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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Author Topic: Fragments of a Faith Forgotten  (Read 4811 times)
Peggie Welles
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« Reply #45 on: February 26, 2009, 01:07:29 pm »

SATURNINUS, or more correctly Satornilus, is generally regarded as the founder of the Syrian Gnosis, but The Chain of Teachers. there is every reason to suppose that Gnosticism was widespread in Syria prior to his time. Justin Martyr (Trypho, xxxv.), writing between 150 and 160, speaks of the Satornilians as a very important body, for he brackets them with the Marcians (? Marcionites), Basilidians and Valentinians, the most important schools of the Gnosis in his time. Saturninus, Basilides and Valentinus were separated from each other respectively by at least a generation, and Saturninus may thus be placed somewhere about the end of the first and the beginning of the second century; but this assignment of date rests entirely upon the Patristic statements that Menander was the

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teacher of Saturninus, Saturninus of Basilides, and Basilides of Valentinus. It is, however, not improbable that, with regard to the first two, a general similarity of doctrine alone was sufficient reason for the hæresiologists to father the origin of Saturninus’ system upon Menander himself, whereas in reality a generation or two may have elapsed between them, and they may have never as a matter of fact met face to face.

Saturninus is said to have taught at Antioch, but Asceticism.(as is almost the invariable case with the Gnostic doctors) we have no information as to his nationality or the incidents of his life. He was especially distinguished for his rigid asceticism, or encratism. His followers abstained from marriage and from animal food of all kinds, and the rigidity of their mode of life attracted many zealous adherents. Salmon says that Saturninus seems to have been the first to have introduced encratism "among those who called themselves Christians." Protestant theologians especially regard encratism as a heretical practice; but there seems no sufficient reason for assuming that so common a feature of the religious life can be traced to any particular teacher.

Our information as to the Saturninian systemSummary of Doctrines. is unfortunately exceedingly defective; the short summary of Irenæus is presumably based on, or a copy of, the lost Compendium of Justin. This is all the more regrettable as fuller information would have probably enabled us to trace its connection with the "Ophite" and "Barbēlō" developments, and to define the relations of all three

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to the Gnosticism of Basilides and Valentinus. The main features are of the same nature as those of the "Simonian" and Menandrian Gnosis; we should, however, always bear in mind that these early systems, instead of being germinal, or simple expressions, may have been elaborate enough. The mere fact that Irenæus gives a summary which presents comparatively simple features, is no guarantee that the systems themselves may not have been full and carefully worked out expositions. We may with safety regard the summary of the bishop of Lyons as a rough indication of heads of doctrine, as a catalogue of subjects deprived of their content. Thus we learn that Saturninus taught the Unknown Father; the great intermediate hierarchies, archangels, angels, and powers; the seven creative spheres and their rulers; the builders of the universe and the fashioners of man. There were numerous inimical hierarchies and their rulers, and a scheme of regeneration whereby a World-saviour in the apparent form of man, though not really a man, brings about not only the defeat of the evil powers, but also rescues all who have the light-spark within them, from the powers of the creative hierarchies, among whom was placed the Yahweh of the Jews. The Jewish scriptures were imperfect and erroneous; some prophecies being inspired by the creative angels, but others by the evil powers.

The most interesting feature of the system which Irenæus has preserved for us, is the myth of the creation of man by the angels, or rather the fabrication

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of man's external envelope by the hierarchies of the builders.

The Making of Man.The making of man was on this wise. A shining image or type was shown by the Logos to the demiurgic angels; but when they were unable to seize hold upon it, for it was withdrawn immediately, they said to one another: "Let us make man according to [this] image and likeness." They accordingly endeavoured to do so, but the nature-powers could only evolve an envelope or plasm, which could not stand upright, but lay on the ground helpless and crawling like a worm. Then the Power Above, in compassion, sent forth the life-spark, and the plasm rose upright, and limbs developed and were knit together, that is to say, it hardened or became denser as race succeeded race; and so the body of man was evolved, and the light-spark, or real man, tabernacled in it. This light-spark hastens back after death to those of its own nature, and the rest of the elements of the body are dissolved.

Here we have in rough suggestion the same theory of the evolution of the bodies of the early races as we find advanced, from totally different sources and an entirely different standpoint, by a number of modern writers on theosophic doctrines--and, therefore, we all the more regret that the orthodox prejudices of Irenæus or his informant have treated Saturninus and his "heresy" with so scant notice.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #46 on: February 26, 2009, 01:07:46 pm »

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THE task we have now to attempt is by far the most difficult which can be undertaken by the student The Obscurity of the Subject. of Patristic Gnosticism. When we have the name of an individual teacher to guide us, there is at least a point round which certain ideas and statements may be grouped; but when we have no such indications, but only scraps of information, or summaries of "some say" and "others maintain," as in Irenæus; or vague designations of widespread schools of various periods, as in Hippolytus; when further we reflect that among such surroundings we are face to face with one of the main streams of evolving Gnosticism, and realize the complete absence of any definite landmarks, where all should have been carefully surveyed--a feeling almost of despair comes over even the most enthusiastic student.

It has been supposed that up to the time of Irenæus Gnostic documents were freely circulated; but that by the time of Hippolytus (that is to say, after the lapse of a generation or more) orthodoxy had made such headway that the Gnostic documents were withdrawn from circulation and hidden, and that this accounts for the glee of Hippolytus, who taunts the Gnostics with his possession of some of their secret MSS. I am, however, convinced that the most recondite and technical treatises of the Gnostics were never circulated; the adherents of the Gnosis were too much imbued with the idea

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of a "secret doctrine" and grades of initiation to blazon their inner tenets forth on the house-tops.

Also I doubt exceedingly whether these intertwined schools and phases of doctrine were separated from one another in any very precise fashion, or that the Basilidians, Valentinians, and the rest, distinguished themselves by such designations. Gnosticism was a living thing, no crystallized system or dead orthodoxy; each competent student thought out the main features of the Gnosis in his own fashion, and generally phrased it in his own terms.

In treating this part of our essay also another difficulty presents itself; we are writing for those who are presumably but slightly acquainted with the subject, and who would only be confused by a mass of details. It is, however, precisely these details which are of interest and importance, and therefore a summary must at best be exceedingly imperfect and liable to misconstruction. We have thus to set up our finger-posts as best we may.

The Term "Ophite".As stated above, the term "Ophite" is exceedingly erroneous; it does not generally describe the schools of which we are treating; it was not used by the adherents of the schools themselves, who mostly preferred the term Gnostic; even where the symbolism of the serpent enters into the exposition of their systems, it is by no means the characteristic feature. In brief, this term, which originated in the fallacy of taking a very small part for the whole--a favourite trick of the hæresiologist, whose main weapon was to exaggerate a minor detail into a main characteristic--has been used as a vague designation

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for all exposition of Gnostic doctrine which could not be ascribed to a definite teacher. It is in this foundling asylum, so to say, that we must look for the general outlines which form the basis of the teachings of even Basilides and Valentinus, each of whom, like the rest of the Gnostics, modified the general tradition in his own peculiar fashion.

This "Ophite" Gnosticism is said by Philaster to be pre-Christian; Irenæus, after detailing a system, which Theodoret when copying from him calls "Ophite," says that it was from the Valentinian school. Celsus, the Pagan philosopher, in his True Word, writing about the third quarter of the second century, makes no distinction between the rest of the Christian world and those whom Origen, almost a century afterwards, in his refutation of Celsus, calls "Ophiani."

The latest criticism is of opinion that Philaster has blundered, but the statement is sufficient evidence that there was a body of pre-Christian Gnosis, that the stream flowed unbrokenly and in ever-increasing volume during the first two centuries, and that the erroneous designation "Ophite" still marks out one of its main channels.

The serpent-symbol played a great part in the Mysteries of the ancients, especially in Greece, Egypt, The Serpent Symbol. and Phoenicia; thence we can trace it back to Syria, Babylonia, and farther East to India, where it still survives and receives due explanation. It figured forth the most intimate processes of the generation of the universe and of man, and also of the mystic birth. It was the glyph of the creative power, and in its

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lowest form was debased into a phallic emblem. Physical procreation and the processes of conception are lower manifestations of the energizing of the great creative will and the evolutionary world-process. But the one is as far removed from the other, as man's body is from the body of the universe, as man's animal desire from the divine will of deity.

The mysteries of sex were explained in the adyta of the ancient temples; and naturally enough the attempt to get behind the great passion of mankind was fraught with the greatest peril. A knowledge of the mystery led many to asceticism; a mere curious prying into the matter led to abuse. Illumination, seership, and spiritual knowledge, were the reward of the pure in body and mind; sexual excess and depravity punished the prying of the unfit. This explains one of the most curious phenomena in religious history; the bright and dark sides are almost invariably found together; whenever an attempt is made to shed some light on the mystery of the world and of man, the whole nature is quickened, and if the animal is the stronger, it becomes all the more uncontrolled owing to the quickening. Thus we find that some obscure groups of dabblers in the mystery-tradition fell into grave errors, not only of theory but of practice, and that Patristic writers of the subsequent centuries tried by every means to exaggerate this particular into a general charge against "error"; whereas, as a matter of fact, it is in the writings of the Gnostics themselves that we find the severest condemnation of such abuses.

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As man was generated in the womb from a "serpent" and an "egg," so was the universe; but the serpent of the universe was the Great Power, the Mighty Whirlwind, the Vast Vortex, and the egg was the All-Envelope of the world system, the primordial "fire-mist." The serpent was thus the glyph of the Divine Will, the Divine Reason, the Mind of Deity, the Logos. The egg was the Thought, the Conception, the Mother of All. The germinal universe was figured as a circle with a serpent lying diagonally along its field, or twined a certain number of times round it. This serpentine force fashioned the universe, and fashioned man. It created him; and yet he in his turn could use it for creation, if he would only cease from generation. The Caduceus, or Rod of Mercury, and the Thyrsus in the Greek Mysteries, which conducted the soul from life to death, and from death to life, figured forth the serpentine power in man, and the path whereby it would carry the "man" aloft to the height, if he would but cause the "Waters of the Jordan" to "flow upwards."

The serpent of Genesis, the serpent-rod of Moses, and the uplifting of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, were promptly seized upon by Jewish Gnostics as mythological ideas similar to the myths of the Mysteries. To give the reader an insight into their methods of mystical exegesis, which looked to an inner psychological science, we may here append their interpretation of what may be called "The Myth of the Going-forth."

The Myth was common to a number of schools, but Hippolytus ascribes it to an otherwise unknown

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school called the Peratæ, supposed to mean Transcendentalists, or those who by means of the Gnosis had "passed beyond" or "crossed over." The Myth of the Going-forth. Thus then they explained the Exodus-myth. Egypt is the body; all those who identify themselves with the body are the ignorant, the Egyptians. To "come forth" out of Egypt is to leave the body; and to pass through the Red Sea is to cross over the ocean of generation, the animal and sensual nature, which is hidden within the blood. Yet even then they are not safe; crossing the Red Sea they enter the Desert, the intermediate state of the doubting lower mind. There they are attacked by the "gods of destruction," which Moses called the "serpents of the desert," and which plague those who seek to escape from the "gods of generation." To them Moses, the teacher, shows the true serpent crucified on the cross of matter, and by its means they escape from the Desert and enter the Promised Land, the realm of the spiritual mind, where there is the Heavenly Jordan, the World-soul. When the Waters of the Jordan flow downwards, then is the generation of men; but when they flow upward, then is the creation of the gods. Jesus (Joshua) was one who had caused the Waters of the Jordan to flow upwards.

Many of the ancient myths had a historico-legendary background, but their use as myths, or religious and mystic romances, had gradually effaced the traces of history. Those instructed in the Mysteries were practised in the science of mythology, and thus the learned Gnostics at once perceived the

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mythological nature of the Exodus and its adaptability to a mystical interpretation. The above instance is a very good example of this method of exegesis; a great deal of such interpretation, however, was exceedingly strained, when not decidedly silly. The religious mind of the times loved to exercise its ingenuity on such interpretations, and the difference between Gnostic exegesis and that of the subsequent Orthodox, is that the former tried to discover soul-processes in the myths and parables of scripture, whereas the Orthodox regarded a theological and dogmatic interpretation as alone legitimate.

Judged by our present knowledge of language, the "silliest" element which entered into such pious Pseudo-philology. pastimes was the method of word-play, or pseudo-philology, which is found everywhere in the writings of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Indians, Jews, and Greeks. Among the Gnostic and Patristic writers, therefore, we find the most fantastic derivations of names, which were put forward in support of theological doctrines, but which were destitute of the most rudimentary philological accuracy. Men, such as Plato, who in many other respects were giants of intellect, were content to resort to such methods. It is, however, pleasant to notice that the nature of the soul and the truths of the spiritual life were the chief interest for such ancient "philologists," and not the grubbing up of "roots"; nevertheless, we should be careful when detecting the limitation of such minds in certain directions, to guard against the error of closing our eyes to the limitations of

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our own modern methods in directions where the ancients have done much good work.

We will now proceed to give a brief sketch of the main outlines of one of the presentations of general Gnostic ideas preserved by Irenæus.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #47 on: February 26, 2009, 01:07:59 pm »

The Spiritual Creation.IN the Unutterable Depth were two Great Lights, the First Man, or Father, and his Son, the Second Man; and also the Holy Spirit, the First Woman, or Mother of all living. Below this triad was a sluggish mass composed of the four great "elements," called Water, Darkness, Abyss, and Chaos. The Universal Mother brooded over the Waters; enamoured of her beauty, the First and Second Man produced from her the third Great Light, the Christ; and He, ascending above, formed with the First and Second Man the Holy Church. This was the right-hand birth of the Great Mother. But a Drop of Light fell downwards to the left hand into chaotic matter; this was called Sophia, or Wisdom, the World-Mother. The Waters of the Æther were thus set in motion, and formed a body for Sophia (the Light-Æon), viz., the Heaven-sphere. And she, freeing herself, left her body behind, and ascended to the Middle Region below her Mother (the Universal Mother), who formed the boundary of the Ideal Universe.

By her mere contact with the Space-Waters she had already generated a son, the chief Creative Power of the Sensible World, who retained some of the

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[paragraph continues] Light-fluid; this son was Ialdabaōth (said by some to mean the Child of Chaos), who in his turn produced a son, and he another, until there were seven in all, the great Formative Powers of the Sensible Universe. And they were "fighters," and quarrelled much with their fathers. And by means of this interplay of forces on matter came forth the "mind," which was "serpent-formed," and "spirit," and "soul," and all things in the world.

And Ialdabaōth was boastful and arrogant, and exclaimed: "I am Father and God, and beyond me is Yahweh Ialdabaōth. none other." But Sophia hearing this cried out to her son: "Lie not, Ialdabaōth, for above thee is the Father of All, the First Man, and Man the Son of Man." And all the Powers were astonished at the word; but Ialdabaōth, to call off their attention, cried out: "Let us make 'man' after our image." So they made "man," and he lay like a worn on the ground, until they brought him to Ialdabaōth, who breathed into him the "breath of life," that is to say the Light-fluid he had received from Sophia, and so emptied himself of his Light. And "man" receiving it, immediately gave thanks to the First Man and disregarded his fabricators (the Elohīm).

Whereupon Ialdabaōth (Yahweh) was jealous and planned to deprive Adam of the Light-spark by O. T. Exegesis. forming "woman." And the six creative powers were enamoured of Eve, and by her generated sons, namely, the angels. And so Adam again fell under the power of Ialdabaōth and the Elohīm; then Sophia or Wisdom sent the "serpent" ("mind") into the Paradise of Ialdabaōth, and Adam and Eve

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listened to its wise councils, and so once more "man" was freed from the dominion of the Creative Power, and transgressed the ordinance of ignorance of any power higher than himself imposed by Ialdabaōth. Whereupon Ialdabaōth drove them out of his Paradise, and together with them the "serpent" or "mind"; but Sophia would not permit the Light-spark to descend, and so withdrew it to avoid profanation. And "mind" (the lower mind) the serpent-formed, the first product of Ialdabaōth, brought forth six sons, and these are the "dæmonial" powers, which plague men because their father was cast down for their sake.

Now Adam and Eve before the fall had spiritual bodies, like the "angels" born of this Eve; but after their fall, down from the Paradise of Ialdabaōth, their bodies grew more and more dense, and more and more languid, and became "coats of skin," till finally Sophia in compassion restored to them the sweet odour of the Light, and they knew that they carried death about with them. And so a recollection of their former state came back to them, and they were patient, knowing that the body was put on only for a time.

The system then goes on to grapple with the legends of Genesis touching Cain and Noah, etc., and the Old Testament record generally, with moderate success; the main idea being that the prophets were inspired by one or other of the seven Elohīm, but occasionally Sophia had succeeded in impressing them with fragmentary revelations about the First Man and the Christ above.

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The rest of the system is devoted to the question of the scheme of regeneration and the interpretation Christology. of the Mystery-myths. Sophia, or Wisdom, finding no rest in heaven or earth, implored the help of the Great Mother, and she in compassion begged of the First Man that the Christ should be sent to help her. And then Wisdom, knowing that her brother and spouse was coming to her aid, announced his coming by John, and by means of the "baptism of repentance" Jesus was made ready to receive him, as in a clean vessel. And so the Christ descended through the seven spheres, likening himself unto the Rulers, and draining them of their power, the Light they had retained all flowing back to him. And first of all the Christ clothed his sister Sophia with the Light-vesture, and they rejoiced together, and this is the mystical "marriage" of the "bridegroom and the bride." Now Jesus, having been born of a "virgin" by the working of God (in other words, after the spiritual "second birth" had been attained by the ascetic Jesus), Christ and Sophia, the one enfolding the other, descended upon him and he became Jesus Christ.

Then it was that he began to do mighty works, to heal, and to proclaim the Unknown Father, and Jesus. profess himself openly the Son of the First Man. Whereupon the Powers and especially Ialdabaōth took measures to slay him, and so Jesus, the man, was "crucified" by them, but Christ and Sophia mounted aloft to the Incorruptible Æon. But Christ did not forget the one in whom He had tabernacled, and so sent a power which raised up his body, not

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indeed his gross physical envelope, but a psychic and spiritual body. And those of his disciples who saw this body, thought he was risen in his physical frame, but to certain of them who were capable of receiving it, he explained the mystery, and taught them many other mysteries of the spiritual life. And Jesus now sits at the right hand of his father, Ialdabaōth, and receives the souls who have received these mysteries. And in proportion as he enriches himself with souls, in such measure is Ialdabaōth deprived of power; so that he is no longer able to send back holy souls into the world of reincarnation, but only those of his own substance; and the consummation of all things will be when all the Light shall once more be gathered up and stored in the treasures of the Incorruptible Æon.

Such is the account of this by no means absurd scheme of the Gnosis preserved to us in the barbarous Latin translation of Irenæus’ summary. That the original system was far more elaborate we may assume from the now known method of Irenæus to make a very brief summary of the tenets he criticized. The main features of the christological and soteriological part of the system is identical with the main outlines of the system of the Pistis Sophia, and of one of the treatises of the Codex Brucianus. This is a very important point, and indicates that the dates of these treatises need not necessarily be later than the time of the bishop of Lyons, but the consideration of this important subject must be reserved for the sequel. Interesting again is it to remark the influence of the Orphic,

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[paragraph continues] Pythagoræan, Platonic, and Hermetic tradition in the cosmological part, and to observe how both the Hellenic and Jewish myths find a common element in the Chaldæan tradition.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #48 on: February 26, 2009, 01:08:16 pm »

HIPPOLYTUS devotes the fifth book of his Refutation to the "Ophites," who, however, all call themselves Justinus. followers of the Gnosis, and not "Ophites," as explained above; he seems to regard them as the most ancient stream of the Gnosis. After treating of three great schools, to which we shall subsequently refer, he specially singles out for notice a certain Justinus, who is mentioned by no other hæresiologist. This account of Hippolytus is all the more important, seeing that the system with which the name of Justinus is associated, represents apparently one of the oldest forms of the Gnosis of which we have record. This has been disputed by Salmon, but to my mind his arguments are unconvincing; the fact that the Justinian school, in its mystical exegesis, makes no reference to the texts of the New Testament collection, although freely quoting from the Old, should decide the point. One short saying is referred to Jesus, but it is nowhere found in the canonical texts.

This circle had a large literature, from which Hippolytus selects a single volume, The Book of Baruch, as giving the most complete form of the system. The members were bound by an oath of

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secrecy not to reveal the tenets of the school, and the form of the oath is given. The cosmogony is based on a Syrian creation-myth, a variant of which is preserved by Herodotus (iv. 8-10), in which Hercules (the Sun-god) plays the principal part, and a stratum of which is also found in Genesis. The myth has intimate points of contact with Chaldæan and ancient Semitic traditions. The following is the outline of the system.

The Book of Baruch.There are three principles of the Universe: (i.) The Good, or all-wise Deity; (ii.) the Father, or Spirit, the creative power, called Elohīm; and (iii.) the World-Soul, symbolized as a woman above the middle and a serpent below, called Eden. From Elohīm (a plural used as a collective) and Eden twenty-four cosmic powers or angels come forth, twelve follow the will of the Father-Spirit, and twelve the nature of the Mother-Soul. The lower twelve are the World-Trees of the Garden of Eden. The Trees are divided into four groups, of three each, representing the four Rivers of Eden. The Trees are evidently of the same nature as the cosmic forces which are represented by the Hindus as having their roots or sources above and their branches or streams below. The name Eden means Pleasure or Desire.

Thus the whole creation comes into existence, and finally from the animal part of the Mother-Soul are generated animals, and from the human part men. The upper part of the Garden is called the "most beautiful Earth"; that is to say, Cosmic Earth, and the body of man is formed of the finest. Man having thus

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been formed, Eden and Elohīm depute their powers unto him; the World-Soul bestows on him the soul, and the World-Spirit infuses into him the spirit. Thus were men and women constituted.

And all creation was subjected to the four groups of the twelve powers of the World-Soul, according to their cycles, as they move round as in a circular dance

But when the man-stage was reached, the turning-point of the world--process, Elohīm, the Spirit, ascended into the celestial spaces, taking with him his own twelve powers. And in the highest part of the heaven he beheld the Great Light shining through the Gate (? the physical sun), which led to the Light-world of The Good. And he who had hitherto thought himself Lord of Creation, perceived that there was one above him, and cried aloud: "Open me the gates that I may acknowledge the [true] Lord; for I considered myself to be the Lord." And a voice came forth, saying: "This is the Gate of the Lord; through this the righteous enter in." And leaving his angels in the highest part of the heavens, the World-Father entered in and sat down at the right hand of the Good One.

And Elohīm desired to recover by force his spirit which was bound to men, from further degradation; but the Good Deity restrained him, for now that he had ascended to the Light-realm he could work no destruction.

And the Soul (Eden) perceiving herself abandoned by Elohīm, tricked herself out so as to entice him back; but the Spirit would not return to the arms of

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[paragraph continues] Mother Nature (now that the middle point of evolution was passed). Thereupon, the spirit that was left behind in man, was plagued by the soul; for the spirit or mind desired to follow its Father into the height, but the soul, incited by the powers of the Mother--Soul, and especially by the first group who rule over sexual passion and excess, gave way to adulteries and even greater vice; and the spirit in man was thereby tormented.

Now the angel, or power, of the World-Soul, which Baruch. especially incited the human soul to such misdeeds, was the third of the first group, called Naas (Heb. Nachash), the serpent, the symbol of animal passion. And Elohīm, seeing this, sent forth the third of his own angels, called Baruch, to succour the spirit in man. And Baruch came and stood in the midst of the Trees (the powers of the World-Soul), and declared unto man that of all the Trees of the Garden of Eden he might eat the fruit, but of the Tree Naas, he might not, for Naas had transgressed the law, and had given rise to adultery and unnatural intercourse.

And Baruch had also appeared to Moses and the prophets through the spirit in man, that the people might be converted to the Good One; but Naas had invariably obscured his precepts through the soul in man. And not only had Baruch taught the prophets of the Hebrews, but also the prophets of the uncircumcised. Thus, for instance, Hercules among the Syrians had been instructed, and his twelve labours were his conflicts with the twelve powers of the World-Soul. Yet Hercules also had finally failed,

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for after seeming to accomplish his labours, he is vanquished by Omphalē, or Venus, who divests him of his power by clothing him with her own robe, the power of Eden below.

Last of all Baruch appeared unto Jesus, a shepherd boy, son of Joseph and Mary, a child of Christology. twelve years. And Jesus remained faithful to the teachings of Baruch, in spite of the enticements of Naas. And Naas in wrath caused him to be "crucified," but he, leaving on the "tree" the body of Eden--that is to say, the psychic body or soul, and the gross physical body--and committing his spirit or mind to the hands of his Father (Elohīm), ascended to the Good One. And there he beholds "whatever things eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man"; and bathes in the ocean of life-giving water, no longer in the water below the firmament, the ocean of generation in which the physical and psychic bodies are bathed. This ocean of generation is, of course, the same as the Brāhmanical and Buddhistic saṁsāra, the ocean of rebirth.

Hippolytus tries to make out that Justinus was a very vile person, because he fearlessly pointed out one of the main obstacles to the spiritual life, and the horrors of animal sensuality; but Justinus evidently preached a doctrine of rigid asceticism, and ascribed the success of Jesus to his triumphant purity.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #49 on: February 26, 2009, 01:08:29 pm »

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PRIOR to the section on Justinus, Hippolytus treats of three schools under the names Naasseni, Peratæ, and Sethians or Sithians. All three schools apparently belong to the same cycle, and the first two present features so identical as to make it highly probable that the Naassene work and the two Peratic treatises from which Hippolytus quotes, pertain to the same Gnostic circle.

Although the name Naassene is derived from the Hebrew Nachash, a serpent, Hippolytus does not call the Naassenes Ophites, but Gnostics; in fact, he reserves the name Ophite for a small body to which he also gives (viii. 20) the names Cainites and Nochaïtæ (? Nachaïtæ from Nachash), and considers them of not sufficient importance for further mention.

Their Literature.The Naassenes possessed many books, and also regarded as authoritative the following scriptures: The Gospel of Perfection, The Gospel of Eve, The Questions of Mary, Concerning the Offspring of Mary, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel according to Thomas, and The Gospel according to the Egyptians. One of their MSS. had fallen into the hands of Hippolytus. It was a treatise of a mystical, psychological, devotional, and exegetical character, rather than a cosmological exposition, and therefore the system is somewhat difficult to make out from Hippolytus’ quotations. Indeed, the Naassene Document, when analysed into its sources, is found to be the Christian overworking

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of the Jewish overworking of a Pagan commentary on a Hymn of the Mysteries. The date of the Christian overwriter may be placed about the middle of the second century, and the document is especially valuable as pointing out the identity of the inner teachings of Gnostic Christianity with the tenets of the Mysteries--Phrygian, Eleusinian, Dionysian, Samothracian, Egyptian, Assyrian, etc.

The Christian writer claimed that his tradition was handed down from James to a certain Mariamne. This Miriam, or Mary, is somewhat of a puzzle to scholarship; it seems, however, probable that the treatise belonged to the same cycle of tradition as The Greater and Lesser Questions of Mary, The Gospel of Mary, etc., in the frame of which the Pistis Sophia treatise is also set.

The main features of the system are that the cosmos is symbolized as the (Heavenly) Man, male-female, of three natures, spiritual (or intelligible), psychic and material; that these three natures found themselves in perfection in Jesus, who was therefore truly the Son of Man. Mankind is divided into three classes, assemblies, or churches: the elect, the called, and the bound (or in other words, the spiritual or angelic, the psychic, and the choïc or material), according as one or other of these natures predominates.

After this brief outline, Hippolytus proceeds to plunge into the mystical exegesis of the writer and Their Mystical Exegesis. overwriters (whom he of course regards as one person) and their interpretation of the Mysteries, which is mixed up here and there with specimens of

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the pseudo-philological word-play so dear to the heart of Plato's Cratylus, as remarked above. The system is supposed to underlie all mythologies, Pagan, Jewish and Christian. It is the old teaching of macrocosm and microcosm, and the Self hidden in the heart of all.

The technical character of this exegesis and the nature of our essay compel us to give only a brief summary of the main ideas; but the subject is important enough to demand a special study in itself.

The spirit or mind of man is imprisoned in the soul, his animal nature, and the soul in the body. The nature and evolution of this soul were set forth in The Gospel according to the Egyptians, a work which is unfortunately lost.

The Assyrian Mysteries.Now the Assyrians (following the Chaldæans, who, together with the Egyptians, were regarded by antiquity as the sacred nation par excellence) first taught that man was threefold and yet a unity. The soul is the desire-principle, and all things have souls, even stones, for they increase and decrease.

The real "man" is male-female, devoid of sex; therefore he strives to abandon the animal nature and return to the eternal essence above, where there is neither male nor female but a new creature.

Baptism was not the mere symbolical washing with physical water, but the bathing of the spirit or mind in the "living water above," the eternal world, beyond the ocean of generation and destruction; and the anointing with oil was the introduction of the candidate into unfading bliss, thus becoming a Christ.

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The kingdom of heaven is to be sought for within a man; it is the "blessed nature of all things which were, and are, and are still to be," spoken of in the Phrygian Mysteries. It is of the nature of the spirit or mind, for, as it is written in The Gospel according to Thomas: "He who seeks me shall find me in children from the age of seven years"; and this is the representative of the Logos in man.

Among the Egyptians, Osiris is the Water of Life, the Spirit or Mind, while Isis is "seven-robed nature, surrounded by and robed in seven æthereal mantles," the spheres of ever-changing generation, which metamorphose the ineffable, unimaginable, incomprehensible mother-substance; while the Mind, the Self, makes all things but remains unchanged, according to the saying: "I become what I will, and I am what I am; wherefore, say I, immovable is the over of all. For He remains what He is, making things, and is naught of the things which are." This also is called The Good, hence the saying: "Why callest thou Me Good? One only is Good, My Father in the heavens."

Among the Greeks, Hermes is the Logos. He is the conductor and reconductor (the psychagogue and The Greek. psychopomp), and originator of souls. They are brought down from the Heavenly Man above into the plasm of clay, the body, and thus made slaves to the demiurge of the world, the fiery or passionate god of creation. Therefore Hermes "holds a rod in his hands, beautiful, golden, wherewith he spell-binds the eyes of men whomsoever he would, and wakes them again from sleep." Therefore the saying: "Wake thou that sleepest, and rise, and Christ shall

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give thee light." This is the Christ, the Son of the Man, in all who are born; and this was set forth in the Eleusinian rites. This is also Ocean, "the generation of gods and the generation of men," the Great Jordan, as explained in the Myth of the Going-forth, given above.

The Samothracian.The Samothracians also taught the same truth; and in the temple of their Mysteries were two statues, representing the Heavenly Man, and the regenerate or spiritual man, in all things co-essential with that Man. Such a one was the Christ, but His disciples had not yet reached to perfection. Hence the saying: "If ye drink not My blood and eat not My flesh, ye shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens; but even if ye drink of the cup which I drink of, whither I go ye cannot come." And the Gnostic writer adds: "For He knew of what nature each of His disciples was, and that it needs must be that each of them should go to his own nature. For from the twelve 'tribes' He chose twelve disciples, and through them He spake to every 'tribe.' Wherefore (also) neither have all men hearkened to the preaching of the twelve disciples, nor if they hearken can they receive it."

The Phrygian.The mysteries of the Thracians and Phrygians are then referred to, and the same ideas further explained from the Old Testament documents. The vision of Jacob is explained as referring to the descent of spirit into matter, down the ladder of evolution, the Stream of the Logos flowing downward, and then again upward, through the Gate of the Lord. Wherefore the saying: "I am the true gate." The Phrygians

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also called the spirit in man the "dead," because it was buried in the tomb and sepulchre of the body. Wherefore the saying; "Ye are whitened sepulchres, filled within with the bones of the dead,"--"for the living man is not in you." And again: "The dead shall leap forth from the tombs"; that is to say, "from their material bodies, regenerated spiritual men, not carnal." For "this is the resurrection which takes place through the gate of the heavens, and they who pass not through it, all remain dead."

Many other interpretations of a similar nature are given, and it is shown that the Lesser Mysteries pertained to "fleshly generation," whereas the Greater dealt with the new birth. "For this is the Gate of Heaven, and this is the House of God, where the Good God dwells alone, into which no impure man shall come, no psychic, no fleshly man; but it is kept under watch for the spiritual alone, where they must come, and, casting away their garments, all become bridegrooms made virgin by the Virginal Spirit. For such a man is the virgin with child, who conceives and brings forth a son, which is neither psychic, animal, nor fleshly, but a blessed æon of æons."

This is the Kingdom of the Heavens, the "grain of mustard seed, the indivisible point, which is the primeval spark in the body, and which no man knoweth save only the spiritual."

The school of the Naasseni, it is said, were all initiated into the Mysteries of the Great Mother, The Mysteries of the Great Mother. because they found that the whole mystery of rebirth was taught in these rites; they

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were also rigid ascetics. The name Naasseni was given them because they represented the "Moist Essence" of the universe--without which nothing that exists, "whether immortal or mortal, whether animate or inanimate, could hold together"--by the symbol of a serpent. This is the cosmic Akāsha of the Upaniṣhads, and the Kuṇḍalinī, or serpentine force in man, which when following animal impulse is the force of generation, but when applied to spiritual things makes of a man a god. It is the Waters of Great Jordan flowing downwards (the generation of men) and upwards (the generation of gods); the Akāsha-gangā or Heavenly Ganges of the Purāṇas, the Heavenly Nile of mystic Egypt.

"He distributes beauty and bloom to all who are, just as the [river] 'proceeding forth out of Eden and dividing itself into four streams.'" In man, they said, Eden is the brain "compressed in surrounding ventures like heavens," and Paradise the man as far as the head only. These four streams are sight, hearing, smell, and taste. The river is the "water above the firmament [of the body]."

Thus, to use another set of symbolic terms, "the spiritual choose for themselves from the living waters of the Euphrates [the subtle world], which flows through the midst of Babylon [the gross world or body], what is fit, passing through the gate of truth, which is Jesus, the blessed," i.e., the "gate of the heavens," or the sun, cosmically; and microcosmically the passing out of the body consciously through the highest centre in the head, which Hindu mystics cal

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the Brahmarandhra. Thus these Gnostics claimed to be the true Christians because they were anointed with the "ineffable chrism," poured out by the serpentine "horn of plenty," another symbol for the spiritual power of enlightenment.

We will conclude this brief sketch of these most interesting mystics by quoting one of their hymns. The Fragment of a Hymn. The text is unfortunately so corrupt that parts of it are hopeless, nevertheless sufficient remains to "sense" the thought. It tells of the World-Mind, the Father, of Chaos, the Cosmic Mother, and of the third member of the primordial trinity, the World-Soul. Thence the individual soul, the pilgrim, and its sorrows and rebirth. Finally the descent of the Saviour, the firstborn of the Great Mind, and the regeneration of all. Behind all is the Ineffable, then comes first the First-born, the Logos:

"Mind was the first, the generative law of all;
Second was Chaos diffused, [spouse] of the first-born;
Thirdly, the toiling Soul received the law;
Wherefore surrounded with a watery form
It weary grows, subdued by death. . . .
Now holding sway, it sees the light;
Anon, cast into piteous plight, it weeps.
Whiles it weeps, it rejoices;
Now wails and is judged;
And now is judged and dies.
And now it cannot pass . . . .
Into the labyrinth [of rebirth] it has wandered.
[Jesus] said: Father
A searching after evil on the earth

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Makes [man] to wander from thy Spirit.
He seeks to shun the bitter Chaos,
But knows not how to flee.
Wherefore, send me, O Father!
Seals in my hands, I will descend;
Through every æon I will tread my way;
All mysteries will I reveal,
And show the shapes of gods;
The hidden secrets of the Holy Path
Shall take the name of Gnosis,
And I will hand them on."


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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #50 on: February 26, 2009, 01:08:46 pm »

The Source of their Tradition.HIPPOLYTUS says that the mysteries symbolized by the serpent are at the root of all Gnosticism; and though the Church Father himself has not any idea what these mysteries really are, as is amply proved by all his remarks, we agree with him, as we have endeavoured to show above. He then proceeds to treat of the system of the Peratæ, to whom we have already referred, and whose Mysteries (Hippolytus calls them their "blasphemy against Christ") had been kept secret "for many years." We know from other sources that the school was prior to Clement of Alexandria. The system of the Peratæ was based on an analogy with sidereal considerations, and depended on the tradition of the ancient Chaldæan star-cult. In Book iv., Hippolytus has already endeavoured to refute the Chaldæan system of the star-spheres; but though he makes some good points against the vulgar

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astrology of the time, he does not affect the mysterious doctrine of the septenary spheres, of which the empirical horoscopists had long lost the secret, and for which they had substituted the physical planets. Hippolytus had the Peratic school especially in mind in his attempted refutation of the art of the astrologers and mathematicians, of which, however, he admits he had no practical knowledge, but space compels us simply to refer the student to the fourth book of his Philosophumena for the outline of astrology which the Church Father presents.

According to the Peratic school, the universe was symbolized by a circle enclosing a triangle. The The Three Worlds. triangle denoted the primal trichotomy into the three or worlds, ingenerable, self-generable, and generable. Thus there were for them three aspects of the Logos, or, from another point of view, three Gods, or three Logoi, or three Minds, or three Men. When the world-process had reached the completion of its devolution, the Saviour descended from the ingenerable world or æon; the type of the Saviour is that of a man perfected, "with a threefold nature, and threefold body, and threefold power, having in himself all [species of] concretions and potentialities from the three divisions of the universe." According to the Pauline phrase; "It pleased Him that in him should dwell all fulness (plērōma) bodily."

It is from the two higher worlds, the ingenerable and self-generable, that the seeds of all kinds of potentialities are sent down into this generable or formal world.

Hippolytus here breaks off, and, after informing

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us that the founders of the school were a certain Euphrates (whom Origen calls the founder of those Ophites to whom Celsus referred about 175 A.D.) and Celbes, whom he elsewhere calls Acembes and Ademes, proceeds to tell us something more of the Chaldæan art. He then says that he will quote from a number of Peratic treatises to show that their ideas were similar to those of the Chaldæans.

The Saviour has not only a human but a cosmic task to perform; the cosmic task is to separate the good from the bad among the sidereal powers and influences; the same peculiarity of soteriology is brought into prominence in the Pistis Sophia treatise, to which we shall refer later on. The "wars in heaven" precede the conflict of good and evil on earth.

A Direct Quotation.The treatise from which Hippolytus proceeds to quote is evidently a Gnostic commentary on an old Babylonian or Syrian cosmogonic scripture, which the commentator endeavours to explain in Greek mythological terms. The beginning of this mysterious treatise runs as follows:

"I am the voice of awakening from slumber in the peon (world) of night. Henceforth I begin to strip naked the power that proceed eth from Chaos. It is the power of the abysmal slime, which raiseth up the clay of the imperishable vast moist [principle], the whole might of convulsion of the colour of water, ever moving, supporting the steady, checking the tottering, . . . the faithful steward of the track of the æthers, rejoicing in that which streameth forth from the twelve founts of the Law, the power which

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taketh its type from the impress of the power of the invisible waters above."

This power is called Thalassa, evidently the Thalatth (Tiāmat), or World-Mother, of the Babylonians. The twelve sources are also called twelve mouths, or pipes, through which the world-powers pour hissing. It is the power which is surrounded by a dodecagonal pyramid or dodecahedron--a hint which should persuade astrologers to reconsider their "signs of the zodiac."

Hippolytus’ quotations and summary here become very obscure and require a critical treatment which has not yet been accorded them; we are finally told that the matter is taken from a treatise dealing with the formal or generable world, for it is denominated The Proasteioi up to the Æther; that is to say, the hierarchies of powers as far as the æther, which were probably represented diagramatically by a series of concentric circles, a "proasteion" being the space round a city's walls.

Hippolytus here again points out the correspondence between astrological symbolism and the teaching of this school of Gnosticism; it is, he says, simply astrology allegorized, or rather we should say cosmogony theologized. These Peratics, or Transcendentalists, derive their name from the following considerations.

They believed that nothing which exists by generation can survive destruction, and thus the The Meaning of the Name. sphere of generation is also the fate-sphere. He then who knows nothing beyond this, is bound to the wheel of fate; but "he who is conversant with the

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compulsion of generation [saṁsāra], and the paths through which man has entered into the [generable] world," can proceed through and pass beyond (transcend) destruction. This destruction is the "Water" which is the "generation of men," and which is the element in which the hierarchies of generation hold their sway, and have their being. It is called water because it is of that colour, namely, the lower ether.

The treatise from which Hippolytus quotes, again dives into the depths of mythology, and among other things adduces the Myth of the Going-forth, and its mystical interpretation; finally, the Gnostic commentator explains the opening verses of the proem to the fourth canonical Gospel. Hippolytus, however, is beginning to be baffled by the amazing intricacy of the system, as he tells us, and thus breaks off, and apparently takes up another treatise from which to quote. The new treatise is of an exceedingly mystical character, and seemingly deals with the psychological physiology of the school.

Psychological Physiology.The universe is figured forth as triple: Father, Son, and Matter (Hylē), each of endless potentialities. The Son, the fashioning Logos, stands midway between the immovable Father and moving Matter. At one time He is turned to the Father and receives the powers in His disk (face, or "person"), and then turning casts them into Matter, which is devoid of form; and thus the Matter is moulded and the formal world is produced.

We here see an attempt to graft a higher teaching, of the same nature as the Platonic doctrine of types

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and ideas, on to the primitive symbolism of imperfectly observed natural phenomena. The sun is the Father, the moon is the Son, and the earth is Matter. The moon is figured as a serpent, owing to its serpentine path, and its phases are imagined as the turning of its face towards the sun, and again towards the earth. If this is correct, however, the immobility of the sun and the motion of the earth give us reason to believe that the Chaldæans were better acquainted with astronomy than the followers of the far later Hipparcho-Ptolemæic geocentricism. The Gnostic writer has also a correct theory of magnetic and other influences, which he quaintly sets forth. We can, moreover, distinguish three strata of interpretation: (i.) metaphysical and spiritual--the ideal world, the intermediate, and the visible universe; (ii.) the world of generation--with its sun, moon and earth-forces; and (iii.) the analogical psycho-physiological process in man.

The last is thus explained. The brain is the Father, the cerebellum the Son, and the medulla Matter or Hylē. "The cerebellum, by an ineffable and inscrutable process, attracts through the pineal gland the spiritual and life-giving essence from the vaulted chamber [? third ventricle]. And on receiving this, the cerebellum [also] in an ineffable manner imparts the 'ideas,' just as the Son does, to Matter; or, in other words, the seeds and the genera of things produced according to the flesh flow along into the spinal marrow." And, adds Hippolytus, the main secrets of the school depend on a knowledge of these correspondences, but it would be impious for him

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to say anything more on the matter--a scruple which is surprising to find in a Church Father, and especially in Hippolytus, who devoted the second and third books of his Refutation to an exposition of the Mysteries.

The Lost Books of Hippolytus.Now it is a curious fact that these two books have been bodily removed from the MS. Did Hippolytus, then, reveal too much of the "plagiarism by anticipation" of the rites and doctrines of the Church, and did those who came after him consider it unwise to keep such evidence on record? For one would have thought that above all things the orthodox Fathers would have delighted in parading the possession of such information before the heathen and heretics, and would have specially preserved these two books from destruction. But indeed it is altogether strange that this, the most important Refutation of all the hæresiological documents which we possess, was made no use of by the successors of Hippolytus. The only MS. known to the western world was brought from Mount Athos in 1842, and its contents (because of the number of direct quotations) have revolutionized our ideas on Gnosticism on many points. Had the two books on the Mysteries been preserved, we might perchance have had our ideas even further revolutionized.

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« Reply #51 on: February 26, 2009, 01:08:59 pm »

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CLOSELY connected with the Gnostics above described are the Sethians, to whom Hippolytus next devotes Seth. his attention. He speaks of their "innumerable commentaries," and refers his readers especially to a certain treatise, called The Paraphrase of Seth, for a digest of their doctrines. But whether or not Hippolytus quotes from this document himself, or from some other treatise or treatises, is not apparent. The title, Paraphrase of Seth, is exceedingly puzzling; it is difficult to say what is the exact meaning of the term "paraphrasis," and the doctrines set forth by Hippolytus have no connection with the Seth-legend.

The term Sethians, as used by Hippolytus, is not only puzzling on this account, but also because his summary differs entirely from the scraps of information on the system of the Sethites supposed to have been mentioned in his lost Syntagma, and allied to the doctrine of the Nicolaïtans by the epitomizers. In the latter fragments the hero Seth was chosen as the type of the good man, the perfect, the prototype of Christ.

Can it possibly be that there is a connection between the name "Seth" and the mysterious "Setheus" of the Codex Brucianus? And further, are we to look for the origin of the Sethians along the Egyptian line of tradition of the Hyksōs-cult, the Semitic background of which made Seth the Mystery-God?

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An Outline of their System.The Sethians of whom we are treating begin with a trinity; Light, Spirit and Darkness. The Spirit is not, however, to be thought of as a breath or wind, but as it were a subtle odour spreading everywhere. All three principles then are intermingled one with another. And the Darkness strives to retain the Light and the Spirit, and imprison the light-sparks in matter; while the Light and the Spirit, on their side, strive to raise their powers aloft and rescue them from the Darkness.

All genera and species and individuals, nay the heaven and earth itself, are images of "seals"; they are produced according to certain pre-existent types. It was from the first concourse of the three original principles or powers that the first great form was produced, the impression of the great seal, namely, heaven and earth. This is symbolized by the world-egg in the womb of the universe, and the rest of creation is worked out on the same analogy. The egg is in the waters, which are thrown into waves by the creative power, and it depends on the nature of the waves as to what the various creatures will be. Here we have the whole theory of vibrations and the germ-cell idea in full activity.

Into the bodies thus brought into existence by the waves of the waters (the vehicles of subtle matter) the light-spark and the fragrance of the Spirit descend, and thus "mind or man" is "moulded into various species."

"And this [light-spark] is a perfect god, who from the ingenerable Light from above, and from the Spirit, is borne down into the natural man, as into a

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shrine, by the tide of nature and the motion of the wind [the creative power which causes the waves]. . . . Thus a minute spark, a divided splinter from above, like the ray of a star, has been mingled in the much compounded waters [bodies of various kinds of subtle matter] of many (existences). . . . Every thought, then, and solicitude actuating the Light from above is as to how and in what manner mind may be set free from death--the evil and dark body--from the 'father' below, the [generative impulse] wind, which with agitation and tumult raised up the waves, and [finally] produced a perfect mind, his own son, and yet not his own in essence. For he [the mind] was a ray from above, from that perfect Light, overpowered in the dark and fearsome, and bitter, and blood-stained water; he also is a light-spirit floating on the water."

The generative power is called not only "wind," but also "beast," and "serpent," the latter because of the hissing sound it produces, just like the whirling wind. Now the impure womb, or sphere of generation, can only produce mortal men, but the virgin or pure womb, the Sphere of Light, can produce men immortal or gods. It is the descent of the Perfect Man or Logos into the pure man that alone can still the birth-pangs of the carnal man.

This natural and spiritual process is shown forth in the Mysteries; after passing through the Lesser The Mysteries. Mysteries, which pertain to the cycle of generation, the candidate is washed or baptised, and stripping off the dress of a servant, puts on a heavenly garment, and drinks of the cup

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of life-giving water. That is to say, he leaves his servile form, the body which is subjected to the necessity of generation and is thus a slave, and ascends in his spiritual body to the state where is the ocean of immortality.

The Sethian school supported their theosophic tenets by analogies drawn from natural philosophy, and by the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament; but, says Hippolytus, their system is nothing else than the tenets of the Orphic Mysteries, which were celebrated in Achæa at Phlium, long before the Eleusinian. No doubt the Sethians based their theories on one or more of the traditions of the Mystery-cult, but we need not follow Hippolytus in his selection of only one tradition, and that too in its grossest and most ignorant phase of vulgar phallicism.

The school seems also to have had affinities with the Hermetic tradition, and used the analogy of natural and "alchemical" processes for the explanation of spiritual matters. For instance, after citing the example of the magnet, one of their books continues: "Thus the light-ray [human soul], mingled with the water [animal soul], having obtained through discipline and instruction its own proper region, hastens towards the Logos [divine soul] that comes down from above in servile form [body]; and along with the Logos becomes Logos there where the Logos has His being, more speedily than iron [hastens] to the magnet."

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« Reply #52 on: February 26, 2009, 01:09:13 pm »

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As previously remarked, the remains of the ancient bed of the stream of the Gnosis which we are endeavouring to survey, are so fragmentary, that nothing can be attempted, but a most imperfect outline, or rather a series of rough sketches of certain sections that some day further discovery may enable us to throw into the form of a map. Chronological indications are almost entirely wanting, and we can as yet form no idea of the correct sequence of these general Gnostic schools. We must therefore proceed at haphazard somewhat, and will next turn our attention to a school which Hippolytus (Bk. viii.) calls the Docetæ, seeing that their tenets are very similar to those of the three schools of which we have just treated. There is nothing, however, to show why this name is especially selected, except the obscure reason that it is derived from the attempt of these Gnostics to theorise on "inaccessible and incomprehensible matter." It may, therefore, be possible that they believed in the doctrine of the non-reality of matter; and that the name Docetæ ("Illusionists") is of similar derivation to the Māyā-vādins of the Hindus. The system of this Gnostic circle bears a strong family likeness to the doctrines of the Basilidian and Valentinian schools; but the doctrine of the non-physical nature of the body of the Christ, which is the general characteristic of ordinary Docetism, is not more prominent with them than with many other

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schools. The outline of their tenets given by Hippolytus is as follows.

God.The Primal Being is symbolized as the seed of a fig-tree, the mathematical point, which is everywhere, smaller than small, yet greater than great, containing in itself infinite potentialities. He is the "refuge of the terror-stricken, the covering of the naked," and much else as allegorically set forth in the Scriptures. The manner of the infinite generation of things is also figured by the fig-tree, for from the seed comes the stem, then branches, and then leaves, and then fruit, the fruit in its turn containing seeds, and thence other stems, and so on in infinite manner; so all things come forth.

The Æons.In this way, even before the sensible world was formed, there was an emanation of a divine or ideal world of three root-æons, each consisting of so many sub-æons, male-female; that is to say, worlds, or beings, or planes, of self-generating powers. And this æon-world of Light came forth from the one ideal seed or root of the universe, the ingenerable. Then the host of self-generable æons uniting together produce from the One Virgin (ideal cosmic substance), the Alone-begotten (-generated) one, the Saviour of the universe, the perfect anon; containing in Himself all the powers of the ideal world of the æons, equal in power in all things to the original seed of the universe, the ingenerable. Thus was the Saviour of the ideal universe produced, the perfect æon. And thus all in that spiritual world was perfected, all being of the nature of That which transcends intellect, free from all deficiency. Thus

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was accomplished the eternal and ideal world-process in the spaces of the æons.

Next with regard to the emanation of the ideal world into the sensible universe. The third root-æon, Cosmos and Man. in its turn, made itself threefold, containing in itself all the supernal potentialities. Thus, then, its Light shone down upon the primordial chaotic substance, and the souls of all genera and species of living beings were infused into it. And when the third æon, or Logos, perceived that His ideas and impressions and types or seals (χαρατῆρες)--the souls--were seized upon by the darkness, He separated the light from the darkness, and placed a firmament between; but this was only done after all the infinite species of the third æon had been intercepted in the darkness. And last of all the resemblance of the third æon himself was impressed upon the lower universe, and this resemblance is a "life-giving fire, generated from the light." Now this fire is the creative god which fashions the world, as in the Mosaic account. This fabricating deity, having no substance of his own, uses the darkness (gross matter) as his substance, out of which he makes bodies, and thus perpetually treats despitefully the eternal attributes of light which are imprisoned in the darkness. Thus until the coming of the Saviour, there was a vast delusion of souls, for these "ideas" are called souls (ψυχαί) because they have been breathed out (ἀποψυγεῖσαι) from the (æons) above. These souls spend their lives in darkness, passing from one to another of the bodies which are under the ward of the creative power or world-fabricator.

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In support of this the Gnostic author refers to the saying: "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias that was for to come; he that hath ears to hear, let him hear"; and also to Job ii. 9: "And I am a wanderer, changing place after place and house after house." The latter passage is found in the version of the Seventy, but is omitted in the English translation.

The Saviour.It is by means of the Saviour that souls are set free from the circle of rebirth (metensomatosis), and faith is aroused in men that their sins should be remitted. Thus, then, the Alone-begotten Son gazing upon the soul-tragedy--the "images" of the supernal æons changing perpetually from one body to another of the darkness--willed to descend for their deliverance.

Now the individual æons above were not able to endure the whole fullness of the divine world, i.e., the Son; and had they beheld it they would have been thrown into confusion at its greatness and the glory of its power, and would have feared for their existence. So the Saviour indrew His glory into Himself, as it were the vastest of lightning-flashes into the minutest of bodies, or as the sudden cessation of light when the eyelids close, and so descended to the heavenly dome; and reaching the star-belt there, again indrew His glory, for even the apparently most minute light-giver of the star-sphere is a sun illuminating all space; and so the Saviour withdrew His glory again and entered into the domain of the third sphere of the third æon. And so He entered even into the darkness; that is to say, was incarnated in a body.

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And His baptism was in this wise: He washed himself in the Jordan (the stream of the Logos), and after this purification in the water He became possessed of a spiritual body, a copy or impression of his virgin-made physical body; so that when the world-ruler (the god of generation) condemned his own plasm (the physical body) to death, i.e., the cross, the spiritual body, nourished in the virgin physical body, might strip off the physical body, and nail it to the "tree," and thus the Christ would triumph over the powers and authorities of the world-ruler, and not be found naked; for He would put on His new spiritual body of perfection instead of another body of flesh. Thus the saying: "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of the heavens; that which is born of the flesh is flesh."

As to Jesus Christ, the Gnostic writer wisely remarks that this ideal can be seen from many sides; that each school has its own view, some a low, some a high view; and that this is in the nature of things. Finally none but the real Gnostics, that is those who have passed through initiations similar to those of Jesus, can understand the mystery face to face.

It would seem hardly necessary to point out to the student of Gnosticism the striking similarity between the general outlines of this system and the leading ideas of the contents of the Bruce and Askew Codices; and yet no one has previously remarked them.

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« Reply #53 on: February 26, 2009, 01:09:24 pm »

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HIPPOLYTUS devotes his next section to a certain Monoïmus, who is only mentioned by one other hæresiologist, namely Theodoret, in a brief paragraph. Monoïmus was an Arabian and lived somewhere in the latter half of the second century. His system is based on the idea of the Heavenly Man, the universe, and the Son of this Man, the perfect man, all other men being but imperfect reflections of the one ideal type.

Number-theories.His general ideas attach themselves to the cycle of Gnostic literature of which we are treating, and are elaborated by many mathematical and geometrical considerations from the Pythagoræan and Platonic traditions. The theory of numbers and the geometrical composition of the universe from elements which are symbolized by the five Platonic solids--namely, the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron--are developed. All these geometrical symbols are produced by the monad, which he calls the iōta, the yod, and the "one horn." It is our old friend the serpentine force, the horn of plenty, the rod of Moses and of Hermes; in other words, it is the atom which is said by seers to be a "conical" swirl of forces. This monad is in numbers the decad, the perfect number and completion of the first series of numbers, after which the whole process begins again.

Now it was Moses’ rod which brought to pass the plagues of Egypt according to the myth. These

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[paragraph continues] "plagues" are nothing else but transmutations of the matter of the physical body, e.g., water into blood, etc., all of which is quaintly worked out by the writer.

The whole of this system, indeed, opens up a number of important considerations which would lead us far beyond the scope of the present essay. Monoïmus was undoubtedly a contemporary of the Valentinian school, if not a pupil of Valentinus, and the garbled version of his system as preserved by Hippolytus can be made to yield many important points which will throw light on the "theological arithmetic" of the Gnostic doctors. This may be proved some day still to preserve a seed which may grow into a tree of real mathematical knowledge.

We will conclude our sketch of the tenets of

Monoïmus by quoting his opinion on the way to seek How to seek after God. for God. In a letter to a certain Theophrastus, he writes: "Cease to seek after God (as without thee), and the universe, and things similar to these; seek Him from out of thyself, and learn who it is, who once and for all appropriateth all in thee unto Himself, and sayeth: 'My god, my mind, my reason, my soul, my body.' And learn whence is sorrow and joy, and love and hate, and waking though one would not, and sleeping though one would not, and getting angry though one would not, and falling in love though one would not. And if thou shouldst closely investigate these things, thou wilt find Him in thyself, one and many, just as the atom; thus finding from thyself a way out of thyself."

All of this re-echoes very distinctly the teaching of the earlier Trismegistic literature.

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« Reply #54 on: February 26, 2009, 01:09:41 pm »

The Obscurity of the Subject.BEFORE returning again towards the time of the origins along another line of tradition, of which one or two obscure indications still remain--the Carpocrates-Cerinthus trace--we will briefly refer to the obscure chaos of tendencies classed together under the term "Cainite" and its variants. Our sources of information are scanty, and (if we exclude the mere mention of the name) are confined to Irenæus and Epiphanius; the latter, moreover, copies from Irenæus, and with the exception of his own reflections and lucubrations, has only a scrap or two of fresh information to add.

This line of tradition is again generally classed as "Ophite," and as usual we find that its adherents called themselves simply Gnostics. They were distinguished by the honour they paid to Cain and Judas; which fact, taken by itself, was sufficient to overwhelm them with the execrations of the orthodox, who ascribed the perpetration of every iniquity to them. Thus we find that Epiphanius, who wrote two hundred years after Irenæus, embroiders considerably on the account of the Bishop of Lyons, even where he is in other respects simply copying from his predecessor. We will now proceed to see the reason why these Gnostics entertained an apparently so strange belief.

If the reader will bear in mind the systems of Justinus and of the Sethians, he will be in a better position to comprehend what follows. The main

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features of the system of these Gnostics, then, is as follows.

The creator of the world was not the God over all; the absolute power from above was stronger than the weaker (ἡστέρα--hystera) power of generation, which was symbolized as the power of the impure world-womb, containing heaven and earth within it--the sensible world. But this sensible world was, as it were, an after-birth (ὕστερα--hystera), compared with the true birth from the virgin spiritual womb, the ideal world of the æons above. Epiphanius has made a great muddle of this part of the system; it is evidently consanguineous with the Valentinian "deficiency" (ὑστέρημα--hysterēma), or "abortion," the sensible world, without or external to the ideal fullness or perfection (πλήρωμα--plērōma), or world of the æons.

The inferior power, therefore, was the God of generation, the superior the God of enlightenment The Enemies of Yahweh the Friends of God. and wisdom. The Old Testament idea of God went no further than obedience to the commands of the inferior power. Those who had obeyed its behests were regarded as the worthies of old by the followers of the External Law, who, seeing no further, had in their traditions vilified all who refused to follow this law, the commands of the inferior power of generation. Thus Abel and Jacob and Lot and Moses were praised by the followers of the law of generation; whereas in reality it was the opponents of these who ought to be praised, as followers of the Higher Law who despised the laws of the powers of generation, and were thus

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protected by Wisdom and taken to herself, to the æon above. They therefore claimed that Cain and Esau, and the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain, and Coran, Dathan and Abiram, were types of those individuals or nations who had followed a higher law, and who, apparently, were calumniated by the followers of Yahweh.

We can here see very plainly the traces of the same antitheses as those worked out by Justinus; the influence of the psychic powers or angels being traceable along the Abel line of descent, and that of the spiritual powers along the Cain line. Abel was the offerer of blood-sacrifices, while Cain offered the fruits of the field. This antithetical device, in one form or other, was common enough--as for instance, the later Ebionite antitheses of superior and inferior men (Isaac-Ishmael, Jacob-Esau, Moses-Aaron), or the Marcionite antitheses of the God of freedom and the God of the law, the God of the Christ and the Yahweh of the Old Testament--but the school whose tenets we are describing, seem, in their contempt for Yahweh, to have pushed their theories to the most extravagant conclusion of any. This is especially brought out in their ideas of New Testament history, which, in spite of their strangeness, may nevertheless contain a small trace of the true tradition of the cause of Jesus’ death.

Judas.This Gnostic circle had a number of writings, chief amongst which were two small summaries of instruction, one called The Gospel of Judas, and the other The Ascent of Paul. To take the latter first; The Ascent of Paul purported to,

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contain the record of the ineffable things which Paul is reported to have seen when he ascended into the third heaven. Whether this was the same as The Apocalypse of Paul referred to by Augustine is uncertain; in any case it is lost. A more orthodox version of one of the documents of the same cycle has come down to us in The Vision of Paul, a translation of which may be read in the last volume of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library (1897). If we can rely on this title, for which Epiphanius alone is responsible, the school of the Cainites is consequently post-Pauline.

But the strangest and, from one point of view, the most interesting development of their theory, was the view they took of Judas. The "Poor Men's" (Ebionite) tradition had consistently handed over Judas to universal execration; there was, however, apparently another tradition, presumably Essene in the first place, which took a different view of the matter. Obscure traces of this seem to be preserved in the unintelligent Irenæus-Epiphanius account of the Cainite doctrines.

This circle of students looked upon Judas as a man far advanced in the discipline of the Gnosis, and one who had a very clear idea of the true. God as distinguished from the God of generation; he consequently taught a complete divorcement from the things of the world and thus from the inferior power, which had made the heaven, the world and the flesh. Man was to ascend to the highest region through the crucifixion of the Christ. The Christ was the spirit which came down from above, in order that the

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stronger power of the spiritual world might be perfected in man; and so Jesus triumphed over the weaker power of generation at the expense of his body, which he handed over to death, one of the manifestations of the God of generation. This was the christological doctrine of the school, and it was apparently, judging from the "he says" of Epiphanius, taken from The Gospel of Judas.

A Scrap of History.But besides this general mystical teaching, there was also a historical tradition: that Jesus, after becoming the Christ and teaching the higher doctrine, fell away, in their opinion, and endeavoured to overset the law and corrupt the holy doctrine, and therefore Judas had him handed over to the authorities. That is to say, those to whom Jesus originally taught the higher doctrine considered that his too open preaching to the people was a divulging of the Mysteries, and so finally brought about his condemnation for blasphemy by the orthodox Jewish authorities.

Yet another more mystical tradition, preserved in one of their books, declared that, on the contrary, the Christ had not made a mistake, but that all had been done according to the heavenly wisdom. For the world-rulers knew that if the Christ were betrayed to the cross, that is to say, were incarnated, the inferior power would be drained out of them and they would ascend to the spiritual æon. Now Judas knew this, and, in his great faith, used every means to bring about His betrayal, and in this way the salvation of the world. These Gnostics consequently praised Judas as being one of the main

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factors in the scheme of salvation; without him the mystic "salvation of the cross" would not have been consummated, nor the consequent revelation of the realms above.

The Cainite circle, therefore, from their doctrines appear to have been rigid ascetics. But, says Epiphanius, embroidering on Irenæus, they were very dreadful people, and, like Carpocrates, taught that a man could not be saved without going through every kind of experience. We will therefore now take a brief glance at the views of the Carpocratians.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #55 on: February 26, 2009, 01:10:16 pm »

OUR main source of information is Irenæus; Tertullian, Hippolytus and Epiphanius simply copy their predecessor. Carpocrates, or Carpocras, was (according to Eusebius) a Platonic philosopher who taught at Alexandria in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138); he was also the head of a Gnostic circle, whom the Church fathers call Carpocratians, but who called themselves simply Gnostics. With regard to the charge which Epiphanius brings against them two hundred and fifty years afterwards, it is evidently founded on a complete misunderstanding of the jumbled account of Irenæus, if not of malice prepense; for the Bishop of Lyons distinctly says, that he by no means believes that they did the things which he thinks they ought to have done, if they had consistently carried out their teachings! As a matter of fact, the whole confusion arises through

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the incapacity of the latter Church Father to understand the elements of the doctrine of rebirth. The main tenets of the school were as follows.

Their Idea of Jesus.The sensible world was made by the fabricating powers, or builders, far inferior to the ineffable power of the unknown ingenerable Father. Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, and was born like all other men; he differed from the rest in that his soul, being strong and pure, remembered what it saw in its orbit round (or conversation with) the ineffable Father. This is also the idea (lying behind the Pythagorean, Platonic and Hermetic traditions) of the orderly course of the soul in harmonious circuit round the Spiritual Sun, in the Plain of Truth, when it is in its own nature. In consequence of this reminiscence (which is the source of all wisdom and virtue) the Father clothed him with powers, whereby he might escape from the dominion of the rulers of the world, and passing through all their spheres, and being freed from each, finally ascend to the Father. In like manner all souls of a like nature who put forth similar efforts, shall ascend to the Father. Though the soul of Jesus was brought up in the ordinary Jewish views, he soared above them, and thus by the powers he received from above, he triumphed over human passions.

Believing, then, that all souls which rise above the constraints of the world-building rulers, will receive similar powers and perform like wonders, these Gnostics still further claimed that some of their number had actually attained to the same degree of perfection as Jesus, if not to a higher

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degree, and were stronger than Peter and Paul, and the other Apostles who had attained similar powers.

In fact they boldly taught that men could reach higher degrees of illumination than Jesus; it is not, however, clear whether they made the usual distinction between Jesus and the Christ. These powers were of a "magical" nature, and the next paragraph of Irenæus puts us strongly in mind of the tenets of the "Simonian" school. Such ideas seem to have been very prevalent, so much so that Irenæus complains that outsiders were induced to think that such views were the common belief of Christianity.

The next paragraph deals with the doctrine that there is no essential evil in the universe, Reincarnation. but that things are bad and good in man's opinion only. Let us, therefore, see how Irenæus, from his summary of their doctrine of rebirth, arrives at this generalisation.

The soul has to pass through every kind of existence and activity in its cycle of rebirth. Irenæus is apparently drawing his information from a MS. which asserted that this could be done in one life; that is to say, apparently, that some souls then existing in the world could pay their kārmic debt in one life. For the MS. quotes the saying, "Agree with thine adversary quickly whiles thou art in the way with him, lest at any time thine adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to his officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen, I say unto thee, thou shalt not come forth thence till thou has paid the uttermost

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farthing." Now, the adversary is the accuser (diabolus), that is to say the karmic record in the man's own nature; the judge is the chief of the world-building powers; the officer is the builder of the new body; the prison is the body. Thus the MS. explains the text--precisely the same exegesis as is given to it in the Pistis Sophia treatise, which explains all in the fullest manner on the lines of reincarnation and what Indian philosophers call karma.

But not so will Irenæus have it. He asserts that the doctrine means that the soul must pass through all experience good and bad, and until every experience has been learned, no one can be set free. That some souls can do all this in one life! That the Carpocratians, therefore, must have indulged in the most unmentionable crimes because they wished to fill full the tale of all experience good and bad, and so come to an end of the necessity of experience.

Irenæus, however, immediately afterwards adds that he does not believe the Carpocratians actually do such things, although he is forced to deduce such a logical consequence from their books. It is, however, evident that the whole absurd conclusion is entirely due to the stupidity of the Bishop of Lyons, who, owing to his inability to understand the most elementary facts of the doctrine of reincarnation, has started with entirely erroneous premises, although the matter was as clear as daylight to a beginner in Gnosticism.

The circle of the Carpocratians is said to have established a branch at Rome, about 150, under a

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certain Marcellina. They had pictures and statues of many great teachers who were held in honour by their school, such as Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, and also a portrait of Jesus.

It is curious to remark that Celsus, as quoted by Origen (c. 62), in referring to these Marcellians, also mentions the Harpocratians who derived their tenets from Salōmē. Is it possible that this is the correct form of the name, and not Carpocratians? Harpocrates was the Græcised form of Horus, the Mystery-God of the Egyptians; and Salōmē, we know, was a prominent figure in the lost Gospel according to the Egyptians.

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« Reply #56 on: February 26, 2009, 01:10:37 pm »

WE next pass on to the contradictory and manifestly absurd legends, which Patristic writers have woven round the second best-known name of the Carpocratian circle. We have already referred to the extraordinary blunder of Epiphanius, who has ascribed a whole system of the Gnosis, which he found in Irenæus assigned simply to a "distinguished teacher" (probably the Valentinian Marcus), to this Epiphanes; the Greek for "distinguished" being also "eiphanes."

This is excusable in a certain measure, seeing that Epiphanius wrote at the end of the fourth century (at least 250 years after the time of the actual Epiphanes) when any means of discrediting a heretic were considered justifiable; but what shall we say of Clement

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of Alexandria, who is generally fair, and who lived in the same century as Epiphanes? His blunder is even more extraordinary. This is his legend. Epiphanes was the son of Carpocrates and Alexandria, a lady of Cephallenia. He died at the early age of seventeen, and was worshipped as a god with the most elaborate and lascivious rites by the Cephallenians, in the great temple of Samē, on the day of the new moon.

Such an extraordinary legend could not long escape the penetrating criticism of modern scholarship, and as early as Mosheim the key was found to the mystery. Volkmar has worked this out in detail, showing that the festival at Samē was in honour of the moon-god, and accompanied with licentious rites. It was called the Epiphany (τὰ Ἐπιφάνια) in honour of Epiphanes (ὁ Ἐπιφανής), the "newly-appearing one," the new moon. This moon lasted some seventeen days. Thus Clement of Alexandria, deceived by the similarity of the names and also by the story of licentious rites, bequeathed to posterity a scandalous libel. It is almost to be doubted whether any Epiphanes existed. Clement further asserts that among the Carpocratians one of their most circulated books was a treatise On Justice, of which he had seen a copy. He ascribes this to Epiphanes, but it is scarcely possible to believe that a boy of seventeen or less could have composed an abstract dissertation on justice.

Communism.We thus come to the conclusion that the Carpocratians, or Harpocratians, were a Gnostic circle in Alexandria at the beginning of the second century, and that some of their ideas were

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set forth in a book concerning justice, a copy of which had come into the hands of Clement. This Gnostic community was much exercised with the idea of communism as practised by the early Christian circles; being also students of Plato, they wished to reduce the idea to the form of a philosophical principle and carry it out to its logical conclusion. The false ideas of meum and tuum were no longer to exist; private property was the origin of all human miseries and the departure from the happy days of early freedom. There was, therefore, to be community of everything, wives and husbands included--thus carrying out in some fashion that most curious idea, of Plato's as set forth in The Republic. We have, however, no reliable evidence that our Gnostics carried these ideas into practice; it is also highly improbable that men of education and refinement, as the Gnostics usually were, who came to such views through the Pythagorean and Platonic discipline, and through the teachings of Jesus--the sine quâ non condition of such ideal communities being that they should consist of "gnostics" and be ruled by "philosophers"--should have turned their meetings into orgies of lasciviousness. Such, however, is the accusation brought against them by Clement. This has already been in part refuted by what has been said above; but it is not improbable that there were communities at Alexandria and elsewhere, calling themselves Christian, who did confuse the Agapæ or Love-feasts of the early times with the orgies and feasts of the ignorant populace. The Pagans brought such accusations against the Christians indiscriminately,

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and the Christian sects against one another; and it is quite credible that such abuses did creep in among the ignorant and vicious.

The Monadic Gnosis.The Carpocratian school has been sometimes claimed, though I think improperly, as the originator of the so-called Monadic Gnosis. This idea has been worked out in much detail by Neander. The following summary by Salmon will, however, be sufficient for the general reader to form an idea of the theory.

"From one eternal Monad all existence has flowed, and to this it strives to return. But the finite spirits who rule over several portions of the world counteract this universal striving after unity. From them the different popular religions, and in particular the Jewish, have proceeded. Perfection is attained by those souls who, led on by reminiscences of their former conditions, soar above all limitation and diversity to the contemplation of the higher unity. They despise the restriction imposed by the mundane spirits; they regard externals as of no importance, and faith and love as the only essentials; meaning by faith, mystical brooding of the mind absorbed in the original unity. In this way they escape the dominion of the finite mundane spirits; their souls are freed from imprisonment in matter, and they obtain a state of perfect repose (corresponding to the Buddhist Nirvāna) when they have completely ascended above the world of appearance."

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« Reply #57 on: February 26, 2009, 01:11:15 pm »

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CONTINUING to pick our way back along this trace towards the times of the origins, we next come upon the circle of the Cerinthians (or the Merinthians, according to the variant of Epiphanius). They are said to derive their name from a certain Cerinthus, who is placed in "apostolic times," that is to say the latter half of the first century.

Epiphanius has busied himself exceedingly over Cerinthus, and cleverly made him a scapegoat for the The Scapegoat for "Pillar-apostles." "pillar-apostles’" antagonism to Paul. Most writers the have followed his lead, and explained away a number of compromising statements in the Acts and Pauline Letters by this device. Impartial criticism, however, has to reject the lucubrations of the late Epiphanius, and go back to the short account of Irenæus, from whom all later writers have copied. Irenæus, who was himself a full century after Cerinthus, has only a brief paragraph on the subject.

Cerinthus is the strongest trace between Ebionism, or the original external non-Pauline tradition, and the beginning of the second century. He is supposed to have come into personal contact with John, the reputed writer of the fourth Gospel; but the same story is told of the mythic Ebion, and it must therefore be dismissed as destitute of all historical value.

Cerinthus is said to have been trained in the "Egyptian discipline," and to have taught in Asia Minor. The Egyptian discipline is supposed to mean

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The Over-writer of the Apocalypse.the Philonic school, but this is a mere assumption. In any case the importance of Cerinthus, whom some Gnostics claimed to have been the writer of the Apocalypse orthodoxly ascribed to John, is that his name has preserved one of the earliest forms of Christian tradition. Its cosmogony declared the stupendous excellence of the God over all, beyond the subordinate power, the World-fashioner. Its christology declared that Jesus was son of Joseph and Mary; that at his "baptism" the Christ, the "Father in the form of a dove," descended upon him, and only then did he begin to prophesy and do mighty works, and preach the hitherto unknown Father (unknown to the Jews), the God over all. That the Christ then left him; and then Jesus suffered, and rose again (that is, appeared to his followers after death).

Such is the account of Irenæus, which seems to be straightforward and reliable enough as far as it goes. The scripture of the Cerinthians was not the recension of the Sayings ascribed to "Matthew," but a still earlier collection in Hebrew. All other collections and recensions were rejected as utterly apocryphal. The Greek writer of the fourth canonical Gospel is said to have composed his account in opposition to the school of Cerinthus, but this hypothesis is not borne out by any evidence.

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« Reply #58 on: February 26, 2009, 01:11:29 pm »

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"Which things I hate."WE have now got back to such early times that even the faintest glimmer of historical light fails us; we which are deep down in the sombre region of legend and things I hate. speculation. We will, therefore, plunge no farther into the dark depths of the cave of the origins, but once more retrace our steps to the mouth of the cavern, where at least some fitful gleams of daylight struggle through. But before doing so, we must call the reader's attention to a just discernible shadow of early Gnosticism, the circle of the Nicolaïtans. These Gnostics are of special interest to the orthodox, because the over-writer of the Apocalypse has twice gone out of his way to tell us that he hates their doings. Encouraged by this phrase, Irenæus includes the Nicolaïtans in the writer's condemnation of some of the members of the church of Pergamus, who apparently "ate things sacrificed to idols and committed fornication." Subsequent hæresiologists, in their turn encouraged by Irenæus, added further embellishments, until finally Epiphanius makes Nicolaus the father of every enormity he had collected or invented against the Gnostics. And then, with all this "evidence" of his iniquity before him, Epiphanius proceeds rhetorically to address the shade of the unfortunate Gnostic: "What, then, am I to say to thee, O Nicolaus?" For ourselves we are surprised that so inventive a genius as the Bishop of Salamis should have drawn breath even to put so rhetorical a question.

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Tradition claims Nicolaus as an ascetic, and relates an exaggerated instance of his freedom from passion. Even granted that he taught that the eating of sacrificial viands was not a deadly sin, there seems no reason why we to-day should follow these Church Fathers in their condemnation of everything but their own particular view of the Christ's doctrine.

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« Reply #59 on: February 26, 2009, 01:11:40 pm »

The Master of Marcion.LET us now return to the historical twilight of the second century, and turn our attention to the great Basilidian and Valentinian developments. But before doing so, it will be convenient to give a brief sketch of the great and contemporaneous Marcionite movement, which at one time threatened to absorb the whole of Christendom. The method of this school was the direct prototype of the method of modern criticism. Its conclusions, however, were far more sweeping; for it not only rejected the Old Testament entirely, but also the whole of the documents of the "in order that it might be fulfilled" school of Gospel-compilation.

The predecessor of Marcion is said to have been a certain Cerdo, of Syrian extraction, who flourished at Rome about 135 A.D. But the fame of Marcion so eclipsed the name of his preceptor, that Patristic writers frequently confuse not only their teachings but even the men themselves. It is interesting to note that, though Cerdo's relationship with the Church of Rome was unsettled, no distinct sentence of

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excommunication is recorded against him; it would, therefore, appear that the idea of a rigid canon of orthodoxy was not yet developed even in the exclusive mind of the Roman presbytery. It was no doubt the success of Marcion that precipitated the formulation of the idea of the canon in the mind of the Roman church, the pioneer of subsequent orthodoxy.

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