native to this world. It’s a stranger (Allogenes) to the kosmos which is likened to Tartarus, which is any area outside of the Pleroma. Its origin is the sphere of being, which is spiritual and enduring. It is the kingdom of God the Father hid in man. Even the Simonian Great Declaration states about the luminous seed, or the immoral spark in man, which echoes the Gospel of John quite a bit:

For those what are three, and if there were not three standing aeons, there would be no ordering of the creation which hovers over the water and has been created in the likeness unto a perfect celestial being, which becomes in no way inferior to the Unbegotten Power, so that one shall say to the other: You and I are one; you are before me that I may after you.”

Compare this to the Gospel of John 10:37:

Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.

So where can one find this knowledge or gnosis? How can one be one with the Father? One must realize that they are a prisoner; a slave ruled over by a prince (archon) of this world spoken by Jesus in John 12:31.

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

According to scripture, he is also the one possessing world power (cosmocrator). In the New Testament he is described as lord of the universe with the power to dispose of this world’s goods (Luke 4:6). He is the prince of this world, and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The Christian interpretation of “world” in these contexts is “age”, so that the demiurge or Satan is god of the present epoch. The tactic here is to keep the prisoner occupied with various diversions (a chief tactic in warfare) from realizing that there is a spiritual war and that man is at the center of it. It is this entity that “blinds the minds of men”, and “deceives the whole world”. The Hypostasis of the Archons says many similar things to this effect as well.

In the Gospel of Truth, the Father keeps within Himself the Perfection (i.e. the Fullness or Pleroma) of all the created beings, only to bestow it to them as a boon for their return to Him. Before then all the creatures are in a condition of “Lack” (Void or Kenoma), which means lack of Truth, that is Ignorance. Ignorance generates Error (plànë) that, accompanied by Forgetting, Anguish, Oblivion and Fear, in its turn feeds Ignorance, so that a self-perpetuating chain is formed. This chain is called the Schêma (“form”, “pattern”): “The schêma is the world in which He came as a Servant” (Gospel of the Truth). It is tò schêma toû kòsmou toùtou (“the pattern of this world”) of 1 Corinthians 7:31.

Accordingly, ignorance means ignoring our true nature and identity, identifying ourselves with our ego or animal nature, itself a part of the schêma. It is then obvious that such a self-perpetuating chain cannot break by itself. Having recognized its nature, one has to abandon all self-centered interests and open oneself to the saving Presence of the Christ within. Only this “vertical” intervention can break the schêma. And with his calling and intervention, can the keys of knowledge be gained. And yet this intervention is a two way street because the soul is invited drill down to its core, into the hidden, “inner man” where the “Spirit of Love” awaits on the other side. It is the portal to a dimension, so radically different than the schêma, the cosmos of matter.

According to Proverbs (20-27), Wisdom (Sophia) calls those who are willfully ignorant as “scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge.” She also warns that all those who “distained” her counsel, will be laughed at their “calamity” and will “mock” them when “terror comes” as well as the “destruction” that “comes like a whirlwind”. Lot’s of warnings everywhere. So let’s drop off all of our Bovine droppings and get with the program. 

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 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.