In completing Level Two of the Reading Plan, we find ourselves looking at two more cosmological texts, including the longest in the entire corpus, forbiddingly titled The Tripartite Tractate. The second is a shorter text, The Valentinian Exposition. As its title indicates, this text presents a view of Gnostic teachings identified by scholars as deriving from the school of Valentinus, one of the few Gnostics whose name, dates, and activities are known. Tri Trac is also considered to derive from this school. The Valentinian system includes variations on the Sophia Mythos not found elsewhere.
We are reaching the end of level Two of the Reading Plan, but, as usual, it is still a tough haul getting through these documents. At least we have now developed the skills to cull out what is muddled and extraneous, and concentrate on the key elements that allow us to develop an understanding of Pagan (non-Christian) Gnosis and Mystery teachings.
16, The Tripartite Tractate Page 58 NHLE. NHC I,5. 44 pages. A long compilation attributed to Valentinian school established in Rome around 150 CE. CORE: Aeonic emanations described, but without reference to Sophia; the realm of the Archons; the threefold division of humanity; the conditions of redemption. Well-preserved, except for the last two pages, but contains many irregularities and scribal errors.
This is the longest text in the NHC and one of the more exasperating, due to its dry, didactic style and the huge incidence of scribal errors. Divided into sixteen parts, Tri Trac covers a vast range of subjects, starting with the Supreme Being, PIOT, "the Father." It presents an elaborate description of the life of the Aeons, the begetting and conversion of the Logos, and the emanation of the Savior, SOTER—all stated in Christological terms typical of the Valentinian school. It also covers the creation of material humanity and the division of humans into three groups, materialistic (unevolved), psychic (susceptible to higher evolution), and pneumatic (evolved, illumined). It concludes with a homily on the supremacy of the Gnostic Christ as lord of all those who embrace the highest mystical vision.
Working from Rome, the theologian Valentinus (c. 100 - 160 CE) and his followers attempted to merge Pagan Gnosis with salvationist theology. In doing so, Valentinus apparently endorsed the notion of an incarnate savior who "took upon himself the death of those he sought to save" (115.1-5). In fact, we do not know what Valentinus wrote or thought. The Tri Trac was not authored by the Coptic scribes who put it down on papyrus leaves, presumably translating from "Greek originals" (see below). We infer what Valentinus may have thought from these scribal notes based on poorly transcribed material of undetermined authorship. Such is the tricky game of Gnostic scholarship.
Section 13 specifies the incarnate savior by the Coptic spelling for Jesus, H(COY)C, and Jesus Christ, H(COY)C PEXR(ICTO)C. Here I use the English alphabet to approximate the Coptic letters: for instance, the Coptic S is written as a capital C. All letters in the Coptic alphabet are capitals. Modern scholars routinely fill in the letters in parentheses. Without these additions, "Jesus the Christ" is formed of the letters that look like this: HC PEXRC. In Coptic this is IS PE XRS, where PE is the definite article, the. IS and XRS are frequent abbreviations, usually written with a bar over the top. Scholars call these codes nomina sacra and identify the figure indicated at the historical Jesus in his deified aspect, consistent with Pauline theology. I have questioned if this identification is valid. It must certainly not be regarded as exclusive, the only game in town.
Tri Trac gives definitive proof of the existence of Gnostic Christianity, but it does not prove that all Gnostics were Christians. With Marcion, Valentinus is arguably the preeminent example of a Gnostic Christian, or to be more precise, a Christianized Gnostic. He came from Alexandria, a melting pot of diverse creeds. Valentinian theology is syncretic, but it does not represent a fully realized Gnostic soteriology, just an attempt at one. But those who want to call themselves Gnostics and still follow a salvationist agenda will find all they need for their case in this document.
Why anyone would want to embrace salvationism, positing the belief in a superhuman agency of redemprion who is born in human form and dies for humanity, and still follow, or claim to follow, the path of self-engendered enlightenment through Gnosis, is not easy to understand. Illluminism and salvationism are diametrically opposed concepts of spirituality. Basically, I think, Valentinus had an elitist concept of redemption that allowed him to accept the Christology of John and Paul, still in its early stages when he was living, and at the same time, insist that only mystics (pneumatics, the third class of humanity) could perceive the true nature of the divine calling. The Valentinian system is a poor compromise.
Of course, Tri Trac was not written by Valentinus. None of the NHC texts originate from the people who wrote them down. They are scribal copies in Coptic of Greek originals, but (so I maintain) the Greek originals may also have been mere scribal jottings, or student notes. Scholars of the NHC are used to errors and irregularities in these texts, but Tri Trac takes the cake. At least one scholar, H.-M. Schenke, believes that this long, stuffy document is a compilation, not a coherent treatise in its own right. The use of XE as a paragraph marker is unique to this document. Was this a scribal convention to keep track of blocks of material extracted from various sources? Probably. Whatever the case, with Tri Trac the experts come close to saying what I have claimed all along: the scribes who converted the "originals" from Greek into Coptic may have had little or no idea of the meaning of what they were translating.
Imagine a physicist lecturing on quantum theory, with a court stenographer who has an elementary knowledge of physics taking notes in shorthand. The result would be largely unintelligible: so are many passages in the NHC.
Nevertheless, there are sublime riffs of metaphysical discourse in the Tri Trac, and some astonishing bursts. Consider passage 71:
The entire system of the Aeons has a love and a longing for the perfect, complete discovery of the Father and in this the Aeons are in unimpeded agreement. Although the Father reveals itself eternally, he did not wish that they should know him, since he grants that he conceived of in such a way as to be sought for, while keeping to himself his unsearchable primordial being.
This is the Gnostic theology of the Aeons stated in a paternal idiom. I offer a paraphrase:
The Generators love and long to discover the properties of the Originator, in this they all agree; but the Originator is the Eternal Unborn that causes itself to be conceived as the object of seeking, while remaining beyond all search, primordially rooted in itself.
Rendered in a neutral idiom, the passage comes close to Buddhist teachings on cosmic mind or the foundation awareness. Such language, typical of Gnostic emanationist theology, can be taken on its own terms, independent of the salvationist ideology grafted onto it. In terms of this proposition, the Originator is the Urgrund, the cosmic root awareness, or perhaps even the Ungrund, the groundless ground of the German mystic Jacob Boehme. In any case, it is definitely not a paternal creator god that one would address as "Father." The Coptic-speaking Egyptian monks who transcribed these lofty propositions were obliged to render them in language compatible with the doctrinal assumptions of paternal religion, and to keep their piety intact. It's amazing that we can salvage anything genuinely Gnostic such distortion.
It is worth noting that emanationist theology attributes a certain attitude to the Originator: it is essentially inconceivable, but it wants itself to be conceived as something sought. So it veils itself in conditions which it allows the Generators to produce and manifest. This characterization recalls the self-veiling action of the ground awareness Parasamvit in Hindu Tantra. It also comes close to the concept of theopathy, "feeling for the divine," in Sufism.
Will the True Savior Please Stand Up?
For all its dry, didactic exposition, Tri Trac contains some remarkable lines on the nature and activity of the Originator and the Aeons, or Generators, as I propose to call them. Language that resembles Tantric and Buddhistic propositions about the ineffable source can also be found in The Sophia of Jesus Christ and its parallel text, Eugnostos. To my ear, the idiom in use here echoes metaphysical exposition from the Asian schools. Does Valentinus' conception of the incarnate savior owe something to the Hindu myth of the avatar? It may be a variation of the avataric principle in its Asian form, but syncretized with the emergent salvationist doctrine of sacrifice. The Savior of Tri Trac is definitely not docetic, a mere appearance or phantom body like the Buddhist Nirmanakaya; but in the final analysis the Valentinian savior may owe more to the model of Asian avatars than to Pauline and Johannine doctrines on the Incarnation.
The salvific feat of the Asian avatar (the avatars of Vishnu, for instance) does not demonstrate the redemptive value of suffering, it merely illustrates an act of supernatural intervention. Upon close reading of Tri Trac, however, I find no specific passage that asserts the redemptive value of suffering—this being the primary signature of salvationist belief rooted in the victim-perpetrator syndrome—even though "Jesus the Christ" is identified as the supreme redemptive agent. As a Pagan perhaps not fully converted to the new faith, Valentinus would have been reticent to assign redemptive value to suffering. This is where his syncretism draws the line.
The Valentinian concept of redemption involves acquiring knowledge of the divine source, a quest conceived in Gnostic terms, rather than accepting the vicarious atonement of sin. Even if Valentinus did directly equate the Son of God/Savior with the historical Jesus, he did not attribute to that figure the full battery of salvific powers it acquired in later centuries. Gnostic Christian views were inconsistent within the school where they first appeared. "The heresiologists attest that Valentinian teachers disagreed on the interpretation of several fundamental issues. including the nature of the Father, the origin and structure of the Pleroma, the motives and results of the fall of Sophia, and the nature of the redemption offered by Christ" (CGL I, 1, p. 177). So, ther you have it!
Tri Trac describes the fall of the goddess Sophia in terms of the drama of the spiritual Logos, logos pneumatikos. Sophia as such is not named in the text. The Archons are named outright, and their chief, the demiurge, is specified in sections 6 and 8. Section 5, "Aeonic Life," proceeds in the lofty metaphysical idiom of the opening passages. It states that the Archons do not resemble the eternal beings, the Aeons (71.5), and further explains how the Originator selflessly confers generative power on the Aeons, acting from pleasure, sweetness, and love. "Each one of the Aeons is a name, a code" (73.5): that is to say, the Aeons are generative powers that encode the infinite undefined potentiality of the Originator. "Their begetting is like a process of extension," i.e., emanation, compared to a wellspring of many currents. Unlike the literal, artifactual creation attributed to the father god, Aeonic emanation proceeds "in an imaginary way" (78: 5). I have explained what this means at length in the chapter on "Dreamtime Physics" in Not in His Image.
Section 6, "The Imperfect Begetting of the Logos," describes how one Aeon wanted to articulate the inexpressible presence of the Originator. "This Aeon was among those to whom was given wisdom" (75.25)—thus Tri Trac identifies the Divine Sophia, but under the guise of the Logos. In the action of this aberrant Aeon the Originator realizes the possibility for something new to emerge in the cosmos, an extra-Pleromic development: "The will of the Originator... might become an organization (economia).... (but) if it were to come (about that way), it would not come into being by the manifestation of the Pleroma" (77.1-10). The text explains in some detail how this extra-Pleromic activity arises, described in terms of shadows and copies and likenesses, i.e., the spectral forms of the Archontic realm outside the Pleroma.
The Aeon who acted rashly in wanting to express the inexpressible presence of the Originator becomes involved in the defect (SHOTA), abandoned to a wierd fate. This is all about Sophia, giving the Valentinian view of her impetuous action, but strictly avoiding any reference to the feminine Aeon as such, except in derogation: "he became weak like a female nature which has abandoned its virile counterpart" (78.10). In other words, Sophia the female Aeon acted independently of her male counterpart. Tri Trac does not use the notable metaphor of "abortion" found in other cosmological texts to describe the inforseen generation of the Archons and the Demiurge.
Abraxas, who runs C,C & G, has a lot of Gnostic attitude, but then so does JLL! Check out their interview in the playlist: "Sophia is Gaia." )
Section 7 describes the confusion of the Logos/Sophia in terms of loss, astonishment, instability, weakness, etc., but immediately introduces the Valentinian theme of conversion or metanoia (81.20): "the Logos turned to another opinion and another thought." Upon this conversion, through "a prayer of agreement," the Logos realigns to the Pleroma. The Valentinian view precludes the notion of a correction to be achieved by Sophia in the indefinite future, and dependent in some manner on humanity's participation. It emphasizes, though, that there are still a lot of problems with the Archontic powers that have been engendered by the unusual action of the Logos. These beings are not emanated from the Pleroma, and they falsely imagine they are the source of their own being. There are two orders that assault each other (84.5). They are responsible for infecting the cosmos with a love of glory and lust for power. Their main characteristic is KROG, deceit.
The World Below
The situation of the spiritual Logos or fallen Aeon is exceptional and calls forth an exceptional response from the Pleromic Aeons. In their totality they emanate an intercessor "to aid the defective one" (86.15). The intercessor is an emanation of all the Pleromic Aeons who "made manifest the revelation of the agreement of his union with them—which is his beloved Son (Coptic SHERE)" (86.35). Tri Trac describes the "Son" of the Pleroma in Gnostic terms, that is, according to emanation theory. This is not the "Logos become flesh" of Saint John, it is the Aeonic intecessor who comes to the rescue of the Logos. Read again: the Son in Valentinian theology is not the Logos. This leads me to conclude that the "Christian" soteriology of Tri Trac was conceived well before doctrines of the Incarnation were enforced. And historically speaking, this makes sense, for Valentinus flourished before 160 CE. The doctrine of the divinity of Christ as the Word was not set up until two centuries later.
Section 9 begins with a momentous assertion: "When the Logos which was defective was illumined, his Pleroma began" (90.10). In other words, Sophia, having reconnected to the Pleroma and its primoridal Light, begins to work creatively upon the elements of the outer realm where she is stranded. This section appears to describe the fabrication of the solar system, including "chariots" in which the inhabitants of this lesser Pleroma "might pass through every place of things which are below" (91.25). This is the sole line I find in the NHC that might be construed as referring to ET hardware, but there is plenty of reference to ET software, of course.
Undertaking this work, the Logos/Sophia remains in touch with the upper realm: "the Logos received the vision of all things, those which pre-exist and those which are now and those which will be. since he has been entrusted with the organization (oikonomia) of all which exists" (95.15-20). Clearly, it is Sophia the Logos who organizes the solar system, even though she allocates this realm to the Archons, the cyborg drones or extraterrestrial elves of the Demiuirge. The Aeon also allows the Demiurge to believe that he creates the planetary system out of his own powers.
Section 10 describes how the Logos organizes the lower worlds, including the two warring groups of shadow-beings, or beings of the likeness (HAL, simulation), as the Archons are called here and elsewhere in the NHC. It states the the Logos/Sophia appoints one Archon, the Demiurge, as head over all the others, and uses the Archons as a hand and a mouth (101.30). It is the Logos who fabricates the solar system using the Archons as material agents or tools, working through them. Here is the germ of the later, post-Gnostic view found in Hermetic literature, namely, that the Demiurge is a benevolent instrument of the supreme being. There is a huge problem with the makeover of Gnostic teachings in the Hermetic literature, however. This is due to the fact that Hermetic texts equate the Logos with the Demiurge, and give it a benevolent spin—a serious error in Gnostic terms. According to the Tri Trac, Sophia = Logos, and the Demiurge is neither.
Section 11 describes the creation of material humanity, but in ambiguous terms. The logos pneumaticos perfects humanity "through the Demiurge and his angelic servants" (104.35). "The first human being is a mixed creation, and a deposit of those of the left and those of the right, and a spiritual word whose attention is divided between each of the two substances from which he takes his being" (106.15-20). Make what you can of that! Both death and life eternal are possible, because the former is merely separation from the Pleromic source, and the latter is a return to that source. In other words, Tri Trac considers death and immortality as states of consciousness, reflected in material conditions but not determined by them. This also accords closely with the Buddhist view of noumenism: the noumena, cause and origin of phenomena, are IN the phenomena.
Redemption, But How?
Section 12 is a digression on various types of theologies and diverse theories, including speculations on the Archontic factor: are they part of the overruling order of the cosmos, or are they totally alien to it? Interestingly, this section discusses Hebrew religion and "the righteous ones." I wonder if dikaios in Greek translates the Qumranic concept of the Zaddik? If so, this would suggest a reference from the NHC to the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). In Not in His Image, I cited specific references in the DSS to the NHC, but not vice versa. Tri Trac says that "many heresies exist among the Jews." One NHC scholar claims that Gnosticism itself was a Jewish heresy. Referring to the "Law" of the Jews, Tri Trac uses the Coptic form of the Egyptian term, MAT, "cosmic law" (113.5). It explicitly says of the Jews that Christ "who came into being in flesh, did not come into their thought" (113.35). This is a correct assertion that the Jews did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah they were awaiting.
Second 13 explains the nature of the "Incarnate Savior" who "let himself be conceived without sin, stain, and defilement" (115.15). Sin is mentioned again in this text, but not developed as a key doctrinal factor. The unity of all the Aeons, not the power to redeem humanity from sin, is the prevailing mark of the Valentinian savior. The "promise of Jesus Christ" involves instruction and "the return to what they are from the first, from which they possess the drop" (117.15-20). This sounds like a straightforward assertion of the "capture of the divine spark" scenario, which I have rigorously and repeatedly refuted. However, "release from captivity" clearly means release from ignorance, for those who are captive are called "slaves of ignorance." The "drop" may be nous, divine intelligence, rather than an immortal soul-essence trapped in material conditions. There is no passage in Tri Trac that describes such a soul-essence, and it does not figure in the tripartite division of humanity (described in section 14, following), either.
After section 14 on the three types of humans, the treatise concludes with lofty postulations about redemption and restoration. There is no clue here to Sophia's correction. Everything seems to depend on the divine intercession of Christ the Savior, who comes for the sake of the elect. The restoration of the Pleroma is an "entrance into what is silent" where there is "no need for forming a concept nor for illumination, because where all things are light, they do not need to be illumined" (124.25). Clearly, this passage describes a mystical state to be achieved by Gnosis rather than by an act of superhuman intercession or vicarious atonement. In the Valentinian system, intercession by Christos happens for the Logos or fallen Sophia, not for humankind, except perhaps for the elect who participate in the cosmic drama intimately... This is Gnostic salvationism, as it were. Nowhere does the Tri Trac make clear how "Jesus the Christ" effectuates redemption for humanity. He is not even represented as a teacher who brings liberating knowledge, although he is portrayed as a figure of Divine Light.
One inference would be, the luminous presence of the Christos. not the sacrifice of the historical Jesus, inspires the elect to achieve their own redemption. This is my view of Valentinian syncretism. It is also pretty much the opinion of John D. Turner, the only Gnostic scholar to emphasize Sethian views in the way I do. In Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition, Turner says:
Valentinian myth is a narrative of the vicissitudes of knowledge itself... Just as Sophia is separated from the product of her defective thinking and restored to the Pleroma, so also the fallen, estranged self-knowledge of the individual Gnostic is returned to its origin by his or her act of knowing the myth. (My emphasis.)
That said, we cannot ignore that Tri Trac contains strong statements that seem to suggest the identification of the Gnostic Savior of Valentinus with the historical Jesus of the New Testament. Yet at the time Valentinus lived, the persona of JC was still inchoate, and the identification was probably much looser than it now looks. The divine savior of this treatise has a supernatural stature, and retains it no matter how closely he may be equated with the historical Jesus. What we learn from Tri Trac is that the salvationist agenda cannot incorporate Gnosis without contradicting or even undoing itself to some degree.
Despite its salvationist features, Tri Trac remains an exemplary document of Gnostic illuminism. On balance it contains, especially in the opening sections, more indications of mystical-metaphysical instruction than exhortations to blind faith. In fact, this text presents in a single line one of the clearest, most explicit references to the secret of Pagan illuminism in the entire NHC. I signalled this passage in Not in His Image:
Gnostic writings in the form of a “revelation discourse,” such as the The Paraphrase of Shem give some firsthand descriptions of the Mystery experience. The initiate encounters a sublime radiance and communicates with it. Instruction by the light was the supreme initiatory event. The Tripartite Tractate, the longest document in the Nag Hammadi library, says that this experience is a privilege offered by the supreme deity: "The Originator instructed those who searched for higher seeing by means of the luminosity of that Immaculate Light" (88.10).
NHLE translation: "He instructed him about those who searched for their sight, by means of the shining of that perfect light."
The divine luminosity is the Light of instruction, source of higher learning in the Mysteries. I have ventured to say that the Organic Light is the primary substance body of the Aeon Sophia, the medium by which she instructs her adepts. Line 88:10 in The Tripartite Tractacte makes an assertion not found elsewhere in the NHC: namely, that the Originator instructs the elect by way of this same Light. This assertion seems to comply with the language in section 6 on "the imperfect begetting of the Logos," i.e., the fall of Sophia. There she is described as the 13th Aeon, "the last to have been brought forth by mutual assistance," and "it was not without the will of the Originator that the Logos [of Sophia] was produced" (76:15-20). The text suggests that in Sophia the super-Aeonic dimension of the Originater comes to be realized. This again is a unique spin of the Valentinian material.
17, A Valentinian Exposition: Page 481. NHC XI, 2, 5 pages. CORE: redemptive theology of the Sophia. Fragmentary and badly damaged, Codex XI being the least well-preserved of the corpus.
Here is another cosmological text in the Valentinian genre, contrasting in some respects to the assumed Christian orthodoxy of The Tripartite Tractate. Val Exp mentions Sophia by name, and alludes to the mysterious issue of her “correction.” One unique passage (35) describes Sophia laughing. It stresses the importance of the syzygy or dyad of Jesus and Sophia, recalling the appeal for gender reconciliation in The Gospel of Philip.
Fortunately, Val Exp is a brief document. Unfortunately, it covers a number of different views and positions on Gnostic theology, making it impossible to reduce to a simple paraphrase. Scholars note that Val Exp contains several heretical propositions exposed and opposed in the works of Church Fathers such as Irenaeus, Hipppolytus, and Epiphanius. They attribute the general flavor of the document to Heracleon, a student of Valentinus, rather than to Valentinus himself, or to his main pupil, Ptolemaeus.
The fragmentary text opens strikingly with the word mysterion:
... my mystery
... Moreover, it is these who
... is, the Father, that
... of the All, the ...
... dwells in the Monad.
... in silence,
... ... tranquillity since, after all
... a Monad and no one
... before him. He dwells
... and in the Pair, and his
Pair is Silence. And he possessed
the All dwelling within
him. And as for Intention and
Persistence, Love and Permanence,
they are indeed unbegotten.
Such are lines 16-31. The lofty metaphysical idiom is familiar from the opening passages of The Tripartite Tractate. Call it holy rhetoric. In some ways it is not unlike Dzogchen instruction from Long chen Pa and other Asian masters. It describes the primordial ground awareness and the "first thought" or departure from the ground state: "It is from the Root of the All that even Divine Thought stems, since it is inherent in Nous" (34-6). Once again we encounter the metaphor of the spring (Greek pege) to describe the upsurge of self-reflecting awareness from the unbegotten source. The spring is the Root, the Monad, and its first expression is immaculate Silence, Sige, an Aeon. Other Aeons proceed spontaneously from the Root to reveal the goodness (chrestos) of their origin.
Val Exp uses the lofty terms All, Son, Mind, Spirit almost interchangeably, but the essence of this jargon is focussed in Ennoia, the intentional mind of the Root. In emanation theory, Ennoia in the expression of the Originator which, paradoxically, the Originator does not express but turns over to be revealed by the Generators, the Aeons. The "Father" remains always hidden, the "unknown god" of the Gnostics. The author of Val Exp says, "I for my part call the thought Monogenes" (24: 33). The use of the first person in the midst of this high-blown exposition shows that this text derives from notes on various views stated by teachers of Gnostic cosmology, views written down in class by students of the Mysteries and then rendered into Coptic by scribes who, for reasons unknown, were charged with transcribing the class notes.
In Gnostic cosmology, monogenes is the principle of singularity by which novelty arises in the cosmic order. This, at least, is the "Lashean" twist. It appears that Lashean or Gaian Gnosticism is now on the map.
Christos and Sophia
The NHLE presents Val Exp on 5 pages. In the Coptic Gnostic Library (CGL), you have the eighteen pages that match leaves 22 to 39 in the codex. On some of these leaves the text is almost totally destroyed. The descent of Christ from the Pleroma occurs in page 26, line 23, where the name of the Aeon is written out in full: XRHCTOC, i.e., Christos. This Aeon is said to possess four powers and to comprise in itself the entire Pleroma. From these lines through the end of page 31, it is impossible to make sense of the loose, fragmented writing. Page 31, which is largely blank due to discoloration of the papyrus, siezes our attention with the closing lines:
... and] he wanted
to [leave] the Thirtieth -
being [a syzygy] of Man and
Church (ekklesia), that is, Sophia - to
surpass ... and bring the Pleroma
Here begins the Sophianic cosmology unique to the Valentinian genre. In Gnostic cosmology, the pairing of Aeons is called a syzygy or dyad. Man (Coptic RHOME: humanity) and Church are paired, and Christos and Sophia are paired in a crucial way: The activity of Christos is accomplished "by the syzygy, since her correction (diorthosis) will not occur through anyone except her own Son, who alone is the fullness of divinity" (33: 27-32). Remarkably, Christos, the Aeon matched to Sophia, is also called her son (Coptic SHIRE)!
In a twist unique to the Valentinian view, part of the Aeon Sophia remains in the Pleroma and watches her consort (syzygos) depart into the realms below, and the part of her below looks to the Christos for her deliverance. I believe that this split-Sophia cosmology reflects an attempt by the Valentinians to compromise with the emergent Johannine theology of the Incarnation considered as the "Word made Flesh." An unsatisfactory compromise, I would argue. In Val Exp Sophia says, "I have renounced my consort," and "I deserve the things I suffer"(34:24-5). But Sophia has an attitude. "She laughs since she remained alone and imitated the Illimitable One, cut off from her consort" (34: 34-6).
This text contains the notable burst, "It is the will of the Originator not to allow anything to happen in the Pleroma apart from a syzygy, the coupling of Aeons" (36: 28-32). Yet the Originator, the source of the Aeons, always acts alone, and Sophia imitates this exceptional status. Her exception is the proof of freedom among the divine powers. In other words, Sophia is not punished for transgressing the rule of the Originator, but endowed with a privileged status. However, the achievement of her true potential in the lower worlds, and her correction, depend on the assistance of the Aeon she renounced, Christos.
Much of Val Exp describes how the Christos works among the angels and in human nature, but these passages are unintelligible. 37: 32 introduces the Demiurge "who began to create humans according to his image, on the one hand, and on the other, according to the likeness of those who exist from the first" (37: 32-36). Note that the Demiurge, head of the Archons, does not create humans in his image exclusively, but also in the image of the Aeons. We do not learn anything about how this works out, however. Meanwhile, Sophia guards the human image or seed (sperma) in a "dwelling place" beyond the earth.
38: 22 on recounts the Biblical scenario of Cain and Abel, the Flood, etc. Humanity is preserved by "the syzygy of Sophia and Jesus (IHC)" with the assistance of angels who reflect and transmit to humanity the seeds or potentiated images of the Pleroma. But the Demiurge attempts to darken the syzygy and block access to the Pleroma. Val Exp now presents an extremely rare piece of information, suggesting how the correction of Sophia will be accomplished:
And the angels of the males and the pneumatic bodies of the females are all Pleromas. Moreover whenever Sophia receives her consort and Jesus receives the Christos and the seeds of the angels, then the Pleroma will receive Sophia joyfully, and the All will come to be in unity and reconciliation (apocatastasis). For by this the Aeons have been increased; for they knew that should (ever) they change, they are without change. (39: 22-40)
Taking monogenes to mean singularity, I argue that the Sophia narrative presents a way to understand change relative to changelessness, and augmentation of divine potential in the realm of eternal order. If singularities such as Sophia's fall did not occur, the Aeons would be static, changeless. Change does not disrupt the cosmic patterns of the Aeons, it enhances and expands them.
The line "for they knew that should (ever) they change, they are without change" ends A Valentinian Exposition. Attached to it are short catechisms on baptism, anointing, and the eucharist.
In a striking and baffling way, Val Exp says that Sophia's correction brings change to the changeless Aeons, but unity and reconciliation at the cosmic level have something to do with the harmony of human gender, "the angels of the males and the pneumatic bodies of the females". Why is this so? It is because Sophia's plunge from the Pleroma entailed a rift in the Anthropos, the numinous template of the human genome, an event that has been mythologically described as "the separation of the sexes." No evidence of how this rift happened occurs in Gnostic writings, however. It is a missing part of the story. Yet here and elsewhere—in the Gospel of Philip, for instance—there are ample references to sexual mysticism and the dynamics of gender harmony. In Asian Tantra, whole-body Kundalini is not only the ultimate rush of sexual pleasure, as good as it gets, it is also the grounding force that links the human organism to the planetary body.
One would almost be tempted to think that Tantric or mystical sexuality, in some form, is the key to human participation in Sophia's correction.
Is sexual mysticism, the ecstatic act in the nymphion, the ritual aspect of human experience that points most intimately to the revelation of Sophia's correction and Gaia's purposes? If we cannot yet comprehend how Gaia procreates, it may be because the transcendent dynamic of sex is obscured by our gender dynamics. Sexual enlightenment comprises the rite and the revelation in a single act of pleasure that fulfils our biology even as it allows us to transcend it.
This commentary completes level two of the Reading Plan, Ritual and Revelation. Level Three, The Sense of Cosmic Order, covers texts 18 through 32.
Ritual and Revelation cont...
Having learned that the Apocryphon of James is not a Gnostic text, and the Gospel of Thomas the Contender is more Buddhist than Gnostic, the reader who is following this plan may begin to wonder when we are going to get back into the genuine Gnostic material! Remember text 1, Allogenes, giving us a glimpse of the sublime revelations of the illumined master in the Mystery Cell/ How about text 5, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, with its scathing indictment of redemptive religion? Having had a strong dose of radical Gnostic teachings early in the reading plan, it is difficult to plow through horrifically edited and mangled texts and come up with nothing more than drivel or dogma. Or, at best, we find a clear example of ascetic doctrine germane to Mahayana Buddhism, but alien to the Gnostic sense of life.
But all that is about to change. With text 12 of the reading plan, we encounter one of the most potent and mystically profound of Gnostic texts.
12, The Gospel of Philip: NHC II, 3, p 139 NHLE. 19 pages, intact. A patchwork of diverse materials awkardly stitched together. CORE: mystical sexuality, the rites of the Mystery cell, the nymphion, anointing by the Organic Light, immunity to Archontic intrusion, teachings on semantics and misattribution (the misuse of language), the perplexing barrenness of Sophia (related to the Gnostic protest against procreation), reconciliation of the genders. Contains the famous incident of Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene on the mouth.
Unlike some portions of the Nag Hammadi material, which are challenging but not particularly rewarding, the Gospel of Philip delivers magnificently for the effort it demands. This text is long, running from page 141 to 160 in the NHLE. A compilation of unrelated chunks of text jammed together chockablock, it can be frustrating, but it contains a treasure trove of genuine Gnostic material, some of it elaborated, some of it merely hinted.
Because it is a compilation rather than a composition, there is no point in reading Gos Phil sequentially: there is no sequence to follow. Instead, I propose to read it thematically. Six main themes occur, but they are not treated in continuity. We find paragraphs and even isolated sentences on each theme scattered at random through the entire document.
P 53-54 states that "names given to things in the world are deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect." This theme is treated in the perspective of the Gnostic view of the Archons, mental parasites whose activity is indicated by the Greek terms plane, "going astray," and apaton, "deception," and by the Coptic sorem, "error." The Greek word antimimon, "imitation," and the Coptic hal, "simulation," also play a key role in the Gnostic theory of error. Although the Coptic language is weak in explicit concepts for noetic and psychological analysis, and although the Greek-Coptic overlay is a dubious palimpsest at best, there is still plenty of clear exposition on error and its relations to the extrahuman factor of the Archons.
Gnostics taught that the affect of the Archons can be detected in distortions of language, semantic glitches. The primary form of distortion is misattribution: the assigning of wrong meanings to words. P53 explicitly warns that the terms used in Judeo-Christian theology are misleading and do not really say what they seem to say. Mental syntax — the way we frame and develop ideas — becomes distorted when words are misattributed. For instance, if we define resurrection as physical revival of the body after death, we can only think about it in certain terms, in literal terms, and we cannot develop these ideas about it in such a way that they can be proven or disproven.
Initial misattribution of any term sets up a conceptual process that can only go astray (plane). This does not happen due to the Archons, but the Archons can intercede in the process and exaggerate our mental errors beyond correction. The problem is not that we have a wrong idea about resurrection (or anything else, for that matter), the problem is that we do not detect and correct the errors in our mental syntax because the initial misattribution (wrong naming) keeps our minds running in a rut. A blind, routinary manner of thinking typifies the human mind given over to Archontic deviation.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the process by which the mind mistakes itself and deviates from its true, enlightened nature is called ´khrul pa, "going astray," the exact equivalent to plane. P 53 observes that "unless we have come to know what is correct," — i.e., the enlightened nature of mind in Buddhist terms, or nous, the divine potential of mind in Gnostic terms — we cannot perceive what is incorrect. We must know how we are deviated in order to claim the full potential of enlightenment.
The Gospel of Philip says that those who entertain misattributed ideas about "God" and "light" and "the church" without the option of thinking otherwise — that is, without an alternative terminology that generates a different syntax — will never be able to correct their misconceptions. Those who have seen only plastic cannot know how it differs from pearl.
"Names that are heard in the world (i.e., routinely used) have the tendency to deceive." Here the text uses the key term, apaton. "If these terms were in the eternal realm (aion), they would at no time be used as words in this world." In other words, if the names we assign to things were seen in the perspective of heightened awareness, according to the timeless and eternal value of things, we would see that those terms are not appropriate and ought not to be fixed in our minds ("set among worldly things"), as they commonly are. Then we would realize that all definitions end (reach a strict limit) when we view things in heightened perception. This is a lesson on semantics and the limits of conceptual language.
P 54 continues this theme, but adds another point: "Truth brought names into existence... because it is not possible to learn truth without these names." Now we are told, even though definitions are surpassed in the absolute sense (in aionic, eternal knowing), they are necessary in the relative sense, otherwise we would not be able to learn what is true, here and now. P 67 reiterates this point: "Truth did not come into this world naked, but it came in types and images. The world will not receive truth in any other way." (Passages 54 and 67 ought to be sequential, but the editor of Gos Phil totally disregards continuity.) This again is a subtle insight on semantics, very close to the Buddhist teaching on absolute and conventional truth. One might compare these passages on misattribution with the Vimalakirti Sutra for remarkable parallels on how the act of naming affects our perception of both mundane and ultimate reality.
Now comes a passage loaded with vivid bursts. It merits citing in full:
The Archons wanted to deceive humankind, since they saw that it has a kinship with all that is truly good. So they took the terms for what is good and attached them to what is not good, so that through the naming of things they might deceive humans and bind them to what can harm them. But after all, what a favor they did for humankind! They make it so that humans have to remove themselves from what is not good, and identify what is good. These devious things the Archons knew how to do, for they wanted to take humans who are free and enslave them forever.
Here the problem of misattribution is directly associated with the Archons, the alien species that intrudes upon humanity. It is not just Archons who apply this devious technique, of course, but humans who are Archontically deviated, i.e., addicted to misattribution. Consider the use of the word "liberation" in the American aggression against Iraq. This is a clear example of taking a term that is good and attaching it to something that is not good, to disguise the true nature of an action. The same applies to the word "security" in current political cant, or to the term "the holy spirit" in Christian theology, as this text warns us (53.30). By accepting these misattributions, we play into the game of the Archons. We err, and we must err so that we can learn, so that is not fundamentally the problem here. But the Archons can affect us through our errors when the errors are denied and mindlessly allowed to play out beyond the point of correction. In life, it is sometimes simply too late to correct certain ingrained misconceptions.
In their acute awareness of mental syntax, Gnostics seem to have anticipated the Orwellian notion of doublespeak, the tactic of intentionally misattributing words so that they mean the opposite of what they say. Indeed, the above passage gives a cogent definition of doublespeak. But then, in a startling turn of phrase, the teaching says that we are fortunate to be deceived by the Archons in this manner: the risk of deception is a test to see if we are able to discern truth and dispel misattributions of truth. By facing the test of the Archons, we realize our true potential, the capacity to know as the gods know. (Which is not to say that we become gods.)
Gnostic teachings are keen to alert us to this test, especially in the context of religious belief and ideology. Let's recall the stunning passage in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, warning that it is enslavement to "die with Christ." "It is a shame to be enslaved by the idea of salvation when our minds are self-liberating." In fact, the theological term salvation is a misattribution: enslavement is meant, but it is called salvation. In Great Seth the Gnostic teacher explicitly exposes this misattribution or reversal of semantic value, pointing out that those who accept the doctrine of divine atonement actually achieve the opposite of what they believe: "For my death, which they think happened to me, actually happened to them in their error and blindness" (55.30).
Syntactical distortion is comparable to the game of Password in which an initial word, "humble" ends up being "trouble." In the game the players are eventually told what the the initial word was, but in real life we often cannot detect the original term that has been misattributed. There is so much misattribution attached to "God," for instance, that it is almost impossible to formulate a single, clear, viable idea of God.
There is more on misattribution elsewhere in Gos Phil. Passage 56 presents an obscure discussion of the names "Jesus," "Christ," and "the Nazarene." (This discussion is restated, somewhat differently, in P 62 and 63.20). As usual, the first two terms are indicated by code in Coptic. The assertion that "Jesus is not particular to any language" is striking, because it hints at the apparent ease with which the name Jesus is adopted throughout the world. Is this due to a universal spiritual perception of the savior-figure, Jesus? Gnostics would say no. Rather, it is due to the fact that something is always called by that name, even when the people using the name do not know what that something is. The universality of that name indicates that people do not know what they are talking about. They think they are addressing Jesus, but "Jesus is a hidden name." This line alludes to the Gnostic teaching on the Mesotes, the inner guide, also called "the living Jesus." Most people today use the name Jesus for the allegedly historical figure in the New Testament. To Gnostics it meant something else entirely.
By contrast to Jesus, "Christos is a revealed name." Why? Because the act of anointing performed by the Aeon Christos, described in the Gnostic myth of the Fallen Sophia, is evident everywhere in nature, and permeates human nature. This paragraph relies heavily on Mystery teachings that are not elaborated here, only hinted. (See below.)
The passages on misattribution are highlighted by a burst that hangs in the mind like a signal flare: "Truth, which existed from the beginning of the world, is sown everywhere. And many see it being sown, but few are they who see it being reaped" (55.20).
Among the misattributed terms commonly found in Judeo-Christian ideology is "resurrection." Gos Phil contains a number of remarkable passages (again, non-sequential) on this subject. This text is implicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Christian in the way it demolishes and reverses the literal conception of resurrection held in those religions. It must be noted that mainstream Judaism does not assert bodily resurrection, but the secret Zaddikim ideology of the Dead Sea cult did. It was against Zaddikim redemptive doctrines ("the Palestinian redeemer compex") that Gnostics protested most vehemently. Hence Gnostics, the "children of Seth," were regarded by the Dead Sea sectarians as their arch-enemies.
This theme peeks out in P 52 which states the paradox that only someone who has truly lived can die — but this notion is not developed clearly or thoroughly. P 53 seems to state the orthodox Christian theology of redemption, but with a twist. It asserts that "Christ laid down his life," but not by the one-time event of the Crucifixion of Jesus. Rather, the deed was done"before the foundation of the world." This language alludes to the Christos intercession described in the Sophia Mythos. Saint Paul uses this language, leading Elaine Pagels to assume that he had Gnostic knowledge. But the mere use of terms does not guarantee knowledge of what they mean. In Passage 55, the intercession is described in symbolic language: "Before the Aeon Christos came there was no nourishment for humanity... so humans fed like animals.. but when Christos came, the perfect man, he brought food that humanity might be nourished in the manner appropriate to it."
"The perfect man" is PITELIOS ROME in Coptic. I make it "the ultimate human," or "ultrahuman," a term used in deep ecology. It could also be rendered as "the potential human," to borrow a phrase from Jean Houston. In the Gnostic creation myth, the Aeon Christos is a divine being who focalizes the potential of humanity, Anthropos, the human singularity. The Anthropos is defined by its ultimate potential, the highest expression of singularity it can achieve: PITELIOS ROME. Considered dynamically, our potential is a set of instincts that define us as human, distinct from other animals with other sets of instincts. In the myth of the Fallen Sophia, the Aeon Christos intervenes early in the evolution of the biosphere because Sophia herself, when she is metamorphosed into Gaia, is unable to bring order to her progeny, including humanity. Christ regulates the operations of human instinct, and thus sets Sophia's biological experiment on track so that humanity may evolve "in the manner appropriate to it." This is the Christos intercession indicated in P 55.
The deed of Christos is not resurrection but intercession: raising humanity into the proper frame of its instincts. This is the Gnostic correction of the concept of resurrection. Obviously, we cannot follow the correction without knowing the mythological background.
Elsewhere, Gos Phil treats resurrection in a different vein. P 56 presents an striking remark: "Some are afraid that (when they are resurrected) they will arise naked, without clothing. Because of this they do not wish to rise in the flesh, and they do not know that it is those who wear the flesh who are not naked" (my emphasis). The allusion to "rising in the flesh" has a sexual ring. This enigmatic passage links the theme of resurrection to another main theme of Gos Phil, the rites of sexual mysticism. The misattribution concerning resurrection has to do with presenting the reappearance in a new body as a promise, whereas the true wonder is how we are resurrected in this body, here and now. "Those who wear the flesh are not naked" because they understand that the flesh itself, this body in which we live, is a divine instrument, a sacred garment. Such is the Mystery teaching on resurrection to be read between the lines here and there in this strange, amazing document.
Perhaps the most remarkable statement about resurrection occurs in 73.5 — again, totally out of sequence. "Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error." This is a clear refutation of the literal and orthodox notion of resurrection. The sentence uses a form of the Greek plane: planasthe, "to be in error, led astray." After pointing to what is wrongly conceived — i.e., exposing the misattribution of resurrection — the text presents an alternative: "If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing"(emphasis added). This is quite a burst. What Gnostics taught about resurrection came out of the experience of regeneration, palingenesis, in the Mysteries. Here and elsewhere, the Gospel of Philip asserts that we have a capacity for perpetual regeneration that must be discovered while we live, if we are to experience any kind of continued existence in the afterlife.
"It is necessary to rise in the flesh, since everything exists in it" (57.15). This is not the assertion of people who hated the physical body, as Gnostics are often accused of doing. P 57 invokes the sacrament of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus, but again, it corrects the attendent misattributions. However, the argument bogs down in obscure, waffling terms. There is a sense that the subject is tricky, or too delicate to handle. We detect reluctance to get to the essence of the matter, and the language straggles away... Why? Probably because the nature of the "mass" understood in Gnostic terms was taboo, a subject proper to Mystery experience. This aspect of the theme of resurrection is, however, resumed where the Gospel of Philip takes up two related themes, the Divine Light and mystical sexuality.
The Divine Light
P 57.15 introduces the intriguing theme of "the light in the flesh," more explicitly stated in the following P 58: "You who have joined the perfect light, unite the angels with us also, as being the images" (58.10). The translation is barely intelligible. "The perfect light" is MPITELEIOS PIOYOEIN, once again using the root telos. If I protest the scholarly convention of translating teleios as "perfect," it is because I have found this translation consistently misleading. The "perfect light" is the "initiatory light," the medium of instruction in the Mysteries. Elsewhere I have suggested calling it Organic Light to distinguish it from the invisible light of the atmosphere.
There are two passing allusions to the Organic Light, and then P 67 opens with a more extensive and explicit description:
The fire is the chrism, the light is the fire. I am not referring to that fire which has no form, but to the other fire whose form is white, which is bright and beautiful, and which gives beauty.
This is a rare and remarkable disclosure of a Mystery experience, known only to those who are initiated into the Greater Mysteries. In the ancient idiom, the term "fire" (Coptic KOHT) was used for the light of the atmosphere, i.e, sunlight which generates heat and can ignite fire. This kind of light arises when solar radiation penetrates the atmospheric envelop. As Wilhelm Reich pointed out, atmospheric light is a local phenomenon: it is not merely solar radiation released in the atmosphere, but a specific chemical transformation of the solar rays that only occurs locally, within the atmospheric sheath, subject to the conditions of the biosphere. Fire or solar fire is the basis of atmospheric light, but there is also another kind of light, here called the chrism, the anointing medium. The text says that this other light is white, bright and beautiful, and it bestows beauty. Organic Light is white and visible, i.e., it can be seen, in contrast to atmospheric or natural light which is invisible, and cannot be seen, although it renders things visible.
P 69.10 continues the disclosure of the Light seen in the Mysteries. It describes the secret rite of baptism "in the light and the water," and reiterates that "the light is the chrism." This assertion is meaningless unless we know what kind of light is meant. Scholars assume the language is merely metaphorical, but they are quite wrong about that. Initiation involves a real and tangible encounter with Organic Light. "The water" is not H-two-O but a predictible effect that accompanies Organic Light: the sense of being drenched or immersed in a life-giving medium. The language here is neither symbolic nor metaphorical but alludes to real, sensory experiences known in an altered state of non-ordinary perception, and consistently reproduced by the initiatory rite. Everyone who entered the Greater Mysteries saw the Organic Light, and some participants underwent that sublime experience over and over again, many times.
P 70.5 states that initiates who are clothed or ensheathed in the Mystery Light are not detected by "the powers," and so the powers "cannot detain them." This is a direct allusion to the intrusion of the Archons, the predatory alien species of such concern to Gnostics. "One will clothe himself in this light sacramentally in the union." This awkward phrase uses special language, PIMYSTERION HEM PIHOTER, "the Mystery of the Uniting," but this is slurred by the translation. It should say, "Whoever will be clothed in this light abides (or must abide) in the Mystery of the Uniting." Gos Phil here interfuses the theme of the Divine Light with two other themes: mystical sexuality, and the reconciliation of gender, or gender polarity, to be discussed ahead. The most important point to be taken from this remarkable passage is the assertion that the Mystery Light surrounds and protects the initiated from alien intrusion.
Picking up the blood-flesh-water-light-baptism motif, P 75.20 states that the sacramental drink of the Gnostics "is full of the holy spirit, and belongs to the initiated ones." The Greek word for spirit, pneuma, is coded PNA with a line across the top. Then comes a burst: "The living water is the body." Quite a sensible statement, for we know that the human body consists of 75% water. The "living water," PIMOOY ETONEH in Coptic, recalls the secret term "the living Jesus" which also uses the word ETONEH. "It is necessary that we put on the living man, MPIROME ETONEH." This sentence uses the Coptic word for human, ROME (romee, or romay — no one really knows how Coptic was pronounced). Read: "To realize that the living water is the body, is to live in the human sense." Baptism in water means nothing, it is an empty ritual. We are living in water. This is the biological reality of the human condition. The brain of a living person is like sopping kleenex. Only the extracted brain appears to be solid and dense, like a heavy sponge.
A further passage, 77.5 uses ROME and OUAAB, "holy." Scholars translate this as "holy man, priest," but this is misleading. It would be better rendered as "the human who is consecrated, who senses the Sacred." Thus:
The human being who senses the Sacred is sacred right into the body. If such a person takes bread, she consecrates it. If she takes the cup or any other sacrament, she will consecrate it. This being so, how will such a person not also consecrate her own body as well?
Scholars tell us that the Gospel of Philip demonstrates more about Gnostic sacramentalism than any other NHC text. Surely this passage alone is enough to refute the intentional misattribution, directed by the Church Fathers against Gnostics, accusing them of hating the body and rejecting the material world. On the contrary, Gnostics practiced a sacramental science of the senses, as I have called it. The method of the Mysteries was psychosomatic illumination.
In Gos Phil all allusions to the "perfect man," PITELEIOS ROME, occur in close association with the Light motif. Gnostics believed that in witnessing the Organic Light, they not only became as the Light is, but they knew through encountering that Light the true nature of humanity and the end of personality. With this experience comes immunity against the error of the Archons.
The powers will be unable to detain the initiated ones, for they will not be able to detect them any more. There is no other way for anyone to acquire this quality (of immunity) except by accepting and entering the Mystery Light, to become as it is. Whoever has done this will enter... This is the ultimate... that we.... can become... before we leave (this world)... Whoever receives (instruction from the Light) receives everything... hither... to be able... (to live beyond this life,) the place (of mortality)... the middle zone (where we live to become initiated, "perfected"). Only the inner guide, the living Jesus, knows the end (telos) of the personality, the final aim of personal life.
It is surely worth noting that the Gospel of Philip concludes with a powerful assertion about the Divine Light:
This is the way it is: it is revealed to each alone, not hidden in the darkness and the night, but hidden in a perfect day, and a divine light.
The sacramentalism of Gos Phil is overtly sexual, but it is also distinctly mystical. "Spiritual love is all fragrance and wine" (77.30).
Sacramental sex ("Tantric sex") was known to have been practiced by certain Gnostic groups such as the "snake-worshipping" Ophites or Naasenes, who were spied upon by the Christian convert, Epiphanius. "Snake worship" refers to yogic practice with Kundalini, the Serpent Power. Kundalini can be activated by difficult yogic exercises, combining asana and meditation, but also, more powerfully and spontaneously, by sexual rapture. Sexual mysticism is the method of allowing the intensities of sexual foreplay and intercourse to build to mystical levels of heightened perception. The first allusion to sacramental sex in Gos Phil comes in P 59.5 which describes the "Tantric kiss" ceremonially used as a greeting by initiates in the Mysteries. Initiates apparently hugged and kissed socially, as Americans were known to do late in the 20th century. Gnostics associated the mouth kiss with nourishment and sharing the gift of life:
It is from being consecrated to divine matters that we receive (spiritual) nourishment (which comes, as natural noursishment comes to us) from the mouth. And so it is known in those places (the Mysteries) that life is nourished from the mouth by those who would be initiated ("become perfect," teleios). For it is by a kiss that we conceive and give birth (to ourselves). For this reason we kiss one another. We conceive (our own humanity) through the grace (charis) we find in each other.(58-9)
Mouth-kissing was thus both a social ceremony and a spiritual ritual among Gnostics. The most famous — some would say, infamous — incident of this greeting occurs in Gos Phil 63.30 - 64.10, where the Gnostic master (not named as Jesus here — the text is damaged) kisses his companion, Mary Magdalene, on the mouth in the presence of the "disciples" (matheses: read "students"). With its usual jumpy editing, Gos Phil juxtaposes a line about the goddess Sophia with the name of Mary Magdalene, assuming some kind of parallel but with no editorial attempt to explain it: "As for Wisdom (Sophia), she is called 'the barren' even though she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of... Mary Magdalene..." (63.30). Magdalene was regarded by Gnostics as the good-enough human reflection of Sophia, but not the only such human reflection, and not a direct incarnation of the Goddess, either.
After the kissing cameo, we have to go to the end of P 63 for the first explicit mention of sacramental sexuality: "Great is the mystery of marriage (gamos)." This could as well read: "Great are the mysteries of mating," for the plural mysterios is used, rather than the singular mysterion. The mysteries of mating involve all gender blends, but Gos Phil concentrates on male-female gender polarity, consistent with the theme of gender balance, or reconciliation. P 63.30 - 64 warns of misattribution concerning this crucial issue: "Now the existence of the cosmos and the existence of mating are related. Reflect on this relationship, for it possesses power. But the image of mating is contaminated (consists of a defilement)." The following passage (from the bottom of page 148 to one third of the way through p 149 in the NHLE) may be interpolated, because it contains blatant anti-sexual judgements incompatible with the overall tone of this text. The wanton women and lecherous men condemned here are likely to have been participants in the Mysteries whose physical allure and sexual confidence aroused envy and revulsion among body-hating Christians. In Epiphanius' secret report on the Naasenes, he portrayed them as shameless seducers who indulge in sexual orgies.
From passage 65 Gos Phil is largely unintelligible until 67.5 where we once again stumble upon the chrism of Organic Light. The text now introduces a unique term: nymphion, translated "bridal chamber." At this point the themes of Divine Light and sexual mysticism merge, for nymphion is the name in Mystery language for the aura or cell of Divine Light that encases the partners in sacramental intercourse. With the arousal of Kundalini in the sexual embrace, the partners become aware of an aura around them, like a luminous opaque veil. Shifted into a state of heightened awareness, they perceive their own bodies as partially composed of light. In fact, they do not see their normal, solid physical bodies at all, rather they see an image of themselves:
There is rebirth and an image (ikon) of rebirth. Which one? Resurrection (anastasis). The image must rise again through the image. The bridal chamber and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the resurrection.
This puzzling passage refers to an ineffable experience that might be compared to perceiving your own after-image, and seeing it come alive. The power of resurrection in mystical sexuality produces a re-imaging of the body, and generates definite effects at the cellular level. "The body-image must rise again through the bodiless image." The afterimage glimpsed in an altered state of high sexual delirium fuses new life into the physical body
"The lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism, and a eucharist and a redemption, and a bridal chamber" (67.25). The compiler of Gos Phil is listing the elements of sacramental sexuality without putting them in an intelligable order. The preceding line says that whoever grasps the secret of left and right (chirality) "is no longer a Christian but a Christ (CHRS)." Mystical sexuality can reach a level of transcendent awareness that induces momentary identification with the Divine. In P 69 there is a burst: "We are begotten by Christ in the two." To be technically correct, each instance of CHRS in Gnostic writing ought to be translated Christos rather than Christ. "We are born through Christos in the dyad, the twoness." This arcane language refers to the regrounding of the initiates in the mysterious twoness of the cosmos, and of the human body. It points to a transcendent view of gender, rather than a transcendence of gender altogether.
Closely related to mystical sexuality and anointing with the Divine Light is the theme of gender balance. Some scholars consider this to be the main message running through Gos Phil. It crops up in many places and is extensively developed in two passages.
The commentary in the full standard scholar's edition of the CGL says that "the author (of this tractate) understands the existential malady of mankind to be a direct result of the differentiation of the sexes, stemming from Eve's separation from Adam" (W. I. Isenberg, V. II, 2, p. 136). Indeed, this is so, for the motif of separation figures strongly in Gnostic cosmology and ethics. It is well-known that Gnostics "rejected procreation," but why they did so is not often, if ever, considered. It is certainly not because they rejected sexual intercourse, which they viewed as a sacrament; or because they hated the body, as their enemies have falsely alleged. Rather, their rejection of procreation was due to a long-term view they held regarding the Aeon Sophia, the "Fallen Goddess" central to their cosmology. In Gos Phil the gender balance theme is jumbled together with a few snippets of the Sophianic mythos, thus:
The apostles said to the disciples, "May our entire offering obtain salt." They called [Sophia] 'salt'. Without it no offering is acceptable. But Sophia is barren, [without] child. For this reason she is called.... of salt. Wherever they will [...] in their own way, the holy spirit [.... 60 and] her children are many.
This passage is problematic, due to lacunae and obscure allusions. (Gnostic scholars use [ ] around missing words that are sometimes restored.) The "barrenness" of Sophia is oddly connected with salt. Gnostics refused to procreate children of their own because they felt what they could best offer to the earth was not biological offspring but "salt" — an ingredient that enhances flavor and preserves nourishment. Metaphorically, salt is the unique savor of human intelligence. Gnostics set a high standard for themselves. To them no act or offering was acceptable if not seasoned with genuine human sapience, the signature of our species.
" Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savor...?"
In this mangled passage, the lacunae may suggest that Sophia is "[pregnant] of salt," and "wherever they, [the initiates,] will [procreate] in their own way, the holy spirit [the spirit of creativity, will be manifested, and] her children will be many."
Metahistory.org develops the Sophia Mythos of the Mysteries in the context of deep ecology and Gaia theory. Evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, co-author of the Gaia hypothesis, has said that, strictly speaking, Gaia may not be defined as an organism because she does not reproduce. "Sophia is barren." But if she does not produce biological progeny, may she not produce another kind of progeny? Or, to rephrase the question, Might Gaia not reproduce in a non-biological manner? In the phylogenetic continuity of the human species, the intelligence of the living planet attains continuity through an awareness that outlives the lives of the individual creatures who carry it, yet it must be carried by individuals. There is a trans-biological process operating in phylogenesis.
Passage 70 states that "Christos came to repair the separation" of male and female, and asserts that the rite of reuniting occurs in the nymphion, the bridal chamber. 71.15 makes the striking statement that "Adam came into being from two virgins, from the spirit (Greek pneuma) and from the virgin earth (Coptic haz, derived from the Greek gea, gaia). Christ, therefore, was born from a virgin to rectify the fall which occurred at the beginning." Here is a good example of a passage that seems indisputably to affirm orthodox Christian doctrines, the Fall and the Virgin Birth, doctrines that were vigorously refuted by Gnostics in other places in the NHC. However, Gnostics understood by the fall the plunge of Sophia the event that precipitated the division of the sexes, and they understood by birth from a virgin (Greek parthenos) the generation of the human race (Adamas) from the original or autochthonous women who inhabited the earth, independent of the male gender. This story, taught in the Mysteries, backgrounds all genuine Gnostic teaching on the issue of the "gender rift," as I propose to call it.
Passage 72 offers some tantalizing words on the ease of physical procreation, contrasting biological progeny to "the children of the nymphion who will minister to the children of the marriage." Sadly, one can't make much of this. It may suggest that a kind of imaginary offspring (the children of the nymphion, produced in the non-procreative sexual rites) will somehow serve those who are dedicated to the mating or uniting of the genders (the children of the marriage, gamos).
Passage 76 explicitly affirms the eternal nature of sacred union. It uses the intriguing expression, "the heart of flesh," but leaves us wondering what it can mean. There is more on intercourse in P 78, contrasting human and animal procreation, and passages 81-82 continue on this theme, but due to the jumpy and incoherent presentation of the materials, it is exhausting to try to make sense of them. A good exercise would be to extract all the passages relating to this theme, put them in a single document, and then meditate on it.
Error and Freedom
Last but not least, the theme of error, closely related to misattribution, plays through this text, wending and weaving through a number of passages. At one point an extraordinary burst flares out: "The world came about through a mistake" (75.1-5). This is one of the most outrageous statements in the entire Gnostic corpus. As explained in Coco de Mer, Part One, "High Strangeness," this does not mean that the world is flawed, or that material existence is evil, or that we are all trapped in an illusion. It means specifically that the world order we inhabit, the planetary system, is ananomaly resulting from the unilateral action of the Goddess Sophia. The mistake is not Sophia's plunge, but the unforseen impact it had on elementary matter, the chaos of quantum fields. Like so many other allusions in Gos Phil, this line makes no sense without the background of Gnostic mythology. Yet it stands totally isolated, a gem embedded in rubble.
There is also a second way to interpret this line, according to its noetic sense, rather than its cosmological sense. In the noetic sense, "The world appears other than it is, because our perception of it is mistaken." The mistake resides in how we perceive, how we behold what is before us. Other passages in Gos Phil develop the issue of perceptual error, plane, by contrast to mental error, apaton.We have seen how this issue is treated in the context of misattribution, the first theme to be considered. Other passages relevant to the problem of mental conditioning, and freedom from error through enlightenment, provide a number of memorable bursts:
Truth is the mother, knowledge the father... Whoever is really free through knowledge is a slave to love because of love for those who have not yet been able to attain that freedom. (77.15-235).
Ignorance is the mother of all evil... Knowledge is freedom. If we genuinely come to know the truth, we shall find the fruits of the truth within ourselves. If we unite with the fruition of truth, it will bring us to fulfillment. (83.30 - 84.10)
Is it not necessary for those who possess everything (that is, singularity, infinite potential) to know themselves? Some, indeed, if they do not know themselves, will not enjoy what potential they possess. (76.15)
This commentary is the longest so far in the plan, yet a great deal in this text has not been considered. In 14 pages of commentary for 19 pages of text, I have still overlooked a number of key passages that would yield treasure if they were explored in detail. The sheer richness of Gos Phil is exhausting, but well worth the effort. This text merits selective rereading, but the tempo of the plan requires that we move on. Not without noting a couple of stunning bursts, however:
Love (agape) is the wind in which we grow.
Knowledge (gnosis), then, is the light in which we ripen. The Gospel of Philip, 79.25-30
14, The Reality of the Archons. P 161 NHLE. NHC II, 4. 7 pages, intact. Also called The Hypostasis of the Archons, and The Reality of the Rulers. Cosmological treatise presenting the Gnostic version of Genesis, CORE: the Sophia mythos, the generation of the Archons, the rape of Eve, the madness of Yaldabaoth, the conversion of the Sun, and other mythological features.
After the exhausting exercise of sorting through the Gospel of Philip to tease out the prevailing themes, the Reality of the Archons presents us with a more or less straightforward discourse on Gnostic creation myth. This is the first text on cosmology to be encountered so far in the reading plan. There are only five such texts in the entire corpus, Hyp Arch being the briefest, most accessible of the five. Hence it is a good place to delve into the cosmological material. It directly follows Gos Phil in Codex II, and it is followed by On the Origin of the World, another cosmological treatise — a rare instance in the NHC where comparable texts are bound together.
Introducing the translation by Bentley Layton, Roger A. Ballard writes:
The Hypostasis of the Archons is certainly the work of a gnostic teacher instructing an audience... The audience is a Christian Gnostic community, aware of material of both testaments and accepting the authority of Paul.
This is typical of the assumptions scholars allow themselves when they regard Gnostic materials as out-takes of early Christian writings. It is true that the opening paragraph uses language found in the Pauline letters, Collosians and Ephesians, but who is to say that Paul himself did not originally derive that language from Gnostic circles? In any case, the language was in circulation, and the manner of citing Paul, the "great apostle," says more about the audience addressed than about the teaching addressed to them. "I have sent you this because you inquire about the reality of the authorities (Greek exousia)" could suggest that the Gnostic master has been asked to clarify or correct what Paul is believed to have said.
Hyp Arch begins in medias res. It jumps immediately to a decisive event in the Gnostic creation myth: the imposter god, who is blind, declares that he is the only god in the universe, but he is refuted by a divine voice that tells him he is mistaken. Here the text offers a burst: "His thoughts became blind" (87.5). That humans can think in a blind manner, ignorant of the nature of their thoughts, and oblivious to the self-obscuring effect of the thought process, is a standard teaching in Buddhism and noetic sciences, but Gnostics added to it a bizarre twist, associating it with an arrogant act of cosmic egotism. They taught that processes in the human psyche are enmeshed with events in the cosmos at large ("cosmo-noetic parallelism"). In our minds we are implicated in the folly and arrogance of the chief ruler.
For an extraordinary parallel to the egotism of the imposter god in Gnostic myth, see The Madness of the Ego.
In Hyp Arch, the authorities or rulers are initially called Exousia, the term found in the writings attributed to Paul, but the name Archontoi occurs later in the text. The chief of the Exousia is not called by his usual name, Yaldabaoth, as occurs elsewhere in the NHC. In Mystery teachings on the "planetary spheres" the Exousia are connected with jupiter and the force of envy (Greek phthonos).
Hyp Arch does not explain, as do other cosmological treatises, how the chief ruler was produced from "the abyss (Coptic NOUN)," here called "his mother (Coptic MAAY)." The word NOUN indicates that the chief authority and his legion arise from the realm of elementary matter, chaos, the abyss. This is what we call quantum fields, the (presumed) inorganic matrix of organic life.
Sophia — here called Pistis Sophia, "Confident Wisdom" — established a heavenly world for the authorities "in conformity with their power," forming that world "after the pattern (typos) of the worlds that are above, for by starting from the invisible world the visible world was invented" (87.10). The "worlds above" are in the Pleroma, source of all "archetypal" patterns of manifestation. The Archons cannot invent anything. Everything has to be done by Sophia, an Aeon from the Pleroma. Other texts say that the chief ruler does create his own heaven world, the planetary system, by imitating the patterns of the Pleroma, but if he is blind, how can he see those divine forms? This passage assumes that Sophia tricks the imposter god Yaldabaoth into thinking that he is doing what she, the genuine Divinity, does for him.
Now a sublime event: the figure of "incorruptibility" is reflected in the realm of chaos where the Exousia emerge. In the compound formations of Coptic, "incorruptibility" is constructed from TAKO, "to corrupt, perish," with the prefixes AT-, "not," and MNT-, which functions like the English suffixe -tion: hence, MNTATTEKO, "ability-not-to corrupt." (The A in TAKO changes to an E, one of the many baffling orthographic irregularities in Coptic.) It is also called "imperishability." This (to us) abstraction is presented as a living, witnessing awareness, even though it is not given a divine or angelic name, such as Elelath. Strangely, this abstract presence, presumed to be in the Pleroma, produces an image in elementary matter ( MOOY, "waters"), and the Exousia desire it, but are unable to attain it. We are told they can desire it because they have soul, but not spirit. This is the closest the NHC comes to asserting that the Archons have soul, an inner life of some kind. They can long for and pine for something, but they then fall into envy for what they cannot have.
Apparently the image of Imperishability resembles the human form, which the rulers, now called Archontoi, attempt to copy. The Archons "laid plans" and said, "Come, let us create a human (ROME) that will be from the soil of the earth (KAZ, variation of Greek ge, gaia)." It is unclear if they model a man, male, or the human form (perhaps androgyne?), because the Coptic ROME is used interchangeably for man and human. 87.30 says that they modelled the human form after the "image of God," or "divine apparition." Immediately we learn that the image is female, because the Archons now determine "to see its male counterpart." They first mold a female form or matrix and then produce from it a male form which they infuse with their breath, but the male form is unable to stand upright. This incident recalls indigenous creation myths that describe a botched attempt to produce the human form — for instance, in the Popol Vuh. The Archons blow furiously but are unable to animate their pseudo-human creation, for "they did not know the identity of its power" (88.10).
Now comes a remarkable passage. The spirit of the Pleroma, observing that "the soul-endowed (psychikos) human form" is unable to attain its true stature, sends a part of itself from the "Adamantine Land" into the struggling creature. And "man became a living soul," PSYCHE ETONE. The term ETONE also appears in the Mystery name, "the living Jesus," as we have noted. By "living" Gnostics meant something like "everlasting," rather than merely "alive." (This recalls the distinction between zoe, the immortal life force, and bios, the force of biological life-forms, eludicated by mythologist Karl Kerenyi in Dionysos.) Adamantine Land or Adamantine Earth is a striking term that recalls Buddhist teachings on the Adamantine or Diamond (Vajra) Awareness. Such awareness resides in the Pleroma, yet because Sophia is united with the Earth, the divine presence of the Pleroma pervades the Earth. With support from the Aeon Sophia, Adamas ("earth-creature") now rises upright and demonstrates spiritual power by naming the animals. The male and female types of humanity (ROME) live in an Edenic world, a natural paradise, the biosphere.
Sophia indwells the entire biosphere, but She is also present in it through the specific medium of the Adamantine or living white radiance, the Organic Light. The mythology of Hyp Arch thus explains the basis of the central experience of initiation in the Mysteries: instruction by the Light.
The Forbidden Fruit
In the Gnostic version of Genesis, the rulers (Archons) forbid the primal parents to eat from the tree that would allow them to discern good and evil, and they impose the threat of death. The story carries an extraordinary spin, for we are now told that the Archons are allowed to make this interdiction so that the primal parents will disobey, eat the forbidden fruit, and consequently acquire powers of heightened perception. Enlightenment comes from eating the forbidden fruit, so that "Adamas might not regard them (the Archons) as would a creature limited to dense, materialistic perception" (89.5). When the Archons realize that the tabooed knowledge gives Adam power to detect them for what they truly are, they contrive to plunge him into a stupor, blocking his higher perception. To do so, they perform a grotesque operation: they open his side and "build up his side with some flesh in place of her (Eve)," so that he is reduced from being a spirit-creature (pneumatikos) to the more modest status of soul-creature (psychikos). Clearly, Adam is facing some bad moves from the Archons.
Note that the Gnostic Eden scenario is not merely a reversal of the Biblical scenario, presenting a false creator god who works against humanity. In the Gnostic version, Adam and Eve do not sin in human terms. They do not merely disobey the commandments of the creator god, but they access powers of cognition that expose the creator god. In short, they exhibit spirital superiority over the Archons, and it is for this that they are "punished" by the Archons intent to plunge them into a stupor. The spell put on Adam does not diminish his ordinary awareness, it blocks his capacity for heightened awareness. If this interpretation is correct, it shows that Gnostics were aware that the Archontic powers, and their human representatives, harbour the intention to derpive humanity of the experience of heightened awareness, that is, cognitive ecstasy typical of shamanic practice with entheogenic plants. In fact, the program of patriarchy, right down to our day, has always opposed experimental contact and communion with Sacred Nature in altered states.
The original forbidden fruit may well have been an entheogenic plant such as the sacred mushroom, amanita muscaria.
All this proceeds in Eden, the terrestrial paraside on Earth, but rather differently than the story goes in the Old Testament! And there is more Gnostic rewriting of the Judeo-Christian creation myth. Eve is not affected by the deep sleep imposed on Adam. She calls him out of his stupor. Seeing her, he recognizes that she is "the mother of the living," TIMAAY NNETONE, as well as the "physician" who protects life. The Archons are deeply upset because Eve has defeated their plan to stupefy Adam, so they turn their attention to her. Here The Reality of the Archons presents a version of the alien interbreeding myth from the Sumerian cunieform tablets:
And the Archons became attracted to Eve, the primal woman. They said to one another, "Come, let us sow our seed in her," and they pursued her. And she laughed at them for their witlessness, and their blindness; and within reach of their clutches, she turned into a tree, and left before them a shadowy reflection of herself.
Contrary to the widely held view that the cunieform stories prove there was alien intervention in human genetics in prehistory, this Gnostic text (and not only this one) denies that the Archons succeeded in their intention to rape the primal woman, Eve. They did, however, lay claim to an image of woman "and they defiled it foully" (89.25). The text oddly specifies that "they defiled the stamp of her voice." What can this mean? In cosmological terms, it is difficult to say what the Archons are doing here, but in psychological terms — which, let's recall, always run in parallel with cosmic events in the Gnostic vision of human reality — it suggests that womanhood becomes defiled, defamed, and denigrated. This is exactly what has happened with the rise of patriarchal religion: the distinctive voice of woman, her authority to speak for herself and for the Goddess, has been defamed and defiled.
Both themes, the defilement of woman and the forbidding of entheogenic rites, are central to the dominator agenda of patriarchy. Kenneth Rexroth, who traced the origins of Gnosticism back to "the Neolithic or even earlier," stated that devotion to the "redeemer goddess" in the Mysteries accounts for the strong and distinctive "anti-patriarchal emphasis of most Gnostic texts" ("A Primer of Gnosticism," in G.R.S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, p. xiii). And Gnostic scholar John D. Turner notes, "Gnostics realized the true source of the constriction of patriarchal structures to lie in the demiurge," the false creator god ("Response to 'Sophia and Christ' in the Apocryphon of John by Karen L. King," pp. 177-186, in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, ed. Karen King). This is certainly evident in the mythological revisions of The Reality of the Archons.
It would be consistent with the design of the Archons to make woman inferior to man, whom they have duped and stupefied. Gnostics taught that the pseudo-gods do indeed attempt this, but fail because woman becomes "the instructor" of man. The instructor assumes the form of a snake. The text plays on an Aramaic pun between snake and instructor. The "female instructing principle" is Kundalini, the Serpent Power. This power is an internal faculty of blissful innate knowing, or cognitive ecstasy. The rulers acted from jealousy when they forbade access to the tree of knowledge, precisely because the fruit of the tree releases the Serpent Power. The myth (90.10) suggests that originally this power belonged to snakes, or was carried by reptiles, but was taken from them and transferred to humanity.
The "carnal woman," TISHIME NSARKIKE, also called the sarkic Eve, is biologically bound woman, contrasted to the spiritual or "pneumatic" woman who is the instructor of the human race. In Gnostic myth, Eve, the Spiritual or Pneumatic Woman, is not the tempter of Adam but his liberator. She is distinguished from the carnal woman, a creature bound to her biological nature rather than master of it:
Upon leaving the [carnal, biologically bound] woman, the Spiritual Woman enters the serpent and instructs the man and woman to eat from the tree of recognizing good and evil, against the Rulers' command. This act of spiritual instruction is simultaneously an act of insubordination. Upon questioning Adam, the Rulers learn from him that woman gave to him from the tree and they curse her.
(Anne McGuire, "Virginity and Subversion: Norea Against the Powers in The Hypostasis of the Archons," pp. 239-258, in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, ed. Karen King)
The Sarkic Eve and her male counterpart are soul creatures who lack the higher insight of psychosomatic enlightenment. Due to their "lack of acquaintance" they feel shame, being "naked of the spiritual element (pneumatikon)," but they do not forget what they have seen in gnosis, acquaintance with divine matters. When Adam tells the Archons that Eve alerted him to their influence, "the arrogant ruler cursed the woman" (91.30). Then they turned and cursed the snake, not realizing that it was the form in which they themselves were modelled — a striking reference to the "reptilian" or drakontic form of the Archons. The "curse upon the snake" is their response to the serpent instructor, Kundalini, by which humans can resist and repel alien intrusion, and heal the traumas caused by Archontic aggression. Kundalini is snake medicine.
Hyp Arch ascribes the expulsion from Eden to the Archons, whose chief is Yaldabaoth, identified with Jehovah. This is consistent with Old Testament narrative, but in the OT Yahweh-Jehovah is regarded as the stern creator god who justly punishes humanity for disobedience, while here the creator god is a demented alien who retaliates against the first parents for exercising their gnostic powers of higher perception. Jehovah's attitude is not benign, and can in no way be construed as a chastisement that leads to human betterment. "The Rulers threw humanity into great distraction, and into a life of toil, so that humans might be occupied by mundane affairs, and not have the opportunity to be devoted to the spiritual life" (91.5-10).
The narrative continues with a straightfoward telling of the Cain and Abel story, then it adds a uniquely Gnostic element. Seth and Norea are born of the primal parents. Seth is the head of the lineage of Revealers. Norea is the type of spiritual woman who carries the undefiled power of Eve: "The primal mother became pregnant and she bore Norea. And she said, 'The spirit has beggoten on me a virgin (Gk parthenos) as an helpmate (Coptic NEBOETHEIA) for many generations of humanity" (91.30 - 92.4). Understood in its original, Pagan sense, a"virgin" is not a woman who has no sexual experience, but a woman who has not borne children due to sexual intercourse, and thus she retains an untapped, virginal power.
Seeking revenge, the Archons conspire to bring on the Flood and destroy the human race, but the "ruler of the forces," PIARCHON DE NNDYNAMIS, warns Noah. In Mystery code, the Dynamis are the planetary spirits of mars. Being planetary (extraterrestrial) entities, they would be classed among the Archons, but here, curiously, they are seemingly allies to humanity. Norea, the wife of Noah in the traditional narrative, recognizes that the Dynamis are alien powers, "rulers of the darkness," and she reminds them that they were unable to defile Eve, although they were able to stupefy her male counterpart, Adam. She exposes them and asserts her connection with the higher powers of the Pleroma.
The Repenting Sun
This confrontation now turns violent. The Archons, here called the "lords of unrighteousness," try to attack Norea, the female instructing principle. In response to Norea´s plight, the great angel Elelath, who is called sagacity (Coptic MNTSABE), descends to aid and instruct her. The great angel announces: "I have been sent to speak with you and save you from being captured by the lawless ones. And I shall teach you about your origins" (93.10).
At passage 93 Hyp Arch shifts into something like a revelation discourse. Almost certainly, a second and independent text has been spliced to the cosmological dissertation we have been following so far. This other text continues to the end of the document, Passage 97. The great angel makes an assertion common to Gnostic teachings in the NHC: humanity is superior to the authorities, the Archons:
Do you think these rulers have any power over you? None of them can prevail against the root of truth (Coptic ME, also "heart": "the truth in your heart"). For on its account, the Revealer appeared in the final ages, and these authorities will be restrained. They cannot defile you and that generation [allied to the Revealer] for you dwell in incorruption, immortal and virginal strength, superior to the Rulers and the chaos of their world. (93.20-30)
When Norea (or whoever is the interlocuter in this revelation dialogue) asks about the origin, nature and power of the Archons, Elelath replies with a version of the Sophia mythos, the Fallen Goddess scenario. Here Hyp Arch picks up on the initial theme that opened the text, but with further elaboration. In rapid language, piling image upon image, the Revealer describes how the Aeon Sophia, by projecting herself without a consort from the Pleroma, produced an anomaly in the realm of chaos, something "like an aborted fetus" which then produced a creature like "an arrogant beast resembling a lion" (94.15). I take the statement "it was from matter that it derived" to mean that this species was inorganic.
Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit. And he became arrogant, saying, "It is I who am god, and there is no other apart from me." When he said this, he sinned against the entirety, the Pleroma. (94.20-25)
Here is Jehovah, the father god of the Old Testament, commanding that "thou shalt have no other god before me." The command is insane, and it comes from an insane, delusional mind. An exact Buddhist parallel asserts that the root of all insanity, human and otherwise, is the concept of a fixed, abiding ego.
The myth continues, told in staccato phrases: the arrogant creature declares itself to be the only god in the cosmos, but it is reproached by a voice calling it "Samael, the god of the blind." This is a reference to the blind Patriarch Samuel of the Old Testament. It was Samuel who introduced the institution of divine kingship to the Israelites, even though this notion was alien to their traditional beliefs. Gnostics were keen political observers who saw in Jewish theocracy a ruse of the Archons. Hence the Archontai, who are cosmic or extraterrestrial entities, are closely associated with human "authorities" who dominate the social order, using the theocratic pretence of divine mandate.
The text now rapidly concludes with a series of spectacular mythic events. The Aeon Sophia charges the inorganic realm of the Archons with animating power, and their ruler then proceeds to construct an Archontic heaven, consisting of seven realms (the Hebdomad). This is the planetary system exclusive of sun, moon, and earth. The chief ruler is again confronted, this time by Zoe, another daughter (i.e. aspect) of Sophia, who calls him Saklas (Aramaic, "fool") and Yaldabaoth. Zoe breathes a super-surge of her force, divine life-force, into the ruler's face, and casts him down into Tartaros, "below the abyss" (95.10). This event is witnessed by the Sun, Sabaoth, who undergoes a conversion. Although the sun is produced from inorganic matter (his mother) shaped by the Archontic forces (his father), this celestial body, acting as a conscious cosmic entity, now decides to forsake the Archons and unite with Sophia.
The conversion of Sabaoth is one of the grand events in the Sophia mythos. Elsewhere I have suggested that the symbiosis of earth and sun recognized in the Gaia hypothesis may be reflected here in ancient mythopoesis. Hyp Arch says that "Sophia and Zoe set Sabaoth free and gave him charge of the seventh heaven, below the veil between above and below.... He is set up above the forces of chaos (i.e., the planatery realm of celestial mechanics)" (95.20-25). On his right is Zoe, on his left, "an angel of wrath." This arrangement indicates that the solar force is symbiotic with life, but also capable of annihilating it by wrath, excessive force, as seen in solar eruptions. In the repentant sun who serves Her, Gaia (the earthbound Sophia) reserves a lethal power.
Elelath says enigmatically that Yaldaboth envied the sun, Sabaoth, "and the envy became an androgynous product... and engendered Death, and Death engendered its own offspring" (96.5-10). This allusion requires an interpretation that would unduly prolong this commentary. We will return to the element of death in later cosmological treatises.
Finally, Norea asks is she is of the same matter as the Archons. Elelath answers clearly that her origin is in "the imperishable Light" of the Pleroma, but the Archons were generated outside the Pleroma and do not possess the "spirit of truth" (96.20). Those who know the difference "exist deathlessly in the midst of mortal humankind" (96.25). The great angel concludes with a prophecy and a promise, asserting the triumph of humanity over error and the deceitful power of the Archons. The "sown element" (sperma) is the radiant template of humanity that was emanated from the Pleroma and seeded on earth (i.e., via panspermia). The true identity of the human species is cosmic, divine, preterrestrial. Those who know themselves in the perspective of this identity are "Children of the Light" (97.10)
" The Logos-Wisdom is the principle of all Divine and Esoteric Revelations. She has the characteristics of being the indwelling revealer of God. She IS the active principle and the transmitter of all Divine knowledge as well the cosmological cause of all creation. "
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Think for yourself and do not quickly accept ideas. Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thes. 5:21)
If you have enemies, each has a Soul, as you do.
" Love your enemies "
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