Book Review: Icons of Power: Ritual Practices in Late Antiquity

Icons of Power: Ritual Practices in Late Antiquity. By Naomi Janowitz. Magic in History Series. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002. xxviii + 161 pp. 

In Icons of Power: Ritual Practices In Late Antiquity, the author Naomi Janowitz explores the rich and dazzling power of ritual magic and theurgy throughout the ancient world in Jewish, Christian and Greek practices. She isn’t concerned with magic in general terms, but with specific practices of ancient cults, secret societies, Jewish and Christian mystics and Hermetic alchemists throughout the book such as chanting of heavenly liturgies to the utterance of barbarous, holy names, to the manipulation of magical amulets and the transformation of metals. I will quote specific passages in the book that jump out for my attention. In the first chapter, she makes it clear why magical practices were used in the first place, in the Introduction:

Some of these rituals presumed a vast cosmos with dizzying layers of heavens full of entourges of angels–the higher and farther away from earth and matter, the better. In this multiheavened cosmology, a trip upward was a means for traversing the cosmos and gaining access to the upper regions where the deity dwelt. Escape was the goal, escape from the bonds of earthly existence and life in the body, including fate, decay, and death.

In the first chapter, “Late Antique Theories of Efficacy”, Naomi goes on to describe these rituals (p. 1):

Paradoxically, rituals that claim to reveal divinity on earth can look to outsiders as if their purpose is to manipulate that same divine power. The difference is in the eye of the beholder. Similarly, distinguishing between the work of an angel and a daimon, between the work of good forces and evil forces is a subtle, if not impossible, task. (I am using the word “daimon” and not “demon” to emphasize that in Late Antiquity these beings were not always evil.)

Throughout the first chapter, Naomi makes some succinct observations in that Christians, Jews and Pagans all criticized one another as being secret practitioners of magic, in one form or another — whether it be the Jewish practice of fasting, Sabbath observance or animal sacrifice, or in that Christians practiced sorcery and Gnostic doctrines in a quasi-Masonic fashion, as Celsus writes in the True Doctrine:

Of associations some are public, and these are in accordance with the laws; others, again, secret, and maintained in violation of the laws; of this latter sort is Christianity. The Christians teach and practice their favorite doctrines in secret. They do this to some purpose, seeing they escape the penalty of death which is imminent; similar dangers were encountered by such men as Socrates for the sake of philosophy. Their “love-feasts” had their origin in the common danger, and are more binding than any oaths.

Such “love-feasts” are also heavily influenced by the cults of Dionysus and surrounding rumors of rapacious wine-fueled orgies of sex, murder and mayhem as Livy in Roman History exposes like a tabloid journalist.

Moving on, her discussion of theurgy brings up points that I’ve made in my previous post that touches on Iamblichus and Pophyry, when she writes (p. 5):

Rituals, Iamblichus explains, do not always make sense to humans, even to insiders, but they do make sense to the gods. The gods send down instructions to complete certain actions that look strange to humans but that “perfect” humans. These acts provide what the dialecticians lack in their investigation of divinity.

In her discussion of Iamblichus’s and Pophyry’s different stances on theurgy, she reveals that Iamblichus has much more negative view on such practices such as animating statues, earthly sympathies, idolatry and divination, which reveals his as Janowitz puts it “philosophical snobbery.” These are all merely human sciences while theurgy is not, but a “divine science.” This, I might add, is the same as Gnostic knowledge.

Janowitz also discusses Saint Augustine’s views on theurgy, which is the typical orthodox reaction against all forms of pagan “magic.” The orthodox believe that all magic, Right Hand Path or Left Hand Path, thaumaturgic or theurgic, is evil, because it relies on knowledge and the individual will rather than faith and God’s will. Theurgy for Augustine, is nothing but a clever con game of lying demons and attacks the heart of pagan ritual practice. Janowitz reveals that other Christian theologians like John Chrysostom advocated Christian rituals with words and prayers only.

Some magicians like Apollonius of Tyana did not even need prayers, sacrifices or even words to perform miracles, much like Jesus Christ, who relied entirely on his own innate divine powers while bringing down heaven to earth and driving out evil powers. Other philosophers and dialecticians like Plotinus dismissed external magical ritual and prayers altogether and ridiculed others, like the Gnostics for the sins of hissing, melodies, shrieks and barbarous magical chanting as well as telling myths of the fall of Sophia and the creation of the world and such. But Janowtiz also reveals that Plotinus himself only appears “rational” because he admits ignorance rather than engage in the telling of myths like the Gnostics do and his holy grail quest to be “god-like” and the realization of his “divine soul” is in actuality, irrational, by today’s materialist/secular standards. This is one of the better chapters in the book, IMHO. 

In Chapter 2, “The Divine name as Effective Language,” Jewish mysticism, the efficacy of words in the creation account of Genesis and the magical nation of the tetragrammaton YHWH is explored in great detail, with the “I am” proclamations and the like. She focuses more on Targums, rabbinic midrash and such to make her case. Janowitz rightly connects the creation of the world with the divine name itself, when she writes (p. 24):

The act of speaking created the world, and thereby the very possibility of speaking to the world. The “creativity” of all the other words and usages pales in comparison. All other creative speech is only secondary, reflected power that is dependent on the primal creative speech that established creation itself. Divine language sets the standard for creative power of language, and the most important word in the divine language is the name of the deity.

Janowitz also uses many instances in apocryphal works in how various Biblical patriarchs wielded the Divine Name like a sword in how King Solomon uses the Divine Name (Sabaoth specifically) to subdue and interrogate the demon Asmodeus with a magical ring as well as punishing the devil with the “fear of God” (The Testament of Solomon 24) or Moses, in killing an Egyptian with the Divine Name as described in Exodus Rabba 1.29. And yet the Divine Name could also reanimate life, such as the cases of medieval Kabbalists using it to raise the dead, or create a golem out of dead flesh or mud much like YHWH did with Adam in Genesis.

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. – Job 1:21 (KJV)

Up next in Chapter 3, “Thinking With the Divine Name,” Janowitz explores the Christian interpretation of the Divine Name through the Catholic theologian Origen and Dionysus the Areopagite. In Origen, we find him defending the Christian usage of divine names against Celsus, especially when invoking Jesus Christ’s name to heal the sick and lame, cast out devils and perform other miracles as advocated in the New Testament. As Janowitz points out, Origen also refutes Celsus’s perennial sounding argument in that all the diverse names for God are universal and hence, refer to the same deity.

According to Origen, this argument was planted by daimons, who “attribute their own names to the Supreme God so that they may be worshiped as the Supreme God” (Exhortation to Martyrdom 46).

Janowitz goes on to discuss how the nature of the divine names in themselves are automatic and not restricted on the intention of the speaker, whether it be for good or ill such as prayer and studying and hearing holy scripture of both the NT and the OT vs. speaking a pagan god’s name like Zeus that would inadvertently summon a powerful daimon. The various names and prayers attributed to YHWH must be recited in Hebrew if they are to have any magical effect on the person, so says Origen. Origen also compares God’s proclamation of “Let there be light” of Genesis with the Prologue of the Gospel of John‘s “In the beginning was the word.” The “word” or Logos also has a creative faculty and is further expanded upon by later Gnostic and Valentinian texts and teachers like Theodotus, Ptolemy, and Heracleon’s rich and mystical commentaries. In fact, it is these Gnostic teachers that were the first to make extensive exegesis on Christian scripture, anticipating later Orthodox Catholic exegetes like Origen and Clement of Alexandria, who are simply reacting to much earlier tradition and smears it all as “heresy” and “heretics” (in reality they are the real heretics here). That’s the name of the Orthodox game, however. She does not mention any of these Gnostic figures but she does discuss Marcus the Magician in the next chapter.

Dionysus the Areopagite or Psuedo-Dionysus is a mysterious theological figure without a concrete identity who uses Neoplatonic cosmology and dresses it all up with Christian language. His take on the Divine Name is Apophatic (Negative Theology) in that God is so good and wonderful that He does not even have a name and is content in calling Him the “Nameless One.” This idea is very similar to how Gnostic texts like the Apocryphon of John describe God and the Pleroma in terms of what God isn’t. Hesitation in labeling Dionysus as a Gnostic, however, is quite strong in this case. Philo, Justin Martyr and the authors of the Corpus Hermeticum also make similar mystical statements. Dionysus also makes some fascinating comparisons between the Christian Eucharist and theurgy by insisting that those who partake of this Christian ritual are deified as a miracle from God.

In Chapter 4, “The Meaning of Letters: From Divine Name to Cosmic Sounds,” begins on building on the previous chapter. This is probably my favorite chapter. Here Janowitz discusses Marcus the Magician’s practices and secret knowledge that apparently he received from a female heavenly figure akin to Sophia as described by Irenaeus in Against the Heresies (1.14.1). Much of Marcus’s teachings expand upon on the Johannite Prologue of the Gospel of John and are also quite similar to Hebrew Kabbalist texts like the Book of Creation (Sefer Yetsira) which discuss the creation of the world through letters and numbersa comparison in which Janowitz explores in great detail. Although she does not mention this author, Andrei Orlav in Divine Scapegoats: Demonic Mimesis in Early Jewish Mysticism, makes similar but more in-depth arguments about Adoil from 2 Enoch being similar to the Word, in that they both jump-start the visible process of creation.

Marcus was also big on the practices of sacred geometry, gematria, and isospephia, all of which involve words and corresponding numbers, such as how Jesus Christ’s name equaling to 888, revealing the divine nature of his name and how it corresponds to the Ogdoad, the eighth realm of Sophia. Vowels for Marcus were also equated with the planets. The highest-level name is actually beyond mortal comprehension and cannot be uttered by mere humans. The next name that can be uttered, though is Jesus Christ. As mentioned by Irenaeus, a Gnostic Ophite practice also involves numbers in adding up the letters of names that equal less than 100 means that it is “material” and is thus lesser value. Anything more would obviously be more valuable. There’s a lot more to be said here, but reading the book would be the next best thing.

Chapter 5, “Using Names, Letters, and Praise: The Language of Ascent,” is mostly about ascension mysticism, in yet again, a Jewish context. In particular, Janowitz focuses on Hebrew hekhalot (palace) texts or merkabah (chariot) texts, which describe the heavenly realms, liturgies of the heavenly chorus, prays to call down angels such as the Prince of the Torah (i.e. Metatron), etc. The ancient accusation by Celsus that the Jews were “addicted to sorcery” and were “angel worshipers” is made clear in this chapter. The Books of Enoch depicts similar accounts where Enoch is taken a celestial tour of Heaven and Hell, respectively. She also compares these texts to the Mithras Liturgy, which also involves bodily transformation of a mortal into the immortal high heavens. Comparisons are also made to Celsus’ Ophites who show magical “symbols,” “seals,” or “icons” to the gatekeepers or archons as they pass through the levels of heaven as well as the Ascension of Isaiah, which tells a similar story. These symbols might be related to the various Gnostic amulets that feature mystical terms and images of “IAO” “Abrasax” and the like. Although she does not mention this text (she could have easily done so), the First Apocalypse of James is all about the ascent of the soul and the astral journey through the cosmic spheres and the confrontational dialogue with the archons.

Janowitz makes it clear that the heavenly ascent is done through the repetition of vowel sounds, divine names and heavenly liturgy (angelic cults envisioning being involved with the cherubim and seraphim singing praises to God) as discussed in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls. To engage in such activities meant that the participant would become immortal by being granted the Divine Vision. Most convincing is her comparison with the Gnostic text Marsanes, with these Jewish texts. There are many hymns, silences, the invocation of names, and the vocalization of stringed vowels that only make sense in the context of theurgy.

Chapter Six, “Combining Words and Deeds Angelic Imprecations in the Book of Secrets,” continues on with Jewish mystical tradition; only this time, the focus is placed on a Jewish witchcraft text the Book of Secrets or the Book of Raziel. Janowitz rightfully compares it with the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM), as it has many practical spells — ranging everything from healing the sick, divining the future, influencing kings in your favor, binding yourself to a “great woman”, and speaking with the spirits, planets and stars. She has a very helpful table that lists all the spells in the book, too. Very nice. Instead of relying on demons or familiar spirits, the magician instead relies on angelic powers in legal oaths and pacts so that they may carry our your wishes and goals, which are often fueled by a personal and a financial drive for success.

Later in the chapter, Janowitz discusses how animal sacrifices in Judaism and other pagan religions are directed more towards lower spirits like the elementals, daimons and angels and not God, necessarily. This is why philosophers like Porphyry rejected animal sacrifice/the eating of meat and advocated vegetarianism because daimons or demons feed off of animal sacrifice. Origen and Celsus said the same thing where the daimons will even go as far as to steal a sacrifice made for a god or angel. It is interesting that both angels and demons are allured by the shed blood of the sacrifice — especially in context of both pagan Gentile sacrifice and Jewish-Israelite sacrifice as discussed by Origen in On the First Principles (1.8.1).

In fact, Jewish sacrifice is also very much intertwined with the “Divine Scapegoat” i.e. Azazel, who himself is a desert angelic demon or “serim”. Janowitz points out how many Rabbinic wizards throughout history have equated the sacrifice of a “scapegoat” for Azazel as a sacrifice to Satan, while we see Aaron in Leviticus 16:8 sacrifice “one” (a goat) for the Lord, and one for the “scapegoat” which is Azazel. Just as Jehovah makes a covenant or pact with Abraham and the children of Israel with shed blood, so does Azazel who also needs a contract, signed with blood with Israel as well. Although Janowitz does not mention this — stranger still, many church fathers throughout history have made several allusions and comparisons between Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the fallen angel and prototype Baphomet, Azazel — a subject in which will be examined in a future post.

The last chapter, “Transformation by Deed Alone: The Case of Alchemy” takes a quite different turn than the rest of the book, which seems to be mostly concerned with Jewish magic. The transformation of metals and substances are focused on as she is mostly concerned with the Gnostic-Hermetist Zosimos’s writings. These writings are both allegorical as well literal in the sense that these ancient theories linked the ritual transformation of metals with the spiritual transformation of the adept himself: “By means of fire, the metal makes a dramatic progression upward to another type of existence, exactly as human bodies can” (p. 119). Sacrifices are also involved, but the sacrifice isn’t concerned with animals, but with the initiate himself. In Zosimos’s Visions, Zosimos falls asleep and dreams that he walks seven steps of fleshy mortification that leads to the krater or altar shaped bowl with boiling water of wisdom.

The priest being Zosimos, is both the sacrifice and the sacrificer, as he learns that “casting off the body’s coarseness, and, consecrated by necessity” means that the priest has become “spirit.” Various metals like copper and silver are applied to men as one copper man has “his eyes turned to blood and he vomited up all his flesh. And I saw him as a mutilated image of a little man and he was tearing at his flesh and falling away.” Such ghastly and hellish visions that come straight out of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser or Dante’s Inferno relate to the state of Nigredo, the judgement and descent of the soul into Hell or Hades. This stage of the Second Death is necessary if the metallic souls are to reach their most purified state — the state of spirit and Gold, which is the rebirth.

It all relates directly to rebirth as described in Corpus Hermeticum XIII (with the 12 tormentors of the zodiac which must be transcended), as well as the symbolic cup or krater of Knowledge in Corpus Hermeticum IV (where the enlightened ones immersed themselves in). 
He filled a great mixing bowl with it and sent it below, appointing a herald whom he commanded to make the following proclamation to human hearts: “Immerse yourself in the mixing bowl if your heart has the strength, if it believes you will rise up again to the one who sent the mixing bowl below, if it recognizes the purpose of your coming to be.” All those who heeded the proclamation and immersed themselves in mind participated in knowledge and became perfect people because they received mind.

Zosimos’s recipes of cooking and transforming metals illustrate as Janowitz writes, that there is no big enough gulf to separate the grossness of the flesh with the highest spirit of heaven. In our book Baphomet: The Temple Secret Unveiled, Tracy and I go into Zosimos’ literature and how it all relates to the Holy Grail and the bizarre and disturbing rituals of the Knights Templar as well.

Her “Concluding Note” chapter attempts to synthesize all of the materials addressed in the book. Her primary focus on Jewish temple ritual and domestic and consultant magic spells is apparent while the extraneous addition of Zosimos’s work is somewhat jarring and doesn’t exactly fit with the rest of the book. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily detract from her work either. It would have served her case better if she had made more comparisons with Gnostic texts in comparison with all of the Jewish mystical traditions that she certainly succeeds in analyzing. In fact, Zosimos’s alchemical work may be successfully compared to many sections of the Apocryphon of John, a Sethian Gnostic text. It illustrates how much Hermetism and Gnosticism were more than likely part of the same milieu or tradition. In any case, Janowitz is successful in bringing all these diverse magical traditions of the ancient world together with a careful and analytical eye. I would have to concur with David Frankfurter’s concluding words in his review of Icons of Power:

While it may leave the reader craving more explanation, more thoroughness in the ideas, Icons of Power captures a fascinating element of late antique ritual speculation, in which certain words, written or spoken, were imagined as connected intrinsically to the Divine and therefore subject to efficacious manipulation or utterance.

In a future post, we will explore an even more controversial book, Jesus the Magician by Morton Smith.

Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 3)

Serpent of Wisdom

In Part 2, I discussed how the Serpent was used as a symbol for not only initiation into the mysteries and immortality but also a symbol for sexuality, generation, death and rebirth due to the creature’s ability to shed its skin of the old to reveal a shiny new skin underneath. The mythologized Serpent, of course, does appear in almost every culture around the world over. Genesis 3 relays how the Serpent offers knowledge in the form of a fruit grown from the Tree of Knowledge (the “Good ” and “Evil” part may have have been added later as a gloss.) Like the Serpent, the Tree of Knowledge is sometimes considered to be a phallic symbol. This Fruit along with the Tree also were used to signify the result or effect of some cause, having both a positive and a negative effect and origin.

The Two Trees.

The Tree of Knowledge and digesting the forbidden fruit in Genesis according to Jewish tradition represented the primeval mixture or intermingling of good and evil, light and darkness in an almost Manichean fashion. Eating the fruit forbidden set off a chain reaction where humanity developed a “yeitzer hara” or “evil inclination.” Unlike the earlier Hebrews, who blamed themselves for their woes, the Jewish Rabbis believed God had implanted in the ‘heart’, the Hebrew place of the unconscious of each individual, at his birth or conception. The yezer was not hereditary. It was intrinsically good and the source of creative energy, but had a strong potential for evil through appetite or greed. Only strict observance of the Law could keep the strong, irrational passions it engendered under control. To the commentators in the five centuries before Christ, Adam’s death was due to his own “sinful actions”, and not to the Augustine-authored “original sin nature” or “ancestral sin” inherent in the DNA in the race of man because of the disobedience of the primal parents. The Zohar claims that Adam and Eve lost their immortality by ingesting the fruit which is ironically enough compared to the occult:

Hear what saith scripture when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree by which death entered into their souls or lower nature, ‘And when they heard the voice of the Lord of the Alhim walking in the garden’ (Gen. iii-8), or, as it ought to be rendered, had walked (mithhalech). Note further that whilst Adam had not fallen, he was a recipient of divine wisdom (hochma) and heavenly light and derived his continuous existence from the Tree of Life to which he had free access, but as soon as he allowed himself to be seduced and deluded with the desire of occult knowledge, he lost everything, heavenly light and life through the disjunction of his higher and lower self, and, the loss of that harmony that should always exist between them, in short, he then first knew what evil was and what it entailed, and, therefore, it is written, ‘Thou art not a God that approveth wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee’ (Is. v-5); or, in other words, he who implicitly and blindly follows the dictates of his lower nature or self shall not come near the Tree of Life.

According to the Babylonian Talmud, Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden for just twelve hours before being unceremoniously thrown out. This is half a day in Paradise. That snake sure was a fast worker! Yahweh gave Adam and Eve the tour round Eden, told them what they could or couldn’t do and had no sooner turned his back than they were disobeying him and he had to expel them and sentence them, and the whole human race to come, to hell-fire for all eternity. Is that not the biggest (pardon this author’s french) fuck up of all time? It takes a spectacular degree of incompetence to screw things up that badly, so quickly. And yet the source who engineered this monumental disaster is supposed to be the Creator of the Universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, incapable of error! It is any wonder why the Gnostics called the creator god of Genesis as a dark and brutal god who was also given names such as: Samael (Blind One) and Saklas (idiot-retard)?

The Catholic Church Father Irenaeus mentions in Adv. Hear. 1, 29, 3, that the Barbelognostics revered the classic Qabalistic symbol of the “Tree, which itself they call Knowledge (gnosis).” This Tree is generated by two more primordial entities or “Aeons” called “Man” and “Knowledge.” It is hard to know just what his source for this passage may have been, for the kabbalistic symbol of the Tree does not figure in any of the surviving versions of the Apocryphon of John. There is, however, a passage in the Church Father Origen’s description in Contra Celsum of the diagrams of the cosmos envisaged by the Ophites:

And everywhere there, the Tree of Life, and the resurrection of flesh from the Tree …

This passage suggests that the form of the Tree had been imposed on the whole diagram. The Church Father Origen also gives a number of  “ten circles”, the traditional number of the emanations or “sefiroth” associated with the cosmic spheres in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life – though roughly only seven of them can have planetary names. This image of the spiritual powers circling in the heavenly spheres, which the Jewish scholar, Gershom Scholem has suggested entered Jewish esoteric teaching from Hellenistic-Egyptian traditions in the centuries before Christianity (or at least Christian gnosticism) arose bears also upon the enigma of the seven-headed form of Iao in the fourth sphere (as discussed in the Apocryphon of John), that of the Sun.

This idea of the Archons situated upon the astral “aerial toll houses” of Eastern Orthodoxy (and of course Gnosticism, especially in the First Apocalypse of James) does indeed seem to originate in ancient Egypt where the the Book of the Dead lists protective spells learned by initiates to guard against the dangerous “judges” during the post-mortem journey of the soul. Speculation in Christian and in Gnostic circles concerning the order of the celestial hierarchy hinged upon a few passages in the Pauline literature, which seem to imply, however, different sequences as Colassians 1:16 states:

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

The names of the authorities are as follows, featured and listed in the Ophite doctrine, refuted by Celsus in Contra Celsum:

Michael – lion, Souriel – bull, Raphael – serpent, Gabriel – eagle, Thauthabaoth – bear, Erathaoth – dog, Taphabaoth/Onoel – ass.

The sequence was composed using the figures of four biblical Cherubim, to whom three new personages were added. The animal forms are derived from the biblical story of the famous vision of Ezekiel as is the iconography of the four evangelists. Ezekiel had seen four monstrous beings in the shape of winged men with four faces: of a man, a lion, a bull and an eagle, on each of the four sides. Jerome connects this tetramorph with the Four Evangelists, being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.


In the Trimorphic Protennoia, the Archons claim that they also were derived from a tree:

For as for our tree from which we grew, a fruit of ignorance is what it has; and also its leaves, it is death that dwells in them, and darkness dwells under the shadow of its boughs. And it was in deceit and lust that we harvested it, this (tree) through which ignorant Chaos became for us a dwelling place.

As mentioned in Part 1, the Gospel of John 15, 1-2 equates Christ with the vines and fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, which also sounds vaguely Dionysian. Dionysus was also called the surname Dendritês, the god of the tree, which has the same import as Dasyllius, the giver of foliage.

The Gospel of Truth also equates the cross to the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden:

He was nailed to a tree (and) he became fruit of the knowledge of the Father. It did not, however, cause destruction because it was eaten, but to those who ate it, it (cause) to become glad in the discovery, and he discovered them in himself, and they discovered him in themselves.

The Gospel of Philip also makes the connection between the Tree of Life, the resurrection via the chrism (anointing) and Jesus Christ, explicit:

Philip the apostle said, “Joseph the carpenter planted a garden because he needed wood for his trade. It was he who made the cross from the trees which he planted. His own offspring hung on that which he planted. His offspring was Jesus, and the planting was the cross.” But the Tree of Life is in the middle of the Garden. However, it is from the olive tree that we got the chrism, and from the chrism, the resurrection.

Elsewhere in the Gospel of Philip, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is identified with the flesh and the Law (the lower natures as opposed to the pnuematic one). Using a riff from the Epistle to the Romans 7:7-11, the author says:

“It has the power to give knowledge of good and evil. It neither removed him from evil, nor did it set him in the good. Instead it created death for those who ate of it. For when it said, ‘Eat this. Do not eat that.’ it became the beginning of death.”

The pseudepigraphic Jewish-apocalypse Book of Enoch 31:4, describes this tree of knowledge in the midst of the “Garden of Righteousness”:

It was like a species of the Tamarind tree, bearing fruit which resembled grapes extremely fine; and its fragrance extended to a considerable distance. I exclaimed, How beautiful is this tree, and how delightful is its appearance!

Irenaeus’ pupil, Hippolytus would write in Against All Heresies (VI, 27) on how the Valentinians compared the Logos to the fruit of the Tree of Life:

This (one) is styled among them Joint Fruit of the Pleroma. These (matters), then, took place within the Pleroma in this way. And the Joint Fruit of the Pleroma was projected, (that is,) Jesus,— for this is his name—the great High Priest. Sophia, however, who was outside the Pleroma in search of Christ, who had given her form, and of the Holy Spirit, became involved in great terror that she would perish, if he should separate from her, who had given her form and consistency.

He also writes that the Father projected a warrior Aeon as a defense mechanism to protect the Aeonic realm of the Pleroma from the shapeless void created by the fallen Sophia, who is often shaped in a Cross:

Now this (Aeon) is styled Horos, because he separates from the Pleroma the Hysterema that is outside. And (he is called) Metocheus, because he shares also in the Hysterema. And (he is denominated) Staurus, because he is fixed inflexibly and inexorably, so that nothing of the Hysterema can come near the Aeons who are within the Pleroma.

This description also matches with Irenaeus’ account (Against Heresies 1.3.5) on how the Valentinian Christians viewed the hidden, metaphysical meaning and nature of the Cross:

“They show, further, that that Horos of theirs, whom they call by a variety  of names, has two faculties,-the one of supporting, and the other of separating;  and in so far as he supports and sustains, he is Stauros, while in so far as he  divides and separates, he is Horos. They then represent the Saviour as having  indicated this twofold faculty: first, the sustaining power, when He said,  “Whosoever doth not bear his cross (Stauros), and follow after me, cannot be my  disciple; ” and again, “Taking up the cross follow me; ” but the separating power when He said, “I came not to send peace, but a  word.” They also maintain that John indicated the same thing when he said, “The fan is  in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge the floor, and will gather the wheat  into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.” By this declaration He set forth the faculty of Horos. For that fan they explain  to be the cross (Stauros), which consumes, no doubt, all material objects, as fire does chaff, but it purifies all them that are saved, as a fan does wheat. Moreover, they affirm that the Apostle Paul himself made mention of this cross in the following words: “The doctrine of the cross is to them that  perish foolishness, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.” And again: “God forbid that I should glory in anything save in the cross of Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.”

In the above paragraph, Horos or Stauros (the cross of John) is the limit (X) of Plato’s Timaeus. Simon Magus taught this same exact thing as we will see below. The cross symbolizes the separation of powers and realms. It represents the apokatastasis, the Stoic conflagration, the baptism by fire. Paul the Apostle speaks of this fire that purifies and tries men’s works in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. To be crucified to the world is to bear the symbol of the cross which is a flat-out denial of YHWH and the Elohim archons’ creation. It is to spit in the face of the Greek gods of fate like Socrates. It is hemlock to the flesh and to the spirit it is immortality.

It is the Cross of Christ, which in the Gnostic interpretation separates God from the manifest world, the uncreated, transcendent World of Forms from the Creator and the created realm, constituting a Separate and Hidden God. This limit in essence separates the “wheat from the tares”. At the same time, it also serves as a bridge between the saved sparks of light into the realm above. The extremely esoteric Sethian text, Allogenes, mentions a power or aeon by the name of “Kalyptos”, which can mean either “hidden” or “that which covers,” which may derive from the conception of the veil parting the higher from the lower realm. This power derives from the Aeon of Barbelo, which is also a state of being in which a spiritual power descends into matter. The position of Kalyptos comes very close to that of the Valentinian Horos, Stauros or Limit that separates the highest deity Bythos (Depth or Abyss) from the other Aeons that derive from him. This limit also functions though a second barrier between the “hysterema” of the material cosmos and the realm of the Aeons. Sophia also functions as a veil in On the Origin of the World.


All of these concepts are also reflected in Origen’s Contra Celsum (6, 33) in which he states that that on the diameter of one of the circles a sword of fire was depicted, the same one that had driven Adam and Eve from the earthly Paradise. This flaming sword guarded the Tree of knowledge (gnosis) and of life (zoe). If the sword was above the black line of Tartarus, then the tree of knowledge and of life has to be the series of circles starting from Gnosis and Sophia and leading through the circle of Life to the Father. This could be similar to the Kabbalistic number of 777 being the sum the paths that the Lightening Path of Creation travels down through the Tree of Life. It is through this channel that the Luciferian motif of bringing the light of heaven to the World of Action becomes apparent.

In Contra Celsum, Origen reports Celsus’ comments on the Christians (the Ophite-Sethian Gnostics in reality), who called their baptismal rite “seal” (recalling the Five Seals of the Sethians); the person who placed the seal was called “father”; the one who received it was called “son” and “young man”, answering: “I am anointed with the white chrism of the tree of life”. Celsus further down describes the Christian belief of “tree of life” being both synonymous with Christ and the resurrection in 6:34:

And in all their writings (is mention made) of the ‘tree of life’ (τό της ζωης ξύλον), and a resurrection of the flesh by means of the ‘tree’ (από ξύλου), because, I imagine, their teacher was nailed to a cross (σταυρω ένηλώθη), and was a carpenter by craft (τέκτων τήν τεχνην)…

Celsus connects a so-called “tree of life,” and a resurrection by means of the “tree,” to Jesus’ execution: that he was nailed to an execution pole and his trade being carpenter, joiner. The relevant point Celsus is making here is that Jesus was suspended on some kind of pole, and secured to it with nails. Clearly, the parallels between the Ophite diagram and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, with the circles shown to have numerical values, are there.

The Trimorphic Protennoia and the hermetic Discourse on Eighth and Ninth in the Nag Hammadi library pre-suppose numerical values for the manifestations of God, as does the system of Valentinus as described by his enemy, Irenaeus, which envisioned the theoretical attainment of 10 divine Aeons. He also develops a system consisting of about thirty Aeons, which would suggest that he had taken the simpler Ophite system and expanded it until it was almost uncontrollable. Even more interesting is in the Sethian text, Melchizedek,  it portrays Adam and Eve defeating the guardians of the Tree of Life with their own weapon!

For when they ate of the tree of knowledge, they trampled the Cherubim and the Seraphim with the flaming sword.

Fludd Sephirothic Tree web

The Sephirothic Tree by Robert Fludd

The Qabalah or Kabbalah itself has many similarities with Gnosticism in their closely related teachings of the hidden God and hypostatization of God’s attributes. The Sephirot (or Enumerations, which also means “book” in Hebrew) are the ten emanations of God (or infinite light: Ein Sof Aur) into the universe. These emanations manifest not only in the physical part of the universe, but also in the metaphysical one. Kabbalah distinguish four different worlds or planes: Atziluth, or World of Emanations, where the Divine Archetypes live; Beri’ah or World of Creations, where Highest Ranking Angels are; Yetzirah or World of Formations is the astral world; and Asiyah or World of Actions, is the physical plane and “low astral” plane. Each of these worlds are progressively grosser and denser (one can see the strong Kabbalistic influence on Neo-Platonic thought here as well), but the ten Sephiroth manifest in all of them.

The Kabbalah is rooted in the Merkavah and Assyrian traditions, and the Kabbalah defines Sefirot is also based on the great visions described by Ezekiel. The Sephiroth constitutes the “Tree of Life”, and is aligned in three columns, each headed by a Supernal. The names of the Sephirot are: Kether (Crown), Chochman (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), Chesed (Mercy), Gevurah (Severity), Tiphareth (Redeemer), Netzach (Victory), Hod (Majesty), Yesod (Foundation), Malkhuth (Kingdom). Some clear Christian and Gnostic associations on the Tree of Life is down the middle path, with Keter relating to the Father, which emanates into Tipharet relating to the Holy Ghost, and Christ as the Solar Logos and Savior, which emanates to Yesod, relating to the Son. This being the path by which God emanates into Malkut, the physical world

The Manichean Psalm CCXX illustrates the theme of matter receiving the spiritual Light rather well by using Tree imagery:

They rose, that they belong to Matter, the children of Error, desiring to uproot thy unshakable tree and plant it in their land. Matter and her sons divided me up amongst them, they burnt me in their fire, they gave me a bitter likeness.” … “I am the sweet water that is beneath the sons of Matter.


Alchemical image of the Divine Sophia as a Tree of Learning and source of the Elixir of Life.

In Jewish Wisdom literature, it was Khokhmah who personified the female Divine. She is understood as an emanation of God, yet she resonates with the Hebrew Goddess who is otherwise assailed in the Old Testament, by Jehovah especially Asherah, the Queen of Heaven. Proverbs 3:18 calls up an image of Khokhmah that originates in the oldest core of Jewish culture: “She is a Tree of Life to all who lay hold of her.” In the same book, Khokhmah sings, “The one who finds me, finds life.” A similar aretalogy can be found in the Sethian text, Thunder-Perfect Mind. The creation story of the 2nd, Century Gnostic, Valentinus of Alexandria, the greatest of Sophia’s devotees, describes the origin and essence of the matter composing this world as emotionally and psychically consubstantial with Sophia as indicated by Irenaeus in Against Heresies, 5, 4:

This mother they also call OgdoadSophiaTerra (Gaia), Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 4:26), Holy Spirit, and, with a masculine reference, Lord. 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.

Furthermore, she knows:

the beginning and end and middle of times, the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons, the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars, the nature of animals and the tempers of wild animals, the powers of spirits and the thoughts of human beings, the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots… (Wisdom 7:15-22)

The imagery of the tree is also included in Simon Magus’s cosmology, as reported by Hippolytus of Rome, is a powerful model that describing some rare concepts that Simononians in the early third century work described in the Philosophumena, as the “Great Declaration” or “Great Announcement”. Simon very much describes a tree of fire that consumes itself. This is a third century Simonian document, positing that the root of all existence is infinite, and abides in man, who serves as its dwelling-house. The Logos or the Word is projected down by the luciferian Lightening Flash through the Aeons and into the manifest world and man. From the original root, the hidden principle, spring three pairs of manifestations of: Mind and Thought, Voice and Name, Reasoning and Reflection.

The Father is, moreover, “He that hath stood” in relation to premundane existence; “He that standeth” in relation to present being; and “He that shall stand” in relation to the final consummation. Man is simply the realization of “boundless power,” the ultimate end of the cosmic process in which the godhead attains self-consciousness. This infinite power works in all of the aeons as a compound name: He who stands, has stood, and will stand; a term alluded to in the Clementine Homilies and Recognition’s which say, that Simon Magus considered himself as the “Standing One” along with the “that power of God which is called Great”.

The Simonian author employs very Stoic language in describing what is hidden and revealed in the divine Fire, the original Boundless Power that is the stuff that the original Ineffable God is made of—the equivalent of the Qabalistic Ein Sof or Kether—the Crown. In this above entry (linked above) by Hippolytus, he refers to Simon’s theology of the “fruit from the Tree” as being the quintessential product of the human incarnation.  The tripartite division of spirit, psyche and matter are simply manifest expressions of the original Stoic-like Divine Fire. This concealed fruit or “Hidden Power” which is another term that he used, requires a key in the conscious process of imagining or beholding a power to form mental images.

The Simonian author interestingly uses the term “imagining” as a reference of becoming divinized or be initiated into the mysteries. But this can only be manifested “if its imagining has been perfected and it takes the shape of itself.” Later, the text mentions a “storehouse” which is a room, located adjacent to a royal chamber within a palace where the gold, jewels and other wealth are stored.  Here, the Simonian author is referring to the treasure-house and the storehouse, both concepts that are found within the Pistis Sophia that refer to a location within the “House of Many Mansions” of John 14:2.

Simon Magus also appealed to Matthew 12:33, as Hippolytus writes in Refutations of All Heresies VI, 11:

If, however, a tree continues alone, not producing fruit fully formed, it is utterly destroyed. For somewhere near, he says, is the axe (which is laid) at the roots of the tree. Every tree, he says, which does not produce good fruit, is hewn down and cast into fire.

This, of course, was also Marcion’s (and much later in Mani’s theological two principle system) main scriptural justification for his radical dualism in Christ’s maxim that a good tree does not bear evil fruit, nor does an evil tree bear bad fruit. So if we also interpret that in terms of origins, then the evil god could not possibly have originated from the good god, because good things do not produce evil things, and vice versa. The Gospel of Thomas says something very similar:

(45) Jesus said, “Grapes are not harvested from thorns, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they do not produce fruit. A good man brings forth good from his storehouse; an evil man brings forth evil things from his evil storehouse, which is in his heart, and says evil things. For out of the abundance of the heart he brings forth evil things.”

The fact is Simon had a similar doctrine that condemned false religion and predicted a final dissolution of the cosmos, presumably dissolved in fire, so that Simon’s elect can be redeemed, viz. the Great Announcement; Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 6:14; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.23.3.

These words from Simon and John resonate with a key saying of Jesus in Matthew 7:17-20,

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

This was a key saying used by the Gnostics and Marcionites. Could it be that this metaphor originated from John the Baptist, from whom Simon also learned this same metaphor?

Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, that you have Abraham for your father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Cf. John 8:39, 44; 1:17-18)


In the text On the Origin of the World, it states that the tree of life and the tree of gnosis are situated “to the north of Paradise” and is identified as Epinoia. The Greek name Epinoia carries the meaning of “understanding” or “thought” or “purpose”. She is sent to dwell within Adam, her role being to give him consciousness of his divine origins and the way to return to the Pleroma. The author of On the Origin of the World makes a positive evaluation of the Garden of Eden:

And the tree of eternal life is as it appeared by God’s will, to the north of Paradise, so that it might make eternal the souls of the pure, who shall come forth from the modelled forms of poverty at the consummation of the age. Now the color of the tree of life is like the sun. And its branches are beautiful. Its leaves are like those of the cypress. Its fruit is like a bunch of grapes when it is white. Its height goes as far as heaven. And next to it (is) the tree of knowledge (gnosis), having the strength of God. Its glory is like the moon when fully radiant. And its branches are beautiful. Its leaves are like fig leaves. Its fruit is like a good appetizing date. And this tree is to the north of Paradise, so that it might arouse the souls from the torpor of the demons, in order that they might approach the tree of life and eat of its fruit, and so condemn the authorities and their angels.

This depiction is in stark contrast with how the the Apocryphon of John depicts Eden as more of a zoo-like prison of the authorities:

And the archons took him and placed him in paradise. And they said to him, ‘Eat, that is at leisure,’ for their luxury is bitter and their beauty is depraved. And their luxury is deception and their trees are godlessness and their fruit is deadly poison and their promise is death. And the tree of their life they had placed in the midst of paradise.

The Apocalypse of Moses is primarily an account about Adam’s death, its cause and cure. Seth is procured along with Adam’s many other children which leads Adam to recount briefly the story of the temptation, the fall, and the the first parents’ punishment in chapters 7-8. Adam’s narrative explains the reason for his present plight. Adam then subsequently sends his wife Eve and son Seth to paradise in search of the oil of mercy that will bring him relief. (9:3) On the way to the garden, Seth is attacked by a beast (in chapters 10-12) which seems to be evidence that God’s curse in Genesis 3:15 is in effect. Adam’s request to be saved is subsequently denied.

(The oil of Mercy) will not be yours now, but at the ends of the times. Then will arise all flesh from Adam to the great day …. , and then all the joy of paradise will be given to them. … (13:2-4)

Adam knows he is going to die and later on in Chapters 22-29, God appears in paradise on his chariot while accompanied by his angels. His throne is fixed, and he indicts and sentences his creatures from the consequences of the fall being spelled out in detail in chapters 24-26. Adam seeks the oil of mercy but God commands the angels to get on with the expulsion (27:4-28:1). Again Adam pleads, this time for access to the Tree of Life (28:2). God’s response to Adam’s plea is met with a reproof:

You shall not take from it now … if you keep yourself from all evil, as one about to die, when again the resurrection comes to pass, I shall raise you up. And then there shall be given to you from the tree of life. (28:3-4)

Another time, Adam pleads with God for herbs from Eden to offer incense and seeds to grow food. God is kind enough to grant this request before Adam and Eve are kicked out from the garden in Chapter 29. The text concludes on a solemn yet promising note which expands on Genesis 3:19:

I told you that you are dust, and to dust you will return. Again I promise you the resurrection. I shall raise you up to the last day, in the resurrection, with every man who is of your seed. (41:2-3)

In the concluding portion of the book, it describes Eve’s death and her burial by Seth, who is commanded to bury in this fashion everyone who dies until the day of the resurrection. These ideas are also reflected in the apocryphal the Book of the Cave of Treasures, where the dying Adam assembles his sons, including Seth for a request to embalm him with myrrh, cassia and balsam and to leave his body in the Cave of Treasures, situated at a side of a high mountain but below paradise.

Seth himself was also considered to be the archetypal father and savior of the Gnostics, resulting from the Jewish exegesis and combination of various biblical themes: (1) that of “the sons of God” in Gen 6:4 (LXX), (2) that of Seth as “another seed” appointed by God in place of the slain Abel in Gen 4:25, who (3) was fathered by Adam as a son in his own likeness and image according to Gen 5:3.

These themes, in combination with Gen 1:26, concerning the god “Man” created in the image and likeness of God, implied the divine nature of Seth, the “planter” of the heavenly seed (Gen 4:25). Seth would recover from “the great aeons” the glory that had left Adam and Eve at their Fall, caused by the Ialdabaoth. Seth would preserve his seed against the repeated attempts of Ialdabaoth to steal it by keeping it separate from the lustful seed of Cain which came from the Archons. At the end of time, Seth (or Sophia in On the Origin of the World) would destroy Ialdabaoth and his followers in a Revelations-styled apocalypse and reinstate his seed, the part of mankind untainted by lust, into its original glory. The strongest instant that we see Seth as a Gnostic Savior is in the Apocalypse of Adam, where Adam tells his son Seth:

And the glory in our hearts left us, me and your mother Eve, along with the first knowledge that breathed within us.

Later, Adam called his son “by the name of that man who is the seed of the great generation  as a planter of the righteous seed”, recalling 1 Corinthians 15: 35-49 by Paul the Apostle, who compared the resurrection to a seed. Paul states that when a plant sprouts forth from the seed, and the remnants of the seed whither away. The plant came from the seed, but the plant isn’t the seed, and the seed isn’t the plant. They’re two distinct things, and the plant doesn’t come to life until the seed dies. So what Paul is saying is that spirit is deposited as a seed in the body, and it remains a seed until the body dies and decomposes. Then the spirit sprouts forth from the body, and the body is transmuted into a spiritual body, which also recalls the Parable of the Sower in Matthew, Mark and Thomas. It isn’t reanimation of a corpse at all as Catholic Church Fathers such as Irenaeus and especially Tertullian, have maintained (Against Heresies, 5.12.1, De Resurrectione Carnis). Paul’s theology concerning the spiritual resurrection isn’t so far removed from the ideas expressed in the Great Announcement:

…the manifested side corresponds to the trunk, limbs, leaves, and encasing bark. All these members of the tree are set ablaze from the all-consuming flame of the fire and destroyed. But as for the fruit of the tree, if it’s for is perfect and it assumes the true shape, it is gathered into the storehouse, not thrown into the fire.

Here, the vegetation and tree motifs are evident. Returning to the Gnostics—is it from Seth’s descendants who would possess the Gnosis. The Apocryphon of John suggests that Sophia prepared a place for the souls in heaven, where Jesus, the incarnation of the aeon Christ would disclose the true knowledge of how to return to their true home in with the Spirit (in Pleroma), where they would ascend past the rulers (archons) and their astral spheres and be healed of all deficiency and become holy and faultless. To gain these higher realms, one must ascend above the Seven Heavens of Chaos into the Aeons as stated in the Gospel of the Egyptians:

Then there came forth from the great aeons four hundred ethereal angels, accompanied by the great Aerosiel and the great Selmechel, to guard the great, incorruptible race, its fruit, and the great men of the great Seth, from the time and the moment of Truth and Justice, until the consummation of the aeon and its archons, those whom the great judges have condemned to death.

The Apocryphon of John spells it out in a more concise manner:

And he placed seven kings – each corresponding to the firmaments of heaven – over the seven heavens, and five over the depth of the abyss, that they may reign. And he shared his fire with them, but he did not send forth from the power of the light which he had taken from his mother, for he is ignorant darkness.

Origen, despite being one of the Church Fathers (and theological enemies of the Gnostics), he actually had a doctrine very much influenced by Platonism (but stood firmly against groups like the Valentinians and Marcionites). Origen also did not accept the historicity of the Bible nor did he interpret it literally. One example of this can be taken from De Prinicipiis, 4.1.16, where he discusses the Genesis creation myth more as an allegory:

No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it.” And “those who are not altogether blind can collect countless instances of a similar kind recorded as having occurred, but which did not literally take place? Nay, the Gospels themselves are filled with the same kind of narratives; for example, the devil leading Jesus up into a high mountain, in order to show him from thence the kingdoms of the whole world, and the glory of them.

Likewise, the Valentinians viewed scripture as allegorical on three different levels that corresponded to the three natures. The earlier Gnostics viewed the Old Testament as a symbolic record of the struggle between Yaldabaoth-Jehovah and Sophia as testified in Irenaeus’ account in Against Heresies, VII, 3:

They maintain, moreover, that those souls which possess the seed of Achamoth are superior to the rest, and are more dearly loved by the Demiurge than others, while he knows not the true cause thereof, but imagines that they are what they are through his favour towards them. Wherefore, also, they say he distributed them to prophets, priests, and kings; and they declare that many things were spoken (7) by this seed through the prophets, inasmuch as it was endowed with a transcendently lofty nature. Themother also, they say, spake much about things above, and that both through him and through the souls which were formed by him. Then, again, they divide the prophecies [into different classes], maintaining that one portion was uttered by the mother, a second by her seed, and a third by the Demiurge. In like manner, they hold that Jesus uttered some things under the influence of the Saviour, others under that of the mother, and others still under that of the Demiurge, as we shall show further on in our work.

As we can see, the Tree was an important universal symbol for not only the Gnostics, Simonians, Valentinians, etc, but to groups like the Jewish-Kabbalists, alchemists and many occult groups throughout the ages. The Tree is highly associative with the idea of the descent and crucifixion (and eventual ascent and resurrection) of spirit into and from matter as seen in Sophia-Achamoth’s fall from the celestial world and into the prima materia which parallels the Genesis account of the fall of Eve, the “mother of the living”. In Plato’s Timaeus, do we find the account of the Fall of Atlantis, (as strange as it might sound) which could be read as symbolic of the Divine tragedy and catastrophe so predominant in Gnostic cosmology and theology.

In Part 4, we will investigate a possible Gnostic exegesis of the Atlantis myth and other Greek tales, the Gnostic science of human physiology and the mind relating to Genesis, where and how exactly Orthodox theology developed from and ultimately became victorious as a common religious Christian doctrine, along with some concluding final thoughts on this series.

Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 2)

{Forgive the lateness of this article as my life has given me a few curve-balls as of late. But, the show must go on…}

In the previous article, I illuminated the Gnostic interpretation of the Genesis creation account which downgraded the Hebrew God and identifying it with the malicious Demiurge while upgrading the pariah figure of the serpent into a hero and champion of knowledge. I will be focusing on not only the serpent but also the symbols of the Tree of Knowledge and Life and the Fruit, in Part 3.


The Serpent Revisted. 

One of many bothersome issues that have puzzled many, including scholars and Christian apologists appear right in the first chapters of Genesis, which posit two separate portrayals of the creation of Adam and Eve. In Chapter 1, verses 26-31, where on the sixth day of creation, after God created the heavens and the earth, he proclaims:

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiple, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Note the use of the plural possessive pronoun through the supposedly singular “God”, which indicates that there was more than one creative being involved—which tends to corroborate the Gnostic creation accounts in many different texts.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

It is at this point Adam is charged with tending of the garden and told not to touch the fruit of a particular tree:

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

In the first creation account, man and woman are created in the same way, being from the dust of the Earth. In the second version, woman was fashioned from Adam’s rib:

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. … And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

The first creation account, man and woman are created in “God’s image”. In the second creation account, God breathes into Adam the “breath of life”, not mentioned in the first account.  There is no mention of a garden, and no mention of forbidden fruit. Rather mankind is specifically told to eat whatever they want because it was all “good” in the Lord’s eyes. Perhaps most importantly, since only the creatures of the second creation are given rules to follow, only they can transgress those rules. The first mankind is blessed and told to “be fruitful and multiply.” Interestingly, it is only the second mankind that experiences the fall from grace after eating from the Tree of Knowledge, and gain sexual experience as a result of it.

As mentioned Part 1, the “knowledge” that serpent promised to Adam and Eve was also sexual in nature, according to some sources. Not only did Eve and her husband Adam gain an awareness that was previously forbidden to them, but also gained the power of generation or the power to create life “in their image” just like God. Through the Serpent’s gift, Adam and Eve had also gained the power of generation and through their “transgression” death entered into the world as a result.


The deuterocanonical text, Baruch claims that the Serpent had sexual relations with both Adam and Eve:

For going to Eve he deceived her and committed adultery with her, which is contrary to the law; and he went also to Adam and used him as a boy, which is also against the law. Hence arose adultery and pederasty.

The Gospel of Philip suggests something rather similar:

First adultery came into being, afterward murder. And he was begotten in adultery, for he [Cain] was the child of the serpent.

The 13th century Spanish Kabbalist, Rabbi R Isaac Hacohen, the author of A Treatise on the Left Emanation, claimed that the disaster caused by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a sexual awakening among the two pairs of “twins,” an awakening in which the snake, called “Nahasiel” or Gamliel  took part. The result was that the snakes became “biting snakes,” that is, Evil came into its own, and began to express itself.

Certain Gnostic schools (Saturnilus specifically per Irenaeus’ testimony) regarded sexual intercourse as an abomination because it involved the expenditure of man’s precious seed, used to propagate other human beings, multiplying suffering and perpetuating the kingdom of the Demiurge. They quoted St. Paul’s support for celibacy from 1 Corinthians 7. The pleasure and lust that comes with sexual union and climax were seen as the contrivances of Satan. (Also note that the spermatozoon itself is shaped like a serpent or snake). The whiplash of sexual desire was wrought as a wonderful weapon to be brought under the domain of Saklas (‘fool’), the archon of fornication because man is reduced to a state of imbecility by his wiles and seduction into lusting, adultery and continual fornication. This strong element of sexophobia was also attributed to misogyny because intercourse with seductive women resulted in further flesh with a terrible stench that imprisoned the lost light sparks. A better alternative to physical, sexual union was a spiritual union which implied a return to a state of androgyny symbolized as the bridal chamber. (More on this later.) 

The serpent itself has a vast array of symbolism. It is associated with immortality and the conquest of death. It is also regarded as a phallic symbol and deity of sexual pleasure as noted above. Philo of Alexandria in Allegorical Interpretation of Genesis allegorized the serpent of Genesis 3 as pleasure or sexual lust. He also equated the bronze serpent of Numbers 21 as being opposed to the serpent of Genesis 3, as being a symbol of self-mastery and purity.

Glycon was considered to also be a snake god in satirical form as mentioned by the satirist Lucian, and was said to be the incarnation of Asklepios in the mysteries of Alexander of Abonutichus, a pagan philosopher of the 2nd century.


In paganism, the bacchoi held their sacred orgies as well as eating raw flesh from their butchered victims in honor of the frenzied Dionysus and the consecrated serpent was symbolic of this. Zagreus being the “first-born Dionysos,” was a god of the Orphic Mysteries. He was a son of Zeus and Persephone, who would seduce others in the guise of a serpent. Being a chthonian creature by finding its home underneath the ground, it is also associated with darkness.

Orphic Egg

In Orphic mythology, the serpent was sometimes linked with the primordial egg from which all things emerged and is shown entwined around the egg. Epiphanius in The Panarion discusses the doctrines of the Epicureans who believed that the universe was formed by chance rather than providence:

Originally the entire universe was like an egg and the spirit was then coiled snakewise round the egg, and bound nature tightly like a wreath or girdle. (3) At one time it wanted to squeeze the entire matter, or nature, of all things more forcibly, and so divided all that existed into the two hemispheres and then, as the result of this, the atoms were separated. (4) For the light, finer parts of all nature—light, aether and the finest parts of the spirit—floated up on top. But the parts which were heaviest and like dregs have sunk downwards. This means earth—that is, anything dry—and the moist substance of the waters. (5) The whole moves of itself and by its own momentum with the revolution of the pole and stars, as though all things were still being driven by the snake like spirit.

In the Pistis Sophia, the serpent was linked to the cosmos, whose ruler is the earth-circling dragon called Satan:

The outer darkness is a great dragon, whose tail is in his mouth, outside the whole world and surrounding the whole world. And there are many regions of chastisement within it.

The circular symbol of the serpent eating its own tail is known as the Ouroboros, the primal being who said,

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Rev. 22:13).

The serpent is also seen in the Syriac Hymn of the Pearl as it depicts the soul’s descent into the world, forgetting his mission but eventually roused by the call on high to remind him of his original nature and duty, his glorious rising again into the Kingdom of the Father. The Pearl, the Prince seeks in Egypt, represents the Gnosis, and the terrible Serpent that guards it, is depicted as the passion of egotism.


Typical to Jewish and Christian tradition, another negative portrayal of serpent imagery was used by the Church Father Epiphanius in his closing comments in the Panarion to high-light the “evil nature” of Simon Magus as being like a snake, asp and a viper.

In the Targum Psuedo-Jonathan, it equates the Serpent with the fallen angel Samael, the “Blind One” who was a originally a great prince in heaven, descended to earth and rode upon the serpent to deceive Eve and seduce her. The fruit of his seduction, as the same text claims (like the Gospel of Philip) was Cain, being the son of the Devil.

And the woman saw Sammael, the angel of death, and she was afraid, and she knew that the tree was good for food.

Rabbi Isaac in The Treatise of the Left Emanation, also compared Samael and Lilith as husband and wife, much like Adam and Eve—an inverted, “Satanic” power, a concept which is featured later in the Zohar and Jewish myth concerning evil. Samael acts as an evil doppelganger of the first man that came into being with the first human transgression:

The first prince and accuser, the commander of Jealousy and Enmity…he is called ‘evil’ not because of his nature but because he desires to unite and intimately mingle with an emanation not of his nature… it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Matron Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other.

As this passage suggests, Jewish mysticism contains a dialectic notion of “evil”; all things emanate from God, so Samael is one of God’s “severe agents,” yet he grows beyond the attenuated form God intended because he feeds upon the evils of the world. The Zohar builds upon the image of Samael found in Rabbi Isaac’s text as the demon king and consort of Lilith; together they are the evil counterparts of Adam and Eve. Samael is the tempting angel from who “copulates” with Lilith as the male and female principles of the “left side emanation”, united and achieve their full potential by spawning demons. Samael is in effect the evil left-side counterpart of Tiferet in the Sefirotic system of the Tree of Life. In the Apocryphon of John, Samael also happens to be one of the alternative names for Ialdabaoth, the Satanic creator god.

In later Kabbalistic thought, Samael is increasingly de-personalized, becoming the organizing force of the Qliphoth, the garments of evil that enshroud the divine sparks contained in the material universe, similar to the Gnostic idea of matter blinding the souls of their divine origins in a miasma of forgetfulness.

The underlying philosophy of most Gnostic schools was one of androgyny (Andros, ‘man’, gyne, ‘woman’). This relates to the condition that the two sexes are present in the same person. Androgony was symbolic of wholeness and unity in spiritual power. In several Gnostic systems, the Supreme being or Monad is regarded as almost always androgynous despite being called the “Unknowable Father”. In Hermetic writings such as Asclepius and Poimandres, there are several references to the bisexual nature of God.


In Plato’s Symposium, he relates that there was originally a race of hermaphrodites who were split in two by Zeus for their lofty ambitions. The perfected person is one who unites both the male and female aspects into one. The virgin is also considered to be a type of androgyne. The Gnostic idea of the Anthropos or Primal Man, like the other aeons, was a hermaphrodite (‘Hermes’ being male, “Aphrodite” being female). The figure of the Primal Man has a close relationship with the idea of the “Son of Man”, the pre-existent heavily being—something lower than God and something higher than the angels. According to Enoch 42:8, the Son of Man is to be “the staff of the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall”.  The rabbinical school known as the Pharisees believed that the Adam Kadmon, the perfect Primordial Man was a mirror image of the divine Logos (“the Word”), and a hermaphroditic being.

The Gospel of Philip says of the:

Son of Man [emphasis mine] came forth from Imperishability being alien to defilement. He came to the world by the Jordan river, and immediately the Jordan turned back. And John bore witness to the descent of Jesus. For he is the one who saw the power which came down the Jordan river; for he knew that the dominion of carnal procreation had come to and end. The Jordan river is the power of the body, that is, the senses of pleasures. The water of the Jordan river is the desire for sexual intercourse. John is the archon of the womb.

The River Jordan who flows south to the Sea of Galilee and further into the Dead Sea, came to symbolize lust and its name implies descent into the natural direction of sexual pleasure and desire for carnal cohabitation. However, the river can be made to ascend by damming the upward flow of the stream which represents the conservation of semen during intercourse, and the generation of divinity instead of seminal emission and expenditure of male energy, much like how we see in certain Tantric practices. The Valentinian Gospel of Philip regarded the separation of the sexes as the cause of death:

When Eve was in Adam there was no death. But when she was separated from him, death came into being.

The Gospel of Thomas presents the child as an exemplar of the androgynous state:

Children are like those who enter the kingdom. When like little children you take off your clothes without shame, when you make the two become one, when you make the male and female into a single unity, then you shall enter the kingdom.

According to the 19th century Catholic mystic, Franz Von Baader, he writes:

The higher meaning of sexual love, which should not be identified with the instinct for reproduction, is nothing other than to help both man and woman to become integrated inwardly (in soul and in spirit) in the complete human or original divine image.

This notion of the divine hermaphrodite reoccurs over and over again in ancient mystical traditions such as the Qabalah and alchemy to modern practices involving sex magic.

As noted in Part 1, many Gnostic sects had strong Ophite leanings—most notably the Naasseenes, who are mentioned by Hippolytus. Hippolytus claims that the Nassenes were the founders of the Gnostic heresy; but he is alone in making this claim (Refutation., 6:1). All of the other Fathers claim that the Gnostic heresy was founded by Simon Magus, starting with Irenaeus. And then there is Origen, who in contrast with Hippolytus says that the Naassenes were an “insignificant sect” (Against Celsus, 6:24). Hence the Church Fathers do not agree on the Naassenes in terms of their role in history and their significance.

The Ophites connected the eternal principle, Nous, “mind”, with Naas, the Greek word for serpent—stating that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was actually Nous in serpent form. Accordingly, the Demiurge tried to prevent Adam and Eve from acquiring knowledge, and it was the serpent who persuade them to disobey the Demiurge and taste of the fruit. This was the origin of gnosis. Because the serpent frustrated Jehovah’s designs, the serpent was cursed (Gen. 3:14). The Naasenes also agreed with the sentiments expressed in the Gospel of Philip, in that the separation of sexes marked the beginning of death and evil when they claimed that sex was “…man’s fatal effort to become one without recognizing that the only real unity was spiritual.”

According to the Church Fathers, the Ophites had a peculiar ritual meal involving a snake. The Ophites made a distinction between Christ the Savior, and Jesus, the man. Christ equated the serpent with the Son of Man (John 3:14), whereas Jesus equated serpents with scorpions, and spoke of the serpent as the “enemy” (Luke 10:19). For this reason some Ophite sects vilified Jesus. Origen in Contra Celsum records that the Ophites cursed Jesus, and wanted converts to do the same. St. Paul’s reference to those who curse Jesus (1 Cor. 12:3) may point to these snake-worshipers. The Ophites also happened to believe that Adam and Eve were originally beings of light, according to Irenaeus in Against Heresies, I, 30.9:

Adam and Eve previously had light, and clear, and as it were spiritual bodies, such as they were at their creation; but when they came to this world, these changed into bodies more opaque, and gross, and sluggish.

The Epicurean Celsus and the Church Father Origen described different diagrams of the Ophites that described their cosmology, which are similar to the account described in the Apocryphon of John. The drawing depicted the seven cosmic spheres ruled by the archons, each symbolizing an aspect of the demiurge enclosed within a large outer circle called the Leviathan or Ouroborous. The innermost circle lay the netherworlds of evil—Hades, Tartarus, Gehenna and Behemoth. The Church Father Origen writes in Contra Celsum that the seven heavens controlled by angelic powers in animal shapes take on the forms of either predatory or aggressive beasts such as a lion, bull, scorpion, eagle, bear, ape, etc. Origen also claimed that the Ophite Demiurge had the head of a lion and was connected with Saturn, and this has led some scholars to conclude that Ialdabaoth was a combination of Baal and Kronos. Others have noted Ialdaboath’s similarities with the Greek monstrous Typhon. These are the same angelic rulers which the Christian Gnostic Saturninus of Antioch describes as the “seven angels who made the world”.

Cherubim by William Blake

Interestingly, the Alexandrian Gnostic teacher, Basilides called the demiurge “the Seven” which could have been a reference to the seventh planet, Saturn, which rules the rest. The Hebrew name of the planet Saturn is Shabbathai, clearly transcribed in the form “Sabbataios” in Gnostic verbal play on the term “Lord of Hosts” as a reference to YHWH. Tacitus in Histories 5,4 associates the Jewish God with Saturn. Saturn is naturally also honored on the same day by the Pagans that the Jews did with Jehovah on Sabbath. Since the Jews worshiped on Saturday, the Graeco-Roman world in which Basilides lived in tended to identify Jehovah with Saturn. Saturn is the Graeco-Roman sky-god so consumed with fear of being overthrown that he devours all his children, missing only Jupiter (Zeus), who does later overthrow him. In Rome the overthrow of the old year by the new, the hunched-up old man by the babe, was celebrated in the Saturnalia. Similarly, for Gnostics, the Christ child replaced the tribal god Jehovah.


As Irenaeus relates in his Against Heresies, Ialdabaoth is the eldest of seven rulers born of Lower Wisdom (See the Secret Book of John for this story). Ialdabaoth is depicted as a grotesque mutant—a lion-headed serpent which fits with Plato’s distinction of the “rational soul” part from the lion and the many headed beast portions of the soul in the Republic along with the Orphic Phanes or Eros.


Using a stolen spiritual power from his Mother, Yaldabaoth creates a material world in imitation of the divine Pleroma. To complete this task, he spawns a group of entities known collectively as Archons, “petty rulers” and craftsmen of the physical world. Like him, they are commonly depicted as having the heads of animals. At this point the events of the Sethian narrative begin to cohere with the events of Genesis, with the demiurge and his archontic cohorts fulfilling the role of the creator. As in Genesis, the demiurge declares himself to be the only god, and that none exist superior to him; however, the audience’s knowledge of what has gone before casts this statement, and the nature of the creator itself, in a radically different light.

They make a human being being Adam, during the process unwittingly transferring the portion of power stolen from Sophia into the first physical human body. He then creates Eve from Adam’s rib, in an attempt to isolate and regain the power he has lost. By way of this he attempts to rape Eve who now contains Sophia’s divine power; several texts depict him as failing when Sophia’s spirit transplants itself into the Tree of Life; thereafter, the pair are ‘tempted’ by the serpent, and eat of the forbidden fruit, thereby once more regaining the power that the demiurge had stolen. Irenaeus continues:

But their mother, Sophia, planned to seduce Adam and Eve through a serpent, so that they would transgress the commandment of Ialdabaoth. Eve, hearing this word as if it came directly from the Son of God, readily believed it and persuaded Adam to eat from the tree from which Ialdabaoth had said not to eat. When they ate, they knew the power which is above all, and they departed from those who had made them.

This paraphrase is a good example of how Irenaeus colors his reportage with his own prejudices. Several Coptic texts have been found recounting the story of Sophia’s intervention in the garden, but none talks Sophia “seducing” Adam and Eve, or the advice coming “as if” from the Son of God. In one text, the Origin of the World, Christ actually does appear in the tree to speak to Eve. But Irenaeus does paraphrase correctly when he says that in these texts what Adam and Eve get from following the serpent’s advice is Gnosis of the Most High, a knowledge that even their own creators, Ialdabaoth and his crew, lack. Another group of Gnostics makes the connection to Sophia even clearer. Irenaeus says,

Some assert that the serpent was Sophia herself; for this reason it was opposed to the maker of Adam and gave knowledge to men, and therefore is called the wisest of all.

The text in front of him is probably the Hypostasis of the Archons, which we will see below:

Then the authorities came up to their Adam. And when they saw his female counterpart speaking with him, they became agitated with great agitation; and they became enamored of her. They said to one another, “Come, let us sow our seed in her,” and they pursued her. And she laughed at them for their witlessness and their blindness; and in their clutches she became a tree, and left before them her shadowy reflection resembling herself; and they defiled it foully. – And they defiled the stamp of her voice, so that by the form they had modeled, together with their (own) image, they made themselves liable to condemnation.

Later on in the the Hypostasis of the Archons, the Feminine Spiritual Principal entered a serpent, who instructed Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge, that they might know their divine origins.  Accordingly, eating the forbidden fruit was not the first sin, but the first act of redemption and liberation! The Gnostics emphasized a crisis of the Divine Fullness as it encounters the ignorance of matter, as depicted in stories about Sophia. Adam and Eve’s removal from the Archon’s paradise is seen as a step towards freedom from the Archons, and the serpent in the Garden of Eden becomes a heroic, salvic figure.

Calling the snake “the wisest of all” is a reference to Jesus’s saying, “Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). The implication is that the serpent, far from being evil, was honored by Jesus himself, just as the dove was honored as the symbol of the Holy Spirit. (Anyone wondering what orthodoxy made of that implication may consult the “Church Father” Epiphanius [1987, 247] for a rebuttal. According to him, Jesus obviously meant only that the serpent is wise because in coiling it protects its head, just as the faithful should protect their faith in Christ when preaching to unbelievers. What an image of Christian preachers! With refutations like this one, it is no wonder the Church Fathers decided just to burn such commentaries on scripture, rather than debate them.

Accordingly, the rulers wanted to confine Adam in the lowest plane of existence (being matter), so they created and imprisoned Adam in the earthly paradise (the Garden of Eden), and bound Adam in sleep and placed the bond of forgetfulness upon him. But this material body was lifeless and without a soul. According to Saturnilus, Adam was initially created as a spine-less, golem-like creature who writhed on his stomach:

The (first) human being was a creation of angels [but was] unable to stand erect because of the angels’ impotence, and rather writhed on the ground like a worm….

The Second Treatise of the Great Seth refers to Adam as a:

laughingstock, since he was made a counterfeit type of man by the Rulers.

As briefly discussed earlier, to regain the creative power that Ialdaboath stole from Sophia (his mother), she secretly counseled Ialdabaoth to blow the spirit into the face, so that the body would waken. Ialdabaoth ignorantly blew on Adam’s face, so that the spirit and the power of his mother (Sophia) left Ialdabaoth’s own body and entered into the body he had created: Adam became alive. The purpose was to put the image (soul) of God into physical body so that they can capture it. The theme of “stealing light” is also only understood in the context of an energy based universe, where the archon’s need the Light to maintain their very existence if not their powers over a beautiful but nonetheless bungled prison, that is the cosmos.


According to On the Origin of the World, Ialdaboath immediately became jealous, because his creation was more powerful and intelligent than him and the other archons. Eve, being an avatar of Sophia, is the one who awakens Adam from his forgetfulness while helping him escape the wrath of the authorities.

Then the authorities were informed that their modelled form was alive and had arisen, and they were greatly troubled. They sent seven archangels to see what had happened. They came to Adam. When they saw Eve talking to him, they said to one another, “What sort of thing is this luminous woman? For she resembles that likeness which appeared to us in the light. Now come, let us lay hold of her and cast her seed into her, so that when she becomes soiled she may not be able to ascend into her light. Rather, those whom she bears will be under our charge. But let us not tell Adam, for he is not one of us. Rather let us bring a deep sleep over him. And let us instruct him in his sleep to the effect that she came from his rib, in order that his wife may obey, and he may be lord over her.”

Then Eve, being a force, laughed at their decision. She put mist into their eyes and secretly left her likeness with Adam. She entered the tree of knowledge and remained there. And they pursued her, and she revealed to them that she had gone into the tree and become a tree. Then, entering a great state of fear, the blind creatures fled.

The Hypostasis of the Archons is somewhat different in detail, and can be supplemented with the longer text of On the Origin of the World. In the Hypostasis of the Archons, Ialdabaoth is infuriated with Adam and Eve’s disobedience and pursues Eve in order to rape her and implant sexual desire into the human race, so that he would have more people to have his counterfeit spirit, who were susceptible to his blandishment and fall into sins and wickedness. Through this mechanism, he was able to ensnare them because desire is part of the dominion of death and ignorance.

The Gnostic authors of these texts instead saw the creator god as the one who implanted sexual desire instead of the serpent. Eve, the woman and “mother of the living”, no longer is the reason behind the fall from grace occurs, but instead becomes a beacon of illumination and salvation for man. True to form, the lustful archons become enamored with Eve and pursue her, foreshadowing their future, disastrous actions when they would return to intermingle with the human race once more and breed a race of terrible, blood-thirsty giants being born of the “fire of the angels and the blood of women.”

As quoted earlier, the Hypostasis of the Archons relate how the brigade of lustful archons literally gang-rape a mere shadowy image or projection of Eve, while the Spiritual Eve escaped their clutches by shape-shifting into a tree through docetic means.


The Pompeii mosiac of “Pan and Hamadryad” found in Museum of Antiquities in Nola, Italy, seems to repeat the theme of the Spiritual woman escaping her satyr-like pursuers when the horny pagan god Pan attempts to reach out to the nude woman, consumed with lust; but the attempt to have sex with her is in vain because she is changing into a tree! The woman in essence reveals her true nature as a tree-nymph. The tree was often associated with life, knowledge and enlightenment. Just as the Hamadryad is ultimately inaccessible to Pan, so also are Life and Knowledge from inaccessible to the worldly “Authorities.”

In modern occultism, the Serpent is considered to be symbol of sexual liberty and hedonism as the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley writes in his book, Liber Al vel Legis (The Book of the Law):

I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this. I am alone: there is no God where I am.

In Part 3, the archetypal symbols of the Tree and Fruit will be explored and discussed in-depth in relation to the helper and instructor figure of the serpent and how the Orthodox version of events in the Garden became the Archon of Christian theology.