Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, by G.R.S. Mead, , at sacred-texts.com
THE beginning is lost, and the leaves that are left us plunge into the midst of a description of the supernal beings and spaces as follows:
"He [the God beyond Being] established Him, that they might strive towards the City in which is their The First Being. Image. In this City it is that they move and live; it is the House of the Father, and the Vesture of the Son, and the Power of the Mother, and the Image of the Fullness (Plērōma). He is the First Father of the All; He is the first Being; He is the King of the Intangibles. It is He in whom the All moves. It is He in whom He gave it (the All) Form. This is the self-produced and self-generated Space; this is the Depth of the All. He is the Great One whose real being is deeper than the Depth. He it is to whom the All did come. The All was silent before Him and spake not to Him, for unspeakable and incomprehensible is He. He is the first Source; He it is whose Voice hath gone forth into all spaces. He is the first Tone, whereby the All doth sense and comprehend. He it is whose Limbs (Members) make a myriad of myriads of Powers, each one of which comes from them.
"The second space came into being, which is The Second Being to be called Demiurge, and Father, and Logos, and Source, and Mind, and Man, and Eternal, and Limitless. This is the Pillar (or Support); He is the Overseer. He, too, is Father
of the All; He it is upon whose Head the Æons form a wreath, shooting forth their rays. The Outline of His Face is beyond all possibility of knowing in the outer Worlds--those Worlds which ever seek His Face, desiring to know it, for His Word has gone forth into them, and they long to see Him. The Light of his Eyes penetrates the Spaces of the Outer Plērōma, and the Word which comes forth from his Mouth penetrates the Above and Below [of the Outer Worlds]. The Hair of His Head is the number of the Hidden Worlds, and the Outline of his Face is the type of the Æons. The Hairs of his Face are the number of the Outer Worlds, and the out-spreading of his Hands is the manifestation of the Cross; the out-spreading of the Cross is the ninefold, on the Right and the Left.
The Supernal Cross."The source of the Cross is the Man whom no man can comprehend. He is the Father; He is the Source from which the Silence wells; He it is who is desired in every Space. He is the Father from whom came forth the Monad like a light-spark, in comparison with which (Monad) all Worlds are as [? darkness]; for it is the Monad which has moved all things in their out-shining. And they have received Gnosis, and Life, and Hope, and Peace, and Love, and Resurrection, and Faith, and Rebirth, and the Seal. These are the ninefold which have come from the Father of those who are without beginning, The Twelve Depths.from Him who is Father and Mother to Himself alone, whose Plērōma surrounds [that is transcends] the Twelve Depths.
"1. The first Depth is the All-source from which all Sources have come.
"2. The second Depth is the All-wise One from which all Wise ones have come.
"3. The third Depth is the All-mystery from which all Mysteries have come.
"4. The fourth Depth is the All-gnosis from which all Gnosis hath come.
"5. The fifth Depth is the All-holy from which all Holiness hath come.
"6. The sixth Depth is the Silence from which all Silence hath come.
"7. The seventh Depth is the Gate which hath no substance, from which all Substances have come.
"8. The eighth Depth is the Forefather from whom all Forefathers have come.
"9. The ninth Depth is the All-father-Self-father, in which all Fathers exist,--He being the only father they have.
"10. The tenth Depth is the All-power from which all Powers have come.
"11. The eleventh Depth is that in which is the First Invisible, from which all Invisibles have come.
"12. The twelfth Depth is the Truth from which all Truth hath come.
"This [the second space, as a Monad, which surrounds the Depths], is the Truth which embraces The Primal Source. them all; this is the Image of the Father; this is the Truth of the All; this is the Mother of all [their] Æons; this it is which surrounds all Depths. This is the Monad which is incomprehensible or unknowable; this it is which has
no Seal (or Mark), in which are all Seals; which is blessed for ever and ever. This is the eternal Father; this the ineffable, unthinkable, incomprehensible, untranscendible Father; this it is in which the All became joyous; it rejoiced and was joyful, and brought forth in its joy myriads of myriads of Æons; they were called the 'Births of Joy,' because it (the All) had joyed with the Father. These are the Worlds from which the Cross up-sprang; out of these incorporeal Members did the Man arise.
The Unmanifested."This is the Father and the Source of All, whose Members are gathered together and completed. All Names have come from the Father--whether such Names as Ineffable, or Unknowable, or Incomprehensible, or Invisible, or Single, or Solitary, or Power, or All-power, or whether all those Names which are named in silence alone--all of them come from the Father, whom all the outer Worlds behold as the stars of the firmament in the night. As men desire to see the sun, so do the outer Worlds desire to see the Father, because of his invisibility which is round about Him. For ever to the Æons doth He give Life, and through His Word hath the Indivisible [? Atom] learnt to know the Monad; and by His Word hath the holy Plērōma come into being.
The Manifested, the Plērōma."This is the Father, the second Demiurge; through the Breath of His Mouth Forethought made the that-which-is-not. The that-which-is-not arose through the will of Him, for He it is who commands the All to come into being. In this
wise hath He made the holy Plērōma: four Gates, and in it (the Plērōma) are four Monads, a Monad for each Gate, and six Supporters for each Gate, making four and twenty Supporters, and four and twenty myriads of Powers for each Gate; and nine Ennads for every Gate, and ten Decads for every Gate, and twelve Dodecads for every Gate, and five Pentads of Powers for every Gate, and an Overseer who hath three faces--an ingenerable, a true, and an ineffable face, for every Gate.
"One of his faces looks without the Gate to the outer Æons, and the other looks on Setheus, and the Three-faced and Two-faced Space. third looks upwards--to the Sonship in each Monad [i.e., the one Sonship contained in the four Monads], where [i.e., above] is Aphrēdōn with his twelve Righteous Ones. 'There [above] is the Forefather; in that space is Adam [the Man] who belongs to the Light, and his three hundred and sixty-five Æons, and there is the Perfect Mind, [all three] surrounding a Basket [? network, representing a conical swirl of forces or atoms] that knows no death.
"The ineffable face of the Overseer looks within to the Holy of Holies--that is, to the Boundless one, he being the head of the Holy Place (Shrine). He has two faces; one opens to the space of the Depth and the other opens to the space of the Overseer who is called the 'Child.' And there is there [within] a Depth which is called the 'Light' or the 'Shining One,' in which is hidden an Alone-born (μονογενής), who manifests three Powers and is mighty in all Powers.
"He [the Alone-born] is the Indivisible; He it is who is never divided; it is for Him that the All has opened [? divided] itself, for to Him belong all the Powers."
The above passages, taken in order from the first pages, according to Schmidt's arrangement of the leaves, will give the reader some idea of the nature of the unabridged contents of this apocalyptic treatise. For the rest we must content ourselves with a translation of some of the, more intelligible or striking passages.
The View of the Commentator.The original seer seems to have endeavoured to describe his vision of the inner spaces from different points of view, or rather to have seen the same mystery from various points of view, or aspects, in a series of visions. Interspersed we find the comments of another writer. The first indubitably clear instance of this is a passage of which unfortunately sad havoc has been made by the Coptic translator. The commentator tells us that the subject is very difficult, nay that it is utterly impossible to describe those things with the "tongue of flesh"; nevertheless he does not think that any one could succeed any better than has the original seer, or those who spoke or wrote through him. These spaces and beings are more excellent than the intellectual powers in man, and therefore it is impossible for any one to understand them, unless he have the good fortune to meet with a "kinsman" of those higher ones--that is to say, a "relative of the mystery"--one who has learned the mystery, that is to say, has experienced these states of consciousness;
and even then the Mystery of the Father cannot be expressed in its reality, as has been stated Marsanēs, Nicotheus, and Phosilampēs. by even such advanced seers as Marsanēs and Nicotheus, former seers of the Gnosis; all the Perfect have seen Him, and have sung His praises each as best he could, but they have all failed to reveal Him. And a little later, in commenting on the "Metropolis of the Alone-begotten," the same writer quotes from another Master of the Gnosis, who, when he had understood, said: "Through Him is That-which-really-is and That-which-really-is-not, through which the Hidden-which-really-is and the Manifest-which-really-is-not exists." The Gnostic from whom this sentence is quoted is called Phōsilampēs; but the ideas are so identical with those of Basilides, that I cannot but think Phōsilampēs is merely some cryptonym of the school for this teacher.
The Logos and His creative powers and self-emanation is the subject of much of our treatise. To take one instance out of many:
"This is Setheus, who dwells in the Shrine as a King and God. He is the Logos-Creator; it is He The Creative Logos. who commandeth the All to work. He is the Creative Mind according to the command of God, the Father; whom the creature adores as God, and as Lord, and as Saviour, and is subject to Him; at whom all things stand in wonder because of His grace and beauty; for whose head the inner universe forms a crown, and the outer is set under His feet, while the middle universe surroundeth Him, praising Him and saying:
"'Holy, holy, holy is He, the [here follow the seven vowels each three times repeated]; that is to say: Thou art the Living One among the living; Thou art the Holy One among the holy; Thou art Being among beings; Thou art Father among the fathers; Thou art God among the gods; Thou art Lord among the lords; Thou art Space among the spaces.'
Thus too do they praise Him: 'Thou art the House and Thou art the Dweller in the House.' And yet again do they praise and address the Son hidden in Him: 'Thou art, Thou art the Alone-begotten, Light, Life, and Grace.'"
We are told of the descent of the Light-spark or Light-stream from on high, and how it finally reaches matter.
"Then the Veils were opened and Light penetrated The Descent of the Light-spark. to Matter below, and to those which possessed no form and no likeness; and thus have they gained for themselves the likeness of the Light. Some indeed rejoiced that the Light had come to them, and that they had become rich; others wept, because they had become poor, and what was theirs had been taken away from them. Thus came Grace in that which had come forth. And captivity was taken captive and praised the Æons who had received the Spark in themselves. And Guardians were sent them . . .; they gave help to those who had believed in the Light-spark."
"And this [the Light-spark] is the Indivisible, The Spiritual Atom. which led the struggle for the universe; and all things were bestowed upon him, through Him who is exalted above all things; and the immeasurable
[paragraph continues] Depth was bestowed upon him, together with the countless fatherhoods that are therein."
In the field of its being is the God-bearing or God-generating Land. And the powers of him who is crowned with this Light-wreath, sing praises to the King, the Alone-begotten, the Logos, saying:
"Through Thee have we won fame, and through Thee have we seen the Father of all, and the MotherHymn to the Logos. of all things hidden in all spaces, the Conceiver of all æons. She is the Conceiver of all gods and all lords; she is the Gnosis of all invisibles. Thy Image is the mother of all Uncontainables and the power of all Impassables. . . . Through Thy Image we saw Thee, fled to Thee, stood in Thee, and received the unfading wreath, which has been known through Thee. Praise to Thee, for ever and ever, O Thou Alone-begotten One. Amen!"
Of such a one we learn: "He became a body of light and penetrated into the æons of the Indivisible, The Christ. until he reached the Alone-begotten, who is in the Monad [the Father] who dwells in silence alone. And they [his powers] received the Grace of the Alone-begotten, that is to say His goodness, and he received the eternal wreath. He [the Logos] is the Father of all the Light-sparks; His is the chief of all immortal bodies; this is He for whose sake resurrection is granted to these [immortal] bodies."
Higher and higher grades of being are described, and we hear of the Perfected One "who has received the Grace of the Unknowable, and thereby such a Son-ship as the Plērōma could not endure, because
of the superfluity of its light and the brilliancy which was in Him."
The Glorified of the Logos.Still higher soars the intuition of the Gnostic seer, and we read further of the Logos-Demiurgos, "with whom is a host of powers having wreaths (or crowns) on their heads. Their crowns send forth rays; the brilliancy of their bodies is as the life of the space into which they are come; the word (logos) that comes out of their mouth is eternal life, and. the light that comes forth from their eyes is rest for them; the movement of their hands is their flight to the space out of which they are come, and their gazing on their own faces is knowledge of themselves; the going to themselves is a repeated return, and the stretching out of their hands establishes them; the hearing of their ears is the perception in their heart, and the union of their limbs is the in-gathering of the dispersion of Israel; their holding to one another is their fortification in the Logos. . . .
the At-onement."And the whole at-onement was accomplished of the Creator-Logos with those who had come forth from the re-ordering which had been brought to pass. And they became all One, as it is written: "They became all One in the One and Only One.'
"Then the Logos-Creator became Divine Power, and Lord, and Saviour, and Christ [or Righteous--χρηστὸς frequently occurring throughout the MS. for χρηστός], and Good, and Father, and Mother. He it is whose labour has succeeded; He was honoured and became the Father of them who believed. He became the Lord and the Mighty One."
In this consummation, all things are ordered anew for the Victor. "To Him is given the first fruits of Soteriology.the sacrifice of the Sonship, whereby He is given power to become thrice-powerful. And He received the vow of the Sonship, because the universe has been sold [? into slavery]; and He received the struggle [task] which was entrusted to Him. He raised up the whole purity of matter and made it into a World, an Æon, and a City, which is called 'Immortality' and 'Jerusalem.' And it is also called the 'New Earth,' and 'Self-sufficing,' and 'Perfect Freedom.' That Land is a god-bearing and a quickening land."
The Wreath and Robe of the glorified is sung of. "This is the Wreath of which it is written: 'It was given to Solomon on the day of the joy of his heart.'
"The first Monad has sent Him an ineffable Vesture, which is all Light, and all Life, and all The Ineffable Vesture.Resurrection, and all Love, and all Hope, and all Faith, all Wisdom, and all Gnosis, and all Truth, and all Peace. . . . And in it is the universe, and the universe has found itself in it, and known itself therein. And it gave them all light in its ineffable Light, myriads of myriads of powers were given it, in order that it should raise up the universe once for all.
"It [? the Monad] gathered its ventures to itself, and made them after the fashion of a veil, which surrounds it on all sides, and poured itself over them, and raised up all, and separated them all according to orders and laws and forethought.
"And that-which-is separated itself from that-which-is-not,
The Purification of the Lower Nature.and that-which-is-not is the evil which has manifested itself in matter. And the Vesture-power separated that-which-is from that-which-is-not, and called that-which-is 'eternal' (æonian), and that-which-is-not 'matter'; and it divided in the midst that-which-is from that-which-is-not, and laid between them veils and purifying powers in order that they might cleanse and purge them."
World-Saviour.The future work of the Glorified is further described: "And myriads of myriads of glories and angels and archangels and ministers were given Him to serve Him--those of matter. And authority over all things was given Him, and He created for Himself a mighty Æon, and in it laid a vast Plērōma, and in it a mighty Sanctuary, and all the powers He had received He placed in them. And He rejoiced in them, as He brought forth His creatures once again, according to the commandment of the Father who is hidden in silence, who sent Him these treasures. And the crown of Fatherhood was given Him, for He (the Father) has established Him as father of those who arose after Him [namely, His disciples, the disciples of the Master].
"And He cried out and said: 'My children, with whom I travail until the Christ is formed in you'; and again He cries: 'Yea, I would set beside a holy virgin an only husband Christ.'
"So when He had seen the Grace with which the hidden Father had endowed Him, He himself desired to lead back the universe to the hidden Father, for
[paragraph continues] His [the Father's] will is this, that the universe should return to Him.
"And they [those who repented] fled before the matter of the [lower] æon, abandoning it, and soared The Promise. upward to the Æon of Him who is father to Himself alone, and took the vow on themselves which was vowed for them by Him who says: 'He who hath forsaken father and mother, brother and sister, wife and child, and possessions, and will take up his cross and follow Me, he will receive the promises which I have vowed to him; and I will give such the mystery of the hidden Father, for they have loved what is His and have fled from him who has pursued them with force.'
"So he gave them Glory, Joy, Jubilation, Gladness, Peace, Hope, Faith, Love, and Truth imperishable. This is the ninefold which is given unto them who have fled from matter. And they have become blessed and perfect, and have recognized the True God, and known the mystery which is given to the Man, for which cause He hath revealed Himself until they saw Him, for He [the True God] is in truth invisible; for their sakes hath He revealed in words His Logos, so that they might know Him and become gods and perfect."
Still speaking of the First-born and His glories, the cosmic powers of His spiritual vesture are again described:
"They gave Him a Vesture to consummate everything in Him. And in it are all bodies: the body of The Powers of the Light-vesture. fire, the body of water, the body of ether, the body of earth, the body of air, the body of
the angels, the body of the archangels, the body of the powers, the body of the mighty ones, the body of the gods, and the body of the lords; in one word, in it are all bodies, so that none may prevent Him from going upwards and downwards to the under-world.
"He is the First-born to whom the Inner and the Outer have promised everything He may desire. He it is who hath separated all matter; and as He hath poured Himself over it, 'like a hen which spreadeth her wings over her chickens,' so hath the First-born prepared matter and raised up myriads and myriads of species and kinds. And when the matter had grown warm, it set free the multitude of powers which are His; and they sprang up like herbs, and were separated according to kinds and species. And He gave them the law--to love one another, and to honour God, and praise Him, and seek for Him, who He is, and what He is, and to wonder at the place whence they have come out, for it is narrow and difficult, and not to return thither again, but to follow Him who hath given them the law.
The Mothers of Men."And He raised them out of the darkness of matter, which is their mother, and told them what Light is, for they had not yet known of the Light, whether it existed or not. Then He gave them the commandment never to injure one another, and went from them to the Mother of the universe, beside the Father, that they might [in turn] give laws to those who have come out of matter."
And the powers of the Mother sing a hymn to the Son, praising the One and Only One, and saying
"Thou alone art the Boundless; Thou alone the Depth; Thou alone the Unknowable; Thou art He The Song of Praise of the Mother Above. for whom all seek, and yet [unaided] find Thee not, for no one can know Thee against Thy will, and no one can praise Thee against Thy will. Thy will alone is it which became space for Thee, for no one can contain Thee, for Thou art the space of all. I pray Thee give orderings to those of the world, and regulations to my offspring according to Thy will. And grieve not my offspring, for no one is ever grieved by Thee; yet no one hath ever known Thy counsel. Thou art He of whom they all, both inner and outer, stand in need, for Thou alone art uncontainable, and Thou alone art beyond all vision, and Thou alone art beyond all substance; Thou who alone hast given seals [distinguishing marks or characteristics] to all creatures, and manifested them in Thyself.
"Thou too art Creator of those which have not yet manifested themselves. Thou alone knowest The Hidden Worlds. these; we know them not. Thou alone indicatest them to us, that we [the powers] may pray Thee for her [the Mother Sophia's] sake to manifest them to us, for we can know them through Thee alone. Thou alone hast exalted Thyself to the host of hidden worlds, that they might know Thee; it is Thou who hast given them to know Thee, that Thou hast brought them to birth in Thy incorporeal body, and Thou hast taught them
that Thou hast begotten the Man in Thy self-born Mind, and in Thy Reflection and Conception.
"He is the Man begotten of Mind, to whom The Man. Reflection gave form. Thou hast given all things to the Man. He weareth them like these garments, and putteth them on like these vestures, and wrappeth Himself with the creation as with a mantle. This is the Man whom the universe prays to learn to know. Thou alone hast commanded the Man that he should manifest himself, that Thou shouldst be known through him, that Thou hast begotten him. Thou hast manifested Thyself according to Thy will. Thou art He to whom I pray, Thou Father of all fatherhood, God of all gods, Lord of lords--the 'I' who implores Him that He may order my forms and offspring, that I may prepare joy for them in Thy name and in Thy power."
[The hymnody becomes confused as the mystic identifies himself with the Sophia.]
"Thou One and Only King, Thou who changest not, give me a power, and I will cause my offspring to know Thee, that Thou art their Saviour."
The infinite Light-spark descends on the Sophia; the world-ordering is consummated in the world-drama; the purification of the inner nature achieved in the individual soul.
The Lord of Splendour."And the Lord of Splendour descended and separated the matter and divided it into two parts and into two regions; and He gave boundaries to each region, regions that come from one father and one mother. And they who had fled to Him adored
[paragraph continues] Him; He gave them the place on His right, and bestowed on them eternal life and deathlessness. And He called the right the 'Place of Life,' and the left the 'Place of Death'; the right the 'Place of Light' and the left the 'Place of Darkness'; the right the 'Place of Rest' and the left the 'Place of Suffering.' And He drew boundaries and veils between them, so that they should not perceive each other, and placed watchers at the veils. And He gave to them who worshipped Him many honours, and exalted them above those who resisted and opposed Him. And He extended the space on the right into countless spaces, and made them into many orders, many æons, many worlds, many heavens, many firmaments, many regions, many places, many spaces; and He established laws for them and gave them regulations. 'Be steadfast in My word and I will give you eternal life, and send you powers; and I will strengthen you in spirits His Promise to them who Believe. of power, and give you authority according to your will. And no one shall hinder you in what ye desire; and ye will beget for yourselves æons, worlds, and heavens, in order that the mind-born spirits may come and dwell therein. And ye will be gods, and will know that ye come from God, and will see Him that He is God in you, and He will dwell in your æon.'
"These words said the Lord of the universe to them, and disappeared from them, and hid Himself from them.
"And the births of matter rejoiced that they had been remembered, and were glad that they had come
out of the narrow and difficult place, and prayed to the hidden Mystery:
The Prayer of the Earth-born."'Give us authority that we may create for ourselves æons and worlds, according to Thy word, upon which Thou didst agree with Thy servant; for Thou alone art the changeless one, Thou alone the boundless, the uncontainable, self-thought, self-born, self-father; Thou alone art the unshakeable and unknowable; Thou alone art silence, and love, and source of all; Thou alone art virgin of matter, spotless; whose race no man can tell, whose manifestation no man can comprehend.
"'Hear me, in Booth, Father imperishable, Father immortal, God of the hidden worlds, Thou only Light and Life; Thou the only invisible, ineffable, unstainable, invincible; Thou alone prior to all existence! Hear our prayer, with which we pray Him who is hid in all places; Hear us and send us spirits incorporeal, that they may dwell with us and teach us of those things that Thou hast promised us; that they abide in us and we may be bodies for them. For Thy will is this, that this may be; may it be! Give law to our work and establish it, according to Thy will and according to the statute of the hidden æons, and regulate us of Thyself, for we are Thine!'"
The Powers of Discrimination are Given Them.In answer to this prayer it is described how that the mysteries (sci., of baptism and the rest) were given to those who repented; these mysteries being in grades of purification, whereby the man rises to higher grades of consciousness, by the purity of his inner vehicles, which correspond with certain states or regions.
"And He hearkened to them and sent out separating powers, which know the statute of the hidden æons. He sent them out according to the command of the hidden ones, and established orderings, according to the ordering of the height and according to the hidden statute. They began from below upwards, so that the building might be duly erected in all its courses.
"He created the air-world as a resting-place for those who had come forth [from matter], so that they The Ladder of Purification. might abide there until the establishing of those beneath them; thereafter the true dwelling-place [?]; within this the place of repentance; within this the ætherial reflections [? of the mansions of the Inheritance]; within these the self-born reflections. At that place they baptize themselves in the Name of the Self-born, who is God over them; and powers are established there beside the spring of the Water of Life. . . .
"Within these is the Pistis Sophia and the preexisting and ætherial Jesus with his twelve æons."
The names of the powers in the last two spaces are given, but unfortunately a lacuna follows in the MS., and the following leaves are damaged in numerous places. Still higher and higher spaces are described as the purified souls mount the Great Ladder.
The Heavenly Man, and the Lord of the Plērōma, is sung of: "The Father has sealed Him as His Son The Son of God. in their interior, in order that they should learn to know Him in their interior. And the Name moved them in their interior, so that they saw the Invisible Unknowable. And they praised the One and Only
[paragraph continues] One, and Conception, and the Mind-born Logos, praising the three, who are one, for through Him they became supersubstantial. And the Father took their whole likeness and made it into a City or into a Man; He limned the universe in His likeness--that is to say, all these powers. Each one of them knew Him in this City; all began to sing myriads of songs of praise of the Man or the City of the Father of the universe. And the Father has taken his glory and made it into a Vesture without for the Man. . . . He created his body in the type of the holy Plērōma."
Hereupon follows the whole configuration of the Limbs of the Heavenly Man. The rest of the MS. is taken up with a Hymn to the Light quoted from some other Gnostic hymn-maker, introduced by the words "he says," and runs as follows:
Hymn to the Light."I praise Thee, O Father of all fathers of the Light; I praise Thee, O boundless Light more excellent than all the boundless ones; I praise Thee, O uncontainable Light surpassing all uncontainables; I praise Thee, O ineffable Light, before all ineffables."
And so on through an infinity of praise-givings, frequently of great beauty, until the MS. breaks off suddenly in the middle of a sentence.