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A Report by Andrew Collins
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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 #105 on: February 26, 2009, 01:25:38 pm »

p. 391

OF the life of Heracleon, whom Clement of Alexandria (Strom., iv. 9) calls the "most esteemed of the His Commentary on the Fourth Gospel. school of Valentinus," we again know nothing except that he wrote certain Memoirs (ὑπομνήματα), containing a commentary on the fourth Gospel. The date of this commentary, the first on any book of the New Testament collection, is generally ascribed to the decade 170-180 A.D. The Gnostic Heracleon is thus the first commentator of canonical Christianity, and considerable fragments of his work have been preserved by Origen in his own Commentary on the so-called Johannine Gospel. These fragments were first collected by Grabe in his Spicilegium, reprinted by Massuet and Stieren in their editions of Irenæus, and by Hilgenfeld in his Ketzergeschichte (1884), and finally in 1891 re-edited from a new collation of all the eight known (only three having previously been collated) MSS. by Brooke in Texts and Studies, i. 4.

In these fragments Heracleon assumes the "Valentinian" system as a basis; but it is kept in the background, and his exegesis is often endorsed by Origen.

The Gnostics were still in the Christian ranks, they were still members of the General Christian body, and desired to remain members; but bigotry finally drove them out because they dared to say that the teaching of the Christ contained a wisdom

p. 392

which transcended the comprehension of the majority.

The commentary of Heracleon, however, need not detain us, for it is, so to say, outside the circle of distinct Gnostic exegesis; it stands midway between it and General Christianity, and in almost the same position as the views of Clement and Origen.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #106 on: February 26, 2009, 01:25:54 pm »

Biography.WE will now treat of Bardesanes, "the last of the Gnostics," as Hilgenfeld calls him, and so bring to an end these rough sketches of the Christian theosophists, which we have endeavoured to reconstruct from the disfigured scraps of the originals preserved in Patristic literature.

Bardesanes was the "last of the Gnostics," in the sense of being the last who attempted to make any propaganda of the phase of the Gnosis we are dealing with, among the ranks of Common Christianity; for the Gnosis was still studied in secret for centuries, and often reappeared in the pages of history in other guises, e.g., the so-called Manichæan movement; for "You may pitch out nature with a fork, still she will find a way home."

Bardesanes, or Bar-daisan (so called from the river Daisan (the Leaper), on the banks of which he was born), was born at Edessa, on July 11th, 155 A.D., and died, most probably in the same city, in 233, at the age of 78. His parents, Nuhama and Nahashirama,

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were rich and noble; and young Bardaisan not only received the best education in manners and learning which was procurable, but was brought up with a prince who afterwards succeeded to the throne as one of the Abgars; he not only shared the young prince's martial exercises, but in his youth won great fame for his skill in archery. He married and had a son, Harmonius.

At what age he embraced Gnostic Christianity is uncertain; but his eager spirit not only speedily converted his royal friend and patron, but induced the Abgar to make it the state religion, and thus (it is said) Bardesanes must have the credit of indirectly establishing the first Christian state. When Caracalla dethroned the Abgar Bar-Manu in 216, Bardesanes made manful defence of the Christian faith before the representative of the Roman Emperor, so that even Epiphanius is compelled to call him "almost a confessor."

Subsequently he went for a time to Armenia, where he composed a history based on the temple Writings. chronicles, which he found in the fortress of Ani, and translated it into Syriac. This Armenian history of Bardaisan was the basis of the subsequent history of Moses of Chorēnē. Bardaisan was also a great student of Indian religion, and wrote a book on the subject, from which the Platonist Porphyry subsequently quoted. But it was as a poet and writer on Christian theology and theosophy that Bardaisan gained so wide a reputation; he wrote many books in Syriac and also Greek, of which he was said to be master, but even the titles of most of them are now lost.

p. 394

His most famous work was a collection of 150 Hymns or Psalms on the model of the Psalm-collection of the second temple, as still preserved in the Old Covenant documents. He was the first to adapt the Syriac tongue to metrical forms and set the words to music; these hymns became immensely popular, not only in the Edessene kingdom but wherever the Syriac tongue was spoken.

Of the rest of his works we hear of such titles as Dialogues against the Marcionites, The Light and the Darkness, The Spiritual Nature of Truth, The Stable and Unstable, and Concerning Fate. Nothing of these has come down to us except a Syriac treatise, which was brought to the British Museum in 1843, among the Nitrian MSS. This MS. is entitled Book of the Laws of Countries, and purports to be a summary of Bardaisan's views on fate or karman, as set forth by one of his pupils. The Syriac text and an English translation were published by Cureton in 1855; and once more (as in the case of the discovery of the Philosophumena MS. and Basilides) the possession of an approximately first-hand source has revolutionised the old view, based on the hearsay of the Fathers generally, and of the polemic of Ephraim in particular. In fact, the latest view (that of Hort) tries to rob Gnosticism of Bardesanes, and carry him off into the fold of orthodoxy. As more is known and understood about the Gnostics, the same policy will no doubt be adopted in other cases; but surely since Orthodoxy has cursed Bardesanes throughout the ages, it might at least leave him the name derived from those of whom his

p. 395

master Valentinus learned his wisdom, and let him be Gnostic still.

But before considering Bardaisan's views on "fate," let us see whether we can abstract an thing Indirect Sources. of value from the indirect sources. We are indebted for what we know mainly to Ephraim of Edessa, who wrote some 120 years later than our Gnostic. Of the temper of this saint when combatting a dead man who had done him no injury, and who had been so loved and admired by all who knew him, we may judge by the epithets he applied to Bardesanes, who (he avers) died "with the Lord in his mouth, and demons in his heart." Thus he apostrophizes Bardaisan as a garrulous sophist; of tortuous and double mind; outwardly orthodox, a heretic in secret; a greedy sheep-dog in league with the wolves; a faithless servant; a cunning dissembler practising deceit with his songs.

In his zealous fury, however, Ephraim confuses Bardesanites, Marcionites and Manichæans, although Bardesanes strongly opposed the views of the former, and the religion of the latter was as yet unborn when the Gnostic doctor wrote Ephraim's fifty-six Hymns against Heresies, for instance, the metre and music of which he appropriated from our Gnostic poet, are an indiscriminate polemic against not only Marcion, Bardaisan and Mani, but also against their disciples, the very different views of both teachers and pupils being hopelessly jumbled together.

The only clear traces of Bardaisan are four scraps from his Hymns, quoted in the last two Hymns of

p. 396

[paragraph continues] Ephraim. The first three are as follows, in Hort's B translation:From his Hymns.

(1) "Thou fountain of joy
     Whose gate by commandment
     Opens wide to the Mother;
     Which Beings divine
     Have measured and founded,
     Which Father and Mother
     In their union have sown,
     With their steps have made fruitful."

(2) "Let her who comes after thee
     To me be a daughter
     A sister to thee."

(3) "When at length shall it be ours
     To look on thy banquet,
     To see the young maiden,
     The daughter thou sett’st
     On thy knee and caressest?"

The first fragment is generally referred to the idea of Paradise, which is usually placed above the third of the seven heavens, or in the midst of the seven spheres; it seems, however, rather to refer to the Ogdoad or space above the seven phases of psychic substance, the Jerusalem Above of the Valentinians.

The second fragment appears to be an address of the Divine Mother to the elder of her two daughters, the Wisdom above in the Plērōma and the Wisdom

p. 397

below in the Ogdoad, where is the spiritual Heaven-world.

The third fragment is most probably an address to the Divine Mother of all, the Holy Spirit, and refers to the consummation of the world-process, when the spiritual souls shall, be taken from the Ogdoad into the Plērōma, and made one with their divine spouses at the Great Wedding Feast, in the Space of the Light-maiden, the Wisdom above.

The remaining fragment consists of only two lines, and is as follows:

(4) "My God and my Head
     Hast thou left me alone?"

[paragraph continues] This cry was ascribed to the lower Wisdom by the Valentinian school, both in the world-drama, when the world-substance invokes the aid of her consort, the æonic world-fashioner, and also in the soul-tragedy of the spirit fallen into matter, the sorrowing Sophia, as in the Pistis Sophia treatise.

Nothing more of a certain nature can be deduced from the polemical writings of Ephraim, and the only scrap of interest we can glean from other writers is a beautiful phrase preserved by the Syrian writer Philoxenus of Mabūg (about 500 A.D.): "The Ancient of Eternity is a boy"--that is to say, is ever young.

Let us now turn to Bardaisan's views on "astrology" and "fate," or, in other words, his conception of karman, and quote a few passages from Cureton's somewhat unintelligible translation of The

p. 398

[paragraph continues] Book of the Laws of Countries (in his Spicilegium Syriacum, pp. 11, sqq.).

The Book of the Laws of Countries.This dialogue was written by a pupil of our Gnostic, and Bardaisan is introduced as the main speaker; in fact, the pupils only break in here and there with a short question for literary effect. We may be therefore fairly confident that we have in this treatise a faithful reproduction of the views, not only of Bardaisan on fate or karman, but also of the Gnostics of his school.

The following extracts from the speeches of Bardaisan will throw much light also on the astrological ideas in the Pistis Sophia.

"I likewise . . . know that there are men who are called Chaldæans, and others who love this knowledge of the art, as I also once loved it [before he met with the teaching of Valentinus], for it has been said by me, in another place, that the soul of man is capable of knowing that which many do not know, and the same men [sic] meditate to do; and all that they do wrong, and all that they do good, and all the things which happen to them in riches and in poverty, and in sickness and in health, and in defects of the body, it is from the influence of those Stars, which are called the Seven, they befall them, and they are governed by them. But there are others who say the opposite of these things,--how that this art is a lie of the Chaldæans, or that Fortune does not exist at all, but it is an empty name; and all things are placed in the hands of man, great and small; and bodily defects and faults happen and befall him by chance. But others say that whatsoever a man doeth,

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he doeth of his own will, by the Free-will that has been given to him, and the faults and defects and Karman. evil things which happen to him, he receiveth as a punishment from God. But as for myself, in my humble opinion, it appeareth to me that these three sects are partly true, and partly false. They are true, because men speak after the fashion which they see, and because, also, men see how things happen to them, and mistake; because the wisdom of God is richer than they, which hus established the worlds and created man, and has ordained the Governors, and has given to all things the power which is suitable for each one of them. But I say that God, and the Angels, and the Powers, and the Governors, and the Elements, and men and animals have this power; but all these orders of which I have spoken have not power given to them in everything. For he that is powerful in everything is One; but they have power in some things, and in some things they have no power, as I have said: that the goodness of God may be seen in that in which they have power, and in that in which they have no power they may know that they have a Lord. There is, therefore, Fortune, as the Chaldæans say."

And that everything is not in our own Free-will, that is that Free-will is not absolute, is plainly visible in everyday experience. Fortune also plays its part, but is not absolute, and Nature also. Thus "we men are found to be governed by Nature equally, and by Fortune differently, and by our Free-will each as he wishes."

p. 400

Fortune and Nature."That which is called Fortune is an order of procession which is given to the Powers and the Elements by God; and according to this procession and order, intelligences [minds, egos] are changed by their coming down to be with the soul, and souls are changed by their coming down to be with the body; and this alteration itself is called the Fortune and the Nativity of this assemblage, which is being sifted and purified, for the assistance of that which by the favour of God and by grace has been assisted, and is being assisted, till the consummation of all. [Compare in the system of Basilides the 'benefitting and being benefitted in turn.'] The body, therefore, is governed by Nature, the soul also suffering with it and perceiving; and the body is not constrained nor assisted by Fortune in all the things which it does individually; for a man does not become a father before fifteen years, nor does a woman become a mother before thirteen years. And in the same manner, also, there is a law for old age; because women become effete from bearing, and are deprived of the natural power of begetting; while other animals which are also governed by their own Nature before those ages which I have specified, not only procreate, but also become too old to procreate, in the same manner as also the bodies of men when they are grown old do not procreate; nor is Fortune able to give them children at that time at which the body has not the Nature to give them. Neither, again, is Fortune able to preserve the body of man in life, without eating and without drinking; nor even when it has meat and drink, to prevent it

p. 401

from dying, for these and many other things pertain to Nature itself; but when the times and manners of Nature are fulfilled, then comes Fortune apparent among these, and effecteth things that are distinct one from another; and at one time assists Nature and increases, and at another hinders it and hurts; and from Nature cometh the growth and perfection of the body; but apart from Nature and by Fortune come sickness and defects in the body. For Nature is the connection of males and females, and the pleasure of the both heads [sic]; but from Fortune comes abomination and a different manner of connection and all the filthiness and indecency which men do for the cause of connection through their lust. For Nature is birth and children; and from Fortune sometimes the children are deformed; and sometimes they are cast away, and sometimes they die untimely. From Nature there is a sufficiency in moderation for all bodies; and from Fortune comes the want of food, and affliction of the bodies; and thus, again, from the same Fortune is gluttony, and extravagance which is not requisite. Nature ordains that old men should be judges for the young, and wise for the foolish; and that the valiant should be chiefs over the weak, and the brave over the timid. But Fortune causeth that boys should be chiefs over the aged, and fools over the wise; and that in time of war the weak should govern the valiant, and the timid the brave. And know ye distinctly that, whenever Nature is disturbed from its right course, its disturbance is from the The Right and Left. cause of Fortune, because those Heads and Governors, upon whom  that alternation is which is called

p. 402
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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #107 on: February 26, 2009, 01:26:16 pm »

 Nativity, are in opposition one to the other. And those of them which are called Right, they assist Nature, and add to its excellency whenever the procession helps them, and they stand in the high places, which are in the sphere, in their own portions; and those which are called Left are evil, and whenever they, too, occupy the places of height, they are opposed to Nature, and not only injure men, but, at different times, also animals, and trees and fruits, and the produce of the year, and the fountains of water, and everything that is in the Nature which is under their control. And on account of these divisions and sects which exist among the Powers, some men have supposed that the world is governed without any superintendence, because they do not know that these sects and divisions and justification and condemnation proceed from that influence which is given in Free-will by God, that those actions also by the power of themselves may either be justified or condemned, as we see that Fortune crushes Nature, so we can also see the Freewill of man repelling and crushing Fortune herself; but not in everything, as also Fortune itself doth not repel Nature in everything; for it is proper that the three things, Nature and Fortune and Free-will, should be maintained in their lives until the procession be accomplished, and the measure and number be fulfilled, as it seemed good before Him who ordained how should be the life and perfection of all creatures, and the state of all Beings and Natures."

Bardaisan thus makes Free-will, Fate, and Nature the three great factors of the karmic law, all

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three being ultimately in the hand of God. Each re-acts on each, none is absolute. Nature has to do with body, Fate or Fortune with soul, and Free-will with spirit. None of them is absolute, the absolute being in God alone.

By a strange chance, however, one of the hymns of the great poet of Gnosticism has been preserved to us The Hymn of the Soul. entire; it is now generally admitted that the beautiful "Hymn of the Soul," as it has been called, imbedded in the Syriac form of the apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas, preserved in the British Museum codex, is almost undoubtedly from the stylus of Bardaisan. Nöldeke and Macke were the first scholars to call attention to the fact. (See Lipsius’ Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten, i. 299, sqq., 1885). It is a beautiful legend of initiation, and was first translated by Wright (Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, ii. 238-245; 1871); it has now quite recently (1898) been retranslated by Bevan, using Wright's version as a basis. Since the time of Wright so much work has been done on this "master-piece of religious poetry," as the Cambridge Reader in Arabic justly calls it, that the translation of the pupil is to be preferred to that of the teacher, and Professor Bevan's work must now be considered not only to have superseded Wright's, but to be the best on the subject.

The high probability of the Bardesantist origin of the poem is based on the following considerations: The three main accusations of the orthodox Father Ephraim against Bardaisan, who, he says, taught that there were Seven Essences (Īthyē), are: "(1) That

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he denied the resurrection and regarded the separation of the soul from the body as a blessing; (2) that he held the theory of a divine 'Mother' who in conjunction with 'the Father of Life' gave birth to a being called 'the Son of the Living'; (3) that he believed in a number of lesser 'gods,' that is to say, eternal beings subordinate to the supreme God.

"Now, it is remarkable," says Professor Bevan, "that these three 'heresies' all appear distinctly in the Poem before us. There can be no doubt that the Egyptian garb, which the prince puts on as a disguise and casts away as soon as his mission is accomplished, represents the human body. The emphatic declaration that the 'filthy and unclean garb' is left in their country' conveys an unmistakable meaning; it would be difficult, in an allegorical piece, to deny a material resurrection more absolutely."

Since Bardaisan, like all the great Gnostics, believed in reincarnation, such a conception as the resurrection of the same physical body must have been regarded by him as a gross superstition of the ignorant. Such a "proof" of identity of doctrine as is here brought forward could hardly occur to one who has realised the meaning of the doctrine of rebirth.

"The true clothing of the soul, according to the poet, is the ideal form which it feet behind in heaven and will resume after death. [Only after the 'death unto sin'; the Light-robe is not for all.] As for the Father of Life, the Mother, and the Son of the Living, they here figure as the Father 'the King of

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kings,' the Mother 'the Queen of the East,' and the Brother 'the next in rank.' Finally the 'lesser gods' appear as 'the kings,' who obey the command of the King of kings."

If the student, in reading this masterpiece of Gnostic poesy, will bear in mind the beautiful Parable of the Prodigal Son, as preserved in the third Synoptic, he will be able to trace the basic similarity of ideas in the outer and inner traditions, and note how the inner expands and explains the outer.

I do not know on what authority this beautiful poem has been called the Hymn of the Soul; there is no authority in the text for the title, and the Gnostic poet had a far more definite theme in mind. He sang of the consummation of the Gnostic life, the crown of victory at the end of the Path; not of any vague generalities but of a very definite goal towards which he was running. He sang of the "wedding garment," the "robe of initiation," so beautifully described in the opening pages of the Pistis Sophia. Thus, then, in most recent translation runs what I will venture to call:

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #108 on: February 26, 2009, 01:26:36 pm »

p. 406


When I was a little child.
And dwelling in my kingdom, in my Father's house,
And in the wealth and the glories
Of my nurturers had my pleasure,
From the East, 1 our home,
My parents, having equipped me, sent me forth.
And of the wealth of our treasury  2
They had tied up for me a load.
Large it was, yet light,
So that I might bear it unaided--
Gold of . . .  3
And silver of Gazzak the great,
And rubies of India,
And agate (?) from the land of Kushān (?),
And they girded me with adamant  4
Which can crush iron.
And they took off from me the bright robe,

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Which in their love they had wrought for me,
And my purple toga,
Which was measured (and) woven to my stature.
And they made compact with me,
And wrote it in my heart that it should not be forgotten:
"If thou goest down into Egypt, 1
And bringest the one pearl, 2
Which is in the midst of the sea 3
Hard by the loud-breathing serpent, 4
(Then) shalt thou put on thy bright robe
And thy toga, 5 which is laid over it,
And with thy Brother, 6 our next in rank, 7
Thou shalt be heir in our kingdom."
I quitted the East (and) went down,
There being with me two messengers, 8
For the way was dangerous and difficult,
And I was young to tread it.
I passed the borders of Maishān,
The meeting place of the merchants of the East,
And I reached the land of Babel,
And I entered the walls of . . .  9

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I went down into Egypt,
And my companions parted from me.
I betook me straight to the serpent,
Hard by his dwelling I abode,
(Waiting) till he could slumber and sleep, 1
And I could take my pearl from him.
And when I was single and alone,
A stranger to those with whom I dwelt,
One of my race, a free-born man,
From among the Easterns, I beheld there--
A youth fair and well-favoured.
. . . . *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *  and he came and attached himself to me.
And I made him my intimate,
A comrade with whom I shared my merchandise.
I warned him against the Egyptians
And against consorting with the unclean;
And I put on a garb like theirs,
Lest they should insult (?) me because I had come from afar,
To take away the pearl,
And (lest) they should arouse the serpent against me.
But in some way or other
They perceived that I was not their countryman;
So they dealt with me treacherously.
Moreover they gave me their food to eat.
I forgot that I was a son of kings,
And I served their king;

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And I forgot the pearl,
For which my parents had sent me,
And by reason of the burden of their . . .
I lay in a deep sleep. 1
But all those things that befell me,
My parents perceived and were grieved for me;
And a proclamation was made in our kingdom,
That all should speed to our gate,
King and princes of Parthia
And all the nobles of the East.
So they wove a plan on my behalf,
That I might not be left in Egypt,
And they wrote to me a letter,
And every noble signed his name 2 thereto:
"From thy Father, the King of kings,
And thy Mother, the Mistress of the East,
And from thy Brother, our next in rank,
To thee our son, who art in Egypt, greeting!
Up and arise from thy sleep,
And listen to the words of our letter!

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Call to mind that thou art a son of kings!
See the slavery--whom thou servest!
Remember the pearl
For which thou didst speed to Egypt!
Think of thy bright robe,
And remember thy glorious toga,
Which thou shalt put on as thine adornment,
When thy name hath been read out in the list of the valiant,
And with thy Brother, our [? next in rank],
Thou shalt be [? king] in our kingdom."
And my letter (was) a letter
Which the King sealed with his right hand,
(To keep it) from the wicked ones, the children of Babel,
And from the savage demons of . . . 1
It flew in the likeness of an eagle,
The king of all birds;  2
It flew and alighted beside me,
And became all speech.
At its voice and the sound of its rustling,
I started and arose from my sleep.
I took it up and kissed it,
And loosed its seal (?), (and) read;
And according to what was traced on my heart
Were the words of my letter written.
I remembered that I was a son of kings,
And my free soul longed for its natural state.
I remembered the pearl,

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For which I had been sent to Egypt,
And I began to charm him,
The terrible loud-breathing serpent.
I hushed him to sleep and lulled him to slumber;
For my Father's name I named over him,
And the name of our next in rank,
And of my Mother, the Queen of the East;  1
And I snatched away the pearl,
And turned to go back to my Father's house.
And their filthy and unclean garb
I stripped off, and left it in their country,  2
And I took my way straight to come
To the light of our home, the East.
And my letter, my awakener,
I found before me on the road,
And as with its voice it had awakened me,
(So) too with its light it was leading me
Shone before me with its form,
And with its voice and its guidance,
It also encouraged me to speed,
And with his (?) love was drawing me on.
I went forth, passed by . . .
I left Babel on my left hand,  3
And reached Maishān the great,

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The haven of the merchants,
That sitteth on the shore of the sea.
*      *      *      *      *      *
And my bright robe, which I had stripped off,
And the toga wherein it was wrapped,
From the heights of Hyrcania (?)
My parents sent thither,
By the hand of their treasurers,
Who in their faithfulness could be trusted therewith.
And because I remembered not its fashion
For in my childhood I had left it in my Father's house
On a sudden as I faced it,
The garment seemed to me like a mirror of myself.  1
I saw it all in my whole self,
Moreover I faced my whole self in (facing) it.
For we were two in distinction,
And yet again one in one likeness.
And the treasurers also,
Who brought it to me, I saw in like manner,
That they were twain (yet) one likeness.  2
For one kingly sign was graven on them,
Of his hands that restored to me (?)
My treasure and my wealth by means of them.
My bright embroidered robe,

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Which . . . . with glorious colours;
With gold and with beryls,
And rubies and agates (?)
And sardonyxes varied in colour,
It also was made ready in its home on high (?)
And with stones of adamant
All its seams were fastened;
And the image of the King of kings was depicted in full all over it,
And like the sapphire stone also were its manifold hues.
Again I saw that all over it
The motions of knowledge  1 were stirring
And as if to speak
I saw it also making itself ready.
I heard the sound of its tones,
Which it uttered to those who brought it down(?)
Saying, "I . . . . . . . ."  2
Whom they reared for him (?) in the presence of my fathers,
And I also perceived in myself
That my stature was growing according to his labours.  3
And in its kingly motions
It was spreading itself out towards me,  4
And in the hands of its givers

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It hastened that I might take it.
And me too my love urged on
That I should run to meet it and receive it;
And I stretched forth and received it,
With the beauty of its colours I adorned myself
And my toga of brilliant colours
I cast around me, in its whole breadth.
I clothed myself therewith, and ascended
To the gate of salutation and homage;
I bowed my head, and did homage
To the Majesty  1 of my Father who had sent it to me,
For I had done his commandments,
And he too had done what he promised,
And at the gate of his princes
I mingled with his nobles;
For he rejoiced in me and received me,
And I was with him in his kingdom.
And with the voice . . .
All his servants glorify him.
And he promised that also to the gate
Of the King of kings I should speed with him,
And bringing my gift and my pearl
I should appear with him before our King.

Well may Professor Bevan call this glorious hymn a "master-piece of religious poetry"; it is not only magnificent as poetry, but priceless as a record of occult fact. What then have we not lost by the barbarous destruction of the Hymns of Bardaisan?


406:1 Either the Plērōma or Ogdoad, the spiritual realms. The following notes are all mine.

406:2 A Gnostic technical term.

406:3 Beth-‘Ellāyē (Wright). It is highly probable that all the names of countries and towns, some of which Bevan has, omitted as too doubtful, are substitutes for states or regions of the higher planes; the identification of some of them has entirely baffled scholars, and the identification of the rest is mostly unsatisfactory. No doubt Bardaisan, or his son Harmonius, or whatever Bardesanist wrote the poem, was familiar with the great caravan route from India to Egypt, and used this knowledge as a substructure, but the whole is allegorical. (Since writing this note some excellent work of interpretation on these lines has been done by German scholars. See Bibliography).

406:4 A symbol, presumably, for the mind-body, or vesture.

407:1 The body, a technical term common to many Gnostic schools.

407:2 The Gnosis.

407:3 Of matter, gross and subtle.

407:4 Perhaps the elemental or animal essence in matter.

407:5 Two of the higher vestures of the Self, of which there were three.

407:6 The higher ego presumably.

407:7 Next in rank to the Mother and Father.

407:8 The powers that compel to rebirth presumably, the representatives of the Father and Mother.

407:9 Sarbūg (Wright). These are apparently various planes or states.

408:1 The serpent is presumably the passions, which inhere in the elemental essence.

409:1 Is it possible that in the above a real piece of biography has also been woven into the poem? I am inclined to think so. It may even be a lost page from the occult life of Bardaisan himself. Filled with longing to penetrate the mysteries of the Gnosis, he joins a caravan to Egypt and arrives at Alexandria. There he meets with a friend on the same quest as himself. Bardaisan first of all has the misfortune to fall into the hands of some sensual and self-seeking school of magic, and forgets for a time his real quest. Only after this bitter experience does he obtain the instruction he sought in the initiation of the Valentinian school. Of course this speculation is put forward with all hesitation, but it is neither an impossibility nor an improbability.

409:2 Names are powers. Compare the beautiful "Come unto us" passages in the Song of the Powers of the Pistis Sophia, pagg. 17 sqq.

410:1 Sarbūg (Wright).

410:2 The descent of the Holy Ghost or spiritual consciousness.

411:1 The names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that is to say, the powers of the immortal principles in man.

411:2 He left his body behind in trance, during the initiation.

411:3 He goes to "the right" like all the initiates in the Orphic and other Mysteries.

412:1 Compare the logos: "As any of you sees himself in a mirror, so let him see Me, in himself."--Resch, Agrapha (Texte u. Untersuchungen, Bd. v., Heft 4), 36 b, and As Others saw Him, p.88.

412:2 The mystery of the syzygy; compare the story of the infancy in the Pistis Sophia.

413:1 Gnosis; the robe in the Pistis Sophia, contains all "knowledges" (γνώσεις).

413:2 "I am the active in deeds" (Wright).

413:3 The "causal" body or vesture which constitutes the higher ego.

413:4 "It poured itself entirely over me" (Wright)--the same simile as is used several times in the Askew Codex.

414:1 'This seems to be One different from the rather Himself, and the subject of the third and fourth lines from the end.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #109 on: February 26, 2009, 01:27:32 pm »

Some Traces of the Gnosis in the Uncanonical Acts

JUST as there existed, prior to and alongside of the canonical Gospels, many other settings of the Sayings The Gnostic Acts. and Doings of the Lord, so there existed, prior to and alongside of the selected or canonical Acts, many other narratives professing to record the doings and sayings of the Apostles and Disciples of the Lord. Most of these originated in what are now called heretical circles, but were subsequently worked over by orthodox editors to suit doctrinal prejudices, and eagerly embraced by the Catholic Church. As Lipsius, the greatest authority on the subject, says: "Almost every fresh editor of such narratives, using that freedom which all antiquity was wont to allow itself in dealing with literary monuments, would recast the materials which lay before him, excluding whatever might not suit his theological point of view--dogmatic statements, for example, speeches, prayers, etc., for which he would substitute other formulæ of

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his own composition, and further expanding and abridging after his own pleasure, or as the immediate object which he had in view might dictate." (Art. "Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles," in Smith and Wace's Dictionary, incorporated into his exhaustive Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichte, 1883, etc.)

The main point of interest for us is that some of these edited and re-edited documents still preserve traces of their Gnostic origin; and Lipsius has shown that their Gnosticism is not to be ascribed to the third century Manichæism, as has been assumed by some, but to the general Gnosis of the second century.

Catholic Over-working.There was a very wide circulation of such religious romances in the second century, for these formed the main means of Gnostic public propaganda. The technical inner teachings of Gnosticism the Church Fathers, as we have seen, assailed with misrepresentation and overwhelmed with ridicule; to these onslaughts the Gnostics made no reply, most probably because they were bound by their oaths of secrecy on the one hand, and on the other knew well that the doctrines of the inner life could not be decided by vulgar debate. The inner teachings of their Gospel were for those within; to the rest they were foolishness. But the Acts-romances, often no doubt based on actual occurrences of the inner life, were not of so difficult a character. They may seem vastly fantastic to modern criticism, but to every shade of Christianity in those early years they were entirely credible. These formed the intermediate link between the General Church and the inner teachings of Gnosticism, and they could not be disposed of by ridicule.

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[paragraph continues] Another method had to be used. As Lipsius says: "Catholic bishops and teachers knew not how better to stem this flood of Gnostic writings and their influence among the faithful, than by boldly adopting the most popular narrations from the heretical books, and, after carefully eliminating the poison of false doctrine, replacing them in this purified form in the hands of the people."

Fortunately the "purification" has not been complete, and some traces of the "poison" are still to be found, as we hope to show our readers in the sequel.

It would be out of place in these short sketches to attempt a description of these Acts, or enter into a Early Collectors. critical treatment of their sources; our only object is, to rescue from this mass of literature a few fragments which still preserve traces of old Gnostic teachings. The original works in which these teachings were first formulated, have disappeared; the tradition has been badly mutilated by many editors and scribes. Can it be that the new-found Coptic Acts of Peter may give us the translation of an original untampered-with text?

The earliest collection of these Gnostic Acts is said to have been made by a certain Leucius (there are no less than eighteen variants of the name), or Leucius Charinus, who is said to have been a disciple of John; but of course no reliance can be placed on this latter assertion, unless "John" is taken for the writer of the Fourth Gospel, and not one of the original Twelve. At any rate the so-called Leucian Acts were early; in the opinion of Zahn this collection was made at a time when the Gnostics were not yet

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considered heretical, that is to say, prior to 150 A.D. However this may be, the Leucian Acts were a second century collection, for Clement of Alexandria was acquainted with them; they were also probably collected at Alexandria.

Another early collector of Gnostic Acts was a certain Linus, of whom nothing certain is known. He may probably have lived at Rome. The Abdias-collection is too late to be noticed in this connection.

For a full discussion of all these points, and an analysis of all the Gnostic fragments and references preserved in the Apocryphal Acts, I must refer the student to Lipsius' great work on the subject. We will now present the reader with the most important of these fragments, so that he may judge of their nature. Some of these Acts are untranslated in English; I use the most recent texts of Zahn, Bonnet and Lipsius.

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #110 on: February 26, 2009, 01:27:48 pm »

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WE have already given the reader the most important fragment preserved in the Acts of Thomas, or Judas A Hymn to Wisdom. Thomas; it is the beautiful Hymn of the Soul, composed in every likelihood by Bardesanes. If the Acts of Thomas had given us nothing else than this grand Gnostic Hymn of the Robe of Glory, their life would not have been preserved in vain. Fortunately, however, there is more to be gleaned from them. The following is a translation of the beautiful Ode to Sophia, as it is called.

"The Maiden is Light's daughter; in her the King's radiance is treasured. Majestic her look, and delightsome; in radiant beauty she shineth.

"Like to spring flowers are her garments; from them streameth scent of sweet odours. Throned o’er her head the King sitteth, with food free from death feeding them at His table.

"Truth crowneth her head; Joy sports at her feet. She openeth her mouth as becomes her; all songs of praise she lets stream forth.

"Two and thirty are they who sing praises; . . . Her tongue is like the entrance veil, moved by them who enter in only.

"Her neck towereth step-like; the first world-builder did build it. Her hands suggest the band of blessed Æons, proclaiming them (?); her fingers point toward the City's Gates.

"Her bridal chamber (παστός) doth stream with light, and pour forth scent of balsam and sweet herbs,

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delicious scents of myrrh and savoury plants; with myrtle wreaths and masses of sweet flowers ’tis strewn within. Her bridal couch is decked with reeds (?).

"Her bridesmen are grouped round her; seven are they in number; she hath picked them herself. Seven, too, are her bridesmaids dancing before her.

"Twelve are they who serve and attend her; their eyes ever look for the Bridegroom, that He may fill them with light.

"For ever with Him will they be in joy everlasting; and will take their seats at that feast where the Great Ones assemble, and remain at that banquet of which the Eternal (αἰώνιοι) alone are deemed worthy.

"In kingly dress shall they be clad, and put on robes of light, and both shall joy in bliss and exultation, singing praise to the Father.

"For of His glorious radiance they've received; and at the sight of Him, their Lord, they have been filled with light. They have received from Him immortal food that knows no waste.

"They've drunk of wine that makes men thirst no more, nor suffer fleshly lust. So with the Living Spirit they glorify Truth's Father, and sing their praise to Wisdom's Mother."

Would that we had the original of this beautiful hymn, for even the faulty and distorted version that remains is beautiful. Can it be that we have here another of the Hymns of Bardaisan? In any case the hymn looks back to the sacred marriage of the Sophia with her Bridegroom the Christ, to which

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reference has already been made in our sketch of the Basilidian Gnosis.

In this marriage the cosmic Sophia was received back into the Light-world, and united with her Its meaning. heavenly spouse. This was to take place at the Great Consummation; but, mystically, it was ever taking place for those who united themselves with their Higher Selves.

As in the consummation of the universe the World-soul was reunited with the World-mind, so in the perfectioning of the individual the soul was made one with the Self within.

The Maiden is the daughter of the Plērōma of Light; she reflects the splendour of the Kings, the Lords of the Light-realm. Above her in the Light-realm sits throned the King of Glory, the Christos, who giveth the food of deathlessness to the Spiritual Souls (Pneumatics) who are worthy to be bidden to the Feast.

At this high initiation the whole Plērōma (the two and thirty Æons) sing songs of rejoicing that the victory is won. ’Tis only such perfected souls who can move Wisdom's tongue in praise to God; they alone can make the subtle substance of such lofty heights vibrate in songs of praise.

The following verse is difficult to understand, and doubtless does not preserve the original. The "City" is the Plērōma; the bride-chamber is the Pastos, the shrine, the holy place, where the initiation is given--the Jerusalem Above, identical perhaps with the City of which we read in the superior MS. of the Codex Brucianus.

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Thither the purified soul is conducted by seven pairs or syzygies of powers. Rising aloft she takes with her the twelve, her servants, no longer her rulers as in the lower world, where she has so long been chained in the bonds of desire. The twelve are now her own purified powers, whereby the Light of the Christos is reflected. In the phrase, "both shall joy in bliss and exultation," of the third verse from the end, "both" refers to the reunited soul with its "Angel"--those Angels who always behold the Face of the Father.

This and much else does the hymn reveal to those who love the Gnosis, for many pages would not exhaust its full meaning.

The Sacramental Invocations.But we must hasten on to the remaining fragments in the Acts of Thomas, and so present our readers with a translation of two interesting sacramental prayers or invocations in hymn-form. The first runs as follows:

"Come Thou Holy Name of Christ, Name above all names; come Power from above; come Perfect Mercy; come highest gift!

"Thou Mother of compassion, come; come Spouse of Him, the Man; come Thou Revealer of the mysteries concealed; Thou Mother of the seven mansions come, who in the eighth hath found Thy rest!

"Come Thou who art more ancient far than the five holy Limbs--Mind, Thought, Reflection, Thinking, Reasoning; commune with those of later birth!

"Come Holy Spirit, purge Thou their reins and heart!"

The second runs thus:

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"Come highest Gift; Thou Perfect Mercy, come; Thou knower of the Chosen's mysteries, descend; Thou who dost share in all the noble striver's struggles, come!

"Come Silence, Thou Revealer of the mighty things of all the Greatness; come Thou who dost make manifest the hidden, and make the secret plain!

"Come Holy Dove, mother of two young twins; come Hidden Mother, revealed in deeds alone!

"Come Thou who givest joy to all who are at one with Thee; come and commune with us in this thanksgiving (eucharist) which we are making in Thy name, in this love-feast (agapē) to which we have assembled at Thy call!"

These sacramental invocations are to be referred to the same circle of ideas as the formula of the A Note thereon. Marcosian Gnosis which we have already given.

The Name is not the name "Christos," but the Name or Power of the Christ, His shakti (to use a term of Indian theosophy) or syzygy.

The "one more ancient than the five limbs," is the Man, the spouse of the Sophia or Holy Spirit, the Christos. The five limbs are presumably the Pentad of the æons referred to in the new-found Gnostic Gospel of Mary, and the names of them are very similar to those mentioned in the "Simonian" system. They are one of the highest orderings of the limbs, or members, of the Heavenly Man, of which we read so much in the Bruce and Askew Codices.

"Those of later birth" are the neophytes awaiting the initiation of the "seal of perfection." The

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[paragraph continues] "mighty things of the whole Greatness" are the mysteries of the Plērōma.

The Holy Dove is again the Sophia or World-soul; according to the Gnosis of Bardaisan, she had two daughters. Ephraim, the bitter opponent of the Bardesanists, says that they were called Shame of the Dry and Image of the Water; whether these were really their names or not, they were presumably the productive World-earth and procreative World-water, the builders of the material world; in other words, the sublunary and terrestrial regions.

Before leaving the Acts of Thomas it may be interesting to give the reader a specimen of the stories with which such religious romances were filled. The Apostle Judas Thomas, or the Twin of Jesus, is fabled to have received India by lot for his apostolic sphere of work. Thomas at first does not wish to go, but is sold by Jesus, his master, to a trader from the East as a slave "skilled in carpentry." We take the following summary of the story from Salmon's Introduction to the New Testament (8th ed., 1897, pp. 337, 338).

The Palace that Thomas Built."When Thomas arrives in India, he is brought before the King, and being questioned as to his knowledge of masons’ or carpenters’ work professes great skill in either department. The King asks him if he can build him a palace. He replies that he can, and makes a plan which is approved of. He is then commissioned to build the palace, and is supplied abundantly with money for the work, which, however, he says he cannot begin till the winter months. The

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[paragraph continues] King thinks this strange, but being convinced of his skill acquiesces. But when the King goes away, Thomas, instead of building, employs himself in preaching the Gospel, and spends all the money on the poor. After a time the King sends to know how the work is going on. Thomas sends back, word that the palace is finished all but the roof, for which he must have more money; and this is supplied accordingly, and is spent by Thomas on the widows and orphans as before. At length the King returns to the city, and when he makes inquiry about the palace, he learns that Thomas has never done anything but go about preaching, giving alms to the poor, and healing diseases. He seemed to be a magician, yet he never took money for his cures; lived on bread and water, with salt, and had but one garment. The King, in great anger, sent for Thomas. 'Have you built me a palace?' 'Yes.' 'Let me see it.' 'Oh, you can't see it now, but you will see it when you go out of this world.' Enraged at being thus mocked, the King committed Thomas to prison, until he could devise some terrible form of death for him. But that same night the King's brother died, and his soul was taken up by the angels to see all the heavenly habitations. They asked him in which he would like to dwell. But when he saw the palace which Thomas had built, he desired to dwell in none but that. When he learned that it belonged to his brother, he begged and obtained that he might return to life in order that he might buy it from him. So as they were putting grave-clothes on the body, it returned to life. He sent for the King, whose love for him he

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knew, and implored him to sell him the palace. But when the King learned the truth about it, he refused to sell the mansion he hoped to inhabit himself, but consoled his brother with the promise that Thomas, who was still alive, should build him a better one, The two brothers then received instruction and were baptized."

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #111 on: February 26, 2009, 01:28:10 pm »

A Recently Published Fragment.IN a recent volume of that most valuable series Texts and Studies (Apocrypha Anecdota II., by M. R. James, 1897), there is a long fragment of The Acts of John, much of which has never been previously published. It has been rescued from a fourteenth century MS. preserved in Vienna. The original of these Acts is early, belonging as they do to the Leucian collection. Seeing that Clement of Alexandria quotes from them, we must assign the third quarter of the second century to them as the terminus ad quem. We have therefore before us an early document, our interest in which is further increased by the fact of its distinctly Gnostic nature.

The Rationale of Docetism.Nearly the whole of the fragment consists of a monologue put into the mouth of John, in which is preserved for us a most remarkable tradition of the occult life of Jesus. The whole setting of the christology is docetic and the fragment is thus a most valuable addition to our knowledge on this interesting point of Gnostic tradition. Docetism was the rank growth of the

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legends of certain occult powers ascribed to the "perfect man," which were woven into the many christological and soteriological theories of the Gnostic philosophers; and also, as I believe, of a veritable historical fact, which has been obscured out of all recognition by the many historicizing narrations of the origins. After His death the Christ did return and teach His followers among the inner communities, and this was the part origin of the protean Gnostic tradition of an inner instruction. He returned in the only way He could return, namely, in a "psychic" or "spiritual" body; this body could be made visible at will, could even be made sensible to touch, but was, compared to the ordinary physical body, an "illusory" body--hence the term "docetic."

But just as the external tradition of the "Poor Men" was gradually transmuted, and finally exalted Jesus The Evolution of Tradition. from the position of a prophet into the full power and glory of the Godhead itself, so the internal tradition extended the original docetic notion to every department of the huge soteriological structure raised by Gnostic genius. The Acts of John pertain to the latter cycle of tendencies, and "John" is the personification of one of the lines of tradition of the protean docetism, which had its origin in an occult fact, and of those marvellous teachings of initiation which became subsequently historicized, and which John sums up in the words: "I held firmly this one thing in myself, that the Lord contrived all things symbolically and by a dispensation toward men, for their conversion and salvation."

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That the Christ was possessed of spiritual powers of a very high order is easy of belief to any student of occult nature. That he could appear to others in a māyāvi-rūpa, as it is called in India, and change its appearance at will, is quite possible of credit. But that the tradition of these and other such happenings should have been handed down without exaggeration and fantastic embellishment, would be entirely contrary to human experience in such matters.

Mystic Stories of Jesus.Thus, then, we are told that at the calling of James and John, first of all James saw Jesus as a child, while John saw Him first as a man "fair and comely and of a cheerful countenance"; afterwards he saw Him as one "having a head rather bald, but a thick and flowing beard," while James asserted that He appeared "as a youth whose beard wag newly come."

Moreover, another peculiarity which John remarked, was that His eyes never closed. Strangely enough, this is one of the signs of a "god" given in the Hindu scriptures. Many changes of appearance did John remark, sometimes as of "a man small and uncomely, and then again as one reaching to heaven"--a fact quite credible when related of a pupil in sympathetic contact with the powerful "presence" or "glory" of a Master. But stranger still, when John lay upon his breast, "sometimes it was felt of me to be smooth and tender, and sometimes hard, like stones." Moreover, when Jesus was in prayer and contemplation, there was seen in Him "such a light as it is not possible for a man that useth corruptible speech to tell what it was like."

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The following naïve story will at the end bring a smile to the face of the reader, but at the same time it will give the student of hidden nature proof that the legend is not based entirely on the imagination, but pertains to the domain of occult fact, if at any rate the many similar legends, current in India, concerning the touch of yogins when in certain states of ecstasy are at all to be credited. (The quotations are for the most part from Dr. James’ translation).

"Again in like manner he leadeth us three up into the mountain, saying 'Come ye to Me.' And we again went: and we beheld Him at a distance praying. Now therefore I, because He loved me, drew nigh unto Him softly as though He should not see, and stood looking at His back. And I beheld Him that He was not in any wise clad with garments, but was seen of us naked thereof, and not in any wise as a man; and His feet whiter than any snow, so that the ground there was lighted up by His feet; and His head reaching unto heaven, so that I was afraid and cried out; and He turned and appeared as a man of small stature, and took hold of my beard and pulled it and said unto me, 'John, be not unbelieving, and not a busybody.' And I said unto Him, 'But what have I done, Lord V And I tell you, brethren, I suffered great pain in that place where he took hold upon my beard for thirty days.

"But Peter and James were wroth because I spake with the Lord, and beckoned unto me that The Christ speaks with Jesus. I should come unto them, and leave the Lord alone. And I went, and they both said unto me, 'He that

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was speaking with the Lord when he was upon the top of the mount, who was He? for we heard both of them speaking.' And I, when I considered His great grace and His unity which hath many faces, and His wisdom which without ceasing looked upon us, said, 'That shall ye learn if ye inquire of Him.'

"Again, once when all of us His disciples were sleeping in one house at Gennesaret, I alone, having wrapped myself up, watched from under my garment what He did; and first I heard Him say, 'John, go thou to sleep,' and thereupon I feigned to be asleep; and I saw another like unto Him come down, whom also I heard saying unto my Lord, 'Jesus, do they whom thou hast chosen still not believe in thee?' And my Lord said unto Him, 'Thou sayest well, for they are men.'"

Here, in my opinion, is the direct tradition of an inner fact which led to the subsequent great doctrinal distinction between Jesus and the Christ in Gnostic Christianity. The Christ was the Great Master; Jesus was the man through whom He taught during the time of the ministry.

An Early Form of one of the Great Miracles.Interesting again is the simple story that when Jesus and His disciples were each given a loaf by some well-to-do householder, Jesus would bless the loaf and divide it among them, and each was well satisfied with his portion, and thus "our loaves were saved whole"--an incident credible enough to any student of occultism, and supplying a basis on which the gorgeous oriental imagination could easily in time construct the legend of the feeding of the

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five thousand. Such incidents were all that the writer deemed advisable to tell to the uninitiated; there were many more of a nature too sacred or too far from credibility to be revealed to the outer circles.

"Now these things, brethren, I speak unto you for the encouragement of your faith toward Him; for we must at present keep silence concerning His mighty and wonderful works, inasmuch as they are mysteries and peradventure cannot at all be either uttered or heard."

Next follows the "Hymn" which was sung before He was taken by "the lawless Jews." The A Ritual from the Mysteries. disciples are described as holding one another's hands so as to make a ring round Jesus, who stands in the midst, and to each line He sings, they intone in chorus the sacred word "Amen." It is evidently some echo of the Mysteries, and the ceremony is that of a sacred dance of initiation. The Hymn stands at present in a very confused and mutilated form, and the rubrics have almost entirely disappeared. I have therefore permitted myself a few conjectures; in some passages, however, the confusion is so great. that it is impossible to venture on a suggestion. In the following C. stands for the candidate, I. for the initiator (the Christ), and A. for the assistants.

C. "I would be saved."

I. "And I would save."

A. "Amen."

C. "I would be loosed."

I. "And I would loose."

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A. "Amen."

C. "I would be pierced."

I. "And I would pierce."

A. "Amen."

C. "I would be born."

I. "And I would bring to birth."

A. "Amen."

C. "I would eat."

I. "And I would be eaten."

A. "Amen."

C. "I would hear."

I. "And I would be heard."

A. "Amen."

"I would be understood, being all understanding (mind)."

A. "Amen."

C. "I would be washed."

I. "And I would wash."

A. "Amen."

"(Grace [i.e., the Sophia] dances.)"

"I would pipe; dance all of you."

A. "Amen."

"The Ogdoad plays to our dancing. Amen."

"The Dodecad danceth above [us]. Amen."

[The reading of this line is hopeless.]

"He who danceth not, knoweth not what is being done."

C. "I would flee."

I. "I would [have thee] stay."

A. "Amen."

C. "I would be robed [in fit garments]."

I. "And I would robe [thee]."

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A. "Amen."

C. "I would be at-oned."

I. "And I would at-one."

A. "Amen."

"I have no house, and I have houses. Amen."

"I have no place, and I have places. Amen."

"I have no temple, and I have temples. Amen."

I. "I am a lamp to thee who beholdest Me."

A. "Amen."

I. "I am a mirror to thee who perceivest Me."

A. "Amen."

I. "I am a door to thee who knockest at Me."

A. "Amen."

I. "I am a way to thee, a wayfarer."

A. "Amen."

I. "Now respond thou to my dancing."

"See thyself in Me who speak; and when thou hast seen what I do, keep silence on My mysteries."

"(Dancing.) Observe what I do, for thine is this passion (suffering) of the Man which I am to suffer (perform)."

[Here probably followed a mystery-drama of the crucifixion and piercing.]

"Thou couldst never [alone] have understood what I suffer. I am thy Word (Logos--Highest Self). I was sent by the Father."

"When thou didst look on My passion, thou didst see Me as suffering; thou stood’st not firm, but wast shaken completely. . ."

"Thou hast Me for a couch, rest thou upon Me."

"Who am I? That shalt thou know when I depart."

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"What I am now seen to be, that I am not; but what I am thou shalt see when thou comest."

"If thou hadst known how to suffer, thou wouldst have had the power not to suffer."

"Know then suffering and thou shalt have the power not to suffer."

"That which thou knowest not, I myself will teach thee."

"I am thy God, not that of thy betrayer."

C. "I would be brought into harmony with holy souls."

I. "In Me know thou the Word of wisdom."

The Doxology.So run the mutilated fragments of this most interesting relic of inner Gnostic ritual; in the version of The Acts of John from which we are quoting, this so-called Hymn begins and ends with the following doxology, to each line of which the disciples, "going round in a ring," are said to answer back "Amen."

"Glory to Thee, Father. Amen!

"Glory to Thee, Word; glory to Thee, Grace. Amen!

"Glory to Thee, Spirit; glory to Thee, Holy One; glory to Thy glory. Amen!

"We praise Thee, O Father; we give thanks to Thee, O Light, wherein dwelleth no darkness. Amen!"

If we had only a description of the "drama," the "things done," as well as of the "things said," at this most instructive ceremony, much light might be thrown on the meaning of the "passion" of the Christ as it was originally understood. When, moreover, we reflect that most precious fragments of

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this hidden part of earliest Christendom are being discovered almost yearly, it is not too wild a hope that some tattered leaf may give us further light. That, however, the "mystery of the cross," the mystic crucifixion, was understood by the Gnostics in a fashion far different from the literal historic narrative, is abundantly proved by these same Johannine Acts.

When the Lord was hung upon the "bush of the cross," He appeared unto John, who had fled unto the "Mount of Olives."

"Our Lord stood in the midst of the cave and filled it with light and said, 'To the multitude The Mystery of the Cross. below, in Jerusalem [? the Jerusalem Below--the physical world], I am being crucified, and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given Me to drink; to thee now I speak, and hearken to My words. ’Twas I who put it in thy heart to ascend this mount, that thou mightest hear what disciple must learn from Master, and man from God.'

"And having thus spoken, He showed me a cross of light set up, and about the cross a great multitude, and therein one form and one likeness; and on the cross another multitude, not having one form, and I saw the Lord Himself above the cross, not having any shape, but only a voice; and a voice not such as was familiar to us, but a sweet and kind voice and one truly of God, saying unto me: 'John, it is needful that one should hear these things from Me; for I have need of one who will hear. This cross of light is sometimes called the Word by Me for your sakes, sometimes Mind, sometimes Jesus, sometimes Christ,

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sometimes Door, sometimes Way, sometimes Bread, sometimes Seed, sometimes Resurrection, sometimes Son, sometimes Father, sometimes Spirit, sometimes Life, sometimes Truth, sometimes Faith, sometimes Grace.

"'Now these things it is called as toward men; but as to what it is in truth, as conceived of in itself and as spoken of to thee--it is the marking off (delimitation) of all things, the firm necessity of those things that are fixed and were unsettled, the harmony of Wisdom. And whereas it is Wisdom in harmony (or fitly ordered), there are on the Right and Left Powers, Principalities, Sources, and Dæmons, Energies, Threats, Wrath, Accusers, Satan, and [Below] the Lower Root from which hath proceeded the nature of the things in genesis.

"'This, then, is the cross which fixed all things apart by Reason, and marked off the things that come from genesis, the things below it, and then compacted all into one whole.

"'This is not the cross of wood which thou wilt see when thou hast descended; nor am I He that is upon the cross, whom now thou seest not but only hearest a voice.

"'By the others, the many, I have been thought to be what I am not, though I am not what I was. And they will [still] say of Me what is base and not worthy of Me.

"'As, therefore, the Place of Rest is neither seen nor spoken of, much more shall I, the Lord of that Place, be neither seen nor spoken of.

"'Now the multitude of one aspect that is about

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the cross is the lower nature, and those whom thou seest on the cross, if they have not one The Interpretation thereof. form, it is because not yet hath every Limb of Him who came down been gathered together. But when the upper nature shall be taken up, and the race which is repairing to Me, in obedience to My voice; then that which [as yet] hears Me not, shall become as thou art, and shall no longer be what it now is, but above them [of the world], even as I am now. For so long as thou callest not thyself Mine, I am not what I am. But if hearing thou hearkenest unto Me, then shalt thou be as I am, and I shall be what I was, when I have thee as I am with Myself. For from this thou art. Pay no attention, then, to the many, and them outside the mystery think little of; for know that I am wholly with the Father and the Father with Me.

"'Nothing therefore of the things which they will say of Me have I suffered; nay, that suffering also which I showed unto thee and unto the rest in the dance, I will that it be called a mystery. For what thou seest that did I show thee; but what I am that I alone know, and none else. Suffer me then to keep that which is Mine own, and that which is thine behold thou through Me, and behold Me in truth that I am, not what I said, but what thou art able to know, for thou art kin to Me.

"'Thou hearest that I suffered, yet I suffered not; that I suffered not, yet did I suffer; that I was pierced, yet was I not smitten; that I was hanged, yet was I not hanged; that blood flowed from Me, yet it flowed not. In a word those things that they

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say of Me, I had not, and the things that they say not, those I suffered. Now what they are I will shadow forth (riddle) for thee, for I know that thou wilt understand.

"'See thou therefore in Me the slaying of a Word (Logos), the piercing of a Word, the blood of a Word, the wounding of a Word, the hanging of a Word, the passion of a Word, the nailing [? fixing or joining] of a Word, the death of a Word. And by a Word I mean. Man. First, then, understand the Word, then shalt thou understand the Lord, and thirdly the Man, and what is His passion."'

The Initiation of the Cross.It is evident that we have here the tradition of the inner schools as to the great mystery of initiation called the Cross. The Cross is apparently three limbed, having a right, a left, and a lower arm, like the Egyptian tau. On it the body of the candidate presumably was bound, and in trance his soul ascended the mountain of initiation, the "height" within. Here he meets the Master, but only hears His voice; not yet can he see Him as He is, for all his limbs are not yet gathered together, the perfect Osiris is not formed in him, but will be at a higher stage, when he is at-oned with the Christ.

How beautiful are these echoes from the old teaching, and what light they throw on things otherwise entirely incomprehensible! It was these inner experiences of the soul which were the life and strength of the Gnosis, experiences in which the complex systems that "the tongue of flesh" endeavoured to enunciate with such labour, received illumination and light--"sweet, joyous light," as the Shepherd of

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[paragraph continues] Hermes the Thrice-greatest has it. Well now can we imagine the significance of the greeting among such scholars of the hidden way as: "The mystery of that which hangs ’twixt heaven and earth be with you."

Of the idea of the Little and Great Man, the lower and higher selves, in such circles of initiation we hear Higher Lower Selves. and elsewhere from The Gospel of Eve (Epiph., xxvi. 3), describing one of these visions on the Mount.

"I stood on a lofty mountain and saw a mighty Man, and another, a dwarf, and heard as it were a voice of thunder, and drew nigh for to hear; and it spake unto me and said: 'I am thou and thou art I; and wheresoever thou art I am there, and I am sown (or scattered) in all; from whencesoever thou wiliest thou gatherest Me, and gathering Me thou gatherest Thyself."

The "dwarf" presumably corresponds to the "man of the size of a thumb in the æther of the heart" of the Upanishads; as yet he is smaller than the small, but as the spiritual nature develops he will become greater than the great, and grow into the stature of the Heavenly Man--the Supreme Self.

As to the scattering and collecting of the Limbs, there is a passage cited by Epiphanius (ibid., 13) from The Gospel of Philip, which throws some further light on the subject. It is an apology or defence to be used by the soul in its ascent to the Heaven-world, as it passes through the middle spaces, and runs as follows:

"I have recognised myself and gathered myself together from all sides. I have sown no children to the Ruler [the lord of this world], but have torn up his roots; I have gathered together my limbs that

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were scattered abroad, and I know thee who thou art."

A Prayer of Praise to Christ.So much for what we can glean from the text of the latest published fragment of these most instructive Acts; from the already known texts there are several other fragments of interest. The following is a prayer of praise put into the mouth of John at the sacred feast prior to his departure from life. It is addressed to the Christ.

"What praise, what offering, what thanksgiving, shall we, in breaking bread, speak of but Thee alone? We glorify Thy Name [i.e., Power] which hath been spoken by the Father; we glorify Thy Name which hath been spoken through the Son; we glorify the Resurrection shown unto us through Thee; we glorify Thy Seed, Word, Grace, Faith, Salt, True Pearl ineffable, Treasure, Plough, Greatness, Net, and Diadem, Him who hath been called for our sakes the Son of Man, Truth, Rest, and Gnosis, Power, Statute, Frankness, Hope, Love, Freedom, and Going-for-refuge to Thee. For Thou alone art the one Lord, the Root of Deathlessness, and Source of Incorruptibility, Seat of the Æons. All these hast Thou been called for us, that we invoking Thee by them, may know that as 'Te are we never can embrace Thy Greatness, greatness that can alone be contemplated by the Pure, for it is imaged in Thy man alone."

The same phrase, "Thy man," is found in the beautiful treatise of Hermes Trismegistus known as The Secret Sermon on the Mountain; "Thou art the God; Thy man thus cries to Thee through fire, air,

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earth; through water, spirit, through these Thy creatures." But indeed the whole of the so-called Poimandrēs collection of the Trismegistic literature comes from the same source as the Gnosis.

The high ideal of the Gnostic life, and the lofty level to which these strivers after the sinless state aspired, are amply shown in the farewell address to his disciples, put in the mouth of John by the Gnostic composer or compiler of the Acts.

"Brothers and fellow-servants, co-heirs and co-partners in the kingdom of the Lord, ye know how John's Farewell Address to his Community. many powers the Lord hath granted you through me--how many wonders, healings how many, how many signs, what gifts [of the Spirit], teachings, guidings, reliefs, services, glories, graces, gifts, bestowings of faith, communions--how many ye see with your own eyes given unto you, how many that neither these eyes of yours can see, nor these ears hear! Stand ye, therefore, fast in Him, in every deed remembering Him, knowing wherefore the mystery of the dispensation towards men is being worked out.

"The Lord Himself exhorteth you through me: 'Brethren, I would be free from grief [on your behalf], from violence, plottings, punishments.'

"For He knoweth the violence that comes from you, He knoweth the dishonour, He knoweth the plotting, He knoweth the punishment that comes through them who obey not His commandments.

"Let not then our Good God be grieved, Him the compassionate, merciful and holy, the pure and spotless one, the one and only one, unchangeable, of

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speckless purity, who knows not guile or wrath, higher and loftier than any attribute that we can name or think, Jesus our God.

"May He be glad of us as citizens of a well-ruled state; may He rejoice at our living in purity; may He have rest by our reverent behaviour; may He be free from care by our continence; may He be delighted by our dwelling in brotherhood; may He laugh with joy at our prudence; may He rejoice at our love for Him.

"These things do I say unto you, hastening to the end of my appointed task, which has been brought to an end for me by the Lord. For what else can I say to you? Ye have the pledges of our God; ye have the sureties of His goodness; ye have His presence which can never leave you. If then ye sin no more, He doth forgive you all that ye have done in ignorance; but if, having once known Him and having received of His mercy, ye turn back into such paths then shall your former sins be put to your charge, and ye shall have neither portion nor mercy before Him."

Immediately on this there follows the last prayer of John to the Christ on behalf of his brethren.

John's Last Prayer."Thou who hast woven this wreath by Thy weaving, Jesus, Thou who hast united these many blossoms into that sweet flower of Thine whose scent can never fade, Thou who hast sown these Words, protector of Thine own, healer who heal’st for naught, Thou only one who ever doest good, stranger to arrogance, Thou only merciful, the friend of man, Thou only saviour,

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righteous one, who ever seest all things and art in all and always ever-present, God, Jesus, Christos, Lord, who with Thy gifts and Thy compassion dost screen [all] them who hope on Thee, Thou who dost right well know all those that do us wrong and who blaspheme Thy holy Name, Thou only Lord, watch o’er Thy servants and protect them; yea, Lord, do this!"

The rest of the prayer has also a strong Gnostic colouring, but sufficient has already been quoted to give the reader some idea of the lofty thoughts which animated such communities of the early days.

But before leaving The Acts of John we cannot refrain from presenting the reader with the best known story that has crept into their compilation. It is strange that, where there is so much beauty, this particular story should have been singled out for most frequent quotation, and that many theological students know nothing else of the contents of these instructive documents but "The Story of John and the Bugs." But so it is, and we give it as a specimen of the many legends that were current among the people, and also because it is not deficient in humour, an uncommon commodity in the circles of the pious. We take the account from Salmon's summary. (Op. supra cit., p. 350).

Once on a time John and his companions were a-journeying for apostolic purposes. "On their journey The Story of John and the Bugs. the party stopped at an uninhabited caravanserai. They found there but one bare couch, and having laid clothes on it they made the Apostle lie on it, while the rest of the party laid themselves down to sleep on the

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floor. But John was troubled by a great multitude of bugs; until after having tossed sleepless for half the night, he said to them in the hearing of all: 'I say unto you, O ye bugs, be ye kindly considerate; leave your home for this night, and go to rest in a place which is far from the servant of God.' At this the disciples laughed, while the Apostle turned to sleep, and they conversed gently, so as not to disturb him. In the morning, the first to awake went to the door, and they saw a great multitude of bugs standing. The rest collected to view, and at last St. John awoke and saw likewise. Then (mindful rather of his grateful obligation to the bugs than of the comfort of the next succeeding traveller) he said: 'O ye bugs, since ye have been kind and have observed my charge, return to your place.' No sooner had he said this, and risen from the couch, than the bugs all in a run rushed from the door to the couch, climbed up the legs, and disappeared into the joinings. And John said: 'See how these creatures, having heard the voice of a man, have obeyed; but we, hearing the voice of God, neglect and disobey; and how long?'"

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« Reply #112 on: February 26, 2009, 01:28:27 pm »

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FROM The Acts of Andrew the following Address Address to the Cross. to the Cross is of great interest, when compared with what has been already quoted from The Acts of John and with the rest of the Gnostic ideas on the subject. For the Gnostics the Cross was a symbol of cosmic processes as well as of the crucifixion of the soul in matter and of its regeneration, and it is to be regretted that our information is so fragmentary. The following Address put into the mouth of Andrew has been worked over by Catholic scribes, but the underlying material is plainly to be derived from the Gnostic circle of ideas.

"Rejoicing I come to thee, thou Cross, the life-giver, Cross whom I now know to be mine; I know thy mystery, for thou hast been planted in the world to make fast things unstable.

"Thy head stretcheth up into heaven, that thou mayest symbol forth the heavenly Logos, the head of all things. Thy middle parts are stretched forth, as it were hands to right and left, to put to flight the envious and hostile power of the evil one, that thou mayest gather together into one them [sci., the limbs] that are scattered abroad. Thy foot is set in the earth, sunk in the deep, that thou mayest draw up those that lie beneath the earth and are held fast in the regions beneath it, and mayest join them to those in heaven.

"O Cross, engine, most skilfully devised, of

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salvation given unto men by the Highest; O Cross, invincible trophy of the conquest of Christ o’er His foes; O Cross, thou life-giving tree, roots planted on earth, fruit treasured in heaven; O Cross most venerable, sweet thing and sweet name; O Cross most worshipful, who bearest as grapes the Master, the true vine, who dost bear too the Thief as thy fruit, fruitage of faith through confession; thou who bringest the worthy to God through the Gnosis and summonest sinners home through repentance!"

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« Reply #113 on: February 26, 2009, 01:28:40 pm »

To the above may be added the final speech put into the mouth of Peter, in the romance of his Travels, or Circuits (Tours). It is found in the fragment of the Linus-collection, called The Martyrdom of Peter. The legend says that Peter insisted on being crucified head downwards, and the reasons for this strange proceeding are given as follows in the faulty Latin translation.

The Descent of Man."Fitly wert Thou alone stretched on the cross with head on high, O Lord, who hast redeemed all of the world from sin. I have desired to imitate Thee in Thy passion too; yet would I not take on myself to be hanged upright. For we, pure men and sinners, are born from Adam, but Thou art God of God, Light of true Light, before all æons and after them; thought worthy to become for men Man without stain of man, Thou hast stood forth man's glorious Saviour. Thou ever upright, ever raised

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on high, eternally above! We, men according to the flesh, are sons of the first man (Adam), who sunk his being in the earth, whose fall in human generation is shown forth. For we are brought to birth in such a way, that we do seem to be poured into earth, so that the right is left, the left doth right become; in that our state is changed in those who are the authors of this life. For this world down below doth think the right what is the left; this world in which Thou, Lord, hast found us like the Ninevites, and by Thy holy preaching hast Thou rescued those about to die."

"The authors of this life" presumably refer to the powers that bring the man to birth. The Jonah-myth was a type of the initiate, who, after being three days and three nights in the "belly of Sheol" or Hades, preached to those in Nineveh, the Jerusalem Below, that is to say, this world.

But for the brethren there was a still further instruction as to the meaning of the Mystic Cross.

"But ye, my brothers, who have the right to hear, lend me the ears of your heart, and understand what The Mystic Redemption of the Cross. now must be revealed to you--the hidden mystery of every nature and the secret spring. of every thing composed. For the first man, whose race I represent by my position, with head reversed, doth symbolize his birth into destruction; for that his birth was death and lacked the life-stream. But of His own compassion the Power Above came down into the world, by means of corporal substance, to him who by a just decree had been cast down into the earth, and hanged upon the Cross, and by the means of this

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most holy calling [the Cross], He did restore us and did make for us these present things (which had till then remained unchanged by men's unrighteous error) into the Left, and those that men had taken for the Left into eternal things. In exaltation of the Right He hath changed all the signs into their proper nature, considering as good those thought not good, and those men thought malefic most benign. Whence in a mystery the Lord hath said: 'If ye make not the Right like as the Left, the Left like as the Right, Above as the Below, Before as the Behind, ye shall not know God's kingdom.' This saying have I made manifest in me, my brothers; this is the way in which your eyes of flesh behold me hanging. It figures forth the way of the first man.

"But ye, beloved, hearing these words and by conversion of your nature and changing of your life perfecting them, even as ye have turned you from that way of error where ye trod, unto the most sure state of faith, so keep ye running and strive towards the peace of that which calls you from above, living the holy life. For that the way on which ye travel there is Christ. Therefore with Jesus, Christ, true God, ascend the Cross; He hath been made for us the one and only Word. Whence also doth the Spirit say: 'Christ is the Word and Voice of God.' The Word in truth is symbolized by that straight stem on which I hang. [As for the Voice--] since that voice is a thing of flesh, with features not to be ascribed unto God's nature, the cross-piece of the cross is thought to figure forth that human nature which suffered the fault of change in the first man, but by

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the help of God-and-man, received again its real mind. Right in the centre, joining twain in one, is set the nail of discipline, conversion and repentance."

The Latin translation is very faulty and often obscures the Greek original, but enough of the meaning has been preserved to show the general drift of the thought. The first quotation is one of the sayings from The Gospel according to the Egyptians; the source of the second is not known. Compare also the changing of the Right and Left with the conversion of the spheres in the opening pages of the Pistis Sophia treatise.

Other speeches and innumerable isolated phrases, which still preserve traces of the Gnosis, could be Afterword. cited from the existing remains of the uncanonical Acts, but sufficient has been written to give the reader an idea of the extensive popular literature of this kind which emanated from Gnostic circles in the early years, and to show him that very different ideas prevailed among those who were in touch with the inner tradition, from those of that exclusively historical view which eventually gained the upper hand.

Whether or not these ideas throw light on the Christ's teaching, each must decide for himself. That, however, they were ideas put forward by men vastly nearer the time of the origins than ourselves--by men whose whole lives were devoted to the Christ, striving by every means to purify themselves, and to experience in themselves the truths of the unseen world and realize the teachings of the Master--is amply manifest.

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« Reply #114 on: February 26, 2009, 01:29:22 pm »

p. 450 p. 451

The Gnosis According to Its Friends
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« Reply #115 on: February 26, 2009, 01:30:35 pm »

p. 452

Sempiterna Lux! Nec divitias nec honores peto; me modo Divinć Lucis radio illumines!

                 From An Essay of Transmigration in Defence of Pythagoras (London, 1692).

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9]Some Greek Original Works in Coptic Translation[/size]
So far we have endeavoured to recover some fragments of flotsam and jetsam from the pitiful wreck of the Gnosis, wrought by the hands of its bitterest foes, the orthodox Church Fathers; we will now try to give the reader some rough idea of the contents of some Gnostic treatises, which have been preserved to us in Coptic translation by the hands of its friends.

We have to consider the contents of three precious documents known as the Askew, Bruce, and Akhmīm Codices, the last of which was only discovered in 1896. We shall reserve the Akhmīm Codex for later notice, since little is so far known of it, and so give our immediate attention to the Askew and Bruce Codices.

The Askew Codex was bought by the British Museum from the heirs of Dr. Askew at the The Askew Codex. end of the last century (presumably a little prior to 1785). The MS. is written on vellum in Greek uncials, in the Upper Egyptian

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dialect, and is not in roll but in book-form. It consists of 346 quarto pages, and for the most part is in an excellent state of preservation; a few leaves only are missing. The Codex is a copy and not an original; and the original was a translation from the Greek. The general contents consist of a treatise to which custom has given the name Pistis Sophia, owing to a heading in the middle of the general narrative, added by another hand. The treatise has no superscription or subscription, and though there is a long incident in it dealing with the passion and redemption of the Sophia, other parts of equal length might just as well be called The Questions of Mary, as Harnack has suggested, and Matter long prior to him. The Codex also contains a short inset and a lengthy appendix entitled Extracts from the Books of the Saviour. For a further description I must refer the reader to the Introduction of my translation.

The Bruce CodexThe Bruce Codex was brought to England from Upper Egypt in 1769 by the famous Scottish traveller Bruce, and bequeathed to the care of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It is written on papyrus, in Greek cursive characters, in the Upper Egyptian dialect, and consists of seventy-eight leaves, in book-form. Its leaves are in a most terrible state of disorder and dilapidation, and many are missing. A scientific examination of the Codex reveals the fact that it consists of two distinct MSS., containing the remains of at least two distinct Gnostic works and some fragments. The superior MS., of better material and finer handwriting, contains a treatise of great sublimity, but without a title, the

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first and last pages being lost. The other MS. contains fragments of at least two separate books, and preserves the title The Book of the Great Logos according to the Mystery. This is taken by Schmidt to be the general title, and to comprise two parts which he calls respectively the First and Second Book, of Ieou.

The contents of these treatises are of such a marvellous and complex nature, that I despair of Translations. giving the general reader any adequate conception of them. The student may, however, form some idea of the task by reading my translation of the Pistis Sophia treatise and the Extracts from the Books of the Saviour; but even this will give him no adequate conception of the complexity of the contents of the Codex Brucianus, of which, unfortunately, there is as yet no English translation.

In 1891 Amélineau published a text and French translation of the Bruce Codex with a brief introduction; but his text was based on Woide's copy of the Codex made a century ago, and the French savant had no idea that he was dealing with two distinct MSS., whose leaves were jumbled up in inextricable confusion.

In 1892 Dr. Carl Schmidt, having with admirable patience collated the copies of the Codex made by Schwartze and Woide with the original at Oxford, and with still greater acumen and industry separated the two MSS. and placed their respective leaves in order, published a critical text, with a German translation and a voluminous commentary.

In the following résumé, with regard to the Codex

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[paragraph continues] The Difficulty of the Subject.Brucianus, I shall follow Schmidt's translation and not Amélineau's. Schmidt is by far the most competent authority in the field, and no praise is too high a tribute to pay this most distinguished Coptic scholar for his unwearied patience. I have before me a rough translation of the whole of Schmidt's voluminous work, and have spared no pains to make myself acquainted with his labours; but, even with his help, I feel as yet a very tyro in the Gnosticism revealed in these treatises. For, though Schmidt throws light on many points, innumerable problems are still left untouched; in fact, with all his admirable scholarship and infinite research, he is entirely baffled on just those very points which seem to have been of greatest interest to the composers or compilers of these Gnostic documents.

When, in 1896, I published a translation of the Pistis Sophia I had intended to follow it up with a commentary; but I speedily found that in spite of the years of work I had already given to Gnosticism, there were still many years of labour before me, ere I could satisfy myself that I was competent to essay the task in any really satisfactory fashion; I have accordingly reserved that task for the future. Meantime, in the present short sketches nothing more is attempted than a very tentative summary, so that the general reader may obtain some notion of the contents of our Coptic Gnostic treatises; my only excuse for breaking silence being that there is absolutely nothing as yet in English on the contents of the Bruce Codex.

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We will, then, first of all attempt a summary of the contents of the so-called Pistis Sophia Programme. treatise; then a summary of the Extracts from the Books of the Saviour, inserted in and following after this treatise in the Askew Codex. This will be followed by a summary of the fragments contained in the inferior MS. of the Bruce Codex. I shall venture, however, to transpose Schmidt's main order, and place what he calls The Second Book of Ieou before what he calls The First, for the general subjects of his first group of fragments seem to me to follow the subjects of his second, rather than the contrary. It is quite true that the beginning of his second division starts on the verso of the papyrus leaf, the recto of which contains the end of the other; but this only assures us the correct position of two adjacent fragments. That the numerous other fragments are always arranged in their proper sequence is by no means quite certain, though I frankly confess I so far see no more satisfactory ordering of the chaos myself.

That we have among these fragments part of the original contents of The Books of Ieou mentioned in the Pistis Sophia seems highly probable, but that we can assign our fragments definitely to Books I. and II. is not so certain. The whole will therefore in our summary stand under the general title, The Book of the Great Logos according to the Mystery, without further distinction, including both the introductory matter and also the leaves surrounded by a border, which Schmidt adds as an appendix. But it must be understood that this

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is a tentative arrangement. There may be several treatises to which the fragments of the inferior MS. of the Bruce Codex ought to be assigned for anything we know to the contrary.

This will be followed by the fragments of the untitled treatise contained in the superior MS.

The purpose that has guided me in this general arrangement is, as far as possible, to place the contents of these Coptic translations roughly in such a sequence that the reader may be led from lower to higher grades of the Gnosis. I am perfectly aware that higher mysteries (the three Spaces of the Inheritance) are spoken of and explained in the Pistis Sophia treatise than in the rest of the matter, but they are not revealed. In The Book of the Great Logos and in the Extracts from the Books of the Saviour some of the mysteries are given, and the disciples are made to see face to face. I therefore place the summary of the Pistis first, though it was probably composed last.

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« Reply #116 on: March 10, 2009, 01:22:05 pm »

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THE treatise begins by informing us that Jesus, after rising from the dead, had spent eleven years The Teaching of the Eleven years. with His disciples, instructing them. So far, however, He had taught them the mysteries of the inner world up to a certain point only, apparently up to the outermost realms of the Light-world only, and yet even so far with omissions of many points which they were as yet incapable of understanding. But so wonderful had been the instruction imparted that the disciples imagined that all had been revealed to them, and that the First Mystery--the Father in the likeness of a dove--was the end of all ends and the gnosis of all gnoses. They did not know that this First Mystery was the lowest of a vast series of still higher mysteries.

It came to pass, therefore, in the twelfth year, that the disciples were assembled with the Master on The Mystic Transfiguration and Ascent in the Twelfth year. the Mount of Olives, rejoicing that they had, as they thought, received all the fullness. It was the fifteenth day of the month Tybi, the day of the full moon. Jesus was sitting apart, when, at sunrise, they beheld a great light-stream pouring over Him, so that he became lost to view in the ineffable radiance which stretched from earth to heaven. The light was not one radiance, but its rays were of every kind and type; and in it the Master soared aloft into heaven, leaving the disciples in great fear

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« Reply #117 on: March 10, 2009, 01:22:19 pm »

and confusion as they silently gazed after Him. From the third hour of the fifteenth day until the ninth hour of the morrow (thirty hours) the Master was absent; and during this time there was a shaking of all the regions and great confusion and fear, while songs of praise came forth from the interior of the interiors.

The Master returns to His Disciples.On the ninth hour of the morrow they saw Jesus descending in infinite light, more brilliant far than when He had ascended; the light was now of three degrees, glory transcending glory. The disciples were dismayed and in great fear, but Jesus, the compassionate and merciful-minded, spake unto them, saying: "Take courage, it is I; be not afraid." At their prayer Jesus withdraws His great light into Himself, and appears in His familiar form once more, and the disciples come to worship, and ask Him, saying: "Master, whither didst thou go? or on what ministry wentest thou? or wherefore are all these confusions and shakings?"

The Master, now speaking as the glorified Christ, bids them rejoice, for that now He will tell them all things "from the beginning of the truth to the end thereof," face to face, without parable, for that authority has now been given Him by the First Mystery to reveal these things unto them.

Of the Mystic Incarnation of the Twelve.For this cause is it that He hath again been clothed in the vesture of light, the robe of glory; which he had left with the First Mystery, in the lowest spaces of the supernal Light-realm. He hath received it in order that He may speak to human kind and reveal all the mysteries, but

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first of all to the Twelve. For the Twelve are His order, whom He hath chosen from the beginning, before He came into the world. He chose twelve powers, receiving them from the hands of the twelve Saviours of the Light-treasure, and when He descended into the world cast them, as light-sparks, into the wombs of their mothers, that through them the whole world might be saved. It is by reason of these powers that they are not of the world, for the power in them is from Him, a part of Himself.

So too another of His powers was in John the Baptizer with water for the remission of sins; not That the Soul of Elias is born in the Baptist. only so, but the soul of John was the soul of Elias reborn in him. These things had He explained before, when He said: "If ye will receive it, John the Baptist is Elias, who, I said, was for to come"; but they had not understood.

Into Mary, His mother, also He had implanted a power higher than them all, "the body which I bore Of His own Incarnation. in the height," and also another power instead of the soul, and so Jesus was born. It was He Himself who had watched over the birth of His disciples, so that no soul of the world-rulers should be found in them, but one of a higher nature.

And the Master continued in His conversation and said unto them: "Lo, I have put on My vesture, and Concerning the Robe of Glory. all power hath been given Me by the First Mystery. Yet a little while and I will tell you the mystery of the plērōma and the plērōma of the plērōma; I will conceal nothing from you from this hour, but in perfectness will I perfect you in the whole plērōma, and all perfection, and every mystery; which things,

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #118 on: March 10, 2009, 01:22:29 pm »

indeed, are the perfection of all perfections, the plērōma of all plērōmas, and the gnosis of all gnoses, which are in My vesture. I will tell you all mysteries from the exterior of the exteriors, to the interior of the interiors. Hearken, I will tell you all things which have befallen Me.

"It came to pass, when the sun had risen in the regions of the east, that a great stream of light descended in which was My vesture, the same which I had laid up in the four-and-twentieth mystery, as I have said unto you. And I found a mystery in My vesture, written in these five words which pertain to the height: Zama, Zama, Ōzza, Rachama, Ōzai. And this is the interpretation thereof:

"The Mystery which is beyond the world, that whereby all things exist: It is all evolution and all involution; It projected all emanations and all things therein. Because of It all mysteries exist and all their regions."

Hereupon the Master recites the hymn of praise and welcome sung by the powers at His investiture on the Great DayThe Hymn of Welcome "Come unto us." "Come unto us"--the day of this supreme initiation, when all His Limbs are gathered together. "Come unto us, for we are Thy fellow-members (or limbs). We are all one with Thee. We are one and the same, and Thou art one and the same. This is the First Mystery, who hath existed from the beginning in the Ineffable, before He came forth; and the Name thereof is all of us. Now, therefore, we all live together for Thee at the last limit, which also is the last mystery from the interior. That also is part of us. Now, therefore, we have sent Thee Thy

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vesture, which, indeed, is Thine from the beginning, which Thou didst leave in the last limit, which also is the last mystery from the interiors, until its time should be fulfilled, according to the commandment of the First Mystery. Lo, its time being fulfilled, I give it Thee.

"Come unto us, for we all stand near to clothe Thee with the First Mystery and all His glory, by commandment of the same, in that the First Mystery gave us two vestures to clothe Thee, besides the one we have sent Thee, since Thou art worthy of them, and art prior to us, and came into being before us. For this cause, therefore, the First Mystery hath sent for Thee through us the mystery of His glory, two vestures."

The hymn proceeds to explain how that the first vesture hath in it the whole glory of all the names The Three Vestures of Light. of all the mysteries of all the orders of the spaces of the Ineffable; that the second contains the whole glory of all the names, or powers, of all the mysteries, or emanations, of the orders of the twin spaces of the First Mystery; that the third vesture contains all the glory of the powers of the emanations of all the spaces and sub-spaces below these supernal realms as far as the earth. The hymn then continues:

"Lo, therefore, we have sent Thee this [third] vesture, without any [of the powers] knowing it from the First Statute downward; because the glory of its light was hidden in it [the First Statute], and the spheres with all their regions from the First Statute downwards [knew it not]. Make haste, therefore;

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clothe Thyself with this vesture. Come unto us; for ever, until the time appointed by the Ineffable was fulfilled, have we been in need of Thee, to clothe Thee with the two [remaining] ventures, by order of the First Mystery. Lo, then, the time is fulfilled. Come, therefore, to us quickly, in order that we may clothe Thee, until Thou hast accomplished the full ministry of the perfections of the First Mystery, the ministry appointed for Thee by the Ineffable. Come, therefore, to us quickly, in order that we may clothe Thee, according to the commandment of the First Mystery; for yet a little while, a very little while, and Thou shalt come to us, and shalt leave the world. Come, therefore, quickly, that Thou mayest receive the whole glory, the glory of the First Mystery."

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Peggie Welles
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« Reply #119 on: March 10, 2009, 01:22:41 pm »

The Journey into the Height.Thereupon, on hearing the hymn of the powers, the Master said, He donned the lowest robe of glory, and, changed into pure light, soared upwards and came to the lower firmament. And all the powers of that firmament were in great confusion because of the transcendent light; and on seeing the mystery of their names or powers inscribed in it, leaving their ranks, they bowed down and worshipped, saying: "How hath the Lord of the plērōma changed us without our knowing!" And they all sang together to the interior of the interiors a hymn of praise in harmony.

And so He passed upwards and inwards to the First Sphere above the firmament, shining with a radiance forty-and-nine times as great as before, and the gates were opened and He entered the mansions

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of the Sphere, and the powers were changed and worshipped, and sang hymns of rejoicing as before.

Thence upward and inward he passed to the Second Sphere, shining with a light nine-and-forty times still more intensified, and the powers of that sphere did as them beneath them, and bowed and worshipped and sang hymns to the interior of the interiors.

Still continuing His triumphal flight, He soared still higher within, to the Space of the Twelve Æons, shining with radiance forty-and-nine times still further increased. And all the orders and rulers of the Æonic Space were amazed. Those of them called the Tyrants, under their great leader Adamas, in ignorance fought against the light; but in vain, for they only expended their strength one against the other, and fell down and became "as the inhabitants of the earth who are dead and who have no breath in them"--that is to say, deprived of the light-spark, like the unknowing among men.

And He took from them a third of their power, that they should no more prevail in their evil doings; The Master Robs the Æons of a Third of their Light. so that if men should invoke them for evil in the magic practices which the transgressing Angels brought down from above, they should not be able to work their will as heretofore.

And so He changed the Fate-Sphere, over which they are lords. For by order of the First Statute and First Mystery, they had been set, by Ieou, the Overseer of the Light, all facing the Left, accomplishing their influences. But now they were changed so that for six months they faced the Left and for six months the Right.

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