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The Gnostics and Their Remains

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Demiurge
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δημιουργός (dēmiourgós, latinized demiurgus δήμιος


« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2009, 06:13:43 pm »

p. xv

[paragraph continues] Hindoo promoter of the religion. In the history of the Church it is most certain that almost every notion that was subsequently denounced as heretical can be traced up to Indian speculative philosophy as its genuine fountain-head: how much that was allowed to pass current for orthodox had really flowed from the same source, it is neither expedient nor decorous now to inquire.

In order to obtain a clear view of the principal forms of Gnosticism, as well as to escape relying upon second-hand information (in this case more than elsewhere untrustworthy), I commenced the collecting materials for the present work by carefully perusing the vast 'Panarion' of Epiphanius--a laborious undertaking, but well repaid by the vivid picture he presents of the inner state of society under the Lower Empire, and of the war even at that late period so fiercely waged between Reason and Faith. The 'Panarion' is a connected history of the Gnosis in all its developments during the first three centuries--the author quoting Irenæus for the earlier ages; for the later his account is of the highest value, having been derived from personal experience, Epiphanius having in his youth belonged to the Marcosian sect. After his days nothing new sprung up in the field of Religious philosophy, before so diversified with the vigorous and more curious flowers (or weeds) of the Gnosis; the civil now combining with the ecclesiastical power to cut down and root out all such daring and irregular growths of the human mind.

Since the first publication of this treatise I have become acquainted with and minutely studied two authorities of the greatest importance for the true understanding of Gnosticism--the one for its philosophy; the other for its tangible remains. 'The Refutation of all Heresies,' of Hippolytus, written two centuries before the 'Panarion,' gives a view of the chief schools of the Gnosis, drawn up with the utmost intelligence united with the most charming candour; qualities sadly to seek in the other ecclesiastical historians. The Pistis-Sophia,' the only Gnostic Gospel preserved, throws a light upon the terminology and machinery of the religion that, before its discovery and publication was perfectly unattainable. Both

p. xvi

these treatises are of recent discovery, and consequently their assistance was lost to the previous historians of Gnosticism. I have therefore availed myself largely of these invaluable resources, which will be found doing good service in almost every section of the present work.

After considering the class of speculations that owed their birth to India, next in importance for her contributions to the opinions, still more to the monuments before us, conies Egypt with her primeval creed, although exhibited in its Romanized and latest phase; and whose productions are too often confounded with the true offspring of the Gnosis. These remains are here discriminated; their distinctive characters are pointed out; and they are arranged under several heads, according as their object was religious or medicinal. In the consideration of these remains, Bellermann's classification has been chiefly followed; according to which the truly Gnostic are regarded as those only that exhibit the figure of the Pantheus, Abraxas, the actual invention of Basilides, and which gives its name to the class. The second, Abraxoids, includes the types borrowed from different religions by the other Gnostic teachers. The third, Abraxaster, consists of such as in their nature are purely astrological, and intended for talismans; deriving their virtues from the stars. In the first of these classes much space has been devoted to the ingenious creation of the Alexandrine philosopher, the pantheistic image of the supreme Abraxas; whose title has hitherto been improperly applied to monuments some of which are anterior in date to his embodiment in a visible form; whilst others spring from nations entirely unconnected with his worship. Of this eidolon of the personage thereby typified, of the meaning of his name and titles, much information has been collected, and presented here in a connected form for the benefit of those interested in learning what can on safe grounds be established in elucidation of these abtruse questions.

Mithraicism, under whose kindly and congenial shelter so much of Occidental Christianity grew up unmolested, is reviewed in its due order, and the causes explained of an alliance at first sight so inexplicable. With this subject are connected the singular resemblance between the ceremonial of the two, and the transfer

p. xvii

of so much that was Mithraic into the practice of the orthodox; and many curious memorials will be found described bearing witness to the reality of this adaptation.

After the Mithraic, the religion of Serapis comes to be considered; a worship which, besides being the last of the Heathen forms to fall before the power of Christianity, had previously contributed, as largely as the Mithraic, to the constitution of the later Gnosticism. It is in truth a great mistake, the confining the name of "Gnostic" (as is commonly done) to the sectaries who, boasting of their "superior lights," declared that they were the only real Christians (as did the Ophites), and that too in virtue of a creed professedly of their own devising. Such Gnostics indeed were Christians by their own showing, and regarded all who differed from them as heretics: but at the same time they based their arguments upon the tenets of Pagan religions; very far from regarding the latter as the empty fabrications of demons, which was the persuasion of the orthodox. But although they accepted these ancient Ethnic legends, it was only because through the help of their "knowledge" they were enabled to discern the truth enveloped within these seemingly profane traditions. But the followers of Mithras and of Serapis had in reality, and long before them, a Gnosis of their own, communicated in their Mysteries to the initiated few; and they opposed to the predictions of orthodox and Gnostic alike claims and pretensions lofty as their own. The Emperor Hadrian, a most diligent inquirer into things above man's nature, got himself initiated into one mystery after another; nevertheless we shall find him writing from Alexandria that the worship of Christ and of Serapis was in that city one and the same, and moreover the sole religion of that immense population. Consequently, those initiated into the true secrets of the old religion must have recognised the fact that their deity, whether the Sun or the Soul of the Universe, was nothing but a type of the One, the Saviour recently revealed to them: or else it would appear (which tells equally for our argument) that the new converts, in order to escape persecution, enjoyed their own faith under the covert of the national worship, which was susceptible of a spiritual interpretation quite cognate to their own ideas,

p. xviii

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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2009, 06:14:12 pm »

and indeed enshrouding the same. As for the worshippers of Mithras, their whole elaborate system of sacraments and degrees of initiation had no other object than the securing of spiritual enlightenment and spiritual blessings. The foundation being the pure teaching of Zoroaster, its holders were prepared gladly to accept any higher revelation, and to discover that the greater mystery had been foreshadowed in the types and ceremonies of the former one. In this way a man might continue a Mithraicist and yet accept all the doctrines of Christianity, as the priests of that religion in their last days assured the incredulous Augustine.

After thus pointing out the various elements which the Apostles of the Gnosis worked up so ingeniously into one harmonious whole, incorporating therewith so much of the Christian scheme as fitted to the rest, we come prepared to the examination of the Symbols and Terminology by which these ideas were communicated to the members of the sect who had attained to the Arcanum; the composite images or sigils "having a voice for the intelligent, which the vulgar crowd heareth not."

Astrology justly claims for her own a large share of the relics popularly called Gnostic; for Gnosticism, from the beginning, had linked its own speculations to those of the Magians’ national science, and borrowed as a vehicle for its own peculiar ideas the machinery of the latter--its Astral Genii, Decani, and Myriageneses. And this truth was seen by the earliest writers upon Gnosticism, for Hippolytus proves conclusively, at much length, that the system of the Peratae (a branch of the Ophites) was nothing more than a barefaced plagiarism from the rules of Astrology. Under this head I have endeavoured to separate the purely Astrological talismans from those to which the illuminati, their makers, had given a more spiritual sense. "Astrology, not Christ, is the author of their religion," says Hippolytus of the sects founded by Euphrates and Celbes; and proceeds to give extracts from their writings, held in the highest esteem at the time, which amply bear out his assertion.

Next pour in, a multitudinous swarm, the stones covered over with long strings of bare inscriptions, genuine offspring of the Kabbala, that betray the handiwork of the idol-hating Jewish

p. xix

dreamers of Alexandria--spells even then ascribed to Solomon, and which secured the favour


"Of those demons that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground;
Whose power hath a true consent
With planet or with element."

One object I have kept steadily in view throughout the whole of this investigation--to show how the productions of the different schools are to be distinguished from each other; and to this particular attention has been given in describing the numerous remains proceeding from the several sources just enumerated, that are collected in the accompanying plates, and thus in some degree to remedy the confusion that reigns at present in the whole department. My predecessor, Matter, busied himself only with the doctrines, making use of the monuments merely in illustration of his remarks; but as my own labours are properly designed to be subsidiary to his invaluable treatise, I refer the reader to him for the more complete elucidation of the philosophy of Gnosticism, and give my full attention to its archæological side, which he has too cursorily glanced at, and for which nothing has been done of any importance since the publications of Chiflet and Montfaucon.

Last to be considered comes the Gnosis in its final and grandest manifestation, the composite religion of Manes: with its wonderful revival and diffusion over Mediæval Europe; and its supposed connexion with the downfall of the Templars, of which catastrophe the history and causes are here briefly sketched; although to form a satisfactory judgment on the merits of the case is about the hardest problem history can offer. With their scandal and their fate is coupled the most singular phenomenon of modern times--the preservation by their professed descendants, the Freemasons, of so much symbolism that appears to be indisputably Gnostic in its origin. For this, however (unfortunately for the lovers of mystery), a very matter of fact but doubtless sufficient cause can be assigned, and by valid arguments established: when the solution of the enigma irresistibly brings to mind Æsop's apologue of the "Fox and the Mask," and his exclamation of disappointment after he had at

p. xx

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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2009, 06:14:50 pm »

last mustered up sufficient courage to examine the interior of the awe-inspiring and venerable head. This section is illustrated by all the information I have been able to glean from different sources upon the curious subject of Masons’ Marks--which, yet existing and in common use amongst our own craftsmen and equally so amongst the Hindoos in daily religious observance, can be traced back through Gothic retention, and Gnostic usage, through old Greek and Etruscan art, to their ultimate source; and which attest more convincingly than anything else what region gave birth to the theosophy making such liberal use of the same siglæ in Roman times. To assist inquirers into this point I have been careful to give references to all the published lists of these Marks that have come to my knowledge; which same rule I have observed as regards other monographs upon the several various questions discussed in the following pages. In this way the shortcomings of myself can be supplied by those desirous of fuller information: for I am well aware that my own best qualification for attempting an arduous investigation like the present, extending over so many and unconnected branches of learning, lies in a larger practical experience of the monuments themselves, tangible and literary, than was possessed by those who have hitherto attempted it. And as it is a most true adage, "Dans le pays des aveugles le borgne est roi," there is some probability of my labours proving both novel and interesting to many, who desire to know something authentic upon the much-talked-of but little understood subject of Gnosticism.

Related to this religion by their nature are talismans and amulets in general; for Gnostic symbols and Gnostic formulæ gave their virtue to many of the class: being borrowed either directly from the Gnosis, or from the older creeds out of which the latter was constructed. Their employment, and the notions generating them, have been here described; showing the derivation of many of the mediæval examples from the Gnostic class; and by following out the same principle it has been attempted to find a key to their cabalistic legends, which may fit them better than any hitherto offered by their interpreters--symbols and emblems being with them those conveying the idea of death,

p. xxi

which last indeed has of all others furnished the richest store of such imagery; for thereby the human mind endeavoured to familiarise itself with the thought of mortality, and by embellishing the idea tried to reconcile itself to the inevitable. This being a topic of universal interest, to say nothing of its very important relations to Art, my collections connected therewith have been somewhat extensive, and embrace many particulars neglected by Lessing in his curious essay entitled 'Wie die Alten den Tod gebildet.'

With respect to the illustrations of this book, many doubtless will be surprised as well as disappointed at finding them derived entirely from monuments of such small apparent importance as engraved stones; and, thinking this part incomplete on that account, may accuse the author of negligence in not having had recourse to other evidences of a more public character. But the limitation is in truth the necessary result of the nature of the things discussed in this inquiry. Secret Societies, especially the one whose maxim was (as Clemens records) that truly wise one--


"Learn to know all, but keep thyself unknown;"
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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2009, 06:15:24 pm »

erect no monuments to attract public attention. They deal but in symbols, to be privately circulated amongst their members in passwords known only to the illuminati; or else they embody their doctrines in mystic drawings, like the Ophite "Diagramma"; or upon papyri long since committed to the flames. The man of taste, but not an antiquary, will certainly exclaim against the rudeness of the drawing in my illustrations; but the truth is that, rude as they look, they in most cases flatter their originals, the extreme barbarism of which it was often found impossible to reproduce with any hope of leaving the meaning recognisable. Be it remembered that


"Gratia non habitat, non hoc Cyllenius antro."

Pallas no longer, as in the earlier ages of the art, guided the engraver's hand, but Siva and Bhavani (ill-disguised as Hermes and Isis) suggested the designs; or else he was inspired by the Typhonian monsters which imagined the Genii of Astrology. The religion of Fear, under its various manifestations, now

p. xxii

reigned supreme, having banished the beauteous sensuous machinery of the old Greek Nature-worship, into which nothing that was malignant or hideous was ever suffered to intrude. The virtue of the talisman lay in the type it carried; and in its own material substance the manner of the exhibition of the potent sigil was altogether unregarded. One of the most learned men this University has ever produced once remarked to me that the Gnostic theories reminded him of the visions that float through the brain of a madman--not of a fool. Circumstances following gave a melancholy force to this acute and accurate distinction. Let any imaginative person read my extracts from the "Revelation" of Marcus, with all its crazy ingenuity in deducing the nature of the Deity from the properties of numerals; above all, his exemplification of Infinity by the perpetual multiplication of the letters contained in other letters making up a name--he will speedily find his brain begin to whirl, and be reminded of similar phantoms of numerals recurring in endless series, and the equally endless attempts to sum them up in order to obtain repose, that fill the head when suffering from the first approaches of fever before actual delirium pushes memory from her seat. Or, again, when the febrile disturbance of the brain is yet slighter, one will sometimes awake out of a dream with a fleeting sensation of inexpressible happiness arising from the immediate attainment of Omniscience in virtue of something that has just been revealed to him; but too soon he finds that ineffable something has fled for ever, all that is left of it being the faint recollection that it was contained in a numeral. And one of the most striking points in the revelation of the 'Seherin von Prevorst,' so religiously recorded by Justinus Kerner (and which proves that all the wondrous narrative was not imposture), is her declaration that she could see the entire history of each year as it closed, with every event, however trifling, clear and distinct before her mind, all comprehended within the form of a single numeral; and her assertion upon these grounds that at the Judgment-Day the whole past life of every man will thus be pictured in a single moment before his mind's eye.

About half the number of the drawings for these illustrations

p. xxiii

were done by myself from the most interesting specimens that came under my notice in the course of several years, so that I am able to vouch for their scrupulous fidelity. Afterwards, when the sudden failure of my sight prevented my carrying on the drawings, the kindness of the then owner of most of the originals came to my assistance and furnished the remainder. Most of them in fact were taken from the large and unpublished set contained in the ancient Praun Cabinet (formed three centuries ago), now unfortunately broken up. The Gnostic stones, however--73 in number--have been since that time purchased for the British Museum, where they will be found conveniently arranged for consultation, in the Egyptian Room, which contains the works in terra-cotta. This my collection of drawings was in truth the occasion of the present work; for after making out a detailed description of each specimen, it became easy to put the mass of materials I had collected for their elucidation into a form available for supporting my explanations by showing the grounds on which they were based: and in this way the work has grown up by gradual accretion to its present dimensions. The theme offers so boundless a variety of interesting subjects for research, one suggesting another in endless succession, that it can only be compared to Marcus’ own exposition of the infinite composition of the Ineffable Name (quoted above), and would alone supply materials for a whole library of distinct treatises upon its various subdivisions.

In those few instances where the better style of the original deserved reproduction by a more artistic hand, I have had recourse to the services of Mr. R. B. Utting, who has executed the woodcuts with a spirit as well as an accuracy that leave nothing to be desired.




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« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2009, 01:11:24 pm »

p. 1

PART I.
GNOSTICISM AND ITS SOURCES.
p. 2


Τουτοῦ με χάριν πέμψον, Πάτερ,
σφραγῖδας ἔχων καταβήσομαι,
Αἰῶνας ὅλους διοδεύσω,
μυστήρια πάντα διανοίξω,
μορφὰς δὲ θεῶν ἐπιδείξω,
καὶ τὰ κεκρυμμένα τῆς ἁγίας ὁδοῦ,
ΓΝΩΣΙΝ καλέσας, παραδώσω·
                Ophite Hymn, (Hippolytus, v. 10.)

"Non è puleggio da piccola barca
   Quel che fendendo va l’ ardita prora,
   Nè da nocchier ch’ a sè medesmo parca."
                             (Dante, Parad. xxiii. 68.)
 

p. 3

THE GNOSTICS AND THEIR REMAINS.
GNOSTICISM AND ITS ORIGIN.
THE general name "Gnostics" is used to designate several widely differing sects, which sprang up in the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire almost simultaneously with the first planting of Christianity. That is to say, these sects then for the first time assumed a definite form, and ranged themselves under different teachers, by whose names they became known to the world, although in all probability their main doctrines had made their appearance previously in many of the cities of Asia Minor. There, it is probable, these sectaries first came into definite existence under the title of "Mystae," upon the establishment of a direct intercourse with India and her Buddhist philosophers, under the Seleucidae and the Ptolemies.

The term "Gnosticism" is derived from the Greek, Gnosis, knowledge--a word specially employed from the first dawn of religious inquiry to designate the science of things divine. Thus Pythagoras, according to Diogenes Laertius, called the transcendental portion of his philosophy, Γνῶσις τῶν ὄντοων, "the knowledge of things that are." And in later times Gnosis was the name given to what Porphyry calls the Antique or Oriental philosophy, to distinguish it from the Grecian systems. But the term was first used (as Matter on good grounds conjectures) in its ultimate sense of supernal and celestial knowledge, by the Jewish philosophers belonging to the celebrated school of that nation, flourishing at Alexandria. These teachers, following the example of a noted Rabbi, Aristobulus, surnamed the Peripatician, endeavoured to make out that all the wisdom of the Greeks was derived immediately from the Hebrew

p. 4
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« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2009, 01:11:53 pm »

Scripture; and by means of their well-known mode of allegorical interpretation, which enabled them to elicit any sense desired out of any given passage of the Old Testament, they sought, and often succeeded, in establishing their theory. In this way they showed that Plato, during his sojourn in Egypt, had been their own scholar; and still further to support these pretensions, the indefatigable Aristobulus produced a string of poems in the names of Linus, Orpheus, Homer, and Hesiod--all strongly impregnated with the spirit of Judaism. But his Judaism was a very different thing from the simplicity of the Pentateuch. A single, but very characteristic, production, of this Jewish Gnosis has come down to our times. This is the "Book of Enoch" (v. p. 18), of which the main object is to make known the description of the heavenly bodies and the true names of the same, as revealed to the Patriarch by the angel Uriel. This profession betrays, of itself, the Magian source whence its inspiration was derived. Many Jews, nevertheless, accepted it as a divine revelation; even the Apostle Jude scruples not to quote it as of genuine Scriptural authority. The "Pistis-Sophia," attributed to the Alexandrian heresiarch Valentinus (so important a guide in the following inquiry), perpetually refers to it as: The highest source of knowledge, as being dictated by Christ Himself, "speaking out of the Tree of Life unto ΙΕΟϒ, the Primal Man." Another Jewish-Gnostic Scripture of even greater interest (inasmuch as it is the "Bible" of the only professed Gnostic sect that has maintained its existence to the present day, the Mandaites of Bassora) is their textbook, the "Book of Adam." Its doctrines and singular application of Zoroastrism to Jewish tenets, present frequent analogies to those of the Pistis-Sophia, in its continual reference to the ideas of the "Religion of Light," of which full particulars will be given when the latter remarkable work comes to be considered (see p. 14). "Gnosticism," therefore, cannot receive a better definition than in that dictum of the sect first and specially calling itself "Gnostics," the Naaseni (translated by the Greeks into "Ophites"), viz., "the beginning of perfection is the knowledge of man, but absolute perfection is the knowledge of God." And to give a general view of the nature of

p. 5

the entire system, nothing that I can do will serve so well as to transcribe the exact words of a learned and very acute writer upon the subject of Gnosticism ("Christian Remembrancer," for 1866).

"Starting, then, from this point, we ask what Gnosticism is, and what it professes to teach. What is the peculiar Gnosis that it claims to itself? The answer is, the knowledge of God and of Man, of the Being and Providence Of the former, and of the creation and destiny of the latter. While the ignorant and superstitious were degrading the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made with hands, and were changing 'the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator,' the ancient Gnostics held purer and truer ideas. And when these corrupted and idolatrous forms of religion and worship became established, and were popularly regarded as true and real in themselves, the 'Gnostics' held and secretly taught an esoteric theology of which the popular creed of multitudes of deities, with its whole ritual of sacrifice and worship, was but the exoteric form. Hence all the mysteries which almost, if not all, the heathen religions possessed. Those initiated into these mysteries, whilst they carefully maintained and encouraged the gorgeous worship, sacrifices and processions of the national religion, and even openly taught polytheism and the efficacy of the public rites, yet secretly held something very different--at the first, probably, a purer creed, but in course of time, like the exoteric form, degenerating. The progress of declination differed according to race or habit of thought: in the East it tended to superstition, in the West (as we learn from the writings of Cicero) to pure atheism, a denial of Providence. This system was adopted likewise by the Jews, but with this great difference, that it was superinduced upon and applied to a pre-existent religion; whereas in the other Oriental religions, the external was added to the esoteric, and developed out of it. In the Oriental systems the external was the sensuous expression of a hidden meaning; in the Jewish, the hidden meaning was drawn out of pre-existing external laws and ritual; in the former the esoteric alone was claimed as divine, in the latter it was the exoteric which was a matter

p. 6

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« Reply #21 on: March 11, 2009, 01:12:04 pm »

of revelation. To repair this seeming defect, the Kabbalists, or teachers of the 'Hidden Doctrine,' invented the existence of a secret tradition, orally handed down from the time of Moses. We may, of course, reject this assertion, and affirm that the Jews learnt the idea of a Hidden Wisdom, underlying the Mosaic Law, from their intercourse with the Eastern nations during the Babylonian captivity; and we may further be assured that the origin of this Secret Wisdom is Indian. Perhaps we shall be more exact if we say that the Jews learnt from their intercourse with Eastern nations to investigate the external Divine Law, for the purpose of discovering its hidden meaning. The heathen Gnostics, in fact, collected a Gnosis from every quarter, accepted all religious systems as partly true, and extracted from each what harmonized with their ideas. The Gospel, widely preached, accompanied by miracles, having new doctrines and enunciating new truths, very naturally attracted their attention. The Kabbalists, or Jewish Gnostics, like Simon Magus, found a large portion of apostolic teaching in accordance with their own, and easily grafted upon it so much as they liked. Again the Divine power of working miracles possessed by the Apostles and their successors naturally attracted the interest of those whose chief mystery was the practice of magic. Simon the Magician was considered by the Samaritans to be 'the great Power of God;' he was attracted by the miracles wrought by the Apostles; and no doubt he sincerely 'believed,' that is, after his own fashion. His notion of Holy Baptism was probably an initiation into a new mystery with a higher Gnosis than he possessed before, and by which he hoped to be endued with higher powers; and so likewise many of those who were called Gnostic Heretics by the Christian Fathers were not Christians at all, only they adopted so much of the Christian doctrine as accorded with their system."

The consideration of the local and political circumstances of the grand foci of Gnosticism will serve to explain much that is puzzling in the origin and nature of the system itself. Ephesus was, after Alexandria, the most important meeting-point of Grecian culture and Oriental speculation. In regard to

p. 7

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« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2009, 01:12:18 pm »

commerce and riches, although she yielded to the Egyptian capital, yet she rivalled Corinth in both, which city in truth she far surpassed in her treasures of religion and science. Her richness in theosophic ideas and rites had from time immemorial been manifested in her possession of Diana, "whom all Asia and the world" worshipped--that pantheistic figure so conformable to the genius of the furthest East; her College of "Essenes" dedicated to the service of that goddess; and her "Megabyzae," whose name sufficiently declares their Magian institution. Hence, also, was supplied the talisman of highest repute in the antique world, the far-famed "Ephesian spell," those mystic words graven upon the zone and feet of the "image that fell down from Jupiter;" and how zealously magic was cultivated by her citizens is apparent from St. Luke's incidental notice of the cost of the books belonging to those that used "curious arts" (τὰ περίεργα, the regular name for sorcery and divination), destroyed by their owners in the first transports of conversion to a new faith. Such converts, indeed, after their early zeal had cooled down, were not likely to resist the allurements of the endeavour to reconcile their ancient, far-famed wisdom with the new revelation; in short, to follow the plan invented not long before by the Alexandrian Jew, in his reconciliation of Plato with Moses and the Prophets. "In Ephesus," says Matter, "the speculations of the Jewish-Egyptian school, and the Semi-Persian speculations of the Kabbala, had then recently come to swell the vast conflux of Grecian and Asiatic doctrines; so there is no wonder that teachers should have sprung up there, who strove to combine the religion newly preached by the Apostle with the ideas so long established in the place. As early as the year A.D. 58, St. Paul, in his First Epistle to Timothy, enjoins him to warn certain persons to abstain from teaching 'strange doctrines,' those myths and interminable genealogies that only breed division. These same 'myths and genealogies' apply, without any doubt, to the theory of the Emanation of the Æons-Sephiroth, and to all the relations between the Good and Bad Angels that the Kabbalists had borrowed from the religion of Zoroaster."

Again, after condemning certain doctrines concerning the

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"And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me,' for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come."- Yaltabaoth
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« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2009, 01:12:32 pm »

obligation to complete asceticism, adopted literally from the Essenes, the Apostle adds, "Keep safe the precious charge entrusted to thee, avoiding profane novelties and the antitheses of the knowledge, falsely so-called, of which some making profession have gone astray from the faith of Christ." It was assuredly not the mere fables by which the new converts sought to enrich and complete the Christian doctrine (such as we still have samples of in the childish, though pious fictions of the Apocryphal Gospels), such things as these were certainly not the "false knowledge," which set itself up against the "true knowledge," that is, Revelation itself, as something superior to that Revelation. It must, on the contrary, have been a doctrine professing to make a science out of the Christian faith, and that, too, a science founding its principles upon antitheses. Now what are these "antitheses" (or oppositions) but the teaching of the Zendavesta, concerning the two Empires of Light and Darkness; the two grand classes of Intelligences, the good and the evil spirits, and the perpetual combat going on between them? Now these antitheses, or the principle of Dualism, is that which forms the most conspicuous feature of the Gnostic scheme; and in the Apostle's words we trace one of the most obvious ways in which such doctrines were communicated, and how they insinuated themselves into the infant Church.

In fact, the ancient commentators, Theodoret and Chrysostom, who were thoroughly conversant with the Gnosticism of their own day, apply this passage of St. Paul to that actual precursor of Gnosticism, his indefatigable rival Simon Magus himself, whose curious tenets had by that time been widely diffused throughout Asia Minor.

So deeply rooted were such speculations in the minds of many of the Ephesians, that the Apostle, in his Second Epistle to Timothy, written six years later, returns perpetually to the subject, whilst in his Epistle to the Church at Ephesus he entreats his flock not to be seduced by "vain discourses," or "new-coined appellations" (as one reading has it, and which applies forcibly to the Gnostic nomenclature), nor by human doctrines that have no more solidity in themselves than the

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« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2009, 01:12:45 pm »

wind, whereof no one knows whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Nay more, he even employs the very terminology of Gnosticism, as when he says, "Ye were dead in error and in sins: ye walked according to the Æon of this world, according to the Archon who has the dominion of the air," that is, the Demiurgus Ildabaoth. Here we have the Devs of Zoroaster, whose hosts fill the air, deceive mankind, blind their understandings, and lead them into temptation. Again when he adds, "We war not against flesh and blood, but against the Dominions, the Powers, the Lords of the Darkness, the malevolence of the Spirits in the upper regions"--all these are regular Gnostic epithets, having also their place in the Kabbalistic theology. The later Gnosticism is, in fact, as Chiflet has well expressed it, "the spirit of Asiatic antiquity seeking to assert its empire over the soul of Man by insinuating itself into the Christian Church." The Ophites, even in the early times of Hippolytus, boasted that they of all men were the only real Christians, because they alone comprehended the real nature of the Saviour. At the same time, they diligently attended the celebration of all the ancient Mysteries, notably the Eleusinian and the Phrygian, declaring that through their knowledge they had gotten the key to the hidden meaning of the whole ceremonial, which by types and figures foreshadowed the coming of the Christ. But indeed, Gnosticism, in its primitive form, had almost supplanted, by spiritualizing it, the beautiful materialism of the early Greek and Latin mythologies. Catholicism, through its unity and greater simplicity, in the end triumphed over the conflicting Gnostic philosophies, which became extinct as a professed religion in the sixth century, so far as Europe was concerned, and whose relics in Asia were at the same moment covered over with impenetrable obscurity by the sudden deluge of the Mahommedan conquest. Nevertheless, even in the first-named scene of its domination, it was not to be eradicated without leaving behind it deep traces in the writings and symbolisms of the magicians, astrologers, and seekers after the grand arcanum throughout the whole course of the Middle Ages. Thus there is a passage in Dante (Paradiso, xviii.) replete with the profoundest symbolism, and which, of course, our Freemasons claim for their

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« Reply #25 on: March 11, 2009, 01:12:57 pm »

own, and that with all possible security, because the very nature of the assumption exempts them from being called upon to publish the interpretation of the mystery. The poet here tells how the five times seven letters making up the five words "Diligite justitiam qui judicatis terram" came forth in the star Jupiter, when the beatified spirits of just princes hovered over the final M, forming their hosts into the figure of an eagle. Certainly the importance given to the numerals five and seven in this revelation savours much of Gnostic phraseology, and reminds one of the thirty letters which make up the quadrisyllabic Name of God, as made known by Truth unto the heresiarch Marcus, the history of which shall be given in the fitting place. Dante had before (Canto vi.) spoken of the "awe that overcomes him before the B and I C E," evidently the initials of some mighty password, although his commentators most prosaically interpret them as the mere diminutive of the name of his lost love, Beatrice. It was to its connection with Gnosticism that primitive Christianity owed the accusation of being a Magical system--a superstition not only nova but malefica. There is a curious passage in Dio Cassius, where, mentioning how the Christian Legion in M. Aurelius’ Quadian War obtained rain from Heaven through their prayers, he remarks, "The Christians can bring about anything they desire through prayer." In later times the various factions within the Church were fond of retorting upon each other this ancient aspersion of the pagans: it was on the charge of magical practices, says Ammianus, that the Arians managed to depose and exile the great Athanasius himself.

The history of Gnosticism, written by its contemporaries, still forms a copious library, despite the losses and damages it has sustained through the injuries of time. In the carrying out of the chief object of the present work--the elucidation of the tangible remains of the Gnosis--no historical record has yielded me by any means so much service as "The Refutation of all Heresies," composed by Hippolytus, bishop of Ostia (Portus), early in the third century. Many points, hitherto seeming hopelessly enveloped in darkness, have been made clear by the careful perusal of his judicious summaries of the systems

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« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2009, 01:13:10 pm »

of the different gnostic apostles. His views of their doctrines are evidently drawn up with equal candour and intelligence, and fully bear out his declaration, "that his design was not to vilify the holders of such doctrines, but merely to make known the sources whence they had really derived their pretended revelation." And he keeps his word throughout, never once indulging, like the later controversialists, in invectives against asserted practices, but exhibiting the tenets only of his opponents, and, with much ingenuity, showing up their gross plagiarism from Pagan philosophy. His eagerness for discovering the latter source in the fount of every gnostic stream, sometimes leads him to detect relationship that does not actually exist, and still oftener to pronounce a recent copy of the other what was in reality drawn directly from the same Oriental prototype--true origin of the old Greek idea with which he identifies it. But this invaluable, as well as most interesting, treatise breathes all through that spirit of charity and forbearance that made a writer belonging to a still persecuted religion, happy to be allowed to subsist through the tolerance of its neighbours. The abuse and scurrilous tales in which the later Epiphanius revels sufficiently indicate the writer belonging to an established Church, able at length to call in the secular power to assist in convincing all adversaries of their errors by the unanswerable arguments of rack, rope and ****.

Irenaeus, a Gaul by birth, and disciple of Polycarp, himself a disciple of St. John, was elected Bishop of Lyon in the year 174. In that city he composed his great treatise generally styled "Five Books against Heresies," written in an easy and indeed elegant style, although in one place he excuses its rudeness by the fact of his having been forced during so many years to converse "in a barbarous language"--a remark of interest as showing that Celtic still remained the vulgar tongue in his diocese. He is supposed to have died soon after the year A.D. 200; and therefore is somewhat earlier than Hippolytus, who was put to death in A.D. 222, and whose "Refutation" was clearly written after the death of Irenæus, for he quotes him occasionally by the title ὁ μακάριος, "the deceased"; and has incorporated some entire chapters respecting Marcus in his own work.

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« Reply #27 on: March 11, 2009, 01:13:33 pm »

The great Origen, another contemporary, has given some important details concerning the religious systems of the Ophites in his celebrated "Reply to Celsus." Two centuries after him comes Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, in Syria, during the second quarter of the fifth century, who has left very full particulars respecting the great Gnostic school flourishing in that region. The other Christian writers who have treated upon the origin and nature of the same doctrines were nothing more than ignorant churchmen, able to discern nothing in any religion beyond its external forms, and which they construed in the darkest possible sense, ever seeking for the worst interpretation of which these external appearances were susceptible. At the head of this latter class stands Epiphanius, author of the most detailed and, from its furious partisanship, amusing account of the Gnostic sects that is extant--his vast Panarion, "Breadbasket," or rather "Scrap-basket," a whimsical title intended to express the motley nature of its contents, picked up from all quarters. This immense folio (admirably translated into elegant Latin by the learned Petavius) is of the highest interest, full of pictures of the struggles of the human mind to devise for itself a revelation that shall plausibly solve all the problems of Man's other nature. Its compiler lived as Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus A.D. 367-403, and displays great zeal in raking up all manner of scandalous stories against the enemies of his adoptive Church. But there is one thing that gives immense value to his labours, the minute account given of Manichæism--that latest and grandest development of the Gnosis, which had come into existence in the interval between Epiphanius and Hippolytus.

The rule observed by all these later historians of Gnosticism is to represent it as a mere spurious offshoot and corruption of Christianity; invented, usually out of disappointed ambition, by apostates from the true faith established by the several apostles in the Eastern provinces of the Empire--a mode of representing the system than which nothing can be more unfounded. For in its earliest shape, such as it shows itself in the doctrine of Simon Magus, or of Basilides, the heaven-sent knowledge merely added upon the old foundations such articles and terms of the Christian faith as seemed capable of being

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« Reply #28 on: March 11, 2009, 01:13:40 pm »

assimilated to and combined therewith, whilst on the other hand she availed herself of the machinery of the older paganism to elucidate and prove the mysteries of the new theosophy; and this was conspicuously the character of the systems of Justinus and of the Peratae; as the very curious extracts given by Hippolytus from their text-books exhibit to the astonishment of the modern reader. That sagacious controversialist was right in calling all these heresies nothing better than the old philosophies disguised under new names; his only error lay in not going back far enough to find their ultimate source. Basilides, for example, never professed Christianity (in fact, Tertullian calls him a Platonist), but he superadded upon the esoteric doctrines of the Egyptian priesthood the newly-imported notions of Buddhism--that probable source of so much that is strange in the Gnosis. The introduction of the religion of Buddha into Egypt and Palestine, a fact only recently discovered, yet substantiated by strong monumental testimony, affords the best solution for innumerable difficulties in the history of religion; but the circumstances relating to this very important question must be reserved for a separate chapter.

As for the actual TEXT-BOOKS of the Gnostics, which in their day formed so immense a library (every founder of a sect being, as if by obligation, a most prolific writer, as Hippolytus shows by the number of works he quotes), hunted up and carefully destroyed by the victorious orthodox, never perpetuated by transcripts after the sectaries became extinct, all have perished, leaving one sole specimen to attest their nature. But this survivor is of a character so wild and wondrous, that had fortune left it to our choice we could not have preserved a more characteristic representative of its class. This is the Pistis-Sophia, "Faith-Wisdom," a work to be perpetually quoted in the following pages, as it throws more light upon the actual monuments of Gnosticism than could hitherto be collected from all the other writers on the subject put together. On this account a brief summary of its contents will be the best introduction to our inquiry into the nature of the system.



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« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2009, 01:13:58 pm »

p. 14

PISTIS-SOPHIA.
This treatise, ascribed to Valentinus (I know not on what authority), was discovered by Schwartze in a Coptic MS. preserved in the British Museum. He transcribed the Coptic text and translated it into Latin; both texts and version were published by Petermann in the year 1853. The original is copiously interspersed with Greek words and phrases; in fact, the Coptic was evidently so poor a language as to have no terms of its own to express any but the most materialistic ideas. The matter of its professed revelation is set forth also with endless repetitions, bespeaking a language destitute of relative pronouns, of conjunctions, and of all the other grammatical refinements necessary for the clear and concise expression of thought. *

The authorship of this record is assigned by itself in several places to Philip the Apostle, whom the Saviour bids to sit down and write these things! This circumstance made me at first conclude it to be the lost Gospel of Philip quoted by Epiphanius, but the particular anecdote adduced by him from that gospel is not to be discovered anywhere in this. But as the original is full of wide lacunae, which often fall in very interesting places, as if purposely defaced to escape the eyes of the profane, such an omission is not altogether conclusive against the identity of the two.

The nature of the book may be briefly sketched as follows. It professes to be a record of the higher teaching of the Saviour communicated to his disciples during the eleven years he passed with them on earth after his crucifixion, and when he had returned from his ascension into heaven. This ascension had been made from the Mount of Olives, where he received from on high two shining vestures inscribed with five mystic words (§16), and the names of all the powers whose domains he had to traverse. He thus (as he relates to the disciples) passes through the gate of the Firmament, the Sphere of Fate, and the regions


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