Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, by G.R.S. Mead, , at sacred-texts.com
HIPPOLYTUS devotes the fifth book of his Refutation to the "Ophites," who, however, all call themselves Justinus. followers of the Gnosis, and not "Ophites," as explained above; he seems to regard them as the most ancient stream of the Gnosis. After treating of three great schools, to which we shall subsequently refer, he specially singles out for notice a certain Justinus, who is mentioned by no other hæresiologist. This account of Hippolytus is all the more important, seeing that the system with which the name of Justinus is associated, represents apparently one of the oldest forms of the Gnosis of which we have record. This has been disputed by Salmon, but to my mind his arguments are unconvincing; the fact that the Justinian school, in its mystical exegesis, makes no reference to the texts of the New Testament collection, although freely quoting from the Old, should decide the point. One short saying is referred to Jesus, but it is nowhere found in the canonical texts.
This circle had a large literature, from which Hippolytus selects a single volume, The Book of Baruch, as giving the most complete form of the system. The members were bound by an oath of
secrecy not to reveal the tenets of the school, and the form of the oath is given. The cosmogony is based on a Syrian creation-myth, a variant of which is preserved by Herodotus (iv. 8-10), in which Hercules (the Sun-god) plays the principal part, and a stratum of which is also found in Genesis. The myth has intimate points of contact with Chaldæan and ancient Semitic traditions. The following is the outline of the system.
The Book of Baruch.There are three principles of the Universe: (i.) The Good, or all-wise Deity; (ii.) the Father, or Spirit, the creative power, called Elohīm; and (iii.) the World-Soul, symbolized as a woman above the middle and a serpent below, called Eden. From Elohīm (a plural used as a collective) and Eden twenty-four cosmic powers or angels come forth, twelve follow the will of the Father-Spirit, and twelve the nature of the Mother-Soul. The lower twelve are the World-Trees of the Garden of Eden. The Trees are divided into four groups, of three each, representing the four Rivers of Eden. The Trees are evidently of the same nature as the cosmic forces which are represented by the Hindus as having their roots or sources above and their branches or streams below. The name Eden means Pleasure or Desire.
Thus the whole creation comes into existence, and finally from the animal part of the Mother-Soul are generated animals, and from the human part men. The upper part of the Garden is called the "most beautiful Earth"; that is to say, Cosmic Earth, and the body of man is formed of the finest. Man having thus
been formed, Eden and Elohīm depute their powers unto him; the World-Soul bestows on him the soul, and the World-Spirit infuses into him the spirit. Thus were men and women constituted.
And all creation was subjected to the four groups of the twelve powers of the World-Soul, according to their cycles, as they move round as in a circular dance
But when the man-stage was reached, the turning-point of the world--process, Elohīm, the Spirit, ascended into the celestial spaces, taking with him his own twelve powers. And in the highest part of the heaven he beheld the Great Light shining through the Gate (? the physical sun), which led to the Light-world of The Good. And he who had hitherto thought himself Lord of Creation, perceived that there was one above him, and cried aloud: "Open me the gates that I may acknowledge the [true] Lord; for I considered myself to be the Lord." And a voice came forth, saying: "This is the Gate of the Lord; through this the righteous enter in." And leaving his angels in the highest part of the heavens, the World-Father entered in and sat down at the right hand of the Good One.
And Elohīm desired to recover by force his spirit which was bound to men, from further degradation; but the Good Deity restrained him, for now that he had ascended to the Light-realm he could work no destruction.
And the Soul (Eden) perceiving herself abandoned by Elohīm, tricked herself out so as to entice him back; but the Spirit would not return to the arms of
[paragraph continues] Mother Nature (now that the middle point of evolution was passed). Thereupon, the spirit that was left behind in man, was plagued by the soul; for the spirit or mind desired to follow its Father into the height, but the soul, incited by the powers of the Mother--Soul, and especially by the first group who rule over sexual passion and excess, gave way to adulteries and even greater vice; and the spirit in man was thereby tormented.
Now the angel, or power, of the World-Soul, which Baruch. especially incited the human soul to such misdeeds, was the third of the first group, called Naas (Heb. Nachash), the serpent, the symbol of animal passion. And Elohīm, seeing this, sent forth the third of his own angels, called Baruch, to succour the spirit in man. And Baruch came and stood in the midst of the Trees (the powers of the World-Soul), and declared unto man that of all the Trees of the Garden of Eden he might eat the fruit, but of the Tree Naas, he might not, for Naas had transgressed the law, and had given rise to adultery and unnatural intercourse.
And Baruch had also appeared to Moses and the prophets through the spirit in man, that the people might be converted to the Good One; but Naas had invariably obscured his precepts through the soul in man. And not only had Baruch taught the prophets of the Hebrews, but also the prophets of the uncircumcised. Thus, for instance, Hercules among the Syrians had been instructed, and his twelve labours were his conflicts with the twelve powers of the World-Soul. Yet Hercules also had finally failed,
for after seeming to accomplish his labours, he is vanquished by Omphalē, or Venus, who divests him of his power by clothing him with her own robe, the power of Eden below.
Last of all Baruch appeared unto Jesus, a shepherd boy, son of Joseph and Mary, a child of Christology. twelve years. And Jesus remained faithful to the teachings of Baruch, in spite of the enticements of Naas. And Naas in wrath caused him to be "crucified," but he, leaving on the "tree" the body of Eden--that is to say, the psychic body or soul, and the gross physical body--and committing his spirit or mind to the hands of his Father (Elohīm), ascended to the Good One. And there he beholds "whatever things eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man"; and bathes in the ocean of life-giving water, no longer in the water below the firmament, the ocean of generation in which the physical and psychic bodies are bathed. This ocean of generation is, of course, the same as the Brāhmanical and Buddhistic saṁsāra, the ocean of rebirth.
Hippolytus tries to make out that Justinus was a very vile person, because he fearlessly pointed out one of the main obstacles to the spiritual life, and the horrors of animal sensuality; but Justinus evidently preached a doctrine of rigid asceticism, and ascribed the success of Jesus to his triumphant purity.