Magic

The Faustian Grail

Since the early 16th century, a tragic and sinister story has weaved its way through western culture and even today in pop culture and science—the legend of a man who makes a pact with the devil and then has to come to terms with the contract he signed. It’s the legend of Johannes Faustus. Faustus makes a deal with the devil to gain more intellectual enlightenment even though he is at the top of his intellectual studies in society’s standards but for some reason, it did not satisfy him. The main logistics of the deal was that the devil would serve Faust while he is alive to help him find this enlightenment and in return Faust would have to give up his soul and be the devil’s servant in hell.

And yet, both versions of Faustus present us with a highly unconventional representation of both the sinner/sorcerer (Faust) and the devil in the figure of Mephistopheles. He is a malevolent force, yet brings about good despite himself. Aware of this, he still performs his duty in Faust’s corruption, and in his eventual salvation (or damnation in later accounts). This devil-as-savior motif is perplexing from the standpoint of traditional Christian doctrine, though it did correspond with contemporary but radical ideas expressed in the writings of William Blake (1757-1827) and Lord Byron (1788-1824). Unsurprisingly, Faustus has a lot of crypto-gnostic underpinnings.

Yet to truly understand the role that Mephistopheles plays in Faust we must look deeper still, into the shadowy light of the alchemical and Gnostic sources that were so influential in the crafting of these legends. Mephistopheles is inextricably connected to the Ouroboros serpent, the alchemical motif of a snake devouring its own tail. We find this in Cleopatra the Alchemist’s Chrysopoeia as well as the Ophite cabalistic-like diagram described by Celsus and Origen. This interpretation not only helps us to understand Mephistopheles’ individual role in the drama of Faust but can shed new light on the entire structure of the Faustian narrative.

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But before we explore Mephistopheles, we must examine Faustus himself. Since Faustus has already exhausted the known sciences, he wishes to obtain, with the assistance of Mephistopheles, a complete knowledge of the universe. It is in the black arts that he finds what he believes will satisfy his search for the ultimate gnosis, as well as the power that he believes will accompany it:

These metaphysics of magicians And necromantic books are heavenly; Lines, circles, letters, characters- Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires. O, what a world of profit and delight, Of power, of honor, and omnipotence Is promised to the studious artisan!

Faustus was apparently a historical character who lived in Germany during the early 16th century. A student of divinity, Faustus claimed to have extraordinary powers. In his imagination, he was a necromancer (someone who communicates with the dead) and a practitioner of black magic and sorcery. Although this version of Faustus was nothing more than a braggart and a charlatan, his legend flourished.

The earliest collection of the tales of Faust came in 1587 in an anonymous work titled the Historie of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus. The legend was soon picked up by English playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth. According to rumor, Marlowe was an agent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service—much like John Dee, the pious and famous Renassiance man who would engage in various occult operations in channeling “angels”. Marlowe’s version of Faust’s story, the play The Tragicall History of D. Faustus (1604), soon became the model for the many versions of Faust’s story that followed. It is the story of a man who trades his soul to the devil in exchange for a period of ultimate knowledge and power.

The original story of Johannes Faust, was first translated into English by an unknown author in 1592. As it is known that the author of Faustus, Christopher Marlowe studied with English Catholics at Rheims (possibly spying on them), as references are to the Latin Vulgate (also called St. Jerome, after its original translator in the fifth century) and the Catholic Douay-Rheims version. It is also possible that he used the Protestant Geneva Bible, but all the references he makes are to Jerome.

Marlowe’s Faust is not simply a charlatan. He is a tragic hero, a superman, the archetype of the Renaissance man. Where did Marlowe get the idea to depict Faust as a powerful sorcerer whose willingness to do anything for knowledge and power leads him to the dark side? Perhaps from the apocryphal legends of Simon Magus, the first-century magician who challenged God (like Lucifer) and clashed with Peter in magical feats of sorcery. This connection may derive from Simon’s use of the Latin sir-name Faustus, meaning the “favored one,” meaning that he was the “chosen one” to continue John the Baptist’s tradition, according to the Clementine’s.

There were many sources available to Marlowe concerning the life of Simon Magus. Probably the most important was The Golden Legend (Legende Aurea), a popular collection of tales of the saints by the 13th-century archbishop of Genoa, Jacobus de Voragine.

Simon, of course, is portrayed as a sorcerer who fooled Samaria into believing his divine powers and at one point even claimed he was the holy trinity, being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We already saw in a previous post that, according to Justin Martyr’s Apologia, he went to Rome in the time of Claudius (who was the fourth Emperor of the Roman Empire and ruled between 41 and 54 BCE) and was so convincing at being a God, the nebulous “they” erected a statue to him, under the god “Semo Sancus” being the equivalent to Mithra, Apollo or Helios. He follows Phillip around for a bit before running into Peter and John for trying to bribe them for Holy Spirit power and apostleship (Simony) but those two chastise Simon rather severely before heading back to Jerusalem. But as we’ve already saw in Johnny Mercury, this story seems suspect and reads more like a parody of a Simonian anointing ritual than a genuine account. But, if what Irenaeus says is true about Simon feigning to be the Holy Trinity then this is probably tantamount to blasphemy.

As literary critic Beatrice Daw Brown in Marlow, Faustus, and Simon Magus writes, the careers of the two magicians, Simon Magus and Marlowe’s Faust, follow the same pattern, and their lives have many parallels. Both are extremely powerful sorcerers able to withstand fire, to move objects without touching them and, most importantly, to evoke the spirits of the dead. Both defy God in their own way, Faust with his pact with the Devil and Simon with his arch-heresy of proclaiming himself the Christ and the Standing One. Both travel to Rome, both perform their miracles before the emperor and both have demons at their beck and call. Simon Magus has demons who aid and carry him (shown licking and tormenting him in a relief from the St. Sernin Cathedral in Toulouse, France).

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Faust has Mephistopheles, a servant of Lucifer, who gives him the power to do his magical acts. Simon Magus and Faust both attempt to fly, Faust in Venice and Simon at Rome, and both fail.

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(Mephistopheles peers menacingly over Faust’s shoulder in the statue from the Villa Borghese in Rome, celebrating Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who penned his own version of the Faust legend.)

Faust like Simon, has a semidivine female companion, who is also named Helen. According to many church fathers, Helena is a reincarnation of Helen of Troy. In the Faust legends, she is also Helen of Troy. In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and in the famed poetic drama of Goethe, Mephistopheles employs the most beautiful woman in antiquity to seduce Dr. Faust into the occult realms in Faust’s search for wisdom. Thus Marlowe writes:

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?”

And finally Simon Magus and Faust both meet an inglorious and violent death. Simon Magus tries to fly but crashes to the ground with broken limbs. Faust’s body is found the morning after his pact ends, mangled and torn to pieces.

In Marlowe’s play, Faust’s final soliloquy, the most moving of the entire work, evokes the fall of Simon Magus. In the last hour before his payment comes due, Faust laments:

“The starres move still, time runs, the clocke wil strike, / The deuil wil come, and Faustus must be damned / O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me downe?”

Faust is also reminiscent of the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost by John Milton. In a way, Eve’s mistake of eating the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil to gain more knowledge is somewhat similar to the Faustian Bargain. First, in both cases, the serpent initialized the interactions with the humans. In later traditions, as in Revelation of St. John the Divine and the Books of Adam and Eve, Satan manifests a form of a snake with Eve and in a dog and a nobleman for Faust. In Paradise Lost, it was more to tempt God’s precious recreations to sin for vengeance. By offering the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Eve did gain knowledge (cabbalists would say sexual knowledge which led to birth and death in the world), but in return, she and Adam were also banished from Garden of Eden for her disobedience to God, in which they were no longer under the rulership of Jehovah and his gods.

In Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, we wrote:

In Genesis 3:22, Jehovah declares, clearly to other gods (or Elohim divine council found in Psalms 82:1), that “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Jehovah expresses fear, “lest he reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” The creator seems concerned that, with the wisdom they gained from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve will realize that he’s not the only god, and also that, if they gain immortality by eating from the Tree of Life, they will become gods as well, no longer under his control.

In another chapter, we also note:

In mythology, there is an archetypal scenario in which a person travels from one realm to another, and becomes stuck there upon eating the food of the other realm. This happened to the Greek figure of Persephone when she ate the food of the underworld. Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge and it changed the universe, or perhaps it created a new universe, and she became trapped in it. Jesus told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood to live forever in the New Jerusalem (the “Kingdom of God”) after death. In the New Jerusalem everyone drinks of the waters of life from the rivers of Paradise and becomes immortal. So perhaps there are other recipes involving similar ingredients that likewise could affect the universe around you upon consumption.

Satan, according to some interpretations, is God’s firstborn son, who came before Adam. But Adam was his favorite, and when his firstborn son refused to honor his younger brother, God sacrificed or expelled him. Satan embodied the forbidden wisdom that Adam was not allowed to have, and God told him not to eat of that “tree.” Was this “fruit” the product of sexual union? The carnal knowledge that Eve was endowed with, according to the cabalistic legends, came from her having carnal knowledge of the Serpent, which bred Cain (and perhaps others, according to some stories). What happens when a human and a spirit of the chaos realm mate? Better yet, what happens when you eat the child that was born of such a union?

And so, Adam and Eve were sent away and their children would be born with, according to Catholic tradition, the “original sin”. In this sense, the serpent gave Eve what he promised her: knowledge, but Eve did not know that in the end she would become a person under the authority of the Serpent or Satan and entered in a new universe of sex, birth and death (which is symbolized as the Ouroboros) because of her disobedience to God or the Elohim, the angels of order and creation. In Genesis (1:28), it is Adam who originaly has managerial authority over the world and perhaps even the universe:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, 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.

John Milton would write in Paradise Lost:

“Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit / of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste / Brought death into the world, and all our woe” (1.1-5).

As Sherman Hawkins in The Education of Faust points out, “Faustus’s sin is that of Adam – he seeks by knowledge to be as God.” In fact, the Bad Angel that tempts Faustus to pursue the dark arts says:

“Go forward Faustus, in that famous art Wherein all nature’s treasure is contained. Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky, Lord and commander of these elements!” (Marlowe).

This statement is a parallel for the serpent who tempts Eve by telling her, “God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything both evil and good” (Genesis 3:4-5). Eve and Adam became the followers of the Serpent and yet their relationship is wholly antagonistic as history flows from their deed. This is personified as the “Seed of the Serpent.”

In Gnostic parody accounts, the Serpent was sent by Sophia to awaken Adam and Eve, and in Manichaean accounts, the Serpent was actually an incarnation of Jesus, the Splendor (this is probably connected to John 3:14). According to Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies (V. 14), the Sethians equated the Serpent with the Logos in which it entered the virgin womb and produced the perfect man of Jesus Christ:

The perfect Word of supernal light being therefore assimilated (inform) to the beast, (that is,) the serpent, entered into the defiled womb, having deceived (the womb) through the similitude of the beast itself, in order that (the Word) may loose the chains that encircle the perfect mind which has been begotten amidst impurity of womb by the primal offspring of water, (namely,) serpent, wind, (and) beast. This, he says, is the form of the servant, and this the necessity of the Word of God coming down into the womb of a virgin. But he says it is not sufficient that the Perfect Man, the Word, has entered into the womb of a virgin, and loosed the pangs which were in that darkness.

In Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve was the representation of humanity as they were the first to be created by God. They committed a sin and that is why every infant, according to Orthodox tradition is said have that original stain of sin and have to be baptized because under the laws of God, we are their descendants.

The Faustus story much like Paradise Lost, is about the “temptation” and desire, which is not different from any other human cravings of being more than human. His sinful wish is not different from that of Adam and Eve, only his channels are dissimilar. Faustus conjures up the Devil himself, that is why it is quite doubtful to speak about a real temptation in his situation. We can risk saying that Faustus is already a “fallen angel” or rather a “fallen man” at the beginning of the drama.

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“A Fairy under Starry Skies” by Luis Ricardo Falero

The main difference between a sinful human being and a “fallen angel” is in the later one’s incapacity to regret. Both Dr. Faustus (and even Shakespeare’s Macbeth) are in a situation where repentance is almost impossible. Faustus for example is unable to step further to the next station of penitence, namely humiliation. Consequently, he commits the sin of hardening of heart, which is gradually followed by the futile agony of despair. Faustus’ lack of belief in his salvation, his incapacity to regret, which makes him similar to “fallen angels.” Faustus’ free will plays an important role in the tragedy, since if he was predestined to be damned, we would not have any right to speak about tragedy at all.

Mephistopheles makes a vow with the Lord that he himself as the Devil can win the soul of Faust. Many have dealt with the Faust legend dating from Marlowe to Berliez. Faustus was a man who like Shakespeare and Emanuel Swedenborg was well versed in almost every art and science. This story more than likely originates in Job of the Old Testament where Satan challenges Jehovah he can steal the soul of Job.

The Old Testament also condemns the pagan gods of competing religions in the surrounding areas of the Mediterranean. It condemns sacrifice to them, divination and prophecy through those gods, worshiping them, etc. But if you closely scrutinize Yahweh/Jehovah, he operates virtually identically to the pagan gods. He makes pacts with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Moses: they worship Yahweh in exchange for material blessings on themselves and their descendants. He demands animal sacrifices and burnt sacrifices. He demands submission. He wants temples and altars erected in his honor. And if the descendants of those who originally made the pacts, i.e., the Jews, renege on those pacts, he takes away everything that he has blessed them with and curses them. Sounds an awful lot the Faustian Devil, doesn’t it? Jehovah really isn’t that much different than Faust’s Mephistopheles.

In a sense, Christ’s death on the cross can be considered a “contract” between the Father (according to Marcion is above Jehovah) and Satan for the souls of mankind, signed with Christ’s own blood. This is very much like how Faustus signs his own contract with blood, a contract in which Dr. Faustus is in fact promising his soul to Satan. Mephistopheles tells Faustus that he “must bequeath it solemnly And write a deed of gift with thine own blood, For that security craves Lucifer.”

Marlowe makes the connection between Faustus and Christ again when Faustus says, “Consummatum est!” Here Faustus quotes Christ’s dying words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) when he has signed his own contract with Satan, and in doing so, his contact is compared to Christ’s shed blood on the cross. Images of the alchemical crucified serpent also come to mind. Edmund Siderius in Faust and Alchemy, specifically connects Mephistopheles with the alchemical serpent of the Ophite Gnostics:

In the first part of Faust, Mephistopheles is twice directly connected with the serpent, in the Prolog im Himmel and then in Wald und Höhle. In the Prolog im Himmel he brags that he will quickly return to heaven and declare his victory. No doubt; it’s a short journey anyway.

“/ I’ll win my wager without much delay. / And when I do, then, if I may, / I’ll come back here and boast of my success. / I’ll make him greedy fort he dust, the way / The serpent was, my famous ancestress!”

For Alice Raphael, author of “Goethe and the Philosophers’ Stone”, this is the first indication that we should see Mephistopheles’ role as something other than that of the traditional devil, but rather as that of the Ouroboros in both its destructive as well as constructive qualities. According to her, Goethe knew of the Gnostic Naassenes, or Ophites, probably through Geschichte der Schlangenbrüder by J.L. von Mosheim. As she says, they worshiped the Naas, which in Hebrew was Nachash (serpent) and was the numerological equivalent of Messiah. The serpent as savior motif comes from texts like On the Origin of the World and assorted Manichaean texts. In this regard the Naas was:

“…in primitive times a cult object, later a matriarchal power, and finally a symbol of wisdom. [There is a hidden reference to the Serpent in Faust, Part I] not as the traditional temptress of Genesis, but as ‘Frau Muhme,’ Goethe’s allusion to the female divinity of the Ophites.”

In this scene Mephistopheles describes his motion as circular (from heaven to earth to heaven), and his serpent ancestor’s hunger for dust. On the one hand this could be seen as referring to the bible, yet given his later confession that he seeks to specifically destroy all matter it could instead be interpreted in terms of the Ouroboros’ symbolic role of breaking down matter in the alchemical vessel into prime matter, so that it may be purified.

The next time Mephistopheles makes an appearance alongside a serpent he does so in his role as instigator and agitator of yet more circular action in the play. Faust, after a moment of calm reflection, is yet again driven by the “fire” of desire to pursue the maiden Gretchen for his pleasure. Before he does so, however, he curses Mephistopheles for disturbing his quietude with the insult: “Snake! Snake!”

This in and of itself will come as no surprise, for even in orthodox Christianity the serpent is seen as being a sign of the devil. What is perhaps more telling in this scene is its thematic circularity, a circularity which, when seen in light of the whole work, is a fundamental component of Faust’s redemption. It occurs almost immediately after Faust, in a high point of spiritual reflection, muses to the Erdgeist, the earth spirit:

“You added a companion, who already / Is indispensable to me, although / With one cold mocking breath he can degrade me / In my own eyes, and turn your gifts to nothing.”

The image of the serpent as savior, in the most blatant of alchemical formulations, had already appeared in Goethe’s Das Märchen, published in 1795, thirteen years before the publication of Faust: One. According to Ronald Gray in his text Goethe the Alchemist, Goethe encountered the destructive-creative principle of the Ouroboros in numerous forms. As he says:

“The self-destruction implicit in the rotating serpent was identical with the ‘putrefaction’, or death to self, spoken of elsewhere. Only when man’s lust had completely consumed itself ‘by revolution’ […] could he appear again in his former angelic splendor […]. It was necessary to yield all personal desires and become one with the universe.”

Seen in this light, the excesses that Mephistopheles leads Faust to on Walpurgisnacht can be made sense of in terms of the logic of the Ouroboros, for only when Faust’s lust has consumed itself will he able to become “one with the universe” or “Mr. Microcosm”, his soul purified like alchemical matter through a successive series of decompositions and reconstitution.

We must stop here to comment. In the Hymn of the Pearl, it presents things like the serpent, the sea and Egypt as symbols of worldly bondage. The serpent for the Ophites was a pneumatic symbol, but to the authors of Hymn of the Pearl and the Pistis Sophia, the serpent is presented as an earth-encircling dragon from the original chaos, the ruler or evil principle of this world. This is the same as the Babylonian Tiamat, the chaos-monster slain by Marduk in the history of creation. Hans Jonas in The Gnostic Religion, quotes a little known text called The Acts of Kyriakos and Julita and comments on this situation:

The closest gnostic parallel to our tale is to be found in the Jewish apocryphal Acts of Kyriakos and Julitta (see Reitzenstein, Das iranische Erlosungsmysterium, p. 77), where the prayer of Kyriakos relates, also in the first person, how the hero, sent out by his Mother into the foreign land, the “city of darkness,” after long wandering and passing through the waters of the abyss meets the dragon, the “king of the worms of the earth, whose tail lies in his mouth. This is the serpent that led astray through passions the angels from on high; this is the serpent that led astray the first Adam and expelled him from Paradise. . . .” There too a mystical letter saves him from the serpent and causes him to fulfill his mission.

Egypt as a symbol for the material world is very common in Gnosticism (and beyond it). The biblical story of Israel’s bondage and liberation lent itself admirably to spiritual interpretation of the type the Gnostics liked. But the biblical story is not the only association which qualified Egypt for its allegorical role. From ancient times Egypt had been regarded as the home of the cult of the dead, and therefore the kingdom of Death; this and other features of Egyptian religion, such as its beast-headed gods and the great role of sorcery, inspired the Hebrews and later the Persians with a particular abhorrence and made them see in “Egypt” the embodiment of a demonic principle. The Gnostics then turned this evaluation into their use of Egypt as a symbol for “this world,’* that is, the world of matter, of ignorance, and of perverse religion: “A11 ignorant ones [i.e, those lacking gnosis] are ‘Egyptians,'” states a Peratic dictum quoted by Hippolytus (V. 16. 5).

And so Egypt, being the well-spring and source for Alexandrian mysticism that greatly inspired many Gnostic sects is also (ironically) symbolic of the dark world that all lost souls inhabit. It is this serpent’s circle that we find ourselves entrapped in, as a sort of Eternal Reoccurrence, as the atheist philosopher Nietzsche often wrote about. Again, Edmund Siderius successfully connects the Encircling Serpent with Mephistopheles:

…it is possible to gain a better grasp of Mephistopheles’ role, and where it may have come from. If we see Mephistopheles as the Ouroboros of the Alchemists and Gnostics (and not merely as the Christian Satan) he maintains the traditional associations of the devil, such as destruction, the obsession with the material, fire and the serpent, but gains all the other roles he plays in Faust. The destruction he brings is inextricably bound with creation, which is purified through cycles of fire, be they physical or metaphorical. These cycles tend to be brought about either directly though his catalyzing acts or through pharmakon which share in his inherent ambiguity. It is in this way that Mephistopheles as the Oroborus can serve Faust as Vergil did Dante, allowing him to explore the whole circle of creation: “And with swift steps, yet wise and slow. [Go] [f]rom heaven, through the world, right down to hell”!

So, if Faustus is simply modeled after the Simon Magus myth, then it is Simon, who makes a deal with the Ouroboros for knowledge and occult powers (like Eve and Adam), much like how Paul makes a deal with Satan in 1 Corinthians 5. And as Amanda Myers writes in Biblical Parallels in Marlow’s Faustus, there are parallels between St. Paul and Faustus and even Mephistopheles:

Mephistophilis is first summoned by Dr. Faustus, he quotes St. Paul’s query upon converting to Christianity: “What wouldst thou have me do?” (Holy Acts 4:9). By putting the words of a venerated saint into the mouth of a devil, Marlowe contrasts Paul’s decision to accept Salvation with Faustus’ decision to reject it (O’Brien 4). Later, when Marlowe has Faustus ask, “When Mephistophilis shall stand by me What power can hurt me?” (Marlowe 19), which is an adaptation of Romans 8:31’s “…If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”, he points out the grave error in Faustus’ thinking. By replacing “God” with “Mephistophilis,” Faustus deludes himself into thinking that through a minor devil he could access the omnipotence of God.

The Clementine Homilies (XXXII) also presents many of Simon Magus’ magical abilities which includes shape-shifting into a serpent as well as a goat, reminding us the imagery associated with Baphomet. (Please see our book for more surprising connections between Simon Magus and Baphomet). Simon also has the ability to cast illusory banquets. According to Celsus, Christ could summon banquets and in the medieval grimoires, one can do exactly this by the aid of demons.

Aquila having thus spoken, I Clement inquired: “What, then, are the prodigies that he works?” And they told me that he makes statues walk, and that he rolls himself on the fire, and is not burnt; and sometimes he flies; and he makes loaves of stones; he becomes a serpent; he transforms himself into a goat; he becomes two-faced; he changes himself into gold; he opens lockfast gates; he melts iron; at banquets he produces images of all manner of forms.

The name “Faustus” also belongs to the two twin brothers (Faustus and Faustinianus) as well as the father, of Pope Clement, the supposed author of the Clementines. The name Faustus also is given to a Manichaean Bishop who debates St. Augustine in Confessions  and Reply to Faustus the Manichaean over various theological issues, much like how Simon debates Peter in the Clementines.

Throughout the play, Dr. Faustus sins deliberately over and over again. And yet he also doubts his commitment to the devil, but always deliberately and systematically rejects God and reaffirms his contract with Satan:

“What boots it then to think on God or heaven? Away with such vain fancies, and despair Despair in God and trust in Belzebub!”

Faustus’ heart is so hardened that he rejects outright the guidance of the Good Angel, the wise and sympathetic Old Man, and even the warnings of Mephistopheles himself, who describes his own eternal damnation to Faustus:

“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God And tasted the eternal joys of heaven Am not tormented with ten thousand hells In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”

There is a part in Marlowe’s Faust where Faust asks Mephistopheles how it is possible that a demon can manifest itself on earth, since demons have been condemned to hell, and Mephistopheles explains that earth is merely an extension of hell. This is not so dissimilar to how the Gnostics viewed the world.

“We can say that Faustus makes a choice, and that he is responsible for his choice, but there is in the play a suggestion—sometimes explicit, sometimes only dimly implicit—that Faustus comes to destruction not merely through his own actions but through the actions of a hostile cosmos that entraps him. In this sense, too, there is something of Everyman in Faustus. The story of Adam, for instance, insists on Adam’s culpability; Adam, like Faustus, made himself, rather than God, the center of his existence. And yet, despite the traditional expositions, one cannot entirely suppress the commonsense response that if the Creator knew Adam would fall, the Creator rather than Adam is responsible for the fall; Adam ought to have been created of better stuff.”

But as Amanda Myers reveals, Faustus, in the end, is actually saved—at least in Marlowe’s version:

And just as Jesus forgave the thief on the cross, telling him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise,” Marlowe provides subtle evidence that Dr. Faustus, too, is saved. Many would find it hard to believe that Faustus could obtain salvation after consciously selling his own soul to the devil, but despite his previous transgressions, “what Faustus has dared or done, seems now irrelevant, because, according to doctrine, he need only repent and have faith to be saved” (Ornstein 1380). And that is exactly what he does. Upon a hasty reading of the play, it would appear that this is not so. The final scene is most commonly interpreted as describing the fulfillment of Faustus’ contract with Satan: as the clock strikes twelve, the devils enter and drag a screaming Faustus away. But a careful reading reveals several instances where Mephistophilis threatens “I’ll in piecemeal tear thy flesh” (Marlowe 73), and Dr. Faustus expresses his fears that the devil will in fact “tear me into pieces if I named God” (Marlowe 77).

What Amanda Myers does not acknowledge is that although Faustus’ final act of repentance nullified his contract with Satan, the Devil is forced to act on his threat to tear Faustus apart:

“His faith is great. I cannot touch his soul. But what I may afflict his body with I will attempt, which is but little worth.”

And so because Faustus finally repented at the 11th hour, such an act will guarantee entrance into paradise. This is very much like how St. Paul inflicts a magical death curse upon a member of his own congregation in 1 Corinthians 5, as we saw in the previous post. And so we come to the end to this sordid tale and realize that it doesn’t take a seminary student to realize Marlow’s Dr. Faustus is still a very powerful work and morality cum tragedy play that reminds its readers to consider their own convictions about the soul, eternity, and God.

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The occult legends of Faustus and similar tales associated with Cornelius Agrippa and the Knights Templars with Baphomet may also be compared to the sin of Sophia in the Gnostic Gospels, since occultism, in many ways (as demonstrated in the Faustus story), separates the occultist from God because they are dedicated to gratifying the self or self-worship instead of unifying with God by rendering yourself in obedience to his will. This also seems to the prevalent attitude in Western culture as of 2016, especially in the United States (in various forms)—which indicates to me it is on the verge of cultural collapse. We also see a wide variety of rumors associated with Hollywood celebrities, musicians and gangsta rappers who sell their souls for success to the “Illuminati” and sacrifice the non-compliant as well.

In the Gnostic myth, Sophia wanted to separate from the Monad and be her own goddess, and as a result, she was expunged from the pleroma and birthed the demiurge. Even most of the great Christian occultists throughout history, like Cornelius Agrippa, Eliphas Levi and John Dee, eventually realized this and disowned it. Agrippa makes a chilling renunciation of it all in the vanity of arts and sciencesBut fear not, there is still time to reflect on your spiritual life and see the Light. This is what the Holy Grail cycle is ultimately about. Here are some parting words taken from the Apocryphon of John:

And I said to the savior, “Lord, will all the souls then be brought safely into the pure light?”

He answered and said to me,”Great things have arisen in your mind, for it is difficult to explain them to others except to those who are from the immovable race. Those on whom the Spirit of life will descend and (with whom) he will be with the power, they will be saved and become perfect and be worthy of the greatness and be purified in that place from all wickedness and the involvements in evil. Then they have no other care than the incorruption alone, to which they direct their attention from here on, without anger or envy or jealousy or desire and greed of anything. They are not affected by anything except the state of being in the flesh alone, which they bear while looking expectantly for the time when they will be met by the receivers (of the body). Such then are worthy of the imperishable, eternal life and the calling. For they endure everything and bear up under everything, that they may finish the good fight and inherit eternal life.”

Christian Magicians: The Gospel and the Magical Papyri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen,

Amen,’

Amen!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then you identify yourself:

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

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

Then you lay down the request:

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

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

Then:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

False Gods, Divine Charlatans and Pagan Rapscallions

In my first article, I explored how the Church Father theologians like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, evaluated pagan gods like Aesculapius and Dionysus as well as heretics like Simon Magus, Carpocrates, Mani and of course, the “Sethian” Gnostics themselves and their associations with healings, miracles, charlatanism, demonic fabrications and sorcery. And as it turns out, the many heresiarchs’ magical practices painfully described by the Catholic heresiologists, actually match up well and are virtually identical with Jesus’ own practices and identification as “Son of God” described in the Gospels and by his multiple detractors being the Pharisees and pagan philosophers like Celsus. Yet, there are even more fascinating details regarding these troublesome heretics, saucy saviors and pagan rapscallion demigods.

Gemini Constellation Zodiac

Daimonic Doubles

According to Acts, Simon Magus was a fraud and trickster who feigned his Christian faith. Simon also supposedly assumed that the apostles themselves performed their healing by the art of sorcery, and not by the power of God (despite the fact that he is called the “power of God”), through the imposition of hands. Simon suspected that such miracles were done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, while offering money to the apostles. By this offering of money, he thought, he too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit. Peter rebukes this attempt to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, when he says in Acts viii. 20, 21, 23:

“Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God can be purchased with money: thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”

Harsh words from the Rock, himself against the humble magician. Simon whimpers away by saying:

“Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of the things which ye have spoken come upon me.”

In this instance, Simon was behaving in true Hellenic tradition, whereby it was considered common practice to offer money in return for sharing ideas and secrets. Before this encounter, Simon was impressed by the apostle Philip’s cures and exorcisms. He decided to be baptized, but saw Christianity more like a magical system than a new religion. He probably didn’t care much about the distinction, being of a practical theurgist that he was. His intention to buy the apostle’s secret of “laying on of hands” for healing for Simon was basically a great magic trick.

Unfortunately, it offended the apostle Peter, who hated on Simon Magus immediately. Simon, who considered all of them professional magicians, could not see what was wrong in buying a perfectly good trade secret for a fair price. He probably thought Peter behaved like a pompous hypocritical douche-bag, but being a particularly pleasant man, Simon took the rebuke with good grace.

Not surprisingly, this event of Simon Magus offering the Jerusalem group money for his endorsement, mirrors almost exactly with Paul in the epistles such as: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, Romans 15:25-31. In Galations 2:1-10we see a clear theological dispute between Paul and Peter, with the Jewish community breaking with Paul over it.

“But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles)…”

All of this has lead some to theorize that the whole lot of the Clementine literature is nothing more than a romantic satire of the tumultuous events that transpired between Paul and Peter, with Simon Magus being a caricature of Paul the Apostle as well as his docetic savior, Jesus Christ. Early New Testament critics like F.C. Baur theorized Paul and Simon were based on the same historical figure, Paul representing a positive evaluation of this figure while Simon represents a very tainted, negative one. In one sense, Simon could very well be seen as the “evil twin” or “doppelganger” of Paul because of their similar biographical cues and doctrines they taught to their disciples. This seems like a mirror effect, playing off the dichotomy of Paul/Christ and Simon/the Anti-Christ.

simon-magus-money-peter

This generous patronage to churches doesn’t stop with Paul and Simon. Marcion of Pontus was also said to show up in Rome to buy the papacy 200,000 sesterces. However, the church turned Marcion’s money down flat because they disagreed with him theologically. In particular they were not willing incorporate Marcion’s radically dualistic notion of a creator God (YHWH) separate and distinct from the New Testament God of Jesus Christ (the foreign God). Perhaps it is this episode where the term “Simony” became associated with paying for office which isn’t even what Simon does in the Acts 8 story.

However, Paul’s epistles does speak of collection of money, much like Simon’s efforts in Acts. They all seem to indicate or point to one event, rather than multiple events with the same scenario, which goes something like this:

  • Paul arrives in Jerusalem with the collection and wants endorsement for his position and his gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • The Jerusalem group rejects his position and rejects his money.
  • Paul heads to Rome and the Jerusalem church and Paul break and are never reconciled.
  • Paul develops a theology that scripture and not ecclesiastical institutions as authoritative.
  • The 2nd century church downplays the degree of the split.

The writer of Acts goes to great lengths to Paul’s collection was a different beast, and Paul was accepted as an apostle before any money was involved. The rejection story involving Simon, probably never happened, as this is a morality play about what the church’s defense of rejecting Marcion’s money, distancing Paul from Simony and the figure of Simon Magus. However, by doing this, they inadvertently may have provided some proof that such figures were actually one and the same. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul mentions the very same spiritual gifts that Simon was seeking to obtain from the Apostle Philip in 1 Corinthians 12: 7-10:

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”

Much like miracle workings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, Paul in Acts also exhibits characteristics of a miracle worker and a *gasp* magician! Paul’s miracles forms the basis of his apostleship. Paul also heals a crippled man’s feet but we will examine this episode in the next installment. He made a blind man see again (Acts 13:6-12), raised a young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-2), much like Jesus did in John 11:38-44 with the raising of dead Lazarus, essentially resurrecting an Egyptian-like mummy back to life. The rest of the Gospel of John also has plenty of other Egyptian parallels and motifs starting with the mysteries of Osiris.

Paul’s miraculous powers also enabled him to survive stoning unscathed unlike Simon (Acts 14:19-20) and to survive what would have been a lethal snakebite (Acts 28:3-6). Of course, there is no mention of any of these events in the Epistles just as there is no mention of a murderous Christian-hunting Saul or any of the events ascribed to his conversion, as many scholars have pointed out Acts follows the Epistles much later, just like the four Gospels. Paul in Acts in actually, takes on many of the magical characteristics of Simon Magus, as an illusionist, and healing magician.

However, Paul in Acts 19:19, convinces many Ephesians to bring out their magical books so they can be burned, foreshadowing the great purge of esoteric and magical texts that would befall upon the Hellenistic world under the Theodosian Code, which enforced Christianity to be the state religion in Rome. This is no surprise since Acts was very likely written much later, in the 4th century.

“A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.”

Paul_Thecla

In the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, Paul travels around with a virgin woman, who founds a string of churches and who also conducts water baptisms, much like the Samaritans like John the Baptist. According to the Church Fathers, Simon and his consort, Helena (Greek for “light”), also goes around and finds a bunch of churches as well as a large religious following. There is also some secular evidence that shows that not only did Simon Magus exist in reality and not a figment of some Church Father smoking dope somewhere, he was also conflated with none other than Paul.

In Antiquities 20.7.2, the Jewish historian Josephus, makes a semi-explicit identification. Paulus is Latin for small. Josephus uses either “Atomos” (Greek for small) or Simon depending on the manuscript in this line, “and he sent to her a person whose name was Simon/Atomos.” In other words, “Atomos” was a nickname for Simon, being Simon-Paul!

Another “secular” instance exists in the episode of the expelling of the Jews from Rome by Caesar Claudius is recorded by a Roman historian named Suetonius. In A Historical Introduction to the New Testament (p. 293), Robert M. Grant states:

“Finally, Suetonius…says that in the reign of Claudius the emperor ‘expelled from Rome the Jews who were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus (impulsore Chresto) (Claudius, 25).”

Thus, Suetonius understood, the Jews rioted in Rome at the instigation of someone named Chrestus. Almost certainly, this is someone claiming to be the Christ. Many scholars take this to mean that the rioting among the Jews involved Christians: for Christians proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ. If they are right, then there was a sizable body of Christian Jews at Rome by 49 CE. Also, note that Suetonius puts the blame for rioting on Chrestus himself rather than on his followers. This suggests that in 49 CE, there was someone in Rome claiming to be the Christ. Could this be Simon Magus?

Even more intriguing is that supposedly Marcionites preferred to call Jesus Chrestos, rather than Christos, because they believed Chrestos was a designation that he was the good god, rather than the evil god. Paul uses “Christ” more like a surname rather than a title.

The connections between Simon and Paul may also be found in the anti-Gnostic and Valentinian works by the Catholic Church Father Irenaeus (Against Heresies I.23.3), Simon based his sect on the following teaching:

Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials: … men are saved through grace, and not on account of their own righteous works. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

What’s curious is that this is almost exactly the same gospel that Paul teaches in Galatians, particularly in chapters 2–4.

I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (2.21)

Why then the law? … it was ordained through angels by a mediator. (3.19)

But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin… before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. (3.22-23)

…while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. (4.3)

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental powers? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? (4.8-9)

This is very likely not the way Paul’s gospel was explained to you in church, but there it is, in black and white, in Galatians. Also, what is interesting to note is that Irenaeus occasionally quotes passages from Paul’s letters, including Galatians, but not the specific verses that describe Paul’s doctrine about the bondage of the law, angels, and elemental powers. So what is Irenaeus trying to hide here?

The radical German New Testament critic Hermann Detering goes into much greater detail on the connections between Simon, Paul and Jesus, in his fascinating book, The Fabricated Paul: Early Christianity in the Twilight. He goes to great lengths to show how not only are the Catholic pastorals (Acts of the Apostles, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy, etc.) featuring Paul and his antics non-historical but all of Paul’s epistles are actually Catholic forgeries, redacted from original Marcionite texts, which appear to be a Gnosticism at an earlier stage (although late in comparison to Simon’s time). This also implies Paul himself never actually existed. And neither did Peter as they are likely reworked personas from other figures in Simon, John the Baptist and even Dositheos.

The Pastorals themselves, are plainly anti-Gnostic religious documents who were more concerned about the organization of the Catholic Church. That being said then understand that the earliest Christians are Gnostic and the First New Testament of Marcion is Gnostic in teaching a non-human allegorical Christ or Savior. It is only through the heavily redacted and forged “Second New Testament” given to us by the later Roman forgery “factory” whereby Rome completely re-worked the first New Testament of Marcion and altered the original, spiritual understanding of “the Christ” into a Galilean Torah-observant Jew. The rest is history.

If Paul was so unequivocally anti-Gnostic as he is made to look in the Pastorals, then how would these earliest Gnostic Christians claim him as their great Pneumatic teacher? Paul distinguished between the god of this world and the supreme god (for him, Jesus Christ), as did the so-called Gnostics. He also attributed the law to inferior angelic powers, as did the Gnostics. And he also denied the humanity of Christ, as did most Gnostics. He even denied a carnal resurrection, just like the Gnostics. So aside from all the weird mythological stuff, which is all just conjecture anyway, what difference is there really? I don’t see much.

There are 13 letters attributed to Paul, along with the Acts of the Apostles devoted to the fantastic adventures of Paul. This Roman picture of Paul falls under scrutiny very quickly as a poorly fabricated lie, when cross referencing the epistles and Acts as well as the Nag Hammadi Library, which incorporates Paul’s name in its texts such as The Apocalypse of Paul, the Prayer of Paul, the Hypostasis of the Archons (which begins with Paul’s famous Colossians 1:13 on the “authorities of darkness,”), the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and many more.

Of course, Marcion’s pro-Gentile, anti-Judiac beliefs naturally coincides with the dualism of Simon’s teaching found in the much reviled Clementine literature, that there were two Gods: the first God being good, while the second god being far inferior creator, who in turn forms the wicked cosmos from the tears of Sophia. This first God is mentioned by the Gnostic text Eugnostos the Blessed, which tells us tells us: “No one rules over him. He has no name; for whoever has a name is the creation of another. He is unnameable.”

The Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus dismisses all this in his report against the heretics (Against Heresies 4:34.1):

Now I shall simply say, in opposition to all the heretics, and principally against the followers of Marcion, and against those who are like to these, in maintaining that the prophets were from another God [than He who is announced in the Gospel], read with earnest care that Gospel which has been conveyed to us by the apostles, and read with earnest care the prophets, and you will find that the whole conduct, and all the doctrine, and all the sufferings of our Lord, were predicted through them.

Whether or not Detering is ultimately correct in all his arguments, the notable differences between Acts and Paul’s Epistles could fill up several books. For one, the author of Acts recharacterized Paul as convert to Catholicized Judeo-Christianity. The conversion story on the road to Damascus, isn’t mentioned even ONCE in his epistles—not once. Acts doesn’t even present Paul as an apostle. He’s just an evangelist under the ministerial authority of the twelve. Acts and the actual epistles are in complete contradiction. In the epistles, Paul and the Jewish apostles (i.e., the twelve) are bitter enemies. In Acts, they’re pals.

In Galatians, Paul forbids any Gentile convert to be circumcised. He also resists the Jewish apostles’ (Peter, James, and John) desire for Titus, a Gentile, to be circumcised. But in Acts, Paul circumcises Timothy to comply with Jewish law. Paul had some sort of conversion experience that he mentions in Galatians, but it had nothing to do with the road to Damascus. And going blind. That was all an invention of Acts. One would need to read a reconstruction of the Marcionite Galatians. It was very different than the canonical form.

The same thing occurs in the Acts of Paul of Thecla, written to combat the error of Simon Magus. Here is the rebuttal placed in Paul’s mouth which is contrary at many points with what Paul wrote:

“For I delivered unto you in the beginning the things which I received of the HOLY apostles which were before me, who were at all times with Jesus Christ: 5 namely, that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of Mary WHICH IS of the seed of David ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, the Holy Ghost being sent forth from heaven from the Father unto her BY THE ANGEL GABRIEL, 6 that he (JESUS) might come down into this world and redeem all flesh by his flesh, and raise us up from the dead in the flesh, like as he hath shown to us in himself for an ensample. 7 And because man was formed by his Father, 8 therefore was he sought when he was lost, that he might be quickened by adoption. 9 For to this end did God Almighty who made heaven and earth first send the prophets unto the Jews, that they might be drawn away from their sins. 10 For he designed to save the house of Israel: therefore he conferred a portion of the spirit of Christ upon the prophets and sent them unto the Jews first (or unto the first Jews), and they proclaimed the true worship of God for a long space of time. 11 But the prince of iniquity, desiring to be God, laid hands on them and slew them (banished them from God, Laon MS.), and bound all flesh by evil lusts (AND THE END OF THE WORLD BY JUDGEMENT DREW NEAR).”

For one, Paul does not state in his letters that his teaching and authority are from the Apostles. He states the opposite in Galatians. Two, Paul does not affirm a resurrection of the flesh, or that Jesus was a fleshly being (Romans 8:8, Philippians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:44-50).

Throughout Paul’s epistles, are there chock full of Gnostic buzzwords and concepts. The term aeons are used for elements, pleroma for fullness, Sophia for the female side of divinity, apocryphon for hidden or secret mysteries, and terms to describe various heavenly beings in the cosmos, like archons and cosmocrators. These are the blundering foolish angels who created the universe, out of arrogance and stupidity, to keep fallen mankind from the knowledge of the primoridal aeons. This is the primary reason why Christ, being the embodiment of the pleroma, reached down into hellish matter to ransom man from the clutches of Satan (Jehovah) and the spiritual resurrection. Paul’s epistles, when left un-translated in the Greek, often seem to take for granted the truth of these terribly heretical ideas.

“When we were children, we were in bondage under the elements of the cosmos.  But when the pleroma of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” – Galatians 4:3

“To bring the pleroma of God’s word, a mysterious hidden secret from generations of aeonsnow made known to the saints”. – Colossians 1:25 b-26

“We preach that Jesus Christ is the revelation of a mystery, who was hidden in Sige since the times of the aeons.” – Romans 16:25

“We tell of Sophia, of those who are perfect, yet not the Sophia of this aeon, nor the archons of this aeon who amount to nothing.  We tell of the Sophia of God, in a mysterious apocryphonwhom God determined from before the aeonsfor our gloryand the archons of this aeon were ignorant of her.” – 1st Corinthians 2:6-8

“You walked in the way of the aeon of this cosmosin the way of the powerful archon of the air.” – Ephesians 2:2

Generations of aeons and aeons.”  Ephesians 3:21

“In him (Christ) is contained the pleroma of divinity in bodily form… who is over all archons and authorities… and having neutralized the archons and authorities, he exposed and defeated them.” – Colossians 2:9-10, 2:15

“The pleroma was happy to live within him, and to redeem everything to him.” – Colossians 1:19-20

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the archons (authorities), against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

“…to his own master he doth stand or fall; and he shall be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14)

“…that you may stand perfect and made full in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4)

The last two quotes indicates that Paul was very much familiar with the adage “he who stands”, much like Simon, the Standing One. In his epistles he is constantly using the word “stand” to refer to the possession of grace of faith.

In in Paul’s talk of the Cross, do we find a mystical or mysterious sensibility. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 that he withheld the true interpretation of the crucifixion when he first preached to the Corinthian community because they weren’t yet receptive to the secret wisdom of the cross taught only to the perfected telestai or theletai of the mysteries (initiates). One can say Paul was an initiator of the Jesus Mysteries! Paul, here wasn’t talking about blood atonement. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t even a human being nor did he believe that Jesus ever came to earth. He says that God gave Christ the name Jesus AFTER he resurrected. How does that work if Paul’s Jesus was a first-century Galilean Jew?

That being said, in the Gospels, Jesus also exhibits some Gnostic traits. The Jesus of the gospels taught “secret meaning” (Thomas 1; Mark 4:11; Matthew 13:35), a secret, hidden Father (Matthew 6:6), and a kingdom which is “not of this world” (John 18:36).

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory….

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.”

Paul is very plainly saying that the crucifixion is spiritual, not literal, and the Corinthians were only given the exoteric interpretation because they weren’t yet properly initiated into the mysteries, like a true mystagoge of an esoteric mystery school, reserved for the few. Paul’s Christ was a being he encountered in visions. He wasn’t some dude walking and talking with people on earth as depicted in the much later Gospels. Paul probably only know of a perfect Savior and not any guy named Jesus Christ, a name which was added in his letters, well after Paul’s death.

There is a reason Paul never says anything substantial about Jesus’ ministry, because the gospel narrative was completely unessential to his interpretation of the crucifixion. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t a Jewish messiah who had come to liberate the Jewish state from Roman oppression. Paul’s Jesus didn’t preach any Sermon on the Mount. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t an expiatory sin offering to a vengeful god, either. He was a purely spiritual being who overthrew unseen forces (the archons) through a cosmic crucifixion. Paul even goes as far as to warn his followers against other Gospels, which were more than likely Judaizing Christian ones:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel.” (Galations. 1:6)

When Paul says he’s crucified with Christ, he doesn’t say it as allegory. He speaks it literally. When he says that Christ lives in him, he says it literally. When he writes to the Galatians that they first accepted him as Christ Jesus himself, he says it literally. For Paul, there is no distinction between the figurative and literal nature of the individual’s participation with Christ’s death on the cross.

The individual dies with Christ, in a spiritual sense and is reborn a new creature in Christ. Paul clearly taught that salvation was found only with a divine and Gnostic, experiential encounter with the Living Christ. This divine encounter or vision with Christ is also spoken repeatedly in the Gospel of John (Ex. 6:39-40). This divine encounter changes the inner man, who is thought of as “dead,” carnal, anti-Christ or unregenerate soul, into new life, with a new law written in the spiritual heart of man. Ezekiel 36 and even Jeremiah 31 in the Old Testament speaks about this internal rebirth. Thus the did the Gnostics refer to those who had not been awakened as “the dead” – for their soul dwells in Hades even as they go about their daily business as the puppets of their animal natures and fleshy desires. They were seen as animal men, ignorant, blind, naked and dead. Paul shared the same belief. As did Jesus:

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

The cross of Christ isn’t some historical cross trapped in 33 AD for Paul. It’s a cosmic cross that everyone can partake in. Nobody saved anybody by getting nailed to a cross. Either the crucifixion means something deeper, or the Western world has been in denial for two thousand years. Paul’s encounter with the heavenly Christ is nothing short of a radical transformation, where Paul, in essence is possessed by Christ. Paul becomes enthusiastic in saying:

“For I did not receive it (the gospel) from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galations 1:12).

Perhaps the human Jesus was Paul, while the spiritual or docetic Christ was never intended to be human, or even incarnate on earth. That would explain all the odd conflation of Paul, Simon, and Jesus in the Church Fathers. And why Simon claimed to be the “Standing One” and a manifestation of the “Great Power of God,” while Paul claimed to be “crucified with Christ, and that Christ lived in him.” Paul pretty much makes the claim that he’s an avatar of Christ all throughout Galatians.

“I am crucified with Christ.” “When God was pleased to reveal his Son in me.” “I bear on my body the marks of Christ.” “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”

It also accounts for Paul’s statement that Christ is only given the name Jesus after the resurrection. His original Christology was of a spiritual entity that never became incarnate in the material world, as people like Earl Doherty believe. Paul’s cross is obviously immaterial. It’s some sort of cosmic event that each individual may partake in spiritually. Also, it could further explain why Simon’s disciple Menander too claimed that he was the Standing One (one who has grace).

S_Statue-of-Saint-Paul-in-front-of-the-St.-Peters-Basilica-by-Giuseppe-De-Fabris-1840

St. Paul sculpted in the image of Moses, just without horns.

His message is true in that it came from nowhere else but from Christ. Does this automatically rule out a historical Jesus? There is a reference to such a person when in 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul speaks of Jesus instituting the Eucharist and that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, much like in the Gospel of John and in Luke. As I have stated elsewhere in this blog, John may very well have been originally a Simonian or Gnostic gospel, so this would still fit my proposed scenario. The Gnostics were certainly the first ones to read from it and latch on to it as authoritative scripture. Yet even there, Paul claims to have received this teaching from Christ, not any one man. And again, it seems Paul is actually the human side of Christ. This would explain Paul’s complaint of certain people within the Corinthian church who “cursed Jesus”.

You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:2-3)

According to Origen (Contra Celsum VI, 28), the Gnostic-ish sect, the Ophites, would “admit no one to their fellowship who has not first cursed Jesus.” Could Paul be referring to these serpent-worshipers? One can only guess…However, neither Irenaeus nor Hippolytus mention this in their reports on the Ophites, so who knows for sure?

Now, let’s cross compare the above passage from 1 Corinthians with a text I’ve been working for some time, the Simonian Great Declaration, only preserved in Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies:

This is the writing down of the declaration of voice and name from thought, which is the Great Power, the Boundless. Thus it shall be sealed up, hidden, concealed, placed in the dwelling which rests upon the Universal Root. To you, then, I say what I have to say, and I write what I to write. And this is the writing thereof.

———-

And when they appeared in the midst of the rushing water of the realm of becoming, the female Thought was set upon and defiled by the angels and lower powers who made this world of matter. And they used the fiery power within her to give life to their creations.

Clearly both Paul and Simon talk about “hidden” and “secret” things as well as hostile angelic powers who rule the world. It also seems as though the Pauline writer also employs a very similar manner of writing when compared to the Great Declaration, which also seems like a weak imitation.

Could it be? Was Simon simply a placeholder for the old anti-Pauline literature from Peter’s school? Could the Latin Church Father Tertullian’s “apostle to the heretics,” (Paul) and Irenaeus’ “father of all heresies,” being Simon were one and the same? Could this identity crisis between Paul and Simon explain the mystical and even Gnostic nature of Paul’s epistles? Could it all be just a big coincidence? If so, then why do the early second century Gnostic heretics identify themselves as followers of “Paul,” while their proto-Orthodox Church critics identify them as followers of “Simon”?

Even if we are looking at two men and not one, if their histories are this intermixed, then why was there such a drastic movement by the Orthodox to separate the two? Let’s not forget that both arch-heretics, Marcion and Valentinus, were indirectly connected with Paul in some way, with mysterious teacher of Theodas who was said to be a pupil of Paul. According to Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.17, he records the Gnostic claim that Theudas received secret teachings from Paul or the “deeper mysteries” that Paul reserved from his public teaching and taught only to a few disciples in secret.

Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter.

Such being the case, it is evident, from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the Church, that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions falsified [from the truth].

It’s interesting in how Clement of Alexandria places Simon after Valentinus and Marcion. What’s really going on here? One can only guess. Perhaps the Church Fathers really were smoking crack after all. Or it was just a scribal error. Robert M. Price writes in Introduction to Scroll of Thoth, p. xx:

In reality the formation of the many diverse types of early Christian faith was highly complex and confusing, and there was no place in the emerging sanitized version of church history for the earlier radical Paul.

To be given any place at all, Paul, “the heretics’ apostle”, had to be split into two literary figures: the Apostle Paul and Simon the Sorcerer. The point was to strip from Paul, whoever he may have been, the interpretations of Marcionites and Gnostics, and to consign these to a scapegoat double, the evil twin of Paul, Simon Magus.

Sounds a lot like Superman fighting the evil distortion of himself as Bizarro. Simon Peter fights the “anti-Simon,” Simon Magus, as well. So, is the matter settled? Stuff like this is never straight-forward or cut and dry. However, the similarities between the Paul of Acts and other assorted apocrypha and Josephus, the Paul of the Epistles and what is said by the Church Fathers about Paul, the parallels still exist with what is known about Simon the Magician by his enemies in the Christian Church.

St.Paul-Icon

Jesus Paul/Simon Christ Superstar

As I have pointed out, Paul in Acts even takes on the magical persona of Simon and Jesus as well, lending itself to my argument laid out before. It’s as if the author(s) of these texts, tried their best to separate the unfavorable elements of Paul in the eyes of Simon-Peter’s camp into the magical figure of Simon and unwittingly contrasted interpretations of the same character. The other possibility is that an Orthodox scribe went very far to create wholly fabricated personas to “cover up” the truly Gnostic foundation of Christianity.

Not only do Paul and Simon share some very curious parallels but also with Jesus as well. They are far too many to list all, here, but it seems as though the codices found at Nag Hammadi preserve what is probably the earliest and primordial version of Jesus and his secret doctrine of the Bridal Chamber as well as the idea of “christening” or “anointing”.

Many mythicists’ central talking point is that the Jesus of the Gospels is a myth, pure and simple, based on previous, dying and rising savior gods (Tummaz, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, etc.) which are themselves based on the cycles of vegetation as well as the zodiac, the planetary spheres in our solar system and star systems. There is much truth to this. Even the Clementine literature admits to this. While the similarities of this symbolism are obvious and undeniable, there is not a great deal of Christian doctrine that would identify it as having originated from a solar cult. However, the real question is did the characters Jesus is based on exist in reality? Yes. He is based on two men: John the Baptist and Simon Magus, a combination of both. The two becoming one. Jesus seems also to be very much a verbal composite taken directly from the Gospel of Thomas, and we will investigate this more in another post.

One major key to the mystery of who Jesus of Nazareth was lies in the figure of Mary Magdalene, the first witness to the resurrection, his close companion according in all accounts (much like Simon and Helena as well as Paul with Thecla), and the one who officiated at what would have been considered a royal anointing in Mark 14:3 with the pouring of a large amount of oil upon the head of Jesus. This “christening” or “chrism” corresponds to what should have been the ceremony initiating Jesus as the successor of John, the Baptist. Even the term “Nazareth” has its roots in pre-Christian gnosis and will also explore this at another time…

The Clementine Homilies/Recognitions also indicate that Simon Magus was a disciple of John the Baptist, much like Jesus in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew, Luke and John. The Clementine literature also indicate that Simon was studying in Egypt when John was beheaded, Simon came “out of Egypt” to become the figure head of John’s disciples, from Dositheos’ feigned leadership.

tissot-baptism-jesus476x738

What is intriguing about this is how well it lines up with the Jesus of the Gospels. He is esteemed so much by John that a dove lands on his head during baptism and the voice of God speaks from heaven. However, in John 1:29-33, it states that John bore witness to the spirit descending like a dove, into Jesus, indicating that the Holy Spirit, in fact, possessed him. The other Gospels were uncomfortable with the idea of spirit possession of Jesus.

Of course, the term “Christ” and even “Jesus” both mean the same thing, attached to the original meaning of being christened as the legitimate successor of the Baptist. The title of “Christ” most obviously comes from Simon being “christened” as the successor of John the Baptist. As much as the Orthodox reviled the Simonians and Simon Magus himself, the doctrines of the Roman Catholics such as the Pope as Vicar of Christ on earth successively throughout the ages are actually based on ancient Simonian beliefs and practices with each successive student that takes on his teacher’s role, starting with John the Baptist, Simon Magus, Menander, Marcion, Basilides, Saturnilus, so on and so forth.

This was the biggest propaganda point of the earliest Christians to claim to be the successor of the immensely popular John. However, it also had the in-group meaning of referring to the great being channeled by Simon and Jesus called “the Son of Man”, a mysterious entity also mentioned by Jesus in Matthew in a true apocalyptic Rabbi fashion. (That’s already one too many Jesus’s). The “Son of Man” which is, literally, “Son of Adam” which would be Seth in the Samaritan religious mindset was the great disembodied psychopomp, like Hermes or Eros, who assisted the initiates in their pnuematic travel, stripping of layers of materiality, past the planetary spheres as the spirit ascends into the heavenly abode being the pleroma of light, outside of space and time as we know.

Interestingly enough, in the Gospel of the Egyptians, the text explicitly states that Seth, the Logos, shape-shifted to take on the form of Jesus!

…and established through her the holy baptism that surpasses the heaven, through the incorruptible, Logos-begotten one, even Jesus the living one, even he whom the great Seth has put on.

This sounds a lot like Simon who taught the Trinity doctrine, and claim to come in the form of all three of these hypostatizations of the divine, in the Great Declaration:

“I was manifested to the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father, and among the gentiles as the Holy Spirit, and I permitted them to call me by whatever name they pleased.”

In the Trimorphic Protennoia, Seth is identified with Christ, and in the Apocalypse of Adam, he is the third manifestation of the “Illuminator”. So in essence, the “Son of Man” is also identified with Jesus. These highly esoteric Sethian texts could very well be preserving the Samaritan tradition and important spiritual lineage that starts back all the way with Adam and Eve, continuing on with Seth, and many more in between and finally culminating with Simon-Jesus.

The “holy baptism” was an important sacramental symbol for the ancient Gnostics, especially the Mandaeans and the Samaritans. The reflecting waters of the baptismal pool symbolized the illusory surface-existence of life. Those who are baptized, penetrates the shimmering mask of matter and submerged into the hyper-reality of the Pleroma, a hidden, all-enveloping, ever-present and eternal paradise of which the cosmos is but a fragile, fleeting parody ruled over by foolish demons who think they are gods. The Gospel of Philip tells us:

And as soon as Christ went down into the water, he came out laughing at everything of this world, not because he considers it a trifle, but because he is full of contempt for it. He who wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven will attain it. If he despises everything of this world and scorns it as a trifle, he will come out laughing.

The idea of ascending light-body is not unknown to the Greeks either. The Dionysiac Mystery ecstasy was centered on this idea. In ancient Greek culture, a god was thought to enter the human form in a garment of light that philosophers referred to as a “chiton”. During an oracle’s invocation, a god overtook the physical body, “inspired” it by entering the pneuma in order to use the body as a tool through which to speak. The pythia or priestess, herself was not conscious of the god’s presence, since her pnuema or spirit was possessed by a god, similar to the idea of how Paul was possessed by the spirit of Christ. This notion of a god enveloped in a garment of light is also found in the Hermetic Poimandres, the Mithriac Liturgy, and the Corpus Hermeticum Libellus XIII, all of which employ very similar language and concepts found in Jesus’ teaching to the Pharisee, Nicodemus in John 3: 3-7:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In the ancient Mystery schools, initiatory and theurgical practices often involved the initiate to undergo a rite of rebirth (renatio) which is made possible following a ritualized form of the second death. This death is a spiritual one, where the soul undergoes a kind of night descent and the nous (divine intellect or mind) is revealed in the resurrected (anastasis) spirit body into direct contact with the gods. If one ascends to the gods, one becomes deified or divinized.

In Plutarch’s Fragment 178 relays a similar experience in a mystery school rite of initiation and spiritual alchemy:

“Thus we say that the soul that has passed thither is dead (ololenai), having regard to its complete (eis to holon) change and conversion. In this world it is without knowledge, except when it is already at the point of death ; but when that time comes, it has an experience like that of men who are undergoing initiation into great mysteries; and so the verbs teleutdn (die) and teleisthai (be initiated), and the actions they denote, have a similarity.

In the beginning there is straying and wandering, the weariness of running this way and that, and nervous journeys through darkness that reach no goal, and then immediately before the consummation every possible terror, shivering and trembling and sweating and amazement. But after this a marvellous light meets the wanderer, and open country and meadow lands welcome him  and in that place there are voices and dancing and the solemn majesty of sacred music and holy visions. And amidst these, he walks at large in new freedom, now perfect and fully initiated, celebrating the sacred rites, a garland upon his head, and converses with pure and holy men; he surveys the uninitiated, unpurified mob here on earth, the mob of living men who, herded together in mirk and deep mire, trample one another down and in their fear of death cling to their ills, since they disbelieve in the blessings of the other world. For the soul’s entanglement with the body and confinement in it are against nature, as you may discern from this.”

Initiation rites were not unknown to the Gnostics. Theurgical texts like Allogenes, Trimorphic Protennoia and Marsanes speak about the divine vision and resurrection that would be experienced by the Gnostic initiate in methodical and great detail. The Gnostics looked to Paul’s claim that he experienced this resurrection in his lifetime, and that he had traveled to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), much like how Jesus is resurrected and returns to heaven in Luke and Mark. In the Gospel of John, Jesus hangs around with his disciples in a new spiritual body. In Revelations 19:8, it speaks of “white robes” being distributed by Christ to his “Bride”, so this also fits into this spiritual body theme.

The title “Son of God” is not a Jewish messianic one and occurs in the gospels in connection with Jesus’ miracles. This is because “son of God” implies a supernatural being in human form who performs miracles by his own divine power. It also denotes doceticism. 

The Mithras Liturgy depicts the adept being deified by the spirit, becoming the sun, and accomplishing the miracle of ascending into heaven. This parallels the career of Jesus. In the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, appears “I am the son of the living god”. PGM 4.142-221 concludes with union with the deity in form, a gift of power in the deity’s name, and the believer achieving a nature like the god.

Book of the Dead

Even the Pyramid Texts and the Book of the Dead present evidence that the ancient Egyptians believed that humans can become gods through theurgy. These gods were seen as possessing a form of magic, or original creative power that formed and co-created the cosmos. This idea carries on even into the Torah, in Genesis 1 (along with Isaiah and Psalms), where creation can be seen as a magical act, a miracle—as the word of God has the power of creation. The formation of Adam and Eve from dust and flesh by God was seen as similar to golem-making in Jewish Kabbalistic rituals employed by Rabbi magicians as seen in the Babylonian Talmud. The PGM V. 106-110 even declares Moses himself as a magician and the author of several magical books and charms.

“I am Moses your prophet, to whom you committed your mysteries which are celebrated by Israel [sic]…Listen to me, I am the messenger of Phapro Osoronnophris. This is the authentic name which was committed to the prophets of Israel.”

The PGM, or the Greek Magical Papryi, shares a great deal of parallels with both ancient Egyptian texts and the Christian Gospels, as they both involve miracle and healing stories. They also include details on baptism, magical spells, being declared a god, experiencing mystical phenomena in the wilderness like a shaman, exorcisms and cures, calling disciples while traveling as a master or holy man, initiation to learn the master’s magical secrets and true meaning of the parables, the reception of supernatural visions or divine revelations, etc.

The Bridal Chamber ritual could also very well been a mystery initiation rite, explaining the reunification of the masculine and feminine sides of the soul depicted in the Adam and Eve division when the one soul incarnated in matter, requiring a bifurcated experience into two genders. This is discussed at length in the Gospel of Philip. The fragmented Dialogue of the Savior found in the Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of some of these spirit travel experiences from those closest to the Savior that records encounters with the Son of Man and a series of spiritual initiations which match perfectly well with that of a pagan mystery school:

Whoever does not know the work of perfection, knows nothing. If one does not stand in the darkness, he will not be able to see the light. If one does not understand how fire came into existence, he will burn in it, because he does not know the root of it. If one does not first understand water, he knows nothing. For what use is there for him to be baptized in it?

The same text even employs some Simonian language, by saying those who stand (the Standing One) will “rest forever”:

“The Savior said to his disciples, “Already the time has come, brothers, for us to abandon our labor and stand at rest. For whoever stands at rest will rest forever.”

Nag Hammadi texts such as the Gospel of Philip and Dialogue of the Savior also record the idea that Jesus Christ was a magician as well as a mystery school initiate. In Philip, there are several separated references to dyes such as “the Son of Man has come as a dyer”. It refers to looking into dyed water until the eye tires and visual images come forth. Later, there are references to “the mirrored bridal chamber” and “none can see himself either in water or in a mirror without light. Nor again can you see in light without water or mirror”.

The last sentence of Philip a little defensively sums up the argument for their practices of scrying secretively in the dark (much like John Dee did in the 15th century) before a mirror to experience the higher self: “This is the way it is: it is revealed to him alone, not hidden in the darkness and the night, but hidden in a perfect day and a holy light.”

One description of this process is in the Magical Papyri from Egypt (1, 180-V:4-5, 44-46):

“Divination by means of a bowl and a lamp: the boy sits holding the bowl in his lap, scrying by the aid of lamplight reflected in the surface of the water. A spell pronounced over the boy induces a trance…”

The Gospel of Philip also records Jesus Christ performing initiation rites that sound much like that one of the Hermetic mystery schools of Egypt.

The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber. […] he said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in the place.”

Gee wiz, where else have we heard this before? Even the Eucharist itself has its origins in magical rites associated with Egypt and can be found in early Samaritan texts like Joseph and Asenath. As we will see in the next two parts, this is enlightened, Sage-like, perfected picture of Jesus, more than likely is the original version, which has its golden thread rooted in Greek and ancient Egyptian-Hermetic wisdom.

In future posts, we will explore further connections with Simon Magus/Paul, Apollos and Apollonius with the great Greek pantheon of Olympian and demi-gods, more tantalizing details from the Greek Magical Papryi, and delve deep into the shimmering pools of the Hermetic and Neoplatonic mysteries. See you next time, truth seekers.

False Gods, Divine Charlatans and Those Pesky Gnostics

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not  believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and  wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look,  He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:23-26).

Wonder-workers, charlatan magicians, miracle-mongers, impious impostors pretending to be gods and Messiahs were a dime a dozen. Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiv, 11-12 – as Hermes and Zeus), Alexander of Abonoteichus, Apuleius, Mani, Porphyry, Iamblichus were all considered and often hailed as genuine gods incarnate- not to mention Jesus Christ. And yet, they all had very important insights and knowledge worth considering. While Christians have long claimed that Jesus was the one and only true resurrected crucified savior, antiquity reveals that there were a whole host of others savior figures. Christians believe that Jesus’ miracles were performed through God, and that the miracles of the others were the work of the devil. However, to followers of Mithras, Apollonius or Osiris would claim the opposite in that Jesus was indeed of the devil. The only difference in all of these religions is belief. Here’s just a few of them and their testimonies.

Imitating Spirits and False Prophets

The Catholic Church Fathers were very quick to dismiss many of these people (as listed above) as fakes, quacks and charlatans (although not all, of course). The semi-heretic and first Catholic theologian, Justin Martyr, for example, in the First Apology, Chapter 22, concedes and acknowledges that the snake god of healing, Aesculapius, very much fit the pattern of Jesus as a healer:

And if we even affirm that He (Jesus) was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. 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.

Later on in the same book, in Chapter 25, Justin Martyr claimed that through Jesus Christ, the Christianized former pagan has learned to despise the former gods as impostors while in essence mocking Jesus’ ability to heal the sick:

And, secondly, because we— who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona (who in their loves with men did such things as it is shameful even to mention), and Proserpine and Venus (who were maddened with love of Adonis, and whose mysteries also you celebrate), or Æsculapius, or some one or other of those who are called gods— have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these, though we be threatened with death for it, and have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impossible God…

In 2 Apology, Chapter 5, Justin Martyr takes it a step further by claiming the Greek poets and “mythologists” were inspired by the fallen angels and demons. It is obvious that Justin Martyr is very much inspired by the Book of Enoch and the Book of Watchers (and somewhat from Jewish pseudepigrapha Testament of the 12 Patriarchs), all of which belong to a family of Jewish Apocalyptic apocrypha- which in themselves were more than likely inspired by Greek myths of the Titans and the Olympians (or the Titanomachy) to its Jewish authors as well as the sexual liaisons between the gods and mortals. They could also be partly inspired by the unsavory early Roman episode involving the Rape or Abduction of Sabine Women as well.

Whence also the poets and mythologists, not knowing that it was the angels and those demons who had been begotten by them that did these things to men, and women, and cities, and nations, which they related, ascribed them to god himself, and to those who were accounted to be his very offspring, and to the offspring of those who were called his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and to the children again of these their offspring. For whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and his children, by that name they called them.

In the same chapter, Justin Martyr, calls the children of the angels, “demons”:

 But the angels transgressed this appointment. and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons.

This very much recalls the Greco-Roman concept of the daimon, which is different than the Christianized or “demonized” version. These spirit beings are often depicted as intermediaries between the divine as gods (Plato’s Symposium) and other times as wardens of lowly humans in the cycles of reincarnation on earth (Corpus Hermeticum). Naturally, this corresponds to the story of the Book of Watchers, where (as indicated in the same chapter) that the Watchers enslaved mankind by “magical writings”, fears of punishments and teaching man to offer sacrifices, incense and libations through lustful passions to demonic spirits.

So, here we have the first Church theologian appealing to apocrypha and not the “Word of God” or the accepted “Canon”! The Book of Enoch also claimed that the Watchers taught mankind all sorts of magical arts, incantations and weaponry. The Watchers, according to Justin, were trying to get mankind to worship their demonic progeny (i.e. the Nephilim). In other words, the pagan mysteries were all inspired by the Fallen Ones. Not only were the pagans inspired by demonic activity but evidently, so were the heretics such as Marcion (First Apology, Chapter 26):

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works.

Much later, Irenaeus, being largely dependent on Justin’s account, would claim that the Gnostic heretics like Simon Magus and Carpocrates were skilled magicians and charlatans who were adept to summoning demons (Against Heresies 1.23):

Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called Paredri (familiars) and Oniropompi (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service.

And the cult of Carpocrates (ibid. 1.25.3):

They practise also magical arts and incantations; philters, also, and love-potions; and have recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over, even now, the princes and formers of this world; and not only them, but also all things that are in it.

Notice how Irenaeus’ description of both the Simonians and Carpocrateans are virtually identical. In Acts 8-9, the text claims that Simon Magus was also thought of using demonic powers to do miracles and wonders, much like Jesus is accused of by his enemies in the Gospels. It was written that Simon taught that the precepts of the law and the prophets were inspired by angels “in the desire to reduce men to slavery” and that those who believed in him and Helena were delivered from the tyranny of the law and were free to act as they would as detailed by Irenaeus. One must remember that the record of Simon Magus was either written by Orthodox Christians or scholars strongly influenced by Orthodox dogma. Thus Simon is portrayed as a villain and enemy of the church. There is zero objectivity within the existing historical record about Simon.

The Really Bad Samaritan

Wolfe-Mary And Jesus

It is said that Jesus had a “wife” or female companion/disciple and even purported prostitute, being Mary Magdalene, as indicated by the Gospel of Philip and other miscellaneous papyri. Simon also had a beautiful female companion named Helena who he redeemed from a brothel in the Phoenician city of Tyre. He recognized her immediately as the incarnation of Ennoia, His First Thought, the Holy Spirit, the Mother of All. He purchased her from her master and she became his constant companion during his travels and ministries. Justin Martyr in First Apology, Chapter 26, tells us about this power couple.

“To Simon the holy God.” And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him.”

Much like Apollonius, Simon was worshiped like a god. They proclaimed themselves themselves male and female gods battling the imprisonment of humanity from a rebellious number of fallen angels and archons. The Trojan War was seen as an allegory for the Archons going to war over the beauty and light of the fallen Helena, who is depicted as a prostitute because is captured, raped and abused by them, symbolizing the humiliation and imprisonment of the parcel of the divine light, placed in the human body. The NHC text, Exegesis of the Soul tells of her story of degradation and redemption, in great and painful detail.

Simon claimed he came to Earth to rescue Helena, the goddess Ennoia or the “First Thought” of the “Universal Mind” in human form. In other words, Helena was Sophia or Wisdom incarnate on earth. He promised that he would dissolve the world the angels had made. He promised that all who trusted in him and Helena could return with them to higher regions. The fall, suffering, degradation and redemption of the prostitute Helena, found working in a brothel, who was bought be Simon, mentioned in all the Catholic sources was a sure sign of Simon’s depravity to the Church Fathers. The brothel itself was seen as symbolic of the world of flesh in which the divine light is caught in an adulterous folly of being taken hostage in the “tomb” of the body. In fact, Epiphanius goes so far as to call Helena “the whore” of the Holy Ghost! Epiphanius reiterates the illicit nature of Helena and Simon Magus’ relationship in Panarion, 2, 21, 2:2-3.

2:2 Since the tramp was naturally lecherous, and was encouraged by the respect that had been shown to his professions, he trumped up a phoney allegory for his dupes. He had gotten hold of a female vagabond from Tyre named Helen, and he took her without letting his relationship with her be known.

2:3 And while privately having an unnatural relationship with his paramour, the charlatan was teaching his disciples stories for their amusement and calling himself the supreme power of God, if you please! And he had the nerve to call the whore who was his partner the Holy Spirit, and said that he had come down on her account.

Perhaps this might be an off-colored indication that the “Whore of Babylon” of Revelations 17 and 18 is none other than Helena.

If I am depraved to find this beautiful creature divine, then I am the most depraved person in the world!

If I am depraved to find this beautiful creature divine, then I am the most depraved person in the world!

Many today call for replacing Christianity and the other world religions with a new form of spirituality that unites the world. Simon Magus actually traveled to Rome and established a universal church or at least a very large cult-following, before he was murdered by the Christians. Some people even suggest that he was the first Pope of the Catholic Church! If this were true, this would be a very strange dilemma indeed and would need another post to fully examine this point alone. Anyway, the story of the death of Simon Magus is a twisted portrayal of what really happened. It seems that Simon was capable of leaving the body and traveling freely in the spiritual planes or at the very least initiated as Paul was in 2 Corinthians 2:12-14:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows. He was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

Because he spoke of this, the Christians mocked him and claimed that he was a god and could literally fly at will. As the story is told, Simon was performing magic in the Roman forum, proving his divinity, and was flying up into the air by the aid of riding a chariot lead by demons, according to Cyril of Jerusalem in the Catechetical Lectures, VI, 14-15. But the Apostle Peter prayed to God to stop his flying, and Simon fell to Earth, breaking his legs. The crowd then turned on him and stoned him to death. I suspect what probably actually happened was that the Christians threw Simon Magus off of a balcony, demanding that he show them his ability to fly. He fell to his death. Thus the first attempt to head-off the founding of the most enslaving religion that has ever existed was thwarted by Simon’s murder. Hallelujah!

Death of SImon Magus

While Simon was alive, he taught a doctrine of Grace, and freedom from the Mosaic Law, much like Paul did in his epistles such as Galatians, Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians. Carpocrates had very similar beliefs but was also much more Platonic in his orientation than Simon, however. Simon and his disciple, Menander taught that by means of magic one may overcome the angels that made the world. Only if you are baptized or initiated into Menander’s cult will you obtain resurrection and never die, again having eternal youth (Against Heresies 1.23). This corresponds to much of what the Greek Magical Papryi talks about of having a familiar or assistant spirit:

The] traditional rite [for acquiring an assistant]:  After the preliminary purifications, / [abstain from animal food] and from all uncleanliness and, on whatever [night] you want to, go [up] onto a lofty roof after you have clothed yourself in a pure garment . . . [and say] the first spell of encounter as the sun’s orb is dis appearing . . . with a [wholly] black Isis band on [your eyes], and in your right hand / grasp a falcon’s head [and . . . ] when the sun rises, hail it as you shake its head [and] . . . recite this sacred spell as you burn [uncut] frankincense and pure rose oil, making the sacrifice [in an earthen] censer on ashes from the [plant] heliotrope.

The same text goes into great detail on how to go into direct contact with the daimon or familiar spirit, which is basically synonymous with the Holy Guardian Angel of modern magical groups such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Crowleyean Ordo Templi Orientis- both of which peddle pseudo-Gnostic ideas. In any case, the pagan mystagogue and the Gnostic heretic are both condemned as sorcerers of demonic spirits and being possessed by them. Yet, many of these practices were actually done by Jesus in the New Testament! There may as well be a show called, “I dream of Jesus” or “Be-Jesused” the movie. Although I discuss this in great detail in my commentary on the Great Declaration, here are a few more interesting tidbits.

Healing Jesus

Jesus in all four Gospels, is often portrayed as both a sorcerer and an exorcist. When the Pharisees hear of Jesus’ successful exorcisms and healing of the sick, they do not dispute the effectiveness of such activities but they equate the source of this capacity as an unholy partnership between Jesus and Beelzebub, “the prince of demons”. Jesus is essentially to them, using demonic powers. It is very interesting to note that in Judaism, Yahweh was considered the sovereign god, supreme over all other spirits. In fact, Satan was given divine permission to test Job by Yahweh (Job 1-2) and the so-called demonic “evil spirits” were actually emissaries of Yahweh (1 Samuel 16: 14-16). The point is, angels nor demons have any real independence from Yahweh and are basically his lackeys. I smell archons!

The Pharisees accused in multiple places in the Gospels that Jesus is in league with Beelzebub and the powers of darkness. Jesus’ response to Pharisaic judgement is to show up the illogicality of their argument. If they’re right, then all it means is that Jesus is destroying demons by the power of demons, indicating that Satan’s kingdom is at war with itself and therefore, like any kingdom in this situation would face imminent collapse. The fact here’s no such evidence of the imminent overthrow of Satan’s kingdom indicates that this kingdom is not divided and therefore his power to exorcise must come out not from Satan but from another source. Jesus affirms that the source of his activity is in the “Spirit of God” (the Holy Spirit) meaning that the casting out of such demons and the overthrow of Satan was actually a sign that a new Kingdom alien to the world, was is manifesting itself. This, of course, corresponds to the Gnostic belief that God’s Kingdom manifests itself from the inside or the internal into the external as the Gospel of Thomas states:

3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

The Gnostic believes that the true God exists within. They believe that all humans share a single spirit, and thus are all one. Ironically, this mirrors in a much twisted way like how the Kingdom of Darkness works as well, as every unclean spirit is “equal.”

Asklepios - Epidauros

In the Acts of Pilate (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus), the Jews accuse Jesus of being a magician (a charlatan) meaning someone who merely uses placebo’s or tricks. They claimed that Jesus invoked Beelzebub to cast out demons:

Pilate saith: And what things are they that he doeth, and would destroy the law?

The Jews say: We have a law that we should not heal any man on the Sabbath: but this man of his evil deeds hath healed the lame and the bent, the withered and the blind and the paralytic, the dumb and them that were possessed, on the Sabbath day!

Pilate saith unto them: By what evil deeds?

They say unto him: He is a sorcerer, and by Beelzebub the prince of the devils he casteth out devils, and they are all subject unto him.

Pilate saith unto them: This is not to cast out devils by an unclean spirit, but by the god Aesculapius.

Of course, it is doubtful the word daimon would have been used in such a derogatory way by a pagan like Pilate. In the Gospel of John chapter 5, Jesus heals a life long blind man at the pool of Bethesda outside the walls of Jerusalem. There is archaeological evidence that this was an Aesclepion, or a healing center.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

The phrase hygies genesthai (Do you want to be healed?) and the word louein (to wash) are reminiscent of language of the Aesculapius/Serapis cult as is the term soter. This same terminology (soter) is also ascribed to Dionysus or Bacchus.

In the Acts of Pilate, the Jews attribute Pilate’s wife’s dream to Jesus as a sorcerer, mirroring Irenaeus’ accusations against the Simonians and Carpocrateans’ practices:

Did we not tell you he was a sorcerer? Behold! He has sent a dream to your wife.

In the Nag Hammadi text, Aesculapius 21-29, Hermes Trismegistus tells Aesculapius:

“Since we have entered the matter of the communion between the gods and men, know, Asclepius, that in which man can be strong! For just as the Father, the Lord of the universe, creates gods, in this very way man too, this mortal, earthly, living creature, the one who is not like God, also himself creates gods. Not only does he strengthen, but he is also strengthened. Not only is he god, but he also creates gods. Are you astonished, Asclepius? Are you yourself another disbeliever like the many?”

This sounds very similar to what is expressed in the Gospel of Philip:

God created man. […] men create God. That is the way it is in the world – men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!

All of this is echoed in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in John 10:33-38, which is an imitation of Psalms 82.

The Jews answered Him, “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods'”? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be set aside–what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.

Simon was a disciple of John the Baptist just as Peter was in the Gospel of John, who was also called Simon (John 1). Simon argued that there are many Gods as well in the Clementine Homilies, just as Jesus argued, “ye are gods” in imitation of King David in the Psalms, as quoted above. Simon is the Standing One while the Jesus of Revelation is the one who was, is, and is to come. Hippolytus makes a major point over this in Philosophumena. Absethus the Libyan even sent out parrots to say that he was God thus creating a, “voice from heaven,” just as John heard when Jesus had a bird land on him (Luke, Matthew, Mark, Acts of the Apostles, Hebrews). Why stop there when there are so many similarities?

Here’s a summation of the points listed above and then some: Simon claimed to be God and was from Alexandria, while Jesus was accused of claiming to be God, or the Son of God, and visited Egypt in the Babylonian Talmud. Simon was accused of being Magician and Sorcerer, while Jesus was accused of the same by the Pharisees. Simon was a Samaritan, Jesus was accused of being a Samaritan, again by the Pharisees. Both were accused of being possessed Necromancers as well. Both Paul and Simon held to a doctrine of salvation by Grace. Both Paul and Simon were considered “lawless ones,” by their detractors because of their rejection and devalue of the outward practice of the Law of Moses. Jesus in the Gospel of John (10:34) tells the Pharisees scornfully, “your law,” while also saying that all that came before him were “thieves and robbers,” (10:8) implying the Old Testament prophets were indeed these endearing terms.

Simon saved Helena a prostitute, and Jesus saved Mary Magdalene, a prostitute. Both taught that their followers would never die and have eternal life. Jesus said to eat his flesh, Simon ate flesh. Paul and Simon were both accused of libertinism and eating food sacrificed to idols. Simon was called a “Gnostic, falsely so-called” by Irenaeus and Ignatius calls him a “Nicolaitan falsely so-called.” Both Jesus (John) and Simon denied YHWH as claimed he was Satan and the father of lies. Simon claimed to make the secret manifest while Jesus made the secrets of the kingdom of God known. Phew!

Those Pesky Gnostics

The Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus (A.H. 1.16.3) would bitterly complain against the Gnostics that they were impious blasphemers against Yahweh, asserting that the Biblical God arose from a defect while claiming they were superior to such a god and there there is a superior, hidden and previously Unknown God, above the inferior creator much like what Simon believed according to the Clementine literature.

Impious indeed, beyond all impiety, are these men, who assert that the Maker of heaven and earth, the only God Almighty, besides whom there is no God, was produced by means of a defect, which itself sprang from another defect, so that, according to them, He was the product of the third defect.

The Gnostics thought of themselves as not only superior to YHWH but also had nothing to fear from such a god and his slavish laws and bitter slavery. The Gnostics took Jesus’ axiom of “seek and ye shall find” as an invitation to discover themselves as superior to the God of the Bible. And because of this, their behavior was often conceived as being antinomian because the liberty of the Gospel freed everyone from the dead letter of moral Law of Moses. (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”)

Such men, according to Irenaeus, were sent by Satan himself, in order to dishonor the Church and were accused of all manner of libertine behavior- everything from eating meat sacrificed to idols as Paul discusses in a very ambivalent way (1 Corinthians 8:1-8), to being the first to assemble at heathen festivals, gladiator games, and engaging in sexual licentious practices such as consuming sexual fluids, orgies and wife-swapping. Epiphanius goes to great lengths to claim that Simonians, among many other Gnostic sects, consumed semen and menstrual fluids because they allegedly had power to provide perfect knowledge, upon ingestion in their ceremonies. He even claimed that another Gnostic sect, the Phibionites, would actually consume an aborted fetus in the event that a woman was accidentally made pregnant! Baby sandwiches anyone?

Other times the Gnostics were simply accused of abstaining from sex and marriage altogether, considering them abhorrent and tools of Satan- much like Marcion of Pontus and Saturnilus of Antioch. These kinds of people, according to Irenaeus, were so numerous and common that he quite literally describes them as mushrooms in terms of being pests:

Besides those, however, among these heretics who are Simonians, and of whom we have already spoken, a multitude of Gnostics have sprung up, and have been manifested like mushrooms growing out of the ground.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus, the Gnostics were also considered to be healers and known to be involved with sympathetic magic, Indian-styled mantras, hissing sounds and other healing practices as mentioned by their philosophical arch-nemesis, the father of Neoplatonism, Plotinus in Enneads 2.9.4:

They tell us they can free themselves of diseases. If they meant, by temperate living and an appropriate regime, they would be right and in accordance with all sound knowledge. But they assert diseases to be spirit-beings and boast of being able to expel them by formula: This pretension may enhance their importance with the crowd, gaping on the powers of magicians; but they can never persuade the intelligent that disease arises otherwise than from such causes as overstrain, excess, deficiency, putrid decay; in a word, some variation whether from within or from without. The nature of illness is indicated by its very cure. A motion, a medicine, the letting of blood, and the disease shifts down and away; sometimes scantiness of nourishment restores the system: Presumably the spiritual power gets hungry or is debilitated by the purge. Either this spirit makes a hasty exit or it remains within…

It might be a surprise to my readers that the early Gnostics weren’t just philosophizing esotericists spouting “crazy mumbo-jumbo” or so-called “flesh-hating dualists” as the Orthodox claim but were also legitimate physicians from actual medical schools! These medical schools were known as the Pneumatics and the Methodics, the first of which was founded by Athenaeus of Attalia and Galen. Galen himself was a Platonist and understood medicine and human anatomy in terms of humorism.

The Catholics on the other hand had no medical training- whether it be theoretical or practical. They relied on the superstition of prayer which is hardly any different than the divination used by witches. The Pneumatics, much like the Plotinus’ Gnostics, believed that disease was due to an imbalance in temperature and deficiency/overabundance of liquids to be a cause. It wouldn’t be an enormous stretch to consider that the Pneumatics and the Gnostics were actually one and the same. It would also explain Paul’s usage of the term “pneumatikos” in his letters, as many scholars are simply stumped on where he picked up such a word.

Before the 1st century C.E., there was a school of Aesculapius at Epidaurus and this was the leading center of the medical field in the Greco-Roman world even up to the 2nd century. Galen, the Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, was responsible for popularizing the prognostic approach over that of divination and speculation. The Gospels and the Apocryphon of John, as well as book six of the Philosophumena of Hippolytus as well as the Great Declaration of Simon Magus, all share similar ideas in that they both apply unusual readings and applications on human physiology. The Apocryphon of John lists all of these parts as being associated with a number of different ruling demons, as the same texts quotes all of this from the Book of Zoroaster. When Jesus went in to a place to “cast out demons” he was in reality restoring one of the supposed 365 parts of the body that were ill or misaligned, or of bad humor.

Manichaean Tom-Foolery

In about 252 AD, Mani, a Persian, mixed Gnostic-Christianity, Buddhism and other Persian elements. He stated his teaching came from Christ and the Persian Magi. Mani taught there are two eternal principles: one Light and one Darkness. For Mani, Jesus was not a real man [did not have flesh] nor did he undergo punishment on the cross. Satan is also the god of Moses and the prophets. Man does not have free will, as some are born with their nature totally depraved, while others are born nearly perfect.

Mani much like Simon Magus, Carpocrates and the Alexandrian-Egyptian Hesesiarch Basilides, taught reincarnation based on Karma- although in much more negative terms than those from the East. Mani said he was the Comforter or Holy Spirit (Paraclete) incarnate. Mani taught vegetarianism as the ideal way to eat and abstained from all manner of animal flesh as well as wine. Mani taught, unlike the world, man was the created by demons. The aim of demons is to imprison in man, through the propagation of the race, as much as possible of the light, and so to hinder the separating process by the sun and the moon.

The Manichaeans taught salvation comes from rigorous asceticism and believed that salvation consisted simply in the liberation of the light from the darkness. Mani also taught that there was a purgatory for purifying souls of their animal nature. After being purged of sins in the sun, the souls fly to the moon [Purgatory]. The spirit of man is from light of God and his body from the darkness of Satan.

Mani

In the Acts of the Disputation with Manes (Archelaus), written by Hegemonius, there is a very long debate between Mani and the Catholic bishop of Cachar, Archaleus, much like how the Clementine literature pits Simon against Peter in their debates. In this text, we see a possible literary model for Mani based on none other than the father of all heresies himself, Simon Magus!

Although Mani in the end loses to Archaleus, he makes several fascinating points, including one about the spirit being held hostage in the cycles of reincarnation and the world. The physical universe is basically an adulterous synthesis between the absolutes of spirit and matter. Even in this synthesis, such principles do not change and only invite conflict, sin, duality and suffering to exist as testified by Mani, in Acts Archelaus, 9:

Moreover, there are certain other worlds on which the luminaries rise when they have set on our world. And if a person walks upon the ground here, he injures the earth; and if he moves his hand, he injures the air; for the air is the soul (life) of men and living creatures, both fowl, and fish, and creeping thing. And as to every one existing in this world, I have told you that this body of his does not pertain to God, but to matter, and is itself darkness, and consequently it must needs be cast in darkness.

Like Aesculapius, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus and the Pnuematics, Mani also thought of himself as a healer or a physician from Babylon. He demonstrates his abilities by restoring the health of a maiden, which echoes the theme of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of the blood from Luke 8:40-58, not to mention Simon and Helena. Mani also defends himself against his detractors by invoking his numerous healings and demonic exorcisms like Jesus did with the Pharisees. Even the Nestorian bishop Theodore bar Konai begrudgingly concedes that Mani was “familiar with the art of healing,” via sorcery in Scholion (ed. Scher), 2:312.20-21. However, such charges of sorcery and magic seem to conflict with the Manichaean ten commandments, especially in one commandment against practicing magic. Archaleus himself is very critical of Mani’s purported medical talents and claims they are based on fraud. Archaleus writes against Mani about claiming to be the Paraclete, by even claiming the heretics before Mani were practically saints in comparison to his deceit:

And, in good truth, I hold Marcion, and Valentinian, and Basilides, and other heretics, to be sainted men when compared with this person. For they did display a certain kind of intellect, and they did, indeed, think themselves capable of understanding all Scripture, and did thus constitute themselves leaders for those who were willing to listen to them. But notwithstanding this, not one of these dared to proclaim himself to be either God, or Christ, or the Paraclete, as this fellow has done, who is ever disputing, on some occasions about the ages, and on others about the sun, and how these objects were made, as though he were superior to them himself; for every person who offers an exposition of the method in which any object has been made, puts himself forward as superior to and older than the subject of his discussion.

Cyril of Jerusalem also referred to Simon as the Paraclete, in which Mani seems to follow wholesale in the Catechetical Lectures, VI, 14:

This man, after he had been cast out by the Apostles, was the first that dared with blasphemous mouth to say that it was himself who appeared on Mount Sinai as the Father, and afterwards appeared among the Jews, not in real flesh but in seeming, as Christ Jesus, and afterwards as the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised to send as the Paraclete. And he so deceived the City of Rome that Claudius set up his statue, and wrote beneath it, in the language of the Romans, ‘To Simon the Holy God’”

Towards the end of Acts Archaleus, Mani eventually loses to him in their debates and scatters off while stalked by the Bishop and is defeated over and over in their debates. This also occurs in the apocryphal Acts, where Simon is also defeated in a verbal fight with Peter. Simon only continues to other lands to continue his vicious preaching and is defeated yet again. In Acts, Mani is nearly lynched by the crowd when he fails to meet up to his expectations (although restrained by Archaleus), much like Simon in the Acts of Peter, when he fails to resurrect a man. The crowd then attempts to burn Simon at the stake like a true heretic that he is but is restrained by Peter, who warns them to not sully their hands with such a sin.

Mani is even said to take flight (or run) much like Simon (if taken the words in the following excerpt literally), is forced to perform such a miracle to a blood-thirsty crowd:

Then, too, the children who had chanced to gather about the place began and set the example of pelting Manes and driving him off; and the rest of the crowd followed them, and moved excitedly about, with the intention of compelling Manes to take to flight. But when Archelaus observed this, he raised his voice like a trumpet above the din, in his anxiety to restrain the multitude, and addressed them thus: Stop, my beloved brethren, lest perhaps we be found to have the guilt of blood on us at the day of judgment; for it is written of men like this, that ‘there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.’

Such apocryphal tales could very well be seen as precursors to what would eventually happen to many of these heretics. Much of this whole sale dismissal of such magicians would eventually lead and give precedent to the later Roman Emperors made numerous enactments against sorcery, divination, and all kinds of magic.

The “Christian” Emperor, Constantine (for example), prohibited all forms of magic, but specially excepted and authorized “that which was intended to avert hail and lightning.” Such magical practices were seen as synonymous with heresy and the pagan mysteries. And of course, all of these things would eventually and gradually become prohibited. The worst thing Constantine probably did was send heretics into exile. His edicts call for the confiscation of texts and property of heretics, and exile is the next logical step. The really bad stuff seems to have started under Theodosius, where paganism and heresy are made into capital crimes. And then it gets worse under the Byzantines.

In fact, legislation’s such as the Theosodian decrees would persecute and eventually slaughter these kinds of people, such as the Manichaeans, Marcionites, the Priscillianists (many of which were burnt to death), and many other pagans and heretics. Such laws effectively made them second class citizens in many ways. The Theodosius decrees would declare such people as insane vermin and witches. And all were pulled from their houses and burned in the streets by the Catholics. Ambrose admits to this fact, as does Jerome.

Even many of the Nag Hammadi texts make allusions to ongoing orthodox persecution. The Apocalypse of Peter, for example, is all about Gnostics undergoing Catholic persecution and outright dubs the Bishops as “dry canals”, meaning that they were empty husks of flesh, deprived of spirit. The Second Treatise of the Great Seth and the Gospel of Judas also make various allusions to this and their overall mutual contempt for each other as the Gnostic authors repeatedly condemn the Catholic clergy and their practices and doctrines. The Gospel of Judas goes so far as to claim that Catholic priests are actively involved in slaughter, illicit homosexual sex with men, and child sacrifice:

[Jesus said], “What are [the priests] like?”

They [said, “Some …] two weeks; [some] sacrifice their own children, others their wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name], [39] and in all the deeds of their deficiency, the sacrifices are brought to completion […].”

After they said this, they were quiet, for they were troubled.

As is always the case, would-be-Messiahs lose and the bullies win at the end of the day.

Interview: Tracy R. Twyman

Baphomet

While this isn’t my first interview by any means, this however, is my very first audio podcast. This audio podcast features a very special guest, the author Tracy R Twyman. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her work, she has authored many books such as Money Grows on the Tree of Knowledge, Solomon’s Treasure: The Magic and Mystery of America’s Money, The Merovingian Mythos and many other great articles on the web going back 10 years. She has also been on Jesse Ventura’s television program Conspiracy Theory, Ground Zero Media and Coast 2 Coast. I personally think she’s done some great research regarding not only esoteric and occult subjects, but also work regarding America’s financial system, the CIA and mind-control, and many political subjects that is in the currently in the news. The subject of the Aeon Eye Podcast #1 is the ever so mysterious and occult figure of Baphomet. which is also the subject of her forth-coming book and a cruise! Also be sure to read my own deconstruction of Baphomet and Abraxas.

Please listen and enjoy! Aeon Eye Podcast #1

Tracy In the Library

Interview: Stuart Littlejohn

Stuart Littlejohn is a British painter and esotericist that I came across on Facebook not too long ago. His magical paintings are mostly portraits but they’re incredibly rich with fantastical detail and esoteric mystique—all supported by his amazingly unique artistic talent. This is what prompted me to interview this amazingly talented artist and writer. You can find his work along with his wife, Josephine McCarthy, at The Inner Library. On to the interview!

When did your interest in painting and sculpting esoteric, magical and occult concepts begin?

For as long as I can remember I have  been fascinated by art, magic and mythology, I wanted to paint from a very early age and my father used to regularly take me around the art galleries and museums in London, the British Museum almost became a second home! It was a wonderful education for me to see these treasures! My family was also non-religious, so I was free to explore my spirituality without an imposed dogma… as my interest and awareness grew it seemed very natural to bring these strands together.

On your website, you claim to be the Co-founder of the Order of Minverva Occidentalis in the United Kingdom. Could you describe more about your organization?

O.M.O (Ordo Minervae Occidentalis) was formed in 2001, by myself and two other close friends, to explore the continuing manifestation of the Classical Mysteries.  All three of us had long experience of magical and ritual practice of one form or another and we had all been members of an Egyptian magical group that had become moribund.  The impulse to trace the thread of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition seemed to arise between us spontaneously. We drew our inspiration from the Ancient world through the Renaissance and onward to the present day, exploring Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism. OMO is still functioning, although I have withdrawn from active participation.

Lion-Headed Serpent

Are there any specific practices (ceremonial or otherwise) you engage in? How would you describe your own personal religion (if you have one)?

 At present there are no specific ceremonial practices that I follow at all. One reason that I withdrew from OMO was that I felt that I needed to get back to basics with my practice, for close on two decades I had followed what was effectively an exoteric reconstructualist path  and it became  obvious that I needed to revisit and relearn a more esoteric and visionary way of doing things. Meeting and marrying Josephine has given me that insight that I was missing previously. My inner vision expressed itself through my artwork but there was an element missing, a sense of direction if you will, Josephine’s long and distinguished experience in  visionary magic was the key that I needed to turn to unlock even deeper levels of insight.. As for my personal religion, I would classify myself as something of a Neo-Platonic Neo-Pagan, but that that is a very loose label!

Are there any specific occult texts that have influenced your work as an artist? Do you have any particular favorite texts from the Bible and the Nag Hammadi Codices?

It’s very difficult trying to think what has influenced me over the years! They all seem to merge into one after a time!! But in no particular order: Nag Hammadi is well up there, the Greek Myths, the musings of Plotinus, Sallustus, Proclus,  Symmachus and the Emperor Julian, the Egyptian Pyramid texts, the writings of Rumi, Shakespeare, John Dee, the School of Night, William Blake, Byron, Shelley, Bram Stoker, Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, Gore Vidal and The Wind in the Willows to name a few off the top of my head…

Not only are you a professional painter but you’re also a novelist. Could you tell us more about your fiction life and even your creative process involved in fiction writing?

Not sure of what you are thinking about here, Josephine is the writer of both fiction and non-fiction, the only things I’ve written that have been published, are a couple of ‘How-to’ books on art techniques!

Minerva

You and your wife are something of a power couple when it comes to bringing gnosis to the public at large. Do you think there are differences between how you process creativity, mysticism, psychology, etc with your wife (Josephine McCarthy) who is also involved in esotericism?

I think we are two sides of the same coin, to begin with I was very much into the exoteric and outward forms of ritual and magic, I spent many years as a hardened reconstructualist, recreating the forms and practices of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as I mentioned in response to your earlier question, the inner visionary side of this work manifested through my art. Josephine’s experience is the inverse of mine, she is highly experienced and adept in the visionary arts and has opened my eyes to the underlying patterns of all exoteric religious and mystical systems. We compliment each other very well! She is also a kick-ass magician generally, who can eat several grimoire-toting wannabes at a single sitting!

What is your opinion on the idea or concept of the Platonic daimon? Do you think it’s somehow involved in your artwork and fiction writing?

This is a very interesting question. Looking back, it has seemed as if there was a certain pattern that I have always been ‘fated’ to follow, situations that have arisen which have pushed me in a particular direction, people I’ve met who have been incredibly influential on my art or my esoteric understanding. These patterns were often indiscernible at the time but with hindsight the way these experiences mesh together becomes more apparent. It would certainly seem that there has been some kind of guiding influence, and lessons given, which, if not taken on board, come around again and again! On the purely artistic side of things, particular works have had an incredible inner push to be done, something needed to manifest and be out in the world. I find in these cases that there is a very dynamic conversation between the inner and the outer as to how a work should appear, what details to include etc, often when complete, a painting will sit around, sometimes for years, but eventually will find its true home.

Lucifer

Do you have any specific painters, artists, and writers (etc.) that have influenced your work?

This could be a very long list! Again, in no particular order… van Eyck, van der Veyden, the Limbourg Brothers, Hans Holbein, Albrect Durer, Giotto, Ghirlandao, Caravaggio, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Boucher, David, Ingres, Rossetti, Waterhouse, Burne-Jones, Sargent, Klimt, von Stuck, de Lempika, Kahlo… this is a mere smattering!

Are there any future projects and events to keep on the lookout?

We have several things in the pipeline, at the moment Josephine and I are concentrating on getting the Goblyn Market up and running, a place for the magical, beautiful and downright strange, so for the moment we are finding that there are not enough hours in the day!

Stuart John Little

Interview: With Asterion Mage

Asterion Mage is a very talented artist and Renaissance magician, who currently resides in Romania. He is also by his words: “a student and teacher of the occult, specialized in traditional ceremonial magic. Very interested in talismans, amulets, evocation, demonology, angelology, Qabbalah, seals and sigils, alchemy and the like.” What attracted me to his work was this dazzling seal called the Seven Heavens published in the most recent issue of Platonism at the JWMT, which in my own estimation, naturally corresponds to the “Seven Heavens of Chaos” along with the Seven Angels or Archons in Gnostic cosmology. And naturally, I extended an invitation to Asterion to be interviewed. Be sure to visit both of his blogs: Practical Solomonic Magic and Asterion’s Occult Art for more information about his work. His artwork alone is worth every penny and second of your attention. On with the interview!

Asterion Mage

When did you first start your journey into Renaissance and Solomonic magic?

I have been interested in magic since I was a child, at about 9 or 10, but my reading into this subject and other familiar ones began at about age 13. My maternal aunt was deeply interested in the occult and practiced certain rituals taken from a multitude of books, and later on those books fell into my hands. For a very young man interested in magic they were priceless, but looking back on them now they were merely occult-themed almanacs of superstition and astrology and traditions, when they were not bombastic booklets promising wealth, love and power through the practice of simple rituals with salt, honey or candles. Bit by bit, I started reading everything I could find, collecting newspaper clippings and books and pieces of information from TV shows.

Later on, the internet made its way into my life, but I didn’t have my own PC or an internet connection. I would spend what little money I had on hours in the internet cafe, reading and downloading information from all kinds of websites. Another source of fascination was my maternal grandmother, who lived with us and who basically raised me. A very kind old woman, with a heart of gold and very humble manners, she would recite on rare occasions a chant against the evil eye when I was sick.  She refused to tell it to me, as it was customary, but I could remember it because she mumbled it a lot and it rhymed.

Far before I would read about evocation and the summoning of spirits, she told me something that I would only later realize what was. She had a hard life, with many brothers and sisters, her mother died and her father remarried. The woman he remarried was a witch. And I don t mean small, petty spells or superstitions. She told me a story that her stepmother was known for “pulling out the devil from the water”. She always referred to the devil as the “Unclean One” and to demons as “Killers”, as was her country dialect. She told me her stepmother would go at night to watery places like rivers or lake or ponds, and take a branch or rod and strike the water while chanting. Then a killer (demon) would show up and ask her what she wanted. Then she would strike him and the water and say: “Not you, the one above you!” and he would submerge and soon a bigger one would come.

And she would do the same until the biggest demon would come and then ask for what she wanted. She never practiced this as she thought her stepmother had sold her soul to the Devil or something similar. She was quite a pious woman that made me love prayer and God since I was a child, but by example, not by inducing it to me or forcing it down my throat.

Magical Circle

You say you were baptized as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. How do you reconcile your Christianity with your practices since modern Christianity has a tendency to shun magic and the occult as simply vices of the Devil?

Well, that’s an easy one. I call myself a mage, since it’s the most accurate description of what I consider myself to be and profess. I’m not a sorcerer or a warlock because these terms often have negative components to them, and I’m not a magician either in that sense that people expect me to do magic in front of them and dazzle when they hear that term. When I’m asked this question by people, I always remember to tell them that among the first people to worship Christ in Bethlehem were, according to the story in Matthew, the three Magi from the East. They certainly were not evil necromancers that were meant to be stoned in the Old Law, and even if they were, they were pretty decent for necromancers. The magic I practice is deeply rooted in faith, as many traditions are. Without one’s faith in the central being or concept of one’s cosmology, little is accomplished in magic in any tradition.

Yes, from a priest’s point of view, magic is wrong. But then again, a lot of what priests do is wrong from a moral point of view, so I cannot listen to the fixed ideology of somebody that practices against his teaching. I prefer to practice magic like my faith: quietly and devoutly. People often huff and puff at the mere mentioning of Christian teachings, but we have to keep in mind that the vast majority of what we have today in grimoiric magic was penned down not only by Christian magicians, but also priests. We are not talking about wizards in strange hats sacrificing goats, but priests dressed in white garments that as soon as were free of their priestly duties would immerse themselves in ancient wisdom, forbidden books and illicit experiments, blessing and aspiring in the name of God all the way.

How would you differentiate your work from other magical avenues located in Thelema, Wicca, chaos magic and even the highly influential Golden Dawn system?

At one point in my magical career, I was quite eclectic and believe solidly in my eclectic rites. That was what convinced me that some methods work and some are just BS and fluff.  Although I believed with all my might in the seals I was constructing and in the visualization trances I went into, the results were either null or inferior. And all exercises done after the Old Fashion, described in grimoires, or experiments composed by myself using those analogies, work perfectly. I know that each current has its own ideals and adherents and it is not for me to judge them, as it is not for them to judge mine. I have seen way to many Wiccans and Thelemites bashing Christianity without reading a single verse of the Gospels. I really would not like to bash their faiths, although I have read theirs. At the same time, I have also seen Christians preaching the superiority of our faith without having read the Gospels as well, so there are bad apples in every batch.

Wicca is a new religion claiming to be old and I dislike that about it, but I like the fact it teaches respect for one another and living things. Thelema is an equally new religion that advocates the use of one’s true will and the importance of love, a thing I most definitely enjoy, but it has become an excuse for doing whatever the hell you want, in contrast with what Crowley actually meant.

Each of these faiths is good for its adherents as Orthodox Christianity is for me, and I would not dare to say otherwise or try to bring people to my truth.  Chaos magic is for me a very interesting experiment in which 99% of the young occult community practices and even teaches and less than 1% actually obtain results. Golden Dawn is in my view a great tool of learning and a great initiatory system, but I believe in using its rituals only if one commits to that path. Doing LBPR’s and SIRP’s along other rituals and not studying through the grades materials or going through the actual initiations seems very idiotic to me—however strongly others might disagree.  I am not an adept of this particular order and I prefer the Old School magical tradition of the grimoires: you do not need to mix Wicca, Thelema and Golden Dawn in to obtain great results, just go back to their origins. If you study these honestly you will find that their source is good-old medieval European Solomonic Magic.

anotherseal

How would you describe your work in theurgy and Solomonic magic in relationship to Gnosticism and Gnostic cosmology? Do they bear any similarities to the magical systems of the ancient Gnostics and Hermeticists?

This is the question that would require me to go in an academic dispute and ramble on for a few hundred pages. For the sake of our readers, I believe I should not be encouraged. Gnosticism is a very broad term that defines a whole class of heterodox views upon religion and spirituality in the first half of the first millennium primarily, with echoes well beyond that.  I know full well that magic manuals of the Middle Ages are heavily indebted to such works as Sefer ha-Razim, Shiur Qomah and the Heikhaloth literature, they in turn having Gnostic roots, but that would not be adopting Gnostic ideals directly, only incorporating the operating system of the rituals employed and acknowledging their roots. I am aware of the many Gnostic faiths and beliefs but I honestly cannot say I was particularly influenced by one.  In my youth, I could say I was taught in the Neo-Gnostic spirit of Rosicrucianism, Theosophy and Anthroposophy, but that was accomplished with so much bias by one of my teachers that I later became stupefied of how much I was being indoctrinated with pseudo-Gnosticism and New Age and how little I actually learned.

I am, after my own assertion, an orthodox Christian, but an orthodox priest would find me a heretic or a Gnostic. I love the Orthodox Ritual, the humbleness and the light of the monks and saints of our church, the smell of frankincense rising from the brazier in an old church filled up to the ceiling in century-old paintings and I love the uplifting chants and psalms echoing in a chorus. However, I almost always pray to God in private, with honesty and humility, not at Church. I also do believe in reincarnation and the evolution of the soul, which is not only a Buddhist/Eastern ideas, but also found in Gnostic and Kabbalistic thought. I also do not wish to be married and start a family like most people in our faith do and last but not least, I practice magic.

If the claims of the Goetia and other medieval grimoires are true, then the spirits should manifest to physical appearance. Has your personal experience in invocation allowed this to happen?

First of all, I have never worked with the spirits of the Goetia, and I hope there will never be a need to. There are some grimoires that use the same equipment as Goetia, like its sister book, Theurgia-Goetia, grimoires that have many things in common and being used as complementary, like the Fourth book and the Heptameron and some isolated spirits that can be compelled with the same rituals, without using the spirits listed in the Goetia itself. I have worked with other spirits, and the matter has been debated quite a few times. The spirits do not always become visible, unless they are conjured to do so.

When the conjuration clearly states that the spirit is to come visibly, and it does not, I consider it a failed evocation. I have had failed evocations as well as successful ones, and yes, when it is meant that they are to be visible, we are not talking about opening your astral senses or training your third eye. Those are crutches on which I relied myself and now I am sorry there was no one to correct me but only people that encouraged me in my self-delusions. In my eclectic magic years, I was encouraged to believe that every little sign and omen was true and significant and that I only had to believe that my magic worked in order for it to work. This is highly hazardous for any beginning magician and even if I’m often contradicted, blamed and fired upon in public forums for bringing people down to Earth, I feel it’s necessary. If everything happens as the conjuration of the spirit states, the evocation is a success. No amount of explaining and philosophizing about small signs in the room and furniture cracking can make a failed attempt a successful one.

One essential component that the medieval grimoires are unanimous on is sexual purity. And I know for a fact that the majority of modern would-be magicians do not make any attempts to remain celibate. Because celibacy, according to the grimoires, is a prerequisite to command the spirits. You can’t render them obedient unless you’re free from sexual contact. Modern magicians say that’s just medieval Catholic superstition, but considering that none of them seem to get any visible effects from their magic, how would they know? Any comments on this?

Sexual abstinence is a prerequisite in sacred rites throughout the world; it is not a Catholic superstition. I find this to be quite true. Since the grimoires actually state that you shall abstain from sexual relations for three or nine days prior to some operations, we can obviously conclude that the magician was not asked to be celibate his whole life. Some were priests, other were married noblemen, others were ladies men like the famous Casanova, which possessed a number of magical manuscripts and even attempted a ritual, and a great number were small scholars, artists, magistrates and other professions that were quite active sexually, married or not.

Abstinence and fasting does indeed make the conjurer more in tune with the celestial worlds and renders him more powerful in a magical sense. Since sexuality is perceived as part of man’s animalistic nature and the sublimation of our instincts is perceived as a triumph over that very nature—this is quite natural to be asked of the magician. Also bear in mind that from the Sirian sorcerers to the Renaissance magus, children were often employed as seers because they were sexually inactive and thus pure, making it easier for them to interact with the spirits.  I myself am a very sexual individual and have a healthy, diverse and fulfilling sex-life, but when dealing with magic the situation changes: I avoid all sex acts prior to the operations, including divination, I bathe ritually and after having sex I do not touch my ritual implements for at least 24 hours, if not more.

Faustus

What are your thoughts on the Faustus legends? Do you think stories like Faustus are propaganda to deter the poor and the downtrodden from attempting to usurp the status quo?

Last time I checked, Faust was not that poor, but then again, magic has been successfully employed by kings and poor people and has many times failed both poor people and kings. The root of the Faust legend would most likely be Georgius Sabellicus or Georg Sabel, of which the good Abbe Trithemius writes in disapproving words. But he was not the only case. If you read stories from the Church Fathers and other Christian traditions, you would find an abundance of unknown Faust’s. Saint Basil, one of the most revered saints of the Orthodox Church, is known to have saved and rescued from the demon’s grasp a young slave who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the love of a young Christian girl. Saint Cyprian was a famous sorcerer until his conversion, and according to legend he sat in the demon’s council and was revered by them as a friend, and so is the case with Pope Sylvester II, to mention but a few. These were maybe propaganda, but the truth is that many books of magic are strictly demonic and prescribe rituals where birds are sacrificed to demons and where people make binding contract with the heads of the netherworld, so the story I believe is very likely to be inspired by real events.

Magician

This leads into my next question—do you think Simon Magus is an influential figure in the murky world of magic and the occult? I ask this, because the Faustus legends are modeled after Simon Magus.

Unlikely so, in my opinion. There have been so many magicians in history with similar traits that it s impossible to put our finger only on Simon. Upon reading The Lives of Saints it became quite clear to me that this was just part of a traditional debate: the cliché is the story of conversion. Saint A deals with the magician B, he upstages his illusions and trickery and upon that the magician either dies (like Simon) or converts to Christianity (like the wizard Theonas). The story of the magical battle between pagan sorcerers and the men of God, such as the case with Simon the Magus and Simon the Christian (Peter) in the Book of Acts, also appears in Exodus, when Moses amazes Pharaoh, the people and even himself facing the two Egyptian sorcerers, whom the apocryphal tradition calls Yannes and Mamres. This is out of the need to prove Christianity superior to the forces of magic, in most cases based upon the works of demons.

Jesus himself was thought to be a magician using the help of the demon Beelzebub, according the Jewish priests of his time. We can ascertain that his miracles were not that miraculous for the crowds at the time, only the fact that he did not employ demonic enchantments and charge money.  The most influential figure in the occult tradition would be King Solomon, as he has over one hundred manuscripts of pseudo-epigrahic works of magic attributed to him, while our dear Samaritan heresiarch has none. Even his magnum opus and corner stone of the Simonians, the Apophasis Megale, remains unknown save for a few fragments quoted by the Church Fathers.

There is a part in Marlowe’s Faust where Faust asks Mephistopheles how it is possible that a demon can manifest itself on earth, since demons have been condemned to hell, and Mephistopheles explains that earth is merely an extension of hell. This somewhat ties into how some (not all) ancient Gnostics and early Christian heretics (the Encratites, especially—which aren’t exactly “Gnostic” anyway) viewed material life as at best—corruptible and flawed—at worst: a hellish prison for the divine spark. What’s your opinion on this?

Well, I’m not that gloomy when it comes to viewing the world. The Christian story holds that the demons were let loose to test man until Judgment Day, so nothing wrong with that here. In the Book of Job, Satan acts as a divine agent of testing the faithful, much like he does in the temptation of Christ in the Gospel. Earth is an extension of Hell as much as Heaven is an extension of the same. I do not believe in strict delineations between metaphysical topoi. I do not trust strict boundaries between the Fifth Heaven and Sixth Heaven, between Hell and the Abyss and between Earth and the Kingdom of God. It would be like arguing what we breathe: oxygen, nitrogen or carbon dioxide? The air we breathe is composed of all three gases, but we choose to concentrate on the oxygen. Our body cannot filter out the other two, and cannot breathe just one of them, it s the inseparable nature of the mixed air we breathe.

There are actually two versions of Marlow’s Faust. The earlier version was modified because it was considered too fatalistic and had a lot of crypto-gnostic underpinnings. In the earlier draft, it’s ambiguous whether Faust really has a choice in salvation or damnation, thus portraying Faust and the devil in a somewhat sympathetic light. In the modified version, it’s made clear that Faust chooses damnation for himself and is therefore justified in being condemned to hell. My question from this is, is there such thing as pre-determinism and fate or does humanity have the free will to forge their own destinies?

About the first draft of Marlowe’s Faust—I must admit I am ignorant and cannot comment upon it. Many people choose to comment things they read nothing about and just end up confusing the discussion partner or making fools of themselves, I prefer admitting my ignorance in these matters. Predetermined destinies are a thing to be thought of, but we cannot pass judgment on a thing like this while being under the spell of the physical realm. I find that we have a destiny and free will at the same time, but each has a different amount of them. There are people who by their own actions strive and purify themselves to the level of choosing their own destiny and people that slave away in this life content with their bliss and destiny. I recently became stupefied by the power of one’s predestination: five or six years ago I predicted a very harmful disease to a woman in a birth chart at the age of 62, and should she survive it she would live up to her mid 70’s. Her daughter phoned me a few months ago and told me her sickness kicked in, specifically cancer. The suffering was very acute and within a month or two she passed away, at age 62. I believe that this was not a coincidence or an active suggestion of mine. If I could do that I’d be hired by every government to kill people with my natal charts.

I have to ask—what’s your opinion of Aleister Crowley and his mystic system of Thelema and even modern Thelemites in general? Is he in your estimation, truly a Satanist? And does he bear any influence on you and your work?

To call Crowley a Satanist is to call the Pope a pedophile: if you are an ignorant superficial individual that relies on gossip and conspiracy theories to base his statements upon, then of course, that’s fine and dandy, but no self-respecting student of the occult would consider him a Satanist. I’m personally neutral when it comes to Crowley. Not a big fan but not an opponent either. I find some works of his to be quite useful and insightful, but if I were to take up study of all his books and decipher all his metaphors, I’d have to quit my job and do just that for about two years. He’s a colorful individual, and his grasp on the Kabbala was superior to Eliphas Levi and Gerard Encausse dit Papus. He was admirable in many ways (his knowledge of the Bible, chess playing  abilities and yogic inclinations) and a bad example in many ways (drugs, manipulation, financial dependability, et alia).

I do not want to get into endless arguments with Thelemites as to how great and original and daring Crowley was nor do I wish to engage in his apology with Christian fundamentalists that consider him a Satanist or the Antichrist. I have done that so many times that I am honestly sick of it, like trying to explain gravity to a child that constantly asks the same question. He had good and bad things and I am not that fascinated with him. Franz Bardon, Wilhelm Quintscher, Omraam Aivanhov and Cagliostro were equally important and insightful, but I do not push them down anybody’s throat.

What are you favorite occult-themed films/movies and why?

Oh, yes. I enjoy movies and series just like your average Joe, but when you throw in the occult in the mix, it gets that much better. My favorite is Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate. It has old books and demonology, two of my favorite things in the whole world, wrapped into one detective story. What s not to like? Some other titles include: The Exorcist, The Rite, Eyes Wide Shut, Devil’s Advocate, Angel Heart, and even awkward or goofy things like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Season of the Witch. I love to see how much research was put into each one and how much BS is left. A good occult series would be Supernatural, but it has one major drawback: a lot of people think it’s all real and argue with me about devil traps and fictitious demons. It’s well researched and introduces a few accurate things, like a few demons and angels, seals and especially the use of the Enochian chants, but it is very creative in its fictional account, nonetheless.

Seal

What is your advice to those who are new to your system of magic and are interested in practicing with it? What are the ultimate benefits to practicing magic?

I would not encourage anyone to take up study of magic. Saying anyone can do magic is as correct as saying anyone can do nuclear fusion. I say anyone, not everyone. There’s a difference. Anyone can do magic means that the few people who can actually obtain great results can come from any part of the world, from  any social, cultural and religious background and with any motivation, not every single Joe and Jane can pick up a spell book and work wonders with no prior effort. I took up magic because I had an innate need of it and a fascination that was awakened in me from my early childhood, much like my love of God.

It was not taught to me; I was not guided and indoctrinated. Without a born fascination for this, one merely relies on the fact that it’s fascinating or useful. The first category often gives up when they see just how much study and actual work goes into it, and the other category gives up when they put as little effort as possible and expect as much power and great results, and do not obtain them. Magic would be like driving a car: people see Fast and Furious and want that, and they jump behind the wheel, not knowing anything about driving, about roads, rules or mechanics, and when they find out that you have to learn all that and after that, you can t exactly fly around in mafia chases all over town, they get discouraged.

Magic is not for people that think it’s cool. I would urge people like that to take up any other hobby that is much more rewording when it comes to impressing people, like break-dancing, Kung-fu or bodybuilding. Or who knows a combination of all three! Also, if you know you have a low attention span and get bored with things quickly, this is the least fit thing to learn. It took me over 14 years of avid daily study to get to where I am today, and when I think of how much I still have to learn and do, I’m half afraid and half exhilarated! However, if some are truly inclined to study Solomonic magic, I only have two words of advice.

One: Study more than you are studying now, ignorance and laziness has no place in serious magic. And two: Ask first, and then do. Do not jump into practice before having the whole operation under the belt. Its way easier to learn how to do something good then ask someone to fix what you broke. I’m so often faced with people who ask for my advice and when granted, they ignore it, and ask me to fix their problems after making them worst, that if they only follow this advice, I’ll consider myself a happy man.

Yes, you must try things, yes, you must experiment, but do not jump into practice with enthusiasm and ignorance all at once. Think of magic as a garden or a forest full of fruits berries: before putting everything brightly-colored and fancy-looking in your mouth, try asking someone who knows his stuff. Poisoned berries and mushrooms can be the most fascinating fruits there, while nutritious roots, leaves and fruits can hide under more humble guises.

Oh! It’s Magic!

There’s been some recent controversy in various blogs over the legitimacy of occultism and magic that was mainly fueled by Miguel Conner’s article. His argument, inspired by Alan Moore’s disjointed, caustic and adjective-riddled up-the-ying-yang piece of polemic called “Fossil Angels” is that modern occultism has fallen (or conceived in to be more accurate) into the mire of Dungeons & Dragons (no disrespect to D&D players) kind of phoney baloney. This kind of occultism has fallen into rank mediocrity and bourgeois, narcissistic materialism rather than containing any truly inspired spiritual or artistic vision like say a William Blake painting.  Alan Moore defines “true magic” as writing, creating music or painting rather than attending some boring old occult lodge,  hearing them drone on and on about nonsense.

Although I certainly agree (for the most part) with his blanket assessment, I do think that “magic” reflects a certain human need to wrap a cordon of mystery and possibility through rituals or gazing into a crystal ball or reading a stack of Tarot cards. Humans are creatures imperiled by their every next breath, with every heart beat closer to death. Humans try to shake a little truth out of their stabs in the dark. “Magic” which is defined as containing supernatural powers and influence over the forces of nature and the “spirit world” reflects an innate need to control and “mastery” over one’s destiny in an uncertain, nonsensical and powerless world. The gods have abandoned us long ago to our whims and vices. They have far more important cosmic issues to attend to. They no longer hear prayers and care only to the extent that their mission of planting the seeds of potential consciousness in the soil of the world is long over.

While we do retain consciousness, the mind/body perspective still remains subjective and lacking in autonomy. There is a limit or “veil” that even our spiritual “eye salve” can reach, much like hitting a brick wall. And both modern occultism and (drifting dilettante) new age paths have muddled this spiritual vision to a great degree.

Both the ancient Neoplatonist teacher Plotinus and the author of Allogenes voice a paradoxical proclamation of learned ignorance: “If you should know him, un–know him” (Allogenes) as per the superlative Unknowable deity, the unconditional reality without form or existence. In essence, if you want to know the transcendent realm, the negation of all preconceptions and though is necessary to gain deeper levels of insight and awareness as opposed through the means of ritual magic, since it is based on form and subjective consciousness. The unmanifest God can only be comprehended by the human mind through either paradox and/or ascent vision mysticism.

“Magic” doesn’t automatically mean “Satanist” or “evil” (although the Bible certainly seems to think so!), but let’s face it: most if not all forms of “magic” isn’t about communing with God or even attaining self-knowledge. The closest thing to this kind of “high magic” would be theurgy, but even that is up for debate. Magic isn’t a spiritual practice. As one blogger put it, it’s more of a “psychic art” (as in “psyche” or “soul” of the tripartate Gnostic system of substances). It’s about many magician’s own admission of applying one’s will in the material world to produce an effect. It denotes a person with a “will” of “power” and by owning it, you own proper.

According to Aleister Crowley, any willed or intentional act whatsoever is “magick”. He says it quite literally in Book 4: “Every intentional act is a Magical act.” He even gives an example for this:

“It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take “magical weapons”, pen, ink, and paper; I write “incantations”—these sentences—in the “magical language” ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth “spirits”, such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.”

With that kind of definition, that could mean almost anything. So I took a magical shit? A magical piss? There’s a certain amount of fetishizing behind the word which becomes so malleable that it loses nearly all its meaning. Kind of like the over and sloppily applied word “Gnostic”. Anything that sounds remotely mystical is often erroneously considered “Gnostic”.

The one thing I don’t agree with Conner’s article however is the notion that occultism is dead as the title of his article obviously indicates. Sure it usually takes the form of narcissistic masturbatory egotism. It’s mostly verbose flowery language to describe something that exists beyond the rational and easily explainable. Regardless of what someone may say for or against, the occult groups remain and still do their own thing. Whether they are increasing or decreasing is a whole other debate entirely.

That all being said, I’m not about to dictate what a person should or shouldn’t do. The important part is to take philosophy, religion or even “magic” and make it your own way and not rely on someone else’s style or technique. Discovering your own voice is what really matters in the long run.

And on that note these meme images are pretty kick-ass.

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.