IAO

Theurgy and Knowledge in the Chaldean Oracles, IAO and Hekate

First and foremost, what is theurgy? It is essentially a sacramental mystery rite that overlaps into the realm of magic and the occult. It is a ritual process in which the initiate’s mind and vision is purified so that they might behold and “see” the majesty of the gods, through consecrations, prayers, unintelligible incantations (like the Christian charisma of speaking in tongues), and various meditative practices. The aim of theurgy is fundamentally different than the other Greek differentiation of magic of “goetia”. Stephen Skinner in Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic writes (p. 10):

The Greeks made a clear distinction between goetia (γοητεία) the magic of the goes (γόης), and that of theurgia (θεουργία). It is difficult to be sure of what was exactly meant by the ancient Greeks when they used the term γοητεία, as it was associated with rites for the dead. Goetia (γοητεία) and goes (γόης) were later used in the sense they acquired in the Latin grimoires of ‘dealing with spirits,’ rather than in the sense outlined in Johnston of ‘dealing with the dead.’

Theurgia is a quite separate category, and is a descendant, via Porphyry and Iamblichus of Chalcis, of the ancient Mysteries. This usage has persisted through to 13th century (and later) grimoires. It has been suggested that theurgia, meaning “divine work,” was a term that might even have been invented by the group of Neoplatonically inclined magicians, including luminaries like Iamblichus, probably based in Alexandria around the 2nd century CE. The theurgists were concerned with purifying and raising the consciousness of individual practitioners to the point where they could have direct communion with the gods. The theurgists were in a sense the inheritors of the ancient Greek Mysteries which aimed to introduce the candidate directly to the gods.

Iamblichus was one such Theurgist. He was a Syrian-born descendant (roughly around 250-330 in Chalcis, Coele-Syria) of a long of royal priest-kings and was known throughout his life as an incredibly wise and saintly man. However, the guy did not live a life of poverty and was actually quite wealthy, just as was many of his Gnostic predecessors (although there is no evidence that Iamblichus was a “Gnostic” in the purest sense). His wealth allowed him to be a full-time student of magic and philosophy, unrestrained by the worries of common folk and peasants. He had slaves that tended to his material needs (which were eventually set free after short intervals of service), while he dedicated his life to Neo-Platonic and Pythagorean mysteries at the best academies and schools that Syria had to offer.

Iamblichus’ teachers included Anatolius and the Neo-Platonic scholar, Porphyry of Tyre (a pun on the Phoenician royal colors of purple and gold). Iamblichus was an ardent supporter for theurgy, essentially teaching that it was the only way for the salvation of the soul, from its descent into the embodiment in matter. Porphyry was born in the same capital city of Phoenicia that Simon Magus was said to have found his prostitute wife, Helena and redeemed her. Porphyry once wrote a scathing treatise called Against the Christians, which was a rather aggravated text that explained certain logical flaws in the philosophies and behaviors of the contemporary Christians, much like his predecessor Celsus did in the True Doctrine. It is said that Porphyry was not criticizing Christ but criticizing the Christians, the same sect of believers that Celsus describes as a diabolical secret society working against the Roman Empire as well as Julian the Apostate, who declares them as simply “Galileans.” In his work on the Philosophy of Oracles, Porphyry says of Christ, as quoted by St. Augustine (“De Civitate Dei,” l. xix. cap. 23; comp. also Eusebius’ “Demonst. Evang.,” iii. 6):—

The oracle declared Christ to be a most pious man, and his soul, like the soul of other pious men after death, favored with immortality; and that the mistaken Christians worship him. And when we asked, Why, then, was he condemned? the goddess (Hecate) answered in the oracle: The body indeed is ever liable to debilitating torments; but the soul of the pious dwells in the heavenly mansion. But that soul has fatally been the occasion to many other souls to be involved in error, to whom it has not been given to acknowledge the immortal Jove. But himself is pious, and gone to heaven as other pious men do. Him, therefore, thou shalt not blaspheme; but pity the folly of men, because of the danger they are in.

Porphyry also decries Jesus’ doctrine of the Eucharist found in the Gospel of John, as this quote is found in Macarius, Apocriticus III: 15:

That saying of the Teacher is a far-famed one, which says, “Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in yourselves.” Truly this saying is not merely beast-like and absurd, but is more absurd than any absurdity, and more beast-like than any fashion of a beast, that a man should taste human flesh, and drink the blood of members of the same tribe and race, and that by doing this he should have eternal life. For, tell, me, if you do this, what excess of savagery do you introduce into life?

Porphyry of Tyre (ca. 232/300-305 AD) believed that a God beyond being and comprehension was accessible through the intellect and that philosophers could gain access to divinity through one’s own intellectual effort in order for the soul’s embodied awareness could be completely transformed by this exercise of philosophical contemplation or “theoria”. To Porphyry, this was indeed the most effective path that one can sojourn to the gods by beholding this purely intellectual vision. This tradition of the Divine Vision can be found in other sources, especially in Plato’s Phaedrus. “Theoria” or contemplation was an important part of philosophy espoused by Plato in order for the soul to ascend and gain knowledge of the “Form of the Good”. Porphyry’s teacher, Plotinus (they both studied in Rome, 263-269 A.D.) also believed contemplation to be a critical component into gaining “henosis” or a visionary union with the One or Monad. (See Sententiae 32 and Ennead I. 2, Ennead 6.9.xx, as examples of how both Porphyry and Plotinus used “theoria” to experience the non-being of the “One.”)

Zeke Mazur’s “Mystical Experience, Metaphysics and Ritual in Plotinus” also does a marvelous job in explaining Plotinus’ ascent experiences in which the “center-point of the self” is recognizable as transcendent, but still has yet to be “paradoxically be dissolved or annihilated to attain the ultimate union” with the One. While this approach to gaining the Divine Vision was well established in the Platonic tradition and of course by Plotinus as well, it nevertheless is especially denied in Gnostic texts such as the Apocryphon of John and Allogenes, since they both characterize God as completely inaccessible by the human intellect since it is completely transcendent and alien to the material world. Allogenes even goes so far as to say that the knowledge of God is “not-knowing knowledge” as well as being “ignorance that sees him”. And yet, the Gnostic theurgy contained in texts like Allogenes, has many striking parallels with their contemporaries and philosophical competitors of the time, namely Plotinus and other Neo-Platonic philosophers who were familiar with dualist groups such as the Sethians, Ophites or Archontics and argued much against them like the Church Fathers and the Orthodox Babylonian Rabbis.

Iamblichus, was actually a former student of Porphyry who likewise criticizes and attempts to refute this approach to transcendent experience by claiming it as being misguided and even delusional. To Iamblichus, the Greek philosophers of his time had lost touch with their roots of divining wisdom and disclosure from the gods—a tradition (featured in the text of the Chaldean Oracles) that has its roots even before the rise of the Greeks and prevalent in classical life. Iamblichus himself makes drives to a similar point that Allogenes in that enlightenment or divine self-realization through contemplation must be triggered by revelation:

For that element in us which is divine (theion), and intellectual (noeron) — is aroused, then, clearly in prayer, and when aroused, strives primarily towards what is like itself and joints itself to absolute perfection.

Plato, several hundred years earlier wrote in Phaedrus 250c something very similar in that the spiritual rapture of the initiate was emphasized while the human body was seen as a huge hindrance to the life of true philosophy:

[We] were ushered into the Mystery that we may rightly call the most blessed of all. And we who celebrated it were wholly perfect…and we gazed in rapture at sacred revealed objects… That was the ultimate Vision, and we saw it in pure light because we were pure ourselves, not buried in this thing we are carrying around now which we call a body…

Porphyry’s philosophy and metaphysics involved Plato’s “One” Being as having a counter negative existence “before the realm of Being or Intellect.” This is the same as Apophatic theology, which focuses on the knowledge of the Ineffable God, the Kether or “the One” attained through negation, or a negative existence beyond all comprehension, parallel to the Qabalistic negative veils and in various Gnostic texts. Porphyry likely derived this from the Pythagorean concept of Aion. The ultimate goal of any theurgist and mystic was the soul’s ascent and return to its stellar origin on the path of austerity. Iamblichus of Chalcis describes the theory and practice in his defense of theurgy in On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldaeans, and Assyrians:

…it is the complete fulfilling of the arcane performances, the carrying of them through in a manner worthy of the gods and surpassing all conception, and likewise the power of the voiceless symbols which are perceived by the gods alone, that establish the Theurgic Union.

Although Iamblichus’ sentiments of theurgy don’t necessarily reflect the attitudes of all Gnostic groups, but it can be a helpful tool in assessing their cosmologies in which are reflective of their theurgical practices and rituals. However, it is safe to assume that not every Gnostic group participated in theurgical ritual. Iamblichus also developed an interest in Plotinus’ philosophies through his Enneads. It was through this, along with the teachings of Pythagoras, along with the pagan spiritual practices of the Egyptians, Chaldeans/Babylonians, Assyrians, and even the Hebrews, all of which drew him into the realm of theurgy. This is where the Chaldaean Oracles come in, as the text was most instrumental to the development and advancing of his own philosophies. The text itself was said to be written down by Julianus the Chaldean and his son Julian the Theurgist.

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Most instrumental to the development and advancement of his own philosophies and practices was his understanding of The Chaldean Oracles. The Chaldaean Oracles is a very, mystery long poem, is usually attributed to Julian the Theurgist, who is also credited by causing rain to pour as a miraculous event that saves Marcus Aurelius’ troops in their campaign against the Quadi in 173 CE. Julian was the personal magician of emperor Marcus of Rome and traveled with him on his conquests, apparently offering his services in the form of advanced weather manipulation for the strategic favor of the Roman armies. It is also attributed to Zoroaster or influenced by him as his name is often found in Gnostic and Hermetic literature, especially in the Zosimos and the Apocryphon of John. The term “Chaldean” is hardly used to refer to these writings during this time and always was referred to as the “Sacred Oracles.” Some believe that the term “Chaldean” is generally understood as a metaphorical spiritual affinity of Julian to the East, and even ancient Syria. The Oracles display a spiritual hierarchical system that has more in common with Neopythagorean, Neoplatonic and Kabbalistic traditions than they do the Zoroastrian religion. In fact, the text bears striking resemblance to earlier sources within the Gnostics, specifically the Ophite Gnostics.

According to the Divine Science website, the legends behind the two Julians also mirror other great, divine magicians such as Apollonius, Simon Magus and Jesus Christ:

Most instrumental to the development and advancement of his own philosophies and practices was his understanding of The Chaldean Oracles, a divinely inspired text written down by Julianus the Chaldean and his son Julian the Theurgist sometime in the early 2nd century(during the reign of Marcus Aurellius) in the time of Apollonius of Tyana, who could be revered as one of the greatest magicians of that millennium.  So close did the feats of Apollonius come to those of Jesus Christ that he was hunted by early Christians who sought to discredit him, sometimes going as far as to proclaim him a false Messiah, much as they did with Simon.  Of note however is that legend holds that Julian the Theurgist once challenged Apollonius and two other famed mages of the time to a challenge, in which the winner would be the one who first lifted the plague of a particular town.  According to all accounts of this event, Julian came out the victor.

It also goes on to say that the Chaldean Oracles were written by both Julian’s as a means to initiate those compelled into the theurgical mysteries and even claims that they, along with Iamblichus, much like Marcion and Simon Magus according to the church father Hippolytus (they are not mentioned below), were all influenced by Empedocles, apparently an initiate of Hekate.

The Chaldean Oracles were a set of instructions laid down by both Julianus and Julian for the process of initiation into the Theurgic sciences. From this text we find many of the Theurgic principles blending with hermetic principles in a day and age where no one could rightly say which was older than the other. In essence, The Chaldean Oracles likely served as a merging point for the Egyptian and early Greek hermetic sciences with the Babylonian, Assyrian and Chaldean theurgic sciences. This may have something to do with the initiation of Julian the Theurgist into the hermetic mystery schools, particularly the School of Orpheus, wherein we see an analysis of the four elements in the form of prose. This was likely coupled by the influence of an early student of Pythagoras himself, a philosopher and magus by the name of Empedocles, who would be the first to put the Pythagorean understanding of the four elements into writing as governed by the Powers of Love and Strife, that is to say, duality. Empedocles was a well know mage of his time, and an initiate of the Mysteries of Heckate, a school which was outlived and eventually pushed into the shadows by the Pythagorean, Hermetic and Orphic Mystery Schools.

True to form, both Porphyry and Iamblichus were actually well acquainted with solar-worship. In Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel), Chapter XIV, he writes that Porphyry’s work from Philosophy from Oracles provide astrological ritual instructions, based on the correct time to undertake based on the idea that the gods issue these instructions for worship to mortals. These ritual instructions, as common as they were in the ancient world, was intended to enable humans to align themselves and the world of man with the divine realm through the astrological bodies.

‘IN many cases the gods, by giving signs of their statements beforehand, show by their knowledge of the arrangement of each man’s nativity that they are, if we may so say, excellent Magians and perfect astrologers. Again he said that in oracular responses Apollo spake thus:

“Invoke together Hermes and the Sun On the Sun’s day, the Moon when her day comes, Kronos and Aphrodite in due turn, With silent prayers, by chiefest Magian taught, Whom all men know lord of the seven-string’d lyre.”

In other words, Neoplatonic theurgists would align themselves with the cosmocrators or the planetary spheres. These beings were considered the same as the archons via Gnosticism, as we have already discussed at length in previous posts. In the second chapter of De Mysteriies (Theurgia or On the Mysteries of the Egyptians), Iamblichus quotes Porphyry and launches into an exhaustive discourse about various divine beings and even admits there being the conflated nature of the gods and the daemons:

In what does a dæmon differ from a hero or half-god or from a soul? It is it in essence, in power, or in energy?

What is the token (at the Sacred Rites) of the presence of a god or an angel, or an archangel, or a dæmon, or of some archon, or a soul?

For it is a common thing with the gods and dæmons alike, and with all the superior races, to speak boastfully and to project an unreal image into view. Hence the race of the gods is thus made to seem to be in no respect superior to that of the dæmons.

In a footnote, the translator writes about this interesting exchange:

Here Porphyry has given an ancient classification of spiritual beings into four orders, the gods, dæmons or guardians, the heroes or half-gods, and souls. There were other distinctions in the Eastern countries, and we find Abammon, the Teacher, adding to these the archangels, angels, and archons of both the higher and lower nature. These were named in several of the Gnostic categories that were extant at that period. “We have no conflict with blood and flesh,” says the Christian apostle, “but with archonates, authorities, the world-rulers of this dark region, and spiritual forces of evil in the upper heavens.”

Iamblichus’s archonology is quite interesting here. His cosmic archons, in contrast with the Gnostic cosmocrators, are not evil. Rather, it is they who govern the Personal Daimon of the initiate, and it is only through their intermediary nature that this being is to be evocated. Iamblichus’ hylic archons are described in less pleasant terms, but are still not malevolent. He also draws a careful distinction between archangels and archons as well. 

I will, therefore, in a single statement lay down the proposition that the apparitions are in accord with their essences, powers and energies. For such as they are as such do they manifest themselves to those who are making the invocations; and they not only exhibit energies and forms which are characteristic of themselves, but they likewise display their own particular tokens. In order, however, to draw the distinctions minutely, this is the explanation: The spectral forms of the gods are uniform; those of the dæmons are diversified; those of the angels are more simple in appearance than those belonging to the dæmons, but inferior to those of the gods; those of the archangels approach nearer to the divine Causes; those of the archons — if those that have charge of the sublunary elements seem to thee to be the lords of the world — will be diversified but arranged in proper order; but if they are princes of the region of Matter, they will not only be more diversified but much more imperfect than the others; and those of the souls will appear in every kind of style.

In the (Epoptic) Vision the figures of the gods shine brilliantly; those of the archangels are awe-inspiring and yet gentle; those of the angels are milder; those of the dæmons are alarming. Those of the half-gods, although these are left out in your question, yet there should be an answer for the sake of the truth because they are more gentle than those of the dæmons. Those of the archons are terrifying to the Beholders, if they are the archons of the universe; and hurtful and distressing, if they are of the realm of Matter. The figures of the souls are similar to those of the half-gods except that they are inferior to them.

The “Beholders” here are actually the initiates of theurgy. What exactly is Iamblichus trying to say? Since it is clear that he is a sun worshiper, like Porphyry, it becomes rather clear that he also exalts the Demiurge, although in an in-direct manner, when he discusses the “Egyptian Theosophers” in Chapter 8 of De Mysteriies:

For these men perceived that the things which were said respecting the Sun-God as the Demiurgos, or Creator of the Universe, and concerning Osiris and Isis, and all the Sacred Legends, may be interpreted as relating to the stars, their phases, occultations, and revolutions in their orbits, or else to the increase and decrease of the Moon, the course of the Sun, the vault of the sky as seen by night or by day, or the river Nile, and, in short, they explain everything as relating to natural objects, and nothing as having reference to incorporeal and living essences.

In the Chaldean Oracles, it also reveals a universe that seems to mirror a Gnostic and Hermetic one. Chrisopher Plaisance writes in Of Cosmocrators and Cosmic Gods: The Place of the Archons in De Mysteriis:

In typical Middle Platonic fashion, Hermetic theology presents an emanative hierarchy of God, a demiurge, and seven planetary powers—who, similar to the Gnostics, were generally described as ruling powers, διοικηταί (“governors, or administrators”) and ἄρχοντες, rather than gods. The Sun was identified with the demiurge, and the surrounding cosmic bodies were instruments with which he crafted the world. The planetary governors were depicted as administering mankind’s fate, and shaping man in their nature—as a microcosm—an act which is explicitly described as being done out of love. Other texts in the Hermetica describe the planetary beings as gods, but the identity between the seven rulers of the early chapters and the planets is clear.

The world of the Oracles was a series of concentric circles, composed of the intelligible empyrean, the ethereal realm of the fixed stars and planets, and the material sphere which contained the sublunar region and the Earth. This triadic structure was organised by three gods: the Monad, Demiurge, and Hekate. It was further administrated by three tiers of intermediary beings: the iynges (ἴυγξ), synoches (συνοχεῖς), and teletarchs (τελετάρχαι), the latter of whose origins are identical with the planetary archons and cosmocrators described previously. However, the teletarchs were not exclusively relegated to planetary roles; the material teletarchs, for instance, were associated with the moon and were thought to govern the sublunary realm. The Oracles further describe the world as populated by various species of terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic daimons. Regarding the teletarchs, Majercik notes that an important distinction must be made between the “Chaldean” and Gnostic systems in that the teletarchs are “benign, even helpful figures, who aid the ascent of the soul”, and that “the Chaldean system maintains a more positive, monistic view of creation”.

Indeed, it seems like Hekate seems to be a placeholder for Sophia from Ophite/Gnostic myth. (We will return to Hekate later.)

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As fate would have it, a Syrian-Roman sun god, called Elegabalus (or Heliogabalus, which is often given the meaning of “Lord of the Mountain” from the Aramaic Llaha Gabal) was also worshiped in Syria as well as Phoenicia in the form of Baal and in El from the Canaanites. These gods were also generally considered to be “lords” of the earth and rulers of the universe who were bringers of fertility as well as death and warfare and often demanded child sacrifice at the fire altars of Molech. It is essentially the same god as the invincible sun, the patron god of the Sol Invictus cult. This is also essentially the same god of the cult of Mithra. Eventually, all of the sun-worshiping cults like Mithraism were absorbed into the Catholic Church. Elegabalus is the true god of Rome and his worship continues on to this day. That’s why Jesus is often depicted with the sun, and why the host in the center of a cross with a sun. Over at Jesus888, the author writes:

The early Christian Church eagerly promoted Jesus-Helios-Sol sun symbolism to appease the Roman emperor Constantine who was the high priest of Sol Invictus all through his reign. The sun symbolism continues to the present day on robes, banners, icons, behind the cross in a ray of light, flames coming from the heart of Jesus, etc. Priests even bow and kiss a monstrance which is a gold statue of the sun on a pedestal during processions.

What is interesting about the meaning behind the name of Elegabalus is that it is the very same attribute given to the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh. In Genesis 22:14, we read:

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

We also see Moses receive the Law from Yahweh in the form of a covenant between him and the nation of Israel on a mountain in Exodus 34. Earlier we see Yahweh descend his holy mountain Sinai in Exodus 19:18-22 in a very dramatic and manifest fashion:

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. “Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.”

It is interesting to see how Yahweh tells Moses to warn the ancient Hebrews about not gazing directly onto him, lest that they perish. This sounds very similar to sun-gazers who look at the sun too long, who fall into danger of being blinded. In other words, Yahweh can be compared to the Roman Sol Invictus, or Heliogabalus. Amazingly, this is exactly what the Pauline author is saying 2 Corinthians 3! The angelic inspired laws of Yahweh is called the “ministry of death” as opposed to the glorious, righteous, spiritual gospel of Jesus Christ that condemns it to death.

 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

In Mark S. Smith’s article on the worship of Yahweh, he writes how the ancient Israelites were likely polytheists, and that monotheistic devotion to Yahweh likely developed in later Judaism, Yahweh originally having been only one of many gods in the original Israelite pantheon. Could Yahweh not really have been the true creator God, as the Gnostics thought, but he wanted all the power and glory for himself, so he defied the original council of gods and whitewashed Judaism of all traces of other gods so that he alone would be worshiped? “I, the Lord, am a jealous god.” This would explain why all the other deities hate him and the Jews. It’s obvious from the first creation story that the Elohim was originally a pantheon of deities, not a singular entity, since Elohim is plural. Yahweh, then, would be some sort of rogue deity who wanted to usurp the divine hierarchy and steal the throne for himself, which would, ironically, equate him with Lucifer/Satan. This is exactly how the Gnostics saw it. Anyway…

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In The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, he writes how the name and utterance IAO, is the Hellenized form of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton.

Diodorus Siculus, when enumerating the different legislators of antiquity, says, “Amongst the Jews Moses pretended that the god surnamed Iao gave him his laws” (i. 94). And this is elucidated by the remark of Clemens Alexandrinus, that the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, or Mystic Name, is pronounced ΙΑΟϒ, and signifies “He that is and shall be.” Theodoret states that the same four letters were pronounced by the Samaritans as ΙΑΒΕ (Jave); by the Jews as ΙΑΩ. Jerome (upon Psalm viii. says, “The Name of the Lord” amongst the Hebrews is of four letters, Iod, He, Vau, He, which is properly the Name of God, and may be read as ΙΑΗΟ (Iaho) (that is in Latin characters), which is held by the Jews for unutterable.

IAO was also used by various Gnostic groups, including the Valentinians and the Ophites. Irenaeus reports that in Against Heresies (1:21) that the Gnostics invoked IAO in their rituals:

The name of restitution stands thus: Messia, Uphareg, Namempsœman, Chaldœaur, Mosomedœa, Acphranœ, Psaua, Jesus Nazaria. The interpretation of these words is as follows: I do not divide the Spirit of Christ, neither the heart nor the supercelestial power which is merciful; may I enjoy Your name, O Saviour of truth! Such are words of the initiators; but he who is initiated, replies, I am established, and I am redeemed; I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Iao, who redeemed his own soul into redemption in Christ who lives. Then the bystanders add these words, Peace be to all on whom this name rests. After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this ointment is a type of that sweet odour which is above all things.

Irenaeus also claimed that the Valentinians taught that the word IAO originated as an exclamation in the mouth of a power called “Horos” against the fallen Sophia in Against Heresies (1.4.1):

Having then obtained a form, along with intelligence, and being immediately deserted by that Logos who had been invisibly present with her— that is, by Christ — she strained herself to discover that light which had forsaken her, but could not effect her purpose, inasmuch as she was prevented by Horos. And as Horos thus obstructed her further progress, he exclaimed, Iao, whence, they say, this name Iao derived its origin. And when she could not pass by Horos on account of that passion in which she had been involved, and because she alone had been left without, she then resigned herself to every sort of that manifold and varied state of passion to which she was subject…

IAO is also one of the seven head-demons or archons in Ophite and Sethian cosmology. In the Apocryphon of John, it lists Iao as the fourth power of the seven cosmocrators: “…the fourth is Yao, he has a serpent’s face with seven heads…” And it is also a password and a name to command demons like how people may invoke Jesus Christ’s sacred name, in prayer or an exorcism rite, both of which were considered to be magical acts. Dr. M D Magee writes in Hellenistic Magic and Jesus—Jesus as Magician:

“In the name of Jesus” is a magical formula based on the magical power of names. Its use in Christian baptism is not merely symbolic of the power of God but is meant to confer magical power to the baptized person. It pervades the person with the power of the name that would drive out all rival powers, an example of the very name beliefs found in all parts of the ancient world when Christianity was being formed.

The seven vowels were considered magical and magical texts often have names consisting of strings of combinations of vowels. Yehouah is a string of vowels.

We also see Jesus Christ himself invoke IAO in the Pistis Sophia (V. 142) and the Second Book of Jeu (45, 46, and 47) in a prayer ritual asking his heavenly father to forgive and blot out the sins of his disciples so that they may be worthy of the Kingdom of God and the “Treasury of Light.” Celsus in the True Doctrine as quoted and refuted by Origen in Contra Celsus states that this Iao is also an archon:

They next imagine that he who has passed through Ialdabaoth and arrived at Iao ought thus to speak: “Thou, O second Iao, who shinest by night, who art the ruler of the secret mysteries of son and father, first prince of death, and portion of the innocent, bearing now mine own beard as symbol, I am ready to pass through thy realm, having strengthened him who is born of thee by the living word. Grace be with me; father, let it be with me.”

Although Celsus does take plenty of pot-shots against the Christians (whom he equates with the Ophites without a second thought) as well as the Jews who “worship angels, and are addicted to sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor,” he surprisingly has great admiration for YHWH and condemns the Ophites for their blasphemy and cursing against him.

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! When you feel the force of such considerations, indeed, you acknowledge that you worship the same God; but when your teacher Jesus and the Jewish Moses give contradictory decisions, you seek another God, instead of him, and the Father!

Returning to Charles William King’s research on IAO, he writes how the Neoplatonists and various pagan mystery religions go to great lengths to lie about their sacred mysteries:

Macrobius (Sat. i. 18), whilst labouring to prove that the Sun-worship was in truth the sole religion of Paganism, under whatever name it was disguised, gives a notice very much to our purpose. The Apollo of Claros, when consulted as to the true nature of the god called Ἰαὸς, gave the following response:–

“The sacred things ye learn, to none disclose,
A little falsehood much discretion shows;
Regard Iaos as supreme above,
In winter Pluto, in spring’s opening Jove,
Phœbus through blazing summer rules the day,
Whilst autumn owns the mild Iaos sway.” Here we find Iao expressly recognised as the title of the Supreme God whose physical representative is the Sun. Again we have Dionysos or Bacchus added to the list by Orpheus, who sings

“Jove, Pluto, Phœbus, Bacchus, all are One.”

In other words, those who worship the sun, also worship Iao, and also worship the Demiurge, the true object of adoration in their mysteries. Many of the pagan mystery cults directed worship and sacrifice to this god. No Gnostic would ever be caught dead worshiping the sun because solar worship is ultimately worshiping the representation of the Demiurge. As we’ve seen many claimed that the sun is the son of god and that the sun to us is God in physical form. But isn’t this type of star/planet-worship the very thing that Paul and the Gnostics said was the great deception?

“How is it that you worship the elements of the world? You observe days, months, seasons, and years! I am afraid that I have labored for you in vain.” (Galatians 4).

Indeed, this is what the the ancients did by conflating Dionysus as merely one face of the solar Demiurge.

That Iaos was recognised by the Greeks as an epithet for the Sun in the autumnal quarter has been shown from Macrobius. The philosophical interpreters of the ancient mythology discovered in Dionysos also a mere type of the same luminary. “One is Zeus, Hades, Helios, and Dionysos.”

The Hymns to Orpheus also include one specific hymn to Helios as well. The Mithras Liturgy sings many praises to Helios and specifically asks the initiate to alter their consciousness so that they may rise with Helios in solar rapture resembling the mysticism of meditative practices designed to create a vehicle/body of “light,” we see in Tantra and the Kabbalah, a tradition that made its way into 19th Century Western occultism in a diluted form, specifically in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

I, _______ whose mother is _______ according to the immutable decree of god, EYE YIA EEI AO EIAY IYA IEO! Since it is impossible for me, born (530) mortal, to rise with the golden brightnesses of the immortal brilliance, OEY AEO EYA EOE YAE 5IAE, stand, O perishable nature of mortals, and at once me safe and sound after the inexorable and pressing (535) need. For I am the son PSYCHO[N] DEMOY PROCHO PROA, I am MACHARPH[.]N MOY PROPSYCHON PROE!”

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 gods8 rising into heaven, and others setting.

“Hail, O Lord, Great Power, Great Might, (640) King, Greatest of gods, Helios, the Lord of heaven and earth, God of gods: mighty is your breath; mighty is your strength, O Lord. If it be your will, announce me to the supreme god, the one who has begotten and made you…

The late Acharya S/D.M. Murdock confirms all this in her book Did Moses Exist? when she points out that the god of the Hebrews may be the same as Bacchus and Iao:

As noted, “Sabaoth” may be related to “Sabeus,” which in turn is an epithet of Dionysus, who is also equated with Iao by Marcobius. Thus, Yahweh is Iao is Bacchus, and all are the sun.

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When it comes to Hecate/Hekate, she too exhibits solar characteristics, in the form of the cthonic, black sun as the Queen of the underworld and hell. She also corresponds with the symbols of the moon, the World Soul and the waters of the abyss. Here is what Eusebius has to say about her in Praeparatio Evangelica:

‘The symbols of Hecate are wax of three colours, white and black and red combined, having a figure of Hecate bearing a scourge, and torch, and sword, with a serpent to be coiled round her; and the symbols of Uranus are the mariners’ stars nailed up before the doors. For these symbols the gods themselves have indicated in the following verses. The speaker is Pan:

“Evil spirits drive afar:
Then upon the fire set wax
Gleaming fair with colours three,
White and black must mingle there
With the glowing embers’ red,
Terror to the dogs of hell.
Then let Hecate’s dread form
Hold in her hand a blazing torch,
And the avenging sword of fate;
While closely round the goddess wrapp’d
A snake fast holds her in his coils,
And wreathes about her awful brow.
Let the shining key be there,
And the far-resounding scourge,
Symbol of the daemons’ power.”‘

In the Chaldean Oracles, it sets out a long, drawn out cosmology that begins with the Paternal Monad called the “Mind of the Eternal Father, that splits off into a duad, and eventually into a triad, similar to the idea of the Trinity. The triad projects the “first Course” as being sacred and even calls it “the Matrix containing all things. Thence abundantly springs forth the Generation of multivarious Matter. Thence extracted a prester the flower of glowing fire.” Hecate is also considered a projection of the Father and is called the “the Operatrix, because she is the Dispensatrix of Life-giving fire. Because also it fills the Life producing bosome of Hecate.” John Turner in The Setting of the Platonizing Treatises writes about Hecate’s role in the Chaldean Oracles and how it is very similar to that of Barbelo, the Sethian version of Sophia.

The Oracles feature a feminine principle of life named Hecate, said to be a sort of diaphragm or membrane, the “center between the two Fathers” (frg. 50 Majercik), which separates the “first and second fires” (frg. 6), i.e., the Father and the immediately subjacent paternal Intellect.39 Hecate has a dual position: On the one hand, she is the source of variegated matter, generated by the Father as the womb that receives his lightening (the ideas), “the girdling bloom of fire and the powerful breath beyond the fiery poles” (frg. 35). On the other hand, she is the lifeproducing fount (frgs. 30 and 32; cf. frgs. 96, 136 [zwvsh/ dunavmei]) from whose right side flows the World Soul (frg. 51), while her left side retains the source of virtue. Upon her back, the emblem of the moon (her traditional symbol) represents boundless Nature, and her serpentine hair represents the Father’s winding noetic fire (frgs. 50–55). In her alternate designation as Rhea, she is said to be the source of the intellectuals (novera), whose generation she has received in her ineffable womb and upon whom she pours forth the vivifying fire (frgs. 32, 56); as zw/ogovno” qeav, she is the source of life, a veritable mother of the all. Hecate is also conceived as the Womb within which all things are sown and contained, much like Plato’s Receptacle,40 and therefore seems to play a role similar to that of Plotinus’s intelligible matter or trace of unbounded Life emitted from One to become bounded Intellect, not to mention the Sethian Mother Barbelo, the “Womb of the All” (Ap. John II 5,5; Trim. Prot. XIII 38,15; 45,6) who pours forth “Living Water.”

So could it be that Hecate is merely a stand-in for Sophia or Barbelo? It sure seems that way. It also seems as though the authors of the Chaldean Oracles was deliberately rewriting the Gnostic cosmological myth for another audience in competition against the earlier Gnostic sects. Hecate is also a patron goddess that practitioners of the Greek Magical Papryi pay homage to as well. Chaldean theurgy greatly inspired Iamblichus in many ways, so in a way, he himself indirectly draws inspiration from the much earlier Gnostics, despite his not so apparent solar worship of the pagan mystery cults, including that of Jews. Ezekiel 8, however, seems to condemn secret sun worship but that is another story altogether. When one falls deep enough into the thuergical rabbit hole, who knows what interesting bread-trail of gnosis one may find and follow.

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

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Daimonic Doubles Revisited

The concept of the “twin” or even “divine twin” is a common one that also appears in antiquity. This is a notion that a person has within a transcendent dimension, or a “heavenly counterpart”, or what in various modern magical “secret” orders call the “Holy Guardian Angel”. This being is analogous to the “daimonic”, “Eidolon” double of Greek and Platonic literature. The twin concept can also be seen in the dichotomy between Simon Magus and Paul, Simon Magus with Peter in the Clementine literature, as well as the struggle between Paul and Peter in the epistles. Even in the Old Testament, we have Cain who slays Abel which echo the Roman-Sabine legends of Romulus and Remus, Egyptian ones like Osiris and Set, the astrological sign of Gemini, as well as the Greek Castor and Pollux.

In a way, we can see this in Paul’s letters when he speaks of “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” in Galatians 2:20. This indicates that a spirit being called “Christ” had possessed Paul, after his conversion. The old ego of Paul was removed as a new, higher ego emerged, whose vital principle is Christ Himself. In the Acts of John 55, an unnamed elder approaches John and, after a brief discussion, states,

“Now I know that God dwells in you, O blessed John! For he who tempts you tempts the one who cannot be tempted.”

This is more pronounced in the Gospel of Thomas, where the apostle Judas Thomas, is said to have been the “twin” (Didymus) of Christ. Is it to be assumed that if any of Christ’s disciples were to truly grasp his teachings, who would be a more likely candidate than his own twin? Much of the Gospel of Thomas that would have invoked great displeasure from the Church Fathers, with lines like:

“I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”

Such statements indicate a sort of panspermatic type of panetheism, similiar to what is found in Manichaean texts of the countless, innumerable light sparks of the First Man who would battle against the primeval forces of Darkness. These light sparks were said to be interspersed throughout the wicked cosmos, much like how it is described in ancient Orphic texts with Zeus exacting revenge against the murderous Titans who tore and consumed the body and limbs of Dionysus. Both of these cosmological stories echo the ancient Egyptian myths of Osiris depicted as a divided god, murdered and torn apart by his brother Set, the god of storms and foreigners, only to be restored again by his consort Isis. In this instance, we find the primordial, violent origins of mankind and his conflicted nature: one being the divine Dionysus, and the infernal Titanic elements being his flesh.

“(The Lord), talking to me, said: I am thee, and thou art Me; wherever thou art, there I am. I am sown everywhere” (Gospel of Eve, Erbetta, p. 537 – Bibliogaphy).

The words “sown everywhere” of the latter quotation is very important, for it corresponds to a fundamental Valentinian teaching. Each soul’s substance comes from Sophia, but its living Center, the Spirit, is a fragment, as it were, of the very Life of the Son as Christ. This fragment is called either “Spark” or “Seed”.

“After the psychical body had been formed, a male Seed was placed by the Logos in the chosen sleeping soul. That Seed is an outflow of the Angelic Being, so that there would be no Lack (Hystérëma).” (ExTh 2: 1).

In any case, the rest of the Gospel of Thomas is just as enigmatic if not down right bizarre, even for Biblical standards (and there is certainly weirdness abound in the traditional canon).

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

Clearly, Jesus is invoking alchemical and Hermetic language in the context of an initiatory process of Gnosis. We also saw this language used in the Gospel of Philip as I quoted in my previous article. This process is clearly internal, without the need or aid of outside churches, priests, or prayers for forgiveness (not that the concept of repentance is non-existent in Gnostic literature as it most certainly is). Let us cross compare with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, as legend has it was found or even written by the great magician and healer Apollonius of Tyana (we will get to him in another post):

It is true without lie, certain and most true. What is Below is like that which is Above. And that which is Above, like that which is Below, serve to bring the wonder of the Universe into existence. And as all things originate from One thing, from the Idea of One Mind: so do all created things originate from this One thing through adaptation. Its father is the Sun, its mother the Moon.

The Wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the Earth. It is the father of all existing things in the entire Universe. Its inherent virtue is perfected when it is changed into Earth. Separate the Earth from the Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, repeatedly with great skillfulness. It rises from Earth to Heaven, and falls back down again to Earth, thereby containing within itself the powers of both the Above and the Below. Thus will you obtain the glory of the entire Universe. Every darkness will leave you. This is the greatest strength of all, because it conquers every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing. In this way, was the universe created. From this proceeds wonders, of which herewith is an example. Therefore, I am called the three-times glorified Hermes, because I possess all three parts of true understanding of the whole Universe. What I have had to say about the operation of the Sun is completed.

What is amusing to see is how not only does Jesus and Hermes seem to be espousing the exact same doctrine but in that Christ is being somewhat more explicit in his use of Hermetic language than even old Hermes himself, the spiritual father of the alchemical and occult arts and sciences. What is quoted above reads very similar elsewhere in Thomas, such as “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war,” and this one, “I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I’m guarding it until it blazes.” All of this sounds a lot like what Hermes describes as “Separate the Earth from the Fire, the Subtle from the Gross, repeatedly with great skillfulness”. Judas Thomas even goes as far to say that, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.” Strong words! The death that is being emphasized here is spiritual death i.e. ignorance or what the Gospel of Truth calls “oblivion”.

Another source for the divine twin is in Manichaean literature, wherein it is said that the prophet Mani was twice visited by his divine twin, heavenly companion or counterpart called Jesus the Light, echoing the divine double sentiments expressed on the Gospel of Thomas. In the Cologne Mani-Codex, Mani tells us this life-changing experience when he meets his divine double:

“…guarded by the might of the Light-angels and the exceedingly strong powers, who had a command from Jesus the Splendour for my safekeeping…They nourished me with visions and signs which they made known to me, slight and quite brief, as far as I was able. For somethings like a flash of lightening he came…”

This being who came to Mani like a “flash of lightening”, he regarded as a manifestation of his own higher identity and often referred to as his “Light-Self” and his al-Taum, “the Twin”. When Mani was 12 years old the Twin appeared to him in a vision and informed him that he was to be responsible for transmitting a great teaching to mankind. In order to do this, he would have to leave the Elchasaitans, a Jewish-Christian sect he was once a part of. All of these sources seem to carry down a tradition, or at least echo the secret doctrine of Christ taught to his inner circle of disciples. Henry Corbin, in The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, writes about the “divine twin” in the context of Manichaean, Islamic and even Medieval Cathar concepts:

“…the heavenly Partner (qarin) or Twin (taw’am) is the dominant figure in the prophetology and soteriology of Manicheism. It is the angel who appears to Mani when he is twenty-four years old and announces that it is time for him to manifest himself and bid men hear his doctrine. “Greetings to you, Mani, from myself and from the lord who sent me to you.” The last words of the dying Mani alluded to this: “I contemplated my Double with my eyes of light.” Later, in their psalms, his community sing: “We bless your partner-Companion of light, Christ, the source of our good.”

Mani, like Thomas in those same Acts which include the Song of the Pearl, has Christos Angelos as his heavenly Twin, who informs him of his vocation, just as the prophet Mohammed was to receive the revelation from the Angel Gabriel (and the identification Christos-Gabriel is by no means unknown in gnosis.) Now, Christos Angelos is the same in relation to Mani (in eastern Manicheism the Virgin of light is substituted for Christos Angelos), as is the taw’am, the “Heavenly Twin,” in relation to each of the Elect respectively and individually.

It is the Form of light which the Elect receive when they enter the Manichean community through the act of solemn renunciation of the powers of this world. At the passing away of one of the Elect, a psalm is sung in praise of “thy heavenly Partner who faileth not.” In Catharism it is he who is called the Spiritus sanctus or angelicus of the particular soul, as carefully distinguished from the Spiritus principalis, the Holy Spirit referred to in invoking the three persons named in the Trinity.”

Much like Thomas being the twin of Jesus, Hermes was the Greek personification of Djehuti or Thoth; here we see an older order of things taking on a new raiment but underneath the same old meanings. Thoth was one of the earlier Egyptian gods, thought to be scribe to the gods, who kept a great library of scrolls, over which one of his wives, Seshat (the goddess of writing) was thought to be mistress. He was associated by the Egyptians with speech, literature, arts, learning. Even the very word “thought” comes from the name Thoth. He, too, was a measurer and recorder of time, as was Seshat, the female counterpart to Thoth.

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Believed to be the author of the spells in the Book of the Dead, he was a helper (and punisher) of the deceased as they try to enter the underworld. In this role, his wife was Ma’at, the personification of order, who was weighed against the heart of the dead to see if they followed Ma’at during their life. It is interesting that the word “Ma’at” is the Egyptian equivalent to wisdom or philosophy. Thus “Philo” is related to feelings of love while “Sophia” is also wisdom thus we have “Philosophy” which actually means the “Study of the love of Ma’at”. The word “matrix” comes from Ma’at (the feminine principle, synonymous with Isis, the progenitor of life) Ra (the Egyptian sun god) X (Roman numeral ten) as well as “mother” and “womb”. To see through the Matrix is to be born again (using Johannine language), to be given a rebirth from darkness to light.

Also, Ma’at derives from Mu’at, which means “to direct, to steer, to give direction; to offer, or sacrifice.” Ma’at is basically the personification of self-initiation although, she herself has little personality and is ore of an abstract ideal. Thoth was also the one who made calculations concerning the heavens, the stars and the earth; the “reckoner of times and seasons”, the one who “measured out the heavens and planned the earth.” He was also the scribe to the company of the gods and was considered the voice of Ra, much like how Enoch-Metatron was considered to be the voice of “God”, or the second or “little” YHWH in the apocryphal Enochic literature. Metatron is also called “co-occupant of the Throne” and in 2 Enoch 44:5:

I have arranged the whole year. And from the year I calculated the months, and from the months I have ticked off the days, and from the day I have ticked off the hours. I, I have measured and noted the hours. And I have distinguished every seed on the earth, and every measure and every righteous scale. I have measured and recorded them.

Thoth was not just a scribe and friend to the gods, but central to order—Ma’at—both in Egypt and in the Duat. He is described in the texts as:

“Self-created, he to whom none hath given birth; the One; he who reckons in heaven, the counter of the stars; the enumerator and measurer of the earth [cosmic space] and all that is contained therein: the heart of Ra cometh forth in the form of the god Tehuti.”

Thoth, here, represents the heart and tongue of Ra, reason and the mental powers of the god and the utterer of speech. Thoth also resembles the Gnostic Aeons like Autogenes, in how they are “thought” of as “self-generated”. This is why Paul in Acts 12:14 is called Hermes, “because he was the chief speaker.” It has been suggested that Thoth is thus the equivalent of the Platonic Logos. Many are his epithets: his best known being “thrice greatest”—in later times becoming Hermes Trismegistus as mentioned by the Emerald Tablets of Hermes.

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The title “thrice great” or “three times blessed” recalls the concept of the Trinity, and even the doctrine of the three natures. The three natures doctrine was regularly espoused by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 and Paul in his epistles. Simon Magus is called the “Great Power of God” in Acts 8:9 and is said to be the author of the Great Announcement as quoted by Hippolytus in the Philosophumena or Refutation of All Heresies. Later Gnostic literature like The Three Steles of Seth and the Trimorphic Protennoia otherwise known as The Three Forms of Forethought use this title many times. Even in Hindu literature, does the three natures doctrine appears in the form of the “sattvas”, “rajas” and “tamas” as explained in the Bhagavad Gita.

Thoth is the inner spiritual recorder of the human constitution, who registers and records the karmic experiences and foretells the future destiny of the deceased, showing that each person is judged by himself– for Thoth here is the person’s own higher ego; as regards cosmic space, Thoth is not only the cosmic Logos, but its aspect as the intelligent creative urge inherent in that Intelligence. Since Thoth was the god of wisdom, and espoused knowledge along with wisdom, this moon deity was balanced. When one dispenses knowledge without the wisdom of speaking at appropriate times, they are considered a blabber mouth. Patience is born out from wisdom. With the application of wisdom and self control, we learn to not to be bedazzled or blinded by this new found light of knowledge and learn to discern what his helpful to our growth and what is merely entertaining. This is when consciousness begins to expand. With wisdom, one can seek to counsel with both the ignorant and the learned just as Jesus did with those considered as the “dregs” of society, such as prostitutes, the blind, the lame and even lepers in the Gospels.

Sitting at the base of the spine is the reptilian brain or what scientists today identify as the R-Complex. It is the part of us that deals fight or flight, fear, aggression and survival of the fittest. Thoth was associated with the bird Ibis; thus the wisdom of the Ibis swallows up the reptile and wisdom over powers aggression and knows when to strike. Thoth is considered the hand and voice of “God” and a counselor of the divinities. The word “Yod” from the Kabbalah (which means to receive) is the Hebrew word for “hand”. The Yod is also the letter for the number ten associated with the Jewish deity Yahweh or in the Chaldean and Gnostic variant IAO.

IAO, accordingly, is not prayed to as a personal god, but more often wielded as a quasi-supernatural force—through the pronunciation of the name itself in magical operations. These operations are described in great detail by the PGM or the Greek Magical Papyri. Hermetic magicians invoked IAO simply because he was supposed to be “god of this world”—the creative Demiurge (also according to the Gnostics!)—who was therefore highly potent in workings designed to cause changes in material  reality, in this world—the Kingdom of Matter. The meaning of IAO is incompatible, however, with the orthodox understanding of Yahweh, who were more interested in appeasing this god’s demands than becoming one. By invoking IAO, one could help ensure that things being willed become manifest in the objective universe as a matter of “natural course”because it is being channeled through the universal creative framework presented as IAO. IAO was also used as sort of a “password” to ascend through the planetary spheres of the cosmic rulers. IAO was also associated with benevolent Archons like Abraxas and Sabaoth. On example can be see in the PGM III. 75-80, where it states:

“I conjure you, the powerful and mighty angel of this animal in this place; rouse yourself for me, and perform the NN [deed] both on this very day and in every hour and day; rouse yourself I for me against my enemies, NN, and perform deed” (add the usual), “for I conjure you S~TH by IAO SABAOTH, and by the great god, IAEO” (formula), “AEBIOY~ ~YOIEEA CHABRAX PHNESKER PHIKO PHNYRO PHCHO BbCH / ABLANATHANALBA

The ancient Phoenicians depicted the number ten as the head of the Ibis. This is where we get the “Ten Commandments”, the laws of the Torah, supposedly written by Moses. The Law of Moses also has many strong parallels to that of Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead, where it states the dead must face 42 judges and must answer 42 questions:

Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . . I have not reviled the God. I have not laid violent hands on an orphan. I have not done what the God abominates . . . I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer. I have not caused anyone’s suffering . . . I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste. I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields. I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance. I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage… I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water. I have not quenched a fire in its time . . . I have not kept cattle away from the God’s property. I have not blocked the God at his processions.

The voice of God as we found out earlier is known as Metatron in the 1 Enoch and Kabbalistic sources. Enoch-Metatron also have strong parallels with Hermes-Thoth as well. Most importantly, Thoth was a clerk of the Halls of Judgment and named a means for it called the Scales of Thoth, where the heart of the initiate is weighed against a feather “of Truth” to find how truly “heavy or light” it is.

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It is Thoth who equips the dead with efficacious means of protection against the dangers of the Beyond. When the dead has to enter into the presence of the Great Tribunal of the gods, Thoth leads him in, makes pleading for him with the Judges, weighs his heart in the scales against the feather of Ma’at, and, in the end, records the verdict. The details of all this ritual and ceremonial are familiar in the literature of the Book of the Dead: What Thoth once did for Osiris, the same must he do for every dead Egyptian since the Osirian ritual was the standard and guide for all funerary ritual in Egypt. The priests who took part in funerary celebrations regarded themselves as incorporation’s of the Osirian gods. The Book of the Dead make several allusions to mortals achieving immortality or divinity through theurgy and funerary magical ritual. Osiris, the divided and resurrected god of the underworld is also portrayed as one of these judges of the afterlife.

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Asclepius Absconded

As we’ve seen in Part 1, Hermes was just as legendary as the Simon Magus of the Clementine writings and the apocryphal Acts. One very Hermetic text, Asclepius seems to anticipate this comparison:

And so, Asclepius, what a great miracle is man, a being worthy of reverence and honor. For he passes into the nature of a god as though he were himself divine; he is intimate with the order of daemons, knowing that he is sprung from the same origin; he despises that part of his nature which is human, for his hope is in the divinity of the other part.

Asclepius, as we know from previous articles was also often considered synonymous with Jesus in the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Nicodemus. Like Asclepius, Christ was the Son of God and of a mortal woman. The details surrounding Christ’s birth also resemble the birth saga of the divine Asclepius. Both figures walked the earth as mortals. And both gained a reputation of being healers. Furthermore, both healers were killed and resurrected to divine status. In the case of Asclepius, he was so successful in his healings and resurrections on people like Hippolytus that this caught the attention of gods like Zeus, who expressly forbidden the act of healing. Zeus struck Asclepius with a thunderbolt, killing him instantly. The Latin Church Father Tertulllian cites the lyric poet Pindar in Apology, Chapter 14, and comments that Asclepius,

“deservedly stricken with lightning for his greed in practicing wrongfully his art. A wicked deed it was of Jupiter–if he hurled the bolt–unnatural to his grandson, and exhibiting envious feeling to the Physician.”

Another version of his death holds that Hades became angry at Asclepius because he kept bringing back people from the dead. The lord of the Underworld believed that no more dead spirits would venture to his realm, and thus asked his brother Zeus to dispose of him. Because of this Apollo became so furious at Zeus’ actions that he killed Cyclops, the one eyed monster who made lightening for Zeus. Because of this Zeus banished Apollo out from Mount Olympus but later allowed Asclepius to enter back into the divine realm. And Asclepius was also resurrected and allowed back into the realm of the gods and all was well on Mount Olympus. In another variation of the story, Zeus was also alleged to have placed the body of Asclepius among the stars following his death, as the constellation called Ophiuchus, which translates to “The Serpent Holder.”

Engraving by Sir James Thornhill

This “Serpent Holder” sounds very close to what John 3:14 says about the “Son of Man”:

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

The speculations concerning the Christian Trinity were dangerously close to the speculations about Asclepius, who was third from Zeus, the second being Apollo. The syncretic god Serapis was also considered synonymous with Asclepius and was even depicted as a snake, with the head recognizable as Serapis. Serapis was also associated with Osiris, Isis and Harpocrates. Could these references of Jesus and Moses being connected to serpents also reflect that they may also be associated with the Serpent in Genesis and the Garden of Eden? Furthermore, could the Gnostic-Ophite and Manichaean speculations of the Serpent being sent by Sophia or even Jesus “the Splendor” be based in scripture and not just in speculative inverted fancy? There are paintings, sculptures and vase etchings that depict the eleventh labor penance for the demigod Hercules, who stands next to a tree with a serpent named Ladon, guarding the golden apples of immortality, in the Garden of Hesperidies, tended by maidens and nymphs. This recalls the stories of Genesis 3 and even Gilgamesh, both of which include the legendary search for immortality associated with a serpent.

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This also has strong applications to the Caduceus, the twin snake staff of Hermes. This also relates to Agathosdaimon, the “good spirit of abundance” and Tyche Agathe, the first of which was associated with the Orphic Deity Phanes Protogenos. Agathosdaimon was also portrayed as a serpent in coins, monuments, figurines, reliefs, lamps, etc.

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Glykon was also depicted as a serpent with a human-like face. In the writings of the satirist Lucian (Alexander the False Prophet 24), we see the con-man Pseudo-Alexander, who claimed that the made up serpent god, Glykon was a reincarnation of Asclepius! This, of course, was a parody of Agathosdaimon, Asclepius as well as Serapis. Glykon could may also be a parody of the lion-headed serpent, Ialdabaoth.

By now he was even sending men abroad to create rumours in the different nations in regard to the oracle and to say that he made predictions, discovered fugitive slaves, detected thieves and robbers, caused treasures to be dug up, healed the sick, and in some cases had actually raised the dead.

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The emperor Julian the “Apostate” or Philosopher (Roman Emperor 361-363 and half-brother of Emperor Constantine the Great!), although raised a Christian, eventually saw Christianity as a betrayal of the Greco-Roman tradition and desired a return to traditional forms of worship, upon his ascent to power. Moreover, his attempts to compete with Jesus Christ, was somewhat frustrated. Julian attempted to use Helios, or Sol Invictus against Jesus of the Christians but it didn’t really pan out. Julian in the Heroic Deeds of Constantius, 59B, writes about the role of the Emperor:

For law is the child of justice, the sacred and truly divine adjunct of the most might god, and never will the man who is wise make light of it or set it at naught. But since all that he does will have justice in view, he will be eager to honor the good, and the vicious he will, like a good physician, make every effort to cure.

In this likening himself to a physician, he may not have intentionally recalled Asclepius, Julian was relatively unpopular, especially with the Christians. By employing a figure like Asclepius, a benevolent and universally loved healing figure of the pagans, Julian found a suitable rival to that of Jesus Christ. Celsus in Contra Celsus by Origen, provided a similar polemic against the Christians, like Julian, who believed the Christian religion destroyed the foundation of Greco-Roman tradition and culture. Julian like Celsus argued against the Christians and that of Christ’s miracles in which he regarded as inferior and the work of a low-class magician, no better than the phony charlatan religion ascribed to Glykon and his prophet, Alexander.

So Julian mocked the Christians for being duped into a false faith by a charlatan healer. His criticisms against the Christians are, interestingly enough, very similiar how the Church Fathers campaigned against the heretics being the Gnostics and other groups. And yet, Julian also had some very “Gnostic” views himself in his criticisms of Biblical theology. By calling Christians “Galileans”, he refused to acknowledge their name, and belittled Christianity as a mere localized, regional cult as stated in Against the Galileans, eventually recovered by the Christian Bishop, Cyril of Alexandria in the fifth-century in his refutation, Against Julian. Even after hundreds of years had passed from the time of Julian’s death, Cyril felt that it was necessary to refute the claims of Julian. In Against the Galileans, 375, 61, Julian writes about Asclepius as being superior over Christ and the doctrines of the Christians:

Asclepius, having made his visitation to earth from the sky, appeared at Epidaurus singly, in the shape of a man; but afterwards he multiplied himself, and by his visitations stretched out over the whole earth his saving right hand. He came to Pergamon, to Ionia, to Tarentum afterwards; and later he came to Rome. And he travelled to Cos and thence to Aegae. Next he is present everywhere on land and sea. He visits no one of us separately, and yet he raises up souls that are sinful and bodies that are sick.

Celsus makes a biting critique of the Christian doctrine of Jesus or the “Word being made flesh” and also strangely mirrors of Julian’s remarks of Asclepius “multiplying himself” to “raise up souls that are sinful and bodies that are sick”.

Again, if God, like Jupiter in the comedy, should, on awaking from a lengthened slumber, desire to rescue the human race from evil, why did he send this Spirit of which you speak into one corner of the earth? He ought to have breathed it alike into many bodies, and have sent them out into all the world. Now the comic poet, to cause laughter in the theatre, wrote that Jupiter, after awakening, despatched Mercury to the Athenians and Lacedaemonians; but do not you think that you have made the son of God more ridiculous in sending him to the Jews?

Celsus also describes the ancient Christian cult as a diabolic secret society made up of sorcerers!

It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of miraculous power. And it was by means of sorcery that Jesus was able to accomplish the wonders which he performed; and foreseeing that others would attain the same knowledge, and do the same things, making a boast of doing them by help of the power of God, he excludes such from his kingdom.

This is, of course, very similiar in how the Church Fathers like Ireneaus in Against Heresies, describe Gnostic heretics like Simon Magus, Marcus the Magician, and Carpocrates, who were all said to use love charms, familiar spirits, demons, and dream-senders. All were different classes of daemon. Hippolytus repeats the claims about Simon Magus in his 6th book in Refutation of All Heresies. Origen even accused the Persian Magi of using familiars as well. By the Middle Ages, witches were accused of summoning demons to aid them in their practice of and skillful progression in magic ritual. Cunning folk were said to summon fairies to work for them. Some witches’ familiar spirits were animals as in ancient Greek tales. For the most part, the magicians would try to convince the power of a god to work for them, while the daimon would be something the magician would absorb and own at will. A daemon was seen as a demigod–an independent and immortal being, but not as powerful as the great gods of the official national cults. In Roman terminology an entity similar to the daimon was the genius–a familiar spirit inherited along genetic lines in the family or gens.

The genius in Roman culture was the soul of a person that guided their actions and dictated what they were good at or destined to do. There were good demons and bad demons. The good was the “noble spirit” or agathosdaimon as mentioned earlier, and the bad was a “malevolent spirit” or kakodaimon. As far back as we can trace in Greek mythology, the daimon was a good force while the keres is the early form of the kakodaimon, which flew out of Pandora’s box. For Plato and Socrates, the daemons were the spirits of Atlantis.

In Hesiod’s Five Ages as found in Works and Days, he lists the ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze, Hero and Iron (our present age). In the Golden Age ruled over by Cronos or Saturn, good and beautiful humans and gods mingled together freely without a care in the world. When men died (although they did not age and maintained youthful appearances), their spirits became “guardians”. Plato in Cratylus 398a, says that these wise daimons are:

“…called holy spirits under the earth, noble, averters of evil, guardians of mortal men.”

In the Symposium, the wise priestess, Diotima tells Socrates that the daemon acts as an intermediary between gods and men, existing in an intermediate state or nature. This is like Hermes, the messenger of the gods, or Thoth. In Dionysian rituals, wine was drunk in propitiation ceremonies much like the Eucharist, to the genius of the dead. In the fictional best selling trilogy His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, daemons are undoubtedly an element which make his story leap off the page and stick with its readers. In the story, everyone has a daemon. They are the person’s soul in animal form, a shape-shifting companion who eventually settles into one form to symbolically represent their personality.

In Germany, the doppelganger was said to be the harbinger of death and the double of a person. In ancient Egypt, the Ka or “Twin Soul” was much like the genius or double. The Jews saw this as idol worship and when the LXX was translated from Hebrew in to Greek, the word for idol was changed to demon. The Jews thought that men were being worshiped when in fact, men were revering the inner divinity that was in them but outside and separate from them. This same concept appears in the Gospels of Luke and Thomas when Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God being inside of us and in the Gospel of John and the Psalms of David when it says, “ye are gods”.

The Gospel stories and the accusations against Simon Magus bear many of the stamps of the Apology of Socrates in which Socrates is accused by Meletus of being a corrupter of the youth and teaching men to follow spirits and demigods rather than the Olympians. Jesus is made into a bastard son of God and Simon a corrupter of Justa’s adopted sons Aquila and Nicetas in the Clementine Homilies. Jesus like Simon is accused of being a Samaritan possessed by a daemon! Socrates tells Cratylus:

“And I say too, that every wise man who happens to be a good man is more than human (daimonion) both in life and death, and is rightly called a demon.” (Plato, Cratylus)

As time wore on, the demon took on negative connotations in 4th century Christianity as well as early Islam. The Satan or Jinn figure was a fiery demon that one made a bargain with in order to receive a certain desire or wish and gave up their soul (genius?) in the process. Plato speaks of the daemon of Socrates in the Symposium, Phaedrus, Cratylus, and the Apology of Socrates as a mostly positive figure that helped Socrates with mundane things. Hesiod and Homer spoke of the daimon as well. Even the books of Judges and Kings in the Bible have a familiar spirit of Samuel which is not a ghost either.

The agathosdaimon by the mid third century in the time of Origen and Tertullian, was now seen as the guardian angel and Simonians were accused of worshiping angels, which is the very thing they were actually against! These angels were associated with the stoicheia, or the elemental powers i.e. “four elements” that Paul warns against worshiping in Galations 4:3,9 and Colossians 2:8,20. In fact, Paul equated the Greek and Roman gods with these daimons, which he considered to be lesser and potentially malevolent beings of the lower realms of the cosmos (1 Corinthians 10:20). The first thing the converted Gentiles needed to do, according to Paul, was to stop worshiping these beings and stop participating in Greco-Roman sacrifice, which in itself was a hugely radical statement since sacrifice to the gods was such so intimately connected with everyday life!

Irenaeus associates these practices such as raising familiars with the art of exorcism, something Jesus is known to have done a lot of. The most famous of which was the raising of Lazarus of Bethany in the Gospel of John. In the Gospels there are about nine major exorcism incidents involving Jesus, and his disciples go on to perform the same miracles in Acts and in the Apocryphal Acts. The very act of exorcism was against Jewish custom and law. It was a Canaanite practice of the witch of Endor which Saul and the Israelites of the North also practiced.

Six of the nine exorcisms occur in both Mark and Luke, one only occurs in Matthew, one only in Luke, and one exclusively in Matthew and Mark. There are three resurrection events. One is found in the synoptics (Jairus’ daughter), one in Luke (man of Nain), and one in John 11:1-4 (Lazarus). Note that there are no exorcisms in John’s gospel oddly enough. The Jesus of the synoptics is much more of a miracle working magician as noted many times by the enemies of the Christians in Celsus and Julian. It seems to me that as time wore on magic (both theurgy and goetia) became more hated as women became more looked down upon in the church as testified by Tertullian’s views on women being the “gateway of the Devil”. After all, the greatest magic back then was that of child birth not that of walking on hot coals!

In any case, Asclepius’ life very much mirrors the story of Jesus. Asclepius was originally seen as a mortal. According to Homer, Asclepius was a man as well as a great physician. He dies, and appears again in dreams, and, according to some of his devotees, he is alive again! This is very similar in how the use of a “dream sender” working magic is in the Acts of the Apostles 18:9-11, when Jesus (“the Lord”) appears to Paul in his dream to instruct him. The same thing happens in the Gospel of Nicodemus when Jesus sends a dream to Pilate’s wife. And of course, Simon Magus and his followers were skilled in sending dreams to “whomever they wished”, as well. Asclepius becomes a god equal to Zeus, much like how Jesus ascends to heaven to be a god equal to that of his Heavenly Father. Justin Martyr takes notes of these parallels in 1 Apology 22:

“And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius.”

The similarities between the story of Ascelpius and the gospel about Jesus are thus undeniable. The promises of health and everlasting life to the Asclepian devotee is similar to the promise made by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. This rivalry between the Church Fathers like Justin Martyr and Origen and the pagan philosophers like Julian, Celsus and even Philostratus who wrote about the adventures of Apollonius, explains this tense relationship between the two sides, being Christianity and the ever fading paganism of Greco-Roman civilization.

Origen, in his very long winded criticism of Celsus’ refutation of Judaism and Christianity writes about all of these multiple, competing messiahs and saviors, in which Lucian was mocking in his own satirical writings with the figure of Alexander, the false prophet. Take your energy pills and vitamins because this is a dozy of a quote:

But, according to the Jew of Celsus, countless individuals will convict Jesus of falsehoods, alleging that those predictions which were spoken of him were intended of them. We are not aware, indeed, whether Celsus knew of any who, after coming into this world, and having desired to act as Jesus did, declared themselves to be also the sons of God, or the power of God. But since it is in the spirit of truth that we examine each passage, we shall mention that there was a certain Theudas among the Jews before the birth of Christ, who gave himself out as some great one, after whose death his deluded followers were completely dispersed. And after him, in the days of the census, when Jesus appears to have been born, one Judas, a Galilean, gathered around him many of the Jewish people, saying he was a wise man, and a teacher of certain new doctrines.

And when he also had paid the penalty of his rebellion, his doctrine was overturned, having taken hold of very few persons indeed, and these of the very humblest condition. And after the times of Jesus, Dositheus the Samaritan also wished to persuade the Samaritans that he was the Christ predicted by Moses; and he appears to have gained over some to his views. But it is not absurd, in quoting the extremely wise observation of that Gamaliel named in the book of Acts, to show how those persons above mentioned were strangers to the promise, being neither sons of God nor powers of God, whereas Christ Jesus was truly the Son of God. Now Gamaliel, in the passage referred to, said: If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought (as also did the designs of those men already mentioned after their death); but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow this doctrine, lest haply you be found even to fight against God. There was also Simon the Samaritan magician, who wished to draw away certain by his magical arts. And on that occasion he was successful…

In the next post, we will explore some interesting parallels between the life of Apollonius and that of Paul and Simon Magus. Stay tuned!

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.