Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, by G.R.S. Mead, , at sacred-texts.com
The Spiritual Creation.IN the Unutterable Depth were two Great Lights, the First Man, or Father, and his Son, the Second Man; and also the Holy Spirit, the First Woman, or Mother of all living. Below this triad was a sluggish mass composed of the four great "elements," called Water, Darkness, Abyss, and Chaos. The Universal Mother brooded over the Waters; enamoured of her beauty, the First and Second Man produced from her the third Great Light, the Christ; and He, ascending above, formed with the First and Second Man the Holy Church. This was the right-hand birth of the Great Mother. But a Drop of Light fell downwards to the left hand into chaotic matter; this was called Sophia, or Wisdom, the World-Mother. The Waters of the Æther were thus set in motion, and formed a body for Sophia (the Light-Æon), viz., the Heaven-sphere. And she, freeing herself, left her body behind, and ascended to the Middle Region below her Mother (the Universal Mother), who formed the boundary of the Ideal Universe.
By her mere contact with the Space-Waters she had already generated a son, the chief Creative Power of the Sensible World, who retained some of the
[paragraph continues] Light-fluid; this son was Ialdabaōth (said by some to mean the Child of Chaos), who in his turn produced a son, and he another, until there were seven in all, the great Formative Powers of the Sensible Universe. And they were "fighters," and quarrelled much with their fathers. And by means of this interplay of forces on matter came forth the "mind," which was "serpent-formed," and "spirit," and "soul," and all things in the world.
And Ialdabaōth was boastful and arrogant, and exclaimed: "I am Father and God, and beyond me is Yahweh Ialdabaōth. none other." But Sophia hearing this cried out to her son: "Lie not, Ialdabaōth, for above thee is the Father of All, the First Man, and Man the Son of Man." And all the Powers were astonished at the word; but Ialdabaōth, to call off their attention, cried out: "Let us make 'man' after our image." So they made "man," and he lay like a worn on the ground, until they brought him to Ialdabaōth, who breathed into him the "breath of life," that is to say the Light-fluid he had received from Sophia, and so emptied himself of his Light. And "man" receiving it, immediately gave thanks to the First Man and disregarded his fabricators (the Elohīm).
Whereupon Ialdabaōth (Yahweh) was jealous and planned to deprive Adam of the Light-spark by O. T. Exegesis. forming "woman." And the six creative powers were enamoured of Eve, and by her generated sons, namely, the angels. And so Adam again fell under the power of Ialdabaōth and the Elohīm; then Sophia or Wisdom sent the "serpent" ("mind") into the Paradise of Ialdabaōth, and Adam and Eve
listened to its wise councils, and so once more "man" was freed from the dominion of the Creative Power, and transgressed the ordinance of ignorance of any power higher than himself imposed by Ialdabaōth. Whereupon Ialdabaōth drove them out of his Paradise, and together with them the "serpent" or "mind"; but Sophia would not permit the Light-spark to descend, and so withdrew it to avoid profanation. And "mind" (the lower mind) the serpent-formed, the first product of Ialdabaōth, brought forth six sons, and these are the "dæmonial" powers, which plague men because their father was cast down for their sake.
Now Adam and Eve before the fall had spiritual bodies, like the "angels" born of this Eve; but after their fall, down from the Paradise of Ialdabaōth, their bodies grew more and more dense, and more and more languid, and became "coats of skin," till finally Sophia in compassion restored to them the sweet odour of the Light, and they knew that they carried death about with them. And so a recollection of their former state came back to them, and they were patient, knowing that the body was put on only for a time.
The system then goes on to grapple with the legends of Genesis touching Cain and Noah, etc., and the Old Testament record generally, with moderate success; the main idea being that the prophets were inspired by one or other of the seven Elohīm, but occasionally Sophia had succeeded in impressing them with fragmentary revelations about the First Man and the Christ above.
The rest of the system is devoted to the question of the scheme of regeneration and the interpretation Christology. of the Mystery-myths. Sophia, or Wisdom, finding no rest in heaven or earth, implored the help of the Great Mother, and she in compassion begged of the First Man that the Christ should be sent to help her. And then Wisdom, knowing that her brother and spouse was coming to her aid, announced his coming by John, and by means of the "baptism of repentance" Jesus was made ready to receive him, as in a clean vessel. And so the Christ descended through the seven spheres, likening himself unto the Rulers, and draining them of their power, the Light they had retained all flowing back to him. And first of all the Christ clothed his sister Sophia with the Light-vesture, and they rejoiced together, and this is the mystical "marriage" of the "bridegroom and the bride." Now Jesus, having been born of a "virgin" by the working of God (in other words, after the spiritual "second birth" had been attained by the ascetic Jesus), Christ and Sophia, the one enfolding the other, descended upon him and he became Jesus Christ.
Then it was that he began to do mighty works, to heal, and to proclaim the Unknown Father, and Jesus. profess himself openly the Son of the First Man. Whereupon the Powers and especially Ialdabaōth took measures to slay him, and so Jesus, the man, was "crucified" by them, but Christ and Sophia mounted aloft to the Incorruptible Æon. But Christ did not forget the one in whom He had tabernacled, and so sent a power which raised up his body, not
indeed his gross physical envelope, but a psychic and spiritual body. And those of his disciples who saw this body, thought he was risen in his physical frame, but to certain of them who were capable of receiving it, he explained the mystery, and taught them many other mysteries of the spiritual life. And Jesus now sits at the right hand of his father, Ialdabaōth, and receives the souls who have received these mysteries. And in proportion as he enriches himself with souls, in such measure is Ialdabaōth deprived of power; so that he is no longer able to send back holy souls into the world of reincarnation, but only those of his own substance; and the consummation of all things will be when all the Light shall once more be gathered up and stored in the treasures of the Incorruptible Æon.
Such is the account of this by no means absurd scheme of the Gnosis preserved to us in the barbarous Latin translation of Irenæus’ summary. That the original system was far more elaborate we may assume from the now known method of Irenæus to make a very brief summary of the tenets he criticized. The main features of the christological and soteriological part of the system is identical with the main outlines of the system of the Pistis Sophia, and of one of the treatises of the Codex Brucianus. This is a very important point, and indicates that the dates of these treatises need not necessarily be later than the time of the bishop of Lyons, but the consideration of this important subject must be reserved for the sequel. Interesting again is it to remark the influence of the Orphic,
[paragraph continues] Pythagoræan, Platonic, and Hermetic tradition in the cosmological part, and to observe how both the Hellenic and Jewish myths find a common element in the Chaldæan tradition.