Greek Magical Papyri

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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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.