Serpent

The Faustian Grail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled, we wrote:

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

In another chapter, we also note:

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

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

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

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

John Milton would write in Paradise Lost:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“A Fairy under Starry Skies” by Luis Ricardo Falero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dr-faustus-in-a-magic-circle-frontispiece-of-gent-s-translation-of-dr-faustus-published-1648

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

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

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

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

Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 5)

{So, I decided to return to this series after a very long hiatus and conclude my thoughts and research into the Eden creation story. Excuse the lateness.}

In Part 4, we explored the Gnostic understandings of the flood myths and how it correlates to the Fall of Sophia and the Descent into Chaotic Matter. Eden and Atlantis were also compared to each other and it seems both places might have been one and the same. We also looked at the Persian prophet Mani’s insights into the Tree of Life, the creation of Adam and how it related to his soteriology. There are other matters that I’ve addressed but will re-examine them under a different lens. When you research this kind of stuff, you are often confronted with new information that adds to what you’ve written or forces you to reconsider.

As I have recounted in this series, the serpent to the Gnostics was a symbol of duality. Since the expulsion from paradise was ordained by the Old Testament God, the Gnostics demanded that the snake be re-installed in paradise. This wise messenger of the good “Alien” God who was sent to “open the eyes” of the first couple through gnosis was naturally cursed and punished by the Demiurge. At the same time, texts like the Apocryphon of John seem to condemn the serpent as being a part of the same order as the chief archon, Ialdabaoth. Why is there such a differences of opinions on this point of the Genesis myth that reappears later in Gnostic texts? We will see exactly why soon enough.

Cursing the Gods.

Returning to the idea of the “fall of man”, there seems to be a cognitive dissonance in how many people read the Genesis account as well as how many throughout Church History has come to interpret the story as a source of shame for the human race. For example, we read that Jehovah, or the “LORD God” told Adam, “The day you eat of the tree you will surely die” (Genesis.3:4). And yet Adam ate of the tree and he did not die or even “fall”. It can hardly be called a “fall” when his intelligence was elevated to that of the gods! (Genesis 3:22) And so, we see Jehovah say to His council of gods, “Behold man has become as one of Us, knowing good and evil.” The serpent (the most crafty creature on earth) told the truth when he told Eve Jehovah would not carry out his threat. Let’s allow the Bible speak for itself when we see Adam, live to be 930 years old and begat many sons and daughters. No mention of the fall in Genesis. And we see Jehovah who lies to Adam but the God of the New Testament cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). It’s not until Augustine does Adam truly “fall” and produced the “Original Sin” of disobeying Jehovah.

This doctrine of “Original Sin” or the “Sin Nature,” indeed, was the invention of St. Augustine, who believed that the great multitudes of the human race belong to eternal damnation along with a very hostile attitude towards sexuality–even extending this misanthropy to unbaptized children. This seems to be a strange mixture of Manichaean doctrine along with the Orthodox influence of Ambrose who converted him from the Manichaean faith to Catholic Neo-Platonism along with Tertullian sanctioned doctrine. The Latin Church father (and later heretical Montanist convert, in a twist of irony) Tertullian would also express similar sentiments in stating that man was not merely weakened, but depraved as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience to the Creator God in the form of his “consupiscence” (to covet) for the forbidden fruit of Knowledge. This idea repeats itself in what John Calvin espoused heartily in the sixteenth century as the heinous doctrine of “Total Depravity.” Tertullian in On the Apparel of Women, Book 1, also makes clear the scorn and prejudice of early Church fathers towards Eve, sexuality and her descendants:

And do you not know that you are [each] an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that [forbidden] tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is, death – even the Son of God had to die.

And so here we have a clear example of the Orthodox loathing of the female and the feminine in the form of Eve. While spending the rest of this post to researching doctrinal matters concerning Original Sin, etc. is tempting, looking back at the Genesis account and other works that fill in the blanks, will prove to be far more fruitful, pun intended… In the Clementine Homilies (3.9.1), the heresiarch and place holder for Paul the Apostle and Marcionite/Gnostic Christianity, Simon Magus, claimed that Adam was born blind. Many Jewish Rabbis also asked if Adam and Eve were blind as well. Even Saint Augustine said that most people thought Adam was blind as well (City of God 14.17). All throughout the Clementine literature, Simon and Peter goes head to head in a debate of whits of how they interpreted the Genesis tale. This idea of Adam being born blind comes from Simon when he tells Peter (CH. Homily 3. XXXIX):

Therefore also Adam, being made at first after his likeness, is created blind, and is said not to have knowledge of good or evil, and is found a transgressor, and is driven out of paradise, and is punished with death. In like manner also, he who made him, because he sees not in all places, says with reference to the overthrow of Sodom, ‘Come, and let us go down, and see whether they do according to their cry which comes to me; or if not, that I may know.’ Thus he shows himself ignorant. And in his saying respecting Adam, ‘Let us drive him out, lest he put forth his hand and touch the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever;’ in saying Lest he is ignorant; and in driving him out lest he should eat and live for ever, he is also envious. And whereas it is written that ‘God repented that he had made man,’ this implies both repentance and ignorance.

Later on in the same text, Simon and Peter go back and forth in their debates over whether Adam was indeed born blind and ignorant:

Whatever sayings of the Scriptures are in harmony with the creation that was made by Him are true, but whatever are contrary to it are false. Then Simon said: How can you show that the Scriptures contradict themselves? And Peter said: You say that Adam was created blind, which was not so; for He would not have pointed out the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to a blind man, and commanded him not to taste of it. Then said Simon: He meant that his mind was blind. Then Peter: How could he be blind in respect of his mind, who, before tasting of the tree, in harmony with Him who made him, imposed appropriate names on all the animals? Then Simon: If Adam had foreknowledge, how did he not foreknow that the serpent would deceive his wife? Then Peter: If Adam had not foreknowledge, how did he give names to the sons of men as they were born with reference to their future doings, calling the first Cain (which is interpreted ‘envy’), who through envy killed his brother Abel (which is interpreted ‘grief’), for his parents grieved over him, the first slain?

Scholarship generally posits that Gnosticism is a late, post-Christian development. In other words, it is simply a dualistic Christian heresy that posited a mythological system of emanations of aeons, a redeemer figure, the disparagement of matter, and a “Stranger” God. These elements are indeed post-Christian, and exist in the NT as well. Yet, the core element of Gnosticism is seeking salvation through gnosis or hidden wisdom, rather than through simple belief or justification through faith, sacrifices to God, a vicarious redeemer, etc. This type of gnosis precedes Christianity and can be found in Orphic, Egyptian, Indian and Buddhist mystery religions as well. Also, many of the Christian gospels contain various Gnostic elements in which I detail here. They are all about seeking and finding hidden gnosis, hinted in the parables of hidden treasure in Matthew, as well as other parables like the found pearl, the captured fish of the great price, the parable of the sower, etc. The Gospel of Thomas is the epitome of this type of gnosis. This is the core teaching of Gnosticism and an even more “authentic” Christianity. Unfortunately, few researchers look at Gnosticism in this broader way.

There are scholars like Gershom Scholem, who have linked pre-Christian Gnosticism with Jewish mysticism – particularly that with the Merkabah type, and other ascent texts that belong to heterodox Jews of the Second Temple Period. Texts like these are those that belong to the Enochian tradition, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and perhaps texts like the Ascension of Isaiah (although the last seems more likely a Simonian text). All of these texts deal with the Gnostic ascent to God and the writers of these texts, perhaps saw themselves as possessors of this secret knowledge to ascend the stars like angels and would eventually become divine themselves, which was an anathema to Orthodox Judaism. This is probably where the later Gnostic writers took their inspirations from, along with Pauline crucifixion mysticism. Scholars like C. Fletcher-Lewis also noticed some of these Gnostic elements in the Dead Sea Scrolls, like the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, in which he writes in Heavenly Ascent and Incarnational Presence: A Revisionist Reading of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice:

“….much of the language within the Songs, though not all, refers to the Qumran community members who now have a heavenly, angelic and divine identity.”

Looking at the Nag Hammadi writings, there seems to be some Christianization or “sanitation” of older non-Christian writings, which shows that the Gnostic vision preceded Christianity. So, Gnosticism wasn’t a late aberration of Christianity as it is commonly maintained. R. van den Broek writes in The Present State of Gnostic Studies:

[T]he Nag Hammadi Library contains several gnostic tractates which are certainly non-Christian. These writings show that Gnosticism did not arise as a Christian heresy.

In a way, heterodox Judaism and even Samaritan mysticism gave rise to heterodox Christianity (Gnosticism). We see a competition of theologies begin in Genesis, or a dual tradition of normative and heterodox theologies develop at the same time, together. It can be argued that the Yahweh tradition developed was a reaction to this type of hidden knowledge already in existence back then, in a religion of those who would “ascend to heaven” (Isaiah 14:13).

In Isaiah, the fall of Lucifer is mirrored in Greek tales of Icarus and even that of Simon Magus who falls from his flights to impress Nero thanks to Peter’s meddling and prayer that God ruin the whole show even though apparently Peter didn’t have these same crazy cool powers himself. Adam’s fall is blamed on him because he dared to reach out and consume the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Tower of Babel story also has misguided Babylonians attempting to build a very tall tower that reaches the heavens but is foiled by Yahweh and his angels. And so, the Gnostic initiative is always “out of bounds.” And this is exactly the focal point of contention between Simon Magus and Peter in their debates in that there is a higher power above the creator.

pharisee

We also see Jesus of the Gospels constantly oppose the Pharisees and their rites and customs and even denies them that they are the chosen people and claim they “belong to your father, the devil…” (John 8:44)! Jesus also commanded his followers to seek sincerely without outside aide or approval from any external “authority” (such as a priest) or divine agent (the denial of blood atonement and a vicarious redeemer). Jesus’ original teachings are clearly rebellious and esoteric, in the sense that they are private, hidden and not seen by outsiders. This all conforms to a secret knowledge that comes from within where the hidden Christ manifests. Perhaps this is the real reason why Gnostic writers were critical of the biblical God and even critical of the serpent as well as being part of the same team with Yahweh like the Ophites did. And this is also the reason why some scholars view Gnosticism as a gentile betrayal and corruption of Judaism.

And yet, they weren’t exactly the only ones to take offense to aspects of the Paradise story, along with other Jewish texts. First, many philosophers like Philo, Plutarch, Celsus, Julian the Apostate had all thought that the anthropomorphous appearance of the biblical Creator didn’t really jive well with the more refined, philosophical idea of God that we see in Middle Platonic thought. This God was purely transcendental and above human reasoning and matter. He was an Ineffable God of the Gnostics and above the demiurgical God, the creator and rule of the physical and perishable world.

The Church Father Origen charges Celsus in Contra Celsus with spreading nasty rumors about how Christians are nothing more than feeble minded impious magicians and makes no distinction between the Christians and the Ophites because there was no such distinction to be made in the second century apparently. They also held Yahweh “accursed” just like how he cursed Adam, Eve and the serpent. According to Origen, these Ophites wouldn’t let anyone into their meetings unless they first curse Jesus, or at least the Judean version of Jesus that we can see in Ebionite/Jewish Christianity. This also reflects the kind of misotheism that was prevalent around that time period in which the Epicurean philosophers also were engaged in in their constant questioning of the gods and their subjects’ piousness and religiosity of their subjects.

The ruler of those named ‘archontics’ is termed the ‘accursed’ god. Who would venture to use such language—as if there could be an “accursed” divinity! Yet the God of the Mosaic cosmogony is termed an accursed divinity, because such is his character, and worthy of execration in the opinion of those who so regard him, inasmuch as he pronounced a curse upon the serpent, who introduced the first human beings to the knowledge of good and evil.

What could be more foolish or insane than such senseless wisdom? For what blunder has the Jewish lawgiver committed? and why do you accept, by means, as you say, of a certain allegorical and typical method of interpretation, the cosmogony which he gives, and the law of the Jews, while it is with unwillingness, O most impious man, that you give praise to the Creator of the world, who promised to give them all things; who promised to multiply their race to the ends of the earth, and to raise them up from the dead with the same flesh and blood, and who gave inspiration to their prophets; and, again, you slander him!

The Apostle Paul himself claimed that those who followed the Mosaic Law was cursed in Galatians 3:10, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Paul also said that Christ redeemed his Church from the “curse of the law” and also said, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Heretics like Marcion and Simon Magus do not hesitate to highlight the supposed ignorant, and vicious character of the wrongdoings of the demiurgical God by referencing Genesis, along with other biblical texts. The sacrifices to God in the Old Testament also match with other pagan deities in which their followers worshiped and offered libations and sacrifices to appease them and in exchange to material favors. The old tribal gods of pagan and Mesopotamian cultures always operated by making pacts and covenants. Jehovah made a covenant/pact with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Moses. They worshiped him and burned offerings to him, and in turn, they received his protection and material blessings. But everything with the Hebrew god was centered around law, not mercy.

Kircher-Diagram_of_the_names_of_God

The Israelites had to observe specific days and provide specific offerings as payment for the things that they gave him, and they were never in permanent security with him. If they slipped up, they were punished, and had pay back what was owed in more severe ways. And this is exactly how many Faustian pacts with demons also operate under as seen in Goetic texts that belong to the Solomonic tradition. In fact, names ascribed to the Hebrew god are used invoke both angels and demons!

They are names that are ascribed to various archons that are listed in Gnostic texts and in refutations of them by the Church Fathers. These various archons also have serpentine and dragon-like like shapes, much like Ialdabaoth and perhaps this is why the serpent is condemned in the Apocryphon of John. We also see this in the conceptions of the Seraphim as indicated by various biblical, apocalyptic Enochian literature as well. We also see serpentine and even dragon like features in Yahweh himself! Here are some supporting verses.

Zechariah 10:8: I (Yahweh) will hiss for them (Jews), and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.

Isaiah 5:26: And he (Yahweh) will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.

Smoke coming out of Yahweh’s nostrils (sounds very dragon like):

Psalm 18:8, 2 Samuel 22:9: There went up a smoke out of his [Yahweh] nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

Yahweh spews fire from his mouth!

2 Samuel 22:9 (ESV): Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.

And look, Yahweh has wings:

Psalm 17:8 (ESV) Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

So, Yahweh has wings, spews fire from his mouth and can breath fire and hisses. Doesn’t that sound exactly like a dragon and the Gnostic’s description of Ialdaboath as a lion-faced dragon? And according to Revelation 12:9, Satan is also depicted as a dragon. John 8:44, also hints at this reality, that the Devil is fathered by the Jewish god. Saturninus and Carpocrates, who were both contemporaries with one another and Simonian heretics, also spoke about Satan, but separated him apart from the band of world creating angels. Apelles and Severus, who were both associates with Marcion, both distinguish between the Devil and the Demiurge, who also taught that the Devil was the son of the Demiurge and that there was enmity between the two. The idea of the Devil indeed had a father was pretty hard to overcome by the part of the Church Fathers and in large part, they failed to address the pressures and difficulties made by the heretics. For example, we see Jerome who claimed that the father of the devil was the dragon Leviathan, also named as an archon by Celsus in his description of the Ophite diagram.

Revelation-Chapter-12-The-Woman-and-Dragon

The devil could not be a creation of God, or is a son because that would be supremely blasphemous and also contradictory because he is the son of a father who is a liar, and God is truth. Celsus also thought that the Christian concept of Satan was blasphemous. The Clementine Homilies (19:9) also explores the idea of the Devil being a creation of God:

But, as you said, if the evil one is created either he has been begotten as an animal, or he has been sent forth substantially by Him, or he has been compounded externally, or his will has arisen through composition; or it happened that he came into existence from things non-existent, without composition and the will of God; or he has been made by God from that which in no manner and nowhere exists; or the matter, being lifeless or living, from which he has arisen was outside of God; or he fashioned himself, or he was made by God, or he is a relative thing, or he ever existed: for we cannot say that he does not exist, since we have agreed in thinking that he does exist.

And Simon said: Well have you distinguished all the methods of accounting for his existence in a summary manner. Now it is my part to examine these various ideas, and to show that the Creator is blameable. But it is your business to prove, as you promised, that he is free from all blame. But I wonder if you will be able. For, first, if the devil has been begotten from God as an animal, the vice which is his is accordingly the same as that of him who sends him forth.

We see Simon asking all kinds of tough questions to Peter. This series of dilemmas embarrasses the chief of the Apostles in no small degree. He struggles to find any meaningful answers and gives what is probably the most half-assed, asinine answer in the history of all apologetics and it all starts with Peter.

I agree with you in believing that there is a prince of evil, of whose origin the Scripture has ventured to say nothing either true or false. But let us follow out the inquiry in many ways, as to how he has come into existence, if it is the fact that he has come into existence; and of the opinions which present themselves, let us select that which is most reverential, since in the case of probable opinions, that one is assumed with confidence which is based on the principle that we ought to attribute to God that which is more reverential…

In other words, Peter struggles to show that the true God cannot be the cause of evil, and that the scriptures has not chosen to explain the origin of the Devil. Simon isn’t satisfied with this evasive answer and ends by informing Peter that “If matter is equal to God both in duration and in power, and is also hostile to God, it produces of itself powers which are hostile to the will of God.” The Testimony of Truth also noticed this supreme contention between Simon and Peter as per the origins of the devil.

And in one place, Moses writes, “He made the devil a serpent those whom he has in his generation.” Also, in the book which is called “Exodus,” it is written thus: “He contended against the magicians, when the place was full of serpents according to their wickedness; and the rod which was in the hand of Moses became a serpent, (and) it swallowed the serpents of the magicians.”

Job 1 is all about measuring piety of Job in efforts to see if Job will indeed curse Yahweh. In this text, Yahweh and Satan seem to be virtually indistinguishable. They are openly in league with each other and Yahweh takes on Satan’s advice to test Job to see if he really is pious when all of his blessings are taken away and replaced with curses. Yes, Yahweh listens to the advice of Satan! Carl Jung in his book, Answer to Job, suggests that God is completely devoid in understanding of the human condition and therefore needs to incarnate in order to complete himself. In a sense this is a perfect metaphor for the process of gnosis. At times this God acts loving and merciful, so long as his edicts are obeyed. If they’re not, well, hell is to pay. 

The troubling thing for the writer of Job and for us is that Job is extremely pious and is blessed because of this. He is the quintessential icon of righteousness. He is man of justice. Job is the defender of the widow and the orphan. Job feeds the hungry and lends of his resources to those in need. When Job wrongs another man he pays restitution willingly and then some. Job is kind, generous and compassionate. And then God takes a big shit all over him. Job demands an accounting from God and rightly so. Except that God never does that. We can paraphrase the voice from the whirlwind quite simply. “I am God…shut the fuck up!” This is the voice of the Demiurge, the god of the whirlwind. Yahweh is on par with other pagan gods, like Zeus as well. So Yahweh punishes both the rebellious and the innocent without mercy. With stories like this, it really is amazing that a text like Job even made it into the cannon at all!

Returning to Simon and Peter’s discussion on the origins of the Devil and matter, both points of contention are equally fascinating and well worth the read, much like all of the Clementine literature. The discussion seems to mirror the points of contention between the Orthodox and the heretical, one insisting that God is blameless and perfect, while the other insisting that the Creator is completely at fault for producing evil and the Devil. Isaiah 45:7, indeed does support this view when it states, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” At one point, Peter goes so far as to say that Simon is even worse then the Devil (CH 19.6)!

Peter said: But you, as being wicked, and hating God whom you have not known, utter blasphemous words. And Simon said: Remember that you have likened me to the author of evil. And Peter said: I confess it, I was wrong in comparing you to the evil one; for I was compelled to do so, because I have not found one who is your equal, or worse than you. For this reason I likened you to the evil one; for you happen to be much more wicked than the author of evil. For no one can prove that the evil one spoke against God; but all of us who are present see you speaking daringly against Him. And Simon said: He who seeks the truth ought not to gratify any one in any respect contrary to what is really true. For why does he make the inquiry at all? Why, I ask? For I am not also able, laying aside the accurate investigation of things, to spend all my time in the praise of that God whom I do not know.

This is also the view in which the Ophites held in how Ialdabaoth created calamity through his serpent, according to Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.30.5).

This son is Nous himself, twisted into the form of a serpent; and hence were derived the spirit, the soul, and all mundane things: from this too were generated all oblivion, wickedness, emulation, envy, and death.

Later on, Sophia decides to take things into her own hands to counter Ialdaboath’s “crooked” serpent with a serpent of her own!

But their mother (Sophia) cunningly devised a scheme to seduce Eve and Adam, by means of the serpent, to transgress the command of Ialdabaoth. Eve listened to this as if it had proceeded from a son of God and yielded an easy belief. She also persuaded Adam to eat of the tree regarding which God had said that they should not eat of it. They then declare that, on their thus eating, they attained to the knowledge of that power which is above all, and departed from those who had created them.

As I said earlier in the series, this seems to match up with the Hypostasis of the Archons‘ account.

Then the female spiritual principle came in the snake, the instructor; and it taught them, saying, “What did he say to you? Was it, ‘From every tree in the garden shall you eat; yet – from the tree of recognizing good and evil do not eat’?” The carnal woman said, “Not only did he say ‘Do not eat’, but even ‘Do not touch it; for the day you eat from it, with death you are going to die.'”

And the snake, the instructor, said, “With death you shall not die; for it was out of jealousy that he said this to you. Rather your eyes shall open and you shall come to be like gods, recognizing evil and good.” And the female instructing principle was taken away from the snake, and she left it behind, merely a thing of the earth.

More interesting is that Eve seems not to be all that surprised that a snake is chatting it up with her about eating forbidden fruit that would eventually open her eyes, and be “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4). Another author makes a good case that the serpent was in actuality, an angelic being, forced to help Adam and Eve tend to the garden.

Actually, there is a great deal of other ancient evidence which suggests this serpent was a serpentine, or serpent-like, angel who previously fell from grace.(1) As mentioned in Giants of Scripture, there were angels fashioned around the same time as the creation of Adam, in order to help him out. We get a hint to this in the Bible: And again, when He (God) bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. Hebrews 1:6 (KJV)

When they discovered how much preferential treatment God had given the man, these angels complained to God.(2) We also get a hint to the conversation of these angels to the Almighty, in regards to their dissatisfaction of Adam: Psalms (KJV) 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honor. 8:6 Thou madest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands…

God would not put up with their dissension, and caused them to fall – they lost their positions as heavenly angels and were condemned to serve Adam.

This would also support the Ophite view in how there were angels in the garden and they had sexual intercourse with Eve, and she begat half-angelic/half-human offspring much like what we see with the angels descending to earth to have intercourse with the daughters of men around Noah’s time.

…the others coming and admiring her beauty, named her Eve, and falling in love with her, begot sons by her, whom they also declare to be the angels.

Not all extra-biblical texts seem to have a positive view on the serpent either. The Apocalypse of Moses, for example, describes in some detail in how Satan persuaded the serpent to serve as a vessel though which he could speak to Eve and tempt her. This meant that Satan possessed the serpent! In the Hypostasis of the Archons, the spiritual woman, or Sophia enters to speak with Eve instead. For the Gnostics it was a good thing for Eve to eat the fruit of Gnosis. On the Origin of the World states that Eve, being the “female instructor of life” was found to be the wisest out of all the beings in Eden and was subsequently called “Beast” by the authorities, being the archons.

The Apocalypse of Moses is more orthodox in its view that eating the fruit was a death sentence for man. The world became defiled with this knowledge, in which many authors in the ancient world seem to think was also a sexual knowledge and fornication as a means to tempt and “beguile” Eve, which meant seduce. The fall of man was a result of this unholy sexual union with satanic children born as a result. It is interesting to note that most of Eve’s punishments and judgments revolve around sex and childbirth. Could all of this be related to this angelic/human seduction and fornication?

CollierLilith8x6

This meant that Satan or what in Medieval Kabbalistic texts call “Samael,” had sexual intercourse with Eve and begat children like Cain and Abel. There is also a strong Kabbalistic tradition of Samael and Lilith always longing to have sexual intercourse. Tracy Twyman writes about this:

Because Samael and Lilith (a.k.a Leviathan and Behemoth) are constantly longing for each other, they found a way to mate via an “intermediary” called “Tanin’iver” (“Blind Dragon”) or “the Groomsman.”

She goes onto quote the Treatise of the Left Emanation and also writes:

This “Tanin’iver” is a “slithering serpent” without eyes who somehow enables the castrated Samael to have sex with Lilith. But if he were to “manifest fully,” then the destruction of the universe, which happens whenever these two “truly” mate, would come about anyway. So whatever Tanin’iver does for them, it has the capability of being just as good as the real thing. But mercifully, right now, it is not, or else we would all be dead.

In other words, the serpent is both a symbol of liberation from ignorance and at the same time, a symbol of sexual union, seduction and even destruction as I have demonstrated earlier in the series. The serpent is also strongly associated with being symbolic of Christ himself and Jesus in the Gospel of John (3:14-15) certainly thinks this also:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Christ is also depicted in terms of being a vegatative image, like the Holy Rood, the Tree of Life and the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Jesus is the fruit of eternal life, which was on the second forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. Many other pagan gods of the ancient world were depicted as nature deities as well. When man ate of the fruit of the first tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he was expelled from the Garden. The Garden is the place of unity, and non-duality like how the Pleroma is depicted in texts such as the Gospel of Truth. You eat of the fruit of duality, and you are on the way out into the wastelands of material reality.

The tree of returning to the Garden is the tree of immoral life, where the I and the Father are one. When Yawheh threw man out of the Garden, he put two cherubim at the gate, with a flaming sword between. At many Buddhist shrines, the Buddha is often depicted sitting under the Boddhi tree of immortal life, there are also at the gate, two guardians–similar to the guardian Cherubim that guard the Tree of Life. In these vegetation traditions there is the notion of identity behind the surface display of duality. Behind all these manifestations it the one radiance, which shines through all things.

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

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

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

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The Serpent Revisted. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel of Philip suggests something rather similar:

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

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

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

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

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

Glycon

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

Orphic Egg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel of Philip says of the:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherubim by William Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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