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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 #75 on: February 26, 2009, 01:17:06 pm »

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Biography.As to his biography, we know next to nothing. Valentinus was an Egyptian, educated at Alexandria in all that Egypt and Greece had to teach him. The mysterious lore of ancient Khem, the "mathēsis" of Pythagoras, the wisdom of Plato, all helped to fashion his character. But the greatest inspiration of all he found in the last outpouring from the same source from which the wisdom of every true philosopher comes--the stream of Christianity that was swirling along at full tide. But what kind of Christianity did Valentinus encounter at Alexandria? There was no Catechetical School when he was a boy. Pantænus and Clement were not as yet. There were the Logoi, the Sayings of the Lord, and many contradictory traditions; a Pauline community also, doubtless founded by some missionary from Asia Minor; and numerous legends of the mysterious Gnosis which Jesus had secretly taught to those who could comprehend. But, above all things, at the back were the inner schools and communities of the wisdom-traditions and the Gnosis. Valentinus must have been in closest intimacy with Basilides, though he is said to have stated that a certain Theodas, an "apostolic man," was his witness to the direct tradition of the Gnosis. Nothing is known of this Theodas or Theudas, and Ussher has even assumed that it was a contraction for Theodotus, a conjecture in which he has been followed by Zahn. This theory

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would thus make the Theodotus of the Excerpts in Clement an older authority than Valentinus himself, which would still further complicate the Eastern and Western school question, and, in fact, change the whole problem of Valentinian origins. All we can say here is that the view is not entirely improbable, and would clear the ground on certain important points.

In addition there were at Alexandria, in the great library and in the private libraries of the mystics, all those various sources of information, and in the intellectual and religious atmosphere of the place all those synthetical and theosophical tendencies which make for the formulation of a universal system of religion. And this we know was the task that Valentinus set before him as his goal. He determined to syntheticize the Gnosis, every phase of which was already in some sort a synthesis. But in so doing, Valentinus did not propose to attack or abandon the general faith, or to estrange the popular evolution of Christianity which has since been called the Catholic Church. He most probably remained a Catholic Christian to the end of his life. It is true that we read of his excommunication in Tertullian, coupled with the favourite accusation brought against prominent heretics, that he apostatized from the Church because his candidature for the episcopal office was rejected. Tertullian imagined that this took place at Rome; but, even if so, did Rome speak in the name of the Catholic Church in those early days? Would Alexandria, the philosophic, recognize the ruling of disciplinarian Rome? Or

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did Rome excommunicate Valentinus after his death, a favourite way with her in after times of finishing a controversy? Or is not Tertullian romancing here as is not infrequently the case? Epiphanius distinctly states that Valentinus was regarded as orthodox so long as he was at Rome, and Tertullian himself also, in another place, adds fifteen years of orthodoxy on to the date of his leaving Rome.

Date.Valentinus seems to have passed the greater part of his life in Egypt; he was, however, if we can trust our authorities, for some considerable time at Rome, somewhere between 138 and 160. One authority also says that he was at Cyprus.

The date of his death is absolutely unknown; critics mostly reckon it about 161, but in order to arrive at this conclusion, they reject the distinct statement of Tertullian that Valentinus was still an orthodox member of the Church up to the time of Eleutherus (c. 175); and the equally distinct statement of Origen, that he was personally acquainted with Valentinus. This would set back Origen's own date of birth and advance the date of Valentinus' death; but as both are problematical, we have nothing to fear from the putting back of the one and the putting forward of the other ten years or so.

On the whole I am inclined to assign the date of Valentinus to the first eighty years of the second century. In further support of this length of days, I would invite the reader to reflect on the extraordinary fact that, though the name of Valentinus is in the mouth of everyone of the time, and though his fame entirely eclipses that of every other name

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of this most important Gnostic cycle, the words and deeds of the great coryphæus of Gnosticism are almost entirely without record, and, stranger than all, he is regarded, at any rate for the major part of his life, as orthodox. This strange fact requires explanation, and I would venture to suggest that the explanation is to be found to a great extent in the extraordinary reserve and secrecy of the man. He was an enigma not only to the generality, but even to those who regarded him as a teacher.

The Gnosis in his hands is trying to forestall "orthodoxy," to embrace everything, even the most dogmatic formulation of the traditions of the Master. The great popular movement and its incomprehensibilities were recognized by Valentinus as an integral part of the mighty out-pouring; he laboured to weave all together, external and internal, into one piece, devoted his life to the task, and doubtless only at his death perceived that for that age he was attempting the impossible. None but the very few could ever appreciate the ideal of the man, much less understand it.

None of his technical treatises were ever published; his letters and homilies alone were circulated.

After leaving Rome he is practically lost to the sight of the Western hæresiologists. Where Writings. he went, what he did, and how long he lived after that, is almost entirely conjectural. But if it be ever shown to be true that such documents as the Pistis Sophia are specimens of the workshop to which he belonged, we can at least conjecturally answer that he went back to Alexandria, where he

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finished his life in the retirement that such abstruse literary labours required.

Of his writings, besides the fact that they were numerous and his technical treatises exceedingly difficult and abstruse, we know very little. He composed numerous Letters and Homilies and Psalms. We are also told that he composed a Gospel, but this is supposed to be a false assumption--false, that is to say, if by Gospel is meant a Gospel containing the Sayings of the Lord. But may not Gospel here be used in the Basilidian sense of an exposition of the Gnosis, or knowledge of the things beyond the phenomenal world?

Tertullian also tells us that Valentinus composed a treatise entitled Sophia, or Wisdom, Some critics have asserted that the words of Tertullian do not refer to a book but to the Wisdom which Valentinus claimed to teach; but if this were so, the antithesis which Tertullian makes between the Wisdom of Valentinus and the Wisdom of Solomon would lose all its point. The Wisdom of Solomon is a book, the Wisdom of Valentinus should also be a book; if it were intended to mean simply the Gnosis which Valentinus taught, then its proper antithesis would have been the Wisdom of God and not of Solomon.

The Fragments that remain.We have now to treat of the few fragments of the works of this prolific writer which have come down to us in the writings of the Church Fathers. The latest collection of 'them is by Hilgenfeld (1884), whose "emendations," however, we shall not always follow. The fragments consist of a few scraps of letters and homilies preserved by

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[paragraph continues] Clement of Alexandria, and two pieces in The Philosophumena--the narrative of a vision and the scrap of a psalm.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #76 on: February 26, 2009, 01:17:26 pm »

i. From a Letter.
"And just as terror of that creature [lit., plasm] seized hold of the angels [the fabricative powers], Concerning the Creation of the First Race of Mankind. when it gave voice to things greater than had been used in its fashioning, owing to the presence in it of Him [the Logos] who, unseen to them [the powers], had bestowed on it the seed of the supernal essence [the ego], and who spake of realities face to face; in like manner also among the races of humanity, the works of men become a terror to them who make them--such as statues and images, and all things which [men's] hands fashion to bear the name of God. For Adam being fashioned to bear the name of the [Heavenly] Man [the Logos], spread abroad the terror of that pre-existing Man, for in very truth he had His being in him. And they [the powers] were struck with terror, and [in their terror] speedily marred the work [of their hands]."

Here we have the Gnostic myth of the genesis of man, which is already familiar to us in the general tradition of the Gnosis.

The plasm, or primitive form of man, which could neither stand nor walk--the embryonic sphere of Plato's Timæus--is evolved by the powers of nature, as the outcome of evolution; into it Deity breathes the mind, and man is immediately raised above the rest of the creation and its powers.

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[paragraph continues] Nevertheless his body is still feeble, and the nature-powers, in fear of the mind within--the "name" of the Heavenly Man--war on him, and only by slow degrees does the mind of man learn to overcome them.

The Heavenly Man is the perfect type of all Humanities, and the "name" is no name, but that mysterious something which decides the nature and class and being of every creature. Man alone down here has the divine "name" or nature alive within him.

The "prehistoric" world, with which Egypt was in direct traditional contact, made much of this "name"; statues and talismans and amulets, if made in a certain manner, were supposed to be a nearer approach to the perfect type either of manhood or of nature-organism, and on these fabrications of men's hands the "name" of this or that supernal power was thought to be bestowed by "Him who speaks face to face." Here we have a hint of the explanation given of "idol-worship" by the initiated priests of antiquity, which idea was thus woven into the scheme of universal Gnosis by Valentinus.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #77 on: February 26, 2009, 01:17:41 pm »

ii. From a Letter.
On the Pure in Heart."One [alone] is Good, whose free utterance is His manifestation through his Son; it is by Him alone that the heart can become pure, [and that too only] when every evil essence has been expelled out of it. Now its purity is prevented by the many essences which take up their abode in it, for each of them accomplishes its own deeds, outraging it in

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divers fashions with unseemly lusts. As far as I can see, the heart seems to receive somewhat the same treatment as an inn [or caravanserai], which has holes and gaps made in its walls, and is frequently filled with dung, men living filthily in it and taking no care of the place  as being someone else's property. Thus it is with the heart so long as it has no care taken of it, ever unclean and the abode of many dæmons [elemental essences]. But when the Alone Good Father path regard unto it, it is sanctified and shineth with light; and he who possesseth such a heart, is so blessed that 'he shall see God.'"

Here we have the very same doctrine as that enunciated by Basilides and Isidorus with regard to the "appendages" of the soul, as indeed is pointed out by Clement. The doctrine was an exceedingly ancient one in Egypt. In the so-called Book of the Dead we read, that the "heart" is a distinct personality within the man (the "purusha [or man] in the æther of the heart" of the Upanishads); and not only this, but the formula referred to and its explanatory texts teach us that "it is not the heart that sins but only its fleshly envelope." (Cf. Wiedemann's Relig. of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 287; 1897.) Isidorus, as we have already seen, guarded against making the "appendages" the scapegoat, and fixed the responsibility on the "heart" proper, the "ancestral heart"--"guardian of my fleshes"--the reincarnating entity. It is, however, quite true that the passions are connected with the blood, and so with the "fleshly envelope,"

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or physical heart, in which the real "heart" is said to be enshrined.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #78 on: February 26, 2009, 01:17:54 pm »

iii. From the Letter to Agathōpus.
Concerning the One of the Powers of the Perfect man.The "free utterance," or perfect expression, of the Alone Good can only be manifested by the man made perfect. Such a man was Jesus. Thus we find Valentinus writing to Agathōpus as follows:

"It was by his unremitting self-denial in all things that Jesus attained to [lit., gained by working] godship; he ate and drank in a peculiar manner, without any waste. The power of continence was so great in him, that his food did not decay in him, for he himself was without decay."

It is said that the physical body can be gradually accustomed to less and less nutriment, and innumerable cases are on record in the East of holy ascetics who have been able to support life on incredibly small quantities of food. The "power" described above by Valentinus is one of the siddhis mentioned in every treatise on yoga in India, and in the Upanishads we read that "very little waste" is one of the first signs of "success in yoga." We are also told that in the highest stages, after the particles of the body have been entirely refined and made to obey the higher will of the ascetic, a body of a still higher grade of matter can be gradually substituted; and apparently some such ideas as these (together with other notions) lay behind the doctrine of docetism which was an integral part of the Gnosis.

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[paragraph continues] Clement himself also shared like views, and so did some other Fathers.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #79 on: February 26, 2009, 01:18:15 pm »

iv. From a Homily.
"From the very beginning have ye been immortal and children of life--such life as the æons enjoy;Ye are the Sons of God. yet would ye have death shared up among you, to spend and lavish it, so that death might die in you and by your hands; for inasmuch as ye dissolve the world and are not dissolved yourselves, ye are lords of all creation and destruction."

Here we have the burden of the teaching in one of the treatises of the Codex Brucianus--to crucify the world and not let the world crucify us--and of the Pistis Sophia treatise, "Know ye not that ye are all gods and lords?" The Self within the heart, the seed of the divine, the pneumatic light-spark, the dweller in light, the inner man, was the eternal pilgrim incarnated in matter; those who had this alive and conscious within them were the spiritual or pneumatic. To such Valentinus is speaking.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #80 on: February 26, 2009, 01:18:31 pm »

v. A few Sentences preserved in the Controversial Matter of Clement following the above Quotation, and probably taken from a Writing of Valentinus.
The "elect race," the third Sonship of Basilides, has incarnated here for the abolition of "death,"The Face of God. the domain of the Ruler of the phenomenal world, the saṁsāra of the Buddhist and Indian philosophers, the realm of the "ever-becoming" of Plato. This Ruler is the God of the Old Testament. "No

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man shall see the face of God and live." This is the face of death, but there is also a face of life, concerning which Valentinus writes:

"As far removed as is the [dead image] from the living face, so far is the [phenomenal] world removed from the living æon [the noumenal]. What then is the cause of the image? The majesty of the [living] face, [or person,] which exhibits the type [of the universe] to the painter, and in order that it [the universe] may be honoured by its name [--the name or real being of the majesty of the godhead]. For it is not the authentic [or absolute] nature which is found in the form; it is the name which completes the deficiency in the confection. The invisible nature of deity co-operates so as to induce faith in that which has been fashioned."

Here we have the same idea as in Fragment i., and presumably it was taken from the same Letter. The "painter" is of course the user of the creative forces of the phenomenal world, who copies from the types or ideas in the noumenal world of reality. He whom the Jews called God and Father, was said by Valentinus to be the "image and prophet of the true God," the word prophet meaning one who speaks for and interprets. The "image" is the work of Sophia or Wisdom, who is the "painter" who transfers the types from the noumenal spaces on to the canvas of the phenomenal world, and the "true God" or the "God of truth" is the creator of the noumenal world, which contains the types of all things. He is the god of life; the "image" is the god of death.

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"All things that come forth from a pair [or syzygy] are fullnesses (plērōmata), but all which proceed from a single [æon] are images."

This will be explained later on; it refers to the "fall" of Sophia from the æon-world, whereby the phenomenal universe came into existence.

The remarks of Clement which immediately follow are almost unintelligible; they deal with the coming of the "excellent" spirit, the infusion of the light-spark into man.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #81 on: February 26, 2009, 01:18:42 pm »

vi. From the Letter on the Community of Friends.
Concerning the People of the Beloved."Many of these things which are written in the public volumes, are found written in the Church of God. For those teachings which are common, are the words which proceed from the heart, the law written in the heart. This is the People of the Beloved who are loved by and love Him."

Clement assumes that Valentinus means by "public volumes" the Jewish writings and the books of the philosophers.

The "public volumes," however, for Valentinus included not only the works of the philosophers and the scriptures of the Jews, but also the scriptures of all other religions, and also the Christian documents in general circulation. He merely asserts that the only "common" or general truths are those pertaining to the Community of Friends, or Saints, who form the Church of God, the People of the Beloved. These truths come from the heart; he protests against the narrow view that can find truth in only one set of

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scriptures; and declares it is in all scriptures and philosophies, if one looks to the spirit and not the letter.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #82 on: February 26, 2009, 01:18:56 pm »

vii. A very doubtful Fragment from Eulogius of Alexandria writing at the end of the Sixth Century.
The Galileans.If this fragment can be accepted as genuine, we learn that the early Christians, whom Valentinus calls "the Galileans of the time of Christ," believed in the doctrine of two natures, whereas the Valentinians asserted that there was but one. This is quite credible, following on the lines of argument of Isidorus concerning the unit consciousness of the soul and its responsibility, and the teaching of Valentinus that Jesus "worked out" his own divinity.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #83 on: February 26, 2009, 01:19:20 pm »

viii. The Myth which Valentinus made.
Hippolytus (II.) inserts the following scrap of information in the midst of the lengthy description of the system of Marcus, which he copied from Irenæus:

The Wisdom of the "Little One.""Valentinus says that he once saw a child that had only just been born, and that he proceeded to question it to find out who it was. And the babe replied and said it was the Logos." To this, says Hippolytus, Valentinus subjoined a "tragic myth," which formed the basis of his teaching. Have we here an incident from the prologue to one of Valentinus’ treatises; and is the "tragic myth" Valentinus’ modification of the great Sophia-mythus which was the deus ex machinâ of part of his cosmogony?

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #84 on: February 26, 2009, 01:19:34 pm »

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ix. From a Psalm.
Finally from the same source, The Philosophumena, we recover the following lines; it is The Chain of Being. probable that Hippolytus took them from the same treatise from which he derived the above information, and that the Psalm endeavoured to explain why the new-born babe was the Logos, why "this" is "That," as the Upanishads have it, and all is one.

"All things depending in spirit I see;
All things supported in spirit I view;
    Flesh from soul depending;
    Soul by air supported;
    Air from æther hanging--
    Fruits borne of the deep--
    Babe borne of the womb."

Whether or not this exceedingly mystical Psalm was taken in the sense we have suggested above is merely problematical. Such mystic utterances could of course be interpreted from both the microcosmic and macrocosmic standpoints; and Hippolytus gives us what he asserts to be a Valentinian interpretation from the latter point of view.

The "flesh" is the Hylē (the Hebdomad of Basilides); the "soul" is that of the Demiurge (the "material" force of the ætheric spaces, the Ogdoad of Basilides); the Demiurge hangs from the Spirit, which from one point of view is the Great Limit or Boundary, separating the Plērōma, or world of reality, from the Kenōma or phenomenal universe,

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and from another is Sophia or Wisdom, in the Kingdom of the Midst. Thus the Demiurge hangs from Sophia; Sophia from the Great Boundary or Horos (a further differentiation of the Basilidian simple idea of the Great Firmament); Horos from the Plērōma, the Blessed Treasure of the æons; and this world of ideas, or Living Æon, from the Abyss or Great Depth, the Father, the God beyond being.

This is the Valentinian chain of being, the subordinate details of which are so abstruse and so complicated, that no one has hitherto been able to make any consistent scheme out of their chaotic and contradictory representations in the writings of the Fathers.

In the MS. of The Philosophumena the above fragment is prefixed by the disconnected word "Harvest." Hilgenfeld accordingly speaks of Valentinus "hymning the Great Harvest," which is a very grandiose conception, but an idea difficult to connect with the lines quoted.

Such is the poor sum total of our information as to what Valentinus actually taught himself--nine, or rather eight, shreds of fragments in all. Yet what strong, joyous words, bursting with life, in the midst of the dullness of the refutators' rhetoric.

To these fragments it might seem proper to append the account which Irenæus (cap. 11) copied from a former hæresiological writer. It is generally assumed that this more ancient authority was Justin Martyr; but whoever he may have been, he was a mere summarizer, and even at that early date in hæresiology (cir. 150), was struggling with the contradictory

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accounts he had heard of the "Valentinian" Gnosis. I, therefore, consider this source as no more worthy of special notice than the other summaries of general so-called Valentinian doctrine found in the writings of the Fathers. We have nothing certain to learn in it of the teaching of Valentinus himself, and that is the only search on which we are at present engaged.

Thus we take our farewell of the "great unknown" of Gnosticism, whose name was nevertheless The Ariadne's Thread out of the Maze. the best known of all, whose influence was the most far-reaching, and whose doctrines, instead of being a cut-and-dried system of dead vocables, were so animate with life that the kaleidoscopic representations of them by his followers in the first place, and the puzzled and puzzling summaries by the Fathers of these protean representations in the second, have proved the despair of scholarship. The reason of this for the most part is that, in endeavoring to bring order into this chaos, words and terms have been followed as clues instead of ideas. Not only in the case of the Valentinian cycle of ideas, but also in every other phase of the Gnosis, these delusive guides have been generally followed as leaders out of the labyrinth. But the Adriadne's thread which takes us out of the maze is spun out of ideas, not of names. The Gnostics were ever changing their nomenclature; the god of one system might even be the devil of another! He who makes a concordance of names merely, in Gnosticism, may think himself lucky to escape a lunatic asylum; he, on the contrary, who seeks the idea behind the

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name, will often find himself in a realm of great beauty and harmony of thought. Men like the Gnostics have ever had intuitions of a real state of being, of definite and precise realms of consciousness; yet each has caught but a glimpse of the reality, as all men must so long as they are imprisoned in a body. If the Gnostics exhausted the philosophy and religion of their time in striving to find a decent vestment for the naked truth, as they thought they saw it, who shall blame them? Though they contradict one another, in the view of the word-hunter, they do not contradict themselves for the follower of ideas. The idea is the key which opens the mysteries of the Gnosis, and those who refuse to use this living key must be content to have the treasury closed against them.

We shall now, before dealing with the followers of Valentinus, attempt, from the chaos of summaries, to sift out some of the leading ideas of the Valentinian cycle of the Gnosis. If we were to bring all these contradictory accounts together and treat them to a critical analysis, it is to be feared that the general reader, for whom these sketches are written, would either close our pages in despair; or, if he attempted to follow the details and the weighing of probabilities, be reduced to such a state of mental perturbation that he would forget all that has gone before, and be rendered totally unfit to comprehend what is to follow. Such technical work must be reserved for treatment elsewhere, meantime we will attempt, not to give an exposition of the system of "them of

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[paragraph continues] Valentinus"--if indeed they ever had a single definite system--but merely to sketch some outlines of their ideas on æonology.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #85 on: February 26, 2009, 01:19:53 pm »

IN order to elevate our thought to a contemplation of the transcendent problems towards which the Towards the Great Silence. mind of these Gnostics was carried, we should refresh our memory with the sketch of the Basilidian system which has been given above. From the world of men, our earth, we must pass in thought through the sublunary spaces, visible and invisible; thence we must pass beyond the moon-firmament, the heaven, into the æthereal spaces--the star-worlds, and their infinite inhabitants, spaces and regions, orders and hierarchies--bounded at the utmost limits of space and time, by the Great Firmament, the Ring "Pass Not," which marks off the phenomenal universe from the universe of reality out of space and time. It is a Boundary everywhere and--no "where."

Here we bid farewell to time and space, and reach the region of paradox, for mortal man has still to speak of it in terms of phenomenal things--calling it a region, although it is not a region; speaking of it as the Living Æon, though it transcends all life; hymning it as the Light-world, though its light is darkness to mortal eyes, because of the superabundance of its brilliancy.

This is the Plērōma, the world of perfection, of

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perfect types and perfect harmony. The mind falls back from it, unable to comprehend, and yet the spirit within cries unto man with a voice that can brook no denial: "Onward still; beyond still, and beyond!" Then is there Silence; no words, no symbols, no thoughts can further avail. The mind is mute, the spirit is at peace, at rest in the Supreme Silence of contemplation, of union with the Divine, the Great Deep--Profundity, the within of things, that which permeates all, goes through all.

The Depth Beyond Being.Our Gnostics are said to have "begun" with this conception of Bythus, or the Abyss of Profundity; but this is a mistake. Basilides had already shown how impossible it was to name the God beyond all; are we to think that the Valentinians fell short of so obvious a truth? By no means; some of them taught of the Beyond the Deep, a hierarchy of Deeps; and curiously enough in the Codex Brucianus we meet with such hierarchies, and also find them assumed in the Pistis Sophia treatise. What absurdity, then, to seek a "beginning" in infinitude! Such a conception as a beginning was low down in the scale of being; we can speak of the "beginning" of some special phenomenal universe, but there is an infinitude of such universes, and infinitude has no beginning.

Beyond the Plērōma, or ideal type of all universes, there was--what? Silences more unspeakable than Silence, and Depths deeper than the Deep! How the Valentinians would have laughed at the notion of ascribing a monistic or dualistic theory to their intuition of what lay beyond Being, and of making

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this the basis of dividing them into an Eastern and Western school! Yet that is what Hippolytus (II.) and many modern critics have done.

Let us then leave the mystery in the Silence of that Depth beyond Being--a Silence which, as it were, shut off the Plērōma from the Depth beyond Being by a still higher Boundary than the Great Firmament. This highest Boundary was within the innermost depths of the Plērōma itself, the inward world, just as the Great Boundary was beyond the depths of the phenomenal external world. The idea connoted by the term "depth" takes thought away from all ideas of three dimensional matter, as we know it, and introduces it to the notion of "through" in every direction at the same time, inside and out as well.

We next have to treat of the "being" of the Plērōma of the æons. Every "being" in this The Æon-world. "Fullness of Being" (Plērōma) was also, in its turn, a "fullness" or perfection, and the nature of the life of these "beings" was shown forth in their names. They were called æons, or "eternities," for they were out of time and space. Everything outside the Plērōma, that is to say, everything in the phenomenal universe, on the contrary, was an "image" or deficiency. The phenomenal world was therefore called by such names as the Kenōma or "Emptiness," the Image, etc.

It is, however, evident that until we reach the phenomenal world, no possible human language can serve us to express modes of being which transcend cosmogonic operations. And yet the hardihood of the

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[paragraph continues] Gnostic genius had to find some method whereby it could adumbrate the manner of being of the æons, which were ex hypothesi out of time and space. Let us then turn our attention to one of the methods whereby this was attempted. Not that the Gnostics worked from below upwards, they received from above and brought it down into matter; in brief, their expositions were attempts to describe a living symbol, which is said to have been shown them in vision.

The Platonic Solids.Now Pythagoras and Plato, and the instructors in the Mysteries, declared that physical matter was ultimately of a geometrical nature; that in all things "God geometrizes." Thus the five regular solids formed the summit of the geometrical knowledge of the Platonic school. It was because of the attention bestowed on these solids by this school, that' posterity has called the five the Platonic Solids. The whole of the Elements of Euclid, says Proclus, were but an introduction to this science of the perfect solids. These polyhedra were believed to lie at the back not only of earth-formation, but of every genus, species, and individual in the material universe. It is strange that no subject in mathematics has been so neglected as that of the regular solids; but so it is, and the moderns laugh at such "puerilities" of the ancients.

For the re-discovery and elaboration of a part of this science within the last six years I must refer the "doulx lecteur" to the works of a young Spanish scientist, Señor Soria y Mata.

No one of course who is entirely ignorant of the

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subject, will be able to comprehend fully the following general indications; but the nature of finger-posts is to point in certain directions, not to accompany the traveller along the road; and the "gentle reader" who requires such personal conducting must seek it in Señor Soria's admirable essays. For the present our work is simply to set up sign-posts; and so we return to our task.

But even supposing, some one may say, that the five solids (which are all variations of one in various combinations with itself) have some connection with the typical elements which build up the invisible molecular structure of physical matter, what has that to do with the Valentinian Gnostics? A great deal, we may answer. Marcus, one of the earliest followers of Valentinus, has some system of a kabalistic numbering assigned to him, and in connection with this Hippolytus (II.) declares that the whole of Valentinianism was based on the numbers and geometry of Pythagoras and Plato.

No further proof, however, is brought forward of this sweeping generality, and no scholar has so far supplied the missing link. It is, nevertheless, entirely credible that the æonology of the Valentinian School was based partly on such considerations. Let us then attempt to make a few suggestions on the subject, not from the numbering ascribed to Marcus, but from the living side of Pythagorean and Platonic mathematics, the "mathēsis" which was the same as the "gnōsis," and which is said to have been called even by Pythagoras himself, "the gnōsis of things that are."

It was then perhaps along this line of thought

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that some of the Gnostic thinkers sought for A Living Symbolism.a living symbolism, which should adumbrate in some fashion the manner of being of the æons. From the region of definite polyhedrical matter, the ordering of which, though invisible to the eye, could yet be imagined in the mind, the symbolism could be pushed back a further stage--from the molecular to the atomic as we should say now-a-days. The regular solids were thus the eventuation in physical matter of certain systems of perfect equilibrium of "points" in space. These points were not pure mathematical abstractions, but actual centres of force, bearing certain relations to one another, equilibrated by a law of polarity or syzygy. This was the region of the atom. The atom was thought of as a living thing of force, a sphere, said by some to be a spherical ("conical") swirl, the most perfect figure, ever contracting and expanding, generative of all motions, while it is itself self-motive, and yet from another point of view "immovable," as pertaining to the "foundations of earth." It is smaller than the small as matter, yet greater than the great as energy.

It was the atom and its combinations, then, as we should now-a-days say, which the Valentinian Gnosis envisaged in its æonology. I do not, however, for a moment suggest that any Gnostic philosopher thought of the atom in the same way as a modern physicist does; I believe, on the contrary, that the most advanced of the Gnostics were shown this living symbol of world-formation in vision, and the various systems were efforts to explain such visions. Of course, any symbol is immensities

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removed from the reality, but the endeavour to imagine, or the privilege of being shown, the living type lying beyond the simplest types of physical matter-formation, is at any rate nearer the reality than any dead physical shape. Thus the atom and its simplest modes of differentiated being, may be taken as symbols of the æon-world, the Plērōma, the world of life and light, beyond time and space, the undecaying heart of the eternities.

The following view may then be of interest to students of symbolism, who as a rule confine their attention solely to plane figures, and thus deal as it were with the "shadows of the dead." For a plane figure is, so to speak, only a shadow of a dead solid; it is the living system of force behind or within the latter which is the first spark of life in the series. In order to see this more clearly, let us take a familiar symbol, the interlaced triangles or "Solomon's Seal." In solids this symbol is represented by two mutually interpenetrated tetrahedra; from this union come the cube and octahedron. The dodecahedron and icosahedron come from the mutual congress of five tetrahedra, a quintuplication. Thus we have our five regular solids. The fundamental type is the tetrahedron, and the force-system behind it consists of two pairs of atoms, or a double syzygy or couple in perfect equilibrium. The nature of the relationship of these atoms or spheres to each other, and of the interplay of their motions, is the mode of life or being of the symbol; and when this is learned, then the symbol becomes alive and thus the forces

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which the "shadow" of the "dead" solid symbolizes, are in the hand of the solver of the "mystery." One form of ancient magic, especially practised in Egypt, consisted of a most complicated extension of this idea, which wandered far beyond the limits of the geometrical symbols. Needless to say that the vast majority who practised the art, had not the slightest idea of the "reasons" for their performances. Magic for the general was never a rational thing. It consisted of an infinite number of "rules of thumb," and this side of it is consequently, and quite rightly, regarded by the present age of intelligent enquiry as a superstition.

The "Fourth Dimension."The intelligent student of symbolism will thus endeavour to free his mind from the limitations of three-dimensional space, and think within into the state of the so-called "fourth dimension." For it is only along this line of thought that there is any hope of the faintest conception of æonic being. As the matter is of the first importance for a student of Gnosticism, and at the same time one of great difficulty, the following line of thought may be suggested as a preliminary exercise. Think of an atom, or monad, as a sphere which generates itself, or swells out, from a point and refunds itself again into that point. This gives the simple idea of position. Take two of such spheres at the same moment of expansion, that is to say two equal spheres, and place them in mutual contact. This can be done in an infinite number of ways, so that they may be in any direction the one with the other.

Reduce these spheres in thought to mathematical

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points, and we have the simplest idea of extension--one dimension. The two points are the extremities or boundaries of a line.

Next, take three similar spheres and bring them into mutual contact. They can be placed in any direction the one to the other. Reduce them in thought to points, and we have three points not in a straight line, lying in a plane surface, or superfices of two dimensions. Then take four such spheres and bring them into mutual contact. Reduce them in their turn to points, and their positions require space of three dimensions. Finally, take five such spheres and try to imagine how they can be brought into mutual contact, that is to say, how each one can touch all the rest. This cannot be imagined in three dimensions, and requires the conception of another "dimension"--something to do with the content of the spheres--the idea of "through." This does not seem to be so much a "fourth dimension" as an involution of perception, retracing the path we have so far followed.

For instance, three-dimensional space is for normal sight bounded by surfaces; those who have inner vision ("four-dimensional" sight) say that the contents of an object--e.g., a watch--appear, in some incomprehensible way, spread out before them as on a surface. If this is so, then three-dimensional space, the fourth link in our chain, is the turning point, and hence consciousness turns itself inwards once more towards the point, which when reached will become the illimitable circumference, or plērōma of consciousness--the nirvānic "atom," so to say.

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Let us now try to imagine how the Gnosis symbolized the ideal universe, the type of all universes--the primal atom or monad, its motions, and modes of self-differencing and self-emanation within itself. The object of their contemplation was identical with the world of ideas, or noëtic world, of Plato; the light-world of ancient Irān; the "eternal egg," or type, from which all universes come forth, of ancient Khem; the "resplendent germ," or hiranya-garbha, of the Upanishads--all of which has been intuitively set forth in philosophical terms by Leibnitz in his Monadology.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #86 on: February 26, 2009, 01:20:07 pm »

The Eternal Atom.First, then, we have the conception of an infinite sphere of Light, Light which transcends the glory of the most brilliant sun, as that sun's glory transcends the flame of a rush-light; Light beyond thought. As yet there is naught but infinite Light; yet through it there is ever a something going, as it were from and to its centre, which is everywhere and nowhere, a breath ever outbreathing and inbreathing, an endless energy which nothing human can perceive or know. It is the Life-breath of the universe at the zero-point of being, to use terms familiar to some theosophical students.

We next proceed to what we must call a change of state; but we should remember that all the states we are attempting thus to symbolize, in reality exist simultaneously; and though in thought we are to follow out a kind of emanation or evolution, it is in reality an ever-existing infinite state of consciousness out of time and space.

In this ever-pulsating field of universal energy

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[paragraph continues] (which is everywhere and nowhere), a something arises slightly less brilliant than the transcendent The Law of Syzygy. Light, another mode of motion as it were, which we may symbolize as an oval or egg-like swirling, ever swelling-out and in-drawing. Within this two "foci" are gradually developed, as it pulsates and swells. The inner periphery of the egg-envelope contracts in the midst through the action of the two foci, the symbols of equilibrium, of positive and negative, the law of syzygy or pairing. The two part asunder. Bythus and Ennœa, Profoundity and Thought, are the first syzygy of æons, now symbolized as two spheres. Being separate, in some mysterious fashion they are differently affected by the great out-breath and in-breath, yet each manifests the qualities of the other. One is positive, the other is negative, as it were, and these qualities are at once communicated to the whole of the great Light-sphere, for they are everywhere and nowhere at once. Polarity is thus stated to be a mode of being of the Plērōma; the law of syzygy is affirmed.

But duality arising, multiplicity must follow; and not only multiplicity but universality. For the Plērōma must be simultaneously the type of the One, Many and All, and monotheism, polytheism and pantheism must each find its source therein.

In following out our symbolic imagery, however, we cannot think the whole at once. We try to conceive that whatever process we gain an intuition of by means of our symbols, takes place everywhere, always, and simultaneously with every other process and manner of being; but of this we can get no

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mental image. We can only pass from one process to another by following out the behaviour of a single pair of our living symbols. To proceed then.

Thus we have spheres evolving, each positive-negative in itself, but positive or negative in its relationship to the other. In thought we will treat one as positive, the other as negative, and thus try to imagine the changes of mode. As the twin spheres in their turn expand and contract, when they touch, from the negative a "veil" or "mist" is shed forth and as it were "lines" the great Light-sphere.

The Law of Differentiation.The law of densification and perpetual differentiation is declared. At each contract the negative sphere becomes less light and more passive as it were, though in reality the "lowest" æon far transcends the most brilliant radiance in the universe. The negative light-sphere developer into progeny, differentiates its substance, impregnated by the positive light-sphere. That is to say, the Light-world is differentiated into "planes" of being; there are "veils" and "firmaments." But how many and of what kind?

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #87 on: February 26, 2009, 01:20:21 pm »

I must refer the reader again to Señor Soria's essays on the polyhedric origin of species for the only possible series of physical systems of perfect equilibrium of spheres of equal diameter, from two upwards, if he would follow out this most interesting problem in greater detail and work out the matter for himself. For the moment it is sufficient to state that the first æonic hierarchy of the Valentinian Plērōma is said to have been an ogdoad, or group of eight, which was sometimes considered as a dual

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tetrad--in living symbols, the system of equilibrium behind two equally interpenetrated tetrahedra.

A point of interest which should not be overlooked, however, is to be noticed as following from The Three and the Seven. the consideration of the ogdoadic mode of the Plērōma. The Bythus and Ennœa are no longer regarded as a single pair; Ennœa, the negative sphere, has produced offspring. She is now the type of "seven-robed" Nature, Isis; while Bythus is the Great Deep or "Water-whirl," Osiris, the tether. The negative sphere is now seven spheres (herself, and six like unto herself and the positive sphere)--that is, three pairs of æons. Here we have the type of the one sphere of sameness, and the seven spheres of difference, of the Pythagorean and Platonic World-soul. The Ogdoad and Hebdomad of Basilides have also here their types.

Thus having declared the law of duality, or syzygy, we next find the law of triplicity asserted in the triad of syzygies into which the negative sphere is differentiated. These are the three great stages or spaces of the Plērōma, and the syzygies, or modes of polarity, of these phases were called Mind-Truth, Word-Life, and Man-Church, for reasons which are somewhat obscure, and to which we shall return later on.

We are next told of a dodecad and decad of æons The Twelve and Ten which owe their existence to one or other of the syzygies of the ogdoad. The accounts of their genesis are entirely contradictory; sometimes also the decad is placed before the dodecad, and, seeing of course that ten naturally comes before twelve, the critics

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have without exception preferred this order. The matter is at best purely conjectural in such a chaos, but experience leads us to choose the less likely as being the more correct account. What on earth should have induced some of the Valentinians to put the twelve before the ten if their symbolism had not necessitated such an order?

We shall therefore take the main phases of the Plērōma to be those symbolized by the ogdoad, the dodecad and the decad in turn; not that one came from the other in reality (they all existed together eternally), but because the living symbols are described in a dramatic myth, one of the variants of which we shall shortly present to the reader.

The ogdoad is a term connoting the operations of the living processes behind the symbol of two interpenetrated tetrahedra, and therefore includes all the permutations of their complementary progeny (the cube and octahedron). Thus the ogdoad was divided into a higher and lower tetrad, and in various other ways, including the one and the seven as described above; the one and the seven can be represented by the curious geometrical fact that if seven equal circles be taken, and six be grouped round the central one, each circumference respectively will be found to exactly touch two adjacent circles and the one in the middle, while the greater circle can be described round all seven. This is of course but the shadow of a symbol, and is only intended to serve as a mnemonic; but the fact is curious, and such natural facts were not so lightly regarded by the Platonists as they are by the moderns, especially when they had to do with the

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most perfect figures--circles and spheres, the natural symbols of perfections or plērōmata.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #88 on: February 26, 2009, 01:20:34 pm »

We have now come to a stage where the differentiation of the primal simplicity is to be represented The Dodecahedron. by groups of twelve; the mode of being of the Plērōma is now the dodecad. It is a curious fact that if we were to imagine space filled with spheres all of equal diameter and in mutual contact, we should find that each sphere was surrounded with exactly twelve other spheres; moreover, if we should imagine the spheres to be elastic, and that pressure be brought to bear on one of such systems of twelve, on every side at once, the central or thirteenth sphere would assume a dodecagonal form--in fact, a rhombic dodecahedron.

If we further remember that there is frequent mention of a "thirteenth æon," which has hitherto puzzled all the commentators; that the Pythagoreans and Platonists and Indian philosophers asserted that the dodecahedron was the symbol of the material universe; that we are assured by some who have psychic or clairvoyant vision to-day that the field of activity of the atom is contained by a rhombic dodecahedron; and that the "twelve" signs of the zodiac have hitherto remained a mere irrational hypothesis--then we may be inclined to think that there was good reason for insisting on the dodecad as an important phase of æonian being.

Moreover, each phase of the Plērōma is supposed to be positive to the succeeding phase. Thus the Plērōma as a whole is positive to the dyadic stage; in the dyadic stage, Bythus is positive to Ennœa, who

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becomes various and sevenfold. The sevenfold is positive to the dodecad stage, which consists of thirteen spheres.

If we think of the dodecad as the dodecahedron we shall be dealing with the phenomenal universe, and thus be without the Plērōma; here we are dealing with the living type behind, in the æon-world, that is to say the system of thirteen spheres which eventuate the dodecahedron in the physical world.

Each of these thirteen contains in itself the seven modes of being of the preceding phase, and thus, in every system of thirteen, there is in reality a multitudinous progeny. These are the children of that phase of being which we may call the multiplicity of sameness, i.e., the atomic ocean of like contiguous spheres; and they in their turn undergo a change which will eventuate in a harmonious arrangement or perfection, to be finally denoted by the perfect number ten, the decad.

The Decad.How, then, do we get from the dodecad to the decad, from atomic matter to the perfect form? Perhaps somewhat in this way. Every sphere is living, moving in all ways at once, so to speak, and yet in another sense motionless. The types of external motion are up, down, right, left, back, front, and round--seven in all; to these we have to add in and out, and a motion that is no motion we can imagine. And thus we reach a new phase of being through the decad or ten, which begins, as it were, another series of motions on a higher plane (1, 2, 3, etc., and then 11, 12, 13, etc.).

The seven motions, or modes of life, in every

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #89 on: February 26, 2009, 01:20:49 pm »

system of thirteen spheres, are simple in the great sphere which surrounds the thirteen--the fourteenth or boundary of the system; but in the subordinate thirteen spheres the modes of motion act and react on each other (for each subordinate sphere contacts so many others) and produce a number of other modes of a subordinate nature, namely (7 × 13 or) 91. If to these we add as rulers the seven simple rates of motion, in all we have 98 (91 + 7) different modes. To these we add the two higher modes, the in- and out-breathing, and in all we have 100. The one hundred is the perfection (10 × 10) of the perfect number (10). We shall see later on how the Gnostics, in one of their systems, in their perfecting of the Plērōma, found themselves compelled to add two æons, and so introduced Christ and the Holy Spirit into the myth of the Plērōma-drama.

Thus the hundred obtained along the line of development of the ogdoad and dodecad, by the addition of two new factors, or the operation of a new syzygy, led by another path of simplification to the ten, the number of consummation.

Now the number of root-æons in the Plērōma was said to be thirty (8 +12 + 10), to which we may add Christ and the Holy Spirit--the representatives of the Bythus and Sigē (Silence) beyond the Plērōma--and finally the That beyond all, so getting thirty-three, the number of the Vaidic pantheon of thirty-three deities, the 8 Vasus, 12 Adityās and 10 Rudras, with a supreme Rudra at their head, and Heaven and Earth.

The number 100 also gives a hint whereby to

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explain the ordering of the subordinate phases of the Plērōma, as found in the system attributed by Hippolytus (II.) to the Docetæ, where mention is made of the "thirty-fold, sixty-fold and one hundred-fold."

I do not for one moment suggest that these speculations were the basis of Gnostic æonology; I believe the Gnostics were "shown" their æon-lore in vision, and that they found analogies to what they were shown, in nature and in the science of the time. Pythagoras was also, I believe, shown the same truths and worked them out in mathematical symbols. The Gnostics were acquainted with the system of his followers--a system of which unfortunately only the merest fragments have reached us--and they doubtless pressed into their service his theological arithmetic and geometry to aid in their expositions; but this was only one means out of a number which they employed for the same purpose. But to continue with our æonology.

Chaos.But how, out of the perfection of the Plērōma (for every one of the æons was a perfection or plerōma in its turn), was the imperfection, or deficiency, of cosmic matter to come, which should serve as the substance out of which the "images" or "creatures" of the universe were to be formed? So far the living symbol of the Plērōma has produced perfect spheres, all in pairs, a light and less light or "darker" globe; for the twelve and ten, just like the eight, consist of pairs. The various phases have been brought about by the light globes acting on the "darker" ones. But now a new change

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takes place. There is an interaction of "dark" globes; and the result is no longer a perfect sphere innate with motion, but an amorphous mass, in one sense out of the Plērōma, as being lower than it, or not of its nature. When this takes place, the whole system endeavours, as it were, to right itself, just as the organs and corpuscles of the human body do when anything goes wrong in it, for the Plērōma is the spiritual body of the Heavenly Man. But the various æons of themselves cannot effect their purpose, they can only act on the "formlessness" when they combine together. From every one of the thirty æons, as it were, there shoots forth a ray, and all the rays somehow or other, form a new æon or globe of light, which rounds off the amorphous mass, or "abortion," burns it into shape, enters into it, and finally carries it back to the rest.

This is the living symbol of the world-drama, and was worked out by the Gnostics in much mythological detail. To everything below the Plērōma, the Plērōma is one, a single thing, containing the powers of all the æons; it is the "living æon" and acts upon cosmic matter, which is shapeless, and so endows it with form and creates the universe. But this is only the "enforming according to essence"; there is also an "enforming according to knowledge," or consciousness, which pertains to the soteriological part of the drama.

The idea seems to have been that the "abortion," or chaos, was destitute of the life-swirl or vortex. Theos. The vortex is the finger of fire, as it were, or light-spark, shot forth by the light-æons, in their

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positive phases; the negative spheres cannot shape or fashion the abortion, but can only densify or materialize it; the mother-breath cools, the father-breath warms the plasm of the universe. This plasm is now, so to say, thrown out of the ideal world into the cosmic plane, or rather, let us say, from the cosmic plane into the plane of a star-system; for the human mind cannot grasp such immensities as those of the ideal world, and all we can do is to single out a finite example from the infinitudes of space. Anything thrown out of the great cosmic sweep and the life of the æons is, as it were, "crucified in space"; or rather that which is incarnated into it, leaves the plane of infinitude where it is one with the Father, and is "crucified." The Logos takes a body, and His body is the cosmos. The Heavenly Man is crucified in space. But this crucifixion is no shame, no disgrace; the cross is the body of the Heavenly Man, the universe; and the symbol which the wise have chosen for that mystery, is the figure of the Heavenly Man with arms outstretched pouring His life and love and light into His creatures. He is the source of all good to the universe, the perpetual self-sacrifice.

Far lower down in the scale of being there is another crucifixion, when the spirit is incarnated into the plane where there is male and female, and is thus cut off from the great life and motion of the Plērōma. The spirit in man is no longer consciously in the grand sweep of the Great Breath, the Nirvānic Ocean of Life.

But we must return to cosmic substance and its fashioning. This substance is so fine and rare and

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subtle, that it transcends all substance we know of; indeed the mother-substance of cosmos is of so marvellous a nature that the Gnostics called it Wisdom herself, the highest vesture with which the spirit could be clothed. That which gives Wisdom her first enformation, is the potency of all the æons, called the Common Fruit of the Plērōma.

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