Plato

The Great Declaration: A Commentary (Part 4)

My ultimate contention is that Simon Magus is Chrestus and Simon identifies himself with the Logos and the Samaritan Messiah. While some believe this is a misspelling of Christos (it is not so) Chrestus and his followers and Peter and his followers were at odds as illustrated in part’s 2 and 3. Literature like the Clementines, although summarily dismissed by many scholars a pseudo works (pretended to be the actual words of Pope Clement) and place it all the way to the fourth century, when it is actually much closer to the second century. Many apocryphal texts use this method of pretending to be the words of another, such as Jesus, which is more of a style of exposition and not meant to deceive. The Gnostic Gospels use this very method to convey their spiritual messages and coded myths.

While the Clementines do in fact treat Simon Magus in an unfavorable light to the point where he is vilified, but the Clementines do show him as a major opponent to Peter (Dositheos). Although Simon appears to use tricks and magic, Peter also appears not to be without these himself. What is most disturbing to Church authorities is that Clementines say that Simon Magus took over the organization of John the Baptist after his death and not Jesus. This would clearly give him the stature to be on an equal footing as Peter in their debates. However, in Acts 8, Simon is depicted as being converted to Peter’s faith as well, much like how Paul is type-casted as a devout Pharisaic convert to Judeo-Christianity in true propaganda form, in the same text.

Simon (like many Gnostics after him) are very slippery in his debate against the Orthodox Peter. Or subtle, depending on your loyalty. The rest of the debate is quite interesting, and very complex, very rhetorically brilliant on both sides (another reason I think the Clementines are genuine). It also prefigures the great Gnostic-Christian divide of those early centuries quite well; this encounter may have symbolically actuated the great divide between the two camps.

There is also evidence of a possible Philonic (Philo of Alexandria) confluence with Simonian thought because both parties focus on the first five books of the Old Testament in esoteric ways. It was Philo who represents the apex of Jewish-Hellenistic syncretism. His work attempts to combine Platonism and Old Testament theology into one philosophical system as testified by his multitude of writings.

It is probable to suspect Simon Magus played a much more important role in the evolution of early Christianity than most biblical scholars are willing to acknowledge. The vast body of patristic writings, (especially the much reviled Clementine literature) about him suggest that the figure of Simon loomed far larger in the early church fathers than in the minds of today. What I’ve been suggesting in the last three entries is not new as other scholars in their own way such as Robert M. Price, Robert Eisenman, Simone Petrement, Hermann Detering, G.R.S. Mead, etc have also expressed similar sentiments. Without being said, what I am also suggesting also ruffles the feathers of many people out there with Orthodox/Catholic sympathies but alas I am not here to placate the rabble or any ecclesiastical authority. Again, we will also tackle commentary on the Great Declaration.

The Taheb

The Samaritans (the “Guardians” or “Watchers” of the Law), are a Hebrew tribe, who only observe the Samaritan Pentateuch, which is basically the first five books of the Torah. Samaritians claimed that their worship was true to the faith while the Jews or the Judeans had an altered faith because of the Babylonian Captivity influence. The Samaritians claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manesseh, and still inhabit their lands to this day, between Judea and Galilee. Moses’ successor and conqueror of the Promised Land, Joshua, was from Ephraim and the tribe also happened to he given the honor of being the custodians of the Ark of the Covenant in its sanctuary at Shiloh. There are historians who claim that Ephraim, Manesseh and Benjamin were the only three tribes that came out of Egypt, while the others were Canaanites who were converts to Moses’ religion. This connection between Ephraim and Egypt and its Heliopolis religion makes sense considering Moses’ strong connection with Egypt, Aton worship and even the figures of Thoth/Hermes.

Many scholars and archaeologists have shown that the Israelites’ original religion was far from monotheistic and even patriarchal that it was to become, and that is owed its existence to the native paganism of Canaan and Egypt. In Part 3, we saw that the Gnostics believed that each nation of Israel and her prophets was ruled over by the seven angels or the Archons. Moses is listed as belonging to Ialdabaoth. Curiously enough, Ephraim is not listed…

After Israel developed itself into a nation, a power struggle also developed quickly after, between Ephraim and Judah. As the story goes, King David usurped Ephraim’s status by taking the Ark of the Covenant to Jersualem, being the new religious center in Judah’s territory. After the reign of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom split in two, with Ephraim heading the ten tribes in the north and Judah in the south. Thus, a new sanctuary and temple which rivaled Jerusalem, was built in Ephraim’s land on Mount Gerizim.

Soon after this, the more powerful Assyrian empire invaded Northern Israel and underwent a very traumatic invasion and mass enslavement through the Babylonian Captivity, two centuries later. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after their seventy-year exile, they set about codifying and reforming their religion, incorporating concepts from that of Babylon. Both camps believed that their own religion was the “pure” version while they viewed each other’s versions as heretical. Victors’ history decided that the Jews were superior over the Samaritians, but the Samaritans could have been right…

This rivalry reached a climax when Judea conquered Samaria and destroyed their temple. This was the icing on the cake for the Samaritan resentment and even hatred of the Jews. It was only the advent of Roman rule that Samaria was freed from Jewish subjugation. The Jewish and Samaritan rivalry even affected their eschatology or end-time speculations: each tribe saw their own as coming out on top. The Judeans would have likely hated the idea of bringing in the Samaritans back into the fold; while the Samaritians held their own views on Judah being overthrown by their own Messiah, being the Taheb. The woman at the well in John 4 could very well have recognized Jesus (Simon) as the Taheb.

Good Samaritan

In the Samaritian tradition, there is a messianic figure or title known as the “Taheb” or the “restorer” or prophet like Moses, who would come and restore the true worship on Mount Gerizim. Instead of the Davidic Messiah that the Jews were expecting, the Samaritans looked forward to the coming of this chosen one, “the restorer” which is centered on Deuteronomy 18:18, a herald of the last day–a day of final judgment, of vengeance and reward, when the temple of Gerizim would be restored, Jerusalem destroyed (!) the sacrifices reinstated and the heathen converted. Deuteronomy 18:18 says:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.

It is notable that the Samaritan Taheb goes out of its way to differentiate itself from the Davidic Warrior-King Messiah. Jesus of John is often portrayed as being entirely hostile to Judaism and the Pharisees as noted in Part 2. John and Jesus refer to the Jews as a “brood of vipers”, sort of a case of inverting the traditional hermenuetic of the serpent causing the fall of Adam and Eve and applying it to the Jews.

It is reasonable to conclude that much of the Old and New Testament feuds and tensions between Jesus, Paul, Stephen, Simon, John the Baptist with the lapdog Judean Pharisees and their Roman elite rulers of the day reflect this mutual hatred. The Samaritans only recognized an archaic form of YHWH, one that was still close to El, the Father, and to the angelic or even contained in his Elohim form (the Gods). Holding that the sanctuary at Sichem on Mount Gerizim was the only true Temple, Samaritanism only recognized the Torah or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) as sacred texts- as mentioned earlier. They also recognized the Book of Joshua, being the sixth book of the Pentateuch, but not for good reasons. The Babylonian Talmud was also readily rejected.

The Book of Joshua as well as Numbers 31:13-18  recounts the Hebrew conquest of Canaan as a war of extermination and death, including that of women and children. The Church Father Origen was well aware that such texts like Joshua provided critics like Marcion evidence that the God of the Old Testament was morally obtuse if not outright evil. Origen had a different solution to this dilemma by allegorizing the tribal warfare, cruelty and extreme violence that is brimming in the Old Testament as the soul struggling against sin and temptation and the enemies of the Church. This is all laid out in his Homilies on Joshua. Thus, any sort of objectionable and disturbing behavior exhibited by Yahweh was successfully explained away. The Land of Canaan was allegorized as the soul to be brought under the rule of “Jesus” or Joshua. In Numbers 25:4, it is clear that Yahweh is an incredibly blood-thirty warrior-god:

And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.

The arch-heretic Marcion would have likely rejected Origen’s usage of allegory. In fact, Marcion felt that the Old Testament was so fundamentally flawed and of no consequence for the Christian Church. Moreover, for the Marcionite church, it was better to cast away the Old Testament aside than to tarnish the image of the Father of Jesus Christ by the mixing in traces of the war-like God, who even commanded that every first-born of Egypt to be killed by the Destroying Angel (Exodus 11:5) indicating that he was no better than the supposed myth that Herod was involved in the “massacre of the innocents” as per Matthew 2: 16-18.

In 144 A.D., appeared a ship-builder from Sinope named Marcion. He founded a church system that rivaled in numbers and influence that of the orthodox Christian church. By 150 A.D., Justin Martyr wrote that Marcionites had expanded “to the uttermost bounds of the earth” (Justin, Apology 1.26.). It required three hundred years for the orthodox church to eventually rout out the heresy of Marcion.

Marcion was not battling the Roman Catholic church. It did not yet exist. Instead, there was a large orthodox church led from Jerusalem. The Roman bishop was just one bishop among many throughout the Mediterranean. Even if Peter (who is really based on Dositheos) was in Rome at one point, there was no effort to exercise superiority from Rome until many centuries later.

What happened is that Marcion declared in 144 A.D. that Paul alone was the true apostle for the era of grace; the twelve apostles, in particular their gospel of Matthew, were tainted by legalism; the Jesus of the twelve belonged to the God of the Old Testament; and the Jesus of Paul represented the son of a loving Father who now accepted us by faith alone. As Adolf Harnack, the Marcionite sympathizing scholar (d. 1930) expressed it:

According to Marcion, Christ saved us from the world and its god in order to make us children of a new and alien God.

Marcion’s primary threat to the church is that, unlike the Gnostics, his teachings were rooted in part of the same set of scriptures used by the orthodox, although an earlier variant, and his was an organized religious movement, not an esoteric cult. It had the potential to become the so-called orthodoxy. And in many regions, such as Syria, it WAS considered the orthodox form of Christianity. Of course, history readily shown this brand of Christianity was only destined to fall by the way side and eventually buried by the Roman Catholic Church. See Antithesis for more on Marcion’s train of thought on the division between the Old and New Testament. Marcion could very well be seen as the forerunner of the Protestant reformation movement later on in the 15th century, starting with Martin Luther…

Marcion’s gospel is a lot older than one would assume, and Mark isn’t quite as early as most contemporary New Testament critics think it is. The earliest records of Jesus were most likely collections of his sayings, like the Gospel of Thomas, and by the latter half of the first century, these were eventually put into narrative form. This is when we see gospel authors trying to link Jesus to messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, such as using Psalm 22 as the basis for the crucifixion events, among other things. But there are a number of sayings attributed to Jesus that indicate he never intended to be the Jewish messiah, and even denied being so, but his Jewish followers, who were intent on making him such, wrote mythological narratives like Matthew and Mark that present him that way.

“And he said unto them, How say they that the Christ is David’s son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. David therefore calleth him Lord, and how is he then his son?” Luke 20:42

“His disciples said to him, ‘Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you.’ He said to them, ‘You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead.'” Gospel of Thomas, Logion 52.

These two passages clearly call into question the Jewishness of Jesus, indicating that he may have been originally a Samaritan. The Gospel of John also reflects that it may have been written by a Samaritan community, considering its very pro-Samaritan sentiments. This would contradict other very pro-Law statements of Jesus in Matthew 5:17. However, Jesus Christ (which is ultimately a title and not an actual name at all) was all things to all people, and in his statement “I am” implies a totality of Messiah, Christ and Taheb. This is directly stated in the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 13:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like.”

Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a righteous angel.”

Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.”

Thomas said to him, “Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like.”

Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out.”

And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?”

Thomas said to them, “If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.”

Again, we see this idea repeated in 1 Corinthians 9:20, when Paul states:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

This is very much comparable to how Simon describes himself 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.”

These ideas all touch on the idea of doceticism but I will save this for the finale of this commentary.

The Two Powers Revisited


In the Clementine literature, Simon Magus in his seminal debate with Peter argued that Yahweh was one of the sons of God, being their chief, but was distinct from God the Most High or the Unknowable God. Peter’s position, however, is not so clear. Peter basically claims that the God of the Jews is called the “God of gods”, implying there is no power higher than YHWH. However, Peter later adds that the God of gods is actually Christ. So, Peter, in actuality contradicts himself or conflates YHWH with Christ. Simon in the Recognition’s II.39, argues by using Jewish scripture that there were many gods (polytheism), like Jesus did in the Gospel of John.

Then Simon said: “I shall make use of assertions from the law of the Jews only. For it is manifest to all who take interest in religion, that this law is of universal authority, yet that every one receives the understanding of this law according to his own judgment. For it has so been written by Him who created the world, that the faith of things is made to depend upon it. Whence, whether any one wishes to bring forward truth, or any one to bring forward falsehood, no assertion will be received without this law. Inasmuch, therefore, as my knowledge is most fully in accordance with the law, I rightly declared that there are many gods, of whom one is more eminent than the rest, and incomprehensible, even He who is God of gods.

But that there are many gods, the law itself informs me. For, in the first place, it says this in the passage where one in the figure of a serpent speaks to Eve, the first woman, `On the day ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall be as gods, ‘ that is, as those who made man; and after they have tasted of the tree, God Himself testifies, saying to the rest of the gods, `Behold, Adam is become as one of us; ‘ thus, therefore, it is manifest that there were many gods engaged in the making of man…

As mentioned in Part 3, the heresy of the “two powers of Heaven” (a crime against the unique God in the eyes of Jewish orthodoxy) probably started in heretical Jewish circles such as the Sethians (or really Dosithaeans), although condemned by the Books of Enoch, was inadvertently slipped into its ideas of the confrontation between the good angels (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel) and the fallen angels, being the Watchers, in the same text.

The two powers doctrine even influenced Philo of Alexandria, where he separates Theos, the Good God from the Kyrios, or Adonai, being the same being as the Tetragrammaton YHWH. However, Philo does not devalue YHWH as an inferior creator or angelic power as Simon and his followers did and probably would have considered them as blasphemous heretics. The term “Kyrios” is ascribed to Paul’s Christ multiple times throughout his letters, although not as much in the gospels, especially the Gospel of John. Even more significantly, according to Hippolytus, Simon was called “Lord” by his followers, at least by his later ones (Refutation of All Heresies, 6,15).

Philo also identifies the Logos as “a second God” and even “God,” and his association of the Logos with the “two powers” as two potentcies in one God (See: Questions and Answers on Exodus. 2.68.) It is also surely significant that Philo nowhere seeks to defend these beliefs against a charge of heresy. The fact that Philo gives no indication that he was departing from an already-existing Jewish “orthodoxy,” or that his teaching on the Logos was met with objections, suggests that his views were not objectionable to his contemporaries. Perhaps this can be a form of argument of silence?

Both Philo and the Gnostics testify to the belief of a second God, the creator, the Logos, the Man. The Gnostics, however, identified the second God with the God of the Jews in a way that Philo does not. Philo, along with the Samaritians, would have naturally rejected the Gnostics as well as Marcion’s separation of the God of the Jews, being the Lawgiver and creator of the world from the Good God of Jesus Christ as many of his much later Orthodox enemies in the ever-growing minority Catholic Church.

Speaking of the Catholic Church, Eusebius, the infamous propaganda minister of the burgeoning Orthodoxy had this to say about the Two Powers, in Preparation for the Gospel, Book XI, Chapter XIV:

First then Moses expressly speaks of two divine Lords in the passage where he says, ‘Then the LORD rained from the LORD fire and brimstone upon the city of the ungodly: where he applied to both the like combination of Hebrew letters in the usual way; and this combination is the mention of God expressed in the four letters, which is with them unutterable.

In accordance with him David also, another Prophet as well as king of the Hebrews, says, ‘The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand,’ indicating the Most High God by the first LORD, and the second to Him by the second title. For to what other is it right to suppose that the right hand of the Unbegotten God is conceded, than to Him alone of whom we are speaking?

This is He whom the same prophet in other places more clearly distinguishes as the Word of the Father, supposing Him whose deity we are considering to be the Creator of the universe, in the passage where he says, ‘By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made firm.’

The Fingerprints of Dositheos

The famous Theosophist G.R.S Mead speaks of the Taheb of the Samaritan’s in the following excerpt from John the Baptizer and Christian Origins:

“Now in Samaritan tradition, and it will be remembered that the Samaritans rejected all the Jewish scriptures save the Five Fifths of the Law, their future Redeemer was to be called Joshua. This Deliverer they called the Ta’eb, the Returner, and they believed he would be a reborn or returned Joshuah. The Ta’eb is the Samaritan ‘Messiah.’ In this connection a recently translated Samaritan Midrash (B.M. Samaritan MS. Or. 33931) is especially instructive.

It understands the title Ta’eb as signifying ‘he who repents’ or even ‘he who makes to repent,’ not so much the Returner as the Turner-back of others. It is brought into close connection also with Noḫam, meaning Repenting, and is thus by word-play associated with Noah. Our Samaritan Midrash accordingly brings Noah on to the scene of expected redemption, and becomes a spiritualized version of the Deluge-story,abounding in mystical word-plays. One or two specimens (p. 22) of them may now be given, as the ideas behind them are reminiscent of the John-circle of ideas.

Whereas in the old story Yahveh orders Noah: “Make thee an ark (tebah),” the Midrash makes God say unto the Ta’eb: “Make thee a conversion”—or repentance (Aram. shuba, tubah). And so it continues in many details glossing the original parts of the ark by means of word-play, introducing notions of propitiation, expiation and atonement. A single passage from the original will make this clear, and in reading it we should remember that Samaria was a hot-bed of mystic and gnostic movements of all sorts.

In many ways G.R.S. Mead is correct about Samaria being the well-spring in which Gnostic thought may very well stem from, which explains the murky Jewish origins of Sethianism and its possible ties with Dositheos (The Three Steles of Seth). It should also be noted that the Catholic heresiologists’ talking point that Simon was the originator of Gnosticism, however does not reflect Samaritan theology, since they do not speak of any distinctive Gnostic ideas such as a Demiurge, an Unknowable God above the creator, an immaterial Savior, or fallen Wisdom.

This kind of theology is reflective only later, especially in Simon Magus’s debates with Simon Peter in the Clementines. The most that can be said on that subject is that Simon may have included some elements of a particular Samaritian tradition in the development of his system. Of course, Dositheos understood himself and applied the title of the Standing One and if Dositheos understood himself as a neo-Moses, there was a sufficient amount of mythological language in the Samaritan Moses tradition upon which Simon could have drawn in the development of his distinctive system from Dositheos.

Dositheos means “gift of God” and this name may have been given to Christ by the Samaritan Christians. The “gift of God” is also specifically mentioned in John 4:10 and Acts 8:20, and both of these passages are linked with Samaria. Such phraseology is also found in many Samaritan writings. Nathaniel in John 1:21, also means “gift of God”. Paul also goes into the idea of “fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians, which is similar to the idea of the “gift of God”. Dositheos, according to the Clementine tradition was the founder of a Samaritan sect. According to Josepheus, he is dated in the second century B.C.E., the 1st century C.E by Origen and the Clementine Recognition’s, and the fourth century C.E., under the Arabic-Muslim transliterated name of “Dusis” in the Samaritan Chronicles 3,6,7. Origen said Dositheos also claimed to be the “Son of God”. His disciples said that he was not dead but also alive as well.

According to Hegesippus as quoted by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History iv. 22, his sect believed that he was Christ as foretold by Moses. This is a very important fact, in light of how Moses is betrayed in the Great Declaration, in a highly favorable status. This, however, seems to fly in the face of the Apostle Paul’s views on Moses, the Lawgiver and the Law. One example can be seen in 2 Corinthians 3:12-14:

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolish: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament…

Even the fact that Simon was considered to be synonymous with the semi-human god of Rome, Semoni Sanco Deo, the god of contracts, is worth noting because such a god sounded very similar to that of the Lawgiver, the God of the Old Testament. Contracts and oaths were also said to be important to the Greek God Zeus. The connection between Simon and Zeus (as well as Helena with Athena/Minerva) has already been well-established in this series as testified by Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Hippolytus. It is also worth noting that Zeus was also seen as a Savior figure, much like Jesus while YHWH was often associated with the Titan-Cronus or Saturn, as I have well established in other posts on this blog. Let’s move further onward..

Urizen

The Standing Ones

According to Hippolytus who begins his Book of Heresies with the Dositheans, makes Dositheos as the root of the Samaritian heresy. Tertullian does the same thing in Adversus omnes hareses, 1- thus indicating that the long list of heretics may have their root in the heretical cult of Dositheos. Like Simon, Dositheos rejected the Old Testament prophets accepted by the Jewish canon, called for the reform of Mosaic law, and even advocated the abolition of religious duties. The Church Father Origen also mentions Dositheos in Contra Celsus, 1, 57.

And after the times of Jesus, Dositheus the Samaritan also wished to persuade the Samaritans that he was the Christ predicted by Moses; and he appears to have gained over some to his views. But it is not absurd, in quoting the extremely wise observation of that Gamaliel named in the book of Acts, to show how those persons above mentioned were strangers to the promise, being neither sons of God nor powers of God, whereas Christ Jesus was truly the Son of God.

So here, Origen assigns him to the 1st Century, after the time of Christ, and claims that he made himself out to be the Messiah promised by Moses. Of the Dositheans, Origen reports that only thirty remained in his day. This Dosithean and Simonian rejection of the Prophets, more or less also reflects Paul’s distinction between his Christ Jesus and Mosiac Law in 2 Corinthians 3:6-8:

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his appearance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministry of the spirit be more glorious?”

Paul’s comments on Moses’ radiant continence reflect Exodus 34:27-35, where Moses spends 40 days in the company of YHWH. This also reflects the supposed erroneous translation in St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate on Moses being depicted as a horned god in Exodus 34: 29-30:

“And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord. And Aaron and the children of Israel seeing the face of Moses horned, were afraid to come near.”

But, we will save this controversy for others to discuss. Interestingly in John 5:45, Jesus calls Moses, quite literally Satan!

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.”

Paul in Romans 7 also maintains that the Law of Moses, as well as the God of Sinai, were condemned to death when Jesus died and dissolved on the cross! Humanity is delivered from the crushing weight that is the curse of the Law and into the “living spirit” of Christ.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Obviously, there is a big contradiction in that Paul and the Johannite Jesus both reject Moses and the Law (to a certain extent) while the Samaritan Dositheos (Peter) and to a lesser extent, Simon, embrace and identify with him! Interesting conundrum indeed. In the Clementine Homilies, 2.24, Simon and Dositheos have a confrontation after Simon discovers that Dositheos did not correctly teach community doctrines to the Samaritans. During Simon’s absence during John the Baptist’s untimely death, Dositheos assumed leadership of the Baptist community and when Simon returned, he initially did not oppose him. It is only when Simon discovers his errors, is when Simon confronts Dositheos:

And on one occasion, Dositheus, perceiving that this artful accusation of Simon was dissipating the opinion of him with respect to many, so that they did not think that he was the Standing One, came in a rage to the usual place of meeting, and finding Simon, struck him with a staff. But it seemed to pass through the body of Simon as if he had been smoke. Thereupon Dositheus, being confounded, said to him, ‘If you are the Standing One, I also will worship you.’ Then Simon said that he was; and Dositheus, knowing that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshipped; and associating himself with the twenty-nine chiefs, he raised Simon to his own place of repute; and thus, not many days after, Dositheus himself, while he (Simon) stood, fell down and died.

The significance of this passage is important because the Standing One term is used to denote that the person who holds such a title has authority, power and above all divinity. There is also a reference to the staff, which is an allusion to Moses as an authority figure. There are numerous Samaritan texts which identify Moses as a  near-Divine figure- the embodiment of the Eternal Light or a Logos-like figure as Philo of Alexandria would hold. Moses, being the author of the Torah, “had reached the very summit of philosophy” and “had learnt from the oracles of God the most numerous and important of the principles of nature” (Op. 8).

The Moses theology was clearly a major part of Dositheanism and would have passed into Simon’s Gnostic system if the tradition of the teacher/student relationship is accurate as mentioned in the Clementine literature and not contrived. This is evidenced in the following passages of the Great Declaration. This is not the only source of Simon’s theology, but one need not look further than Samaritan locale for the remaining sources. As mentioned earlier, the region had been extensively Hellenized during the pre-Roman period. Simon appears to have drawn not only on the intellectual traditions of the Israelitic Gerizim-based Samaritan community but also on Hellenistic mythologies and religions.

We can see that Simon clearly lived in Samaria and was a Samaritan by race according to the Clementine Homilies (Homily II, Chapter XXII), where Aquila is pictured as stating:

“This Simon is the son of Antonius and Rachel, a Samaritan by race, of the village of Gitthae, which is six schoeni distant from the city (of Samaria). 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.”

A closely related passage is found in the Recognition’s of Clement (Book II, Chapt. VII):

“This Simon’s father was Antonius, and his mother Rachel. By nation he is a Samaritan, from a village of the Gettones; by profession a magician, yet exceedingly well trained in the Greek literature; desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above God the Creator, and to be thought to be the Christ, and to be called the Standing One.”

The two accounts agree that his parents’ names were Antonius and Rachel and that he was a Samaritan. They disagree over whether he came from a village called Gitthae or from a village populated by the Gettones. My judgment is that the more primitive tradition is that he came from a village called Gitthae. They agree he was a magician. According to one, he spent a part of his life in Alexandria, Egypt. According to the other, he knew Greek literature. Together, they suggest he was educated at Alexandria–which education would have included the reading of important Greek literature like Homer, Plato, Heraclitus, etc.

They agree that, he taught, the universe was created by an inferior god–with the phraseology in one of them of “God the Creator” suggesting that “God” is a title of this inferior god, much like Marcion did much later after Simon and Paul. They agree that Simon believed himself to be a power, greater than the god who created the universe and to be, as this greater power, the Christ and the Standing One. They disagree over whether Simon believed himself to be the “supreme” power or an “exalted” power. My judgment is that the correct version is that he believed himself to be an “exalted” power. This is because, elsewhere in the Clementine literature, he is pictured as claiming that there is a supreme and unknowable power above even the Standing One.

Horned Moses

The epithet “Standing One” appears in several religious traditions in the Near East from Late Antiquity until the rise of Islam. The Standing One would denote one who “stands firm” in “existence” or “continuance” as a god-like quality.  Philo of Alexandria identifies those who are lovers of God as those who manage to penetrate the divine world, to approach God as “Standing Ones” like Moses and Abraham who are the archetypal “Standing Ones” since they communed with God face to face or intimately. Those who do so also share in God’s nature as immutable and changeless. The “Standing One” isn’t just limited to Simon, Dositheos or even Moses, but its an endearing term applied to God in Samaritan texts. The Tetragrammaton YHWH, if correctly translated, means “That which was, that which is, that which shall be.” This is much like the saying as found in the Great Declaration, “He stood, stand, is to stand”, as a reference of the divine spark or consciousness of being ever-present and eternal.

Jarl E. Fossum writes in The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Inter-mediation and the Origin of Gnosticism:

When Moses ascended to heaven in order to receive the Law, he was invested with the Divine Name, which signifies the nature of the divine, and made into a divine or angelic being … In Memar Marqa, it is said that Moses “dwelt among the Standing Ones” (IV, 6). This position of Moses no doubt images him as the chief among the angels, God’s messengers. The hymn goes on to describe Moses as “the Elohim who is from mankind” (55,5). The divine names “Standing One” and “Elohim” were shared by the angels; and, since Moses is given the self-name names he obviously is elevated to the position of an angelic being, even the principal angel of God.

This description of Moses also sounds terribly close to how Enoch is transfigured into the Angel of the Lord, Metatron in Enochian literature. Of course, it goes without saying that this also matches in line with how Jesus achieves the resurrection in the Gospels. However, In Deuteronomy 34:5-6 the exact text reads:

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him[a] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

This alone does not suggest a bodily resurrection, and the Jews would probably have had little reason other than not finding his grave to suspect so. But then in Jude 9:

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

This revelation probably shed great light for the Jewish faithful on why no one found his body, which also foreshadows the empty tomb of Jesus in John 20. It is clear that the Samaritans held to a very strong tradition of Moses’ assumption and being snatched away at death which directly contradicts Deuteronomy. Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the next part of the Great Declaration:

Such is the law laid down by Moses, and it was on the pattern of that he wrote each of his books, as the titles tell. The first of them is Genesis, and this title in and of itself bespeaks the whole matter. For this Genesis denotes vision, one of the divisions of the river. For it is through sight that one perceives the creation. The second book has the title Exodus, for everyone who is born must travel through the Red Sea and across the wilderness, the red denoting blood, and taste the bitter water at Marah. This bitterness is that of the water beyond the Red Sea, referring to the painful, bitter path of learning we walk through life. But when it is transformed by Moses, really by the word, what was bitter becomes sweet. This is attested even by secular source, as witness the poet: “Its root was black, but the flower was like unto milk. Moly, the immortals name it. How hard for mortal to dig up, but the for the gods all is child’s play.” What the gentiles say here is enough to give knowledge of the whole thing as long as one has ears to hear. Whoever tasted of this fruit had the power to restore those so cursed. Regaining their proper shape, they were like a defaced coin melted down again and struck again according to the type. By the use of this fruit, as white as milk, one discovered the true man, beloved of the wizardress.

In the same way, the third book, Leviticus, concerns smelling or breathing since the entire context of the book is taken up with sacrifices and offerings. And inseparable from sacrificing is the ascending odor of the incense accompanying the sacrifice, and it is the olfactory sense that determines the propriety of the scent. Numbers, the fourth book, refers to taste, which is activated by speaking. The book receives its name from the listing of everything in numerical order.  But Deuteronomy, he says, is written in reference to the (sense of) touch possessed by the child that is being formed. For as touch, by seizing the things that are seen by the other senses, sums them up and ratifies them, testing what is rough, or warm, or clammy, (or cold); so the fifth book of the law constitutes a summary of the four books preceding this.

The Simonian author clearly has great respect for the first five books of the Torah, as this confirms G.R.S. Mead’s account of the Samaritians. There is also the application of the five physical senses with, again, the first five books of the Torah. Genesis is likened to vision, Exodus to taste, Leviticus to scent, Numbers to taste, while Deuteronomy refers to touch. As we’ve already seen, Eden was also taught as an allegory for the womb. This application of the Torah to the physiology to the human body isn’t exactly a unique invention.

According to the Church Father Hippolytus, the source of which we get the Great Declaration, another Gnostic sect, called the Naaseenes, also strongly emphasized the usage of allegory and symbolism, much like Simon. Accordingly, in Refutations of All Heresies V, IV, Hippolytus reports that in the Naaseene system, the Garden of Eden is actually the brain, and Paradise is the human head. The four rivers flowing out form Eden- Pishon applies to the eyes or vision, Gihon to hearing, Tigris to breathing and the Euphrates to the mouth. Hippolytus also claimed that the serpent who gave knowledge to Eve corresponded with the brain:

The form, however, of the brain is like the head of a serpent, respecting which a lengthened discussion is maintained by the professors of knowledge, falsely so named, as we shall prove.

This is comparable to Irenaeus’ report in Against Heresies (1.30) that the Valentinians believed that the serpent was “within us” in the form of the intestine!

Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernæan hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus. For some of them assert that Sophia herself became the serpent; on which account she was hostile to the creator of Adam, and implanted knowledge inmen, for which reason the serpent was called wiser than all others. Moreover, by the position of our intestines, through which the food is conveyed, and by the fact that they possess such a figure, our internal configuration in the form of a serpent reveals our hidden generatrix.

Moreover, Hippolytus reported that the Valentinians believed that the spirit was immobile inside the cranium, and spread to the spinal cord through the pineal body. By the same path, semen reached the genital organs. Plato’s Timeaus also describes the shape and function of the brain, the medulla and sperm, as intended by the creator, who placed the divine man in the encephalon and the mortal soul in the medulla.

Plato taught that the rational soul or souls were split up in the brain, the spinal marrow and in the heart and liver (Timaeus, 44 D; 69 C-77B). The Red Sea in this passage also reflects on how the Naaseenes viewed it. Hippolytus reports that the Red Sea represented the work of generation or sexual desire between man and woman, while Egypt represented the human body as a whole:

This, he says, is ocean, “generation of gods and generation of men” ever whirled round by the eddies of water, at one time upwards, at another time downwards. But he says there ensues a generation of men when the ocean flows downwards; but when upwards to the wall and fortress and the cliff of Luecas, a generation of gods takes place. This, he asserts, is that which has been written: “I said, Ye are gods, and all children of the highest;” “If ye hasten to fly out of Egypt, and repair beyond the Red Sea into the wilderness,” that is, from earthly intercourse to the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of the living; “If, moreover, again you return into Egypt,” that is, into earthly intercourse, “ye shall die as men.” For mortal, he says, is every generation below, but immortal that which is begotten above, for it is born of water only, and of spirit, being spiritual, not carnal. But what (is born) below is carnal, that is, he says, what is written. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” This, according to them, is the spiritual generation. This, he says, is the great Jordan which, flowing on (here) below, and preventing the children of Israel from departing out of Egypt–I mean from terrestrial intercourse, for Egypt is with them the body,–Jesus drove back, and made it flow upwards.

The Red Sea is not only representative of the lust of the flesh and procreation but for also the daily life on Planet Earth in bodily flesh, in all its toils and hardships, “by the sweat of your brow” as ordered through a curse by the creator god against Adam (Genesis 3:19). We’ve already covered the meaning of the River Jordan in Part 3, which is very similar, holding that John the Baptist was actually symbolic of the Craftsman, the womb and procreation. Of course, neither Simon or the Naasenes were the only ones to apply philosophy and allegory to the Old Testament. Philo of Alexandria dedicated several volumes of writings to this exegetic function alone, although Philo arrived to fundamentally different conclusions…

Philo of Alexandria made great pains to show the metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings of the Torah. His application of Platonic and Pythagorean concepts to Samaritan and Jewish scriptures would know doubt titillate other writers of that era, including Justin Martyr, who believed that Moses and the Israelites anticipated Egyptian mystery religion, as well as Plato and the Greek philosophers! It is debatable that Philo came before the New Testament and Gnostic literature as this seems more like an Orthodox fabrication.

In future entries, we will examine Simon’s role as a docetic savior, as well as his connections with other characters in the New Testament, including his sworn enemy, Peter.

Erotic Philosophy

Last year, I wrote a 45-page academically-oriented paper, Eros, Orpheus and On the Origin of the World for the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition on the Greek god, Eros and his influence on the Orphic religion and Gnosis. Of course, in the process of actually researching and reflecting, you come across a lot of information, and some information didn’t wind up in the actual paper. However, there is some more interesting tidbits I thought was worth exploring further.

Philosophically speaking, Eros was conceived as Beauty that leads naturally to knowledge of the eternal Forms (God or the Pleroma) collectively as all eternal objects are interconnected, and recollection naturally proceeds from one object to another. This recognition of Eros meant the upward ascent or trajectory from the Cave of shadows (the world of matter) to the form of the Good. It was the realignment from the visible to the intelligible world. Diotima, the wise priestess philosopher describes all this in the Symposium (210a-212b). Diotima rhetorically asks:

[211e] But tell me, what would happen if one of you had the fortune to look upon essential beauty entire, pure and unalloyed; not infected with the flesh and color of humanity, and ever so much more of mortal trash? What if he could behold the divine beauty itself, in its unique form?

Indeed, this is the crux of all Platonic or erotic philosophy. In a way, Plato would answer this question, in the Republic (515c4-516a1).

Consider, then, what being released from their bonds and cured of their ignorance would naturally be like, if something like this came to pass. When one of them was freed and suddenly compelled (énagkãxoito) to stand up, turn his head, walk and look up toward the light, he’d be pained and dazzled and unable to see the things whose shadows he’d seen before…if we pointed to each of the things passing by, asked him what each of them is, and compelled (énagkãzoi) him to answer, don’t you think he’d be at a loss… And if someone compelled (énagkãzoi) him to look at the light itself, wouldn’t his eyes hurt, and wouldn’t he turn around and flee towards the things he’s able to see, believing that they’re really clearer than the ones he’s being shown? He would.

And if someone dragged (ßlkoi) him away from there by force (b¤&), up the rough, steep path, and didn’t let him go until he had dragged him out (§jelkÊseien) into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be pained and irritated at being dragged.

Socrates emphasizes that the youth of the kallipolis (the ideal city) will be surrounded by beauty, and that this will evoke in them a virtuous eros for the beautiful. Moreover, in book 6 of the Republic, his depiction of the philosopher as stargazer in the ship concludes with an affirmation that the real philosopher is driven by an eros that can only be satisfied by communion with true being, much like how a an attractive body would engage in intercourse with another beautiful body.

Zephyrus, the progenitor of Eros along with Iris, is described by Alcaeus (VII-VI centuries BCE) as “golden hair Zephyr” (Hymn to Eros, fragment V, 327).

Zephyrus, the progenitor of Eros along with Iris, is described by Alcaeus (VII-VI centuries BCE) as “golden hair Zephyr” (Hymn to Eros, fragment V, 327).

Even more interesting is how Diotima distinguishes philosophers from sages and senseless fools by also stating that Eros or Love is a daimonic spirit, half-way between immortal divinity and perishable, foolish mortality in the Symposium (203b-204d):

When Aphrodite was born, the gods made a great feast, and among the company was Resource the son of Cunning. And when they had banqueted there came Poverty abegging, as well she might in an hour of good cheer, and hung about the door. Now Resource, grown tipsy with nectar—for wine as yet there was none—went into the garden of Zeus, and there, overcome with heaviness, slept. Then Poverty, being of herself so resourceless, devised the scheme of having a child by Resource, and lying down by his side she conceived Love. Hence it is that Love from the beginning has been attendant and minister to Aphrodite, since he was begotten on the day of her birth, and is, moreover, by nature a lover bent on beauty since Aphrodite is beautiful. Now, as the son of Resource and Poverty, Love is in a peculiar case. First, he is ever poor, and far from tender or beautiful as most suppose him: rather is he hard and parched, shoeless and homeless; on the bare ground always he lies with no bedding, and takes his rest on doorsteps and waysides in the open air; true to his mother’s nature, he ever dwells with want.

And as that which is supplied to him is always gradually flowing out, Eros is never either without resources nor wealthy, but is in between wisdom and lack of understanding. For here is the way it is: No one of the gods philosophizes and desires to become wise—for he is so—nor if there is anyone else who is wise, does he philosophize. Nor, in turn, do those who lack understanding philosophize and desire to become wise; for it is precisely this that makes the lack of understanding so difficult–that is a man is not beautiful and god, nor intelligent, he has the opinion that that is sufficient for him. Consequently, he who does not believe that he is in need does not desire that which does not believe he needs. (203E-204A)

The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1879)

Note that the sage is considered synonymous with that of a god. Diotima is saying that fools are unconscious of their lack of wisdom, even though they think they are wise and are full of hubris (i.e. delusional). On the other hand, philosophers are acutely aware of their lack of wisdom and are constantly searching after her like desert nomads thirsting after clean water. The philosopher is the intermediate stage between sages and fools. Like the philosophers, daimons were also considered to be intermediate beings, and have a share of divinity although their divine nature is conjoined with a soul and a body, capable of perceiving pleasure and pain.

For Diotima, the daimon acts as an intermediary between gods and men, existing in an intermediate state or nature. This is like Hermes, the messenger of the gods, or Thoth. This is the Christ of the Hermetic tradition essentially. Diotima was from Mantineia in the Peloponnese not far from Corinth where Paul was said to evangelize. It was apparently an ancient argument among the Greeks whether to pray to Gods or to an intercessor. The savior figure of Jesus Christ as a supernatural, docetic and otherworldly being could also be considered a daimonic being as I go into great detail on this in my much longer essay, linked above.

As explained by the Middle Platonist Plutarch in On Isis and Osiris, 360 d13-e23, consequently, the daimons, like humans, are moved by appetite, and are capable of both good and evil. In one sense, daimons bridge the gulf or distance between the earthly and the heavenly. In another, daimons were also considered to be responsible for the incarnation of souls into the enslavement into flesh, matter and Fate. The Corpus Hermeticum explicitly states that daimons are responsible for humanity’s enslavement in the cycles of birth, life and death under the authority of fate. Fate to a Gnostic, however, did not exist and was illusory like matter. The more Orthodox minded Christians however, were obsessed with Fate and the Apocalypse or the End Times.

In the above scheme, we can see the parallels between the three-fold scheme of the Sage, philosopher and the fool in comparison with the tripartite anthropology or the three natures motif that we often find in Gnostic and Valentinian writings, with the pneumatic (spiritual), the psychic (soul), and hylic (matter). The Catholic Church Father Irenaeus gives us the Valentinian doctrine of the three natures in Against Heresies, 1.7.5:

“They conceive, then, of three kinds of men, spiritual, material, and animal (soul), represented by Cain, Abel and Seth. These three natures are no longer found in one person, but constitute various kinds of men. The material goes as a matter of course into corruption. The animal, if it choose the better part, finds repose…in the intermediate place; but if [choosing] the worse, it too shall pass into destruction. …

But they assert that the spiritual principles which have been sown by [Sophia], being disciplined and nourished here from that time until now in righteous souls…at last attaining perfection, shall be given as brides… (referring to the Bridal Chamber), while the animal souls rest of necessity with the Demiurge in the intermediate place (referring to the Valentinian notion of the repentance and salvation of the Demiurge).

And again, subdividing the animal souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and others by nature evil. The good are those who become capable of receiving the spiritual seed; the evil by nature are those who are never able to receive the seed”

Even in the Apostle Paul, do we find this same basic three-fold structure in 1 Corinthians. 2:14–15:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judges all things…”

And once again in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?

Here, Paul distinguishes the spiritual man from the natural man, and lastly the fleshy man, the last of which Paul expressly condemns. He points out the flesh is actually the source of all jealousy, strife and evils of humanity. Likewise, Plato in Phaedo 66b would claim that the body is the source of all “troubles”:

For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost.

“Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth: and all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves: then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live, but after death…”

Obviously, in Paul, Socrates and Plato, the Gnostic deprecation of the flesh and the fallen world of matter is merely the next logical development in their theology based on the foundation of the former. The Cynics, Epicurians, and Stoics also had their own philosophical variation on these anti-cosmic themes. The Gospel of Philip makes an exegetic claim in that Eros builds up, where as Knowledge “puffs up” based on Paul’s 1 Corinthians 8:1:

He who has knowledge of the truth is a free man, but the free man does not sin, for “He who sins is the slave of sin” (Jn 8:34). Truth is the mother, knowledge the father. Those who think that sinning does not apply to them are called “free” by the world. Knowledge of the truth merely makes such people arrogant, which is what the words, “it makes them free” mean. It even gives them a sense of superiority over the whole world. But “Love builds up” (1 Co 8:1). In fact, he who is really free, through knowledge, is a slave, because of love for those who have not yet been able to attain to the freedom of knowledge.

Eros, in some way is depicted like a Demiurge figure, in the way it is described as to “build up” much like how Eros is described in an Orphic Fragment:

First I sung the obscurity of ancient Chaos, How the Elements were ordered, and the Heaven reduced to bound; And the generation of the wide-bosomed Earth, and the depth of the Sea, And Eros (Love) the most ancient, self-perfecting, and of manifold design; How he generated all things, and parted them from one another. (Arg. v. 12.)

Returning to Diotima, the wise priestess equates Eros with that of a philosopher:

…Eros is—necessarily—a philosopher; and as a philosopher he is between being wise and being without understanding. His manner of birth is responsible for this, for he is of a wise and resourceful father, and an unwise and resourceless mother. Now the nature of the daemon, dear Socrates, is this; but as for the one who you believed to be Eros, it is not at all surprising that you had this impression.

In a way, Socrates is much like Eros, in that he is a mediator or “mid-wife” of souls remembering their divine origins akin to Eros’ relationship with Psyche in the satirical novel, the Golden Ass. Socrates, however, appears at the same time as someone who goes out of his way to say he has no wisdom and yet is also deeply admired by his students and others like for his guidance and discourse. In this way, Socrates himself was a daimon!

The Stoics, likewise, held that the Sage was god-like and unaffected by the cycles of Fate or any sort of difficulty that might inevitably arise nor were they dazzled by any good fortune or luck that might come their way. These kinds of people to the Stoics were indeed very rare, like fine gold and regarded non-sages as guile-less fools, slaves to vice and their misfortune (the vast majority of the human race). The Stoic philosopher Arius Didymus in the Epitome of Stoic Ethics, had this to say about the division between sage and non-sage, indicating there are two races of men:

It is the view of Zeno and his Stoic followers that there are two races of men, that of the worthwhile, and that of the worthless. The race of the worthwhile employ the virtues through all of their lives, while the race of the worthless employ the vices. Hence the worthwhile always do the right thing on which they embark, while the worthless do wrong.

Clearly, Arius minces no words about calling the non-sages a race of worthless animal men who follow only the demands of the flesh. Much later, the Gnostic Hermetic alchemist, Zosimos in On the Letter Omega (5.41-46), mixed Gnostic ideas with Stoic ones where the true philosopher is liberated from cycles of pleasure and pain:

Hermes and Zoroaster maintained that the race of philosophers is superior to Fate, because they neither rejoice in her blessings, for they are masters of pleasure; nor are they thrown by her evils, since they live an inner existence; nor again do they welcome the beautiful gifts she sends, since they focus on the end of evils.

I could add the Neoplatonist Proclus’s commentary on Eros in the mix but perhaps it would be too much to digest. Looking back on all this information, Gnosticism was never a philosophy but rather sage wisdom reserved for its unshakable, spiritual race of initiates and anyone else being beckoned by the call. The winged Eros, as a god, daimon and philosopher clearly has influenced many ideas found in both Christianity and Gnosis, and I only hope the philosopher within you will continue on the tireless trek after Sophia.

Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 4)

In Part 3we discovered that the two trees being the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were seen as living symbols for the Gnostics’ cosmology being the Aeons in the Pleroma and the veil or Platonic (X) or limit that separates it from the deficiency or hysterema of the material world, marked of illusion and imperfection, time and flux. It is therefore useless to identify with the physical symbol of a cross as it is more of an archetype.

The Stauros (Cross), which means to “stand” or “straighten up” (e.g. the “Standing One” per Simon Magus?) in its true self is a living idea, a reality or root-principle of separation and limit, dividing entity from non-entity, being from non-being, perfection from imperfection, fullness and emptiness, Light from Darkness. The Stauros or Horos was also seen as synonymous with the Logos and was also seen as the sign of victory as per the doctrine of Christus Victor atonement i.e, that Christ defeated the powers by duping them into crucifying him.

Guarding this Horos was the Limit-Setter, the Across-Taker, the Emancipator, the Guide or Leader that guides the initiated soul from its astral journey from the underworld, to the zodiacal cosmos, to the eighth heaven or “ogdoad” where Sophia is said to dwell, near the gates and finally to the Heavenly Cross, functioning like a portal or gateway into the realm of the Father or the Pleroma. The Logos himself is designated as a “door” or a “gate” into eternal life symbolized as pasture, for the saved sheep (or souls) (John 10:9).

This region was also called the “suburbs”, a frontier or the barrier, demarcating the boundary between the worlds. The term “suburbs” is also used in a Peratic text that the Church Father Hippolytus quotes at length called The Suburbs up to the Aither in the Philosophumena or the Refutation of All Heresies, which I will briefly touch on later on. In Plato’s Timaeus, he refers to the soul-stuff of the universe in terms of two circular strips joined together like the Greek letter chi (X). Similarly, tau, the last letter of the Phoenician and Old Hebrew alphabets, is shaped like a cross, and was popularly held to be a protective emblem of supernatural power. Crosses were also said to be used by Roman General Marcius Turbo’s forces in the first century to carry their food and clothing.

In Plato’s radical dualism, he thought that matter and the Demiurge were uncreated and co-existed eternally with the world of forms or the eternal archetypes. And he believed that matter and the forms were eternally separated by what he called the “divided line.” In Ephesians 2:19, the invisible cross is represented as bestriding the cosmos in terms of “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge.

Only through the stauros can souls enter into life eternal.  Without it, humanity are held in thrall by time, subject to Satan, to fate and to reincarnation. The stauros is the axis of the mighty spiral that reverses the order of the cosmos, and takes man from the emptiness (kenoma) of the illusory lower world, to the fullness of the upper world of Reality. It is this reality which Luke 13:19 describes as:

It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.

The fruit of this aeonic Tree were manifested as the Cosmic Christ or Logos and his otherworldly redemptive mission when evil came into existence. His work on earth and even the universe at large was to touch every region on our side of the Stauros, to fulfill a specific mission for every form of creation: from the fallen angels, archons, fallen aeons, for man and so forth and so on down to the Chain of Being. It is his presence on earth that was hotly debated and gave birth to a religious movement that ultimately become the very thing it once strove to liberate itself from. Christ would be reduced to a rotting corpse on a cross, in which the Orthodox “cleave to the name of a dead man, thinking that they will become pure” as the Apocalypse of Peter would say.

Yet, the very reason for the existence of the Logos is explained in a “fall of man” scenario which occurs in not just in Jewish and Christian literature but also in Hermetic and Indian literature. We will examine the events that unfold right after the fall of man that eventually precipitates into events surrounding the Flood and how they relate to all these concepts associated with the Garden. Is there a possible deeper message to the Flood myth?

flood-of-noahs-day2

The Flood of Darkness

In Josephus, Antiquitates I 69-71 and Vita Adae et Evae XLIX 3-L2, he discusses the coming destruction by fire and water. The Apocalypse of Adam and the Gospel of the Egyptians also mentions destruction by water which was identified with the biblical flood, and by fire. Plato’s Timaeus 21E-22E also relates a similar idea for periodical destruction of the earth by water and fire. Its influence on the idea of a periodical disaster was widely known in Jewish and Christian literature. In the Latin Life of Adam and Eve, after the funerals of Adam and Abel, Eve tells her children of a coming divine judgement, “first by water and then by fire,” and gives them the recommendation to preserve the account of their parents’ lives by writing it down in two sets of tablets, one made of stone and the other of clay (49–50).

By the fourth century BC, Greek philosophers and geographers eventually opined that the earth was not a flat disk consisting of a single land mass and swirling waters, like Homeric geography posited, but rather a sphere with multiple continents and seas. Plato, for example, would often use myth and story to service his philosophical endeavors. In the Phaedo 110b, Plato’s Socrates describes the earth as viewed from above as “one of these balls made of twelve pieces of skin, variegated and marked out in different colors”. Plato would engage the Ocean even more directly in his myth or story of Atlantis in Timaeus 25a, which tells us:

The island (Atlantis) was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean, for this sea which is within the Straights of Heracles is only a harbor, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the land surrounding it on every side may be truly called a boundless continent.

Plato would go on about the greatness, hubris, and demise of Atlantis in the Critias, although the account was not completed because Critias was never finished. He made another reference to its destruction in Timaeus. Plato’s myth-making or speculation was a self-admitted speculation in the service of philosophy. He signaled this by having Socrates say in Phaedo 114d, “Of course, no reasonable man ought to insist that the facts are exactly as I have described them.” Plato’s “invention” of Atlantis was explicit, and he was, in the end, uninterested in the truth value of his own world created out of a pastiche of myth, philosophy and geography. What mattered for Plato was that the myth was served his real purpose, to support his ideas about the immortality of the soul and the proper governance of humankind through the administration of the Philosopher Kings.

From a careful consideration of Plato’s description of Atlantis it is evident that the story should not be regarded as wholly literal or historical but rather as both symbolic of Plato’s Utopian ideal with possible roots in actual history. Theologians and philosophers in late antiquity such as Origen, Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus, and Syrianus realized that the story concealed a profound philosophical mystery, but they disagreed as to the actual interpretation. Classical Alexandria was a hotbed of allegorization as the Alexandrine Jewish philosopher Philo and the early Church Fathers also rejoiced in ascribing symbolic meanings to their sacred writings as well.

There are, of course, many parallels with Plato’s mysterious Atlantis with Noah’s Deluge and even the Garden of Eden. For one, the Hebrew word used for the Garden of Eden was called gannah, which also means a covered or hidden place. Gardens in ancient times were usually protected by walled enclosures, which lends to the concept of Adam and Eve being “expelled” and unable to return. Ancient Atlantis was also considered to be “walled off” from outsiders. The famous passage of Genesis 6:4 presents the idea that the flood was sent by God to punish the crimes committed by the giant children of the Angels or Watchers who committed intercourse with human women, being the Nephilim. Of course, in Gnostic literature, intercourse between supernatural powers and human women are continuous since the beginning of creation itself, starting with Cain and Abel as the spawn between Eve and the lion-faced demonic ruler, Ialdabaoth as featured in Apocryphon of John.

This Jewish story of the Watcher Angels being imprisoned in the valleys of the earth after sleeping with the daughters of men is clearly drawn from Greek myths- this was the fate of the Titans after Zeus defeated them, and it recalls the imprisonment of the children of Ouranos in valleys as punishment. Both Enochic and Gnostic literature go out of their way to claim that these same Angels taught humankind various occult secrets and teachings, being astronomy, magic and the usage of natural elements. This was not the only view concerning the origins of astrology as the earliest Hellenistic Jewish Historian Eupolemus claimed that astrology was actually discovered by Enoch (identified with Atlas) and then handed on by him to the Babylonians. Zosimos of Panopolis, the Hermetic-Gnostic alchemist also placed much emphasis on the Book of Enoch and the Angels being the source of the majority of occult and alchemical teachings.

Flavius Josepheus in Antiquities 1.154-168, also referred to Abraham (although not mentioning his name explicitly) as a great and righteous man, “versed in the heavens” as did many other writers throughout history. Eupolemus also claimed that Abraham was a Chaldean. Seth, being Adam’s son, is also singled out as the originator of astrology by Flavius Josephus as well as being the founder of the Gnostic religion in the Three Steles of Seth.

Josephus in Antiquities 1 68-71 also claimed that the progeny or “seed” of Seth were just, peace-loving men, who understood the secrets of the stars, and had knowledge of the Flood and other disasters, inscribing her doctrine on two steles. Other texts such as On the Origin of the World, claimed that the Angels or Archons taught women idolatry, which would naturally fit with the idea of the “god of this world” being a blinding idol or icon as per 2 Corinthians 4:4. Justin Martyr in the Second Apology, Chapter V, would say something very similar to Orig. World:

But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness.

That is not to say that the science of astrology and magical workings were rejected by the Gnostics—quite the opposite, as they had a deep respect for the knowledge revealed by the angels. In fact, one can go as far as to say the Watchers or fallen angels themselves were literary representations of the Gnostics because of their deep knowledge of the stars, planets, plants, medicine, writing, etc. The Valentinian Theodutus claimed that Christ came into the world to free all people who believe in him from astral fate. Astrology is not a wholly fictional science or an error as it can tell the truth concerning the destiny of those who are not in Christ. But once one is baptized, the astrologists “no longer tell the truth” concerning the person’s destiny. Jewish texts such as Sepher ha Razim, glorify the science of the stars and the cosmos revealed by the Watchers:

And seven thrones are prepared there, and upon them are seated overseers, and around them on all sides encampments of angels are stationed and are obedient to men at the time when they practice magic; to everyone who has learned to stand and pour libations to their names and cite them by their signs at the period when prayer is heard so as to make a magical rite succeed. Over all these encampments of angels, these seven overseers rule, to dispatch them for every sort of business, so that they will hasten and bring success.

1 Enoch, the books of Daniel and the book of Jubilees either condemn Babylonian astrology as a diabolical science, or stress its inferiority to wisdom directly revealed by God. The Jewish form of astrology tends to distinguish itself from the astrology of the Babylonian Chaldeans. The Gnostics continued on the same path of Jewish astrology, who posits Seth, Jesus and Mary to reveal the truth about the planetary fate, the stars and the deities who rule them. It is of course, the Savior that “disturbs” the other stars as he descends into the world of matter.

Still, the problem of the Giants were no laughing matter. The offspring of the Watchers (including the angels Shemyaza, Azazel and all the rest of the angels listed in 1 Enoch) and human women resulted in gigantic beings being the Nephilim, also referred to as “GiBoR” which is Hebrew for “hero” or a great man, strangely enough. They are also known as the “giants born of, or descendants of the Aion”. There are certain magical gems of the famous Chnoubis (lion-headed snake) that contain the inscription of being a conqueror of giants! This seems to indicate that the lion-headed serpent wasn’t always held in a negative light by Gnostics. The myth of the giants and their destruction by God through the flood is preserved in many different writings that flourished in the late Hellenistic-Judiac apocryphal literature as well as Gnostic mythology featured in different texts such as the Apocryphon of John, On the Origin of the World, the Valentinian Exposition and of course, in many Manichaean writings, including the Book of Giants.

Ialdaboath

Even these Giants of the Jewish apocrypha and Gnostic literature can be seen as synonymous with the immortal giant Titans per Greek myth, with Kronos, Zeus’ “Forgotten Father” or “Hidden One” being the Atlantean king of these Titans. Kronos would eventually become imprisoned within the underworld, as a “Dark Lord”. This is much like how Ialdabaoth in On the Origin of the World is imprisoned in Tartarus by Pistis Sophia, the deep abyss or the “Foundations of the Great Deep” per Genesis 7:11, underneath hell, where the Titans are thrown and placed there by the Olympian gods. The Middle Platonist and Greek Historian, Plutarch in On the Cessation of Oracles, would claim that Kronos or Saturn’s imprison was imposed by a death-like sleep, where his dreams and illusions acted like shackles, symbolic of the nature of material reality:

In that region also, they said, Saturn was confined in one of the islands by Briareus, and lay asleep; for that his slumber had been artfully produced in order to chain him, and round about him were many dæmons for his guards and servants.

Hippolytus in Refutatio, Book V, chapter 11 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, wrote of the beliefs of a member of the Gnostic Peratae (meaning “traversers”) sect:

But water, he says, is destruction; nor did the world, he says, perish by any other thing quicker than by water. Water, however . . . they assert (it to be) Cronus.

Statues of Bacchus and the Seven Planets

Even more relevant, the ancient Chaldaeans warned that a universal flood would come down from above: “Kronos announced to Sisithros that a flood would pour from above.” Tacitus in Histories V.4 alleged that the Jews were worshipers of Saturn, indirectly claiming Jehovah was Kronos. It is safe to assume that Kronos was considered a synonymous figure with the Demiurge as maintained by the Peratics. According to the Orthodox Syrian Bishop, Theodoretus of Cyrrhus, the heretics, especially the Marcionites, detested water because it was produced by the creator. The Bible frequently mentions Yahweh’s rule over the waters, particularly the Red Sea and the Nile. The notion that water was an element of the Demiurge, who was equated with Kronos as the “lord of generation” and positioned in the center of the universe by the Peratic-Ophites per Hippolytus in Refutation 5.15.4, was characteristic of the Gnostic contempt for the creator’s work and the creator himself.

Accordingly, many Gnostics would deliberately disobey the Creator’s precepts and praise vilified Biblical characters like the serpent in Eden or other times, Cain and even the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah! Theodoretus of Cyrrhus has this to say about the Marcionites:

They dare to say that the serpent is better than the Creator. in fact the Creator forbade men to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, while the serpent exhorted them to eat it. But these sinners do not know that the serpent’s advice generated death. And so some of them worship the serpent. And I myself found that they had a bronze serpent, kept in a box together with their nefarious mysteries.

Theodoretus also claimed that the Marcionites not only insulted the Creator god, but also the biblical patriarchs and prophets because they were the Creator’s agents, while they believed that the Old Testament villains such as Cain and the Sodomites had followed Jesus out of Tartarus when he descended into Hell. The doctrine of the Ophites were also attributed to the Marcionites by Theodoretus. Whenever Jehovah would unconditionally condemn magic and divination as worship of foreign gods in Deuteronomy 18.9-11, 27, 35, Exodus 22, 17 and Leviticus 20,27, the Gnostics would value the knowledge of astrology because it was expressly forbidden by the creator god much like the knowledge fruit forbidden in Eden. This is explicitly mentioned by the Latin Church Father, Tertullian who would say, “the Marcionites very frequently are astrologers, and are not ashamed to live by the Creator’s stars” (Contra Marcion, I 18 1). Naturally, astrology was associated with heresy (or false teachings) according to the Orthodox Heresiologists. For example, Irenaeus in Against Heresies 1.15.6, says of a certain Marcus the Valentinian:

Marcus, you former of idol, inspector of portents, skill’d in consulting the stars, and deep in the black arts of magic, ever by tricks such as these confirming the doctrines of error, furnishing signs unto those involved by you in deception, wonders of power that is utterly severed from God and apostate, which Satan, your true father, enables you still to accomplish, by means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel—thus making you the precursor of his own impious actions.

Irenaeus’ pupil Hippolytus also asserted that:

…the teachings of the heretics have their source in the wisdom of the Greeks, the opinions of those who engage in philosophy, those who undertake mysteries and roaming astrologers.

Hippolytus devoted the whole of Book IV of his Refutatio to the Chaldeans, magi and astrologers, as one of the sources of inspiration to the Gnostics. Chapter V was mostly concerned with the Peratics, who may have considered themselves the “true Hebrews” considering that Hebrew means “passerbyer”. The confidence of the Peratae or the Peratics, that they were able to find salvation from the oppression of the astral powers of fate through gnosis:

For if any one, he says, of those (beings) which are here will have strength to perceive that he is a paternal mark transferred hither from above, (and that he is) incarnate— just as by the conception resulting from the rod a something white is produced—he is of the same substance altogether with the Father in heaven, and returns there. If, however, he may not happen upon this doctrine, neither will he understand the necessity of generation, just as an abortion born at night will perish at night.

This attitude towards magic wasn’t shared by all Gnostic groups as sects such as the Manichaeans considered witchcraft as inspired by the primeval Darkness and Satan, despite the fact that their practices such as exorcisms and prayers to the four guardian angels (Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael) were also considered “magical”.

Returning to the Flood story, the Gnostics would interpret this episode in Genesis as proof that the creator god was indeed fallible because the Lord repented of his own creation (Genesis 6:6) and was willing to save only a few chosen ones (being Noah, his family and various animals) and start creation anew. The Apocryphon of John makes full use of this idea by stating:

And he (the chief archon) repented for everything which had come into being through him. This time he planned to bring a flood upon the work of man.

Ialdaboath initiates this destructive plan because the chief ruler fails to enslave the human race through the creation of “fate” and “destiny”. This destiny, while successful in fostering “sins” and “forgetfulness” of the ultimate deity and constraining choices, was insufficient to “arrest” human “pondering” entirely. As it follows, a new plan of wiping out life on earth completely is started and not just as an attack on Gnostic humanity.

In any event, for the Gnostics, the cause of the flood was by the maliciousness of Ialdabaoth and his angels but ultimately fails to completely destroy mankind, including the Gnostic race, revealing the ultimate ineptitude of the authorities. To remedy this situation, the Archons decide to produce a “counterfeit spirit” in the image of the divine “spirit of life”, which enables them to change their shapes and further seduce humanity with wealth, and many other vices which goes a long way to their achieving their desired union with human women, according to the Apoc. John. The result is ignorance of spiritual reality plaguing humanity even “down through the present time” and also attempts to explain the origins of evil in the human species.

The reason for Ialdaboath causing the flood should be obvious. Humanity’s growing insight and superiority over spiritual matters concerns the creator god and his angels, rather than moral depravity or humanity’s sins as stated in Genesis 6: 3, 13, 17. In Enochian apocalyptic literature, the deluge is sent by God’s judgement to wipe out the giants from the face of the earth. Hypostasis of the Archons would say that humankind “began to multiply and improve”. Irenaeus would say that humankind would “not honor” Ialdabaoth as “parent and god” in Haer. 1.30.10. This is, of course, a wholesale rejection of the God of Israel’s divine status, in part of the Gnostics. However, in some cases the God of Israel is identified with the repentant archon, Sabaoth which is depicted in Gnostic writings in an often positive light, with his intimate association with Sophia. They also point to his amorous fallen angels, who were originally “ministers of flaming fire” (Psalms 104:4) being a part of a archontic conspiracy to further confuse the human race in vice and blood-shed.

Much later, the Church Father Epiphanius would tell us a different account of the Sethian version of the flood. In the Panarion 39.3.1, Wisdom caused the flood because “the frequent intercourse and confused impulse on the part of the angels and the human beings, so the two tended toward mixture…” It is clear that Sophia is depicted in struggling against the Archangels, Archons and Watchers which is typical in Gnostic and Simonian literature. So, for the Gnostics, it is also clear that the Flood and the intercourse between Angels and human women were attempts to disrupt human progress because of their strengthening link to the spiritual world outside of material creation.

When it comes to the issue of Noah, the Gnostic evaluation of the character shows no unanimity in any of Gnostic writings, and one can find examples of both positive and negative attitudes toward him. The Apocryphon of John tells us that Noah was a chosen patron of the spiritual race:

And he repented for all that had happened through him. He plotted to produce a flood [κατακλυσμός] over all the offspring of man. But the greatness of Providence [πρόνοια], which is the reflection [ἐπίνοια] of the light, instructed Noah and he preached to men. But they did not believe him. It is not as Moses said, “He hid himself in an ark [κιβωτός],” but she sheltered him in a place, not Noah alone but men from the immovable race. They went into a place and sheltered themselves with a luminous cloud. And he (Noah) recognized his lordship and those who were with him in the light which shone upon them, because darkness was falling over everything upon earth.

The reference to the waters seems to be a metaphor for the “darkness”, as the understanding of the biblical flood was understood as more a of a spiritual event, much like the first fall, which was the descent of spirit into the abyss and inferno of matter. The “Abyss” or the “void”, which also relates to the Kabbalistic Qliphoth (Tree of Death), was also symbolic of the vacant place that was left when God retracted his presence from that area. The process of emptying left a vacant place for what was to become the natural universe we know. In Gnostic writings, the cognate word, Kenoma, signifying “emptiness”, describes the illusive, phenomenal world of space and time in which all sentient life lives in. In essence, God obscured himself by creating the place of the Deficiency, but he is not that place.

The Apocryphon of John also goes on in a lengthy dialogue concerned with the ultimate destiny of the two kinds of spirits: “the spirit of life” from the Pleroma and the “counterfeit spirit” generated by the rulers and authorities of fate. The flood story and biblical imagery are used to convey this dialogue in the text. The late 3rd century Simonian text The Concept of Our Great Power tells us something very similar, by saying that the water, which represents the Demiurge, coexists with spirit eternally, i.e., radical dualism.

Discern what size the water is, that it is immeasurable (and) incomprehensible, both its beginning and its end. It supports the earth; it blows in the air where the gods and the angels are. But in him who is exalted above all these there is the fear and the light, and in him are my writings revealed.

The same text also goes into similar details regarding the fall of the angels, the flood myth, Noah, etc. Another text in the Nag Hammadi Library, the Hermetic tractate, Asclepius also discusses the Flood myth. In this treatise, the Demiurge is presented as a benevolent figure and his actions in a very Stoic context, with themes of recurring cosmic catastrophes and restoration:

And when these things had happened, O Asclepius, then the Lord, the Father and god from the only first (God), god the creator [δημιουργόϛ], when he looked upon the things that happened, established his design, which is good, against the disorder. He took away error and cut off evil. Sometimes he submerged it in a great flood, at other times he burned it in a searing fire.

Fire Woman

Speaking of fire, the Gnostic prophetess, Norea is also featured in a few writings including Hypostasis of the Archons, Thought of Norea, and by the Church Father Epiphanius. Her role is that of a Gnostic heroine, and that is somewhat of a rare (if not non-existent) feat in any religious writing but is boldly featured in a Gnostic holy writ. The scholar Birger Pearson connects Norea with Noah’s wife Namaah. In Enoch, Namaah was said to have overwhelmed the Angel Azazel with her beauty, as she is also identified as the sister of Tubal-Can. In later Jewish legends, Namaah is also identified as the sister or daughter of Lilith. The Hypostasis of the Archons tells us that Norea is essentially the revealer and spiritual mother of the Gnostic race, through Eve:

Again Eve became pregnant, and she bore Norea. And she said, “He has begotten on me a virgin as an assistance for many generations of mankind.” She is the virgin whom the forces did not defile.

It is through Norea’s intervention on human kind that they progress and improve, which spurs the authorities to come together and wipe out all life on earth:

The rulers took counsel with one another and said, “Come, let us cause a deluge with our hands and obliterate all flesh, from man to beast.”

Norea reveals herself to be one of a spit-fire type when she blows Noah’s Ark down! Perhaps this is symbolic of emphasizing true salvation being “spiritual” rather than trusting the works of the flesh.

Then Orea came to him wanting to board the ark. And when he would not let her, she blew upon the ark and caused it to be consumed by fire. Again he made the ark, for a second time.

Later, Ialdaboath and his angels confront Norea with the intend to bully her, saying: “You must render service to us, as did also your mother Eve…” Norea tells them off by saying:

“It is you who are the rulers of the darkness; you are accursed. And you did not know my mother; instead it was your female counterpart that you knew. For I am not your descendant; rather it is from the world above that I am come.”

She later appeals to the ultimate God for help and a holy angel, Eleleth, thus saves her from the authorities’ clutches and reveals the divine mysteries of Pistis Sophia. Norea is ultimately revealed to be the female parent of all Gnostics, as Seth is the male parent:

“You, together with your offspring, are from the primeval father; from above, out of the imperishable light, their souls are come. Thus the authorities cannot approach them, because of the spirit of truth present within them; and all who have become acquainted with this way exist deathless in the midst of dying mankind. Still, that sown element will not become known now. Instead, after three generations it will come to be known, and it has freed them from the bondage of the authorities’ error.”

As it is usually the case, the Gnostic interpretation of scripture was far from literal in favor for unearthing spiritual and allegorical meanings and this approach is highlighted in Apelle’s (a disciple of Marcion) critical take on Noah’s Flood story:

In no way could it have been accomplished that in so short a time so many kinds of animals and their foods, which were to last for a whole year, should be taken abroad. For when two by two the unclean animals, that is, two male and two female of each—this is what the repeated word means—led into the ark, how could the space described be made big enough to take even four elephants alone? It is clear that the story is false; but if this is so, it is clear that this writing is not from God.

Through the Flood story, the Gnostic writers were able reflect on the types of human beings that exist in the world and on the question of how ignorance is able to persist throughout history. Noah’s Ark would become a symbol for the gracious divine care to rescue the “immovable race” of the Gnostics. The Manichaeans would also interpret Noah’s Ark to be a symbol for their church as a “Ship of Light” in their Coptic Manichaean Psalms:

Lo, the ship has put in for you, Noah is aboard, he steers.
The ship is the commandment [ἐντολή], Noah is the Mind [νοῦς] of Light.
Embark your merchandise, sail with the dew of the wind.
The] Commandment [ἐντολή] was knowledge, the Commandment was a Church. …
It was a tree, it was a ship, it [was] …
It was a tree in the desert, it was an ark [? κιβωτός] in the flood [κατακλυσμός].

Hippolytus, Callistus of Rome and Cyprian of Carthage used the survivors of the flood as ciphers for the purity and discipline of the church as did the Gnostics who saw these primeval characters as symbolic of themselves and their situation among the growing influence of Orthodoxy.

Tree of Death

The Two Trees Revisited (A Small Note)

According to the Babylonian Prophet Mani, there exists two irreconcilable roots (Do Bun in Persian): Light and Darkness. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Death. The Pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles also taught that the universe is composed of the forces of Neikos: Strife/Discord and Philia: Love/Friendship. Besides Zoroastrian dualism, Empedocles could very well be another source for the Manichean Two Roots.

The Monophysite patriarch Severus of Antioch informs us that he is quoting from an unknown Manichaean scripture within a sixth-century Cathedral Homilies. In these citations, the expression “Tree of Life” functions as an alternate designation for the summum bonum of Manichaean cosmology: the Realm of Light. A symmetrical parallel to this usage is the expression “Tree of Death,” which Mani or one of his disciples employed to designate the evil Realm of Darkness. Therein we read:

They say: That which is Good, also named Light and the Tree of Life, possesses those regions which lie to the east, west, and north; for those (regions) which lie to the south and to the meridian belong to the Tree of Death …’,”Likewise does the Tree of Life exist, which is there adorned with every sort of pleasing and lovely, beautiful thing. It is filled and covered with all sorts of good things… its fruits cover it, and majesty belongs to it.”‘

In the Realm of Light there is no burning fire which could be discharged against that which is evil. There is neither an iron (weapon) for cutting, nor overwhelming waters, nor any other evil substance like those. Instead, all is Light and (every) place is noble.’, The Tree of Death is divided into many (parts); war and bitterness characterize them … good fruits are never upon them … all of them form rottenness for the corruption of their place.’, [The members of the Realm of Darkness provoked and stirred each other up until they came unto the boundaries marvelous and surpassingly beautiful sight, they gathered together … and plotted against the Light regarding how they could mix themselves with it. Due to (their) frenzy, they were unaware that the powerful and mighty God dwelt in it …

The description of the realm of Darkness does not sound too far from that of the Kabbalistic Qliphoth. The Tree of Death is also said to contain the inverted or reversed “serifots” of the Tree of Life. What this means is basically that the ten “serifots” on the Tree of Life, that represents different aspects of the Godhead are reversed. For example, Kether (Crown) is said to be highest point on the Tree, which represents the purest emanation, the first movement towards manifestation from the Infinite. It’s opposite is called Thaumiel, which to some might refer to “contending forces” (e.g. division or radical dualism), which stands opposed to the idea that everything is unified in Kether as divided and cleaved at Thaumiel’s essence. The rest of the serifots also have reversed, mirrored opposites in the Tree of Death.

The physical world, say the Gnostics, lies on the edge of nether regions, and since we live in the environs of hell, we are in a state of perilously bordering on eternal perdition. Hell or Hyle (matter), for the Manichaeans was separate, uncreated, active principle or nature, complete with its own realm of division, warfare and pure chaos and not as simply an absence or deficiency of the Good or Light as the Neoplatonists like Plotinus maintained. Evil was conceived as Non-Being for the Neoplatonists and the Orthodox. This specific argument was used by the ex-Manichaean turned Roman Catholic theologian, St. Augustine in his anti-heretical works against his former associates.

Stranger still, the Darkness or hell was not only considered a macrocosmic reality but also reflected in the microcosm, i.e. the human body (the lower part) as all the secrets of the universe, as the Manichaeans, the Ophites, the Peratics and the Simonians, all maintained were hidden in every cell of human flesh, skin, hair blood, tissue and bone, despite it being a tomb for the spiritual man. In Theodore bar Konai’s Liber Scholiorum, he goes on to speak ill against Mani and say all kinds of slanderous accusations and explain the various cosmological Manichaean doctrines. He ends it with the idea that Adam was roused from his sleep by Jesus, the Splendor in serpent form and make him aware of his sticky predicament:

Then Adam examined himself and recognized who he was, and (Jesus) showed him the Fathers on high, and (revealed to him) regarding his own self (i.e., Jesus’s) all that into which he (i.e., Jesus) had been cast—into the teeth of leopard(s) and the teeth of elephant(s), swallowed by voracious ones and absorbed by gulping ones, consumed by dogs, mixed and imprisoned in all that exists, and bound in the stench of Darkness.  He (Mani) says that he (Jesus) raised him (Adam) up and made him taste of the Tree of Life.  Then Adam saw and wept, and raised his voice loudly like a lion that roars and tears (prey).  He cast (himself down), beat (his breast), and said: ‘Woe, woe to the one who formed my body, and to the one who bound my soul, and to the rebels who have enslaved me.’

In Part 5, we’ll continue in the dark, dangerous territory of Tree of Life and its opposite being the Qliphothic Tree of Death, the origins of the doctrines of Original Sin and Total Depravity, and some concluding thoughts on the series.

Gnosis Alive!

“For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time achieved knowledge about the depth of the all.” – Book of Thomas the Contender.

“Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you that makes everything his own and says ‘My god, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.’ Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, rests without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him within yourself.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 8.15.1f.)

“Then lights, which are the means of Gnosis were given him, and he was given authority over all the secrets, so that he might distribute them to those who had striven.”  – The Book of the Gnosis of Light.

Alright, I goofed up as my last entry wasn’t exactly my best. It was more of a gusty, spontaneous reaction against the collective irrational reaction over the recent court verdict. But forget about current events that have no bearing on our lives for a moment and let’s get back to the reason why I created this blog in the first place, shall we?

Knowledge. 

Knowledge in the ancient world was hotly debated, received and processed in different contexts. To Socrates, the most essential duty to one’s self was self-knowledge. This was brought out through radical inquiry, or the “Socratic method” that is a staple practice in practically every law school. The ancient oracle of Apollo, at Delphi, had the aphorism of “KNOW THYSELF” inscribed above the gateway. This axiom sounds deceptively simple, yet when faced with all the implications, it becomes a complex and difficult en-devour to internalize into inner-truths. Without this knowing, we are left wallowing, half-buried in our own ignorance, mistaking our thoughts and subjective consciousness as an objective and absolute truth. It is this self-deception the ancient philosophers reviled and helped dispel by honest interaction and dialogue.  The only correct starting point for true knowledge is to admit one’s own ignorance: “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” By starting at this point, a more honest position of limitations is acknowledged and appreciated in efforts to avoid whatever exceeds those boundaries.

Socrates’ student Plato defined knowledge or “epistemology” as deep metaphysical truth or an innate quality belonging to the immortal soul belonging to the “world of ideas”. When something is learned, it is in actuality “recalled” also known as “anamnesis”. This type of knowledge is certain and mere opinion or belief which is subject the impermanent world of appearances and sensation. Belief that happens to be true because of sheer luck does not qualify as knowledge. It is more often than not that beliefs are lacking in truth and a held in the bondage of falsehood. Knowledge was seen as a kind of “food for the soul”, the fuel towards even deeper shades of gnosis. Each time a person incarnates, this innate knowledge is forgotten at the shock of birth. Both Socrates and Plato saw themselves more as midwives rather than teachers since knowledge was already present deep within the soul’s pneuma (Greek for “spirit”) of the student, aiding along the innate knowledge to be given birth. Plato defines knowledge in this manner:

“This knowledge is not something that can be put into words like other sciences; but after long-continued intercourse between teacher and pupil, in joint pursuit of the subject, suddenly, like light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and straightway nourishes itself.” Seventh Letter, §341c.

For Plato philosophical understanding was something very similar to seeing, though a seeing not with the physical eye but with the soul. This soul or “Nous”, or the higher mind, (the “mind’s eye” or “third eye”) becomes the seat of the intellectual cultivation of truth. This reflection of the Divine Mind contained within the immortal soul or nous becomes the beholder of reality. Truth is seen as the essential means to reveal meaning and the purpose of life. It is also seen as the means to dispel falsehood and delusion. Searching for truth by the means of the intellect or the physical body will almost always inevitably lead to impasse and disappointment due to the fact the human creature is limited to the five senses of the physical world. True knowledge, however, is not inhibited by the level of corruption and death since it has an eternal character that is active, real and living. It must be an objective, substantial reality uninhibited by deception rather than a vague, abstract idea. Nietzsche, on the other hand would come along and repudiate the very idea of an “objective truth”, maintaining that the truth was entirely subjective to one’s own delusions. This view is in a way self-defeating.

Without seeing first-hand, the burning embers of truth, man is relegated to become troglodytes within Plato’s Cave. These troglodytes live unexamined lives and are self-enslaved by chosen ignorance or myopia by mistaking the shadows and darkness as objective reality due to the fiery embers (representing truth) behind them in which they are unable to see but cast shadowy reflections upon the rocky walls. If the prisoner is dragged out from the cave and into the light of the sun, he would finally confront the world as it really is. On return to the shadows of the cave, the liberated prisoner would attempt to share his new found knowledge only to be met with scorn and laughter. It is not that reality in itself is illusory but our perceptions of it are subject to delusion.

In eastern mysticism, the search for self-knowledge is treated with equal if not more-so importance. The Buddha taught self-awareness in his doctrine contained within the Buddha sutras and the dhrama or “way” to enlightenment which is defined as the means to end suffering or ignorance. Suffering is induced by to the false sense of “self” and its attachments to objects and desires which are also subject to transitory nature of reality. In the Heart Sutra, the Buddha explains this phenomenal self is actually made up of five “heaps” or ever-changing qualities called “skandhas” that includes: form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness. This persona isn’t an integral and autonomous entity. While this view is seemingly nihilistic, it however offers an allowance to shed the lesser identification of both body and mind and into the higher depths of the spirit in its ineffable adobe.

However, beyond this egoic by-product of the “heaps” exists another “observer” which is sometimes called the “unborn, undying mind” that exists in a deathless state of pure awareness beyond mere sensation or thought which is subject to the irrational passions. It is this divine substance that makes up the numinous self or in Hindu terms, the “atman”. In the Upanishads, the atman is described as being found in the secret cave of the spiritual heart. It is the non-emergent presence that exists from the start and supreme foundation of each individual. This atman is also called the “Buddha” or “I AM” nature which is present in the here and now rather than in some remote, unknown dimension in the cosmos.  Adi Shankaracharya, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita proclaims: “Self-knowledge alone eradicates misery”. “Self-knowledge alone is the means to the highest bliss.” “Absolute perfection is the consummation of Self-knowledge.” Ramana  Maharashi maintains similar sentiments with the “I” consciousness and the “Supreme Self”. This present, eternal character is defined in The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei: 

“Since the physical body is something that was born and is composed of the elements of earth, water fire, and air brought temporarily together, according to the principle that what is born cannot avoid perishing, it, too, must one day perish. But the Buddha-mind is unborn; the body may be burned with fire or decompose through interment, but the Buddha-mind cannot. The unborn Buddha-mind simply makes the born body its temporary home. While it resides there, it is free to hear, see, smell, and so forth. But when the body perishes and it loses its dwelling place, it can no longer do those things. It’s as simple as that. The body, being created, has a birth and a death, but the mind, which is originally the unborn Buddha-mind, does not. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? It’s the same as Shakyamuni’s death or nirvana: ne is the unborn, and han is the undying mind. Both point to the Unborn.” (91)

This is comparable to Plato’s doctrine of self-knowledge or more accurately self-remembrance. It is not that the Buddha achieved enlightenment, but rather the Buddha realized he was enlightened the whole time. Not knowing this “Buddha-nature” only reveals one thing: that you live in ignorance. However, one can very well lead a life of happiness and be perfectly fine without undergoing the “way” to “enlightenment”. Undergoing such a path remains more of an innate “calling” rather than a spiritual fascist-like mandate for all to follow. In fact, it isn’t even good to attempt to dispel anyone’s ideological falsehoods. As Jeremy Puma over at Dharma Gnosis asserts, “This Way is for those who are called to it, not for those who do just fine without it. Once called, there is no return, but not everyone needs the journey. It’s available to everyone, but not everyone who is offered need accept. The importance is deciding this not for other people, but for yourself.”

The world-famous teacher and guru Krishnamurti who would eventually break away from the occult world of Theosophy had also this to say about self-knowledge in The First and Last Freedom:

“…the transformation of the world is brought about by the transformation of oneself, because the self is the product and a part of the total process of human existence. To transform oneself, self- knowledge is essential; without knowing what you are, there is no basis for right thought, and without knowing yourself there cannot be transformation. One must know oneself as one is, not as one wishes to be which is merely an ideal and therefore fictitious, unreal; it is only that which is that can be transformed, not that which you wish to be. To know oneself as one is requires an extraordinary alertness of mind, because what is is constantly undergoing transformation, change, and to follow it swiftly the mind must not be tethered to any particular dogma or belief, to any particular pattern of action.”

In Gnosticism, knowledge in their religious context was peculiar. It wasn’t a subjective or personal “mystical ecstasies or experience” or a “I’m divine so all is one and groovy” that is achieved by the means of self-practice or ritual. Rather, it was a revelatory transmission of information that one receives like a cell-phone tower in order to piece together the existential predicament and the means to interpret knowledge and theology in the most profound and often perhaps a transgressive, discordant sort of way. Exploring the world of the Gnostics is a bewildering exercise. Digging deep into their doctrines results in a kind of intellectual vertigo. All those names, all those claims. One is quickly overpowered by a desire to find some kind of objective reality, some concrete fact that one can hang on to. Second to fourth-century Mesopotamians inhabited a very strange time indeed, one in which a grasp on reality seemed to have totally slipped. They looked out on the world and where the vast majority of people see reality, they—like the Hindu and Buddhist sages of India—saw only illusion and confusion. To their way of thinking, the mass of ignorant humanity is utterly deceived in accepting the logic of rationality and the evidence of its senses. A glimpse of the underlying true nature is granted to a select few by the divine powers. This glimpse was the Gnosis, the Knowledge, and those to whom it had been granted were Gnostics.

This knowledge reveals that it is the means to enable the solar nature, the spiritual seed within, that shard of the infinite to be somehow liberated and find its way home out from the fetters of matter and darkness of empty being. This gnosis is esoteric in character and full of hidden secrets. Yet, not all esotericism is Gnostic. It is available to anyone and everyone provided that they undergo procedural initiation. The Gnostics are in essence a spiritual race of people or the pneumatikoi who have awakened to their real divine nature through gnosis. The other kinds of people (as well as the differentiated layers of self) include the psychikoi or psychics, who straddle the fence between the material and spiritual worlds, whose soul-nature may be guided by faith, but who will still need exceptional effort to gain enlightenment. And lastly, the hylikoi or hylics whose awareness was severely limited to the matters concerning the physical world. From a spiritual point of view, the hylics are essentially already dead. (Hence the caustic words of Jesus Christ in Luke 9:60: “Let the dead bury their dead.”)

Yet, the so-called “mystical experience of oneness and unity” that appears in more modern definitions of “gnosis” is in essence, a pipe-dream. At times, it seems if at all this sort of knowledge was necessary for spiritual salvation in this looking-glass world was to be able, like Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

OMFG!! HOW DARE YOU PROFANE THE INEFFABLE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE!! One might say.

Yet this is exactly the kind of attitude a highly esoteric and fragmentary text called Allogenes (Greek for “Stranger”) asserts in the strongest terms as revelatory information told in paradox:

“And I saw holy powers by means of the Luminaries of the virginal male Barbelo telling me that I would be able to test what happens in the world: “O Allogenes, behold your blessedness, how it silently abides, by which you know your proper self and, seeking yourself, withdraw to the Vitality that you will see moving. And although it is impossible for you to stand, fear nothing; but if you wish to stand, withdraw to the Existence, and you will find it standing and at rest after the likeness of the One who is truly at rest and (who) embraces all these silently and inactively. And when you receive a revelation of him by means of a primary revelation of the Unknown One – the One whom if you should know him, be ignorant of him – and you become afraid in that place, withdraw to the rear because of the activities. And when you become perfect in that place, still yourself. And in accordance with the pattern that indwells you, know likewise that it is this way in all such (matters) after this pattern. And do not further dissipate, so that you may be able to stand, and do not desire to be active, lest you fall in any way from the inactivity in you of the Unknown One. Do not know him, for it is impossible; but if by means of an enlightened thought you should know him, be ignorant of him.”

Yeah, that’s right, you heard Allogenes! According to this and many other Gnostic texts (others being the Apocryphon of John), seeking the ineffable on your own merits is but a fool’s errand. Digging deep within yourself is all fine and dandy, but until Grace grabs you by the hairs, and reveals personally to you what gnosis really is through mediation between you and a higher agency, you’re on your own buddy. In essence, this Apophatic God is only “known” through not knowing him, without reason or the intellect. The Supreme is only “known” by the vessel of an empty mind rather than a mind full of thought and emotion. It’s almost a call to radical agnosticism.

In Orthodox Christianity, the is also an indwelling spirit of Christ’s light “within” to bring about the internal Kingdom of God, although it’s rather specific to baptized Christians. Then we have this saying from the New Testament:

“Therefore leaving the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us move unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works (the Law), and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment…” (Hebrews 5:14–6)

In other words, true Christianity is at is essence, spiritual maturity (in the light of Christ that is) rather than being compliant to all the numerous doctrines and dogmas that come with it. It is the “initiated” Christians that discover the true doctrine of Jesus Christ by the means of the straight gate and narrow way for regeneration.  The spiritual baptism is conferred over the believer by the means of being “reborn of water and spirit” (John 3:5). The person’s soul is made a new and altered to reflect the image of God, in a kind of theosis. When the author of John speaks of consuming divinized flesh, it isn’t necessarily a reference to cannibalism or vampirism (although it’s pretty easy to assume this). Like the parable where Christ divides and multiplies fish and bread to the multitudes, Christ distributes the knowledge, the living information by the means to realize eternal life. Hence, you are what you eat. The sci-fi author Philip K. Dick was all over this subject. And let’s not forget Jung’s influential ideas of individuation (after all, it was he who posited the symbol of  the crucified Christ as a powerful symbol of the Self in terms of alchemy and transformation). And many other western philosopher’s take on this slippery subject that is the Self.

Personally, I feel like there is some aspect of me that is unattached to the world of forms. Sometimes, I really do feel like I have a body as opposed to the feeling I am my body. The problem is however that 95-99% of my reality is occupied with concerns of the flesh and all its distractions (eating, sleeping, bathroom breaks, exercising, feeling horny, movies, TV, video-games, etc). One step further, this applies to not only me but the rest of everyone else. No-one really likes pain, but really let’s think on how our daily routines are foremost concerned with: money. “Will I have enough money to pay my bills?” “Will I get fired at the end of the day?” “Will I be foreclosed on?” “How will my credit rating reflect on me?”

This constant state of fear-floating stress is what keeps mankind in bondage within the chains of being. (It is the means in which the archons or “rulers” utilize to keep their Matrix-like system of control in working order, which is a subject I’ll get to in a future in-depth blog post). Yet, when you get down to it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that life is always in a constant influx of suffering and sorrow. Nor is it entirely joy and ecstasy. It’s what you make of reality (whether or not its a dream within a dream. Who knows, really?), and no one else can take that knowledge away from you.